M&M Cookies

Easter is just around the corner, and I’m sending a little treat package to my goddaughter Maureen and her family. In it are these M&M cookies, a classic recipe that’s probably been made for many a school bake sale, church picnic, and holiday.

How does one get the M&Ms to look so perfect on the top of each cookie? One places them there immediately after removing the baked cookies from the oven, that’s how. You can certainly add a few to the top before the bake (notice the cracks in the purple and yellow M&Ms in the photo at left- those were ones I’d placed on the raw dough before baking), but to get that pretty food stylist look, you need to press them gently into the tops of the cookies the moment they come out of the oven.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup pastel M&M candies, plus another handful for decorating

Preparation

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and beat to combine.

With the mixer running on low, slowly add flour mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, mixing until dough is completely combined. Stir in M&Ms.

Cover and chill dough for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325. Line several baking sheets with parchment.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto the baking sheet at least 2 inches apart; press a few M&Ms into the top of each cookie.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until edges are light golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately press more M&Ms into the top of each cookie. Cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Store at room temperature for up to 4 days. Makes 26.

 

 

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Ruffle Cake

spring ruffle cakeThis adorable ruffle cake was inspired by the clear blue sky, green grass, and budding forsythia I noticed on my walk with Millie this afternoon. It’s a lovely spring day today, fitting for the day before Easter, and this little cake will make a nice addition to our Easter dinner tomorrow.

I watched several videos on ruffle piping before I tried this, including this great one from Cake Style. Although I definitely need more practice, I’m very pleased with how it turned out. You do need a good deal of frosting for this, and while you’ll probably have about a cup left over, it’s better to have too much than too little. You can always use the extra on a small batch of cupcakes, or for another future treat.

White Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two 6-inch round cake pans with baking spray; line with parchment circles, and spray the parchment.

In a small bowl, combine flour and baking powder; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together sugar, shortening, and salt until fluffy.

Add egg and vanilla; beat until combined.

Add flour mixture and milk in alternating batches, starting and ending with the flour and beating until just combined.

Divide batter between pans; bake for about 20-22 minutes, until tops are golden and a cake tester comes out clean.

Pastel Ruffle Vanilla Almond Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Blue, green, and yellow liquid food coloring

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute, then add salt and beat another minute.

Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes.

Add vanilla extract and almond extract, beating well to combine. Check your consistency;it should be fluffy, but not too thick or too thin. If you need to thin it, add 1 tablespoon milk and beat for another minute.

Divide frosting into three equal portions; tint each a pastel shade of blue, green, and yellow.

To frost your cake:

Trim each cake so you have flat surfaces; reserve your cake scraps for a little trifle or other snack.

Place the bottom layer of your cake on your platter and top with a medium-thin layer of yellow frosting.

Place the top layer on next and apply a thin layer of yellow for your crumb coat.

Fit a piping bag with a Wilton 104 petal tip and fill the bag with your blue frosting. With the larger end of the tip toward the cake and with your bag at about a 90-degree angle, begin to pipe ruffles from the center of the top of your cake outward. Continue with your blue frosting to cover the entire top of the cake, with one band of blue down the side.

Repeat with your green frosting, then your yellow frosting, covering the entire cake with ruffles.

Store at room temperature.

top of spring ruffle cakeHere’s a nice shot of the top of the cake. 

 

Easter Sugar Cut-Outs

easter cut-outsSearch for “Easter cookies” online, and you’ll find hundreds of images of beautifully decorated sugar cut-outs. While my decorating skills are pretty basic, I think my Easter-themed sugar cut-outs turned out pretty well.

I hope to someday have a carrot cookie cutter, which would go well with my rabbit sugar cut-outs, but this time I chose to go with three standard cutters; a flower, a chick, and an egg, which also ended up serving as a different type of chick cookie. My favorites are the egg-shaped chicks – see below for a close-up of those!

This recipe yielded 4 dozen cookies; the frosting recipe yields about 4 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe sugar cut-outs
  • 1/2 recipe vanilla frosting
  • Yellow, orange, blue, and violet food coloring
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Flower sprinkles, if desired

Preparation

Bake cookies and allow to cool completely. Prepare frosting and divide into four portions and tint, as follows:

  • 1 1/2 cups yellow
  • 1 cup blue
  • 1 cup violet
  • 1/2 cup orange

Frost cookies as desired; you can decorate them with sprinkles, colored sugar, or whatever other embellishments you like.

To make the chicks, frost your cookies with the yellow frosting. Place mini chocolate chips for eyes. Fit a small piping bag with a small plain tip and pipe on beaks and feet.

Let frosting harden before storing; you can keep these between sheets of waxed paper at room temperature for about 3 days.

chick cut-outHere’s a close-up of one of the chicks!

 

Pastel Sugar Cookies

pastel sugar cookiesBetty Crocker wasn’t a real person, but I like to think there’s a bit of Betty in all bakers. General Mills now owns the Betty Crocker brand, which was created by another company back in 1921. The marketing folks who came up with the name thought “Betty” sounded all-American and cheerful, and I quite agree.

Throughout my childhood, my mom used both Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines (who was a real person, by the way) mixes to save time in baking. She gave me some Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix recently – probably purchased with holiday baking in mind – and I decided to use it as the base for some creative Easter sugar cookies. I don’t often bake with mixes, but they’re a great way to save time. These treats will be on their way to my darling goddaughter Maureen and her family in just a few days.

Ingredients

  • 1 17.5-ounce package Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie mix
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes and softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • Pink and green colored sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line several baking sheets with foil or parchment. Place colored sugars into separate bowls.

Place cookie mix and softened butter into a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed for about 2 minutes, then add egg, increasing the speed to medium, and beat for another minute.

Add vanilla extract and almond extract; return to medium speed and beat until a soft dough forms.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop out dough and roll into balls, then roll in colored sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are just golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 30 cookies.

Lemon Raspberry Roulade

lemon raspberry rouladeLemon and raspberry are two of my favorite flavors, even more so when they’re combined in the same treat. For Easter, I decided that I wanted a lemon-based dessert; I found a few recipes for lemon roulade, but most of them involved a cream cheese or marascapone filling. I wanted something a bit lighter, so I chose a scratch-made raspberry filling and I must say, the end result is delicious.

Rolling a cake can be intimidating, but remember, on this blog, we have no fear. The original recipe for the cake portion of this roulade involved allowing the cake to cool completely before filling and rolling it, but I chose to let it cool for just a few minutes before I rolled it in a heavily-powdered-sugared tea towel. I’d recommend rolling it immediately after removing it from the pan just to be on the safe side rather than waiting any time at all. Also, keep a very close eye on your filling; it goes from liquid to thickened in a matter of seconds!

If you’d rather forgo the tangy lemon icing, you could easily dust the roulade with powdered sugar or serve it with fresh whipped cream. But since you’re working with lemons and will likely have a few tablespoons of lemon juice left over, the icing is a nice way to make the most of it.

Part I: Lemon Cake

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • zest of 3 small to medium-sized lemons
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 15 x 10 x 1 jelly roll pan with parchment; spray with baking spray and dust with flour. I used a sieve and dusted the flour directly onto the parchment. Lay a thin tea towel on a counter top and dust heavily with powdered sugar.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat sugar and eggs on medium-high speed for 3 minutes until thickened and light in color.

Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat until combined.

With the mixer running on low, add flour and beat until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and gently spread with an offset spatula to distribute the batter in one even layer.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until edges are just golden and cake springs back when touched.

Remove from oven and immediately flip onto a cooling rack; remove parchment paper and quickly flip cake onto the prepared tea towel. Roll up quickly from the short end, placing on a cooling rack to cool completely before filling.

Part II: Raspberry Filling

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries, pulsed in a food processor to crumb-like texture
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons water

Preparation

In a medium saucepan, combine raspberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Heat until raspberries begin to liquefy; quickly place in the bowl of a food processor and puree. Return to heat; cook until mixture reaches a low boil.

In a small glass measuring cup, place cornstarch and add 1 tablespoon water; mixture will thicken and almost harden immediately, so add another 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of water to achieve a pourable consistency. Whisk into raspberry mixture and cook at a low boil for 1-2 minutes; mixture will thicken very quickly and become glossy.

Remove from heat and place in a small bowl to cool completely before using. Note: this filling will not be seedless unless you pass the puree through a sieve before returning to the stove and adding the cornstarch and water.

Once both the cake and filling are completely cool, carefully un-roll cake and spread with filling. Re-roll and wrap tightly in plastic wrap; store in the refrigerator overnight to set.

Part III: Tangy Lemon Glaze

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Preparation

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup powdered sugar about 2 tablespoons lemon juice; mix well to completely combine. Add another 1/2 cup powdered sugar and up to 1 more tablespoon lemon juice to achieve a thick drizzling consistency; stir in lemon zest until well-combined.

Unwrap cake and place on a platter or cake plate. Pour glaze down the center of the cake, allowing to drip over the sides, spreading as necessary to cover the entire top of the cake. Allow glaze to harden, then return cake to the refrigerator for storage.

 

Italian Easter Cookies

italian easter cookiesWhen I first saw these cookies, I thought they were called stracciatella. As it turns out, that’s the name of the blog they’re on; the word stacciatella actually refers to three different foods in Italy: an egg drop soup, a kind of gelato that’s similar to chocolate chip ice cream, and a kind of cheese, not these lovely little Easter cookies. Stracciatella means little shred, and is incredibly similar to the last name of one of my best friends ever, Kate.

Kate and I met in the back row of geometry class in the tenth grade, where neither of us had a clue what was going on. We’re both better with words than numbers, and how either one of us squeaked out of that class with a passing grade is one of life’s great mysteries. Our suffering created a bond though; since that fateful meeting in geometry, we’ve shared countless laughs, adventures, challenges, and desserts. We’re still friends to this day; in fact, Kate was among our guests at this past Monday’s Passover seder.

So, on this Easter Sunday, I give tribute to Kate, and her awesome Italian last name…even if these aren’t really called stracciatella, that’s probably what I’ll always call them. Buona Pasqua!

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 3/4 cup flour
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder

For the frosting

  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • colored sprinkles

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with foil.

In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking powder; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the bowl frequently.

Add almond and vanilla extracts, milk, and vegetable oil and beat until well-combined.

Add flour mixture and beat until a soft dough forms.

Scoop 1-inch balls of dough and roll them into balls, then ropes, and form into rings. Place about 1 inch apart on the prepare baking sheets and bake for 8 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven, then 8 minutes on the top rack; the bottoms will be golden brown when they are done.

Cool cookies completely on a wire rack before dipping in frosting.

To make frosting, combine butter, powdered sugar, and almond and vanilla extracts and beat on low, then medium speed, to combine. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time to reach a slightly drizzly consistency; you don’t want the frosting to be too thick or thin, just thin enough to dip the cookies.

Dip the top of each cookie into the frosting and set on a wire rack, then sprinkle with colored sprinkles if desired.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Peanut Butter Eggs

peanut butter egg 2The Reese’s Peanut Butter egg is my favorite Easter treat, edging out the Cadbury Egg by the slightest of margins. My sister-in-law Kristin and I agree that the best Reese’s holiday offerings are the peanut butter egg at Easter and the peanut butter pumpkin at Halloween because they each yield a maximum amount of peanut butter; the peanut butter tree at Christmas, for example, isn’t really enough.

Many blogs feature homemade peanut butter egg recipes and they’re all relatively the same, involving melted peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, salt, and a yummy chocolate coating made of either semisweet or milk chocolate chips melted with shortening. I’ve used semisweet below, but you could easily use milk chocolate if you prefer. Though I haven’t tried one yet, I suspect they’ll taste like a cross between a buckeye and a peanut butter egg. Time will tell; fortunately, Easter is tomorrow!

The chocolate coating makes way more than enough for all of your eggs; my peanut butter filling yielded 11 eggs but you could easily make them slightly smaller to yield a dozen or more. You’ll definitely have coating left over, which would be great for drizzling on biscotti, butter cookies, or over cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 16 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons shortening

Preparation

In a medium saucepan, combine peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, and salt. Cook on medium heat until entirely melted and slightly bubbly, stirring frequently.

Remove from heat and add powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition to fully incorporate the powdered sugar into the peanut butter mixture. Your end result will be very thick, and this is what you want.

Set filling aside to cool at room temperature until easy to handle; I set mine aside for about an hour.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop balls of filling and shape into eggs. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour to allow filling to harden.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and shortening; microwave in 30-second intervals until completely melted, stirring after each interval; this takes about 2 minutes or so.

Dip eggs into the chocolate coating and cover completely; I use two forks to pass them back and forth, then shake off the excess. Return to the parchment-covered sheet and place back in the refrigerator to harden. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.