Friday Faves: Halloween Edition

IMG_3980{my two favorite things}

Happy Halloween Eve! What are your plans for tomorrow? Any fun traditions? I’m looking forward to spending the evening with my niece and nephew, especially since it’s baby Harper’s first Halloween. She’s going as a ladybug (contrary to the photo above, where she and Cooper are just props for my Cat in the Hat costume), and Coop is going to be a little pumpkin. One costume is homemade and has been in the works for months, and one was scavenged from the last few remaining options in his size at Pottery Barn Kids a week ago (anyone who knows my sister or my sister-in-law can guess whose is whose), but they are both going to be adorable. I can’t wait until they’re old enough to trick-or-treat, but for the time being it will be nice to stay warm and dry inside handing out candy, as the forecast for tomorrow night looks pretty bad. Wishing everyone a lovely Halloween weekend, full of lots of treats and hopefully waterproof costumes! Some links and pics (a little baby-heavy, as that’s all I’ve been doing the past few days!):

  • Cooper is obsessed with spiders lately (and cookies too, incidentally) – I may need to make these for him.
  • Homemade Almond Joys – one of the many things on my to-do list for this Halloween that just didn’t happen (along with carving a pumpkin!) – but I’m thinking if I write it down here maybe I’ll hold myself to it for next year. I did make her homemade Twix a few years ago and they were to die for.
  • How cute are these Mummy Cupcakes?
  • I’m going to make this tomorrow night.
  • Lena Dunham’s costumes through the years – so funny!!

IMG_3997{favorite halloween candy}

IMG_3868{little skeleton buns in their honest diapers}

IMG_3853{cookie treats for friends and neighbors}

IMG_3988{coordinating cuddles (compare with last year – sob!)}

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze

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Smitten Kitchen first posted this recipe three Octobers ago, way back in 2012, a few days before I was planning to host a baby shower brunch for my friend Amanda.  I had the menu all planned out, but naturally I saw the blog post and decided I could definitely do homemade cinnamon rolls for a crowd on top of everything else.  I was also planning on homemade quiches, however, and at the eleventh hour decided I couldn’t do both – so I opted for pumpkin muffins, which I had made before and knew would be easier. On the one hand, thank goodness I came to my senses and didn’t attempt the cinnamon rolls, as I was pretty frazzled the morning of the shower (I have a vivid memory of calling a girlfriend at 8 am and asking her to pick up three dozen cupcakes, as I had run out of time to make them). But on the other, it’s really a shame I didn’t, as what I learned last week when I finally made them (three years later!) is that – as it turns out – they’re totally doable. And of course, as delicious as they sound.

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So please believe me when I tell you that you, too, can make homemade cinnamon rolls. You can make them from scratch, even. My grandmother is the only person I’ve ever known to make “homemade” cinnamon rolls, and even she uses frozen bread dough – so of course I assumed they must be really difficult. As it turns out, however, that’s not the case.  I’ve never worked with yeast before, and I was surprised at just how easy it is. It’s already packaged out for you in the baking aisle – you simply let it sit in some warm milk for five minutes and add it to your dough (just make sure you let the dough rise in a warm room ~ I had to turn the oven on in the kitchen, and in a moment of doubt even leave the oven door open for awhile/the full hour – but my dough rose!!).

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You have to let the dough rise twice, for an hour the first time and 45 minutes the second, but that’s still not nearly as long as I thought it would take (SK gives you the option of preparing the rolls the night before baking them, in which case you only have to let the dough rise once, and then the second “rise” happens overnight in the fridge). And you get to use the dough hook attachment to your mixer – I’ve had my mixer for over ten years and this is literally the first time I’ve used it (I was proud of myself more for even knowing where to find it than for the fact that I was actually making dough!). It’s also worth mentioning that the whole process makes your kitchen smell AH-mazing. Please make these tomorrow night, pop them in the fridge for the second rise, and then bake them Saturday morning for the best pumpkin treat you could give yourself. Happy Halloween!

One Year Ago: Barefoot Contessa’s Mac and Cheese and Beecher’s Mac and Cheese
Two Years Ago: My Favorite Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, from Smitten Kitchen 

Yield: 16-18 rolls

For the Dough
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 whole milk, warmed (but not over 116 degrees F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 0.25 ounce or 7 gram packet)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling the dough
1/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cup pumpkin purée, homemade or canned
1 large egg
Oil, for coating bowl

For the Filling
3/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon

For the Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Few drops vanilla extract (optional)

To Make Dough: Melt butter (brown it if you wish) and let it cool. Combine warm milk and yeast in a small bowl and set aside. After 5-7 minutes it should be a little foamy – if not, you may have some bad yeast and should start again with a new packet. Combine flour, sugars, salt, and spices in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add 1/4 of your melted butter (reserve the rest for assembly) and stir to combine, then add milk/yeast mixture, pumpkin, and egg. Once the dough starts to come together, switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook and run it on low for five minutes.  Scrape your dough into a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set the bowl in a warm, draft free area of your kitchen and let it rise for an hour. (Trick my aunt taught me: if your dough doesn’t seem to be rising enough, turn your oven on to warm up your kitchen). While the dough rises, prepare your baking dishes: line the bottoms of two 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans (or square or rectangular baking dishes) with parchment and then butter the sides of the pan and the parchment.

To Make Filling: Stir together the sugars, cinnamon, and salt.

To Make Glaze: Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Slowly drizzle in the milk until you reach your desired consistency – thick enough to ice (less milk) or thin enough to drizzle (more milk).

To Assemble Rolls: Scoop your dough onto a very well-floured surface, sprinkle some extra flour on top, and roll it out into a 16″ x 11″ rectangle. Brush the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the dough and sprinkle the filling evenly over the butter. Starting on a longer side, roll the dough as tightly as possible into a spiral. Using a sharp, serrated knife, saw the log with a back and forth motion as gently as possible (almost no pressure whatsoever) into 1″ rounds. Divide buns between the two prepared pans. Sprinkle any filling that has fallen out on top. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until puffed and golden, top with glaze, and dig in!

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Warm Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake

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If you read this blog even semi-regularly, you might start to worry that I only own two cookbooks. While in truth I have about half a bookshelf’s worth, it would be a fair assumption since I sometimes don’t do a very good job of branching out. Last week, in search of an easy fall dessert, I remembered a pear upside down cake I had made a couple years back, when I was trying to use up some pears from a friend’s orchard and really into my cast iron skillet cookbook. I dug up the recipe, happily realized I already had almost all of the ingredients on hand (if you keep the Trader Joe’s ginger chews on hand like I used to, you might even find you don’t have to go to the store at all!), and whipped this up in under an hour. In a season flooded with apple and pumpkin desserts, often rich and heavy or overly sugary, I think this is a great addition to anyone’s fall recipe repertoire. The cake has a barely-sweetened cornmeal crumb, the pears are deliciously buttery, and the spicy ginger adds a little kick. And of course, what’s prettier than an upside-down cake in a cast iron skillet?

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I probably say this too often, in my attempt to encourage everyone to actually make these recipes rather than just read about them, but this really is so easy to throw together. The only caveat is, I do think you need a cast iron skillet. While you could definitely make something similar in a regular cake pan (or ideally an 8×8 brownie pan), the cast iron is ideal here, for the way it caramelizes the fruit and of course for it’s stovetop-to-oven multi-tasking ability. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, consider buying one – the Lodge brand is relatively inexpensive and I use mine all the time. While I’ve done meat and fish in it a few times, I use it primarily for cheese dips and giant chocolate chip cookies – so if that doesn’t sell you I don’t know what will.  But make this first, because I know you have someone in your life giving you a basket of pears from their orchard that you need to use. And if you don’t, it’s a great excuse to buy a couple pounds at the farmer’s market this weekend! You could also use apples if you went on an overly-ambitious apple picking trip recently… but I do recommend trying it with pears first, because just like with cookbooks, sometimes you’ve got to mix it up a little bit!

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One Year Ago: Brown Butter and Bourbon Apple Crisp
Two Years Ago: Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

Warm Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake, from The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook by Sharon Kramis & Julie Kramis Hearne

Serves 8-10

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 pounds firm but ripe Bartlett or Anjou pears (about 4 pears), peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
2 tablespoons minced candied ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup medium-ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup boiling water
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
Fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for topping, optional

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add 1/4 cup of the sugar, stir just enough to combine, and cook without disturbing until the sugar dissolves and starts to turn golden brown/caramelize, about 5 minutes. Beginning with the outside edge and working your way towards the center in a circular pattern, arrange the pear slices on top of the caramelized sugar. Sprinkle the ginger and nutmeg over the top. Cook until the pears are soft and the caramel starts to thicken, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Place the cornmeal in a large bowl, add the boiling water, and stir to blend.  Add the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar to the cornmeal mixture and mix until well blended.  (This can be done by hand). Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, alternating it with the milk, making sure not to over mix. Pour the batter on top of the pears in the skillet.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the top starts to brown and the center of the cake feels firm and springs back when pressed, 18-20 minutes. Let the cake cook for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen it, and place an inverted plate on top of the skillet. Protecting both hands with oven mitts, flip the cake onto the plate. Replace any fruit that may have stuck to the skillet.  Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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Berry Buttermilk Bundt Cake

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This recipe was first posted back in 2012, which means for three years I knew about it and didn’t make it. This blog was started in 2013, which means there’s been over two years (and specifically, two Fourth of Julys) where I haven’t made it. I don’t really have a good excuse, aside from the overwhelming number of patriotic-themed recipes on my “to make” list, and/or who really feels like turning the oven on when it’s 90 degrees outside? But inspired by the berries at the market this past weekend, I finally dug out my bundt cake pan (usually reserved for rum cake season) and whipped one up – a week ahead of schedule, even – and I’m so glad I did, because now I can encourage you all to make it this weekend. For in addition to being absolutely delicious, it’s the perfect cake for Fourth of July weekend – it’s simple, you can make it ahead of time, you can transport it anywhere pretty easily, it’s packed with seasonal summer berries, and of course it’s red, white, and blue, a prerequisite for any Fourth of July dessert.

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I love this cake as written (Deb’s version is one cup raspberries, one cup blueberries, one cup blackberries), and the way I made it (per Deb’s suggestion, I added a fourth cup of berries – you could increase any or all of her three, but I used a cup of chopped strawberries so as to make her “triple berry bundt” a “quadruple berry bundt”), but I also love the idea that you could use this cake batter and add literally any fruit that you like. The original recipe (before Deb tweaked it) was for a rhubarb cake, and a lot of comments on Deb’s post recommended making it with peaches (yum!!). I’m also tempted to try an all strawberry version. If only it was 1950 and people were allowed to bake a cake a week.

Deb’s main tip (aside from adding a fourth cup of berries) was to make sure you grease your pan really, really well.  I used PAM for baking and didn’t have a problem at all, but my bundt cake pan is nonstick – from the comments to her post it seems as though people without nonstick pans had problems regardless of how well they greased them. My only other tip is – and I’m pretty proud of myself about this – I recently read (in my new Huckleberry cookbook, recipes coming soon!) that in baking you should always double the amount of salt and vanilla the recipe calls for.  I don’t have a problem doing this with vanilla – I feel like most recipes only call for one teaspoon, which seems like such a small amount – but the salt is a little scarier. According to Zoe, though, adding the extra salt brings out the sweetness of the sugar. She also recommends using only kosher salt, which I intend to do going forward but forgot in this particular instance.

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I served this for dessert on Sunday and it was quite the crowd pleaser. So while I regret waiting three years to make it, I’m glad I finally did. Better late than never, right? Happy baking, and happy Fourth of July!

Fourth of July, previously: Sugar Cookies, Flag Cake

Berry Buttermilk Bundt Cake, from Smitten Kitchen

For the Cake

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt*
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
Zest of one lemon
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract*
3/4 cup buttermilk
4 cups mixed berries**

*the recipe as written calls for 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; I doubled both amounts as discussed above.

**recipe calls for only 3 cups berries – I loved it with 4 but if you only have 3 cups on hand you’ll be fine.

For the Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar
Juice of one lemon
One tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Make the Cake

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and flour a 10 cup bundt cake pan, or spray with PAM for baking. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the 2 1/2 cups flour with baking powder and salt (reserving the 2 tablespoons flour); set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, stirring until just incorporated, then 1/2 of the buttermilk, another 1/3 flour, remaining buttermilk, and remaining flour. Scrape down the bowl as needed and beat as little as possible.

Toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons flour and fold the berries as gently as possible into the cake batter. It’s virtually impossible to do this without squishing the berries, but do your best. My raspberries all squished but they made the batter a pretty pink color. Gently spread the batter into the well-greased pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Bake 55-60 minutes, or until tester comes out clean, rotating the cake 180 degrees after 30 minutes so that it bakes evenly. Let the cake cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack before inverting it onto a serving platter. Let cool completely before frosting.

Make the Glaze

Stir the butter and lemon juice into the powdered sugar and whisk until smooth (use more lemon juice for a thinner icing, less for thicker – I used a little too much, so while it still tasted delicious it didn’t look quite as pretty as Deb’s). Drizzle the icing over the cake and let it drip down the sides.

Cake is delicious the day of, but even better the next day, and will last 3-4 days if tightly wrapped.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Tart with Orange Cardamom Shortbread Crust

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Once upon a time, back when I first started this blog, I posted so many recipes from this cookbook that I worried its author might sue me for copyright infringement. Or at least kindly ask that I stop posting all of her material, so that people still have reason to buy the book (which I strongly recommend, btw). I also thought my readers might find me pretty unoriginal. So I decided to take a break, but from time to time I just can’t help myself. This recipe is the first thing that comes to mind as soon as I see rhubarb hit the market each spring, so I thought it deserved a feature on B&B. It’s been an entire two months since I’ve posted (sorry!!!), but luckily this tart is gorgeous (and yummy) enough to motivate me to share it.  We already knew that strawberries and rhubarb were a delicious duo (thanks, pie), but the combination of fresh strawberries and silky smooth rhubarb curd (with no weird rhubarb strings) is really amazing.  And the orange cardamom shortbread crust is just to die for – I don’t usually love orange in sweets (give me lemon or lime any day) and I’m not a huge cardamom fan, but somehow here the combo really works.

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While I can’t call this recipe “super easy,” as I’m often inclined to do, it’s really not complicated, and yet your dinner guests will definitely think you’re an amazing pastry chef. However, it’s not quick. I made this particular tart last Sunday to bring to a birthday dinner, started it early-afternoon, thinking I would have plenty of time, and alas, I was pretty late to the party. Luckily I showed up with a beautiful dessert in hand, so no one seemed to mind too much.  You probably already have almost all of the ingredients in your fridge/pantry, which will save some time. The only two items I didn’t have on hand were the strawberries and rhubarb, which I picked up at the farmers market – no trip to the grocery store needed.

The recipe can basically be divided into two parts: the shortbread crust and the rhubarb curd.  Once you’ve prepared the crust dough, it takes over an hour to chill and bake, so you’ll have time to worry about the curd once the crust is in the refrigerator. Simply pulse the shortbread ingredients in the food processor and then press the dough into the pan and chill. So easy, it makes me want to make shortbread more often! The orange and cardamom is a lovely flavor combination, but I think this would be really amazing with lemon or lime zest too (see above re: not usually an orange fan).

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The second part is the curd. Don’t be intimidated – I had never made curd before I first made this recipe, but it’s not hard at all, just a little more involved. Squeeze the rhubarb juice from the purée (my four stalks of rhubarb yielded twice the amount of juice I needed – they may have been particularly juicy but I think you would be fine with 2 or 3 stalks) and combine with the sugar, eggs, yolks, and salt. [Note: I don’t know if I would attempt this recipe if you don’t have a food processor – you would probably be ok making the shortbread with a pastry cutter but you definitely need the food processor for the rhubarb.]  The time consuming part is the constant stirring – the recipe says 18-20 minutes, and although mine looked plenty thick after about 10 minutes, I kept stirring away until my timer went off, just in case. Melissa encourages the straining step to get that silky texture – there were definitely chunks of what I believe to be cooked egg that I strained out so I’m inclined to agree with her.

Once your crust is baked and your curd is finished, you get to put it all together (the fun part).  You could definitely make this ahead of time – either the crust or the curd, or both.  I’m not sure how long the tart would last once it’s assembled (whenever I’ve made it it gets devoured on day one), so if you wanted to make both in advance I would perhaps still keep the crust and curd separate until the day you want to serve the tart. Just bake the shortbread as directed in step 3, below, and then let it cool and store it in an air-tight container. Let the strained curd cool, place a layer of saran wrap directly on the surface of the curd, and store in the refrigerator. Once you’re ready to put it all together, pour the curd into the tart shell and bake for 10-15 minutes (Melissa says 10, mine didn’t look too set after 10 and so I gave it an extra 5, and even then I was still a little nervous it wasn’t done – but I was in a hurry).  Let the tart cool for at least an hour – see, I told you it was time consuming! – and then decorate with the strawberries.  I just hulled my berries and placed them cut side down on top of the curd, but you could cut them in half or slice them, and then arrange them any way you want. Sprinkle with powdered sugar (definitely don’t do this until the very last minute as the powdered sugar will kind of “melt” into the strawberries), pop the outer ring off of your tart pan, and place the tart on a serving platter.  People will tell you you’re amazing, and forgive you for being late to dinner.

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For the shortbread crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest (approx. the zest of one large orange)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

For the rhubarb curd filling:

10 ounces rhubarb, trimmed and cut into one inch pieces (about 3 cups chopped, I used 4 large stalks and had plenty)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

For the topping:

2 cups strawberries, rinsed and hulled
Powdered sugar, for sprinkling

To make tart:

1. To make the crust, place the flour, powdered sugar, orange zest, salt, and cardamom in the bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment and pulse to combine. Add the butter and run the motor just until a crumbly dough forms.

2. Scrape the dough into a 9-inch tart pan. Use your fingers to press the dough into and up the sides of the pan. Use a spatula to smooth the bottom, then chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line the tart dough with a sheet of foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until light golden brown, 35-40 minutes.

4. While the crust is baking, prepare the curd. Puree the rhubarb in a food processor until smooth, about 2-3 minutes (add a few teaspoons of water if necessary to help the rhubarb move, though try to keep this to a minimum so it doesn’t dilute the juice). Pour into a bowl lined with cheesecloth. Tighten the cheesecloth and squeeze out the juice with your hands, discarding the pulp. You should get about 2/3 cup juice.

5. In a double boiler or a stainless steel medium bowl set on top of a medium heavy-bottomed pot with 2 inches of simmering water, combine the rhubarb juice, sugar, egg yolks, eggs, and salt. Stir constantly, with a whisk, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides, while the liquid thickens, about 18-20 minutes or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and whisk in butter until dissolved.

6. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh sieve.

7. When the crust is ready, take it out of the oven, remove the foil and pie weights, and lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Spread the rhubarb curd into the tart shell and smooth with a spatula. Bake for another 10 minutes, until the curd is just set (mine needed 15). Transfer the tart to a wire rack to cool completely, for at least one hour.

8. Just before serving, arrange the strawberries on top of the curd and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve at once.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Variations: as I mentioned above, I think the crust would be great with lemon or lime zest in place of the orange, perhaps without the cardamom (but it might be fun to experiment with different spices?). While the point of this recipe is kind of the strawberry/rhubarb combo, Melissa says rasperries work great too.  I also think this tart can serve as an example for other fun and simple curds you could try – I’m thinking about lemon curd with raspberries or blueberries, lime curd with strawberries, mango curd with…..what goes with mango? Anything really, but I imagine strawberries would be delicious. If you’re inspired to make up your own variation, let me know in the comments how it turns out!

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Jimmy’s Pink Cookies

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Just in time for Valentine’s Day – barely! (and let’s not talk about how I didn’t post a single recipe all of January). I read about these cookies awhile ago, and have been patiently waiting for the right time to make them. And while one could argue that anytime is the right time for pink cookies, I think these are best saved for either a (baby girl) baby shower or Valentine’s Day. I made them for my sister-in-law’s baby shower a couple weeks ago, but of course didn’t think to take pictures, so I had to make them again this week for the blog (the sacrifices I make for you people!). They’re super easy, adorable, and delicious, so if you’re in need of a last minute treat for Saturday, I think these might be it.

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I read about these cookies in Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. Molly Wizenberg of Orangette and Delancey, so if she’s writing about a sugar cookie you know it must be good.  I’m guessing Jimmy is her friend; she credits him with the recipe.  I make sugar cookies pretty frequently so I’m a little disenchanted with them, but something about these – be it the excessive amount of butter, the cream cheese frosting, the pink – really makes them extra special.  They might not be as fancy as my usual royal-icing holiday cookies, but they taste a lot yummier – and you can frost them in about one-fifth of the time.  Coming from someone who was up an extra three hours last night (and missed Scandal) outlining and flooding three dozen Valentine hearts, that’s worth a lot.

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Please note the cherry extract in the photo. The frosting calls for kirsch or cherry extract – per my Google research, kirsch is a cherry-flavored brandy, traditionally used in fondue (gross?). I couldn’t find it anywhere, although if I’m being honest I didn’t look that hard, because cherry extract sounded more like something that belongs in frosting. However, when I made these for my sister-in-law’s baby shower a couple weeks ago I couldn’t find the cherry extract either, and I actually DID look – at seven different stores.  SEVEN. Including a Wal-Mart, because when I Googled “cherry extract” Wal-Mart popped up. Again, the things I do for this blog – it takes a lot to get me into a Wal-Mart. But alas, they didn’t have it, nor did any of the other six places I tried – so I just used vanilla and the cookies were delicious. And then for purposes of blog accuracy I ordered cherry extract on Amazon and used it this time, and I have to admit I kind of liked it. But I have a weird palate for artificial fruit flavor I think – it smells just like cough syrup, which I also weirdly love.  All of this is to say, if you have kirsch on hand (or find yourself at a liquor store and feel like splurging on a bottle, even though you only need a teaspoon for this recipe), by all means please try it (you can always use the rest of the bottle for fondue, apparently). If you’re planning ahead and want to order cherry extract on Amazon, I definitely wouldn’t discourage you (you could also just borrow mine). But if both of those options sound stressful, you could definitely use vanilla – or almond – or any flavor you like – and your cookies will be just fine.

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Aren’t they so cute? My only regret is that I didn’t use more frosting – Molly tells you to spread it on thick but I was worried about running out so I scrimped a little, and then of course I had tons left over. The frosting really makes the cookie – I think it should be as thick as the cookie itself. Happy Valentine’s Day! (And incidentally, happy second birthday to B&B! Valentine’s Day Year One and Year Two, if you want to kill some time). XOXO.

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Jimmy’s Pink Cookies, from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

For the Cookies
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (3 ounces, or 3/4 of one stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/4 teaspoons kirsch, or more to taste, or a capful of cherry extract
Red (or pink) food coloring

To make the cookies, combine the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat, first on low speed, and then slowly increasing to medium, until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt and whisk well. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating until the flour is just absorbed. Add the vanilla and beat well to incorporate. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on a large, clean surface, and turn the dough out onto it. Gather the dough into a ball, press it into a thick disk, and wrap it well. Refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. On a clean, floured surface, roll the dough out to a thickness of 3/8 inch. (If you don’t have a lot of room, cut the disk of dough down the middle and work with only one half at a time, leaving the second half in the refrigerator until ready for use.) Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into whatever shapes you like. Molly uses a 2 1/2 inch round cutter, which, once the cookies have puffed slightly during baking, yields a 2 3/4-to-3 inch cookie. Jimmy uses a much bigger cutter, often in the shape of a heart. I used small (2″) and medium (3″) hearts – the cookies are pretty rich so I opted not to use my large (4″) heart, but you definitely could just go for it and make them huge.

Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake them one sheet at a time, keeping the second sheet in the refrigerator or freezer until the first one is done, for 16-20 minutes, or until the cookies are pale golden at the edge. Do not allow them to brown (oops, some of mine did!). Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and cool the cookies completely on the pan.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed to fully incorporate, then raise the speed to medium or medium high and beat until there are no lumps, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the kirsch (or extract) and a couple drops of red (or pink) food coloring and beat well. The frosting should be a pretty shade of pale pink. Taste, and if you want more cherry flavor, beat in a bit more kirsch (or extract). Generously spread frosting onto fully cooled cookies. Decorate with sprinkles if you’re so inclined.

Stored in an airtight container, pink cookies will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days – and they’re delicious cold – or you can freeze them indefinitely.

Yield: 20-24 (3-inch) cookies (I yielded 15 3″ hearts and 15 2″ hearts)

photo 3

Friday Faves

photo 2{pumpkin ice cream with toasted marshmallow}

Happy rainy Friday! What are you up to this weekend? I’m hoping to get back on track in terms of my Thanksgiving preparedness…..and in that vein, I found some links that will hopefully be helpful for all of us. I get to go see John Oliver as an early birthday present from my dad (he is the best!!), and I’m also hoping to carve out some time to see this movie (and that we can still get tickets!). If I can squeeze in a manicure as well, I’ll be a happy girl (it’s a rough life, I know). Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!

photo-4
{‘Evelyn‘ glassybaby in memory of my grandma Evelyn’s birthday earlier this week}

photo 1{view from the train}

photo-84 {coop’s thanksgiving present – dorky but I just can’t help myself}

photo-83{love these dimples}