Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Recipes: Sweet Treats

Last year I started providing homemade cookies for the kiddos' elementary school PTO meetings. I didn't want to bore our PTO members by offering only chocolate chip and gingersnap cookies - my go-to cookie treats - so I began to experiment with cookie recipes. Experimenting with cookie recipes led to experimenting with all dessert recipes, and now my recipe box is full of delicious desserts that branch out beyond brownies and strawberry shortcake. Here are a few of my favorites!

Note: I use these pans when I bake cookies and scones, roast veggies, etc. They are without a doubt the best pans I have ever owned and I will never buy another kind of baking sheet or roasting pan. One of my favorite features of these pans is that you never need to grease or butter them, or line them with parchment paper or baking mats. Instead of listing in the "adaptations" section of each recipe that I didn't grease the pan or use parchment paper, I'll just tell you now that no matter what the recipe says, when I use these pans I don't prep them in any way.

Key Lime Coconut Cookies
Adaptations: I used regular limes instead of key limes.
Comments: I made these cookies with Tom - a lover of all things coconut - in mind, but I know for certain that I ended up eating more of them than anyone else in my family did, not because Tom, Will, and Hallie didn't want to eat the cookies but because once I started eating I couldn't stop eating. They actually melted in my mouth…

Spiced Carrot Cake Cookies
Adaptations: I used quick cooking oats instead of old fashioned oats, and skipped the raisins and nuts.
Comments: I love carrot cake, but there are times when I just don't want to commit to baking a cake. These cookies were a great substitute - easy to make, (the recipe) halved easily, and I could eat just one. Or two.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Adaptations: None.
Comments: Even though I have a pumpkin snickerdoodle cookie recipe that I swear by, I was curious enough about this two-ingredient recipe (can you even call it a recipe when it only lists two ingredients?) to give it a try. Turns out two ingredients can be surprisingly tasty, and while this recipe won't replace my snickerdoodle recipe, it'll working a pinch. Because I'm sure you often find yourself in the kind of pinch that requires having to produce a few dozen pumpkin cookies at the last minute...

Chocolate Chocolate White Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adaptations: I skipped the white chocolate chips - I'm just not a fan - and used about two cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Comments: Do you like chocolate? If so, MAKE THESE COOKIES NOW. Enough said.

Strawberry Cake
Adaptations: I cut the sugar by about a quarter for the cake and the strawberries (I often cut the sugar in my baked goods and hardly ever notice a difference) and used three whole eggs instead of four egg whites.
Comments: The assembled cake tasted exactly like strawberry shortcake, but the cake itself was lighter and fluffier than shortcake. I loved that I could enjoy the flavor of one of my favorite desserts without it sitting so heavily in my stomach. This is a must-make treat during strawberry season!

Funfetti Sugar Cookie Cake
Adaptations: I skipped the white chocolate chips and made a basic buttercream frosting instead of the vanilla almond frosting in the recipe.
Comments: Hallie and I saw a picture of this cookie cake (or something similar) in a magazine, hunted down the recipe online, and baked it to celebrate the last day of school back in May. It turned out as beautifully in real life as it looks in the picture, something that rarely happens when I bake or cook. And it was delicious, both with and without the frosting.

Lightened Hummingbird Cake
Adaptations: None.
Comments: I baked this cake because I found myself - yet again - needing to clear a few frozen bananas out of my freezer. The banana, pineapple, and applesauce combined to give this cake a light, fruity taste that went over well with all four Ferri. This dessert - as a cake or cupcakes - would be a perfect addition to a summer cookout!

Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Adaptations: When it came to the cake, I cut the sugar by about a quarter, used unsweetened applesauce instead of oil, and baked the cake as two layers instead of three layers. When it came to the frosting, I left out the cinnamon because I suspected I might have a little extra frosting (two layers requires less frosting than three layers) and would want to save it to go with another recipe.
Comments: The flavors, the colors, the richness - everything about this delicious and decadent dessert screams fall. We enjoyed this cake enough to add it to our Thanksgiving menu…in place of the more traditional pumpkin pie!

Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake
Adaptations: Like with the pumpkin cake, I went with two layers instead of three. I also cut the sugar by a quarter, replaced the cake flour with all-purpose flour, and used a little extra lemon juice in place of the lemon extract. Oh, and I didn't decorate the top and sides of the cake with blueberries and lemon slices.
Comments: This was another recipe I made with Tom in mind - next to coconut desserts are second only to blueberry desserts in his book - and it turned out to be everything he'd hoped for and more. The kids ranked this one a little lower (you know, they don't like "stuff" in their cakes), but Tom and I loved  the light combination of lemon and blueberry partnered with the rich cream cheese frosting.

Time to start preheating your oven!

I feel like I should add a disclaimer…I don't bake and eat desserts all day long every day! I bake one dessert - usually trying a new recipe - every Friday for us to enjoy on the weekend. If I bake during the week it's almost always for a special event (like a PTO meeting, birthday celebration, etc.), and I keep at home only enough of the dessert for each of us to have one serving. And then I go to the gym.

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