Cupcake Friday Project

A one-woman test kitchen meets nano-bakery

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014: Snacktime delight cookies

Snacktime Delight Cookies: 2014 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap is back for 2014, marking it’s 4th year! From the site:

The GREAT FOOD BLOGGER COOKIE SWAP brings together food bloggers from around the world in celebration of all things scrumptious. The premise is this: sign up. Receive the addresses of three other food bloggers. Send each of them one dozen delicious homemade cookies. Receive three different boxes of scrumptious cookies from other bloggers. Eat them all yourself (or, you know, share. If you want. No judgement either way.) Post your cookie recipe on your blog. See everyone else’s cookie recipes. Salivate. Get lots of great ideas for next year’s cookie swap. Rinse and repeat.

The swap is partnered with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, which is a fantastic nonprofit, and supported by sponsors such as OXO and Dixie Crystals. And it’s just really a lot of fun.

I’ve been participating in the swap since 2012, and have baked up recipes such as Chocolate toffee chip cookies with almonds and smoked sea salt and Dark chocolate caramel corn delights.

For this year, I took my favorite chocolate chip cookie base and mixed in pretzels and ruffled potato chips to make a fun snacktime-style cookie. They’re buttery, salty and just the right level of sweetness.

Snacktime Delight Cookies Packaged for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

I also received some really lovely cookies, ranging from  soft chocolate cookies from Sara of Sensibly Sara (they melt in your mouth!), chocolate chip cranberry cookies from Crystal of Mrs. Happy Homemaker, and Hononghjerter from Ba-Li Cravings. But most importantly, the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap raises money for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.

Do you have a food blog and want to participate next year? Sign up here to receive notifications about when the 2014 swap will start to organize and do your part to share some cheer over the holidays and raise money to help some really wonderful kids. It’s good for the soul.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014: Snacktime delight cookies

Yield: 40 cookies


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons ice water
10 oz (approximately 2 cups) flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
5 oz (approximately 3/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 oz (approximately 1/2 tightly packed cup plus 2 tbsp) brown sugar
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
3 oz crumbled pretzels
3 oz crumbled ruffled potato chips


Melt the butter in a medium pan over medium-high heat.

Cook the butter, swirling regularly, until the butter is browned and has a nutty aroma. This should take about 5-7 minutes, depending on the strength of your stovetop.

Whisk in the ice water (which replaces the moisture cooked out while browning the butter), and cool in the fridge for 20 minutes.

In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine both sugars, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix on medium high speed until the mixture is golden, about 5 minutes.

Set the mixer on low and slowly pour in the browned butter. Once added, turn the speed up to medium and mix until combined.

On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients, scraping down when necessary.

Add the chocolate chips, pretzels and potato chips, mixing gently to combine.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill the cookie dough for at least 8 hours or up to 72 hours.

When you're ready to bake the cookies, heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line cookie sheets with either parchment or baking silicone.

Scoop the cookies onto the sheet, leaving at least 1.5 inches between cookies.

Bake for 7 minutes, then rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back. Bake for an additional 6-7 minutes.

Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and place on cooling racks. After about 5 minutes, the cookies can be transferred off of the cookie sheet and directly onto the rack.

Allow cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Up your dessert game with Joy the Baker’s Homemade Decadence

Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson
I’ve been a fan of Joy Wilson’s gorgeous blog Joy the Baker for awhile. Though I don’t read it daily, I like to pop over, skim through her posts, and get some inspiration when I’m thinking about creating a new recipe. Joy has a wonderful voice, her photography is drool-worthy, and you can’t beat her fun and creative recipes.

Her first book, Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes, was published in 2012, and now she’s back with a gorgeous followup, Homemade Decadence: Irresistibly Sweet, Salty, Gooey, Sticky, Fluffy, Creamy, Crunchy Treats.

I think the title says it all, and it doesn’t hurt that one of the most decadent cakes from the book is front and center on the cover (just look at those pretzels!). With 125 recipes (and wonderful photos to match), there’s a little something for every baker. The book is broken into 5 sections:

Cookies, Brownies and Bars
Pies, Crumbles and Cobblers
Layer Cakes, Cupcakes and Skillet Cakes
Ice Cream Social

I’ve already made note of a couple pies I want to make (Hello, Apple Pie with Cheddar-Bacon Crust????!!!!!), and the books already looks fantastic on my cookbook shelf.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Chinese 5 spice snickerdoodles

Chinese 5 spice snickerdoodles
Because I have a cookie club with a few of my friends across the country, I’ve been baking A LOT of cookies this past year. It’s great because I can stretch my creativity and cookies ship easily, meaning I get to share them with ease.

This is a snickerdoodle recipe I’ve been using most of my life, with a handful of updates. The original recipe from a cookbook I no longer remember the name of (it was ANCIENT) called for shortening. Um, no. I don’t like the flavor of shortening, and can’t get behind baking with it. My mom had written in the margin of the cookbook “oil” next to shortening, and I used that for awhile, but I began to notice the taste of my cookies seeming a little off.

So now I use butter, which called for an adjustment to the flour. I also mix spices into the cookie dough, as well as roll the dough balls in sugar and spices. And while cinnamon is the classic spice for this kind of cookie, the Chinese 5 spice is an excellent substitute.

Chinese 5 spice snickerdoodles

Yield: 50-60 cookies


3 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp Chinese 5 spice, plus 1/4-1/2 tsp additional spice to roll the cookies in
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 2-4 tbsp additional sugar to roll the cookies in
2 eggs


Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or baking silicone.

Combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and Chinese 5 spice in a bowl, stirring gently to combine. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed, beating until pale and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.

Add the eggs and beat until combined.

Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until the dough comes together. Chill for 10-20 minutes to make the dough easier to handle.

In a wide, shallow bowl, mix together the extra sugar and Chinese 5 spice.

Scoop the cookie dough and roll into 1 1/2-inch wide balls. Roll the shaped balls in the sugar and spice mixture, then place on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving at least 2 inches of space around each cookie.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until the bottoms of the cookies are slightly golden and the tops have cracked a bit. Cool fully on a rack before packaging or eating.

Dutch apple pie: A Thanksgiving tradition

Dutch Apple Pie for Thanksgiving
Dutch apple pie has always been a part of my family Thanksgivings, or at least for as long as I can remember. My mom doesn’t fancy herself a baker, but she would always pick up a Mrs. Smith Dutch apple pie, as well as a spiced pumpkin pie for herself.

Once I got into baking, and trying my hand at pies, I tackled the Dutch Apple. The New Best Recipe, from Cook’s Illustrated, is a fantastic book for baking science and testing techniques, and it’s where I found my first Dutch Apple recipe to work with.

Since then, I’ve adapted the recipe to fit my own needs and tastes, and it’s always a joy to make and bring to my family table.

Dutch Apple Pie


Pie Crust Ingredients
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (keep in freezer until ready to use)
3 tbsp plus 1 to 2 tbsp whiskey (or use equal amount of ice water)

Apple Filling Ingredients
4 large Granny Smith apples (about 2 lbs)

3 large Cortland apples (about 1 1/2 lbs)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

Streusel Topping Ingredients

1 1/4 cups flour

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/4 tsp Chinese 5 spice
1/4 tsp salt

7 tbsp unsalted butter, melted


Begin with the pie dough so it has time to chill. Pulse together flour, sugar and salt in a food processor.

Blend in butter by dropping a cube at a time into the food processer, just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps.

Drizzle 3 tbsp whiskey over the mixture and pulse a few times until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn't hold together, add more whiskey or ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until just incorporated, then test again. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. With heel of your hand, smear the dough once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat.

Gather dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one, and press into a ball.

Form into 1 disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.

Once the pie dough has chilled, grease a pie plate and roll out the bottom crust. Fit it into the plate, trimming the edge, folding it under, and then pinching it into a fluted design.

Place the bottom crust into the fridge to chill for 40 minutes, or in the freezer for a faster chill of 20 minutes.

For the filling, combine the peeled, cored and sliced apples in a large mixing bowl with the sugar, Chinese 5 Spice and salt. Toss to combine.

Heat the butter in a dutch oven over medium-high heat until the foaming subsides. Add the apple mixture and cook with the lid on for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lid and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until the apples have softened.

Place a colander over a large bowl and drain the apples, shaking a bit to get as much juice drained as possible. Set the apples aside.

Return the juices to the dutch oven and add the heavy cream. Heat the mixture over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring.

Continue cooking and stirring the juice/cream mixture until it's thick enough that a wooden spoon leaves a trail in the mixture. This should be about 5 minutes. Once thickened, take off the heat and set aside.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare the crust for a blind bake. Line the top of the crust with parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill with either dried beans or pie weights.

Bake for 18-25 minutes until the crust is lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack while you make the streusel.

To make the streusel, combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, Chinese 5 spice and salt, stirring. Pour the melted butter over the dry ingredients, tossing with a fork until all is evenly moistened. The mixture should form large chunks as well as smaller, pea-sized pieces.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper and turn the streusel out onto, spreading it out. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the streusel is golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

To assemble the pie, heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and prep a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (this will help catch any drips).

Spoon the apples into the crust, spreading them out evenly, then spoon over the cream mixture. Crumble the streusel over the top and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the filling is bubbling slightly.

Remove from the oven and cool before serving.

Cookie-inspired beers from Flying Dog Brewery in time for the holidays

Flying Dog Holiday Collection of beers and cookies

A couple weeks ago I received one of the latest creative collections from Frederick Maryland’s Flying Dog Brewery: The Holiday Collection.

Since I’m on the brewery’s media mailing list, I often get a bottle of a new beer every now and again, and when it makes sense, I bake with and write about them. But this package was surprising and different from many of the others. Within, there were 4 bottles of beer and a box of Otterbein cookies. The press release explained:

Introducing The Holiday Collection: 4 Otterbein’s cookie-inspired craft beers in a brand new variety 12-pack.

A Baltimore mainstay since 1881, the Otterbein’s cookie recipes have been passed down among 5 generations. Pairing tradition with innovation, the beers were inspired by and meant to pair with these iconic cookies.

Opening the box was a bit like Christmas morning. I unwrapped each carefully packed beer, reading the amusing label copy (Flying Dog never fails to make their beers fun), and within a bakery box were multiple bags of crispy cookies.

I sat down and sampled each beer, along with the cookie designated for each, and here are my thoughts:

Imperial Hefeweizen, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Sugar Cookies
This beer was my favorite out of the 4. It hit all the right hefe notes, with a little more spicy punch and an amazing aroma. And the sugar cookie did not disappoint. All of Otterbein’s cookies are extremely thin, but they don’t lack in flavor. This particular sugar cookie had a great crunch, was buttery, and had some toasty notes. Out of the 4, I feel like this was the best beer and cookie pairing.

Roasted Peanut Brown Ale, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
According to my press sheet, the particular yeast strain used in this beer gives it some roasty peanut notes, which I thought was rather clever. At first, I didn’t pick up the peanut flavor, but it sort of “bloomed” on my tongue (just a little homebrewer speak there). Sadly, the flavor began to dissipate as I continued sipping the beer and I was left with just a nice brown ale. The chocolate chip cookie was also crispy, but there was something off about the chocolate. I think it was milk chocolate, which I’m not a fan of, especially in cookies.

Oatmeal Raisin Stout, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
For an oatmeal stout, this beer was a bit thin and seemed more like a porter. I unfortunately didn’t pick up any raisin in the beer, and I think an imperial-style would have been better for this particular flavor profile. As for the cookie, they were wonderfully spiced and crispy and quite the delight to nibble.

Oak-Aged Hazelnut Scotch Ale, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Ginger Cookies
This beer is another one that uses specific ingredients to get a unique flavor: in this case, the malts provide the hazelnut character. But I couldn’t pick up any hazelnut. For an oak aged beer, this also was a bit volatile when first poured (all I could taste was the barrel), but after letting it sit a few minutes, it settled and was pleasantly nutty (just not hazelnutty). The ginger cookie delivered on the ginger and had that wonderful Otterbein crunch, but the pairing fell flat for me. I think a molasses-based cookie would have worked better.

Though not every beer and cookie pairing worked for me, I enjoyed seeing Flying Dog flex their creative muscle and have fun. They’re the kind of brewery I’m always excited to see more from, and as a baker, I really like the fact that they fostered such a great relationship with a well-loved Maryland bakery.

Disclosure: I received the beers and cookies from Flying Dog brewery to sample, however my opinions are my own.

Stepping into David Lebovitz’s Paris Kitchen

My Paris Kitchen by David LebovitzI might be a little late to the David Lebovitz fan club, but I fell in love with The Sweet Life in Paris when I read it 2 years ago. As a former French student, it was fascinating to see what life is like in Paris outside of the confines of a text book, and the sprinkling of recipes was a nice touch.

Now we have a more intimate invitation to join him in My Paris Kitchen, and wow. What an invitation. The book is absolutely stunning — the photography is mouthwatering, but somehow ernest (nothing feels flashy). And with 100 recipes, ranging from savory to sweet, to choose from, there’s definitely a little quelque chose français for everyone.

While I’ve had a copy of this book for a bit, I haven’t cooked from it just yet, simply because I’m a bit overwhelmed and awed by the recipes. But I do look forward to making my first selection and feeling like I have David at my elbow, guiding me.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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