gingerbread spice caramels

baked with love2012If you haven’t spent the holidays with Full Circle Foodie before, I’d like to extend a warm welcome. This is my fifth year executing my “Baked with Love” project where I bake a variety of cookies and candies and then package them up all pretty to give, with love, to coworkers, friends and family. 

Each year, I incorporate tried and true traditions as well as new recipes that I am equally excited about. Grab some hot cocoa and enjoy your stay as my 2012 Box of Love unfolds before your eyes! 

Gingerbread Spice Caramels
After discovering how easy it was to make caramels, I got hooked and wanted to try new flavors. My next adventure included gingerbread caramels and they turned out to be a huge hit. The buttery caramels paired with the molasses and gingerbread spices was the perfect holiday indulgence.
Gingerbread Spice Caramels
Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup light corn syrup
2 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Vegetable-oil cooking spray

Preparation:

  1. Prepare a 9×13″ cake pan with a light coating of cooking spray followed by a layer of parchment paper. Make sure parchment covers bottom and all sides; two overlapping pieces forming a cross work well.
  2. In a large, heavy pot over high heat bring heavy cream, corn syrup and sugar, butter and molasses to a boil. Stir continuously and cook until caramel temperature reads 248 degrees Fahrenheit, approximately 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and carefully stir in vanilla, butter and spices. Take caution as caramel will violently bubble when vanilla is added.
  4. Immediately pour caramel into prepared pan. Do not scrape the bottom of the pot into the pan. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 24 hours before cutting.
  5. Invert caramel onto a cutting board lined with a piece of parchment paper. Carefully peel original parchment paper off of the caramel and cut into desired size with a large sharp knife. Wrap in 4×4 inch candy foil or wax paper. Store in an airtight container.
Gingerbread Spice Caramels

picnic cake

Picnic Cake

When it comes to my love of baking, my mother has always been my biggest influencer. She has been icing rolled sugar cookies long before it was the cool thing to do; I can actually still taste the strawberry ice cream cone cookies that she made for my elementary school birthday celebrations. Her advanced candy making skills are also impressive and evident in her dark chocolate almond caramels, a treat she hesitates to make due to all of the cutting and wrapping of each individual piece. Although as her one and only, it doesn’t take too much convincing to get at batch out of her around the holidays.
My favorite thing about her her years of culinary wisdom are the emails that we shoot back and forth to bounce recipe ideas off of each other. She always knows exactly what to make for each occasion and hopefully, myself for her. This Picnic Cake resulted from a string of emails that started in attempt to find the perfect item for a brunch-time bake sale for a local hospital. Mom recalled picking up pieces from Austin’s own Texas French Bread many years back and said that it was always a favorite of hers.

Picnic Cake

Although no longer on the Texas French Bread menu, this cake was so easy to bake at home that there’s no reason not to give it a try. Its bold flavors hold up nicely with a cup of coffee for breakfast or brunch, but is light enough to be a lovely pairing with afternoon tea. I could see this being a huge hit to accompany early morning meetings at the office as well.
Picnic Cake
makes approximately 16 servings
 
Cake Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely crushed graham crackers
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
3 large eggs
1 cup chopped walnutsFrosting Ingredients:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
5 teaspoons milk
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
additional chopped walnuts for decoration

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare 12-Cup Bundt Pan with butter and a light coating of flour. Tap out excess flour and set aside.
  2. Mix all cake ingredients except walnuts in stand mixer on medium speed until smooth. Fold in walnuts and transfer batter to prepared bundt pan.
  3. Bake for 45-60 minutes until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To make the frosting, combine brown sugar, milk and butter in a small saucepan. Stirring constantly, cook over low heat until sugar has just dissolved. Add powdered sugar and stir until smooth.
  5. Remove from heat and spoon over cooled cake. Top with additional walnuts if desired.
As I reflect on the success of this recipe, I want to thank my mother for all of her years of kitchen wisdom, love and encouragement. Happy birthday to my greatest inspiration and best friend.

Picnic Cake

baked peaches

Baked Peaches
I believe that desserts are best enjoyed straight out of the oven. While I love cobblers, the ratio of enjoying straight from the oven to reheated days later is quite small when cooking for two. Enter my new favorite Summer dessert and the solution to this problem: Baked Peaches. The crumble makes enough for about four peaches, or eight halves, but stores beautifully in the fridge so that each peach can be baked fresh each night. It’s the perfect solution for making dessert for two.

The hearty peaches hold up beautifully in the oven, resulting in an incredibly plump and juicy fruit. The crumble topping adds the familiar cobbler flavor profile with the perfect amount of contrasting crunch. Just a drizzle of local honey at the end brings together the sweet and sour of this dish into one perfect dessert. Promise me you’ll find someone special to share dessert with and bake some peaches before Summer’s end?

Baked Peaches
serves 8
Ingredients:
4 peaches, cut in half and pit removed
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 Tablespoons butter, chilled
2 Tablespoons granola
Honey for plating
Preparation:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheet with foil.
  2. Stir flour, brown sugar and ginger in a medium bowl until combined.
  3. Cut butter into small cubes and cut into flour mixture with a fork or your fingers until it is evenly distributed and a loose crumble forms. Lightly fold in granola to crumble mixture.
  4. At this point, the crumble can be refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use.
  5. Place desired number of peach halves, cut side up, on prepared baking sheet. Fill cavity and sprinkle top with crumble mixture.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minuts until golden brown on top. Serve warm, drizzled with a touch of honey.

Baked Peaches

buttermilk skillet cornbread

Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread

As a grandchild of the south, I have been in awe of my Mommom’s skillet cornbread ever since I can remember. Watching her golden creation fall out of her skillet with ease and onto the butcher block was nothing short of magical to this little foodie in training. I have to thank her for teaching me that if the cornbread does happen to crack and crumble, it can still taste even better than the perfect one before it. I still giggle at the irony of the cornbread for our Thanksgiving stuffing turning out absolutely perfect year after year only to be intentionally crumbled to pieces minutes later.

I made buttermilk skillet cornbread in the cast iron skillet that Mommom gave me for my birthday last year in celebration of her special day today. We’ll toast a slice of cornbread in her honor as I thank her for never letting me forget that, although I may crack and crumble at times, I’ll always be perfect in her eyes. Happy Birthday, Mommom! I love you and appreciate your many years of wisdom and love.

Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread
makes one 9″ skillet cornbread

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
2 cups low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place butter in 9 inch cast iron skillet and melt in oven while preheating and preparing batter.
  • In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, sugar and baking soda until combined.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk and honey. Add to dry ingredients and stir until fully incorporated. it’s also possible to use a blender/juicer (more at: juicingkitchen.com )for this step
  • Carefully remove skillet from oven and pour batter into hot, buttered skillet.
  • Return to oven and bake for 25 minutes until top is light golden brown. Let cool 10-15 minutes before serving.
Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread

teenage mutant ninja turtle cupcakes

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Cupcakes

I spent my birthday eve baking a batch of cupcakes for another very special birthday girl. Said birthday girl has an affinity for banana bread and the {original} Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A Banana Pound Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Buttercream turned out to be a ridiculously delicious backdrop for some old school cupcake decorations.

If you’re looking to create baked goods with a ‘retro’ theme, {since when did my childhood become retro?!} be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to hunt down your decorations. Believe it or not, not a single local cake supply shop carried Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toppers. Luckily I keep the fabulous folks at sugarcraftusa.com in mind for all of my extravagant baking needs and, sure enough, they had one of the largest Ninja Turtle selections on the web. They also have every color of jimmies imaginable, so that yours truly doesn’t have to spend her evening sorting jimmies to fit her needs. {Not that I’ve ever done that, of course.}
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Cupcakes
The birthday girl also happens to be lactose intolerant, so I have included the adaptations needed to fit this dietary requirement. I would have never guessed that these cupcakes were dairy free which makes them a winner in my book. In fact, I would probably use the almond milk regardless due to its rich flavor. The cake had all of the flavor and desired moisture of banana bread, but was incredibly light and fluffy. The added cinnamon to the chocolate buttercream enhanced the spice of the cake nicely without overpowering the rich banana flavor. If looking for a recipe that isn’t too sweet or heavy, this one’s for you!Banana Pound Cake Cupcakes
Makes approximately 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk {substitute vanilla almond milk}
6 ounces (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened {substitute dairy free margarine}
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 fully ripe bananas, mashed

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line baking tins with cupcake liners.
  • In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
  • In an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add cinnamon and cream until fully incorporated.
  • Continue beating while adding sugar in a slow stream until fully incorporated and smooth.
  • Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition.
  • Carefully mix in half of flour mixture, followed by half of the milk and repeat.
  • Once all ingredients are incorporated and batter is smooth, fold in the mashed bananas.
  • Fill liners a little over half full and bake for 18-20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool completely before frosting with Chocolate Cinnamon Buttercream.


Chocolate Cinnamon Buttercream
Enough to frost 24 cupcakes, plus a little extra

Ingredients:
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup cocoa
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups confectioners sugar
~¼ cup milk {substitute vanilla almond milk}
pinch of salt

Preparation:

  • Beat butter on high for about 30 seconds until soft and fluffy.
  • Add cocoa, cinnamon, salt and 1 cup of sugar and beat until fully incorporated
  • Add half of the milk and the remainder of sugar and beat again until fully incorporated.
  • Continue to add milk until desired consistency is reached.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Cupcakes
*Sugarcraftusa.com had nothing to do with this post other than providing an extensive selection, quick turnaround and exceptional customer service. All opinions are strictly my own and no compensation was received. I simply enjoy sharing great finds with my readers. 

patriotic s’mores

Patriotic S'Mores

If you’re looking for a cute dessert for the Memorial Day weekend, then look no further. These patriotic s’mores are not only festive, but super quick to throw together at the last minute. Even though the absolute mess that is made while enjoying traditional s’mores is half the fun, these pre-made cuties are perfect for grab-and-go snacking at your next picnic or party.

Patriotic S'Mores
Patriotic S’mores
makes as many or as few as you’d like
Ingredients:
graham crackers
jumbo marshmallows
milk chocolate melting chips
white chocolate melting chips
vegetable oil if needed
patriotic sprinkles or jimmies
Preparation:
  1. Break graham cracker squares in half and lay small rectangles out on parchment paper.
  2. Melt milk chocolate chips in 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth, and spread on each graham cracker.
  3. Cut marshmallows in half and place two halves on every other graham cracker.
  4. Place another graham cracker, chocolate side down, on top of your marshmallow grahams to form your s’more.
  5. Allow chocolate to harden fully. Refrigerate to speed up process and avoid milk chocolate melting during the dipping process.
  6. Melt white chocolate chips in 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth. If white chocolate is too thick for dipping, you can add a small amount of vegetable oil until desired consistency is reached.
  7. Dip half of each s’more into white chocolate, sprinkle with patriotic jimmies and return to parchment paper to set.
  8. Store in an airtight container and keep out of direct sunlight if serving at a picnic or the chocolate will melt! Enjoy!
Patriotic S'Mores

cotton candy meringue chicks

Cotton Candy Meringue Chicks

It wouldn’t be Easter without a Peeps spotting and it wouldn’t officially be Spring without indulging in at least one pillowy cloud of sweet cotton candy. Thanks to recent inspiration from Sprinkle Bakes an idea was born that resulted in Peeps impostors that you’ll actually enjoy eating – Cotton Candy Meringue Chicks.

I was initially concerned that a cotton candy flavored meringue would be overly sweet, but I have to admit that they were absolutely delightful. Substituting super fine pink vanilla cotton candy sugar actually yielded a meringue that was slightly less sweet than traditional meringues and with the added bonus of a hint of vanilla. Experimenting with different flavors of cotton candy sugars would add variety in color and flavor to these little fellas.

Cotton Candy Meringue Chicks

Meringues require little prep time, can be piped as intricately as you desire and make for a delicate and impressive addition to any occasion. Baking time will vary depending on the size of your meringues; a typical quarter sized piping will take about 90 minutes and these larger chicks took about 2 hours to fully harden. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare these, allowing them to remain in the oven overnight will help dry them out completely and avoid a sticky outside. Rainy days are great for staying indoors and baking, but avoid making meringues when the humidity is high otherwise you’ll likely have a sticky mess on your hands.

Cotton Candy Meringue Chicks
yields approximately 36 chicks

Ingredients:
2 egg whites, room temperature
pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 cup cotton candy sugar

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and cream of tarter on medium speed until white and glossy.
  3. Reduce speed and slowly add sugar in continuous stream, beating until fully combined.
  4. Increase speed to medium high and beat until stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes.
  5. Transfer meringue to piping bag fitted with desired tip.
  6. Pipe onto baking sheet lined with silicone mat or parchment paper and bake for 2 hours at 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Rotate pan halfway through baking.
  7. Leaving chicks in closed oven, turn heat off and allow meringues to dry for up to 24 hours.
  8. Melt small amount of chocolate in microwave safe bowl. Use toothpicks to dot on eyes.
  9. Allow chocolate to set. Store chicks in an airtight container.
Cotton Candy Meringue Chicks

I piped the chicks using a large round tip and piped a large flat oval that I brought to a point followed by a round ‘head’ brought to a point for the beak. A large star tip would also make gorgeous buttons, as seen on Sprinkle Bakes. Get creative and more importantly, have a lovely Easter weekend!…

painted sugar cookies

Painted Cookies
With absolutely gorgeous weather a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but be in the mood for some colorful Spring baking. It’s even more fitting that I finally got around to posting these beauties on the first day of Spring!* I had recently received a copy of Cupcakes, Cookies & Pie, Oh My! and knew exactly what I wanted to try first: painted sugar cookies. These lemon filled sandwich cookies were the perfect combination of easy, delicious and guaranteed fun for the whole family.
Cupcakes, Cookies, & Pie, Oh My! Is the third book in the Hello, Cupcake! and What’s New, Cupcake? series by talented authors Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Not only are the authors continuing to make adorable cupcake creations with new techniques (think camouflage), but they’re also transforming pie dough, cheesecakes, refrigerator cookies, pound cakes, bar cookies, Jell-O, and more!  As always, there are treats for every holiday, and many of the recipes are completely no-bake, making them that much easier to create.
What I loved about this book is the semi-homemade aspect to each creation. The book is filled to the brim with ideas that are sure to impress your guests at your next party or holiday gathering. Each recipe is easy to follow with bright pictures and step by step instructions making them ideal for adults and children alike.  Imagine how much fun you’d have gathering with friends and kids to paint your very own Easer eggs to take home?
Painted Cookies
Painted Sugar Cookies
inspired by Cupcakes, Cookies & Pie, Oh My!
Ingredients:
basic sugar cookie recipe of choice
1-2 egg whites
assorted food dyes (the cheap ones work best, gel food colorings do not mix well)
lemon curd
Preparation:
  1. Make sugar cookie dough according to directions and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Roll dough out evenly to about 1/4 inch thin and cut with desired shapes. You’ll need two matching shapes per cookie, one left as is and one with a circle cut out. Transfer to baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
  3. Use a toothpick to lightly score your pattern on the dough, this will help the dyes from running.
  4. Separate egg whites into several bowls, one for each color, and add a few drops of food coloring until desired intensity is reached.
  5. Paint sections of cookies with various dyes and bake according to recipe directions.
  6. Allow cookies to cool completely and fill each pair with a thin layer of lemon curd.
The final step as encouraged by the book was to cover your toothpick lines with a thin piping of royal icing. This produces a much cleaner finished product, but since these were just for the two of us, I decided to skip that step. They turned out gorgeous either way, but I agree that the royal icing put these over the top as far as presentation goes.
If you don’t have a favorite sugar cookie recipe on hand, don’t fret. The book provides a delicious recipe along with additional step by step pictures to help you out. As always, get creative. Painting cookies doesn’t have to be limited to Easer eggs. I also enjoyed painting and filling Spring flowers, but any shape will do!

Painted Cookies

*My apologies for my recent absence. I promise I have tons of recipes and pictures to share with you, but life has been a tad overwhelming as of late. All is well in our neck of the woods, so please don’t worry! I’ll be back in the swing of things in no time, but bear with me as I sort out a few things.
**Although I received this copy of Cupcakes, Cookies & Pie, Oh My! for review, no monetary compensation was received and all opinions are strictly my own. 

almond spritz trees

If you haven’t spent the holidays with Full Circle Foodie before, I’d like to extend a warm welcome. This is my fourth year in a row executing my “Baked with Love” project where I bake a variety of cookies and candies and then package them up all pretty to give, with love, to coworkers, friends and family. 

Each year, I incorporate tried and true traditions as well as new recipes that I am equally excited about. Grab some hot cocoa and enjoy your stay as my 2011 Box of Love unfolds before your eyes! 

Today’s cookies have not only been a part of the Baked with Love series since its creation, but have been on every one of our holiday cookie trays since the dawn of time. These have always been my personal favorite during the holidays and I am so happy to have passed along the love to Meg and Zach as well. I just love the delicate almond flavor of the cookie paired with the bold colors and flavors of the “trimmings.”

Almond Spritz Trees

If you aren’t lucky enough to already own a vintage Mirro copper cookie press, don’t fret. They can be found on eBay and I hear the fancy schmancy new plastic ones work just as well. I’m just partial to my copper press because that’s how my Mommom makes them.

Almond Spritz Trees
What you’ll need:
1. Assorted Sprinkles, 2. Cookie Press, 3. Cinnamon Candies
{not pictured}
Almond Spritz Cookie Dough

 

Almond Spritz Trees

 

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup shortening
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Green food coloring
Preparation:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Cream together shortening and egg. Gradually mix in the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder until well combined.
  3. Add almond extract and mix well. Add food coloring to desired color.
  4. Put through the cookie press onto cookie sheets. Decorate with sprinkles or colored sugar and top with a cinnamon candy.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 10 -12 minutes or until very light brown and set.
Almond Spritz Trees
This recipe makes plenty, but if you have a relatively large family I’d double the recipe. These little bite-sized pillows of crispy almond heaven are quite addicting. Given their lighter nature, they disappear off the cookie tray rather quickly. {I think they’re Santa’s favorite!} Enjoy. And don’t forget to share!
Almond Spritz Trees