sablés {bwd}

Once in awhile, you come upon a recipe which you can't wait to make again.  So you do.  The very next day.  This is one of them.

Baking With Dorie's assignment for the week was the Sablé.  What is that you ask?  Sablés are a buttery, crumbly, and tender shortbread cookie.  The translation from french is sandy, which refers to the texture of this refrigerator cookie.  The ingredient list is short: butter, flour, sugar, confectioners' sugar, egg yolks, and salt. The preparation: quick.  The result: fantastic.

I love that you can, as I did, dress them up and deck them out.  (Merry Christmas, by the way!)  Pick the color to suit the occasion.

I also love that Dorie includes many helpful hints in baking them.
The dough should look moist and clumpy (rather than smooth). When squeezed together, it will feel like Play-Doh.
The cookie is baked when the sides are lightly brown and the bottom of the cookie is golden brown.
Because the sugar will melt in the freezer, the decorated cookies are not suitable for freezing. 
The full recipe and helpful tips for this great cookie can be found on Laurie's blog, cookin' up north.  Please be sure to check out the other bakers' results here.


red velvet whoopie pie

These cute cookie-cakes have been on my mind ever since early November, when The Wyckoff Friend sent me a link to a Better Homes and Gardens recipe.  I was intrigued, but didn't get around to making one until this past week, when I was inspired by BAKED's recipe.

(I need to digress a bit and sing the praises of BAKED's sophomore cookbook, BAKED EXPLORATIONS. It is beautifully art directed; the whole feel of the book—photos, layout, typefaces are arresting, appealing, and gorgeous.  I loved looking through it. Try to check out the book if you're ever at the library or bookstore.)

The Red Velvet Whoopie Pie seems appropriately, festively hued for Christmas. I didn't make the BHG peppermint cream cheese (I've had bad experiences with peppermint extract), but if you'd like a bit of peppermint, I suggest rolling the edges in and sprinkling on top some crushed peppermint candy.


fabulous fruitcakes with meringue mushrooms {msc}

The mushrooms did it.  They lured me in.  Martha Stewart's cupcakes, decorated with these amazing mushrooms were too wonderful to resist.  Bûche de Noël has always intrigued me, ever since 9th grade French Class with Mr. Condit.  A cake in the shape of a log was such a novel idea, decorated with these cute mushrooms. Trés exotic (remember, this was the 80's, and I'm in NJ), French, and quite irresistible.

So I'm donning a toque to try my hand at these fantastic meringues sitting atop no log, however, but the pervasive holiday fruitcake.  Yes, fruitcake.  I know that word can be cringe-inducing.  You're remembering the overly sugary candied red and green cherries, gluing together some dense, dry mixture posing as a cake.

Fear not, this fruitcake might just banish that nightmare forever.  This is chock-full of moist fruit, with just enough a of buttery batter to hold everything together.  I substituted a few things, as I am not a huge fig and date fan, though if you are, please use them!  My fruit choices come from The Seventh Aunt's fabulous Golden Fruitcake (which will be blogged on shortly)— apricots, pineapples, golden raisins.

The Book Designer made a fantastic Sous-chef,

dicing the fruits into perfect ¼-inch pieces. 
(I have to mention this: her book, The Encylcopedia of the Exquisite, just won a book award!
She has such precision and attention to detail- in designing and cooking.)

You want to bake them until there is a bit of golden brown around the rim of the cake.


wienerstube cookie

There are times when I think, "Do I want some dark chocolate or do I want a cookie?"

That would be at 3 PM, everyday.

This Austrian cookie— translated: Viennese café— combines the two quite nicely.  There is unsweetened cocoa powder, lots of butter, and then an intriguing combination of spices, including freshly ground black pepper and pinch of cayenne. I love the spicy, crunchy, buttery and chocolately nature of this cookie.  My first batch was tasty, though not much to look at (think black, rectangular biscuit),


coffee and chocolate chip shortbread

"'Tis the season" in my book means "time to try new cookie recipes," and I've found one by Sarah Leah Chase that I think you'll enjoy.

I was first introduced to Sarah in July of 1988.  The Sister inscribed Sarah's The Nantucket Open-House Cookbook to me— "Have fun cooking, experimenting and pigging out ☺"  Happily, I'm still doing all three.  Then last Christmas, she gave me Sarah's follow-up cookbook, Cold-Weather Cooking, which has many lovely recipes.  This shortbread is one of them.  (The book was published in 1990; you'll have to ask The Sister why it took her twenty years to get it into my hands.)

After trying the Coffee Toffee Chocolate Chip cookie, I was pretty sure I would enjoy it in a bar version. What's not to like with a Toll House, Starbucks and Walker's shortbread combo?


christmas granola

After making the Tropical Granola, I knew I wanted to bake a batch of granola for holiday gift-giving. Granola is so easy to make and allows for lots of freedom.  You can substitute and swap out the sweeteners (brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup) and add or subtract the nuts and dried fruits, as you wish. Improvise away!


my favorite pecan bar

I have been holding off making these pecan bars, because when I bake them, I cannot stop eating them. Seriously. A pound of butter, a perfect ratio of nut to caramel filling to shortbread base— these are off-the-charts delicious.  The Older Brother eats them by the row.  The Brother #2 and Wife fight over them (I believe I once heard an accusation of hiding and hoarding.)  Even The Husband, decidedly a savory guy, devours them. You, I think, will love them.


applesauce spice bars {bwd} ~ a comedy of errors

With quite a few baked goods on my to-do list this week, I was going to skip today's baking assignment. Quite a few bakers, however, commented on how simple it was to make.  I couldn't resist Spice and Easy, so I tried it out.  The recipe is basically a cake recipe, certainly not a cookie, and it really is a cinch to put together.  I like the buttery, cinnamony flavor, the fluffy texture, and the glaze is a definite winner.  BUT... I neglected to read the crucial word "SIMMER" and so my glaze, cooked at a rolling boil, turned into a decidedly crunchy toffee topping.


brown butter maple pecan pie {sms}

First of all, don't laugh at my miniscule slice of pie.  I had to steal the piece from the now-not-so-whole pie, which was part of a music meeting's refreshments.

I was excited to bake the pecan pie, though I was initially suspicious of Melissa Murphy's addition of maple and honey— why mess with something that is great?  The variation was subtle and not cloying, in fact, the filling was less sweet (a good thing) than what I am used to.  I love the idea of browning the butter, which adds a depth of flavor to the filling. (I learned that step from The Pastor's Wife two years ago.)  

You can find the recipe on Jennifer's blog, Oh, Sweet Day.  Thanks, Jennifer, for picking such a great recipe! (The original recipe calls for chocolate chips- I omitted the chocolate.)


marshmallow turkey cupcakes {martha stewart cupcakes club}

The most pressing question of the day: what do you call that red thing that hangs off of the turkey's beak?

Thank goodness for the internet.  At first I thought it was a wattle, but now I know it's a snood.  (The wattle hangs down the neck.)

The second most pressing question of the day: how long will it take me to make these cupcakes?  I spent the better part of an uncharacteristically glorious 60º November day cutting up sticky fruit slices (I subbed those for swedish fish, which I could find only in red,)  toasting coconut (you have to keep a watchful eye over it- I've burnt more pans than I care to admit) and

assembling turkeys.
(I used chocolate jimmies for eyes, candy corn for beaks,
and fruit slices for feathers and snoods.)

Toasted coconut marshmallows proved to be a problem to find (we looked in five different stores.)  With a little simple sugar syrup and a lot of busy work, The Daughter made the eighteen turkey heads.

The resulting flock of turkeys: time-consuming but worth it.

Thank you, Rachel at Simple Girl, for picking a great cupcake. It's the perfect Thanksgiving treat for The Daughter to share with her soccer team.  


pumpkin bread with pecan streusel topping

The Daughter wanted me to make "something quick and easy" as a thank-you gift for her english teacher. I had an extra cup of pumpkin purée that needed to be used up, and this recipe fit the bill perfectly.  The Illinois BFF inspired the topping, as she usually tops her bread with some pecan pralines, which are particularly handy if you are in a time crunch.


pumpkin ginger custard {sms}

I cannot tell you when I last ate homemade pumpkin pie.  I believe pies eaten were by Mrs. Smith, Entenmann's, or ShopRite, which, while wonderfully spiced and smooth, still fall short of the real thing.

And that is why I fell in love with this custard.  I need the real deal.  It is silky.  It is smooth.  It is decadent, but only in the best possible way.  AND it is simple and fast to make.


chocolate cake

The BFF's birthday was coming up.  She is a confirmed chocoholic, and naturally, a chocolate cake was a must for her birthday cake.

The recipe I like using is delightfully fast and decadent.  It comes from a NY Times article, which I copied down a few years ago.  The beaten egg whites add a fluffiness to the cake, yet at the same time, there is a soft, fudgy interior.


pumpkin love ~ pumpkin whoopie pies

I was delighted to be invited, by Carmen of Baking is My Zen, to participate in a Pumpkin Love Blogfest. We chose favorite pumpkin recipes and are sharing them with each other and our readers.

For my Pumpkin Love post, I couldn't resist making BAKED's Pumpkin Whoopie Pie. Not quite a cookie, not a quite a cake, they are moist, flavorful, spicy, soft and unbelievably delicious.  The cream cheese filling adds a lovely tangy counterpoint.  To add a little texture, I topped it with some smashed almond brittle.


spiderrific cupcakes

This week has been filled with visions of pumpkins, spiders, skulls and All-Things-Halloween.  For his class party, The Son specifically requested spider cupcakes.  We scrolled many, many images on Google and found The Perfect Spider on M&M's website.


owl s'mores

The Daughter's request Halloween treat was this awesome owl. You should have heard her gasp of delight when she saw the image on my friend's blog.

Just a few items yield such charming creatures.


pumpkin chocolate chip muffins {bwd}

Fall and pumpkin go hand in hand. Once the leaves start changing colors, I'm itching to bake something with it. Today's Baking With Dorie assignment is perfect for the pumpkin state of mind I'm in.


almond brittle {sms}

Candy making is new to me.  Read: I've always been afraid of boiling sugar.  (I'm also afraid of power tools, but that's because I fear drilling a hole into my finger or sawing off a limb.)

These past few months, I'm proud to say, the candy thermometer and I have become acquainted.  It ain't so bad.  Caramels, pralines, toffee; bring it on!  This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays Baking Group pick was Peanut Brittle.  I'm glad JoVonn picked it, so that I could put the thermometer to further use. After reading about the trouble some had with Melissa Murphy's recipe, I decided to go rogue and change some of the measurements.  I checked out Hanaâ's recipe, as well as one at Allrecipes.  Visit JoVonn's post for the original recipe, and see the other yummy brittles that the bakers made.


marcella hazan's (super simple) tomato sauce

A tomato sauce with four ingredients.  You probably have all four in your house too.  I am not quite sure why I haven't tried this before, because I've read about this recipe several times this year on various blogs. Perhaps I thought it was too good to be true.  Impossibly easy and full of butter!  (As an aside, The 9-Year Old Bossy Literal Son was complaining to me that I should post only recipes with butter included in them, so I think he'll be happy with this one.)

For a basically no-prep tomato sauce, this is my go-to recipe now.  It does take 45 minutes to simmer, but that gives you oodles of time to tackle something on the never-ending to-do list.


halloween snack jar

The Piano Students are always looking to see what's in the candy bowl.  Music is good for the soul, and candy... I suppose I should be handing out flossers with this stuff.

I saw the idea on a blog and couldn't resist buying goods to fill up a snack jar. I found the cute label at Living Locurto.  Amy Locurto is a fantastic, generous graphic designer and has many free printables on her website.


thumbprint cookies {bwd}

I have sweet memories of my mom making Thumbprint Cookies with us when we were children. She would fill them raspberry and apricot jams after we jammed our thumbs into the dough. Having no recollection of what her recipe was, I looked forward to trying Dorie's and also seeing all the other bakers' cookies. I previously made one with almond paste, but otherwise haven't made a thumbprint in many, many years.

After perusing the recipe, I realized that this isn't a regular thumbprint. This is a pb&j thumbprint cookie. I then thought, "Why not double the peanut butter pleasure?"


toffee chips

I am smitten, so smitten with the Oatmeal Cookies I made the other day.  I raided my kids' stash; I couldn't stop eating them, and truth be told, I love the O/Toffee combo better than the O/Raisinet. How have I gone so long without that cookie?

So, I decided, it's time.  It's time I wean myself off of Heath Bits O'Brickle and make my own toffee chips. I, then, can happily and frugally subsist on Oatmeal Toffee cookies for the rest of my days.  Thankfully, it's really quite simple, though a little dangerous (you're dealing with 300º and don't want to get scalded. Just use a big enough pan.)


oatmeal raisinets cookie

A little damp, a bit gray, a smidgen sad... it's one of those fall days when I listen to Fauré's Requiem (hauntingly beautiful), curl up in a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa, and wish my fireplace worked properly.

It's also a day that calls out for an oatmeal cookie- warm, filling, soothing.

I like this recipe because it doesn't scream,"Oatmeal!" There is just enough to give it textural interest and to take it beyond a regular chocolate chip cookie dough. The Hubs referenced the cookie the other day, as I haven't baked it in over a year. The cookie is soft inside, but crisp around the edges. (If you prefer a crispy oatmeal cookie, take a look at this recipe.)



Meaning corks in french, these brownie-cakes are bites from chocolate heaven!

I first had one in 2004 at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, California.

It was love at first bite—deep, intense chocolate flavor, moist interior, slightly soft center, and rich, rich, rich!


danish braid with apricot and cream filling

I signed up to bring pastries for Teacher Appreciation Breakfast this week.  Having loved danishes since very little (Entenmann's Cheese Danish Twist being my earliest danish memory,) yet never having made one, I figured this would be a great time to try it.  And if the pastry failed, Entenmann's could be always be Plan B.

The dough and fillings were prepped the night before. Can you see the huge butter chunks?  MMM. Both fillings were conveniently made in the microwave.

I particularly loved the process of rolling the dough.  Roll, fold into thirds, roll, fold, roll, fold; it's very therapeutic.  And the smells.  Yeast and butter.  You can't beat it.


banana cream pie- {bwd}

With most sweet foods falling in his "take it or leave it" category, The Husband has a short list of desserts that he actually looks forward to eating. Banana Cream Pie is one of them. So when my turn came around to choose the Baking with Dorie recipe, I knew exactly which one to pick.

As usual, the pie crust presented issues for me. That said, I liked the texture (more short than flaky, and it remained crispy after two days in the refrigerator) and will definitely use it again.


{sms} jumbleberry jam

The thought of making preserves is a daunting one.  The problem of canning is what comes to mind immediately.  So with fear and trepidation, I tried this recipe, but with a caveat: make a small batch and skip the canning. That can wait for another day, week, year...

I jumbled blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries,

added a bit of Royal Gala apples for pectin,
(along with sugar, lemon juice and zest)

and boiled it all down for 15 minutes.

Voila!  Jumbleberry Jam!

Spread on La Brea bread with a layer of Nutella-

I cannot believe how simple it was to make and am so glad I tried this one out. Margot of Effort to Deliciousness chose this week's recipe.  Thank you Margot!  You can find the recipe on her site here and see all the other bakers' jams here.


nanaimo bars

I know, I know, the name throws you off.  Well, at least it did to me. That's cause I'm from New Jersey.  If you're a Canadian, you know better.

Pronounced na-NEYE-mo (emphasis on the second syllable, which rhymes with eye,) the apparently famous and well-loved cookie is named after the city in British Columbia, Canada. While I've never seen or heard of them before this week, a Google search will turn up over 17,000 Nanaimo Bar recipes.

Nanaimo Bars are a three-layer bar: a chocolate, graham cracker, coconut and walnut base, a buttercream custardy middle, and a chocolate top.

And they are simply scrumptious. And they are no bake.  And why didn't I know about these this past sweltering summer?


caramel crumb bars

"If I had to choose one cookie above all others, it would be this one. The buttery dough and creamy caramel filling complement each other perfectly." ~ Nick Malgieri

Looking through my cookbooks for a new cookie to bake, I was sold with this comment. The Master Pastry Chef's favorite. It's got to be good.
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