Peanut Blossom Cookies

Adapted from Cook’s Country Magazine

Makes about 4 dozen

Any Hershey’s Chocolate Kiss—dark, milk, white, or “Hugs”—works in this recipe. For best results, the cookies should be baked on the middle rack, one baking sheet at a time. This recipe can be cut in half.

– 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

– 1/2 teaspoon table salt

– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

– 1 cup roasted salted peanuts

– 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened

– 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

– 3/4 cup granulated sugar

– 1 cup creamy peanut butter

– 2 large eggs , at room temperature

– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

– 48 Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses, ready-to-use or wrappers removed

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Whisk 1 3/4 cups flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together in medium bowl. Process remaining 1 cup flour and peanuts in food processor until ground, about fifteen 1-second pulses, then stir into flour mixture.

3. Beat butter and sugars together in large bowl with electric mixer at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add peanut butter and continue to beat until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition, until incorporated, about 30 seconds, then beat in vanilla, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl, if necessary. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture in two batches, and mix until incorporated. Cover bowl and refrigerate dough until stiff, about 30 minutes.

4. Roll 1-inch balls of dough and space 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake until just set and beginning to crack, 9 to 11 minutes, rotating baking sheet from front to back halfway through baking (while cookies are baking, place additional balls of dough on second baking sheet).

5. Working quickly, remove baking sheet from oven and firmly press one Kiss in center of each cookie. Return baking sheet to oven and bake until lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies directly to wire rack to finish cooling. Repeat rolling and baking remaining cookies. Cool completely. (Cookies will be cool enough to eat after about 30 minutes, but Kisses will take 2 hours to set completely.)

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Chewy Sugar Cookies

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

Note:  The final dough will be slightly softer than most cookie dough. For the best results, handle the dough as briefly and gently as possible when shaping the cookies. Overworking the dough will result in flatter cookies.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4cups (11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar , plus 1/3 cup for rolling
  • 2 ouncescream cheese , cut into 8 pieces
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter , melted and still warm
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Place 1½ cups sugar and cream cheese in large bowl. Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside. Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain but will smooth out later). Whisk in oil until incorporated. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft homogeneous dough forms.
  3.  Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 tablespoons each (or use #40 portion scoop). Using hands, roll dough into balls. Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 dough balls per sheet. Using bottom of drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle tops evenly with 4 teaspoons of sugar remaining in shallow dish (2 teaspoons per tray), discarding any remaining sugar.
  4. Bake, 1 tray at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating tray after 7 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Chocolate Chip Muffins

I caught a small break the other day.  The baby went right back to sleep after a morning feeding and I had a chance to make some muffins.  My mother used to make chocolate chip muffins for us when I was a kid.  She was a great cook when it came to Albanian food but American cuisine….ehhh….not so much.  She used a hand mixer for the muffins and she used regular sized chocolate chips.  Over-mixing made the muffins tough and the chocolate chips were too heavy and sunk to the bottom of the muffin.

I love this recipe from The America’s Test Kitchen Baking Book.  I used the Mocha-Chip variation for my recipe but left out the coffee flavor.  There are about seven variations to this recipe like Lemon-Blueberry, Banana-Walnut and Raspberry Almond but Chocolate Chip is my favorite so that’s the one I’m including today.

Chocolate Chip Muffins

3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 1/2 cups whole or low-fat plain yogurt  (I make my own yogurt which I prefer over the store-bought brands)

2 large eggs

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 cup mini chocolate chips

1.  Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin. (Try not to use paper liners because the muffins don’t bake up as tall and you lose a fair amount of muffin goodness to that liner)

2.  Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and then whisk in the yogurt until smooth.  Gently fold the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just barely combined, then fold in the melted butter followed by the mini chocolate chips.

3.  Using a greased 1/3-cup measuring cup, portion the batter into each muffin cup.  Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

4.  Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip out onto a wire rack, and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Pancakes

Pancake stack

Pancake stack

Since I discovered this recipe in my ATK cookbook, I have not bought another box of pancake mix again.  These pancakes are easy to make and taste better than any boxed mix.  There is one change that I insist upon in this recipe.  The original recipe says to use vegetable oil in the skillet when cooking the pancakes but I use butter because it tastes much better and it makes this crisp edges that are so addictive.

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New York-Style Crumb Cake Muffins

DSCN0760_750x563.shklHere’s a recipe that is German in origin but perfected in New York City, one of my favorite cities.   Although these are called Muffins, these are more like miniature crumb cakes.   They are made with cake flour so they are quite tender like a cupcake.

New York-Style Crumb Cake Muffins

Adapted from AmericasTestKitchen.com

If you can’t find buttermilk, you can substitute an equal amount of plain, low-fat yogurt. When topping the muffins, take care to not push the crumbs into the batter. Cooled leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

12 muffins

Crumb Topping

– 1/3     cup granulated sugar (2 1/3 ounces)

– 1/3     cup dark brown sugar (2 1/3 ounces)

– 3/4    teaspoon ground cinnamon

– 1/8     teaspoon table salt

– 8        tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm

– 1 3/4    cups cake flour (7 ounces)

Muffins

– 1 1/4   cups cake flour (5 ounces)

– 1/2      cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)

– 1/4      teaspoon baking soda

– 1/4      teaspoon table salt

– 6          tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool

– 1           large egg

– 1           large egg yolk

– 1           teaspoon vanilla extract

– 1/3       cup buttermilk

Powdered sugar for dusting

1.  FOR THE TOPPING: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

2.  FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan (cups have 1/2 cup capacity) with baking-cup liners.

3.   In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.

4.   Using 1/4-cup measure or ice cream scoop, divide batter evenly among muffin cups; using small rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. Break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter (about 1/4 cup of crumbs per muffin), beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of muffin comes out clean, about 18 to 21 minutes. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack at least 20 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

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German Apple Pancake

DSCN0751There are occasions that I make certain recipes just for my son and husband.  This was one of them.  I’m not a fan of cooked fruit…never have been.    Fresh fruit I like.  The crispness, juiciness and sweetness of an apple that’s cool from the fridge is what I prefer.  Once it’s cooked, it completely loses its appeal with me.  It can smell great but there’s something about the texture and the warmth of cooked fruit that doesn’t compute with me.  My boys like it though so I found this recipe for a German Apple Pancake in my favorite baking book and used up some apples that weren’t getting any younger in the fridge.  They both loved this pancake.  It’s a fairly quick and easy dessert or great as part of a brunch.  It was fun for me to make because I liked watching it puff up in the oven.

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Chocolate Roll Cake

Delicious chocolate roll cake

Delicious chocolate roll cake

Oh those chocolate cake cravings!  They will not relent until they are satisfied with the real thing.  I’ve tried eating a piece of candy or cocoa-covered almonds but to no avail….a chocolate cake craving must be met with the real thing and quickly too.  No store-bought cake will do and there are no decent bakeries or pastry shops in this city so I needed a recipe that was fairly quick to make but rich in taste.  My favorite baking book came through once again but with a few adjustments.  The roll cake recipe in the book calls for marshmallow creme in the filling but since I didn’t have enough left in the cupboard and I certainly didn’t want to waste time running to the store, I decided on something even better…a whipped ganache filling.   I’ve made ganache in the past but only the type used to pour over a cake or pastry so whipped ganache was new to me.  This baking book did not have a whipped ganache recipe so in my hurry to get this cake made and silence those chocolate demons, I failed to thoroughly research whipped ganache and used a faulty recipe from AllRecipes.com.  Ganache must NOT be overwhipped.  The recipe I used failed to mention this so mine turned out a bit grainy……I tried fixing it by cooling it and re-whipping….Fail.  I tried to warm the ganache and re-whip it…..Fail.  Lessons learned: there is no way to rescue over-whipped ganache and always take the time to do the proper research when it comes to making something new.  So the filling was darker than what it should have been and not so smooth but it tasted so good.

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