But Sugar is Sweeter

Archive for October, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

IMG_2039
Based on my experience thus far in life, I can firmly say that you can never go wrong with pumpkin flavored anything and cream cheese frosting.   I made a different version of these cupcakes last year, and there are a few things I liked about each recipe.  Last year’s recipe was ridiculously moist, but almost to the point where the cupcakes stuck to the wrapper and couldn’t support the weight of the frosting when you went to take a bite.    I liked this new recipe because  the cupcakes are a little bit sturdier, and you don’t have to use part of a box of cake mix (what does one do with a left over 2/3 cup of cake mix? ).  Plus, when I’m going to the trouble of making cupcakes from scratch I really prefer ones made with unique ingredients that wouldn’t be part of a box mix – like butter instead of oil and buttermilk for some extra moisture.  I used to think that recipes that called for buttermilk were a bit annoying because you generally have to buy a whole quart, but I’ve found it lasts a lot longer than milk (like over a month) and I’ve found several other things to do with it in that time – like John’s birthday cake, ranch dressing, and then these cupcakes.  But as I said before, you can’t go wrong with pumpkin and cream cheese so if your so inclined, try both recipes!

I actually made these for the children’s Halloween party that our medical school hosts every year.  Now technically this party if for children with diabetes, and while you might think cupcakes wouldn’t be the best idea, the point of the party was to help the children learn how to balance their carbohydrates with their insulin. (And it is really hard to find low carbohydrate halloween desserts).  So I made a double batch of these cupcakes, and calculated that each cupcake with frosting has 35 grams of carbohydrate.  I got about 40 cupcakes from the double batch, and saved a few to take with us to Cincinnati for my now living in Ohio brother and sister -in-law.  These went so fast that I’m pretty sure my father-in-law thought he wasn’t going to get one.   Apparently they were also a big hit at the halloween party – but really what kid can resist sprinkles?

IMG_2044

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 20-24 cupcakes with piped frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 c brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

For the Icing:

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 stick butter (softened)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 10 oz powdered sugar (about 3 cups), sifted

To Make the Cupcakes:

Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Mix in the vanilla until fully incorporated.

In a separate  mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  In another small mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin and buttermilk until smooth.

Turn the stand mixer on to the lowest setting and alternately add the dry ingredients and the pumpkin mixtures to the creamed butter.  Start and end with the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the pans, filling about 2/3 full.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Allow to cool enough to handle and then move to a cooling rack.  Store in airtight containers until frosted.  Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator.

To Make the Icing: 

Cream the butter, cream cheese  and vanilla together on high speed.  Add the powdered sugar, a small amount at a time and blend until smooth and creamy.  To ice the cupcakes using a pastry bag, chill icing in the refrigerator or freezer for about 15 minutes in order to harden the icing enough to frost.  Alternatively, frosting can be added immediately to cooled cupcakes using an offset spatula.

IMG_2033
Cupcakes from Pennies on a Platter, Originally from My Kitchen Addiction

Icing inspired  Ina Garten

Advertisements

Candy Corn Shortbread Cookies

IMG_2053

         These cookies don’t even need an explanation.  I mean seriously.  They look like candy corn, they are ridiculously simple  and they taste delicious.  I scrolled through the instructions at  Our Best Bites, and after seeing how creative (and easy) they were, I immediately started making the dough that same night.   Never mind that it was 11pm on a school night – these cookies had to be made.  Plus, it took me less than 30 minutes including cleaning time to whip up this dough and put it in the fridge.
          I really think the pictures are the most helpful part in figuring out how to make these.  I tried sprinkling the cookies with plain sugar, and I wasn’t really a fan of how that looked.  I think when I make these again that I am going to either leave them plain or use large sugar crystals.   The most important part in the apperance is not overcooking the cookies – they look much better with no browning.   Keep in mind that you can use any recipe for the cookie dough – I just chose shortbread because I knew they weren’t going to have icing and I wanted a cookie that would still be delicious.  And of course I trust Ina Garten with any recipe that includes lots of butter.  I loved this shortbread recipe, and apparently so did the rest of the family because they were gone in less than 2 days.  Don’t worry – it wasn’t just me and John we had some new to Ohio and visiting Ohio helpers :-).

Ina Garten’s Shortbread

  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

1) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Divide the dough evenly into 3 separate bowls.  Using gel food coloring color 1 bowl of dough orange, 1 bowl yellow and leave one uncolored.  Mix until the colors are thoroughly incorporated.
IMG_1998

2) Line a baking pan with plastic wrap (smaller pans work best if you have one).
IMG_2007

3) Press the plain colored dough into the bottom of the pan, spreading to an even layer. I did not fill the entire length of the pan because I wanted slightly taller cookies. Continue with the orange and then the yellow layers.
IMG_2008
IMG_2010
IMG_2012

4) Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour, or up to 3 days.  You want the dough to be firm and easy to cut.  Once chilled, remove from the pan and place on a cutting surface.
IMG_2013

5) Slice the the dough into a 1/2 inch wide slice. You may also want to cut a straight line across the top yellow layer in order to get a more finished look. Then cut diagonally through the slice in order to get 5-6 pieces of candy corn. You may have some small, not perfectly shaped pieces at the edges, but that’s okay – they still bake up nicely and someone will eat them.
IMG_2018
6) Preheat oven to 350º

7) If you have coarse sugar, you can sprinkle the piece with sugar.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 18-22 minutes.  Do not over bake or they will become discolored from browning.
IMG_2049

Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Idea from Our Best Bites


Tuxedo Cake

IMG_1977
For as long as I can remember, I have loved making from scratch birthday cakes. One of the first ones that comes to mind is a chocolate hazelnut birthday cake for my brother’s (and my) birthday.  Unfortunately, I somehow measured the wrong amount of hazelnuts in that cake, and it pretty much ruined Nutella for me for at least 5 years (don’t worry, I’ve now come to my senses).   There were other times in college, where cooking in a small dorm kitchen that literally had no cooking utensils seemed like a great idea.  There was freshman year, where I figured I had nothing better to do than to make a 3 layer meringue cake with whipped cream and fruit.  There were several $50 german chocolate cakes, since they required buying not only the ingredients, but also pans, bowls and something to stir with.  There were multiple coffee cheesecakes that served as birthday cakes, pies that served as birthday cakes and then of course the most recent Malted Chocolate and Marshmallow Six Layer Cake.

So last year, when John’s only wish for his birthday cake was  boxed chocolate cake mix with simple whipped cream as the frosting, I was slightly appalled.   I made the cake, I even ate a piece, and I was glad he liked it, but seriously – how boring!    As his birthday approached this year, I was almost afraid to ask what kind of cake he might like, because I knew that no matter what I suggested, he would come back with the same chocolate cake with whipped cream.   Then this cake popped into my mind, or rather popped up on my google reader.  I had seen it earlier on Annie’s blog, but it was way back in January when I wasn’t thinking about October birthdays.  I immediately knew that this would be the perfect birthday cake for John because it’s basically a dressed up of version of his favorite.  The flavors are still simple, but the ganache adds just that oomph it needed to make it not only more delicious but also quite stunning.  The strawberries are obviously optional, but they certainly add to the presentation.  I sized down the original recipe because everyone mentioned how it was such a tall cake, and I felt a little guilty putting 4 cups of sugar in a cake (but of course, in my head, 3 was fine).  I thought it came out perfectly with a slightly downsized recipe, and so that is the version I have included below.  This cake is definitely a keeper and I’m really glad I was able to find something that  both I enjoyed making and John enjoyed eating.  Happy Birthday baby!   I still love you no matter what kind of birthday cake you want :-)!

IMG_1984

Tuxedo Cake

Yield: 3- 9 inch layers

For the cake:
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup canola oil
3 cups sugar
3/4  cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting:
4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

For the chocolate topping:
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup light corn syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:
To make the cake layers, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.  Butter and flour the inside edges of the pan, shaking out the excess flour.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, water and canola oil; heat until the butter is melted.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cocoa powder, and flour; whisk to blend.  Pour the melted butter mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the eggs one at a time, then whisk in the buttermilk.  Add the baking soda, salt and vanilla to the bowl and whisk just until incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of each cake layer and invert onto a wire cooling rack.  Allow the cake layers to cool completely before frosting, at least 2 hours.

To make the frosting, add the heavy cream to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.  Add the powdered sugar and continue to whip until thoroughly combined and stiff peaks form.  Be careful not to over-beat!

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cake platter and spread a layer of the whipped cream frosting over the top.  Top with a second cake layer, more frosting (and the third cake layer, if using).  Frost the top and sides of the assembled cake.  Refrigerate until the frosting has stabilized, at least 1 hour.

To make the chocolate glaze, place the chocolate in a medium bowl.  Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit 1-2 minutes.  Whisk until the mixture is smooth and homogenous.  Blend in the corn syrup and vanilla.  Pour the glaze into a pitcher or measuring cup and let cool for 10 minutes.  (Do not let the glaze cool longer or it may become difficult to pour over the cake.)  Slowly pour the glaze over the cake, ensuring that the top is covered and the glaze drips over the sides.

Refrigerate the cake until the glaze is set and the whipped cream frosting is firm, at least 1 hour.  Slice with a long, sharp knife, wiping the blade clean between slices.

Adapted from: Confections of a Foodie Bride, who adapted it from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather
IMG_1990


Black and White Cookies

IMG_1924
When I first started this blog, I remember thinking that a great first post would be black and white cookies.  I had even started writing about how great they were and why I loved them, but then for some reason I never got around to actually making them.  Then when I saw these cookies on 2 of my favorite blogger’s sites a few weeks ago, I decided that I absolutely had to make them.

I have a long history with the black and white cookie, which began at a coffee and bake shop near our college campus called Mad Hatters.  I used to go to this place from time to time to get away from the usual drone of the library, and it became a favorite place to study one summer when I was taking organic chemistry.  You might wonder why I would decide on a plain black and white cookie when there was an entire case full of delicious baked goods to chose from.  Well that’s simple –  as a poor college student an absolutely gigantic cookie (like small dinner plate size), complete with both chocolate and vanilla icing icing that cost less than $1.50 was pretty much too good to pass up.  (In fact it might have actually been been too good to be true, because according to mad hatter’s website, it seems that they no longer offer this cookie.  Sad.).  Now in all honesty, when I first bought this, I definitely thought it was just a simple sugar cookie with icing on top.  I think I might have been slightly disappointed when I first ate it and realized it was more cake like than the dense and buttery cookie I was expecting.  However, it quickly became one of my favorite cookies of all time.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures to show you of the  steps getting up to the final product because I got slightly discouraged about halfway through making these.  I was sure they were going to turn out terribly,  but once I got to the final product, I ended up loving it and decided I definitely needed to share!  A few hints so that you don’t get discouraged like I did:  First the original recipe called for 20 minutes in the oven.  I pulled them out a few minutes early and they were still slightly overdone, so I really think 15 minutes would be more than enough baking time.  Secondly, I let the un-iced cookies cool  slightly and then packaged them into a ziplock bag.  When I took the cookies out the next morning they were stuck together, and when I pulled them apart it left an uneven surface on the cookies.  Therefore, I would recommend not stacking the cookies, or using parchment paper between them.   And finally, I ran out of icing and had to heat up some more about 3/4 of the way through.  I adjusted the recipe below so that it should be more than enough icing to cover the cookies.

With those suggestions, I think that these are a fairly simple to make cookie  that gives a delicious and stunning result.  The slight lemon flavor is a perfect complement to both the vanilla and chocolate icing.   It also makes a great study snack.  It’s just dangerous having more than 1 of these easily available, so be sure to share.
IMG_1911

Black and White Cookies

Yield: about 2 dozen large cookies
For the cookies:

  • 4 cups (16 oz.) cake flour (found in a red box)
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 sticks butter, softened but still cool
  • 1¾ cups (12¼ oz.) sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon extract
  • 1 cup milk

For the glaze:

  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 7 ½ cups (30 oz) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a few teaspoons of milk

To Make the Cookies: 

1. Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats.

2. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk to combine, and set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy.  With the mixer on medium-high add in the sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Blend in the eggs, vanilla and lemon extracts at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds.

4.  With the mixer on low speed,  gradually add the flour mixture and then the milk, alternating about 3 times until just combined. Batter will be thin.

5. Using a  ¼-cup measuring cup or an ice cream scoop, place mounds of dough several inches apart on the baking sheet.  I could only fit 6  per sheet.  With moistened fingers, spread the mound of dough into a disk about 2½ inches wide and ¾ inch thick, it will spread more as it bakes.

6. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, until the edges just began to brown.  Cool on a baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing: 

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the corn syrup and water and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until combined.

2. Melt the chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.  Remove from the heat and set aside.  Transfer 1 cup of the vanilla icing to the bowl with the melted chocolate and whisk to combine.  Add a few teaspoons of milk to the chocolate icing and whisk until it is a similar consistency to the vanilla glaze.

3.  Using an offset spatula, spread about 2 T. of vanilla icing over half of the cookie. Scrape the edge of the cookie to catch any excess icing.   Place the cookies on a wire rack set over waxed paper and allow to harden for about 15 minutes before using the chocolate icing.

4.  Repeat icing the opposite side of the cookie with chocolate.  If either icing begins to harden, add a few more teaspoons of milk and whisk to combine.

5. Allow the glaze to set at least 1 hour before serving.  The cookies can be stored in an airtight container layered between sheets of parchment paper for up to 3 days.
IMG_1919

Source: Slightly adapted from The Curvy Carrot and Annie’s Eats, originally from Baking Illustrated


French Apricot Crock Pot Chicken

IMG_1873
Welp, it’s happened.  The first recipe on the blog made almost entirely by John. I don’t mean to  belittle his cooking talents, but I think the fact that I trusted him with making this dinner should tell you something about it’s complexity.  I had set the ingredients (all 3 of them ) out on the counter the night before,  and planned on throwing them in the crock pot before I left for school, but as I mentioned last time, normally I barely get 2 of the same shoes while I’m running out the door, let alone make dinner 8 hours early.   Despite my best intentions, if I wake up a few minutes early, then I simply diddle-daddle around  longer until I am once again rushed to leave.  So John was nice enough to make this for me  in the morning.

While this is certainly not a complicated or gourmet cooking dish, it is definitely something worth keeping in your recipe arsenal.  Also, I should mention that there is really nothing “French” at all about this, other than the fact that it uses American’s version of “French Dressing”.  Nevertheless, this dinner is  delicious and I  had trouble saving my second piece of chicken for lunch the next day.   I found myself eating every last piece rice that the scrumptious sauce had touched.    Plus, its so easy you really have no excuse not to make it – it’s 3 ingredients that you put into a pot.   You can adjust the cooking time to fit your schedule so it’s ready when you get home.   For example, Nikki mentioned that you could use 6 frozen chicken breasts and cook it on high for 4 hours and low for 2 hours, or use 4 fresh chicken breasts and cook it on high for 3 hours.  Since I think one of the best things about crock pots is coming home to them being ready, I prefer to cook things for a longer period of time on low, which I have indicated below.  I think next time I am going to at least 1.5 the recipe because this really made great lunch leftovers (especially when compared to the hospital cafeteria).

IMG_1875

“French” Apricot Crock Pot Chicken

– Serves 4 (or 2 with great leftovers the next day)

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup french dressing (I used Newman’s Own)
  • 1 cup apricot jelly or preserves
  • 1 packet onion soup mix
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for a minimum of  7 hours, but longer is fine.  Serve over rice.

Source: Pennies on a Platter


Pecan Tassies (or Mini Pecan Pies)

IMG_1905
I had something entirely different to share with you today – it was going to be a meal of sustenance, instead of another dessert.  However, after serving these little delicacies last night, I decided that I must get this recipe out ASAP so that you can make them ASAP.  I’m pretty sure these made both the gator’s and the buckeye’s losses yesterday seem less painful (at least to the people who might be pained by that sort of thing).

These treats were the perfect way to start off October.  They are sweet, nutty and flakey.  As a true candy lover, I think part of the reason I like these is because the brown sugar becomes caramelized on top as it mixes with the pecans, creating an almost toffee like texture on the outside with a sweet and melted inside.  Because I only had enough cupcake pans to make 24 of these at a time, I ended up running out of filling for the last tray.  While you’d think that extra filling would always be a good thing, it seemed like most of that extra filling just spilled out onto the pan and made a mess.  Therefore I would recommend measuring out half of the filling if you are making these in batches, so you have a better idea of how much to use.

Basically these are like a miniature pecan pies, with a slightly more solidified filling and an amazing crust.    They also smell amazing while baking.  And I’m pretty sure they would perfectly complement  a nice big glass of apple cider.  So go ahead and enjoy a few (or 10) for dessert, or for breakfast (like I did today).  Happy Fall!
IMG_1904

Pecan Tassies (Mini Pecan Pies)

– Makes 48 mini cupcake sized tassies

For the Dough:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 6 oz cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat because that’s what I had)
  • 2 cups flour

For the Filling:

  • 1½ cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 heaping cup chopped pecans, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  To make the dough: beat butter and cream cheese together until combined.  Add the flour and mix until incorporated.  Roll the dough into 48 individual balls (each ball should be a little smaller than a quarter).  Place the balls on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.

2. To make the filling:  combine all ingredients (brown sugar, pecans, eggs, butter, vanilla) in medium bowl and mix to combine.  Divide this into even halves if you are making this in batches. 

3.  Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly grease mini muffin pans.

4. To assemble:  Take a ball of dough and roll it out into a flat circle.  Place inside a mini muffin cup and repeat with remaining dough.  Alternatively you can simply press the dough ball inside of the mini muffin tin to create a cup.  I was worried about the crust being uneven, which is why I chose to roll the balls out, but to save time you can use the other method.   
IMG_1901

5.  Fill each cup with a heaping teaspoon of filling.  Top each with a sprinkle of  roughly chopped pecans.   The filling puffs up while baking, so it is not necessary to fill to the brim of the cup, in fact this tends make a mess because the filling overflows. 

6. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.   Let cool slightly in pans, then transfer to a cooling rack.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Source: Brown Eyed Baker, originally adapted from “old firehall ladies auxiliary cookbook”.

IMG_1910