Great Aunt Corrine’s Fudge

Fudge

I used to love eating this as a kid. I took it to school as birthday treats instead of cupcakes many times. It’s not as soft as traditional fudge, but so delicious! As my mom says, it’s a tricky recipe, but so worth it. I had to call mom part of the way through to make sure I was doing it right. It turned out almost like I remember. I poured it too late (disaster photo at the bottom), which created some texture challenges, but it still tasted great.

This was also my first time using the candy thermometer I purchased from Pampered Chef. I’m really happy with my purchase!

Ingredients

2 cups sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup milk
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla.

Instructions 

Mix sugar, cocoa, and milk over medium heat until blended and sugar is dissolved. Add butter.

Heat and stir until candy thermometer reads 236. This will take a while and it’ll be bubbling.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool slightly while beating with a spoon until fudge begins to lose its gloss. (These were her instructions, but I waited too long to pour mine and it didn’t spread like it should have. I thought I should’ve poured it a few times, but waited because it still had all of its gloss. Oops! I’ll have to watch it closer next time and see if I can find a better indicator than “begins to lose its gloss.”)

Pour immediately onto a buttered platter and spread it out. (Note: I poured mine onto a platter with parchment and it worked well.) Cut into pieces when cooled.

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What happened because I poured it too late. I was still able to salvage most of it into actual rectangular pieces, somehow! 

Charleston Chews

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Charleston chews are one of my favorite things. No, not the candy. This is like a brown sugar blondie thing and it’s delicious! I always wait to have them when I’m in Charleston because I’ve been afraid of being disappointed in my own version. I don’t need to be afraid of that anymore! They weren’t as gooey in the middle as I’m used to, but I think I can solve that by baking for a few minutes less.

I researched a few recipes and read a few sections of the “How to Bake Everything” cookbook as I was trying to figure out the best way to make these. The only thing all of the recipes had in common was a stick of butter, a box of brown sugar, and a cup of chopped pecans. The amounts of eggs, flour, and everything else were all over the place. I decided on 1½ cups flour because 2 cups just seemed like a lot compared to everything else. I tasted the batter after mixing in 1½ cups of flour and decided that was enough (I don’t recommend doing this due to the raw eggs.) I think any more would have made them way too floury.

If you have parchment paper, I highly recommend using it to line your baking dish. These were very hard to get out of the pan, and I buttered it very well. Thankfully my Pampered Chef cake tester and releaser helped me work a miracle, and I was able to remove all of the bars.

Ingredients 

½ cup butter, softened
1 box brown sugar (I used light brown, but dark brown might be better)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans
Powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together flour and baking powder, and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla.

Gradually add flour, beating well until combined. Mix in chopped pecans.

Spread mixture into a 9×13 pan lined with parchment paper (see note in narrative above – I greased it well with butter because I ran out of parchment, and they were still almost cemented into the pan.)

Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Let cool, then cut into bars. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Brownie Stuffed Cookies

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I was at work last week, and we were having a get together to thank someone who was on a temporary assignment in our location. Someone brought in cookies with brownies inside. Another coworker who eats my baked goods often said “You HAVE to figure out how to make these!” With some trial and error, I figured them out.

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Oops.

The first batch didn’t turn out so well. I made a rookie mistake and didn’t refrigerate my cookie dough. I also didn’t flatten the brownie pieces. The result? The dough spread way too much and the brownies were sticking up in the middle. They turned out looking like nipples. Yep, go ahead and laugh.

The second batch was a little better. I flattened the brownies and refrigerated the dough, but the consistency was still off and they spread a little too much. They were close, but still not what I was hoping for.

Batches 1 and 2 used a traditional chocolate chip cookie dough, with the chocolate chopped into small pieces instead of in chip form.

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Third time’s a charm!

For the third batch, I changed the proportions a bit to make a dough that would have a consistency more like a sugar cookie dough that would hopefully hold its shape better. It worked! I didn’t chop the chocolate into small pieces and instead used chocolate chips, mainly out of tiredness. I chilled the dough for an hour and made sure the brownie pieces were squished flat.

 

Ingredients

Brownies, prepared according to recipe or box instructions.
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
2½ cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate

Instructions

Prepare brownies according to recipe or package and let cool.

Cream butter, sugars, and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add baking powder. Add flour, ½ cup a a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips.

Use plastic wrap to form the dough into a log and wrap tightly. Chill for one hour.

Use a very small round cookie or biscuit cutter to cut out brownie pieces. Use a glass to flatten each piece. You can also take the pieces from between the cutouts, form them into balls, and flatten.

Roll out cookie dough and cut out with a slightly larger cutter. Press a brownie into half of the pieces. Top with another half of cookie dough, then press the sides to seal. If your oven is preheating, refrigerate them while you wait. Also refrigerate the ones that are waiting to go into the oven if you can’t fit all batches at once.

Bake at 375° (350° if you’re using convection) for about 10 minutes.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Mint chocolate chip ice cream is one of my favorite flavors, and it’s not very difficult to make. You just need a good vanilla ice cream recipe, chocolate, and some mint flavoring. I have the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment for my stand mixer. I was using the vanilla ice cream recipe that came with it, but it never came out exactly how I hoped. I stumbled upon this recipe from the New York Times. It’s called “the only ice cream recipe you’ll ever need” for a reason! I used 2% milk instead of whole milk (it was all I had in the fridge) and it turned out great.

I added 1 tsp vanilla to the cream/milk/sugar mixture at the beginning of the recipe. After it finished cooking and had several hours to chill in the fridge, I added 1 tsp of mint extract and a few drops of green food coloring before churning for 20 minutes. I added half a bag of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips to the ice cream at the end (with about 2 minutes of churning time remaining). I transferred the ice cream to storage containers and let it hang out in the fridge overnight to get a little firmer – but of course I ate a little bit right away, too. So good!

Mini Chocolate Cakes

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I had a party yesterday afternoon and needed a quick and easy dessert to make. I was already running behind schedule. I had some chocolate pound cake mix, which would be super easy to do something with. (I’m totally serious – you just add butter and water to this magical mix!)

Ingredients

1 package Tastefully Simple Classy Chocolate Pound Cake Mix
¾ cup melted butter
1 cup water
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 ¾ cups heavy cream
¼ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup powdered sugar

If you want to use store bought whipped cream, you don’t need the powdered sugar or vanilla, and you only need 1 ¾ cups heavy cream.

Instructions

Cake

Mix the pound cake mix, melted butter, and water. Grease two 9-inch round pans. I probably would’ve used a jelly roll pan if I had one. Make sure you set your cakes up to bake flat. I have these Wilton bake even strips that go around the pan to promote even baking. A Cozy Kitchen also had a DIY method here. I totally forgot to use the strips, which is why you see some uneven layers in the photo.

Bake at 325 for about 15-18 minutes. I think I did 12 minutes, tested, and put it back for another 5. Like a regular cake, a toothpick will come out clean when it’s done. Don’t be scared if the toothpick comes out clean and the cake still looks a little jiggly in the center.

Cool cakes fully before assembling.

Filling

Beat 1 ¾ heavy cream until it thickens slightly. Add ¼ cup milk and the packet of pudding mix. Beat for 2 minutes. Cover and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

Whipped Cream

Beat 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tsp vanilla, and ¼ cup powdered sugar until it’s a whipped cream consistency with stiff peaks. I could’ve beaten mine for a few more minutes. It wasn’t runny, but it wasn’t quite as stiff as I wanted. Keep it in the fridge until ready to use.

Assembly

Remove the cakes from the pans. (Caution – don’t remove until your cake is fully cooled!) Use a biscuit cutter to cut the cakes into small circular pieces. You can use whatever size cutter you want. The one I used was about 2″ and I was able to get 16 pieces (for 8 cakes). Go smaller if you don’t want people to need a fork.

Use a piping bag to pipe the filling onto each bottom piece. Stack with the top cake piece and top with whipped cream. You could also add some chocolate shavings.

1972 Sugar Cookies

photo-feb-16-7-56-42-pmI have a boatload of cookbooks, but I have to admit, my 1972 Betty Crocker is my go-to for cookie recipes. I made these one night last week after dinner to take to work the next day. So yeah, I didn’t chill the dough for 2-3 hours like I was supposed to. I took a shortcut, and they turned out fine.

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He knows just where to hang out. Notice mixer above him and flour on his back leg.

It’s best to chill them in the fridge for the recommended time, but sometimes I just don’t have time for that! The primary purpose of chilling is so the cookies won’t spread too much when you bake them. Chilling the dough helps prevent spreading because it makes the fats in the dough solidify (so they won’t melt when they hit the oven). Anyway, I stuck the dough in the freezer while I was making the frosting and the oven was preheating. After rolling out and cutting a batch of the cookies, I wrapped the leftover portion of the dough and stick it in the fridge. I basically had a rotation of dough portions in and out of the fridge until I was finished.

If you don’t have a Betty Crocker cookbook, this recipe from their website is almost identical to the one in the book I have. The icing is the meringue buttercream from Karen’s Cookies. I used ½ tsp of almond extract instead of ¼.

I also made the powdered sugar in my Vitamix. I actually haven’t purchased powdered sugar since I bought my Vitamix. Test it to make sure it isn’t grainy. Sometimes I have to blend a bit longer.

I frosted them in different patterns. I filled some in completely, did some in a zig-zag (like the photo), and some just had an outline. People have varying degrees of like or dislike of frosting, so I wanted to have a variety since I was taking them to work.

Once the cookies were finished and the icing was solid enough not to get on stuff when it touches, I put the cookies in layers separated by wax paper in my Snapware Snap N’ Stack container with the egg trays removed. I always email my coworkers when I have baked goods available. I had a lot of repeat visitors!

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Strawberries & Cream Filled Cupcakes

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Pretty sure these are the best cupcakes I’ve ever made. The filling and buttercream were amazing. I can’t take any credit for a recipe for the actual cake part, so this post focuses on the filling, frosting, and putting it all together at the end. If you need a good vanilla cupcake recipe, try this one from Natasha’s Kitchen.

Ingredients – Filling

2 cups quartered strawberries
⅔ cup sugar
3 tbsp water
1 cup heavy cream
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix (have a second package on hand just in case)

You will likely have some left over. This is definitely enough for 3 dozen, maybe even 4 (I’ll report back on this when I make the next batch.) I did 2 dozen and froze the rest of the filing for next time.

Ingredients – Vanilla Buttercream

3 cups powdered sugar
3 tsp heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter at room temperature
Colored sugar sprinkles or food coloring (optional)

Double the buttercream recipe if you like your icing super high (higher than the photo). This was just enough for 24 cupcakes frosted as shown in the photo.

Instructions

Star baking the cupcakes before you start making the filling. This will allow the cupcakes enough time to cool before you fill and frost them.

Filling

fullsizeoutput_c1bPuree the strawberries. I used the Vitamix, but you could use any blender or food processor.

Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to low and continue to cook while stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved. Add the strawberry puree, combine, cook over low for a few minutes, and put it in the fridge to cool.

Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Fold in the strawberry mixture. It’s OK if the strawberry mixture is not super cold at this point, but you don’t want it to be hot. Put the mixture in the fridge to chill. Once mixed, it will need to be cold for the next step. You can move on to the buttercream while it’s chilling.

Once the strawberry-cream mixture is cold (it’s very important for it to be cold!), add the package of vanilla pudding mix and beat for 2 minutes. Give it a few minutes to set. It shouldn’t be runny. It’s OK if it’s looser than a normal pudding or custard, but if it’s flowing right out of your piping bag before you even squeeze, it’s too runny. It’s OK if a small amount drips out.

  • Troubleshooting – Too runny? Make sure you’ve left it in the fridge for several minutes to set. Still too runny? Whisk in another package of pudding mix. Start with half of a package, whisk in for at least a minute, let it sit for a few minutes to see how it sets. Add the rest if needed. Too firm? Whisk in some milk, a little at a time, until it loosens up enough.

Buttercream

photo-feb-11-4-33-01-pmUse the paddle attachment to your stand mixer – bonus if you have one with the flex edge.

Beat butter until it’s fluffy, then beat in the vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar and heavy cream by alternating ½ cup of powdered sugar and ½ tsp of heavy cream. Wait until the powdered sugar is fully incorporated before adding the next ½ cup. (This is a good time to use the pouring shield for your stand mixer. The powdered sugar tends to fly.)

Add sugar sprinkles or food coloring at the end. I just shook the sprinkles in until the buttercream turned pink and the sprinkles were incorporated throughout.

Finish the Cupcakes! 

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Put the piping bag in a mason jar and fold the sides over to make filling it easier

When the cupcakes and filling are fully cooled, use an apple corer to make a hole for the filling in the center of each cupcake.

Add filling to a piping bag. You can also use a plastic zip-top bag with a corner cut off if you don’t have a piping bag. I highly recommend using a piping bag with a tip for this, though, because it really gets the filling distributed throughout the center.

Pipe buttercream on top of each cupcake. I used Wilton tip #32.

Super Fudgy Brownies

fullsizeoutput_bedThese brownies are one of my favorites, and they’re not even super homemade. If you need to throw together a baked something-or-other for a bake sale, birthday, office party, or whatever – these are very easy and fast. And everyone loves them!

Ingredients

  • 1 box brownie mix + everything the box says you need
  • 1 bag dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 box chocolate instant pudding mix

You can also use 1/2 bag of chocolate chips and 1/2 bag of M&Ms instead of the whole bag of chocolate chips.

Instructions

Combine brownie mix and pudding mix. Add the other ingredients indicated on the brownie box and mix until combined. The batter will be a lot thicker than other brownie batter you might be used to. Mix in chocolate chips. Bake according to the instructions on the box.

If you really want a great brownie (using this recipe or otherwise), make sure you cook them until they are just done. Over-baked brownies start to become dry, and that’s no good. I normally set the timer for 1-2 minutes short of what the box says. I test them, and if they need more time, I usually keep bumping the timer for 2 minutes and testing until they’re done. If they seem very un-done the first time I test, I add 5 minutes, then do increments of 2 minutes thereafter if needed. If they seem like they should be finished, but the knife isn’t quite clean, test another spot in case you hit a chocolate chip.

Nana’s Carrot Cake

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I can’t take credit for this gorgeous carrot cake that occasionally appears on my header image. My wife made that using her grandmother’s recipe. This recipe is on the thinnest piece of paper ever. It was clearly typed on a typewriter, but I have no idea how the paper didn’t disintegrate when moving through the typewriter! I always handle it like I’m handling something from a museum archive. I have no idea why I’ve never imported it into Paprika.

You can do this recipe in a tube pan or two 9-inch rounds. We do the rounds.

Ingredients (Cake)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 2 cups finely grated carrots (about 3 large carrots)
  • 4 eggs

Ingredients (Frosting)

  • 2½ sticks butter*
  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese*
  • 1 box powdered sugar (if you make your own like I do, use 16 oz by weight or about 3½ cups measured)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

* The wife and I are having a debate on these two ingredients. It doesn’t say softened on Nana’s typed recipe, and my wife says don’t soften it because the recipe doesn’t say so. I say that won’t work and you need to soften it. Use my wife’s approach at your own risk.

Instructions (Cake)

Preheat oven to 350° if using a tube pan or 325° if using rounds.

Grate carrots, and let them drain.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. (You can sift directly into your mixer bowl) Set aside.

Combine oil and sugar. Add to the flour mixture and mix well. Add eggs one at a time. Beat well after each addition.

Add the carrots and nuts.

Pour batter into greased pans. Nana’s tip: Don’t grease the sides! How would you like to climb a greased pole?

Bake for 55-60 minutes (tube pan) or 40 minutes (9-inch rounds).

Instructions (Frosting)

Combine butter and cream cheese. Beat until light and fluffy.

Gradually add the powdered sugar while beating.

Add vanilla and the nuts. Nana’s recipe says to add the nuts into the frosting, but we prefer to cover the icing with the nuts.

Baking 101: Let the cake cool before you frost it, or your frosting will melt and you’ll be sad!

Frost the cake and sprinkle the reserved nuts on top.

Nana’s tip: Use a wet knife to cut a fresh cake.

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Mom’s Fruitcake Cookies

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We used to make fruitcake cookies every Christmas when I was little. My mom has come to visit the last several years for Christmas, and we’ve made them again every time. They’re just so good! If you hate fruitcake, don’t assume you’ll hate these. They really don’t taste like an actual fruitcake. The main similarity with actual fruitcake is the candied fruit. And I have no idea how the front and center one in the photo ended up with so much less fruit than the others. It must’ve come from the last bit of dough. Oh well!

As you’ll see below, the recipe calls for various candied fruits. I highly recommend buying the individual packages of each one and cutting them yourself instead of getting the one with chopped mixed fruit. There is usually too much citron in the mixed container. We made that mistake one year and it completely ruined the taste. If you want some citrus, add a small amount of citron or some lemon zest.

I think this recipe yields about 5 dozen, but give me a margin of error of +/- 2 dozen. Next time I make them I’ll update.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 package chopped dates (or you can get whole ones and chop them)
  • 1 package candied pineapple
  • 1 package candied red cherries
  • 1 package candied green cherries
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional, I don’t usually add them)

Instructions 

Preheat oven to 375°.

Cut candied cherries into quarters. (If you’re feeling lazy like I am sometimes, a rough chop is ok. Just make sure the pieces are 1/4 size or smaller.) If the pineapple pieces are larger than the quartered cherry pieces, chop into pieces similar in size to the chopped cherries. If your dates aren’t chopped, give them a rough chop. I like the dates a smaller than the cherry pieces, but that’s personal preference.

Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon and set aside.

Cream butter. Add sugar gradually and beat well until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

Gradually add flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Make sure the flour from each addition is incorporated before adding the next.

Stir in fruit and optional nuts.

Drop dough by the teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. (Or use a cookie scoop. I seriously love this thing.)

Bake for about 12-14 minutes until lightly browned.