Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cupcake Hero - September Edition

Behold! The cupcake of my dreams...

As if I needed an excuse to bake, I stumbled upon the awesomeness that is Cupcake Hero & decided immediately that I MUST compete. This month's theme ingredient is banana. Being a Southerner, my cupcake plan of attack was so obvious: Banana Pudding Cupcakes. The cupcake itself has a very light banana flavor and is filled with, of course, banana pudding. Then the cupcake is iced in vanilla buttercream. For those not familiar with legit banana pudding, it's not that faux-banana-flavored stuff that comes in a box. It is, in fact, vanilla custard layered with slices of banana and vanilla wafers.

For the cake batter I tweaked this recipe. Instead of the almond extract I added about a half teaspoon of banana flavoring. This gave the cake a slight banana flavor - not at all overpowering. I filled cupcake papers all the way to the top and baked for about 30 minutes in a 350º oven. The cake came out incredibly light and airy. Yield: 20 cupcakes

Once the cupcakes were cool, I cut out all the "cake holes" with a sharp knife - make sure the cavity goes pretty deep into the cupcake so that you have enough room for a good amount of filling! My hubby gobbled up a bunch of the cake holes with buttercream icing - he was a happy camper.

In each hole I dropped a slice of banana, then filled all the way to the top with vanilla pudding (I totally cheated and used Jello Cook & Serve - I started to make the custard from scratch and it would not thicken for the life of me). On top of the pudding I placed a vanilla wafer (I actually used minis) - the bonus here is that it provides some stability - icing over a gaping pool of pudding would be a little tougher.

Once iced in vanilla buttercream, I added the finishing touch - another vanilla wafer on top of each cupcake. Voila! Banana Pudding Cupcake.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Double (Brownie) trouble

Why make a single brownie when you could make a double brownie? This tasty bar is out of the Taste of Home Baking Book. The caramel icing is what makes this recipe - it just wouldn't be right without it.

Blondie Layer:
1/2 c butter, softened
1 1/4 c packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c chopped walnuts

Cream together the butter & brown sugar. Beat in eggs & vanilla. Add the flour and salt. Stir in the walnuts. Spread into greased 13 x 9 inch pan & set aside.

Brownie Layer:
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c all purpose flour
1/4 c cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 c chopped walnuts

Cream together the butter & sugar. Beat in eggs & vanilla. Add the flour, cocoa, and salt. Stir in the walnuts. Spread carefully on top of bottom layer. Bake at 350º for 35-40 minutes. Cool completely.

Caramel Icing:
6 tbs butter
3/4 c packed brown sugar
4 to 6 tbs milk
2 1/2 c confectioners' sugar

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar & milk and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Cool until just warm. Beat into confectioners' sugar until the icing has a spreadable consistency. Spread over brownies. Let stand until icing is set before cutting into bars.

Will the real June Cleaver please stand up?

Lest anyone in blogland have any illusions, I do not hold myself out to be a better baker than anyone else. June Cleaver never would have done this: I know why you turn off the mixer when cracking eggs. Baking FAIL.

Carry on.

Dirty little tart

If ever there was a "celebrity" chef I'd want to meet in real life, it's Paula Deen. She strikes me as the type of person you can't help smiling around, and her butter-laden recipes never fail to make me drool. True to form, this fresh fruit tart is YUMMY. I took this one to a party at my boss' house yesterday and it was a big hit.

The crust all patted into place and ready to go into the oven.

The sweet cream cheese filling spread in the the bottom of the pre-baked crust.

It was all I could do not to hoover the fruit before it ever made it into the tart.

I don't mean to toot my own horn, but it kinda looks like I knew what I was doing, right?

And look how shiny it is from the glaze, oooooh.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The marshmallow man cometh

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, I thought I'd show you all my sexy marshmallows. And boy are they yummy...I'm thinking about dipping the ones I haven't already scarfed down in chocolate :o) You can easily change the flavor of these basic marshmallow by subbing the vanilla extract at the end. Next time I'm going for chocolate whoopie pies with mint marshmallow filling. Mmm, already drooling.

Mmm, sugar coated counter top.

One giant marshmallow turned out onto the sugar and dusted in more sugar.

Look how pretty these are - and rather hefty - these ain't no store bought marshmallows!

Can I tell you how yummy these were melting into a mug of hot chocolate?

Gratuitous marshmallow shot.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Makin' Whoopie

I love me some whoopie pies, yes I do. Typically they are chocolate with a marshmallowy filling, but in New England you can find them in all sorts of flavors. Since I'm in Kansas I've got to make things happen for myself. Enter my favorite cookie cookbook - The King Arthur Cookie Companion. I absolutely live out of this book during the holidays. Today I went for the Oatmeal Whoopie Pies.

Late edit - throw in some raisins and skip the filling, this is my new favorite oatmeal raisin cookie recipe. Holy cow, these are good. If you like a soft cookie try this one out.

As always, a little liquid inspiration never hurts :o)

Preheat the oven to 350º
Cream together 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 1/2 cup shortening, 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Beat in 2 eggs and 3 tablespoons of milk.
Stir in 2 1/2 cups of flour and 2 cups of rolled oats.
Drop by the tablespoonful onto prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space in between.
Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on the pan before transferring to a rack.

While the cookies are cooling get to work on the marshmallow filling.
Pour 3/4 cup cold water in the bowl of a mixer and add 4 envelopes of unflavored gelatin (1/4 oz each). Let the gelatin soften for 5 minutes.
In a medium saucepan bring to a boil over high heat 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup light corn syrup, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 3 cups of granulated sugar. Cook without stirring until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (234º to 240º).
Add the hot syrup to the softened gelatin in the mixer. Using the whisk attachment begin beating at a low speed. Gradually increase the speed all the way to high. The marshmallow will increase in volume as you beat. Continue beating until soft peaks forms. Beat in 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract.

Spread the bottom of one cookie with about 2 tablespoons of the marshmallow filling, and top with another cookie. Either wrap each sandwich individually (may be the neater option in the long run - this filling is fabulously gooey) or store in an airtight container.

The recipe for the filling makes enough that you'll have LOTS left over for homemade marshmallows. Spray an 8x8 in ch square or 9 inch round pan with cooking spray. Line the pan in parchment paper (enough that you have it sticking out of the pan) and then spray the parchment paper as well. Pour in your leftover marshmallow filling. Let it set uncovered for 3 hours at room temperature until firm.
Sift confectioners' sugar onto a clean work surface and turn the marshmallow out onto the sugar. Peel off the parchment and sift more sugar on top of the marshmallow.
Cut your marshmallow into the desired shapes. Be sure to spray your knife or cookie cutters with cooking spray. Once cut, roll in confectioners' sugar and store in a plastic bag.

My recommendation? Make yourself a big cup of hot chocolate and float a big old marshmallow on top.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I <3 Tartelette

I skipped hubby's softball games tonight to stay home and spend some time in the kitchen - I just had the itch. We've been grilling peaches this week to have with vanilla ice cream, and it has been a simple, but divine, dessert. These are the first good peaches we've come across this year, so I wanted to use them while I had them. This time it was a bit more complicated than just throwing them on the grill, but I can't wait to taste the results!

If you're not familiar with Tartlette it is decidedly the most beautiful food blog I have seen. Seriously, just try not to drool. Luckily, my tasty peaches provided me the perfect opportunity to try out this beautiful concoction Helen posted on Monday: Peach Mousse & Strawberry Verrines.

I find that opening a bottle of my favorite wine helps me "get in the mood" and makes kitchen time more of an event than a chore. Just don't drink so much the recipe gets blurry!

The first layer of peach puree heading into the fridge to set up.

Folding more peach puree into whipped cream to make the peach mousse. I did "quality control" this part, and it was very tasty!

Peach mousse added and headed to the fridge to set up.

The finished product after the strawberry puree has set up.

Truly, it was not a difficult recipe. The hardest part is waiting in between steps, because you definitely need to wait for the previous layer to set up before adding another layer. On looks and ease alone I'd say this is a repeater. Of course, I'm sure it tastes just as divine as it looks. Must wait for the hubby before taste-testing though! I also love that this recipe doesn't make a huge batch - four perfect little desserts is all I can handle in my house at one time. Can't wait to try more of Helen's recipes as I continue to stalk Tartelette :o)

First Post - dun dun dun!

I've been wanting to start a blog for a while now, but couldn't think of anything to write about that anyone would be interested in following. Well, I thought maybe this sucker could serve a purpose and help me get out of my domestic rut. Even as a newlywed I've gotten so bogged down in the routine that I've all but stopped doing something I really enjoy - cooking. So here's to not only getting back in the kitchen, but to figuring out all the other things that will make me the domestic goddess of this millenium. June Cleaver, eat your heart out.