Big News for SMiLes

Hello all my faithful readers! As I mentioned in an earlier post, SMiLes by Meg is undergoing some exciting changes! For starters, I’m moving to a new domain, www.smilesbymeg.com.  That means if you want to keep SMiLing every Sunday, you should go there and follow me, using the sign up on the left menu bar.

My first post on the new site, Frozen Yogurt is already live, so you should check it out!

Also, I’m branching out into the world of other social media, which are also linked on the new site! So if my Sunday posts aren’t enough, you’ll be able to see what I’m up to on Twitter and Instagram as well!

Thank you all so much for your support – I love writing this blog and hope you’ll all make the journey with me to my new site!

For now, this one will stay live until I’m totally done reworking the other, but any future posts will appear there, not here.

What are you waiting for? Get over to www.smilesbymeg.com!

Blueberry Muffins

IMG_2090

 

January probably isn’t the time of year you think of for blueberry muffins, but for some reason the idea of making them has been stuck in my head all weekend. Maybe it’s because I just spent a long time at home and they remind me of walking to the bakery when I was little to get a “Boo Boo Muffin”, or maybe it’s just because blueberries were on sale at A&P earlier this week so they stood out to me. Either way, I decided to make them to bring to work tomorrow, since we have a faculty meeting and that usually means the staff room could use a bit of a morale booster.

The recipe I have is called “Cable Blueberry Muffins”. When my mom was redoing her kitchen a long time ago, I agreed to copy all of the recipes in her recipe box onto new cards so they’d be easy to find. I painstakingly went through the recipe cards, magazine clippings, and scraps of paper to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and this was one of the ones clipped out of a newspaper at some point, on a page with maybe three other recipes. I assumed it must be important if my mom had it in her special box, so I asked about it later, thinking they must be the best blueberry muffins ever, but she said she’d never heard of Cable Blueberry Muffins. Oh well.

Anyways, I apparently also at some later date copied it onto an index card for myself, and when I was cleaning my apartment yesterday, it was miraculously sitting on top of a pile of cookbooks as if it knew I was making blueberry muffins this weekend. So I used it.

First, separate the egg whites and yolks, and put the egg whites in a small bowl. Beat them with a hand mixer on medium speed, and add 1/4 cup of sugar, continuing to beat until foamy.

 

IMG_2079

In a large bowl, cream the butter using a hand mixer on medium speed.

IMG_2080

Add the vanilla, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, and egg yolks to the butter and beat until smooth.

IMG_2081

 

In a medium bowl (I realize that you will likely use your entire set of bowls to make this recipe – it’s kind of satisfying when that happens despite the extra clean up), combine the flour and baking powder.

 

IMG_2082

Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk to the main batter mixture (that’s the one with the butter in the large bowl), beating after each addition until completely combined.

IMG_2083 IMG_2084 IMG_2085

Fold in the blueberries. I have one spatula that’s considerably sturdier than my other one, and I use it almost exclusively to fold things in. Definitely worth investing in.

IMG_2086

Finally, fold in the egg whites, again using your sturdy spatula.

IMG_2087

Spoon the batter evenly between 12 lined muffin tins. They will be about 3/4 full.

IMG_2088

Bake at 350°F for 20 to 30 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

IMG_2089

Allow to cool slightly in the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool further.

IMG_2092

Obviously, blueberry muffins are best enjoyed warm with a hefty pat of butter. However, they will also keep for a couple days at room temperature if you store them in an airtight container. Alternatively, if you want to always have emergency blueberry muffins on hand, they freeze and thaw pretty well, too.

Enjoy!

IMG_2091

Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries

Directions:

  1. Beat the egg whites in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until foamy. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer on medium speed to cream the butter. Add the vanilla, remaining 3/4 cup sugar and egg yolks and beat until smooth.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
  4. Add the flour mixture and milk in alternating portions to the main batter, beating after each addition until completely combined.
  5. Fold in the blueberries using a rubber spatula.
  6. Fold in the egg whites.
  7. Spoon batter evenly among 12 lined muffin tins. Bake at 350°F for 20-30 minutes or until edges are golden. Remove to wire rack to cool.

White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

IMG_2024

 

Today is my last blog post of 2014, and what a year it has been. There have been a lot of changes, both good and bad, and, honestly, I’m kind of ready to leave it behind. A new year always holds such promise for fresh starts and trying new things, and I could use that right about now.

One resolution that affects you, my readers, is that SMiLes by Meg will have a new home sometime early in 2015! For Christmas, my brother got me a new domain name (website, for anyone who doesn’t do that stuff), and as soon as I have the time to figure it out, I’ll be building that new site and transferring to it full time. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know when that switch is going to happen!

Anyways, for my last post of the year, here’s one more cookie from my cookie tins that could realistically be made for the rest of the winter – and would also be great for New Year’s Eve: White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies!

Full disclosure: the reviews on this one have been that they are a grown-up cookie – kids were bigger fans of the gingerbread men and reindeer cookies I’ve made before.

First, chop eight ounces of white chocolate into chunks. Set four ounces aside for later use. I used Ghirardelli, but Lindt makes a good baking bar, too.

 

IMG_2011

Put the other four ounces in  a small saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted.

IMG_2012

IMG_2013

In a large bowl, beat butter with a hand mixer on medium-high speed for 30 seconds.

IMG_2014

Add the sugar and baking powder and beat until fluffy.

IMG_2015

Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract until combined.

IMG_2016

 

Add the melted white chocolate and beat until smooth.

IMG_2017

 

Add the flour and beat until combined, scraping down sides to ensure all is mixed in.

IMG_2018

IMG_2019

Stir in the peppermint chunks and white chocolate chunks. I used candy cane pieces that I found at Michael’s, but you could also just crush up candy canes or use the Ande’s peppermint pieces as well.

IMG_2020

Drop the cookie dough by the rounded spoonful onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

IMG_2021

Bake at 375°F for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges.

IMG_2022

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. I think these would be especially good with hot chocolate, but they are pretty delicious on their own.

Enjoy!

IMG_2023

White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup chopped candy canes

Directions:

  1. Melt 4 ounces of white chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly.
  2. Beat butter on high speed in a large bowl using a hand mixer for 30 seconds.
  3. Add sugar and baking powder and beat until combined.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla extract and continue to beat.
  5. Add melted white chocolate and beat until smooth.
  6. Add flour and beat until incorporated.
  7. Stir in remaining white chocolate chunks and peppermint pieces.
  8. Drop by rounded spoonful on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375°F for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden at edges. Cool completely on wire rack.

Christmas Roll Sugar Cookies

IMG_2044

 

Yesterday was my five year high school reunion, which is weird for me to think about. I got to see people that I actually haven’t seen since graduation, as well as others that I’ve kept in better touch with, and it was awesome to be able to hear about what everyone was up to. A lot has changed since high school (I definitely wasn’t as into baking back then), but in a lot of ways it was nice that some things stayed the same.

Also, I found out that some people have been reading my blog (Hi Michelle and Liz!). So in case you are looking for a last minute Christmas cookie that’s easy and cool looking, this week I’m posting my Christmas Roll Sugar Cookies. It’s the same base as my very first post, but instead of rolling and cutting shapes, you make a roll for slice and bake style cookies.

So first, combine the flour and baking powder in a small bowl.

 

IMG_2006

Then, in a large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar until smooth using a hand mixer.

IMG_2007

Add the eggs and vanilla and beat to combine.

IMG_2008

Add the flour mixture and beat until fully incorporated. Separate the dough into 3 equal parts.

IMG_2009

Add red food coloring to one portion and green to a second. I used the Wilson gel food coloring so it wouldn’t mess with the consistency of the dough, but make sure you use a lot if you don’t want preppy pink and green cookies.

IMG_2010

Chill the dough, covered, in the refrigerator for about an hour to make it easier to roll. Then, roll each portion out into a rectangle of about the same size on pieces of wax paper.

IMG_2035

Stack the dough rectangles, one on top of the other, and trim the edges to make sure they line up. Obviously, color order is up to you.

IMG_2036

IMG_2037

Starting on the long side, roll the dough into a log. Wrap the log in the wax paper and freeze for a couple of hours.

IMG_2038

Once the dough is frozen, it will be way easier to slice. Slice into cookies, rotating the log a quarter turn after each cut to prevent one side from flattening.

IMG_2040

Roll the dough in colored sprinkles and place two inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake at 375°F for about 10 minutes, or until slightly golden.

IMG_2041

IMG_2042

Remove from cookie sheet and transfer to wire rack to cool completely. They kept well in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week without getting stale, so they make a good addition to cookie tins!

Enjoy!

IMG_2043

Christmas Roll Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • red and green food coloring
  • sprinkles

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream together the shortening and sugar in a large bowl with a hand mixer.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  4. Add the flour mixture and beat until fully incorporated.
  5. Separate dough into 3 separate parts. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
  6. Roll each portion into a rectangle on a separate sheet of wax paper. Stack the rectangles and trim edges to make even.
  7. Starting on a long edge, roll the dough into a log. Wrap in wax paper and freeze for at least 2 hours.
  8. Unwrap and slice dough into cookies, rotating the log a quarter turn between slices to prevent flattening.
  9. Roll cookies in sprinkles and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes or until golden. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies

IMG_2034

 

As I mentioned last week, this weekend was cookie baking weekend. This year, I made cookie tins for 16 different people, so I made 5 full batches of treats in total. That is not an insignificant amount of cookies. In fact, I was in the kitchen so long that I went through my entire Christmas playlist. That’s a good 5 hours of Christmas music. As a side note, Straight No Chaser’s new album is excellent. I’m partial to “Text Me Merry Christmas” and “Nutcracker“. You should watch both of those videos before you keep reading.

Fortunately, last weekend I got a head start with salted caramel chocolate shortbread bars, so yesterday I was really only making 4 types of cookies, including Christmas roll sugar cookies, gingerbread men, peppermint white chocolate cookies, and, today’s feature, peanut butter reindeer cookies.

For this recipe, I took the peanut butter base that I usually use for peanut butter blossoms (those cookies with the hershey kiss on top), and just pressed in some different decorations to copy the pictures that are all over Pinterest. When you make peanut butter blossoms, you want the cookies to crack a bit, but for these reindeer, that’s not actually a good thing. Lucky for you, I tested a couple different methods to figure out what worked best, so you don’t have to.

Basically, the best strategy is to slightly underbake the cookies so they’re still soft, and to move quickly when putting on the decorations. You still might end up with a couple one-eyed reindeer when an m&m decides not to stick, but it’s better than a reindeer that crumbles to pieces when you try to attach an antler.

First, cream together the shortening and peanut butter in a large bowl.

 

IMG_2025

Then, add the sugar and brown sugar and beat until fluffy.

IMG_2026

 

Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and beat well.

 

IMG_2027

In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking soda.

IMG_2028

Add it to the peanut butter mixture gradually and beat well until the dough comes together.

IMG_2029

Roll the dough in 1 inch balls. Roll the balls in sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  I found the best cookies were when I rolled them more into a flattened but fat disk, since that gave a little more surface area to press things later on.

IMG_2030

Bake the cookies at 375°F for about 6-8 minutes. You want them to still look a little soft – as soon as they look dry, you’re risking crumbly reindeer.

Remove from the oven and immediately press in the pretzel antlers and m&m faces. I first put antlers on all of them before going back to do faces since they were what I was more concerned about sticking.

IMG_2031

For the antlers, I used mini flips, which I could only find in little pouches on the way out of the grocery store. The eyes are brown mini m&ms, and the nose is a regular red m&m. Here’s a close up:

IMG_2032

Let the cookies cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. And I do mean completely here. The candies and such are attaching to the cookie by melting and re-hardening, so it’s really important that you let them go through that whole process before you move them anywhere else.

If you get through all of those nitpicky steps, the results are adorable!

Enjoy!

IMG_2033 Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • sugar, for rolling
  • m&m’s and mini chocolate pretzels for decorating

Directions:

  1. Cream together shortening and peanut butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer on medium speed.
  2. Add sugar and brown sugar and beat until fluffy.
  3. Add egg, milk, and vanilla and beat to combine.
  4. Combine flour and baking soda in a separate bowl. Add gradually to peanut butter mixture, beating until dough comes together.
  5. Roll dough in 1 inch balls, roll the balls in the extra sugar, and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375°F for 6-8 minutes, until slightly underbaked.
  6. Immediately press pretzels and m&m’s into cookies to make reindeer faces. Allow to cool slightly on baking pan before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

IMG_1994

 

It’s officially Christmas cookie season. That means, for the next couple of weeks (probably through New Year’s) it will be all Christmas cookies all the time. This year, I’m going the slightly nontraditional route with my tins, including some new recipes and experiments, but if you’re looking for some classics, here’s last year’s selection:

Anyways, this week’s recipe was definitely an experiment. I had seen it on Pinterest and thought they looked amazing. Also, I needed to make something that would keep for a week since I’ll be making the rest of my cookies in a bit of a cookie making binge next weekend.

Side note: when I told my mom my plans of baking for the entirety of next weekend, she immediately recommended I invite friends over to help. I had to explain to her that I actually love listening to Christmas music and spending the day alone in my kitchen making cookies. If that makes me an introvert I’m totally OK with that.

So, it starts off pretty straight forward. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

 

IMG_1980

Then, combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until fluffy.

IMG_1981

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. It will be in smallish pieces.

IMG_1982

Press the dough into the bottom of a 9×13 inch pan lined with parchment paper. You don’t want to skip the parchment paper on this one – it’s going to come in very handy when you go to cut the bars later.

IMG_1983

Bake at 325°F for about 15 minutes or until edges are golden. Put on wire rack to cool completely.

IMG_1984

At this point, I was cruising along, feeling totally fine about my decision with this recipe. My shortbread layer looked great, life was good.

Then, I came to the caramel layer. Now, I think I’ve discussed my fear of caramel before, but I couldn’t find the post to reference, so I’ll say it again: I am always afraid that I will burn the sugar. And burnt sugar is possibly the worst smell ever. It’s amazing that something so sweet and innocent can turn so vile and disgusting in about 5 seconds flat.

To add to this fear, this particular recipe called for a different combination of things to make the caramel than I was used to. I’ve made caramel using actual caramels and melting them with sweetened condensed milk. I’ve made it with just sugar and butter. But this called for a weird combination of the two: butter, sugar, karo syrup, and sweetened condensed milk.

However, the shortbread had gone beautifully, so I had no reason to doubt the recipe yet. I went ahead and trusted it. I combined the four ingredients in a medium saucepan, heating it over medium heat until the butter melted, stirring frequently.

IMG_1985

IMG_1986

Then, I increased the heat to medium high, hoping to bring it to a boil while stirring constantly, after which I would reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to stir constantly until it turned amber in color. Alas, it was not to be. I began to notice little flecks of amber in my supposed caramel. I was pretty sure that wasn’t how it was supposed to work, but I pushed on.

IMG_1987

Turns out, my sugar found its way into the corners (round pans don’t have corners, but you know what I mean) of my saucepan and begin to do that terrible thing where it burns. Even my constant stirring didn’t prevent it. When I realized what was happening, I turned the heat down to simmer and just stirred until it turned less bright whitish-yellow than sweetened condensed milk, and called it a caramel, which I then poured over the shortbread layer.

IMG_1988

Now, it may be that I was just overconfident and got lazy, and your caramel layer may turn a beautiful amber. But I think if I were to make these again, I would use the caramel from my Peanut Butter Samoa Bars recipe instead of the one they had here. Fortunately, the end result, though maybe not as caramel-y as it was supposed to be, is still 100% delicious.

After letting the caramel cool for a bit, I put it in the freezer to chill overnight. You definitely don’t have to let it chill that long, I just didn’t feel like finishing it last night.

For the chocolate layer, I did decide to stray from the recipe’s suggestion of a double boiler and used the microwave method instead.

Combine the butter, chocolate, and karo syrup in a microwaveable bowl. Heat in 15 second intervals at 50% power, stirring after each interval, until smooth.

IMG_1989

IMG_1990

Pour the chocolate layer over the caramel layer and sprinkle with sea salt. Chill until ready to cut and serve.

IMG_1991

IMG_1992

These will keep in the freezer (and taste better out of the freezer), for as long as you want. I cut them into bars and wrapped them individually in plastic wrap, but that’s more because they’ll be going in tins later. End product: a slightly less caramel-flavored Twix bar.

Enjoy!

IMG_1993

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

Shortbread Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Caramel Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons Karo syrup
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk

Chocolate Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Karo syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • sea salt, for sprinkling

Shortbread Directions:

  1. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar using the paddle attachment on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.
  4. Press the dough into the bottom of a 9×13 inch pan lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake at 325°F for 15 minutes or until edges are golden. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

Caramel Directions:

  1. Combine butter, sugar, Karo syrup, and sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Stir frequently until butter is melted.
  3. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly (including in the corners).
  4. Reduce heat to simmer and continue to stir constantly until caramel turns amber in color.
  5. Pour over shortbread layer and chill.

Chocolate Directions:

  1. Combine butter, chocolate, and Karo syrup in a microwaveable bowl.
  2. Microwave in 15 second intervals at 50% power, stirring after each interval, until smooth.
  3. Pour over caramel layer and sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Chill until ready to cut into bars.