Salted Butter Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies, Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting, & Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars!

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Well, I guess there is a reason I was voted by my St. Norbert College social independent group, CC Hams, as “World’s Biggest Procrastinator” my senior year.  Ha! I have been meaning to get these recipes out to you for days, actually weeks now, but have been busy with work events or actual baking and Ball-making on the nights that I don’t have an event.  But better late than never…right!?

Ok, first things first..these Salted Butter Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies.  They were all the rage on the internet and social media sites, the NY Times and recipe critics from all over about 2 or so years ago.  When this recipe first came out from an Instagram celeb by the name of  Alison Roman I read the recipe, looked at the beautiful and unique pictures of these shortbread cookies with crystalized sugar edges, and knew that I had to see what all the buzz was about.  I will say with enthusiasm that these cookies went over like gangbusters!  They are a very different take on shortbread cookies and chocolate chip cookies… and pretty brilliant.  You make the dough ahead of time and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.  There is no egg in the dough but an egg wash that gets brushed on the 2 dough logs and then rolled in Demarara sugar, and then you slice the logs, top with a sprinkle of sea salt and bake — and the result is delicous!!  I didn’t make them for the Bears until just a couple weeks ago… and my Bears insider scoop didn’t give me much feedback other than a text that said “Great job on the treats today – everything was outstanding”. I sent these cookies instead of my standard Double Chocolate Chip Sea Salt cookies that they get every week, and so I responded ” Oh, great! Did they like the chocolate chip shortbread cookies?” and his response was “Yep.”  And that was all I got.  Haha! HOWEVER, my co-workers RAVED and I mean, raved about these cookies.   I made them for a client meeting later that week and the clients asked where they could purchase them.  Trust me if you are contemplating making them… they are terrific!!  I like them for the ease and do-ahead style of  dough.  You actually HAVE to do these ahead of time, so it’s great for someone with a busy schedule like myself to be able to grab dough from the fridge or freezer and just slice and bake.  Please try them!  And if the dough is a little on the crumbly side when you slice them, just use your hands and smush the cookies back together, they’ll bake themselves back together in the end.  Here is the recipe from Bon Apetite, and Alison is a contributor to their magazine: Salted Butter Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies

 

I sent the cookies along with Chocolate Cupcakes with a Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting… and my brother said they were “awesome”.  But I personally didn’t like this chocolate cake recipe.  I don’t know why I decided to deviate from my go-to “Hershey’s Chocolate Cake” recipe on the back of their cocoa box… but I did.  And I was mad at myself for doing so because I found this chocolate cake to be a little on the dry side and not as sweet as Hershey’s, probably because it calls for hot coffee instead of plain hot water.  You can decide for yourself, but I personally will go back to Hershey’s the next time I make chocolate cupcakes.  But the caramel frosting is really, really good and I was happy with it and it made up for any issues I had with the cake part.  So here are those recipes from My Cake School.com and she has some other great cake recipes and frosting techniques you can learn from as well:
Classic Chocolate Cake

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

And then this Thursday Treat Day, I sent “Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars”…and they were a hit!  I have sent them in the past to the Bears and they have always been very well received.  You have to like cheesecake and graham cracker crust in order to fall in love with these… and of course caramel.  But they come together easily and yield a generous batch since they are baked in a 9×13 pan.  I always make my caramel from boiling sweetened condensed milk in the can for a  few hours.  It’s the best!  I blogged about this cheesecake bar recipe and caramel in can last year so here is the link to that:

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

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Ok, it’s Sunday night and just about game time now, so I’ve got my glass of wine poured, my Bears gear on, and am ready to cheer my face off in front of my t.v. for our beloved BEARS.

I’ve got bananas ripening on the counter so thinking something new in the banana genre for next week’s Thursday Treat Day… I’ll  let you know asap!

Ok, thank you so much for reading my blog and GO BEARS!!!

 

 

Texas Sheet Cake & Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars!

I know, I know… I’m the worst blogger ever! I’ve been so bad at sitting down and writing. But really good at taking half the month of October off to drink, eat and be merry all over God’s creation!  From London to Palm Beach to Chicago.  I’m having a marvelous time!  After 5 nights and 6 days in Palm Beach, and losing my driver’s license and laptop while there, but then finding both…and enjoying one of the most fabulous weddings I’ve ever been to, I finally arrived home in Chicago late Monday night.  And I think I just stopped sweating from the Palm Beach humidity about an hour ago…ha!  But seriously…It was dewy out there. Gorgeous, but dewy.  I actually had to leave the dance floor at one point to run up to my hotel room to blow dry my hair.  I was real pretty… Haha!  By the way, if ever in Palm Beach a visit to The Breakers Hotel is a MUST! The wedding was at The Colony, which is a lovely boutique hotel,  but we had a drink and lunch at The Breakers the afternoon before the wedding, and it’s absolutely stunning! Over looking the ocean and an historic landmark… just fabulous.  Bring  your wallet and make sure you have enough in your bank account to cover it.

At any rate, before I left last week for the wedding, I managed to get all of my real-job work & events in, pack for Florida, and bake for the Bears Thursday Treat Day before I took off.  I knew that I wanted to send something chocolate, something easy but from scratch, and something that yielded many servings so that I didn’t have to double the recipe just in case I  ran short on time… and the perfect solution to that is TEXAS SHEET CAKE!  It’s been around for a long time, and I remember making it for the team only once in the past 8 seasons…and whatever recipe I used that year, I show in my notebook that it was a “hit” and had put a star next to it.  The only thing I didn’t note was the actual recipe that I used.  (I’ve never been a strong note-taker). What the heck.  So, I started from ground zero in search of a good recipe, with 5-stars and many reviews that had actually said they made the cake.  I came upon this one, and I liked it because it called for sour cream vs. buttermilk which so many other recipes called for.  I am sure the Buttermilk recipes are good, but I didn’t have buttermilk on hand so my decision was made based on the reviews and sour cream.  And it did not disappoint! My brother texted me and said “Great job on the Treats!” and my sister Barb, who helped with the delivery of the treats for me last week got the overflow of my chocolate chip cookies and Texas Sheet Cake said it was so good and she wanted the recipe.  So here you have it, and I didn’t change a thing.  As always, I used salted butter & Daisy Sour Cream:The Best Texas Sheet Cake

And then today was Thursday Treat Day Week 8 at Halas Hall, and my brother and I talked on Tuesday and he specifically requested Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars for this week.  I personally love this recipe. I remember the first time sending it to Halas Hall and being so worried that it was too salty… it was the year that “salted caramel” everything was all over the internet in recipes.  He texted me and said that people and players were asking where these bars came from.  I have made them several times over the years for friends and families. I’ve even had requests from friends of friends.  They are that good.  Today, my buddy Jack in the Video Department commented that he “just scarfed down 2 of em”.  I brought just 5 or 6 extras that didn’t fit in my Bears bins to the office and my colleague Amelia said, and I quote, “Dude those chocolate caramel bars were lit!”  Yes, she is half my age and one of my best critics at the office…she has told me in the past when my Peanut Butter Chocolate Shortbread bars were just “okay, and don’t make them for the Bears”. So I was super excited to hear that my bars today were “lit”!  Love it!!!  The Brown Eyed Baker is the gal to thank for the recipe. She is one of my favorites…everything I’ve tried from her site has been incredible! Including her Jalepeno Popper Dip!  I don’t change a thing to her Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bar recipe, except I use Salted Butter.  And I always use Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips & Kraft Caramels.  So here is the recipe:  Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

I hope you enjoy the recipes if you do decide to make them.  If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me.

Thank you so much for reading my blog… And GO BEARS!!!

 

New Jersey Crumb Buns!

Hello! I am doing my best to catch up from my London Bears game trip, and apologize for the lack of communication.  What a blast we had in London and Londoners couldn’t have been more welcoming to us fans.  We stayed at the JW Marriott in Grovesner.  The service was impeccable.  This is the hotel where the Bears stayed as well, so my pals and I were sure to book a room early, as the entire hotel was sold out.  We became fast friends with the hotel staff…Luka and Thomas took especially great care of us.  I would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone traveling to London.  It is not cheap, but if you know me, I like to pretend I have lots of money  when what I really have is lots of room on a credit card…ha! So I vacation in style and don’t worry about a thing until a month later when I’m home and my bill comes in the mail.  Life is too short not take advantage of trips like this, right?!  That’s how I feel, anyway.  At any rate, we were just a short walk to the Marble Arch tube stop, Buckingham Palace, the Embassy District and one of my favorite bars now of all time, The Grenadier.  After taking pictures in front of Buckingham Palace on day 3, we decided to check out this Mexican restaurant that we had walked by on our way there (we had already consumed lots and lots of Fish and Chips in the 2 days before!).  So, not sure if you know this but London is not known for their Mexican food, and this restaurant – while lovely and lively and pretty darned good margaritas – made us realize that we should be checking out more London Pubs and consuming more Fish and Chips.  The food was just okay but with a hefty price tag… and the gold covered grasshopper in our guacamole just about put me over the edge!!!  What the heck!?!  Our friend Ted ate it and said it tasted something along the lines of a Cheeto.  Okay. Gross again.  So we finished our margaritas and grasshopper guacamole and then I Googled “Pubs near me” and Google Maps took us down a beautiful street lined with Embassies from around the world – “Embassy Row”, then right past a quaint little church where a wedding was just finishing up and the bride and groom were taking off in a horse and carriage (I felt like I was in a scene from ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’) and then through some cobble stoned alley right up to the steps of The Grenadier.  What a place! Go there if you are ever are in London.  Small, charming, great beers, one of the oldest Pubs in London…and haunted.  Fun stuff!  We ran into more Bears fans there as well.  Just a jolly good time everywhere we went!  Can’t wait to get back.

Ok, enough about London.  Before I left for that trip, I had been talking with my friend Kathy who is from New Jersey.  She said “have you ever made New Jersey Crumb Buns?” I had never even heard of them before.  I was very curious and thought this could be something new to send to the Bears if they went over well in my test run.  Kathy sent me a couple recipes  that she had tried but said she had to doctor up both.  So I decided to do some research of my own and spent time reading reviews on all the recipes I found.  I ended up choosing this one because a couple of the reviewers that actually tried the recipe themselves said they this cake is just like the cake they grew up on in New Jersey.  Enough said.  I woke up early enough to whip one up to bring to work with me.  It was still quite warm when I covered it and put it in a travel bag to bring to the office.  By the time I arrived at the Chamber it was still warm on the bottom but cool enough to cut.  I sent my All-Staff office email out telling them this was a new recipe and I needed honest opinions only.  Every review from every co-worker was positive…not one was at all negative.  Some people even took the time to walk across the office to let me know how much they enjoyed it in person vs. just an email response to my memo.  I had a piece dropped off to Kathy later that evening.  She sent me a text the next day that said “Let’s talk Crumb Buns soon. “.  That was it.  No smiley face or thumbs up emoji.  No heart.  No nothing.  So, I’m not sure if that means, “Boy, you really nailed the New Jersey Crumb Bun, Chicago Girl!””…or “This New Jersey Crumb Bun is the pits and you so don’t know what you are doing when it comes to this New Jersey treat”.  Soooo, that said, you will have to decide weather or not you try this one.  I personally thought it was a great recipe, especially if you like the Hostess Crumb Cakes that were popular when I was growing up.  That is what this cake reminded me of, only home made and much better!  I will be seeing Kathy in the next couple weeks and will be sure to talk Crumb Buns with her.  And weather she thinks the cake I made was good or bad, I’ll update this post (if I know how) and will let you all know.

Ok, here is the recipe I used: New Jersey Crumb Bun Cake

I’ll be posting again this week from Palm Beach, Florida, where Tom & Hackett, two of my best friends, are celebrating their wedding.  I am the ring bearer!  Can’t wait.  I’m still deciding on what to make for treat day.  But I’m thinking something Chocolate…so will be in touch again soon!

Thank you so much for reading my blog and please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments.

Go Bears!!!

P.S. I forgot to get a pic of the baked piece of cake (sorry!), but you will see on the blogger who shared the recipe, that the crumb topping should be just as thick if not thicker than the actual cake bottom. YUM!

Treat Day – Week 3: Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll Cake!

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Ok, I was planning to make pound cake for Treat Day Week 3, knowing that the Elvis cake is widely popular already with the guys… and then my recipe A-D-D kicked in at about 1pm on baking day, and I started looking at Instagram posts from other bakers that I follow.  I went from deciding to make pound cake to Apple Toffee cake, to Texas Sheet cake, and then somehow landed on a Cinnabon cake recipe that looked like something that would be a big hit.  So, I went out on a limb, and whipped up 2 cakes from this particular blogger’s site.  It’s always a big deal for me when I decide to make something that I’ve never ever tested before.  Because I am my own worst critic and a flipping worry-wart beyond belief, and have tossed entire batches of baked goods out at 10pm the night before Treat Day, and whipped up something else, all because I think to myself, “What was I thinking trying this recipe without a test run and the stamp of approval from my friends and co-workers first? Am I insane?” Why, yes…yes, I am at times.  But in a good way… haha!  These are treats for goodness sake!  Lighten up, Francis.  (That’s a line from a favorite old movie, “Stripes”, btw).  Ok…let me tell you the honest truth..these cakes turned out great, and were relatively easy to put together considering the cake is a scratch recipe and not from a box.  The butter-brown sugar-cinnamon dollops are heavenly and when baked turn into a sweet caramelized gooey center (which makes them a little messy for cutting and  transferring to cupcake liners for serving – but well worth the effort!).  The only thing I did differently from what this recipe says, is for the 2nd cake, I decided to look for a cream cheese based frosting, because that’s what a true Cinnabon Roll from the retailer has, right?  Or do Cinnabon’s have a glaze?  I can’t recall. But I love cream cheese frosting regardless, so wanted to test-taste the difference on the cakes.  My brother said the cream cheese frosting cake was better than the glazed…but both were delicious. And I have to agree.  He actually had to tell his intern to quit eating so much before the players came in from practice.  So next time I make this recipe I will definitely forget using the icing that the recipe calls for and will use the “Cinnabon Frosting” copy-cat recipe. This cake would be perfect for a brunch, at the Holidays when entertaining guests, or a weekend morning to give yourself and family a little something special, and something different from the refrigerated rolls that come in a can (and they never give you enough frosting!).

Here are the links to the cake and the cream cheese frosting:

Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll Cake

Click & Scroll down for the FROSTING

And here are the only few tips I have for you:

  • If you plan to make the cream cheese frosting, double what that recipe calls for… I did and it was the perfect amount for the 9×13 cake
  • Be sure to get your butter to room temp. for the butter-sugar-cinnamon filling.  Because my dollops were thick and a little difficult to run a knife through to make the swirls
  • I always use salted butter in EVERYTHING… I don’t buy unsalted – but that is just my preference
  • I always use Philadelphia Cream Cheese – full fat.
  • My oven baked these cakes to where a toothpick came out clean at 35 minutes…be sure to cook all the way, as it will help the gooey butter sugar dollops meld into the cake and cut easier

And I think that it’s… this recipe was simple and delicious!  Very happy with my spur of the moment choice in picking a recipe…so thank you to the bloggers who shared this with us!

And thank you to you for reading my blog.  Go BEARS!!!

 

Treat Day – Week 2: Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies!

 

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Good Morning! Treat Day – Week 2 was last Thursday at Halas Hall since the game is today vs. the Denver Broncos.  For our 2nd week of treats I wanted to send something brand new to the team.  2019 marks my 8th season of treat-making for the guys so I already know that Peanut Butter anything is very popular with them.  I found this  recipe in late July (when the team goes to training camp, I get to work on finding and testing new recipes on my friends and coworkers at The Chicagoland Chamber).  While scrolling my Instagram feed one night I came across a picture of a brownie that I knew had to be tested.  I woke up the next morning, ran to the store for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (I had all other ingredients on hand) and got to work on test baking.  When I got to the office, I popped the pan into the freezer for a few minutes to let the brownies set a little more, since my commute downtown is about an hour door-to-door.  I waited about 10 minutes, and then cut them up for bite sized portions.   I sent out an “All-Staff” memo subject line: “Peanut Butter Brownies in the Kitchen” and then in the body of the email told them this is a new recipe, so needed honest opinions from anyone who tries them.  The results were overwhelming positive….Joey sent me a response email and said, this is the best thing he had ever tasted and I was his  new favorite person.  Haha!  That was only one of SEVERAL  opinions from my friends at the Chamber.  I myself even thought they were exceptional, and peanut butter is actually not my favorite choice when it comes to treats.  SO, that morning I officially added the brownie recipe to my rotation of treats for the upcoming 2019 season.  The blogger calls these brownies “Peanut Butter Cup Crack Brownies” but I have renamed them and refer to them as “Peanut Butter CRUNCH Brownies” because they are loaded with, not only Peanut Butter & Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, but a half a cup of chopped peanuts…as well as Rice Krsipies – so they are crunchy!!  And they are delicious.  On Thursday morning treat day, I received a text from Jack who works in the Video Department for the Bears and it read:  “Holy cow…those peanut butter fudge crispy things are AMAZING”.  There you have it…these treats are everything and more that you’ve been looking for in a Peanut Butter treat.  Give yourself a  break from standard peanut butter cookies and give these brownies a try… everyone will love you for it…I promise!  Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies

And here are the few tips I have for you:

  • I used Ghiradelli Boxed Brownie Mix – the chocolate with the syrup pack – but your favorite brownie mix will do just fine, as the star of the show here is not really the brownie base, but the Peanut Butter Cups and peanuts and chocolaty peanut butter fudgy layer on top!
  • I use Jif Creamy peanut butter.  I grew up on Skippy but made the switch to Jif in my adult life, as I think it has a better peanut flavor…  just my opinion!
  • I used Planters Honey-Roasted Peanuts… because I love them right out of the jar
  • I always use Ghiradelli Chocolate Chips – and this recipe says you can use semi-sweet or milk chocolate… I use semi-sweet because I am afraid milk chocolate might be too sweet in here.  But again, just my preference.
  • Definitely chill the brownies to  set them up before cutting into them.   I then put them in cupcake liners for serving

That’s it!  I hope you enjoy them if you do try them.  You will not be disappointed!

Thank you so much for reading my blog…and GO BEARS!!!

Treat Day Week 1 – Frosted Sugar Cookies!

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Hello! It’s officially Football Season and I am beyond excited!!! With the Bears playing the Packers  earlier in the week this Thursday night, Treat Day was today,  Monday, at Halas Hall.  And so great for me that it was a 3-day holiday weekend and I had the time to experiment with a new frosting technique!  I love doing cut-out cookies with royal icing because it is like being back in college art class for me…but they are time consuming, so be sure you give yourself ample time to get them done!  With last year being so special as well as this year coming up, the 100th Anniversary of our Bears, I knew I had to do something extra special for the first Treat Day of the season.  I had been to my brother, Dan’s house a couple weeks ago and he had a really good looking Bears shirt on that said “CHASING GREAT”.  He mentioned that this is Head Coach Nagy’s theme this year.  So, I started thinking and pretty much got my idea for opening Treat Day! However, I am no expert at cookie design, especially hand writing with frosting.  So I started googling and found a ton of info. on cookie stencils.  I was able to rush order 2 custom stencils from some place out east that arrived just in time on Friday afternoon.58895922743__75C8A3DB-CF18-4264-A248-03A80F1FEFF2

 

 

I bought some Wilton’s edible blue spray color in a can and couldn’t wait to get to work on my cookies and paint the stenciled words on.  I made the dough of my favorite sugar cookie The Best Rolled Sugar Cookie  and Best Tasting Sugar Cookie Icing

* I use vanilla extract (not almond) for my icing

I got to work rolling dough, cutting the cookies and baking.  Cooled them completely, outlined everyone of them with the royal icing which needs to be the consistency of toothpaste.  So be sure to take enough out of your batch of icing before you add all of the milk to make your flooding icing.  A neat trick I  learned while watching videos this weekend is to remove the “outlining” icing and place it on a piece of plastic wrap. It should be pretty thick so you have time to wrap it up before it spreads out. Then just cut one end and place it in your piping bag – no mess…brilliant!85862A3B-B591-4B8A-9CD2-1FFC934A24BE

Once I frosted every cookie, I tested the blue paint on one that seemed pretty dry, I gave it a nice long spray in hopes of getting big bold blue letters … and I carefully lifted the stencil up…and it looked like I was reading without my contacts or glasses on…it was a runny blurry blue mess and barely legible.  I had even bought some hand paint and brushes from Michael’s as back-up in case the spray paint didn’t work.  Well guess what, neither did the brush paint. CRUD! It’s now Saturday night, well Sunday morning at 1am, and I am thinking “now what?”  So, I did what I needed to do and went to bed. I mean, they are only cookies after all, and no matter what they looked like, even if I just ended up putting blue and orange sprinkles on them, they’d still taste good, right? Wrong. Not good enough or special enough for me… I HAD to use these special stencils!

Side note: do NOT cover your frosted cookies while letting them dry overnight.  The bakers on the internet all said to leave your frosted cookies out over night uncovered to air dry… and I am a freak and didn’t think that was a good idea, so I covered every one of my cookie trays with heavy duty foil.  Not only were they not completely dry 7 hours later, one of my pans of cookies stuck to the foil and made for unsightly smoosh marks on my previously beautiful and smooth iced cookies.  After my internal emotional meltdown from this, I pulled myself together and reminded myself that they were darned cookies and they will still taste good.  And these are for the players that, quite frankly, have a few other things to worry about this week than eating a cookie that isn’t perfectly smooth.  Ok, it’s not easy being me sometimes.  Have I mentioned that before? Haha!

I then started googling “buttercream frosting on cookies with stencils”…and low and behold  I found a site with video tutorial that saved the day.  She basically taught me how to use a stiff buttercream and essentially spackle it over your stencil that is placed carefully on top of your royal iced cookie.  Perfect…I had my solution! I whipped up my favorite buttercream recipe and colored some navy and some orange. My Cake School Classic Vanilla Buttercream

I used an offset spatula to gently plop a dollop of buttercream onto the stencil, and then smear the buttercream carefully over the words… and tried not to push down too hard which causes the grooves of your letters to catch onto the spatula and then screw up the look of the final result.  The “G” was giving me a hard time by the final cookies because of this.  Light and steady… you can watch the video tutorial on this site to see how it’s done correctly: Stenciled Buttercream Cookies

After doing about 15 or so cookies, I started to get the hang of it and then I was on a roll.  And happy. In the end they weren’t perfect but who is…ha!  My Bears insider scoop texted me earlier in the day and said the Bears cookies are delicious and a lot had already been eaten.  Treat Day Week 1 is going down in the books as a WIN…thanks to all of the bakers out there on the World Wide Web that taught me a thing or two this weekend on how to stencil! I did use up all of my buttercream when I ran out of royal icing.  I had some fondant that I rolled out and then used these cute little letter and number cutters to make the “Club Dub” and “100” cookies.  So fun!   Moral of the story:  Don’t feel like you have to be a pro to make fun stenciled cookies… there are even some gadgets out there that you can buy to help keep your stencils perfectly in place to make your cookies look even more professional. Give it a try and feel free to contact me with any questions!

Thank you so much for reading my blog and GO BEARS!!!

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