Saturday, December 13, 2014

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I've seen many versions of whoopie pies over the years and intended to make some eventually, but never really had enough motivation to do so until I saw these ones from Matt Lewis of Baked recently. It sounded like the perfect thing for Thanksgiving this year since it's basically like a pumpkin roulade with cream cheese frosting in a different format and you may know that pumpkin roulade is one of my go-to desserts for Thanksgiving.

Whoopie pies are essentially mini cake sandwiches. I found the cake/cookie part tasted best when it was fresh, so I would recommend making them the day you plan to serve them if possible. You can make the filling a day ahead though. I didn't have any problems with this recipe though I did scale back the cloves. I also reduced the amount of frosting since I prefer a smaller amount, but if you like a generous amount of frosting in your whoopie pies, feel free to make the full amount.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Recipe adapted from Matt Lewis of Baked
Makes about 2 dozen whoopie pies

Whoopie cookies
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp coarse salt, half the amount of fine salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. ground ginger
1/3 tbsp. ground cloves
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups pumpkin puree, chilled
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Prepare about 3 baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.

Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and the spices together in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and oil until well combined. Mix in the pumpkin puree, then the eggs and vanilla, whisking until well combined.

Gradually, fold in the flour mixture until incorporated. With a small tbsp. sized ice cream scoop, scoop mounds of dough onto your prepared baking sheets, spacing them about an inch apart, and place them in the oven. Bake for 15-18 min, depending on the size of your cookies until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Rotate them halfway through for even baking. Bake the cookies in batches if necessary.

Let the cookies cool completely on the pan before filling.

Cream cheese filling
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
5 oz cream cheese, room temp
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
pinch of salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Sift the powdered sugar and set aside. In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, with a hand mixer, or wooden spoon, beat the butter for 1-2 minutes until smooth. Then add the cream cheese and beat for another 1-2 min until well incorporated. Add the sifted powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt and mix until combined. Filling may be made a day ahead.

To fill the whoopie cookies, use an ice cream scoop, spoon, or a piping bag to frost the bottom of one whoopie cookie. Then top with another and press together gently. Store in the fridge, covered, for at least 30 min before serving. Whoopie pies will last in the fridge for up to several days or in the freezer for longer.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Simply Mindblowing Coconut Maple Granola

Can I just say that this granola is insane? Insane as in amazingly good, beyond words, but I'm going to try to describe it for you anyway. It's bursting with coconut goodness, it's a bit sweet yet salty, the granola is fluffy but crisp, and it's probably the best granola I've ever had, definitely the best one I've ever made. The components are all super simple and it doesn't sound all that special, but there's just something about coconut oil that brings this granola over the top. Do yourself a favor and make this granola.
The recipe is slightly adapted from Tracy of Shutterbean, so you know it's going to be good with all her granola making experience. This is a loose unclustered granola that really would be perfect in anything. Granola is just so easy to make and so much better when you can make it that there's just no reason to buy it. I've become just a bit obsessed with homemade granola these days and I'll continue to try other ones, but I'm sure that I will be dreaming of this one and coming back to it time and time again.

Coconut Maple Granola
Adapted from Shutterbean
Makes about 6 cups

3 cups rolled oats, not quick-cooking
3/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
3/4 cup raw almonds, or mix in roasted almonds at the end
4 tbsp flaxseed meal
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 tsp fine salt

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, almonds, flaxseed meal, brown sugar, and salt.

Add in the melted coconut oil and maple syrup and stir well to combine. When everything has been mixed thoroughly, pour the mixture onto a lined baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 min, stirring every 10-15 min until the granola is lightly golden brown.

Let the granola cool completely before storing in an airtight container. It will last for up to several weeks at room temp.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Carrot Banana Bread

It seems that I either have no bananas or when I do have bananas, I have a whole bunch of them that all ripen at the same time. Recently, I found myself with many many overripe bananas, so it was the perfect time to try some more banana recipes. I think it's blatantly obvious by now, but banana bread is one of my favorite desserts and I never get tired of trying new ones. Some are good, some not so much, but even the not so good ones aren't much of a disappointment.
A variation of banana bread I've been meaning to try since seeing it on some blogs is carrot banana bread, a hybrid of carrot cake and banana bread. I'm a fan of both, so of course it was a no-brainer. It's not much of a stretch to combine the two since the warm spices of carrot cake work perfectly in banana bread. I decided to try a healthified version of carrot banana bread from a fellow Mel of Mel's Kitchen Cafe. The banana bread came out great, but I decided to make just a few slight changes because it was not quite as light as I would've liked, so I dehealthified just a bit.

Carrot Banana Bread
Recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Makes One 9x5 inch loaf

2 cups all purpose flour (8.5 ounces)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup mashed bananas, 3 very ripe medium bananas or 2 large
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup finely grated carrots

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment or lightly grease.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, brown sugar, coconut oil, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla extract until well combined. Add in the grated carrots. Fold in the flour mixture with a spatula until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Banana bread will last, well wrapped, at room temp for several days or for several weeks in the freezer.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mrs. Sigg's Snickerdoodles

 
This is another one requested by my youngest sister, so don't expect any healthy substitutions for this one. For a while, she's been wanting me to make some snickerdoodles. So, as I usually do, I decided to try a different recipe. I already have a snickerdoodle recipe from Joanne Chang posted on this blog that is very good, but it is a rather crisp snickerdoodle. For a bit more chewiness, I decided to go with a popular recipe on Allrecipes that included some vegetable shortening. Based on the popular snickerdoodle recipes I've seen across the web, they're all pretty much the same recipe with just slightly different proportions.

The texture of this one was spot on, but using some shortening instead of butter does result in a less flavorful cookie, so it's up to you which one you pick. I made little mini snickerdoodles since that's what my sister requested and while that's good for portion control, it can also be dangerous since they're so easy to eat in one bite that you might start to lose count once you taste one. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Mrs. Sigg's Snickerdoodles
Recipe from Young Idealistic Baker who adapted from Allrecipes
Makes about 3-4 dozen mini cookies

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside. Combine the 2 tbsp of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, with a handheld mixer, or with a wooden spoon, cream the butter, shortening, and 3/4 cup sugar together for 3-5 min until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until well incorporated.

Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. With a small ice cream scoop about the size of a tsp or with your hands, form small balls of dough. Roll the balls of dough in the cinnamon sugar and place on the baking sheet leaving about 2 inches between them. Bake for 7-8 minutes, preferably on the middle rack.

Let the cookies cool for about a minute on the baking sheet so they can set up a bit. Then, remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to several days at room temp.
Obligatory stacked cookie shots, also just cause I love them.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Glutinous Pumpkin Pancake - Nan Gua Bing (南瓜饼)

I've been meaning to try my hand at Nan Gua Bing(glutinous pumpkin pancakes) for some time now since I was pretty sure they would be super easy to make and I knew they would taste a lot fresher than store bought. I love pretty much pumpkin anything and when mixed with a chewy mochi texture, it's a sure winner. Recently, I had steamed some kabocha squash to make Hobakjuk, a korean pumpkin porridge, so I decided to make some Nan Gua Bing while I was at it.

The recipe has very few ingredients and is basically just like making dumplings with the addition of kabocha squash puree. Instead of kabocha squash puree, butternut squash, sweet potato, and pumpkin would also work. You may need to adjust the amount of rice flour you use depending on the puree you use. Steaming is a pretty quick way to cook your squash, but baking or boiling, then draining would also work.

The recipe comes from Christine's Recipes and really could not get any easier. You can use all glutinous rice flour which is what the original recipe calls for or you can mix in some rice flour for a sturdier pancake. It still ends up with a nice chewy texture, but it holds together a little bit better. Try it and see what you prefer. To cook these pancakes, you can pan fry or steam them, either way works. They are definitely best eaten fresh though, so make the dough ahead of time and then when you're ready to serve, shape them into patties and cook them up.

Glutinous Pumpkin Pancakes - Nan Gua Bing (南瓜饼)
Adapted from Christine's Recipes
Makes About 12 3-inch pancakes

320 g kabocha squash puree
120 g sugar, granulated sugar or brown sugar
100 g glutinous rice flour
60 g rice flour
large pinch of salt

While your puree is warm if possible, mix in the sugar and salt thoroughly with your hands or a wooden spoon. Add the rice flour and mix. Then add the glutinous rice flour gradually until you have a smooth dough that is not too sticky.

Wrap with plastic wrap and let sit at room temp until you are ready to cook them. Divide the dough into 12 pieces, roll into a ball and flatten to your desired thickness, around 1/2 inch. In a preheated skillet over medium low, add a bit of vegetable oil, and fry the pancakes for about 3 min on each side until the dough is no longer raw. You may also steam them for 8-10 min on medium high heat. Serve immediately.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Chewy Brownies

A while ago, I had made applesauce brownies and I thought they were fantastic not to mention practically good for you. However, my younger sister didn't think they were as fantastic as I did. When we went to the grocery store the other day, she began eyeing up a brownie. I knew that I could make a fresh batch at home in under an hour, so I convinced her to let me make her some instead. I did have to guarantee that it would be a more typical brownie made without whole wheat flour and honey though.

As I said in my applesauce brownies post, while I've made brownies in the past, none of them ever seemed quite blogworthy. It could also be that my baking skills weren't quite as good initially so they never turned out quite right. Anyway, for this attempt, I thought I would try Laura Vitale's Chewy Brownies because frankly, they just looked really good and she seems to know a thing or two about brownies. My sisters and I are fans of chewy brownies, although Laura also has recipes for Fudgy and Cakey Brownies.

These brownies came out amazing and as you can see are definitely blogworthy. As with most of Laura's recipes, this one is really simple and seems practically foolproof. In no time, I had a batch of brownies in the oven. The brownies themselves are perfectly chewy with some fudginess, not overly sweet or greasy, and the edges that touch the pan crisp up beautifully. I'm happy to have found a brownie recipe that I feel like I can rely on and that I think will please pretty much any brownie craving in no time.

Chewy Brownies
Recipe slightly adapted from Laura in the Kitchen
Makes 16 Brownies

1 stick(1/2 cup) of unsalted butter
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, chunks or chips or chopped
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the bittersweet chocolate and whisk occasionally until melted.

While the chocolate is melting, sift your flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Once the chocolate has melted, whisk in the granulated sugar for about a minute until well incorporated. Then mix in the eggs, whisking for another 1-2 minutes until everything is well mixed. Add in the flour mixture and stir to combine. Switch to a spatula or a wooden spoon if necessary. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

For an 8 inch square pan, bake for 40 min on the center rack. For a 9 inch square pan, brownies will take about 35 min in the oven. Let cool completely before cutting. Brownies will last for several days covered at room temp or for several weeks well wrapped in the freezer.