Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Margarita Cupcakes

I love when friends of mine post things they think I should make on my Facebook page.  So when one of them posted a recipe for Margarita Cupcakes, I knew I had to make them - and soon.  Margaritas is always one of my go-to favorite drinks when I'm in the mood for something other than beer.  I mean who doesn't like a margarita?!  And in the form of a cupcake?!  My Dad was really excited to try them out.  These are really easy, you can sub out the box mix and use your favorite from scratch recipe if you want, and very tasty.  The flavor isn't over powering at all and it ends up being a nice light cupcake that would be perfect in the spring or summer.  Or for National Margarita Day - which was last week, I totally dropped the ball and missed it.  But if you are looking for a new cupcake that has an adult kick, then look no further.  You will be pleased with these and make them time and time again. And they really do taste like a Margarita.  I promise you will be very impressed with these.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Snickers Cake

I found this in Food Network's Magazine.  It looked amazing - and it was mostly premade stuff, which I knew I would make from scratch.  I was on a mission to make this amazing cake, even though I hate Snickers.  I mean it sounded so simple, what could go wrong?  Oh man was this a doozy. 
Even I have to admit it looks really good
My search started out looking for something simple, Dulce de Leche.  I couldn't find it anywhere.  I searched high and low for it and nothing.  I wasn't going to drive 30 minutes away on the off chance they would have it.  So I went home and made my own.  2 cans of Sweetened Condensed Milk over a double boiler, and 5 hours of stirring every 15 minutes later, I had my own Dulce de Leche.  Yes, I really spent 5 hours of my day making this.  And a little over an hour to it, one of my best friends posted a link to make it in my microwave in 20 minutes.  The taunting was hysterical, it made the 5 hours go by very quickly. 

Now I have nothing against using premade things, I just prefer making things from scratch.  So I wanted to make my own pound cake for this.  This was the part I wasn't worried about at all.  The 5 hours passed quickly and my Ducle de Leche was chilling in the fridge. It was time to make the pound cake.  Easy and simple I had it in the oven in no time.  And an hour later, all I had was a mostly cooked cake with the middle raw - like liquid raw.  I left it in the oven for 20 more minutes and still no change.  I took it out and decided I would try again after running some errands.  I get back and get going on making another one.  And wouldn't you know it - I still had raw cake, but not as bad as the first one.  Bottom line the cake was not usable.  Frustrated at my oven for acting up again, I had a mini breakdown.  Hours later I decided to go to my parents and use their oven - I knew it wouldn't let me down.  I made the cake and tossed it into the oven and waited - nervously....and not so patiently.

this was needed - in the worst way
After I calmed down, I checked on my was perfect.  Golden brown and cooked all the way!! I happily left my parents house and knew that I would go to bed happy and wake up in the morning and make the cake. 

Morning came and I started making the cake.  I made the chocolate frosting and frosted the cake.

chocolate frosting - check

I put the layer of peanuts and Ducle de Leche on

not the prettiest thing but tasty

Things were going smoothly and I thought that there would be no setbacks....I spoke too soon.  I had no issues until I got to the part of covering it with chocolate.  I needed way more than it said I would.

lots of chocolate

 My suggestion, instead of using the chocolate chips and butter that they suggest, is getting some Candy Quick - melts easily and coats fantastic! You will be sure to have no issues when you use it.  I actually picked up 8 bags of it over the weekend (it was on sale at A.C. Moore) so now I'm ready for the next time I make this. And make sure to buy premade Ducle de Leche - 5 hours in front of your stove is not fun.  But it was worth all the trouble - my taste testers said this was amazing.  Couldn't stop telling me how good it was and that they couldn't stop eating it. 

Snickers Cake

For the cake:
(1) 12 oz.  frozen pound cake
3 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
3-4 tbsp milk
(1) 1 pound box confectioners sugar
3/4 cup salted roasted peanuts
2 cups dulce de leche

For the coating:
10 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces

  1. Assemble the cake: Trim 1/2" off the short ends of the pound cake, then trim the domed top to make it flat.  Stand the cake on its side and slice in half horizontally to make two equal-size rectangles.
  2. Microwave the chocolate in 30 second intervals, stirring until melted.  Beat the butter, 3 tbsp milk and confectioners sugar with a mixer.  Beat in the melted chocolate.  Add more milk, if needed, to make the frosting spreadable.
  3. Lay the cake rectangles on a rack set on a rimmed baking sheet.  Spread some of the frosting on one short end of each cake and press together to form a long rectangle. 
  4. Spread the remaining frosting on the cake in a 1" thick layer; making the edges slightly higher than the center.  Smooth the top and sides with an offset spatula.  Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
  5. Mix the peanuts and dulce de leche in a bowl.
  6. Remove the cake from the freezer.  Spread the peanut mixture on the frosting in a flat, even layer.  Freeze until the ducle de leche is firm, about 30 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, make the chocolate coating: Microwave the chocolate and butter in 30 second intervals, stirring, until melted and smooth.
  8. Pour the chocolate on the cake and spread it evenly over the top and sides with an offset spatula.  Freeze until the chocolate cools slightly, 6-8 minutes.
  9. Starting at a short end of the cake, dip the edge of an offset spatula into the chocolate at an angle and gently pull up, repeating along the top of the cake to create a wave pattern.  Chill 10 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fortune Cookies

I hate to let things go to waste - and the bag of egg whites I had sitting on the shelf in my fridge were talking to me every time I opened the fridge door.  I was flipping through one of my many cookbooks when I came across this recipe. Seeing that it called for egg whites sealed the deal that I was going to make them.  They are extremely simple and easy to make.  The hardest part is folding them.  This part scared me the most.  I must of read and re-read the instructions a million times.  When I felt I was ready, I put my first pan into the oven.  And then I read the folding instructions again.....and again. 

Once they come out of the oven and you take that first one off the pan, you really only have about 10 seconds to fold it before it starts to harden and take its final shape.  Let's just say my first couple of batches weren't the prettiest things.  Some were too thick, some were too thin, some were shaped in a somewhat form of a fortune cookie.  I might also add that I decided to skip putting fortunes in them - getting the folding technique down was freaking me out enough and adding the extra step of writing out fortunes and putting them inside the cookie before I fold each one was giving me anxiety.  Of course, by the end of the batter I had the cookies at the right size and consistency and my folding technique was getting pretty good. 

Aside from all my worrying about what they looked like, lets face it most of them were ugly as sin, they tasted amazing.  It was worth all my worrying and stressing out.  I will be making these again. 

one of my prettier cookies

Fortune Cookies
makes 45 cookies

4 large egg whites
1 cup superfine sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
pinch of salt
5 tbsp butter, melted
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp almond extract
45 paper fortunes, about 5" long

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with Silpats or parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine egg whites and sugar, and beat on medium speed until frothy, about 30 seconds.  Add flour and salt, and beat until combined.  Add butter, cream and almond extract and beat until combined, about 30 seconds.
  3. Leaving space for one or two more cookies, spoon 1 teaspoon of batter onto the baking sheet, and spread with the back of the spoon into an even, thin 3-4" circle; repeat.  Bake cookies until the edges turn golden brown, about 8 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.
  4. Transfer baking sheet to a heat-resistant surface.  Working as quickly as possible, slide and offset spatula under one of the cookies.  Lift it up, and place it on a clean kitchen towel.  Center a paper fortune on top of the cookie.  Using your fingers, fold the cookie in half, pinching the top together to form a loose semicircle.  Hold the cookie with your index fingers inserted at each open end, and slide your thumbs together along the bottom line.  Press into the center while bending the two open ends together and down to form the shape of a fortune cookie.  This whole process should take about 10 seconds.  Once the cookie hardens, which begins to happen almost immediately, you cannot shape it.
  5. Place the cookie on the kitchen towel cool, and shape the second cookie.  repeat until all the batter is used up.  To speed up the process, bake four cookies at a time, staggering two cookie sheets by 4 minutes to give you time to shape.  Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

S'mores Fudge

Who doesn't love fudge?! And S'mores fudge - sign me up!  I've never made fudge before, and was kind of surprised at how easy it was.  You just need about an hour of your active time, and a candy thermometer.  The chocolate base could be used for any type of fudge you want to make, just put the toppings you like on at the end.  But when I was a s'mores version, I couldn't resist.  Plus I had everything I already needed in my cabinet.  Get creative - add what you want. 

i toasted the marshmallows for a little something extra

S'mores Fudge
makes about 1 1/2 pounds

2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces and softened
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, very finely chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup half and half
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
mini marshmallows
broken graham crackers
Pam cooking spray
  1. Line a 9x5" loaf pan with foil, leaving a 2" overhang on all sides.  Lightly spray the foil with Pam.
  2. Lightly spray the bowl of a stand electric mixer or another large metal bowl with Pam.  Add 2 tbsp cut up butter, the chocolate, vanilla and salt; set the bowl aside.
  3. Heat the half and half in a medium pot over medium-high heat until hot but not boiling.  Stir in the sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon; boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low; run a pastry  brush dipped in warm water along the sides of the pan.  Clip a candy thermometer to the pan.  Simmer the mixture, undisturbed, until the thermometer registers 234-238 degrees, 20-30 minutes, watching the temperature closely as cooking times may vary. 
  4. Quickly pour the sugar mixture over the chocolate-butter mixture in the bowl (do not scrape the sides or bottom of the saucepan in case any sugar crystals formed).  Clean the candy thermometer, then clip it to the bowl.  Let the chocolate mixture cool, undisturbed, until it registers 110-115 degrees, about 1 hour. 
  5. Spray the paddle attachment or mixer beaters with Pam.  Beat the mixture on medium speed until just incorporated, about 1 minute.  Reduce the speed to low and beat until the fudge just begins to lost its sheen and hold its shape, 5-15 minutes.  Do not overmix or the fudge will become hard.  Use a buttered rubber spatula to scrape the fudge into the prepared pan and pat into an even layer; smooth the top.
  6. Press the mini marshmallows and broken pieces of graham crackers into the fudge.  Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours, then slice into pieces.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

After trying out both styles of ice cream, I have come to the conclusion that I'm not a fan of Philadelphia style ice cream.  It's not as creamy as I prefer ice cream to be.  As a safe bet I'm going to say that any ice cream posts you see on here will be a custard base style.  It's so worth the extra time and effort.  David Lebovitz's book, 'The Perfect Scoop' has amazing tips and amazing recipes - you really need to get it, and this is one of the recipes from the book.  If you love coconut, then this will be your new favorite ice cream.  The base alone tastes amazing - and that's before you even churn it in the machine! And once it's churned in the machine, it's creamy, smooth coconut deliciousness. I like coconut, but it's really not one of my favorite things in the world, but it's that good that I scraped the sides of the machine clean to get all of the ice cream out.  But this ice cream will convert any that are on the fence. 

scooped fresh from the machine

look at how smooth and creamy it is!

Toasted Coconut Ice Cream
makes about 1 quart

1 cup dried shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
5 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tsp rum

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes, stirring it frequently so it toasts evenly.  Remove it from the oven when it's nice and fragrant and golden brown.

In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, 1 cup of the heavy cream, sugar and salt and add the toasted coconut.  Use a paring knife, and scrape all the vanilla seeds into the warm milk, then add the pod as well.  Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.

Rewarm the coconut-infused mixture.  Set a mesh strainer over another medium saucepan and strain the coconut-infused liquid through the strainer into the saucepan.  Press down on the coconut very firmly with a flexible rubber spatula to extract as much of the flavor from it as possible.  Remove the vanilla bean pieces (rinse and reserve them for another use), and discard the coconut.

Pour the remaining 1 cup heavy cream into a large bowl and set the mesh strainer on top.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.  Slowly pour the warm coconut-infused mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, 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.  Mix in the vanilla or rum and stir until cool over an ice bath. 

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chocolate Ganache Custard Tart

I'm back! I had a fun round of food poisoning last week, and now that I'm recovered it was time to get back into the kitchen and bake.  I'm not one for Valentine's Day - never really have been.  You will never see anything cutesy, hearts, lovey-dovey on this blog, I just don't have it in me to do that stuff. I do find that stuff cute, but don't have it in me to make it.  So when I decided what I should post for Valentine's Day, I went with something that I would personally want to eat if I had a romantic night with my boyfriend (if I had one at the moment).  To me, I nothing says love like chocolate.  And bonus points to you if you bring me my favorite kind - then I know you really like me.  So this rich, chocolatey, smooth ganache custard tart was screaming at me to make it for the blog.  Let me tell you - amazing.  Extremely simple, and if you don't want to make your own tart shell, just use a pre-made pie crust from the store and bake it off. 

OMG - amazing is all I can say

doesn't it look tasty?

Chocolate Ganache Custard Tart
makes one 9" tart; 8-10 servings

10 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream or half and half
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp Cognac
Prebaked Tart Shell

Tart Shell

6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on low speed until just smooth, about 1 minute.  Add the egg yolk and mix for 30 seconds on low speed.  Add the flour and salt and mix just until the dough comes together in a smooth, homogeneous mass.  Don't overmix.  Pinch off a jelly bean-size piece of dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and set aside.

Place the remaining dough in the center of a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom.  Use the heel of your hand to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan; try to get the dough as smooth as possible.  Use your fingers to press the dough up the sides and to the rim of the pan; make sure that the dough is not to thick in the corners.

Freeze the dough-lined tart pan until the dough is firm, at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Set the tart pan on a baking sheet and prick the frozen tart dough about 10 times with a fork.  Bake the tart shell on the baking sheet for 7 minutes, then check if the bottom has puffed up; if it has, gently press it down with the back of a metal spatula.  Continue baking until deep golden brown, 15-20 minutes more. 

Remove from the oven.  While the tart shell is hot, if there are any large fissures, pinch off small pieces of the reserved unbaked dough, and use your fingertip to gently smooth them into the cracks until the cracks are filled (there's no need to bake longer as the heat from the still-warm tart shell will firm it up). 

Once tart shell is fully cooled - time to make the filling.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate and cream or half and half.  Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. 

Remove the bowl from the saucepan and whisk in the egg, egg yolk, and Cognac.  Pour the mixture into the prebaked tart shell, tilting and shaking it very gently to even out the filling. 

Set the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake until the filling looks almost set but still quivers when the tart is gently jiggled, about 20 minutes.  Don't overbake.  Let cool completely.

Remove the tart pan sides by setting the tart on an overturned bowl or other tall, wide surface (a large can of tomatoes works well).  Gently press down on the outer ring and let the ring fall to the countertop.  Set the tart on a flat surface.  Release the tart from the pan bottom by sliding the blade of a knife between the crust and the pan bottom, then slip the tart onto a serving plate. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Cupcakes

Candy was on sale at the grocery store, and wouldn't you know it I had coupons for them as well!! Now that I'm all stocked up on candy, it was time to use some of it.  I wanted to try a tweak in a favorite recipe of mine, so I switched out the mint patty in the middle and replaced it with a peanut butter cup. Huge success!! The changes I made were good, still working on making it perfect.  But you could throw any piece of candy in the middle of these brownies that you wanted to.  Peppermint Pattys, Peanut Butter Cups, Rolos, Snickers, Milky Ways, I could go on but you get the idea.  The only thing I don't ever recommend you putting in the middle of something is something with wafers in the candy, like a Kit Kat bar.  I've tried many times to use them in things and the wafer part just ends up getting extremely hard and crunchy and doesn't go well with the treat you put them in.  So put whatever you feel like in the middle of your brownie,   I'm sure amazing combinations are out there. 

a little surprise in the middle
Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Cupcakes
makes 12

8 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
12 mini Peanut Butter Cups, unwrapped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.  Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water.  Stir occasionally just until melted, 4-5 minutes.
  2. Remove bowl from heat.  Whisk in sugar and salt until mixture is smooth; whisk in eggs to combine.  Gently whisk in flour and cocoa just until smooth (do not overmix).
  3. Spoon 1 heaping tbsp of batter into each lined cup. Place 1 peanut butter cup on top, gently pressing into batter.  Top with 2 tbsp batter, covering patty completely.  Bake, rotating tin halfway through, until a cake tester inserted halfway in centers (above peanut butter cup) comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes.  Transfer tin to a wire rack to cool completely before removing cupcakes.