Monday, October 10, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes

These cupcakes are not too heavy but still delicious.  They capture the wonderful fall flavors of pumpkin.  Adapted from Skinnytaste.com.

Ingredients:
1 Yellow or Golden Vanilla Cake Mix (18.25oz size)
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp ground cinnamon + 1/2 tsp ground ginger + 1/4 tsp ground allspice + 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg )
1 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
1 cup water
optional additions:  1 egg, chocolate chips, cream cheese frosting

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a cupcake tin with cupcake wrappers.

Combine cake mix and pumpkin spice in a large bowl. Add pumpkin puree and water, mix about 2 minutes.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake about 20 - 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Makes 20-24 cupcakes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chewy Sugar Cookies

A sugar cookie crisp at the edges, soft and chewy in the center, crackly-crisp on top, and richly flavorful!   Same amazing flavor as my mom's stir and drop sugar cookies.  Note: the final dough will be slightly softer than most cookie dough.  Adapted slightly from Cook's Illustrated.

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 ounces of cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup sugar (for rolling and sprinkling)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.  In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3.  In a large bowl place 1 1/2 cups of sugar and cream cheese.  Then pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small umps will remain, but will smooth out later).  Whisk in oil.  Then add egg, milk, and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth.
4.  Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until a soft dough forms.
5.  Divide dough into 2 dozen cookies (about 2 tablespoons each).  Roll into balls with your hands then roll into the reserved 1/4 cup of sugar in a shallow dish to coat.  Space cookies evenly on the baking sheet about 12 per sheet.  Flatten the dough balls using the bottom of a drinking glass.  Sprinkle the tops evely with remaining sugar form the dish or with decorative/colored sugar sprinkles.
6.  Bake until edges are just set and beginning to brown about 11-13 minutes, rotating after 7 minutes.  Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Variation: Spiced Sugar Cookies
In step 3 add 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, and pinch of ground black pepper to the sugar and cream cheese mixture.  Reduce the vanilla to 1 teaspoon.

Variation: Coconut-Lime Sugar Cookies
Whisk 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut, chopped fine, into flour mixture in step 2.  Add 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest to sugar and cream cheese mixture in step 3 and substitute 1 tablespoon of lime juice for vanilla extract.