Young Bakers & Chocolate Mint Crinkle Cookies Recipe

It was cold and dreary here today, so my friend Sara and her daughters came over to bake cookies. What a perfect afternoon to have the oven on … and the girls did a great job!

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Chocolate Mint Crinkles

Makes about 58 cookies

Chocolaty sugar cookies with Andes’ Mints.

1 c. all-purpose flour

1/3 c. Dutch process cocoa

1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened

1/3 c. light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/3 c. granulated white sugar

1 lg. egg

2 t. bourbon or 1/2 t. vanilla extract

1 1/4 c. finely chopped Andes’ mints or Andes’ creme de menthe baking chips

2/3 c. sparkling decorator’s sugars*

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In large bowl, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and then bourbon or vanilla extract. On lowest mixer speed, beat in dry ingredients and then mints.
  4. Scoop a rounded teaspoonful of dough, roll into a ball, roll in decorator’s sugar to completely coat and then place on baking sheet. Repeat, spacing balls of dough at least 2” apart. When the first baking sheet is filled, bake cookies for about 14 to 16 minutes or until just barely set. Meanwhile, finish rolling the remaining dough.
  5. As baking sheets come out of the oven, place them on wire racks and allow cookies to cool.

* Sparkling sugars are available through baking specialty companies such as King Arthur Flour and Wilton. For this recipe, I use white, green or gold sugar, depending on the occasion.

Happy Baking! Have a great weekend!

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Pear Drop Cookies with Lemon Icing

Sweet, soft cookies with bits of fresh pear, flavorful autumn spices and a zesty lemon icing.

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Pear Drops

Makes about 24 cookies

1/2 c. peeled and diced pear

1 t. fresh lemon juice

3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/3 c. rolled oats

1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1/4 t. baking soda

1/4 t. ground nutmeg

1/4 t. salt

1/3 c. unsalted butter, softened

1/4 c.  granulated white sugar

2 T. dark brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 t. freshly grated lemon zest

2 T. of beaten egg

3/4 t. almond extract

1/3 c. sweetened dried cranberries

1 1/2 t. cinnamon sugar (or Lemon Icing, recipe below)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Toss pear chunks in lemon juice and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
  4. In another bowl, beat together butter, sugars and lemon zest. Beat in egg and almond extract.
  5. On lowest mixer speed, beat flour mixture into butter mixture. Fold in pear chunks and cranberries.
  6. Scoop batter by rounded teaspoonful onto bakings sheets, spacing cookies 2” apart. Sprinkle cookies with cinnamon sugar, if not using Lemon Icing.
  7. Bake for approximately 12 to 14 minutes or until cookies are set and lightly browned. Place baking sheets on wire racks and allow cookies to cool.

Lemon Icing

A tart icing that enhances the citrus flavor in baked goods.

1 c. confectioner’s sugar

1 T. + 1 t. fresh lemon juice

1/2 t. fresh lemon zest, optional

1/4 t. lemon extract, optional

  1. Place confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl.  Stir in lemon juice until the mixture is perfectly smooth and a workable consistency. (Icing should run off a spoon in a thick stream.) If desired, stir in 1/2 t. fresh lemon zest or 1/4 t. lemon extract for a stronger flavor.
  2. Drizzle or pipe onto baked goods right away. (This is thick enough to pipe thin lines but not thick enough to pipe firm shapes.)

Enjoy! Have a great weekend!

Pumpkin Dried Cherry Quick Bread

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Pumpkin Dried Cherry Quick Bread

Ingredients:

2 c. all-purpose flour or white rice flour

1 T. ground cinnamon

1/2 t. ground mace

1/2 t. salt

1 c. packed pumpkin puree

1/2 c. canola oil

1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk

2 lg. eggs

2 t. vanilla extract

1/2 c. granulated white sugar

1/2 c. packed light brown sugar

3/4 c. dried cherries+extra for garnish

confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray baking pan* with vegetable oil.
  2. Whisk together flour, cinnamon, mace and salt. Set aside.
  3. Stir together pumpkin, oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract until well combined. Stir in sugars until well moistened.
  4. Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until no dry spots remain. Fold in dried cherries.
  5. Scoop batter into baking pan, smoothing the surface with the back of a large spoon. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean or with large crumbs that look cooked through.
  6. Cool for 10-20 minutes on a cooling rack.  Invert bread onto another rack, then re-invert onto a serving plate. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving. Serve warm or cool. Garnish with dried cherries.

Enjoy!

*The pan that I use is a non-stick fluted cake pan that is a little bit over 8 cups in volume.

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Have a lovely day!

Cranberry Walnut Muffins (Vegan)

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Cranberry Walnut Muffins (Vegan)

Makes 4 dense, moist muffins

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 t. baking powder

1 t. ground cinnamon

1 pinch salt

1/2 c. honey

1 mashed banana (between 1/4 – 1/3 c)

1/4 c. canola oil

1 t. vanilla extract

1/2 c. dried cranberries (any flavor – I used blueberry for this batch)

1/3 c. chopped walnuts

Confectioner’s sugar mixed with a pinch of cinnamon

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare four 1/2-cup ceramic ramekins with baking spray (or with vegan margarine and flour). Place ramekins on a baking sheet.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, combine honey, banana, canola oil and vanilla extract. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until there are no dry spots remaining.  Stir in cranberries and walnuts.

4. Spoon batter into prepared ramekins. Place baking sheet in center of oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the tops of muffins are firm.

5. Remove from oven. Dust with confectioner’s sugar mixed with a pinch of cinnamon. Serve warm.

Enjoy! Have a great day!

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Fresh Pineapple Cake

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Fresh Pineapple Cake

This is a very light, moist cake with a coarse crumb that is not overly sweet. Serve for breakfast with fresh fruit and yogurt or for afternoon tea.

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour or white rice flour (for gluten-free)

1 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

3/4 c. granulated white sugar

2 lg. eggs

1 c. buttermilk or whole milk

3/4 c. fresh pineapple cubes (between the size of raspberries and blueberries)*

confectioner’s sugar for garnish

edible flowers**, herbs, fresh pineapple for garnish, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare an 8″ round cake pan or decorative cake pan with baking spray or with butter and flour. (For gluten-free, use rice flour.)

2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, beat butter until it is light and fluffy. Add granulated sugar and continue to beat for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape sides of bowl.

4. Lightly beat in 1/3 of flour mixture, then 1/2 c. of buttermilk or milk. Scrape sides of bowl. Repeat, and then beat in the remaining flour mixture.

5. Fold pineapple into batter. Spoon batter into the prepared cake pan, using the back of the spoon to smooth and level top of batter.

6. Bake for about 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center tests clean.

7. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto cake plate to serve right away or onto wire rack to continue cooling. Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar before serving. Garnish as desired.

* Canned pineapple tidbits can be substituted in the recipe for fresh pineapple, if well-drained first.

** Daisies and lemon balm leaves are shown here. Daisies are edible and taste similar to parsley. So they are not very dessert-like in flavor, but they are a pretty garnish.

Enjoy!

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Banana Chocolate Crumb Cheesecake

Happy National Cheesecake Day on July 30th! I decided to mark the occasion by making one of my favorite cheesecakes – Banana Chocolate Crumb Cheesecake!

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 Banana Cheesecake

This is a soft, not-too-sweet, delicately flavored banana cheesecake with a dark chocolate cookie crumb “crust”. The custard recipe comes from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s banana variation of her Cordon Rose Cheesecake in The Cake Bible – a truly excellent cookbook.

Make 1 day ahead

Ingredients (at room temperature)

1 lb. (2 8-oz. pkgs.) cream cheese

1 c. granulated white sugar

1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

1/4 t. salt

2 c. sour cream

2 large, very ripe bananas, enough to make 1 c. mashed

3 T. fresh lemon juice, strained

1 1/4 – 1 1/2 c crushed dark chocolate wafer cookies  (use gluten-free cookies for a gluten-free cheesecake)

Prepare Pan

1. Butter the inside of an 8″ springform pan.  Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the inside of the pan – just smaller than 8″ in diameter. Butter the paper and then place it in pan.

2. Wrap the outside of the pan with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil to prevent seepage from the water bath.

3. Have ready a larger baking pan – I use a 9″-square brownie pan – to use as a water bath for baking the cheesecake.

Directions for Making Cheesecake Custard

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Using a mixer or large food processor, beat together cream cheese and sugar until perfectly smooth. Scrape bowl. Beat in vanilla and salt, then sour cream. Scrape bowl.  Mash bananas together with lemon juice. Beat bananas into custard. Scrape bowl.

3. Pour custard into prepared springform pan. Place pan in larger baking pan. Pour in 1″ of very hot water. Bake cheesecake for 45 minutes. Turn oven off, without opening the door, and leave cheesecake in oven for one hour.  Remove cheesecake from oven and from water bath.  Remove foil from pan.  Plan pan on a cooling rack and let cheesecake continue cooling at room temperature for one more hour. Cover  pan with plastic wrap. Chill cheesecake in refrigerator overnight.

Serving

1. The next day, wipe outside of cheesecake pan with a hot, damp towel. Run a thin spatula around the inside of the pan. Release the clasp on the springform pan and remove the outside of pan.  If there is condensation on the cheesecake, lightly pat it dry with a paper towel. Invert cheesecake onto a flat plate or a small cutting board covered with plastic wrap.  Remove parchment paper.

2. Pat cookie crumbs onto bottom and sides of cheesecake. Re-invert onto serving plate. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until serving. Garnish and serve.

Suggested Garnishes

• Whipped cream, chocolate shavings and banana and/or strawberry slices.

• Whipped cream and hot fudge.

• Whipped cream and dark cherries.

• For Banana Split Cheesecake, serve with whipped cream, banana slices, strawberry slices, pineapple chunks, chopped walnuts, chocolate sauce, and melted strawberry jam.

Enjoy! Happy National Cheesecake Day!

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Persian Lime Pie

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It seems as though every lime pie is named “Key Lime Pie”, and yet fresh Key limes can be much more difficult to find than fresh Persian limes. Since the smaller, yellowish Key limes are considerably tarter than the larger, dark green Persian limes, the two varieties are not perfectly interchangeable. So, I decided to create a pie recipe based on Persian limes. This delicious, citrusy, cheesecake-like pie is wonderful for entertaining because it can be made up to a week ahead of time. Enjoy!

Persian Lime Pie

serves 12

 

Crust

1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs

1/3 c. granulated white sugar

1/4 t. salt

10 T. unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Whisk together crumbs, sugar and salt. Stir in melted butter. Press crumb mixture into a 9” pie plate.
  3. Place pie plate on a baking sheet and bake crust for 8 minutes. (Make filling while crust is baking.) Remove crust from oven.

 

Filling

8 oz. low-fat cream cheese

2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk

3/4 c. fresh squeezed Persian lime juice

1 1/2 t. lime extract (optional, recipe at bottom of page)

  1. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese on medium-high speed until perfectly smooth. Scrape down bowl. Beat in sweetened condensed milk until perfectly smooth. Scrape down bowl. On low speed, beat in lime juice until perfectly incorporated. Again, scrape down bowl.
  2. Taste filling. If desired, beat in lime extract.
  3. Gently pour filling into pie crust and then bake (on baking sheet) for 15 minutes. (Filling should be firm/set, but not browned.)
  4. Remove pie from oven. Cool at room temperature for about 40 minutes.  Chill for two hours before serving. (Cover pie with plastic wrap if not serving within a few hours.)

 

Topping*

3/4 c. heavy cream

2 1/4 T. granulated sugar

1 t. lime, lemon or orange extract

 

  1. Combine ingredients in a deep bowl. Whip on high speed until cream holds peaks.
  2. Scoop into a pastry bag fitted with a large tip to garnish pie slices, or dollop cream onto slices, right before serving.

* Canned whipped cream can be substituted.

 

Garnishes

fresh grated Persian lime zest

12 thin slices of Persian limes

fresh blueberries, blackberries or raspberries (optional)

edible flowers (optional)

 

Sprinkle slices of pie with fresh grated lime zest. Place a twisted slice of lime on each piece of pie. Decorate pie servings with berries and or flowers, if desired. Serve immediately.

 

Lime Extract

make several days ahead of time

1/4 c. vodka

2 t. fresh grated Persian lime zest (green rind only, no white pith)

1 t. granulated white sugar

  1. Combine ingredients in a small glass jar. Seal. Shake well to dissolve sugar.
  2. Store extract in cool dark place. (I use the freezer.) Shake extract well after one day.
  3. The following day, shake extract again. Then strain out lime zest, pressing zest through a sieve. Pour extract back into glass jar and cap tightly.