Summertime Sweets!

It’s practically impossible to believe that 2014 is more than half over and we are swiftly approaching the 4th of July. The good old FoJ is one of my all-time favorite holidays and the traditional summertime foods associated with the day almost rival the epic bounty that is Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m looking forward to whipping up some patriotic treats next week, but until then, here are a few of my favorites from years past.

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Blondies Have More Fun

Just look at these gorgeous golden bars studded with dark and white chocolate and toasted walnuts…they’re a sight to be seen. The secret to their supreme deliciousness (or so I’m told, by the brilliant folks at Food 52) is the added boost of vanilla. This recipe calls for 4 teaspoons — about twice as much as a typical blondie recipe. The result is an ooey gooey cookie bar with an extreme depth of flavor.

Of course, the a scoop of vanilla frozen custard doesn’t hurt when it comes to amping up the flavor. It’s like eating an ice cream sandwich in a cup. And who wouldn’t love that?

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Hoppy Easter!

Hoppy Easter!

Chocolate chip cookie cups make the perfect little nest for M&M eggs.

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Treats for Plummy!

IMG_1948I suppose I should get used to it…after all the wedding showers come all the baby showers. It is, as they say, that time of my life. Friends are getting married and having babies, which for me means a lot of baking.

For my dear friend Katie J, I knew I had two key ingredients I wanted to incorporate: peanut butter and Oreos. Lest you think these are some of her pregnancy cravings, let me assure you, they are not. These are regular old Katie J faves and perfect flavor profiles for baby shower treats. I went with classic Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies and Funfetti Oreo Cupcakes inspired by these beauties.

And now, gratuitous photos of some delectable desserts…

I know, you’re welcome.

Then there were the lemon cookie cutouts shaped like umbrellas with fluffy vanilla frosting and a sprinkling of sanding sugar for that oh so baby shower effect.

They made the perfect party favors along with these straight up Pinterest ‘Ready to Pop’ bags of popcorn and M&Ms.

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We have my very talented mom to thank for all of the non-dessert food including three types of quiches(including Blue Cheese & Herb, Spinach, and Quiche Lorraine), a gorgeous salad, roasted asparagus, and mini muffins.

We are so nailing this baby shower thing. Bring on the next one!

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Sweet Hearts

I made these little cookie favors for my brother’s wedding this past summer (oh my gosh, remember summer?!) but they would work perfectly for Valentine’s Day! Just swap out the blue and white for pink and red and you’re good to go.

They look more complicated than they are — all you need is a big batch of homemade sugar cookies shaped like hearts and a bowl of icing glacé (what’s that, you say? It’s like royal icing, but tastes better). Pipe a border of thickened icing around the edge of the cookies and let it dry. Then flood the center of the cookie with looser icing until it’s completely smooth. While the icing is still wet, pipe small dots in a different icing color around the border then immediately drag a toothpick smoothly through the dots until a chain of cute little hearts form!

Now you can make sweet hearts for your sweetheart!

Icing Glacé Recipe

1lb powdered sugar (about 3 3/4 cups)
6 tbsp. whole milk
6 tbsp. light corn syrup (6 tbsp. is equal to 1/4 cup plus another 2 tbsp.)
1 tsp. extract (vanilla, almond, whatever works)

Whisk powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Stir in corn syrup and extract and whisk until smooth (this should be a good flooding consistency — add more powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach the desired thickness for piping). Add food coloring as needed (gel food coloring works best).

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Good Riddance, January

IMG_1869To quote…something I read on the internet…”January is the Monday of the year.” I am officially over it and fortunately, it is just about officially over. To show this frigid, awful month who’s boss, I made these killer Sweet and Salty Brownies from a favorite Brooklyn dessert cookbook.

They’re dense, fudge-like brownies with a layer of homemade caramel in the middle and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt and coarse sugar on top.

Take that, January.

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Christmas Chocolate Caramel Tart

IMG_1823This Chocolate Caramel Tart was the perfect end to Christmas Dinner this year. It was rich, decadent, and ideal for celebrating. And speaking of celebrations, I didn’t even screw up the caramel!

The crust is a simple chocolate dough that you press into a removable bottom tart pan — everyone should have one of these because it makes even the simplest desserts look extra fancy and complicated…it’s kind of like smudging flour on your nose…people think you did more work than you actually did.

The caramel is pretty basic and as long as you pay attention to the sugar while it’s cooking, you’ll have a smooth, golden filling to go into the tart shell. Slathered on top of the caramel? Chocolate ganache. I know, it’s ridiculous. A sprinkling of sea salt seals the deal.

But more important than this delectable dessert is the camera I used to take these pictures. That’s right, I am now the proud new owner of a Canon EOS Rebel camera thanks to my amazing cousin/sister/friend Hallie and her equally-amazing husband Matt. Just look at the quality of these photos! I’m obsessed.

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