Monthly Archives: October 2011

Cute On A Stick.

There are those among us that dare to claim they don’t like candy corn. I won’t name names here, but just know the list is a long one. Candy corn is just one of those things you either love or hate. For instance: I love the bright caramel flavour, but I kind of hate the pain I get in the back of my eyeballs when I eat more than my fair share. I tolerate a lot of eyeball pain this time of year.

When I saw some photos of cookies like these floating around on Pinterest I knew I had to try them out with my amazing whipped shortbread recipe. For those of you that have never had whipped shortbread, first of all you must know that I pity you, and second of all you should know that it’s like the cookie equivalent of cotton candy. Have you ever honestly had a melt-in-your-mouth cookie? Well you’re about to, my friends. No more doorstop shortbread for you! Or chewing come to think of it.

So, getting back to my love of candy corn… These adorable cookies are not only shaped like my favourite candy, but actually have the audacity to perch themselves on sticks thus increasing their cuteness threefold. Everyone knows food is cuter on sticks right?

Ok, let’s review.

Candy corn = yum.
Whipped shortbread = life changing.
Sticks = cute.

Now that we know there’s a method to my madness, why not bake up some yummy-life-changing-cute-on-a-stick? You know you want to.

Candy Corn Shortbread Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Source: Adapted from my family recipe.

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup salted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup corn starch
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cup flour
Orange food colouring
Yellow food colouring

Lollipop sticks

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter, powdered sugar and corn starch until there are no lumps. Mix in the vanilla extract, add the flour and whip it on high until it’s creamy and fluffy. You can’t really over-whip it so don’t worry.

Divide the dough into thirds. Add a few drops of the yellow food colouring to one and the orange to the second. Mix each until there are no streaks and the colour is consistent. Wrap each third in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for about 30 minutes to stiffen the dough.

Between sheets of wax paper roll out or pat by hand each third into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Peel the wax paper off and stack the rolled dough on top of each other starting with white, then orange then yellow. With a sharp knife cut a 1/4 inch strip off the laminated dough and set it on it’s side so the stripes are facing up. Slice triangles out of the dough and place them on the parchment paper. To bake the cookies on sticks, carefully slide the lollipop stick horizontally into the point of each triangle without piercing either side of the dough. Bake them for about 10 – 12 minutes then transfer them to a cookie rack. Enjoy!

PS: Make sure not to discard the ugly edges of the dough because they can be made into pretty marbled cookies like these! Just briefly roll the bits into balls and press them into discs before baking.

Fingers Crossed.

Have you ever had one of those thoughts that seemed like a good idea at the time then suddenly you find yourself wrist-deep in cookie dough and the cat is trying to eat the styrofoam gravestones and somehow you spent a small fortune on things like faux cobwebs and glow-in-the-dark skeletons?

This weekend our house will be invaded by a handful of twelve year old girls hopped on on handfuls of sugar. Sugar that I will be providing in abundance. Sugar that I will be encouraging the consumption of. Sugar laid out in pretty packaging on pretty platters and in pretty bowls.

Let’s not forget this was all my idea. I claim full responsibility for any resulting cavities, scraped knees, overturned soda bottles, pumpkin carving injuries and popped eardrums.

I’m the sort of person that has the tendency to get a little carried away. Being creatively inclined I am all too familiar with the frustrating feeling that comes from imagination not matching up with reality. I have to remember I have a big imagination. This time I wanted to get it right. This time I wanted to throw an awesome party for Sable. This time I wanted her friends to talk about it for years to come.

So yeah, we pulled out all the stops. Fog machine, strobe light, spooky sounds CD, bubbling cauldron, dessert table, pumpkin carving, talking crows, ghost stories… The works!

And, of course, I couldn’t forget the classic Witch Finger Cookies. I’m sure you’ve seen them before. It’s nothing new, but I make them every year and I thought it was time to share them with you. Mine are a bit different. A little less blood and gore and more delicious almond flavour.

Just a little something to make the perfect Halloween party even better!

Almond Witch Finger Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Source: Adapted from my family recipe.

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
4 tbsp corn syrup
2 tsp almond extract
3 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt

Blanched almonds for garnish

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper then set them aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Add the egg, corn syrup and almond extract then beat it until it’s combined well.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour and salt then add it to the butter mixture and mix it well.

Scoop a heaping tbsp of dough for each cookie and roll them into cylinders. Create knuckle shapes by rolling the cylinder lightly between two fingers then use a knife to make wrinkles on the knuckles. Taper one end slightly and lightly press an almond into it to form the fingernail.

Bake them for 10 minutes until the edges turn a light brown. Transfer them to a cooling rack and enjoy!

Cloudy With A Chance of Delicious.

You ever had one of those days?

Maybe you put your underwear on inside out. Maybe you just couldn’t wait for the dryer to be done and you had to rush out of the house wearing a half damp sweater. Maybe it rained all day and the humidity made your hair interminably frizzy. Maybe you stepped in a puddle and ruined your new suede shoes. Maybe you thought your favourite show was on at 9 but really it was on at 8 and you missed it. Then maybe at the end of it all, when you just want to curl up in bed and sleep away the bad, you realize you left the sheets in the washer.

There there. Tomorrow will be different.

Maybe tomorrow you’ll make these deliciously easy, fantastically tasty Sugar and Spice Toasted Pumpkin Seeds. Maybe the world will suddenly be a different place. Maybe the house will smell like pie. Maybe the rain will clear and your shoes will dry. Maybe you’ll catch a repeat of that episode you missed. Maybe you’ll have something to idly munch on between your clean sheets and your favourite book. Life is good again.

I say maybe because I’m not going to presume to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. It’s your life. It’s up to you of course. If you want frizzy hair, damp clothes and puddle shoes then far be it from me to tell you otherwise. On the other hand, if you like rainbows, pie smells and snacks in bed, then yes, yes you should make these. And quickly. Before it’s too late!

Sugar And Spice Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Source: My imagination.

2 cup raw pumpkin seeds, rinsed and dried
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

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Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.

Toss the pumpkin seeds in the melted butter, sugar and pumpkin pie spice until they’re coated thoroughly. Spread them out in an even layer and toast them for about 45 minutes turning them a few times in the process. You’ll know they’re done when they’re golden brown and crunchy. Enjoy!

How To… Er… Wednesday: Easy As Pie.

I have been told that Pumpkin Pie baked with real pumpkin puree is far superior to the canned pumpkin puree. Since I’m pretty new to the whole Pumpkin Pie experience I thought I’d test that theory. Making pumpkin puree was pretty easy so I thought it was worth sharing with everyone.

First you have to get yourself a sugar or pie pumpkin. They’re the smaller ones anywhere between the size of a five pin bowling ball to a ten pin bowling ball. They’re usually darker than a jack-o-lantern pumpkin with more pronounced ridges and a straighter stem.

You might think that you can just buy a smaller jack-o-lantern pumpkin and bake it up just fine. True, you could, but you’d get the best results with a pie pumpkin. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins are grown for their thin flesh and stringy insides to make them easier to carve. Pie pumpkins are grown for their thick flesh and taste for best results in baking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.

Snap off the stem and, with a large sharp knife, slice it in half vertically. With a spoon scoop out the insides of each half to expose the hard dense flesh. Lay the halves on the baking sheet so the outer skin is facing up and bake them for about 45 – 60 minutes depending on the size of your pumpkin.

You’ll know they’re done when you can pierce the skin with a fork without much resistance. Flip them over to expose the flesh and let them cool to a temperature that makes them comfortable to handle.

With a spoon scoop out the flesh and discard the tough skin. In a food processor blend the pumpkin flesh until it’s a smooth consistency free of any lumps. To remove any excess water strain the puree in cheesecloth for a few hours. You’ll be left with rich thick pumpkin puree worthy of any recipe you want to add it to. There you go! Easy as… ahem… pie!

And make sure not to throw away all those glorious pumpkin seeds! I’ll show you what you can do with them soon.

Fall Into Fall.

It’s finally Fall.

I know this because my footsteps are stalked by the soft tinkling of tiny colourful leaves. I know this because all the crab apples fell off the tree before I had the chance to turn them into jam or pie. I know this because it’s still warm enough to get away with wearing peep toe heels but cool enough that I need to pair them with a light faux leather coat. I know this because the simple act of turning on the oven is welcomed instead of avoided. I know this because I’m drawn to warm and homey flavours like rich demerara sugar, thick molasses and spicy cinnamon.

To continue my pumpkin theme and demonstrate a creative use of my Pumpkin Pie Spice I’ve made these Pumpkin Spice Ginger Snaps. They’re not your average Ginger Snaps. I’ve spiced them up a smidgen. Less ginger and more cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Less snappy and more chewy. They’re coated with big bold crystals of turbinado sugar and a flavour to match.

Just the push I needed to fall into Fall.

Pumpkin Spice Ginger Snaps

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Source: My imagination.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup demerara sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position a rack in the middle. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter and demerara sugar. Add the molasses and egg then mix it until it’s just blended.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice then add it to the butter mixture. Blend the dough until all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour the turbinado sugar onto a plate or into a shallow dish. For each cookie, scoop a heaping tbsp of dough and roll it into a ball then coat it with the prepared sugar. Bake them for about 10 minutes until they flatten out and deep cracks appear on the surface. Transfer them to a cooling rack and enjoy!

How To Tuesday: Spice Of My Life.

Every Thanksgiving since I can remember I would try a tiny taste of Pumpkin Pie and every year it would be the same reaction. Yuck! I wanted to love it. I really did. I wanted to be one of those people that look forward to Thanksgiving all year long. I love the turkey. I love the cranberry sauce. I definitely love the stuffing. But when it came to dessert I had to say thanks, but no thanks.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but not liking Pumpkin Pie is just one of those things people don’t excuse. It’s as though I just sprouted a pair of wiggling green antennae. It’s like turning down chocolate, lobster and corn on the cob all at once. It’s just not done.

This year was different. This year we enjoyed Thanksgiving with Lee’s aunt and uncle in Calgary and, as usual I had to say no to the Pumpkin Pie. No jaws dropped. No spit takes. No questions asked. I had the Cherry Cheesecake instead and it was delicious! We had a wonderful weekend and came home with some turkey leftovers and half a Pumpkin Pie.

That night I took the pie out of the fridge, sat it on the counter and stared at it. I admired the glistening orange filling. I inhaled the intoxicating scent of the intermingled spices. I tentatively poked a little at it then promptly licked my fork. To my surprise and delight my reaction was the opposite of yuck.

It finally happened! I finally like Pumpkin Pie! So for the next little while expect to see a lot of pumpkin-related recipes here. This sort of realization deserves some celebration!

To start off the festivities I’ve brought you a spicy little DIY. Instead of buying those premade Pumpkin Pie Spice mixes make your own. It’s fast, easy and includes spices you already have on hand. The best part is that, when paired with an antique teaspoon and ribbon, it makes a super cute gift for your favourite baker!

Pumpkin Pie Spice

1/4 cup cinnamon
1 tbsp nutmeg
1 tbsp ginger
1/2 tbsp cloves

In a small bowl thoroughly mix all the ground spices together. Transfer the mix to an airtight container.

Attach an adorable antique teaspoon with a sweet bow for a thoughtful and practical gift! Enjoy!

Post Vacation Vacation Post.

I’m back! Finally right? Have you ever had one of those vacations where you need another vacation just to recover from it? Yeah, that was me.

I had all these lofty ideas to post updates for you about how the visit was going salt and peppered with cute shots of chocolate daisy toppers, polka dot baking cups and an army of cupcakes. That didn’t happen. That was a stupid idea. I’m stupid.

I barely had time to sleep let alone have the energy to post devilishly clever blog posts or keep my eyes open for Photoshop. The week was a whirlwind of events from a little firearm education with dad to lions and tigers and bears at the zoo. Manicures and pedicures with the ladies to Sandbanks with mom. A little Indonesian cuisine with the family to girly movies and giggling with my best friend. Curling, speeches, tours, appointments, photos, new friends, old friends… Cupcakes and lots of ’em!

I thought it would be too soon if I never saw another cupcake in my life. After a full day of baking twelve dozen cupcakes, filling twelve dozen cupcakes, frosting twelve dozen cupcakes, topping twelve dozen cupcakes and packing twelve dozen cupcakes I wasn’t interested in eating even one. The three flavours were a hit at the wedding and they were nearly devoured before the photographer could snap the traditional cutting the cake photo. It was a beautiful wedding and Lisa and Jamie were the sweetest couple!

I was really excited about this particular cupcake because I personally considered it the signature flavour being that it was a fall wedding. Since I never tried it, or posted anything about the wedding like a good blogger would do, I decided just one batch wouldn’t kill me. This time I took my time and planned ahead. Unlike last time when I forgot the jam entirely and accidentally bought a kilogram of whole wheat flour. This time there was no hair pulling, no exploding piping bags, no mountains of tupperware, no assembly line, no late night trips to my brother’s new refrigerator. Just a little Ani DiFranco and a lot of love.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes.

Source: My imagination.

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 vanilla bean
3 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil

1 cup apple jam/jelly

1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tbsp water
1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 – 4 cup powdered sugar

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line 2 muffin tins with baking cups and set them aside.

In a large bowl an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated. Split open the vanilla bean then scrape out all the seeds and add them to the bowl.

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt then add it in thirds alternating between the milk and oil.

Divide the batter between the prepared muffin tins then bake them for 20 – 25 minutes until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Transfer them to a cooling rack and let them cool completely before filling and frosting.

To fill the cupcakes, use a sharp knife or tiny circle cookie cutter to cut a hole for the jam. Take your cake cylinder and lop off the bottom. Fill a small pastry bag fitted with a round tip with the apple jam and pipe it into the hole in the cake. Return the little cake hat to the top of the cake.

To make the Caramel Buttercream, combine the granulated sugar and water in a small sauce pan on medium high heat. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for 6 – 7 minutes or until it turns a dark amber brown. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the beans and whisk them into the cream.

Remove it from the heat then very gradually add the cream and vanilla. Be careful not to add the cream too quickly as it will likely splatter or bubble. Set it aside until it’s cool to the touch, about 25 minutes.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat the butter until it’s fluffy and the colour is lightened. Mix in the powdered sugar then add the cooled caramel and blend it until it’s smooth.

Scoop the frosting into a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and generously frost each cupcake. To make roses start a spiral of frosting from the middle working your way to the outside. Enjoy!