Monday, January 30, 2012

Coconut Cupcakes



When I was a little girl I was not fond of coconut.  The only way I would eat it was in german chocolate cake and only if my Mom made it.  I don't know when it happened, maybe it was just overnight, but as an adult, I love it.  I've become a coconut-holic!  I find myself adding coconut to granola, cookies, and every quick bread you can imagine.  It was only a matter of time before I started making coconut cakes and pies.  Searching through cookbooks one day I came across Ina Garten's recipe for coconut cupcakes and they looked divine!  The flavors were great but I really wanted a light and spongy cake, so I decided to experiment with the cake recipe but I left the frosting as is.  The frosting was perfect, good enough to eat with a spoon! 


The following week I had a request for coconut cupcakes and I still hadn't perfected my cake recipe so at the last minute I grabbed a white cake mix and doctored it up with coconut milk and almond extract and the addition of shredded coconut.  The cupcakes turned out perfect!  They were light and spongy with a hint of coconut and they were perfect with Ina's cream cheese frosting.  So much for my plans of a homemade white cake!  Someday I will continue my quest but for now I have what I consider to be the perfect semi-homemade coconut cupcakes with heavenly cream cheese frosting and a sprinkling of shredded coconut decorating the top!   


Hope you enjoy these cupcakes as much as I do!  I'm sneaking off to the kitchen now to get one before the kids see them!  ;)


COCONUT CUPCAKES

Cupcakes:
1 box white cake mix
1 ¼ cups coconut milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 egg whites
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup shredded coconut

Beat ingredients together in a large bowl for 2 minutes on medium speed.  Pour into cupcake pans filling each cup 2/3 full.  Bake at 325 degrees F for 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cupcakes cool on rack.

Frosting:
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 ½ sticks butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
¾ pound powdered sugar

Beat ingredients together for 3-5 minutes until smooth and fluffy.

Frost or pipe cupcakes as desired and sprinkle with additional shredded coconut to decorate.  Store in refrigerator.


Adapted from Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa at Home"


Recipe shared on:
My Turn For Us - Freedom Fridays
Hearth and Soul Blog Hop

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Foodgasms and Mini Tarts


Food in miniature form is so much fun!  I love going to cocktail parties and eating little appetizers and little desserts.  In theory, small food is great because you can try one of everything and not over-stuff yourself.  Ok, ok, ok.....so maybe I still over-stuff myself, but the food looks so adorable that it's hard not to.  These mini tarts are no exception.  I think they are adorable with their cute little shortbread crusts and their fabulously rich fillings and, hey, they are topped with fruit so they must be super healthy!  Even if they are not super healthy, when you take a bite you will for sure experience a foodgasm!  Yes, it's a real word!  According to Urban Dictionary A foodgasm is the euphoric sensation upon tasting amazingly delicious food.  I don't typically follow Urban Dictionary but in this case I think they are right!  Whatever you want to call the sensation you have while eating these tarts, I guarantee you will love them!

For those of you who have made mini tarts before, you know that there is often a problem with the pastry dough shrinking in the oven.  I have had this problem before and find this shortbread recipe to be fool-proof, no shrinking at all.  Just make sure that you pop the pan into the freezer for 15 minutes or so to get the dough really cold and firm before you bake the shells.  I had no problem with shrinking at all and the shells are delicious, just like a little shortbread cookie! 

What to fill them with?  You could fill them with any type of pie filling or you could make a pastry cream and top them with fruit.  I have been trying to perfect my lemon curd lately, so that was my first choice for a filling.  I've not been really happy with any of the lemon curd recipes I found.  They were either too sweet, too grainy or not thick enough.  After weeks of playing around with my recipes and adding more egg yolks, more lemon zest, and less sugar.....taaaaa daaaa!  When I finished this last batch I had a taste, and O....M....G!   This lemon curd is truly foodgasmic!  It made me a little weak in the knees.  After several spoonfuls, I stopped and reminded myself to save some for the tart shells.  I topped mine with blueberries, but you could do any fruit or candied lemon rind or even whipped cream.

For my second tartlet filling I made a ganache.  I found a recipe recently on Smitten Kitchen for chocolate tarts that looked fabulous and I had to try the filling.  It did not fail me!  This ganache filling is very easy to make and so rich and delicious!  I warn you that you will want to eat this by the spoonful but only the most experienced chocoholics should try this without supervision.  Talk about weak knees and moaning....this ganache is to die for!

Mini  Tarts

Shortbread Pastry:

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray mini muffin tins with non-stick spray.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour, cornstarch and salt and mix just until incorporated. If the shortbread dough is too soft to roll into balls, cover and refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes.

Take 1 tablespoon of shortbread dough and place in the center of each muffin tin. With your fingertips, press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the individual muffin tin. Once filled, place the tart pan in the freezer for about 15 minutes so the shortbread can become firm. (This will help to prevent the shortbread from puffing up during baking.)

Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown. About halfway through the baking time, if the shortbread has puffed up, lightly prick the bottom of each shortbread with the tines of a fork. Once they are fully baked, remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. When completely cooled, remove the tarts from the pan.

Recipe adapted from joyofbaking.com

Assemble tarts by spooning or piping lemon curd or chocolate ganache into pastry and topping with fresh berries or whipped cream.

Lemon Curd:

zest of 3 lemons
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs + 2 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 3/4 sticks butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together zest, lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and a pinch of salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Add butter all at once and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until curd is thick, about 10 minutes. Immediately strain curd into a bowl, then stir in vanilla.  Cover curd and chill until thickened.  Store in the refrigerator.



Chocolate Ganache:

8 ounces (224 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup (160 grams) heavy cream
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 tablespoons (1 ounce; 30 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  In another bowl, beat 1 tablespoon of the heavy cream with the egg yolks just until the eggs are liquid.

Pour the remaining cream into a saucepan, add the vanilla and bring the cream to a full boil.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Wait for about 30 seconds, then, working with a whisk, gently blend the cream into the chocolate. Still whisking delicately, incorporate the yolks, followed by the butter. Pour the ganachetartlet shells.

If you make these ahead and refrigerate them, pull them out and bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving to soften the ganache.

Adapted from SmittenKitchen.com





Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dulce de Leche Cupcakes




I love to bake.  I love everything about baking.  I love the measuring, the creativity, the smells, the happy faces of people when they eat my baked goods and I especially love the yummy noises that people make when eating my baked goods.  Oddly enough, I don't really like to eat a lot of baked goods.  I would prefer a big bowl of mashed potatoes (with real butter and cream of course) for dessert than a piece of cake.  In actuality I don't care much for cake, I'm more of a pastry girl.  There are a few cakes that can tempt me, like an angel food cake or a carrot cake or my coconut cupcakes.   That all being said, I'm not sure what prompted me to try this recipe last summer when I saw it on Joy The Baker but I did.  Unfortunately I loved them!  I say "unfortunately" because when you bake as often as I do, it is really much better if you don't enjoy eating all of the baked goodies.  

The woman blogging about this recipe (I can only assume her name is Joy) kept going on and on about how yummy the batter was and how fantastic these cupcakes are.  I guess I just really had to try them to see if they were all that.  Well....she didn't lie.  It's absolutely horrible how fabulous this batter is.  I really could eat it by the spoonful, luckily I have my children around to keep me in check but when they are not looking you better believe I'm eating the batter!  The cake portion of the recipe reminds me very much of a brown sugar pound cake only not so heavy.  They are delicious by themselves but once you've had the frosting you won't want the cake by itself.  My favorite frostings always contain cream cheese so there was no doubt in my mind I would love this one.  It is a standard cream cheese frosting with dulce de leche beat into it!  So fabulous!!!  You can spread or pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes and then drizzle with a little extra dulce de leche.  Heavenly!!!  Dulce de leche is a caramel-like sauce that is milk based and is so delicious!  If you've never purchased it before it is usually in the hispanic food section.  You can make it yourself using sweetened condensed milk but  it seemed like a lot of work for something I can just purchase already made for me.

These cupcakes are great year round but I think they would be especially great for a Cinco de Mayo party (or any party with margaritas)!  I baked these last weekend for a birthday party and made them into mini cupcakes instead.  Mini cupcakes are great when you have lots of desserts and everyone wants to have a little taste of each one.  

Let me know if you're having a party and I'll bring the cupcakes!!  ;)


Dulce de Leche Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat to 350 degrees F.  Line two cupcake pans with liners. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add butter and sugars.  Beat on medium speed until fluffy and pale brown, about 3 minutes.   Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add one egg.  Beat on medium for one minute.  Add the remaining eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute between each addition.  Stop the bowl and scrape down the sides as necessary. Beat in vanilla extract.

Add half of the flour mixture to the egg and butter mixture.  Beat on low speed and slowly drizzle in the buttermilk.  Beat until just incorporated.  Stop the mixer, scrape down the bowl and add the rest of the dry ingredients.  Beat on low speed until just incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and finish incorporating with a spatula.  Try not to over mix the mixture.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake pans, filling each liner about two thirds full.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of one of the cakes comes out clean.  Let rest in the cupcake pans before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cupcakes should be completely cooled before frosting.

If you make mini cupcakes bake for only 10 minutes.

For the Frosting:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup dulce de leche, plus more for drizzling
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups powdered sugar

Place cream cheese in the bowl of an electric stand mixer.  Beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds, until very soft and pliable.  Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the butter and dulce de leche.  Beat on medium speed until well incorporated.  Stop the mixer and add the salt and powdered sugar.  Beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until fluffy and lighter in color.  Pipe or spread frosting on cupcakes.   Decorate cupcakes by drizzling with some of the leftover dulce de leche (which you heat until pourable).

Store in the refrigerator but let come close to room temperature before serving.


Adapted from joythebaker.com

Monday, January 23, 2012

Triple Chocolate Espresso Brownies and Mystery Tools!


This weekend I was lucky enough to work for my favorite caterer, Monica Hobbs, as she catered a 40th Birthday Party!  Even luckier.....I got to bake!  I made a variety of goodies, which you will all be seeing in my postings over the week, including these brownies, raspberry crumble bars, dulce de leche cupcakes, and lemon tartlets!  All were a big hit!  

Before we go any further, we are going to play a little game!!!  Below is a picture of my favorite Christmas gift.  When I opened this I had no idea what it was but now that I have it, I use it every day.  Take a good look and see if you can figure it out!


Ok...back to brownies!  These brownies are a favorite when I bake for friends, they are super rich and chocolatey and have a subtle espresso flavor that goes perfectly with all that dark chocolate.  I love to make them because they are easy and everyone loves brownies!  The trick to making great brownies is the chocolate.  I use a mixture of unsweetened chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate chips and then for the chocolate treat in the middle I chop up chocolate bars and stir them into the batter.  Do not just use any old hershey bar, we are talking a quality dark chocolate candy bar, like Scharffenberger.

When you are done baking and cooling the sheet pan, place in the refrigerator for a few hours.  This makes cutting the brownies much easier as they do not have much flour in them and need to really be solid in order to cut.  After cut you can store in refrigerator or at room temperature.  I always dust mine with powdered sugar but you could leave them plain or make a chocolate ganache frosting.  Cut into small pieces because these brownies are far to rich to eat a large square.  Hope you enjoy the recipe!
  
Answer time!  Did you figure it out yet?  This tool is used for pulling out and pushing in the racks in the oven!  My youngest son made it for me in woodshop at school and wrapped it up for Christmas.  I think it is beautiful and I absolutely love it and use it every time I bake!  Luckiest Mom ever!

Recipe shared on:
Foodie Friends Friday

Triple Chocolate Espresso Brownies

1 pound butter
1 pound semisweet chocolate chips
12 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (or your favorite dark chocolate bar, chopped)
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, espresso, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the 12 ounces of chocolate in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, then tap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into squares or triangles.

Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

For the best caterer with the most beautiful venue check out: http://www.nimitzmansion.com/

Friday, January 20, 2012

Butternut Squash Galette


A while back I was desperate to use up a butternut squash and I really wanted to try something different.  I ran across a recipe for Butternut Squash Galette on a fabulous food blog called smittenkitchen.com.  The recipe looked pretty simple so I gave it a try and I'm so glad I did.  This recipe is fabulous!  I have made it a few times now and put my own little twist to it and it has become one of my favorite dishes!  This dish looks beautiful for company, just add a nice green salad and a crust french bread and you are set!  


If making homemade crust scares you, feel free to use store bought crust, I'm sure it will still be delicious.  However, if you are new to making pastry, I would try this recipe!  It is an easy recipe to make and the dough is very forgiving.  Unlike regular pastry, the dough was easy to roll out and didn't stick to my board at all even though I dusted it with very little flour.  The dough makes an incredibly tender crust that I can only attribute to the sour cream and lemon juice (which you cannot taste, in case you were worried).  So....don't be so afraid of pastry....give it a try!!



BUTTERNUT SQUASH GALETTE

Pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water 

In a bowl, combine the flour and salt and add the butter, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this mixture to the well. Stir until dough forms ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Filling:
1 small butternut squash (about one pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons butter 
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
3/4 cup gruyere cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces), grated 
2 oz pancetta, cooked and crumbled
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Peel squash and cut into 1 inch pieces. Toss pieces with olive oil and salt and roast on foil lined (for neatness sake) sheet for 20 minutes or until pieces are tender, turning it midway if your oven bakes unevenly. Set aside to cool slightly.

While squash is roasting, melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook onion over low heat with pinch of salt, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in cayenne.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese, pancetta and sage together in a bowl.

Assemble galette: On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread squash, onions, cheese and herb mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the squash, onion and cheese mixture, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open.

Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. 

Recipe adapted from Smittenkitchen.com

Recipe shared on:
Foodie Friends Friday


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snickerdoodles



I will have you know that I was not going to bake yesterday.  I was going to work and have friends over for a casual dinner but I was not going to bake.  Then I saw the sweet little face of my 12 year old staring up at me (he's actually at eye level with me but let me live in my fantasy that my little boys are still little) and asking if I would bake cookies for him because he would really like some cookies and apparently I make the best cookies ever.  My kids really know how to sweet talk me into just about anything!  So I found myself making Snickerdoodles because they are the easiest cookies to make, they are super quick and most of all, my family has a thing for cinnamon and sugar.  You will notice as my blog continues that I make a LOT of sweets that contain cinnamon (cinnamon scones, cinnamon roll pancakes, coffee cakes, Snickerdoodle cupcakes, etc.)


As the cookies are baking I decide to do a little cinnamon research (mostly because I'm a bit of a foodie and I love researching ingredients) and I found that cinnamon has several health benefits....shocker to me!  Apparently just 1/2 teaspoon a day can lower your cholesterol, cinnamon reduces the proliferation of certain cancer cells, it has an anti-clotting effect on the blood, it can relieve arthritis pain, it is a natural food preservative, and it is a source of fiber, iron and calcium.   Basically what I'm saying to you is this... these cookies are good for you and could possibly even save your life!  You are welcome!  


Ok, they may not save your life but they are easy and delicious!  I hope you enjoy the recipe!


Snickerdoodles


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C)

Cream together butter, shortening, sugar, eggs and the vanilla.  Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt just until mixed.  Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls.

Mix the 2 tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon.  Roll balls of dough in mixture.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake 8 minutes, or until set but not too hard.  Remove immediately from baking sheets.

Adapted from allrecipes.com

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sleepovers and Homemade Pizza!!


If you have children you will understand why I am so exhausted today!  This weekend my two boys had sleepovers and in total there were five teenage boys in the house (technically 4 teens and 1 pre-teen).  Let me start by telling you that I LOVE having a house full of children.  The house is filled with laughter and kids running around and yummy food smells and it's basically like an indoor carnival! Plus, I am lucky enough to have great kids with great friends who like to hang out with me.  It is always fun but it is tiring too.  Last night I didn't get much sleep between the marshmallow gun wars, the loud video games, the Spongebob show playing and oh yes, the goldfish cracker basketball game.  I awoke to what looked like a Pepperidge Farm masacre, goldfish everywhere!


The highlight of the sleepover (for me) was making homemade personal pizzas!  We had all the usual toppings and the most delicious pizza crust ever!  I always use Tyler Florence's recipe for pizza dough (excuse me while I fan myself, just thinking of him gives me a hot flash) because it is a never-fail recipe.  The only thing I change is that I prefer to use bread flour for my pizza dough, it makes a crisper crust.  Everyone fixed their own pizzas and they turned out great!  We finished off the meal with some homemade s'mores whoopie pies! Happy kids, happy Mom!!


Pizza Dough

1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting


In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water; stir gently to dissolve. Let the mixture stand until the yeast comes alive and starts to foam, about 5 to 10 minutes.


Turn the mixer on low and add the salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the flour, a little at a time, mixing at the lowest speed until all the flour has been incorporated. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium; stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook. Get a feel for the dough by squeezing a small amount together: if it's crumbly, add more water; if it's sticky, add more flour - 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix until the dough gathers into a ball, this should take about 5 minutes.


Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold it over itself a few times; kneading until it's smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a round and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turn it over to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot (i.e. over a gas pilot light) until doubled in size, about 1 hour.


Once the dough is domed and spongy, turn it out onto a lightly floured counter. Roll and stretch the dough into a cylinder and divide into 3 equal pieces. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes so it will be easier to roll out.


Preheat oven to 500 degrees F and place rack on the lowest rung in the oven.


Roll or stretch by hand each piece of dough into a 12" circle and place on baking sheet or pizza stone.  Add your favorite toppings!  Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until crust is brown and crispy!


Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence on Food Network

Saturday, January 14, 2012

S'mores Whoopie Pies


S'mores (sigh.....) how I love you so!  I know it's January and supposedly winter time (you wouldn't know it with the temperature reaching 68 degrees this week) but I have been thinking a lot about s'mores and summertime campfires.  Thinking about s'mores led to thinking about what else you can do with s'mores ingredients, which led to recipes for s'mores cupcakes, s'mores pancakes and yes, even s'mores whoopie pies!  Whoopie pies are pretty big right now and there are all kinds of recipes out there but I don't trust just any old recipe, I want the best.  Quite a while back the browneyedbaker.com did a s'mores whoopie pie recipe that she found in a cookbook titled "Whoopie Pies".  The recipe looked pretty easy and the pictures looked yummy so I gave it a try.

Graham flour....pain in the "you-know-what" to find!  Safeway used to carry it but not today when I needed it.  So I got a little creative and substituted graham cracker crumbs for the graham flour.  My cookies taste fabulous and are still soft and fluffy!    I will keep looking for the graham flour but, honestly, I don't imagine these cookies could get much better!  As long the graham crackers are crushed very fine and you add that little bit of vegetable shortening (Yes, you have to use it to add that puffiness to the cookies!  You will live, I promise) your cookies will be soft and delicious!

I wasn't really excited about the "marshmallow" frosting that they filled their cookies with in the cookbook so I decided to use my ever-so-perfect 7 minute frosting recipe.  It is just like eating homemade marshmallow fluff (only better)!!   I also changed the chocolate ganache filling to include half semi-sweet and half milk chocolate chips.  Feel free to play around with this recipe on your own and let me know if you have any new ideas to improve it!  I personally think they are pretty close to perfect.  They are also extremely messy and the marshmallow filling is gooey and sticky!   Make sure you have a wet washcloth on hand (or a garden hose) to clean you up when you are finished!  
Enjoy!



S'mores Whoopie Pies

Graham Cracker Cookie:
1½ cups graham flour (can substitute finely crushed graham crackers)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon white vinegar1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, stir together both flours, baking powder, and salt.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening and brown sugar until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the buttermilk and beat until combined.

In a measuring cup, combine the milk, baking soda, and vinegar. Add the milk mixture to the batter along with the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Add the vanilla and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until completely combined.

Using a small scoop, drop about 1 tablespoon of batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets and repeat, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for about 8 minutes each, or until the cakes begin to brown. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

For the Chocolate Ganache Filling:
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (or 4 ounces semisweet and 4 ounces milk choc)
½ cup heavy cream
Put the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat just until it bubbles. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate in the bowl and let it sit for about 10 minutes, until the chocolate is melted. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until smooth. Allow the mixture to rest at room temperature until firm enough to spread, about 2 hours. You may also refrigerate the mixture for about 30 minutes, until it is firm enough to spread, stirring every 10 minutes.

Marshmallow filling (7-minute frosting):
½ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Place all ingredients, except vanilla, in top of a double boiler.  Place pan over boiling water, being sure that boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan.  Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes.  Remove from heat and beat in vanilla.

Assemble the Whoopie Pies:
Spread a layer of chocolate ganache filling onto the flat side of one of the cakes.  Top the ganache with a spoonfull of the marshmallow filling. Top it with another cake, flat-side down.


Adapted from browneyedbaker.com

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Black Chicken and Venetian Cookies



Yes, you heard me right.....black chicken, NOT blackened chicken!  Black skinned chickens, also known as Silkie chickens are very popular in Asian cooking but many people are turned off by their black skin and grayish flesh.  I have been intrigued since I watched an episode of Chopped in which these chickens were part of the basket.  After that it seemed I saw black chicken recipes everywhere.  My friend Kim is always up for a culinary experience and had me over last night for this yummy treat!  She found a recipe on Cooking Channel for Grilled Black Chicken in Galangal: http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/luke-nguyen/char-grilled-sapa-black-chicken-in-galangal-ga-den-nuong-rieng-recipe/index.html Fabulous recipe I would recommend to anyone!  Though the color is a little odd, there is nothing odd about the flavor.  It does not taste gamy at all, really it is just a very lean, deep-flavored chicken.  Cliche but, "Tastes Like Chicken"! Sorry I didn't post pictures, all of mine were taken with my phone and way to blurry but this is a baking blog anyways so we are going to concentrate on the dessert of the evening.

While the chicken was marinating, Kim thought it would be fun to make Venetian Cookies. Sounds great to me, I am always on board when someone wants to bake with me!  Funny thing is, neither of us has ever made or tasted Venetian Cookies.  It was a night of experiments for sure!  The recipe she found came from allrecipes.com and was super easy! You simply make an almond paste flavored cookie dough which you divide into three bowls and color two of the doughs different colors.  My big tip is that when the recipe says to measure out the dough to divide it, you should do this!  I divided our dough by site and we had one very thin purple layer!   We left one of the doughs it's natural color, tinted one of them green and the other purple .  Bake each layer and then spread with apricot jam and stack.  This stacked layered bar of almond yummyness is then weighed down in the refrigerator overnight before you top it with chocolate and cut it into squares.  Another tip, stick the whole thing in the freezer for 10 minutes before you cut into squares, it will make it much easier to cut!  

Oh my....are these delicious!!  I had a little piece with breakfast this morning (I know, breakfast of champions!!) and the almond flavor comes through and is not overwhelmed by the rich, deep chocolate layer on top! Plus, they are really cute cookies with their colorful layers.  All I can say is "Thank You Kim" for turn turning me onto these yummy cookies!


Venetian Cookies

  • 8 ounces almond paste
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 drops red food coloring
  • 4 drops green food coloring
  • 1 1/2 cups apricot jam
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped

  • Grease 3 - 13 x 9 inch pans. Line with wax paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

  • Combine almond paste, sugar, butter, egg yolks and almond extract. Beat for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in flour and salt.

  • In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. With a wooden spoon, fold into the almond mixture.

  • Divide dough into 3 -1 1/2 cup portions. Add red coloring to one of the portions, and green to the another. Spread the batter in the 3 separate prepared pans (keeping the colors separate).

  • Bake for 15 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. (Each layer will be 1/4 inch thick). Remove cakes from pan immediately. Cool thoroughly.

  • Stack layers in a 9 x 13 inch pan, spreading apricot jam between layers (no jam on top layer). Place second 9 x 13 inch pan on top and weigh down with two 5 pound bags of sugar or flour. Refrigerate overnight.

  • Melt chocolate over hot water and spread over cake. Allow to set. Trim edges and cut into 1 inch squares.

Adapted from Allrecipes.com


Friday, January 6, 2012

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes


For Christmas dinner I made my very first Lemon Meringue Pie.  (you will notice that I did not blog about it, not my best work!)  I made the pie because it is my Uncle's favorite dessert and we were lucky enough to have him and my Aunt visit for the holidays.  The pie was pretty good but needs a little tweeking to make it perfect and therefore qualified to be on my blog!

Today, while I was deciding what kind of cupcakes to make for a friend's birthday celebration, I still had lemon meringue on the brain and I remembered that Martha Stewart made some very yummy looking lemon meringue cupcakes.  These cupcakes are light and airy, not too dense at all and there is a dollop of lemon curd on top which is tart and lemony! If you want to make these cupcakes even more special, you could pipe the lemon curd into the cupcake for a surprise filling.   I will do that next time, for sure.  The frosting is seven minute frosting and after reading through Martha's recipe, I decided to use my own (there are at least two children in town who will vouch that mine is the best frosting around).  It reminds me more of a homemade marshmallow than a traditional meringue, especially once it is torched and toasty!

For my first try, I was pretty happy with the outcome.  The only thing I would do differently would be to use the lemon curd as a filling.  Hope you enjoy!!  ;-)


Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons (about 3 tablespoons), plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in zest and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

When the cupcakes have cooled, spread 1 tablespoon of lemon curd (recipe below) on top or pipe into center of cupcake.  Then pipe the seven minute frosting (recipe below) on top and brown the frosting using your hand held kitchen torch or place under broiler briefly to brown tops.  Serve immediately!

Lemon Curd
8 large egg yolks
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a heavy-bottom saucepan; whisk to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (be sure to scrape the sides of the pan), until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove saucepan from heat. Add salt and butter, one piece at a time, stirring until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Seven Minute Frosting
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Place all ingredients, except vanilla, in top of a double boiler.  Place pan over boiling water, being sure that boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan.  Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes.  Remove from heat and beat in vanilla.