Friday, March 13, 2009

Pecan snowballs (otherwise known as Mexican Wedding Cookies)

These are one of my favorite holiday cookies. They should be sweet, crumbly, and melt in your mouth. I know it doesn't make much sense to post about holiday cookies in March, but I can't help it if my cravings don't always follow the seasons! It's not my fault if they look like miniature snowmen.

I've eaten many different versions of these cookies, so I was curious to try Martha's version. Her recipe is very simple.


1 cup (3 1/4 oz) pecans
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Grind the pecans and 1/4 cup powdered sugar in a good processor until the nuts are finely ground.

Whisk together the sugar-nut mixture, flour, and salt in a large bowl.

Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixture, cream the butter and 3/4 cup powdered sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat until combined.

Add the flour-nut mixture and beat on low speed until everything starts to hold together.

Roll small pieces of dough into 1/2 - 3/4 inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake the cookies until they are lightly browned on the bottom but still light on top, approximately 10-12 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets (top to bottom and front to back) halfway through baking. The cookies may flatten slightly while baking.

Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.
After the cookies have cooled completely, toss the cookies with 1 cup powdered sugar in a large bowl. Make sure the cookies are completely covered with sugar.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Perfect Popovers (Part Deux)

Remember my first attempt at making popovers? To summarize: they were a minor disaster. Popovers should not deflate after you take them out of the oven!

I was determined to try to make these again. For my second attempt, I used the popover recipe from Martha's web site, which is slightly different than the one in her book. I had high hopes for this recipe, for a number of reasons. First, it uses fewer eggs. This is a good thing, because I thought my first batch of popovers tasted much too eggy. Second, the instructions involve baking the popovers at high heat for 15 minutes, and then lowering the temperature while continuing to bake the popovers for an additional 20 minutes. I've seen other popover recipes that employ this technique, so I thought there must be something to it.

I didn't take photos of the mixing and preparation steps this time, since everything looked pretty similar to my first popover post. In case you've forgotten, this is what a popover pan looks like. You can try to make popovers with a muffin pan, but they won't turn out as well.

I mixed the ingredients together, blah blah blah, and poured the batter into the popover tin.

After 35 minutes in the oven, I removed the popovers from the oven, slit them with a sharp knife to let the air escape, and removed them from the pan. And they didn't deflate! Woohoo!

Look, perfect popovers! They're light, fluffy, and golden brown, just like they should be!

Popovers should be very airy (almost hollow) on the inside, and these were no exception.

I am ridiculously happy with the way these turned out. With the right recipe and proper technique, these are actually very easy to make. They have very few ingredients, and most of them are things you probably already have in your pantry (well, except for the popover tin). If you've had trouble making these in the past, I highly recommend this recipe. Traditionally, popovers were eaten with butter and jam, but I think popovers make a great alternative to regular bread. They are a tasty accompaniment to winter soups or stews (or pretty much anything else).

Perfect Popovers (makes 6)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Liberally spray popover tin with non-stick cooking spray, and then lightly coat with flour.

Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, and butter. Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture and fold together until the entire mixture is just blended. It's OK if there are a few small lumps of flour left in the batter.

Evenly distribute the batter between the 6 popover cups.

Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature for 350 degrees and bake until the popovers are puffy and well-browned on top, approximately 20 minutes. Warning: if you take them out of the oven too early, they will deflate. Remove tin from the oven and immediately remove popovers onto a wire cooling rack. Use a sharp knife to cut a small slit in the sides of each popover (this prevents them from getting soggy or deflating). Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream

I've been a bad, bad blogger. I don't have a good excuse why I stopped blogging in November. I made tons of baked goodies for the holidays, and the backlog for my blog kept growing. But I'm back! Even better, I've realized that I can publish recipes as long as I write my own text. Whee!

I love cupcakes, and I also love the combination of chocolate and raspberry. Martha Stewart has a great, easy recipe for one-bowl chocolate cupcakes, but I didn't want to do the typical thing with chocolate frosting. I found Martha's recipe for strawberry buttercream, and I decided to adapt it to raspberry buttercream. It turned out wonderfully!

Cupcake Ingredients:

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (NOT dutch-process)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients (cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt).

Add the eggs, water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract. Mix everything together by hand until the batter is smooth, approximately 3 minutes.

Pour the batter evenly into the cups of a regular muffin tin lined with paper liners (if you don't have paper liners, butter the tins so your muffins won't stick). Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out with only a few crumbs attached.

Let the muffins cool completely on a wire rack before you frost them. This is what the muffins looked like when I took them out of the oven:

Now it's time to make the buttercream! This is an unusual buttercream recipe, because it calls for egg whites instead of egg yolks. It's very good though.

Raspberry Meringue Buttercream Ingredients:

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) raspberry jam


First, puree the raspberry jam in a food processor until it is completely smooth. If the jam has seeds, make sure the seeds have been pulverized.

Combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of your electric mixer. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, until the sugar completely dissolves and the mixture is warm to the touch.

Attach the bowl to your stand mixer (with the whisk attachment) and beat on high speed until stiff peaks appear. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and has cooled. This should take approximately 5-6 minutes.

Remove the whisk attachment from your mixer, and add the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on medium-low speed and slowly add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating well. After all of the butter is incorporated, add the vanilla extract. Turn the speed to low and beat for 2 additional minutes.

Add the pureed raspberry jam to the mixture, and combine with a spatula until smooth.

Now you have raspberry meringue buttercream! You can use a spatula or knife to spread the frosting on top of the cupcakes, but I wanted to do something a little more decorative.
I cut a corner off of a large ziploc bag and attached a star-shaped decorative icing tip. I filled the bag with the buttercream and iced my cupcakes with some simple stars and lines.

These cupcakes were very pretty, and also very tasty. I love the color of the raspberry buttercream. Yum!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust

Every year, I bake a pumpkin pie for my family's Thanksgiving Dinner. In my world, it's not really Thanksgiving unless you have pumpkin pie. I often experiment with the type of pie I make, and this year, I decided to make a pumpkin pie with a gingersnap crust. I absolutely love ginger, and I think pumpkin and ginger taste great together.

I used Martha Stewart's pumpkin pie recipe. I also modified a recipe that I found for a graham cracker crust, but I substituted gingersnaps instead of the graham crackers. I guessed that they would be interchangeable, and based on my results, I think this substitution worked wonderfully.

Gingersnap Crust


5 oz. gingersnaps, crushed (I prefer the Triple Gingersnaps from Trader Joe's or the 365 brand from Whole Foods. Both have great ginger flavor.)
5 TBSP melted butter
3 TBSP sugar


Pulse the gingersnaps in the bowl of a food processor until they resemble coarse crumbs.

Add the butter and sugar, and pulse until the mixture becomes clumpy and starts to stick together.

Using a rubber spatula, spread the gingersnap mixture evenly over the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees until edges of crust turn golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes.

Now we move on to the pie filling. Pumpkin pie is incredibly easy, because you mix all of the ingredients together in one bowl. Whisk until smooth.

Pour the filling into your crust, make sure it's spread out evenly, and then bake. Voila! Pumpkin pie!

For some reason, my photos of this pie didn't turn out very well, but I promise it's delicious! The pie filling is a fairly traditional one, but the addition of the gingersnap crust gave it a nice kick of flavor. This is a great recipe if you want a traditional pie with a slight twist.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Life has gotten very busy lately, so I've been neglecting my blog. I hope to rectify this with some new posts over the next few days. Sorry!

Recently, I've seen a lot of people blogging and talking about making Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, which are kind of like pumpkin moon pies. This seems to be the trendy home baking dessert of the season. They sounded great to me, so I thought I'd give them a shot for a work potluck.

Martha Stewart has a recipe for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies on her web site, but her recipe involves chocolate cakes and pumpkin filling, which isn't what I wanted. I wanted to make a version with pumpkin cakes and cream cheese frosting. A friend sent me another recipe, which sounded like what I wanted. I adapted it slightly, and I'm excited that I can actually post a full recipe here!


1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, 1 stick melted, 1/2 stick softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup canned pure pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon plus 2 pinches salt
1 2/3 cups flour
4 ounces cream cheese, chilled
1 cup confectioners' sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin puree, spices, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture.

3. Using an ice cream scoop or tablespoon, drop 12 generous mounds of batter, spaced evenly, onto each baking sheet. Bake until springy to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter with the cream cheese. Add the confectioners' sugar and the remaining 2 pinches salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; mix on low speed until blended, then beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

5. Spread the flat side of 12 cakes with the cream cheese frosting. Top each with another cake.

Now for the step-by-step procedure with photos:

First, I mixed together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth.

Then I whisked in the eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

I added the spices and pumpkin, which made the batter much thicker.

Then I folded my flour mixture (which also included baking powder and baking soda) into the liquid batter.

Step One:

Step 2 (with the flour half-way mixed in):

Step 3, with the flour completely incorporated:

I spooned the small cakes onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

And this is what they looked like when they came out of the oven.

While the cakes were cooling, I made the filling. First, I mixed together the butter and cream cheese.

Then I added the confectioner's sugar. Mmmm... creamy.

I added a generous amount of filling to the bottom half of 12 cakes, and then topped them with another cake. There was a lot of cream cheese frosting, so I didn't have to skimp.

These were fun, very tasty, and also easy to make. I would definitely make these again!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ebony and Ivory (aka Black and White cookies)

Ebony and ivory/live together in perfect harmony/side by side on my piano...

I asked my husband to pick his Top 3 cookie recipes from Martha's Baking Handbook, and he immediately chose the Black and White Cookie. He grudgingly found two other possibilities, but he was practically giddy with excitement over these cookies, so I decided to be nice and make them for him.

My only knowledge of Black and White Cookies comes from the infamous Seinfeld episode where Jerry and the gang visit a bakery to buy a hostess gift for a party they are attending. Elaine almost kills a woman over a chocolate babka, and Jerry finds comfort in a Black and White Cookie (which, ironically, eventually makes him sick). Hopefully these cookies will have better karma than Jerry's.

I started by making the cookie dough. I whisked together the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt) in a large bowl.

Next, I creamed the butter and sugar together, using my stand mixer.

Nice and fluffy!

I added the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla extract. I blended them until they were well-incorporated and the batter was creamy.

Finally, I added the flour mixture and some heavy cream. You know a recipe is going to be good when it involves heavy cream.

The batter tasted okay (yes, I always taste my batter... don't you?) It tasted like typical sugar cookie dough. I'd never tried Black and White cookies before, so I wasn't sure what to expect.

Per Martha's instructions, I formed the dough into small balls and placed them on cookie sheets to bake in the oven.

After my first batch, I realized the cookies didn't flatten very much during baking, so I needed to form the dough into a disk-like shape before baking them. Unfortunately, I didn't take another photo of them after I started doing this, but I basically just flattened out the balls of dough I made the first time.

Per Martha's instructions, I took them out of the oven when the edges were ever-so-slightly browned. My husband supported these instructions, because he said the cookies were supposed to be cake-like.

My dog REALLY wanted a cookie. (She also desperately needed a hair cut. She could have claimed the title of The Shaggy Dog when this photo was taken. Don't worry, she's gotten a hair cut since then.)

After I baked the cookies, I realized that they didn't look as perfectly round as the ones in Martha's photos, and I knew I should have used a cookie cutter (this isn't part of her recipe). So I decided to improvise, and I decided to make slightly more perfectly round cookies by cutting my cookies with a round biscuit cutter. You can also see a photo of Martha's cookies in the background of this photo.

At this point, I ate some of the cookie scraps (it was my duty to test them), and I was slightly underwhelmed. They tasted like plain sugar cookies, and I'm not a huge fan of plain sugar cookies. I wasn't sure if this project was going to be worth it in the end, but I forged ahead. My husband, on the other hand, thought the cookies tasted perfect at this stage.

While the cookies were cooling, it was time to make the icing. The icing was very simple - just heavy cream and powdered sugar for the white icing, and then you add dutch-process cocoa powder to make the chocolate icing.

First, I sifted the powdered sugar into a large bowl. This frosting used a lot of powdered sugar. Like a whole box worth. There was powdered sugar all over the place by the time I finished this!

I whisked the heavy cream into the sugar until it was smooth. This frosting was VERY sweet.

I poured half of the white icing into a second bowl, so I could turn it into chocolate. I added a healthy amount of cocoa powder, and voila - chocolate frosting! This was DELISH, by the way. I had a little extra, and I'm saving it for some other purpose. Like maybe eating it with a spoon.

Side note: I had to use some cookie scraps to make an Obama cookie. Mmm edible politics.

Where was I? Oh yes, icing. I started with the white icing. I used an offset spatula to frost the cookies. I folded a piece of parchment paper in half, so it had a straight edge on one side, and I flattened it over half of the cookie, in an attempt to try to form a relatively straight line in the middle of the cookies. Then I frosted the side that wasn't covered by parchment paper. They aren't perfect, but I think I did a pretty good job.

You may notice that one of the cookies in this photo is completely covered in white icing. There was another cookie that fell into the bowl of chocolate icing, so it was completely covered in dark brown frosting. I called it The Augustus Gloop Cookie.

After the white icing had dried, I frosted the other side with chocolate.

I think they turned out pretty darn well, if I do say so myself. They were a pain to make, but they look pretty good. And now I'm a Black and White cookie convert. They are delicious! The icing definitely adds a lot to the cookie, especially on the chocolate side. I could eat a dozen of these with no problem.