Sunday, March 18, 2012

No-bake cornflake peanut-butter cookies

My 7-year-old daughter had a play date one night last week. She usually wants to make cookies when she has a play date. So, I had a recipe ready for us to try out! It was super easy- just the thing for two 7-year-old girls!

(Makes about 3 dozen cookies)

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 jar (18 oz ounce) peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
6 cups corn flakes
3 oz good quality chocolate of your choice


Combine sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and stir until the mixture comes to a full boil. Remove from heat and stir in the whole jar of peanut butter. Mix well.

Add corn flakes to a large bowl. Pour peanut butter mixture over corn flakes and mix well, taking care to coat all of the corn flakes.

With a tablespoon or cookie scoop, scoop out and form into 1-2 inch balls, depending on your preference, and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Flatten out a little bit, or leave them shaped like balls- they will taste yummy either way! :)

Put the chocolate in a small bowl and melt in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Stir until smooth.
Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cookies. My kids absolutely LOVED these!

Recipe adapted from:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The most AWESOME vanilla cake/cupcakes EVER!

I had been searching for a looong time for the best vanilla cake recipe and time after time I kept being disappointed. Until last week! I finally found a recipe that I can honestly say is the BEST vanilla cake recipe ever! Thanks a million to my friend and neighbor Lauren! This will be a treasured card in my recipe box! I cannot sing this recipe enough praises- the oil and sour cream make it super moist (unlike most vanilla cakes from scratch which turn out somewhat dry) and it is so, so flavorful and delicious (in stark contrast to many bland vanilla cakes I have tried and scratched off my list). Give it a try- I hope you like it as much as I do!

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tins with paper liners (for cupcakes).
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar until thick and creamy (about 2 minutes).
Blend vanilla, oil and sour cream.
Add flour and milk, alternating- starting and finishing with flour.
Pour in muffin tins. Bake 18-19 minutes or until they test done. 
Frost with your frosting of choice. I decided to frost these with Swiss Meringue Buttercream, which was highly recommended by many reviews I read online but which I personally did not care for. Still, I will include the recipe for this too... It's your call- after all, you might be like the zillions of other people who actually love this buttercream! :) If you give it a try, let me know what you think.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients: (makes enough for 24 cupcakes) 
  • 4 large egg whites or about 1/2 cup
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 lb unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (or extract of your choice)

Lightly whisk egg whites, sugar and salt together over simmering water until egg-white mixture is hot to touch or a candy thermometer reads 150°F and sugar has dissolved.
 Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

Switch to paddle attachment. While beating on medium speed, add butter 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks curdled, continue beating on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don’t worry, it will come together!)  Stir in the vanilla extract and mix just until incorporated. 

Keep at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rustic artisan no-knead bread

This was a recipe I had been "eying" for a while... :) Boy, was I glad I gave it a go! I hate store-bought sliced bread. I'd rather not eat any at all than buy these sugary, no-crust, full of artificial additives loaves of so-called bread. My husband is not a fan of them either. So, I had been hoping I'd find a recipe that at least resembles the kind of bread I yearn for: artisan, healthy crust, rustic look, flavorful, delicious, natural-tasting, wholesome bread. Well, here it is, friends! I was so thrilled when it came out of the oven, I could cry! It is an Italian twist on a recipe I was lucky to uncover on the net- I added a teaspoon of dry Italian seasoning to it with all the great flavors of rosemary, sage, oregano- what aroma, what taste, what texture!

Now, this is the kind of bread that is easy to put together because it does NOT require any kneading. However, you do need to plan ahead because one thing it does require is time! You have to start it the night before. One other thing-  ideally, you do need to have a cast iron Dutch oven with a lid that has a high-temperature resistance knob because this is what you want to bake your bread in, and have it covered for the first 30 minutes- if you want to achieve optimal results, that is. Now, as it happens, I do have a Dutch oven, but the knob on the lid- currently- is not stainless steel and can only withstand temperatures of up to 375F. So, I used a casserole dish which I knew could go in a hot oven. I was happy with the bread but I think that once I got myself that stainless steel lid knob, I will be nothing short of ecstatic with the way it bakes (you think I am going to Le Creuset's store soon? :)))

All that being said, here is the beauty I was able to produce last night! Joy, oh, joy!

And here is the recipe:

3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast (yes, it is very little yeast- but trust me, that is all you need!)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry Italian seasoning
1 1/2 cup water (I used lukewarm)

Additional suggestions: 
You can also alter the recipe to make whole wheat bread by using 1/2 all purpose flour and 1/2 whole wheat flour. I am thinking of even sprinkling some flax seed in next time.
This recipe also makes great focaccia by adding 3 tablespoons of light extra virgin olive oil to the original recipe and baking as you would a pizza.


In a mixing bowl add the flour, the yeast and the salt. Using your hands or a wooden spoon, blend the dry ingredients.

Pour in 1 1/2 cup of water and mix. Pull together the dough using your hands or a wooden spoon.Scrape any excess flour from the bottom and sides of the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well incorporated and form into a ball.  The dough will have a stringy texture.

Place a piece of plastic wrap on the bowl to avoid the dough from drying out. Allow to rise in a warm dry, and draft free place for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours.

Dust a large piece of parchment paper, measuring about 24 inches with flour to prevent the dough from sticking during its second rising. Scrape the risen dough onto the floured parchment paper.

Sprinkle some flour on the dough to prevent it from sticking to your hands.Lightly pat down the dough with your hands to form a piece of dough measuring approximately 10x10 inches.

Fold both side edges to the center of the dough.take the top edge and fold into the center, doing the same with the bottom edge of the dough.

Turn the dough and place the folded side of the dough on the parchment paper and dust with flour to prevent sticking.

Loosely wrap the dough in the parchment paper and place on a baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel. Transfer to a warm and dry place and allow to rise a second time for 2 hours.

Place a cast iron Dutch oven with its cover on the second rack from the bottom of your stove's oven.  Preheat the oven to 450ºF .  Dust the smooth side of the risen dough with flower to prevent it from sticking to the bottom while baking.

Once the oven reaches the required temperature, remove the pot from the oven and take the cover off. Place the dough, folded sides up and cover. Bake for 30 minutes at 450ºF

Remove the cover and continue baking at 375º F an additional 10-15 minutes.

And if you are lucky as I was, you should have something as beautifully looking as this awesome loaf of bread. Do give it a try! It is worth the wait! Trust me!

Recipe adapted from:

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