Monday, December 29, 2008

Cupcakes for Christmas!

Yeah, yeah, I'm a little late. Trust me, I have my reasons. Long story short: backed up sink = three hours with a plumber = sink being vacuumed out = the worst smell on earth = me on the verge of tears and vomit while frantically getting ready for our fourth annual Chrismakuh Party. So cut me some slack. Anyway, I did manage to make these cupcakes in time for the party, whew. These are my basic chocolate cupcake with a wonderfully sweet but tangy cream cheese frosting.

Chocolate Cupcakes
1 C salted butter (the added salt is a nice complement)
1/2 C + 1 T Hershey's Special Dark cocoa sifted (I only had regular,boo)
3/4 C water
2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C buttermilk
1 1/2 T vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 C flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with liners and set aside. Over low heat, melt butter in a medium sized saucepan. While butter is melting, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside. When butter is completely melted, add in cocoa and whisk until very smooth. Add in water and whisk again. Turn off heat and whisk in the sugar until the batter has a smooth appearance. Add in the buttermilk and vanilla extract, whisking again. Add in one egg at a time, whisking until thoroughly combined after each addition. Very slowly add in the dry ingredient mixture, whisking very well after each addition (this batter tends to clump up, and it is essential to get it as smooth as possible). Fill each muffin cup 1/2 full (flat tops) to 2/3 full (domes) and bake for 20 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake will come out with a few crumbs clinging to it or completely clean when they are done. Allow to cool on a wire rack completely before filling and frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting 8 oz cream cheese
1 T vanilla bean paste
4 T milk
2-3 C powdered sugar (it all depends on how you like it)

Allow cream cheese to soften beforehand. Beat cream cheese until it's as fluffy as you can possibly get it. Add vanilla bean paste and milk and beat some more. Add powdered sugar gradually until you reach the desired consistency. At this point, you may want to add more milk or more sugar, you make the call. Beat everything together until smooth and creamy.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Granola Does A Body Good

Granola is typically good for you. Not the kind that I like though. I like the sweet crap. The sweeter the better. Fresh and Easy has really good granola, but I was in the mood for something really sweet and satisfying for my ever constant sweet tooth. I had bookmarked a recipe for cocoa coconut granola that sounded really tasty to me, but I didn't have all the ingredients. Instead, I was inspired to create my own, thus spawning my wildly unhealthy but oh so tasty personal blend of granola. Behold, I present you with Peanut Butter Chocolate Coconut Granola (with white chocolate chips sprinkled in) That's a mouthful. Let's just call it Super PBCC Granola.

Super PBCC Granola
note: this could probably use a little bit more honey, but I was running low as it is; also, feel free to raise the oven temperature to get crispier granola faster (I think i overbaked some parts of my granola, but it is still super yummy)

3 C rolled oats (the fat kind, not the instant crumbly looking stuff)
1 C rice krispies
1 C corn flakes (break them up a little bit)
1 C coconut (sweetened is better)
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

1/3 C honey
2 T vegetable oil
2 T butter
2/3 C chocolate chips
1/2 C peanut butter

2/3 C white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease a large baking pan (it needs to have a lip around all the edges) Combine all of (1) in a large bowl until well mixed. In a small saucepan combine all of (2) and heat over low heat until it is very warm. When mixture is warmed, drizzle over dry ingredients and stir to thoroughly combine. I used my hands to do this, it seemed easier. Spread evenly over baking pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring at 15 minute intervals. Allow granola to cool until it is slightly warm. Stir in white chocolate chips and then finish cooling in a refrigerator.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Cookie Class!

Last month or so I got an email from somebody in the school district announcing the annual Holiday Cookie Class. Hmmmm, sounds very appealing. December 8th, 3:30-6:30 pm, at Independence High School. Learn from an accomplished baker and take home 14 dozen cookies for 55 bucks. I immediately asked my mom if she wanted to go, but she works till 6 every Thursday. Boo. I just didn't want to go by myself, so I just set my hope of going on a faraway shelf.

About a week ago, one of the secretaries in the attendance office asked if I had heard about it. Ummm, yeah. She asked if I wanted to go with her! YAY! I talked to Glenn and wrote my check and sent it through interoffice mail. Hooray. December 4th is now here and I am excited. I even get to leave work 30 minutes early. The tentative list of cookies we will be making is as follows: Blackberry and Oatmeal Bar Cookie; Chewy Ginger Cookies; Dark Chocolate and Mint Crackle Cookies; Spritz Cookies; Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies; Mocha Double Chocolate Chip Cookies; Key Lime Holiday Cookies; Styx and Stones; Chocolate and Mint Bark; Peanut Brittle; Peanut Butter Balls; South of the Border Balls; Rum Balls; Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Wow! That's a lot. Granted a good portion of those aren't technically cookies, it is sure to be a fun class. I will update later with photos and a class recap.

*** Update *** I'm truly sorry to report that the class was a HUGE disappointment to me.

Let's start off with the good. It was very well organized, with the mise en place already taken care of for each recipe. We were given the complete recipe book ahead of time. We got to bring home a ton of cookies at the end of the time. We started relatively close to the start time.

Now for the bad (it's a long list) the recipes were left in huge quantities and not reduced down to normal production sizes. I mean, who has the means and space to make 30 dozen cookies at home?!?! The class size was too large. With so many people there, a lot of people were stuck "assisting" like I was, opening bags and scooping out jars. Seems a bit silly to me. The chef only read the recipes to everyone in the very beginning and said go. Excuse me? Shouldn't you be sharing techniques and tips with us? I can read very well thank you. Half of the recipes were no-bakes. I came to the class to make cookies, not stir a bowl of stuff and then stick it on a pan. There is no talent or technique to be found in making a no bake cookie. We took lots of stuff home, but most of it was no good. Let me break it down for you:
Blackberry and Oatmeal Bar Cookie - they were well done and baked well, but a little plain in flavor. The group that did these did a good job
Chewy Ginger Cookies - these were overbaked, causing the molasses to take on a weird smokey/burnt flavor, overall not bad, but definitely not very good.
Dark Chocolate and Mint Crackle Cookies - certainly the prettiest of the bunch. I noticed it was a difficult dough to work with, but the ladies did a nice job. There's fresh mint in them.
Spritz Cookies - Cute to look at, but boring in flavor and a bit on the dry side.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies - done well, but the recipe is for a cookie that is way too cakey for my liking. I preferred the ones I made for Thanksgiving.
Mocha Double Chocolate Chip Cookies - I hate coffee and won't try these, but they are completely flat and a few are overbaked. They seem fairly plain though.
Key Lime Holiday Cookies - Glenn says they were made of zorbees. I said it was like a sahara desert in my mouth. The lime flavor is nowhere to be found.
Styx and Stones -the ONE cookie I made. A no bake. It was too sticky and never set up properly. Taste wise it is decent, but nothing special.
Chocolate and Mint Bark - A definite favorite. Out of all the stuff that was made, Glenn requested I get rid of everything but leave the bark at home. I'm working on it.
Peanut Brittle - they did a good job with this one. It doesnt stick to your teeth, but the flavor is lacking. It's a bit plain.
Peanut Butter Balls - SALTY.
South of the Border Balls - poorly written recipe. The lady I helped with this was so frustrated because she did everything right, but the recipe was mush. She couldn't roll it in to proper balls. It's a coffee flavor, but too heavy. Glenn had one last night and spit it out. He got an upset stomach from sampling.
Rum Balls - Done well, but I don't like the taste.
Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies - another no-bake. Weird gummy texture because of the melted marshmallow.

I am very sorry that I just lined someone's pockets with my 55 hard earned dollars. The class was a waste of my money. Instead of giving all of this to my neighb0rs for our yearly holiday treat plates, I brought these to school in hopes that I could get rid of it all. I didn't learn anything. I didn't bring home any useful recipes that I don't have to breakdown into tenths. I was totally looking forward to this class, but was very let down.

Glenn says I should just do my own next year. Have a cupcake class. I think that is a good idea, but I'm afraid I am not a very good teacher. I'm trying to set a cupcake party up with my mom, maybe I can practice there.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Let's Make Whoopie... But Not Really

What is with the name Whoopie Pies? When I told Glenn and my brother what these were called, they both laughed at me. Quite honestly, it's embarrassing to say. That's probably because on the old Newlywed Game the host always talked about "makin whoopie." Ewww.... what a creepy thing to say. I really am curious where on earth the name for these cookies came from. Let's see if Wikipedia has anything to say about these.

Unfortunately, wiki is really of no help other than telling me that the cookies are of Pennsylvania Dutch origin and are commonly known as "gobs." Okay, what else can we find?

What's Cooking America gives us a little more in depth account of these strangely named "pies." These treats are more like cake than they are cookies or pies. They are traditionally very large, almost hamburger sized. People in Maine like to claim that they were weaned on Whoopie Pies (obviously these are very well loved there.) The most common flavor is chocolate but people love to experiment with seasonal flavors. An interesting fact is that an authentic whoopie pie is made with vegetable shortening and not butter. Yuck. I will stick with butter. In an effort to be economical, the Amish people originally made these using leftover batter. And finally, according to Amish legend, when Amish children discovered these treats in their lunch bags, they shouted "Whoopie!"

And there you have it my friends. I have to say I feel better knowing all that. I just knew it had to have some sort of interesting origin. It's a strange name. I actually kinda sorta like it now. Anyway, my inspiration for making these was a lone can of pumpkin in the pantry and my mom wondering why I wasn't bringing dessert to dinner, when she assumed it was a given. As a side note, I was told my dad freaked out when he heard I wasn't bringing anything and ran out to the store and bought two pies. I was told I didn't need to because Glenn's mom was taking care of everything. I decided to make them Thanksgiving morning about 2 hours before we left. Yay!

I whipped these up really quickly. From start to finish, I think it only took me an hour and a half, and that includes cooling and assembly. The batter is really easy to mix together, the filling is easy, cooktime is short, and if you throw them in the fridge, cooling time is fast too. These really are nice little treats. They are simple, soft, and sweet. It's nice to have a quick standby if you ever need to make something a tad bit more impressive than plain ol cookies.

Recipe from Cooking with Anne

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies
Note: I scooped mine smaller and ended up with about 2 dozen 50 cent piece sized complete "pies" I also did not have pumpkin pie spice so I added 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and a 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg.


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter - melted
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt


1/2 stick butter
4 oz. cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix together melted butter, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, pie spice and eggs until smooth. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix well until a thick batter forms. Drop by spoonful onto parchment lined cookie sheets. You need 24 cakes for 12 pies. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 - 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Cool completely and make filling.

Blend softened butter and cream cheese with vanilla. Add powdered sugar and stir until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. Spread on 12 cakes and top each with another cake.

I Got Your Crazy