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Changing Scenery {recipe: carrot cake cupcakes}

17 Mar
From carrot cake cupcakes

I recently changed desks at work. In three years, this is the fifth cube that I have occupied. I think I am the most-moved one on the team, and I like it. I love changing desks, even if it’s just a few yards over, or swapping with someone on the next row. Management likes to keep us all sitting near the people we are working directly with, which helps collaboration and discussion, and I like new things. Not bright-shiny new, but just new-to-me things. New cube neighbors, a new view.

My current cube is somewhat in the middle of our department, technically on a row with people who I am not on a team with.

They are nice enough to let me sit here. So I made them cupcakes.

I took photos of these cupcakes because they were soooooooo pretty (probably because they weren’t my idea, but they were Deb’s), but I have had them for weeks and forgot that I had not posted the recipe.

From carrot cake cupcakes

These are very, very good. The carrot cake is moist and the frosting is creamy and sweet. Smitten Kitchen used maple in the frosting, but I did not have maple syrup, so I used honey and all was well.

From carrot cake cupcakes

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

yields 24 cupcakes

2 c. all purpose flour

2 t. baking soda

1 t. salt1 T.  ground cinnamon

1 t. ground nutmeg

2 t. ground ginger

2 c. sugar

1 1/4 c. canola oil

4 large eggs

3 c. grated carrots (I used a food processor to grate them)

1 c. coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.

Place liners in 24 muffin cups.

Stir sugar and oil together until incorporated.

Add in eggs one at a time and stir after each addition.

Add spices,  salt, and baking soda and stir well.

Add in flour and stir until blended.

Stir in carrots and nuts.

Drop into cupcake cups.

Bake 12 to 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool in pans for about 10 minutes then transfer cakes to a cooling rack.

The cupcakes should cool completely before you frost them.

Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

16 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar

1/4 c. honey

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy (this will take about 10 minutes).

Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

For the spikey frosting, I used a Wilton #129 tip and just kept dolliping, dolliping, dolliping!

English Toffee

10 Feb

 

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I have a confession. I am a horrible fudge and toffee-maker. I would like to blame this on bad candy thermometers or (some other culprit I can’t think of, but I think it is me. A few Christmases ago, during my mom and my annual Christmas baking, I put my name next to Peanut Butter Fudge. Namely, because I love it. When I was younger, we would go to Galveston Beach and shop on the Strand, our last stop would be The Peanut Butter Warehouse, which my mom enjoyed for its antiques and I enjoyed for its fudge. The rest of the family would meander around the store, and I would pace back and forth in front of the fudge counter. I would feast my eyes of toffees and fudges, truffles and cordials, brittle, cookies, and all things chocolate-covered knowing my dad would return to get me and let me pick out one (maayyyybe two) treats for the walk back to the car. Dad and I would walk in the back of our group of people, I would savour my choice of fudge and he would sneak me pieces of him. I always liked peanut butter fudge, especially with a layer of chocolate on the top. So, two Christmases ago, I took on my own Peanut Butter Fudge. I took it on once, twice, three times with two different recipes, and each time, ended up wither with a runny, mushy, Peanut Butter Sludge (still tasty when drizzled over icecream) or something hard and burned, where the sugar had beyond-crystalized. Yuck. I have this twitch engrained in my head that if something I tried to make doesn’t turn out, it must because I did something wrong, and if I try harder, there’s no reason I can’t get it right. So, try, try again. I did nothing that day but look at different recipes and pout over batch after batch of ruined fudge.

Since then, I have kind of stayed away from anything involving candy thermometers, for the most part. I tried in the fall to make a delicious-looking Pumpkin Fudge, but again got Pumpkin Sludge.

This Christmas, we were at my mom’s friend JoAnn’s house. JoAnn, couth and adept in the kitchen, refined and at-ease in such a way that you really think, just for a second, the exquisite Cornish hens baking in the oven of her spotless kitchen may have been easy. You know they weren’t, but she sure makes them look otherwise.

A sheet of English Toffee lay on her kitchen table, half broken into pieces, half still in sheet-form, waiting for its last step. I helped myself to a small piece of toffee, and it was heavenly. The kind you would buy in some gourmet store wrapped in simple chic packaging for a mere $10. And you would feel like you got a good deal because ohmygoshthistoffeeissososogood.

I sheepishly asked for the recipe, with flashbacks of my skill in ruining fudge and toffees to be met with “oh, this is so easy” (me thinking: “but you have no idea”). She pulled the recipe out of a notebook, old and stained with butter-splatters and decorated with grains of sugar that had gone astray from their own recipe.

Long story short, I made the toffee. It was successful. Wonderful. Delish. No candy thermometer required…


JoAnn’s English Toffee.

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1 lb (4 sticks) plus 1 ½ T. salted butter. Do not (please do not) use margarine. The increased water content in margarine will make your recipe fail.

2 c. Sugar

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips.

 

Melt butter with sugar in heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat., stirring constantly with a heatproof spoon. Stir until the mixture turns a dark caramel color (about 8-10 minutes). Pour onto cookie sheet. Cool. Melt chocolate chips with 1 ½ T. butter at 30 second intervals in microwave, stir between each interval. Do not overheat. Spread chocolate over cooled toffee.


Chocolate Mousse

6 Feb

This Chocolate Mousse is rich in flavour and light in texture, it only has a few ingredients, and you probably have them all on hand! Ready, set, go!

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(put any dessert or appetizer in a martini glass and it looks 1,000 times more chic)

Chocolate Mousse with Fresh Whipped

serves 8. 

3/4 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, diced

2 tablespoons espresso or very strong coffee or vanilla

1 cup cold heavy cream

3 large eggs, separated

2 tablespoons sugar

(Optional) extra whipped cream (if you want whipped cream, whip 1 cup heavy cream to soft peaks, then add 1/3 c sugar and whip to stiff peaks)
Whip 1 cup cream to soft peaks, then refrigerate.

Combine chocolate, butter, and espresso in a microwave-safe bowl, microwave 40 seconds on med. power, stir, repeat until the chocolate is just slightly warmer than room temperature.

While chocolate is cooling, whip the egg whites in a medium bowl until they are foamy and beginning to hold shape.

Sprinkle in the sugar and beat until soft peaks form.

Stir the yolks into the chocolate mixture. Gently stir in half of the whipped cream. Fold in half the whites just until incorporated, fold in the rest of the whites followed by the rest of the whipped cream.

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Mmmmm, Donuts

11 Jan

These are for you, Jenn. Yes, you. Make them for Dave and maybe you’ll get exactly what you want today 🙂 .

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Donut Muffins, doesn’t sound like there can be anything wrong there, right? Right. I love donuts, I love cake donuts, and those old-fashioned sour cream ones with the plain glaze. We used to get donuts every time we went to Colorado to see my grandparents; Grandpa would take us because it was the only time that Grandma would let him get donuts. Grandpa would use our visit to seize all donut flavors in one trip, as
he would have no foreseeable donut-run in the future. Usually, a trip to the donut shoppe was an enigmatic one, it involved lots of time and thought because I would have only as much time as there were people in front of us in the line to examine all donuts and tell my dad the two that I would sink my teeth into that morning. Chocolate or vanilla? Filled or not? The options went on and on. When we were in Colorado, no decisions were necessary. All holds were barred as bear claws, apple fritters, long johns, and jelly-filled donuts would go, one-by-one into the box. We would take them home and mom and Grandma would roll their eyes as we revealed two dozen donuts for the six of us.

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While these muffins are no donut, really, they bring back the smells and tastes of the familiar donut run…I am pretty much it has everything to do with the step in the recipe that reads “Roll or dip the muffins in the melted butter and then in the cinnamon/sugar mixture.” Oh, just make them. Indulge yourself.

Donut Muffins

makes 24.

muffins

2/3 c. oil

1 c. sugar

2 eggs

3 c. flour

4 t. baking powder

1 t. salt

1 t. nutmeg

1 c. milk

topping

1 c. sugar

2 sticks butter, melted

2 t. cinnamon

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if using a dark, nonstick pan) and grease a muffin pan

Mix oil, 1 cup sugar, and eggs in a medium bowl.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg together.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk to the oil mixture, making three additions of flour mix and two of milk.

Spoon batter into greased muffin tins, about 1/2 full.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Immediately remove muffins from pan when done and roll (or dip) in melted butter, then roll in cinnamon and sugar.

Eat them warm!

I. Love. Winter. Foods.

10 Jan

Period.

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This is awesome, and easy. Who ever though packaged oatmeal was good for anything but a mid-morning office hunger-buster (thanks to you, hot water tap).

So, here it is. The Cranberry Apple Crisp. Starring….packaged oatmeal! I have made this dish both in a casserole dish and in little, individual oven safe bowls. If you do the latter, take them out of the oven hot and put a cold soop of vanilla icecream atop the granola crumble and you won’t evey turn away from this recipe. You have no reason not to make this.

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Cranberry Apple Crisp

serves 8.

3 c. chopped Granny Smith apples

2 c. fresh cranberries

1 c. white sugar

3 T. flour

3 (1 5/8 oz.) packages quick-cooking oatmeal (vanilla or cinnamon & spice or apples & spice)

1/4 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the apples and the cranberries with white  sugar and flour.

Pour into 2 qt casserole dish or 8×8 pan.

Mix remaining ingredients, spoon over top of mixture.

Bake uncovered at 350 for 45 minutes.

This recipe is modified from AB, who makes it every year for our holiday potluck at work.

Dark Chocolate, White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

16 Nov

Some cookies are pretty, others are not, some are homemade and others store-bought (just had to keep going there). These cookies are dark–an Oreo-Cookie-how-did-you-make-chocolate-that-dark? kind of dark. They are very tasty though, like the dark chocolate truffle cream that is inside of a milk chocolate candy in a box of chocolates.

This recipe is void of eggs, so the cookies spread apart a lot and are prone to breaking (leaving me to be prone to unnecessarily eating all broken cookies).

Dark Chocolate, White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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1 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup Hershey Special Dark Dutch-Process (this is essential for the dark-chocolateness of the cookie

1/2 cup butter, cubed and room temp

3/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup milk

1 1/2 cups chopped white chocolate, white chocolate chips, or white chocolate chunks.

Preheat oven to 325 and place oven racks in the upper and lower middle position.

Whisk flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa.

Beat butter until light and add sugars, creaming well.

Add vanilla and beat until smooth.

Add flour mixture in 2 batches, alternately with the milk.

Chill dough for 15 minutes.

Scoop dough into balls and bake 10 minutes.

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Sweet Potato Bundt Cake with Spiced Buttered Rum Glaze

31 Oct

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I have an odd aversion to bundt cakes that is tied specifically to Ms. Muehe’s Spring 2003 AP Calculus class. There was a day in class that we thought we were having a party – Ms. Muehe told us to bring bundt cakes to class. This was going to be awesome, an hour and a half of cake was my kind of way to spend a class period. The next day, we brought our cakes, BUT before we could eat them, we had to devise some crazy integrals to figure out the volume of the cakes and then the volume of specific slices before they ended up in our mouths. This was not so fun. Oh, how I should have paid better attention in the days prior, this was the one time in my life that I would wish I knew the disk method to find the volume of the revolution about the bundt cake axis by summing cylinders of infinitesmal width about its axis. I never again have hoped for this knowledge and probably never will again. Long story short, my Calculus buddy (and four-years-later-to-be-husband) calculated my volume and I got to eat my piece of cake and the better part of his 🙂

The sweet potato in this cake makes it very moist without the decadence of adding extra butter or oil to get that moist texture. The recipe also incorporates in-season sweet potatoes, and the spiced rum is reminiscent of other fall favorites like apple cider. It would be great served with coffee for breakfast when you’ve got a house full of holiday guests.

Also, for those of you who are wondering, I am going to ignore the fact that I haven’t posted in a while and just move forward from here. Thanks.

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Sweet Potato Bundt Cake with Spiced Buttered Rum Glaze

recipe courtesy of Dave Lieberman .

For the batter:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups cooked sweet potato meat (about 2 sweet potatoes)

3 eggs

3/4 cup warm water

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup toasted walnuts, crushed

For the glaze:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 to 3 tablespoons spiced rum

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.Lightly grease a 10-cup bundt pan.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set the mixture aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, mash the sweet potato, leaving only a slight meaty texture.

Whisk together the sweet potato and the eggs.

Whisk in the warm water, then the sugar, then the oil followed by the vanilla extract.

Stir in the dry ingredients until homogenous then fold in raisins and walnuts.

Spoon the batter into the prepared bundt pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Let the cake cool in the tin for 15 minutes and invert onto a serving platter or cake stand.

Meanwhile, make the glaze:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (or in the microwave) with the rum.

Pull from the heat and whisk in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.

Pour the glaze over the cooled cake. Slice and serve.