Fresh Cranberry and Oat Scones

Once daylight savings time is over and we’re back to Standard time, the days seem shorter with darkness coming before dinner time.  Whose idea was this any way?  I don’t really need the sun shining in my eyes, waking me up at 6am., nor do I appreciate it when it starts getting dark when I want it to stay light outside. Where’s all the day light we’ve been “saving”?   This whole time change thing makes me grouchy.

Fresh cranberry and oat scones.

Fresh cranberry and oat scones.

To get me over this hissy-fit I needed something good to eat.  Something baked, delicate and crumbly.  Something sweet, but not too sweet, with good-for-me-and-you ingredients.   Into my laboratory/kitchen I went and in about 45 minutes we were having these scones with a cup of coffee.  They didn’t bring back more day light but they did help me to get over the “grouchies”.  If you’re having a “mood” these scones just might help you too.

IMG_5576

CRANBERRY AND OAT SCONES

Yield:    Makes 10 scones

Ingredients:

  • 10 Tbsp. frozen butter

    A variety of "healthy" ingredients.

    A variety of “healthy” ingredients.

  • 1/2 cup milk (regular, almond, coconut are all OK)
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped in a processor
  • 2  2/3 cup flour ( or flour and oats combination)**
  • 1/3 cup natural cane sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 large eggs

**  In place of regular flour I made up this combination:  1 cup whole wheat flour, 2/3 cups oats, 2/3 cups oat flour, 1/3 cup potato flour.  Also I used almond milk instead of regular milk soured with lemon juice.  Either works just fine.  You could also use buttermilk and omit the lemon juice.

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 *F.   Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease lightly.

2.  Mix milk with lemon juice, and keep in refrigerator to chill

3. Coarsely chop cranberries in a food processor and reserve.

Chop 1 cup fresh cranberries.

Chop 1 cup fresh cranberries.

I have a small 2-cup processor that works great for small amounts like this and saves getting out the big processor.

4.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour (s), baking powder, baking soda, salt and orange zest…..

Mix zest of 1 orange into the dry ingredients.

Mix zest of 1 orange into the dry ingredients.

Grate butter on the large holes of a box grater.  Add to flour and toss gently to integrate.

Use a box grater to add small bits of frozen butter to the dry ingredients.

Use a box grater to add small bits of frozen butter to the dry ingredients.

5.  Whisk 1 large egg into the chilled milk and fold into the flour mixture.  Fold in cranberries.

6.  On a floured surface, knead the dough a few times till it just comes together.  Do not over work it.  Form into a disc.  Roll out to 3/4 – inch thickness.  Cut with a 2-inch round cutter.  Place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Reroll scraps and repeat.

Roll out dough and cut with 2-inch cutter.

Roll out dough and cut with 2-inch cutter.

7.  Brush tops with remaining egg and sprinkle with oat flakes and natural sugar.

Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar and  oats.

Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar and oats.

8.  Bake till golden, about 18 minutes.  Watch carefully, they brown up quickly.  These freeze well.

Fresh cranberry and oat scones.

Fresh cranberry and oat scones.

SOURCE:   Adapted from Everyday Foods

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Anytime Frosted Sugar Cookies

Anytime frosted sugar cookies.

Anytime frosted sugar cookies.

Psssst—-Gather ’round everyone, I have a secret to tell you.   You know those soft, frosted sugar cookies that you see in those plastic containers at the grocery store?  The ones that have changing color schemes depending on the season and upcoming holiday?    Well, you can make them at home,  only BETTER!     I don’t buy them myself, but if someone offered me one, I guess I’d have a hard time saying,  ” no, thanks.”   They’re nicely decorated, make you feel festive, and it’s so easy to buy a package and put them out on a plate,  what’s the harm?    Artificial ingredients, that’s what.

I’ve found a recipe for a homemade version that blows the competition right out of the water.    These taste buttery and delicious because, well, they’re made with real butter, with real vanilla, and real eggs.  Real beats artificial every time.  These are easy to make and they can be customized to the season or holiday just by tinting either the cookie dough or the frosting with food coloring and sprinkling on some decorative sugars or jimmies.  The only problem once you make these is that they taste so much better than the store-bought, you won’t want to stop at having just one.  So having a batch of these around is kind of a problem, but at least it’s a good problem to have. 😀

ANYTIME FROSTED SUGAR COOKIES

Yield:  2 – 3 dozen large cookies

Change colors to suit the occasion or holiday.

Change colors to suit the occasion or holiday.

Ingredients:

  • 4  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4  1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1  1/2 cups ( 3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 5 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350*F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or grease lightly.

2.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and whisk together to blend.

3.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy, about 2 – 3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla.

4.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients mixing just until incorporated and evenly mixed.  Cover and chill the dough for 1 hour.

5.  When you are ready to bake the cookies, scoop a scant quarter cup of cough and roll into a ball.  Flatten the ball slightly and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the cookies at least 2 – 3 inches apart.  Bake about 10 – 12 minutes or just until set.  (Do not over bake.)  The edges should be only very lightly browned if at all.  Let cool on the baking sheet for several minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting:IMG_5546

  • 4 – 5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/3 cup  ( 5  1/3 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 7 – 8 Tbsp. milk, plus more as needed
  • food coloring, optional
  • sprinkles and colored sugars, optional

To frost the cookies:

1.  Place the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl.  Add the melted butter, vanilla, and milk to the bowl and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in additional milk as necessary, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.  Tint with food coloring if desired.  Use an offset spatula or knife to frost the cooled cookies.  Top with sprinkles as desired.   Store in an air-tight container.

Let frosting dry before storing in air tight container.

Let frosting dry before storing in air tight container.

SOURCE:    Martha Stewart

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Have you ever thought about this?—- some recipes are like a blank canvas.  Yes, they are usually great all on their own, but they also lend themselves well to showcasing other flavors. In other words, you can switch out ingredients and substitute others in their place.   The idea of pumpkin cinnamon rolls popped into my head and just wouldn’t go away and so it wasn’t long before I just had to make them.

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I started with a basic recipe for cinnamon rolls from my book of  bread machine recipes.  Then I added some pumpkin and a touch of fall spices, rolled them with butter, a little more pumpkin and cinnamon sugar filling the swirls, and glazed them with cream cheese frosting.   Although the rolls don’t scream pumpkin, the subtlety is nice.  A tender mildly sweet dough with all that spicy filling is to die for.  They could definitely be dessert,  I’m sure they’d be the hit at a fall brunch,  but still warm from the oven with a cup of coffee is my special treat!

Sample one while still warm from the oven.   Sigh!

Sample one while still warm from the oven. Sigh!

I made the dough for these rolls in my bread machine, but it can be made using a standard mixer with dough hooks or paddle attachment in place.  If making the dough in this way, dissolve the yeast in the water and allow to rest for 5 – 10 minutes.  It should get thicker and begin to bubble.  Then combine with the other liquid ingredients prior to adding the flour and spices.  Continue to beat to a thick smooth dough, before turning out onto a floured surface.  Knead to a smooth elastic dough, then set aside in a greased bowl to rise in a warm place, about 45 minutes, till almost doubled in size.

PUMPKIN CINNAMON ROLLS WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Yield:   Makes 15 rolls

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup whole or 2 % milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 3  1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Filling:

Butter, pumpkin butter, and sugar-spice mixture ready to spread on the dough.

Butter, pumpkin butter, and sugar-spice mixture ready to spread on the dough.

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1  1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. pumpkin puree or pumpkin butter (optional)

Frosting:

  • 4  oz. cream cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. whole or 2 % milk
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

1.  In the bread machine canister, layer in the wet ingredients ( water through melted butter), omitting the yeast.

2.  In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients ( flour through pumpkin pie spice).  Whisk together for uniformity.  Add to canister on top of wet ingredients.

3.  Make a depression in the top of the flour mixture with a spoon;  pour the yeast into the depression you’ve made.

4.  Insert canister into the bread machine and set for “dough” cycle.   Meanwhile prepare the filling by combining the sugars, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.   Set aside.

5.  When the cycle is complete, remove the risen dough and turn it out onto a floured surface.  Stretch or roll it into a 12″ x 16″ rectangle.  Spread butter over the dough.

Butter goes on first.

Butter goes on first.

6.  Spread with pumpkin or pumpkin butter if using, then sprinkle with the sugar mixture.

Next spread on the pumpkin or pumpkin butter, if using.

Next spread on the pumpkin or pumpkin butter, if using.

Sprinkle on the sugar mixture.

Sprinkle on the sugar mixture.

7.  Roll into a log and cut into 15 slices using a sharp knife or dental floss.

Roll up, then slice or cut with dental floss into 15 rounds.

Roll up, then slice or cut with dental floss into 15 rounds.

Place slices into a 9 x 13″ pan or two round 8″ cake pans.

Lay in baking pan, cut side up.

Lay in baking pan, cut side up.

Cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

8.  Preheat oven to 375*F.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until rolls are golden brown ( don’t worry if the filling rises and bubbles, it will go down once the rolls have been removed from the oven).

After baking, golden and fragrant.

After baking, golden and fragrant.

9.  While the rolls are baking, prepare frosting by beating the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, salt, and lemon juice in a medium bowl until smooth.  Gradually add the powdered sugar, continuing to beat smooth.  If the mixture is too thick, slowly add milk one half tablespoon at a time.

10.  Remove rolls from the oven and let cool on a wire rack .  Frost within  5 – 10 minutes after removal.

You know you want one!

You know you want one!

SOURCE:  adapted from The Big Book of Bread Machine Recipes

No More Burned Marshmallows

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like S’mores, do you?  I was first introduced to them when I was a young girl at Girl Scout Camp where we roasted the marshmallows on a stick over a camp fire.  It seemed like mine always caught fire, and I ended up with a charred, blackened marshmallow while everyone else’s marshmallow was golden and perfectly toasted.  I usually insisted that I made it that way on purpose because I loved them burned.  😦

roasting a marshmallow

roasting a marshmallow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now-a- days, I’ll gladly eat a S’more if someone else will toast my marshmallow, because I still can’t seem to get it right!   That’s probably why I think these bars are so fabulous.  There is no toasting of marshmallows involved—what’s used here is marshmallow fluff out of a jar.  While it’s a little sticky to spread, I’m better with that than I am with an open fire.

S'mores Bars

S’mores Bars

I found this recipe hidden away at the bottom of an ad from my Mazda dealer.  Sneaky little devil, thought I wouldn’t see it!      Well, I did see it, and I made it for us all to enjoy.  People,  you will be so happy that I’m sharing it with you.  No longer will you need to go camping, or build a fire to toast marshmallows,  just make these ooey, gooey, chocolatey, bars and you will have the best without the mess.  🙂

Decadent!

Decadent!

SWEET AND SPICY S’MORES BARS

Yield:   Makes 16 bars

Graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallow fluff.

Graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallow fluff.

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2   (3.5 oz.) bars dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup marshmallow fluff

1.  Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Line an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with parchment  paper, leaving an overhang at the sides.

2.  In a mixer bowl, beat the butter, sugars, and vanilla together until light and fluffy.

3.  In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, graham crumbs, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Stir into the creamed mixture until well combined.  Batter will be crumbly.

Batter will be crumbly.

Batter will be crumbly.

4.  Spread 2/3 of the batter onto the prepared pan and press into an even layer.  Lay the two chocolate bars in an even layer across the dough.

5.  Spread the marshmallow fluff over the chocolate, and crumble the remaining dough evenly over the top.

All layered up and ready for the oven.

All layered up and ready for the oven.

6.  Bake until puffed and set, about 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool completely.  Remove the square from the pan using the paper overhang and place on a cutting board.  Cut into 16 squares.

So good.  After one you will want s'more!

So good. After one you will want s’more!

Blackberry Pie Bars

Blackberry Pie Bars.

Blackberry Pie Bars.

Once again I’ve been called upon to provide the dessert for a pot-luck affair.  As we approach the end of the school year, many other activities also take a break for the summer and the last meeting of many organizations often involve food in the form of a picnic or pot-luck dinner.  So here we go again —-not that I mind,  it gives me the chance to bake, maybe try out something new, and then tell you all about it.  How cool is that?

Buttery crumb crust, creamy blackberry filling, more buttery crumbs on top.

Buttery crumb crust, creamy blackberry filling, more buttery crumbs on top.

While today’s recipe is called “pie’ bars, they’re not really like pie at all.  There is a bottom crust made of buttery crumbs, with a sprinkle of more crumbs to top, and in the middle a “berry” filling.  The recipe calls for black berries and that is what I used here, but I’ve made these before using raspberries, and they were super yummy too.  These bars are quick to put together, and are a great way to use up frozen berries you might have in your freezer;  you know, to make room for more berries over the summer.

Oh yeah, these are simply the best!.

Oh yeah, these are simply the best!.

I added a little lemon zest to the crust, and lemon juice to the filling and I think it brightens up the flavor, and makes an irresistible combination.  They bake up quite thick, so I cut them into small-ish squares to be eaten with fingers, but if serving them on a plate, these would be set off nicely by a dab of vanilla ice cream.  I like them while still a little warm from the oven, but they are also excellent served chilled straight from the fridge.  Once you give these a try they will undoubtedly become a staple for bringing to summertime parties and get-togethers.  Be adventurous and try other fruits as well.

BLACKBERRY PIE BARSIMG_4227

Yield:  16 – 20 bars

Ingredients:

For the crust and topping:

  • 1  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 3/4 cup (12 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, cold

    Blackberries----the stars of  the show!.

    Blackberries—-the stars of
    the show!.

For the filling:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
  • 6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 15 – 16 oz. blackberries, fresh or frozen (thawed and drained of excess juices)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Line a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with foil and grease lightly.  In the bowl of a food processor or electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest.  Pulse briefly to blend.  Cut the butter into small pieces, then add to the bowl with the dry ingredients.  Process in short pulses to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until only small pieces of butter remain and the mixture is crumbly.

Reserve 3/4 cup of the mixture for topping the bars.  Add the rest of the mixture to the  prepared pan and press to form an even layer of crust on the bottom of the pan.  Bake 12 – 15 minutes, until light golden.  Let cool 10 -15 minutes before proceeding.

In a medium bowl, make the filling mixture.  Combine the eggs, sugar, sour cream, flour, salt, lemon juice an vanilla.  Whisk until smooth.  Gently stir in the blackberries with a spatula.  Spread the filling mixture over the pre-baked crust in the baking pan.  Crumble the reserved topping mixture evenly over the filling.

Bake until the top is beginning to brown and the bars are just set, about 45 minutes.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.  Chill to firm up before slicing and serving.

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SOURCE:   The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

O’Rourke’s Irish Brown Bread

O"Rourke's Irish Brown Bread

O”Rourke’s Irish Brown Bread

With yesterday being St. Patrick’s Day, I cooked the traditional meal of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots. and along with it I made this recipe for Irish Brown Bread.   Neither Mr. D. nor  I have a drop of Irish blood in us, yet we love this meal and I always make it  for St. Paddy’s Day.  This bread is not the usual soda bread that is frequently served with this meal, but more closely resembles the soda breads made in Ireland back in the day when such things as caraway seeds and raisins were too costly for ordinary folks to afford.

Enjoy it with a cup of tea and some fruit for an afternoon snack.

Enjoy it with a cup of tea and some fruit for an afternoon snack.

My recipe comes from a gentleman named Brian O’Rourke who is the owner of O’Rourke’s Diner in Middletown, Ct.  This old-time diner is a fixture on Main St and has been there for years. It has been featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  It is only open for breakfast and lunch, and on weekends there is always a line of people out onto the sidewalk and up the street waiting to get in.  When you are finally seated it is hard to chose your order because everything Brian cooks is so scrumptious.  He is a very generous man when approached by any group or organization for fund raisers; and so when the diner was severely damaged by a fire a few years ago the people of Middletown held fund raisers for Brian to help him rebuild the business.  When one of the local churches was putting together a cookbook of local, favorite recipes this is the one that Brian contributed.

O’ROURKE’S IRISH BROWN BREAD

Just a few ingredients with baking soda being a prominent one.

Just a few ingredients with baking soda being a prominent one.

YIELD:    Makes 2 small round loaves

INGREDIENTS

  • 2  1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup white flour
  • 1/3 cup bran or wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon salt.  ( I usually use about half this amount.)
  • 2  1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 Tablespoons ( half stick ) butter
  • 1  3/4 cup buttermilk

1.  In a large bowl combine flours, bran, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder and mix well with a whisk.

2.  Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.  Stir in buttermilk and mix until dry ingredients are moistened.  Do not over mix.

3.  Shape dough into two round loaves and cut a cross in the top of each one.  This allows for expansion. Place on a greased or paper-lined baking sheet.

Shape dough into two round loaves.

Shape dough into two round loaves.

Bake at 375*F  for 40 minutes.

Fresh out of the oven, crusty and warm.

Fresh out of the oven, crusty and warm.

This bread is best served warm with lots of sweet butter to slather on it.

Butter melts into the warm bread----good beyond description!

Butter melts into the warm bread—-good beyond description!

I like that it makes two loaves, one that I freeze for later, and one that we eat right away.  This time as I made them I added raisins to the dough for one of the breads, just for some variety.  Either way  they are delicious with a tender crumb almost like a muffin.

The texture is similar to a muffin.

The texture is similar to a muffin.

SOURCE:     Brian O’Rourke,  O’Rourke’s Diner

Cinnamon Chip Scones

Cinnamon Chip Scones

Cinnamon Chip Scones

You know how, when you eat a potato chip, one is never enough?  Like that certain brand of chips that claim ” you can’t eat just one.”   Well, these scones are like that.  Rich with butter, they are studded with sweet, spicy cinnamon chips.  If you would like to enrich them even further you may add chopped nuts.

Spicy, cinnamon chips scattered throughout.

Spicy, cinnamon chips scattered throughout.

We love these scones, and being a cinnamon lover, I like to add some ground cinnamon to the dry ingredients.  Also I keep buttermilk powder in the house, so when a recipe like this one calls for buttermilk, I just measure out the correct amount of dry powder and add water to equal the amount of buttermilk needed.

Scones are always best eaten while they are still warm, and these are no exception.  Of course two people probably are not going to eat eight scones while they are still warm, so to get that same warmth, just zap one quickly on medium heat in the microwave.  That’s what we do for a quick breakfast with coffee.  Frequently I will make scones while I’m making dinner, so we have one for dessert while it is warm, and then the rest are ready to be reheated as needed for breakfast(s).

CINNAMON CHIP SCONES

SERVINGS:   Makes 8 scones

You will find many uses for these packaged cinnamon chips.

You will find many uses for these packaged cinnamon chips.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1/4  cup sugar
  • 1/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  cup butter, preferably unsalted
  • 1/2  cup buttermilk  (or 1 Tablespoon vinegar in a measuring cup,. add milk to  1/2  cup mark.  Stir to combine.)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2  cup cinnamon chips
  • 1/4  cup chopped nuts (optional)

1.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and sugar.

2.  Cut in butter with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, with a few chunks of butter still visible.

3.  In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg and vanilla.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, and stir to combine.  Stir in cinnamon chips and nuts, if using.  Do not over mix the dough.

4.  Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it gently just until it holds together..  At this point you may pat it into a circle about 8 inches in diameter,  cut  into 8 triangles, and transfer to baking sheet;  or you can scoop up about 1/3 cup dough, and place on parchment lined baking sheet for a “drop-style” scone.  That is how I made the ones pictured here.

Crispy edges, soft and tender inside.

Crispy edges, soft and tender inside.

5.  Bake in a preheated 400*F oven for 12 – 14 minutes, until they’re golden brown.  Remove from the oven and serve warm.

IMG_3073

These deliver on their promise. What’s better than cinnamon when it’s warm!

SOURCE:  King Arthur Flour,  The Baking Sheet

Nutella Crackles

Nutella Crackle Cookies

Nutella Crackle Cookies

Does the thought of Nutella make you swoon?  It does me.  I love the stuff, but I tend to forget about it hiding there in the back of the cupboard.  Then when I see the jar it’s like meeting up with an old friend, picking up just where we left off.  You might say we have an “on and off” relationship.

Wouldn't you like to taste one?

Wouldn’t you like to taste one?

I had that same reaction when I saw George Clooney recently in the movie, The Descendants.  He was so good in that role.  I had forgotten how much I like him, until I saw him again.  The same for Rosemary Clooney,  she is one of my all-time favorite singers.  There is nobody who can make you feel a song like she could, and I love to dance to her music.  It’s so romantic, dreamy, jazzy, and cool.  Isn’t it odd that I have such strong feelings for the two of them?  They both make me swoon. You could say that I get swooney for Clooney.  Did you know that Rosemary was George’s aunt?  Yes, his father’s sister.  Such a talented family.

Likewise, just a taste of Nutella is all it takes to make me swoon for it and want to create something sinfully delicious.  I think this recipe for Nutella Crackles has what it takes on all counts:  crispy sugary exterior, crunchy with nuts;  a surprisingly chewy interior, the perfect blend of hazelnuts and chocolate.  Try them, you might get “swooney”, too.

IMG_2886

NUTELLA CRACKLES

YIELD:   about 4 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS

Beat up the Nutella, butter and sugar.

Beat up the Nutella, butter and sugar.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 – 1/4 cup Nutella spread
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 – 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon instant expresso powder
  • 2 large eggs,
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 – 1/2 cups hazelnuts, chopped fine
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

2.  With electric mixer on medium speed, beat Nutella, butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add vanilla, expresso powder, and eggs and mix until incorporated.  Reduce speed to low.  Add flour mixture and milk, and mix until just combined.  Fold in 2/3 cup hazelnuts.   Refrigerate dough until firm, about 1 hour.

3.  Preheat oven to 375*F.  Line baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper.

4.  Place remaining hazelnuts in a shallow bowl. Place confectioners’ sugar in another shallow bowl.   One at a time, roll dough into 1-inch balls, roll in nuts, then in confectioners’ sugar.  Place balls 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Refrigerate the first sheet while preparing the next sheet.  Bake the first sheet and all others for approximately 8 minutes.  As each sheet is baking, chill one while you make up the next.

Cooling Cookies.

Cooling Cookies.

5.  Transfer to wire cooling racks to cool completely.  Repeat with all dough.

Crispy, chewy, deliciousness

Crispy, chewy, deliciousness

SOURCE:  Taste of Home Baking

Chocolate Festival, 2013

Visitor are greeted by this cheerful sight on the grand piano.

Visitors are greeted by this cheerful sight on the grand piano.

In the small town of Portland, Ct. the first Saturday of February is now well-known as Chocolate Festival day.  We are “the little church that could”, because we accomplish big things.  There is a spirit of togetherness, cooperation, and fun in all that we do.

This was our sixteenth time producing this annual event, and each time it seems to get better and better.  The people come early and stand in line outside in the cold until the doors open, and then swarm inside trying to get to their favorite booth(s) for baked goods or candy or gifts.  Some folks head right to the “Chocolate Moose Cafe” for a choice seat and first dibs on the mouth-watering desserts being served fresh and warm from the kitchen.

Chocolate Moose Cafe

Chocolate Moose Cafe

If you asked me what my favorite part of it is, I wouldn’t be able to choose.  Just walking into the room makes you smile and you feel happy and warm, because everything is so brightly decorated, and the booths are filled with gifts that are unique, and beautifully presented. The colors of red, pink and white are everywhere, even the people working there are dressed in these colors.

Gifts for all ages.

Gifts for all ages.

Grab bags for children.

Grab bags for children.

Greeting Cards

Greeting Cards

The greeting cards are all hand-made from actual photographs;   a bargain at 3/ 5.00,   centers are blank for your own message.

This event is the main fund-raiser of the year put on by the Women’s Fellowship, but many men also join in and contribute their services by helping with setting-up, taking down, clean-up, parking cars, and other services as needed.  So many people pitch in to create this wonderful day,  a lot of work, but so rewarding.

Over view of the candy booth.

Over view of the candy booth.

For my part,  since the very first year, I have made truffles for the candy booth and I help to package them in their hand-made decorative boxes. Below are some pictures of our specialty candies and “pops”.

Ice cream cone pops

Ice cream cone pops

Dump truck  pops

Dump truck pops

Rose bud pops

Rose bud pops

Rosebud bouquets

Rosebud bouquets

I also bake several different items for the baked goods booth.

Cardamom Breads

Cardamom Breads

These cardamom breads are one of the earliest baked items to sell out.  They are baked by a gentleman member, who looks forward to making them for us each year.

George's famous chocolate chip cookies.

George’s famous chocolate chip cookies.

Another gentleman provides us with chocolate chip cookies,  recipe closely guarded,  that are out-of-this-world!

Swedish breads and coffeecakes.

Swedish breads and coffeecakes.

Another of our specialties are the Swedish breads and coffeecakes.  Pies and cakes, brownies, cookies, jams, crunchy snacks, etc, etc.  We never know what we will have, but regardless, it all sells out.

This year I made two kinds of cookies.  The pink sandwich hearts that I posted here yesterday, and some cookies made with Nutella that will be coming up on the blog very soon. So watch for them, they are scrumptious!    Compared to what many others do my part is relatively small, but I enjoy the whole event immensely, especially those chocolate desserts that the kitchen crew creates and serves in the cafe.

Team leader in the kitchen, making hot chocolate sauce.

Team leader in the kitchen, making hot chocolate sauce.

Raspberry ripple cheesecake.

Raspberry ripple cheesecake being cut.

Not everything sold or served is chocolate.  This is a raspberry ripple cheesecake being cut with dental floss.  Did you know that dental floss makes nice clean cuts for perfect servings?

Last, but not least, are the raffle baskets.  Many people take on the task of creating a basket of theme-related items, and these baskets are raffled off at the end of the day.  Here are a few of the baskets that were on display.

Go, UCONN Huskies!

Go, UCONN Huskies!

At this time of year, Huskie fever runs high, so we always have a UCONN Huskies basket.

Cupcake in the Kitchen basket.

What’s up, Cupcake?  basket.

All things "Cat"

The Cat’s Meow, devoted to all things “cat”

Over 20 raffle baskets were on display.

Over 20 raffle baskets were on display.

So many baskets to take a chance on.  Which one would you choose if you could?  At the end of the day I received a phone call telling me that I had won the “Bucket of Books” basket.  I was so happy,  I love to read and a BIG bucket filled with books is just great.

I do hope you have enjoyed this glimpse of a wonderful day, and if you live within driving distance perhaps you can think about coming next year.  Remember:  the first Saturday in February.   Mark you calendar, now!   For further information, please e-mail me.  ( see Contact page, above.)     XOXO

Sandwiches, Sweet and Pink!

Now what kind of sandwich is sweet and pink?  I’ll give you some hints:  Valentine’s Day,  hearts, sugar cookies.  You got it!  A heart-shaped sugar cookie sandwich tinted pink and filled with butter cream.  WOW!  Does that sound fabulous or what?  Here’s a first look at how they turned out.

Pink heart sandwich cookies with cream filling.

Pink heart sandwich cookies with cream filling.

This recipe is from the current issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine, and it met my needs exactly because I am baking cookies for the Chocolate Festival that I mentioned last week in the post on Funfetti Truffles.  These cookies are so cute I just had to make them..  Since I have a set of heart cookie cutters I made them in two sizes;  the small ones are the cookies sandwiched together with cream filling, as the recipe describes, the larger ones I made with a heart cutout “window” in the top cookie with a layer of raspberry jam over the cream.  Then I sifted powdered sugar over all of them.

Jammy heart cookies.

Jammy heart cookies.

I love Valentine’s Day with all the lacy trims, sentiments, and especially vintage valentines.  I have a sizable collection of all things vintage related to V-tines Day and I get them out each year to celebrate and enjoy all month.  I thought you might like to see a few things from the collection.

A small part of my collection of vintage valentine memorabilia.

A small part of my collection of vintage valentine memorabilia.

This display is on a console table in our foyer.  Hanging on the wall is a valentine quilt that I made.

Vintage valentines and an old vase.

Vintage valentines and an old vase.

The heart-shaped vase is just the right size for a bouquet of roses.

Candy box and a February angel.

Candy box and a February angel.

The heart box opens at the top where it is tied, to reveal a pocket for some candy or a handkerchief.  The little angel has such a sweet face, and even though the paint on her heart is half gone, she is no less dear. Her base is printed with the words, “February Angel”.  I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of my valentine treasures from the past.

PINK HEART SANDWICH COOKIES

YIELD:  depends on size of cookies.  I got  44  1 1/2 -inch cookies, and  6   2  1/2-inch cookies.

  • 2  cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out cookiesIMG_2862 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1  stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • red and pink food coloring
  • cream filling—recipe follows

1.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  In mixer bowl, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture beating until just incorporated.

2.  Divide dough into as many pieces as you will color, depending on how many shades of pink you would like your cookies to be. Working with one piece of dough at a time, add food coloring, 1 drop at a time, mixing and kneading to combine until desired shade is reached.  Flatten each piece of dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to over night.  Bring back to room temperature, about 10 minutes, before rolling.

3.  Preheat oven to 325*.    Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment.  Roll out each disc of dough on a lightly floured surface to just under 1/4-inch thick.  Cut out cookies using various sizes of heart cutters ( if you have them), making sure you have an even number of each color and size.   Place cookies 1 – inch apart on prepared baking sheets and freeze until very firm, about 15 minutes.

4.  Bake until barely golden brown around edges, about 8 minutes for 1  1/2- inch cookies, 10-minutes for 2  1/2 inch cookies.  Let cookies cool completely on baking sheets set on wire racks.

Cooling on the baking sheet.

Cooling on the baking sheet.

5.  Spread or pipe filling onto bottom side of half the cookies, and sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing gently.  Cookies can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

Making the sandwiches with cream filling.

Making the sandwiches with cream filling.

CREAM FILLING

YIELD:  about 1 1/4 cups,  enough to fill one recipe of the above cookies.

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons milk, if needed

1.  Beat butter with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Reduce speed to low, and gradually add the sugars, beating until thoroughly combined.  Beat in vanilla.  Add milk as needed to make mixture a spreading consistency.

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So pretty and festive,  just  right for a sweet gift.


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SOURCE:   Martha Stewart Living Magazine, Feb. 2013