Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reindeer Cookies

I had all the Christmas cookies I was making this year all set. That was until I saw these cuties. I couldn't resist, so I made a last-minute trip to the store to pick up the supplies to make these. They were equally as delicious as they were cute. How could you go wrong with peanut butter cookies accented by chocolate-covered pretzels, chocolate chips, and M&Ms? They weren't too difficult to make, but you had to work fast once they came out of the oven. I recommend baking in small batches.

Reindeer Cookies
Source: adapted from Jif as seen on Bakergirl

3/4 cup peanut butter
1 and 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening (I used 1 stick salted butter.)
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
1 and 3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt (I used 1/2 teaspoon.)
Mini chocolate-covered pretzels
Mini brown M&Ms (I used chocolate chips.)
Regular red M&Ms

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease cookie sheets with baking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

In another bowl, combine brown sugar, peanut butter, and shortening (or butter) and beat at medium speed until well blended. Add milk, vanilla, and egg and beat until blended.

Add flour to peanut butter mixture and beat at low speed until blended.

Form dough into one-inch balls, slightly pinch the bottom of the ball to form a point, and then gently flatten. Space cookies about two inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 7 – 8 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.

Remove from the oven and immediately press two mini chocolate-covered pretzels into the tops of the cookies for the reindeer's antlers. Don't press too hard. Next, press two mini brown M&Ms (or chocolate chips) for the eyes and one red M&M for the nose.

Allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Banana Cream Pie

I know I've been MIA lately. I've been super busy with school, work, and the holidays. I know it's no excuse. I apologize, but I can't say it won't happen again. I want to share one of my favorite recipes from my pastry class that has kept me so busy for the past few months: Vanilla Pastry Cream. We made this in class to fill numerous pastries such as eclairs, cream puffs, fruit tarts, pies, and Napoleons. It would also be a great filling for doughnuts, cakes, and cupcakes. I used it in this banana cream pie I made for my uncle's birthday. It got rave reviews from everyone, including the birthday boy. I chalk it up to the awesome vanilla pastry cream and fresh whipped cream. 

Banana Cream Pie
Your Favorite Pie Crust
Follow your favorite pie crust recipe (or open store-bought crust and follow directions) and blind bake recipe. Let cool.

Vanilla Pastry Cream
Source: Pastry Arts Class 102
2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 bananas, sliced

1. In a saucepan, dissolve 1/4 cup sugar in milk and bring to a boil. 
2. While milk is heating, whisk together egg yolks and whole egg in a metal bowl. Whisk in cornstarch and 1/4 cup sugar until smooth.
3. When milk comes to a boil, temper egg mixture by adding a cup of the milk to the egg mixture.

4. Add egg mixture to milk in saucepan and stir until thick.
5. When thick, remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.
6. Once blended, pour into a metal bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure plastic wrap touches the surface of the cream.
7. Put in refrigerator until completely cool.

Whipped Cream
1 pint whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Place bowl of electric mixer and whisk attachment in fridge for 30 minutes. Combine cream and powdered sugar. Beat on low speed for 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whisk until stiff peaks form.

Once pie crust has been cooled and pastry cream has been chilled, slice bananas. Layer bananas and then pastry cream. Alternate ending with bananas. Spread whipped cream on top of pie and place in refrigerator until ready to serve.