Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chocolate Chocolate Fairy Cakes

I always have it in my head that one of my favorite parts of living in Spain is practicing a new language.  I realized recently, however, that I haven't been just learning Spanish, but English as well...British English.  A friend of mine at the English Academy where I teach is from Britain and we often make fun of each others lingo.  This past weekend I learned my all time favorite British term: fairy cakes, a translation of the American cupcake.  I absolutely love it, and of course it fueled my desire to bake...fairy cakes that is! So, below you have a recipe for chocolate chocolate (yes, two chocolates) fairy cakes.  Enjoy!

Ingredients (for 12 cupcakes):

3/4 cup
granulated sugar 
5 tablespoons
butter, softened 
1 teaspoon
vanilla extract 
large eggs 
1 cup
all-purpose flour 
1/4 cup
unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon
baking soda
1/4 teaspoon
1/2 cup
fat-free milk

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup
granulated sugar 
3 tablespoons
fat-free milk 
1 ounce
unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 cups
powdered sugar
1 teaspoon
vanilla extract 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. To prepare cupcakes, beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed for about 3 minutes. Add eggs, beat well. 
  3. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, whisk well. 
  4. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with 1/2 cup milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition.
  5. Spoon the batter into 12 muffin cups lined with paper liners. Bake at 350° for 22 minutes or until cupcakes spring back easily when touched lightly in the center. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack, and remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
  6. To prepare frosting, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and chopped chocolate, and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and cool. Stir in the powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Spread frosting over cupcakes.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chocolate Shortbread

There is something about cold weather that glues me to my kitchen utensils and puts me in the mood to bake, bake, bake. So, instead of going running (like I should), I am going to try out a new recipe.  One thing you should know about me: I LOVE shortbread.  In fact, my favorite cookies of all time are shortbread cookies from a quaint little bakery called The Bovine Bakery in Pt. Reyes, the home town of my best friend.  Recreating one's favorite in a foreign country is never easy, so I will set aside that dream for now, and go with something a bit different, and we'll see...maybe just as good.  I mean, come on; chocolate + shortbread, can you fail? Each cookie is 72 calories (just so you know).

Ingredients (for 2 dozen cookies):
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened premium dark cocoa

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup powdered sugar 

5 tablespoons butter, softened 

1/4 cup canola oil

Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in a small bowl; stir with a whisk.

Place sugar, butter, and oil in a medium bowl; mix with hands until combined.
Add flour mixture, and mix with hands until combined.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325°. Place dough on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Press dough into an 8 x 5–inch rectangle about 3/8-inch thick.  Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork. Bake at 325° for 30 minutes or just until set.
Cool completely, and cut shortbread into 24 pieces. 


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Cookie Triple Threat: My Three Favorite Cookie Recipes for the Holiday Season

It's that time of year again...and I feel like I just came back from snorkeling in Mallorca.  This fall has zoomed by, however, and it's time to get ready for hot cocoa and all that accompanies such a holiday treat, i.e. COOKIES! So, don't judge, but I've spend most of November, and these past eight days of December picking a choosing among my all time favorite cookie recipes, and these are the three that made the cut.  Cookie number one is a chocolaty masterpiece, cookie number two is a somewhat savory version of the classic gingerbread cookie, and cookie number three is not JUST chocolate chip, but THE BEST chocolate chip cookie you will ever try. 

Cookie Number 1: Cocoa Fudge Cookies

This cookie has come to be one of my "go-tos" for any chocolate craving when I am trying to be careful about my caloric intake because eat cookie is jam packed with chocolaty goodness and only 78 calories a cookie.  They are the perfect chocolate craving quencher because they are simple to make and affordable for your calorie budget.  Enjoy with a glass of cold milk.

Ingredients (for 2 dozen cookies):
1 cup all-purpose flour 
1/4 teaspoon
baking soda
1/8 teaspoon
5 tablespoons
7 tablespoons
unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup
granulated sugar 
1/3 cup
packed brown sugar
1/3 cup
plain low-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon
vanilla extract 

Preheat oven to 350 F or 176 C.

Combine flour, soda, and salt; set aside. Like my piggy whisk? Hehe
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Combine sugars and cocoa in a small bowl.
Measure out vanilla and yogurt.
Add your sugars and cocoa powder and stir softly until you reach a sandy texture like below.

Go ahead and mix in your yogurt and vanilla.

Add flour mixture, stirring until moist.

Stir in some walnuts if desired.
Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pans 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.

Cookie Number 2: Gingerbread Classic

This is a not-too-sweet version of the traditional gingerbread cookie.  Perfect for Christmas, and also low in calories.  I've whipped my dough up ahead of time for a Christmas party I'm throwing next weekend.  I've got it all ready to go...just take it out of the freezer the night before and you're good to go.

Ingredients (for 4 dozen cookies):
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger 

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened 

3 tablespoons molasses

1 large egg 
To prepare cookies, weigh or lightly spoon flour into measuring cups; level with a knife.
Combine flour, ginger, and next 5 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a bowl; stir with a whisk.
Combine brown sugar, butter, and molasses in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes.
Add egg; beat well.
Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at low speed until well blended.
Divide dough in half. Gently press dough into a 4-inch circle on heavy-duty plastic wrap. Cover with additional plastic wrap; chill 1 1/2 hours. 
Roll each portion of dough to a 1/8-inch thickness.
Cut with a 3-inch gingerbread man or woman cookie cutter (or other shape) to form cookies.
Place cookies 1 inch apart on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove cookies from baking sheet; cool completely on a wire rack.
Cookie Number Three: The PERFECT Chocolate Chip Cookie

You'll understand in a minute:

I know what you're thinking...yeah, yeah, my mom's chocolate chip cookies are better.  Well, I usually would say the same, and no offense whatsoever to the classic Nestle Toll House (*read with French accent*..."ugh, you Americans butcher the French language") recipe found on the back of Nestle Toll House chocolate chip bags, which I grew up enjoying...but the following chocolate chip cookie will blow your mind.  Disclaimer: you will find it IMPOSSIBLE just to eat one cookie and NO I am not exaggerating. I find that melting the butter and almost caramelizing the sugar together with the butter creates the perfect chewiness that every chocolate chip cookie should boast (in my opinion).  Try it out and let me know what you think.  I am always looking for ways to improve, or to alter my chocolate chip cookie recipe, so please share your wisdom.

Ingredients (for 2-3 dozen cookies):
2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour (about 10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup packed light brown sugar (7 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet or milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make sure an oven rack is in the center of the oven.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
Melt butter and let cool slightly.
Either by hand or with an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until well mixed.

Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla.
Mix well until the batter has lightened slightly in color, about 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and chocolate chips at the same time. Mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Look how perfect that batter is...looks good enough to...but don't eat too much or you'll get a stomach ache and the recipe will yield less cookies (funny how that happens, isn't it?).

Form dough into tablespoonful-sized balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheets. Frozen cookie dough can be stored for up to 2 months in the freezer.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until the edges are set and just lightly browned.

So here I am, with an assortment of cookie doughs in my freezer, all ready to bake at any given moment during this holiday season.  Put on your favorite Christmas movie, gather up your ingredients and get bakin'. Enjoy my favorite cookies with a glass of cold milk or hot cocoa.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Whole Grain Blackberry Spice Muffins

It's Sunday morning, and with the bitterness in my mouth of starting a new week already, I've decided to bake something to take the edge off.  These oatey, blackberry muffins are one of my favorite recipes, and one I make quite often to have a small treat for breakfast each morning along with my daily fat free Activia.  I found the recipe on Cooking Light Magazine's "recipe finder" years ago and haven't stopped making it and adapting it to my liking.  So, apart from being delicious, these muffins boast 177 calories instead of the usual minimun 250 for a regular muffin.

Ingredients (for 17 muffins):
2 cups all-purpose flour (about 9 ounces)
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon apple-pie spice (or cinnamon)
1 cup fat-free milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups frozen blackberries, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 400F or 204C.

Measure out flour and add to large mixing bowl.
Add your brown sugar and oats.
Add cinnamon or apple pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Mix thoroughly.
In a smaller mixing bowl, combine milk, egg, butter, and vanilla.
Whisk together wet ingredients.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.
Mix together.
Chop up blackberries.
Add blackberries to batter.
Line cupcake tin with cupcake papers and measure out 1/4 cup batter into each one.  It should make 17 muffins.
Pop them in the oven for 17-20 minutes. Check doneness with by inserting a toothpick into the tallest muffin and if it comes out clean, they are done. 

Once done, transfer to cooling rack.
Sprinkle with granulated sugar immediately so that it begins to crystallize from the heat of the muffins.
Let cool for ten minutes.  Enjoy!