Happy Easter to all my Peeps

It’s that time of year! Easter is here! Bright colored eggs and pastel candies have officially filled every store in town! I saw Peeps on sale the other day and thought to myself, “wow, when was the last time I ate one of these?”. I started to reminisce to my childhood, when Easter meant waking up to an Easter egg hunt and a basket full of candy and stuffed animals! Those were the days! Well, I decided to treat myself this year with several boxes of Peeps and bags of chocolate bunnies and eggs (not like I need it or anything)! Then, it got me thinking.. I’ve never baked anything special for Easter. Of all the holidays, I think Easter has some of the cutest decorated treats too. So as I’m scrolling through Pinterest looking at cute Easter ideas, I came across several pictures of cookies that look just like Peeps! How genius! And EASY! If you’re not huge into decorating, trust me this is the recipe for you! Everyone will be impressed too because they’re so adorable. 

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Unfortunately, I won’t be giving out my recipe for my sugar cookies. I was sworn to secrecy by my boss when I worked at a bakery for my internship for Le Cordon Bleu in south Florida. The woman I worked for has the most amazing sugar cookie recipe and all of her customers always raved about them. I’ve made and tasted plenty of different sugar cookie recipes, some which have no flavor, others that don’t come out perfectly shaped, and then luckily hit the jackpot with discovering hers. So my advice here is, if you don’t happen to make sugar cookies on a regular basis and have a super amazing recipe like mine, go ahead and buy a sugar cookie mix at the store. I’ve never actually made a cookie mix, but I’m sure they will do the trick! In fact, that will make last minute decorating even faster! 

 

Don’t worry I’m still going to show you how to decorate these little Peeps cookies like a pro! ;) We’ll start with the icing. Which is actually Wilton’s royal icing recipe. Super easy and delicious! And it only has 3 ingredients! 

  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 5 tablespoons warm water

*If you don’t want to go out and buy meringue powder just for this (as it can be pretty expensive), substitute the water and meringue powder for half of one egg white at room temperature. If your icing is too thick, add water a little at a time until you achieve the consistency you need* 

First, sift the confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl. 

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Once the sugar is sifted and lump free, start scooping it into your mixer along with the meringue powder and water. (Or if you’re substituting the meringue powder and water, go ahead and add your egg white).

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Beat on low speed for 7 minutes, scraping down the bottom and sides halfway through. The consistency you are trying to achieve is almost the same as toothpaste. It’s best to make it more on the stiff side because you will be using this as an outline on your cookies. Therefore, it needs to hold up nicely when piped. If your icing is too thick, add water ½ teaspoon at a time. If your icing is too runny, add more sifted confectioner’s sugar. 

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(This is an example of icing that is too runny. You can see how its dripping in a stream down into the bowl. I had to add a few more tablespoons of sifted confectioner’s sugar.)

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(When you lift your whip and the icing holds shape and doesn’t drip down, thats a good indication that you’ve achieved the right consistency.)

Now separate the icing into different bowls (depending on how many different colors you are going to use). I use the gel food coloring from Michael’s, but they sell liquid pastel/neon food colors at Publix that will work just fine for this (anything bright and colorful is a good color for Easter)! Slowly add gel coloring with a tiny amount on a toothpick, or tiny drops, because a little goes a long way. 

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 Make sure you keep all of your icing covered with plastic wrap because it dries out very quickly!

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Now, once your cookies have baked and cooled completely, it’s time to decorate!

If you want to do this the professional way, scoop each colored icing into a piping bag with a coupler and set aside two different tips. I like to pipe the outline with a thin tip (Wilton #2 or #3) and fill it in with a wider tip (Wilton #10 or #12). If all of this mumbo jumbo sounds like too much work and you don’t have these supplies, have no fear! There is NO need to use them for this cookie. You’re going to throw sprinkles all over the top at the end anyway, so putting some icing in a plastic ziploc bag and cutting a small hole at the end will do the trick!! 

Start by outlining each bunny or chick Peep shaped cookie (cookie cutters found at Michael’s, which by the way has a 30% off coupon on their site good for this weekend) with each icing color. 

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Like I said before, none of this has to be perfect because it is going to be covered in sprinkles! 

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Once you’ve finished outlining the cookies, it’s safe to thin out the rest of the icing to fill them! Add water drops at a time with a ½ teaspoon spoon. Be very careful doing this, because if you add too much water you’ll need to add more stiff icing and then more food coloring to make sure you get the same color you already piped. So I literally add water in drops and mix with a spoon little by little until it drips off the spoon and melts into one uniform puddle in the bowl. 

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(Like this.) Now you can fill in the cookies with your thinner icing. 

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Again, doesn’t have to be perfect because it will be covered in sprinkles and nobody will even notice you did all of this work (sigh). If you wanted to, you could even spoon out the icing onto the cookie and smear it around with a spoon. Yup, that will work for this cookie. SEE HOW EASY, anyone can make these! 

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Once the cookie is covered in icing, sprinkle a matching color sprinkle on top while the icing is still wet. Then, shake off the excess sprinkles. These are not your average circle sprinkles, these are tiny square sprinkles you can find at Michael’s. For example, these blue ones are labeled “Blue Sugar” on the container (so I’m guessing these are formally called “Sugar Sprinkles”?).

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 *The best way to do this is on a separate baking tray with parchment paper on top. Place one set color of cookies on it at a time. That way, when you’re done sprinkling all the blue cookies you can lift each end of the parchment paper in half making a funnel and pour the extra sprinkles directly back into the blue sprinkle container. That way you don’t have to waste any sprinkles or make a big sprinkly mess all over the counter! Then repeat with each color! *

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Here’s all my Peeps! :) But they’re not Peeps just yet. They need those silly little brown eyes and noses! I melted a few (only about 5 to 10) chocolate chips in the microwave and then mixed the melted chocolate with a spoonful of white royal icing I set aside. (It’s hard to get a nice brown color, so the easiest way is adding melted chocolate.) I cut a teeny tiny hole in a plastic bag and piped these onto their cute little colorful faces. 

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Yay! Peeps, but cookie version! :) They’re so cute and fun for everyone and they taste great! Who doesn’t love a cookie covered in sprinkles anyways? 

I took a big box of these to work and I’m so sad I forgot to take a picture of them all wrapped up together! But they would make a cute little Easter basket for someone special! 

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Are those cookies or Peeps in there? ;) 

Or you can even individually wrap them and give them out to friends or family for Easter! 

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(Sent these to my son’s teachers at daycare yesterday!)

You can even eat them all up and treat yourself this Easter since you’re probably not receiving an easter basket like when you were a kid (and if you do, I’m jealous)! Whatever you choose to do with them I hope you enjoy making these Peeps cookies because they are really fun, cute, and they taste SO yummy! I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter with their families! God Bless :) 

 

In the theme of pretty Easter colors, here’s an easy dessert you can also make this weekend! I made this cookie cake for my mom’s birthday (and all of the April birthdays) at work! 

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Get the full recipe here!

 

 

 

Better than a Samoa cookie… it’s a cupcake!

“Oh what a girl can do”. This is the saying on the top of a Samoa’s Girl Scout cookie box in case you were wondering. How cute, right? “Oh what a girl can do”. Well, I’ll tell you what a girl can do! She can sit outside of every store you shop at while you’re trying to get in shape for bikini season with a bunch of mouthwatering, delicious, heaven in a box cookies! Then, she plays her little Jedi mind tricks on you and flashes a sweet innocent smile as she says “would you like to buy some cookies?”, leaving you powerless to say anything but yes! That is how these cupcakes came to life. So I guess in this case, thank you little girl scouts for manipulating me into buying one… two… ok fine, i bought THREE boxes of Samoa’s so that I could make this amazing Samoa Cupcake

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 This cupcake recipe took a lot of time and research to come up with. In other words, I ate a lot of Samoa’s cookies (hey it was for the research!). I decided to do a little tweaking to one of my classic vanilla cupcake recipes and came up with this TO DIE FOR cupcake! I’m not kidding… this may be the best cupcake I’ve ever had (and I’m not just saying that because I made it)! If you love Samoa’s cookies (everyone does, right?) then you’re going to absolutely love these!!! And on top of it all, it’s easy to make! 

  • Samoa cupcakes
  • A coconut, caramel, chocolate Samoa cookie turned into a cupcake!
Servings
14 cupcakes

Ingredients

Servings: cupcakes

Instructions

  1. For the cupcakes: Sift dry ingredients together. Melt butter. Stir sugar into butter. Add egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla and mix. Slowly mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Stir in coconut, chocolate chips, and crushed cookies. Fill liners with 3 tbsp batter each. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  2. For the Caramel Buttercream: Over medium heat, melt sugar until golden brown and smooth. While stirring, add butter (cut into chunks). Remove from heat and stir in cream. Measure out 1/2 cup caramel sauce into separate bowl and set aside for garnishing. Set aside and let cool. Meanwhile, mix butter on medium speed until fluffy. Stop mixer and add confectioner's sugar. Mix on low speed until smooth. Add vanilla. Beat on high for one minute. Turn speed down to low and slowly add half of the caramel sauce.
  3. For the garnish: Place coconut flakes onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake at 300 degrees for 5 minutes. Toss flakes. Bake for another 5 minutes or until desired golden brown color and crispness. Pipe buttercream on cupcakes. Sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes. Drizzle with melted chocolate and remaining caramel sauce.

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I know what you’re thinking… the ingredient list looks intimidating, but trust me it’s an easy recipe! I won’t lie though, this recipe may be easy, but it’s not quick. Fear not, it’s worth it! If you measure out all of your ingredients ahead of time it will make things go by quicker! Prep all the ingredients and start measuring everything out to save some time! You want to take all of your cold ingredients out of the fridge first to bring them to room temperature. It’s also a good idea to set your oven to 350º before you start baking to ensure even heating throughout. 

Let’s get started! First, crush up the Samoa’s cookies. I placed them in a plastic bag between a kitchen towel and beat with my rolling pin (it’s a great way to get out some aggression). Or you can just break them up with your hands! They don’t need to be fine crumbs. Break up the cookies into small chunks so you can really get the Samoa cookie flavor in every bite!

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In a medium-sized bowl, melt the butter and stir in the sugar. Then, add in the egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla. 

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Slowly mix in the sifted dry ingredients. Once combined, add the crushed cookies, chocolate chips, and coconut flakes. 

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Fill each cupcake liner with about 3 to 3½ tablespoons of batter. 

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Bake at 350º for 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

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Now onto the most amazing caramel buttercream you’ll ever taste! Step number 1: make caramel sauce. Add the sugar to a small pot on the stove and cook over medium heat. Start stirring once the sugar turns a nice golden caramel color.

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Stir until smooth. Then, cut up the butter into chunks and add to the sugar. It will start to bubble, don’t worry that’s normal! 

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Once it’s smooth, take the pot off the heat and add the heavy cream. When it’s done it should look something like this…

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Measure out ½ cup of the caramel sauce and save that for garnishing. Pour the rest into a small bowl and let cool. 

Congratulations, you just made caramel sauce! See how easy!  Now let’s make the buttercream so we can combine the two together for some melt in your mouth amazingness (on here, that’s a word)! 

First, start off by whipping up your softened butter in a mixer on medium speed. Get it nice and fluffy! Then, turn off the mixer and start adding your sifted confectioner’s sugar. It’s very important to sift confectioner’s sugar when making buttercream to avoid lumps! Mix on low speed until combined and add the vanilla. Make sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Then, beat on high speed for one minute. 

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Once the buttercream is nice and smooth, in a slow steady stream, add the cooled caramel sauce on low speed (remember to save the ½ cup of caramel sauce for later). 

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My mouth is already watering. Is yours? Now all you need to do is toast some coconut flakes on a single layer in a baking sheet at 300º for 5 minutes. Toss them around to ensure even cooking (not burning), and bake another 5 minutes until you get the desired golden toasty color you’re looking for.

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Melt some chocolate chips in the microwave and pour into a plastic ziploc bag with the tip cut. Pour the caramel sauce that you set aside into a ziploc bag and cut the tip as well. For the buttercream I used a piping bag with a star tip (Ateco #848). 

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Start assembling your cupcakes by piping the buttercream, sprinkling with toasted coconut flakes, drizzling your chocolate and caramel sauce, and top it all off with half of a Samoa cookie! If you thought Samoa cookies were good, just WAIT until you try this cupcake! 

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If it comes time when all the little sneaky girl scouts have disappeared and you can’t find these cookies anywhere, you can always make them! Here’s a link for homemade Samoa cookies. She has great step by step tutorials and pictures!  If that seems like too much work for you to make cookies and cupcakes, no worries! If you leave out the crushed cookies this cupcake will STILL taste like a Samoa! 

…I just realized I was getting on the girl scouts for seducing me with these cookies right before bikini season, but now I’m passing on the torture to all of you right as Spring has started! OOPS! Oh well, you’re going to love these anyways! Enjoy ;) 

The King of all pies

A while ago my friend, Natalie, asked if I could make something with bananas (and chocolate.. or peanut butter.. I can’t remember, but I know bananas were involved). Let’s just say this post is long overdue! We only made apple and blueberry pies in culinary school, so I decided to google a few recipes. I found a couple that I liked, did a little tweaking, and two pies later came up with a peanut butter, chocolate, banana pie that Elvis would die for! ;)

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Recipe:

  • 18 cinnamon graham crackers
  • ½ cup honey roasted peanuts 
  • 6 tbsp melted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 8 oz (1 cup) cream cheese
  • ¾ cup peanut butter 
  • ¾ cup brown sugar 
  • ¼ cup heavy cream 
  • ¼ cup Reeses peanut butter chips
  • 2-3 large bananas 
 

First, set your oven temperature to 350º. Now you can start crushing your graham crackers in a food processor until fine. Once those are all teeny tiny crumbs, I like to add the peanuts and just pulse a few times so that there’s still chunks of nuts  pbp2in the crust. Melt the butter in the microwave and then add it to your graham cracker mixture. The best way to mix this is with your hands. You know it’s well mixed if you think you can manage to mold a mini sandcastle with your crumbs. Go ahead and dump the crumbs into a springfoam pan. If you don’t have a springfoam pan, a regular cake pan would work fine it will just be harder to remove your slices later!

Press down firmly and evenly to form your crust. I like to line some of the crumbs up into the sides, or you could just make a thicker crust only lining the bottom. Bake the crust for 9 minutes on 350º, then take out and let cool.

While your crust is cooling, the next step is making chocolate ganache (YUM). In school, we always made our ganache  pbp3using the double boiler method (fill a pot with water and place a bowl on top to let the steam heat it up), but I’ve recently been “cheating” and using the microwave method and I have to admit, it’s a whole lot easier and works just as well!!

So measure  out your chocolate and ½ cup cream and place them in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave. You don’t want to burn your chocolate, so heat it on DEFROST for one minute (maximum). Take it out and start stirring quickly. Once your ganache is smooth pop it in the freezer to start cooling it down quickly while you finish baking. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to it so we don’t forget it in there!

Before we get to the peanut butter (I know you’re all dying to lick the “peanut butter batter spoon”), let’s make the whipped cream. If you don’t have a stand mixer, a hand mixer works too! If you don’t have a hand mixer, your actual hand will also work (just be prepared to get a good arm workout)! And if you hate exercising, I suppose you can buy whipped cream, but IT’S NOT IMG_4382THE SAME! (In fact, you could make this whole recipe with a hand mixer or even a whisk and a large bowl if that’s all you have!)

Sorry, back to the recipe. Beat 1 ¼ cup whipped cream with a whip attachment on high until stiff peaks form. You don’t want to under-beat this so make sure it’s nice and firm. The trick my chef taught me was “put the bowl upside down over your head, if it falls, it wasn’t done”. Ok, so you don’t have to literally do that (although he really did make us do this in class, and no I didn’t get a whipped cream shampoo), but I would suggest taking the bowl and slowly turning it upside down to see if it starts moving towards the side of the bowl. If it moves, it’s not done, keep whipping. You also don’t want to over whip it so that it starts getting chunky and looking like scrambled eggs. So try to get to a happy medium. Spoon out the whipped cream into a separate bowl.

Now the part you’ve all been waiting for.. IT’S PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME (I couldn’t help but sing it in the peanut butter jelly song voice)! In your mixer, whip the cream cheese and peanut butter together until smooth.

Pause. Go check on your ganache in the freezer! You don’t want it to “set” and get too firm. But it’s going to be thicker than when you first melted it. (If it froze too quickly don’t worry. Just pop it in the microwave for like six seconds and stir.) Take the bowl out and set it aside on the counter. 

Then, add in the ¼ cup heavy cream and slowly mix. Next, add the brown sugar and cream together for one minute. Make sure you’re scraping down the sides and the bottom of the bowl throughout mixing! Now add the whipped cream that you just made (or cheated and bought) to the mixer and FOLD with a spatula. Be gentle! While you’re folding in the cream, add the peanut butter chips!

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Ok ok, NOW you can lick the spoon! Pour out the ganache onto the crust. Spread evenly around with a spatula. Then, cut pbp12pbp10up two or three large bananas into slices. Some of my taste testers weren’t big fans of bananas in the recipe (hello, they’re my star ingredient!), so I thinly sliced two small bananas, but I highly suggest using three LARGE bananas and slicing them thick so you really get plenty of bananas in each bite!

Evenly place the banana slices on top of the chocolate ganache. When you’re done, pour in the peanut butter mixture. I know you probably want to dig right in, but this pie needs to set in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight! So cover it up with plastic wrap and start counting down the minutes!

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Once your pie is done you can decorate it however you would like! I topped mine with some honey roasted peanuts for an extra crunch, caramel and chocolate sauce, extra whipped cream, and a cherry on top! :) Make sure you store this pie covered in the fridge. Peanut butter, chocolate, banana lovers… this pie is calling your name! (Natalie) Hope you all enjoy this amazingly delicious pie!

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If you are lonesome tonight, you should bake this pie. Trust me you can’t help falling in love with it. After you eat it you’re going to be all shook up. Ok enough corny Elvis song puns, GET TO BAKING! ;)