Sunday, October 31, 2010

Iced Pumpkin Cookies

Happy Halloween!

I looked at many pumpkin cookie recipes online before settling on this one. I found many of them had comments by “reviewers” who tinkered with the recipe this way and that until my head was spinning about which way was best. All I wanted was a simple recipe for a great pumpkin cookie.

This one came straight from the Libby pumpkin people on the website. I didn’t mess with it at all, and I think the cookies turned out great.

Iced Pumpkin Cookies

Ingredients for cookies:
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheets.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat sugar and softened butter in large mixer bowl until blended. Then add the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until smooth.

Gradually add in the flour mixture and beat until thoroughly mixed. Drop by rounded tablespoon (or my favorite—small cookie scoop) onto greased baking sheets.

Bake for 15-16 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for two minutes before removing to wire racks.

Ingredients for glaze:
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine ingredients for glaze in a small bowl. Then drizzle over cookies. I snipped the end of a decorating bag to make the drizzling a little easier. I also put waxed paper under the cooling rack to catch any glaze that dripped.

Yields: about 3 dozen cookies

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pumpkin Loaf

One of my friends says that pumpkin is only to be served during the fall holidays (Halloween and Thanksgiving)--NOT at Christmas time! :) To honor her request, I will be bringing you three pumpkin recipes in a row.

This week it's Pumpkin Loaf, a really moist bread that makes your house smell great. In the next two weeks, I'll have pumpkin cookies and a pumpkin cake roll. So don't worry when you see this recipe uses only half a can of pumpkin. Save the rest for the cookies or the cake roll. :)

Pumpkin Loaf

1 cup of canned pumpkin (this is a little more than half a 15-oz. can)
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup applesauce (I used the kind already flavored with cinnamon)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees for dark-coated pans). Grease and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan or line it with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin, eggs, oil, applesauce, vanilla, and both kinds of sugar.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until blended. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 50 minutes. Loaf is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Orange Dream Cupcake

I almost made these for Cattapalooza, but the chocolate cupcakes won out. :) This recipe was adapted from a full cake recipe. The frosting was the best part. With some dark chocolate decorations, these cupcakes could be really fun for Halloween.

Orange Dream Cupcakes

Cake Ingredients:
1 yellow cake mix
1 (3 ounce) package vanilla instant pudding
¾ cup orange juice
½ cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons orange zest

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients for the cake. Beat on medium speed for two minutes. Scoop into muffin pan. Bake for 16-20 for full-size cupcakes. Bake for 10-13 minutes for mini cupcakes.

Icing Ingredients:
1 cup cold milk
1 small package vanilla instant pudding
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 cups Cool Whip

Whisk milk, pudding, and orange zest for two minutes. Fold in the Cool Whip.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chocolate Cool Whip Icing

This is the second recipe from "Cattapalooza." This icing made a really nice topping for the cupcakes. I put it in a decorating bag with a star tip and just made a rosette on top of each mini cupcake.

Chocolate Cool Whip Icing

1 small (3.9-ounce) package of chocolate instant pudding
3/4 cup milk
1 8-ounce container of Cool Whip, thawed

Mix the milk and pudding together. I ended up using the wire whisk on my mixer. Then fold in the Cool Whip. (I had a little problem with the pudding not blending well with the Cool Whip because the smaller amount of milk made the pudding thicker than typical, so I used the mixer with the wire whisk to really smooth out the icing.)

The chocolate cross decorations were made with Wilton Candy Melts. I simply melted about 10 of the chocolate candy pieces in a decorating bag in the microwave. Then I snipped off the end and piped the crosses onto a sheet of parchment paper. An hour in the fridge was enough to harden them.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mini No-Bake Cheesecakes

Due to "Cattapalooza" this past weekend, my entries for this week are a little late. On the bright side, I baked a lot, so I’ve got two recipes to share!

First up are these mini no-bake cheesecakes. I looked at a lot of recipes online before I decided on this one. It’s basically Martha Stewart’s recipe with the amounts adjusted to fill mini muffin tins versus a springform pan.

The good news about this cheesecake recipe is that it tastes great and contains no eggs. That bad news is that, like many other no-bake recipes, it didn’t get really firm, so it really needs to stay refrigerated until you’re ready to serve it.

No-Bake Mini Cheesecakes

Ingredients for crust:
1 package (10 sheets) graham crackers
5 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar

Ingredients for filling:
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the graham crackers in a resealable plastic bag. Crush them with a rolling pin until the crumbs are very fine. (When I got near the end, I used a sifter to help me find the larger crumbs that needed some more smashing.)

Pour the crumbs into a bowl. Stir in the sugar and melted butter. Press the crumbs into mini muffin cups. I used the end of a shot glass to help me press the crumbs down.

Chill the crust in the freezer for at least 10 minutes.

To make the filling, beat the cream cheese at a medium-high speed until smooth. Slowly beat in the condensed milk, scraping the bowl as necessary. Then beat in the lemon juice and vanilla.

Scoop the filling into the muffin tins and refrigerate at least 2 ½ to 3 hours.

Yields: about 40 mini cheesecakes

A few extra hints:
*Instead of using spoons or a cookie scooper to get the filling into the mini muffin tins, I put the filling in a decorating bag and just squeezed it right in.
*In the picture, you’ll notice that some of the mini cheesecakes have a pink topping. I added a Cherry Cool Whip topping just before the party. It was simply the “Strawberry Mousse Filling” with the cherry cake and pastry filling instead of strawberry.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chocolate Buttercream Icing

I was originally going to use this post to talk about how to stack a cake, but I was so nervous about getting this cake done in time for the party that I forgot to take pictures as I went along!

Some of you have already heard of my "cake disaster" ☺ with this one. I accidentally picked up an older cake mix at the store. When I took the cake out of the pan, it started to fall apart. It wasn’t until after it was in pieces that I looked at the “Best by” date and realized this cake was past its prime by several months.

After a quick dash across the street to my local Target, I bought another cake mix and tried again. This one was definitely fresher than the last. I still had a few problems with some of the cake falling apart when I went to torte it, but I managed to salvage the cake in the end. I think I may have been trying to torte the cake a bit too soon because I was running so short on time.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for Chocolate Buttercream Icing.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (e.g. Crisco)
1/2 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
brown icing color (optional)

In a mixer, cream vanilla extract, shortening, butter, and water. Gradually add powdered sugar. Mix on medium speed until all ingredients have been thoroughly blended. Add cocoa powder a bit at a time. Keep mixing until smooth and creamy.

If you want the icing to look darker, add some brown icing color. I used an entire container of Wilton brown icing color to get the shade of brown in the photo to the right! The cocoa powder doesn’t make the icing very dark at all. It’s a very soft brown, and I wanted something that looked like chocolate!