Homemade Moon Pies

Are you guys familiar with Moon Pies?  They’re a southern favorite – you can get them at any gas station or snack machine below the Mason-Dixon line.  We loved these as kids and I am so excited to (finally!) be sharing this recipe for a homemade version with you.  I first made these almost a year ago for a baby shower that I co-hosted – the shower was Children’s Book themed and I made these to accompany “Goodnight Moon”.  They were divine you guys, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to give you the recipe.  Now don’t be intimidated.  When I tell people that I make homemade Moon Pies they all get this look on their face, the “That’s so cool. I can’t believe you can do that.  Why did you do that? You’re a crazy person.” look.  But really, they’re pretty straightforward.  A Moon Pie is basically a graham cracker cookie with marshmallow filling, dipped in chocolate.  The cookies take about an hour to make, but 30 minutes of that is dough-chilling time, and I usually get my marshmallow fluff going while I’m waiting (you could totally use store bought marshmallow fluff if you wanted to skip this step.  Then it’d be super easy and you’d have no excuse not to try this).  The filling is as simple as whipping egg whites and boiling syrup, and if you can’t drop a cookie in a bowl of melted chocolate, then I don’t know what to tell you.  I usually make these at a pretty leisurely pace – I did the entire process in about 3 hours a couple of days ago, but if you were being really efficient and wanted to knock it out I’d think that you could do it in about an hour and a half.  I got the recipe from a really good source, and I only tweaked one minor detail: I did only single layer cookies, rather than the “Double Decker” version.  So although there are several components to this cookie, they are all relatively simple and even beginner bakers should be able to handle this project.  If you’re looking for something to put in your Christmas Gift Baskets and you want to blow everyone’s mind with your baking prowess, I’d totally recommend this.  Happy Holidays!

MOON PIES

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, makes around 24 sandwich cookies

For the Cookies:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt

For the Marshmallow Filling:
2 egg whites
Pinch cream of tartar
Pinch salt
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

For the Chocolate Coating:
12 ounces semisweet chocolate
¼ cup vegetable oil

To Make the Cookies:

With a mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar and beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium, add the egg and the vanilla extract, and beat to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour and the salt, and mix just until a soft dough forms. Divide the dough in two, shape into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350º while dough is chilling.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat; set aside. Working with one disk at a time, roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 2½-inch diameter round cutter, cut out the rounds and place them on the prepared baking sheets, about ½ an inch apart.  Try to end up with an even number of cookies, since you’ll be making sandwiches with them.  Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

To Make the Marshmallow Filling:

Using a mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the the egg whites with the cream of tartar and the salt until firm peaks form, gradually increasing from medium-low speed to medium-high speed as the egg whites gain volume. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, boil the corn syrup over high heat without stirring until it registers 230 to 235 degrees F on a candy thermometer (thread ball stage). Slowly drizzle the hot corn syrup into the egg whites and beat at high speed until glossy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low, beat in the vanilla extract and the powdered sugar.

Using either a pastry bag or a spoon, mound about 1½ tablespoons of marshmallow filling into the center of a cookie. Top with another cookie and press lightly to spread the marshmallow to the edges. Repeat until you run out of cookies.

To Make the Chocolate Coating:

Using a double boiler (or in the microwave on 50% power and in 30 second increments) melt the chocolate and vegetable oil together until completely smooth. Let cool for a few minutes – you don’t want it to be piping hot when you dip the cookies or they tend to slide around a little and lose their shape.  Using a fork, dip the sandwiches into the chocolate, turning over to coat. Place cookies on a wire rack set over a baking sheet or wax paper and allow to set at room temp for a couple of hours – or move them to the fridge to speed up the process.

Peanut Butter Bars

So, is it just me or does pretty much everyone look forward to the special holiday editions of Reese’s Peanut Butter products?  The Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, Pumpkins, Christmas Trees, etc, pretty much make my day when they appear on store shelves.  They’re just better than the normal ones, for some reason.  But that’s beside the point.  I really wanted to tell you about these peanut butter bars I’ve been making.  They have the taste and texture of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but in bar form – and homemade, so you don’t have to worry about any mystery ingredients.  I like to have a little something sweet around for after mealtimes or a snack, and this recipe make a pretty good size batch (I cut them into 1 in squares, so I get a ton of them) that I can keep in the fridge for that little bite of something indulgent.  This recipe requires no baking, and while I like to use my double boiler to melt the chocolate, you could just stick it in the microwave if you wanted to skip that step, so they’re super simple to make.  I can usually have them chilling in my freezer in about 25 minutes, so it makes for very little work with a pretty high yield of awesome.

 

Peanut Butter Bars Recipe

Adapted from Just a Pinch

Serves: 20-36 bars

Base:

1 cup butter, melted (2 sticks)

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (2 sleeves ground to a fine crumb)*

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1½ cups peanut butter

Topping:

¼ cup peanut butter

8oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped.

 

Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper, letting the ends overhang.  Combine first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Spread evenly into lined baking dish.

Combine chocolate and remaining 1/4 cup peanut butter in a double boiler.** Melt, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Spread on top of the peanut butter bar base and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Remove from the freezer and cut into 1inch squares.  Enjoy!

*I tried to do this with the ziploc bag/rolling pin method, but the crumbs just aren’t fine enough and you won’t get a smooth texture.  It still tastes delicious, but this is one case where if you have a food processor, this is the time to use it.

Also, I may occasioally not be so good with keeping my pantry stocked and only had 1 sleeve of honey grahams, so I substituted a sleeve of chocolate grahams for the remainder and it was awesome.  Just a little more chocolate-y flavor, which is never a bad thing in my opinion.

**You could also do this in the microwave if you prefer.

 

Cherry Berry Cobbler

I wanted to call this “Odds and Ends Cobbler” but I didn’t want to put anyone off with such a strange name.  The recipe I used was originally called “Blueberry Cobbler”, but since less than half of the fruit I had was actually blueberries, I didn’t really think that made much sense.  (Side note: All the blueberries came from my bushes!  Yay for summer fruit!)  I had a carton and a half of Rainier cherries, a handful of raspberries from the yard, a pint of strawberries from the farmer’s market, and a fair sized bowl of blueberries that I had recently picked.  My recipe called for 30 ounces of blueberries, and I ended up with 28 ounces cobbled together (No pun intended.  Oh, you know you want to laugh at that.) from my various shopping/picking excursions.  I was very happy with the recipe… It was easy to put together and the biscuits were amazing.  The cinnamon sugar on top gave them just the perfect amount of sweetness and crunch, and I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be eating some version of this pretty regularly for the next several months.

Oh, by the way, I’m now totally into instagram.  Join me, it’s awesome.

 

Blueberry Cobbler

Cooks Illustrated Cookbook

Filling:

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

pinch ground cinnamon

pinch salt

6 cups (30 ounces) fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over, or equivalent of whatever fruit you have.

1 1/2 teaspoons grated zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice

 

Biscuit Topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal

1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the filling, stir the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl.  Add the berries and mix gently until evenly coated; add the lemon zest and juice.  Mix to combine. Transfer the berry mixture to a 9 inch glass pie plate or 8 inch square baking dish, place the plate on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the filling is hot and bubbling around the edges; about 25 minutes.

For the biscuit topping, whisk the flour, cornmeal, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to combine.   Whisk the melted butter, buttermilk and vanilla together in a small bowl.  Mix the remaining sugar and cinnamon in another small bowl and set aside.  One minute before the berries come out of the oven, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined and no dry pockets remain.

Remove the berries from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Pinch off 8 equal pieces of biscuit dough and place them on the hot berry filling, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart so they do not touch.  Sprinkle each mound of dough with the cinnamon sugar.  Bake until filling is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown on top and cooked through, about 15-18 minutes.  Cool the cobbler on a wire rack before serving.

Birthday Cake: Dobos Torte

Project365.7-2

Check out my cake!  I wish I could share a slice with all of you!  Technically it’s not a cake, I suppose, but a Torte.  A Dobos Torte to be exact.  I’ve had my eye on this particular confection for several months now, and I figured what better way to celebrate my birthday than to make a multi-layer cake covered in chocolate?  And also, I was assured by a very reliable source that despite it’s impressive layer count and showy chocolate coating, it’s really very simple to make.  I got my recipe and instructions from SmittenKitchen, and I’m referring you to her lovely site if you’ve any inclination in making this, since, despite not requiring much exertion, the instructions are kind of long, and um, I have a cake to eat, folks.  I will tell you that it’s a simply divine cake and worth the couple of hours it takes to put it all together (relax, it’s a leisurely couple of hours).  And when you’re through and you have this cake in front of you and you take the first bite, you’ll be all “Wow.  I turned a carton of eggs into this”?

Project365.7-1

1-2-3-4 Cake and 7 Minute Frosting

Are those the strangest looking cupcakes you’ve ever seen??  I’ll admit the frosting job is a little wonky…but that all becomes meaningless once you taste them.  This is by far the best cake I’ve ever made, and we have a 14 hour long road trip to visit my in-laws to thank for that.  You see, I bought The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet before the trip, and I read my way through it on our trip over the 4th of July holiday.  While the book contains some truly wonderful recipes, the best part for me was the explanations.  Before each chapter there was a fairly extensive look into the “hows” and “whys” of baking, and I find that invaluable.  I’ve always learned better when I understood how something works, and while I’m sure there are many other cookbooks out there that provide that sort of knowledge, this happened to be the one I found.  I learned so much!  And simple things too, like the importance of creaming the butter and sugar thoroughly…most recipes tell you to do it for several minutes or so, but I usually just  beat it until it looks, well, creamy, and call it done.  OK, let’s just overlook the fact that in the past I may not have followed my recipes exactly – that’s beside the point.  According to my new Baking Wisdom Book, for cakes that use the creaming method, the rise comes from the air bubbles that you create when you cream the sugar and butter.  Amazing.  So I did just that – I beat the sugar and butter (which should be still a little cool, not all completely soft, otherwise the bubbles will collapse.  Who knew?) until it was light and very pale.  I cannot describe to you how perfect my batter looked.  It was so light and almost puffy.  It made the most gorgeous little cupcakes – which I know you can’t appreciate since I hid them under those frosting blobs.  But they tasted wonderful.  Wonderful, I tell you.

Now the story on the frosting.  It tasted fine, it was just a little hard to work with, thus the unrefined decorating of my miniature masterpieces.  It was about the same consistency as marshmallow fluff, so it was very sticky and sort of thick.  It was very simple to make, however.   You just throw all the ingredients into a double boiler and whip them for 7 minutes, or until you get big billowy peaks, and then you frost…whatever.  My problem came from the fact that I was out of light corn syrup and the recipe I used said I could substitute honey instead, which I did.  And while my frosting looked very pretty, it had a very strong honey flavor that I just didn’t care for.  Don’t get  me wrong, it wasn’t bad, and I highly doubt any of those cupcakes will get thrown out, but I will definitely not be using honey for this recipe again.  It just seemed strange to have honey flavored frosting.

So, the moral of this story is:  Follow your recipes!  They’re written that way for a reason, and all those strange little instructions really do matter.

1-2-3-4 Cake:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted self-rising flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely and spread cake layers with your favorite frosting to make a 3-layer cake.

If you make cupcakes you’ll get about 24 of them.

Seven-Minute Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup or honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Place sugar, cream of tartar or corn syrup, salt, water, and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Beat with a handheld electric mixer for 1 minute. Place pan over boiling water, being sure that boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. (If this happens, it could cause your frosting to become grainy). Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes. Beat in vanilla.

I found out through another recipe that you can also use 1/4 cream of tartar instead of the corn syrup as well.

Both of these recipes were adapted from Paula Deen.


blackberry upside down cake

For such a plain little cake, this was quite delicious.  Not too sweet, not really very cakey…the crumb was very light and the berries perfectly juicy and tangy.  This actually made an awesome breakfast, and if served as a dessert would need a little something to dress it up – like vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

As cakes go it was pretty simple too.  I kept the dirty dishes to a minimum, and it baked up in no time.  You just lay the blackberries out in the bottom of a lined cake pan, and sprinkle with a little sugar.  Then mix up the batter, pour on top, and  bake for about thirty minutes.

I brought this to work for my coworkers, and they sure seemed to like it – I only had one little slice left to bring home to Jacob.  I plan to make this cake several more times, especially once I can start getting fresh picked blackberries – it’s a perfect summer treat since it bakes so quickly.

blackberry upside down cake

from epicurious.  I didn’t change a thing.

  • 2 1/2 cups fresh blackberries (12 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • Accompaniment: vanilla ice cream
  • Special equipment: parchment paper

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Line bottom of a buttered 8- by 2-inch round cake pan with 2 rounds of parchment paper, then butter parchment. Dust pan with some flour, knocking out excess.

Arrange blackberries in 1 layer in cake pan. Sprinkle berries with 11/2 tablespoons sugar and shake pan to help distribute sugar.

Whisk together 1 cup flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Beat together butter and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and mix at low speed until just incorporated. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk in 3 batches, mixing at low speed until just incorporated.

Spoon batter evenly over berries, smoothing top, and bake in middle of oven until top is golden and a tester comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.

Run a thin knife around edge of pan, then invert a large plate over pan and, using pot holders to hold plate and pan together tightly, flip cake onto plate. Peel off parchment and serve cake with ice cream.