Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Twilight Cupcakes



As you have probably heard (unless you have been living in a cave somewhere), the Twilight Saga continues to dazzle the world with the new movie “Eclipse” coming out in theaters in the United States this week. I must admit I was very skeptical to read the series because, well, it’s just a vampire book for crying out loud! But you know what? From high recommendations from the girls I work with, I picked up the first book and started reading. Yes, the book does have vampires in it, and yes, it is a love story, but it captivated me and made me a fan. J I started my Twilight journey by reading all four books first, then I just finished watching the first two movies this last week, making me ready to watch Eclipse in the theaters with the whole staff (a nice girl’s night out).
To commemorate the release of this new movie, I made these cupcakes that I found from Annie's Eats and Baking Bites. The cupcake is a white cake (like vampires) with a red cherry pie filling (simulating blood), and to seal the deal we add a pair of bite marks with more pie filling oozing out. Cute and gory huh? Hope you enjoy the cupcakes and the movie!

Twilight Cupcakes
Yield: 18 cupcakes
Ingredients:
For the cake:
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
For the filling:
1 can cherry pie filling
For the frosting:
7 oz. pure white chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

Directions:
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 18 cups of muffin tins with paper liners.
In a small bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir together with a fork.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar and butter and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the egg whites one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions.  Stir in the vanilla extract.  Add in the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Stir just until combined, being careful not to overmix.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups.  Bake for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
To prepare the filling, puree the can of cherry pie filling using an immersion blender, blender, or food processor.
Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, cut a cone out of the center of each using a small paring knife.  Cut off the point side of each cone, leaving a thin disc of cake to replace over the filling.  Spoon just enough of the cherry filling into the hole to fill it, and cover by replacing the disc of cake on top.  Repeat with remaining cupcakes.
To prepare the frosting, in a double boiler, melt the white chocolate, stirring constantly, until smooth and creamy.  Let stand until just warm to the touch.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until smooth and blended.  Add the melted chocolate and beat again until smooth.
Frost the cupcakes immediately.  Using a bamboo skewer dipped in the left over cherry filling, poke two holes into the top of each cupcake to resemble bite marks.  Trace a line of cherry filling from each hole to the edge of the cupcake to resemble dripping blood.  Repeat with remaining cupcakes.
If stored in the refrigerator, allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Source: cake adapted from (and inspiration from) Baking Bites and Annie’s Eats, frosting adapted from Williams Sonoma

Dark Chocolate Mousse



For some reason, I recently purchased A LOT of cocoa powder… I usually have my handy-dandy grocery list, but then I end up with double that amount of groceries in my cart! And one of those things may have been cocoa powder… well, I guess I’ll just have to make a whole bunch of chocolate yummies! (maybe it was my unconscious mind telling me to get all that chocolate…)
In hopes to find ways to use this extra amount of cocoa powder crowding my pantry, I sifted through the packaging recipes.  I usually am not sure on what to think of recipes that come on the outside of food packages. “Are the recipes any good? Is this recipe just a way for me to buy this product??” I guess you can call me a pessimist in these situations, but I tend to read between the lines (of food packages) every now and then. J  I saw this recipe on the outside of my Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa by Hershey's and gave it a go, mainly because I wanted something quick and I had all the ingredients in hand. This mousse turned out DELISH! It was very rich, but smooth and velvety. Hope you enjoy it!

Dark Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients:
·         1 envelope unflavored gelatin
·         ¼ cup cold water
·         1/3 cup boiling water
·         1 cup sugar
·         2/3 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
·         2 cup (1 pint) cold whipping cream
·         1 tsp. vanilla extract

Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in small bowl; let stand 2 minutes to soften. Add boiling water; stir until gelatin is completely dissolved and mixture is clear. Cool slightly. Beat whipping cream and vanilla on medium speed of mixer; add combination of sugar and cocoa while scraping the bottom of bowl occasionally until mixture is stiff. Pour in gelatin mixture; beat until well blended. Spoon into dessert dishes. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Garnish as desired. Store covered in refrigerator.

8 servings.
Source: Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa packaging.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes





My latest cupcake adventure started when I came across this very promising recipe from Annie's Eats. I have been eyeing an opportunity to try to recipe, and finally got my wish when my husband picked it for his special treat for Father’s Day. Let me just say that I just ABSOLUTELY L-O-V-E the icing from this recipe! It is soooooooo good: creamy, smooth and sweet, with a nice peanut butter flavor!
I made a couple of modifications from the original recipe: I decreased the amount of confectioner’s sugar used in the frosting, and since I did not have any frozen whipped topping at home, I whipped heavy cream and added that. It worked out great! Enjoy the recipe!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Ingredients:
For the filling:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the cake:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
2 large eggs

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
2-2.5 cups confectioners' sugar (changed from 3 1/4)
¾ cup heavy cream, whipped, or 1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

To make the filling, combine the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter and vanilla extract in a bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined.  Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls (at least 24) and set aside on a baking sheet.

To make the cake batter, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; whisk together and set aside.  In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the sour cream, milk and vanilla extract.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed.  With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix just until incorporated.

Spoon a tablespoon or two of batter into the bottom of each cupcake liner.  Place a ball of the peanut butter filling in each cupcake well and top with the remaining batter so that all the cups are filled.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter and peanut butter until smooth.  Slowly mix in the confectioners' sugar, beating until smooth and well blended.  Mix in the whipped topping until smooth and fluffy.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Adapted from Annie's Eats

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Yummy Fudge!


During my pregnancy months, I had a lot of down-time to watch TV. I became a big fan of the Food Network show “Good Eats” by Alton Brown. Alton Brown is my favorite FN star; he is a great chef but also is able to portray the science behind the cooking (yeah, I’m a big science nerd at heart…). Anyways, in one of his episodes, he described the science of making fudge. Ah, fudge... when done right, I think that fudge can brighten anyone's day! This recipe delivers the perfect fudge: smooth, sweet, melts-in-your-mouth kind of fudge. One thing that Alton Brown always talks about in his shows is this: measure ingredients by weight. He reasons that measuring ingredients by weight gives more precise outcomes, which I tend to agree after seeing the results in my baking/cooking. This means that investing in a good kitchen scale is a necessity... 
Also, another kitchen utensil you will need to successfully complete this recipe is a good kitchen thermometer! Taking precise temperature readings during the heating part is key! For a nice, smooth, non-grainy fudge you need to control the crystallization process of sugar. Another note: it took the heated mixture (once it reached 234F) to cool down to 110F a LONG time! So don’t be in a rush to go anywhere soon while you are making this since you need to keep watching the thermometer. Enjoy!

FUDGE
2 ¾ cup sugar
4oz unsweetened chocolate (chips or chunks)
2 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp butter (separated)
1 tbsp corn syrup (or ¼ tsp cream of tartar)
1 cup half & half milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cups of roasted nuts (optional) – walnuts, pecans

DIRECTIONS: Add sugar, chocolate, butter (2tbsp), corn syrup and milk into sauce pan and heat on medium heat until sugar and chocolate dissolve completely. Once dissolved, increase heat and boil mixture. Once boiling, reduce heat and put lid for 3 minutes. Heat until temperature of mixture reaches 234F, then turn off pot (remove from heat, but DON’T TOUCH THE MIXTURE!). Place remaining 1tbsp of butter on top of mixture and let it melt on its own. Cool mixture until 110F. Once at 110F, using a wooden spoon, mix it very fast until the mixture has a matte texture to it. Add vanilla extract and (optional) roasted nuts. Place mixture onto a buttered 8x8 glass container with parchment paper, and let it cool down to room temperature.

MINT TOPPING
3 tablespoons softened butter or margarine
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon mint extract
1 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 drops green or red food color


DIRECTIONS: In small mixer bowl beat 3 tablespoons softened butter or margarine, 1 tablespoon water and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon mint extract until blended. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar and 2 drops green or red food color. Beat until smooth.


Source: "Good Eats" episode - Alton Brown

Monday, June 14, 2010

Oatmeal Pancakes & Mix


Last winter season, I came across this recipe in our local REMC seasonal magazine. I thought it was such a good idea that I made this mix as Christmas gifts for my family and friends! So I am including the recipe for the pancake mix, and also what you need to add to the mix to make the pancakes. If giving the mix as a gift, I would print the directions for the actual pancakes in a card and attach it to the gift. Enjoy!


Oatmeal Pancakes

2 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
2 cups pancake mix
1 cup water

To make pancakes, beat eggs in a large bowl. Gradually beat in oil. Alternately, add water and pancake mix. Blend well. Preheat griddle. Pour 1/3 cup batter on griddle.



Oatmeal Pancake Mix
4 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup instant dry nonfat milk
3 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp cinnamon
5 tsp salt
½ tsp cream of tartar
Mix all ingredients well. Store in a sealed container. Recipe makes 5 batches or 10 cups. Attach above pancake recipe to mix when giving it as a gift.


Source: "Electric Consumer" December 2009 issue, Bartholomew County REMC

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Mama's" Pound Cake


Towards the end of my second trimester of pregnancy, I started to really crave sweet baked goods all the time. It was soooooooo difficult to go to the grocery store and walk (in my case waddle...) by the baking section without buying anything. Many times I gave in and bought a small cake, which then I would inhale most of it on my own. 
Knowing how this craving could not be good on my wallet nor my hips, I decided to try my hand at baking at home.
I must say I have had a wonderful time so far; I enjoy looking for different recipes and trying them out. My goal was to become at least proficient at baking cupcakes before my daughter's first birthday, and I think we are well on schedule for this task.

Why did I go into memory lane for this blog? Well, this pound cake recipe that I found on the Food Network website  was the first baked good I made to satisfy my pregger's craving. It is sweet, moist, and super delicious! 

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups AP flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Directions:
With a mixer, cream butter and shortening together. Add sugar, a little at a time. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl and add to mixer alternately with milk, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Mix in vanilla. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. 

My Pink Cupcake Carrier


Cupcake Courier 36-Cupcake Plastic Storage Container, Petal Pink

I have received a new nickname at the office: Lucy Crocker :) I have gained this cute nickname due to my cupcake baking frenzy that has everyone at work looking forward to Mondays or birthdays. I usually carry my cupcakes in this wonderful carrier my husband got for me for Valentine's Day (he surprised me with it! Isn't he just wonderful?). Anyways, everyone always asks me where/how I acquired the carrier, so I figured I would dedicate a blog for it. He purchased the carrier on Amazon.com. He got me a pink one (my favorite color), but they have many other colors to choose from, like white and soft blue sky. The kicker for this carrier is that it can carry up to 36 cupcakes, but also the stackable carrier layers can be removed and used as a tall cake carrier. I just love it and I think it is worth every penny!

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing


One of my great friends from dental school once introduced me to her mom’s secret sugar cookies. Man, were they delish! They were flaky with just the right amount of sweetness, making it almost impossible to eat just one. One day when I was visiting her mom’s house, she gave me a copy of her sugar cookie recipe! She gave me not only the recipe, but the modifications she has put into the recipe over the years. The recipe below reflects those modifications. I will tell you what: I followed the recipe to a T (yes, even the baking time) and the cookies came out perfect!
Now as for the cookie decoration, I cannot be more thankful for this wonderful Royal Icing Tutorial given by Annie of Annie’s Eats. She has step-by-step directions that are pretty much fool proof! I had lots of fun decorating the cookies I made for this year’s Easter.

 

White Sugar Cookies – Mrs. Sowatzke’s recipe

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla or nutmeg, or a little of each
3 eggs
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp soda
3 cups AP flour
1.    Cream butter and sugar well. Add eggs. Beat until light and fluffy.
2.    Add flavoring and sifted dry ingredients.
3.    Chill in refrigerator overnight. Roll thin. Cut with cookie cutter.
4.    Place on greased cookie sheets.
5.    Bake at 350 degrees about 7 ½ minutes.
6.    Makes about 4 dozen cookies.


Royal Icing

Ingredients:
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes).  Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container.  This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating.  Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated.  Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping.  (Remember, if you are having any difficulty piping, it is still too thick.  Add a little more liquid and try again.)  Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie.  Let stand so the icing will set.  Make sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.
Once all the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate air-tight container.  Thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl.  If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again.  Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer it to a squeeze bottle (or a plastic bag with a hole in one corner), and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie.  If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along.  Allow to set.
Source: Annie's Eats

What's for Dinner Tonight (WfDT): Adventure 1



Friday evening we had a casual get-together dinner with my parents. I decided to make my famous Creamy Macaroni and Cheese, a broccoli salad, steamed corn-on-the-cob, and a wonderful Lemon Chicken recipe by Annie's Eats. Then for dessert, I made Coconut Cupcakes from A Kitchen in Brooklyn. The only changes I made to the original cupcake recipe are: I did not make the icing blue, and I also used toasted coconut flakes as garnish instead of regular ones. Hope you enjoy these dishes as much as my family did!

Lemon Chicken
Ingredients:

2 tbsp. lemon zest
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2-4 lbs. of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or drumsticks
2-3 tbsp. melted butter
Thinly sliced lemons, for garnished

Directions:
Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large zipper-lock plastic bag.  Seal the bag and shake well to blend.  Place the chicken pieces in the bag with the marinade, pressing out excess air and sealing once more.  Refrigerate and let marinate for 2 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and transfer to a baking dish, skin-side up, reserving the leftover marinade.  Brush the top of each piece of chicken with melted butter. 

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until the skins are crispy and well-browned.  Halfway through baking, pour the remaining marinade over the chicken pieces in the baking dish.  Once fully baked, cover loosely with foil and let rest 10 minutes before serving.  Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with lemon slices and serve. 
Source: Annie's Eats

Coconut Cupcakes
1 1/2 sticks of butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
7 oz shredded coconut (sweetened)

Frosting
8 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 stick of butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
4 cups confectioner's sugar
toasted shredded coconut for garnish
drop of gel food coloring (if so desired)

Preheat the oven to 325.  First, mix the dry ingredients for the cupcakes in a bowl.  Add the shredded coconut, and set aside.  Beat the butter and sugar in the basin of your mixer on high speed for several minutes (about 5) until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time.  Mix in the extracts.


Next, alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, mixing on medium speed for a few minutes until well combined, and there are no lumps.  Fill regular-sized muffin pan that is lined with paper or foil liners about 3/4 full.  Bake the cupcakes for 20 to 25 minutes at 325 until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool.  Make the frosting by beating the cream cheese, confectioner's sugar and butter at high speed.  Beat in the food coloring.  Pipe the frosting using a frosting bag, and top with some of the toasted shredded coconut.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese


So I first made this dish back in dental school when we had a dinner party with "Comfort Foods" as the theme. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it, especially my husband. I have altered the recipe (mainly more cheese!), and also added a how-to tutorial. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 cups cooked macaroni (8 ounces raw)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 pepper, or to taste
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 ½ - 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • paprika and bread crumbs for garnish, optional

PREPARATION: 




In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. 




Stir flour into the butter until smooth and bubbly in increments. Stir in salt and black pepper (if using). 




Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. 



Add cheese and continue to stir until melted. Add the cheese sauce to the cooked pasta. 




Sprinkle with bread crumbs and paprika, if desired. 






Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 20 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Serves 6.

Chocolate Mint Cupcake with Chocolate Frosting


My super favorite cupcake book Hello, Cupcake! has given us this super moist and rich recipe! These cupcakes have been a hit with both family and co-workers! The mint part comes from small pieces of melted mint thins (like Andes Creme de Menthe Thins). Enjoy!

Cupcake:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup chopped mint chocolates (such as Andes Creme de Menthe Thins)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the muffin cups with paper liners.

2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, with an electric mixer on high, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the melted chocolate. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating just until blended. Fold in the chopped mint chocolates.

4. Fill the paper liners two-thirds full. (Note: my favorite method for getting batter into the liners is to use a small ice cream scooper and scoop the batter into the liner). Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the baking pan, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting:

1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

2 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

16 oz confectioners’ sugar

1/3-1/2 cup milk

Directions:

1. Combine the butter and the chocolate in a small saucepan. Melt over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add the cocoa powder and stir until smooth. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer.

2. Add the confectioners’ sugar alternately with the milk, adding more milk, if necessary, to thin, and beat until fluffy and smooth.



Source: Hello, Cupcake!: Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make