Venezuelan Polvorosa Cookies

Vene Polvorosa Cookie_n

These cookies are SOOOOO good!!! I can’t believe I didn’t discover them until just recently but now that I am “in the know“, these easy cookies have been added to my cookie rotation. A little while back I was asked to do a cooking lesson with my friend’s Girl Scout troop and the focus was, “Snacks From Other Cultures“, and I thought these would be a nice treat to bring in for the girls. They are a traditional Venezuelan cookie that is typically made around the Christmas holiday but truth be told, they are a wonderful treat anytime of the year!

I came across this recipe online at the “Mommy’s Home Cooking” blog site, you can find the original recipe right here . It is such a super easy recipe to make and the ingredients are things that most everyone should have on hand. The recipe calls for pure vanilla extract as a flavoring but since this is a very “vanilla forward” cookie, I decided to amp up the flavor by using vanilla paste (I love all of the flecking in the cookies!!) and my homemade vanilla sugar instead of plain granulated sugar. It was absolutely delicious with these two additions however, they aren’t necessary to use in order to make a delicious cookie. The cookies are still excellent even if you’re using plain granulated sugar and vanilla extract.

This cookie is a crumbly, sandy cookie which I found to be delicious but it’s important to NOT over-bake them or they will really dry out and have an unappealing texture. Watch them carefully towards the end of the baking time, you’re looking for a light colored cookie with just very slight browning on the sides. I didn’t let mine go past the 25 minute mark and they were absolutely perfect. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, for coating 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix shortening on medium speed until creamy, about 20 seconds. Blend in sugar and salt and mix to combine. Add in vanilla and cinnamon.

With the mixer set on low speed, slowly add in the flour and mix just until combined.

Roll balls of dough, about 1 tablespoons of dough per cookie. Arrange the balls on a large baking sheet, spacing them 1/2 inch apart. Press fork into the tops to flatten them a little.

Bake for 20 -25 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the sides. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cookies are cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies

EASTER SUGAR COOKIES

I love ALL things vanilla! It’s my most favorite flavor and smell and when made right, nothing beats a good vanilla sugar cookie. This recipe comes from an amazing cookbook that I picked up a few months back entitled, Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques by Shauna Sever. If you love vanilla this is one cookbook you’ll want to add to your collection. It’s filled with delicious recipes for cookies, cakes, puddings and even candy!

I followed this recipe as is however, instead of just using pure vanilla extract I also used vanilla paste because I really wanted to bring out and highlight the vanilla flavor of this cookie. I used two teaspoons of vanilla paste and one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract in the cookie dough. I did have to restrain myself from throwing the whole bottle in! The combination of vanilla paste and extract really made for an exceptionally flavored cookie! I highly recommend investing in a bottle of vanilla paste if you haven’t already done so. It is a little pricey nowadays but in desserts that are very vanilla forward such as these cookies, it’s really worth using.

While most cookies are incredible when they come right out of the oven, I have found that these cookies actually improve in flavor as they cool and “age“. As they cool the vanilla notes really pop and the texture becomes that perfect combination of sandy, chewy and crispy. I thought that the next day, they were even better and more perfect. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 cup vanilla sugar*
  • colored sanding sugar

*If you do not have vanilla sugar, plain granulated sugar is also fine to use.*

Instructions

Position racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. Preheat to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt. In another small bowl, whisk together the oil and egg.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, confectioners sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale in color, about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually beat in the oil/egg mixture until smooth. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed until smooth. The dough will be soft.

Roll dough into balls, about 1 tbs in size and place them about 2″ apart on the baking sheets. Pour the vanilla sugar onto a plate and dip a flat bottom glass into the sugar to coat, press into each ball to flatten to about 1/4″ thickness. Re-sugar the glass after every cookie. Sprinkle the cookies with colored sanding sugar.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are pale golden and just beginning to lightly brown at the edges. Rotate the cookies sheets from top to bottom and from front to back about halfway through baking. Allow cookies to cool on the pan for about 2 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

**Tip** – Make vanilla sugar by taking used, scraped vanilla beans and submerging them in granulated sugar. Store in a tightly sealed container and within a few weeks you will have vanilla sugar which is perfect to use in all baking applications.

Toasted Marshmallow S’mores Cake

Toasted Marshmallow Cake

If you love S’mores than this is your cake! It’s a rich dark chocolate cake filled with crushed graham crackers and marshmallow meringue frosting and then covered in even more marshmallow meringue frosting and browned until nice and toasty. It was OUT OF THIS WORLD! I made this for my son’s 5th birthday the other day and it was a huge hit! My birthday boy and all of the guests loved it and the best part? It might look fancy but it is super easy to make.

I started with the recipe for my Dark Chocolate Cake which is both easy and foolproof.  The Marshmallow Meringue Frosting was taken from the cookbook,Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence: Irresistibly Sweet, Salty, Gooey, Sticky, Fluffy, Creamy, Crunchy Treats which you can pick up on Amazon if interested. The frosting is also super easy to make but make sure your cakes are cooled and ready to go as you should frost them right after making the frosting. The frosting will be glossy and fluffy like melted marshmallows and although it will be sticky, it will go on the cake nicely as long as you move quickly. After toasting, it will take on a nice, slightly dry outer coating which is simply delicious.

You can toast the marshmallow meringue frosting one of two ways, either in the oven or with a basic kitchen torch. I happen to have a kitchen torch however, as luck would have it I was out of butane the day I made this. So I did what any good cook does when faced with a challenge in the kitchen, I improvised! First I toasted the cake in the oven at 375ºF for about 4 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on the cake as it can toast quickly and you don’t want it to burn. Then, using an Aim n’ Flame®, I toasted the outside edges. It took longer than using a kitchen torch and it didn’t toast quite as evenly but it still gave me the desired result and the frosting came out browned and toasty.

Finish off the cake by spreading a little extra marshmallow frosting on top and covering with crushed graham crackers and broken up Hershey® bar pieces. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 large egg
  • 1 cup (8 oz) brewed coffee, cold
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp white vinegar

For the marshmallow meringue frosting

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs light corn syrup
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • large pinch of Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the assembled cake

  • 1 sleeve of graham cracker, crushed
  • 1 large Hershey® bar, broken into pieces

Instructions

For the cake – Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour two 9″ round baking pans. Place a round of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan for even easier release.

Combine all of the dry ingredients and mix well. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add all of the wet ingredients. Mix until smooth, batter will be very thin. Bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs.

Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes then loosen the cake from the pan and turn out onto the wire rack. Cool completely.

For the marshmallow frosting – In a large heat-proof bowl, whisk together the egg whites, corn syrup, sugar and salt. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Whisk the mixture as it heats and cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high-speed until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract and mix until just incorporated. Frost cake immediately.

To assemble the cake – Cover the bottom layer of cake with a thick coating of the marshmallow meringue frosting. Cover with half of the crushed graham crackers. Place the second layer on top and completely frost the cake. To toast the frosting, either place the cake in a 375ºF oven for 4 minutes OR use a kitchen torch. Once the frosting is toasted and dry to the touch, add some more of the marshmallow meringue frosting on top and cover with the remaining crushed graham crackers and broken pieces of Hershey® bar.

Kitchen Must Have – Vanilla Paste

Vanilla Paste 2

Aaaahhhh……………vanilla. What’s better in baking then the rich, deep flavor of vanilla? It adds such amazing flavor to everything from candies to cakes to cookies, it’s an absolute staple in every kitchen the world over. Like most people, I use to always bake with vanilla extract but then I discovered vanilla paste and once I did, my whole world changed. Vanilla paste will take your baked goods to the next level, it’s THAT good!

Vanilla paste can be used in exactly the same way as extract only it has a richer, stronger flavor. It also imparts all of the appealing vanilla flecks into your baking so not only will your baked goods taste better, but they will look prettier too! Although called “paste” it really doesn’t have the consistency of paste at all, it’s more like a thick, rich maple syrup. Because vanilla paste is made from the scrapings of a vanilla pod and not alcohol, it won’t have the unpleasant flavor of extract if you taste it straight. Instead, it will taste rich and delicious.

I keep both vanilla extract and vanilla paste in my spice cabinet but I use them in different ways. For recipes where the vanilla flavor will be very pronounced (buttercream, custards, pound cake, puddings, sugar cookies, etc.) I will opt for the vanilla paste since the flavor is stronger. Plus, I love the flecking in baked goods that are very vanilla forward. On the flip side, when a recipe calls for vanilla but it’s not really the “star of the show”, I’ll use the vanilla extract instead. The nice thing is they can be used interchangeably and they measure out teaspoon for teaspoon. That being said, I have been known to double the vanilla paste in some recipes because when it comes to vanilla, you just can’t go wrong with adding a little more!

Vanilla paste is readily available in many stores, especially cooking stores such as Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma. A popular brand is Nielsen-Massey (pictured above) which is absolutely delicious and reasonably priced. You can also find vanilla paste online, my favorite site for all things vanilla is Beanilla . Their prices are fantastic and their products are wonderful, especially their Grade A vanilla beans which are so fresh, soft, and oily. Generally speaking, expect to pay a little more for the vanilla paste then you would for vanilla extract however, I think the extra cost is worth every penny.

I truly cannot recommend vanilla paste enough, it really is a “Kitchen Must Have” and it’s one of my most favorite ingredients. The next time you’re baking up a cake or a batch of sugar cookies, definitely give it a try. I am confident that once you try vanilla paste, your little bottle of extract will start to collect some dust in that spice cabinet!

**Tip** – When using vanilla extract always use “pure vanilla extract” and NOT “imitation vanilla extract”. Pure vanilla is made by extracting flavor from real vanilla beans using 35%+ alcohol. Pure vanilla should be dark and rich just like the beans it was extracted from. Imitation and “clear” vanilla extracts are made from artificial ingredients.

For more information on vanilla extract and to learn how to make your own, click here .

 

 

Crazy Sprinkle Four Layer Rainbow Cake

Sprinkle Cake 1

My daughter loves sprinkles and all things rainbow so for her 9th birthday this week I decided to make her a very special rainbow cake. It was four layers of vibrant vanilla cake frosted with Swiss Meringue Buttercream  and then covered in an entire container of sprinkles. It was the perfect cake for my sweet little girl who is growing up way too fast, I could’ve sworn she was just born yesterday!!

For the four layers, I used the Wilton Easy Layers Cake Loaf Pan 4 Pc . These pans are great, they are small and shallow but when layered together they create an impressive cake. You can also get them in various shapes such as scalloped, square, and round. If you enjoy baking cakes they are worth adding to your pan collection.

For the vanilla cake I tried out Buddy Valastro’s (The Cake Boss) recipe that was featured on the “Rachael Ray” show. You can find the original recipe here . It was a fairly moist and flavorful cake and it paired nicely with the buttercream frosting that I made but I think if I used this recipe again I would like to enhance the vanilla flavor even further. I like a really deep, rich vanilla cake and I think this one came up a little short even after doubling the amount of vanilla that was called for in the recipe. In the end, the cake as a whole was excellent and everyone enjoyed it so I will check this recipe off as a success!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract OR vanilla paste
  • Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
  • Jar of rainbow sprinkles

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray each of the four layer pans with cooking spray and then place a sheet of parchment paper (cut to size) in the bottom of each one, spray again with cooking spray.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and eggs together until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Add flour, milk, oil, baking powder, and vanilla and beat for another minute, just until the batter is smooth and creamy. Don’t overbeat. Pour batter into the prepared baking pans.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the tops are golden and a toothpick poked into the center of the layer comes out clean. Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes then turn them out of the pan onto the rack. Cool completely before frosting.

On a rectangular dish or cake board, place the first layer of cake and frost with a thin layer of buttercream. Repeat until all of the layers are stacked. Then apply a thin crumb coat to the cake, place in the fridge for about 20 minutes to allow it to set. Frost the cake with the remainder of the buttercream and then coat the entire cake in sprinkles. Gently press in the sprinkles on the sides of the cake to ensure they stick. Store the cake in the fridge until serving time.

**Tip** – Be sure and adjust the cooking time as needed if using different sized pans.

Sprinkle Cake 2

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

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There are few ingredients that are as delicious smelling and widely used in baking than vanilla. A good vanilla extract will enhance your baking and really make it sing. When it comes to vanilla extract you have the option of using pure vanilla or imitation vanilla. Pure vanilla is made by extracting flavor from real vanilla beans using 35%+ alcohol. Pure vanilla should be dark and rich just like the beans it was extracted from. Imitation and “clear” vanilla extracts are made from artificial ingredients.

If you’re making a recipe where it’s very vanilla forward meaning, the vanilla flavor is meant to stand out, then it’s highly recommended that you use pure vanilla. Examples of vanilla forward desserts are pastry creams, custards, sugar cookies, and vanilla cakes. If you’re baking something where the vanilla won’t stand out and isn’t meant to be the “star” then go ahead and use imitation vanilla if you wish. You can save your pure vanilla extracts, vanilla pastes, and vanilla beans for when it will really count. I prefer to use strictly pure vanilla in all of my baking however, that is simply personal preference.

When making your own vanilla extract you can use either premium or Grade B vanilla beans. The premium beans will be the most plump and flavor rich and because of that they will cost you significantly more money. Grade B beans are less expensive so they tend to be smaller, drier, and contain imperfections however, they will still work in a homemade extract. I like to use Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans but feel free to use Indonesian, Tahitian, or Mexican Vanilla Beans as well. Depending upon which bean you choose the extract will have a slightly different flavor.

Vanilla extract will take about 8 weeks before it’s ready to use however, the longer you leave it the stronger and more pronounced the vanilla flavor will be. Make sure to store it in a cool, dry, dark place and give it a shake a few times a week. Once it’s ready you can use it in your baking just like any store-bought version.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz glass bottle or jar
  • 7 vanilla beans, split
  • 1 cup of 70 Proof/35% alcohol Vodka (you can also use Bourbon, Rum, or Brandy)

Instructions

Run a knife down the length of each bean slicing it open. Place the vanilla beans into the jar. Pour the alcohol over the beans making sure they are fully submerged. Place in a cool, dry, dark space (such as the back of a cabinet) and give it a shake every few days. Wait at least 8 weeks and then the extract will be ready to use. Enjoy!

**Tip** – A great place to buy vanilla beans and vanilla products is Beanilla.com . They usually have the best prices, offer free shipping, and the quality of their products is top-notch.

Cake Batter Sprinkle Cookies

cakebattercookies

I was looking for a quick treat to make the kids and came across this recipe on Facebook from the “So Yummy” blog, they were called Four Way Cookie Sandwiches . Normally I like to make my baked goods all from scratch but I was a little intrigued by this recipe so I decided to give it a try. The cookies were very good, slightly crispy on the edge and nice and soft on the inside. They also had a really nice vanilla cake flavor and my kids loved all of the sprinkles throughout. These cookies were definitely a hit in our house, it’s a recipe I will make again if I need some quick, home baked cookies.

The original recipe calls for the cookies to be filled with frosting and then sandwiched together however, I decided to just make a basic batch of cookies and not fill them. I also added in a teaspoon of vanilla paste because everything is better with a little vanilla and I used a French Vanilla cake mix for even more vanilla flavor. The recipe calls for the cookies to be baked for 15 minutes but at that point my cookies were still raw in the middle so I let them go another 5 minutes, checking them at the halfway point. After 25 minutes the cookies were cooked through nicely but they never did brown. Had I left them in the oven any longer to achieve a golden brown color they would’ve most definitely turned out too dry and overdone. Be sure to keep an eye on the cookies towards the end of baking as oven times vary.

Next time I’ll try these cookies filled with frosting. If you want to sandwich them together don’t feel like you’re stuck just using a vanilla frosting. Try out chocolate, Nutella™, marshmallow creme, etc. The possibilities are endless! I would even try rolling the sandwiched cookies in crushed cookies, chocolate chips, or even broken up candy bar pieces! All would be a yummy choice and something a little different from just traditional sprinkles.

Ingredients

  • 1 box of vanilla cake mix
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup colored sprinkles
  • 1/2 cup pre-made vanilla frosting, optional 

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the eggs, oil, sprinkles and cake mix together. Stir until well combined. Using a cookie scoop, place cookies onto a Silpat™ lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes and cool on wire racks.

If sandwiching the cookies together, frost one cookie and place another cookie on top. Gently roll the sides of the cookie in the topping of your choice. Enjoy!

So Yummy Blog – Four Way Cookie Video

 

Homemade Coffee Creamers

creamers

I love the idea of flavored coffee creamers but I get a little out grossed out by what’s in them. I’ve tried some of the “natural” ones that they sell now and while they are okay, they don’t have a ton of flavor choices to pick from. So I decided to just make my own!!

I adapted the recipe for these creamers from the link below. I added a touch more vanilla in my recipe and increased the half and half from 1 3/4 cups to 2 cups. Feel free to play around with this recipe until you reach your desired consistency and flavor profile.

Homemade Coffee Creamers

The creamers took me about 5 minutes to throw together and they were delicious! It’s nothing more than sweetened condensed milk, half and half (or heavy cream if you like a thicker creamer) and flavorings. You can make so many different flavor combinations once you have the base down, the possibilities are endless. For the recipe below, I decided to split the recipe and make two flavors, Hazelnut and Cinnamon Vanilla. The creamers are great in coffee but REALLY good in hot cocoa too!!

Store the creamers in a cute Mason jar and give them a good shake before using. They will keep about 7-10 days in the fridge.

**Tip** – If you have any leftover creamer after a few days and you want to use it up, dip a few thick slices of Challah bread in the creamer and grill up some deliciously flavored French Toast. 

Ingredients

  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups half and half or heavy cream

For Cinnamon Vanilla Flavor

  • 2-3 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

For Hazelnut Flavor

  • 2 tsp pure hazelnut extract

Instructions

Combine all of the ingredients together in a Mason jar or other container, shake well to combine, and pour. Store in fridge for 7-10 days.

**Tip** – I like to label anything that I make homemade so I know what it is and when it was made. Ball makes great dissolvable labels for this purpose. You can get them from Amazon using the link below:

Ball Dissolvable Labels, Set of 60