Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Honey Beer Bread

A few weeks ago Anna and I threw ourselves a party.  As you may have read, we moved and we LOVE our new place.  We love our new house to the point of inviting people over for the sole purpose of showing it off.  I didn't ever want people to see the last place I lived, so this was quite the adjustment.

The party was amazing; so many of the people we love (and a few that we just like) came, including my sisters and Anna's parents, and we listened to music, ate a ridiculous amount of food, and made up plotlines to terrible horror movies while they were on mute.  Overall I think it was a success.  The point I'm planning on getting to is that, post-party, we had a rather large amount of (adult) beverages in the house.  So much so, that our crisper drawers no longer held produce and cheese.  Beer had taken over the fridge. And our counter top. 

I've had a few recipes for beer bread set aside and, since I don't really drink beer, thought I could do my part to get rid of some of the beer by trying them out.  I chose to go with honey beer bread first because I love honey.  Love it.  Remember my friend Julie?  Her parents keep bees.  Do you know what that means?  Fresh honey.  And they gave me some.  It's delicious!  I thought this would be a fitting purpose for the Wilde Farms honey, since most of the Wildes I know enjoy their fair share of adult beverages.

Honey Beer Bread
3 Cups flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons honey (Tip: heating the honey in a pot of hot water will make it easier to get out of your measuring spoon)
12oz beer (I used a Sam Adams Boston Lager, but use what you like)
4 Tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Stir honey and beer in until just mixed.  Pour 2 Tablespoons butter into a loaf pan, then spoon batter into pan.  Pour remaining butter on top (I left this part out, but will include it next time).

Bake for 50-60 minutes.  You'll know the bread is done if you tap it and you hear a hollow sound.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Irish Cupcakes, Part Two

I know I'm late with this post, I do, and I'm sorry about that but I've been BUSY!  Well, sort of busy.  A little busy.  Anyway...  Last Wednesday was St. Patrick's Day and I made these again with one small update.  Instead of using the Bailey's Buttercream, I chose to adapt The Best Frosting I've Ever Had that The Pioneer Woman wrote about.

As a side note, I sent a tweet to her asking if it was really sweet and she responded to me!!  I know getting excited about something like that makes me super lame and a huge nerd, but she's kind of a big deal to me so just go with it.  And to answer my question, the frosting is not overpoweringly sweet.  I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to try it then, since my roommate doesn't care for super sweet. 

I adapted the frosting by subbing in about a tablespoon of Bailey's instead of vanilla.  The verdict: the frosting was alright, but could have used a bit more time in the mixer and fridge...  I won't use it for these cupcakes again, but it'll definitely find its way on to another baked good sometime in the near future.  As The Pioneer Woman said; it's magic.  I also used a better quality chocolate in the ganache (I love Ghirardelli) and it almost didn't make it into the cupcakes.  I might have eaten some of it with a spoon, after I made sure the cupcakes were full, of course...

Since I was so busy with baking, I made the cupcakes twice last week, I completely forgot to take any kind of pictures...   How about a rainbow?  That's St. Patricks-y, right?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Butterfinger Cookies

There was another bartender birthday last week at Murphy's!  As I may have mentioned before, I love helping people celebrate their special day, even if it's just by baking something especially for them.  Frazier requested something containing either Reese's Pieces or Butterfinger, so I put my thinking cap on (yes, I seriously wrote that) and tried to figure out what to make with those two flavors...  It was, to say the least, a challenge. 

Let me put in a disclaimer that I know I don't have to bake every week, and that I'm aware that the people I bake for could care less what I bring in.  I know it, I really do. I know this is all self-imposed.  I'm competitive though, and despite the fact that there's no one to compete against AND no real prize, I look forward to it and that's what's important.   That and I like being able to try new things out on a willing audience.  Anna is a good sport, but there's only so many baked goods I can force on her before she threatens to move out and I'm left without a roommate and have to leave the beautiful house.  I can't have that happen.  So I bake for other people.  But back to the issue at hand...  Frazier's birthday!   

Cake cookies are always popular but, since they're so easy and I've made them before, I didn't feel they were quite special enough for a birthday treat.  I found this recipe on Tasty Kitchen, and decided to make two kinds of cookies because nothing says "Happy Birthday!" like two kinds of cookies with lots of candy in them.  True story.

Naturally, I didn't take any pictures.  But both of the cookies went over really well.  I was concerned that baking would change the texture of the candy, which was part of the reason Fraz requested those two types, but thankfully that didn't happen.  The chocolate cake cookies with Reese's Pieces were crunchy, and the Butterfinger cookies managed to retain the stick-to-your-teeth texture that so many people (though not really this girl) love about the candy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mixed Berry Cornmeal Muffins

I normally try to bake at least once a week, usually Thursday for Quiz, but I changed my routine and baked last Monday because I had to go out of town for work Wednesday-Friday.  Though I was bummed about missing out on the funtimes I've come to count on every Thursday, I learned a lot from the conference I went to AND we had a special treat as well.  The Hotel Zaza; if you haven't heard of it before, check out the link.  It's a beautiful hotel, and I'm so thankful the meeting's host was able to set us all up there.  The picture above was the view from my room. Amazing, right?!  Below is my bed, complete with samurai headboard.  I felt safe knowing they were there, above my head, the whole time.  (Totally kidding, I know the samurai aren't real.  I haven't completely lost it.)
Oh, and as if the hotel wasn't enough, our fabulous hostess got us tickets to the Houston Rodeo.  I know rodeos aren't everyone's cup of tea, but Kenny Chesney performed after all the bull-ridin', barrel-racin', and mutton bustin' was over, so there was a little something for everyone.  On a completely different note, I've decided my niece needs to get in on mutton bustin'.  She's a smart kid, and apparently they give out prizes to the winner.  I've offered to bankroll her first attempt, my sister seems to think I'm kidding.  Here's a picture of the concert!

Enough about fancy-pants hotels that I'd never be able to afford if it weren't for getting the state rate; let's talk about these muffins! In addition to bringing some in to work on Tuesday, I had plenty to take with me for breakfast on my trip.  I'm going to be honest with you, they were TERRIFIC.  No, seriously.  There is something about cornmeal that is deliciously comforting and perfect.  I really should eat more things containing it.  It's true.

I can't remember where I got the recipe from, but it's really easy and comes together quickly.  The original just called for fresh blackberries but I used a bag of frozen mixed berries (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry) and I think they really added something special.

Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins
1 1/4 Cup flour
1/2 Cup fine or medium ground yellow cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup buttermilk, room temp
2 large eggs, room temp
7 Tbs butter, melted and cooled
12 oz. berries (like I said, I just bought a bag of mixed berries and managed to fit three in each muffin cup)

Preheat oven to 375.  Whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 Cup plus 2 Tbs sugar in bowl.  In another bowl, whisk buttermilk, eggs, and butter together.  Pour over dry mixture, whisking to combine.

Fill muffin cups with 1/4 Cup batter, top with berries, sprinkle evenly with remaining sugar.  Here's what mine looked like just before I put them in the oven.
Bake 20-25 minutes, until browned on top.  These were best when warm, I ended up heating them for 10 seconds in the microwave and then putting just a smidge of butter on them.  Delicious.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've made this recipe.  It's a go-to, for sure.  I do remember that the first time I took these to a family event, my cousin Cody's girlfriend ate about six of them in a very short time period.  In case you're wondering, that's high praise from a 16 year-old girl if I ever saw it.  More recently I assisted my friend Allison with making these for her boss' birthday and was told they were a hit at her office.  I originally found this recipe here, though I've been told it's nearly indistinguishable from others out there.

Oh, did I mention it snowed again last week?  It did, and it was amazing.  This time there was significant accumulation and Anna, Allison, Nicole, and I all went sledding down Mount Aggie on the Texas A&M campus.  Naturally we froze our tushes off, but it was so worth it.  Everyone was having a good time, and I definitely counted it as my workout for the day. Here's a picture of Nicole and Me at the bottom of the hill, having successfully avoided a collision with each other. 

 Afterward, since Anna and I had worked up an appetite, we went to our usual hangout for dinner, and what turned out to be quite the show.  Some of the bartenders threw together a band with a few other guys and they played their first gig in front of us.  Anna was impressed with the choice of music, while I bopped my head to the beat and stared (in a not creepy way) at the cute guys in the band.  Don't judge, you would have too.  Those guys are adorable!  Anyway, Bartender Kyle requested something made with cherry and these were fresh on my mind (since I'd helped Allison with them the night before), so it's what I decided on. 

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

1 Cup crushed Vanilla Wafers (the original recipe calls for a whole box, but that's overkill and really just leads to me overeating a box of cookies)
2 8oz. packages Cream Cheese (I tried these with reduced fat cream cheese and it worked out decently)
3/4 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 can Cherry Pie Filling (you'll have extra of this too, but there's really not a smaller container)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line mini muffin tin with paper liners, I love my mini muffin tin in case you didn't already know that.  People love tiny things!

Put 1/2 teaspoon crushed vanilla wafers in each muffin cup.  Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Fill paper cups with mixture, almost to the top.  There's not a lot of rising that happens in this recipe, and once you take them out of the oven they'll fall a little bit.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Cool.  Top with cherry pie filling.  I find that the mini cheesecakes are the perfect size for one cherry and some filling.  Adorable!

Side note: when I made these with Allison on Monday, they were gorgeous.  I was a little worried about underbaking them, but I quickly took that statement back after a taste-test.  On Thursday I had a mix-up with my timer and forgot about them, resulting in slightly overdone cheesecakes.  Though I was disappointed in myself for the timer issue, they were still good and went pretty quickly at Quiz.  Despite that, I have resolved to make these again soon to make up for it.  I'm weird like that.