Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pumpkin Maple Yogurt Cake

I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that Thanksgiving is THIS week. It's the earliest it can possibly be, seeing how November 1 was a Thursday and....well, you can do the math from there. I am guessing that retailers are excited because it starts the holiday shopping a bit earlier than usual.

I was feeling the pumpkin love, and had a container of vanilla maple yogurt from Klein Farms in Easton in my fridge, and I wanted to come up with pumpkin cake that was moist, slightly tangy, and not too sweet. And which involved yogurt. You may not have the same yogurt, but never fear. You can substitute vanilla or plain yogurt rather easily--just please use regular stuff. If you use low-fat yogurt you're going to get low-fat taste. I am a very healthy eater, but when it comes to baked goods, my personal philosophy is that you gotta go big or go home. Low-fat, no-fat, no-sugar stuff (unless you have real health issues--i.e, diabetes or insulin resistance) just isn't generally worth the time or the illusion of health. You know how Michael Pollan talks about how people eat more processed food that's marked "low fat" and then wind up binging on carbohydrate-based snacks? The same applies to homemade low-fat stuff. It's more satisfying to just eat the real thing. And it's much easier to stop. And you need much less of it. Right? Are you with me? Ok!

Because I used a yogurt with maple in it, I only used 1 Tbsp of maple syrup and 1 teaspoon of maple flavor because I am a full believer in full flavor. If you have neither maple-based yogurt or fancy maple extracts/flavor, I'd suggest swapping out 1/4 of the brown sugar for maple syrup; use 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup maple syrup. But seriously, folks. If you do any kind of baking on any kind of regular basis, I can't recommend high quality extracts and flavors enough, such as this maple one. They really boost a flavor profile tremendously, and they tend to last for ages. Think about this when you're stocking up for holiday baking projects.

(Before you get all righteous with me about that not being PURE maple extract, I do believe the fine folks at either America's Test Kitchen and/or King Arthur have tested baked goods with pure maple extract and maple flavor and prefer maple flavor. I tend to agree. Maple flavor is more concentrated and therefore more assertive. It also means you need to use a LOT less, and organic maple syrup, which is what I typically buy, is not cheap and you need more of it. Ok. I feel better now.)

As for the frosting, I had some leftover maple frosting in my fridge (a fact that tickles John to no end--he says, "I love that I'm married to someone who just has frosting lying around...") and slathered it on top as best I could, and adorned the rim of the cake with walnuts. I didn't even toast them, but you should, because it tastes way better. You can also skip the frosting altogether and just opt for a plain cake, or a lovely dusting of confectioner's sugar, just before serving (otherwise the cake quickly sucks it up, slurp, like a sponge).

Pumpkin Maple Yogurt Cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. Boyajian's natural maple flavor
1 Tbsp. organic maple syrup (do NOT use pancake syrup!)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar  (or 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup maple syrup if there is no maple-related flavor/extract or yogurt in your arsenal.)
2 large eggs
1 cup vanilla maple yogurt (Stonyfield makes one but it is not full-fat)
1 cup pumpkin puree, preferrably organic

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Whisk together flours through nutmeg in a small bowl and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until lightened in color and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium-low speed, waiting for the first to be completely incorporated before adding the second. Add the maple flavor and 1 Tbsp. syrup; or, if you aren't using either a maple yogurt or maple extract, 1/4 cup of maple syrup.
5. Add the yogurt; mix on low speed to combine, and then add the pumpkin. Mix on low speed to combine. Do NOT overmix.
6. Spray with nonstick baking spray or butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. Pour the batter into the pan.
7. Bake for about 30 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean in the middle--this is a moist, damp cake, but I would check it around 26-28 minutes to insure you don't overbake it.
8. Let it cool for about 1/2 hour in the pan and then remove the springform. Let it cool completely before frosting (if desired) or slicing.

This is totally optional, but I'd suggest the following:
8 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature (take it out of the fridge when the cake goes in the oven)
3-4 cups of confectioner's sugar, sifted
2-3 Tbsp. maple syrup OR 1 tsp. maple flavor
2-3 Tbsp. of milk

1. In the now magically clean bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the also now magically clean paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese (that sounds weird) on medium speed until it's fluffy, about two minutes.
2. Add the maple syrup or flavor and mix to combine.
3. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar and mix on medium speed to combine. Alternate with the tablespoons of milk as necessary to ensure a creamy consistency; it needs to be spreadable and fluffy, not spreadable and paste-like.
4. When the cake has cooled, spread across the top in a thin layer with an offset spatula.  Adorn the rim of the cake with walnut halves. You can toast them in a dry frying pan over medium heat until they become fragrant but keep an eye on them because you don't want them to burn. When you can smell them, it's time to stop.
Admittedly, frosting is one of those things I eyeball, so you may find that you need more or less milk or sugar depending on your preferences. If you want it really sweet, add more sugar and less milk, but the milk tends to help cut the sweetness. Taste as you go! Yeah, that's right!

I made this cake several days ago and it's STILL good, so I would say that it keeps for 3-5 days covered and in the fridge. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Experiment

I'm doing a quick post just so you can see something pretty and baking related on a Wednesday morning. It's strawberry rhubarb pie made with a hybrid crust of spelt flour and regular old AP flour. I also used tapioca for the first time. The recipe is one I'm testing for the Lehigh Valley Farmers Market Cookbook, which is officially seeking recipes now. I'll also be blogging about it too, hopefully more regularly than this one, but we shall see.

I've not used tapioca before in a pie filling, but strawberries are notoriously juicy and the last thing you want is all that hard work to go oozing all over the inside of your oven. So here are a few pics.....

If you know me, you know I have a fondness for crumb tops. I almost always make pies this way. It's kind of a long story as to why.

You can see the tapioca here--it looks kind of gritty.

And here's the pie, uncovered, before it gets sprinkled with a crumb topping.

And then here's the pie, just out of the oven. It's still cooling and I'm waiting for the whole thing to set so there aren't little pools of liquid floating on top to make me nervous anymore before I cut it.

I'll report back and let you know this tastes. I'm hoping the crust stays together (it was breaking up a bit when I was transferring to the pie dish) and the filling doesn't go crazy on me.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Spent Grain Rugelach: Or, a Totally Hacked Recipe

A few months ago, I started working with spent grain. It started with this recipe for spent grain sourdough bread. Someone shared a recipe for spent grain rugelach with me, but it had a few major problems. First, the original version, from a section on spent grain baking from the Brooklyn Brew Shop's web site, has some serious inconsistencies and oversights. I can't keep working from an incorrect recipe, so my motivation is equal parts sharing and equal parts sanity preservation.

This recipe's keys are the dried cranberries and the egg white. The dried cranberries make for a filling I've not seen before in either schnecken or rugelach, which typically consists of walnuts and brown sugar and lots of cinnamon.

Oh, and you may have heard me talk about the differences between rugelach and schnecken before. You may know that I make a schnecken with nutella. And thank goodness for that, because the original version of this recipe directs you to roll the dough out into a rectangle, but does not tell you what size it should be, how thick the dough should be, nor how many pieces you should get when you slice up the rolled-up rectangle. So I hacked the recipe, and turned it into a schnecken recipe. So that means the dough is divided into six equal pieces and rolled into circles, and then split up like a pizza. The original recipe also called for much more sugar and more of the filling, and it was just too much all around--I had leftover filling and it was too sweet to have so much sugar in the middle.

For the Dough:
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup spent grain

For the Filling:
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

For the Top:
  • 1 egg  yolk
  • 1-2 Tbsp. water
  • Sparkling sugar

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and cream cheese and salt until it starts to look fluffy and it's well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the 1/4 cup granulated sugar.
2.  Add in the flour slowly, followed by the spent grain. Once it has come together, remove it from the bowl and wrap it in wax paper and put it in the fridge for a least an hour, longer if possible, and up to overnight. (I would not let this sit for more than 24 hours because when you roll the dough out it will be a bit dry.)
3. While the dough chills, combine the filling ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. I find it easiest to combine all the dry ingredients first, and add the egg white last. Make sure the egg white is fully integrated; the mixture should look evenly wet.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Wait until it's time to take dough out of fridge......
6. Remove dough from the fridge and weigh it. Divide the dough in half with a chef's knife or pastry scraper. Divide each half into thirds of equal weight. Wrap up three of the dough chunks and leave three out. You will notice that this dough is sticky, stickier than your typical rugelach dough.
7. Flour a pastry board and start by rolling out the first chunk of dough into a circle that measures about 8-10 inches in diameter. Scoop about 2 Tbsp. of the cranberry-sugar-nut mixture onto the circle of dough, and spread it out so that none of it clumps together in the middle.
8. Using a pizza cutter, divide the dough into eight equal pie-shaped portions. Roll each pie slice up, starting with the fat end closest to you. The filling will want to spooge out. If it does this, try to concentrate it everywhere but the skinny part, which you reach last when you're rolling. Repeat this process until you have 12 on a baking sheet.
9. Whisk together the egg yolk and water. Brush the tops of the rugelach with this mixture and sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar (I've used raw sugar in a pinch but it doesn't hold up as well as coarse white sparkling sugar.)
10. Baking for about 20 minutes, until the ends are starting to brown and the tops are starting to brown a bit. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
11. Repeat steps 7-10 until you're out of dough.
12. Yield: 4 dozen

I am still calling it rugelach even though my other recipe is almost the same in its methodology and execution, and that one's called schnecken. Tomato, tom-ah-to. You know where this is going, I imagine. This little treat is sweet, freezes well, and travels well. They will keep for several days (probably five at most) in a tightly covered container at room temperature.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday's Five Favorites: Secret Ingredients

I realized something recently that I already innately knew, but it bears repeating. It took reading a post from Will Write For Food followed by a note from my friend Jaime K: You don't always have to post a recipe.

Of course not. (Slaps forehead with palm of hand.)

I have been on a recipe treadmill over here, because I want to master things. So what I have decided to do is start a regular feature on Fridays where I share with you five of my favorite things. They may be things that help me make kitchen magic. They may be five favorite people, places, or things that I love that are food-centric. We're making this up as we go, people. The sky's the limit.

Let's talk about ingredients, because those make a big difference. I learned something about myself as a cook/baker years ago. I almost always up the spice/herb/citrus zest quotient when I look at a recipe. Most of the time you can do this with pepper, but not always. (You cannot, however, do this with salt in baking. But most people undersalt their food. That's another story.)  Nowadays, I just add these elements without much measuring, but based on tasting, tasting, tasting, as I go along. (Yes, I even do this with cake batter. Who says baking and cooking are such terribly different animals? You think I'm crazy? I wash my hands, don't worry.) I honestly don't see the point in eating something that has a weak flavor. It's gotta be assertive, stand up and announce itself. "Hi. I'm lemon. Nice to meet the tastebuds on the sides of your tongue." You get the idea. Otherwise, what's the point?

So when I bake, I layer the flavors at different stages of the game, which is not too different from cooking. Here are some of my favorite secret ingredients. 

1. Powdered lemon peel. You can certainly use this instead of zest or juice or extract or oil. I get mine from the fine folks at Penzeys. But why not use it in conjunction with those items, like in lemon cupcakes (wish I had a URL to insert here)? It's all the outer peel, so you get no bitter pith. Add it to the dry ingredients, when whisking or sifting, and you have an instant citrus hit. I usually use about 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. per cup of dry ingredients. Or more if I'm feeling sassy or making a large batch of something.

2. Black cocoa powder. This one is a new addition to the team. The instructions on the package are not to be disregarded. The smart people at King Arthur Flour (I promise I'm no shill for them; they just make stellar stuff) warn you to use this sparingly. This is one of those cases where I pay attention, because they know what they're doing when it comes to baking. It makes things darker and more intensely chocolatey. You may find that when you add in a tablespoon or so at a time, substituting for regular cocoa powder, you may need to add a little more sugar (a tablespoon or so at a time), to balance it out. This is what I did with the Black and White Overdrive cupcakes.

3. Boyajian lime oil. These things are concentrated, and you only need a little bit; 1/2 tsp. per cup of dry measuring and 1/4 tsp. per cup of liquid measuring I usually add this to almost everything I make in the spring and summer that contains citrus, but especially margarita cupcakes. Boyajian sells lemon, orange, and tangerine oils, too. They last quite a while provided you take care of them by keeping them refrigerated.

4. Espresso powder. You can get this online pretty easily. I add it, automatically, to anything that's strictly chocolate-based. It also rocks in Joy the Baker's Cappuccino Cookies with Espresso and White Chocolate. Add 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. per cup of flour, depending on how pronounced you want the flavor to be. I also add it to my whoopie pie recipe, which I don't believe I've yet published here. Must. Get. Bizzay!

5. Vanilla soy milk instead of regular milk. In general, this a pretty safe swap in any case that calls for milk. I do this in frosting pretty regularly, because it adds a little sweetness without the cloying sweetness that you sometimes get from confectioner's sugar. Or go crazy and use chocolate soy milk in a chocolate cake instead of regular milk. You can experiment in baking. Don't let those savory people tell you otherwise.

What are some of your favorite secret ingredients in cooking and baking? Inquiring minds wanna know! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Black and White Overdrive: Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

I can't believe it's been so long. People, I am so sorry. This month has been a whirlwind of writing and baking and planning and scheming and, oh.  I don't even know where to start. There are so many projects swirling around, all of them replete with promise and good intentions and ideas and excitements. We are so switched on around here, we don't have much "off" time. I've been just about keeping up.

I have been baking all along, of course, but here's one I can share with you. It's an adapted recipe from Bakerella. It involves submerging an Oreo cookie (or its ilk) in the actual cupcake batter, which is really liquidy, or breaking up a cookie so it becomes more of a chunky cupcake kind of experience: you decide which you prefer, but I just plum submerged the cookie itself, intact. You then top said cupcake with frosting, naturally, and another cookie. In my case, I was down to only six cookies, so I had to break them and half to make them go twice as far. So they became little half moons. And I didn't use Oreos, because the film they leave in my mouth is so gross. So I bought the Newmans O's which don't have partially hydrogenated anything. I know it's still a processed cookie; bugger off. This is hard work, people. Heh-heh.

Ms. Bakerella says you should get at least 12 cupcakes, but any recipe with 1 1/2 cups flour and then another 1/2 cup of cocoa is pushing way past a dozen. but I got way more than 12 cupcakes. I got more like almost two dozen. I suppose that means I got about 20.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. black cocoa powder (Note: If you don't have it, don't sweat it. But damn, this stuff is intense and really amps up the flavor.)
1 1/3 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. espresso powder
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. coffee extract
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup hot water
18 Oreos (or 24 if you have a fresh, unopened package, which I clearly did not.)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 Tbsp. shortening
1 tsp. vanilla
3-4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
3-4 Tbsp. milk
2 tsp. or more of Oreo cookie crumbs
Note: You know how to make crumbs, right? In my case, I used almost an entire jar of Duff Cookies and Cream Sprinkles, because I spotted them at Michaels the week before and nabbed them, knowing this project was in my future.)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and line one and a half muffin trays with cupcake liners. Alternately, you can always coat it with a baking spray or hit it with some good old-fashioned butter smeared into pan.
2. Either break apart about 12 cookies and place the crumbs in each cup, or place one entire cookie on the bottom of each cup. (The whole cookie will likely float to the top during baking. Wish I'd taken a photo of that but these cupcakes went too quickly for that.)
3. Combine the dry ingredients--the flour through espresso powder--in a medium-sized bowl.
4. Combine the eggs, oil, vanilla, coffee extract, and milk in a separate bowl and whisk together for a few seconds.
5. Dump eggy-oil mix into the dry ingredients. Combine.
Note: I like to start off cakes and cupcakes that come together this way by folding in the dry ingredients, but then finish it up with a small whisk to make sure all the lumps are gone, gone, gone.
6. Add the hot water and mix well until thoroughly incorporated.
7. You can then do one of two things. If you're lucky, you've got mixing bowls with little spouts on them like I do, and you can slowly pour this pretty aqueous batter into the cupcake pan, filling it about 3/4 full. Or you can transfer it to one of those large Pyrex glass measuring cups, and pour along that way. I normally recommend using a 1/4 cup cookie/ ice cream scoop, but that got messy. Halfway through I switched back to the bowl itself and just made sure my hand was steady. I still spilled.
8. Keep going until you have no more batter. You'll likely get 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes.
9. Bake for about 18 minutes until the tops spring back lightly when you touch them or a cake tester comes out fairly clean (you don't want any goop.)
10. Take them out of the oven, put them on a cooling rack and wait ten minutes. Then, transfer them out of the pan to the rack to cool completely. (If you forget this step you may get gummy cupcakes.)

The frosting is pretty straightforward. The original recipe called for all shortening (gulp), but I don't really care for an all-shortening frosting because of the desire to create a white, white base against which the crumbs could be contrasted. To me, no matter what you flavor you put with it, you can always taste shortening in shortening-based frostings; there's this greasy mouthfeel you get. (I know, it goes back to that icky film-in-the-mouth-thing again, doesn't it?)  Even when I do vegan baking, I always use a combination of shortening and Earth Balance. It just tastes better. Trust me on this.

Frosting directions

1. Cream together the butter and shortening in the bowl of a stand mixer.
2. Add your vanilla. Combine.
3. Add the powdered sugar in several increments. I usually do this in 4-5 increments because that stuff makes an unholy mess all over the kitchen if you add too much at once.
4. Add tablespoons of milk as necessary, when things start getting too thick and gunky.
5. If you're adding cookie crumbs, now's your chance. Turn off the mixer and mix in by hand. (I just like doing this kind of stuff by hand.)
6. Frosting! There are a number of ways you can apply the frosting. You can mess around with tips and pastry bags if you want something all sweet and fluffy. I planned to roll the tops in the cookie bits so I didn't see any point in making the frosting a work of art. I used a palette knife and made it as smooth a surface as possible. And then I rolled the Duff crumbs. (That sounds weird.)
7. If you're using an entire cookie, you can carefully ensconce it among the fluffy waves of frosting. Or if like me you have limited resources, you carefully slice them in half with a chef's knife and marvel at how cleanly they break, and put the cut side on top of the cupcake. And then eat one.

These will keep for days. I kept them covered in a cake dome. They were good even 4-5 days later.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cracker Jack Cupcakes: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

It's that time, people.


I have been brainstorming a special cupcake to herald the onset of baseball season. It's serious business in our house and pretty much the only thing on television between now and November, with brief interruptions of Curious George. It means also, though, that the season for Iron Pigs widowhood has kicked in, but no worries. I have plans for that. This cupcake came out of a conversation with John about baseball, loosely, in which he said the words "Cracker Jacks." I can't remember the context, but it does not matter. I then said, "Cracker Jack cupcakes."

I brainstormed this recipe for a while, thinking of a peanut butter base versus a caramel base, and toyed briefly with the idea of adding cornmeal but then decided against it. Yesterday, I finally decided on a browned butter dulce de leche base with a salted peanut buttercream frosting. The whole thing's topped, of course, with real live Cracker Jacks, which sadly seem to come with fewer peanuts these days. So I ameliorated what was there with chopped roasted, unsalted ones. I doubled this recipe because half were for sale and I could not go through all this work and then be banned from tasting the result. No, that would not be right. And that would mean no sharing, either, which totally isn't cool. So this recipe yields 24 cupcakes, but it can easily be halved.

My palette is also indebted to Jason Hook, whose peanut butter miso ice cream loosely informed this cupcake's genesis.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup of butter, divided (you'll cream one stick and turn the other into browned butter!)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 14-ounce can dulce de leche, or 1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk (more on that in a minute).
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract (please use the real stuff)
1 box of Cracker Jacks
1/2 cup roasted, chopped peanuts

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter, or more to taste
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt or coarse sea salt (Do NOT use regular table salt because it will be too salty; you won't have the random delicious taste of salt crystals in the frosting.)
2-3 cups sifted confectioner's sugar (or more, to taste.)
2-3 Tbsp. milk

For the dulce de leche:
1. Set your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Pour the contents of a can of sweetened condensed milk into a pie plate. Set that pie plate into a shallow, larger pan which you will then fill with hot water. Cover the plate with aluminum foil.
3. Bake (is that even the right word here? Cook?) the milk for about an hour until it's thickened and darkened in color.
4. Remove from the oven to cool. You can put this in the fridge after it's cooled and do this step a day ahead if you like, which is what I did. You'll need to mix it with the whisk attachment of your stand mixer (or the whisk attachment on your immersion blender, which is what I did), to break up any clumps.

Notes: You can also do the same thing in the microwave, but the instructions are more fussy and require you to pay more attention to it. You can also reputedly put an entire unopened can of the milk into a pot of simmering water, making sure that the water covers the can at all times. Simmer for a couple of hours and then let the can cool. When you open it up, voila. Dulce de leche. I did not do this, though. I wanted a hands-off approach, and the oven came to the rescue.

For the browned butter, or beurre noisette:
This couldn't be easier. If you want more information about this and why it's lovely to do in cooking and baking, see Michael Ruhlman.
1. Take the stick of butter and melt it in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Let it cook until it starts to turn brown; you'll know this is happening because the kitchen will smell like nutty, caramel-y butter and there will be a fine, bitty layer of sediment on the bottom of your pan.
3. Turn it off the heat immediately; the butter will continue to cook even if it's off, so you may want to transfer the butter to a separate bowl to cool completely. 

For the cupcakes:
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cream the sugars and 1/2 cup of butter in the bowl of your stand mixer for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy.
3. Add the browned butter, now cooled to room temperature. You may see streaky bits. Don't panic.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla, beating well to combine for about five minutes.
5. Add the flour, salt and baking powder, alternating with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Mix only until no streaks of flour remain.
6. Scoop out by 1/4 cup into lined cupcake pans (whoops, sorry to miss that step, but you knew what to do, right?) and bake for 18-20 minutes.
7. Remove to cool in the pans for a few minutes, and then transfer to cool completely on wire racks.

For the frosting:
1. Cream the butter on medium speed in your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle.
2. Add the peanut butter and continue to mix.
3. When it's incorporated, start adding the sugar, slowly. When you see it getting too thick and clumpy (peanut butter and butter do this, thanks to the fat), add milk. Repeat process as necessary until the sugar is gone.

For the assembly:
1. Once the cupcakes have cooled, cut a small hole in the top of each cupcake. I used the smallest of my biscuit cutters. Don't press it all the way through; you only want to score the top of it.
2. Take a small serrated knife and pop off each top of the cupcake and set aside.
3. Fill each hole with about 1 Tbsp. of dulce de leche. Put the top back on each cupcake. Don't worry if it's bumpy. Frosting hides a multitude of sins.
4. Frost each cupcake, giving yourself a relatively smooth workspace.
5. Place about a teaspoon worth of peanuts on top of each cupcake.
6. Place 4-5 Cracker Jacks among the peanuts.
7. Eat them!

Monday, April 2, 2012


I have been a slacker!

Things have been busy and/or difficult in the past couple of weeks. I have been baking and writing a lot but just there have not been enough hours in the day.

Also, I am working on a lot of projects--most of them in my mind and/or in the discussion phase, so that's occupying a lot of my energy.

I'm writing to tell you, mostly, that a new recipe will be posted soon. And I promise it will be worth the wait. And I also promise it will be in honor of baseball season starting. That's all I'll say.

Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here's some brioche I made this morning.....

Friday, March 23, 2012

Guinness Chocolate Cake

I'm not going to lie. This is one recipe I don't really mess with all that much. And that's saying something. Some people may quibble about directly reprinting a recipe without permission and whether that makes you a real baker or real cook or real anything in the kitchen (it's a hotly contested issue in the blogosphere, FYI), but I ALWAYS give attribution. Because as any toddler will tell you, sharing is caring.

Preschool language aside, this cake rocks. Let's elevate the conversation a bit and make it a bit more adult. It's dark. It's damp. It's delicious. You might even say it's sexy. You might; I don't know. That's up to you decide if you want to give such attributes to a cake. (Certain people have called my Aga dual-fuel both sexy and bad ass.) Seriously. It's your call. I wouldn't know of such a thing. (Yeah, I don't think this blog is PG-13, all of a sudden. What's going on here with the potty mouth? And the excessive parenthesis?) 

Okay, let's get back to the cake. This beauty comes from the domestic goddess herself, Nigella Lawson. A self-taught cook and baker with a journalistic pedigree who is unapologetic about her appetite seems like a natural inspiration for me. It's fairly simple, especially if activity requiring slicing cakes evenly into layers and frosting with a palette knife sends you heading toward the Bundt pan. If you know me or have been following along, you may have figured out that I tend to gravitate toward things that are imaginative, unorthodox, deconstructed, or otherwise riff on something. You will never, EVER, find a recipe here that includes a boxed cake mix. One, 'cause that ain't a recipe. Two, 'cause it ain't a real cake. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

You may be worried about the alcohol. Don't. You can't taste it really; the combination of the beer and the sour cream give the cake a tangy bite, which serves as a necessary balance to the chocolate. And the sour cream works wonders for the texture. I've fed this cake to countless children and they all Love. It. To. Pieces. Adults, too. When I made this a few weeks ago for a crowd, it did not last more than five hours. People kept eating it, long after they had any real business doing so. There were no leftovers.

I wasn't going to post this recipe because it's not even close to being something I've adapted, but a former student, Daniela, asked for it. Here you go, Dani. Enjoy the fine food and pastries in Paris, my dear. If you make this cake, please tell me in the comments field.

Cake Ingredients
1 cup of Guinness or other dark stout with a decent head, poured and settled
12 Tbsp. butter, cut into little pats
2 cups superfine sugar (if you don't have this, whiz the same amount of regular sugar in the food processor for a few seconds. That should help.)
3/4 cup cocoa powder (I typically use as dark as possible; you might even consider black cocoa powder)
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream (Please do not use light or fat free. Your cake will suffer. Your waistline won't. But who cares? We don't eat cake to worry about such things.)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coffee extract
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line and grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan. 
  2. Pour the Guinness into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt. 
  3. Whisk in the sugar and cocoa powder until it's combined. Turn the heat off. 
  4. Whisk together the flour and baking soda in a small bowl. 
  5. Beat the eggs, sour cream, and extracts together in the bowl of a mixer until combined. 
  6. Add the eggy cream mixture to the saucepan and stir to combine.
  7. Add the flour in bits at a time and stir only until there are no more visible streaks.
  8. Pour it all into the prepared pan and whack the side of the pan with a knife a few times to release the air bubbles.
  9. Bake for about 45-50 minutes. Your cake may crack. Don't worry about it. Take it out, put it on a rack to cool almost completely in the pan. Release it from the pan. 
  10. Wait until it's totally cool before you ice it, using the following.....

Frosting Ingredients
1 8 ounce package of cream cheese,  room temperature
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 Tbsp. heavy cream

  1. Beat the cream cheese on medium speed for 30 seconds-1 minute or so just to loose it up and add some air to it.
  2. Slowly add the confectioner's sugar. Slowly turn the mixer back on to combine.
  3. Add vanilla extract; add heavy cream one tablespoon at a time. Add more sugar. 
  4. This frosting isn't stiff; it needs to have some play it in so that you can manipulate it to resemble the frothy head of a Guinness. 
  5. Frost to your heart's content. You don't need to worry about the sides of it. You also can skip the frosting altogether if you want, but then it wouldn't be a complete riff on a pint of Guinness, now would it? 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

It's that time of year. St. Patrick's Day is tomorrow. For some, this is like a national holiday, worthy of skipping work and the like. In this house, March Madness means birthdays and St. Patrick's Day and not college basketball; it means we've already polished off an entire chocolate Guinness cake and nearly a loaf of soda bread. So, cupcakes are the next logical move, right?

I realize the name of these cupcakes may be offensive to some people. I also know that it's kind of a mouthful to call them Chocolate Guinness cupcakes with Baileys-Jameson-cream-cheese frosting.

This recipe is a loose adaptation of Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake.

1 cup of Guinness, poured and settled
12 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. coffee extract
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease or line two muffin pans with liners. This recipe will yield 24 cupcakes.
  1. Bring together the beer and the butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Stir together until the butter has completely melted into the beer.
  2. Add the chocolate and stir together until it's melted. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for a few minutes.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the two eggs, the extracts and the sour cream.
  4. Add the sugar to the chocolate-beer-butter mixture and whisk to combine.
  5. Turn your mixer on and slowly pour in the beer butter mix into the bowl with the sour cream and eggs. 
  6. In a separate bowl, sift together the cocoa, salt, baking soda and flour. Add it slowly to the batter.
  7. Scoop out the batter into the tins and fill them about 2/3 of the way full.
  8. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with no wet crumbs and the sides of the cupcakes pull away from the pan.
  9. Cool in the pan for ten minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Wash your mixing bowl; you'll need it for the frosting.
8 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
2-3 Tbsp. (or more) of Bailey's Irish Cream
2-3 Tbsp. (or more) of Jameson Irish Whiskey
2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted

  1. Put the cream cheese in the bowl of your now-clean mixing bowl and cream it until it becomes smooth and a bit fluffy.
  2. Add the heavy cream and vanilla and combine.
  3. Add the Irish cream and whiskey and combine.
  4. Slowly add the confectioner's sugar and whip it up until it's good and aerated--don't be afraid to let it go for a couple of minutes. You want the frosting to have enough structure. If you sense that it's too wet from the liquid you've added just simply adjust by adding more sifted confectioner's sugar. 
  5. Frost each cupcake! Voila!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Vegan Jelly Doughnut Cupcakes: Doughcakes?

Part of me just wants to write the word donut. It always makes me think of Homer Simpson, writing it that way.

Ok. Just had to get that random thought out of the way.

It's Wednesday, and the sun is shining here. Is the sun shining where you are? Maybe it's nighttime. Anyway, these doughcakes (as I'm calling the doughnut-cupcake hybrid) are good any time of night. I've seen lots of people eat them for breakfast, but don't let those constraints stop you. They also happen to be vegan, because that happens to be a delicious way to prepare them.

Vegan. Jelly. Doughnut. Cupcakes. Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

Here's what you'll need. Chances you, you already have it lingering in the pantry and fridge.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp. apple vider vinegar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
Strawberry, blueberry, grape or other jam of your choice (Note: You want to make sure you use something with sugar, otherwise this whole plan just isn't going to come together as you like. The fruit needs to congeal, people.)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Whisk together the cider vinegar and cornstarch into a measuring cup that you've filled with the soy milk. Set aside.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Add the canola oil, sugar, and vanilla extract to the soy milk mixture and whisk to combine. 
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. You can dump them in. Vegan baking is more forgiving than conventional baking. Just fold it together carefully, and use a small whisk to make sure any lumps are gone. 
  6. Scoop by 1/4 cups to lined or greased muffin tins. Fill 3/4 of the way up. 
  7. Add 1-2 Tbsp. of the jam of your choice to the center of each cupcake. 
  8. Bake in the oven for about 20-22 minutes until the sides start to pull away from the pan, the jelly looks a bit set, and the tops are lightly browned. 
  9. Remove from the oven to cool in the pan for about ten minutes on a wire rack. Then remove each cupcake from the pan to cool completely.
  10. Shower them with love in the form of confectioner's sugar. They can take it. Repeat as necessary; that stuff gets absorbed quickly.
  11. These will keep for 2-3 days, tightly covered, in a container. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spent Grain Sourdough Bread

Things are seriously cookin' around here in the Nostalgia Baking kitchen. I can barely keep the flour off the floors and counters.

On Monday, I received some spent grain from the brewing process going on up at the soon-to-be-opened Two Rivers Brewing. It was used for a pale ale, so use your imagination. Mmmm. The contents in this plastic bag smelled delicious.

Monday is sourdough baking day anyway, so I thought it would be a suitable addition to the mix this time around.

I've been playing with the basic Rustic Sourdough recipe on the King Arthur site for months now. Sometimes, I add a cup or two of rye flour instead of using all five cups of all-purpose; other times I've used a combination of spelt flour, white whole wheat, or whole wheat.

Here's what you'll need:

1 cup sourdough starter
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant yeast
2-3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 cups room temperature, lukewarm water
1/2 cup spent grains, rehydrated with water if dried (mine were not)


1. Combine all of the ingredients, except the spent grains, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Let it go at a low speed for about 30 seconds or so to bring things together.
2. Once the water is mostly absorbed, add the spent grains.
3. Knead, knead, knead, for 5-10 minutes until the dough starts to look smoother and more elastic. Do not be alarmed if this bread is sticky.
4. Transfer to a bowl that's been oiled so the dough won't stick and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Set it in a draft-free, warm place for 90 minutes.
5. Go about your business; do laundry, read email, do work, etc.
6. When you return, the dough should be twice the size, and so if it is, preheat it to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. (I imagine you can also proof this, covered and in the fridge, for several hours or up to overnight.)
7. Flour a baking sheet (or use cornmeal--that's nice, too) and flour your hands. Turn the dough out onto the sheet, and separate it with a chef's knife or bench knife/pastry blade into two equal halves. Form them into whatever shape you want--I'm partial to a simple round ball--and tuck the ends underneath onto themselves. Cover them with a clean damp kitchen towel and let them rest and rise for another hour.
8. Bake in the very preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes. When the bottom sounds hollow when you tap the bread, you know it's ready.
9. Please resist the urge to cut hot bread. It's no fun on your hands and the bread just tears up. It really needs that time to cool.

Please don't be afraid of baking bread. If you want some starter and you live near me, I am happy to share. It's a nearly foolproof method for baking bread, provided you can keep your starter happy and bubbling, which really isn't too hard.

Here's how sticky this looked as it was kneading:

This bread took longer than it usually does, no doubt due to the added moisture of the spent grains (barley, wheat and crap! what else!). I actually took it out first, realized after five minutes that the inside was still jiggly, and then turned the oven back on and put the loaves in by themselves. This is a great way in general to get a better crust on the loaves. So is dousing the unbaked loaves with water before hand. In lieu of that, filling a pan underneath the baking sheet with super-hot tap water and then quickly shutting the door. Most home ovens don't come outfitted with the ability to make steam, and that's part of what makes the difference.

Oh! You want to know what it tasted like, right? It was tangy, nutty, and not nearly as dense as I'd thought it would be. See?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Irish Mac and Cheese

This is for Molly, who ate this at my house with her children and her sister. Molly's daughter Hallie, who wasn't quite one at the time, couldn't get enough of it. Everyone was spellbound watching her eat it. But really, it's for anyone else who wants it. I hope that means you'll make it, too, and tell me how you liked it.

This recipe didn't start out with such a goofy name, but last year I made this in March with Irish Dubliner cheddar and put it in this nice stoneware I got from King Arthur Flour with little Celtic designs on it and well, it's green, it's Irish, and it's cheesy. The name just kind of writes itself, ya know?

It all started, though, as Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese from Cooking Light. I used to have a subscription to that magazine until a couple years ago when they noticeably started dumbing down the copy--or either that I just overnight, by leaps and bounds, became a much better cook and outgrew the magazine. (Not likely. Magazine redesigns always make me upset, as inevitable as I know they are, having worked in them.) The funny thing is that this recipe has morphed so much that when my husband went to make it for me when I was very pregnant, how I'd been making it was totally different from what was on the recipe card (yeah, I use those. Sometimes. But I digress!). He asked me, "do we have everything for this?" And I said, "Yes, of course." He said, "I can't find the Gouda. We have no green onions." It became a comedy of errors. And he knows his way around the kitchen, so it's not about that, either. Nevertheless, I'd like to set the record straight.

1 slice of whole wheat bread
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chopped onions (original recipe and this photo's version have 1/4 cup or so of chopped green onions)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk (yeah, this is no longer a Cooking Light recipe!)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp of black pepper
2 ounces (1/2 cup) shredded Irish cheddar or other nutty-sweet-sharp cheddar
1 1/2 ounces (1/3 cup) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
5 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
4 cups hot cooked elbow macaroni (about 2 cups uncooked)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Place bread in food processor and blitz until coarse crumbs measure 1/2 cup.
  3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the flour and cook for another minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Gradually add the milk, salt, pepper; stir constantly with a whisk until blended. Bring it to a boil and cook until thick (about 2-3 minutes).
  5. Add the cheeses and stir until melted.
  6. Add the spinach and macaroni to the cheese sauce and stir it until well blended. Spoon the mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with butter or cooking spray. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly. 
It's easy to do some of these steps ahead of time. Make the pasta and drain it well. Run cold water over it, and add a bit of olive oil, which will help keep the pasta from sticking together. Cover it and put it in the fridge until you're ready to use it. Ditto the spinach; you can chop and store it ahead of time. I sometimes make it with frozen spinach; typically, I do this in the winter. In the summer I use chard or spinach or whatever the CSA is yielding. I'm guessing that kale would work, too, for those of you who can't get enough of it. If you go the frozen route, however, you will need to squeeze every ounce of water out of the spinach until it's not emitting any more liquid.

This recipe doubles really easily and freezes well.

I have also used this with a slightly sweet Asiago cheese (Trugole, for the cheeseheads out there), with good results. Anything that melts well without getting too gritty or grainy will do the trick. Sometimes, I've swapped out the pasta for cavatappi, that crazy corkscrew pasta.

You may notice the green tint to the breadcrumbs. Here's what this one looked like before it went into the oven.

 I do believe I made these bread crumbs with some leftover parsley I had. (I keep breadcrumbs in the freezer and pull them out as needed.) You don't have to use a green pan, but if you have one, go for it. I won't make a stupid joke about how everyone is Irish when they eat this.  Nonsense. The name is admittedly a gimmick. It got your attention, didn't it?

While I'm at it, everyone is NOT Irish on St. Patty's day.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Fine Frenzy

Today I don't have a recipe for you.

Sniff, sniff.

Instead, I have an apple pie baking in the oven, nerves I'm trying to calm by doing other work (and sharing my nerves with whomever is reading), and a recipe that I need to post soon because someone asked for it. I'm going to call it Irish Mac and Cheese and I'm going to post it first thing tomorrow.

You can go here to see what my apple pie looks like, and find a recipe for it.

This is what the Irish Mac and Cheese looks like.

In the meantime, my pie is for a new friend who just happens to be a chef. It feels like an audition for a play that hasn't been written yet. Or heck, let's be more accurate. It's for a musical. Plays, for all their gravitas, typically don't have music.

When you tread in uncharted waters, you have no idea what will happen. I ran out of steam there with that metaphor. I think this means I need to get back to work.

So for the two of you who I know are following me--and who knows how many really are lurking here?!--I apologize for a chintzy post.

Please stay tuned. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Oat-Nut Crisps: Wheat Free and Easy

As a mother of twin boys who are three years old and don't stop talking/moving/doing/being, I am living proof that you don't really need much time to bake from scratch. You can do it while you are doing other things, and do things in steps. Indeed, this is often how I operate because there typically is no other way.

But all of that doesn't really apply to this recipe, except to say that I put this together while I was talking with Desmond, who was home from school today recuperating from a fever he had yesterday. I asked him what kind of cookies he wanted, and he said, "oatmeal." (My other child would have said, "chocolate chip" had he been here and had I asked.)

I adapted this recipe from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking, which calls it "All Oats, All the Time." I decided a couple of things before I even made it: it needed some maple syrup and I wanted to see what would happen if I added a bit of flour to part of the batter. I also, as one might predict, upped the cinnamon. I discovered that my oven browned these more quickly and they became super crispy--almost too much and moreso than the recipe perhaps would have indicated. I attribute this to my convection oven, and the fact that I added a bit of liquid sugar in the form of maple syrup. Still, it seemed too fast and I'm wondering if it's a typo.

Oat-Nut Crisps

2 cups quick cooking oats
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (2 ounces,  1/2 stick, etc.)
3/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar (I used light)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. real maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. maple flavor (not imitation maple extract, but something quality, like from Boyajian)

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease or line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Combine the nuts, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in the food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely chopped and evenly distributed.
  3. Beat the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth. Add the maple syrup and combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the side as necessary, and beat until smooth.
  4. Stir in the vinegar, extract and maple flavor, and then the oat mixture.
  5. Drop the dough by teaspoons onto the prepared baking sheets and bake for about 10 minutes, until the edges are barely browned. Make sure to rotate the trays at the halfway point. Here's where I deviates from the recipe, which advises 14 minutes. My oven is a bit fast, but even still, I had edges that were a bit too browned at 7 minutes. I would advise you to set your clock to five minutes and use your judgment. You may need another five minutes, like I did, or you may need more.
  6. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the pan for five minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  7. Yield: About 42 cookies
Notes: If you're using regular rolled oats, which you can, pulse them first in the food processor to break up a bit, and then add the cinnamon, nuts, leavening and salt.

You may look at these cookies and think there is not enough structural integrity for them to stick together as they cool. Don't worry. The nuts are strong--and the eggs help, too. 

When I got halfway through the recipe, I decided I wanted to see what would happen if I added flour: if I would still like the cookie, if it would be soft and chewy, etc. I'm happy to report it was, but I didn't like it as much. I added just a 1/4 cup to about half of the batter, and let them bake for about 10-11 minutes. The flavors weren't quite as intense as they were in the wheat free version; next time I will try half the batter with whole wheat pastry flour, which will be more delicate and perhaps more appropriate. Just 'cause.

I think I prefer them as thin as this, though:

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bacon Asiago Shallot Scones

This post is partially motivated by the desire to demonstrate that I do bake things other than cupcakes. The whole cupcake thing requires variety and creativity on a regular basis to keep the masses happy. It's also kind of a happy accident, but that's another story for another day....

Bacon-related scones are a different matter altogether. You cannot argue with good bacon; it is one of a handful of things that keeps me from becoming a complete (rather than part-time) vegetarian. Here, I've used something local and delicious from Klein Farms in Easton. Bacon plus sharp-sweet Asiago cheese plus shallots cooked in the bacon grease, of course! Why waste? And then toss it together in a buttery dough, chill it overnight (or freeze if you're impatient, for 1/2 hour or so), and then your house smells like bacony, cheesy heaven.

This is a riff on my usual scone recipe, which I've published elsewhere (strawberry scones! oh, early summer bliss!), with some additions. You can of course cook the bacon in a pan, but I like the hands-off nature of putting it in the oven so I can go about my business, prepping the rest of the ingredients. The trick with scones is to handle them as little as possible; you want them to be tender and flaky, not hard and unyielding like a hockey puck.

Bacon-Asiago-Shallot Scones

  • 4-5 thick slices of good bacon
  • 1 large or two small shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
  • 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • A couple of turns of the pepper mill (not terribly specific, I know)
  • 12 Tbsp. frozen butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature

The Bacon-Shallot Part
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place the bacon on aluminum foil on a lidded sheet pan. Please do not use a cookie sheet unless you want bacon grease all over the joint.
  3. Cook the bacon until it's starting to give off little tiny white bubbles, about 15-18 minutes. Transfer to a plate and place a couple of paper towels on top to blot up the excess grease.
  4. Pour the bacon grease from the bottom of the sheet pan into a cast iron or other pan of your choice and saute the chopped shallots until they soften and begin to caramelize. 
  5. Once the bacon has cooled, chop it into small pieces or use kitchen shears to cut into smaller-than-bite-size pieces. Set aside. 
  6. Shred the cheese. Did I have to tell you to do this? 
I love using kitchen shears for food tasks. Thanks for the tip, Nigella Lawson.
 The Dough Part
  1. Place the flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.
  2. Add the frozen butter chunks and let it rip until you just barely hear a nob of butter rattling around.
  3. Transfer contents to a bowl and add the cheese, shallots and bacon. Add in the freshly ground pepper. Mix to combine with a spatula.
  4. After you've measured out the milk, crack the egg into the measuring cup and whisk to break up the yolk. Add milk-and-egg combo to the dough. Mix until it's just combined.
  5. You will notice this is a soft, mushy dough. Roll or pat it gently and use a 3-inch biscuit cutter to form the scones. 
  6. You should get about 12-14 scones, which you should place on two separate baking sheets.
  7. Cover the baking sheets with saran wrap, and then place a thin clean dish towel to seal up any cracks. Transfer to the refrigerator for a few hours or up to overnight.
Here's the point in the recipe ***************  where time elapses ********* and we have to wait******for the dough to be ready*******

Good night, little guys!
Bacon scones, ready to go to sleep for a bit and firm up.

Good morning! Are you ready for scones?

The Baking Part
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Remove scones from fridge and brush them with whole milk.
  3. Bake for 16-18 minutes until lightly golden on top. 
  4. Remove from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes on the sheet, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Please, resist the urge. You will burn your mouth. 
These babies won't keep for too too long in a tightly covered plastic container, but I don't think you will have trouble gobbling them up. Alternately, you can freeze them if you like. Another option: if you want them smaller, you can certainly use any sized biscuit cutter; just reduce your baking time accordingly, if you're opting for that. Of course, you can also mix in anything else you want, swap out the cheese, opt for sausage or ham, and do herbs--the sky has no savory limit. I also do an Irish cheddar and chive variation, too.
This one was broken off for a toddler who did not finish it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chocolate Spice Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

Apparently, a few weeks ago I had people Googling "ganache" because they didn't know what it was. They just knew it was good, especially on top of peanut butter chocolate chip cupcakes. It's good over lots of things, my friends.

But I digress!

This weekend's cupcake drop off (red velvet) went like crazy (gone in less than 48 hours), so I found myself scratching my head last night at 9pm, like I often do, when I don't have a specific baking plan for the next round of cupcakes. I thumbed through Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book. It's a good resource, but it often gives recipes for odd amounts of cupcakes (15! 18! 32!) and I can't always divide three eggs into one and a half (although I could try). Or I should say, I'm not willing to experiment and take a gamble when I'm selling it to someone. If it were home baking, that'd be another story. Another project for another day, perhaps.

So, I bring you this morning's super chocolatey, spicy cupcake. I ended up with this one because I couldn't decide between something chocolate and something spicy. Indecision created a compromise. I upped the ante on the spice amounts, and added cloves where there were none. Also I added a bit of coffee extract because it's the now-not--so-secret ingredient (oops!) that makes all chocolate things taste way better.

Chocolate-Spice Cupcakes (adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes)

  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened, Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. coffee extract
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup molasses

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and brush a muffin tin with butter and dust with cocoa powder. Alternately, line the tins with paper liners and you're good to go.
  2. Stir the baking soda into the boiling water. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add molasses and baking soda water. Beat until combined, scraping down sides as necessary. Do not panic. The mixture is going to look clumpy, almost curdled, at times. It's ok.
  4. Reduce speed to low, and add flour in stages, mixing until just combined. Batter may still look a little lumpy. Don't fret.
  5. Divide batter evenly among prepared cups, filling about halfway.  Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool for ten minutes or so, and then remove cupcakes to cool completely on the rack. 

It may be insulting to some that I have put a vegan ganache on top of a not-at-all-vegan cupcake. But I do what works, and this one does. Adapted from the super duper cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup of soy milk (or regular milk; I've used both)
  • 2 Tbsp. agave nectar (original recipe calls for maple syrup)

  1. Heat the milk to just barely boiling over low heat. 
  2. Remove from heat immediately and whisk in the syrup and chocolate until it's dissolved
  3. Set aside until you're ready to use it. You do not want to use a steaming hot ganache on top of cupcakes because it will just run all over the place and make a mess. Wait until it's cooled, but still warm and pliable. Oh, and you don't want to transport or mess with these things until the ganache is set.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hi there. Here's a cupcake.

Oh, hello.

Thanks for stopping by.

I've started this blog as a way to more regularly keep track of what I'm baking. It's not pretty or perfect or well-designed--yet--but it's a way to connect and share that's separate from my main writing site.

I don't have mad photo skills. But what I do have are damned good cupcakes, cookies, pies, breads, whoopie pies, scones and whatever else comes out of my beloved Aga. And I'd like to share them with you, and tell you that I'm happy to make them for you, too, for a fair price.

Last week, I realized something. I missed my stand mixer, Rosco, as though he were a member of the family, when he was out for repair. Tears were shed. It was not a pretty week, people. But he's back and operational, and we're all very happy. Miles kissed the mixer at least twice and told me it was his "best friend."

So here's my Honey-Frosted Lemon Cupcake, just sitting there simply on a napkin.

Lemon Cupcake Recipe Notes:

I started with a simple vanilla cupcake base, and took it from there. I used Penzey's powdered lemon peel (amazingly fragrant and potent), mostly because I just bought it and wanted to try it out, but you should use as much zest as you can tolerate; I'd suggest a tablespoon. Similarly, I use lemon extract, but if you don't have that, add the juice of half of a lemon and you should be good to go.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. powdered lemon peel (or 1 Tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract (or juice of half a lemon)
1/2 cup whole milk

Lemon Cupcake Directions (Adapted from Hello, Cupcake):
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a muffin tin with liners or grease with butter and flour or baking spray. 
  2. In a small bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients (flour through lemon peel; if you are using lemon zest instead, do not sift this in with dry ingredients.)
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well to combine.
  5. Add the extracts/juice and zest, and mix until just combined.
  6. Add the flour in batches, alternating with the milk, until all the flour has been absorbed and there are no white streaks left.
  7. Drop by 1/4 cup scoop into pan, and bake for 18-20 minutes until the middles are just about set. The cupcakes should spring back lightly when you touch them.
  8. Transfer pan to wire rack for ten minutes, and then carefully remove cupcakes to cool completely on the rack. 
Honey Frosting Ingredients (adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes)

8 ounces of cream cheese, block-style, softened
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar, approximately--sifted if possible

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir together frantically with a spatula until it's broken down. No, seriously, this is what I did last weekend before the mixer came home, because this recipe does not technically require a stand mixer. In her book, Ms. Stewart suggests a spatula, and on her web site, she says a whisk. But how this comes together with a typical whisk, I'll never understand. This is one thick, sticky frosting, people. If  things get clumpy and your arm gets tired despite the fact that you are strong, suddenly realize you have a whisk attachment to your immersion blender and use that, like I did, before Rosco's return. Otherwise, you can easily dump all this together in the bowl of your mixer and fluff it up as best you can, adding the confectioner's sugar last to help it all come together. Just know that this is going to be a thick, beautiful frosting.

The addition of agave nectar was a total accident. In my haste to finish the frosting, I accidentally grabbed the agave first instead of the honey, as they live next to each other in the cabinet. I think the agave really heightens the flavor of the honey, so it was a happy accident. If you don't have agave, no worries. You might just need more honey than Martha says. That's what I found.

This should make more than enough frosting for a dozen cupcakes. You can keep the rest in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to five days. That's what I did, and I was able to frost six more cupcakes with the remains. Just remember to bring it to room temperature before you try to work with it--otherwise it's not going to be compliant.