Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Favorite Things Giveaway

I’ve been blogging and Facebooking (yes, it can be a verb) for just over a year and I thought we should celebrate.   Bakerella was a huge baking inspiration to me and she still is for even more reasons.  Last year I had the fun opportunity to meet her and give away a signed copy of her CAKE POPS book.  So I though in keeping with that spirit, this year I would include her fabulous CAKE POP KIT – but that is not all.

Oprah, Martha, Julie Andrews (as in brown paper packages tied up with string)… they all have their favorite things and, so do I.  My favorite things in this giveaway include:
* 3 mini spatulas (which I seriously could not live without)
* “I Can Bake Vanilla Sugar Snowflakes” sugar cookie mix with snowflake cookie cutter (I love making snowflakes sugar cookies are so fun to bake because they are all different and festive)
* Wilton Mitten Comfort-Grip Cutter (what says winter like a mitten?)
* 2 squeeze bottles with tips that can be changed
* 1 container (5 oz.) Ateco Meringue Powder (which I have said over and over again tastes like marshmallows) – not in photo but definitely one of my favorites so I had to include.

I love this giveaway because it gets you all set up to bake for the holidays – cakepops and cookies.

Are you excited?  I am!

So what else do I need to tell you?  You need the details on how to get involved in this awesome favorite giveaway -- which are as follows…

1. Make a comment at the bottom of any blog post from now until December 4, 2011 telling me about your favorite cookie, what you will be baking for the holidays or a cute holiday baking story and include that you want to win.

2.  Click on the facebook “like” button to press Flour Child.  Comment on Facebook letting me know you want to win.  

3.  Get a friend to “like” Flour Child on Facebook and let me know.

So that is 3 ways to get your name in the random draw to win My Favorite Things giveaway (yes if you get ten friends to like Flour Child, you get 10 chances to win – so you can have multiple chances -- but lets say up to 12 entries per person to give everyone a fair shot).

The contest closes 7 pm on Sunday December 4, 2011.

Good Luck!

With Peace & Cookies


P.S. This giveaway is offered and sponsored by me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sweet & Salty Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread

I love the sweet/salty combination so when I saw this recipe for Pretzel-Shortbread Bars in a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living I had to try it.  It just sounded too good to be true the sweet the salty the perfection – I would no longer need to be torn between those two contrasting and favorite tastes because it was going to be all in one cookie.

I ran out to The Main Course (one of my favorite kitchen stores in Toronto) to buy a 4¼” x 13 ½” fluted tart pans with a removable bottom which the recipe calls for but totally does not need because you can make it in an 8” or 9” square or circle pan.  Martha never tells you these kinds of details so you end up with a lot of pans that you really don’t have room for – because few of us have multiple huge kitchens like Martha.  That being said, I do see that this fluted tart pan will be a useful pan for brunch tarts and making this recipe over and over again. 

And then, I made the recipe as directed.  It was good, really quite nice, but (did you hear that coming…) I just felt it was missing something.  I sampled it around to some friends and everyone liked it but (see that word again…) a few discerning friends agreed that it could be even better.  Carol and Shari suggested chocolate chips which I though was a really good idea and was going to go down that path until I had a very serious discussion with my friend Alan who mentioned that he does not really like pretzels unless they are chocolate covered – LIGHT BULB -- and I adapted the recipe. 
This really great shortbread will satisfy a multiple of flavour cravings in a single morsel so no need to bake anything else.

1½ cups mini pretzels in any shape (this is going to be ground into ½ cup of “pretzel flour”
1½ cups chocolate covered pretzels (this makes the crumble pretzels – I think even the pretzel M&M’s would be great but if I keep adapting this recipe I’ll never get it posted)
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 large egg yolk

Preheat oven to 325O
Coat a 4¼” x 13 ½” fluted tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray (TIP:  remember you can use 8” or 9” square or circle pan // ANOTHER TIP:  When baking I use a baking spray with flour -- specifically I use Pillsbury Baking Spray with Flour).

Pulse 1½ cups pretzels in a food processor until powdery (this is what I’m calling “pretzel flour” – you need ½ cup of this so you may need a bit more or you may end up with a little extra (save this for the next time you make this recipe.  Martha says to discard any extra but I think you will want to make this again so save it.  Transfer ½ cup of pretzel flour to a bowl.  Stir in flour and baking powder.  

Crush the 1½ cups of chocolate covered pretzels – make different sizes to give the cookies some dimension – some can be more coarsely chopped than others.  I used these Rold Gold because they are delish and come in a great size bag -- can probably make two batches with this but I ate the ones I did not use because they are sweet and salty (did I mention I really like that flavour combo?).

Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and beat in egg yolk, followed by pretzel-flour mixture, until combined.  Hand mix in chocolate covered pretzels.

Press dough evenly into pan. 

Bake shortbread 20 to 25 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack.

Remove cooled shortbread from pan and cut into nice size pieces that work for you.  I cut mine into rectangles because 1. I bought the pan and 2. Martha told me to.

So I learned a thing or two in making these cookies.  I learned that it is OK to play around a great recipe base and make it your own.  And I learned (well this one I already knew) that sharing with friends makes everything better – I had lots of taste testers on this cookie because getting it just right to share took a few flopped batches. 

If you try this recipe or add your own special ingredient please let me know how it turned out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, Do You Hear Christmas Coming?

Do you know the Eric Carle / Bill Martin Jr. book Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear?   It’s a great question and response book that draws kids into a fun interaction as they imitate animal sounds.  While I was making these fuzzy (that is to say sugary) polar bear cookies I kept thinking of the book and saying Polar Bear, Polar Bear do you hear the holidays coming?  These cookies are cuddly as a bear and will look super cute individually wrapped with any colour ribbon.  I must say I love white cookies for the holidays – they just work.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Pecan Puffs" or "Snow Balls"

I’m not the only baker in my family.  My husband has some favorites from his childhood including his Mom’s recipe for “Pecan Puffs” or as he calls them, “White Balls”-- which may have been fine 40 years ago but today has a whole different connotation.  I think they are a fabulous holiday cookie so I’m calling them “Snow Balls”.  One of the reasons they are such a great Holiday cookie is because they can be made and frozen in advance.  You can pull out as many as you need when guests arrive, recoat with icing sugar, and still have more for New Years.  They are a very festive cookie, look really pretty in mini-baking cups and totally melt in your mouth yummy. 

Here is a jump start on your holiday baking -- you can thank me later by posting how they turned out or how great it was to have them in your freezer for any pleasantly unexpected guests who show up around the holidays.

1 cup butter (room temperature is always easier)
½ cup icing sugar (plus more for coating)
2 cups flour
1 tsp. vanilla
¾ cup ground pecans

Preheat oven to 3000.
Cream butter and icing sugar until really smooth.  Stir in vanilla.
Add flour and stir until combined.  Mix in ground pecan.
Roll into 1½ inch balls.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown – don’t forget to ALWAYS turn the cookie sheet half way
Put some icing sugar in a small bowl.  While still warm, roll each cookie in the sugar, and set on a rack to cool.
Once cool, you can put in a bag or container for the freezer. 
Pull out as many cookies as required.
Re-coat with icing sugar before serving.
Makes about 40 cookies – could be more or less depending on cookie size.

So whether you call these cookies Pecan Puffs, Snow Balls or White Balls we hope you enjoy these childhood favorites of the “other” baker in our family.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Moustaches for Movember

Did you know its Movember? -- the 11th month of the year that some call November.  In Movember you will notice moustaches sprouting up on thousands of men’s faces, in Canada and around the world. With their “Mo’s”, the men raise funds and awareness for men's health, specifically the fight against prostate cancer.  I made these Mo cookies and sponsored my 16-year-old cousin Noah in his quest to grow an awesome Mo.  What are you doing for Movember?