Monthly Archives: January 2012

Stained Glass Sugar Cookies

When I saw these cookies in the December issue of Everyday Food, I was excited!  They looked pretty awesome, yet deceptively simple.  I love chocolate and rich desserts, but I do recognize that not everyone shares my taste.  When putting together my Christmas cookie list, I wanted a cookie that was simple, sweet, and non-chocolate.  These stained glass sugar cookies fit the bill perfectly!  They received a lot of positive feedback from the non-chocolate lovers and chocolate lovers in my life!  I feel like you could use any hard candy to make them peppermint flavored, cinnamon flavored, or even butterscotch flavored.  The bright color and flavor of the Jolly Ranchers really made me happy!

Warning – I did ding up my wooden rolling pin pretty badly trying to crush the Jolly Ranchers!  I know I need a better quality rolling pin anyway, but I love that I bought that rolling pin at Meijer when I was in college.  So many good memories together!

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Stained Glass Sugar Cookies
Everyday Food, December 2011, page 103

Yield – 3 dozen

3 cups flour
3/4 tea. baking powder
1/4 tea. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 table. vanilla extract
Finely crushed Jolly Ranchers

Sift together the flour, powder, and salt onto parchment paper.  Beat the butter and sugar on high speed in a mixer with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy for about 3 minutes.  Add in the egg yolks and the vanilla and beat to combine.  On lowest speed, add in the flour and beat until everything is just combined.  Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap to be refrigerated for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 °F.  On a floured surface, roll the dough into a thickness of 1/8″ and use a medium cutter dipped in flour to cut out your shape.  Use a smaller cutter to cut out the middle shape.  With a small offset spatula, place each cookie on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Crush the Jolly Ranchers in a plastic bag wrapped in a towel using your rolling pin.  Bake each cookie tray for about 4 minutes and then pull out of the oven to sprinkle the crushed Jolly Ranchers in the centers.  Bake for another 4-5 minutes until the cookies just begin to brown and the candy is melted.  Let cool on the cookie sheet and then finish cooling on a wire rack.  You need to use parchment because the parchment allows the cookies to peal off very nicely!

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Butterlane Cupcake Class

The cupcakes I made and frosted at Butterlane!

Over a year ago some friends and I bought Groupons to take a cupcake class at Butter Lane Bakery and we finally got around to taking the class this December.  I’m not a huge fan of bakery cupcakes, I tend to find them a little dry, but Butter Lane is one of the better bakeries in the city.  They have simple, clean, and delicious flavors.  They also have one of the best vanilla frosting I’ve ever tasted.  I took the class because I wanted to see how an actual bakery works.  We had a lot of fun even though Diane messed up the chocolate cake!  I wouldn’t use their cake recipes, but their frostings are delicious!  I really like their approach to frostings, they make 3 basic frostings (vanilla, cream cheese, and chocolate) and then they add spices, jams, or different extracts to make a wider variety of flavors.  This would be really fun if you were making simple cupcakes and wanted a variety.  You make one batch of frosting and then divide it into different bowls to mix in the various ingredients.

I learned two things at the class: 1 – Cream cheese absorbs sugar and that is why cream cheese is frosting is so runny.  Lately, I’ve been reducing the amount of cream cheese in my frosting recipes and substituting that amount with butter.  I still taste the cream cheese, but the frosting are a little thicker and easier to work with.  2 – You can add a couple of ounces of cream cheese to any frosting recipe and it will stop the frosting from getting the crustiness on top.  Good to know!

Here is the link to all of Butterlane’s recipes available for free on their Facebook page!

Overall, it was  a fun evening and I would definitely recommend attending their cupcake class!

Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Frosting

Raspberry Frosting

Cinnamon Frosting

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

These could also be called the cuteness of all cutenesses!  I try not to throw that phrase around unnecessarily, as it would lose its meaning, but I think this is applicable usage.  These cupcakes were inspired by many sources.  The idea to put the peanut buttercup inside the cupcake is from The Little Kitchen and the idea for the “mini-cupcake” on top is from Bake Perfection.  Even though both of these blogs had great ideas, I did not want to use either of their recipes because they both rely on boxed mixes.  There is nothing wrong with boxed mixes, it’s just not for me, I like the challenge and flavor of from scratch baking much more.

There were a few moans while taste testing these cupcakes. The chocolate cupcake is moist and tender and the frosting is everything a peanut butter frosting should be.  It is creamy, smooth, and has just the right amount of flavor without being overly sweet.  The Reese’s cup inside and on top just make the final product that much better!

I made these cupcakes in honor of my dear friend Christopher’s birthday.  He is such a fantastic friend he drives my sorry butt home everyday after work even though it is out of his way because he “enjoys” my conversation and company!  I never worry about how I’m going to get home after work events, because he is always looking out for me.  Plus, Christopher is one of my number one test tasters!  It’s always fun to bake for people that truly enjoy eating!

Print the recipe.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa
Yields 21 cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes
12 table. unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tea. vanilla
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
2 table. coffee
1 3/4 cup flour
1 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tea. baking soda
1/2 tea. salt
21 small Reese’s peanut butter cups, unwrapped and frozen

Preheat the oven to 350 F and beat the butter and sugars in a mixer with a paddle attachment for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time and then add in the vanilla.  Scrap down the bowl.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, and salt on to parchment paper.  Whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee in a 2 cup measuring cup.  On low speed add the flour mixture and the liquid mixture to the butter alternating in thirds starting with the liquids and ending with the flour.  Scoop into lined cupcake pans using a standard ice cream scoop.  Place one Reese’s cup in each cupcake and push down.  Bake for 18 minutes and check with a toothpick for doneness.  Let cool in the cupcake pan for about 15 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Peanut Butter Frosting
2 cups creamy peanut butter
10 table. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tea. vanilla
a good pinch of kosher salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3-1/2 cup heavy cream
21 Reese’s peanut butter cups, unwrapped
Sprinkles

Place the butter, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl a mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on high speed until well combined.  Add in the powdered sugar and mix on low speed.  Gradually add in the cream into the frosting until it becomes a nice spreading consistency.

Using a small piping bag and a Wilton #18 tip, pipe a little frosting onto each Reese’s peanut butter cup, sprinkle with a few sprinkles.

Using a larger piping bag and an Ateco #828 tip, pipe frosting onto each cooled cupcake.  Sprinkle the top with a few sprinkles and add a frosted peanut butter cup to each cupcake.

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Heath Toffee Cupcakes

These cupcakes should look familiar, they are the heading for this blog!  I made these birthday cupcakes for my dear friend and baking buddy Irene.  Irene and I spend a lot time looking at cooking blogs, talking about recipes, and emailing each other ideas.  It’s so nice to have a friend I see almost day to discuss the ins-and-outs of baking/cooking.  We spend almost every lunch period discussing what turned out well, what didn’t, and how to improve.  Not everyone understands the frustrations, triumphs, costs, and time that goes into baking/cooking, but Irene does!

This recipe, like many so far, is from one of our favorite bloggers Annie, from Annie’s Eats.  Many mornings start with “Did you see what Annie posted?”  Usually we can finish each other’s sentence.  When we saw this recipe I asked if she wanted me to make these for her birthday and she said said absolutely!

The chocolate cupcake is a little dry and crumbly but still has a great flavor.  The ganache is delicious, but I bet it is hard to find a bad ganache!  The toffee inside the cupcake and on the ganache is a delicious treat!  I think toffee is an underutilized flavor, it’s a nice change from mint, caramel, or peanut butter as an accompaniment to chocolate.  The caramel Swiss meringue butter cream is sweet and delightful.  If you have never made SWBC do it!  It is worth the effort and the double boiler.  Again my caramel was a little chunky in the SWBC, but there was strong caramel flavor throughout.

Print the recipe!

Heath Toffee Cupcakes – adapted from Annie’s Eats
Yield – 16 cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cups all-purpose flours
1/4 + 1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 table. espresso powder – I used instant coffee
1/2 tea. baking soda
1/4 tea. salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 tea. vanilla
1/2 cup coffee
1/2 cup toffee bits – I used chopped up Heath bars (about 2 1/2)

Preheat the oven to 350 °F.  Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, instant coffee, baking soda, and salt onto wax paper.  I always sift onto wax paper because it makes it easy for me to get everything into the mixer and I don’t dirty a bowl.  In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment beat together the butter and sugar until pale yellow.  This takes about 3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time and then beat in the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients on the slowest speed in three batches with half the coffee in between.  Beat to combine.  I couldn’t find toffee bits, so I chopped up Heath bars into  ¼” pieces and folded them into the batter.  Using a standard ice cream scoop, place into the lined cupcake pans.  Bake 18 minutes checking to make sure the batter is done with a toothpick.  Some of the toffee bubbles up and looks real cool.  Place immediately on a wire rack to cool.

Ganache
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2  table. unsalted butter
1 cup toffee bits – I used chopped up Heath bars (about 3 1/2)

In a small sauce pan heat the heavy cream until it begins to simmer.  Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate.  Stir to combine and melt the chocolate. Add in the butter and again stir until everything is melted and deliciously creamy.  Put aside to cool.  Once cool, scoop the ganache into a piping bag with a round tip and pipe a ring around the the edge of each cupcake.  Place the chopped Heath bars on a plate and hold the cupcake upside down to dip into the pieces of candy.  Add extra candy by hand if you need to!

Caramel Swiss Meringue Butter Cream
5 egg whites
1 1/2  cup sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tea. kosher salt
1 table. vanilla
1/3 cup melted caramel (I used the little squares and melted them in the microwave)

Place the egg whites and the sugar in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Make sure the bowl does not touch the water.  Whisk the mixture frequently until you no longer feel any grittiness when you rub the mixture between your fingers.  Transfer the mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer and beat at high speed with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form and the bowl feel cools.  I swear to you, sometimes this takes 3 minutes, other days it takes 10.  Add in the butter 2 tablespoons at a time on a medium speed until all the butter is added.  Don’t worry if it looks funky, just keep beating.  Add in the salt, vanilla, and melted (and cooled) caramel into the mixer.  Fill a pastry bag with a star tip and pipe in the hole of ganache.  This frosting is delicious, the more the better!

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Rainbow Cookies

One cannot live on cupcakes alone, I can try, but sometimes I need to spice things up with a cookie or two!  Between the end of December and beginning of January birthdays and the family Christmas party, I have been making a lot of cupcakes.  I have more cupcakes coming up, but here is a cookie from the holiday baking spree.

Five years ago things were a lot different:

  • I was living with my parents while student teaching
  • I had never considered living in New York
  • I was baking with boxed mixes :-(
  • Finally, five years ago I had never even heard of a rainbow cookie!

I was first introduced to the rainbow cookie three years ago when my friend Dean wanted to make them for our little work Christmas Cookie Exchange.  He is not much of a baker so I offered to “help.”  I looked up a few recipes, bought the ingredients, and he came over and we made the cookies, they were awesomely delicious!  Ever since then, I have made rainbow cookies for Christmas.

I love these cookies because they are moist, spongy, and almond-y with a bit of fruit and chocolate.  Growing up I was never exposed to Italian desserts.  My Italian coworkers approve of rainbow cookies and family enjoys them as well when I bring them back to Michigan!

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Rainbow Cookies – adapted from allrecipes.com
Yield – a lot (I’ve never counted)

~ 10 oz almond pie filling – The can is 12.5 ounces, I don’t measure exactly, I just leave some in the bottom of the can
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tea. almond extract
2 cups all purpose flour
squirt of red gel food coloring – I use Americolor Tulip Red
squirt of green gel food coloring – I use Americolor Leaf Green
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
2 table. butter

Preheat oven to 350 to °F.  Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment add the almond pie filling and butter.  Cream until well combined.  Add in the sugar and beat again to combine.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Add in the almond extract and the flour.  Mix on the slowest speed until just combined.

Spread 1/2 of the batter onto a baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges turn slightly brown.  Be careful not to over bake.  Remove from the baking sheet, but leave on the parchment paper, and cool on a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, divide the remaining batter between two bowls.  Add a squirt of red to one and a squirt of green to the other.  Mix the color into each and spread on separate sheet pans.  Bake the red and green one at a time for 8-10 minutes and the let cool on their parchment paper.

Place the green layer on cooled baking sheet and spread with ¼ cup of raspberry jam.  Gently place the yellow (uncolored) layer on top and remove its parchment paper.  Spread the remaining jam on this layer.  Carefully place the red layer on top.  Place another cool cookie sheet on top and weigh down with several cans of food or other weight and place in the fridge over night or for several hours.

The next day, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between.  Once melted, add the butter and stir to combine.  Remove the stacked layers from the fridge and remove the parchment paper from the red layer.  Pour half the chocolate on top and spread over the top with an offset spatula.  Place back in the fridge for about 15 minutes or until the chocolate sets.  Carefully flip the whole thing over and repeat the chocolate layer on the green layer.

Once everything is set, use a large kitchen knife dipped in hot water (and dried) to cut the rainbow cookies into bite size pieces, approximately 96.

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Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

Another mini cupcake, but this one is so decadent I can’t even imagine it as a large cupcake.  Two bites are the perfect amount of goodness!  The cupcake starts with a rich and chocolatey  cupcake base, no worries – you don’t taste the beer at all, a rich & smooth whiskey chocolate ganache, and a creamy, boozy Bailey’s buttercream.  And no worries – you do taste the alcohol in the frosting and ganache!

I have made these cupcakes several times with great reviews and I have even brought them into work a couple of times.  They are assistant principal approved!  My family is not opposed to a drink or two, especially at a family Christmas party so I knew these would be a hit.  I have also made the ganache with Bailey’s instead of whiskey and it is equally as delicious.

Print the recipe!

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes – adapted from Annie’s Eats
Yield 36 mini cupcakes

Guinness Cupcakes
1/2 cup Guinness
8 table. unsalted butter
1/4 + 1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 tea. baking soda
1/4 + 1/8 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 °F.  In a small sauce pan melt the butter and the Guinness, put aside to cool slightly.  Sift together flour, sugar, soda, and salt onto wax paper.  Beat together the egg and the sour cream.  You can do this in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or you can do it with a regular old hand mixer.  I have used both with great results.  Pour in the butter mixture and beat to combine, then slowly add the dry ingredients and make sure everything is fully incorporated.  Use a small scooper, approximately 1 tablespoon, to scoop into lined mini cupcake pans.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until a toothpick inserted into a center cupcake comes out clean.  Remove from the pan immediately and cool on a wire rack.  Once cool, use a paring knife to cut a small cone from each cupcake.

Whiskey Ganache
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 table. butter
1 tea. whiskey (I bought a little bottle of Jameson)

Heat the cream in a small saucepan while you break up the chocolate.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted.  Add in the butter and the whiskey stirring to melt the butter.  Taste the ganache, if you want it to be booze-ier, add more whiskey!  Let cool and then place a baggie.  Clip off a corner and pipe into the cone of each cupcake.

Bailey’s Buttercream
8 table. unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
lots of Bailey’s, like 4-8 tablespoons

Beat the butter until it is pale yellow and fluffy.  Beat in the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time until well combined.  The frosting will be really thick at this point, add about 2 tablespoons of Bailey’s and beat in.  Keep adding Bailey’s until the frosting is a good constancy and has a strong flavor. Adapt as needed.  I like my frosting to taste strongly of Bailey’s!  Use a big star tip to pipe a big star on top covering the ganache!

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Roasted Chestnuts

I have never eaten a chestnut before but I have always been curious about them.  They are sort of my inspiration for my 52 New Foods New Year’s Resolution.  My very good friend and college roommate Lynn was visiting over New Year’s and one day we were enjoying our lunch in Chelsea Market talking about new foods and the little market across from where we sat eating our soup.  I thought the market would be super expensive, but it turns out the Manhattan Fruit Exchange is not too bad.  We saw a big barrel of chestnuts at a reasonable price so we bought half a pound for less than $2 and we’re excited about the prospect of freshly roasted chestnuts.

The jury is still out about chestnuts.  I don’t dislike them, and they are not bad tasting, but they weren’t over the top amazing.  Maybe I did not roast them properly, I don’t know.  I am no longer afraid of the chestnut and I am more than willing to try them again, especially if someone else makes them!  Not a bad attempt for my first try at a brand new food!  The experiment will continue.

Lynn enjoying a chestnut!

I looked up a lot of different recipes on-line and they all said basically same thing.  Here is how Lynn and I roasted the chestnuts.

1. Preheat the oven to 400 °F.

2. Make a deep X in each chestnut with a paring knife.  The deeper the better.  It makes it easier after roasting to peel.

3. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast for 20 minutes until they smell roasted and/or look a deeper shade of brown.

4. Right after removing from oven start to peel the hard shells and skins off.  Be careful, they are hot!  We used towels to hold them and a paring knife to get them open.  Some chestnuts came out whole and others in pieces.

5. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt and enjoy!

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