Magic Blondies

I have found a new favorite recipe! Not just because it tastes great, but it is the perfect recipe to use up all the half bags of chocolate chips, craisins, coconut, nuts, or anything else you may have in your cabinets from a baking extravaganza around the holidays. These were so easy and delicious I actually made them two nights in a row. My roomies were quite dissappointed when I didn't bring any leftovers home from the ones I brought to the office so we made another batch that night. This recipe, of course, comes from Martha Stewart. I made them in a mini-muffin pan and it was the perfect size for the plethora of flavors.

-2/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
-2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

-2/3 cup chopped pecans (about 2 1/2 ounces)
-2/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries
-1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
-9 tablespoons (1 1/8 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
-1 cup packed light-brown sugar
-2 large eggs
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a standard 24-cup mini muffin tin with paper liners; set aside. Stir together coconut, chocolate, pecans, and craisins in a medium bowl; set aside.

2.Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

3.Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and mix, scraping down sides of bowl, until well combined. Mix in 1 cup coconut mixture.

4.Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Sprinkle remaining coconut mixture over tops. Bake blondies until a cake tester inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, about 15 minutes. Blondies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days.
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Parmesan Rosemary Crackers

It is no secret that I am in love with my kitchenaid mixer and I have grand ideas of making delicious artisan breads and other specialty items.....in a perfect world my kitchen will never see a store bought bread item again. Seeing as though I have never tried my hand at yeasted baked goods I decided to start small and it doesn't get much smaller than crackers. Really though, these are pretty giant crackers. I have a lot of faith in Martha Stewart and she has yet to lead me astray so I thought it best to choose something from her Baking Handbook.  

The only thing I did not already have was fresh rosemary so I substituted a garlic/parmesan/rosemary seasoning and it was fantastic. At some point I will probably make this with fresh rosemary, but I will definitely add some garlic. From the yeasted bread recipes I have been studying I don't think there are too many out there that are not going to be time consuming or at least have to be tended to a few times over the course of 5-6 hours, but this was a pretty simple one and there was no rising of dough that had to occur, which is something that I have a lot of anxiety about, especially since I am attempting to do this in winter. I think I am going to learn to appreciate the hot humid summers Chicago has to offer when my dough rises like a dream.

I'm not sure if I did not roll the dough out thin enough or did not bake them long enough, but they ended up being more like a very thin flat bread than a crispy cracker. Not only did they taste great, but the house smelled wonderful for the entire day and night!

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Chocolate Pretzels

I am now the proud owner of the Martha Stewart Cookie book and Martha Stewart Baking Handbook and simply cannot be baking enough these days. With my new kitchen aid mixer I am virtually unstoppable. I have quite a few baking supplies/ingredients left over from all of my holiday candy making so I have been narrowing down my choices by making things that don't require a trip to the grocery store......the snow and freezing temps have also ignited my baking drive a bit. I suppose another factor in my choices is the new year's inspiration to drop a few pounds, but a girl's got to eat and I just can't cut out sweets entirely.

My first recipe for the new year was Martha Stewart's Chocolate Pretzels from her cookie book. although they are shaped like pretzels they remind me much more of a biscuit or biscotti. They are not very sweet and taste best with coffee or tea. They turned out well, but not quite sweet enough for my taste. I much prefer a pretzel covered in chocolate. I could see myself making these again, but only in addition to a variety of other cookies and sweets in order to fill up a tray and add something that breaks up the really sweet things.

1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 teaspoon good-quality instant espresso powder
3 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg yolk
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling (I used some left over sugar sprinkles I had from my christmas sugar cookies)

1. Stir cocoa and espresso powders into the boiling water in a small bowl until dissolved; set aside. Meanwhile, put butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until creamy. Mix in vanilla and salt. Reduce speed to medium-low. Mix in egg, then cocoa mixture. Gradually add flour, and mix until a smooth dough forms. Turn out onto a piece of plastic; pat into a square. Wrap dough, and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

2. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces. Roll into balls. Shape balls into 12-inch-long ropes. Twist each rope into a pretzel shape. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

3. Preheat oven to 325°. Whisk egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl. Brush cookies with egg wash; sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until dry, about 35 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 1 week.
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