Monthly Archives: November 2012

Baked Pumpkin Donuts

Donuts have always been on the short list of foods I don’t make at home.  To me there is no need to bring a frier into the house.  Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy fried foods!  However, I try to eat healthy to make room for all the luscious desserts I consume, and I am most definitely not afraid of butter and sugar.  Also, there are some cravings that can only be satisfied by something golden-brown, crispy, and deep fried.  I have always thought fried foods belong at restaurants and fairs.

So enter this recipe for baked donuts.  I have been seeing donuts all over the blog-o-sphere and they looked delicious, but I knew they were not the recipes for me.  I skimmed past to other confections.  One day I stopped skimming because this recipe from Andie sounds trust worthy.  First of all, she has a great story and tends to cook on the healthy side.  Second, this was a recipe for BAKED donuts, hmmmmmm, I could get behind that.  Plus, there was pumpkin!

On a recent trip to Target I was doing an excellent job sticking to my list, but you know how it is when you go to Target, you always need to buy something random, and then I saw this donut pan – Norpro 3980 12-Count Nonstick Mini Donut Pan.  I thought about it and walked away.  I still didn’t know how I felt about making donuts at home.  But then I went back and picked up the pan.  Only one random purchase at Target equals a pretty successful shopping trip if I do say so myself!

I am so glad I went back and picked up that donut pan!  These donuts are incredibly moist and flavorful.  There is very little fat and none of it is missed.  This is a cake-like donut bursting with pumpkin and spice and everything nice!  I made three different topping because why not?  I had the left-over salted caramel sauce in the fridge and that was my favorite topping.  The salted caramel pairs perfectly with the spicy pumpkin donut.  I also enjoyed the cinnamon-sugar topping, that was the most traditional.  Baked donuts are easy to whip up and offer a nice variation from muffins and quick bread for breakfast treats!

Print the Recipe!

Baked Pumpkin Donuts
Adapted from Can You Stay for Dinner?
Yield – 14 small donuts

1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup applesauce
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
Toppings – salted caramel, melted butter, cinnamon, sugar, powdered sugar, etc

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease your donut pan.
  2. Whisk together the flour, powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together the sugar, applesauce, pumpkin, egg, vanilla, and milk until well combined.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined.
  5. Divide the batter into the greased donut pan and spread to smooth.  The batter should almost fill each donut shape.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the donuts easily slide from the pan.
  7. Set aside on a wire rack.
  8. Top as desired and eat ASAP!
  • Salted caramel - Warm the jar of sauce in a pot filled halfway with water over the stovetop until the caramel is a drizzling consistency.  Drizzle over the donuts.
  • Powdered sugar - Add about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar to a large plastic bag and add the warm donuts, shake to coat.
  • Cinnamon-sugar – Melt 2 tablespoons (for 5 donuts) in a small bowl.  Mix together 1/3 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon in another bowl.  Dip the donuts one at a time into the butter and then into the cinnamon-sugar.
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Filed under Breakfast

Vanilla Cupcakes

Baking for cupcakes for 13 year girls is fun.  They like simple, sweet cupcakes in fun colors!  I actually made these cupcakes for two of my monitors.  These big ones and then similar ones but in mini form and with sparkle sprinkles.  It’s surprising the girls do not ask for more complicated/interesting flavors, but when I probe them to see what they want for their birthday treat, it is usually vanilla.

I’m happy to comply with vanilla cupcake requests.  Vanilla isn’t always my first choice, but this recipe for the cupcakes and the frosting is amazingly moist and flavorful.  I have used it often and in many different form.  This recipe is a major reason why I think people shouldn’t use cake mixes, it’s just so easy!

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Vanilla Cupcakes
Adapted from Tie Dye Cupcakes
Yield – 16 cupcakes

1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 3/4 cup cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1/3 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
2/3 cup whole milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer add the sugar and the seeds from the vanilla bean and massage together with your fingers.
  3. Add the flour, powder, soda, and salt to the sugar, mix slowly with the paddle attachment.
  4. Add the butter and beat for several minutes until the mixture becomes nice and crumbly.
  5. While the mixer is mixing, whisk together the sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla.  Pour this in the mixer and combine.
  6. Slowly add the milk in and turn on high for a few seconds.
  7. Use a standard size ice cream scoop to portion the batter into lined cupcake pans.
  8. Bake 14-17 minutes until a toothpick in a center cupcake comes out clean.  Cool on cooling rack.

Whipped Vanilla Frosting
Yield – enough to generously decorate the cupcakes + extra

1 1/2 cups whole milk
7 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
electric purple, electric pink, and violet gel food coloring

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the milk and flour.  Keep whisking until the mixture becomes smooth and thick resembling pancake batter.
  2. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla and allow to cool completely.
  3. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy – beat for 8 minutes
  4. Add in the cooled flour/milk mixture and beat until the entire frosting is light and fluffy, about another 5-8 minutes.
  5. Add the food coloring and mix until well combined.
  6. Use a large star tip to pipe the frosting on the cupcakes, decorate with sprinkles!


Filed under Cupcakes

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

I spent Thanksgiving with Ruth’s brother, sister-in-law, and adorable nieces.  The meal was already planned and taken care of and was asked to make something with chocolate.  That is a request I can happily fulfill!

Obviously I went to Pinterest and poked around.  I was first looking for something chocolatey and then looking for a dessert that would easily travel by subway, train, and car.  Also, I needed a recipe I could make Monday night to eat on Thursday.  Clearly you can tell by the photos I was taking the pictures at night :-(  Personally, I wanted a dessert that was still in the spirit of fall and Thanksgiving.

Luckily, I found it, the perfect dessert!  Dark chocolate layer?  Check!  Spicy pumpkin layer? Check!  Could be made ahead?  Easy to travel with?  Yes and yes!  Bridget from Bake at 350 knows what she is doing and her blog is one of the first I started following.  Two Bridget recipes in row is alright in my book.

These brownies were well received, so much so we started eating them Wednesday night after Ruth and I arrived!  My favorite part was the rich spiciness from the freshly grated nutmeg, but I worried it would be too much for the little girls.  Luckily, even the little ones enjoyed the brownies asking for more bites, two bites in particular, because when you are two, you get two bites, obvi!  The deep, dense, rich sweetness from the brownies pair perfectly with the light and spicy pumpkin cheesecake.  This is a great dessert to add to any holiday table!

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies
Adapted from Bake at 350
Yield – 9×13” pan (24-30 bars)

Cheesecake layer
16 ounces cream cheese, 1/3 fat at room temperature
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
pinch of salt
1/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs

Brownie layer
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder, Hershey’s Special Dark
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 eggs
1 cup flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Grease a 9 x 13” pan and then cover with parchment paper.  Grease the parchment paper.
  2. Make the cheesecake layer first: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese with the paddle attachment until smooth.  Beat in the pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.  Scrape the bowl as needed.
  3. Add in the sour cream and eggs and beat on low speed until well combined and smooth, set aside.
  4. Make the brownie layer:  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and add the sugar.  Cook and stir until the mixture is shiny.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in the salt, baking powder, cocoa, and vanilla.  Whisk in the eggs one at a time and then stir in flour until just combined.
  6. Pour about two-thirds of the brownie batter into the prepared pan.  Spread out evenly.
  7. Pour the pumpkin cheesecake on top of the brownie layer and gently spread over the top.
  8. Dollop the remaining brownie batter on the cheesecake.  Use a butter knife to swirl on top.
  9. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is set.  Let cool and then refrigerate.  Cut into pieces and enjoy!


Filed under Brownies/Bars

Hostess Cupcakes

A week ago I heard the sad news that Hostess was going out of business.  As always, all of my news comes from Facebook, and this was no exception.  I cannot remember the last time I ate a Hostess product, but it is still unfortunate to hear about a company going out of business, especially an iconic one.

As a double bonus, these were the perfect cupcakes to make for Hayida’s birthday.  When Hayida was at my house for our Fall Fest, she conveniently wrote her birthday on our roommate calendar, no worries, I can take a hint!  Considering we had parent-teacher conference the next day and the city took away our mid-winter break, the third floor lunch crew was in need of a sweet pick-me-up and thankfully Hayida’s birthday was the right occasion.

This cupcake requires a large glass of milk.  The chocolate cake is light and moist and the dark chocolate cocoa powder brings plenty of deep, chocolate flavor to the party.  The marshmallow is very sweet and tastes just as I remember the original tasting.  And how can you go wrong with chocolate ganache?  It’s dark and smooth and a perfect offset to the sweet filling.  Adding the piped squiggle gives the cupcakes the perfect amount of whimsy and cuteness.

Feeling nostoligic?  Missing your favorite Hostess products?  No worries, just make your own!

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Hostess Cupcakes
Yield – 22 cupcakes
Adapted from Bake at 350

1 cup water
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line 22 cupcake tins with papers.
  2. In a small saucepan bring the water and the sugar to a boil.  Stir to combine and melt all the sugar.  Pour sugar/water into the bowl for your stand mixer and add the butter and chocolate.  Stir to melt and let cool slightly.  Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Place the mixing bowl on the mixer and mix on low speed.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat to combine.  Scrape the bowl as needed.
  4. Sift together the flour, soda, powder, and salt onto wax paper.  Add to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. Use a standard size ice cream scoop to portion the batter into the cupcake cups.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  7. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup marshmallow creme

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for two minutes.  Add in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon cream, pinch of salt, and 2 teaspoons vanilla.  Beat on low speed to combine.
  2. Add in the remaining 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of creams in alternating increments on a slow speed.  Add in the cup of marshmallow cream and beat on high until the mixture is well combined.

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt

  1. Place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Bring the cream, butter, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Add the hot cream to the chocolate and leave the mixture alone for 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk the chocolate and the cream together and set aside to cool.  Stir every ten or so minutes to keep the ganache from setting.

Piped Squiggle
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt

  1. Add all the ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with a paddle attachment on slow until well combined.  Turn up the speed and beat for 1 minutes, scrape the bowl as needed.
  2. If the mixture seems too thick, add some more cream.


  1. Add the marshmallow filling to a piping bag with an injection tip.  Poke each cupcake in the center and squeeze until the top of the cupcake begins to rise.
  2. If there is a lot of filling poking out, scrape it off.
  3. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of ganache on top of each cupcake and use the back of the spoon to smooth the ganache.
  4. Add the piping frosting to a piping bag with a number 2 tip.  Pipe a squiggle on each cupcake.


Filed under Cupcakes

Pomegranate Margaritas

I’m not hosting Thanksgiving this year and I have zero insight on how to help others plan this meal, let’s be honest here.  I’ve hosted Thanksgiving before but it always seemed like a matter of luck and delegation.  Honestly, Thanksgiving has caught me off guard this year, I know it’s a bit early this year, but I’m just not ready.

So for those of you like me, who just need to show up, play with the kids, enjoy the meal, and help where I can – here is a recipe for you – a holiday cocktail!  The deep, ruby red from the juice and bright green from the lime zest is perfect.

Let’s get the season off to a great start with a delicious, colorful, and seasonal drink!  My favorite part is the lime zest and sugar rim.  There is an amazing transformation when you massage lime zest with the sugar.  The sugar becomes softer and the zest becomes sweet.  I adore the look of the green along the outside of the glass.

This drink is strong with a good balance of sweet and tart.  I usually think of margaritas as a summer drink, but this is a great recipe to winterize them.  You definitely know you’re drinking a margarita, but you’re not being hit over the face with it!  Go to the store this afternoon and buy yourself some pomegranate juice, limes, and tequila and make your Thanksgiving a party!

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Pomegranate Margaritas
Adapted from How Sweet It is
Yield – 1 generous serving

1 ounce simple syrup (1 cup sugar + 1 cup water)
zest of two limes
2 tablespoons of sugar
1.5 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
2 handfuls of ice
1.5 ounces (bigger jigger) tequila
1.5 ounces pomegranate juice
1 ounce (smaller jigger) triple sec
pomegranate seeds

  1. Make the simple syrup by boiling 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water together.  Stir until all the sugar is dissolved and let cool completely.
  2. Grate the lime zest and massage with 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Spread out on plate.
  3. Juice your limes.
  4. Dip the top of your glass in the lime juice and then in the zest/sugar mixture.  Add one handful of ice cubes and set aside.
  5. To a cocktail shaker add a handful of ice a bigger jigger of lime juice, tequila, and pomegranate juice.  Add a smaller jigger of triple sec.  Shake for about 30 seconds until the outside of the shaker feels cold.
  6. Strain into your garnished glass and add pomegranate seeds.


Filed under Beverages

Peanut Butter Cookies

Two cookie recipes in a row, I know.  When I was giving away “happiness” cookies,  I also had a few boxes of peanut butter cookies and snickerdoodles, variety is needed with cookie consumption.  With all the rampant peanut butter allergies around, I don’t often make peanut butter cookies to handout, but I know several people who claim peanut butter cookies are their favorite and I haven’t made peanut butter cookies in awhile.

I think I forget how good a simple cookie can be, there are no gimmicks here, no sprinkles, no smoked sea salt, all the ingredients are probably in your cupboard now.  I do love a gimmicky cookie, but not always.  This is a good, little cookie!  Sweet, chewing, soft, and not at all hard.  There is plenty of peanut butter to go around.

Because the cookies baked thinner and rounder than expected, I am imagining some awesome combinations involving ice cream sandwiches!  What type of ice cream would you like to see sandwiched between two peanut butter cookies?

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Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from All Recipes
Yield – 24 cookies (2 tablespoons)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Cream together the butter, peanut butter, sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl a stand mixer with the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined and scrape the bowl as needed.
  4. Whisk together the flour, powder, salt, and baking soda.  Add the dry to the wet ingredients and mix on low until just combined.
  5. Use a 2 tablespoon scoop to portion the dough onto the cookie sheets.  I was able to fit 12 cookies per sheet.
  6. Use a fork dipped in granulated sugar to make cross-hatches on the cookies.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are set.  Let cool on a wire rack before packaging.


Filed under Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes a recipe is so good it is made twice in the same week.  Sometimes a recipe is so good it can be called happiness cookies!  The last two and a half weeks have been strange: hurricane, massive damage, no work, Nor Easter with 2 inches of snow, 65 degree F days.  Returning to work/life has been difficult.  I made some of these cookies to pass out to friends who could use a little pick-me-up.

Not only were these cookies well received, more were requested!  Since these cookies are super easy to throw together, I happily obliged. This recipe makes a TON of cookies even though I cut the original recipe in half.  Granted, my cookies are smaller, but personally I would rather eat two four small cookies than one giant cookie.  I made 5 1/2 dozen cookies in less than an hour with clean up, try to beat that!

I have heard about the Neiman Marcus cookies before but I had never thought to make them myself.  This recipe is heavily adapted; I cut the original amounts in half, omitted the Hershey bars (but added more chocolate chips of course!), omitted the peanuts, made the cookies smaller, and added more salt.  The extra salt is a must, just like under-baking.

Three notes about the photos – 1. I find it difficult to photograph cookies in an interesting manner.  They are brown circles, I need help with props.  2. With that being said, the photos do not do these cookies justice.  When I look at some photos, I’m like “I want to eat that NOW!”  Not so much with the photos of these cookies.  3. The milk looks brownish because it is almond milk, I don’t drink a lot of cow’s milk, so that’s what I usually have in the kitchen.  PS – I totally ate a cookie with said milk immediately following this picture!

The result? A wonderful chewy and chocolatey cookie.  The sprinkle of Kosher salt on top balances all of the chocolate inside and provides great contrast.  Grinding up the oatmeal adds fantastic texture, this is not a regular oatmeal cookie and there are certainly NO raisins in my oatmeal cookies!  This my friends, is a wonderful chocolate chip cookie recipe to have on hand.  I have seen bloggers throw this cookie into the ring as the best chocolate chip cookie, to be perfectly honest, this cookie recipe is fantastic.  The best?  My favorite?  I don’t know, my favorite, best tasting cookie always seems to be whatever warm one I have in my hand…

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies {Neiman Marcus}
Adapted from Bakers Royale
Yield – 66 cookies (2 tablespoons)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt + more for sprinkling on top
24 ounces chocolate chip (I used a mix of dark and semisweet)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Cream the butter and sugars together on high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment for 3 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, pulse the oats in the food processor 4-5 times.  You want the oats broken up, but not in a fine flour.
  4. Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time and beat to fully incorporate.  Beat in the vanilla too.  Scrape the bowl as needed.
  5. Whisk together the ground up oats, flour, soda, powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
  6. Add the dry to the wet and mix on low until almost incorporated.  Add in the chocolate chips and mix until just combined.
  7. Use a two tablespoon scoop to portion dough onto the cookie sheets.  I was able to get 15 cookies per sheet.
  8. Sprinkle each ball of dough generously with Kosher salt.
  9. Bake 2 sheets for 12-15 minutes.  DO NOT OVER BAKE.  Please watch closely.  Once cookies lose their shininess, pull out of the oven and let sit for a minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


Filed under Cookies