Friday, January 31, 2014

Soft Frosted Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Puffy pillows of chocolate amazingness.

Recently, my husband came home from work with some random store-bought baked good and declared, “these are awesome!” Skeptically, I tasted the offending baked item, and immediately disagreed. Also, (only slightly) offended. He asked me to reproduce the recipe. Of course, he had suggestions — not very helpful suggestions, at that. “Make it more chocolate.” “Make it more different.” “Can you make it taste better?” “I don’t like pink.”

You heard the man.
The candidate for this baker’s makeover was a soft, white sugar cookie with fluffy pink icing, decorated with sprinkles. You know the one! It lives, wrapped in plastic, forgotten on a shelf in your local supermarket’s bakery department. My challenge was to convert this usually stale, dry and chemically-laden sugar bomb into a chocolate delight. Done right, these cookies are tender, full of flavour and not overly sweet. The hit of sweetness comes from the rich chocolate frosting (just a little).
Oh yes, and sprinkles. If you like that sort of thing. (I do.)

Click through for the recipe and instructions.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Apricot Kuchen

Something's kuchen in das kitchen
As the grey, blah days continue, my thoughts drift back to summer and idyllic days driving through vineyard-covered hillsides. One of our vacation destinations this summer was the Okanagan. Anyone who reads my column regularly will know that it is a regular haunt of mine! We stayed with friends, and they sent us home with a generous box of apricots from their garden tree. What a wonderful gift! Our hostess, Margie, made us a version of this Apricot Kuchen, which I absolutely loved. “Kuchen” means cake, and fresh-picked fruit plus cake equals a summer treat like no other.

Behold my bounteous orbs!
These tiny apricots were at the peak of ripeness. I had to be extremely careful not to squeeze them too hard or they would burst! The cake is a simple short cake – it is really easy and doesn’t have many ingredients. Lay the fruit on top of the batter and it sinks down ever so slightly into the cake. A light dusting of cinnamon and sugar on top creates a smoky, caramelized crust on the fruit. After baking, brush the top of the cake with a glaze made from melted apricot jam. In the end you get a fruity little coffee cake, to enjoy in the afternoon with tea, or as I have been doing — with breakfast. This Apricot Kuchen was even better the next day, as the juices from the cooked apricots and the glaze soaked into the top of the cake. Yum! 

Fruity wheel of awesomeness
To peel or not to peel?That is a personal preference, for sure. My personal preference was to not fuss over peeling 12 tiny apricots! The fruit was so ripe that the skins were practically non-existent after baking. However, if I were to make this with peaches, I would definitely peel them. You can make this cake with any stone fruit such as peaches, plums or nectarines. Try it with cherries — I recommend you use a cherry pitter so you don’t go crazy!

This was my second breakfast.
Click through for the recipe and instructions

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Canadiana Cookie Project

My Canadiana Cookie Project

Rather than do a cookie set in a Christmas or holiday theme, I decided to do a theme that evoked winter in Canada. What is more Canadian than Hudson's Bay? Well, it may be American-owned now, but the ubiquitous stripes of the point blanket are reflected in the first cookie, styled into a Christmas stocking. The red blanket-stitch around the edge really makes it stand out.

The second cookie is a sweet little white ice skate. I live on the west coast, so outdoor winter ice skating is but a dream for me. But when I was a teen, I lived in Minnesota for a time and remember the outdoor rink at the end of my street with fondness.

I like to think the third cookie is a cute little Noble Fir; little chickadees nestled in its snow-covered, white sparkle sugar branches.

The fourth cookie is a red mitten, with a fur-lined wrist in red sparkle sugar.

Does this wintery set make you think of skating outdoors, your nose & cheeks turning pink, thoughts of a warm fire at home and hot chocolate in your mug?

Sugar cookie recipe here
Royal icing for outlining recipe here
How to thin royal icing for flooding, video here

Friday, January 10, 2014

How To: Zebra Striped Cake

So chic!
I have been seeing this cool, zebra-striped technique everywhere lately, and wanted to try it out for myself. I love all my striped clothing – why not cake, too? I had been putting it off because it looked like it would be really complicated. Guess what? It isn’t! It is SO easy. Your friends will be amazed at your cake wizardry, when presented with this fun cake with the zebra-striped surprise inside.

I made my cake in red and white stripes, but you can use any contrasting colours. This cake would look fantastic with vanilla and chocolate stripes! The darker the chocolate, the better.

For simplicity, use 2 two-layer boxed cake mixes – one white cake, and the other devil’s food cake.

Click through for the recipe and tutorial 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter, Honey & Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter, Honey & Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mmmm … uh… chickpeas?! You go first.

Oh, Facebook — I love ya. Every day, you suggest wonderfully spammy websites to visit, weight loss potions to purchase, and weird businesses to “Like”. You also make my tummy happy, by spreading crazy recipes like a rampant virus through my news feed.

This recipe recently appeared in my news feed on Facebook no less than five times. Apparently, the ingredients are so weird people can’t resist sharing it with their Facebook friends. If you are on Facebook, you have probably seen it recently. While technically it is a chocolate chip cookie, I use the term “cookie” rather loosely. It contains no flour, eggs or butter, which any self-respecting cookie should contain. No, my dear sugarholics, this cookie is made from chick peas. You read that correctly! Chick peas, peanut butter, honey, baking powder, chocolate chips and a pinch of salt. That’s it.

I am skeptical by nature, so I needed to try it out. Mr. Cake made a rude face when I described it to him. However, I knew if he liked it, it could be a winner. The recipe doesn’t make very many cookies, about a dozen and a half. They turned out well – I flattened the sticky balls of dough a little to achieve a nice “cookie” shape. As a bonus, the recipe is gluten-free, if your baking powder contains corn starch instead of wheat starch (most do)**. I recommend natural peanut butter – I like the crunchy variety. They were delicious – and Mr. Cake liked them, too!

Share your experience with me if you try it!
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