Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cranberry-Orange Scones

A friend was kind enough to pass on her scone recipe to me. They were so fantastic--not dry and heavy like many other scones--that I was tempted not to bring them into work as promised. I did manage to get most of them into work, and I also tried making my own variation by adding some dried cranberries and orange zest. These turned out yummy, too!

Cranberry-Orange Scones


2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated orange peel (a.k.a. orange zest)
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk mixed with 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and grated orange peel. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture becomes coarse like cornmeal. Make a hole in the center and pour in the buttermilk. Mix until dough is sticky. Stir in dried cranberries.

Divide dough in half. Using one-half at a time, shape it into a 5-inch circle on a floured surface. Cut into pie wedges. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush with beaten egg. Bake in oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

For the plain scones, simply omit the dried cranberries and orange peel.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

The original version of these cookies can be found here. I made a few changes based on the comments other bakers left. These are soft cookies that keep pretty well for several days if you store them in an airtight container.

Chocolate Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
4 (1 oz.) squares of chocolate*
1/2 cup butter
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1-1/4 cup sugar (divided)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup red raspberry preserves**

*I used one square of semi-sweet chocolate and three squares of unsweetened chocolate. The original recipe called for all of them to be unsweetened. Many of the people who commented on the recipe said they used 2 semi-sweet and 2 unsweetened. I guess it depends on how sweet you like your chocolate. :)

**The original recipe called for jam, but the preserves seemed to hold up better.

Mix flour, baking soda, and salt. In large microwavable bowl, melt chocolate and butter for 2 minutes on high. Chocolate will hold most of its shape. Stir until smooth. Cube the softened cream cheese and stir into chocolate until melted. Stir in 1 cup of sugar, vanilla, and egg. Add flour mixture and combine thoroughly. Refrigerate at least fifteen minutes.

Heat oven to 375. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and then roll in remaining sugar to coat. Drop onto ungreased cookie sheet. Dip the end of a wooden spoon into sugar and depress in center of cookie to make a well for the preserves. (You can, of course, use your thumb for this, but the end of a wooden spoon makes a neater depression, which leads to less preserves spilling out the sides of the cookie.)

Fill each well with 1/4 teaspoon of preserves.

Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool one minute before transferring to wire rack.

Yields: about 4 dozen cookies.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chocolate Truffle Pie

I made this for a friend's party over the holidays. The dessert is very rich, so I suggest small pieces and add the Cool Whip topping. As with many of my recipes here, this one is from the Kraft website.

Chocolate Truffle Pie

10 squares (1 oz. each) semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
Cool Whip and powdered sugar (optional toppings)

Preheat oven to 325. Melt the chocolate and the whipping cream in a bowl in the microwave for 2 minutes. The chocolate will retain most of its shape, so stir it until it's thoroughly melted and smooth. Let it cool for a bit, and then whisk in the eggs, sugar, and flour.

Spray pie plate with cooking spray and pour in the batter. Bake for 35 minutes. Center of pie should still seem a little on the soft side. Cool.

If desired, sift powdered sugar over the top of the cooled pie. If you want a cool design, place a stencil down on the pie first. Sift the powdered sugar over it and then carefully lift the stencil from the pie. I made my own stencil by finding some fun paper snowflake templates on this website.

Don't forget to add the Cool Whip when you're ready to serve!

Yields: about 12 servings

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chicago Public Schools Butter Cookies--Egg Free!

A co-worker suggested I search the web for this recipe. She attended the Chicago public schools, and she remembers these cookies from her childhood. She said she'd found the recipe online was was surprised to learn there were only four ingredients.

The recipe intrigued me because there are no eggs, and I'm always keeping an eye out for treats my nephew with the egg allergy can enjoy.

Although I didn't find the taste of these cookies to be anything exceptional, they were probably the easiest cookies I've ever had to roll.

Chicago Public School Butter Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla extract. Gradually add in flour. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and flatten with three fingers.
This will make the nice set of ridges the Chicago public school butter cookies are known for.
Bake until golden brown (about 12-15 minutes).

(You can see from the top photo that I sprinkled them with a little colored sugar before baking because I was making them for the holidays.)

Yields: 2 dozen

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Holiday Cookies: Melting Snowman Oreo Balls

The inspiration for this cookie came from this Kraft website. Their recipe used Nutter Butter cookies, but I decided to try this with the Oreo balls recipe instead. The only problem was that the white chocolate did pick up some of the dark Oreo cookie crumbs, but they seemed to melt right into the white chocolate eventually.

Melting Snowman Oreo Balls

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 package Oreo cookies, finely crushed
16 oz. white chocolate
about 48 mini Oreos
colored icing for decorating
(I used the Wilton Icing Writers.)

Finely crush the Oreo cookies. (You can use a blender, food processor, or--my personal favorite for letting out aggression--a Ziploc bag and a rolling pin.)

Mix the crushed cookies with the cream cheese. Line a couple cookie sheets with waxed paper. Roll the cookie mixture into 1-inch balls on placed on waxed paper. (You should get 45-50 of them.) Freeze for at least ten minutes.

Melt the white chocolate. (Follow instructions on baking chocolate box or white chocolate chip bag.) Working with just one cookie sheet at a time, dip the cookie balls into the melted white chocolate. Before the chocolate hardens, top each one with a mini Oreo so that it looks like a top hat for your snowman. (The mini Oreos come in the Snak-Saks as pictured to the left.)

Next, decorate the snowman's face by giving him a nose, a smile, and two eyes. You can use colored icing that you made or store-bought decorating icing. I used the Wilton icing writers for this. They worked pretty well, although I had to knead the little tubes first or they came out too runny. (Maybe my icing writers are getting old?) Also, I wish they had an orange one for the nose.

The decorating works best if the cookie is still cold when it is dipped in the white chocolate. That way the chocolate begins to harden fairly quickly but not too quickly. You'll want to get the little Oreo hats on right away, and then add the face as soon as the chocolate gets a firm surface. A goopy chocolate snowman means facial features that melt right off!

Yields: about four dozen cookies