Spritz Cookies, Two Recipes

You don't really need a long, drawn out explanation of these recipes, do you? I thought not.

Cake Mix Lemon Spritz Cookies
Adapted from a Pampered Chef recipe

1 18.25 oz box lemon cake mix (you can use other flavors)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 lb butter (4 sticks), room temperature
Food color, if desired (I added a few drops of yellow food color to
(The original recipe called for 1 tsp vanilla. I did not use. You could also use lemon extract to enhance the lemon flavor.)
Colored sugars or other decorations, optional

Preheat oven to 375.

Melt 2 sticks of butter in microwave. Cut the other 2 sticks into 1" pieces, and place in mixer bowl. Add the melted butter to the soft butter and mix to a creamy consistency. Add cake mix and flour and stir until well blended. Dough will be soft; do not refrigerate, or the dough will be too firm to go through the press.

Fill Cookie Press and press cookies onto ungreased cookie sheet or baking stone one inch apart. Decorate with colored sugars and press lightly to adhere.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until firm but not brown. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet, then remove to cooling rack.

Classic Spritz Cookies
Modified from a Pampered Chef recipe

1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks), softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (14 ounces)
Food coloring, if desired
Colored sugar or sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Beat butter on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar, egg and vanilla; beat well. Add flour, 1 cup at a time; mix well. Add food coloring, if desired, and mix well. Dough will be soft; do not refrigerate, or the dough will be too firm to go through the press.

Fill cookie press with dough. Press dough onto ungreased cookie sheet or baking stone one inch apart. Decorate cookies with colored sugar or sprinkles, if desired, and press lightly to adhere.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until firm but not brown. Cool 2 minutes; remove to cooling rack.

Recipe says it yields 6-7 dozen cookies; I got 5 dozen using the Christmas tree.

Rosemary Bread a la Macaroni Grill

This loaf is a bit too brown.

This is a bread I've tried several times and have never gotten just perfect, but I improve it a little bit each time I make it. I started using this recipe because a friend and I used to like the complimentary bread at Macaroni Grill.

I have no idea whether they still serve it, as I focus on locally owned restaurants as a reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle.

Rosemary Bread a la Macaroni Grill

This is supposedly a copycat Macaroni Grill bread recipe. I found it online and have tweaked each time.

1 Tablespoon dry yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons instant/Rapid Rise
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cup white flour (can use half white whole wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
2 T fresh rosemary, chopped, divided use (do not used dried)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
nonstick cooking spray (or parchment)
kosher salt

Place yeast, sugar and water in large bowl or food processor and allow mixture to become bubbly. Mix in 2 cups of flour and the salt. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of the fresh chopped rosemary. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or in food processor about one to three minutes, until smooth and elastic. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour as necessary.

Oil a bowl, put dough in it and cover with a towel. Let dough rise in a warm place for one hour or  until doubled.

Punch down dough and divide in half. Let dough rest about 5 to 10 minutes.

Spray baking pan or cookie sheet with cooking spray, or line with a Silpat or parchment. Shape the dough into two small rounded loaves.

Sprinkle remaining 1/2 Tablespoon of rosemary and about 1/2 Tablespoon coarse salt on a small plate. Spray or brush the top of the loaves with a little water, then dunk the loaf in the rosemary and salt. Press lightly. Turn the salted sides upright and let rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 15 - 25 minutes, until lightly browned.

Come Read Me at the D&C!

When I started entering cooking contests in 2004, and made my first attempt at blogging in 2006, I couldn't have imagined it would lead to this.

Today I started my dream job: food and beverage reporter for the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester. I am beyond excited.

As a result, this blog is dormant as I turn my efforts to my new job, but it remains here as an online source of recipes.

Come read me at: democratandchronicle.com. And while you're at it, subscribe, would ya?

Peanut Butter Dip a la Football

Every year, I try to make a football-themed dish for our friend's Super Bowl party. Sometimes the dish looks like footballs, other times they pay homage to one or more of the teams.

This year cried out for a dented football. My initial inclination was to make chocolate peanut butter eggs, molded to look like a dented football. 

Then I was feeling under the weather and just didn't have the energy with molding and dipping individual footballs. 

I happened upon a version of this dip on Facebook -- it didn't attribute the original author so I have no way of crediting whoever came up with the idea.

The dip itself was easy to mix together, but the end result was a far cry from the picture I saw on Facebook. I can't imagine how anyone could fully cover the football with mini chocolate chips (or jimmies in the original photo, but they taste like wax and look like mouse poop). Also, the white chocolate I piped didn't stick right to the irregular surface.

It's hard to see the dents in the football, but they are on either side of the white laces, because that's how my husband told me a football deflates.

Anyhoo, I wasn't going to post about this homely creation, especially because I didn't feel good enough to go to the party. But when my husband put all of the dippers -- animal crackers and pretzel sticks -- around it, people pounced so quickly that he couldn't take a shot of the completed platter for me. So I thought I'd post the recipe. In the future, I wouldn't bother molding it -- I'd serve it in a bowl and garnish with mini chocolate chips.

Peanut Butter Dip a la Football

¼ cup butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup peanut butter (I used smooth)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
½ cup mini chocolate chips
Mini chocolate chips for the outside of the football (or chocolate jimmies)
White chocolate or frosting for the football laces

Mix butter, cream cheese, peanut butter and vanilla until mixed. Add powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, and mix until combined. Mix in chocolate chips.

Turn out mixture on a large sheet of waxed paper. Use your hands to form into a football shape. Place the waxed paper onto your serving plate. Put a little dollop of peanut butter under the wax paper so it doesn’t move around.

Cover in sprinkles or chocolate chips, pressing them into the surface a little so they stick. They will not cover completely unless you want to spend hours on this. Once done, trim around the wax paper. Pipe on the laces using melted white chocolate or a bit of white frosting. Chill until ready to serve.

Serve with pretzels, animal crackers, cookies or graham crackers.

Pumpkin Bread from The Book of Bread

One of the benefits of working at a pumpkin farm is that I can usually snatch a few Long Island Cheese pumpkins left over at the end of the season. These large, squat buff-colored pumpkins -- the same color as butternut squash -- make a particularly beautiful pumpkin puree. (This post shows you how I do it.)  As a result, I'm always looking for recipes calling for pumpkin puree.

When I have a hankering for baking any kind of bread, the first cookbook I check is The Book of Bread by Judith and Evan Jones. The writing is great -- as well it should be, as Judith was the editor for Julia Child -- and nearly every recipe I've tried has turned out beautifully, with the curious exception of muffins. This recipe for pumpkin bread was no exception. It was very moist, and just sweet enough to be a yummy breakfast treat, but not feel like I'm eating cake. As with nearly all quick breads, I think this tastes best after an evening in the fridge.

Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from The Book of Bread by Judith and Evan Jones
Makes one 9-inch loaf, or small loaves

1 3/4 cups (217 grams) white flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree (I use fresh, but you could use canned)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup chocolate chips, chopped nuts or toasted sunflower seeds, optional (if using chocolate chips, toss in a bit of the flour so they don't sink the to bottom)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and baking soda in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together the pumpkin, oil, water, eggs and spices in a large bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones, enough to mix. Fold in the chocolate chips, nuts or sunflower seeds, if desired.

Turn into a well buttered 9-inch loaf pan (or 3 small pans) and bake in a preheated 350 oven for 50-60 minutes. (For smaller loaves, start checking at 45 minutes.) Let cool for 5 minutes or so, then turn out onto racks and cool.

My Special Recipe from Joan Rivers

About 15 years ago, my Moms club decided to do a cookbook as a fundraiser. My bright idea: contact well-known local and national mothers and ask them to contribute a recipe in order to generate interest in the cookbook. Contacting those moms was a time-consuming process, but it was fun to check the mail (yes, the mail) each day to see who sent me a contribution.

Here's one of my favorites, from Joan Rivers, the way it appeared in print. Whenever I make it in the future, I'll think of her fondly. May she rest in peace.