the whisk kid

Really Easy Last Minute Gifts (that don’t look like it) – Day 12 and best cookies on the planet

You are stuck for some last minute gifts and your present cabinet is looking pretty bare. What do you do? Bake. Really there are some really nice simple (and quick) recipes. Grab some sweet paper or containers at Target, The Paper Source, Christmas Tree Shops…where ever you can find it.

I head over to Martha Stewart or to Smitten Kitchen or The Whisk Kid for fail-proof recipes. I also like to give tea with my cookies – you can keep it casual but nice, too.

Recently I got distracted and instead of writing made-over my linen closet the Martha way and put together a car caddy – yes, a car caddy. Then in a very un-Martha-like way, the water I had in my caddy leaked all over my carefully prepared perfect tote. Yes, I dried it all out and re-assembled it and it is a little less precious now. Sort of like me.

Here are some of my favorites from Martha, and yes, if it is okay to mention this… she follows me on Twitter! Yes, she does! I was so thrilled when I found out (I told only about sixty million people but was afraid that if I wrote about it she may unfollow me and what then? Sigh, I will have a Martha-less Twitter-stream) and she tweets herself in case you don’t easy candy recipes and stocking stuffers from Martha Stewart on capability mom think so – go here…@MarthaStewart on Twitter. Why does Martha Stewart care what I tweet? Maybe she doesn’t but I wrote about The Whisk Kid who she had on her Color Show last year (of course, Martha probably found her first but I wrote about her first – whee!) Martha should stay tuned for my sister’s handmade wrapping paper – Yes, where is that paper, K?

Candy Recipes from Martha Stewart

Here are paper cones with gingerbread caramels (For an unMartha-like cheat: you can make the cones – any paper will do – and put in store bought sweets). Honestly, none of the recipes are hard. Peppermint bark is a three ingredient sweet that even the busiest mom or most nervous baker (no baking – just melting and cooling required!)

We all know a real-life Martha – you know, the one who is always put together and who hosts a cookie swap effortlessly while also chairing the PTO fundraiser and bakes dreamy home-made confections that make you weep, or, at the very least, not want to share what she bakes? No? You always share? That’s nice…Well, we all have our Martha moments but some have it more than others.

A friend, who we will call KB (she was a ballet dancer and is lovely, graceful, willow-y and she bakes like a dream) gave me this recipe after the following exchange was repeated to her (laughingly, by me).

Me to then 7 year old daughter, “Honey, Let’s go bake cookies together because your mom makes the best cookies on the planet”

7 year old daughter to me, having just recently tasted the cookies from the recipe below, said quite seriously, “No, Mom, KB makes the best cookies on the planet.”

Here you go – You will thank me later!

KB’s Chocolate Cinnamon Cookies heretofore known as The Best Cookies on the Planet

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz, bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
  • 2 tbsp. (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar
Photo Credit - David Lebovitz
Photo Credit - David Lebovitz

Stir chocolate and butter in top of double boiler over barely simmering water until melted and smooth (you can also put in glass microwave safe bowl and start with one minute in the microwave – increase time by 30 seconds intervals until melted). Remove from over water, cool to lukewarm.

Stir flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into medium bowl. Beat eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar and vanilla in large bowl until pale and thick, about 8 minutes. (Note: Start beating eggs AFTER chocolate is melted because it takes about 16-20 minutes for chocolate to cool to lukewarm). Fold in melted chocolate. Mix in dry ingredients in two additions.

Chill dough until firm enough to scoop, about one hour. Can be made one day ahead. cover, chill.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two large baking sheets. Shape dough by scant 2 tablespoonfuls into 1 1/2 inch balls. Roll in powdered sugar and place on prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until tops crack and cookies are just firm to the touch, about 12 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool. Makes about 30 cookies.

I have loved working with Pragmatic Mom on these posts – go see her last minute gift ideas here. Her make your own labels are as beautiful and easy to do as promised! Incredible! She is always fun and has great ideas, in fact, it was her idea to do this together which is really a Christmas present to me because she has a ton of daily readers and she shared my stuff with them – so nice – in real life and in virtual world. Thank, Pragmatic Mom – I look forward to more co-posting (like co-hosting but better) with you again soon!

The 12 Days of Shopping

I will be posting The 12 Days of Shopping jointly with Pragmatic Mom. Please visit her blog to see the other half of each post.

Dec 1: Make Your Own Gifts GRANOLA, Amazing Granola from Nigella Lawson versus Amazing Granola Bars from The Barefoot Contessa

Dec 2: Kids Make Gifts CRAFT (ModPodge versus Clove Fruit)

Dec 3: Personalized Gifts (Fancy Address Stampers versus Pretty Papers Giveaway)

Dec 4: Father-in-Law/Dad and Mother-in-Law/Mom

Dec 5: Tutors/Teachers

Dec 6: High Tech/Low Tech

Dec 7: Hostess/Gifts That Give Back

Dec 8: Sanitation Engineers, Mail Carriers, Hairdresser, Delivery People, Babysitter, Cleaning People, Dog Walker/Dog Trainer, etc. (a.k.a. who else did I forget?)

Dec 9: Husband, Me (Our Own Wacko List); Capability:Mom Husband/Wife

Dec 10: Dog/Cat

Dec 11: Quick Gifts from Whole Foods versus Gourmet Food Store

Dec 12: ’Cause I Am So Together, Last Minute Home Made Gifts: Cookies & Personalized Holiday Tags


Why I like Snow Days…Pop Tarts, homemade ones at that

I am nothing if not thorough, especially about food that I care about. Yes, I will eat a meal so fast I cannot have possibly tasted it, but mark my words, it is not fast food in any other way.  I am a secret foodie snob. While I cannot cook as well as I like to eat, I think that is a matter of focus, quite possibly research and planning and maybe talent (or the lack thereof). I know many very talented home cooks and bakers and although I do not consider myself one of them, every now and then I do focus and good things come out of my kitchen (like Vanilla Bread, Rainbow Cake, Coconut Macaroons). Oh, did I not tell you about the summer that I perfected the coconut macaroon? Well, I did. Ask my family  – “Mom, Are you making those cookies that only you like again?”-  Ask my friends, most of them do like the cookies and were willing to help with taste testing every batch. They are perfect and I will attach the recipe below, if I remembered to write it down, which I sort of didn’t so I will recreate it again. Damn, it’s good thing I am not a scientist on the brink of discovery for the cure for the common cold or something. It’s just a cookie, people, you’ll be fine. Plus it is Girl Scout Cookie time – just got my order in for the usual 8 boxes. No, I don’t have any to spare.

And then I found a recipe for pop tarts. homemade freakin’ pop tarts. The main ingredient in these tasty treats is butter and I have rounded up the best recipes and will – ahem – research them for you.

We will wake up – whenever we want to – school has already been cancelled for tomorrow – and bake pop tarts all morning and report back. If you are up early, here are links to the ones I thought were the best – in case you don’t want to wait for us.

Found them first on The Whisk Kid then I saw them here on another favorite, Smitten Kitchen. Both of these sites never disappoint so feel free to try one of them. I was in research mode so I found this at The Kitchn (from another fave – Joanne Chang of Flour), Because I am so nice, I also kept looking and found new sites Brown Eyed Baker and Chez Pim.

Check them out – they are lovely. I still haven’t decided how many I will try but, in the name of research, I will do my best (and deliver the extra to friends – something tells me that I may have to get these out of the house). Don’t worry, my sister told me the Girl Scout cookies come in on Monday.

The although-I-haven’t-made-them-in-a-while-coconut-macaroon-recipe-I-think-this-is-it. (I may have to make a batch and confirm this recipe). Sorry if not perfection!

4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut (I mix sweetened and unsweetened in equal amounts but I have seen a recipe that called for cake flour which I also might try – or would if these weren’t so perfect already)

Basically make them as if you were making a meringue cookie – beat the egg whites until fluffy and add sugar, salt and vanilla.  Fold in coconut and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. If you have time refrigerate them before baking for an hour, if not, it’s okay. These are pretty forgiving.

Don’t worry – I am also making Turkey Chili tomorrow – We do not subsist solely on baked goods!

The story of the rainbow cake on the day we had compromised water*

capability mom makes the rainbow cake - spoonsHere is the thing. I love to bake but am not especially gifted in this area. Oh, pshaw, Capability Mom, you say, it looks like you are…well, capable. I am capable but I am not inspired. I am a nervous baker and can’t easily adapt a recipe or change part of one that I like and add something else instead. I have friends who are incredible bakers and so I know the difference.

capability mom attempts the rainbow cake

These are the pretty cakes.

When I made The Whisk Kid’s crazy gorgeous rainbow cake, for instance, I followed her recipe exactly…except when I didn’t. Here is another thing about me – I love to read but not directions…like on cake flour boxes. So I had cake flour and thought how nice it would be to use it for a cake, logical, yes? But I failed to read the box which told you the formula (not difficult – just another tablespoon or so of cake flour for each cup called for in recipe) and when we made the first batch (yes, this was before we had no water – thankfully) and they were flat and full of airholes and some were quite raw. The colors were gorgeous but I knew the cakes were a failure. Sigh. I do so dislike failure. After determining that all were mostly lost, we remade the cakes with all-purpose flour – as I should have known to do in the first place – and they came out perfectly wonderful round layers.

At this point we called it a night. I had made the base butter cream frosting from The Whisk Kid’s recipe – my first ever – and was thrilled because it was delicious.  I covered it and put it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, I made the top coat of butter cream frosting and waited for the under or crumb coat frosting to come to room temperature. Despite the heat of the day (and it was so hot), that butter cream remained unspreadable. Rookie that I am, I was too nervous to do anything to it other than jab at it with a spoon (this does nothing) and make 3 or 4 more batches of the top coat (because I had started frosting with that and was now committed to it). Luckily, I had tons of eggs and sugar (and a container of egg whites that vaguely felt like cheating). Why did I not just go to the store and buy Duncan Hines? Because I am stubborn and I was making this cake and it would be from scratch because that would show my daughter that …what, exactly? The lesson learned was that her mom is, if anything, determined and stubborn, yeah, like that is news. I was pretty flustered but mostly capability mom's rainbow cakekept it together (except when I gave up and enlisted two middle schoolers to frost the cake because this is an area of great weakness for me) and I was putting together a party with a moonbounce, cotton candy machine and no water, thank you very much.

It was a success and thrill and surprise to most of the guests and worth the eggs, sugar and time spent. Next time I might read the directions, too.

*There was water – running water – we just had to boil it to use it for washing dishes and drinking and brushing teeth. Good times.

Go read about The Whisk Kid’s experience on Martha Stewart Show

 

Really, so exciting and she writes so well. Congrats!  http://whisk-kid.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2010-01-01T00%3A00%3A00-05%3A00&updated-max=2011-01-01T00%3A00%3A00-05%3A00&max-results=21

Oh, and you will need a kitchen scale.

  

 

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