Welcome to Natasha's Creative Confections! If you have stumbled upon this blog page, then you're in for a real treat! One of my favorite things to do is bake. If you choose to read on you will find pictures and recipes of some of the fabulous treats that I have created. So take a look around and enjoy!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Brown Butter Cookies

There is this cookie company down in Cayucos, CA called Brown Butter Cookie Company and they make these adorable and really tasty brown butter cookies. They are almost like a shortbread cookie--made with brown butter and topped with a pinch of sea salt.

I was craving one the other day...so I thought I would try and find a recipe to see if I could make them, or at least something similar. As I was preparing to make these, I was thinking to myself that these cookies sound so simple. I was wondering if they were going to taste good--does the brown butter change the flavor of the cookie? I was yet to find out.

The only part of the recipe I was worried about was (the main part of course!), browning the butter. The butter is supposed to turn a nut brown color, but my butter started getting very dark brown flakes floating around in it, while the butter was still a yellowish color! After a few minutes, I took it off the heat (I was scared it was partially burning!) and let it sit to cool slightly, and noticed the yellow color changed into a nice nut brown. There were still the specks of dark brown, but it didn't smell burnt, so I decided to roll along with the recipe.

After all the ingredients were mixed together, I tasted the dough to make sure it was usable, and was overwhelmed with this amazing nutty, vanilla-y flavor :) I was excited to see how the cookies would turn out! After I baked and let them cool, I tasted one and it was really good! The inside of the cookie was more soft than the Brown Butter Cookie Company cookie, but the flavor was awesome! These cookies are pretty cute and have a nice golden brown look to them. And the brown butter really changes the flavor of the cookie! Hope you try them sometime!

-1 1/2 c. butter
-2 c. brown sugar
-2 eggs
-2 tsp. vanilla extract
-1 tsp. baking soda
-1/2 tsp. baking powder
-1/2 tsp. salt
-3 c. all-purpose flour
-2/3 c. chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Heat butter over medium heat for ~5 minutes, until it turns nut brown in color. The foaming and bubbling is part of the browning process, but watch it carefully so you don't burn the butter. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

3. Pour butter into a large mixing bowl. Beat browned butter with brown sugar until it is no longer hot. Mix in eggs, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Beat thoroughly. Mix in flour and chopped pecans.

Drop tablespoons of dough onto ungreased baking sheets.

4. Bake for 10 minutes, or until light brown around the edges. Cool on wire cooling racks.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Scones

Last Saturday morning, before we left for Disneyland, I whipped up a batch of raspberry chocolate scones so we could have for the drive. I had frozen raspberries in my freezer and wanted to use them for something. I love scones, so I thought I would look for a good recipe to make a raspberry scone. I was surprised at how many different ones I found, so I decided to go with one that had chocolate, of course. YUM!

I found this recipe online--it actually comes from the Joy of Baking, and it was pretty quick and simple to make. The only thing that I struggled with was the frozen raspberries because they just stained up the entire batter--so it looked pinkish/purple. Oh well...they still ended up tasting fine :) Maybe next time I'll have to go with fresh raspberries with a little flour absorbed into them to prevent staining--(and they wouldn't be so cold to touch either!).

If you know of any good scone recipes, send them my way! I would love to experiment with new flavors!

-2 cups all purpose flour
-1/3 cup granulated sugar
-1 tsp. baking powder
-1 tsp. baking soda
-1/4 tsp. salt
-6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
-2 ounces dark chocolate chunks or chips
-3/4 c. fresh or frozen raspberries
-1/2 c. whole milk plain yogurt---> I substituted buttermilk
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place rack in middle of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.

Stir in the chocolate chunks (chips) and raspberries.

3. In a small measuring cup, whisk together the yogurt (or buttermilk), vanilla extract, and egg. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix.

4. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough gently four or five times and then pat, or roll, the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches round and about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut the dough into 8 triangles. Place the scones on the baking sheet.

5. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on wire rack.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Frozen Hot Chocolate!

How could this not be delicious?

Frozen hot chocolate is an amazing dessert-drink, made famous by the restaurant, Serendipity.

And it's low in calories :) Enjoy one on a hot summer night!

-1/2 cup chocolate syrup
-1 cup fat-free evaporated milk
-1/2 tsp. vanilla
-3 cups ice cubes
Garnish: reduced-fat whipped topping and/or dark chocolate shavings (or sprinkles!)

1. Combine chocolate syrup, evaporated milk, vanilla and ice in a blender. Blend until smooth.

2. Pour into glasses and garnish with a dollop of whipped topping and/or a sprinkling of chocolate shavings (or sprinkles), if desired.

Variations: For Mexican Hot Chocolate: add 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon.
For Peppermint Hot Chocolate: substitute 1/4 tsp. mint extract for the vanilla extract

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Homemade Graham Crackers

I was surprised with the cutest new little cookbook from my mother-in-law last week! It's called Miette, and they are a bakery in San Francisco. You have to check this cookbook out! (and bakery if you're in the area sometime!). This book is adorable. The edges are scalloped, each page has a different background--it is so cute!

There was a recipe for homemade graham crackers, which I have been wanting to make lately, so I was able to try them last weekend. Homemade graham crackers are such a treat. There used to be this local restaurant that had on their dessert menu, homemade s'mores, and the graham crackers were amazing! Ever since I had them, I've wanted to try to make my own and was excited to find a recipe in my new book!

I thought it would be hard to make homemade graham crackers, but it was a pretty easy process. And they turned out pretty good--they tasted a little more "cookie" like than I wanted, but the flavor was great :) I haven't had one from their bakery, but I'm curious to know if they taste more like a graham "cracker" or "cookie". Well, if you're in the mood for a crispy treat, you should try these!

-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
-generous 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
-2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temp.
-1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
-2 Tbsp. honey

1. Sift together both flours, salt and cinnamon into a bowl. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, brown sugar, and honey and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three additions, beating just until combined after each addition. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling, or for up to 2 days.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

5. Unwrap the dough and place between two sheets of waxed paper. On a clean work surface, roll out to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Using a 3 1/4 inch round cookie cutter with a scalloped edge (or any cookie cutter of your preference!), cut out the graham crackers. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet, placing the cookies about 1/2 inch apart.

Bake until golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. They should snap crisply when cooled.

6. Gather up the dough scraps, reroll, and cut out to make more cookies. Bake as directed and let cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mixed Berry Pie

A great way to celebrate the 4th of July is having a BBQ, swimming, and fireworks. I was able to do all of those things this year and it was extremely enjoyable and relaxing :) Another must have for the 4th, is of course, a homemade pie! Last year I actually didn't do a pie, but went with red, white and blue cupcakes. They were good, but this year we needed a pie!

I decided to make a mixed berry--a little nervous, yes, since berries haven't been one of my favorite things ever since Christmas 2009 when I was really sick. Let's just say that there was quite a fiasco in my kitchen with the blackberry pie and I associate the burnt smell with getting sick...no need to go into details ;) But, I was ready to try again! (I mean, I can't just let this pie go into the vault already, it's an award-winning Sonoma County Fair treat!) However I decided to change it up a little--add a little pizazz this time by going with the triple berry--blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. YUM!

I even had a special helper to make this pie! What a treat it was to bake with my sister. I had brought all the stuff over to my parents house and we baked the pie there (another treat was using their super nice oven!) We cranked out this pie the morning of the 4th and were anxiously waiting to slice into it the rest of the day :)

Hope this recipe tempts your taste buds into wanting to try it!

-6 cups berries, fresh or frozen
-1 cup sugar
-1/4 cup cornstarch
-1/8 tsp. salt
-1/2 cup water
-2 Tbsp. strained fresh lemon juice
-2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
--A 9-in. pie crust (homemade or store bought)

1. Prepare your crust and place in pie dish.
2. Rinse, dry and hull the berries; cut any large ones in half. If using raspberries or frozen berries, don't rinse. Measure 4 cups of berries and set aside.

Puree the remaining 2 cups of berries in a blender or food processor.

3. In medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt. Whisk in water and stir in the pureed berries along with the lemon juice and butter.
4. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, and cook for 1 minute.

5. Pour half of the reserved berries into the crust and spoon half of the hot berry mixture over them. Gently shake the pie pan to coat all the berries evenly. Cover with the remaining berries, spoon the remaining hot berry mixture over them, and gently shake the pan as before.

6. Cover with top crust and make slits with knife (3-4 times in middle of pie, all the way to the bottom).

7. Place pie dish on a baking sheet and bake pie at 375 degrees F for 1 hour, or until you can see the filling bubbling. If the edges are getting to brown, you can lower the temperature of the oven, wrap foil around the edges and continue to bake. (If the filling bubbles over, it's ok! That's what happened to this one, but it still tasted amazing!)
8. Let pie cool for 2 hours. You can leave it out if you prefer room temperature, or place in the refrigerator (my preference!) for a chilled slice. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!

**If you need a good crust recipe, leave me a comment and I'd be happy to send one to you :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Quick and Simple Raspberry Smoothies

These were the EASIEST quick little "desserts" to make, and super delicious!

It's been so hot lately that it's hard to think about anything to eat really unless it's cold. My husband and I whipped up some smoothies the other night just using random ingredients we found in our freezer/refrigerator!

-Frozen Raspberries
-Raspberry Lemonade (or any type of juice)

*You can use ANY type of fruit to make your favorite smoothie! We used raspberry lemonade because that was the only juice we had :) It gave it an interesting tang--still good though! We didn't even measure the ingredients, you just really need to eyeball the amount and then blend ingredients in a blender until you reach the consistency you like!

Enjoy this treat on a hot summer night!