Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween Oreo Balls Recipe

I'm a sucker for holiday products.  Yes, I have the Halloween hand soap pumper; of course, I bought Halloween paper napkins; and, you betcha, I am the proud owner of Halloween Oreos.  My youngest son loves naming the spooky shapes that are imprinted on the cookies and, although they taste the same as the normal Oreos, I think they are festive.

Brilliant orange centered Oreos beg to be made into Halloween Oreo Balls.  Again, the flavor and color of the finished product is the same as when white cream filled Oreos are used, but add a little candy corn garnish and you've got a delicious snack, adorable dessert, and seasonal teacher gift.

Every time I make Oreo balls I am shocked by how easy they are to prepare.  Whiz the whole Oreos in the food processor, mash the crumbs together with cream cheese, shape the mixture into balls, chill, and dip.  This recipe is easy and fun.  Also, people love these things!  Take a plate into work or share a treat bag full with a friend and you will get rave reviews, especially from people who have no idea how simple Oreo Balls are to make.  Often people make Oreo balls at Christmas, but thanks to Halloween Oreos, I think Halloween Oreo Balls will become a Fall tradition as well.

Halloween Oreo Balls

makes about 42 balls

1-8 ounce cream cheese, very soft
1 package (1 pound 2 ounce) oreos, white or orange cream filled
3 cups melted milk chocolate (I used white and milk chocolate bark coating, but you could use chocolate chips or Baker's chocolate)
candy corns for garnish

  1. Finely crush oreos (I used my food processor, but you could also put them in a zip-lock back and hit them with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer).
  2. Mix oreo crumbs with the softened cream cheese (use a wooden spoon or your hands) until fully combined.
  3. Roll mixture into small balls, about one tablespoon per ball. Place balls on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and chill in the fridge for a few hours.
  4. Melt chocolate coating in a double boiler or the microwave. Using two forks dip chilled balls into chocolate and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. While chocolate is still wet gently press one candy corn on top of each ball.  Put back in the fridge for a few hours or until chocolate is hardened.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pumpkin Cake Recipe

I love a nice pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting!  After making this autumnal dessert every year from different recipes, I have finally found my favorite one.  This keeper is from the October/November 2007 issue of Cook's Country.  I've had it flagged with a neatly labelled post-it note for the past three years, but I didn't actually bake it until last week.  The recipe creator Greg Case says that a good pumpkin cake ". . . should be moist and velvety, with just the right balance of pumpkin and spice. . . "   He achieves this with his culinary instructions and also includes directions for a cream cheese frosting that is both tangy and sweet.

I baked my Cook's Country pumpkin cake in my favorite 9 x 13 pan from William Sonoma.  I love that this baking pan is heavy duty, dishwasher safe, and attractive enough that I can frost and serve the cake directly from it.

A few days after my family had devoured our pumpkin cake, I was grocery shopping and spotted a set of disposable foil pans with lids that are in the shape of a pumpkin.  My very ambitious self quickly placed a few of them in my cart with great intentions.  Right there in the middle of the Kroger Halloween candy aisle with Tears for Fears muzak playing gently in the background, I could clearly visualize myself baking multiple Pumpkin Cakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, embellishing them with candy corns, labeling them with adorable hand-made thank you cards, and delivering them to all of my children's teachers.  My more realistic self is a bit exhausted just imagining all of that, but hopefully this task will happen next week or perhaps closer to Thanksgiving.

Thank you, Greg from Cook's Country, for baking this cake countless times so I don't have to.  Instead I can focus on making Pumpkin Spice Cakes with Cream Cheese Frosting every year for my family, my kids' teachers, and the local bake sale.  It's Fall on a plate!

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
     from Cook's Country October/November 2007

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 (15-ounce) can plain pumpkin pure

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces and softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. For the Cake:  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a bowl.  With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat eggs, oil, and granulated sugar until thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Reduce speed to low, add pumpkin, and mix until incorporated.  Slowly add flour mixture and mix until only a few small lumps of flour remain, about 1 minute.  Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.  Transfer pan to wire rack and cool completely.  
  2. For the Frosting:  With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and confectioners' sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add cream cheese 1 piece at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.  Add vanilla and mix until smooth.  Frost cooled cake.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Apple Dumplings Recipe

Yesterday my 13 year old daughter took advantage of her day off from school by baking Apple Dumplings.  Although they are in my husband's top ten desserts list and my mother made them quite often when I was living at home, I have never attempted to make Apple Dumplings.  The reason for this travesty is that along with my fear of yeast dough, I have a fear of pastry dough.  Interestingly enough, on Sunday I decided to face that fear and I made my first from-scratch pie dough which was easier than I had imagined and quite tasty as the crust for my pumpkin pie.  Because I have very little experience in the pastry dough department, Apple Dumplings was a good choice for my daughter because it minimized my opportunities to micro-manage her cooking.

After independently consulting the red plaid Better Homes and Gardens circa 1989 cookbook that I received as a wedding gift, my daughter began to gather her ingredients and read through the entire recipe out loud.  She dismissed my suggestion for using my new Williams Sonoma pastry blender and instead opted to use the food processor (another thing on my culinary fears-I-am-attempting-to-face list).  She peeled, cored, processed, and simmered her ingredients until she had created an amazingly beautiful dish of Apple Dumplings.  I was very proud of her adventurous and independent cooking spirit and I was also proud of myself because my daughter only had to say, "Mom, please don't freak out!" once while cooking.

The baking apples made our freshly cleaned and decorated-for-Fall home smell heavenly.  It was so comforting to see the cute dumplings with their fall leaf embellishments perched on our kitchen island waiting for dessert.  My daughter texted her dad, who she has recently taken to calling Padre (thank you Spanish I), to bring home some Blue Bell vanilla ice cream and then after dinner she cheerfully served our family a delicious, homemade seasonal treat.  Maybe the teens years aren't going to be so bad after all:)

Apple Dumplings Recipe

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 Tablespoons butter
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cups shortening
6 small apples

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. For syrup, mix 1 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teasopoon nutmeg, and 1 3/4 cups water.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in butter.
  3. For pastry, mix flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Cut in shortening till coarse crumbs form.  Add 6 to 8 tablespoons cold water, a little at a time, mixing just until dough is moistened.  Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill for about 1 hour.
  4. Roll chilled dough into an 18x12 inch rectangle; use a pizza cutter to cut into six 6-inch squares.
  5. Peel and core apples.  Place one apple on the center of each pastry square.
  6. Combine remaining sugar (1/2 cup), cinnamon (1/4 teaspoon), and nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon).  Sprinkle over fruit.
  7. Moisten edges of pastry; sit one apple on each square of dough; fold corners up to cover fruit.  Pinch to seal. If desired, use leftover dough to create leaf shapes to decorate dumplings.
  8. Place pastry covered apples in a large baking dish.  Pour syrup over apples.
  9. Bake apples at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until fruit is tender and pastry is golden brown.
  10. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Inspired from recipe in Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (copyright 1989)