Monday, November 26, 2012

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

A friend has a game night every month, and I usually bring cookies or something (no one complains).  I'd been posting about cupcakes on Facebook, and her husband responded with something along the lines of "CUPCAKES!!!!"  So I thought I'd bring some to the party this time around.

I was looking for something fun and not too complicated.  I spotted this recipe, and Snickerdoodles are such a well-loved cookie, how could the cupcakes not be yummy?

Note to self: Make some Snickerdoodle cookies and post on blog!

This recipe also used a seven-minute frosting, which was perfect as I had some egg whites that I needed to use up.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed them at the party, and I'd imagine they would be a big hit with kids!

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes
(from Brown Eyed Baker)
Makes 26-28 cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¾ cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1¼ cups whole milk

For the Seven-Minute Frosting:
1½ cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
6 egg whites, at room temperature

For the Garnish:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low. Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.

3. Divide the batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes and frosting. Cupcakes can be stored up to 2 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

4. Make the Frosting: Combine 1½ cups granulated sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230 degrees F.

5. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, beating to combine.

6. As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230 degrees F, remove from the heat. With the mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down the side of the bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise the speed to medium-high; whisk until the mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Use immediately.

7. Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip or using a large Ziploc bag with the corner cut off (my cheapo method), pipe frosting on each cupcake: Hold the bag over the cupcake with tip just above the top, and squeeze to create a dome of frosting, then release pressure and pull up to form a peak.

8. Combine the 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.  Dust the peaks of the frosted cupcakes with cinnamon-sugar. Frosted cupcakes are best eaten the day they are frosted; keep at room temperature until ready to serve.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Creamy Brown Sugar Frosting

I've been plotting what to bake for my boss' birthday for weeks.  On a sidenote, her birthday happens to coincide with my work anniversary, and what better birthday present for her than me, right?  ;-)  Anyway, last year I made her THESE, which everyone loved.  This year I decided to go with an autumnal flavor - pumpkin!

I found a great pumpkin cupcake recipe that was light and not brick-like texture - great.  There was a maple cream cheese frosting recipe that went with it, and I'm sure that would be fine.  But I wanted to try something a little different.

I'm not really a huge cream cheese frosting fan, and I'm not sure why.  But after lots of searching, I just settled for a different type of cream cheese frosting - brown sugar.

The flavor was great, and it was creamy and not overly sweet.  It was a big hit at the office, and everyone was raving about the frosting.  Perfect!

Since it was a cream cheese frosting that softens up quite a bit, I made the frosting the night before, refrigerated it, and then piped it the morning of with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.  It worked well, and I'm glad to have another fantastic cupcake recipe to add to the ever-growing list!

Pumpkin Cupcakes 
(from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 17 to 18 cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I used far less as I don't like it super-spicy)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

1. Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.

2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.

3. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners — you’re looking to get them 3/4 full. Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.

Creamy Brown Sugar Frosting
(slightly adapted from Epicurious)
It makes more than you will need. Bummer, right?

12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add brown sugar; beat until well blended. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup (scant) at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Chill at least until firm enough to pipe, about 30 minutes.

Put frosting in large Ziploc bag or pastry bag to pipe on cupcakes. Pipe on and sprinkle cinnamon on top to finish.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I stumbled upon this recipe while looking through my hoarded Cook's Illustrated magazines, and it piqued my interest.  Broccoli Cheese soup always sounds good but I dislike the amount of cream that typically goes in it (I prefer to get my extra calories from a stellar dessert!)

What's great about this soup is that there isn't any cream!  It tastes rich enough without it (with no real calorie bombs) and the broccoli is the star of the soup with good flavor. 

The article in the magazine explains how they came to this final recipe (so it really doesn't need any extra fiddling!)  I was surprised about the addition of baking soda, but there's science behind it.  When you cook broccoli for a long time, it can begin to taste sulfurous, due to isothiocyanates, which is obviously never an ideal flavor.  The added baking soda staves off that nasty flavor.

 And this was another opportunity to use my favorite appliance - an immersion blender - whoo hoo!

I decided last minute to make croutons to top off the soup and to give it some textural contrast.  What better bread to use than my favorite local artisan rosemary bread?  The croutons turned out fantastic (I'd ask the husband what he thought, but he's busy swiping croutons from the bowl and munching away.)

A bite of this creamy, flavorful soup with a crispy crouton is the perfect remedy for the dreary days of November!

Broccoli Cheese Soup
(from Cook's Illustrated)
Serves 6-8

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 lbs broccoli, florets roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces, stems trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/4 inch thick pieces
1 medium onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2-3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard powder
Pinch cayenne pepper
Table salt
3 c. water
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
2 oz. baby spinach (2 loosely packed cups)
3 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3/4 cup)
1 1/2 oz. Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 3/4 cup), plus extra for serving
Black pepper

~ 6 slices of bread of choice (I used a rustic, artisan rosemary bread)
3 Tbsp melted butter or olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
Pinch salt 

1) Heat butter in large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add broccoli, onion, garlic, dry mustard, cayenne, and 1 tsp salt.  Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and baking soda.  Bring to simmer, cover, and cook until broccoli is very soft, about 15-20 minutes, stirring once during cooking.

2) Add broth and 2 cups water and increase heat to medium-high. When mixture begins to simmer, stir in spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Blend soup with immersion blender or in batches with regular blender.  Add cheeses and reheat briefly, stirring, to melt.

3) Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Cut bread into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes.  Mix melted butter or olive oil with garlic powder and salt.  Toss with bread cubes until they're coated.  Pour out on a rimmed baking sheet, place in oven. Bake for 15 minutes, stir and bake until dry and crispy (10-15 minutes more).

4) Top soup with freshly grated Parmesan and homemade croutons.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Tofu & Veggie Stir Fry

I've been posting a lot of sweets lately, whoops... How about a healthy meal?  This recipe has been a great go-to meal for us this past year.  We've tweaked a few things here and there and it just keeps getting better.  A solid, healthy, tasty choice!

The husband found the perfect use for law books - pressing tofu!

The original recipe calls for coating the tofu in cornstarch and then pan frying it.  That worked, and tasted good, but we prefer pan frying it with no coating.  You still get a great crispy and golden brown outside without the mess and hassle of cornstarch.

We had a supervisor during the cooking of this meal.  I don't think tofu is the protein of choice with felines, however.

This recipe would easily be made vegetarian/vegan if you used veggie broth instead of chicken broth.  And it reheats well for lunch the next day, which is preferable in all of my recipes as I'm a huge fan of leftovers!  I've also induced lunch envy among coworkers with this dish, muahahaha.

Tofu & Veggie Stir Fry
(adapted from Eating Well)
Makes 4 servings

1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. rice wine
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. cornstarch, divided
2 Tbsp & 1 tsp. sugar
Crushed red pepper to taste

Stir Fry
1 14 oz. pkg extra-firm tofu, drained
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
6 c. veggie mix of broccoli, carrots, onion
3 Tbsp. water

1 c. uncooked red quinoa
1 1/4 c. water or chicken broth

Drain tofu and cut into cubes.  Sprinkle with salt and set aside.

Combine broth, rice wine, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar & crushed red pepper and set aside.

Rinse quinoa thoroughly.  Put quinoa and water (or chicken broth) in pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 30-35 minutes.  Fluff with a fork when done.  For more tips on how to cook quinoa perfectly, click HERE.

While the quinoa is cooking, heat 1 Tbsp. oil in wok over medium-high heat.  Add tofu, and cook until golden brown.  Transfer to a plate (and set on paper towels to drain if you're concerned about excess oil).

Reduce heat to medium.  Add remaining oil, garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant (30 sec.)  Add veggies and water.  Cover and cook, until tender crisp.  Stir in broth mixture.  Cook until sauce has thickened.  Return tofu to pan.  Serve over red quinoa.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

I love trying out different flavors of crème brûlée, but it's been awhile since I've been adventurous and tried a new one.  Well, this time of year you just crave fall flavors like apple and pumpkin while wearing a big, comfy sweater and crunching through colorful leaves.

 Pumpkin, it is!

Most crème brûlée are very creamy and custard-like, while this one leans more towards pumpkin pie without a pie crust.  I was a bit concerned that it would be too spicy, but it turned out perfect.  I did tweak a few slight things with this recipe, so it was more in line with the crème brûlée I've made before.  The flavor is great, and the crunchy burnt sugar topping is a fantastic addition with a contrasting texture.

Who needs the traditional pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving?  I think I'll be serving this instead!

Pumpkin  Crème Brûlée
(from Williams-Sonoma Kitchens)
Serves 6 (four-ounce ramekins)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp. freshly grated cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
5 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
6 Tbs. pumpkin puree
1/3 cup plus 6 tsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Have a pot of boiling water ready.

Pour the cream into a small saucepan and whisk in the cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg. Set over medium-low heat and warm the cream mixture until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and steam begins to rise from the surface, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, salt, pumpkin puree, the 1/3 cup granulated sugar and the brown sugar until smooth and blended. Slowly pour in the cream mixture, stirring until blended. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Divide the mixture among  six 4-fl.-oz. ramekins and place in a large baking pan. Add boiling water to fill the pan halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake until the custards are just set around the edges, about 30-35 minutes.

Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.

Just before serving, sprinkle 1 tsp. granulated sugar evenly over the surface of each custard. Using a kitchen torch according to the manufacturer's instructions, move the flame continuously in small circles over the surface until the sugar melts and lightly browns. Serve immediately.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Okay, it's November, and with the holidays rapidly approaching (according to the stores), holiday baking is on my mind.  I have some solid cookies in my arsenal, but there is always room for tasty additions!

I've been wanting to find a solid chocolate peanut butter cookie recipe, and something beyond a peanut butter dough with chocolate chips.  Good, sure, but predictable.

This recipe is meant to be a cookie equivalent of a buckeye.  A favorite holiday treat of mine!  This is a popular recipe on food blogs, and I did add a little twist of my own by adding in chocolate chips in the peanut butter filling for an extra punch of chocolate.  (Is that ever a bad thing?  I thought not.)

I brought these cookies into work, and to say they were well-received would be the understatement of the decade.  I love them as well and this is now my go-to chocolate peanut butter cookie recipe!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
(adapted from Brown-Eyed Baker)
Makes 24-30 cookies

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar (plus more for rolling)
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup creamy peanut butter
¾ cup powdered sugar
Semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

3. With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter, sugars and peanut butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and mix until combined.

4. In a separate medium bowl, mix together the peanut butter and powdered sugar for the filling until smooth.  Place bowl in fridge to chill so it's easier to work with.

5. Set aside roughly 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips to put inside with filling.

6. In a small bowl, put some extra granulated sugar for rolling the cookies.

7. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment papers. Use a medium cookie scoop (or heaping tablespoon) of cookie dough and roll it into a ball, place on cookie sheet. Do this with all of the cookie dough and place cookie sheet into fridge to chill a bit.

8. Take about 1 teaspoon of the peanut butter filling (or a small cookie scoop) and roll into a ball Do this with all of the filling and place cookie sheet into the fridge anytime it gets too soft and difficult to work with.

9. Take cookie dough ball and flatten it with your hands, and place ball of peanut butter filling in the center of the chocolate dough. Add a few chocolate chips in the filling. Wrap the chocolate dough around the peanut butter center, pressing to seal. Roll the cookie into a ball and roll in the sugar. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Flatten each cookie slightly with the palm of your hand or a glass.

10. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.