Thursday, February 16, 2012

Improv Challenge~Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies!

Today is the day for the Improv Cooking Challenge!   This is such a fun challenge, I just love participating! This month our ingredients are carrots and ginger. I immediately thought of carrot cake, but I was looking for something a little smaller, like cookies. This got my brain thinking about cookies, and then whoopie pies, the ultimate cookie!
Carrot Cake Whoppie Pies
(adapted from Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley)

2 cups Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Salt
8 tablespoons Butter, softened
1/2 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 cup Grated Carrots

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder,
cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt together. 
Set aside.
In the bowl that you can use a mixer with, 
cream together the butter and both sugars. 
Cream on medium for  4-5 minutes
until light and fluffy. 
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.
Mix in vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
Add carrots.
Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
While the batter is chilling, make the cream cheese filling.
This is a recipe I have used for a very long time. I love it!
Cream Cheese Filling
8 ounces Cream Cheese
5 tablespoons Butter, softened
2 teaspoon Vanilla
2 cups Confectioners Sugar
Cream the cream cheese and butter together.
Add vanilla.
Add sugar 1 cup at a time. You might need more
if you want thicker filling.
Put filling in a pastry bag with a Wilton #12 tip.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Use a small cookie scoop, and place circle of dough
on your baking sheet. Cook for 10 minutes.
Let cool!
Pipe the filling onto the bottom of 1 cookie,.....
and put the other cookie on top.

Thanks for stopping by The Freshman Cook!

Improv Challenge

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Club Baked~Soft Candy Caramels

Today is the day for Club Baked, and we are revealing our Soft Candy Caramels. I can't lie about this. I had some problems with this recipe. I have made caramels before, so I know how important the correct temperatures are to the finished product. The recipe even warned me to make sure my thermometers were calibrated correctly. But I had just checked my thermometers during my Christmas candy making marathon, and they were good to go. So what happened? Somewhere between then and now, my thermometers stopped working correctly, resulting in my first attempt at this delicious candy to be not so delicious. More like a sticky, gooey, messy disaster. But, I am so glad I tried again. My second attempt was perfection, if I might say so myself! The result was a creamy, chewy, deep caramel taste that lingers on your tongue, and coats your throat with warmth. Try this recipe. Your tongue will thank you! I am the host this time around, so here is the recipe!

Soft Candy Caramel
2 cups light Corn Syrup
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Firmly Packed Light Brown Sugar
2 cups Heavy Cream
2/3 cups Condensed Milk
1/2 cup unsalted Butter, room temp,cut into cubes
2 teaspoons pure Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Sea Salt

Lightly spray a 9" square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray
 and line it with foil, allowing the foil to just overhang the sides
 Lightly coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium saucepan, gently stir together the corn syrup and sugars,
along with 1/4 cup water. Set the saucepan over low heat and continue
to stir gently until the sugars are dissolved.
 Once the sugars are dissolved, clip
a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, 
turn the heat up to medium high,
and wait for the mixture to reach 240-245 degrees.
 This should take about 7 minutes.
You do not want to exceed 250 degrees. 
Watch your temperature carefully.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, stir together the cream
 and the condensed milk and set over medium heat. 
Gently warm the mixture, but don't let it boil.
Once the sugar mixture turns amber, remove it from the heat 
and stir in the butter and warm milk mixture until completely combined.
Be careful about splattering; it may bubble up when you add 
the milk mix. Place the pan back on medium heat, 
stop stirring, and bring the mixture back to 245-250 degrees.
Remove the pan from heat, stir in the vanilla and the salt, 
and pour the caramel into the prepared pan.
 Allow the candy to set for 8 hours, or overnight.
Place a sheet of parchment over the caramel, 
and invert it onto a cutting board. Remove the foil.
Spray a chefs knife with pan spray.
 Cut the caramels into 1" by 1/2" pieces.
and wrap them in wax paper or candy papers. 
Twist the ends of the papers to resemble old school candies. 
Distribute with brio to friends and family.

This great recipe is from Baked Explorations 
by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. We are baking
our way through this wonderful, tasty book. 
We would love for you to join us!

Next recipe we will be making~Nutella Scones!! Yum!!
Thanks for joining us!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Say Good Morning to Red Velvet Pancakes!

Here is one last Valentine's Day post, although this certainly does not have to be eaten only on Valentines Day! These are wonderfully delicious any and every day of the year.
Red Velvet Pancakes
(adapted from
1 1/2 cups Flour
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 tablespoon Cocoa Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
2 Eggs
1/4 cup Milk
1 cup Buttermilk
4 tablespoons Butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon White Vinegar
2 teaspoon Red Liquid Food Coloring
Butter or non stick Cooking Spray

Cream Cheese Glaze
4 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup Confectioners Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 tablespoon Milk, if needed
Preheat a griddle to medium high heat. In a bowl whisk together
the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt.
Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, then add milk, buttermilk,
butter, vanilla extract, white vinegar, and food coloring,
whisking to combine completely.
Add the dry mix into the wet mix bowl. Stir just until
combined. Don't overmix.
Brush butter or pan spray on your griddle or frying pan.
Spoon batter onto pan. 
Cook until done.
Make the glaze by mixing the ingredients. Only add milk as 
needed. Just mix together with a fork. For best results,
make sure your cream cheese is really soft! That helps
it mix better.
Place pancakes on a plate and drizzle with glaze!

Happy Valentine's Day 
from The Freshman Cook!

Share the Day with Someone You Love!

My Heart Chip belongs with Pico!

There are few things I enjoy more than tortilla chips with Pico de Gallo. It's always the perfect appetizer, welcome at any party or get together. When you think about it, it's kind of a chameleon. It fits in everywhere.
Well, this Pico de Gallo will fit perfectly into your Valentine's Day plans. After all, it's red and white, and the chips are heart shaped!!
Pico de Gallo  and Heart Chips
Flour Tortilla Chips
2 Roma Tomatoes
1/2  Onion
Fresh Cilantro
1 Garlic Clove
1 Jalapeno (late for the pic)
Chop your Roma tomatoes into small bite sized pieces.
Mince your garlic.
Chop your onion into small bite sized pieces.
Chop the cilantro and the jalapeno.
Remove the jalapeno seeds, and mince the pepper.
Be careful not to touch your eyes after touching the pepper.
They will sting. Also be sure to not inhale the fumes when you are
seeding the pepper. They can make you cough.
Add everything to a bowl .
Cover and refrigerate. 
(The peppers are in there, they just were put in later)
Take the flour tortilla, and a heart shaped cookie cutter,
and cut out heart shaped chips. Place them on a baking sheet,
 spray the chips with pan spray, and then...
sprinkle with garlic powder. No salt here!
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Let cool or eat warm.
Happy Valentine's Day!!

Homemade Chocolate Kiss!

I love chocolate kisses. I love to eat them right out of the bag, or sneak one off the top of a Peanut Butter Blossom. I love that they come in flavors and colors to match all the holidays. This Valentine's Day is a special one to me. My husband and I got engaged 30 years ago this Valentine's Day! So I make him this chocolate kiss with a special message that I hope he likes. This is easy to do, and I love the personalization. These would be great for a wedding, a wedding or baby shower, or a birthday. By designing the message you can express how you really feel!

Homemade Chocolate Kiss
12 ounces Milk Chocolate 
Vegetable Oil
Pan Spray
Medium Size Funnel
Aluminum Foil
Message Printed on White Paper

Melt the chocolate over low heat,
Add vegetable oil as needed to make the chocolate smooth.
This is the funnel I used. This is the middle one in a set of three.
I covered the bottom with foil and taped it on.
I sprayed the inside with pan spray.
 Then I set it in a glass measuring cup. The measuring cup
is a stable holder for the funnel.
Pour the melted chocolate into the funnel.
Set it in the freezer until it has set, then
flip over and release it from the funnel.
Cut the top down. The marks on the chocolate are from 
the foil being wrapped and unwrapped. It doesn't usually 
look like this. It is usually very pretty and smooth.
Wrap the chocolate with foil, twisting the foil.
Print a saying  with  the computer. When you print it,
leave some space to the right, so you can tuck the 
blank space into the kiss wrapping.
Attach your message and watch the lucky recipient smile!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Disappearing Valentine Danish!

These little danish are so cute! I filled Pillsbury Crescents with chocolate and cherries, and caramel bits, rolled 'em up, baked 'em up, and drizzled some glaze on them. I call them Disappearing Danish because they disappeared from the plate way too quickly!
Disappearing Valentine Danish
Cherry Filling
Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
Caramel Bits
Glaze for Danish
1/4 cup Powdered Sugar
1-2 teaspoons Water
I made Cherry Danish,
Chocolate Caramel Danish,
and Chocolate Cherry Danish.
Roll up the crescent dough.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. These take longer then the
plain crescents because they are stuffed
with all the ingredients.
While they are cooking, make your glaze. Add water
until you get the correct consistency.
Drizzle with the glaze.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine Candy Bag Tags

These little bag tags are something I came up with to make a couple bags of Valentine candy just a "little something special". They are simple to make, don't cost much, and don't take too much time. But they are sweet! And, the tags can be used long after the candy is gone!
I bagged up the candy, and tied curly ribbon to cinch
the bag closed.
I cut out Valentine and heart clip art from Print Shop. 
 I cut out a heart for each one to use as a background.

I glued a mini clothespin to the back of each cutout.
Then I clipped the cutout to the bag, and arranged the
ribbon to look pretty.
Happy Valentine's Day!