Sugar Rush

This past quarter, I have had the wonderful opportunity to get involved with YoungLife Capernaum. I’ve fallen in love with the ministry, the leaders, and all of the new friends I’ve made. It’s one of the most joyful and loving and humbling experiences I have had in my nineteen years of life. I cannot wait to continue to grow, meet more amazing people, and take any opportunity I can through this phenomenal organization. 

I brought snack for club this past week…and definitely caused a sugar rush. The reception of my baked goods was overwhelmingly positive and served as a reminder for why I love to bake so much: its a gift of love! There was an abundance of love, smiles, and sugar in addition to the heavy plate of cookies I had. 

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“Slutty Brownies” and M&M cookies were a huge hit with this group. To make the brownies, all you have to do is press cookie dough down in a greased pan, add a layer of Oreos (I used Mega Stuf, and yes, that is a real thing), then pour on some brownie batter. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, let them cool completely, and then cut them out and try not to drool. They’re rich and delicious and you should prepare yourself for all of the mind-blown people you’ll offer them to. For the M&M cookies, I made up a batch of Junk in the Trunk cookie dough and used semi-sweet and mini chocolate chips and M&M’s as my “junk.” You could call me a chocoholic. But you could also bake these and be the one to blame for an epic sugar rush. Your choice!

 

Gluten Free PB Brownies

So, a lot of people are gluten free now-a-days. It’s a sad life, because I love my carbs. But I don’t want my flourless friends to get left out of the baking I do so often! The solution? I’ve been tampering with gluten free baking. It’s a lot easier, and much more interesting, than I anticipated. I have gotten a lot of great recipes from Baby Cakes NYC— it’s a darling little cookbook with easy to follow recipes! 

But these brownies of which I speak are kind of a cop out. In a way. If you consider Trader Joe’s to be the easy way out. In addition to the pre-made mix, I added in lots of chocolate chips and a hefty swirl of natural peanut butter. And you know what? If I didn’t know these were gluten free, I wouldn’t think there was anything fishy going on! It’s been great sharing some wheat-free love with people who don’t often come across a good baked treat.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Oh, pumpkin, it is so wonderful to see you! Last Fall, I began to fully appreciate the power of the pumpkin, especially in baked goods. This twist on the classic snickerdoodle is a perfectly magical example of just that.

Snickerdoodles are already super yummy (primarily when they are the size of CD-roms), but changing up the game is pretty fun. By adding chocolate and nutella or pumpkin and extra cinnamon, you get a whole new cookie that is still held up by its true, doodley cinnamon sugar coating. Personally, though, I am enamored by any sort of pumpkin baked good. And it’s October for heaven’s sake! Naturally, pumpkin snickerdoodles made a comeback in the kitchen of 312. 

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Happy Fall, everyone! 🙂

Does this count as cinnamon bread?

Once upon a time, a friend of mine asked me to bake cinnamon bread. Okay, simple enough! So I asked him what kind of cinnamon bread he would like. This, as I now know, was not the kind of question to ask a male. “Cinnamon and bread,” he replied, not expecting that I had around 7 other ideas in mind. After the bread argument, I came home determined to find a recipe worthy of his definition. I can happily say that I have most definitely found sweet, cinnamony victory. 

This is a quick bread recipe that is super simple to throw together. A stick of butter and 3/4 of sugar blend together in your mixing bowl while you sift together 1 3/4 cups of flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, and a pinch of salt. Once the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, add in two eggs, one at a time, and a bit of vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and alternatively add the dry ingredients with a cup of sour cream (flour, sour cream, flour, sour cream, flour). Mix until everything is just combined and then prepare yourself for the execution of a marvelous cinnamon swirl. 

The cinnamon sugar is easy peasy: 1/2 cup of white sugar, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and a few tablespoons of cinnamon. That’s it! I have been making little individual cinnamon breads in large muffin tins, but the same rules apply. Add some batter, then some cinnamon sugar, then some batter, then some cinnamon sugar. Once you’ve got three of four layers, take a knife and zig-zag each muffin for the swirl. Top with some more cinnamon sugar and pop them in a 350 degree oven until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, around 25 minutes. Then get rid of them before your suitemates realized you’ve baked for the third day in a row. You know what makes sense to me right now? Staying on the cinnamon kick and making cinnamon rolls 😉  

Banana Granola Muffins

I think there are a lot of things in this world that don’t receive the credit that they rightfully deserve. Like, seat cushions or, you know, hair ties. We wander through life without realizing how great these under-appreciated items are. Muffins are among this group. I love muffins. They’re wonderful and versatile and such a great way for us to eat more carbs (you know you love carbs). The new book I have by Hedy Goldsmith, Baking Out Loud, has lots of amazing recipes, but this is one of my favorites so far.

Banana bread paved my way into the world of baking in my freshman year of high school, so I guess I have a soft spot for banana-baked-goods. It’s so, so important that you use bananas that are nearly over-ripe to ensure optimal, sweet banana flavor. Once you’ve got a few of those lying around, you’re eligible to make these amazing muffins. 

To start, preheat your oven to 375 and grease your jumbo muffin pan (I’m a sucker for muffins, but jumbo muffins steal my heart every time). Sift together 1 2/3 cups of flour, 1 1/4 tsp of baking powder, and a healthy pinch of salt. Now, beat two sticks of butter in your handy-dandy mixer, add 1 1/2 cups sugar and 2/3 cup of ground toasted hazelnuts. Once this mixture is light an fluffy, beat in two eggs, one at a time, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Now you can slowly add in the flour mixture until everything comes together. In a separate bowl, fold together 1 1/3 cups granola (I got a not-overly sweet maple/pecan granola from Trader Joe’s that worked well!), 3/4 cup sour cream, and 2-3 mashed bananas. Then, fold that mixture into the open arms of the batter. Fill your jumbo muffin tins and sprinkle the tops with some more granola and a touch of cinnamon sugar (it makes for a divine top crust!). Bake for 25 minutes or so, until a toothpick comes out clean, and then take them out of the oven to cool. You can eat them plain (they’re moist and tender and seriously delicious), or put some Homemade Nutella on them, too. Yup, I went there.

Beer Bread

You know how bread-making comes off as something intimidating? Because clearly only those who are gifted enough to knead dough and understand yeast and buy a fancy machine can make it. Well, friends, I found a solution for us. Beer bread. All you need is a bowl, flour, baking powder, honey, and a bottle of beer! I’ve used Blue Moon and Moretti; it’s been spectacular each time. You melt butter to pour over the top before it bakes and let me tell you, that buttery crust is just beautiful. Go make this bread now! Trust me, you won’t regret it!

http://cookiemonstercooking.com/2013/03/11/buttery-honey-beer-bread-with-honey-butter/

Dino Cookies!

RAWR!!

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I’ve got a thing for dinosaurs. I think they are fantastic. I’ve also got a thing for good sugar cookies. Thick, flaky, melt in your mouth sugar cookies are pretty fantastic, too.

So what happens when you put the two together? DINO COOKIES!! I got some Dino cookie cutters sometime during high school and they have been my favorite ever since. I mean, I love the baby whale and tiny elephant I have, too, but it’s kind tough to pass up a brontosaurus and a velociraptor.  After you exude enough patience to let your dough chill for an hour,  you can roll it out nice and thick and bake your ferocious cookies at 350 for about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them, because if they bake for one minute too long you’ll end up with a dry and crumbly cookie. For the frosting, just mix together powdered sugar and water, then add in your desired food coloring. The recipe is beyond simple (1 cup butter, 1 cup sugar, 1tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup cream cheese, 1 egg, and 3 cups of flour). These are super fun to make with kids and can be adapted to any party theme or celebration! You should also tuck this recipe in your back pocket for Christmas time! Happy baking!