Christmas Gifts Galore

What to do, what to do? Being on a tight budget and having a short amount of time to buy things. So many people to gift and so many choices. Every year I generally just get gift cards and such. But last year I made cookies. Although they were pretty plain-looking they were a hit. This year I will be more adventurous and make a multitude of cookies and treats.

While scouring the internet I found many recipes and photos of cookies and baked goods that would do well as gifts. I figured I could make some of my cookies in a smaller form and give that out.

So this year I have figured out that I will be making 3 different treats, never-mind I meant 4 different treats and place them in a party bag to give out as a gift.

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  • Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispy Treats

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  • Orange Cream Drop Cookies’

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This should only take the day to make all the treats. I generally like to bake in the morning so that I can allow the baked goods to cool off completely by the time I finish cleaning. Now this year I have a dog to take care of so the baking process took a bit longer to finish off than I had anticipated. But in the end they turned out really easy and budget friendly to make for the Christmas holidays.

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hungryhinny

Christmas tree cupcakes

Way back in September, when everyone else was trying to hang on the last glimpses of summer sun (I’m sure there were some, at some point…) I was looking ahead to Christmas, and testing out a few festive recipes, which I’m excited to finally be able to share here!

One of the most fun parts of my day job is helping to produce a magazine called Explore, which is published quarterly in Plymouth. For the Winter edition, we decided to go big on homemade food, drink and gifts, so I ended up making a spiced cranberry and pear chutney, mulled wine, Christmas tree cupcakes, and these way over-decorated gingerbread families that I just have to share a picture of…

If you’re thinking the photography is a step up from my normal pictures, you’d be right – all the photos were taken by a professional photographer called Guy Channing who did…

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Cookie Issues

As I repeatedly make cookies there were many mishaps over the years and it took some time to figure out a way to solve the problems. I found simple guide of the perfect cookie just a few weeks ago.

Here are a few helpful ways to make the perfect cookie.

Cookie-baking blunders making you feel crumby? Learn about 11 common conundrums, their likely causes and how to achieve the perfect batch of cookies every time.

Problem: My Cookies Are Too Tough

Why?

  • Overworked the dough (especially likely with cutouts).
  • Added too much flour.
  • Used flour with too high of a protein content (e.g. bread flour).
  • Didn’t use enough fat or sugar in the dough.
Fix It

  • Use a light touch; work with dough as little as possible once flour is added to avoid having the dough stiffen up as it is worked.
  • Spoon flour into a measuring cup, rather than scooping the cup directly into the flour canister. Scooping compacts the flour, which means you end up with too much.
  • Try substituting pastry flour for the all-purpose flour. Pastry flour has less protein, so it develops less gluten when worked.
  • Start by adding ¼ cup extra sugar or butter to the dough. Sugar and fat are the ingredients that make a cookie tender.

Problem: My Cookies Are Hard and Dry

Why?

  • Added too much flour.
  • Stored cookies improperly.
  • Overbaked the cookies.
  • Needed more fat or sugar.
Fix It

  • Spoon flour into a measuring cup, rather than scooping the cup directly into the flour canister. Scooping compacts the flour, which means you end up with too much.
  • Store cookies in an airtight container; freeze them for long-term storage.
  • Check oven temperature accuracy or bake a few minutes less.
  • Start by adding ¼ cup extra sugar or butter to the dough. Sugar and fat are the ingredients that make a cookie tender.

Problem: My Cookies Are Too Pale

Why?

  • Used an insulated cookie sheet.
  • Baked at low oven temperature.
  • Underbaked the cookies.
  • Needed more sugar.
Fix it

  • Use a heavy dull-aluminum cookie sheet. It allows heat to melt the sugar and brown the cookie.
  • Increase temperature by 25 degrees. Extra heat helps cookies brown.
  • Bake a couple of minutes longer.
  • Start by adding ¼ cup extra sugar to the dough. Sugar is a key ingredient for browning cookies.

Problem: My Cookies Are Too Crusty

Why?

  • Added too much sugar.
  • Overbaked the cookies.
  • Used a dark cookie sheet.
Fix it

  • Cut back sugar by ¼ cup or use brown sugar (which has more moisture) as a substitute.
  • Check oven temperature accuracy, bake a few minutes less, or reduce temperature by 25 degrees.
  • Use a heavy dull-aluminum pan.

Problem: My Cookies/Bars Are Too Gummy

Why?

  • Added too much liquid/moisture.
  • Underbaked the cookies/bars.
  • Used too small a pan.
Fix it

  • Decrease egg amount (use yolk instead of whole egg or use 1 less egg) or add some flour.
  • Bake a couple of minutes longer. Cookies are done when the edges are firm. Bar cookies typically are done when a toothpick inserted in to the center of the pan comes out clean.
  • Make sure you’re using the pan size called for in the recipe. A smaller pan will make the batter too thick for the designated baking time.

Problem: My Cookies Are Too Dark

Why?

  • Used a dark pan.
  • Added too much sugar.
  • Overbaked the cookies
Fix it

  • Use a heavy dull-aluminum pan.
  • Cut back by about ¼ cup sugar to prevent overbrowning.
  • Check oven temperature accuracy, bake a few minutes less, or reduce temperature by 25 degrees.

Problem: My Cookies/Bars Are Too Crumbly

Why?

  • Added too much flour.
  • Dough needs more fat.
  • Didn’t let cookies cool long enough.
Fix it

  • Cut back by ¼ cup flour to start.
  • Spoon flour into a measuring cup, rather than scooping the cup directly into the flour canister. Scooping compacts the flour, which means you end up with too much.
  • Add 2 to 4 tablespoons more fat to the dough. Fat makes cookies tender.
  • Be patient and let bars cool completely before cutting, or cool cookies a couple of minutes longer.

Problem: My Cookies Are Too Flat

Why?

  • Added too much fat or sugar.
  • Used all butter.
  • Baked at a low oven temperature.
  • Used room temperature/soft dough
  • Used a warm pan.
Fix it

  • Use half butter and half shortening, or reduce sugar amount. Butter and sugar make cookies spread.
  • Check oven temperature accuracy, bake a few minutes more, or increase temperature by 25 degrees.
  • Chill dough before using.
  • Place dough on cooled, clean pans to prevent early spread of cookies.

Problem: My Cookies Brown Unevenly

Why?

  • Made cookies with
    random, inconsistent
    sizes or thicknesses.
  • Baked cookies in an oven with inaccurate oven temperatures.
Fix it

  • Use a cookie scoop to help make sure all cookies are the same size. Make sure cut-out cookies are the same thickness.
  • Check oven temperature accuracy with an oven thermometer.

Problem: My Cookies Always Burn

Why?

  • Overbaked the cookies.
  • Used a dark pan.
  • Added too much sugar.
Fix it

  • Check oven temperature accuracy, bake a few minutes less, or reduce temperature by 25 degrees.
  • Use a heavy dull-aluminum pan.
  • Reduce sugar amount to prevent overbrowning.

Problem: My Cookies Are Stuck to the Pan

Why?

  • Forgot to grease/line
    the cookie sheet or pan.
  • The cookies are delicate and contain a lot of sugar.
Fix It

  • Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.
  • Line pans for bars with lightly greased or non-stick aluminum foil.

Problem: My Cookies Are Too Stiff

Why?

  • Added too much flour.
  • Baked dough immediately after it had removed from the refrigerator/freezer.
Fix It

  • Cut back by ¼ cup flour to start.
  • Spoon flour into a measuring cup, rather than scooping the cup directly into the flour canister. Scooping compacts the flour, which means you end up with too much.
  • Bring the dough to room temperature before baking.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Making my chewy chocolate chip cookies is pretty easy, but it’s a bit messy. With all the baking pans and extra spoons being used. It is annoying to have to clean it all up all the time. So I figured I could make it all into 1 baking pan.

I will be using the same ingredients as my chewy chocolate chip cookies recipe for the most part in this recipe.

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  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Step 1: Line and grease a 10×15 inch jelly roll pan, or a large baking sheet.

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Step 2: Follow steps 3-8 from my Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Step 3: Preheat the oven to 375°F.

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Step 4: Spread cookie dough into the prepared evenly.

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Step 5: Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Step 6: Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

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Step 7: Cut into bars when cooled.

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Sweet Potato Rice

After the holidays there seems to be a surplus of sweet potatoes in the house and I can’t seem to figure out what to do with them all. Well other than to make desserts and such for the most part, but I found a recipe that used sweet potato in a different way, it’s called Sweet potato rice (Gogumabap). It is a healthy and filling dish.

Besides simple starches, sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, beta-carotene (a provitamin A carotenoid), vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese and potassium. Pink, yellow and green varieties are also high in beta-carotene.

Perfect for the cold winters and tiring nights. Simple to make and inexpensive.

I will be combining two different recipes to make it as simple as possible. Gogumabap requires a pot or stone pot to cook the dish. Instead I will be using a rice cooker, like in Sweet Potatoes Rice (地瓜飯).

Here are the ingredients needed for this recipe:

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  • 3 cups long grain rice
  • 2 sweet potatoes (washed, peeled, & cut 1/2 inch cubes)
  • 3 cups water/chicken broth/vegetable broth (or any type of combination)

Sauce

  • 1/4 cup green onion or Chinese garlic chives, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil (suppose to use 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds, but didn’t have any)
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (more or less)
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar (optional)

Step 1: Wash the rice and rinse 2-3 times.

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Step 2: Fill the rice cooker according to the instructions of the model with water/broth combination.

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Step 3: Add sweet potatoes to the rice and begin rice cooker.

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Step 4: Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the sauce ingredients until well mixed.

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Step 5: Serve sweet potato rice in a serving bowl and spoon the sauce on top.

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Notes: You can add a fried egg to add a protein to the dish.

Holiday Desserts and Sides

Another year has crept past and it’s that time of the year again for the holiday cheers. After debating and revising recipes many dishes will be showcased today. I feel the need to go a bit unconventional, but with a traditional twist to it.

Last year I had made:

  1. Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  2. Dulce de Leche Cake
  3. Key Lime Cheesecake
  4. Sweet Potato Pie
  5. Soft Ginger Cookies
  6. White Chocolate, Chocolate Cookies
  7. Chocolate Pumpkin Truffles
  8. Cookie Truffles
  9. Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

This year I will be making less, but still with that “WOW!” factor in it. So a whole new menu that has been revised many times over and kept to a short list with items being taken off and being placed back on the list for weeks on end.

So now the final verdict has been written down and here are the dishes that I will be making this year:

  1. Iced Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies
  2. Pumpkin Molasses Cupcakes
  3. Pumpkin Cheesecake
  4. Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

myTaste.com