Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sugar Cookie Roundup

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I have been baking up a storm. Here are a few things I've done. And yes, those are Christmas cookies I made in September! Retail thinks about the holidays long before you get your sweaters out of the closet! Also, Trinity University and my favorite St. Agnes Stars.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chocolate Deadlies

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I like chocolate. Really. But as I have gotten older I don't love it like I did. Maybe it's just the kind of chocolate, the cheap milk variety seems to make my teeth ache. M&Ms, Kisses, that sort of thing just doesn't have the appeal. I do love a square of 85% with a glass of cabernet, and I would rather that than a brownie. Strange how our tastes seem to change. I baked up a sugar cookie order last week for the Trinity soccer team (hence the soccer ball cookies) in town to play and the mom asked for a little chocolate something. Hmmm. Cupcakes seemed to fussy, brownies never seem to cut nicely, what could I do in a large batch that would be delicious and easy? Chocolate Deadlies.

This is a recipe my friend Melinda makes, and my daughter proclaimed them to be like Grandma's Brownies in a cup. Grandma's Brownies are a family favorite around here, and are known better as Texas Sheet Cake. Melinda makes the Deadlies a lot, and so I inquired about the recipe. Thankfully she had them on her computer and could shoot it to me while she was traveling. This recipe is so easy, way easier than Grandma's Brownies. You can whip up 48 in mini muffin cups in no time flat. The icing gets a little firm on top keeping the cake part moist and delicious.

I searched around the internet and it seems that the Deadlies are from a Junior League cookbook from Little Rock. I do not own this book so I can't tell you if the recipe has been modified from the original. I can tell you that even a non chocolate girl like me can appreciate the cocoa goodness of these babies. Perfect for a crowd. Go on, it's getting cooler outside, get in there and bake!

Chocolate Deadlies
3 sqs unsweetened chocolate
1 C butter
2C sugar
1 1/3 C flour
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs, beaten

Melt butter & chocolate in double boiler over low hear. Remove from heat. Add sugar, flour, vanilla and eggs. Fill mini muffin liners ½ full. This is important, if you overfill, the frosting will ooze everywhere!
Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

Ice while hot

4 T butter
2 sqs unsweetened chocolate
4 C powdered sugar
½ C cold coffee (I used Trablit and water to make ½ cup)

While deadlies bake, melt butter & chocolate. Remove from heat and add sugar. Add enough coffee to make mixture smooth. Spoon on hot Deadlies.

I put a pecan half on top of some of the Deadlies, but they are perfect unadorned as well!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Knocking off the Opponents

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A great season in any sport is an accomplishment. A few years back Nic was on an undefeated football team. It was a great season until we got to the state championship and lost in the last few minutes. I made this clever cake for the coaches way back then. I have been waiting very patiently for an opportunity to make it again. Here we go. Christina's volleyball team is having a great season. They are undefeated here in the metro area so I decided to get that cake made while the record was pristine! I started with a basic brownie in a jelly roll pan. Careful to not over bake this. Let it cool completely and frost with a dark chocolate buttercream. Then comes the work. I made the tombstones out of Milano cookies that I iced grey and wrote the name of our opponent and the match score. The fresh graves are chocolate jimmies. I order these from The Baker's Catalogue and they are real chocolate not the fake ones from the grocer. They are so delicious you can eat them right out of the jar! They were exposed to some extreme temperatures so they have a little bloom. This is when chocolate takes on a little grayish color. It doesn't affect the chocolate, and it looks great as fresh turned earth! I used another kind of cookie to make a small fence and put a few haunting spirits of the team to guard the graves. The ghosts have silver dragee eyes and are liberally painted with silver luster dust. I took it to practice as an incentive to work hard. Chocolate tends to motivate teenage girls. Here's to a great season thus far. Go Stars!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ode to a Dog

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Today's blog is a catharsis for my aching heart. I'll be back baking soon.
Dammit Daisy, Crazy Daisy, Daisy May, we had a million names for that dog. She was a beautiful puppy. We drove hours for her. Then she grew and grew, and they aren't cute for awhile, they are mischievous and destructive and annoying. There was a stretch I really hated that dog. She chewed up my furniture instead of the rawhides. She scratched on the doors and ran down the street and dug up flowers. I threatened to take her to the pound, every day. And then one day we woke up and we had this perfect golden retriever. It was if she transformed overnight. Suddenly I loved that dog more than anything. We walked hundreds of miles at Shelby Farms. She swam in Patriot Lake until she was exhausted. She would curl up against my back on cold winter nights and stretch out on our floor when it was warm. And every morning at 6 am she would start to scratch and pace because she knew at the end of the driveway there was a newspaper just waiting to get picked up. It was her job. Get the paper, rain or shine. She'd give it up for a treat. If you were lazy and dropped the slobber covered paper on the floor, she would pick it back up and walk around with it until you offered another treat in exchange. She was a smart pooch.She loved socks, gloves, underwear, any clothing item that was small enough to put in her mouth. She would carry them outside if you weren't watching and bury them in any one of a million places in our acre yard. One day I was gardening and took off my leather gloves to come in for a drink. When I went back outside one of my gloves was missing. She looked guilty. I walked the yard looking for fresh turned earth, to no success. Then I decided to go back in and see what she did with the other if she was given a chance. Sure enough, she picked it up as if it was left for her and headed to the yard. I watched exactly where she went and headed out to find my gloves. After 10 minutes of searching a 4x4 area, I found one glove. She was good at this. Every spring when Scott would rake out the beds of old mulch and leaves and prep the beds for another summer, Daisy's cache would slowly unearth itself. Socks, one spring about 15 of them, gloves, never a pair, bandanas, dog toys and even Scott's fleece North Face. An entire men's XL fleece. He must have taken it off when he was working in the yard and she thought she hit the payload. I am sure she loved digging the giant hole for that. What is it about animals. They snuggle those wet little noses and big brown eyes right into our hearts. When things are rough, and the people you love know to keep a fair distance away, that sweet dog will cuddle right next to you. I am not afraid of your anger, your sorrow, your disappointment. You just stroke those silky ears and all your turmoil subsides.

God, I miss my dog. She was 11, but showed no sign of letting up. She was swimming and rolling in the stinky stuff, running around the house and getting the paper. And then, she started to fail, and within 4 hours she died in my arms. There I was stroking those silky ears telling her it was okay. I so did not want her to leave me. And poor little Sookie just didn't understand. I think she realizes now that Daisy isn't coming back. The kibble just doesn't taste as good, going out is no longer a race to the door. The whole family misses the 85 pound throw rug that would plop right in your path. It is a miracle I haven't broken a leg stumbling over her. Now I see the abandoned stuffed toys. Two in my closet, where she slept every night, one in the middle of the hallway upstairs, the beat up soccer ball she carried all over the yard for years that I meant to throw away and now cannot bear to let go of. I think about the other dogs I loved and lost. Christy and Stoli. Both great dogs, probably waiting for Daisy to join them in doggie paradise. Where the Milkbones and Greenies are plentiful, the kibble is always topped off and the paper is there like clockwork for a dog to do her job. Just give me a day or two. I know it will get easier. I will repaint the doors that she scratched up. I will replace the wood in the front hall that she wore down trying to fend off anyone that dared ring the doorbell. I will vacuum the last of the fur balls as her winter coat started to grow in. Life goes on, but for right now, I just wish I had my sweet Daisy for one last walk.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Great Pumpkin Shortage!

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So back in May my mom told me she found 2 cans of pumpkin at the grocer and snatched them up. It didn't even register that this was a significant find. I had no idea at that very moment, all of my local grocery stores were out of canned pumpkin...until this week. I was thinking about those leaves falling, the AC is cranked down to 65° so I am chilly (even though it's in the 90's) and I thought it needed to smell like fall, and that naturally means pumpkin muffins.

Forever an optimist, I strolled into Schnucks and the grocery guy said nope, hasn't had any all year. They are being told it will hit around November 1. So, Kroger. Same story. I thought maybe Walgreens since they have random food for old ladies but no. Then Fresh Market, and a glimmer of hope. The grocery guy there said they got 1 case in and one lady bought it all. ARGH! A hoarder!

So my next stop was a small independent grocery. For those of you oblivious to this industry, let me say it like this. There are chains like Kroger, Publix, Schnucks (regional), all falling under huge corporate umbrellas. And then you have a little chain that has maybe 2 or 3 stores in an area. They pull from food wholesalers who are able to acquire smaller more regional brands of food since they don't have thousands of the same stores whose shelves have to look identical. A blog on my great finds at this local dandy is coming. But even the independent had no pumpkin.

My last stop of the day was Whole Foods. I figured I may at least be able to score a real pumpkin. But karma was working and there on the very bottom shelf was organic canned pumpkin, 4 cans. All mine. On ebay, I could get about $15 for them, can you imagine being that desperate for pumpkin? As a matter of fact I can. But for now, I am a happy baker. Time to fire up the ovens.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 2/3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin (half a can, although I have dumped the whole thing in before)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350. Mix flour, sugar, spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
Break eggs in another bowl and whisk in pumpkin and butter. Fold into dry ingredients, don't over mix. Add chocolate chips and walnuts if using.
Scoop batter into muffin tin lined with papers. 12 regular sized or 24 mini muffins. Bake until puffed and springy but no longer gooey. About 20 minutes. Cool completely before storing.