Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Brown Sugar Streusel Baked French Toast

Great for Christmas morning breakfast! I prepared this the night before after being out for Christmas Eve dinner since I was baking all day and didn't have anymore time before we went out. It was really easy to prepare. It was also really nice to wake up Christmas morning, pop it in the oven and a half hour later have breakfast ready! (Along with eggs and bacon, of course.) I used french bread instead of regular white bread. I just thought it would taste better....and I'm sure it did!

Adapted from:

12 slices [white] bread (I used french bread)
2 cups milk
4 large eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp all purpose flour
pinch salt
2 tbsp butter, melted

Cut crusts off bread and cut each piece into triangles. (Or slice the french bread and leave on crusts like I did.) Arrange bread into three even layers (the exact number of slices will vary depending on the size of the bread you start out with) in a lightly greased 8-inch baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, brown sugar, salt, vanilla and cinnamon until smooth. Pour over bread. Press down to ensure all pieces are thoroughly soaked. (I still had some on top of the liquid, which I liked since those ones came out a bit crunchy.) Custard should just come to the top of the bread layer. It if covers it more deeply, add additional bread.In a small bowl, make the streusel. Stir together brown sugar, flour and salt. Pour in butter and stir with a form until mixture has the consistency of wet sand. Sprinkle evenly over bread and custard. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350F and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until french toast is a golden brown on top. Let the dish stand for a few minutes. The dish will be very soft and souffle-like, but should not be too runny. The french toast will continue to set and soak up the custard as it cools. Slice and serve warm, with maple syrup.
Serves 6-8

Pumpkin Molasses Cookies

I thought these were pretty good - a mix between pumpkin and gingerbread and I even added a few white chocolate and butterscotch chips on the top for extra flavor. However, my husband and brother-in-law were not crazy about them. They said they were a bit dry. I'm posting the recipe anyway since I thought they were good! That's all that really matters, right? ;)

Adapted from:

Yields 24 cookies

2 1/3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp black pepper
8 Tbs butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup molasses
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling


Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and pepper. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar, molasses, and pumpkin puree and beat for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg and beat for 1 minute more. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until the flour and spices disappear. If flour remains in the bottom of the bowl, mix the last of the dry ingredients by hand to avoid over beating. You will have a very soft dough. Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The dough is sticky, so the longer time it can chill the easier it is to work with. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Put the sugar in a small bowl. Working with one packet of dough at a time, divide it into 12 pieces, and roll each piece into a ball. Roll the balls in the sugar and use a the bottom of a glass to press down on the cookies until they are between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick. Transfer to cookie sheets. Do not over crowd. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12-14 minutes, or until the top feels set to the touch. Remove baking sheets from the oven. Let cookies cool 5 minutes on the sheets before transferring them to a cooling rack. Repeat with second batch of dough.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cherry Almond Chews

These were really chewy and full of almond flavor - I'm a big fan! However, I'm not a huge fan of cherries (just the actual fruit, not all things cherry flavored). They looked nicer with it and very holiday-esque, so I had to keep them on top.

Adapted from: (Originally from The Taste of Home Baking Book)


1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups flaked coconut
3/4 cup chopped almonds or pecans (optional)
1 jar maraschino cherries, drained and halved

In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in extract. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in coconut and nuts. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto lightly greased baking sheets. Place a cherry half in the center of each. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-13 minutes or until barely browned on the edges. Immediately remove to wire racks to cool. Store in an air-tight container for up to 10 days, or in the freezer for six weeks.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

While baking Christmas cookies, I was trying a few different and unique recipes, so I wanted one to be a classic. Chocolate Chip Cookies - you can't go wrong with that! I actually made half of the batch of these Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies and half of a batch of Alton Brown's "The Chewy". The Chewy was great before, however, I didn't use bread flour (which I have since picked up) so I wanted to try the recipe again. I did a taste test and I am partial to this new recipe! It's originally from Baking Illustrated.

Adapted from: (originally from Baker's Illustrated)

2 cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions. Preheat oven 325°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside. With electric mixer, or by hand, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly combined. Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat at low-speed just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Roll a scant half-cup of dough into a ball. Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull apart into two equal halves. Rotate halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, place formed dough onto cookie sheet, leaving ample room between each ball. Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy (approximately 11-14 minutes). Do not overbake.

Cool cookies on sheets until able to lift without breaking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Banana Gingerbread

Holiday baking, gotta love it! It seems like I spent all weekend baking and still have more to do on Christmas Eve. I found this recipe for banana gingerbread, which seemed perfect for the season. I altered the recipe a bit since I didn't have whole wheat flour on hand and did not have the spice cardamom. There seems to be no substitution for it, so I did without it. I actually didn't get to try a slice of this bread since I'm putting this in a gift basket, but poured some batter in a couple of mini-muffin tins so that I could taste it. Pretty good! :)

Adapted from:


1 cup whole wheat flour (I used 2 cups all purpose since I didn't have whole wheat flour)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cardamom (I didn't have this so I omitted)
pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup banana, mashed (about 2 large)
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 tbsp vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, banana, molasses, buttermilk and vegetable oil. Pour into dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired. Bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Makes 1 loaf, 8-10 slices.

Sausage and Cheese Cresent Squares

Another picture I stole from Pillsbury...:( Not only did I not get a picture of this appetizer, I didn't even eat them! I had a little taste as I was cutting them into squares to be served, but actually did not try one throughout the course of the night. I got rave reviews though! I do have to warn you, these look really gross as you're preparing the sausage and cream cheese mixture. I had second thoughts about serving these at a party as I was cooking up the mixture! However, they seemed to go over well! Next time I'll have to actually eat one. ;)

Adapted from:

2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or 2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury® Crescent Recipe Creations® refrigerated seamless dough sheet
1 lb spicy or mild bulk pork sausage
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (8 oz)
Heat oven to 375°F. If using crescent rolls: Unroll 1 can of dough into 2 long rectangles. Place in ungreased 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish; press over bottom and 1/2 inch up sides to form crust. If using dough sheets: Unroll 1 can of dough. Place in ungreased 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish; press over bottom and 1/2 inch up sides to form crust. In 12-inch skillet, cook sausage over medium heat, stirring frequently, until no longer pink. Remove sausage from skillet; discard drippings. To same skillet, add cream cheese. Cook over low heat until melted. Add cooked sausage; stir to coat. Spoon evenly over crust in baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese.
If using crescent rolls: Unroll second can of dough on work surface. Press to form 13x9-inch rectangle; firmly press perforations to seal. Carefully place over cheese. If using dough sheets: Unroll second can of dough on work surface. Press to form 13x9-inch rectangle. Carefully place over cheese. Bake 21 to 26 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 15 minutes. Cut into small squares.

Gorgonzola-Artichoke Dip

No, I did not take this picture. I stole it from Pillsbury's website since I didn't get a chance to take one! I made this easy and delicious dip for my parent's annual Christmas party. Since everything was so hectic right before the party started, I didn't get a picture of this or the sausage cheese squares that I made. This picture looks better anyway. ;)

Adapted from:


5 slices packaged precooked bacon
1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, well drained, chopped
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (2 oz)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (2 oz)
2 teaspoons lemon juice


Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 8-inch quiche dish, or 8- or 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. Chop 3 slices of the bacon; place in medium bowl. Reserve remaining bacon for garnish. To bacon in bowl, stir in remaining ingredients. Spread mixture in dish. Bake 10 minutes. Stir dip; bake 10 to 15 minutes longer or until dip is bubbly around edges. Chop reserved bacon; sprinkle on top of dip. Serve warm dip with petite toasts, assorted crackers or baguette slices.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

White Chocolate, Pear & Almond Cake

I had an extra pear and was flipping through a chocolate cookbook that I have and came across this recipe. Since I had all of my baking supplies out baking Christmas Cookies, I decided to try this cake to add to my Christmas baking. I get so used to looking up recipes online that sometimes I forget that I have several baking books to look through! This cake is really good, very tasty. :) I did alter the recipe a little since I didn't have ground almonds. I used 0.5 tsp of almond extract in place of 0.5 tsp of the 2tsp of vanilla that the recipe calls for. It does give it a strong almond taste, so if that's not what you're looking for either omit the almond extract all together or scale it down to 0.25 tsp. This was also really easy to make.

Adapted from: Chocolate Galore by Caroline Beaty

1 ripe pear
1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons) sweet butter, slightly softened
3/4 cup superfine sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used 1.5 tsp & 0.5 tsp almond extract)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 1/2 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup blached almonds, roughly chopped (I omitted)
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and baseline a 8 inch cake pan. Peel and core the pear and cut it into eights. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour and baking powder, and finally the white chocolate and almonds. Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared plan and level the surface. Place the pears in a circle on top, pressing them down into the batter. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until risen and firm in the center. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing and cooling on wire rack. Dust with confectioner's sugar to serve.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

This may take the cake (no pun intended!) for one of the best desserts I've ever made. If you're a chocoholic, this is the cheesecake you want to make. I used a lot of dark chocolate, where the recipe was pretty flexible in using dark, semi-sweet, bittersweet, etc. I'm a big fan of dark chocolate though. ;) I'm considering making a bar version of this for my parent's Christmas Party but already had another chocolate dessert in mind for that....decisions, decisions!



2 cups crushed cookies (I used Oreos with fillings removed)

2 Tbsp sugar

1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp melted butter

Oreos - about 8 for surrounding crust (taken apart and fillings removed)


1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chips)

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 cup sugar

3 bars of cream cheese (8 oz. each)

1/3 cup cocoa (I used dark chocolate cocoa by Hershey's)

1 tsp vanilla

1.5 cups chocolate chips (I used 3/4 cups dark chocolate chips & 3/4 cups semi-sweet chips)
1/4 cup heavy cream


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the crust, place the Oreos around the outside of a springform pan (separated with fillings removed). Mix the 2 cups of cookie crumbs with sugar and butter and then press into the pan covering the bottom and up the sides. The original recipe called for more Oreos lining the top of the crust, but since the crust is crushed Oreos, I really didn't notice these extra cookies. I would omit this next time...and there will be a next time! Bake the crust for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. A tip from the original recipe that I found helpful - put the pan on a cookie sheet (I lined this with foil) so that if butter oozes it, it won't create a mess.

To make the filling, first melt 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chips). You can melt in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, or on low heat on the stove. Add 1/4 cup of room temperature heavy cream to the melted chips. Mix until combined. Set aside. Next, beat the 3 (8 oz.) of softened cream cheese for about 1 minute. Add one cup of sugar and mix until combined. Add 1/3 cup of baking cocoa and mix until combined. I used Hershey's Dark Chocolate baking cocoa and highly recommend it! I've been using it in all of my chocolate recipes recently and think it makes everything just a bit richer (and better)! Add the eggs, one at at time and beat until smooth. Add 1 tsp vanilla, mix, then add the cream/chocolate chips mixture and mix on low speed. Pour the filling into the baked crust and bake at 325 for about 55-60 minutes. The original recipe called for 45-50 minutes and I baked it for 50. It was a little underdone in the center, which is always better than overdone, but if you want a fully baked cheesecake I'd suggest about 55 minutes or so. Check on it to make sure it looks okay! After baking, let the cheesecake cool for about an hour.

To make the topping, melt 1.5 cups of chocolate chips. I used 3/4 cup of semi-sweet and 3/4 cups of dark chocolate chips. Mix with 1/4 cup of room temperature heavy cream. Pour over the top of the cheesecake and smooth it out. Put cheesecake in the fridge for about 4 hours or so (I had it in overnight).

Peanut Butter Cookies

Since I was on Smitten Kitchen's blog for the pumpkin pie (and not sure how well it would turn out because of the thick crust!), I felt like I needed one more dessert at my Thanksgiving table. I haven't baked peanut butter cookies in a long time (at least before I started my blog), so I gave these ones a try. These cookies were extremely good! They stayed chewy for days afterwards and were gone by the time I thew out the remains of the other Thanksgiving desserts...with the exception of the Triple Chocolate Cheesecake, which is still in my fridge (and am pretty sure should be thrown out now). My husband insisted that I keep that there one more day...:)

Adapted from:


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth is what I used)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips
For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern (I used the back of a small offset spatula to keep it smooth on top), but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.
Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Baked Brie

So easy and so good! I'm not too happy with the presentation, but I was having difficulty getting the foil out from under the brie, so I just transferred the foil onto the plate and haphazardly put the crackers around the brie. I'll have to work on that....especially since I'm making this again for my parents' Christmas Party this weekend!

Adapted from:

1 large sheet of puff pastry dough or 1 tube of refrigerated crescent dinner rolls (I used crescent rolls)
1 round or wedge of Brie cheese (do not remove rind)
Raspberry Jam, or other sweet jam
Brown sugar
1/4 cup of maple syrup

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2 On a stick-free cookie sheet, lay out the puff pastry or the crescent rolls flat; put brie round or wedge on top.
2 Spread jam on brie, fold dough over top, cutting off excess dough. Drizzle maple syrup and place a handful of brown sugar on top.
3 Bake at 350ยบ for 25-30 minutes, pastry should be golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with crackers and apple slices.