Maple Walnut Puffs

Maple Walnut Cookies3Well, my Christmas baking is complete for 2014.  Sadly, I only baked four things this year.  I wanted to bake more, but just didn’t get around to it.  And now I’m sick with a cold, gosh dangit.  :(  I won’t be able to bake anything for Christmas day, either, because I’ll be working.  Hopefully someone brings dessert for my family’s celebration! 

I did make a little something last night.  It’s kind of a variation of that toffee saltine candy… I topped Ritz crakers and pretzels with cooked toffee, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips, sprinkles and colored sugar.  It turned out very delicious, and very, very ugly.  Eric was making fun of it.  We nicknamed it “Reindeer Scat”. 
IMAG5277_1 I also baked these little Maple Walnut Puffs the other day.  They’re really good!  I ate way more of them than I should have.  It’s basically the classic Mexican Wedding Cookie recipe with a few changes.
Maple Walnut Cookies
I used toasted walnuts instead of pecans, and added in some pure maple syrup.  These are quick, easy, and great if you need a last minute cookie recipe. 
Maple Walnut Cookies2 Maple Walnut Puffs

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, divided
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup very finely chopped toasted walnuts

Heat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together butter, half of the powdered sugar, maple syrup, vanilla and salt until well combined and creamy.  Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour and walnuts until just combined.  Roll teaspoons of dough into balls and place on cookie sheets, spacing about 3/4-inch apart.  Bake 12-14 minutes or until crisp.  Maybe less if your oven runs hot.

Transfer cookies to a wire rack and allow to cool a few minutes.  Roll cookies in remaining powdered sugar.

The Best Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting It’s a little scary that Christmas is next week, isn’t it? I feel like it snuck up on me even more this year.  I just ordered my gifts online a few days ago.  Whoops.  Why do I always do that?
How am I going to find time to make that chex mix, bake sugar cookies, wrap presents, make tamales,  and go to Trader Joe’s for last minute goodies?  Yeah, all of that’s not going to happen.  At least I made a few recipes to post!  It’s a Christmas miracle.  It’s a miracle that I made these cupcakes yesterday and they’re on the blog today ! ! 
Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting2 I just realized I have two recipes in a row with “THE BEST” in the title.  This was not planned, I promise.  This isn’t some sort of SEO trick, I promise.  I’m not that crafty.  I just realllly like these chocolate cupcakes I made.  They’re so fluffy and moist.  I think next time I bake them I’ll use cake flour – I bet they’ll have the same texture as cake mix.  (I think that’s a good thing, no?) 

The cream cheese frosting seemed really good to me, too.  I guess I’ll toot my own horn.  Toot!  I don’t know, maybe I just haven’t tasted cream cheese frosting in a long time.  I topped the cupcakes with sprinkles and red and green chips I bought from Aldi.  Because #Christmas.  I also used the red and green chips in Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies (along with chocolate chips) I baked for our neighbors.  I can’t remember the last time I baked Nestle Toll House CCC.  I used to bake those a lot when I was younger.  Brings back those memories!  They seem greasy to me now.  Haha.  And flat. 
Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (1) The Best Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
1 cup hot water (or coffee)
1 cup buttermilk
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed beat together oil, water, buttermilk, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well combined.  Reduce mixer speed to low, and beat in dry ingredients and bittersweet chocolate until just combined.  Divide batter into muffin cups.  (It will be runny!)  You can use a piping bag, ladle, or cookie scoop to make this easier.  Bake about 15 minutes, or until well risen, and a toothpick inserted into cake comes out with moist crumbs attached.  Cool 5 minutes and transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool.

To make the cream cheese frosting, beat together butter and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, until creamy and smooth.  Beat in confectioners' sugar, milk, vanilla and salt until well combined.  Frost cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired.

Makes 24 cupcakes

The Best Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins2If you’re in need of a good breakfast pastry, I have one for you!  You could make these tomorrow morning… you could even make them for Christmas breakfast.  They’re that good.  Most likely you have all of the ingredients on hand, too.  These banana chocolate chip muffins are probably the best muffins I’ve ever made.  It all happened by accident, too.
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
I was going to make a banana chocolate chip scone with these exact ingredients and then whoooops – I had too much ripe banana puree and it was going to be impossible to make scones out of the batter.  So I just dumped the scone batter into buttered and floured muffin cups, popped them in the oven, and said a little prayer.  They turned out amazing!  The flavor is wonderful and the texture is unlike any muffin I’ve made before.   I think the secret is incorporating the cold butter into the dry ingredients. 

Or maybe I just had some really good bananas!  Haha. 
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins3The Best Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 large very ripe bananas, finely mashed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 6 jumbo muffin pans with liners or spray with cooking spray.  You can also use a regular muffin pan.  The baking time will be shorter with the regular pan.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder and salt; whisk until combined.  Work in butter, using a pastry blender or two forks, until well incorporated and mealy.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together banana, sugar, egg and vanilla until well combined.  Make a well in the dry ingredients, and gently stir in the wet ingredients until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips until combined.  Scoop batter into prepared muffin pans.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and well risen.  If you're making regular muffins they will probably bake in 25-20 minutes.

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