Friday, November 27, 2009

Chocolate Nut Cookies

Two or three years ago, I found these nut-shaped cookie molds in the King Arthur Flour Baker's Catalogue. After purchasing them impulsively, I promptly placed them in the back of my baking-gadgets drawer and forgot about them. When the most recent catalog came in the mail, it had a recipe for Chocolate Nut Cookies, which uses these molds. I knew these cookies would be perfect for Thanksgiving, so I dug out my set and got to work.

Oh, I'm so glad I made these! They are time-consuming, but not difficult. They taste like brownie edges with a nice fudgy surprise in the middle. I think that making these will become a new Thanksgiving tradition.

The link to the recipe is above. Here are some of my tips that I compiled as I tried these out:
1. I used the weight measurements given in the recipe. If you don't have a kitchen scale and will measure your flour with cups, note that KAF tests their recipes with the spoon in/level off method (as opposed to the dip-and-sweep method).
2. Err on the side of smaller rather than larger when chopping the pecans. Large pieces will mar the definition of the mold shape. I toasted my pecans prior to chopping them.
3. Use a level measuring teaspoon of dough to fill each mold. The finished cookies will have a small indentation in the middle which is perfect for holding a nice amount of the ganache filling.
4. Give them away as soon as possible to avoid damage to your diet.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Taco Crackers

Taco Crackers
from Taste of Home Magazine

1. Place 3 (9 oz) packages oyster crackers in a large roasting pan; drizzle with 3/4 cup vegetable oil
 and toss to combine.

2. Combine 1 envelope taco seasoning (1 oz), 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano,
and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder; sprinkle over the crackers and toss to coat.

3. Bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once. Makes 16 cups.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pumpkin Heaven

I love to bake. More precisely, I love to bake cookies. Along that vein, I have been collecting the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine annually since 1996. I first flip through and look at all the gorgeous and delectable photos of the cookies, then I spend a little more time
perusing the pages and making mental notes on my favorites. Lastly, I read through the recipes and decide on a few must-makes for the holiday season. The cookies that caught my interest almost immediately in this year's edition were the Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies, whose recipe was submitted by reader, Emily Orton, of Bonner Springs, KS. According to Emily, "they have the consistency of cake and should be sold in bakeries".

On the first day that was cool enough for baking, I fired up the oven (an arduous task as my oven will now only turn on if I first light the right back burner on the stove-top. Note to self: call repair-man before Thanksgiving.), whipped up some dough and proceeded to bake some super-yummy little cakes. While they cooled, I mixed up the caramely goodness that was to frost the tops of these pumpkin gems. Lastly, the taste test. These were as good as I had imagined: Soft and cakey, with a mild pumpkin-pie flavor that is nicely enhanced by the brown-butter, caramel flavors in the icing. They have been added to my "make again soon" list.

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies

Preheat your oven to 350-degrees. In a large bowl, beat 2 cups softened, unsalted butter on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Add 2 cups sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg to the butter and beat until combined, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; beat until combined. Beat in 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree. Lastly, beat in 4 cups (20 ounces) all-purpose flour.

Drop the dough by heaping teaspoons (the flatware kind) 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are set. Remove from the cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack.

For the frosting, heat 1/2 cup unsalted butter and 1/2 cup packed brown sugar in a saucepan until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup whole milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat in 2 + 3/4 cups powdered sugar until smooth. Spread frosting on cooled cookies and sprinkle with additional cinnamon. Makes 60-ish cookies.