Wednesday, December 26, 2007

More Peppermint??

You guys know me; I'm always going to try to find a way to work cupcakes into any season. Christmas was no exception. I found only a few peppermint cake recipes, however, and feared it was because it just plain didn't taste good. Twas not the case!

I tried two different things: one batch with bits of the Peppermint Bark I made earlier sprinkled on the top of the cakes and another without. One thing I've learned is that white chocolate does NOT bake well. It gets all gunky and brown and it's not real chocolate so I don't know what's going on with it. They tasted fine; there was a crunchy-but-not texture to the top. But I'm a traditionalist and I ended up enjoying the plain cake-with-peppermint-icing ones better. It was important to leave the cake unflavored as I used peppermint oil again and it was very crisp and sharp. The icing is flavored and the cake wonderfully takes the edge off so the whole thing goes together well.

Also to note? The peppermint pieces sprinkled on top go all melty and watery the next day so frost and sprinkle at the last minute if possible (OR frost and sprinkle and then freeze). In case you're wondering, I just threw some candy canes in a double bagged baggie and went to smashing with the edge of a can.

(Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home)
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup good cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Adapted from Ooh You Tasty Little Things

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil (less if desired; use to taste)

Mix butter in a large mixing bowl with 4 cups of sugar. Add cream and peppermint oil. On medium speed of electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. Chill for about 15 minutes in the refrigerator before using, and only use to ice cold cupcakes.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Cookies Part Deux

When I saw this blog post on Ooh You Tasty Little Things, I was instantly bowled over and inspired. I wanted to make them OMGRIGHTNOW because they're so adorable!

I ended up finding a recipe on that was rated highest for sugar cookies. Now, here's the thing with All Recipes (or any recipe site that has feedback and comments): there's ALWAYS suggestions on bettering the recipe. Some people are convincing. I rarely use the original recipe as is; there is always someone yelling about there being too much flour, not enough flavor, etc. So, as usual, I went with some suggestions and they didn't come out as I expect they would have had I used the original recipe. I'm going to include the modifications I used but link you to the original. If you do make it, I'd suggest the more sugar (2 3/4 cups should do), the lemon zest (so yummy), and extra 1 tsp vanilla. Keep the flour. These didn't have enough and the added sugar made them spread out, not hold any shape (thus the circles after my stars came out all bloated) and they never cooked fully before browning.

I remember the author of the blog musing how she loved decorating cookies, bless her. As I got to my second snowflake, I thought, 'I really don't love this. I'm a cake kind of girl...' It was so much work. But the end pretty is worth it, I suppose. :)


Source:, Submitted by: Jill Saunders

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
3 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest

4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.

Source: Joy of

2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites with the lemon juice. Add the sifted powdered sugar and vanilla and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.
Red and blue Christmas 2007 FTW!

Peppermint Mania

Ever since Williams-Sonoma came out with their Peppermint Bark, we've gotten it one way or another at Christmas time. This year, I waffled on ordering it online ($30 for chocolate?? But I'm poor!) I procrastinated and then it wasn't an option. So I attempted to make it myself. I should have known from the word go that this wasn't the same.

First, the chocolate layer has a cream in it which is automatically going to keep it from forming solid. It's more of a very thick ganache. It's not easy to cut but it's bark and it's supposed to be roughly broken up so that's okay.

Second, I realized as I reached into my cabinet for the peppermint flavoring - oh God, it's not extract. I had peppermint OIL. Did a little research online quickly and found a guessimate that to substitute oil for extract, you should use around 1/4 of what is called for. I was very conservative with the flavoring (you can always add more but once it's in there and too much, it's ruined). If you're using oil as well, it will make a strange looking consistency (you know, oily) but it tastes fine. Just taste as you go along. Peppermint oil has a stronger, cooler, more crisp taste to it so use carefully.

Once it was finished, I took a step back to evaluate and I was kind of disappointed. I let everyone try it and they liked it a lot and it tastes fine but it's just not Williams-Sonoma's peppermint bark. Still, it was well liked so I'm chalking it up to a moderate success for that alone. :)

Source: Bon Appétit

  • 17 ounces good-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Baker's), finely chopped
  • 30 red-and-white-striped hard peppermint candies, coarsely crushed (about 6 ounces)
  • 7 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon peppermint oil (add more to taste)

Turn large baking sheet bottom side up. Cover securely with foil. Mark 12 x 9-inch rectangle on foil. Stir white chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water) until chocolate is melted and smooth and candy thermometer registers 110°F. (chocolate will feel warm to touch). Remove from over water. Pour 2/3 cup melted white chocolate onto rectangle on foil. Using icing spatula, spread chocolate to fill rectangle. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup crushed peppermints. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.

Stir bittersweet chocolate, cream and peppermint extract in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until just melted and smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour bittersweet chocolate mixture in long lines over white chocolate rectangle. Using icing spatula, spread bittersweet chocolate in even layer. Refrigerate until very cold and firm, about 25 minutes.

Rewarm remaining white chocolate in bowl set over barely simmering water to 110°F. Working quickly, pour white chocolate over firm bittersweet chocolate layer; spread to cover. Immediately sprinkle with remaining crushed peppermints. Chill just until firm, about 20 minutes.

Lift foil with bark onto work surface; trim edges. Cut bark crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips. Using metal spatula, slide bark off foil and onto work surface. Cut each strip crosswise into 3 sections and each section diagonally into 2 triangles. (Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Chill in airtight container.) Let stand 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Being a stickler for tradition, I can only make the classic Peanut Butter Blossoms at Christmas although there's nothing really inherently Christmasy about them. It's chocolate and peanut butter, you know? Alas, it's a Christmas Cookie in our family so when the month of December rolls around, it's one of the first things I look forward to. The light peanut butter cookie, the melty chocolate Kiss... Heaven.

I got kind of ambitious with the many things on my list of Christmas Foods this year so I started early. The first week I made four batches of cookies alone. (This week I'm on the more intense cakes and candies but I'll get to that later.) I made two batches of the blossoms then wanted something that would travel well and wasn't chocolate. I settled on Coconut Macaroons which turned out really good but, as my mom says, what with Eagle Brand isn't good?

Last, I knew I was going to make cut-out sugar cookies later but still craved a sugary cookie without all the work. I found a Soft Sugar Cookie on All Recipes that took a few tries with the shaping but finally came out quite nice. Simple but with a good taste. My Christmas color theme this year is red and light blue (like the former Houston Oilers! Holla!) so I rolled one set of the sugar cookies in blue and sprinkled a little more in the center just for pop.


Cream together:

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (light)

Mix in:

1 egg slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 level tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Stir in:

1 1/4 cups of flour (watch for consistency; should look shiny but hold together. Add less if needed)

Roll into balls, coat w/sugar, bake 375 degrees for 10 min. Remove from oven, press chocolate kisses into each center spreading ball so edges crack. Bake additional 1-2 minutes until chocolate melts.

Source: Ina Garten

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or two teaspoons. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve.

From, Submitted by Laura Stearns

2/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar for decoration

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, stir into the creamed mixture until dough comes together. Roll dough into walnut sized balls and roll the balls in sugar. Place them on an unprepared cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Press gently with bottom of a glass to make into evenly thick discs.

Bake cookies 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until bottom is light brown. Remove from baking sheets to cool on wire racks.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

A few weeks ago, fall started to happen. And pumpkin products, drinks at Starbucks (holy beJesus, best everrr) started popping up. I jumped on that pumpkin wagon like crazy and bought cans of the stuff, ready to make magic. Then I lost steam. Staring at my cupboards this past week, I realized fall past me by and we're now well into winter (Starbucks is now serving they're frooffy eggnog lattes and peppermint mochas! [shakes fist]). The problem remains: I still have my cans of pumpkin. So I'm PUMPKIN SUITING UP. It's time to use this mushy fruit until I can'ts use it no mo.

First on the pumpkin parade is muffins. I got this recipe from All and it was disturbingly simple. Disturbing because I don't trust things that are TOO easy. But they came out perfectly fine. I'm more of a cupcake gal myself so muffins are always a hit or miss with me. These were not as sweet as I expected but the chocolate chips make up for the lack of sugar in the batter itself. The original recipe calls for all the traditional pumpkin spices separately but I didn't have ground cloves - I only had pumpkin pie spice which is a combination of all the biggies: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger. I substituted that and added about double the amount of chocolate originally called for. What? I like chocolate.

They came out quite yummy but were especially good warm (melty chocolate!).


Adapted from, Submitted by: Donna

3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease and flour muffin pan or use paper liners.

Mix sugar, oil, eggs. Add pumpkin and water. In separate bowl mix together the baking flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt. Add wet mixture and stir in chocolate chips.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Chocolate Ghost Cake

Look! I baked! I know, it's been a while. I wasn't properly inspired lately. But now Halloween is days away and I was dying to try this cake, seen originally at
Martha Stewart's site. I didn't follow either recipe for her cake or icing and was mildly annoyed there was no further instruction on even how to make the cake decorations. So I winged it.

I had to buy the 6-inch round pans which were smaller than I anticipated. Think top tier of a wedding cake. They also took longer to bake because they were taller than normal when I split the batter into thirds for three layers. There was much testing; many toothpicks were used but it turned out around 30-35 minutes and, thanks to Ina Garten's lovely recipe, they came out still moist.

The little ghosts perched atop the cake were relatively easy but they're pretty delicate on the whole. Icing isn't strong enough to hold the marshmallows together; toothpicks work much better. I forgot I didn't have little marshmallows to make the mini-ghosts so I had to simply pipe them on, like the bigger ghost's tops. The eyes were drawn on with just a toothpick dipped in black coloring except for the little guys; those are chocolate jimmies (because the coloring just won't stick as well to buttercream icing).

The thing is kind of a nuisance to store. It's so tall! After the marshmallows, it's nearly a foot tall. Too big for a cake stand cover, too delicate decorative top to cover with foil. Maybe syran wrap. I've since frozen it but I recommend if you're going to serve it, to do so directly after assembly. It will not travel easy... But Ina's chocolate cake is delish and even if you don't end up making this cake specifically, give the regular cake a try. Mmm. Chocolate...

Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups good cocoa powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
3 tablespoons brewed coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour three 6-inch round pans.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on high speed until light, approximately 5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Combine the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. On low speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture alternately in thirds, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix the batter only until blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smooth the tops with a spatula, and bake in the center of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.


1 cup Crisco Shortening
1/2 stick butter, room temperature
2 tbsps heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (measure then sift)

In your mixer bowl, beat the shortening until it's smooth, add the butter and beat together until smooth and light and fluffy. Add smaller amount of the heavy cream indicated in the recipe and the vanilla and mix well.

Add half the powdered sugar and mix for 5 minutes on low-med speed. Add remaining sugar and mix well. Add more cream or powdered sugar if necessary to adjust the consistency

Cut rounded tops off to make even layers of cake. Cover each of two layers with icing; turn third layer upside down using flat, smooth bottom as the top of the cake. Spread thin layer of icing over entire cake to act as "crumb coat". Freeze cake to allow icing to set completely (2-3 hours). Spread remaining icing over set coat, generously (but save a little for tops of ghosts).

Assemble marshmallow ghosts with toothpicks onto top of cake.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Snickerdoodles are my FAVORITE

Out of all the cookies there are, snickerdoodles are my absolute favorite. That's why I decided on them the other day when I wanted a quick, familiar treat. Maybe I shouldn't have; I sat down and ate half the batch without blinking an eye. ack. So good.

One thing I will note that I adjusted during the recipe was the size of the cookies themselves. The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of dough to be rolled into a ball but once baked, they spread way too much into thin discs. Now, they tasted fine (and chewy so, yay!) but if you want something a little more presentable and traditional-sized, I'd cut the cookie size in about half and watch the baking time (unless you like crunchy cookies which snickerdoodles traditionally are not). (BTW, pictured above are the smaller, normal-sized ones.)

I've had better snickerdoodles but in a pinch, these are pretty good.

Source: The Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for rolling cookies
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon for rolling cookies

1. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. Whisk flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

3. Either by hand or electric mixer, cream butter, shortening, and 1 1/2 cups sugar until combined, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes with electric mixer set at medium speed. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Add eggs. Beat until combined, about 30 seconds.

4. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 20 seconds.

5. Mix remaining 3 tablespoons sugar with cinnamon in shallow bowl. Working with scant 2 tablespoons of dough each time, roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Roll balls in cinnamon sugar and place on cookie sheet, spacing them 2 to 2 1/2 inches apart.

6. Bake, reversing position in oven halfway through baking time (from top rack to bottom and front to back), until edges of cookies are beginning to set and centers are soft and puffy, 9 to 11 minutes. Let cookies cool on cookie sheet 2 to 3 minutes before transferring them to cooling rack with wide spatula.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bread Pudding for Fall

Okay, so I proclaimed it fall about a month ago when it got chilly one day mostly as wishful thinking. Autumn is my favorite season. Not only for the holidays (yay Halloween!) but the comfy, warm foods it inspires. Bread pudding has always been one of those enigmas I'd hear about but never tried. With this new baking thing I got going, I took the plunge and made it.

Now, here's the problem: I've never had bread pudding before so I don't know if this tastes like "typical" bread pudding. I only know it was pretty-really-quite good. It was the perfect combination of a pudding bottom with a lightly toasted top of cinnamon sugar. The whipped cream is a must and the fresh dollop by it's side was the perfect compliment.

I used an 8x8 pan (and halved the recipe) so I had to adjust the baking time to a little longer (15 minutes) since it was deeper than the 13x9 would have been. But everything else I did by the book, complete with the bit of bourbon. Again, I don't know how this compares with other bread puddings but it was definitely a success. I'm eager to try a chocolate bread pudding now (but it's going to be hard-to-damn-near-impossible to beat the one from Pappasito's).


Source: The Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated

A firm, white American-style bakery loaf gives the best texture to this pudding. In a pinch, however, use Pepperidge Farm Hearty White Bread. Avoid chewy, crusty European-style breads because they do not soften properly in the custard. If desired, serve this pudding with softly whipped cream.


2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


4 large eggs, plus 1 large yolk
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 ounces (about 1/2 loaf) good quality American-style white bread, sliced 3/8 inch thick and cut into 1 1/2-inch-square pieces (about 8 cups)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing pan

1. FOR THE CINNAMON SUGAR: Mix sugar and cinnamon in small bowl; set aside.

2. FOR THE PUDDING: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

3. Whisk eggs, yolk, and sugar in large bowl to blend well. Whisk in milk, cream, bourbon, vanilla extract, nutmeg, and salt. Stir in 6 cups bread cubes; mix thoroughly to moisten. Let stand 20 minutes.

4. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Scatter remaining 2 cups bread pieces on top, pushing down gently to partially submerge. Brush exposed bread with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake until pudding is deep golden brown, is beginning to rise up sides of baking dish, and jiggles very slightly at the center when shaken, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool until set but still warm, about 45 minutes. Serve.

Vanilla Cupcakes cure EVERYTHING

I've been having a weird couple of weeks where I didn't want to do anything, including baking. Felt a little burned out. Got some good news this week and was off and running again. And what best to start back on than good ol' cupcakes?

Source: Ina Garten

18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the icing:

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with paper liners.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Fill the cupcake liners to the top with batter. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

For the icing, mix the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, mixing just until smooth. Spread the frosting generously on top of each cupcake.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Chocolate like volcanoes!

A recipe came along that perplexed me. A "cake" with gooey center that is supposedly as rich as it is messy. So... just unbaked batter, then? Well, kind of. More of a flourless chocolate cake/pudding, this dessert works because, let's face it: it's mostly just chocolate.

My first attempt was from a terribly misguided recipe that tried to make a cross between a pudding and a soufflé. There were beaten egg whites folded in and bubbles and it was just wrong wrong wrong. Spongy and airy, it wasn't what I wanted at all (and, to top it off, I must've cooked too long because it was done all the way through!) This, of course, was the one I made to test out on my friend. She said it was good but c'mon; I have taste buds too. She's a very very good friend.

SO. Cut my losses and tried a different recipe. I went out on a limb and made the one from Nigella Lawson's baking cookbook which was, to be fair, my inspiration to make them in the first place. I was a little gun shy the first go after that last one done all the way through (defeating the very name of the dish) so I undercooked this one. Recognized my mistake but it didn't matter; they TASTED completely different. Rich, SO chocolatey and Mmmm. Tried one last time just to get it right and voila! Used full cooking time (do not be afraid to let these babies go the entire 12 or 13 minutes; they're so thick, they're not going to cook too quickly like some airy concoction. They came out absolutely perfect: gooey and so full of flavor! I served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream but the recipe suggests anything from a crème fraîche to whipped cream. It certainly needs it. VERY very chocolatey. But it's definitely on my keeper list. Woo!


From How To Be A Domestic Goddess, Nigella Lawson

1/4 cup soft unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
12 ounces best bittersweet chocolate (OR semisweet which I used)
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

6 individual 6-ounce custard cups, buttered
baking parchment

1. Unless you are making these up in advance, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, putting in a baking sheet at the same time. Lay 3 of the custard cups on a sheet of doubled baking parchment. Draw round them, remove, and then cut out the discs as marked. Press them all into the base of the cups.

2. Melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly. Cream together the butter and sugar, and gradually beat in the eggs and salt then the vanilla. (Don't mind if it looks curdled at this point; it'll smooth out later.) Now add the flour, and when all is smoothly combined scrape in the cooled chocolate, blending it to a smooth batter.

3. Divide the batter between the 6 custard cups, quickly whip the baking sheet out of the oven, arrange the cups on it and replace in the oven. Cook for 10-12 minutes (the extra 2 minutes will be needed if the puddings are refrigerator-cold when you start) and as soon as you take them out of the oven, tip out these luscious babycakes onto small plates or shallow bowls. Serve these with whipped cream, the same unwhipped in a pitcher, crème fraîche, custard or ice cream.

Serves 6.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Double Double Your Chocolate

I've had these chocolate cravings for about a week now and, specifically, chocolate cookies were on my mind. I found this recipe in Martha Stewart's Living as one of the Cookies of the Month. As a rule, I generally don't like milk chocolate too much (which the original recipe called for) so I simply replaced it with semi-sweet for a darker flavor. They came out a tad crunchier than I'd like (I'm a chewy cookie person) so I'd take a minute or two off of the cooking time if you are as well.

The batter was also a little warm for my liking (what with the melted chocolate and all), so I threw it in the refrigerator for 2-3 minutes to let it firm up so it was easier to scoop. If the batter is too warm, the cookies will spread too much (which they already do so watch how close you put them).

All in all, a pretty good, easy chocolate fix!

Adapted from Martha Stewart's Living

These rich cookies should seem a bit soft when you take them out of the oven. They firm up as they cool, so be careful not to overbake them.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces good-quality semi-sweet chocolate (4 ounces coarsely chopped, 4 ounces cut into 1/4-inch chunks)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Melt coarsely chopped chocolate with the butter in heatproof bowl in microwave, watching closely and stirring every 30 or so seconds until smooth (or melt in double boiler, in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water).

2. Transfer chocolate mixture to bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla; mix on medium speed until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chunks.

3. Scoop batter using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop; place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces begin to crack, about 15 minutes. Transfer on parchment to wire racks. Let cool 5 minutes. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lemon Cupcakes: Conquered

In approximately two months, I've completed four flavors of my self-appointed mission to find a really really good recipe for each cupcake flavor I fancied. At four batches per each flavor (except Lemon which I scored on the third), two dozen per batch, I've roughly made 360 cupcakes in the past two months. The bad news is, that was for only the first four flavors: Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry and Lemon, and I have many many more to go (Coconut, Banana, Red Velvet, Pistachio, and on and on). The good news? Well, I'm getting pretty decent at whipping up a cake. Practice and all that. I think I've earned a slight reprieve from cake, though. There is so much more to explore.

But for now, I can celebrate in finding Lemon! I was becoming seriously disillusioned with the first couple recipes that came out either dense or crumbly (ugh) or not sweet enough, etc. In them, the lemon juice is added to the batter and there is a significant increase in the eggs. In the last, winning recipe, the eggs are normal, there is only lemon ZEST in the batter. Now, not lemony enough, you cry? WELL. Ina Garten thinks of everything. The lemon juice is sweetened in a saucepan and spooned over the cake for a perfectly lemony but sweet jolt of flavor that infuses through every bite.

The first two attempts I took a shot at different lemon buttercreams (as you'll see in some pictures as the piped icing) but it was just okay. To me, lemon cake is too subtle for the almost-greasy flavor of buttercreams. Ina's recipe called for a simple glaze over the top but her recipe was also for two pound cake pans that are a presentation onto themselves. I needed an icing for cupcakes and a glaze just won't do. I found a very yummy cream cheese frosting recipe on All Recipes but made a few changes, taking out the lemon zest in favor of a smoother, gentler taste so the lemon-on-lemon icing-and-cake combo wasn't overpowering. It came out lovely and they go terrifically together!

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest lightly packed (6 to 8 large lemons - Use only fresh lemon juice and zest)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two muffin pans with paper liners or non-stick cooking spray.

1. Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. You cannot beat too much at this stage so get it very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Separately, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla.

3. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Spoon into the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

4. Cook 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cupcakes are done, cool for 5 minutes, then set them onto a rack set over a tray and spoon the lemon syrup over the cakes. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

Makes about 3 cups
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups confectioners' sugar

1. Beat cream cheese, butter, lemon juice, lemon rind, and vanilla together until smooth and light.

2. Add confectioners' sugar slowly. Beat until creamy. Add more powder sugar or juice as needed for desired consistency.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Key Lime Bars. And thas all.

All right, limes. You and me need a break. It's not a break up. Just... a break, okay? I need some space.

A friend of mine suggested this recipe after I mentioned I'd made the key lime pie and I
still had leftover limes. She noted the differences and said I should give it a try. Man, am I glad she did. The filling was so much better than the pie! It was stronger, more tart, more LIME. Maybe it was the 1 egg yolk compared to the 4 in the pie. Whatever it was, it worked.

The crust was so-so (graham cracker crust is hard to beat with lime; this one was a duller animal cracker crumb) but one could replace it easily. It's also imparative that it's served close to room temperature; when cold, the crust is like a tasteless brick. So
that's what directions are for...


Adapted from Cook's Illustrated magazine

Makes sixteen 2-inch bars

5 ounces animal crackers
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar (light or dark)
Pinch table salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly

2 ounces cream cheese , room temperature
1 tablespoon grated lime zest , minced
Pinch table salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup fresh lime juice , either Key lime or regular

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut about 12-inch length extra-wide heavy-duty foil; fold cut edges back to form 7 1/2-inch width. With folded sides facing down, fit foil securely into bottom and up sides of 8-inch-square baking pan, allowing excess to overhang pan sides. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

2. TO MAKE THE CRUST: In workbowl of food processor, pulse animal crackers until broken down, about ten 1-second pulses; process crumbs until evenly fine, about 10 seconds (you should have about 1 1/4 cups crumbs). Add brown sugar and salt; process to combine, ten to twelve 1-second pulses (if large sugar lumps remain, break them apart with fingers). Drizzle butter over crumbs and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened with butter, about ten 1-second pulses. Press crumbs evenly and firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling. Do not turn off oven.

3. TO MAKE THE FILLING: While crust cools, in medium bowl, stir cream cheese, zest, and salt with rubber spatula until softened, creamy, and thoroughly combined. Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain; whisk in egg yolk. Add lime juice and whisk gently until incorporated (mixture will thicken slightly).

4. TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: Pour filling into crust; spread to corners and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Bake until set and edges begin to pull away slightly from sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.

5. Loosen edges with paring knife and lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions; cut bars into 16 squares. Sprinkle with toasted coconut, if using, and serve. (Leftovers can be refrigerated up to 2 days; crust will soften slightly. Let bars stand at room temperature about 15 minutes before serving.)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"I Like PIE."

Sometimes you make things because you bought the ingredients on impulse and you've really got to use them before they go bad. Sometimes it's a bag of limes. This would be one of those times. I really wanted to try the Key Lime Bars from Cook's Illustrated but didn't have all ingredients. I might make it to the store for those but I only had stuff for PIE. And what's more fun than PIE, I ask you. Or, at least, saying "PIE".

I was informed, afterwards, that you can put a bit of green food coloring in the filling to make it, you know. Green. Since it's not. It's yellow-ish. It tastes like lime, sure, but I have to admit, there's a little disappointment. I know for future reference.

Being a relative beginner to cooking, I was pleased with how easy this was. Whip up some filling, plop it into a crust then throw some cream in the standing mixer and voila. There was a lot of cooling time in between each step so it took a while in that regard but the actual prep was easy. It's not as tart as I expected but I suspect that's because I didn't use real Key Limes. It's mild and quite nice but I think in the future, I'd use the real deal to get that punch of flavor.


Source: The Best Recipe, Cook's Illustrated


4 teaspoons grated zest plus 1/2 cup strained juice from 3 to 4 limes
4 large egg yolks
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk


11 full-size graham crackers, processed to fine crumbs (1 1/4 cups)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


3/4 cup heavy cream, chilled
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 lime, sliced paper thing and dipped in sugar (optional)

1. FOR THE FILLING: Whisk zest and yolks in medium bowl until tinted light green, about 2 minutes. Beat in milk, then juice; set aside at room temperature to thicken.

2. FOR THE CRUST: Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix crumbs and sugar in medium bowl. Add butter; stir with fork until well blended. Scrape mixture into 9-inch pie pan; press crumbs over bottom and up sides of pan to form even crust. Bake until lightly browned and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Transfer to wire rack; cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

3. Pour lime filling into crust; bake until center is set, yet wiggly when jiggled, 15 to 17 minutes. Return pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours. (Can be covered with lightly oiled or oil-sprayed plastic wrap laid directly on filling and refrigerated up to 1 day.)

4. FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM: Up to 2 hours before serving, whip cream in medium bowl to very soft peaks. Adding confectioners' sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, continue whipping to just-stiff peaks. Decoratively pipe whipped cream over filling or spread evenly with rubber spatula. Garnish with optional sugared lime slices and serve.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Blueberries get a turn

I had some blueberries and never having made them before, I thought, why not? I used big, 3" muffin tins and this recipe only made four of those and let me tell you, they were WAY too big. The muffin tastes great but you can't eat too much of it. It weighs you down and good. These would be perfect in a regular 12 cup muffin pan. They're so filling, I had one for dinner and then another half for breakfast the next day. Nothing quite beats warm cake, does it?


From All recipe submitted by: Colleen

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.

2. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.

3. To Make Crumb Topping: Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.