Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Sugar Cookies

Last weekend, some friends came over and we all decorated sugar cookies in preparation for Halloween. The recipe I used is called 'Holiday Cookies' from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook:
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Combine flour, salt and sugar first. The superfine sugar can be made by placing regular sugar in the blender or food processor. Then, using an electric mixer, add the butter, cream cheese and vanilla extract. Mix until the dough looks crumbly and slightly wet. Next mix it together with your hands to create one solid piece of dough. Separate the dough into two pieces and create two flat circles which are then covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for 20 to 30 minutes. 

After refrigeration, roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper, about 1/8-1/4 in thick. Work with only one flat circle of dough at a time. Once the dough has been rolled out, place it on a cookie sheet in the refrigerator for another 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut and separate. Now cut the cookies into shapes and place them on a cookie sheet ready for baking. 

Preheat the oven to 375. Cook the cookies for about 10 minutes. If they are closer to the 1/8 in. or smaller thickness then they will be done closer to 7 minutes.  Let cool for 30 to 60 minutes.

Mixing the butter into the flour and sugar reduces air bubbles, but they still my occur. To combat them I check the cookies at 5 minutes, while baking, and if there are any bubbles starting to form I gently flatten them with a spoon. The superfine sugar improves the texture.

For the icing combine:
  • 1 1/2 cup confectioners'/ powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • food coloring: black, red, yellow
A fork will work fine to mix the icing together. Separate your icing into several different containers and then add food coloring. You may need to make more than one batch of icing. Also, try and make the icing as thin as possible, it will dry faster. To cover the cookies with icing use a butter knife and some chopsticks for small details. Candies can also be stuck to the cookies when applied while the frosting is still wet. I placed shredded coconut on my ghost. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cake and Fudge Frosting

Makes: 1 layer cake (8 in.); 6 servings
Time: 35 minutes, plus 1 hour, 20 minutes to bake and cool butter cake

  • 1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter, divided
  • Butter cake (recipe on previous post)
  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Fudge Frosting (Recipe at bottom of page)
  • Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (1 bag on mini cups)
  • 3/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-in. cake pans. Stir 1/2 cup peanut butter into cake batter and divide between pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then invert cakes onto a rack. Remove pans and let cool to room temperature, at least 40 minutes. If you are pressed for time you can put them in the fridge, but this also increases crumbling during the frosting process.
Make peanut butter filling: In a medium bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat together remaining 3/4 cup peanut butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and milk until smooth and fluffy.
Assemble cake: Dollop 1 tbsp. peanut butter filling onto a cake stand (to hold cake in place). Set one cake, right side up on stand. Spread with remaining peanut butter filling. Top with second cake. Frost cake with Fudge Frosting starting with the top, then working down sides. Decorate outside with cut up peanut butter cups. 

Fudge Frosting:
  • 5 oz. unsweetened chocolate 
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 cups of powdered sugar
  • 6 tbsp. milk

Melt 5 oz. chopped unsweetened chocolate in a medium metal bowl set in pan over simmering water, stirring until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Ad 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature, and beat with a mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add 3 cups powdered sugar and 6 tbsp. mil; beat until smooth. Add more powdered sugar if frosting seems to thin. Makes about 2 cups. 

Basic Butter Cake

Makes 2 cakes (8 in. each); 16 servings total
Time 40 minutes, plus 45 minutes to cool

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup milk

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-in. cake pans. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat sugar and butter until creamy. Add eggs to butter mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition, scraping down side of bowl as needed, and adding vanilla with last egg.  Beat in flour mixture and milk in alternating batches, starting and ending with flour and making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. 

Divide batter between pans.

Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of each cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Invert onto a rack, remove pans, and let cool to room temperature, at least 40 minutes. 

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