Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TWD - coming soon

If you're looking for this week's TWD, stay tuned. I haven't started it yet (but don't tell anyone!).The plan is to make it and post it tonight. Umm, Tia, you guys want to come over for dessert? I'm going to have way too much creme brulee for one person.

Cupcake Hero Anniversary! (and Happy Birthday to ME!)

Happy Blog-o-versary to Cupcake Hero!!! In celebration, the theme this month is a combination of past flavors.

My entry combines lime, green, liquor, cranberry, and marshmallow. AND, it feature Barbie pink frosting - perfect for my Birthday!

Cosmo Cupcakes!

Marshmallow Fondant Limes
1- 16oz bag of mini marshmallows
2-6 tbsp water
2lbs confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp lime juice

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of triple sec
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup dried cranberries

3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt
stick of room temperature butter
2 tablespoons of sweetened lime juice (such as roses)
1 tablespoon of milk
A few drops of red food coloring

To make Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
Place eggs and sugar in mixer and beat on medium with paddle attachment until light and foamy (about 2 minutes)
Melt butter (about 1min in microwave) and pour over eggs and sugar whilst beating.
Add triple sec to eggs, sugar and butter mixture then turn mixer to low.
Add half the dry ingredients to the mixer.
Add milk and orange juice
Add remaining dry ingredients
Continue mixing until remaining dry ingredients are just combined
Immediately divide batter equally among the 12 cupcake liners. They will be more than 2/3 full, but that's ok, because these don't rise too much.
Sprinkle a little pinch of cranberries on top of each filled liner and put in hot oven immediately.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the middle of the cupcakes comes out clean, with no crumbs.
Place on a baking sheet to cool.

To Make Frosting:
Place 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar, salt and butter in a bowl and cream together using a stand or electric mixer on high until light and fluffy.
Turn the mixer to low, add half of the remaining confectioners’ sugar, the lime juice and milk, then the remaining half of the sugar.
Turn mixer to high and beat until fluffy and of piping consistency.
Add food coloring until the color of the frosting looks similar to Barbie pink

To Make limes
melt 2 tbsp water and marshmallows in a double boiler
in a mixer fitted with dough hook (all greased with shortening), mix melted marshmallows and 2/3 powdered sugar until combined.
Add remaining powdered sugar, and the lime juice.
keep mixing on low until combined.
grease the ball of fondant and wrap in plastic wrap.
store in fridge over night before using.
knead in green food coloring until lime-colored
roll out, cut with a circle cutter, then cut each circle in half with a sharp knife.
let dry out and then use to garnish cupcakes.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cupcake Hero entry coming soon...

Since this is the blog-o-versary of CH, the theme ingredient is any combination of past ingredients! So here's a hint about what I have in store: My ingredients are lime, cranberry, liquor, and (hopefully) marshmallow!

...Stay Tuned.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

SHF: Cupcakes

The challenge for Sugar High Fridays this time was 'cupcakes'. Normally, I'd welcome an excuse to play with cupcakes, especially after the cookie crusade I've been on lately. But I just wasn't feeling it. I have an idea (that I'm excited about) for this month's cupcake hero, but I feel like it has sapped my cupcake creativity. And I didn't want to cheat and enter it into both. The way I look at it, the point of participating in these sorts of things is to push myself to try new things; if I'm doubling up, there's no point in participating in more! So... last night, I sat down with my collection of cookbooks, and started with the ones I hadn't baked from yet. I went through a couple in search of a recipe that didn't require a grocery store run, and finally settled on the Martha Washington Chocolate Mousse Cake from:

The challenge was to do something a little different from a typical cupcake, and on this I may have strayed. It is essentially a chocolate/chocolate cupcake. It's just a bit more grown-up. There's ganache instead of butter cream, and more importantly, there's chocolate mousse filling! The end result was far from Duncan Hines cupcakes with a clown on top served at a 6 year old's birthday party. These had a decadence to them. (But I couldn't resist adding a spot of color to the otherwise brown-on-brown color scheme that tastes wonderful, but doesn't inspire me in terms of presentation.)
Here's the recipe, modified from "City Tavern: Baking and Dessert Book":
1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)
4 eggs
1 c sugar
5 c cake flour
1/2 c cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c whole milk (Mine had expired - oops!, so I used 1/2 half and half, and 1/2 skim, and it seemed to work)
Preheat oven to 350F
Beat butter and sugar on med speed until light and fluffy
add eggs, one at a time, beating each until blended
sift together dry ingredients
add dry ingredients and milk, alternately, on low speed until just combined
fill lined cupcake tins a little past 3/4 - these guys are thick, and don't rise as much as other cupcakes
(This is the best batter I've ever had in my life ... seriously! I think I probably ate at least 3 cupcakes worth of batter before it even made it in the oven. It's amazing!)
bake 20-25 minutes
2 oz semisweet chocolate
1/4 c heavy cream
2 egg, separated
(subject to revision - I am putting in amounts from memory at the moment)
Melt chocolate in a double boiler
whisk in egg yolks
set aside for 1 min to cool
whip heavy cream in a chilled mixer bowl, with a chilled whisk, until soft peaks form - cover in plastic wrap and put in fridge to chill
in a clean, dry, mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form
fold chocolate and whipped cream together, gently
gently fold in egg whites
cover and chill for at least 1 hour
6 oz semisweet chocolate (I used ghiradelli)
1/2 c heavy cream
bring cream just to a boil, then pour over chocolate
let sit for 1 min, allowing cream to start melting the chocolate
whisk together, then cover and refrigerate until cooled to desired consistency (I'm impatient, so I didn't let it cool for long, and just dipped the tops of the cupcakes in for a ganache-glaze)
to assemble
place mousse in pastry bag, fitted with a metal tip (I use a medium-sized tip. Usually, I use a round tip, but I couldn't find the one I wanted, and used a star tip this time - basically, it doesn't really matter)
insert tip in top of cupcakes and squeeze filling into inside of cupcake
dip top of cupcake in ganache to coat
add a sprinkle ;)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TWD: rosey plum cake

The recipe for this week was a dimply plum cake. As soon as I saw it, I thought of the Martha Stewart nectarine tart, and thought I had to make pretty plums too! I was a little worried about the effect that slicing the plums would have, but a quick check of the Q&A assured me that they were quite alright when sliced.

So, onward I went! I must have had fairly large plums, because I only needed 9 halves/5 plums (although I suppose that I could have squeezed more in if I had been determined to). It came together very easily, and the cake baked up nicely around the plum rosettes (although I still think they looked prettier before baking). I did include the cardamom (because it was already in my cabinet - I probably wouldn't have gone to the store just for this, and it was nice to use up some of a spice that I rarely use... perhaps because I have little idea of how to use it). I thought the resulting cake was yummy, if a little rich.

Unfortunately, I bought the plums (at perfect ripeness when I purchased them) a few days before I was able to get around to actually making the cake. So, the plums were a bit past ripe, and didn't taste as wonderful as I'm sure this should. Still, it was fun, and the cake was worth eating out from around the plums. ;)

Friday, September 19, 2008


It makes me snicker every time I look at it (in the catalogue - No, I did not get myself one).

More cookies

The Man's mom had surgery yesterday, and I'm headed down to join them/keep them company for the weekend. In response to my offer to make some real food (maybe a casserole) for the family, the Man suggested cookies instead. More specifically, he suggested that I try peanut butter cookies again (and see if I couldn't produce a chewier version), or maybe chocolate chip. So... I made peanut butter chocolate cookies!

I started with a recipe for peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, but used dark chocolate peanut butter instead of regular, and mini chocolate chips instead of standard-sized. The result was a dense (perhaps too much so), lightly flavored (definitely not too sweet, at least in my book) cookie. The mini chips are so small as to not be noticeable on their own; instead, they add a little sweetness and little more chocolate flavor (but still not a ton). I think it's definitely a more grown-up cookie, while still being pretty simple and content with itself. And it's chewy.

Since this was a new experiment (I hadn't even tried the recipe as written before), I made sure to do some quality control. I packaged most of the cookies up for travel (and protection from a hungry pup), but put the last few in a take-out box to take into work with me so that everyone at work could give feedback (or so that I could munch on them all day).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

thoughts on baking cookies

I bought a ice cream style cookie dough scoop ages ago because I thought it was cute, but didn't use it until this month because it seemed like it would probably be one of those 'tools' that actually just makes things harder and creates more dishes. I was wrong! I used it to make peanut butter cookies, because I wanted them to be fairly uniform... and I fell in love. This is the best idea ever! It does not stick the way I was afraid it would, it washes easily in the dishwasher, and it makes scooping drop cookies a million times faster than just using a spoon (or two)! I love this thing!

parchment paper:
I was really mad that the standard rolls of parchment paper are too wide to nicely cover my cookie sheets in one direction, and too narrow to cover it the other way. I hate either having to fold the extra under or cut it too short and waste precious cookie sheet space. It just seems wasteful to me. Then... through the magic of amazon, I just realized that they sell sheets of parchment paper that are perfect for cookie sheets! How did I go this long without knowing this?! What a month of fantastic discovery! Of course, after all of this headache, I'm really tempted to just cave and spend the money on a few silicone mats so that I don't have to keep resupplying (and because I feel bad throwing away so much parchment paper). I'm just so wary about buying things like that now, after a very bad experience with a silicone bundt pan. Hrm.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Chunkers

This week's selection - pg. 70 in Baking: from my home to yours

I love these cookies! It's a good chock-full-of-chunks cookie. I started to leave out the raisins and nuts altogether but talked myself out of it and told myself to trust Dorie. Instead, I out the raisins in as called for, but only put the (at most) 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts I had lying around waiting to be used up, and added another cup of semi-sweet chunks to keep it chunky. I wish I had taken the time to throw some peanuts in the food processor and made the recipe as written. The raisins are perfect in it, and it's just missing a peanutty crunch. Ooops. Now I know. Really, really, really, trust Dorie!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Housewarming cookies

I swear, this is the last cookie post for at least a day! I made cookies for a housewarming, and went with the Martha Stewart chocolate sandwhich cookies, decorated with little houses. I made them in a bit of a hurry, so they aren't perfect, but they were fun, and were a hit with the kids and adults alike. I noticed that they were all gone before we left!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

TWD (plus an attempt to catch up a little)

This week's recipe was Chocolate Whopper Malted Drops on page 85, chosen by Rachel of Confessions of a Tangerine Tart.
- yum! This is a delish, rich cookie, and as another TWD'er has already mentioned, the dough is amazing (they were even smart enough to use it to make a cookie dough ice cream - yum!). I take this cookie as the sort of cookie that that I would make an entire batch of and eat myself in a bout of pms - but I can't really see serving it because it's so rich. Also as mentioned by another blogger, they shrink when they cool!

(As a photography note, I have been frustrated by my lack of natural light locations for photo-taking now that I'm in a little apartment without a balcony, and now that I'm at work during most of the daylight hours. But it finally clicked that the natural light lamp I have might be better for lighting pictures... and it is! The above pictures were taken with the lamp light, and they look much better than the flash-lighted pictures!)

Also, last week the recipe was chosen by Stefany of Proceed with Caution. She chose,
Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters on page 73 - another great recipe! I made them last week, but didn't get post on them. They were another good oatmeal cookie, and I like the addition of the peanut butter. Still, I have to say the Bush cookies are my favorite oatmeal cookie - I love that they are so full of stuff!

Monday, September 8, 2008

borrowing internet

I've been gone since I came back. I know that's bad. I've been borrowing Internet, and lately it hasn't been very cooperative. And I've been more exhausted by this whole working like a grown-up thing than I thought I'd be. It takes some serious getting used to!

But I have been baking. I am hoping that I'll be able to put in a great TWD post tomorrow night, and I've been baking other things too!

This weekend was a whirlwind! I had a meeting all Saturday morning, and then darted home and made a batch of peanut butter cookies per the man's request for a bar-b-que in his town that we were invited to that evening. Pretty much as soon as I made the cookies, I was off, beginning the 2 hour drive up to see him, cookie in tow. Sunday, it was back home, to make the 3 batches of bake-off cookies.

The peanut butter cookies were a real hit! They were another Dorie recipe. I cooked them toward the long end of the cooking time, and I think I might stop earlier in the future. They were a slightly crunchier cookie than I normally like. They were tricky because they didn't look done in the same way that other cookies do to me. Or maybe I'm losing my touch.

Presidential Bake-Off

4 years ago, while spending a glorious summer in DC, I discovered the Family Circle Presidential Spouse Bake-Off. Each presidential election year, they solicit recipes from the nominees' wives for their favorite cookie recipe. They publish them, and the idea is that it will predict the winner of the election. As far as all the supposed indicia, this seems as likely as any other.

Laura Bush's submission from 2004 became a staple in my cooking, and is one of my favorite go-to recipes. I can't even count how many of them I made that summer, much less how many I've made since then.

So in the spirit of patriotic participation this election cycle, I baked all 3 recipes printed this year (Bill Clinton's recipe was include also, I suppose because Hillary was in the running so late in the cycle). I brought them in to work, and everyone I work with is sampling and voting (without knowledge of which cookie recipe belongs to whom).

Here are the contenders:

I was a little worried when I saw that I actually had to toast the walnuts and oatmeal, but this was actually a super-easy and low-prep recipe. The walnuts give it a nice touch of crunch and add even more flavor since they are toasted and they are a good cookies for all ages.

Cindy McCain's Butterscotch-Oatmeal Cookies

These were my favorite and the Family Circle favorite. They had just a bit of an interesting flavor, but still fulfilled my need for comfort food.

Michelle Obama's Shortbread Cookies

I had a real time with these. I don't know what I did wrong. After baking them as directed in the recipe, they were still gooey and not at all the right consistency for shortbread. I figured that the batch was a loss, so I might as well try baking it again. I put it through for at least another whole cycle (but I wasn't paying attention, so it was probably longer than that). However, they turned out great in the end. Bizarre, but I'll take it!

I also did half of it with the optional dried fruit and nuts, and half plain, so as to really try the whole recipe, with at least some variation. I went with dried strawberries and almond slivers (I thought it would go well with the almond flavoring in the bars). Finally, I used almond extract instead of amaretto - It was Sunday so there were no open ABC stores. :(

After a day of anonymous voting in my office, the result was surprising (at least to me). They were all perfectly tied! No clear winner in my office, but everyone agreed that they were all great recipes.