About Heather @ Sweet Precision

Hi there, I’m Heather and welcome to my blog Sweet Precision. I’m currently plunging into my thirties and I love to bake cookies, dance in my pajamas, and curl up and read a good book. When I was younger I loved to cook, and I had a dream of one day opening my own peanut butter and jelly restaurant. These days, I live in Michigan with my wonderful husband Matthew and work as an analyst as I wait for the perfect PB&J business plan to materialize.

Touchdown Brownies

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Happy Super Bowl Sunday! Regardless of whether you’re a Patriots or Falcons fan, there’s a good chance you’ll be watching the big game. Although I love football and am a diehard Vikings fan, I usually feel pretty “meh” about the Super Bowl. To be honest, I get more excited about the food, commercials, and halftime show then the actual game. Since I consider dessert to be the best part of any meal, I know it’s important not to forget about sweet treats come game day!

With two posts in one week, the Sweet Precision Kitchen is back up and running in 2017! I had to share this recipe with you, because it’s SO easy and absolutely perfect for a Super Bowl party. So let’s have a quick chat about these brownies. When thinking about brownies you have one thing to consider. Are you the type of person that enjoys cake-like or fudge-like brownies? One reason I enjoy this recipe is because it meets somewhere in the middle between the two extremes. I also love it because it comes together in less than 45 minutes. You can even use boxed brownie mix to cut down on the time—there’s no shame in that!

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Touchdown Brownies Recipe
Adapted from Betty Crocker

Brownie Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Frosting Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 container white decorating icing

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center. Generously grease and flour an 8×8 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, mix together 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.

To make frosting, melt butter in a glass bowl in the microwave. Combine 3 tablespoons cocoa, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar.

When brownies are cool, cut into football shapes with a football-shaped cookie cutter. Spread frosting on brownies. Pipe on decorating icing to look like football laces.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
It’s important that you don’t over-mix your batter. To help with this, make sure you beat your eggs before adding them to the mixture. This way they will combine easily with butter and sugar without requiring you to mix more than needed.

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Blueberry Hand Pies

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Okay everyone. It’s time to prepare yourselves. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. It’s that time of year when we’re bombarded with candy hearts, stuffed animals, red roses, and cheap champagne. I’ve never been a big fan of the holiday myself, and Matthew and I never do anything overly extravagant to celebrate. This year we’re opting to cook a romantic dinner for two at home. This is exactly the type of low-key Valentine’s Day celebration that I can appreciate.

After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I’ve just started finding my way back into the kitchen to do some baking. I decided to start with a simple recipe that I’ve done many times before. A couple of summers ago, I took a pie baking class at Sur La Table with a friend where they taught us how to make hand pies. Using the same recipe, I simply swapped out my circular cookie cutter for a heart shaped one! You can use any filling that you’d like, I just chose blueberry jam because it is what we had in the refrigerator. Regardless of my feelings about Valentine’s Day, one thing I definitely can support are these homemade heart shaped treats!

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Blueberry Hand Pie Recipe

Pastry Dough Ingredients
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/4 cup ice water

Egg Wash Ingredients
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

Jam Filling Ingredients
3/4 cup jam
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water

Directions
To make dough, combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture forms a ball. Separate into two balls, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Place racks in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Line to baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Remove pie crusts from the refrigerator and roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness. Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut approximately 10 hearts from the crust. Place these hearts on a tray in the refrigerator while you’re working on the second crust. After rolling and cutting out each crust, you should have approximately 20 hearts.

Beat your egg and water together to form the egg wash and lightly brush half of the hearts with the egg wash. Place a small amount of jam in the center of each heart. Gently place the remaining hearts over the top and use your fingers to seal the edges. Go over the edges with the tines of a fork for a final seal. Use a paring knife to cut three small vents on the top and brush each heart with the beaten egg.

Place the hearts on your prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes. You want the tops to be golden and the filling to be bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
There is a fine art to rolling out pastry dough that only comes with practice. I’m still learning as I go along but have found two things that always help with the process. First, always work with well-chilled pastry; otherwise, the dough will stick to the counter and tear. Second, never roll out dough by rolling back and forth over the same section. Each time you press on the same spot, more gluten develops that can toughen the dough.

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Peppermint Meltaways

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There’s nothing like getting in the Christmas spirit. Yet somehow, every year I find myself wishing we could add on an extra week to the beginning of December. Between shopping for presents, decorating the house, attending holiday parties, and baking cookies—its seems as though there is never enough time! Although I do a TON of baking in December, I’m never able to post all the goodies I make. This year I decided to share one of my favorite recipes that I’ve made several times.

I made these peppermint meltaway cookies for a holiday party that Matthew and I had at our apartment. Let’s talk about these cookies a little bit… the addition of cornstarch makes for an incredibly delicate and flaky cookie. They truly do melt in your mouth! The addition of peppermint in both the dough and frosting makes these little morsels a true delight. I like to create fairly small cookies with the dough so you can just pop one into your mouth!

I’ll be signing off of Sweet Precision until the New Year so I hope that everyone has a truly special holiday season with family, friends, and loved ones.

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Peppermint Meltaways
Recipe from Taste of Home

Cookie Ingredients
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch

Frosting Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons 2% milk
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 to 3 drops red food coloring, optional
1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies

Directions
In a small bowl, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in extract. In another bowl, whisk flour and cornstarch; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Refrigerate, covered, 30 minutes or until firm enough to handle.

Preheat oven to 350°. Shape dough into 1-in. balls; place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

In a small bowl, beat butter until creamy. Beat in milk, extract and, if desired, food coloring. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Spread or pipe over cookies; sprinkle with crushed candies. Store in an airtight container.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes before shaping the cookies into balls. This will help them retain their shape and prevent spreading in the oven. Add the milk to your frosting last and incorporate one teaspoon at a time. This way you can determine how “stiff” you want your frosting. I like mine to be a little less runny, which helps when piping onto the cookies.

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How to Make Pâte à Choux

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I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is next week! The fall season has been a whirlwind for our family. Matthew and I recently returned from a fantastic 10 day trip to France and Belgium. We struck a nice balance of relaxation and fun sightseeing activities. Highlights included a chocolate and beer tour in Brussels and tickets to the ballet at the Paris Opera! It seemed as though our vacation was over before we knew it, and then it was back to reality. That reality meant adjusting back to our time zone, recovering from a cold for Matthew, and both of us attending conferences out of state. Whew. It feels like we’re finally settled now!

Speaking of fall…I couldn’t be more excited that today marks our fall baking competition at work! I love brainstorming ideas and testing out new recipes. However, there is also a certain amount of pressure involved in a baking competition. I decided to think a little outside of the box with my dessert entry this year. Instead of going with the typical fall flavors of pumpkin or apples, I decided to try a LEMON dessert! I love lemon because it’s so light and refreshing.

So let’s talk about this lemon-inspired dessert. I decided to make miniature cream puffs and fill them with a mixture of lemon curd and whipped cream. I garnished them with lemon glaze and candied lemon. Cream puffs are made from a light pastry dough called pâte à choux. This dough is quite simple and contains only butter, water, flour, and eggs. There is no leavening agent, and instead the high moisture content creates steam during the baking process to puff the pastry. I really like this dough because it’s simple and you can fill it up with anything your heart desires. Since these buns are so versatile, I’m simply sharing the recipe for the choux pastry. After that, let your imagination guide the way!

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How to Make Pâte à Choux
The Pastry Cookbook by Michel Roux

Ingredients
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons butter, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 medium eggs
Egg-wash (1 medium egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk)

Directions
Combine the milk, water, butter, salt, and sugar in a pan and set over low heat. Bring to a boil and immediately take the pan off the heat. Shower in the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Return the pan to medium heat and stir continuously for about 1 minute to dry out the paste, and then tip it into a bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating with the wooden spoon. Once the eggs are all incorporated, the paste should be smooth and shiny with a thick ribbon consistency. It is now ready to use.

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. For small choux buns, put the paste into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch tip. Pipe small mounds in staggered rows onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or directly onto a greased baking sheet. Brush the choux with egg-wash and lightly mark the tops with the back of a fork. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the outside of the buns is dry and crisp but the inside is still soft. Cool on a wire rack.

Once buns are cooled use a pastry bag to fill the choux buns with your filling of choice. Feel free to be creative. Pudding, custard, whipped cream, and jam are all viable option depending on the flavor you want to achieve. If you’d like a chocolate topping, melt chocolate over a double boiler and dip buns in the chocolate to coat. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Cool the dough slightly before adding the eggs. If you add the eggs right away, the hot dough will cook them, thereby preventing the eggs from doing their puff job. Some bakers cool the dough in the pan off the heat, while others transfer the dough to a stand mixer and beat it on low speed for a minute or two to cool off.

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Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

There’s no doubt about it, pumpkin is a quintessential flavor of fall. Although I appreciate pumpkin in all its forms, I especially love it in desserts. Pumpkin desserts are no stranger to the Sweet Precision kitchen. In past years I’ve made pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cookies, and pumpkin tiramisu. I’ve even written a post about how to make your own pumpkin pie spice! This year, I’m adding to the lineup with some tasty pumpkin bread that is sure to leave your kitchen smelling divine.

This week marked the four year anniversary for Sweet Precision. I made my first Sweet Precision post on October 4th, 2012. Looking back, Matthew and I were just beginning what would be a one year long distance relationship with him moving to Ann Arbor to start his PhD program. I was continuing to enjoy life in Washington DC, but found myself feeling alone in a city that we had once explored together. I needed something to funnel my newfound spare time into—and a new baking blog was the perfect project.

Since then, it seems as though time has flown. I’ve moved to Ann Arbor, Matthew and I have gotten married, he has completed four years of his PhD program, and we’ve even welcomed a new puppy into our family! In the midst of all this, I’ve continued baking and blogging.

What an amazing 4 years it’s been. Posts come and go (perhaps not as often as they once did), but what makes this whole blogging experience so amazing is your contribution as readers and followers. Thanks for reading my posts, trying out the recipes, and leaving your thoughtful comments. Here’s to another year of baking mishaps and masterpieces in the Sweet Precision kitchen!

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from All Recipes 

Ingredients
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice

Directions
Adjust oven rack to middle and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two 9×5 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

Bake for about 60 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Avoid getting rims around the edges of quick bread loaves by greasing the baking pans on the bottom and only 1/2 inch up the sides.