Friday, October 24, 2014

Cream Filled Chocolate Cookies

After Camden outgrew his food intolerance two years ago, I decided that I wanted to continue the clean eating. But I did allow prepackaged sweets in my pantry because I just didn't know how make some of them.

When I found Newman's Own cream filled chocolate cookies, I was super happy. They were dairy free, perfect for Brek's school lunch. But these cookies do have soy lecithin and corn starch. I had to put them away during Camden's recent food elimination diet.

Of course, Camden had to ask for these cookies. Just like everything else, I accepted the challenge and told him that I'd bake him some cream filled cookies.

At first, I found King Arthur Flour's Faux-Reos recipe in their cookbook. Then I found William Sonoma's chocolate star cookies on their website. Since I could use my dairy free chocolate frosting as the filling, I just needed a cookie dough recipe. I had good luck with William Sonoma's recipes, so I went ahead and tested their chocolate star cookie recipe.

As it turned out, my kids preferred the cookies without the fillings. The dough was super easy to make. Freeze well too. Well, I need to freeze the shaped cookie dough before baking them anyway. Because the palm shortening or coconut oil is in the dough, the frozen cookie dough keeps their shapes well when baked.

This cookie dough recipe makes a lot of cookies. I divided the dough in half. Use half of the dough and freeze the rest of the dough. I highly recommend that the cookie dough are precut into fun shapes before freezing them. When ready, just bake the cookies as directed, without thawing the dough. Always good to have a make-ahead something sweeter.

My kids luv helping me with the cookie shapes. Let's face it. Cookie cutters are F-U-N.

Cream Filled Cookies
adapted from William Sonoma's chocolate star cookies
makes a lot of cookies, depending on the size... freeze some precut unbaked cookies for future baking

1 large egg
8 Tablespoons (4 oz) palm shortening
1 cup (7.4 oz)  light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup (7.3 oz) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (1.5 oz) cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

chocolate frosting for creamy filling
  1. Place a parchment paper or nonstick mat on a baking sheet. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, palm shortening, sugar, and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, shift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
  4. Using the hand mixer, mix the flour mixture into the egg mixture.
  5. Place the dough onto the nonstick mat and knead until the dough is shiny. NOTE: Sprinkle flour a little bit at the time to prevent sticking, but don't add too much flour that the dough becomes dry.
  6. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick.
  7. Cut the dough into desired shapes. TIP: To decorate the cookies, use a toothpick to draw a pattern or press a small cookie cutter half way into the shaped dough. Try sprinkle raw sugar on top of the cookies before freezing them.
  8. Using a thin spatula to transfer the dough onto the prepared baking sheet.
  9. Freeze the cookie dough for 30 minutes. NOTE: The longer the freezing time, the better.
  10. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
  11. Bake the cookies until crisp, about 8 minutes.
  12. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes. Then transfer the cookies onto the wiring rack to cool completely.
  13. If using, place the chocolate frosting on one cookie then sandwich it with another cookie. Enjoy!!!
STORING: Keep the cookies in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 3 days or in the fridge for up to a week. Precut unbaked cookies freeze well for up to 3 months.

Allergy Info: These chocolate cream filled cookies are free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legume (soy), nuts, and fish.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Caramel Popcorn

I really missed caramel popcorn while I was on Camden's allergy free diet. After he outgrew the allergy, I went straight to the grocery store to get a bag. But I couldn't bring myself to buy a bag... well because they were made with questionable ingredients.

By now, you probably read or heard about GMO in our food sources. I've been careful to stay on a clean diet even though my kids only have to avoid legumes and dairy. Just like everything else that I have a craving for, I decided to make my own caramel popcorn.

I found a recipe where the popcorn kernels are popped on stove top with a few tablespoon of sugar. But they didn't remind me of the caramel popcorn I used to have when I visited the local pumpkin patches. Search for THE caramel popcorn recipe continued on until last Fall.
I found a few caramel popcorn. Pop the popcorn kernels then drizzle them with homemade or store bought caramel. My brain was at work. Hey, I already knew how to make the dairy free caramel from scratch. Hmmm... what if... YEEEEAH!!!
That is how I came up with this caramel popcorn recipe, using my dairy free caramel recipe. Seriously addictive. Ask all of my friends who ate them before and they can vouch for it. Quick and easy snack to make. Be sure to use organic popcorn kernels. Most of the time, I add sliced almonds. Substitute the nuts with cranberries for the Autumn flavor. Make a lot to feed a big hungry crowd.
Caramel Popcorn
serves 4

1/2 cup (4 oz) organic popcorn kernels
1 Tablespoon coconut oil or safflower oil

1/4 cup (2 oz) maple syrup
3 Tablespoon (1.5 oz) water
3/4 cup (3 oz) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup (1.8 oz) slice almonds and/or cranberries
  1. Line a baking pan with a nonstick mat. Spray a large bowl with a cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a big pot or a pan with a lid, add the oil and three popcorn kernels.
  3. Once a kernel pops, add the rest of the kernels.
  4. Pop the kernels until you no longer hear a popping sound.
  5. Pour the popcorn on to the prepare baking pan.
  6. Place only the popped popcorn in the prepared large bowl. Discard the unpopped kernels.
  7. Add in the sliced almonds or cranberries. Set aside.
  8. Preheat the oven to 250F degree.
  9. In a heavy bottom pot, whisk together the maple syrup, water, sugar, and salt.
  10. Bring the mixture to a boil until the candy thermometer reads 230F degree.
  11. Slowly pour the caramel over the popcorn.
  12. With large spatula, coat the popcorn with the caramel.
  13. Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  14. Break the caramel popcorn into bit size pieces. Enjoy!!!
STORING: The caramel popcorn keep well in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 5 days.

Allergy Info: The caramel popcorn are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts (if not using), or fish.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Salted Caramel Sticky Buns

From time to time, I would test recipes just because there's too much dough or batter to bake just one something savory or sweet. That's exactly how I came up with the salted caramel sticky buns. After I made my kids some steamed bao, I decided to use half of the bao dough to bake sweet breakfast.

I baked sticky buns many times. A few times I made them with almonds, but my kids didn't like them that much. They ate a few buns but not like "mommy, can you make more?" Recently, my kids fell in luv with the raw pecans. I saw a chance to test the sticky buns again, but this time... with pecans.

Super duper happy that they luv my salted caramel sticky buns now. Here's the thing though. Camden preferred the caramel pecans, and Brek wanted the sticky buns. You know how that went, right? Sharing!!! Luv it!!!

If you want to double the salted caramel sticky buns recipe, the whole recipe of bao dough is needed. Be sure to double the cinnamon sugar mixture and chopped pecans. The salted caramel recipe doesn't need to be doubled and should be enough for the 18-20 buns. But feel free to double the salted caramel recipe because more gooey caramel is better than less of it.

sticky buns made with chopped almonds
Salted Caramel Sticky Buns
makes 9 buns

1/2 recipe (10 oz) bao dough 

3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon

salted caramel:
1/4 cup (2 oz) maple syrup
3 Tablespoons (1.5 oz) water
3/4 cup (3 oz) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt

cooking spray
1 cups roughly chopped raw pecans, divided
  1. Prepare the bao dough as directed. NOTE: You will need only half of the bao dough recipe unless you want to double the recipe.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. Spray an 8 inch square baking pan with a cooking spray. Set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, whisk all of the salted caramel ingredients.
  5. Heat the caramel until the candy thermometer reaches soft thread stage (230F degree).
  6. Pour the caramel on to the prepared pan.
  7. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of chopped pecans over the caramel. Set aside.
  8. With a rolling pin, roll the bao dough until it's 16 by 9 inch rectangle.
  9. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar all over the dough surface.
  10. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of chopped pecans over the cinnamon sugar.
  11. Starting with the longest side of the dough, roll the dough into a log.
  12. Using a knife, cut the dough into 9 equal parts.
  13. Place each dough on the caramel, spiral side up.
  14. Let the dough rest until they double their size, about an hour. NOTE: Each dough will almost touch each other. In a hurry, let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Keep in mind that the buns will taste lighter if they are rested more.
  15. When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 350F degree.
  16. Bake the dough in a preheated oven until golden brown and the caramel is bubbling, about 20 minutes.
  17. Remove the salted caramel sticky buns from the oven.
  18. Carefully turn them out onto a wiring rack right away.
  19. Spoon more salted caramel on top of each bun.
  20. Enjoy them warm or at a room temperature.
STORING: The salted caramel sticky buns taste best on the day they are baked. Keep them in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 3 days.

Allergy Info: These salted caramel sticky buns are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), and fish. To make them nut free, replace the nuts with dried fruits or just omit the nuts all together. If you can have nuts, you can substitute any nuts, such as walnuts or almonds, for pecans.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Salted Caramel and Lollipops (dairy free)

At first, candy making was pretty intimidating. After reading up on how to make lollipops and caramel, I came to one conclusion. Candy making is nothing but heating up sugar to a certain temperature.

Just like baking bread, I researched many recipes, loading up on tips and tricks. Last year, I tested out some recipes, substituting heavy cream with coconut cream. Let me tell ya. When the caramel turned out creamy and chewy, I could hear myself laugh like the mad scientist. 

I luv how these caramels turned out... chewy but not sticky. Feel free to double or triple the recipe. Perfect for the Holiday's gift giving.

Salted Caramel (dairy free)
makes a lot, but who's counting

1/3 cup (3 oz.) coconut cream
3 Tablespoons (1.6 oz.) water
1 Tablespoon (2 oz.) maple syrup
1 cup (7 oz.) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
Cooking spray
  1. Line an 8 by 6 pan with a parchment paper. Spray it with a cooking oil and set aside.
  2. Whisk all of the ingredients in a heavy bottom pot.
  3. Place it over the stove and heat the mixture over medium low heat.
  4. Boil until the candy thermometer reads 240F degrees (soft crack), about 10 minutes.
  5. Pour it on to the prepared pan.
  6. Leave it sit at a room temperature until cool enough to touch, about 30 minutes.
  7. Cut them into desired shaped.
  8. Wrap them in parchment papers. (Now you can do the mad scientist laugh because you just make the perfect gooey, chewy caramel.)
TIPS: Be sure to spray the lollipop mold with cooking oil. Once the caramel is ready and pour into prepared pan, leave a little bit of the caramel in the pot, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Bring the caramel to 300F degree (hard crack stage). Pour the caramel into a lollipop mold. And there you have it... dairy-free caramel lollipops. Makes up to 6 lollipops.

STORING: Keep the caramel individually wrapped with parchment paper in a fridge for a week. Bring them to a room temperature for at least 10 minutes to softening them up. Or just eat them like caramel a little bit hard candy.

Allergy Info: These salted caramels are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, nuts (not coconut), wheat, legumes (soy), and fish.