Cake · Uncategorized

Zucchini Blueberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Once upon a time, I had a neighbor who would ring my doorbell, drop armloads of zucchini on my doorstep, and run away before I could get to the door. Sometimes, it's the only way.

This time of year, you might be inundated with your garden's bounty. Tomatoes, peppers, and …zucchini. And you MIGHT be trying to think of ways to sneak zucchini into energy meal between now and Halloween. Well, may I suggest that you take your abundance of healthy squash and make…cake?

Specifically, this cake, by I Am Baker: Zucchini Blueberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

This is a lovely, moist, and tender cake. The blueberries add another element of summer fruit. And the frosting. I could wax rhapsodic over this frosting – tangy, smooth, rich, with enough of a zing to compliment the richness of the cake. This is a winner.

My only edit to the recipe is to toss the blueberries in a bit of flour before you fold them into the batter; that will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake while it bakes.

As written, the recipe calls for the cake to be baked in two 8" round pans. I did mine in 3 mini loaf pans so I could give them away as gifts. I halved the frosting recipe since I only frosted the top of the cakes. That was the perfect amount for a lovely, thick slab of frosting on each of the loaves.

This is the perfect summer cake. Believe me.

cookies

The Lazy Person’s Chocolate Chip Cookie

I love having counters free of STUFF. I want to see vast expanses of gleaming clean tile in my kitchen whenever possible. Every night before I go to bed, I try my damnedest to clear and clean off my kitchen island and counters. It’s good for my well-being.

I also love baking. And because I want clear counters, I hide my KitchenAid stand mixer in my pantry. This is great for my kitchen aesthetic, but can be a hurdle to when I want to bake. Haul it out, set it up, clean it off, haul it back. It’s not terrible, but sometimes, I just can’t be bothered.

This is where the Salty Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe comes in.

This recipe, which was created by Shelly over at Cookies and Cups, and only appears in her cookbook (see my note below for a link to the cookbook), doesn’t call for a mixer of any kind! You make the dough in a sauce pan and a large bowl, using a wooden spoon. Plus, because you brown the butter in the sauce pan, you don’t have wait for the butter to soften up! I was like, yes. Sign me up. The fact that these cookies are easy to make and impart the nutty, complex flavor of browned butter, and these are my go-to when I want chocolate chip cookies. The finished cookies are crispy on the edges and chewy in the middle, which is just exactly the way I like them.

So, whether you don’t have a mixer, or you’re just too lazy to haul out your stand mixer, I think you should try these.

As a side note: These cookies are the cover recipe for Shelly’s The Cookies & Cups Cookbook recipe book, which is full of delicious treats, great dinner ideas, and some really helpful hints. Plus, Shelly’s writing is delightful. I definitely recommend this book. It’s become a staple in my kitchen!

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Super Fudgy Brownies 

My cousin Beth believes that dessert is not worth having if it’s not chocolate. She would LOVE these brownies. 

I more often crave gummi bears than chocolate, but I also love these brownies. They are dense and fudgy, with a layer of frosting you put in while the brownies are still warm, which lets some of the frosting absorb into the brownies. They are next-level chocolate. 

I used to just “jazz up” boxed brownie mixes, but since I discovered this recipe, by Shelly over at Cookies and Cups, those days are behind me. These are just as easy, and you can control what goes into them. Shelly’s recipe doesn’t call for dark chocolate cocoa powder, but that’s what I had, and that’s what made this batch ultra dark. The recipe is so good, even the dark cocoa produces a moist and delicious (and not bitter) brownie. 

Try them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You’ll thank me later. 

cookies

Krumkake : A Cookie Fit for a Viking

Five years ago, my friend Ann and I went on an epic Scandinavian adventure. We spent 11 days, travelling across Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. We ended up seeing all kinds of ships on this vacation – the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, the Viking Ship Museum and the Amundsen Museum in Oslo. We even (accidentally) got a free water taxi across the harbor in Oslo.

Ann and I travel well together. We want the same things while travelling, which is to say, a little sight seeing, a great hotel, afternoon naps, and good food. A good dinner while on vacation is a must for me. We always treated ourselves to wine and cocktails and, of course, dessert. The Scandinavians are a dessert-loving people. I respect this. They somehow balance the freshness of their cuisine – fish, salads, vegetables – with delicious pastries and cookies and ice creams. You will not go hungry in Scandinavia.

In memory of our excellent trip, I made krumkake, even though we didn’t actually ever HAVE krumkake while in Scandinavia. Hmm. I’ll have to go back and fix that.

Krumkake (KROOM-ka-kuh) are a Scandinavian cookie that are made of a thin batter and pressed between the plates of an iron, like a waffle, then rolled onto a wooden cone. They’re delicate and light, and perfect for summer get-togethers when you want to serve something pretty and fresh that won’t weigh your guests down. I’ve had them filled with sweetened whipped cream, fruit, ice cream, and one particularly memorable time, a Nutella buttercream. Stop the presses. That was delicious. The cookies themselves are more a pretty vehicle for the filling, but I have to say I find an unfilled cone a delicious accompaniment to an afternoon cup of coffee.

You do need a special iron for this, although I’ve heard a pizzelle press would work well, too. Here’s the recipe I use for my krumkakes:

  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 eggs

Combine the melted butter and the sugar, and mix well. Add the eggs. With a hand mixer, mix until it is pale yellow in color. Add the milk and four, and continue to blend until the mixture is smooth. The batter should flow easily but slowly off the back of a spoon.

You can add some flavors into the batter at this point. Some ideas:

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground almonds

Pour one tablespoon of batter on a heated iron. Adjust the cooking time to get a golden brown cookie; it should take about 2 minutes. When it’s done cooking, remove it from the iron and wrap it immediately around the wooden cone to shape into a cone. Press the seam against your cutting board to seal while it cools.

Once the krumkakes are cooled, add your choice of filling and dust with powdered sugar.

Makes about 20 krumkake.

Skol!

 

bars · cookies

Salted Caramel Pretzel Crunch Bars 

Full disclosure: These are probably a little over the top. 

A shortbread crust topped with crushed pretzels topped with homemade salted caramel sauce topped with chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. I might have even stirred in a tablespoon of peanut butter in the chocolate topping. Because..in for a penny, in for a pound, especially when it comes to dessert, am I right? 

This recipe is from Sally’s Baking Addiction blog. Her recipes are consistently great and reliable. I took her tip of making the caramel sauce ahead of time, so the rest of the recipe came together pretty quickly. I also doubled the caramel recipe so I have plenty left over to use as ice cream topping. Here’s to planning!! 

I was distracted and didn’t press the pretzels into the unbaked shortbread, which made spreading the caramel over them a little complicated, but I persisted. I’m a survivor. 

I cut them into tiny squares. They’re rich enough that one or two bites will satisfy even the sweetest of sweet tooths. (That’s me.) Give these a try and let me know what you think! 

cookies

Fairy Bread Cookies and an Embarassment of Sprinkles 

Once upon a time, my brother-in-law informed me that there are two types people in this world: those who like sprinkles and those who don’t. 

I fall firmly and forever in the first category. They’re so happy. I want them everywhere. Rainbow sprinkles, rainbow non-perils, white non-perils on white frosting. They can be over the top unicorn and rainbows or understated tonal. Either way, I am 100% pro-sprinkle. I’m not even sure we can be friends if you don’t like sprinkles. I’ll have to think about it. 

I’m also a sucker for sugar cookies, upon which I like …you guessed it: sprinkles. So when I saw Shelly from my very favorite baking blog, Cookies and Cups, post this recipe for Fairy Bread Cookies, it was a no brainer. Look at these gorgeous things. 

The cookies are easy to make and come out as kind of a sugar cookie-shortbread hybrid. They’re not overly sweet, which is good because you slather the top with vanilla buttercream and then load them up with an embarassment of sprinkles. Yay!! 

Shelly tells the story behind Fairy Bread. All I know is that these cookies definitely made my wishes come true. 

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The Perfect Rice Krispy Treat

These may be the first things you learned to bake. They’re simple. A staple for summertime, in my house, anyway. But too often, they turn out too crisp. Or worse, too gooey. I’m a fan of goo but if your marshmallow-to-krispy ratio is off, you end up dispappointed. I wanted a throw-together recipe. I don’t want to consult the box. I don’t want to measure. And also, I don’t like dirtying up a million bowls and pots. Rice krispy treats are supposed to be easy, am I right? 

So, I’ve developed what I’ve come to think of as the perfect rice krispy treat recipe. It’s practically fool-proof. I have a few tips: 

  • Use generic “crispy rice” cereal. For some reason, the texture is better than the brand name stuff.
  • Do all the mixing in the pot you melt the marshmallows in. So, when you’re looking for a pot, pick a big one. 
  • Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture. 
  • Keep the waxed paper from the stick of butter to push the cereal mixture into the pan. 
  • If you are using add-ins, do it at the very last moment, right before you transfer the cereal and marshmallow mixture into the pan. This way, the mixture has cooled a bit and won’t melt 
  • Really press down on the cereal/marshmallow mixture when you get it into the pan. You want the mixture to be tightly packed. 

Perfect Rice Krispy Treats

  • 1 12-oz box crisped rice cereal
  • 1 16-oz bag of mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla (you can eyeball it) 
  • 1/4 tsp salt (I use pink Himalayan sea salt for a mild flavor) 

Optional add-ins: 

    • 2 cups Reese’s Pieces or M&Ms 
    • 1 cup toasted flaked coconut
    • 2 cups candy corn 
    • 1-2 cups gumdrops (the small ones) 
    • 1-2 cups dried strawberries or blueberries 
    • 2 tablespoons of sprinkles or non-perils 
    • 2 cups chocolate, butterscotch, or peanut butter chips 

    Instructions

    Grease a 13×9″ pan, and set aside. 

    In a big pot (I use my deep Dutch oven), melt the butter over medium heat. When it’s melted, add the entire bag of marshmallows. Stir occasionally until smooth. Add the vanilla and salt. Stir to incorporate. 

    Remove from heat and add the cereal in two batches, stirring to mix completely before adding the second batch. Then stir with a wooden spoon until thin webs of marshmallow begin to form between the cereal. 

    Just before you transfer the cereal mixture into the pan, add your add-in, if you want. Stir through until completely mixed in. 

    Transfer the cereal mixture into the greased pan. Using the butter wrapper (or your buttered hands), thoroughly press the mixture into the pan.  Let cool 1-2 hours before cutting. 

    Store in an airtight container or ziplock bag. 

    Let summer begin!!