Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes

I know I have already posted my favorite cupcake recipe, you can find it here.  But there are a lot of ingredients, and sometimes I am in a hurry, or I'm out of most of the things I need.  Like canned pumpkin, which is really hard to find when it is not Thanksgiving!  So, I have tested a lot of other chocolate cupcakes.  A lot of them involve boiling water and cocoa.  And every time I have made any of these cupcakes, they sink.  SINK.  Way down to the bottom of the cupcake liner.  SINKING is not a good thing to see when you are trying to make fluffy cupcakes.  I am not sure what I have been doing wrong, but something is not happening when I make any of these recipes.  I'm sure they are great for other people, but they have not turned out for me.  Any pointers would be great!  Anyway, I had this idea.  All cupcake recipes are basically the same, right?  It's about adding the right amount of sugar, butter, rising agents, and flour..right?  So, if I have a recipe that works for me every time..Vanilla, why not add to it?  Which is exactly what I did, and I must say, I am very pleased with the results. More than pleased.  This is a go to, works every time type of recipe.

Vanilla/Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
(3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, not the dutch processed, if you want to make chocolate)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream together the butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes, or until the sugar and butter have been well combined, light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, letting them mix for 30 seconds before adding the next egg.  (if you need to, like I do, scrape your bowl, making sure that all the butter mixture gets well mixed) In a separate bowl, add the dry ingredients (if you are making chocolate cupcakes, add the cocoa).  In a cup, measure out your milk and add the vanilla.  Alternating dry with wet, add to the butter mix. Fill your cupcake liner with batter.  I use an ice cream scoop..and by the way, if you need a great cupcake liner, I found the perfect and cheapest spot to buy them!  You can find them here.  Bake the cupcakes for 22-24 minutes, or until the cupcake bounces back when lightly pressed.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Seven Minutes in heaven..

I have been looking for some new frosting ideas lately.  I'm bored with buttercream (gasp!) so with my trusty Ipad in hand, I looked at all the websites I visit on a fairly regular basis.  And tah-dah!  It was there, almost like it was waiting for me.  SEVEN MINUTE FROSTING.  Dear Martha had a very, very long and involved process for hers.  It would have taken me longer than seven minutes to make.  Plus, she made it so complicated, it drained all desire out of me to try.  And then I found another website..got to love GOOGLE.  And found this very simple, straight forward way of making seven minutes of heaven.  Well, I mean, seven minutes after you make this..because you won't be able to stop licking the spoon, it is that yummy!  I have now made it twice, and each time, I fall head over heavenly heels for this white, glossy, fluffiness.


1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
2 egg whites
2 tsp. corn syrup
1/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla

On the stove top, either prepare your double broiler if you have one..or just do what I do, and just place a small pot of water on the stove with a metal mixing bowl on top.  You need to make sure that the water is boiling before you start this frosting..otherwise you will be standing there, whisking a white mess for a lot longer than seven minutes! Just you know, my first mistake. :)  Once the water in your pot is boiling, put your ingredients in the mixing bowl except for the vanilla, and with an electric hand mixer, start mixing the ingredients together over the bowling water.  Set the time for seven minutes and mix on high.  You'll be standing there the entire time, mixing, and mixing, and mixing..the mixture will start to foam, and then it will start to come together, and at around minute three, you'll mixture will start to thicken and turn a lovely white.  Keep mixing until your timer goes off.  Take the bowl off the boiling water, and move it over to your counter.  Add the vanilla and mix until it is well incorporated, about 1 minute.  If you are using a piping bag make sure that is all set up before you start the frosting.  This stuff sets up really quick.  And you are done.  Seven minute heaven.  I'm telling you, this is divine!

Today, I added too much corn syrup..added 1 tbsp instead of 2 tsp..oops, but not really.  The frosting just didn't set up as quickly and did not dry out as fast either.  My son thought I was making the candy, DIVINITY, which is similar to this frosting..(he calls it "vinity")  He licked the the beaters, he licked the spatula, and he licked the bowl clean, so I am guessing he really loves Vinity! And trust me, you will too! Tomorrow, I am sharing my new chocolate cupcake recipe, I am sure you can't wait! 

Monday, April 18, 2011

The rich Eclair

I have been on a baking spree, I am sure you can't tell!  Have I mentioned that I love my baby, the still unnamed, Kitchen Aid?  Is it possible to love an object this much?  Apparently it is, and I am not feeling guilty by this. She is everything I ever wanted out of a kitchen appliance.  We are basking in our honeymoon phase still.

 I have loved a certain pastry for about as long as I can remember.  Mom use to make these little puffs of golden clouds, with cream in the middle..Cream Puffs.  I love them.  I even like the Costco kind that come frozen, which I don't buy because let's face the truth here, I will eat the whole entire container if they were to find themselves here in my house..so no big container of cream puffs.  But even more than cream puffs, I adore eclairs.  I wanted to make some and did.  This is not the first time I have made this pastry.  But it has been a very long time.  I don't ever think about making them, cupcakes and cookies have been on my mind..bet you can't tell that either!   And really for anyone just starting out in the baking arena, I would highly recommend making pate choux.  It is simple and pretty straight forward.  If you want to get super fancy with these, you can make your own pastry creme to sandwich in the pastry, and you can even get fancier and make some chocolate ganache glaze to go on top.  Like so many things baked at home, these taste about 100% better than store bought ones.  And it probably takes less time to make these, than it would to drive to Costco, find them in their maze of a warehouse, stand in the long line at the check out  and even longer line ...so that some stranger can look at your receipt and drive all the way home. chances are you also have the ingredients for these in your pantry right now.TRY these, THEY WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE..or at least, they will make you significant other love you even that much more!  (trust me on this people! I have a previously ornery husband who actually smiled, said Yum and ate more of these babies,and he was happy! *wink*)

Recipe for the Pate Choux:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup of flour
5 eggs

in a pot over medium heat, stir together the milk, water, sugar and salt.  Heat until boiling.  Turn down the heat and Add the 1 cup of flour and stir until it is well incorporated, and forms a dough.  Place the dough in a mixer fitted the paddle, on medium speed, start adding your eggs, add them one at a time waiting untl each is incorporated, the batter will at first look like it is seperating, just keep adding the eggs, by the last egg it should look wet and more like a thick cake bater. Place your pastry dough in a pastry bag, fitted with a tip (depending on the size you want your eclairs/cream puffs to be) And pipe out the dough on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper..or you could do what I did and spray it nonstick spray.  In the recipe I found online, it said to bake both baking sheets, (you'll get around 20-24 Eclair size) at a time, in a preheated oven set at 375.   Let's just say, next time I will bake them one at a time.  Bake for 20 minutes, rotating half way through the baking process.  You want them to be puffed up and a nice golden color.  Let them cool before you slice them and fill them. See, easy!

On to the filling.  I found this recipe at you know where, Meet Me In the Kitchen.  (I spent two hours looking at her recipe catalog on Saturday.) I changed the recipe just the slightest, instead of using vanilla bean, I used just plain old vanilla extract because that is all I had on hand

Vanilla Pastry Cream:
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, (or about 2-3 tsp of extract)
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbls cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
4 Tbls butter cut into small cubes

In a bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar,and cornstarch.  In a sauce pan, heat the milk, vanilla and salt until it comes to a boil. When the milk has come to a boil, you need to add this to the egg mix, but here's the part that can be a little tricky.  You have to temper the eggs first.  If you poured the whole thing of hot milk into the eggs, you will get scrambled eggs.  You don't want that!  If you slowly add the milk in a steady stream than you won't get that problem.  Once the milk is fully incorporate in the egg mix, you want to add that all back into the pan you used for the milk and cook, whisking until you get the thick consistency that you want. (and let me warn you, you have to whisk and stand right there, baby this sucker, do not walk away even for a second, it might seem like it is taking a while to thicken, you might be tempted to do something else, but don't!  When this cream wants to thicken, it thickens like THAT! *snap*)  Pour the cream in a heat proof bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the cream so that a skin doesn't form, and let it chill in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  I made mine in the morning, and then made the pate choux after church.  Either way, you want to let your cream chill.

Chocolate Glaze..an Eclair would be incomplete without some yummy glaze of chocolate on top.  I used a simple ganache, equal amounts of dark chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream that has been warmed up, not boiling.  Let the warm cream melt the chocolate and then just stir until all the chocolate is melted and it is smooth.

Assemble your Eclairs,  by cutting the pastry in half, piping on the pastry cream and then top it with the other half of the Eclair, (you can add another step, and separate the top and bottom of the eclair-wich and frost the top with the glaze and while you are waiting for the glaze to set, fill the bottom with the cream, or whip cream, or pudding..you get the picture..but I just assembled my eclairs and drizzled the top with the glaze, it still looked good enough to eat!)

You can make these as simple as you like.  I grew up with my mom just filling cream puffs with cool whip, sometimes it was pudding.  You could get super fancy and do even more with these simple pate choux, and fill them with all sorts of yummy goodness.  I actually whipped up some cream and put that on top of the pastry cream and they were super delicious.  TRY THESE TODAY..TRY THESE TODAY.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Homemade Peanut Butter cups..otherwise known as Buckeyes

Buckeyes.  Not a very pretty name for these yummy treats.  I made these clear back in January, but for the life of me could not find the pictures on my computer!  It turns out they were still located on my camera.  So, my memory isn't the greatest any more.  Once you try these you will forgive me, my forgetfulness.  I found these at the blog, smitten kitchen, where you can also find amazing recipes.  Like I have said before, I'm a little obsessed with food blogs..my favorite list is getting a little out of hand!  (add mine to yours..just do it, you know you want too! and please pass on this blog to your friends..:) )  Anyway, my kids devoured these babies in about an hour..no not really, I didn't have enough chocolate to cover all of them, so some went in the freezer and when I was cleaning out the freezer and found these waiting in a lonely ziploc bag, my kids ate them straight from the freezer and then promptly begged me to make more.  It hasn't happened yet.  If you can't tell, I've been busy baking other things.  But these are fun, you don't have to turn on the oven for these..and for those of you out there who know about Cake Pops, i think this recipe would trump them.  (not a huge fan of the cake pops) 

Here it goes..and sorry about the pictures, you know, my skills at the camera are um, GREAT!

1/4 cup(2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (use your homemade ones if you have any left!)
Salt (just a pinch)
3 cups powder sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
12 ounces chocolate

In a mixer, combine cream cheese and peanut butter, and blend until smooth, add the graham cracker crumbs and mix until combined.  Add the sugar and butter, slowly mix until the sugar is well incorporated into the dough and then turn the speed on your mixer up and mix. The dough will be sturdy and ready to roll into balls.

this is what your dough will look like:

roll into balls.  I just used my hands..that were washed, don't worry! 

next, you want to melt your chocolate, I used a double broiler..(pot of simmering water, place your heatproof bowl on top of the pot and stir your chocolate until it is all melted and smooth)

 dip your peanut butter balls into the chocolate.  I found that using a fork to shake off the excess chocolate work great.  In the smitten kitchen recipe, she left part of the peanut butter showing..thus the eyes..but I wanted these to be covered! More chocolate please!
let the chocolate set about 30 minutes  in the fridge or freezer.  And ta-da!  Buckeyes.  You will need to keep these chilled, but seriously, they won't last very long so I wouldn't worry about it too much! :)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes with Lime-ginger curd, topped with buttercream

While waiting for the pictures I took too download.. A tragic story is about unfold.  I wanted to make a new frosting.  It involved egg whites, sugar, and lots of whisking.  It is my nemesis, and it's name is Swiss buttercream. Martha Stewart introduced us, (curse you Martha) in her lovely cupcake book. It is deceptively simple.  I decided to give it a try today.  It did not work.  It was runny, and a sickly grey color.  I know where my mistakes were, and one day will try and try and try again.  But for now, I'm sticking to the good old American buttercream.  What is not to love about it anyway?  Butter, sugar and yumminess.  And really, why mess with perfection?

On to the my cupcakes.  Once again, I used my go to recipe for vanilla cupcakes.  But I wanted something more.  Being an adult, or at least trying to be one, I wanted something that wasn't too sweet, but that would still have that childhood memories of sweetness to it, if that makes sense.  So, while looking at another one of my favorite food blogs, I became inspired.  And made Lime ginger curd to fill the cupcakes.  here is the recipe (and note to self, I needed to cook the curd just a little longer it wasn't thick enough for what I wanted it to do) this is adapted from the lemon curd recipe found on Meet Me in the Kitchen.

Lime Ginger Curd

3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup lime juice, plus the zest from 4 limes
1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of ground ginger (less if you don't want a lot of ginger taste, more if you like the ginger kick)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Whisk together eggs, egg yolk, sugar and lime juice and zest.  Place in a sauce pan (nonreactive) cook on medium heat.  You don't want it boiling!  Keep whisking that baby until it becomes thick and coats the back of a spoon.  Which I found to be unnecessary because it was visibly thicker.  Pour into a sieve, and let it rest in a heatproof bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic touches the curd, otherwise you will get a skin on the curd.  Let chill in the refrigerator until it is cold.

Meanwhile, make your vanilla cupcakes and let them cool down.  Using the cone method, instructions found here cut out the middle of the cupcakes, reserve the top part.  Make your buttercream..(1 cup unsalted room temp butter, about 2 cups powder sugar, milk and vanilla...trick to the buttercream, let the butter and sugar whip together until it is light and fluffy.) Assemble your cupcakes.  Fill each cupcake with the lime ginger curd, I used my new pastry tip for that, place the top of the cupcake back on and frost the cupcakes (I used the biggest pastry tip I had for that, decorating was a breeze!) I sprinkled on some sweetened coconut flakes, but you can leave off the coconut..a couple of shavings of dark chocolate would be wonderful on these babies..And here are some actual pictures..I know you guys are shocked! :)

I wasn't sure if the curd needed to be refrigerated, so to be on the safe side, I put mine in the obliging Fridge. Oh my, these were so good.  And it's a good thing I am on a diet and only tried one!  I gave the rest away.  L wanted  blue cupcakes, so I ended up only filling half of the cupcakes with the curd.  I think there was enough curd to fill at least 12, maybe 14 cupcakes.  You would have to double the recipe for 24 cupcakes.  And, a friend requested that I make them for a bake sale..so hopefully I am not the only one who enjoys these cupcakes!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Best S'mores ever (if you aren't by a camp fire that is)

A few days ago, I was browsing through one of my favorite food blogs, and saw this wonderful idea that I have never even dared thought was possible..homemade Honey Graham Crackers.  Oh my.  I will never go back to buying these puppies.  I didn't take a picture..camera dead, and lighting bad.  So, you'll have to use your imagination, or just visit this blog if you want pictures.  Here is the recipe...I made some slight changes to it, because I am an impatient baker, I know, not a good thing sometimes, but hey, you know you love me anyway!

Honey Graham Crackers:
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tbl. all purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp kosher salt
7 tbl. unsalted butter, chilled
1/3 cup clover honey
5 tbl milk
2 tbl vanilla extract

In a mixer, or food processor, blend the dry ingredients. (I found that I needed a little more flour than what the recipe called for, maybe about 1/4-1/2 cup extra)  Cut the butter into small cubes and  add to the dry and mix until small crumbs form.  Add the wet ingredients, and mix until dough forms.  Lightly flour plastic wrap, and wrap your dough, let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.(the first go around with this dough, I did chill it.  The second time, I did not owing to time, and they worked out just fine)  Flour your rolling surface and roll out the dough in a rectangle, either use a pizza cutter and just cut out the shape of the traditional crackers, or use a cookie cutter and cut out shapes you like. I used a scalloped heart one.  Poke holes in the cracker, use either a tooth pick or a wooden skewer) Preheat oven to 350.  Spray your cookie sheets generously, and place the cookies on them. Bake them for 10-15 minutes. (I actually found that my oven is super hot, so, I only cooked mine for nine minutes, and they turned out great!) You can sprinkle the crackers with cinnamon and sugar right before baking if you want too.

I topped my graham cracker with marshmallow fluff (Mindy...) and broiled it for a couple of minutes or until the marshmallow was toasty brown, and then squished a piece of chocolate on top and ate it in you know, in three delicious bites.  YUM! And because it's raining today, i think I am going to enjoy about six more!  HA!