Month: October 2010

Pumpkin Spiderweb Cookies

Happy Halloween! If I’ve learned nothing else from baking these cookies, it’s that I could never be a surgeon. Just LOOK at those shaky spiderwebs! I’m sure the real spiders of this world would shake their little arachnid heads in shame. But it’s okay, I’m cool with it.

Pumpkin Spiderweb Cookies
Recipe source: unknown
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Cookies:
2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/4 cup milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs

Icing:
3 cups confectioners sugar
3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons milk
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick coating spray.
2. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and allspice. In small bowl, stir together the pumpkin and milk. In large bowl, beat sugar and butter until blended – about 1 minute. Beat in eggs. On low speed, alternately beat in flour mixture and pumpkin mixture, ending with flour mixture.
3. Drop 1/4-cupfuls of dough onto prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Spread slightly with spatula.
4. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 13-15 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center tests clean. Remove to rack to cool.
5. For the icing: blend powdered sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and 3 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons milk until smooth. Remove 1/3 cup icing to small bowl and stir in cocoa and remaining 2 teaspoons milk. Transfer chocolate icing to plastic piping bag; snip off corner.
6. Turn cookies flat-side up. Spread white icing over one cookie. Beginning in center, pipe a spiral of chocolate icing. Starting in the center, drag a knife through spiral for spiderweb pattern. Repeat with all cookies. Let stand until set.

Makes about 14 cookies. If your icing is too thin, add more powdered sugar. If your icing is too thick, add more milk to thin it. This icing sets quickly, so try to work as quickly as you can.

Trick-or-Treat Rice Krispie Treats

Rice Krispie treats rank high on my list of favorite baked goods (though, to be technical, no baking is actually involved!). I made these slightly modified treats for a movie night with my friends. They are super fast and easy to make!

Trick-or-Treat Rice Krispie Treats
Recipe source: sheknows.com
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3 Tablespoons butter
4 cups mini marshmallows
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 cups rice cereal
1 cup candy corn, divided
Halloween sprinkles (optional)

1. Spray a 9×13″ baking pan with nonstick spray (or you can line the pan with parchment paper).
2. In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat and stir in pumpkin pie spice. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
3. Add rice cereal and 3/4 cup candy corn – stir until well coated.
4. Press the mixture into the prepared pan (it helps to use a nonstick spray-coated spatula or spoon). Press remaining 1/4 cup candy corn into the top of the cereal bars & top with sprinkles. Cool for 2 hours and cut into bars.

Sparkling Candy Corn Cookies

Halloween is almost here! My favorite candy when I was a kid was candy corn – though I used to call it “corny candy”. Close enough, right? I would always bite off the white tip, believing wholeheartedly that it tasted better than the orange and yellow parts. I still carry some of these weird and irrational eating beliefs with me today — I firmly believe that holiday M&Ms taste creamier than the regular ones; that Easter Reese’s peanut butter eggs have a different chocolate-to-peanut butter ratio and therefore taste better; and that Cadbury Mini Eggs are laced with some sort of highly addictive and illegal substance. Mmm… mini eggs. Mmmm.

Even those these candy corn cookies aren’t aesthetically perfect (my fault!), they were really easy to make!

Sparkling Candy Corn Cookies
Recipe source: Land O’ Lakes
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1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Orange and yellow food colorings
1/2 cup sugar

1. Line the bottom of a 9×5″ loaf pan with waxed paper or plastic food wrap. Set aside.
2. Combine butter and 1 cup sugar in large bowl; beat at medium speed until creamy. Add egg, orange juice, orange zest, and salt. Continue beating until well mixed. Reduce speed to low; add flour and baking soda. Beat until well mixed.
3. Divide dough into thirds. Press one-third of white dough evenly onto bottom of prepared pan. Place another one-third of dough back into same bowl. Add orange food coloring; mix until color is well-blended. Press orange dough evenly over white dough in pan. Place remaining one-third of dough into another medium bowl. Add yellow food coloring; mix until color is well-blended. Press yellow dough evenly over orange dough in pan. Cover with plastic food wrap; refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours or overnight).
4. Place 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl, set aside.
5. Heat oven to 375F.
6. Invert loaf pan to remove dough. Peel off waxed paper. Place layered dough onto cutting surface. Cut loaf crosswise into 1/4-inch slices using sharp knife, trimming edges to make even, if necessary. Cut each slice into 6 wedges. Place 1-inch apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned.
7. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets and immediately place warm cookies in bowl with sugar; roll in sugar to coat. Place cookies on wire cooling rack.

Makes about 15 dozen miniature cookies; store in loosely covered container.

Dark Chocolate Mint Cupcakes

Here’s another creation by my friend Meg! We had lots of fun frosting almost 200 mini cupcakes for her birthday party! These were my favorite – I’m a sucker for anything involving dark chocolate!

Dark Chocolate Mini Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from epicurious.com
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Cupcakes:
2 cups walnuts, toasted, cooled
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting:
4 1/2 ounces high-quality dark chocolate, chopped
6 ounces (3/4 of 8-ounce package) cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two 12-cup mini-muffin pans.
2. Using on/off turns, blend first 4 ingredients in processor until walnuts are finely chopped.
3. Whisk flour and baking powder in small bowl. Stir chocolate and butter in heavy small saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Cool slightly.
4. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, eggs, and vanilla in large bowl until very thick, about 4 minutes. Gradually beat in cooled chocolate mixture. Stir in walnut mixture.
5. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons batter into each prepared muffin cup. Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.

Frosting:
1. Stir dark chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water until melted and smooth. Cool slightly. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in medium bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in melted dark chocolate and mint extract. Let cool until thickened to spreadable consistency.
2. Spread frosting over cupcakes.
*If the frosting is too runny or thin, just add more powdered sugar.

Bakery Review: Gigi’s Cupcakes

Gigi’s Cupcakes are new to Madison, but have other locations around the country. I kept seeing a sign saying “Gigi’s Cupcakes Coming Soon!” at one of the malls here in Madison. Naturally, I was intrigued. A few weeks ago I stopped in and bought 4 cupcakes. I think any cupcakery laughs all the way to the bank — charging $3.50 for a cupcake. But consumers still buy them and I’m included! I tried the white midnight magic, Scarlett’s red velvet, wedding cake, and Texas milk chocolate. I enjoyed them, but with many other treats, I found them to be too sweet, too overwhelming. But I’m guessing that’s just me – as I’m the type that likes 70% dark chocolate… the more bitter the better!

If you have a Gigi’s Cupcakes near you, stop by and give them a try.

(also… photo bitch-n-moan: Nikon… why must you pull GREEN all the time?!)