Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Cake Pops {or Balls}

I have wanted to make cake pops ever since I saw the adorable creations at Bakerella, and Easter seemed like the perfect opportunity to try something new.  The method is pretty simple – bake a cake, crumble it up, combine the cake crumbles with can of frosting, roll into balls, and dip in {white} chocolate.  For Easter, I envisioned little white chocolate covered cake “eggs” resting in a “nest” of toasted coconut.  They didn’t turn out quite as perfectly as I had hoped, but they are delicious and decadent.  Plus, they were a welcomed surprise for my in-laws in Pittsburgh.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Trail Mix Cookies

We are moving in a few weeks, and while thinking about packing, I realized that I had several miscellaneous ingredients in my baking cupboard.  A variety of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and chocolate chips had been stashed away for some future use.  Rather than packing them up for a move to a new cupboard, I decided that future use should be a delicious cookie.  You can call them Amnesty, Compost, or Kitchen Sink Cookies (as in “everything but…”), but I call these Trail Mix Cookies.  A perfect snack in cookie form! 

I based this recipe on one for oatmeal raisin cookies in Baking Boot Camp by Darra Goldstein, and added a mix of raisins, dates, sliced almonds, and pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  You can of course add whatever mix of add-ins you prefer or happen to have on hand.  About the cookbook – the author chronicles her-week long Baking and Pastry “Boot Camp” at the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park, New York and shares all of their boot camp recipes.  Wouldn't that boot camp be fun?

Feel free to use your mixer for these cookies.  I mixed by hand since my pink Kitchen Aid mixer met its match with a hardened chunk of dark brown sugar, and the paddle attachment now wobbles uncontrollably.  You can find me at Bed Bath and Beyond tonight making an exchange!  Did you know they will exchange your broken appliance for a new one, no questions asked?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cashew Nougats

Back in December, in the heart of Christmas cookie baking, I made a batch of Marcela Valladolid’s Polvorones.  They were classic Mexican Wedding Cookies – buttery and chock full of walnuts and coated in a thick layer of melt-in your mouth powdered sugar.  When Dan tasted them, he instantly thought of Archway Cashew Nougats, the tasty little treat in the red package only found at Christmas time.  We tried to find them online, but apparently, Archway went out of business, but the cookies are sometimes found at Walmart.  

To our (mostly Dan’s) dismay, we couldn’t find them, so I set out to make my own using the Polvorones recipe as a starting point, subbing in cashews for the walnuts.  I went through several iterations, experimenting with one or two tweaks each time - powdered sugar instead of granulated (granulated is better), shortening (non-hydrogenated) for a portion of the butter, and a bit of cornstarch with the flour for a more tender crumb.  Toasting the cashews also gave the cookies a wonderful nutty cashew flavor. 

I made some pretty good cookies, but then when we got to Pittsburgh for Christmas, there they were on the kitchen table – Archway Cashew Nougats, found at the Giant Eagle.  Dan probably polished off two packages of them that week, so I knew I had to perfect my recipe for post-holiday cookie enjoyment.  This weekend, I made another batch (to hold up my end of the March Madness bracket challenge) and they are delicious.  Here is my recipe - I hope you like them!

P.S. Today, my little sister, Stacy, got accepted for a Dietetic Internship at Napa State Hospital! I am so proud of her!