Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not Too Pretty

These certainly won't be winning any beauty contests anytime soon. In fact, I think they kinda look like poo. Really. Moving on...

Sometimes, or all the time if you are like me, you just need to have some sweets. Especially if you are watching Jack Bauer kickin butt on 24. You have to keep your blood sugar up just to watch the show. Of course I didn't have anything on Monday, so I had to make something. The only quick and instantly gratifying thing I could think of was to make cookies. That way we could eat a little dough to satisfy us for the time being, and then bake the cookies later. Perfect plan. I even had a recipe bookmarked that I wanted to try.

These were pretty easy cookies to make, and they didn't require a lot of bowls and cups. That is ALWAYS a good thing. (I'm trying to be more conscious of how many dishes I create because I can't always dump clean up on Glenn.) To make these more (or less I should say) interesting, and more palatable for Glenn, I subbed peanut butter chips for the white chocolate chips called for in the recipe, and I omitted the cloves (ewww.)

These cookies turned out great. I loved the substitution of the peanut butter chips, it really balanced out the richness of all the chocolate. I would definitely recommend making these cookies.

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
recipe from Food Network

1 1/4 C all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C (1 stick) butter
6 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60%)
2 large eggs
1 yolk
1 C packed brown sugar (I used 2/3 dark and 1/3 light)
1 T vanilla extract
1 C semisweet chocolate chips
1 C peanut butter chips

In a small bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Using a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add bittersweet chocolate and stir for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and allow the rest of the chocolate to melt.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar and vanilla until no clumps remain. Pour in chocolate/butter mixture and whisk until smooth. Stir the flour mixture in using small additions. Try to incorporate the flour mixture as quickly as possible without overmixing. Gently stir in the chocolate and peanut butter chips. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to scoop. Overnight works really well.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or spray with cooking spray) and scoop dough into balls about the size of ping pong balls (1-1.5 oz each). Place each ball about 1.5-2 inches apart. Bake for about 13-15 minutes. The top should look dry and may start to crack. Allow cookies to cool on a rack.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Birthday Cupcakes: Strawberry Filled Lemon Cupcakes

Yay! It's birthday time in the office again. Funny thing is, no one told me about it. I noticed an email the day of the supposed party, but no one asked me to make cupcakes. Then 20 minutes after the party was supposed to happen, our Assistant Principal of Operations and Resources went off on a rant with our School Secretary saying that I need to be the official birthday baker. Wait, what? I thought I already was? Confusing. Turns out I am now, or still am. Whatever. He gave me some money to finish out the rest of the year's birthdays, so here I am making cupcakes for the January birthdays.

As usual, when it came to deciding what kind of cupcakes to make, I asked for suggestions. The only one I got was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and a request to make it filled. Then when admin heard about it, they shot down the chocolate. In light of my parents bringing me a billion bags of citrus, I suggested lemon, that way I could use up some of the beautiful lemons my parents brought me. Lemon it was. Then on the way home I decided to do a strawberry puree filling, much to Glenn's chagrin. Oh yeah, there is a lemon cream cheese frosting too.

Lemon Cupcakes with Strawberry Filling
yield 30 cupcakes

3 C all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 C (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 C sugar
4 eggs
3/4 C milk
1/2 C sour cream
3 T lemon zest (appx 2 lemons)
1/4 C lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line 30 muffin cups with paper liners. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar for 3 minutes or until very light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating very well after each addition. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix together milk and sour cream in another bowl. Gradually add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk/sour cream. Mix until well incorporated. Add lemon zest and lemon juice, mixing just until combined. Scoop batter into muffin cups to about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
Strawberry Puree
yield appx 2 1/2 cups

1 1/2 lbs. strawberries, cleaned and hulled
1/4 C sugar

Puree strawberries in a food processor. Pour into a saucepan and add sugar. Cook at medium to high heat until sugar dissolves and mixture starts to bubble. Allow to cool before filling.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
yield enough to generously frost 30 cupcakes

8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 T butter, softened
3 T fresh lemon juice
5-7 C powdered sugar

Beat together cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add in 2-3 cups of powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Blend in the lemon juice. Add the remaining powdered sugar according to your own consistency preference.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Football Playoff Cupcakes

Wow. Who would have ever thought that I would be making cupcakes for a football playoff viewing get together? I really hate football. I find it a stupid boring sport with very little athleticism involved. To top off my hatred, I really can't stand their playoff system. There is no way you can truly determine the best in the NFL in so few games! Oh well, that's why I don't watch it. This time, I will, but only because Glenn accepted an invitation from a coworker of his who invited us over. I'll get over it.

I wasn't sure what kind of cupcakes I was going to make, but Glenn suggested I decorate them to look like a field, with green frosting (grass) and white lines (the yard lines). I thought it sounded like a good idea. Then I wanted to put a football of some sort on them. Since I don't have a mini football cookie cutter we went to the baking supply store to find something. We searched and searched in there and came up empty handed. It looked as though they'd been cleaned out in anticipation. Feeling defeated, I got in line to pay. Then, of course, I glance over and notice a rather large display with all the football crap. Ugh. I grabbed some sugar footballs and was on my way.

I finally decided on German Chocolate cupcakes. This decision was based mostly on the fact that I planned on enjoying these, and I wanted a different kind of chocolate this time. I've made German Chocolate cupcakes before, for my Baseball Cupcakes World Series actually, and I LOVED them. I thought I just used the recipe on the box of the German Chocolate baking bar. I did not. That explains why I didn't remember beating egg whites separately and then adding them later. Aside from the shrinkage that always happens when I fold in egg whites (why is that?) they still taste wonderful. I just love the smooth sweet flavor of the German Chocolate. Yum. This is the recipe I followed this time. For the other recipe, that in my opinion produced better cupcakes, go here.

German Chocolate Cupcakes
yield 16 cupcakes

2 oz Baker's German's Chocolate (1/2 pkg)
1/4 C water
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 pinches salt
1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened
1 C sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 16 standard sized muffin cups with liners. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a medium to large sized bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Microwave the water and chocolate in a heatproof bowl in the microwave for 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Add vanilla and chocolate/water to the creamed mixture. Gradually add flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold in to chocolate batter. Fill tins 2/3 full and bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cupcake Wednesdays: Pina Colada Cupcakes

Pineapple and coconut are hard to mess up. They compliment each other perfectly with the sweet/tartness of pineapples and the sugar sweetness of coconut. Since these were the first cupcakes I would be bringing to work after our winter break, I thought I would do something a little different. Plus, it is about time I expanded my repertoire. Pina Colada cupcakes it was.

The recipe I began using seemed pretty good, but then I realized that there were no eggs. That would be fine, but I didn't seem to find any other stabilizing ingredient in there so I added a couple eggs. The batter tasted really good actually, sweet and pineapply. I was sure these would be great. They rose pretty well in the oven and retained very low domes. The taste test was a let down though. Don't get me wrong, I don't think these are bad. Glenn does. They just need a lot of work. I want the pineapple flavor to be strong. I want the coconut to just peek through. I want the frosting to be a standout. I got the frosting part right. I added pineapple and coconut flavored rums to a cream cheese frosting base and got a perfectly smooth icing out of it. I rolled the tops in coconut to make them pretty. These still aren't what I am looking for. I will certainly be tweaking this recipe so I can have a hands down hardcore awesome Pina Colada Cupcake recipe. Until then, these will work just fine.

Everyone at work who tried one seemed to love them. I got lots of compliments. The coconut was a turn off to some people. Other people, like one of the counselors I work with, had 4 or 5. He usually eats 2 or 3 so I am not sure if that means anything.

Pina Colada Cupcakes
yield 24-30 cupcakes

1/4 C Malibu Coconut rum
1/4 C Parrot Bay Pineapple rum
1 1/4 C crushed pineapple
1 C coconut milk
1/2 C oil
2 T vinegar
1/3 C pineapple juice
4 eggs

2 C sugar
2 2/3 C all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Extra coconut for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 - 12 cup muffin pans with liners. In a medium to large bowl, whisk together all of (1) until thoroughly combined. In a large bowl whisk together all of (2). Add all of (2) to (1) and whisk until combined and very smooth. Distribute batter into muffin cups, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake for 20-24 minutes. Allow to cool then frost cupcakes and garnish with coconut.

Rummy Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 T butter, softened
2 1/2 T Malibu Coconut rum
2 T Parrot Bay Pineapple rum
2 C powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients in a medium sized bowl until smooth and creamy. Add more or less rum to taste (this is already fairly strong) and add more or less powdered sugar according to your desired texture.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pocketful of Zest

My parents live in a neighborhood that was previously inhabited by a very productive citrus grove. Then, like every other neighborhood in the East Valley, some developers came in and decided to get rid of all of it. Fortunately, they struck a deal with the land owners that required all lots to retain at least 2 citrus trees. Most lots have 5 or 6. My parents however, have 12. I think, give or take one. Funny thing is, the neighborhood is called Orangewood and my parents do not have a single orange tree in their yard. They have some grapefruit trees, some tangelo trees, and even a little lemon tree they planted a while back. It's just refreshing to see a little bit of preservation in a city that generally eliminates everything in its path in order to make more houses.

This weekend my brother Jeff stayed the night with Glenn and I, and my parents dropped him off because they happened to be seeing the show Chicago at the theater a block from our house. Before they left, my dad asked if we wanted any grapefruit. Glenn being the grapefruit lover and myself having a recipe with grapefruit to try, gave that a definite yes. Also, since the recipe required the zest of a grapefruit, and I just got a new Microplane zester, I was all over trying it (in case you were wondering, the Microplane was AMAZING, I want to zest everything now.) That being said, I made this grapefruit yogurt cake last night. Luckily I was able to get Glenn to eat the zested grapefruits so they didn't go to waste.

Recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.

Grapefruit Yogurt Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 extra-large eggs
3 teaspoons grated grapefruit zest (approximately one large grapefruit)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, grapefruit zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup grapefruit juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the grapefruit-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and grapefruit juice and pour over the cake.

Food That Looks Like Food

For some strange reason, and I am not sure why, I have a fascination with cookie cutters. I don't even make roll out cookies all that often! You could call my fascination and obsession and not be far off base. I have 12 clear shoe boxes underneath my bakers table that are packed with cookie cutters. Then I have a cute cookie jar with one cookie cutter for each month in the kitchen. Animals, food, holidays... you name it, I have a cutter for that. I love them all equally and have started to catalog them to prevent me from buying duplicates. Somehow I managed to avoid duplicating when I bought 24 new cutters at the Sur La Table sale. 56 cent cutters!!!

I think my obsession worsened when I got the book Cookie Craft for Christmas. All the beautifully decorated cookies in there are so inspiring, yet I still haven't made any like theirs, using the flooding technique. To my defense, I didn't have a key ingredient for stabilizing the icing, but I have since purchased some. I even have a few select cookies that I baked off that have been sitting on the counter ready to be expertly decorated when I have time. We will see. For now, you can see my food decorated like food cookies along with some animals and my favorite, the skull and crossbones. I started out strong, but started to get tired an hour and a half into it, and you can tell. These were made from my very favorite sugar cookie recipe, given to me by my mom. They are perfect, thick, soft sugar cookies that taste even better when given a healthy dose of your favorite frosting on top. Enjoy!

Mom's Sugar Cookies

1 C butter
1 1/2 C sugar
1 egg
1/2 C sour cream
1 tsp vanilla

4 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg

3 C powdered sugar
1/3 C very soft butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 T milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix all of (1) together in a large bowl. Add all of (2) gradually. Refrigerate dough for an hour or 2. Roll out dough very thick, about 1/4 inch, and cut into shapes. Bake for 8-11 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Mix all frosting ingredients until very smooth. Frost and decorate cooled cookies.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy 2009!!!

Where on earth does time go!?!? Happy New Year to all. I hope that 2009 brings everyone happiness and success in the kitchen (and out.) Now, anyone who knows me knows my feelings on "New Years Resolutions." They are awful, vile devices that set you up for disaster. It's just too much pressure. However, that being said, I think it is a safe and rather reasonable for me to make a couple blogging goals for '09. Goal number one: take better food photos. Goal number two: update blog(s) regularly, and I mean like at least twice a week. Finally, goal number three: create and maintain a new blog that is more informational.

So far, I'm working on it. I've been off of work for the past two weeks so it has been hard for me to do anything but be lazy. However, I have created that new blog and added one post to it, so we will see about maintenance part :o) Anyway, do me a favor and check it out. I would love to hear any thoughts, comments, or suggestions that you might have. Again, Happy New Year everyone. I have a feeling this is going to be a good year.

I Got Your Crazy