Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

 As any high school student will tell you, senior year requires a lot of caffeine. From staying up late writing college application essays to running to rehearsals and club meetings, we all lead pretty busy lives. My friends and I have an odd obsession with pumpkin spice lattes - besides being overly sweet and artificial in a strangely delicious way, they provide us with the extra bit of energy needed to get through the rest of the day.
 This drink has a bit of a cult following. It's begun a "pumpkin spice" trend, which - with mixed reviews - has been popping up everywhere from donuts to burgers. (Pumpkin spice English muffins, by the way, are not highly recommended. Trust me on this one.) So why not cupcakes?
 These pumpkin spice cupcakes have a generous dose of caffeine themselves. The fluffy cakes have pumpkin, spices, and espresso powder in them; they're then soaked in coffee and topped with the lightest frosting ever. (This frosting is essentially whipped cream with a touch of sugar and cream cheese, but it's insanely delicious.) Top it off with a green straw, and there's your morning coffee.
Enjoy!
Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes 
(slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)

for the cupcakes:
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
4½ teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¾ cup canned pumpkin
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
¼ cup brewed coffee, for brushing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, both sugars and the vegetable oil until completely combined, making sure to break up any chunks of brown sugar so no lumps remain. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mixture in two additions, folding with a rubber spatula until no flour pockets remain.
Divide the batter between the baking cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. While the cupcakes are still warm, brush the tops with the brewed coffee. Let each coat soak in before applying the next. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

for the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream 
cinnamon and straws, for decorating (if desired)

On medium speed, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixer with the whisk attachment until smooth and completely combined, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the heavy cream, scrape the sides of the bowl, then increase speed to medium-high and whip until stiff peaks form.
Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes, then sprinkle with cinnamon. Cut straws into small pieces and insert in frosting. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Coffee Cake Muffins

 As a little girl, Saturday mornings meant helping my dad make breakfast. It was usually either pancakes or French toast, and my "helping" meant accidentally splashing batter out of the mixing bowl or trying to decide whether a pancake was ready to flip or not. Even if breakfast was at 8 a.m. before swim practice, I always looked forward to that fun start to the weekend.
  Now, Saturday mornings often consist of my getting out of bed just in time to grab coffee to have on the subway ride to a voice lesson. This past weekend, I woke up early and whipped up these simple muffins. While they are about as basic as it gets, they're homey and fluffy and delicious. Maybe I'll make them for my roommates in college; but more likely, I'll be calling my dad to ask him for his French toast recipe.
  Enjoy!
Coffee Cake Muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sour cream

1 1/3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
2 teaspoons cinnamon
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease 18 muffin cups, or line with paper liners.
In a large bowl, on the low speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Mix in the sour cream. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups.
To make the topping: In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, the pecans, and the cinnamon. Sprinkle the topping evenly (and generously) over the batter.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

FutureChefs!

Well hi there. Sorry for the temporary absence - I've had a busy few weeks with a variety of music-related things, but not to worry, recipes will be back soon...
Anyway, I have news. Big news. Crazy fun news.
Sophia's Sweets is in a book!!
FutureChefs is a compilation of 150 recipes from young chefs all over the world. I just received my copy yesterday, and it's a beautiful collection of photos and mouth-watering recipes, in addition to fun profiles on each chef.
My recipe is for the cookies pictured on the cover of the book - an indulgent variation on these old favorites, involving Nutella and raspberry jam. There's also a picture of me in front of my house, and one of my hands sifting sugar - super fancy y'all. (Actually, having a photographer come to my house to take pictures of me making cookies was one of the craziest "pinch me" moments ever.)
Anyway, the book is now available online! And, we will be having a little "Twitter party" with a bunch of the chefs sometime next month, where you can ask us questions and enter for a chance to win a copy of the book. Details to come!

Order your own copy here! The perfect gift for foodies of all ages. :)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Browned Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookies

 On the first day of my freshman year of high school, I was simultaneously more nervous and more excited than I think I had ever been. Coming from a tiny school where I knew the names of everybody in the building (and probably those of their parents, too), stepping into a school holding over 2,500 people every day was a bit of a shock. I knew hardly anybody, I got lost multiple times, and I feared that the next four years would be the longest of my life.
 It could only get better from there, and I quickly made friends and came to know and love my new teachers and classes. Days rushed by and blurred into weeks, months and years; and now, I'm a senior spending my Sundays writing college application supplements. It seems like five minutes ago that I was trying to write my first essay for an intimidating English teacher I was determined to prove myself to.
My friend who graduated this spring recently advised me to really appreciate every minute of this coming year, because it will go by faster than I realize. I know that in the blink of an eye, I'll find myself in my college dorm, looking back on this post and laughing at myself; and while I can't wait to start that new, exciting part of my life, I'm also trying to hang onto the little things I won't have anymore in a year. One of these being the ability to make delicious cookies for a school club meeting late at night, just because I feel like it - without getting lost trying to find my dorm's kitchen.
Enjoy!
Browned Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from Joy the Baker)

                                                             2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
                                                                        1 teaspoon salt
                                                                  1 teaspoon baking soda
                               1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
                                                          1 cup packed light brown sugar
                                                          2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
                                                                    1 teaspoon molasses
                                                                1/2 cup granulated sugar
                                                                             1 large egg
                                                                        1 large egg yolk
                                                               1 cup white chocolate chips
                                                               coarse sea salt for sprinkling

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.
Start by browning 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter.  In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Once the butter has melted completely, it will begin to foam and froth as it cooks.  The butter will also crackle and pop.  That’s the water cooking out of the butter.  Swirl the pan occasionally, and keep an eye on the melted butter.  The butter will become very fragrant and brown bits will begin to form at the bottom of the pan.  Once the bits are an amber brown, immediately remove pan from the heat and pour browned butter (bits and all) into a small bowl.  Leaving the butter in the pan will burn it.  Allow butter to cool for 20 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream remaining 1/2 cup of butter with brown sugar.  Cream on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla extract and molasses and beat until incorporated.
Once the brown butter has cooled slightly, pour the butter (brown bits and all) into the creamed butter and sugar mixture.  Add the granulated sugar and cream for 2 minutes, until well incorporated.  Add the egg and egg yolk and beat for 1 minute more.
Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure that everything is evenly mixed.  Add the flour mixture, all at once to the butter mixture and beat on low speed until the flour is just incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use a spatula to fold in chocolate chips.
Spoon batter onto a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap and wrap into a disk or cylinder and seal at both ends.  Allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Scoop dough by the two tablespoonful onto prepared sheets.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Be sure to leave about 2 inches of space between each cookie.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes of until cookies are golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes.  Serve warm or allow to cool completely. 
      -makes about 2 dozen cookies

Friday, August 29, 2014

Spiced Zucchini Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

 I'd like to take a moment to talk about mutant vegetables. Zucchini, to be more exact.
Around this time of year, food bloggers tend to start a trail of complaints along the lines of, "OMG, I can't even deal with how much zucchini is growing in my backyard and I'm so overwhelmed and it's taking over my kitchen and my life is really hard."
 The thing is, I live in New York City, where if your backyard is big enough to hold one small zucchini, you should consider yourself lucky. So I don't have a whole lot of sympathy.
Above is my dog, lying next to a zucchini we were given by a friend with her own little vegetable patch. Guys, this was one crazy zucchini - it was over a foot long. I didn't even know this ridiculous, genetically outrageous thing was possible in nature. Seriously, what?!
Regardless, I suddenly had a lot more understanding of the complaints popping up on my computer screen constantly, and I decided to tone down my own sass. And that's my life lesson for the day. (Is there even a lesson in there? I don't know. You're welcome anyway.)
This cake is crazy delicious. As in, way better than I ever thought a dessert based on a vegetable could be. (Although to be fair, that's pretty much the only healthy thing about it.) It's full of shredded zucchini, making it really moist, and it's studded with bittersweet chocolate chips. (These make everything better. We've been through this before.) I topped it with a quick cream cheese frosting made with both orange zest and juice (I used a blood orange, but you can use any kind), which adds a nice little pop of flavor to this summery cake.
Enjoy!
Spiced Zucchini Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
(adapted from Emeril Lagasse's Farm to Fork)

for the cake:
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)

for the frosting
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
grated zest of one orange

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and grease an 8" square cake pan.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the vegetable oil, sugar, zucchini, and vanilla extract and mix well. Add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and baking powder, and mix until well blended. Stir in the chocolate. Pour the batter into the pan, and tap it gently on the counter to release any air bubbles.
Bake until the cake has risen and is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes; then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool.
Once the cake is completely cooled to room temperature, make the frosting. With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in the confectioners' sugar, the orange juice and the orange zest. Add more sugar or juice, until it reaches the desired consistency. Spread on top of cake (if you'd like to frost the sides as well, double the frosting recipe).

Monday, August 11, 2014

Spicy Chocolate Brownies

 Last summer, my dad and I spent three days in Paris. He had been there several times in the past, so he told me that I could plan the trip as I wanted, and he would be happy to follow along. I made sure that we got to all of the usual tourist spots - the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de triomphe, etc. - but also planned our days around p√Ętisseries. I had spent years reading about food bloggers' adventures eating in Paris and had been making a mental list of places to go - so when I got three days to play with, I had to fit in as much as I could!
On our first day, we were walking down a narrow street on our way to lunch and were stopped by a man who offered us a chocolate sample from his little shop. It was a thin dark chocolate bark with chili in it - it wasn't something I would usually go for, but we were in Paris, so why not? Even though his shop wasn't one on my list, he ended up giving us one of the best chocolates we had ever eaten.
 This brownie uses that same combination of dark chocolate and spice. With cinnamon and a hint of cayenne pepper, the chocolate flavor is enhanced, and it makes for a brownie you can't eat just one of. These are more cakey than the usual brownie, but in this case it works surprisingly well; that said, if you want them fudgier, feel free to leave out about 1/4 cup of the flour.
  Enjoy!
Spicy Chocolate Brownies 
(slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine)

2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
2 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chili powder or cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish with butter.
Melt the 2 sticks of butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium-low heat; do not boil. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Add the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
Add the cocoa, flour, cinnamon, chili powder, salt, and baking powder and mix until smooth. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack before slicing.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Honey, Lavender, and Vanila Bean Ice Cream

 I got my first "real" job this summer. By "real," I mean doing something other than working as a camp counselor, which, as rewarding as it is, wasn't in my plans this year. Instead, I'm basically spending a couple of weeks doing secretarial work for a family friend who is a doctor; entering his patients' information into an online database and so on.
 While it's not exactly the most challenging job in the world, it's been surprisingly entertaining. Not only have I learned how to spell hundreds of last names I have no idea how to pronounce, I've had the Brandenburg Concertos on as background music more times than I'd care to admit. It also makes me smile every time I'm entering a baby's information, and the parents have listed five or six different emergency contact numbers. (The doctor says he's never once had to use an emergency number, much less six.)
 I try to make the time that I'm not working as "summery" as possible. Last week, I decided that a batch of freshly churned ice cream was in order.
  On their own, honey, lavender, and vanilla beans aren't particularly overwhelming flavors. But when mixed together, some kind of magical taste fairies make them incredibly warm and refreshing at the same time; put this together with smooth, rich ice cream, and you've got quite the summer afternoon ahead of you.
  Enjoy!

 Honey, Lavender, and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
(adapted from The Perfect Scoop)

½ cup good quality honey
¼ cup dried or fresh lavender flowers
seeds from 1 large vanilla bean (scraped out)
1½ cups whole milk
¼ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1½ cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks

Heat the honey, 2 tablespoons of the lavender, and the vanilla in a small saucepan.  Once warm, remove from the heat and set aside to steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
Warm the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.
Pour the cream in a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.
Pour the lavender-infused honey into the cream through the strainer, pressing on the lavender flowers to extract as much flavour as possible, then discard the lavender and set the strainer back over the cream.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to avoid cooking, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.
Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lavender flowers and stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill the mixture overnight in the refrigerator.
The next day, before churning, strain the mixture, again pressing on the lavender flower to extract their flavour.
Discard the flowers, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: I used vanilla bean-infused honey, so if you happen to have some around, you can use that instead and leave out the fresh vanilla.