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Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #10 and Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

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So you want to have a celebration but not make a big deal about it. Maybe it’s the end of the school year, or a promotion at work, or a non-biggie anniversary–of your first date, maybe; or of thirty-two years together (I know, hard to count that high). You want to mark the occasion with something less than a $300 meal for two or a forty-guest party. But you just don’t know what to do.

Well, click on Reading and Recipes and we’ll give you a hand.

First, turn a regular sugar cookie recipe into a pan of bar cookies–that goes a lot faster and tastes just as good (even better since there are no individual cookies to get dried out). Then jazz those bar cookies up with a quick and easy and colorful frosting. And voila–you’ve got your celebration: Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars.

These work anytime of year, for any holiday or occasion. Our red, white, and blue this week are a nod toward the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, but school colors work for graduation, green for Saint Patty’s, red for Valentine’s, and so on.

Tuck this recipe and idea away for future reference, right after you mix up a batch for this weekend. And enjoy your quiet (and easy) celebration!

frosted sugar cookie bars

Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

For the bars:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon cornstarch

For the frosting:

1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1-2 Tablespoons milk or cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

food coloring, optional

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 5×7 inch pan, and set aside.

To make the bars, add the butter and granulated sugar to a mixing bowl. Beat the ingredients on high until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and mix until the ingredients are fully incorporated into the batter. Slowly mix in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cornstarch until all ingredients are just combined. The dough will be thick!

Press the dough into the prepared pan. For an chewy, cookie-like texture, bake the bars for 15-17 minutes; OR, for more of a cake-like, crumb texture (as shown in the pictures), bake the bars for 18-20 minutes. The top should only just begin to turn golden brown and the bars will look underdone. Remove the bars from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan. The middle will sink significantly while the bars are cooling.

Once the bars have cooled, make the frosting by whipping the butter until it is fluffy. Add the powdered sugar in three increments, beating into the butter after each addition. Mix in 1 tablespoon of milk. If the frosting is still too thick, add one more tablespoon. Stir in the vanilla and a pinch of salt. If you have food coloring, add one or two drops and stir into the frosting.

Frost the cooled bars. Cut into squares and serve at room temperature.

Makes 6-8 bars.

frosted sugar bars

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #10, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #10, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #34 and Pumpkin Gobs

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Pumpkin Gobs–no, that’s not the caved-in jack-o-lantern at the end of your neighbor’s sidewalk. It’s this week’s recipe from Reading and Recipes!

But first a little history, for those who are ignorant (or, let’s be more gentle, uninformed) like me. I’d never heard of gobs until I was an adult and moved to the South (of the United States). But, as with snickerdoodle cookies (which we talked about a couple of weeks ago), I’ve learned to love gobs (and, believe me, it didn’t take much effort–gobs are very “lovable”).

The traditional gob consists of two dome-shaped layers of chocolate cake with a creamy white vanilla filling in the middle. They can be eaten at room temperature, sort of like a cupcake sandwich, or frozen and eaten like an ice cream sandwich. Either way, gobs are quite a sweet treat.

And these Pumpkin Gobs build on that rich (in more ways than one) history. In this case, the outer layers are like a pumpkin/spice cake. The cream filling in the middle can be any frosting or cream filling of your choosing; our suggestion would be to use a whipped cream-cheese frosting as your filling, with maybe a touch of cream or milk added to the cream cheese and a little more time beating the mixture to make it creamier and lighter.

Then have fun eating these new-wave gobs, or watch the smiles emerge if you are nice enough to share, or try freezing one and eating it on one of these warm Indian summer evenings. Any way you serve it, these Pumpkin Gobs are bound to be a new fall favorite!

 pumpkin gobs

Pumpkin Gobs

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup pumpkin puree

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

cream cheese frosting*

pumpkin gob cakes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and oil. Stir in the pumpkin puree, egg, and vanilla extract until all ingredients are well combined. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice to the wet ingredients. Slowly stir the dry ingredients until mixed into the dough, careful not to over mix.

Using a large spoon, scoop about 1 heaping tablespoon of batter onto the cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Make sure you get an even number of cookies. I had 8 cookies total.

Bake cookies for 12-14 minutes, or until they are set and begin to turn a golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cookies are completely cool, spoon two tablespoons of cream cheese frosting* onto the under side of half of the cookies. Sandwich the frosting with remaining cookies. Store cookie sandwiches in airtight container in the refrigerator for one week. You can also freeze these cookies for a frozen treat.

Makes 4 cookie sandwiches.

*I tripled this homemade cream cheese frosting recipe. You can also use classic vanilla buttercream, either homemade or store bought.

pumpkin gobs

{Adapted from Dessert for Two}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #34 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #34, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #34, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #29 and Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

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Hey, want a sandwich?

(Ho-hum. Yawn-yawn.) Yeah, sure, I guess.

How about a special sandwich?

That caught your attention, a little bit. You’re thinking what would a special sandwich on a dessert blog be? Maybe an oatmeal creme sandwich? An ice-cream sandwich?

How special?

Really special.

What the heck? Quit the teasing and just tell me!

Well, duh. It’s in the title–a chocolate sandwich!

A Chocolate Sandwich Cookie?

Yes, a chocolate sandwich, with cookies for the bread and chocolate buttercream frosting for the filling.

Sounds like a fairy tale.

Like Hansel and Gretel’s house of cake and candy.

Doesn’t end like that fairy tale, does it?

No. These chocolate sandwiches have a happier ending. We promise. Just give them a try.

double chocolate sandwich cookie

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

For the cookies:

1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 Tablespoons vegetable shortening or margarine, room temperature

3/4-1 cup confectioners sugar

2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder*

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

chocolate cookie

Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt to a mixing bowl. Whisk ingredients together until no lumps remain.

To another mixing bowl, add the butter and granulated sugar and beat using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and mix in until fully incorporated. Fold the dry ingredients into the batter until just mixed, careful not to over mix. Cover and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment paper, and set aside.

Roll cookie dough into small balls. You should get 20 total. Place 12 cookie dough balls onto your cookie sheet. Gently flatten each ball with your fingers. Bake the cookies for 6-8 minutes, or until just set. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat steps and bake remaining cookie dough balls while the first batch cools. Allow cookies to cool completely before frosting.

While cookies are cooling, make the filling by adding the butter and shortening to a mixing bowl and beating until well combined. Slowly add 3/4 cup of confectioners sugar to the mixer. Once the confectioners sugar is almost all incorporated, add the cocoa powder and vanilla extract and beat the ingredients on high until light and fluffy. If you want a slightly thicker filling, add the remaining 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar and beat on high until fully incorporated.

Spread filling onto 10 cookies. Sandwich the filling with another cookie. Store cookies covered at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Makes 10 sandwich cookies.

*If you want to make a vanilla filling, simply leave out the cocoa powder.

chocolate sandwich cookie

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #29 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #29, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #29, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters, Serial #33 and Pinwheel Cake

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Drum roll, please . . . .

(Is your computer screen shaking? Your tablet vibrating?)

It’s Reading and Recipes 100th post!!!!!!

Yaaaaaay!!!!!!!

Phew! Glad I got that out of my system. Now maybe I can concentrate on writing this intro.

For our 100th post not only are we going to have a celebration cake in confetti colors, but it’s going to be a cake in a revolutionary design. Instead of a layer cake or cupcakes or sheet cake, we’re going to do a thin rectangular cake, like for a jelly roll. But instead of coating this thin cake with jelly or whipped cream, we’re going to use a regular buttercream frosting (with some sprinkles added for the confetti effect) then roll it into a long tube–a cake roll. But when you slice this cake roll, the individual serving looks like a pinwheel. Thus the name–Pinwheel Cake!

This Pinwheel Cake has all the normal components and richness and flavors of a regular cake but in a shape that’s unique, easy to slice, easy to serve and easy to store, either in its entirety (just slide the whole cake into a one-gallon zipper bag) or in individual servings (in sandwich bags) for carrying in a lunch box or cooler–or even in a purse! Don’t try that with a regular cake! But with our Pinwheel Cake–no problem! (You think I’d be good in one of those infomercials?)

And while we used a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting for our 100th celebration Pinwheel Cake, there’s no reason this revolutionary cake design wouldn’t work for different flavors of cakes and frostings. Just be sure to keep the cake fine-grained and dense, so that it will roll without cracking, and the frosting fairly thick so it won’t run out of the roll or soak into the layers too much. Then go to town and have some fun!

The sky is the limit–for your creativity and for Reading and Recipes: 100 posts and just getting started!

celebration cake roll

Pinwheel Cake

For the cake:

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

sprinkles, optional

1 egg white

For the frosting:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon milk

sprinkles

mini cake roll

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a 7×11 inch baking pan with parchment paper, and grease the parchment paper. Set pan aside.

With a stand mixer or handheld mixer, beat the whole eggs, egg yolk, and sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes a very pale yellow, or about 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Gently fold in the flour and cornstarch until well incorporated. Add the sprinkles, if using, and fold into the batter until evenly distributed. In a clean bowl, beat the egg white until you achieve stiff peaks. Fold the egg white into the cake batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until golden brown and springs back when touched. Sprinkle a clean towel with powdered sugar. As soon as you take the cake out of the oven, invert it onto the powdered sugar towel. Remove the parchment paper and sprinkle the other side of the cake with powdered sugar. Gently and slowly roll the cake with the towel; allow to cool completely on the counter while the cake is rolled.

Meanwhile, make the frosting by beating the butter until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar, and beat into the butter. Add the vanilla and milk, if needed, until frosting is smooth and you reach a desired consistency. Lastly, mix in sprinkles. Unroll the cake and frost one side with the buttercream. Re-roll the cake, put the cake on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until ready to serve. When you are ready to serve the cake, sprinkle the top with a little more powdered sugar or sprinkles.

Makes 1 mini cake roll.

celebration mini roll cake

{Adapted from Roxana’s Home Baking}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #33 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #33, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #33, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters, Serial #15 and Applesauce Cake with Maple Buttercream

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There’s an earthiness to fall. Whether it’s going through a corn maze at the fair or raking leaves in the yard or watching apples pressed into cider at the farmer’s market or carving a pumpkin for Halloween, there’s something about fall that calls us back to the earth, back to nature and elemental origins.

This week’s Applesauce Cake with Maple Buttercream honors the season’s earthiness. Two of its main ingredients–applesauce and maple syrup–are the undiluted products of trees many of us can see in our yards or on our hikes. And the cake’s dark and dense richness seems to embody all that autumn represents.

But then that earthiness is wonderfully contrasted by the light and flavorful maple buttercream–still “of the earth” with the delicate maple syrup sweetness but tempered with the light richness of the whipped butter (indirectly “of the earth” via the intervention of the good old cow).

And so you have Reading and Recipes’ paean to fall–in a yummy dessert, the best kind of paean we know.

But if you wish to sample another season–as in the late spring of adolescent energy and optimism–listen to or read about Brooke and Leah as they get Brooke ready for her “coming out” at the debutante ball.

applesauce cake and maple buttercream

Applesauce Cake with Maple Buttercream

Cake:

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg white

1 Tablespoon maple syrup

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

Buttercream frosting:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

applesauce cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 5×7 inch pan with cooking spray.*

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Mix in the egg white until well incorporated. Blend in the maple syrup and applesauce until all of the ingredients are well mixed. By hand, fold in the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt until ingredients are just mixed in, careful not to overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.

While the cake is cooling, make the buttercream by whipping the butter until it is light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat into the creamed butter. Next add maple syrup and beat into the frosting. If the consistency of the frosting seems too thin, add more powdered sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Refrigerate the frosting for 5-10 minutes before frosting the cooled cake.

Cover and store leftover cake or frosting in the refrigerator.

Serves 3-4.

*You can also make these into cupcakes. Divide the batter between 3 cupcake liners and bake the cupcakes for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

applesauce cake with maple buttercream frosting

{Cupcakes adapted from Bakeaholic Mama}

 Click below to listen to or read Serial #15 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #15, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #15, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters, Serial #1 and Giant Oatmeal Cream Cookie

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“You’ve come a long way, baby!”

Am I the only one to remember that advertising slogan from the 70s? It was a cigarette commercial, as I recall. Whatever happened to cigarette commercials anyway? Not that we need more commercials–just wondering.

Well, in the past week, Reading and Recipes has come a long way (baby!). Last week, Angels Unawares ended at a grave side. This week, Two Sisters begins with youthful abandon, literally–two young girls on a summer outing to a community pool. And our recipe selections have also come a long way, from the delicate complexity and surprise of Magic Cake to the familiar and youthful (O.K.–childish!) satisfaction of a Giant Oatmeal Cream Cookie.

So big transitions in a short period of time.

But within these changes, some things stay the same. The dessert recipes are easy and fun and designed for one or two people to make and eat in an afternoon or evening. And the stories highlight simple acts of courage and love and commitment that are the bedrock of our human interaction and sustenance but are perhaps too often ignored in our daily news and literature.

So come on with us–a long way that really isn’t that far.

up close oatmeal cream pie

 Giant Oatmeal Cream Cookie

Oatmeal Cookies:

1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 cup quick oats*

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg 

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream Filling:

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup marshmallow cream

4-5 Tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

2-3 teaspoons milk or cream

oatmeal cream pie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat, or use a nonstick cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, add the butter. Beat the butter with a handheld mixer on high speed until the butter is creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat into the butter. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix into the butter until all of the ingredients are incorporated. Using a spatula or spoon, slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well mixed.

Divide the dough in half, roll into balls, and place on opposite sides of the cookie sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, make the cream filling by beating together the butter and marshmallow cream. Slowly add the powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and two teaspoons of milk. If the cream filling is too thick, add one more teaspoon of milk. Mix all of the ingredients together until the filling is fluffy.

Once the cookies are cooled, spread the filling onto the bottom of one cookie. Top with other cookie. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Makes 1 giant cookie.

*If you only have old-fashioned oats on hand, put 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats into a food processor and pulse a few times. You want to the oats to break up into smaller pieces, about half the size of the original oat.

oatmeal cream pie bite

{Cookies adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction, cream filling adapted from Cooking to Perfection}

 Click below to listen to or read Serial #1 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #1, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #1, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Angels Unawares, Serial #19 and Peanut Butter Cupcakes with PB&J Frosting

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You remember going to grade school, right? It wasn’t that long ago! (And if you think it was a long time ago, just think about horseshoe crabs–they were here 500 million years ago, and they’re still kicking, or swimming around!)

O.K. Glad we got that settled. Grade school is in (relatively) recent memory. And what did we all take to grade school? A PB&J sandwich! And what did we always look forward to? Summer vacation! 

You with me so far? (Come on! You graduated grade school. You ought to be able to keep up with the simple logic of the creators of R&R!)

So in honor of all those little munchkins dreaming of summer vacation, and in memory of the little dreaming munchkins we once were, Reading and Recipes is pleased to post this whimsical Peanut Butter Cupcake with PB&J Frosting recipe.

If you have a grade schooler or two nearby, watch their eyes light up when you set this cupcake in front of them. And if the nearest grade schooler is two counties away and preoccupied with baseball practice, piano lessons, cub scouts, brownies, recycling drives and a lemonade stand, well then I guess you’ll just have to summon your inner grade schooler and revel in this treat while you dream of lazy summer vacations at the beach or the Y camp. Those were the days, and not so long ago . . . .

peanut butter cupcake with pbj frosting

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 egg yolk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons milk or buttermilk

peanut butter board

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put two cupcake liners in a muffin pan and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, cream together the peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar until well mixed. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat into the peanut butter mixture. Slowly stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the milk to the cupcake mixture and stir until everything is well combined, careful not to over mix. The batter will be thick.

Divide the cupcake batter between the two cupcake liners. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let cool completely before frosting.

peanut butter frosting

PB&J Frosting

1 Tablespoon creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 teaspoons milk

2 teaspoons of your favorite jelly

Add the peanut butter and powdered sugar to a mixing bowl. Slowly stir the ingredients together. Add the vanilla and one teaspoon of milk and beat until frosting comes to spreading consistency. If it is still too thick, add one more teaspoon of milk. If the frosting is too thin, add a few more tablespoons of powdered sugar. Beat ingredients together until you get desired consistency. Frost the cooled cupcakes. When you are ready to serve, make a small divot in the center of the frosting and spoon in the jelly.

peanut butter cupcake

{Cupcakes adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #19 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #19, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #19, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!