Sunday, July 29, 2012

Vanilla Bean Macarons

I finally, finally made great macarons. I had made pretty good ones before, but these were on a whole different level. They were perfectly chewy with a nice crisp shell from sitting on the baking sheet for an hour before going into the oven.
My friend and I had some issues getting the Swiss meringue to stiff peaks after adding the sugar; it took us a good 10 minutes to get there. I also found it interesting that instead of aging the eggwhites, this recipe gives the option of microwaving them for 8 seconds. I was skeptical, but eventually it worked, and we were ridiculously excited when we saw these come out of the oven.
We filled lots of them with vanilla filling. I tried to use an Italian meringue recipe, but we had some more issues with the meringue, and it just didn't taste all that great (my fault for using salted butter accidentally), so we had to add some powdered sugar as a thickener/sweetener. I'll save the filling recipe for when I've worked on it some more...
We also filled lots with nutella. These were definitely the overall favorites - the vanilla bean in the macarons went perfectly with the chocolatey hazelnut spread.
We added sugar pearls to the sides of one (I had seen this done on a blog and thought it was beautiful) before deeming it too time-consuming to do to all of them. It was so cute though! The little pearls looked perfect with the Tiffany blue color we chose. I promise that they did actually look Tiffany blue - I just wasn't able to get it to come through in the pictures.
I'm so happy I found this recipe and was finally able to make a great macaron - my next task is the salted caramel flavor! Any helpful tips?
Enjoy! <3
Vanilla Bean Macarons
(from Baker Chic)

110 grams blanched slivered almonds or ground almond flour
200 grams confectioners sugar
100 grams egg whites (from 3 eggs, separated 24 hours in advance or microwaved for 8 seconds)
1/4 tsp vanilla paste or extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
50 grams granulated sugar
filling of choice

Pulse the almonds/almond flour and confectioner's sugar several times in your food processor until thoroughly mixed. Place egg whites in a clean bowl and beat using mixer (or whisk) until soft peaks form. Split and scrape the vanilla pod and add the beans and extract to the egg whites. Add the sugar and turn the mixer to high, whisking until you have a glossy meringue with stiff peaks. (It was at this point that we folded in a couple of drops of gel food coloring.)
Fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites gently, briskly at first to break up the meringue a bit, until thoroughly mixed. It's important you don't over-mix the batter, but it should be well combined and is supposed to "ribbon" off the the spatula when lifted from the bowl.
Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip or a zip-lock bag with one of the tips cut off and pipe rounds of 1.5 inches along two parchment or silicon-lined baking sheets (leaving space between each.) Let sit one hour at room temperature to develop a shell.
Heat oven to 300 F. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool for a couple of minutes and gently remove from the pan.
To fill, match up like sized cookies and pipe with filling of choice.

Friday, July 27, 2012

TWD Rewind: Brown Sugar Bundt Cake

The picture above is bad. I know. It's actually from about four years ago, when I first decided to join Tuesdays with Dorie. I believe they were about halfway through the book, and I was so excited that before even making the first chosen recipe, I decided to do some rewinds. This was one of those, and it was so good that even years later, I still remember it.
This cake is so fluffy, filled with moist raisins and chunks of pear. It falls apart if you try to eat it 10 minutes out of the oven, like we did, but is so worth it. The recipe can be found here or in the book.

For the past couple of years, I've been trying to finish every. last. recipe. in the book. I recently realized just how many are left, and that it's become more of a chore than a fun way to entertain myself and create yummy treats. I've had so much fun in the past few months picking recipes from wherever I want to (and still doing the current TWD), that I've decided to give up on my original goal of finishing every recipe in BFMHTY. It will take me years to finish at this point, and it's not worth it - I might to back to it at some point, though. For now, I'm just enjoying having "recipe freedom" and the current TWD.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thick and Creamy Lemon Bars

Lemon bars are one of those quintessential bakesale treats. Available at just about every elementary school fundraiser, they never fail to please. While second graders will usually head straight to the colorful cupcakes and rice krispie treats, some of the older customers will be sensible and go to the lemon bars!
The problem with lemon bars is that they are often either too sour, from too much lemon juice, or much too sweet, with lots of unnecessary sugar. This recipe finds the perfect balance - the crust is crumbly and sweet, and the filling is tart but not overly so. It has lots of lemon zest, which creates a nice strong flavor.
The balance between the filling and crust in these bars is very nice. There is plenty of filling, but if you like a larger crust-to-filling ratio, feel free to reduce the lemon layer. If you ever are involved in a bake sale, be sure to take these; the people smart enough to choose them will thank you.
Enjoy! <3
Thick and Creamy Lemon Bars
(from Smitten Kitchen)

For the crust:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the lemon layer:
6 eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the greased baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or about five minutes beyond the point where the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.
Cut into rectangles or squares (I did some of both) and dust with confectioners' sugar.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Healthy Honey Zucchini Bread

Although it may not seem like it from how many sweets I post, I don't actually just eat cupcakes and pie all day. Most of what I make gets taken to work with my dad to share with his colleagues or given to friends, and I end up having just a bit of it. This week, I wanted to bake something that I could have for breakfast during the week without feeling guilty about starting my day with tons of sugar. I decided to put together a few different zucchini bread recipes and create one that was as healthy as I could make it.
This bread is simple to whip up in the afternoon so that you can have it for breakfast the next day. Or as a snack right after baking it. Or for lunch. Or dinner. You know...
This uses whole wheat flour, pecans (you could also use walnuts), and lots of zucchini, which makes it pretty filling. I substituted honey and applesauce for the usual sugar and oil, making it moist with a hint of sweetness. It didn't come through as sweet as I wanted it to, so I like to serve each slice with a drizzle of honey. If you're looking for a dessert, this isn't it, but this is pretty tasty.
Enjoy! <3
Healthy Honey Zucchini Bread

a little over 1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
a bit over 1/4 cup honey
2/3 cup plain applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large zucchini, shredded
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Oil or butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, honey, applesauce, and vanilla. Stir in shredded zucchini. Stir in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and pecans just until no streaks remain.
Pour batter into greased loaf pan and sprinkle the top with the sugar. Bake until golden and a skewer or knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about an hour. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing, or wrap in plastic wrap and store overnight.
- makes 1 loaf

Monday, July 23, 2012

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

I wanted cupcakes, but I was sick of making the same old vanilla and chocolate recipes over and over. I was considering a salted caramel cupcake (it would be great if anyone has a good recipe?) when peanut butter came up. Sounded good to me!
I didn't waste a lot of time searching for a recipe: I found the first one that looked good and went to the grocery store!
This recipe was perfect. I had never used shortening in cupcakes before, but it gave them a really good texture, and I used butter-flavored shortening so that the buttery flavor wasn't lost. The peanut butter flavor definitely came through in the cupcake but wasn't too strong. These could be frosted with a peanut butter or marshmallow frosting and would be very good, but I decided to top them with this chocolate buttercream. It is my favorite recipe and so easy to make. It paired very well with the peanut butter; this might just be my new favorite cupcake!
Enjoy! <3
Peanut Butter Cupcakes
(from Allrecipes)

2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening (I used butter-flavored)
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two 12-cup cupcake pans with paper liners, or grease and flour cups.
In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, shortening and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.
Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; stir into the batter alternately with the milk. Spoon into the prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until the top of the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed. Cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting as desired.
- makes 24 cupcakes

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Black and White Rice Krispies

Rice Krispies were always one of my favorite treats as a kid. The crinkly blue package filled with crispy, sweet squares of marshmallow-covered cereal were the perfect after-school snack. A few years ago, when I became vegetarian, I gave up gelatin, and therefore, most marshmallows. A few weeks ago, I decided that too many things had gelatin in them and I was missing out on too much, so I went back to it. Since then, I've realized that the pre-packaged rice krispie treats are nothing compared to homemade ones. I usually use the classic recipe from the cereal company, but seeing all the variations on food blogs, I decided to try something new.
These are the greatest rice krispies I've ever had. They are made entirely of rice krispie cereal, not half of chocolate cereal, but half of the rice krispies are combined with cocoa powder and chocolate chunks. The chocolate offsets the extremely sweet marshmallows, and the bottom and top layers create the perfect balance of chocolate and vanilla. In my opinion, this is a much better treat than those little blue packages.
Enjoy! <3
Black and White Rice Krispies
(slightly adapted from Baking Bites)

4 tbsp butter, divided
1 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
40 regular marshmallows or 4 cups mini marshmallows, divided 6
1/2 cups Rice Krispies/rice bubble cereal, divided
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped, or mini chocolate chips

Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt 2 tbsp butter, 1 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, and cocoa powder. Stir frequently to fully incorporate cocoa and to prevent scorching. Add half of the marshmallows and microwave for 1-2 minutes, until fluffy and melted. Add in 3 1/4 cups rice krispies and stir to combine, making sure chocolate covers the whole batch. Stir in chopped bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips and divide mixture evenly among prepared muffin tins, filling each 1/2 way up.
In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt 2 tbsp butter and mini marshmallows in microwave for 2-3 minutes, until marshmallows are fluffy and butter is completely melted. Add in vanilla and remaining 3 1/4 cups rice krispies and stir to coat every rice krispie.
Divide evenly among chocolate-filled muffin tins, filling each the rest of the way up.
Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or let set at room temperature before serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
-makes 18 rice krispies

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Old-Fashioned Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

I recently realized that some of my favorite recipes aren't on here. Since I make them so often, I guess I never think to take pictures and put up the recipe; doing so is one of my new goals for this blog! This bread is one of my family's favorites. It is a hearty, moist loaf of sweet bread that is perfect for snacking on throughout the day. The flavors of orange and cranberry are delicious with the crunchy nuts, and the loaf will keep well for days.

I call it "Old-Fashioned" because it comes from a colonial cookbook. In elementary school, we had a "colonial day" at school where everybody had to bring in a recipe, and this was one that my teacher gave me. My mom and I, having baked very little from scratch, were cautious, but once we tasted it, very proud. I remember coming into school and telling everybody in my class how excited I was that this "bread" was actually like a cake - a pleasant surprise for a fourth grader! Once my aunt tasted this bread, it became her favorite recipe that I make. This week she wasn't feeling well, so we decided to send her a care package. I knew this had to be in there.
Despite how challenged we were by making this six years ago, yesterday I realized that this is a very simple recipe. Dry ingredients are stirred together, shortening is cut in, and wet ingredients and add-ins are combined. Quick to put together and ideal for a rainy afternoon. Trust me, the smell of this bread baking in the oven will make you want to bake it every day. Enjoy! <3
Old-Fashioned Cranberry Orange Nut Bread
(slightly adapted from Smithsonian Folklife Cookbook)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup shortening
zest of one orange
3/4 cup orange juice
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Stir together dry ingredients. Cut in shortening.
Combine orange zest, juice, and egg. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture, stirring just enough to moisten. Fold in cranberries and nuts.
Pour batter into a greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan. Bake for 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Cool, then wrap and store overnight before serving.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Banana Muffins with Butterscotch and Chocolate Chips

These were described to me by a taster as "a real dessert muffin." This taster was absolutely right. These muffins are not like a banana muffin you might buy at a coffee shop, which can be dry and tasteless. Those are often disguised as breakfast foods, when in reality they are full of sugar and butter, but these are a perfect dessert - every bite is full of chocolate and butterscotch chips.
These are not low-fat. If you want a low-fat banana muffin, go someplace else, or just have these for dessert instead of breakfast! All of that said, these are super quick and easy enough to whip up for a weekend morning - if you choose to do so, I promise I won't judge. I may or may not be eating these for breakfast too ;)
Enjoy! <3
Banana Muffins with Butterscotch and Chocolate Chips
(slightly adapted from Phemomenon)

2-3 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour (or a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray 12 muffin cups with oil or line with paper liners. Set aside.
Whisk together the oil, eggs, and vanilla in a small bowl or glass measuring cup. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour(s), sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the oil/egg mixture and stir well till just combined. Add the mashed bananas till just mixed in. Fold in the chips.
Distribute the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin cups. Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly golden and springy to the touch. Let cool 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store completely cooled muffins in an airtight container.
- makes 12 muffins

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gluten-Free Blueberry Lemon Cornmeal Tart

Sometimes I just really want to make a specific dessert. Last week, I saw a recipe online for a fig tart with lemon mascarpone cream and rosemary cornmeal crust, and knew I had to make it for my dad - it sounded like the kind of thing he would love. We went to the grocery store, but they had no good figs - neither did the other ones nearby! It's summer, why does nobody have figs??
We had already bought everything else for the tart, so we decided to just try a different fruit. My dad decided on blueberries, which, unlike the figs, were firm and perfectly sweet.
This tart is so delicious. It mixes so many flavors, but is not overwhelming. A cornmeal crust that resembles a cookie is flavored with rosemary and topped with an extremely simple cream. This is the first pastry cream I've made that doesn't need to be cooked - the tart flavors of lemon and mascarpone are so great together. Finally comes a layer of blueberries topped with a honey-jam glaze.
This is the perfect summery dessert for a nice dinner, and so simple to make. It can easily not be gluten-free if you don't have an allergy - just leave out the xanthan gum and substitute regular all-purpose flour for the gluten-free flour.

 Gluten-Free Blueberry Lemon Cornmeal Tart
(adapted from Epicurious)

Gluten-Free Cornmeal Rosemary Crust
1 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (not stone-ground)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Lemon Mascarpone Cream
1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
1 cup mascarpone cheese (8 oz)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons raspberry jelly
1 tablespoon honey
1 pint fresh blueberries

To make crust:
Pulse together flour, cornmeal, sugar, xanthan gum, and salt in a food processor. Add butter and rosemary and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Drizzle evenly with 4 tablespoons ice water and pulse until just incorporated.
Gently squeeze a small handful: If it doesn't hold together, add more water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition and continuing to test. Press dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of a 9 or 10-inch fluted tart pan (round or square). Smooth dough with fingers and trim dough edges so they are flush with the pan rim. Chill crust until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Bake crust in middle of oven until center and edges are golden, 25 to 30 minutes (don't worry if bottom of crust cracks), then cool in pan on a rack.

To prepare filling and assemble tart:
Whisk together greek yogurt, mascarpone, sugar, zest, and salt in a bowl.
Heat jelly and honey in the microwave for 1 minute, or until the jelly is melted, then cool glaze slightly.
Remove side of tart pan and spread mascarpone cream in shell. Arrange fresh blueberries decoratively over cream. Brush blueberries with honey glaze.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sun-Baked S'mores

Some recipes can really only be made in hot weather. Sure, you can make ice cream in the middle of winter (trust me, if you do, you are not alone), but it would be harder to do something like bake chocolate chip cookies in your car when there is snow outside. Today, I made one of these recipes.
New York has hit a heat wave. At the day camp I'm working at, we do lots of science experiments. We decided that we wanted s'mores, but it was much too hot to spend time outside, and the rule against a campfire inside a school building wasn't going to stop us! Another counselor suggested making them in the sun, which ended up working out really well.
It is so simple, and so much easier than building a campfire! You assemble an entire s'more, uncooked marshmallow and unmelted chocolate and all, on a piece of tinfoil.
Wrap it up in the tinfoil (we made lots and lots!). Place them someplace hot, like in your car or in direct sunlight. We put ours on trays on the roof of the building.
About an hour later, they are ready to eat! The marshmallows will be pretty gooey (leave them longer if you want them really melted) and the chocolate will be melted. We used chocolate chips to ensure that they melted, but a piece of a chocolate bar should work too. Unwrap and enjoy! <3
Sun-Baked S'mores
(recipe by a fellow camp counselor)

1 full graham cracker
about 10 chocolate chips
1 marshmallow

Break the graham cracker in half. Layer one half, the chocolate chips, the marshmallow, and then the other half. Wrap in a sheet of tinfoil.
Place in a very hot place, such as a surface in direct sunlight (if it's very hot out), or a car that has been sitting in the heat for a while.
After about an hour, unwrap and enjoy!
-makes 1 s'more

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

TWD: Semolina Bread

I am so excited about this recipe. The warm, crusty bread served hot at nearly every Italian restaurant in NYC? The one I've been wishing I knew how to make? I found it.
This bread is not exactly like the ones I get served at restaurants. It's not as flimsy, not as full of holes. It's so much better. It has a soft center but very crisp edges, and a great, slightly salty taste that makes it perfect for spreading with butter (but not so much so with fruit spreads).
This recipe is so easy to make. If you've never touched a packet of yeast before in your life, you can still make this bread. The dough is super quick to put together (especially if you use a stand mixer, like I did). I completely messed up the two rises - for the first, the loaf rose for about four hours instead of two, and for the second, the loaf was out in the open for about 8 hours before staying in the fridge overnight. Neither of these extremely long rises was intentional (I just wasn't home at the right times), but they ended up working out well, especially since my house was air-conditioned, which makes for longer rises. Some bakers in the group complained about an overly salty loaf; I put in the two teaspoons of salt the recipe calls for and thought that it was salty, but not more than it should be.
Thanks to Anna of Keep it Luce and Renee of The Way to My Family's Heart for being wonderful hosts for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Chocolate Mousse Buttercream

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine and I were hanging out at my house. Our plan was to bake something, but we simply couldn't decide what. I pulled out one of my favorite baking books, Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey, and we decided that the recipe had to come from it. (FIY, no, this is not a paid or even sponsored book review, I just think the book is beautiful and has delicious recipes.) When my friend flipped to the page with a glossy picture of a sky-high chocolate mousse cake, we knew that was it.
My friend had never baked before in her life. I mean, never. Not even a chocolate chip cookie. So I figured that a cake that large probably wasn't the greatest first recipe. We decided to make it into cupcakes instead. Little did I know, this recipe would take us several hours! The actual cupcake batter didn't take too long, but we had some issues with the frosting. It never totally emulsified like the recipe says it will - it was delicious, but had tiny bits of butter spread out through it. I think our problem was that we didn't soften the butter enough when we pounded it, so the butter was never beaten as much as it needed to be.
That said, the cake part of the cupcakes was so delicious, the buttery bits in the frosting didn't matter. The cake was super moist, rich, and dark, and nobody minded that the recipe made a huge batch of about 3 dozen cupcakes! Looking back, maybe this wasn't the best first recipe for a new teenage baker, but hey, she won't be easily intimidated by recipes in the future, right? We agreed that these cupcakes are delicious and so worth the time that goes into them.
Enjoy! <3
Devil's Food Cupcakes with Chocolate Mousse Buttercream
(slightly adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey)

Devil's Food Cupcakes
1/3 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Lightly grease 36 cupcake cups, or line with paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine the cocoa powder, espresso powder, and chocolate. Pour in the boiling water and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Let the mixture cool, then stir in the buttermilk.
In another bowl, using an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the butter and oil together until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add one third of the flour mixture to the batter and beat at low speed for a few seconds, just until combined. Beat in half of the chocolate-buttermilk mixture, again beating for just a few seconds, just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in another one third of the remaining flour mixture for no more than a few seconds, just until combined. Add the remaining chocolate-buttermilk mixture, beating just for a few seconds until combined. Finally, fold in the remaining one third of the flour mixture by hand, using a large balloon whisk or rubber spatula, just until no streaks of flour remain.
Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake tins. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes (start checking at 15). Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.

Chocolate Mousse Buttercream
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 pounds (6 sticks) cold unsalted butter
8 to 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and cocoa powder in the metal bowl of a stand mixer.
Fill a large sauté pan or skillet with water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Place the mixing bowl in the simmering water and whisk the egg mixture constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is thick and fluffy and very hot, 3 to 4 minutes. Use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature of the mixture; it should be anywhere between 120 and 140 F.
Remove the bowl from the simmering water and, using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium-high speed until they are tripled in volume and form soft peaks and the bottom of the bowl is completely cool to the touch, about 10 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and salt.
While the eggs are mixing, unwrap the individual sticks of butter and rewrap them loosely in plastic wrap. Pound the butter 5 or 6 times with a rolling pin, or until the butter is soft and malleable but still cool.
With the mixer speed still on medium-high, add the butter, approximately 2 tablespoons at a time, to the egg mixture, beating in each addition until it is incorporated. Don't start to panic if the buttercream seems too liquidy or looks curdled as you beat in the butter. It will magically emulsify into a smooth, creamy frosting by the time the last bit of butter is mixed in. Hold your breath and keep going!
When the buttercream is smooth and glossy with a subtle brown tint from the cocoa powder, turn off the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in about two thirds of the melted chocolate. Taste the buttercream. You can add as much of the remaining melted chocolate as you like for an evern richer, denser buttercream.

Frost cupcakes with the mousse buttercream. You will probably have some extra frosting depending on how much you use for the cupcakes, but I'm sure you can find something to do with it! If you feel like using it for some vanilla cupcakes, these are delicious.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gluten-Free Greek Yogurt Pancakes

I woke up yesterday morning wanting something besides my usual yogurt or toast for breakfast. I hadn't made pancakes for a long time - since my mom was diagnosed with Celiac disease, we mostly make pancakes from a gluten-free mix. I was tired of the same mix over and over, so I suggested finding a recipe from scratch. I found one online that had greek yogurt in it and was pretty healthy, which is always a plus around here, especially with so many sweets around all the time. My dad and I got to work!
These were very good pancakes. They weren't perfect - my mom said she prefers the mix. That is not okay with me ;) I'll keep working on the perfect gluten-free pancake recipe for her. My dad and I really liked them though: they were thick, tasty, and not too sweet. These definitely need a nice topping to add some flavor, as the pancakes on their own are a bit bland - I love maple syrup or nutella with berries.
Enjoy! <3
Gluten-Free Greek Yogurt Pancakes
(adapted from Fest)

1 1/2 cups plain greek yogurt
2 eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, egg and vanilla with a whisk. The mixture should be a pale yellow with a few lumps here and there.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, xanthan gum, cinnamon, and baking soda. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. The batter will be very thick.
Using a griddle or skillet on medium-high heat, spray with cooking spray and spoon batter to form a pancake of your desired size. Wait about 3 minutes or until bubbles start to form. Flip and cook for about 2 more minutes. Serve with your favorite sweet topping.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Creamy Brazilian-Style Flan (Pudim de Leite Condensado)

My parents and I recently had dinner at a Cuban restaurant near our house. The food was great, but the dessert was what stuck in our minds. We ordered the Cuban-style flan, and it was the creamiest flan we had ever tasted. It was almost like eating a thick pastry cream, only so much better. After the first bite, my mom and I knew we had to recreate it.
We asked the waitress what was in it, and she mentioned evaporated milk. The flan was very much like the custard we eat all the time in Brazil, but creamier, so we decided to use a traditional Brazilian recipe but swap in evaporated milk for regular. Although it is not traditional, we also added in a little bit of vanilla, which you can't make out distinctly but adds to the overall flavor.
It ended up working out so well. The flan was delicious, very much like the one we had at the restaurant. It combined the creaminess of the Cuban flan with the burnt-sugar taste and slightly spongy texture of the Brazilian, and was just what we had hoped for.
We cooked ours in a special Brazilian flan pan, which is a flan mold over a saucepan of the same size, which has simmering water in it. The instructions I have included are for baking it, but if you have a pan that fits over one of your saucepans and has a lid, by all means, do use it.
Enjoy! <3
Creamy Brazilian-Style Flan (Pudim de Leite Condensado)

6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons water
2 14-oz cans sweetened condensed milk
2 14-oz cans evaporated milk
6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a very clean standard tube/bundt cake pan (one without a design or pattern), mix together the water and granulated sugar. Place the pan over a direct flame and stir the mixture until it darkens into a honey-colored caramel. Remove from heat and tilt the pan so that the caramel covers the sides as well as the bottom of the pan.
In a blender or food processor, combine the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs, and vanilla. Blend only until no streaks remain.
Pour the mixture into the caramel-lined tube pan. Place the tube pan into roasting pan with a dishcloth in the bottom (to prevent the pans from rattling against each other in the oven). Place the two pans into the oven and pour in about two inches of warm water.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the custard comes out with only a few streaks and it still jiggles slightly when moved. Refrigerate for at least two hours before unmolding onto a plate. Refrigerate until serving.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

TWD Rewind: Granola Grabbers

Looks can be deceiving. Sometimes. If this had been true for these cookies, the ugly lumps would be delicious. Sadly, I disagree.
I basically stuck to the recipe for this one. The only changes I made were using unsweetened coconut flakes instead of sweetened and putting in 1/2 instead of 1/3 cup of wheat germ (which was actually a mistake). The dough was crumbly and hard to shape into mounds, even with my cookie scoop.
I thought these were just okay. They were yummy enough to eat for dessert, despite the breakfast-like name, but I've had much better from the book. However, other people seemed to disagree - they were consumed pretty quickly! Oh well, differences in opinion...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Chocolate Chip Toffee Bit Cookies

I had a few hours to kill in Times Square by myself (not sure if you knew, I live in New York). As I wandered through souvenir stores and streets swarming with tourists, I looked up at the huge neon signs ahead of me and realized I was right by the Hershey store. Well, what's a baker to do but go in and look around?
The intoxicating smell of chocolate got to me, and I knew I had to come home with something! I saw a display of baking bits, and knew I had found the right place. The toffee bits reminded me of cookies I used to make with them, so I came home and later that week tried to recreate them.
I couldn't remember what the exact recipe I used was, but I figured Hershey's website was the best place to go. These cookies are so quick and easy to make, and are perfect. The dough is chewy with a hint of vanilla, full of chocolate chips and little bits of toffee. Chocolate chip cookies are one of my favorite cookies (besides black and white cookies - anyone have a great recipe?), and adding bits of caramel-y goodness just takes them to the next level.
Enjoy! <3

Chocolate Chip Toffee Bit Cookies
(from Hershey's Kitchens)

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup toffee bits
1 cup dark or semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375°F.
Stir together flour, baking soda and salt.
Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs; blend well.
Gradually add flour mixture, beating well. Stir in toffee bits and chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.
-about 4 dozen cookies

Thursday, July 5, 2012

TWD: Hazelnut Biscotti

Biscotti are one of those things that I've never been particularly interested in knowing how to make. I don't really love the ones you can usually buy in bakeries or coffee shops, but I had never had a homemade one. When I saw that these were this week's pick for Tuesdays with Dorie, I was excited to see if they would be as tooth-breaking as the store-bought ones. I'm glad to say that they are not!
These are delicious and so easy. I made sure to do the boiling of the nuts in a black pot, as I heard it could stain pans. All these stained were my fingers! These have a lovely flavor and are the perfect gift to ship, because they will keep for up to a month.
Give these a try! As always, the recipe can be found on the hosts' blogs. Thanks to the lovely hosts, Jodi of Homemade and Wholesome and Katrina of Baking and Boys. Enjoy! <3

Monday, July 2, 2012

S'more Milkshakes

I love Food Network. Like, a ridiculous amount. I end up buying the magazine every month, so I should really just get a subscription... Yeah, eventually ;)
One of my favorite things about the magazine is the little booklets of 50 recipes for one type of thing, like Christmas cookies or tacos. This month's booklet was for milkshakes - we knew there would be some happening in our house!
These were the first ones we decide to try, and they were amazing. The broiled marshmallows add a delicious flavor and texture, and I would like it even with more graham crackers: they were just crumbled on top, but could have been inside too. Overall, a great quick dessert that will be made again with friends!
(I apologize for the dark iPhone pictures: I am away and didn't bring my good camera!) Enjoy! <3
S'more Milkshakes
(from Food Network Magazine)

8 marshmallows
1/4 cup milk
1 pint chocolate ice cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
A few graham crackers

Broil marshmallows for a couple of minutes, flipping until evenly browned.
Blend together the milk, ice cream, vanilla, salt, and 6 of the marshmallows until creamy and well mixed.
Pour into glasses and top with each with a broiled marshmallow and graham cracker crumbs.
-makes 2 milkshakes