Archive for July, 2010

Beach Ball Sugar Cookies

Beach Ball Sugar Cookies

I made these beach ball sugar cookies for a 3 year old boy’s birthday pool party.  As always, I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe and decorated the cookies with royal icing (for the recipes, click here).  I used a large circle cookie cutter, and wrapped the cookies in 4×6” treat bags.  Here are a few photos!

Jelly roll pans (cookie sheets with sides) work well for storing the cookies while the icing dries, because you can cover them with plastic wrap.

Thank you, Heather!


Sweet Cherry Pie

A few weeks ago, I posted my favorite pie crust recipe.  Here is a recipe for a yummy cherry pie filling to go with it.  I made this pie over the 4th of July weekend.  Eric and I always spend the 4th of July at the lake with his family.  Whenever I think of summers at the lake I think of BBQs and pies.  This year, we had this cherry pie, as well as a blueberry pie.  The red and blue colors were very fitting for the occasion!

The filling for this pie was really tasty.  It is filled with lots of sweet plump cherries, and it was juicy, but as you can see from the picture, it still held together nicely when it was cut.  The addition of two plums to the filling helps to counterbalance the sweetness of the cherries.  According to the recipe, frozen sweet cherries can be used instead of fresh ones, so this recipe can be made year round, even when cherries aren’t in season.  I hope you enjoy this pie as much as we did!

Sweet Cherry Pie


  • 1 recipe double crust pie dough, rolled out into two 12-inch rounds
  • 2 red plums, halved and pitted
  • 6 cups pitted sweet cherries, halved (6 cups halved, pitted & thawed  frozen cherries can be substituted)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. table salt
  • 1 Tbsp. juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp. instant tapioca, ground (measure first, then grind in a coffee grinder or food processor for 30 seconds)
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water


  1. Transfer one of the 12-inch pie dough rounds to a 9-inch pie plate (to do this, roll the dough loosely around a rolling pin and then carefully unroll it into the pie plate, leaving at least a 1-inch overhang).  Pat the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, and refrigerate the dough-lined pie plate while you make the pie filling.
  2. Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and place a baking sheet on the oven rack.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. To make the filling, process the plums and 1 cup of the halved cherries in a food processor until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary.  Strain the puree through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl, pressing on the solids to extract excess liquid; discard the solids.  Stir the remaining halved cherries, sugar, salt, lemon juice, tapioca, and cinnamon (if using) into the puree; let stand for 15 minutes.
  4. Transfer the cherry mixture, including all of the juices, to the dough-lined pie plate.  Scatter the butter pieces over the fruit.
  5. Take the second rolled out pie dough round out of the refrigerator.  Roll the dough loosely around a rolling pin and then unroll it over the pie, leaving at least a 1/2-inch overhang.  Flute the edges of the pie dough to seal.
  6. Brush the top of the pie with the egg + water mixture.  With a sharp knife, make 8 evenly spaced 1-inch long vents in the top of the crust.  Place the pie in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  7. Place the pie on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.  Then reduce the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees and continue to bake until the juices bubble around the edges and the crust is deep golden brown, 30-40 minutes longer.
  8. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, 2-3 hours (This allows the juices to thicken). Cut the pie into wedges and serve.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, July & August 2010 issue (Pg. 23)

Mississippi Mud Pie

A few weeks ago when I was shopping for 2 mini cake pans, I also picked up a 7-inch pie pan.  While I’m a huge advocate of eating leftover pie for dessert and breakfast, sometimes I think it’s just better if I don’t have the temptation of a whole 9-inch pie sitting in my fridge (most standard pie pans are 9-9.5 inches in diameter).  After getting the smaller sized pie pan, I waited for the perfect recipe to come along so that I could make another pie.  I was also keeping my eye out for something to make with the rest of the giant box of Oreo cookies that were leftover from when I baked Oreo Cookie Cupcakes.  So when I saw this recipe for Mud Pie with an Oreo cookie crumb crust, I just knew it was meant to be!

The crust for this pie was incredibly delicious, yet so simple to make.  It consisted of a mixture of Oreo cookie crumbs, sugar, and a little butter to bind the mixture together.  After baking for 5 minutes, the crust was ready to go – it doesn’t get much simpler than that!  I loved the sweet taste of the cookie crumbs and the crust had the perfect amount of crunch to it.

The filling for this pie consists of two layers of chocolate ganache with coffee ice cream sandwiched between the ganache, as well as a sprinkle of crunchy candy.  My favorite kind of coffee ice cream has always been Starbucks’ Java chip, but my grocery store was out of it, so I got Haagen Dazs’ Java Chip instead.  It turned out to be equally as good, and it also happened to be on sale-score!   Instead of using toffee bits like the recipe suggested, I used Reese’s pieces, which is one of my absolute favorite kinds of candy.  The hint of peanut butter and crunch from the Reese’s went really well with the coffee ice cream and Oreo crumb crust – it was such a delicious flavor combination!

This is definitely a recipe that you can play around with and switch up to suit your taste and mood.  I can’t wait to make another ice cream pie using the same cookie crust and ganache, plus vanilla ice cream, Reese’s peanut butter cups, and caramel sauce…  I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!  :)  Enjoy!

Mississippi Mud Pie

For the crust:

  • 1¼ cups chocolate cookie crumbs, such as Oreo (I used my food processor to make the cookie crumbs)
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp. sugar

For the ganache:

  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the filling and garnish:

  • ½ cup toffee bits or other crunchy candy such as Reese’s pieces, divided (if you use Reese’s pieces, chop them up into smaller bits)
  • 3-4 cups coffee ice cream, softened


  1. To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  In a small bowl, combine the chocolate cookie crumbs, melted butter and sugar.  Toss with a fork until well combined and all the crumbs are moistened.  Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool while you make the ganache.
  2. To make the ganache, transfer the chopped chocolate to a small heatproof bowl.  In a small saucepan set over medium heat, bring the cream to a simmer.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand 1 minute.  Whisk the mixture in small circular motions until the ganache forms.  Whisk in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until completely incorporated.
  3. Spread a thin layer of ganache over the bottom of the pie crust, just enough to cover it completely (about 1/3 cup).  Sprinkle half of the toffee  bits over the ganache.  Transfer the pie plate to the freezer and chill for about 30-60 minutes, until the ganache is set.  Leave the remaining ganache at room temperature, whisking occasionally.
  4. Stir the ice cream with a spoon or spatula to be sure it is evenly softened and spreadable.  Mound the ice cream into the pie shell and use an offset spatula to smooth the top.  Return to the freezer and chill until the ice cream is set, at least two hours.
  5. If the ganache has firmed up while the pie was chilling, soften it again by heating in a double boiler or microwaving in 20-second intervals, just until it is spreadable but not hot.  Using a spatula, spread a thin layer of ganache over the ice cream.  Sprinkle the remaining toffee bits on top.  (Work efficiently, as the ganache will harden quickly after making contact with the ice cream.) Return to the freezer and chill at least 1-2 hours.  Reserve any remaining ganache and let cool until thickened.  Transfer to a pastry bag and pipe on decorative swirls, if desired.  Chill until set.
  6. Let the pie stand at room temperature for several minutes before slicing.  Use a warm, dry knife to slice and serve.

Yield: One 9-inch pie; To make a 7-inch pie, halve the recipe

Source: slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats; originally adapted from Williams Sonoma

Partially assembled Mud Pie

This photo shows a standard 9.5-inch pie pan on the left, and a 7-inch one on the right.

Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting with Mini Chocolate Chip Cupcakes & Dark Chocolate Garnishes

Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting with Mini Chocolate Chip Cupcakes & Dark Chocolate Garnishes

This was my first time making chocolate whipped cream and it was a huge success.  I love my other chocolate frosting recipes, but when I made these cupcakes I was in the mood for something a little lighter than standard chocolate frosting, which is often very rich.  Whipped cream is such a perfect pairing for cakes and cupcakes, but I was craving chocolate, so I pulled out several of my baking cookbooks in search of a recipe for chocolate whipped cream.  The first ones I checked had nothing (Baking Illustrated & The Williams Sonoma Baking Book).  I found a recipe in the third one (Baking From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan), however it required 4 hours of chilling in the fridge, and I didn’t have that much time (I made these cupcakes on a whim).  Finally, I found a recipe that I could use, that would be ready in the time it took to whip the cream- perfect!  It’s so easy to make this whipped cream, and such a fun change from regular whipped cream, although it has the same fluffy airy texture.  It reminded me a lot of chocolate mousse (yum!) and it also tasted like hot chocolate to me.  (That’s probably because I used the same Ghirardelli chocolate powder that I use when I make hot chocolate).  Eric and I loved this frosting.  He raved about it, and was sad that I washed the mixer bowl before he got a chance to lick it clean (sorry babe!).

The more I make whipped cream, the more I realize that it really is very customizable.  For example, if you add crushed Oreo bits, you get Oreo whipped cream.  I already have so many other ideas for desserts that I want to make with this frosting.

For the cupcakes, I used my favorite white cupcake recipe.  And because I like to switch things up with my favorite recipes, I folded ½ cup of mini chocolate chips into the batter.  I also halved the recipe and baked them in my mini cupcake pan (it made 24 mini cupcakes) – the perfect little treat!

Then, onto the really fun part!  Playing with chocolate.  :)  I decided to make the cupcakes extra pretty by adding little dark chocolate garnishes to them.  This is a super easy way to dress up a cupcake and make it look fancy and whimsical.   All you have to do is melt chocolate chips in the microwave, pour the melted chocolate into a squeeze bottle, “draw” your designs onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper, and freeze until set.  It’s like edible chocolate art- yum!

For the cupcakes: I used this recipe, and folded 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips into the batter before filling the muffin tin.  As noted above, I halved the recipe, which yielded 24 mini cupcakes (or 12 regular sized cupcakes).

I found these cute black and white polka dot mini cupcake wrappers at Michael’s. Love them! (I have an embarrassingly large collection of cupcake wrappers… I can’t resist a cute design! At least they are cheap :) )

Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting


  • 1 cup (8 oz) heavy cream, chilled
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted before measuring
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted before measuring


  1. Using a chilled metal bowl and chilled beaters, whip the cream for 2 minutes until it just starts to thicken.
  2. Add the sugar and cocoa and continue beating until thick enough to hold firm peaks.

Yield: About 2 cups

Note: Cupcakes can be made & frosted ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.  I also recommend storing the whipped cream in the refrigerator if you aren’t going to serve it within an hour or so.

Source: Williams Sonoma Baking Cookbook (Pg. 317)

Dark Chocolate Garnishes


  • ½ cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips


  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips, stirring every 15 seconds until the chocolate is fully melted (in my microwave, this took approximately 90 seconds). Pour the melted chocolate into a squeeze bottle.
  2. Line a small baking sheet (the baking sheet must fit in your freezer) with waxed paper.  If desired, place a piece of white paper with your “designs” underneath the waxed paper so that you can trace them (see photo below).
  3. Squeeze the chocolate onto the waxed paper lined baking sheet.  You can either trace your designs or draw them freehand.
  4. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 1-2 hours, or until the chocolate is set.  Once hardened, remove the chocolate with a thin spatula and garnish cupcakes as desired.


  • These chocolate garnishes melt quickly.  Make sure you store them in the freezer until you are ready to remove them from the waxed paper and assemble the cupcakes.
  • The chocolate garnishes can be made a few days ahead of time and stored in the freezer.
  • If you don’t have a squeeze bottle, you can use a ziplock bag (snip the corner off) or a pastry bag.  You can purchase squeeze bottles at craft stores.

I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips to make the garnishes.

Squeeze bottle filled with melted chocolate.

K for Karen – To make this design, I printed out a “K” on my computer and traced it with chocolate. I think it would be really cute to make chocolate monogrammed cupcakes for a party.

My favorite chocolate design.

My other favorite – sometimes the best designs are the ones where you just scribble!

A heart that I traced from my computer print out. It turns out, hearts are much easier to draw freehand.

Sunrise Smoothie

Sunrise Smoothie

Sometimes drinking your fruit is the best way to eat it!  Homemade smoothies are fun to make, and taste so much fresher and better than store bought ones.  Can you believe this is the first time I’ve ever made a smoothie at home?  I like ordering them when I’m out, but until yesterday, I never got around to making one myself.  In the past 24 hours, I’ve already made 2 smoothies – this one, as well as a chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie.  I have to admit, I made the chocolate peanut butter banana one on the spur of the moment… This morning when I walked into my office, there was a big scary spider on my desk (in reality it wasn’t very big, but who cares?  It was a spider none-the-less!  Ick!)  Naturally, I screamed, and my husband was kind enough to run downstairs and save me (and my workspace) from it.  I had to find a way to thank him, so I made him a PB chocolate banana smoothie for breakfast.  :)  He was very grateful and said he’d much rather squish a spider than make a smoothie, but I totally disagree, 1000%.

But I digress… back to this Sunrise Smoothie…   This is a recipe that I found in one of my Ina Garten cookbooks, and it was so delicious and refreshing!  It was super healthy too.  The flavor combination was perfect– strawberries, watermelon, peaches, OJ, and raspberry sorbet- yum!  I served it in a wine glass for a festive touch.  Is it just me, or does everything taste better when it is served in a wine glass?!  Enjoy!

Sunrise Smoothie


  • 1 cup chopped ripe strawberries (5 large strawberries)
  • 1 cup chopped seeded watermelon
  • 1 cup chopped fresh peach
  • 1 cup raspberry sorbet
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (I just used store-bought orange juice)


  1. Place the strawberries, watermelon, peach, sorbet, and orange juice in a blender and puree until smooth and creamy. Add more orange juice if you’d like it a little less thick.
  2. Serve immediately in glasses with straws.

Yield: 2 servings

Note: You can substitute frozen strawberries and peaches for the fresh ones.

Source: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics Cookbook, by Ina Garten

Flaky Pastry Dough

Flaky Pastry Dough

This is my new favorite pie crust recipe.  The dough is so easy to make (no food processor needed!), it’s easy to roll out, and it’s flaky, buttery, and delicious.  I actually like it better than my other pie crust recipe.  It’s much easier and quicker to make and I like that it is an all-butter crust (no Crisco).  The addition of vodka to the other pie crust was an interesting concept, and fun to try, but I don’t think it made a very noticeable difference in the texture of the crust.  You can’t go wrong with this recipe!  Enjoy!

Flaky Pastry Dough


  • 1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbsp. (=1 stick= ½ cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 3 Tbsp. very cold water, plus more if needed


  1. To make the dough in a stand mixer, fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.  In the bowl of the mixer, combine the flour, sugar and salt and mix on low speed to stir the ingredients together.
  2. Add the butter and toss with a fork to coat with the flour mixture.  Mix on medium-low speed until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with the butter pieces no larger than small peas.
  3. Add the 3 Tbsp. water and mix on low speed just until the dough pulls together.  (Note: If the dough is still dry, mix in more water 1 Tbsp. at a time)
  4. Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball and flatten into a disk. (Although many dough recipes call for chilling the dough at this point, this dough should be rolled out immediately for the best results.) Lightly flour the work surface, then flatten the disk with 6 to 8 gentle taps of the rolling pin.  Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn.  Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll out into a round at least 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick.

Yield: One 9-inch single crust pie

To make a double-crust pie: Double the recipe, cut the dough in half and pat each half into a round, flat disk. Roll out one disk into a 12-inch round as directed and line the pan or dish. Press any scraps trimmed from the first round into the bottom of the second disk. Roll out the second dough disk into a round at least 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make a lattice top: Double the recipe, cut the dough in half and pat one half into a round, flat disk.  Roll out the disk into a 12-inch round as directed and line the pan or dish. Trim the edge of the dough, leaving a ½-inch overhang.  Press any scraps trimmed from the first round into the bottom of the remaining dough half.  Pat the dough into a rectangle and roll out into a rectangular shape about 1/8 inch thick.  Trim to cut out a 14-by-11-inch rectangle and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make-Ahead Tip: Pie dough may be made ahead and frozen for up to 2 months.  To freeze, pat the dough into a disk and wrap well with plastic wrap.

Source: The Williams Sonoma Baking Cookbook (Pg. 373)

Deep-Dish Apple Pie with Foolproof Double-Crust Pie Dough

Deep-Dish Apple Pie with Foolproof Double-Crust Pie Dough

Not only was this pie delicious, I learned a lot while making it.  And that is thanks to Cook’s Illustrated and all the information they include in their cookbooks.  Cook’s Illustrated cookbooks are not just full of yummy recipes.  They also have chapters of information that explain the science behind the cooking techniques and ingredients, as well as equipment and ingredient reviews.  My bachelor’s degree is in Biology, so all of this Food Science stuff is very interesting to me!

Here’s  a quick summary of what I learned from reading about pie crusts and apple pie in the book More Best Recipes:

  • A pie crust consists of dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar), fat (butter or vegetable shortening), and liquid (usually water, but in this case, vodka + water)
  • The combination of shortening and butter gives the crust a nice flavor and flaky texture.
  • Gluten is the protein matrix that provides structure to baked goods. Gluten forms when water combines with flour.  If a pie crust has too much water in the dough, too much gluten will form, which will cause the dough to be tough (as opposed to tender).  However, if you don’t add enough water to the dry ingredients, the pie dough will be difficult to roll out and shape.  The addition of vodka to the pie dough adds no flavor (the alcohol will vaporize while the pie is baking in the oven), but improves the texture of the dough, resulting in a flaky and tender pie crust.  This is because vodka contains only 60% water, so it doesn’t contribute to gluten formation (gluten will not form in alcohol), and thus, the resulting dough is soft, tender, and pliable.
  • Pre-cooking the apples in a Dutch oven before assembling the pie extracts excess juice and prevents the pie from becoming too soggy while it bakes.
  • The combination of tart and sweet apples gives the pie a nice balanced flavor.


Foolproof Double-Crust Pie Dough


  • 2 ½ cups (12 ½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼- inch pieces
  • ½ cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • ¼ cup cold vodka
  • ¼ cup cold water


  1. Process 1 ½ cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 pulses.  Add the butter and shortening and process until a homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (the dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour).  Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and redistribute the dough evenly around processor blade.  Add the remaining 1 cup of flour and pulse until the mixture is evenly distributed around the bowl and the mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 pulses.  Empty the mixture into a medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the vodka and water over the mixture.  With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix, pressing down on the dough until the dough is slightly tacky and sticks together.  Divide the dough into two even balls and flatten each into a 4-inch disk.  Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Yield: one 9-inch double-crust pie

Deep Dish Apple Pie


  • 1 recipe 9-inch double-crust pie dough
  • ½ cup granulated sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest, grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 ½ lbs tart apples (such as Granny Smith), about 5 medium, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices
  • 2 ½ lbs sweet apples (such as Golden Delicious or Braeburn), about 5 medium, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
  • 1 egg white, beaten lightly


  1. Mix ½ cup of the granulated sugar, the brown sugar, salt, zest, and cinnamon in a large bowl; then add apples and toss to combine.  Transfer the apples to a Dutch oven (do not wash the bowl that they were in) and cook, covered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the apples are tender when poked with a fork but still hold their shape, 15 to 20 minutes.  (Note: The apples and juices should gently simmer during cooking.)  Transfer the apples and juices to a rimmed baking sheet and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  While the apples cool, adjust the oven rack to the lowest position, place a foil lined baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Remove 1 disk of dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick.  Transfer the rolled out dough to a 9-inch pie plate, leaving at least a 1-inch overhang.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, roll the second disk of dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick.  Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
  4. Set a large colander over the now-empty bowl that the apples were mixed in.  Then transfer the cooled apples to the colander.  Shake the colander to drain off as much juice as possible (the cooked apples should measure about 8 cups).  Discard the juice.  Transfer the apples to the dough-lined pie plate and sprinkle with lemon juice.
  5. Place the second round of rolled out dough on top of the apple filling.  Pinch the edges of the top and bottom dough rounds firmly together.  Trim, seal, and crimp the edges of the dough.  Then cut four 2-inch slits in the top of the dough.  Brush the surface with the beaten egg white and sprinkle evenly with the remaining teaspoon of sugar.
  6. Place the pie on the preheated baking sheet and bake until the crust is dark golden brown, 45 to 55 minutes, rotating halfway through.  Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool at least 1 ½ hours.  Cut the pie into wedges and serve.

Source: More Best Recipes Cookbook, Cook’s Illustrated (Pgs. 668 & 675)

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