Dessert is all dressed up for the Oscars

Happy Oscar night!

I absolutely love award season. The dresses are stunning, betting on the winners is fun and the shows are a wonderful excuse to make delicious food. I enjoy any excuse to get people together and make some great appetizers, but my blog is proof that dessert is pretty much always the star of the show for me. That being said, it doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming!

I planned a very decadent and rich meal for last year’s Oscars and as such, wanted something sweet but light to end the evening. I bought two light mousse packages (chocolate and vanilla) and whipped them up within about 10 minutes. I scooped the mousse in to champagne glasses, alternating flavours and popped them in the fridge to chill.

I then cut out mini bow ties from black construction paper. When dessert was ready to serve, I removed the champagne glasses from the fridge and taped the bow ties on to the stems.

Voila! Proof that a (very) simple dessert can still impress.

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I’m off to pop a few of my frozen Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Cookie dough balls in the oven for this year’s dessert. Enjoy the show!

Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Guys…I have discovered the holy grail of cookies. I have made four batches of these cookies in the last FIVE days and every single person who tried them has melted into a little puddle of happy.

The recipe is from People.com and was created by Sally of Sally’s Baking Addiction which is a great site filled with lots of fantastic recipes.

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Sally’s Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 18 cookies

1 ½ cups + 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature.
¾ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ tbsp. liquid red food coloring
1 cup white chocolate chips (plus a few extra for after baking)

1. Toss the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl as needed. Switch the mixer to medium speed and beat in the brown sugar and granulated sugar until combined. Beat in the egg, milk, and vanilla extract, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Once mixed, add the food coloring and beat until combined. Turn the mixer off and pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer on low and slowly beat until a very soft dough is formed. Beat in more food coloring if you’d like the dough to be redder. On low speed, beat in the white chocolate chips. The dough will be sticky.

3. Cover the dough tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours (and up to 4-5 days. Make sure you let the cookie dough sit out at room temperature for about 45 minutes before baking if chilling the cookie dough for more than 1 day.). Chilling is mandatory for this sticky cookie dough.

4. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

5. Scoop 1.5 Tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Place 9 balls onto each baking sheet. Bake each batch for 10-11 minutes. The cookies may have only spread slightly; simply press down on the warm cookies to slightly flatten and form crinkles. Stick a few white chocolate chips into the tops of the warm cookies – that’s optional and only for looks.

6. Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 7 days. Baked cookies may be frozen for up to 2 months. Cookie dough balls may be frozen up to 2 months. Bake for 1-2 extra minutes (do not thaw).

Maybe Martha’s Notes

I mixed the dry ingredients together for the first double batch I made and added the dry ingredients separately after mixing the wet ingredients the second time. I didn’t notice a difference and I preferred not having to clean up another bowl.

I used margarine instead of butter and don’t think it affected the taste or texture. I tend to bake with margarine more often than butter because it is what I use the most around the kitchen and don’t usually find anything to be missing. The one place that I will never sub margarine for butter is in buttercream icing, but when it’s in the title you know it’s important.

I didn’t use any extra chocolate chips on top and even found the full cup of chocolate chips to be a bit too much. I used 3/4 of a cup and found it to be the perfect amount (trust me, the dough is so delicious you don’t need it to be totally jammed with chocolate), but to each their own!

I mentioned before that I just kind of plop dough in vaguely ball-shaped lumps to bake. However, this recipe said to roll them and for some reason I actually listened this time…and thank goodness! Absolutely roll the dough into balls and then flatten them out with your spatula when they are done baking if you feel the need. By baking them in the balls, the cookies remain doughy and fluffy like you wouldn’t believe. I had one person comment that they never dreamed a cookie could be that texture!

Mine didn’t turn out as red as the original recipe pictured. I don’t think all red dye is created equally and clearly mine was not as strong as Sally’s. It didn’t bother me too much and the slightly red tint was all I needed.

I hope you enjoy these fabulous cookies as much as I have! They are definitely going to be one of my go-to recipes from here on out.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

There is no better holiday (completely commercialized or not) than Valentine’s Day to bust out a delicious sugar cookie, and that is exactly what I did this year for my co-workers. My family has been using this sugar cookie recipe since I was a little girl and it is still my go to when I want something easy, delicious and cute.

My favourite use of the cookies so far was for my sister’s wedding shower a few years ago when we gave them as favours. My mom and I found a wedding cake cookie cutter and I hand iced each one. I wouldn’t recommend using the star method if you are worried about time, but I think it turned out beautifully so if you have time, go for it!

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For today’s cookies, I used a heart shaped cookie cutter, a relatively liquid icing and pink and red sparkles to create a Valentine’s theme. Are they my most attractive cookies? No. But when you are awake on a Thursday icing cookies at midnight, they tend to go a little wayward. Plus, I think they have charm! Right…?

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Sugar Cookies

6 tbsp butter
½ cup sugar
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla
1 ¼ cup flour
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla on medium speed until smooth.

Add flour, baking powder and salt. Beat on lowest speed until moist.

Chill in fridge for 2 hours or overnight.

Roll the dough to 1/8 of an inch (or 1/4 of an inch if you prefer a thicker cookie). Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Recipe makes 18 heart shaped cookies (2 inch width).

Icing

Icing sugar
Milk
Vanilla extract

This icing is all about personal preference. I never use measurements for this particular recipe, so just mix to your hearts content!

I would start by mixing about 1/2 cup of icing sugar with 1/2 tbsp milk and a teensy splash of vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly and go from there.

Once cookies are cooled, use an icing bag or spoon to decorate the cookies as you would like (or just dunk them top down into the bowl of icing if you’re a little bit lazy like me!)

Maybe Martha’s notes

When checking to see if the cookies are done, the edges should just be browning. If you have good bakers instinct and can take them out just before that point, even better! But don’t wait until the entire bottom is brown.

The thicker the icing, the more flavour it will add to the cookie. If you’re adding sugar crystals or any kind of sprinkles, you may want a thinner icing that acts more like a glue (this is what I did above)  but if the icing is going to be the star of the show, add some dye and make it thicker!

Be sure the icing is thoroughly mixed before adding any more ingredients. A couple of times last night, I had my hand on the icing sugar to thicken up the icing but with a few more “stirs” it ended up much thicker than I originally thought it would be.

Do NOT purchase those overpriced containers of sprinkles at the grocery store or Michael’s. Bulk Barn has a great array of decorations for very good prices and you only have to buy as much as you need. It is my number one baking and cooking supply store these days!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Housewarming Cake

My brother and his lovely girlfriend moved in together at the beginning of December. Having been busy over the holidays, they were finally able to throw a housewarming party on Saturday to show off their new digs. Although I was asked to bring an appetizer (I made my favourite Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip), I couldn’t let the occasion pass without baking something special!

I decided to experiment with adjusting a vanilla cake recipe that I love to make a chocolate cake. The results were pretty good – it was described by one party-goer as “kind of half brownie but fully delicious” – but I would really like to experiment a bit more to get it a touch more fluffy. I will post my recipe and results as soon as I hit the jackpot, promise!

I baked my cake into two 8 inch square pans. After letting them cool, I cut one of them in half diagonally to make two triangles. I placed one of the triangles at the top to make the roof and fashioned a chimney out of part of the other one (the remainder of which I have been snacking on all week…oops).

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Their house literally looks nothing like this…but this is cuter than a replica would have been.

As I made the cake the evening before the party, I decided to add a quick crumb coat to keep the moisture in and because I had the time. I made a batch of my favourite Wilton buttercream icing (it is to die for) and used it as “glue” to keep my pieces together. Additionally, I added a very thin layer to the top of the cake.

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For those who haven’t used/heard of a crumb coat before, the application of a thin layer of icing acts as a primer to ensure that your final, decorative icing remains free of crumbs. The coat also allows you to smooth out any dips or valleys in the top of the cake that may occur when transferring out of the baking dish or for any mishaps that may happen on the way to the final decoration. Once you have added a thin layer, allow it to dry completely. Once it is dry, continue decorating as normal and you will likely notice a difference! 

The next day, I decided that I wanted to make the house brown and the easiest way to do so was to make the icing chocolate. I added about 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder to the icing that I had made the night before and found it was a delicate chocolate flavour and the perfect colour. I also separated some out and added some black icing dye to use as a roof.  I finished by adding some details such as a door and windows. As you can tell, I need to work on my lettering skills, but that is an issue for another day.

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Overall, I was very pleased with the result and I can’t wait until someone else I know buys a house!

Maybe Martha’s notes

Because you lose 1/4 of the cake in cutting the roof, I was worried that the cake wouldn’t feed everyone there. As there was a lot of food and a few other desserts, it ended up being more than enough, but if you are concerned about portions I would recommend making 1 1/2 times the recipe you are choosing to use. You can then create a double decker cake in the same fashion with no leftover (keep in mind you wouldn’t be able to make the “chimney”). Alternatively, make a double recipe and make a few cupcakes to use as bushes for the front of the house!

Happy baking!