Tag Archive: sweets


Soft Molasses Cookies

It’s cold today. Well, cold for March, anyway. It feels like Winter is boxed into a corner and swinging, making one last effort not to get knocked out by warmer air, chirping birds, and budding flowers.

This day, with it’s chilly obstinance, deserves a cookie. A soft, chewy, warmly-spiced cookie.

These cookies definitely fit the bill.  The flavor is pretty much unbeatable —rich and earthy with molasses and just the right hint of warm spice from the cloves and ginger. Their wonderful texture is achieved by pulling them out of the oven while the centers are still soft and puffy. As they cool, the centers fall, creating a moist interior and a perfectly cracked, sugary exterior. They’re also the ideal cookie size—big enough that you can be satisfied with just one, but not so large that you feel guilty about eating a few. They’re fun and easy to make with the kids, too. My kids’ favorite part about making these cookies, other than eating them, is shaping the dough into balls, then rolling them in sugar.

Rolling the cookies in sugar gives them a hint of crunch on the outside, especially if you use large, decorative sugar crystals. If you can’t find those, then turbinado sugar works just as well, too.

Of course, like any good cookie, the best part about making them is eating them. They’re wonderful warm, with coffee, tea, a cold glass of milk, or vanilla ice cream. The leftovers store well in an airtight container at room temperature and, theoretically, keep for about a week. In my house, though, they’re usually gobbled up and gone within a few days.

Soft Molasses Cookies

adapted from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion

  • 1 cup unsalted butter or margarine (to make these dairy-free, I use pareve margarine)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsulphured blackstrap molasses
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup large sugar crystals or turbinado sugar for coating the dough

Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the molasses while mixing at a slow speed, then the baking soda, salt, and spices. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated. Stir in the flour. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Shape or scoop the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Roll them in the decorative or turbinado sugar and put them on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them.

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. The centers will look soft and puffy, which is okay. As long as the bottoms are set enough to lift partway off the cookie sheet without bending or breaking, they’re ready to come out of the oven. Cool the cookies on the pan for 10 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Makes 40-ish cookies.

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Chocolate-Orange Truffles

Wanna know what I like about Valentine’s Day? Chocolate. Otherwise, it’s just a normal day. Chocolate is what makes it special, makes it a celebration of love. Yes, love, because even if you don’t have a human love, you can still love chocolate. Besides, who cares about the sappy cards or flowers? And who wants to deal with thorns and vases when you can sit down, relax, and eat a truffle?

I don’t normally eat a lot of sweets, so any day when I can indulge my sweet tooth in the name of love is pretty awesome. My husband knows this and spends money on the good, Belgian stuff for me every year, lest I waste my sugar coma on junk. If he didn’t do that, I would make these. In fact, I used to make truffles for myself fairly regularly before I got married. If you make your own, that means you don’t have to share and not sharing means more truffles for you. Isn’t that a delicious equation?

The great thing about these truffles is that they taste like they require a ton of effort, but they don’t. That makes them DANGEROUS because, once you make them, you’ll want to make them again. And again. And again.

Your tastebuds will love it. Your thighs, on the other hand, will probably ask you to join a gym with all the money you’ve saved by making your own truffles.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate-Orange Truffles

  • 1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 pound semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or non-dairy creamer, if you need to be dairy-free)
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • 1 tablespoon prepared coffee
  • 1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Cocoa powder

Chop the chocolates finely with a sharp knife, then place in a heat-proof mixing bowl.

Heat the cream in a small saucepan until just boiling. Turn off the heat and allow the cream to sit for 20 seconds. Pour the cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the bowl of chocolate. With a wire whisk, slowly stir the cream and chocolates together until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the Grand Marnier, coffee, and vanilla. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

With 2 teaspoons, spoon round balls of the chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Working quickly, roll each ball of chocolate in your hands to make it round-ish, then roll in confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, or both. Place on a second baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate overnight. These will keep refrigerated, in an air-tight container, for up to 2 weeks. Allow them to come to room temperature before serving. Enjoy! RNZZP3PPNH69

Sweet and Spicy Nuts

With this weekend comes Superbowl Sunday. Like most Americans, I will be watching, even though I really don’t care much about the game itself. I’m a die-hard Patriots fan, so, sadly, I haven’t needed to watch a  football game in almost a month. But, I know my husband will want to tune in and I won’t deprive him of that simple pleasure, even though I’d rather watch pretty much anything else.

So, since I hate the Steelers with the fire of a thousand suns (because their quarterback is a rapist) and the Packers are probably not going to win, I’ve decided to focus on the snacks. Snacks that will keep me happy while I watch two unlikeable teams play a dirty football game punctuated by some clever commercial breaks.

This is one of those snacks. It’s a happy snack.

It seems deceptively simple – spiced nuts are pretty basic and don’t require much effort. But, when I originally made these to munch on during the Pats first home game this season, my husband declared them “dangerously good” and started requesting them on a fairly regular basis.  So, I make them a lot and every time I do, he rewards me by joking that he’s lucky to have married a woman who’s so good with nuts. Oy. Oy vey.

But I do agree that they ARE good. What could be bad about crunchy, roasted nuts coated in a sweet, smoky, spicy glaze? Oh yeah. The fact that they’re addictively delicious and will be gone before halftime.

More Superbowl snacks to come this week.

Sweet and Spicy Nuts

(adapted from Real Simple)

  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chipotle powder
  • 2 cups lightly salted nuts (Mixed nuts are fine, but this also works well with a single variety. I like using almonds or cashews.)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg white, brown sugar, and spices. Add the nuts and toss to coat. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading evenly. Bake 15 minutes or until the coating is set.

Cool and enjoy!

This is one of those cakes that you can take ANYWHERE. Dress it up with fresh, barely-sweetened, homemade whipped cream and it’s perfect for a holiday or dinner party. Serve it as is with coffee. Make it with bananas instead of pears and take it to a neighborhood potluck.

It’s pretty perfect and very delicious.

Right now, I’m making the banana version to bring to our friends’ house, where it will be enjoyed as we watch the Patriots crush the Jets in tomorrow’s NFL play-off game.

Edited to add:  So, the Pats didn’t win, but the cake was still delicious. Also, I’ve decided that I’m going to experiment and make this with fresh, in-season cherries this Summer. I’ll let you know how it turns out. My bets are on scrumptious.

Pear-Almond Cake with Chocolate Chunks

(adapted from Rachael Ray)

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large pears—peeled, cored and thinly sliced (or two sliced bananas, if you are pear-averse)
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks (I just chop a good quality bar into chunks)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup granulated sugar, the vanilla extract, and the 2 eggs until pale yellow, 1 to 2 minutes; whisk in the butter. Stir into the flour mixture until just combined.
  4. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan and top with half of the pear or banana slices and half of the chocolate; repeat with the remaining batter, pears or bananas, and chocolate.
  5. Using a food processor, finely grind 1/4 cup almonds with the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Add the egg white and process until smooth. Drizzle over the cake and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup almonds. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool slightly, then dust lightly with the confectioners’ sugar.

Happy Mothers’ Day! I hope you all enjoyed your burnt pancakes this morning.

Awhile back, I mentioned that I was fooling around with coconut milk in the hopes of making some really good dairy-free chocolate pudding for Lilah, who is severely allergic to all dairy products.  I came across several decent recipes during the course of this little experiment, some with eggs, others with additional ingredients like tofu and lecithin. All of them were just OK – a little too eggy, a little too chemical, a little too sweet. They all lacked that smooth, creamy, deeply chocolate richness that I was so hoping for.

Then I saw this recipe. It originally called for whole cow’s milk, which I easily replaced with coconut milk and hoped for the best.

And, well, let me tell you:  It is THE BEST. I love it so much that Pee-Wee Herman would probably suggest that I marry it.

Not only is it the most delicious pudding I’ve ever eaten, but it is also the easiest pudding recipe I’ve ever made. No eggs, no weird stuff – just pure chocolate-coconut bliss.

You can thank me when you’re done licking the bowl.

Chocolate-Coconut Pudding

(adapted from John Scharffenberger via Smitten Kitchen)

Serves 6

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups light, unsweetened coconut milk
6 ounces 72% bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler*. Slowly whisk in the coconut milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 20 minutes or so, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 4 to 6 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

2. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer** into a serving bowl or into a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into individual serving dishes.

3. Cover dish(es) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days (if you can restrain yourself for that long).

*You can fashion your own double boiler by placing a heatproof bowl over a pot of water. Just make sure the bowl fits just inside the top of the pot without falling in!  And please save yourself a trip to the ER by using good oven mitts when removing the bowl from the pot.

** I didn’t strain the pudding. The world did not end.

Pumpkin Bread

I ran out of snacks for the kids yesterday.  So, I went to Trader Joe’s and picked up a bag of peanut-butter pretzels to stave off any late-afternoon belligerence. When I got home, I started dinner, then decided to make a pumpkin bread for the kids to snack on during the next few days.  It’s easy to put together and I thought we had all of the ingredients…

And we did…except for the cinnamon.

Blerg. I hate waiting to cook when the mood strikes.

Thankfully, Michael picked some up on his way home last night, so I decided to get up early this morning and bake.  A literal wake and bake, if you will.  It was already in the oven before the kids left for school, the pumpkin-spice scent delighting them with the promise of a homemade treat this afternoon.

They were kind of bummed that I didn’t put chocolate chips in it this time, though.

I’ve been tinkering with this recipe for about a year, but I’m finally happy with my adjustments.  It’s definitely a keeper!

Pumpkin Bread

(loosely adapted from Simply Recipes)

  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 C olive oil (I know it sounds strange, but it really brings out the pumpkin flavor)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 can of pumpkin, preferably organic (I just think the organic stuff tastes better)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 C dried fruit, nuts, and/or chocolate chips, optional

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

2. Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and oil until fully emulsified and pale yellow. Gently stir in the pumpkin, vanilla, and spices until the mixture is smooth.

4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture until they are fully incorporated, but being careful not to overmix. Gently stir in the optional ingredients if you’re using them.

5. Pour into a well-greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pan or an 8×8 cake pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until a thin skewer poked in the very center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes, then turn it out and cool on a rack.

Makes one loaf, but can easily be doubled.  Enjoy!