Category: pecan

Snap, crackle, Snackle Mouth.

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Snackle Mouth is an awesome company. I’ve done two different posts with their delicious granola snacks before, and I had so many more ideas floating around my head. So I was thrilled when they offered me some boxes of their new varieties: Bacon Maple and Salty Chocolate. BACON. MAPLE. Did you read that? Bacon maple. And salty mutha’f’n chocolate. WHAT. Yes.

Sweet and Salty….we get it and we likey!  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night, snack time – seriously, any time is the right time to eat Chocolate.  So, we baked in loads of yum and sprinkled just the right amount of sea salt for a little zippy-do.

-Snackle Mouth

They sent these to me around a month ago, perhaps longer, and I couldn’t wait to start experimenting. But first comes the taste testing! And after thoroughly testing each one, I had some serious thinking to do. I had already done a coffee cake, and made parfaits with it. And being early August at the time, there weren’t a lot of “cozy” moments; it was hot as hell. So I was a little hesitant to bake. But that’s what I do, yanno? I bake. I get down in the kitchen with a wooden spoon and beat batter & people with whisks. Plus, fall is swiftly coming upon us. And I know the warm, late-summer days & nights are numbered. In a few weeks, maybe even days, things will change; I’ll be cooking up (& eating up) fall treats & I’ll want to wear toasty, fall-y clothes.

But now? Now there are still those hot, sweaty & humid days. Except now there are more of the much cooler, lovely nights. And I like to spend those nights drinking an Octoberfest or Pumpkin Ale, sitting around the fire pit. The smell of burning wood & toasting marshmallows, the crackling & snapping sounds, the need for a (light) sweater. So with all that in mind, I decided to bake something with the Snackle Mouth after all. And I came up with these babies:

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Salty chocolate granola campfire bars. The granola’s name, Snackle Mouth, kind of reminds me of the crackle of a fire. So I thought, why not incorporate their salty chocolate granola into a more portable version of the classic campfire treat: the s’more. You all already know I love s’mores. But they can be messy, you know? And yeah the messiness can be the entire point, and even what makes it so fun, but what if you want a s’more at like, 12 noon on a random Thursday? Or while you’re at school… and there’s no campfire? That, my friends. That’s why you make these.

The bottom “cookie” layer has a graham crackery taste, but yet it’s soft, like a chewy chocolate chip cookie base. The chocolate chips melt just enough and the saltiness of the Snackle Mouth combined with the marshmallows… UGH. So delicious. And sweet. And a little salty.

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I made this recipe three times, each a few weeks apart, and wrote and rewrote it numerous times before I got it to the point where it was good enough to write up for you guys on the blog.

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I think this is it.

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SALTY CHOCOLATE GRANOLA CAMPFIRE BARS

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted & cooled to just slightly warm
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 box Salty Chocolate Snackle Mouth granola
  • 1/2 bag mini-marshmallows
  • 6 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chunks (or chips)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Line an 8″ x 11″ brownie pan (or a 9″ x 13″ pan) with parchment paper & spray lightly with PAM, or brush a little of the melted butter on it. Set aside.
  2. Combine the butter, sugars, flour, vanilla, salt and honey in a bowl with a hand mixer. Once it’s thoroughly combined, pat the dough into the prepared baking pan, a handful at a time. It will be very moist but very crumbly. Using your (clean!) hands, press it and push it together to form a cohesive dough. Make sure it’s as even as you can get it so it bakes evenly. I made it slightly lower in the middle, making a little “crust” on the edges like a deep dish pizza, but you don’t have to do that.
  3. Spread the chocolate chips on top in an even layer, pressing them into the dough just slightly. Bake it for about 15-20 minutes, or until the chips are almost but not yet completely melted. Remove from the oven and add the Snackle Mouth granola, pushing it down in between and on top of the chips.
  4. Bake another 15-20 minutes or until the crust is baked through. Remove the pan from oven. On top of the granola layer, arrange the marshmallows evenly while it’s still hot.
  5. Turn on the broiler and place the pan under the broiler until the marshmallows begin to toast & melt slightly. Remove immediately and let cool completely to room temperature before slicing.

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If you drape the parchment like I did, it helps when you’re taking them out of the pan. If you’d rather cut them on a board instead of in the pan, just lift them up & out. Once they’re 100% cooled that is. Look at this melty goodness.

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They were sweet, messy (when eaten on the warmer side as I did- I couldn’t help it) and perfectly campfire-y. I guess I’m just on a toasted marshmallow kick lately, huh? So I hope by now you’ve realized that granola, especially Snackle Mouth, isn’t just for snacking on right out of the box or for making into granola bars. You can use it in all sorts of different ways- coffee cakes, parfaits, cookie bars. And there’s more to come! I have tons of ideas. But these will tide me over until I come up with an appropriate Bacon Maple recipe. Hmm…

I think it goes without saying I lit a fire in the fire pit, settled in next to it and ate these until I couldn’t stand it anymore! And I hope that this Labor Day, you do the same, hopefully while remembering the reasons you have off from work.

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My new favorite thing: Snackle Mouth!

A few weeks ago, my friend & fellow blogger Xenia told me about Snackle Mouth. I had seen the pictures of it on her blog, and read her reviews of it, and I was intrigued. First off, I loved the packaging. Coolest granola packaging ever, for sure. And anytime you have bacon in anything, you win me over. So the fact they make a Bacon Maple granola? Insane. In a good way.

Snackle Mouth is a brand spankin’ new company:

Snackle Mouth® was given wings by one of the Founder’s, John Raptis. “Rapits” (his call name by virtue of the fact that there are 3 guys named “John” in the business) was really the main man. As a reformed real estate developer, he crafted a healthy, tasty, and simple granola nut snack with a high degree of clumpability. We define clumpability like so: a phenomenal flavor cluster, embodying superior taste, and made from the most simple natural and organic ingredients on the planet.

Raptis hit the lab to produce a snack with those basic snack components in mind. From his own kitchen he watched his son and friends constantly forage for food and he developed a recipe to make a snack that Moms would approve of for their children, thus, Snackle Mouth® was born.

So they may be new, but they’re pretty awesome, and they’ve got a lot going for them:

  • Combine All Natural and Organic Ingredients
  • Mix in the Best Nuts We Could Find
  • NO Refined Sugar, NO Trans-Fats, Low Glycemic
  • Cool new name, Snackle Mouth®
  • Most Fun Package Design on the Planet
  • End Result, Great Tasting Granola Nut Clusters

They’re made with naturally yummy things like fruit juice, organic dried fruit & nuts, brown rice syrup, oat bran and organic blue agave. So when James from Snackle Mouth offered to send me these goodies… you can imagine how excited I was. And am. I received a box with three varieties: the almond pecan maple, the almond berry and the peanut cranberry. See, I wasn’t lying about the awesome packaging.

After sampling each kind, I knew what I’d do first. It was really warm and kind of sticky out, so I decided to wait for a slightly cooler day to make something really awesome. In the meantime, I continued sampling.

But really… I wanted more than to just snack on it. I wanted a unique Snackle Mouth creation. So on a slightly cooler, much more overcast day, I came up with this.


And this, my friends is the pièce de résistance: a granola nut coffee cake- it’s the same principle as a coffee cake with a streusel crumb on top, except in my version there’s no streusel, just granola nut clusters. To be precise, Snackle Mouth Almond Pecan Maple granola nut clusters. Genius, right? I thought so. Except it was a little too dark. The inside stayed very moist and delicious, but the granola got a bit too caramelized. Which might have been a nice effect, especially had I been using the Bacon Maple granola. But I wasn’t, and I wanted something a little lighter and more… summery?

And it was good, trust me. Like I said, the first time the top did get a little dark, meaning the granola got a little dark too, but it didn’t deter anyone from eating it. It was still quite delicious nonetheless, and it was all gobbled up (pretty damn fast actually). But I went back to the drawing board, being the perfectionist that I am, & I came up with a revamped & better version. And that version used Almond Berry Snackle Mouth as the topping, and a cup of fresh blueberries were added into the batter before baking. It paired excellently with the berry variety of Snackle Mouth, since it’s made with blueberry juice. I made that for my father for Father’s Day (he’s a blueberry freak) and talk about a huge hit! He seriously loved it. On this one, I also smashed the granola with a hammer before using it for the topping. It came out much better, since it was in smaller pieces, obviously. You live, you learn. I had never made a coffee cake with a granola nut topping before!

So the first version was just an experiment. But the second version? Ohhh, the second version… it came out fantastical.

And now you get to reap the benefits of my trials & tribulations. Here’s the recipe for the best coffee cake ever.

BLUEBERRY COFFEE CAKE WITH ALMOND BERRY SNACKLE MOUTH GRANOLA NUT “STREUSEL”

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus two tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (or the berry of your choice)
  • 1 box Almond Berry Snackle Mouth granola nut clusters (or the flavor of your choice)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300° F and grease an 8″-inch square baking pan. Smash the granola with a hammer until it breaks into slightly smaller pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add egg, and beat until combined. Add vanilla extract to the milk in a glass measuring cup and alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the creamed butter mixture three times, starting with and ending with the flour.
  3. Mix the berries in gently, until thoroughly combined.
  4. Spread batter into prepared baking pan. Smooth it as evenly as possible, tapping the pan on the counter a few times if necessary. Sprinkle the granola on top, until the cake is pretty well covered.
  5. Bake 50-70 minutes (depending on your oven and what kind of pan you use: glass or metal), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool. Serve while slightly warm or at room temperature.


Perfection. My mother pronounced it the best coffee cake she ever had, and said it reminded her of one she used to eat as a child.

If you’re more health-conscious, try it using whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour). You could also use an agave sweetener instead of sugar, or applesauce instead of the egg. There’s tons of room to mess around with this recipe. Not to mention that if you use the Peanut Cranberry Snackle Mouth, you can use a cup of fresh cranberries in the batter, and it’d be absolutely amazing. 100% adaptable to any combination. The cake is baked at a lower temperature in a very slow oven to keep the granola in good shape; it’ll start to burn long before the cake is done, otherwise. And burnt granola isn’t what you want. If you aren’t using the granola, if you’re using regular streusel or making it plain, you could bake it at 350° F for 35-40 minutes with no problem. And I have to say, this is a really unique way to do a streusel without the hassle of making a streusel. Especially if you’re like me & your streusel-making is hit or miss. It’s fail proof and delicious, and it travels well. Great for picnics or to bring somewhere for a party or cook-out.

It’s very moist, with a perfect crumb… but it’s also a very dense cake; so just be aware that if you think you can eat that big slice, you probably can’t.

Trust me. I could barely get through one normal sized slice!


This isn’t the last you’ll see of Snackle Mouth around here. That’s all I’m sayin’… just keep your eyes peeled, if you catch my drift.

Thank you, Snackle Mouth, for letting me play with your food! Now everybody go buy some. You won’t be sorry. And of course, let’s not forget social media! Follow @SnackleMouth on Twitter and become a Snackle Mouth fan on Facebook, too!

German chocolate cupcakes & German family stories.

I’m sure by now if you’re a regular reader you know I’m part German. The German side of my family isn’t cloaked in mystery like the Irish side, and Germany kept pristine vital records (unlike the Polish/Russian sides) and those records are much easier to get than say, the Dutch, French & Belgian records or the even more mysterious “Alsace-Lorraine” family records (Alsace-Lorraine does not really exist as an actual place, therefore the records aren’t in any particular Alsace-Lorraine directory, but split between Germany & France). As you can also tell, I’m an amateur genealogist & I’ve spent the better part of the last 6-8 years doing my family history & tracing parts back to the 1100′s.

Of course, I love old pictures & all things antique & vintage so this kind of thing just feeds into that for me. Particularly the old family photos. And by old, I don’t mean like the ones you have of your grandparents in the 1940′s. I mean old as in the 1890′s.

That’s my great-grandmother, Frances “Midge” Hebrank Sonnanburg, in New York around 1896, when she was just 4 years old. You can see an older picture of her here at my other ‘German’ cupcake post. Her father’s father was Albert, a German immigrant who joined the ranks of an all-German regiment, the New York 54th Infantry a.k.a. the “Barney Black Rifles” (Schwarze Yaeger) in the Civil War. He & his family were German, from Owingen, Hohenzollern, which was for a time part of Prussia but is now Germany, specifically Baden-Württemberg. Anyway, this is the stuff that makes me tick. Me & Jay do ancestry work for fun. We’re geeks. So my family history & my ancestry mean a lot to me. Where I come from is so important, I believe in order to know where you’re going you have to know where you came from.

Okay enough with my life story/family history there. If I tell you any more, I’ll be writing for another 4 days, have severe carpal tunnel & you’ll be able to do my family tree for me. Anyway Midge loved to cook & bake, as did most of her family. There’s a story I heard my whole life about how she made a specific kind of pudding or custard; it was apparently a big hit with my grandpa & his friends. They were begging her to make it, asking & asking until finally she explained that it used an awful lot of milk, which was expensive, especially during the Depression. So whattaya know, my grandpa’s friends waited the next day for the milkman to come & then snuck around & stole everyone else in the building’s milk delivery so Midge could make the pudding. So what does this have to do with cupcakes? Well, maybe I got my baking skills from her?

Or maybe I’m hinting that everyone who asks me for cupcakes should go steal some milk & sugar & eggs first? Hey, listen- the Cupcake Wars casting department e-mailed me… I’m a very important person.

Of course, German chocolate cake, unlike Black Forest cake, is not actually German. Surprise! It’s named after the chocolatier, Sam German, who in the 1850′s created the dark chocolate for the company Baker’s Chocolate. The chocolate was therefore named for him and then, in turn, the cake, which was actually called German’s chocolate cake. But regardless, it’s synonymous with the word “German” now, and most people assume that means the country, so I’m just going to incorporate that into this post about my German family history & cupcakes. And kinda because the topping always reminds me of sauerkraut, which is decidedly German. I know that might gross you out but really… tell me it doesn’t!

Instead of using an actual recipe for German chocolate cupcakes, I just used my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe plus a coconut-pecan frosting. Mmm.

CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

Makes about 18 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup buttermilk (room temperature)
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Cream butter, granulated sugar and light brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add 2 large eggs (one at a time) and beat each until thoroughly combined, then add chocolate & oil. Add (and alternate) flour plus baking soda with buttermilk (room temperature) plus vanilla extract.
  3. Place cupcake paper into each cup of 3 muffin pans (each pan yielding 6 muffins). Then fill each cup about ¾ full.
  4. Bake at 350° degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

COCONUT-PECAN FROSTING

Ingredients:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and brought to room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ⅓ cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups (3-4 ounces) pecans, coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Combine egg yolks, evaporated milk, and sugar in a saucepan with a whisk. Add butter, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick, about 12 minutes. After about the first 6 minutes, add the pecans.
  2. Stir in vanilla, salt, coconut. Let cool completely. Frosting can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 day; bring to room temperature before using. Spoon on top of cooled cupcakes as desired.

I always avoided making these just because they seemed so complicated & messy, and also because I rarely have pecans & coconut in the house at the same time, let alone the same time as I have evaporated milk. But I did have those ingredients- mainly because of that big ass failure of a pecan pie I made last week.. and it turns out they weren’t hard or complicated to make at all! I made it all super quick, and by the time the cupcakes were cooled the frosting was ready to go too. I’d just recommend that you make the frosting first, like I did. Then pop it in the fridge & let it cool while you clean up, then mix & bake & cool your cakes. When the cupcakes have about 10 minutes left to bake, take the frosting out of the fridge. Let the cakes cool, then just assemble them & you’re done. I added an extra pecan half on top but that’s up to you. Maraschino cherries are also traditional toppings for German chocolate cake.

So there you have it. A super rich, super sticky, super decadent cupcake. Ach du lieber Himmel!


And if you haven’t entered to win the Valentine’s Day table runner yet- GO! The giveaway ends January 31st. U.S. residents only, blah blah blah fine print. Seriously, go enter, or I’ll kick your ass.

Failure, fixation & a big f*** off to pecan pie.

Sometimes in life, you fail. It’s normal. It’s expected. And one failure, or even two or three or eight, doesn’t mean you’re a total mess, nor does it mean you should give up. F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of my favorite authors, once said: “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” This is true in everything, but most especially cooking. Even the best bakers & chefs have bad days (I mean really, you ever watch a Food Network challenge or Chopped? it’s like DISASTER CENTRAL up in that bitch); it’s to be expected. Especially for me. ‘Cause, really, why should I be any different? I’m not trained in this. I’m self-taught. I do things randomly & fly by the seat of my pants. I made applesauce cake with a brandy glaze for Jay to take on tour to Ohio with him & the band last week (because he loved the one I made for Christmas), and I had to literally ask him if I put vanilla in the glaze. I couldn’t remember, because I didn’t follow a recipe; I just made it. So really, I can’t take it too seriously when I have a failure like this (although I use top notch ingredients & have to say the waste of all those eggs & butter & flour & sugar & corn syrup makes me nauseous let alone homicidal). I actually ended up having two failures in one week, though, which I guess in the grand scheme of things is no big deal, but boy, have I been feeling lousy about it. My “good karma” kitchen stretch has gone on for quite some time though to be quite honest. I was kicking ass & taking names in the oven room. I make lemon curd in my sleep. I make such an amazing beer bread it ought to be illegal. My frosting never wilts (anymore). I MASTERED SOUFFLÈS FOR CUPCAKES’ SAKE. And then- HOLY SHITBALLS- pardon my French, but within a matter of days, I managed to mess up two different recipes completely. I think I had a curse put on me. No shit. I think it was some Hoodoo-type thing.

Anyway, it happens, blah blah blah, whatever.

But it sucks nonetheless. I’m not used to failing, I usually go after what I want & get it, and the same is true for recipes, learning new things, conquering difficult concepts, etc. Examples: I was a straight A student (except that pesky math) who learned two years worth of Spanish in 1 week when I started a new school at 13, my teacher had me doing book reports in kindergarten to avoid being bored, I applied to ONE college which I was accepted to early & my first job was a paid intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So yeah, failure sucks. But it sucks even more when it doesn’t quite work out the way you’re used to. Especially when you’re psyched on hanging your fangs on pecan pie in all it’s delicious sugary, syrupy glory… & you end up with a load of crap. Which is what happened to me shortly after this lovely picture. My lovely purple pie plate, my lovely & beautiful crust, and those lovely pecans all ready to go.

I stress the loveliness of that picture, because that’s the last time it was lovely. It all went to hell in a hand basket after that… and I wasn’t even drunk (yet).

No, I lie, after the pie mixture was put into the crust, I placed the pecans in a beautiful pattern on top. That looked nice. Until it was finished baking. If I was religious at all I’d have sat there & said the rosary. That’s how awful it was. I cannot even bear to explain the mess I created. I couldn’t even take photos to show you, it hurt too much. Seriously, I’m not kidding. I spent all that time on the crust & the filling (and all that goddamn money on pecans which are like $600.00 an ounce!) only to have it end in misery. Add that on top of the cookie recipe I failed at a few nights before & you’ve got a recipe for a Xanax & whiskey-induced coma if ever I saw one. Am I fixating? Yes I am. That’s what I do when I fail at something: I fixate on it until I figure out why the hell I failed in the first place, and then I do it again the right way. But with both recipes (which were both two different desserts from two different books by two different authors, mind you) I cannot figure out where I went wrong. I did everything right. Okay, so maybe I’m not a pecan pie master. Should this really bother me? No. I make a gazillion other things every day, and most of them are insanely delicious & pretty damn aesthetically pleasing. But it does bother me. It really, really, friggin’ bothers me. And the cookies I failed at? I’ve made those before, with absolutely no problem. So what gives?

Alright, with all the problems in the world, I’m probably exaggerating & being slightly over-dramatic about a forkin’ pecan pie & batch of cookies. But this is a baking blog, where I talk about baking, and so that’s what I’m doing. I’m sure you bakers can relate to the frustration. Which is why I’m sharing this. I’ve never been one to shy away from my failures, I’ve always been honest about them. Some of them work out, some don’t. But I wanted to go into detail here because I’ve gotten a lot of e-mails lately regarding baking specifically, and some mentioned how they enjoyed my recipes a lot, even though their attempts “never come out looking as nice.” And to me, that isn’t even the point. The fact that it’s edible, it’s made correctly, it’s not spoiled & looks remotely attractive is the key. It doesn’t have to look 100% perfect, mine doesn’t! The enjoyment of the creation of it, the enjoyment of eating it, that’s what’s important. The decorating can be learned with practice. The fun of it is the creating. And who cares if it’s got frosting sliding off or they’re not perfectly domed!? You’re not on Cupcake Wars. A cupcake or cake or cookie that doesn’t look perfect is NOT a failure. Eat ‘em & your stomach will never know the difference. However, this pecan pie was not edible. My stomach could not have processed it unless I was a goat. I wouldn’t even mind, but this is my second attempt at a pecan pie. The first one was a different recipe, one by Emeril Lagasse, that I made last year or the year before and I wasn’t thrilled with it because it had chocolate in it. It also didn’t look very attractive, and I used a store-bought crust as a shortcut, so I was on the wrong path from the beginning. But at least that one was edible! This one could’ve been used to kill someone- well the crust, anyway. The middle of the pie was drippier than my 6th grade teacher. Ugh. I wouldn’t even have cared if it looked ugly as sin or had horns growing out of it, as long as I could’ve eaten the damn thing. Instead, into the garbage it went.

The point is, though, despite my fixating on this, it happens. It just does. Sometimes the stars aren’t aligned, sometimes the kitchen witch isn’t on your side, sometimes your neighbor puts a Hoodoo curse on you, and sometimes even the weather is against you. Whatever the reason, it just happens, and it happens to the best of us. So don’t let it get you down. Just toss it, smile, & move on to the next recipe. Which is exactly what I’m doing! As soon as I figure out what went wrong.

See those books? Yep. I’ll be busy for quite some time. But really what else is there to do in the winter but read, bake & cook? Oh… and eat. So yeah. Two silly little failures aren’t going to ruin my fun in the kitchen anytime soon.

But I will say this: pecan pie can FUCK OFF.……. (Censor that, Lamar Smith)

C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me (+ a book giveaway)!

THE CONTEST IS OVER! Thanks so much to everyone who entered, I hope to have many more giveaways in the future, so make sure if/when I do, you enter. I wish I could give you all a book! But I can’t. So the comments are closed & I picked a number via random.orgANNNNND THE WINNER of The Cookiepedia IS…

POLLY PERRY!


Enjoy your new cookbook, Polly! I’ve sent your address to Quirk Books already!

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I received this book, The Cookiepedia, a few months ago. Quirk Books sent me a copy & it’s pretty awesome. So awesome, in fact, I’m willing to ignore that little comment about how “trendy cupcakes may come & go”… *wink* Because you see, I love me some cupcakes, I do. Hell, I named my site after ‘em. But cookies are awesome. And they remind me of being a kid. Plus, cupcakes are portable cakes, yes, but cookies are the most portable of all! They’re the über-portable treat-type thing thats easiest to bring with you anywhere you go. You can ship ‘em to somewhere like Abu Dhabi with minimal damage (for the most part) & they’re eaten in less than three bites, no napkin needed. So yah, I dig cookies.

One of my favorite things about the book (aside from the pages & pages of delicious cookies, I mean) is this quote on one of the opening pages:

So true. I could use a nap right now.

So in the book, Stacy really goes into detail on defining popular baking terms such as sifting, dusting, creaming, piping, etc. She also gives helpful tips on how to get the best possible results, making this book really good for beginner bakers. I don’t consider myself a beginner per se, however I really enjoyed reading it cover to cover. You can never know everything, or remember everything, & everyone can use a book filled with a few refreshers on “the basics.” The book is also, and more importantly, full of crazy-good sounding cookie recipes, from really simple ones to more exotic ones. From cornmeal cookies with rosemary to alfajores with dulce de leche filling, to green tea cookies & back to pignoli cookies. Being that it’s fall, the first cookie that jumped out at me was the frosted maple pecan cookie.

I’m not gonna lie, any recipe that says ‘toast the nuts’ makes me giggle like a 13-year-old boy, and anything that makes me giggle is worth looking into further. Also, I might have mentioned before that Jay’s favorite cookie I ever made was the maple-iced fall leaf cookie. Well have I mentioned that he stalks me to make more of them? No? Well, he does. He drops hints, he talks about them all the time, etc, etc. If I make another kind of cookie, he gets almost offended. Same with the french toast cupcakes. If I make a chocolate cupcake, or lemon, or orange, or whatever… he pouts because it isn’t maple frosted French toast cupcake with crumbled bacon. So when I opened the book & saw these, I thought of him first. I knew he’d love them, & truth be told I haven’t baked anything for him in quite some time; rock star that he is will soon be off in Texas playing the Goregrowlers Ball so I might as well give him some homemade, home-baked goodness before he’s down there away from home, playing death metal with a bunch of sweaty men, eating (probably) fast food.

Anyway, making cookies is so much fun. I almost forgot how fun. It really is a totally different experience than cupcakes, or pie. My first attempt was a failure; I didn’t let the butter soften enough, then didn’t chill the dough enough either & so the cookies spread & were thin & crispy on the edges. Blah. My own fault, admittedly. Putting the dough in the fridge for 15 minutes on a night where it’s hot & humid isn’t smart, especially when it was supposed to have chilled for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. However they tasted amazing! Great maple flavor. So I knew I had to try again, this time the right way. Also on a drier, much cooler day (whereas my previous attempt at making them was on a day we were having a heat spell in October; an unheard of 84° degrees!) since the weather the first time didn’t help my non-chilled dough any.

Yeah, they came out amazing the second time around.

And whattaya know, the next time I made them, it was a very, very cool day (actually it was almost freezing out by the time I turned the oven on to bake), I followed all the directions exactly (including letting the dough chill for an hour), & they were a rollicking success. There’s a time & a place to be a baking rebel… cookies aren’t that time. There are some who’ll tell you there’s no room for rebellion in baking at all, but I don’t believe that. I’ve used all-purpose instead of cake flour like it’s nothing, substituted mayonnaise for eggs & made my own buttermilk like a champ. From now on though, I’ll keep the rebel yell for cupcakes. Cookies seem to be a bit more temperamental. But that’s okay, I love them anyway. And when done right… oh boy.

Like I said- the second time around, these babies were freakin’ AWESOMESAUCE. Instead of using Stacy’s exact vanilla frosting on them, I added a smidgen of maple extract to it (hence the mauve-y brownish color to the frosting). You could also add some maple syrup to it, or just keep it vanilla. I swear, this way it really was like eating pancakes!

Why does my handwriting always come out so bad on labels when I know they’ll be in pictures? Ugh.

Anyway, I was really pleased with these cookies, and the book, and it made more than I had anticipated. So packing some of ‘em up for Jay (he took them to band practice, and let me just say- HUGE HIT) & other lucky folk, I came across a great idea. I decided to use some of my jars to pack the cookies in. I used two of my flip-top lid jars (the ones I’ve used previously for pickles & blueberry jam) and for the third batch I used a 16 ounce wide-mouth Ball® jar. So cute. Imagine the lid covered with a square of plaid fabric, or even just the way I did it: a cute label (thanks to this post for that idea) & some twine… it’s just the cutest idea ever for sending someone home with a bunch of cookies. Way cuter than Tupperware, anyway.

So now that I’ve shared my cookies & cookie-packaging ideas with you, I’m going to share something else: I’m giving away an actual copy of The Cookiepedia, Stacy’s book, so you can make these cookies too!

Exciting, I know. What do you have to do to win? Easy. Leave me a comment telling me what your favorite cookie of all time is. Not only that, but tell me why. Do you love gingersnaps because your grandma taught you to make them? Do you adore chocolate chip cookies because you made the Toll House kind with your mom at Christmas? Or maybe you love oatmeal cookies because they remind you of a happy moment including wacky tobaccy & your college life. Whatever it is, tell me. I’ll choose the winner via random.org one week from today. U.S. residents only, please. I know, I suck. But I’m cute.

And for bonus entries (bonus entries are not mandatory):

  • Follow me on Twitter! After that, comment here telling me you’re a follower (I have to accept you, so give me some time, but you can comment after you make the request- you don’t have to wait until I accept!). Make sure you also tweet @ me telling me you commented here first.
  • Then, tweet about the giveaway! Copy & paste the following (or write up your own tweet, just make sure you link back to this post)!

    @CupcakeRehab is giving away @TheCookiepedia by Stacy Adimando thanks to @QuirkBooks! I entered to win, so can you: http://cupcakerehab.com/2011/11/c-is-for-cookie-thats-good-enough-for-me-a-book-giveaway/

  • Become a Facebook fan of Cupcake Rehab! Then come back here and comment again letting me know.
  • Share this post on your Facebook page (either personal or blog, whichever) and then comment telling me you did! (This one is honor system)
  • Follow Stacy herself at @TheCookiepedia… then come back here & let me know.
  • Follow @quirkbooks on Twitter, then guess what? That’s right, comment here again telling me you did.
  • Become a fan of Quirk Books on Facebook… and you know the drill.
And remember, if you’re already following me on Twitter or you’re already a Facebook fan, then you can still comment for each. Each one of those is an extra entry! So in total you can enter 8 times each. Eight times! That’s a lot of chances to win. And by commenting I mean HERE, not on Facebook! And at 12 a.m. (midnight) EST on November 18th I will close the comments & pick a winner. Just please make sure you leave a valid e-mail address! That is, after all, how I’ll be contacting the winner. I can’t promise you’ll have it by Thanksgiving, but remember Christmas is coming. I guarantee you’ll want to be makin’ up some of these delicious cookies for your Christmas baking (I definitely will be). So come on, get on it- ENTER! Everyone has a shot, it might be you.

Follow the trail.

With school being in full swing, I thought everyone could use something a bit easier to make, and what could possibly be easier than muffins? Muffins pretty much make themselves. Actually not really, because it’s hard for batter to mix itself… not to mention somewhat magical & Harry Potter-ish. But you know what I mean.

Back when my grandma passed away unexpectedly in July, we were inundated with beautiful cards & amazing e-mails & gorgeous flowers, etc. It was so wonderful to have people reach out that way. One of the things we received was a HUGE Harry & David gift basket sent by some high school friends of mine. I think my mother & I might have lived off of that basket for the first few days we had it. For dinner we’d have Moose Munch & butter toffee chocolates or strawberry licorice rope & yogurt pretzels. It was a heatwave, we were in a daze and we had absolutely no desire to eat let alone cook. But snack? Sure. A handful of popcorn & candy here & there got us through the days without crashing from low blood sugar.

Of course, there are always a few things left at the bottom of the basket. One of them was trail mix. Don’t get me wrong- there’s nothing wrong with trail mix. Especially not gourmet Honeybell Pecan Trail Mix. But let’s face it, when there are piles of delicious candy on top of it, what are you going to choose to eat first? Probably not the trail mix. Needless to say, in any gift basket, those are the things that are eaten first, but especially with us. We’re candy people. Chocolates always trump dried fruits around here.

So it was one really chilly night recently while I was watching History Detectives, when I saw the unopened baggie of trail mix & thought, “I bet that’d make a damn good muffin.”

,,,

It contains: Honey Bell pecans (pecans coated in a mixture of butter, sugar and oil of Tangelo [Honey Bell] flavoring), dried cranberries, raisins, almonds, pumpkin seeds and roasted cashews. A great fall breakfast muffin, right?

Not only that but it would use up that trail mix that was sitting there all lonely. All I did was I altered my favorite chocolate chip muffin recipe to include trail mix & some oats. Of course, I added considerably more trail mix than I did chocolate chips, then sprinkling the tops of the unbaked muffins with oats.

HONEYBELL PECAN TRAIL MIX MUFFINS

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup light-brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • ½ cup butter — melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs – beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 12 ounces trail mix (or less, depending on taste)
  • few tablespoons steel cut oats

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. and grease up twelve muffin cups or put liners in them (I prefer liners because it’s less messy that way).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, stir together milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla until blended. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add milk mixture and stir just to combine. Stir in trail mix. DON’T OVERMIX THE BATTER.
  3. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling them almost to the top; top each muffin with oats. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.
  4. Remove muffin tin to wire rack; cool 5 minutes and remove from tins to finish cooling.

Now that school’s open again & everyone is busy, they’re fantastic to pack in a kid’s school lunch or to send them off with in the morning for a quick breakfast when you’re (or they’re) running late. Even as an after-school snack. You could add some peanut butter chips or white chocolate chips, maybe some yogurt covered raisins, or even regular chocolate chips to it, if the mixture doesn’t include them. Some shredded coconut or coconut flakes. Maybe substitute buttermilk for the regular milk? And of course, you can use any trail mix at all. Or even just a mix of whatever dried fruits/nuts you like. If you want to make them healthier, use whole wheat flour, substitute applesauce or coconut oil for the butter and use honey or agave nectar instead of sugar. Add some oat-bran, make a streusel topping- the possibilities are endless!

Eat one toasted with some fresh cream butter, homemade jam or marmalade, or just have it room temperature as a snack. I’m told they’re best warm out of the oven, though. However, since that little cold snap is over, & right now it’s about 100° degrees & humid as all get out in NY, I can’t imagine having the oven on to make more of these. This weekend, though, the baking is ON again. Get psyched.

Happy 30th birthday Melanie!

A few weeks ago, a friend of ours, Matt, asked me to make a special cupcake order for his girlfriend Melanie’s 30th birthday (which is today). I usually don’t do this, mainly because I don’t have the time or the space in my kitchen for tons of cupcake orders, let alone the patience to create the kinds of orders I usually get;  like make 90 cupcakes for a Bar Mitzvah, in 24 hours… all by myself. I keep saying, “Until I get a bigger kitchen or open a bakery, NO ORDERS!” But of course this was a special request for a special person, plus it was more than just an order, it was for a friend. Melanie is awesome, she used to have bright red hair just like I did, she has a tattoo of a sugar skull (and you know my obsession with those) which I’ll talk more about in a minute, and is one of the few females I like and get along with. So I said absolutely, and I was super excited to find out what he had in mind, while also secretly hoping he wasn’t going to order 100 cupcakes, five different kinds in all. But he asked if 30 cupcakes were possible, which was a relief… get it? 30 cupcakes, 30th birthday? Anyway… I suggested that I make 15 red velvet cupcakes with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting and 15 chocolate stout cupcakes with chocolate frosting to make 30 cupcakes… however, Matt informed me of a little nickname Melanie has: “Scrappy Butter Pecan Puerto Rican“… and so he asked if butter pecan cupcakes were possible. Hell yeah, they are! He also told me that Melanie was really interested in those cupcakes I made with the whiskey frosting. So I made 15 of the Maple Irish whiskey-frosted vanilla cupcakes and 15 butter pecan cupcakes.

I had never made butter pecan cupcakes before, and I can’t really ever remember having butter pecan cake to compare it to, and I barely remember having butter pecan ice cream once or twice, so thankfully I found this kick-ass recipe to steer me in the right direction. What can I say? I’m a New Yorker. We aren’t down with a lot of butter pecan stuff! But now I know, and it’s a great recipe to have up your sleeve (recipe coming, after all the pictures). The Maple Irish whiskey buttercream recipe is over here at this post, and I used Magnolia’s vanilla cupcake recipe.

We (Jay & myself) brought them over to her place last night (in a huge ass cake box!) and surprised her with them! She was definitely surprised. Especially at the mini-toppers made of her tattoo (done by her sister, Amanda Rodriguez).

 

Liners are from Cupcake Social (my new favorite cupcake supply shop), I kept ‘em simple in plain black & brown. I wanted them to be unique and special, so I hand wrote the 30′s in red Candy Melts and red sparkly sugar for a little somethin’ extra. Messy looking, but I didn’t want ‘em perfect. I wanted them to look like paint. The other “toppers” are a photo of Melanie’s actual tattoo that I mentioned above; I just cropped it, adjusted the brightness & contrast and voila! The other toppers are just letting everyone know what they’re eating. It was actually really cute because it looked like the cupcakes were talking in the box. The butter pecan cupcakes were also sprinkled with gold crystal sugar.

Melanie was really happy with them, which was what I hoped for. Happy birthday, Melanie!

BUTTER PECAN CUPCAKES (adapted from A Cuppy Cake Life from A Taste of Home Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cups chopped pecans, toasted (see below)
  • 1  cup softened butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar and remaining cup of butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix thoroughly after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add the dry mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk. Mix well after each addition. Stir in  the toasted pecans.
  4. Spoon ¼ cup of batter into each liner. Bake for 13-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 3 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

TOASTED PECANS

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cup pecans
  • 1 ½ tablespoons salted butter, melted (the rule is approx. 1 tablespoon for every cup of pecans)*

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, melt  the butter. Add the pecans and toss to coat. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they’re toasted and fragrant, about 10-15 minutes. Do not overcook the pecans. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

..*The amount listed is JUST the amount for filling the cupcakes. For topping them, toast an extra half cup to a cup of pecans, I used pecan halves for the tops (I also added a little light brown sugar as they were toasting for a caramelized kinda flavor).


BUTTER PECAN FROSTING

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 5 ounces evaporated milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

  1. Cream together the butter, vanilla and 3 cups of the powdered sugar.
  2. Once well incorporated, add evaporated milk alternating with a cup of sugar at a time until all ingredients have been added. Beat on high for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Spread or pipe on completely cooled cupcakes. Top with a few toasted pecan halves & gold crystal sugar.


I halved the recipe and I got about 16 cupcakes, I did not halve the frosting recipe and yet I got just enough. I pipe a little high… If you wanted to make it a cake, I’d say two 8″ pans would work. Just check the timing in the oven.

I was really happy with how these turned out, and like I said, Melanie & Matt were too.. and that’s the important thing. So no… I am not doing cupcake orders now. Stay tuned until that bakery is opened, or until I get a gourmet kitchen with more counter space. But for now I’m just glad these were a success.