Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake Muffins/Cupcakes and Layered Carrot Cake






Sourdough Bread

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Caramel Brownies

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen, these are possibly the best brownies I have made or eaten. I will definitely make these again.

Servings: 72 brownies, 1-1/2-inch squares

6 Tbsp. heavy cream
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, divided, additional for greasing pans
4 eggs

6 oz. unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate
3 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 tsp. sea salt flakes, divided
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups all purpose flour

Make caramels
Cover a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray, set aside. In a large pan, melt 1 cup sugar until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, stir until butter is melted. Stir in the heavy cream and 1/2 tsp. sea salt flakes, and return to heat to remelt the sugar and darken the color slightly for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the caramel onto the parchment paper and freeze or refrigerate until firm, approximately 2 hours in the refrigerator or 45 minutes in the freezer. Remove caramels sheet from the pan and peel off parchment. Cut into pieces, approximately 1-inch by 1/2-inch. Place piece back on parchment and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Make brownie batter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees-F. Using a large mixing bowl as the top of a double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate and remaining 1 cup (2 sticks) butter. Removing bowl from heat and add remaining 2 cups sugar and whisk until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula in between each egg. Add vanilla extract and remaining 1/2 tsp. sea salt flakes, and stir until combined. Add flour and stir until incorporated.

Assemble brownies
Line two 8-inch x 8-inch cake pans or one 9-inch x 13-inch pan (the one pan method will make thicker brownies) with parchment and butter the top of the parchment with the additional butter. Pour  approximately one-third of the brownie batter into the bottom of the pan, spread out with a spatula to be sure the is an even layer. Place one-half of caramels on top of batter evenly. Pour the next one-third of brown batter over the caramels. Place remaining one-half of caramels on top of batter. Pour remaining batter over caramels, it is okay if the caramels are not covered completely.

Bake and chill
Bake brownies for 15 minutes, then rotate pan 180-degrees and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes. Transfer pan to a cooling rack and leaving in the pan until room temperature, about 1 hour. Turn brownies out and peel off parchment, and place on a cutting board or cookie sheet. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour.

Cut and serve
Cut brownies until 1-1/2-inch squares and serve at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator to keep the caramel firm.


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Browned Butter Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

This is a slight variation on Brown Butter Salted Caramel Cookies, a favorite of some of my colleagues.

Servings: 36 cookies

1-1/4 cup (2-1/2 sticks) butter, divided, room temperature
2 eggs
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
2-3/4 cups (11-1/2 oz.) shifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup caramel sauce, such as Hershey
3 cups Confectioners’ sugar
2 Tbsp. coarse sea salt

Brown butter
Heat 1 cup (2 sticks) butter over medium heat on the stove in a medium sauce pan. Watch butter closely and swirl occasionally. Butter will foam and after a few minutes the foam will start to brown slightly. Remove from heat as soon as brown coloring appears. Transfer to a heat-proof container, including all of the browned pieces stuck to the pan, and let butter cool to room temperature.

Cream butter and sugars
When butter is cooled, preheat oven to 350 degrees-F. Place butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Mix until well combined. Add eggs and 2 tsp. vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.

Add dry ingredients
In a separate small bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Shift to combine. Slowly add dry ingredients to large mixing bowl and combine.  Scrap sides of bowl as needed to combine all ingredients.

Form cookies and bake
When dough is formed, use a measuring spoon or small melon-baller to divide dough into 1-inch diameter balls. Place remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll each dough ball in the sugar and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Place sugared balls several inches apart. Use a measuring cup or drinking glass to flatten the balls to about 2-1/2 inches diameter. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating sheets half way through baking for even browning. Remove from oven and let cool on sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to colling racks to cool completely.

Frost and salt
In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, remaining 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, and remaining 1/4 cup butter. Combine with a hand mixer or stand mixer until smooth. Slowly add Confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth. Working with one cookie at a time, use an angled spatula and frost cookie with approximately 2 tsp. of frosting. Immediately sprinkle the cookie with coarse sea salt so the salt sticks to the frosting – salt lightly, a little on each cookie is all that is needed.

Frosting will harden slightly after a few hours at room temperature, faster in the refrigerator, making it easier for transport or storage. Store in an air-tight container.

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Shortbread Cookie

This is my first shortbread cookie and I was surprised how easy it was – I will be making this again. It was a perfect accompaniment to a rich chocolate peanut butter ice cream Jim made. Cooks Illustrated provided the base recipe and I made a few adjustments.

Servings: 16

14 Tbsp. (1-3/4 sticks) butter, cold

1/2 cup rolled oats
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup Confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt

Make dough
Preheat oven to 450 degrees-F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the collar of a spring-form pan upside-down with the collar fully open and the ridge at the top. Grind the rolled oats into a flour use a blender. Combine oat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cut the cold butter into 1/2-Tbsp. pieces and add to the mixer. On the low speed, combine the ingredients until a dough forms, approximately 5 minutes – be patient, the dough will come together. Press the dough into the spring-form collar, using a spoon to smooth the dough into approximately 1/2-thick disk inside the collar. With a metal cookie cutter or biscuit cutter, approximately 2-inches in diameter, cut out the center of the cookie and place the cut-out on the outside of the spring-form collar.

Bake and cool
Bake cookie at 450 degrees-F for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees-F without open the oven door. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Score the cookie with a knife into 16 equal slices, approximately one-half way deep, and pierce with a toothpick, approximately 8 holes per slice. Return to the oven and turn off the heat. Prop the oven door open with a long-handled spoon. Let the cookie dry in the oven for 1 hour. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely, approximately another hour.

Break cookies apart on the scored lines when ready to serve. Store at room temperature in a sealed container for several days.

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White Chocolate Heart Cheesecake

Inspired by a photo from Cooking Classy and always in search of an improved cheesecake recipe, I put together the following recipe with beautiful and delicious results.

Servings: 16 slices

6 oz. raspberries
5 Tbsp. butter, additional for greasing the pan
1-1/2 lbs. cream cheese, softened
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream

1-1/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
25 Oreo cookies
1/8 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. white chocolate

Make cookie crust
Melt 5 Tbsp. butter and set aside. Use additional butter to grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring form pan and place pan in the refrigerator while making the crust. Separate the Oreo cookies and scrap off the white icing filling, discard the filling. Place the cookies in a large, sealed Ziplock bag. Use a rolling pin to crush the cookies to fine crumbs, should yield approximately 1-1/2 cups crumbs. Combine cookie crumbs, 1/4 granulated sugar, salt, and melted butter in a small bowl and mix to combine. Pour cookie mixture into the chilled greased pan. Press crumbs into the bottom and half-way up the sides of the pan. Cover the outside of the pan with two layers of aluminum foil in preparation for the water bath during baking. Place the pan in the refrigerator to chill while preparing the cheesecake.

Make raspberry sauce
Dissolve 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar and cornstarch in 1/3 cup water in a small pot. Add raspberries to the pot and heat over medium heat, bringing to a boil and reduce heat. Stir constantly while mixture simmers and thickens, approximately five minutes. Push raspberry sauce through a fine sieve and discard seeds. Set mixture aside to cool.

Make cheesecake filling
Preheat oven to 325 degrees-F. Beat cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Reduce mixer speed to low and add melted chocolate, mixing for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Add remaining 1 cup granulated sugar and beat mixture for 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each eggs. Add vanilla, heavy cream, lemon zest, and sour cream, and mix on low until incorporate.

Assemble cake and bake
Transfer 2 Tbsp. of raspberry sauce to a container that can be used to drop raspberry sauce on top of cake such as a medicine dropper or frosting decorator and set aside. Place spring form pan in a roasting pan and start a kettle of water to boil on the stove. Pour one-third of cream cheese filling into the filled cookie crust. Pour remaining raspberry mixture on top of cream cheese layer. Pour another one-third of cream cheese filling top of raspberry layer. Use a toothpick to swirl the mixtures together. Carefully pour the final one-third of cream cheese filling to completely cover the raspberry mixture so the top of the cake is cream cheese only. Use the raspberry sauce set aside for decoration to drop circles on top of the cake in a spiral, starting in the center and gradually increasing or decreasing the size of the circles as desired. Use a clean toothpick and start just above the the circle and drag through the center of the circles in a continuous line through the spiral. Transfer roasting pan to the preheated oven and carefully pour boiling water into the roasting pan for the water bath.

Bake for 60 minutes or until sides are set and center jiggles slightly. Turn off oven and prop oven door open with a long-handled spoon. Leave cake in the oven for an additional 60 minutes. Transfer cake to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature in the pan, about 2 hours.

Chill and serve
Cover cake with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to set overnight. When ready to serve, slice and serve immediately. Store cake in the refrigerator.

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Mardi Gras King Cake


Browned Butter Banana Cupcakes

With a few over-ripe bananas, I looked for recipe alternatives to Banana Bread, since I’ve baked a half dozen banana breads in the past month. I found a few recipes on Pinterest and combined to created this banana cupcake with a honey cream frosting.

Servings: 24 cupcakes

1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, room temperature, divided
2 eggs, room temperature
3 to 4 overripe bananas, about 1-1/2 cups mashed
3/4 cup buttermilk, divided
1/2 cup plus 1-1/2 tsp. honey
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1-1/4 cups Confectioners’ sugar

Brown butter
Place 1 cup (2 sticks) butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Melt butter and reduce heat to medium-low. Butter will foam and sputter, continue cooking until butter is browned, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Check on the butter frequently to prevent burning.

Make batter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees-F. Strain the melted browned butter through a sieve and discard the solid browned bits. Place butter in the work bowl of a stand mixer. Add granulated sugar, 1/2 cup honey, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract to the butter and mix with the paddle attachment for 2 to 3 minutes or until well combined. Add eggs one at a time. Add mashed bananas and stir until combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, combine with a whisk. Alternate adding dry ingredients with 1/2 cup buttermilk to the stand mixer, stirring on medium low, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.

Bake cupcakes
Line 24 cupcakes with paper liners. Spoon batter evenly into the cupcake pan, approximately 3/4 full. Bake for 8 minutes then rotate pans and bake for an addition 8 to 9 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans on cooling racks for five minutes. Transfer cupcakes to cooling racks to cool completely.

Make icing
While cupcakes cool,  combine remaining 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cream cheese, remaining 1-1/2 tsp. honey, and remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk in a large bowl. Beating with a hand mixer or stand mixer until smooth. Slowly add Confectioners’ sugar while whisking on low. Transfer to a large icing bag and place in the refrigerator for 5 minutes.

Decorate and serve
When cupcakes are cooled, pipe icing on top of cupcakes and decorate as desired.  Store in the refrigerator if not eating immediately.


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Homemade Thin Mints

We were first inspired to make homemade Tagalongs, then we looked for the iconic Girl Scout recipe: Thin Mints. Thin Mints are not as hands-on time consuming as Tagalongs, but there are multiple freezing and chilling steps, so be prepared to dedicate an afternoon to this endeavor.

Servings: 48 cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. milk

1 cup granulated sugar
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/3 tsp. peppermint extract, divided
1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening
8 oz. dark chocolate

Make and chill cookie dough
The work bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and granulated sugar. In a separate small bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, and salt. Add milk and vanilla extract to the creamed butter. Slowly add flour mixture until dough comes together.Divide dough in half and shape dough into two long cylinders, 1-1/2-inch in diameter each. Wrap each cylinder in plastic wrap and freeze for at least two hours.

Bake cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees-F. Remove dough from freezer and slice each log into 24 cookies, approximately 1/4-inch thick each. Place parchment on cookie sheets and place dough circles on the parchment. Dough will not expand during baking and can be placed close together. Bake cookies for 13 to 15 minutes, or until cookies are firm. Let cool for two minutes on the cookie sheets and transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

Dip cookies in chocolate
Place the chocolate and shortening in a small bowl over simmering water in a double boiler. Stir to combine thoroughly. Place wax paper on a cookie sheet. Remove cookies from the refrigerator. Remove melted chocolate from the double boiler to the counter. Drop one into the melted chocolate. Using a fork or two chopsticks, flip cookie over and remove from the chocolate, allow excess chocolate to drip off cookie, and place on the wax paper. Repeat until all cookies are coated. Return to the refrigerator until chocolate is set, approximately two hours.

Keep cookies refrigerated until ready to serve.

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Raspberry – Toasted Walnut Tart

With extra raspberries in the refrigerator, leftover toasted walnuts in the freezer, and a roll of homemade pastry looking for a purpose, I pulled together a quick tart to bring into the office. Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.


Servings: 16

1 roll (8 oz.) puff pastry or pie crust for 1 pie
8 oz. raspberries
1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
2 eggs

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Make the pastry
Roll the pastry to approximately 10-1/2-inch diameter circle. Spray the inside of a metal tart pan with cooking pan. Place the pastry in the pan and push into the ridged edges and pierce the bottom with a fork a dozen times. Place the pastry in the freezer for one hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees-F.  Bake the pastry for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Let rest on a cooling rack.

Fill the tart
In a medium mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla, and mix until well combined and set aside. Place the raspberries in the pastry and sprinkle the walnuts on top. Pour the egg mixture over the raspberries and walnuts.

Bake the tart for 40 minutes or until the top is browned.

Let tart cool completely before cutting and serving. Store in the refrigerator.

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