Month: January 2016

Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies

Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies Recipe by The Wood and Spoon Blog BY Kate Wood. This is a simple crumbly butter cookie inspired by Emeril Lagasse brown sugar shortbread bars. Buttery cutout shortbread cookies that can be slice and make. Drizzle with chocolate or sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Find the simple, easy, few ingredient recipe at thewoodandspoon.com

My husband says I have a Type A personality. While I would suggest that I’m somewhere between a Type A and Type B personality, I do see some inclinations that support his thinking. Time urgency, impatience, and a short-fused temper are all tendencies that I wear frequently like a behavioral scarlet letter, however, this is often offset by a sprinkling of Type B attributes.

One area I typically lean a little Type A heavy? Decluttering.

I love a good clean-out. I love a freshly organized drawer. I love a trip to Goodwill with a car full of stuff. It’s kinda like when you get a new manicure or like that first day of school when you get to crack open that box of pens and write for the first time in a crisp, new notebook. It’s a new lease on life!

Over Christmas, my friend Jesse told me about a book by Marie Kondo, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” Curious, I purchased a copy, and after a fairly substantial skim of the book, I was in. I drank the Kondo Kool-Aid. The next day, I began to tidy.

To say that this method of cleaning was life-altering is an understatement. Whole-heartedly, unabashedly, I will tell you that this book has changed my home and life, maybe forever.

Kondo’s method of “tidying” (or as I would describe it, total-home overhauling) is a systematic process of sorting through categories of items in your home by discarding any belongings that don’t spark joy. Yes, I actually handled nearly every item in my home and asked myself the question, “Does this item bring me joy?” Quite often, the answer was no. That item got the boot.
Of course, there were exceptions. Hammers and dental floss and pencil sharpeners aren’t among things that bring me an abundance of happiness, but they do help to achieve other things that I do enjoy- art hanging on the walls, satisfactory gum health, and a newly sharpened pencil so that I can jot down thoughts to share with you kind folks. So those necessary, everyday items sometimes got to stay.

brown sugar shortbread cookies with chocolate drizzle

It took me 6 days, 20 garbage bags, and 2 trips to the massage therapist after I overdid it with my large, pregnant self before I was able to phone Goodwill to pick up my load. And ohhh, it was a load. 98% of the items in those bags were mine; I was living in such excess and I didn’t even realize it. Years of buying new storage bins and more plastic hangers and new drawer organizers was like trying to put a band-aid on the huge, gaping wound that was simply TOO. MUCH. STUFF.

The week long clear-out rid me of piles of things I no longer cared for, and likely, an infinite amount of future purchases I am now less likely to make. While I didn’t follow every facet of the book’s proposed methods, I can tell you that the ones I chose to utilize brought me an incredible amount of joy and lifted a burden of “stuff” that I didn’t even know I was carrying. I have recomended this book to countless people over the past month and now I’m passing this tidbit along to you: DO IT.  It’s fantastic. Bless someone else with your stuff and see how much easier it is to breathe when you don’t have piles of “unnecessary” staring at you in every closet.

brown sugar shortbread cookies with chocolate drizzle

Another tidbit? These shortbread. Ohhhhh, these shortbread.

Buttery, rich cookies that are addictive and practically beg for a cup of coffee. You cannot eat just one, but take it from my personal experience: you don’t want to eat more than three at a time unless you want a bellyache combined with an irrational desire to EAT. MORE. COOKIES. 

This is a recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse, and it’s one of the first things I remember baking as a teenager. Emeril’s recipe calls for baking a very similar dough in a springform pan (so delicious), but I find cookies are easier to share with friends. I’ve included two variations for these cookies: one with a cinnamon sugar topping and one drizzled with chocolate. I lean more towards the warm cinnamon flavors for this cookie, but certainly chocolate is never a bad choice. I’ll also mention that I prefer the thicker, smaller cookies as descibed in the instructions, although you’ll notice I went thinner and wider for the cookies I photographed. Either way, these cookies are incredibly worthwhile and a must-have in your arsenal of shortbread cookies. (Sidenote: if you’re the type of person who has arsenals of things like cookies, I want to know you. Let’s be friends). 

Check out Marie Kondo’s book while you’re at it. 

 

brown sugar shortbread cookies with chocolate drizzle

 

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Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies

Brown sugar shortbread cookies Recipe by The Wood and Spoon Blog BY Kate Wood. This is a simple crumbly butter cookie inspired by Emeril Lagasse brown sugar shortbread bars. Buttery cutout shortbread cookies that can be slice and make. Drizzle with chocolate or sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Find the simple, easy, few ingredient recipe at thewoodandspoon.com

These buttery brown sugar shortbread cookies are sweet, rich, and perfect for dessert or with an afternoon cup of coffee.

  • Author: Kate Wood
  • Prep Time: 30
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 20 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup sugar, reserved (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon, reserved (optional)
  • chocolate ganache, chocolate melting wafers, or melted semisweet chocolate chips for drizzling (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, pulse flour brown sugar, and salt together until well combined. Add butter chunks and vanilla to dry ingredients and pulse together until a dough forms into one ball. Try not to overwork the dough, but keep in mind this dough is dry and will take more time to come together than some. Flatten dough out into a disk and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and roll dough out to 1/4″ thickness. (See notes) Using a biscuit cutter or a 2 1/2″ round cutter, cut out cookies and place on a parchment lined baking sheet at least 2″ apart. If desired, combine cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over cookies. This will turn your regular old brown sugar shortbread to cinnamon sugar shortbread! If your dough has gotten warm or soft, pop in the freezer for 5 minutes to set cookie’s shape.
  3. Baked for about 12 minutes or just until edges have set. Cool on a cooling rack and if desired, drizzle with warmed chocolate. 

Notes

  • For cinnamon brown sugar shortbread, sprinkle cookies liberally with cinnamon and sugar mixture before baking. If chocolate dipped brown sugar shortbread cookies is what you’re after, apply after cookies have been baked and cooled.
  • The cookies as photographed were rolled to 1/4″ thickness and cut with a 2-1/2″ biscuit cutter. For a more traditional shortbread cookie shape, roll a smidge thicker and cut with a smaller 2″ round cutter. Any shape cookie cutter will do. Baking time will differ based on cookie shape so keep an eye on them in the oven and remove when edges are set and are just barely beginning to brown.

Recipe Adapted From: Emeril Lagasse

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake Recipe by The Wood and Spoon Blog by Kate Wood. This is the best recipe for a one bowl, soft, moist and fluffy chocolate cake recipe. This cake is made with dark dutch process cocoa and a little espresso coffee powder. Made with oil not butter. This is the best chocolate layer cake recipe you will find and it is so easy! Makes a one layer or layered cake recipe. Find out some helpful tips and technique for making perfect cakes every time on thewoodandspoon.com

Everyone has a go to recipe. It’s the one you’ve made so frequently that you’ve nearly memorized it.  It’s the one you carry with pride into a party and it’s the one you submit to the church cookbook at the end of the year. 

A word on this. Who are the people that are still submitting recipes for gelatinous salads? Are we still eating these things? Ladies and gentlemen, this is not the 1950’s. Unless you’re pouring up that jello mold because you have plans to recreate that scene from “The Office” where Jim puts Dwight’s stapler in a bundt pan of Jell-O then please, let me urge you to reconsider. Maybe it’s my years of working at hospitals or the emotional scarring I’ve endured from having a husband who would rather eat a pudding pack than have a slice of homemade cake, but let the record show that if you bring me Jell-o, or any other food that wiggles in such taunting audacity, we are no longer friends.

I have very few recipes that I’ve created all on my own that I think are really solid, but many to boast of that other creative minds have come up with. One is for chocolate cake. When I first learned about how cool food blogs were, I was testing recipes for my wedding cake. I came across Rosie Alyea’s blog Sweetapolita and fell in major like with her chocolate cake recipe. I have yet to find another one, or even a modification of this one, that tastes better than it currently stands: dark, rich, and incredible fluffy. It’s the recipe I use for everything from wedding cakes to everyday trifles. And because every recipe deserves a fair trial, I have made a pros and cons list:

Pros

  • It’s a one bowl recipe
  • It uses oil instead of butter, so no waiting for butter to soften 
  • It uses dark cocoa powder so no need to chop up bars of chocolate
  • Is easily adaptable to make more or fewer layers
  • Stays fresh for days after baking
  • Freezes well when wrapped in Saran Wrap and foil

 

Cons

  • You will love this cake and subsequently try to eat it all before you’ve even frosted it. Then, when you show up with a tiny one layer cake instead of the 3 layer cake you promised, your friends will ridicule/judge you on account of you eating all of some poor kid’s birthday cake. As a result, you won’t be invited to birthday outings with your friends any longer and everyone will hate you. So basically, if you want to be invited to parties and not be shunned by everyone you’ve ever known, don’t bake this cake. You’ve been warned.Chocolate Cake

This is pretty much all you need to know about this recipe, however, I wanted to share some more tips on cake baking. I haven’t been baking long, but as a self-taught, amateur baker, I know that freebie tips on cake baking are worth their weight in gold. So here’s what I’ve got:

  1. Use room temperature ingredients. The ingredients in most cake recipes will emulsify together better when not at extreme temperatures. So what do you do when you forget to set your ingredients out in advance? Set your eggs in a cup of warm water to quickly bring to room temperature and feel free to nuke milk in the microwave at a low temperature in 10 second intervals till it’s no longer ice cold. As for the butter: consider slicing it into tablespoon pads and resting at room temperature while you set out the rest of your ingredients, or, nuke in the microwave for 8 seconds per side of butter.
  2. Use parchment paper. Yes, it can be a pain to cut out rounds of parchment, but I use it every time. Why? Because the only thing more annoying that cutting out parchment rounds is baking a beautiful cake only to have chunks of it remain stuck to the innards of your pan. If you’re feeling really aggressive, you can purchase pre-cut rounds of parchment online and they make life so much easier. Just do it.
  3. Do not overmix. If you read a recipe that says “mix just until combined”, do just that. Overmixing your batter will cause your cake to be chewy and dense… not usually what we’re going for.
  4. Make sure your baking powder and soda are fresh. If you open your cabinet and the baking soda says it expired in 2009, throw it out. I’m talking to you, Mom.
  5. If you don’t keep buttermilk on hand, don’t fret! I sometimes will use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar for every scant cup of milk when I need a quick substitute for real buttermilk. Works like a charm.
  6. Don’t overbake! Toothpicks cost like, $1 at the store. And I’m pretty sure you can steal them from hostess stands at most chain restaurants. So keep some on hand and when the cake looks just barely firm in the middle and is no longer jiggling in the pan, test it. Moist crumbs should come out. If it’s not done, set the timer for one minute and try again. And in the midst of all that checking, try not to open and close the oven too much. You’ll end up with a  cake crater big enough to put your face in. On second thought, this isn’t such a terrible outcome so do whatever you want. No judgement here.
  7. Allow to cool a bit in the pan before flipping out on to a cooling rack.

 

For more on chocolate cakes, check out my Instagram here — typically chocolate cake overload. I’ll be sharing some decorating how-to’s in the near future so stay tuned!

 

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Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake

This recipe for chocolate cake is rich, moist, easy to make, and the only recipe you’ll ever need for chocolate cake.

  • Author: Kate Wood
  • Prep Time: 30
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 1 hour
Scale

Ingredients

  • 21/4 cups (270 gm) all-purpose flour
  • 21/4 cups (450 gm) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (60 gm) dark cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 21/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 21/4 teaspoons corn starch
  • 11/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs (180 gm), room temperature
  • 11/4 cups (300 mL) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 3/4 cups (180 mL) black coffee, hot
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) vegetable oil
  • 11/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 3 (8″) round cake pans with baking spray and line the bottoms with parchment rounds.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the dry ingredients and stir until combined. In a separate bowl, loosely combine all of the wet ingredients and these to the bowl of the dry ingredients. Mix on medium speed for just shy of 2 minutes, scraping the bowl (and bottom of bowl!) twice throughout.
  3. Pour equal amounts of batter in to all 3 pans. Carefully place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until center is just barely set and toothpick comes out of cake almost clean. Allow to cool in the pans and on a cooling rack for 20 minutes and then remove from pans to continue the cooling process. Cake will stay fresh for several days if covered, or, for one month if wrapped well in saran wrap and frozen in freezer.

Recipe Adapted From: Rosie Alyea