Sunday, March 20, 2011

Puppy Pops

My favorite little girl in the world just had her 2nd birthday party on Saturday! Last year, her mom, my sister, and I made an amazing and elaborate cake/cupcake display when she turned one.

Pretty good, right? Well, this year, baby number 2 arrived a week before her birthday, so I was left on my own to top last year's cake. For Christmas, my sister gave me a great cakepop recipe book and I found the cutest puppy pops to make. They were a little complicated, so I got my sister to help out.

We started out mostly making a disaster - just a few little things, like breaking bowls, dumping chocolate on the floor, failed dipping attempts, etc...

But after we got the hang of it, I think they turned out pretty great!

Here's the simple version of how to make them:
  1. Make any flavor cakeballs. (Check here for cakeball directions)
  2. Using lollipop sticks, dip the cakeballs in either white or milk chocolate.
  3. Use some of the melted chocolate to add a lifesaver for the collar. It helps to slide it up the stick first, then put chocolate on the bottom of the cakeball.
  4. Make the ears by piping some of the melted chocolate in a teardrop shape onto a plastic spoon. Put the spoons in the freezer to harden for a couple of minutes, then pop the ears off. Attach the ears using some of the melted chocolate.
  5. Cut some brown mini M&M's in half, then add one for the nose.
  6. Using an edible ink pen, draw the eyes and mouth.
When they were all finished, we stuck them into a Portillo's chocolate cake - Yum! We also made some cakeball candles, which I think were almost as cute as the puppies!

And I'm pretty sure the birthday girl loved her puppy pops, too!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Leprechaun Hats

Technically these aren't baking (I mean, you can't actually eat them) and I know St. Patrick's Day is over, but these are too adorable and I love them too much not to share! I mean, look how cute...

Before I explain how to make them, I just need to give you the set-up for this whole project...

In first grade, we celebrate holidays big-time. I just think it's hilarious to get the kids all hyped up about things like Groundhog Day, St. Patrick's Day, all these random holidays. And they LOVE it, too. This St. Patrick's day project is one of my favorites; I get excited about it every year. So here's how it works...

On the day before St. Patrick's day I read the kids a cute little leprechaun book and we talk about how tiny they are and how if you catch them, they will give you a pot of gold. Then I tell them that we are going to make leprechaun traps and see if we can catch one in our classroom. The trap is a styrofoam cup that they color with a green permanent marker. Then they make a little bit of gold out of yellow construction paper to entice the leprechaun into their trap. The last step is to write a letter to convince the leprechaun to come inside.

They were super serious about these letters and traps. They made me call them "party fun houses" instead of traps. They really took their time setting up the traps and placing them just so on their desks. I mean, look how cute their letters and traps are...

At the end of the day I gather up all of the gold and letters (and toss them in the trash in the classroom across the hall). Then I take the cups home to turn them into hats. Three easy steps:
  1. Turn the oven on the lowest temperature.
  2. Put the cups upside down on some cookie sheets.
  3. Bake them until they shrink down into little hats!

Adorable! I worry a little bit about being in the house with the smell of baking styrofoam, but they are so cute and fun, that I just can't help it.

The next day, I put one of the hats with a little gold coin on each kiddo's desk and a note from the leprechauns on the board.

When they come in, the kids are so excited about what the leprechauns left behind, and I get to enjoy how sweet and gullible they are. They really believe that the leprechuans came and they either ran away so fast that their hats fell off or that somehow the leprechauns were able to shrink the traps down to make hats.

I can only imagine their conversations at home at the end of the day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The One With Homemade Caramel Delights!

It's just about the end of Girl Scout cookie season, and I realized I didn't buy a single box. The girls I thought would sell me some never did, so I missed my chance! I was feeling a little depressed about this until...tada, I magically found a recipe for homemade Caramel Delights, which are my absolute favorite! Hooray, crisis averted, I will get my Girl Scout cookie fix this year!

Anyway, the original recipe came from Baking Bites. She's kinda wordy, so hopefully I will make it a little simpler here, although it is rather complicated, for a cookie. Meaning, there are lots of steps, so hang in there! Here we go...

Step One (as always): Gather Your Ingredients (for the base cookie)

 You Will Need:

  1. 1 c. butter, softened
  2. 1/2 c. sugat
  3. 2 c. flour (I used 1/2 white, 1/2 whole wheat white)
  4. 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  5. 1/2 tsp. salt
  6. 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  7. She says up to 2 Tbs. milk. I used 5 Tbs. (Just so you are sure to have enough)
  8. (Optional) Large Diet Coke from McDonald's

Step Two: Make the Cookie Dough

  1. Cream together butter and sugar.
  2. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed
  3. Add vanilla and milk. Add the milk little by little until the dough mixes together without getting too sticky. This is where I just kept adding and adding!  She says you might not need all the milk, and to add some flour if the dough is too sticky. I don't know why mine was so dry. Oh well.
Step Three: Roll Out the Dough

*I had never tried this method of rolling out cookie dough before, but it worked out really well!
  1. Use about 1/3 of the dough. Form it into a ball and place on a sheet of wax paper.
  2. Smoosh it out a little, then cover with another sheet of wax paper. I also added a little bit of flour to the top and bottom of the dough.
  3. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out about 1/4 inch thick. I don't actually have a rolling pin - I used a water bottle. Worked just as well!

Step Four: Cut out and Bake the Cookies

1. Use a round cookie or biscuit cutter to make circle cookie shapes. I used one of my scone cutters from Scotland.

2. Use a straw to poke a hole in the middle of each cookie. (You'll see later why this was a pretty useless step.)

3. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.

4. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Step Five: Make the Topping

There are 2 pretty simple tasks involved in this step:

1. Toast the coconut: Put 3 c. shredded coconut on a baking tray. Put it in the oven at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Every 5 minutes, stir it around so it doesn't burn.

2. Make the caramel topping: Unwrap about 20 bajillion caramels (or 12 oz. of caramels). Put them in a bowl with 3 Tbs. milk and 1/4 tsp. salt. Microwave it all for about 3 minutes. Make sure you stop a few times to stir the mixture. When it's all melted, stir in the toasted coconut.

Step Six: Put it All Together
  1. Glob some of the caramel mixture on top of each cookie.

2. Melt some chocoloate chips or dipping chocolate. Then dip the bottom of each cookie into the chocolate. Place the cookies on a sheet of wax paper to dry.

3. Put the rest of the melted chocolate into a ziplock and snip off the corner of the bag. Drizzle each cookie with the melted chocolate.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Brownie Points!

Lately in First Grade, we've been playing a little game when we come in after lunch and when we line up to go home. The game is pretty simple: If the kiddos can do it quietly, they earn a brownie point. If they are too loud or crazy, no points. When they fill up the pan with "brownies", I make some tasty treats for them to enjoy the next day.

To play the game, we use 12 brown construction paper squares with magnets on the back and a small cookie tray. My mom thought this was hilarious when she saw it. Good thing the kids couldn't hear her laughing so hard, because they take these brownie points very seriously!

I was pretty excited when they filled up the pan because
  1. I get to sneak some brownies before the kids get them. 
  2. I LOVE baking brownies in my Perfect Brownie Pan!
If you haven't seen this pan, it's great because it makes all of your brownies the same size and cuts them for you! The only thing you have to remember is to use A LOT of cooking spray before, otherwise you'll have a little trouble getting the brownies out at the end! The pan is really easy to use, too. All you do is pour the batter in, then shove the grid down on top of it all.

The brownies come out all gooey and chewy and the same size, so none of the little munchkins say "Why is mine so small?" After eating these tasty treats, all they can say is "Wow, you are the best teacher ever. Where did you get the recipe for these brownies? (Um...on the back of the box!) You are so pretty and nice!" Aww, thanks guys. (Really, this was our actual conversation as they ate their brownies today.)

P.S. Don't forget to buy the ones with the BoxTops!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mmmm...Banana Bread Muffins

Just look at these super cute muffin papers I got for Christmas from my sister:

I've been waiting for a chance to use them, so when my mom found this new banana muffin recipe, I thought they would be perfect! (You can find the original recipe here.)

You will need:
  • 2 c. flour - I used whole wheat white flour
  • 1 c. brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. oil - I used regular vegetable oil
  • 4 large, very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
  • sanding sugar or sugar in the raw for sprinkling - I forgot to add this, and they still turned out yummy!
The recipe is pretty simple:
  1. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Stir in the oil until combined. The batter will be very dry and crumbly. Make sure to mix it all the way together.
  3. Mash the bananas in a bowl (I just used a fork to mash them). Add them along with the chocolate chips to the flour mixture. Stir until combined.
  4. Fill the muffin papers almost to the top and sprinkle with the sugar (if you don't forget).
  5. Bake for about 22 minutes at 350 degrees. Turn the pan once during baking.
*I got a little nervous about filling the papers almost all the way up to the top. Lots of times I end up filling them too full and the muffins or cupcakes explode out of the top. But I filled them pretty full, crossed my fingers, and popped them in the oven.

Turns out there was no need to be nervous, they did not explode, but came out just about perfect!

FYI, I think this might be my new go-to banana bread recipe.
They were that good!

Friday, March 4, 2011

The One With Even More Whoopies!

Whoopies of the Week: Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Whoopie Pies

I read somewhere recently that whoopie pies might be the new cupcake, so I guess I'd better keep making 'em!

Again, my recipe (for the pies and the frosting) came from Whoopie Pies : Dozens of Mix 'em, Match 'em, Eat 'em Up Recipes.

These AMAZING oreo banana pancakes from The Bongo Room inspired me to put the banana pies with chocolate frosting.

Then I added Nutella as the secret ingredient.

Step One: Make the Whoopies

Gather up all of the ingredients. Mix together the dry, then the wet. Then mix them both together and bake them up into pies.

Step Two: Make the Frosting

(Oops, no pictures, but you can imagine - just mix the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, milk, and cocoa powder together).

Step Three: Put It All Together

The pies came out a little misshapen. They weren't all the same size, so it was a little bit of a challenge to find 2 pies that were about the same size to put together.

Once you find 2 matching pies, the rest is easy. Just put some chocolate frosting on one side, some Nutella on the other, and smoosh the 2 pies together.

These were so good! It was like a combination of crepes and banana bread, plus chocolate frosting. Hmm...that description might sound a little strange, but trust me, they were delicious!