all dressed up

I don’t always like to dress up. I barely ever wore skirts or dresses, but I’m getting a little better about that. As long as they still hide my “Hall knees”.

I don’t like to wear a lot of jewelry. I haven’t bought an accessory in years, and for some reason I just keep wearing the same necklaces I’ve always worn. I have a box of rings, but am pretty content with the wedding rings going solo. It’s just how I roll.

But sometimes, I like to be a really girly girl. Sometimes I like the frills, the lace, the bows and all that jazz. Sometimes I wear heels when I’m not at work. Sometimes jeans aren’t the look I’m going for, and sometimes my favorite Toms are just plain frumpy. Sometimes, but not all the time, that’s for sure.

Sometimes dessert needs dressing up, too. Cake needs to be more than cake and icing every so often. And today, rather than a pop of color in an outfit, I thought I’d share a cake with a dressed-up, unexpected flavor – Earl Grey tea.

I’ve managed to stay off of the coffee addiction I conquered so long ago, but I tell ya – a cup of earl grey most days of the week is an addiction I won’t be trying to cure myself of anytime soon. And an extra helping of it in a cake is nothing to feel shameful of either.

Dressed up or not though, be sure to dig your finger (or maybe your hand if you’re feeling ballsy?) into the raw dough before it bakes up. It’s the best cake batter I’ve tasted in a while.

Some things are just perfect in raw form, unadorned, unbaked, whatever. Don’t judge.

Earl Grey Chocolate Cake
adapted from Real Simple Magazine via Shutterbean.com; serves 10-12

time commitment: ~1 1/2 hours (~20 minutes active time)

printable version

ingredients
6 Earl Grey tea bags
1 c water
1/2 c (1 stick) butter
3 eggs
2 c granulated sugar
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted & cooled
2 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/4 t kosher salt
1/2 c plain yogurt
confectioners’ sugar

instructions
Heat oven to 350 F. Coat a bundt pan with cooking spray.

Brew the tea in the water 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and set brewed tea aside.

Using a mixer, beat the butter, eggs, and granulated sugar until fluffy. Blend in the chocolate. Beat in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, yogurt, and brewed tea. Pour into pan.

Bake 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes.

Turn out of pan and cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

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To Bathe in Sugar

Have you ever been to a Mexican wedding? I haven’t, but if I did, I’d sure hope to see these cookies.

I’m not sure why, but small round balls of nutty dough rolled in confectioners’ sugar seem to be all the rage at weddings, or at least that’s what their name says. Do they even have these cookies at weddings?

When I was a kid, my favorite cookies were stocked high on the top shelf of Food Lion, near the graham crackers and the Fig Newtons. The packaging was simple, but eye-catching at the same time. It was bright Barbie pink, and unlike a lot of cookies on the shelves that came in plastic trays (Oreo and Chips A’hoy!, I’m talking at you!), these were stored in a paper bag, although now I’m pretty certain they’ve switched to a tall box.

They were also messy – they must have been bathed in a ginormous vat of powdered sugar, maybe three or four times just to make sure there was enough sticking to the cookie. You took one out of the bag and the cookie’s sugar coating went all over the place – like the flour in the jar that you always seem to get everywhere, despite your slow, purposeful movements of the cup into the bowl. These cookies were nearly impossible to eat on the sneak, and for that reason I usually just ate the whole bag at once in an effort to only get into trouble for sneaking cookies one time.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure why there are so many different types of these cookies from all different countries. The name I grew up eating was Danish Wedding Cookies, the recipe I adapted from here was called Mexican Wedding Cookies, and there are also Swedish and Italian versions, probably Argentinian and Fijian too, for all I know. The recipes all seem pretty much the same, so why can’t we just call them “Wedding Cookies”? And why are they called Wedding Cookies anyway? Like I said, I’ve never seen them at a wedding… but maybe I’ve just been to the wrong nuptial ceremonies.

Regardless of what you decide to call them, I can’t believe I’m confessing that this is the first time I’ve ever made them. Furthermore, I haven’t purchased a pink bag or box of these cookies in years, probably even more than a decade ago, which makes me really feel ancient right about now. I’ll also confess this: now that I have made them, I can pretty much guarantee these are the easiest cookies ever to throw together. Christmas cookie swap, anyone?

Danish weddings? Mexican weddings? What the hell ever. I’m just gonna call them Wedding Cookies, and leave all the countries out of it. I don’t really care where they come from, to be honest. I just know that I should have saved a handful of them instead of taking them all to work last week. But no worries – I’m sure there are many more a cookie to be had in the next few weeks.

Happy Holidays!

Wedding Cookies
Adapted from Lottie + Doof; makes ~50 cookies

time commitment: under an hour (most inactive – baking and cooling)

printable version

ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 c confectioners’ sugar, plus more for rolling
3 T maple syrup
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
zest of half an orange
1/2 t chipotle chile powder
2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 c g pecans

instructions
preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

in the bowl of a mixer, combine butter and sugar and mix until combined and creamy. add maple syrup, vanilla, salt, orange zest, and chile powder and mix until combined. add flour and pecans and mix until fully incorporated.

roll cookies into 1-inch balls and place about 1 inch apart on baking sheets. bake ~14 minutes, remove and let cool completely. toss in confectioners’ sugar to coat completely.

Crowd Pleaser

Eat, drink, and be merry. That’s what happened this past weekend. Who am I kidding? That’s what happens every weekend. Except this time, we didn’t just spend it with a few people; we spent it with a condo-full of people.

There was a lot of chocolate involved. Also, cheese, but more on that later. We’ll be talking party food for a while in these parts.

I ‘advertised’ a party with ‘snacks’, and as a direct result of my inability to choose between all the things I wanted to make, we ended up with plenty of food, and good thing because most of it was put to good use. Cheryl and Luke were lucky enough to get to help out with some of the snack-making since they came in Thursday night, but they didn’t seem to mind being put to work. Me? I love having people to cook with, and as a result there was more time to chill, which was also nice. (as a side note, Luke also let me play with his ‘prime lens‘, which I promptly put on my wishlist.)

Of course, we’re talking about someone who gets a kick outta baking bread and cookies all day, and someone who didn’t seem to mind having to prep and cook all week so that all 12 items were ready well in advance of party time. To me, all of that makes perfect sense, and I didn’t regret an ounce of it (well, maybe I regretted making macarons for the first time on Saturday afternoon, but again, more on that later).

I realized early in the week that the snacks were cheese-heavy and chocolate-heavy. Is that a problem? No. I pushed through, and only adjusted a wee bit to add (rather than change because again, I’m silly like that) a non-chocolate cookie and a non-cheese savory snack. But people liked the chocolate – especially the puppy chow.

What’s not to like, right? In contrast to what you might think, puppy chow isn’t dog food, but if dog food tasted this good I’d seriously have to consider a new diet. Puppy chow is a dish that combines all of my favorite things: crunchy cereal, peanut butter, chocolate, and sugar. Also, butter.

This is a dessert I can totally get behind, 24/7. It’s easy, it’s quick, and it’s a crowd pleaser for sure. It’s also adjustable, with no extra effort, to varied diets – gluten-free, dairy-free, even vegan.

I should also add that if you do make it, hide it. It’s only slightly addictive, but when you’re making things in advance that bowl, no matter how well covered it is, seems to get opened on multiple occasions.

Puppy Chow
adapted from Fast & Fabulous Party Foods & Appetizers; serves a party

time commitment: less than 10 minutes

i’ve seen this recipe in quite a few places, and i remember first trying it when my mother in law made it. i don’t have her recipe, but i’m guessing it’s pretty similar to this one, which i found in a book my mom got me for christmas. thanks, mom!

printable version

ingredients
1 stick vegan butter
1 c chunky peanut butter
1 12-oz bag vegan chocolate chips
1 box corn Chex
3 c powdered sugar

instructions
in a microwave-safe bowl (or in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly), combine butter, peanut butter, and chocolate and warm in 30 second intervals until melted, smooth, and runny.

dump 1/2 of Chex into a large bowl and cover with half of melted goodness. add the rest of the Chex and cover with remaining melted goodness. combine gently and mix together. dump contents into a double-bagged paper bag, toss in powdered sugar, and shake vigorously (which is why you need the bag doubled…) until sugar coats all of Chex. enjoy!