World Peace Cookies

Dorie Greenspan is a brilliant baker. In her cookbook Baking:  From my home to yours, Dorie shares the recipe for World Peace Cookies (the original recipe of Parisian pastry chef Pierre Herme) and explains their name.  "A daily dose of Pierre's cookies is all that is needed to ensure planetary peace and happiness."

These cookies are a member of the sables family (think sandy and buttery, like shortbread).  The mixture of cocoa, chocolate chunks, and just a hint of saltiness makes these cookies irresistible.  Jim Bob and I have decided that we've had enough peace, and I'm taking them to work tomorrow to share with my coworkers.

World Peace Cookies 2
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips 

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.  Add both sugars, the salt, and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer.  Pour in the dry ingredients, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time.  Take a peek - if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel.  Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough - for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don't be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly.  Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half.  Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours.  (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.  If you've frozen the dough, you needn't defrost it before baking - just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

World Peace Cookies 1Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.  Using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick.  (The rounds are likely to crack as you're cutting them - don't be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.)  Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes - they won't look done, nor will they be firm, but that's just the way they should be.  Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature. 

Source:  Baking:  From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan


A Place to Play and Pray

Deer family
"Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." - John Muir

My Grama lives in the North Georgia mountains on a beautiful lake.  Our family - immediate, extended, honorary, and adopted - has come here for many years to play and pray.  We all get together for the major summer holidays and then sporadically throughout the year, and massive amounts of food are always involved when we get together.   This is the place that I think of when I read John Muir's quote.  Where is your place to play and pray?

When I called to tell my Grama that I was coming for a visit, I asked her if she had any dessert requests.  She replied, "Banana Cream pie appeals to me, no pun intended!"  So I set out on a mission to find the best Banana Cream Pie recipe.  Dorie Greenspan gives the perfect version in her book Baking:  From My Home to Yours.  This version is time-intensive, and it requires a lot of attention.  I suggest having an extra set of hands to help.  My mom was my baking companion for this adventure. 

This pie is amazing and has secured its spot in Jim Bob's short list of favorite desserts.

Banana Cream Pie

Banana Cream Pie

Makes 8 servings

For the custard:
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar, pressed through a sieve
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

3 ripe but firm bananas

1 9-inch single pie crust, fully baked and cooled

For the topping:
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 Tbsp. confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. sour cream (I omitted this.)

To make the custard:  Bring the milk to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until well blended and thick.  Whisking without stopping, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk - this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle - then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream.  Put the pan over medium heat, and whisking constantly (make sure to get into the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil.  Boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes before removing from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract.  Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the custard is smooth and silky.  You can either press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the custard to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the custard until cold, or if you want to cool the custard quickly, put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and stir occasionally until the custard is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

When you are ready to assemble the pie, peel the bananas and cut them on a shallow diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Whisk the cold custard vigorously to loosen it, and spread about one quarter of it over the bottom of the piecrust - it will be a thin layer.  Top with half of the banana slices.  Repeat, adding a thin layer of pastry cream and the remaining bananas, then smooth the rest of the pastry cream over the last layer of bananas.

To Make the Topping:  Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream until it just starts to thicken.  Beat in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the cream holds firm peaks.  Switch to a rubber spatula and gently fold in the sour cream (if you choose to use it).

To Finish:  Spoon the whipped cream over the filling and spread it evenly to the edges of the custard.  Serve, or refrigerate until needed.

Note:  This dessert is best consumed the day it is made.

Source:  Dorie Greenspan, Baking:  From My Home to Yours

Banana Cream Pie


Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

This is the second flavor of cupcake that I made for Hannah's Going-Away Dinner.  They are just as wonderful as the Cookies and Cream Cupcakes.  The cake is rich and has a peanut butter filling comparable to a buckeye candy.  I often feel like in a peanut butter/chocolate combo one flavor overpowers the other, but in this recipe the flavors are equally decadent.  I garnished the cupcakes with a Reese's peanut butter cup.   

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

For the filling:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the cake:
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup whipped topping, thawed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.

To make the filling, combine the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium speed until well-combined.  Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls (at least 24) and set aside on cookie sheet. 

To make the cake batter, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; whisk together and set aside.  In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the sour cream, milk, and vanilla extract.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed.  With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Mix just  until incorporated.

Spoon a teaspoon or two of the cake batter into the bottom of each cupcake liner.  Place a ball of the peanut butter filling in each cupcake well and top with the remaining batter so all the cupcakes are filled.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, and peanut butter until smooth.  Slowly mix in the confectioners' sugar until smooth and well-blended.  Mix in the whipped topping until smooth and fluffy.  Frost cupcakes as desired.

Source:  Annie's Eats


Leaving the Nest

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

- by Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends


My little sister, Hannah, left for college today.  It's so hard to believe she's an adult; old enough to live on her own.  It seems only yesterday that she was the flower girl in Whitney's wedding and practicing gymnastics with me in the yard.  Hannah has grown into a beautiful young woman, both inside and out, and I am lucky to be a part of her life.
The family got together for a farewell dinner, and I brought the cupcakes at Hannah's request - chocolate peanut butter and cookies and cream.

Hannah - We love you so much and wish you all the best!


Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
Yields 24 cupcakes
24 Oreo halves, with cream filling attached
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cup sugar
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
20 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp. heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line the wells of two cupcake pans with 24 liners.  Place an Oreo half in the bottom of each well, cream side up.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir together and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixture, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes.  Blend in egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Add the milk and beat just until combined, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.  Gently fold in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated, being careful not to overmix.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  Beat in the confectioners' sugar until incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Add the heavy cream to the bowl and beat on medium-low speed just until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired. Sprinkle with Oreo crumbs and garnish with Oreo halves.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Source:  Annie's Eats


Homemade Hummus


I spent the weekend in Hilton Head with my dear friend, Kendall, and her daughter, Logan. We had a wonderful time, and I highly recommend visiting if you haven't been. I made up a batch of homemade hummus for us to snack on. It's an easy dish, and even if you've never tried hummus or are unsure of it, I encourage you to try it. You might be pleasantly surprised; Kendall and Logan were!

Homemade Hummus

3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup water
6 Tablespoons tahini, stirred well
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 (14 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed


Combine lemon juice and water in a small bowl. Whisk together tahini and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in second small bowl. Process chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in food processor until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. With machine running, add lemon juice-water mixture in steady stream through food tube. Scrape down bowl and continue to process for 1 minute. With machine running, add oil-tahini mixture in steady stream through the food tube. Continue to process until hummus is smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds.

Transfer to bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

* I like to serve this hummus with Stacy's Parmesan Garlic and Herb Pita Chips. They're also great with Wheat Thins or carrot sticks.

Source:  Annie's Eats


Twice-Baked Potatoes

One of Jim Bob's favorite meals is steak and potatoes. I leave the steak marinating and grilling to him. He's mastered the technique and seems to really enjoy it, and that suits me just fine. I enjoy making the side dishes and desserts. We have a lot of fun when we prepare meals together for our friends.

Currently, our favorite potato side dish is twice baked potatoes. You just can't go wrong with potatoes, cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, and Lawry's seasoning. My favorite recipe for twice baked potatoes comes from Pioneer Woman. She uses Lawry's seasoning which is sure to please at my house. They're crowd-pleasers and easy to make. I don't use exact measurements when I make this because we love bacon and sour cream, so make adjustments according to your preferences. Enjoy!

Twice-Baked Potatoes

4 baking potatoes, washed and pricked with a fork
sour cream
bacon bits (I use the "real" kind in the jar, not the crunchy ones)
shredded colby jack cheese
chopped chives (I omitted this.)
Lawry's seasoning

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes in oven to bake for one hour or until potatoes are soft when tested with a fork. Remove potatoes and cool. Cut potatoes in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the insides of the potato into a medium mixing bowl. Be careful not to tear the potato skin. Add butter, sour cream, bacon bits,Lawry's, chives, and cheese to mixing bowl. Using a potato masher, mash potato mixture until well-blended.

Spoon potato mixture back into the skins. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

*Twice-baked potatoes are great reheated and can be frozen for later use.

Source: Pioneer Woman


Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome to my Blog!

I've become an avid reader of cooking blogs over the past year. Next to my mom, these blogs have become my greatest tool for learning my way around the kitchen. Defeated by Frosting will serve as a way to stay in touch with family and friends and to share my adventures whether in the kitchen or elsewhere.

Two years ago, when I made up my mind to learn to bake, I bought a cookbook called CakeLove by Warren Brown. His cookbook caught my eye because of the way he illustrates each step and the way he explains the process of baking.  I've made lots of recipes that had instructions like "cream sugar and butter", but I never understood what that meant or what it looked like. Warren Brown really explains these things and tells why they are important. He calls his vanilla pound cake the LCD, or lowest common denominator, because everyone loves vanilla pound cake. So this is where I began. After I mastered the pound cake, I moved on to frosting because I thought the only way to make a good cake better is to add frosting. This is where the frustration set in. I probably threw away 5 batches of icing. I just could not get it right, so I gave up. And thus began the phrase, "Defeated by Frosting." Since then, I have learned how to make delicious frosting. I also discovered that the Italian Meringue Butter Cream frosting that I was attempting to conquer is not exactly a frosting for beginners.

Warren Brown's vanilla pound cake is delicious, to say the least. The recipe is easy to follow, and there are so many variations on this. To prove to you that I have not been defeated by frosting, I have topped the pound cake with the feared Italian Meringue Butter Cream Frosting and sliced strawberries. I only frosted half of the cake because we were only eating half of the cake tonight.  Enjoy!

"LCD" Vanilla Pound Cake
(lowest common denominator)

Dry Ingredients:
unbleached all-purpose flour, 13 1/2 ounces (2 1/2 cups + 3 tablespoons)
potato starch, 1 tablespoon
vanilla powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons
salt, 1/2 teaspoon
baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon

Liquid Ingredients:
sour cream, 8 ounces (1 cup)
heavy cream, 2 tablespoons
brandy, 1/4 cup
amaretto, 1 tablespoon
rum, 1 tablespoon
vanilla extract, 1 1/2 teaspoons
whiskey, 1 1/2 teaspoons

unsalted butter, at room temperature, 8 ounces (2 sticks)
extra-fine granulated sugar, 24 ounces (3 cups)
eggs (large), 5
yolk (large), 1
vanilla bean, 1

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Set the rack in the middle of the oven.

2. Set out the ingredients and equipment.

a. Sift the flour into a bowl on a scale for accurate measuring.
b. Measure the other dry ingredients into
c. Measure the liquid ingredients into a separate bow, whisk to combine, and set aside.
d. Measure the butter and sugar into separate bowls and set aside.
e. Crack the eggs and yolk into separate bowls and set aside.

3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on the lowest speed for 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, slice the vanilla bean lengthwise with a paring knife and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the creaming butter and sugar.

5. With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time followed by the yolk, fully incorporating after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl.

6. Add the dry ingredient mixture alternately with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Move swiftly to avoid overworking the batter. Don't wait for the dry or liquid mixtures to be fully incorporated before adding the next. This step should take a total of about 60 seconds.

7. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl all the way down. Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds to develop the batter's structure.

8. Prepare the pan. Spray Bundt pan well with a nonstick spray.

9. Fill Bundt pan about three-quarters full by depositing the batter with a rubber spatula in small clumps around the prepared pan instead of by pouring into one spot. Level the batter with a rubber spatula. Bake any leftovers as cupcakes.

10. Bake for approximately 50-55 minutes if you're making a Bundt or 15 for cupcakes.

11. Once the top of the cake doesn't jiggle in the center, test for doneness by inserting a bamboo skewer in the center of the cake. When the skewer shows just a touch of crumbs the cake is done. The sheen on on top may look liquid, but this is normal and comes from the fat in the heavy cream. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire wrack.

12. Once the cake has cooled for 5 to 10 minutes, remove the cake by inverting the pan onto a flat surface. Allow it to cool at room temperature, about 30 minutes, before frosting or glazing.

Serving and Storing
Serve at room temperature either naked or with a dusting of confectioners' sugar. Store under a cake dome at room temperature, or wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to 1 week. To store longer, label, date, and store the plastic-wrapped cake in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Source: Cake Love by Warren Brown
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