Friday, February 26, 2010

Toffee Sandwich Cookies

I have a lot of toffee left in the house from making cake cookies and my friend Allison, who invited me to go to a concert with her this past weekend, happens to love toffee.  I wanted to do something different, one can only eat so many cake cookies, so I turned to Tasty Kitchen.  If you haven't checked it out yet, you really should.  The site was started by The Pioneer Woman and, like most of what she does, it's amazing.  I've already mentioned another recipe that I found on the site, and it didn't disappoint when I looked for something to do with all the toffee I had in my kitchen.  Here's a link to the original; I followed it exactly and was not disappointed. 

This picture doesn't do these little babies justice, they were incredible.  Quizmaster Devin definitely downed three of them without taking a breath, and that's high praise.  I won't lie though, these were better on the second day.  Something about the flavor of the cream working in to the cookie really complemented the toffee.

I took these on a road trip to San Antonio with Allison and Nicole this last weekend; Allison's wonderful boyfriend Michael snagged some sweet tickets to the rodeo/concert and was nice enough to host all three of us crazy girls.  We had such a fantastic time; shopping at La Cantera, eating at Jenny's every chance we got, singing along as loud as we could to the Eli Young Band...  These cookies were definitely a nice treat after we got back from our adventures.     

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bailey's Cream Puffs

I've got some exciting news.  It SNOWED last Thursday.  And I almost missed it, a tragedy that would have resulted in my being more than a little upset, because I love snow.  So much.

Though I consider myself a native Texan, I was born in Germany and lived there for several years before coming back to the States, so when I was growing up snow wasn't uncommon. We saw it regularly in our own backyard and when visiting relatives, and it was always a wonderful experience but nothing out of the ordinary.  Moving to Texas changed my relationship with snow.  Since we live in the central part of the state we didn't/don't see a lot of the white stuff, though I do remember sledding down the hill in our neighborhood one crazy winter day when I was about nine...

Back to my point though, it snowed and I didn't know about it until we were leaving the house for quiz.  We walked out the door and there it was, big fat flakes of snow.  Hitting me in the face, smacking against the windshield of my car.  Magic.  I personally feel that snow makes everything beautiful.  Not day-after-it's-snowed snow that's turning in to slush, but snow right after it's fallen.  Everything is quiet (maybe because we're afraid to drive in it?), and soft, and beautiful.  I love it.  Here's a picture I took, it doesn't do justice to what happened but it's all I have.

Back to the baking though.  Since it was almost Valentine's Day, I thought I'd try something a little different for this week's recipe.  I made profiteroles, or cream puffs as they're more often called.  I made these several years ago for a friend's birthday (the first anniversary of her 21st birthday, a very special occasion) and they were a hit so I thought I'd bring them back, but with a slight twist.  Can you guess what I did?  Yep, I added booze the the cream mixture and it was DELICIOUS.  Honestly, baking with booze is a terrific idea and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I did have one slight issue with the temperature of my oven and didn't follow the baking instructions to the letter.  For some reason my oven gets super hot, and I ended up pulling the first batch out of the oven and not letting them gradually cool down like the recipe tells you to.  Then I thought I'd be sneaky and lower the temperature for the next batch.  Also a bad idea, because the bottoms burned on those.  I solved that problem by just cutting the bottoms off and filling them anyway.  Here's a picture of that.

My last batch was perfect, and I can't really remember what I did...  I do know it involved putting an empty cookie sheet on the rack beneath the cream puffs to provide a little bit of insulation from the heat.  I didn't get a picture of the pretty ones though, naturally.

Moral of the story: If you have a crazy (but still better than a homicidal) oven keep an eye on these suckers!
Here's how to make them.

Cream Puffs
Bailey's Cream Filling (recipe below)
2/3 Cup water
7 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons margarine, divided
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 Cup flour
4 eggs

1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate

Prepare Bailey's Cream Filling.  Preheat oven to 400.  Lightly grease baking sheet, set aside.  In 2 1/2-quart saucepan, bring water, 7 Tablespoons margarine, sugar, and salt to a boil over high heat.  Remove from heat and immediately stir in flour.  With wooden spoon, cook flour mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, five minutes or until film forms on bottom of pan.  Remove from heat, stir in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Immediately drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet.  Place baking sheet on middle rack in oven.

Bake 20 minutes.  Decrease oven temperature to 350 and bake an additional 20 minutes.  Turn off oven without opening door and let puffs stand in oven 10 minutes.  Cool completely on wire rack.  To fill, slice off top 1/3 of puffs and set aside.  Fill with Bailey's Cream Filling, replace tops.

In small microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate and remaining two teaspoons margarine on high power for 30 seconds or until chocolate is melted; stir until smooth.  Drizzle chocolate mixture over puffs.

Bailey's Cream Filling
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 Cup milk
3-4 Tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 Cups whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping

In a medium bowl, with wire whisk, blend pudding mix, milk, liqueur, and vanilla.  Fold in whipped cream.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour or until set.  (I completely messed this step up and just mixed it all in at once.  Aside from it being a little less fluffy than it normally is, it was totally fine)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cary Grant Cupcake Challenge

Last week I discussed with Amanda my love for Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and old movies in general.  She suggested creating a "tribute cupcake" to be enjoyed during Cary Grant Sundays and, while I thought it sounded like a fantastic idea, I'm having trouble coming up with appropriate ingredients.  What would be a fitting homage to a man so super dreamy that my mom and I both swoon over him?

I need your help people!  If you're reading this blog, even if you're not following me, do some research or just throw out a suggestion.  If you're going to take this literally and suggest including his perfect hair or something like that, please also add in something I might be able to incorporate into a finished product.  I'm open to trying out several different iterations, I do enjoy a challenge, so keep the ideas coming.  If you can't come up with an ingredient, let me know what your favorite Cary Grant movie is, sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places.  If you haven't seen a Cary Grant movie get thee to the nearest video store (or put your TV on TCM or AMC) and watch!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cosmopolitan Cupcakes

Image from SuperCocktails

I love to bake, that's no secret.  What is also not a secret is that the people in my life love...booze.  That's right, I said it.  So far, the two baked goods I've made that contained alcohol were more popular than anything else I've made.  A few weeks ago we had a meeting at work that required one of the most hilarious women I've met to travel down and participate.  She's super fun and, after we've completed work for the day, enjoys herself a Cosmo or two.  Once when we were at dinner, she drank her Cosmo so fast that she almost convinced the waitress she hadn't brought it.  Point being, she likes the drink.  In a totally healthy, not substance abusing way.

I figured I would adapt the same recipe I used for the Mimosa Cupcakes, just substitute ingredients more in line with what's in a Cosmo.  Vodka, cranberry juice, and orange zest in the batter paired with lime frosting.  The frosting needs work-it ended up being nothing special and I think that's mostly due to the absence of lime zest, next time I'll include that and hope for better results.  The cake was different, interesting even, and seemed to be pretty well enjoyed across the board.  Still thinking of ways to make it stand out a little more, perhaps more cranberry juice and less vodka.

Cosmopolitan Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix
1 Cup Vodka (I would probably switch proportions for next time, adding more cranberry juice, less vodka)
1/3 Cup Cranberry Juice (I used diet, to keep it from being overly sweet)
1 Tablespoon Orange Zest

Preheat oven according to package directions.  Combine all ingredients in large bowl (I replaced the water the box mix calls for with vodka and cranberry juice, so if your mix requires a different amount of water adjust accordingly), mix until well combined.  Pour batter into prepared muffin tins (as previously discussed, I never end up with the amount the box tells you) and bake according to package directions.

Lime Buttercream

1 stick Butter (softened to room temperature)
3 Cups Powdered Sugar
1-2 Tablespoons Milk
2 Tablespoons Lime Juice (this could probably be taken out and replaced with a tablespoon of zest)

Cream butter in a large bowl.  Sift powdered sugar in to butter, mixing between additions.  Add milk and zest, mix until combined.  If you're not happy with the consistency, add more powdered sugar (to thicken) or milk (to thin) until it's easy to spread on the cooled cupcakes.

Here's to you, Susan.  Cheers!

Monday, February 8, 2010

An Award?!

I've mentioned before that my stepsister Amanda has an amazing blog.  I may not have mentioned that I'm completely jealous of her writing and photography skills, but I really am.  Recently, she gave me a blog award.  What a sweetheart, right?  It's true, she's a nice girl.

Anyway, the award comes with the stipulation that you have to write seven random things about yourself.  Since I know myself, it's difficult to decide what's random and what's not, but here's my best shot!

1. I love Cary Grant movies, so much so that I sometimes have Cary Grant Sunday at my house.  There was an AMC marathon of his movies that I recorded and I'm slowly making my way through them.  So far my favorites are To Catch a Thief and Houseboat.  I'm a sucker.

2. I was in a relationship for nine years that recently ended.  I'm still figuring out how to be a grown-up without my identity being so closely linked to someone else.  It's weird.
3. People think I'm shy when they first meet me.  Shy and nice.  And quiet.  This quickly changes after they get to know me. 
4. I have a tendency to curse like a sailor (this is related to the previous statement).
5. I am passionate.  About my family.  About my friends.  About causes I believe in. This also relates to the previous statement.  Emotions run high around here people!
6. After learning about something that piques my interest, I can't get enough.  I want to know everything there is to know about it, and then share it with everyone I meet.  For some reason, I feel like the things I find interesting are also interesting to other people.  Generally, this is not the case.
7. My favorite word is apoptosis, it just sounds neat.  The definition is also pretty cool, I thank my genetics professor for teaching it to me (even if I didn't learn anything else from him).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Heavenly Lemon Angel Cake

Last Monday was Kristi's birthday- HAPPY BIRTHDAY KRISTI!  She's eating healthier lately, something that's not a terrible idea for the rest of us (coughmecoughcough) to start doing and out of respect for that I wanted to make something special for her birthday that didn't contain eight sticks of butter.  I thought about it and remembered that angel food cake isn't too terrible for those who are trying to eat healthier, and decided to go ahead with that idea.

Crystal found this recipe in a Pampered Chef book for cooking light, and forwarded it to me.  I know it looks like I'm pimping Pampered Chef lately, but i promise that'll go away.  I don't sell it, nor do I want to, though I do appreciate the products I own.

The recipe was really easy, you don't even have to have a tube pan to make this!  And I'll confess that I used a box mix.  Would you believe that I helped some friends of mine move last weekend?  That cuts down on the amount of time I had available to grocery shop and spend in the kitchen.  I'm sorry Kristi, my use of a mix in no way reflects on my affection for you, I just ran out of time. 

1 pkg (16 oz) angel food cake mix
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 Cup fresh lemon juice
2 Cups powdered sugar
2 Cups thawed, fat-free frozen cool whip (I used sugar-free!)
1 pkg (10 oz) frozen raspberries or strawberries in syrup, thawed (I used mixed berries)

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare cake mix according to package directions.  Pour batter into 13x9 inch baking dish.  Bake on center rack 35-40 minutes or until top of cake is golden brown, cracked and firm to the touch.  Do not underbake.  Remove from oven and invert onto cooling rack to cool completely (do not remove cake from baking dish).

You can prepare cake in advance through this step - when cake is completely cooled, tent loosely with aluminum foil until ready to serve; proceed with remaining steps.

Turn baking dish upright; poke holes in cake about 1 1/2 inches deep and 1/2 inch apart with large fork.  Combine powdered sugar , lemon juice and lemon zest; whisk until smooth.  Slowly pour glaze over cake, spreading evenly.  Let stand 30 minutes until glaze is set.  Garnish each serving with whipped topping and top with raspberries or strawberries.

The cake was delicious-good on you HEB and your fantastic box mix.  Even though the directions were confusing, I think it had more to do with my inability to comprehend NOT adding things to a mix, and not the way the instructions were written.  The tartness added to the cake by the glaze was amazing and unexpected, this would be perfect during the summer since it's so light and refreshing!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Italian Cream Cake

As I mentioned in my previous post, I baked twice last week during the great move.  I somehow forgot that the first official day we could move in to the new place was also the date of my boss' Pampered Chef party, that I'd offered to bake for.  Silly me.  But, I do love a challenge and that's what this was.  Despite having moved a good portion of the kitchen to the new place, I managed to hang on to a few essentials and made this last thing in the tiny kitchen's homicidal oven.

I haven't ever made a layer cake before.  I know it seems crazy, since I kind of bake all the time, but I usually stick to a 9x13 or cupcakes.  The fact that I didn't (until this Christmas, thanks Mrs. Jann!) have 8 or 9 inch round cake pans didn't help the matter but, as Anna pointed out, if I'd wanted to make a layer cake I would have made it happen by now.

I was presented this particular challenge by my boss' friend, who is also my former professor (no pressure there, right?).  She said that she's always loved Italian Cream cake and I stupidly agreed to make it, because I didn't have my calendar in front of me and didn't bother to look up the recipe before agreeing to make one.  I used Billie's Italian Cream Cake recipe from Tasty Kitchen, because I love the Pioneer Woman and anything related to her.  It's an illness that I'm (not) seeking treatment for, don't judge.

I only made two 8-inch round cakes because I only had two pans, even though the recipe calls for three layers, and had enough batter left over for seven cupcakes.  In the future I'll just go ahead and use all the batter for the two cakes.  Even though the cupcakes were delicious, I think the cake would have been prettier if I'd filled the pans more.  I halved the frosting recipe and still had more than enough to put between the cake layers, frost the cake (ok, so Anna frosted the cake while I got changed for the party), and frost the cupcakes.  

Overall the cake was a success, people seemed impressed that it was all from scratch and it was also an excellent marketing opportunity for Crystal and Kristi, since I used Pampered Chef pans to prepare the cakes.  Unfortunately, in the rush to get this cake out the door, I didn't take a picture of it intact.  Here's what I managed to snap at the party.

Pretty and delicious!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes

I haven't posted in a long time. Well, at least it feels like a long time.  In the grand scheme of things it really hasn't been that long.  Not long in the way of the Earth (name that movie!) or anything, that's for sure.  Here's what happened though, I moved.  Normally, this raises people's stress levels and is cause for much wailing, the rending of garments, and gnashing of teeth.  Not for me though. I've been looking forward to moving for 11 of the 12 months I lived in my previous place. Remember, I talked about the tiny kitchen and the homicidal oven?  Those things are no more!  This new kitchen has SPACE, and lots of it.  I can't really express how excited I am about this.  Really.  The only downside was that it's taken me a while to get around to writing about the two things I baked last week.  Yes, I baked TWICE in the week I was moving.  I'm a sucker for a challenge.  And birthdays.

It was Bartender/Quiz Master Devin's birthday two weeks ago, and he managed to not tell me in time to bring something for his actual birthday.  What a little jerk, right?  Devin loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so I decided to make peanut butter and jelly cupcakes.  The recipe can easily be adapted to use whatever kind of jelly you have on hand and I've made them before, so I knew I'd be able to make these on Thursday night after work/before quiz.  Here's a picture of me and Devin a million years ago; before I lived off-campus and discovered my love of baking and definitely before he became everyone's favorite Quiz Master at Murphy's.

The cupcake recipe is called Vanilla-Strawberry Cupcakes and comes from my Baking Bible, but I generally reduce the amount of jelly in the cupcakes because of an unfortunate incident the first time I made them.  Something about jelly being all over the muffin tin, oven, and stove made me think a reduction was in order.  There was also a request to not stir the jelly into the batter next time, just drop the jelly in the batter and let it sit there for more of a "punch" of jelly flavor.  I'll take it under advisement though that does make it a bit more like a jelly donut, no?

Jelly Cupcakes

2 Cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 Cups sugar
1/2 Cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 Cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 egg whites
1/2 Cup strawberry preserves

Preheat the oven to 350.  Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl; mix well and set aside.  Beat sugar and butter in a large bowl with electric mixer for one minute.  Add milk and vanilla, beat for 30 seconds.  Gradually beat in flour mixture, beat for two minutes.  Add egg whites, beat for one minute. 

Spoon batter into muffin tin, filling half full.  Drop 1/2 teaspoon preserves on top of batter; swirl in to batter with toothpick.  Bake 20-22 minutes or until toothpicks inserted into centers come out clean.  Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans to wire racks, cool completely.

This frosting is not from the Baking Bible, I actually discovered it when I was researching Guinness cupcakes for another friend's birthday last April (beer and peanuts, get it?).  After finally locating the piece of paper with the recipe on it, I've figured out it came from How to Eat a Cupcake.  Anyway, since it's debut last April this recipe has gotten heavy use.  Everyone loves it!  The texture is really nice and the peanut butter flavor takes center stage.  I won't lie, I'd knock down a small child for it, including Shelby.  It's that delicious and Aunt Courtney needs her frosting.  Just don't tell my sister.   Luckily for all involved this recipe makes plenty, so there's no need to harm anyone.

Peanut Butter Frosting

2 Cups powdered sugar
1/2 Cup butter, room temperature
Pinch of salt (can be omitted depending on how salty your peanut butter is)
1/2 Cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tablespoons milk

Beat sugar, butter, and salt until creamy.  Add peanut butter, beat until combined.  Add milk, beat until smooth and creamy.