Monday, September 19, 2011

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil

Tonight I let Brian pick what we had for dinner (I owed him one). I actually prefer for him to pick, deciding what to make isn't my favorite thing unless I have a new recipe I want to try. I gave Brian some suggestions and he settled on pasta but requested that we try a new recipe. Brian is a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain, host of No Reservations on the Travel Channel. I watch the show with Brian, and Anthony is usually in some crazy country trying out the local cuisine. Every once in a while he'll do a show where he shows a few recipes of his own, and tonight Brian wanted to try out a pasta recipe from the show.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, but I'm sure the changes I made are not Anthony approved. The good news is I'm pretty sure he doesn't read my blog and will never find out about the changes I made! The recipe is very simple and gets its flavor from fresh tomatoes. Brian's dad gave us some fresh tomatoes from his garden and I was thrilled to use them for the sauce. He didn't, however, give us 20 tomatoes like the recipe calls for, so I supplemented with stewed tomatoes. (Cue Anthony rolling his eyes.) I think the stewed tomatoes worked out fabulous, I just think the over all flavor probably wasn't as "fresh tomatoes" as it was supposed to be. If you didn't know otherwise, you wouldn't know the difference. Don't be scared off by the boiling and peeling the fresh tomatoes. It is relatively simple and quick, and I quite enjoyed the process.

An important step to this pasta is to mix the spaghetti, cooked just shy of al dente, with the pasta sauce on the stove. Cook over the heat, while mixing to finish cooking the pasta. I liked that better than just pouring the sauce on freshly drained pasta because the sauce just slides off. Cooking the pasta with the sauce made the sauce and the pasta stay together much better. About the process, Anthony says, "...this technique not only coats the pasta evenly with the sauce, but it also introduces a little air into the process making the dish feel lighter and brighter." And who can argue with that.

This is a great little recipe, doesn't even call for onions or garlic. Brian absolutely loved it! We have no left overs. I asked him if he needed the salt and pepper and he said, "it doesn't need it." And if you know Brian, he never says that! This is for sure a make again, and soon. (Even though my doctor said to lay off the starches if I don't want to gain too much baby weight!)

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil

About 20 ripe plum tomatoes (I used 5 fresh tomatoes and 2 cans of stewed tomatoes)
About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to finish the dish
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs. unsalted butter 1 oz. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about half a cup)
6 to 8 fresh basil leaves well washed and dried, stacked and rolled into a cylinder and cut thinly crosswise
1 lb. spaghetti (I used about 3/4 of a pound)

To peel the tomatoes: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby. Cut a small X on the bottom of each tomato. Ease about 5 tomatoes in the pot and cook. Let boil for about 15 seconds and then promptly move them to the waiting ice water (do this with the remaining tomatoes). Pull off the skin with the tip of a paring knife. If the skin sticks, try a vegetable peeler using a gentle sawing motion. Cut the tomatoes in half and use your finger to flick out the seeds.

To cook the tomatoes: In a wide pan, heat the 1/3 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and season lightly with the salt and pepper (I always start with a light hand with the salt and pepper because as the tomatoes reduce, the salt will become concentrated).

Let the tomatoes cook for a few minutes to soften. Then, using a potato masher, chop the tomatoes finely. Cook the tomatoes for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened. Refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze it for longer storage.

To serve: Bring a large pot of amply salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti until just shy of al dente. Reserve a little of the pasta cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce and cook over medium-high heat, gently tossing the pasta and the sauce together with a couple of wooden spoons and a lot of exaggerated movement (you can even shake the pan) until the pasta is just tender and the sauce, if any oil had separated from it, now looks cohesive (If the sauce seems too thick, add a little pasta liquid to adjust it). Take the pan off the heat and toss the butter, basil and cheese with the pasta in the same manner (the pasta should take on an orange hue) and serve immediately.

Source: Anthony Bourdain: No Reseverations, Travel Channel

Monday, September 5, 2011

Carmel Frosted Pumpkin Cookies

The temperature has dropped slightly around here, and with every other food blog posting up yummy pumpkin recipes already, I figured it was my turn. Yesterday I tried two new pumpkin recipes. I had to try two because the first one only called for a half a cup of pumpkin, so I just had to use the other left over cup!

The only pumpkin cookies I've made before are your basic pumpkin chocolate chocolate chip cookies. These caught my eye because they were frosted. And unlike most frosting on pumpkin treats, this wasn't cream cheese based. The frosting is caramel flavored, and it is delicious. The frosting definitely makes the cookies. I wanted my frosting to be more than just a glaze, so I added more powdered sugar than the original recipe called for. You can thicken to your liking, just don't skip it! The cookies are a moist, cake like cookie, and the recipe only calls for your basic ingredients.

I ate three of these as soon as they were frosted. And few more that night. I did manage to give some away, and there are just a few left for Brian and I to munch on. I made the mistake of storing them in a ziplock bag and the bag stuck to the frosting and pulled some of it off. I was so sad, that's the best part! But of course, I ate them anyway. I will for sure be making these a part of my must make again pumpkin goodie collection. I'm wondering if next weekend is too soon to whip up another batch! I think not.

Carmel Frosted Pumpkin Cookies


1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
Pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Stir in pumpkin. In a medium bowl, sift together the baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, salt and flour. Add to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

To make frosting: In a medium saucepan, combine butter, cream, and brown sugar over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture just begins to boil; remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cool then stir in confectioner's sugar. Spread frosting over cooled cookies.

Source: Let's Dish

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Happy Birthday Sugar Cookies

I made some sugar cookies last night for my friend Stacy's daughters 18th birthday. Her daughter really liked the last cookies I made for them, and of course I was happy to do something fun for the birthday. I enjoyed the colors I used, although being the amateur photographer that I am didn't get the best picture. I took these this morning before I left for work and there wasn't a whole lot of sunlight at 6:45 am, and I didn't have time to mess with it. But the colors were much brighter than they appear. I also love the look of the flat dots on the cookies. This is easily done by adding the dots while the frosting is still wet. Super easy! My piping of numbers could be improved though! I am a little out of practice.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan

Tonight for dinner it was just me and Brian. It was a nice, quiet evening, but this rarely happens on Sunday nights. We usually head up to his parents house or have dinner with my sisters. Today, however, everyone was out of town. We should have invited some friends over for dinner, but with me headed back to school tomorrow, a low key evening was just what I wanted. To make our laid back evening even better I decided to do a slow cooker meal that was easy to prepare, easy to serve and super easy to clean up. I decided to do a chicken parmesan and sauce in the slow cooker. My mom stopped by this morning on her way out of town and I told her of my plan and she told me she did the same thing just a few weeks ago and the result was amazing. I took some tips from her and was very pleased with how it turned out.

I've written the recipe below, but here's a brief run down of what I did and what I would change for next time. I started with a little olive oil in the bottom of the slow cooker and added chicken breasts that I dipped in egg and then in plain bread crumbs mixed with Italian seasoning. I put mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken then added my tomatoes, sauteed onions and garlic, parsley and basil. Lets talk about the chicken. It was super tender and juicy, but of course the breading wasn't crispy at all, so while it did stay on the chicken and added some flavor this could definitely be skipped. Also, adding the cheese on top of the chicken just got mixed up in the sauce and I think would be better added at the end when serving. I left my stewed tomatoes pretty chunky, but if you prefer you could cut them or use a blending method to make them smaller. I used fresh chicken breasts so I could bread them, but another way to do this faster, if skipping the breading, would be to use frozen chicken breasts.

That's about it, Brian said this was for sure a make again, and it was definitely easy enough. Too bad I didn't have any family in town to partake with us. You missed out! (And going along with not turning on my oven I bought Sprinkles cupcakes for dessert! The key lime one is to die for!)

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan

Chicken breasts -as many as you need
plain bread crumbs mixed with Italian seasoning (If breading chicken)
1 egg, well beaten
2 cans stewed tomatoes
2 cans stewed tomatoes, Italian style
1 can diced tomatoes with peppers and onions (or Italian, not Mexican!)
1 yellow onion diced and sauteed
4 cloves of garlic, diced and sauteed with onion
2 Tablespoons parsley
2 Tablespoons basil
1 box thin spaghetti

Drizzle olive oil over bottom of slow cooker. If breading chicken, thaw and using two different bowls dip chicken first in beaten egg and then in plain bread crumbs. Place on bottom of slow cooker. Open all cans of tomatoes and pour on top of chicken. Add onions and garlic, parsley and basil. Stir gently.

Cook time: on high 3-4 hours, on low 6-7. (More cooking time may be required if using frozen chicken.)

Serve chicken and sauce over spaghetti (or pasta of your choice).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Asian Noodle Salad


This week I went to a Summer Salad Soirée and I wanted to bring a salad that was new to me and my friends. I was feeling like maybe a pasta salad, something with noodles and vegetables. I had been wanted to make an Asian salad, I just needed to find a dressing. So I searched around and ended up using the dressing from Pioneer Woman's Asian Noodle Salad. I included a lot of the same vegetables as she did, but in fewer quantities. I had read a lot of her comments and everyone said the salad made a ton! I wasn't looking for quite that much so I cut back on my vegetables and left some of hers out. You could definitely add more of whatever you like and less of what you don't. There are very few vegetables I think wouldn't be good in this salad. I tried to think of the most colorful ones! My produce department didn't have orange bell peppers, so I used green instead. I cut the original dressing recipe in half because, like I said, I didn't want to make mass amounts of salad. Double what I listed below for more, but I had plenty of dressing to generously coat the salad. A quick tip on the ginger for the dressing: to peel the ginger, just scrape it with a spoon. The skin comes right off. I used my Microplane to grate the ginger, super easy! In the end I thought it was a delightful, light, perfect summer salad. This is the kind of salad my mom would love, so I'll have to make it for her next time she's in town! Enjoy.
Asian Noodle Salad

Salad Ingredients:
1 package Linguine Noodles, Cooked, Rinsed, And Cooled
1 cup sliced purple cabbage
1 whole red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 whole yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
1 whole green bell pepper, sliced thin
1/2 bag bean sprouts
3 whole green onions
1 whole cucumber, peeled and sliced
Handful of pea pods
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro

Dressing Ingredients:
1 whole lime, juiced
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1 large clove garlic, chopped
chopped cilantro, to taste

Mix salad ingredients together. Wish dressing ingredients together and pour over salad. Mix well with tongs. Note: Dressing will keep for up to three days in fridge before serving, without cilantro.

Source: Adapted from Pioneer Woman

Monday, August 8, 2011

It's been a while...


After months and months of not blogging, I'm not sure there is anyone reading this. But that's ok. I think my mom still loves me. I do have a bit of an excuse as to why I haven't blogged in the past four months. I'm pregnant. And long about April my first trimester sickness started to kick in and the last think I wanted to do was cook. Nothing sounded good to me and the thought of handling raw meats or dealing with fragrant onions or spices was enough to make me head for the bathroom! So my poor husband was on his own for a few months, but did an excellent job in taking care of me. As I started to get over that portion of the pregnancy summer hit. I was done teaching school and feeling well enough to be out and about. My cooking always declines a bit in the summer. Our little apartment gets so hot when I turn on the oven, we stick to very basic dinners.

I'm now 25 weeks pregnant, with a little baby boy, feeling great and so ready to get back in the kitchen. I hate that my summer ends in three weeks, but I won't be waiting until then to start cooking again. And with the cooking will hopefully come a few blog posts a couple of times a week.

So to get started again, I'll post about homemade brownies. Friday was my father-in-laws birthday, and he doesn't like cake. I know, seems like a crime not to like cake, but I told him I'd make him a non-cake birthday treat. Brian said his dad loves brownies, so I was searching around for some fancy brownie recipes when Brian said he really just likes chocolate. I came across a recipe on Annie's Eats that she adapted from the Baking Illustrated cookbook. I'll admit that I haven't made too many batches of brownies from scratch. Brian loves the Ghirardelli box mix you can buy at Costco that we almost always have on hand. And for how quick, easy and good they are, you really can't beat them. But these homemade ones were almost as quick and the deep, rich chocolate flavor was out of this world. The texture was very soft, but not too cake like. I prefer my brownies chewy, and these definitely were. I also loved that little bit of flakiness on the top.

I used semisweet chocolate chips for the semisweet chocolate, it was easy and what I had on hand. I found I had a bag of milk chocolate chips and thought it would be fun to mix up the chocolate combination next time. And there will be a next time. I loved that the recipe didn't call for anything too special, I didn't have to go to the store before I made these. I love that. And my father-in-law loved them too.

Triple Chocolate Brownies

5 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1¼ cups (8¾ oz.) sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (5 oz.) all-purpose flour

Place an oven rack in lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 350° F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt; whisk until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the warm chocolate mixture until incorporated. Then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until just combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread with a spatula to make an even layer. Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 35-40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Remove the brownies from the pan using the foil and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares as desired. Store in an air-tight container.

Source: Annie's Eats

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Newport Harbor Baseball Cookies

This past week I had the opportunity to make some baseball sugar cookies for my friend, Stacy. I work with her, and her son plays on the Newport Harbor baseball team. Stacy was hosting the team dinner before the game this week and asked if I'd make some cookies for dessert. I was more than happy to help her out, and since I had already made baseball cookies once before, I was excited to improve them. She wanted a bigger cookie, I used Ateco 3.5 inch round cutter, so I thought I'd dress them up with a little blue anchor in between the laces, Newport Harbors logo.

It always seems that when I know I'm making sugar cookies I plan out in my head what days I'm going to do what so I don't end up making the dough, baking the cookies, making all the frosting and frosting them all in the same day. On Tuesday night I decided that I was going to make the anchors piped on wax paper like I did these, because it worked out so well last time. I also thought this to be a time saver, as I wouldn't have to wait as long for the frosting to dry before applying them. Well, I must have had some beginners luck with those O's, because I couldn't get one anchor off the wax paper without them breaking. There goes my plan ahead plan. So Wednesday night I bribed my sisters with dinner to have them come help me assess what the problem was. Turns out the process was fine, I had just made the anchors too thin. Brittany actually ended up piping the new, thicker, anchors while I piped the outline and Mikken filled in the centers.

After the white frosting had dried a bit, I piped on the red laces. The next morning I got up early and applied the anchors, which peeled off perfectly. I just used a small paint brush and applied a small amount of water to the cookie where the anchor would go.

Anchor crisis aside, I think they turned out cute. I hope the team liked them! Thanks again Stacy!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Buttermilk Syrup

 This past Sunday I had the chance to host my family for Sunday breakfast. Our weekend breakfast tradition is generally waffles, but I decided to go out on a limb this time and try something new. My fabulous friend Sherry has this amazing buttermilk syrup recipe that I just had to share with my family. I knew they would love it, and love it they did. They couldn’t get enough of it. It’s a cinch to make and is so much better than anything bottled you can get.
photo credit: williams-sonoma
I served the syrup over aebleskivers, (or ebelskivers) which are a cute, little, sphere shaped Danish pancakes. I must admit that I didn’t make these. It not because I didn’t want to, but more because I didn’t have the right equipment. I don’t one of these (see above) special aebleskiever making pans. I see them in the Williams-Sonoma catalog and have wanted to try them for quite some time. Alas, this was not that time. So, taking yet another idea from fabulous Sherry, I headed over to Trader Joe’s and picked up a bag of, dare I say, frozen aebleskievers. Frozen or not, these babies were delicious! The best part is you can cook a ton in the oven at the same time, about ten minutes total, and they don’t get cold waiting for the others to cook. Just sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with this buttermilk syrup and you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven. If you’d like to make your own, get your self a pan, and then check out the variety of recipes Willams-Sonoma has for making aebleskievers. Enjoy!
Buttermilk Syrup

1 cube butter
1/2 cup buttermilk (low or reduced fat works also)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Bring above ingredients to a boil and make sure sugar is dissolved.

Add 1/2 tsp baking soda and continue stirring.
(Adding baking soda will double the amount of syrup by foaming and might spill over onto the stove. Use a pan is that double the size you think you would need to avoid a mess!)

Left overs will keep in fridge for a couple weeks.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oregon Ducks Cupcakes

The same weekend I made all those wedding cupcakes I was asked by another friend at work to make cupcakes for her son's baseball team party. I asked if there was a theme and she said their team was the Oregon Ducks and their colors were yellow and green. Apparently all the teams in the league are named after colleges. I took that and ran with it. I searched out the Oregon Ducks logo on the internet and liked the simple "O" they used. The night before, when I was waiting for the wedding cookies to dry, I came across a video that showed how to pipe royal icing onto wax paper, that could then be used to top cakes or cupcakes. That was in the back of my mind, and since I'm not that great at freehanding logos just yet, I thought this would work out perfectly for the Oregon O.
I printed out some Os and taped them to the table. I took wax paper and placed it over the top. As I finished one O, I would move the wax paper around and pipe several Os on the same paper.
 First, trace the shape, as if piping the outside of a cookie.

 Then fill the shape in. I used the same consistency of royal icing to pipe as I did to fill. My frosting is on the thicker side, I using the ten second rule to gauge. I wanted to make sure my lines would hold. 
These needed to dry overnight, just like royal icing on a cookie would. The next morning I frosted the cupcakes and placed the O on top of the wet frosting. I thought they turned out fantastic! The best part was, a guy friend walked in and said, "Oh, Oregon cupcakes, cool." They were recognizable, mission accomplished! I love this little cheating way of getting the logo to match almost exactly. I will definitely use this technique in the future. Even if I do get a little better at free handing, I thought the royal icing decorations were so fun as cupcake toppers.
Just a few notes on the actual cupcakes. I used Barefoot Contessa coconut cupcakes for the cake, just without the coconut. It was the perfect white cake.  For the frosting I used a new buttercream frosting recipe I found on Food Network. I loved it! These was the perfect combination of frosting and cake.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sweet and Sticky Sesame Chicken

Since chicken and rice seems to be our no brainer week night go to meal, I decided to try a new recipe, just to keep things interesting. I came across a restaurant recipe make over on Hungry Girl. The recipe was based on an average sesame chicken dish you could order at a Chinese restaurant. What I loved about this recipe is that chicken was crispy, without frying it! Dipping the chicken in egg and then flour, then baking it made for a crispy, crunchy outside. The sauce was sweet, but not too sweet. When I make this again I will probably double the sauce. There was enough sauce to generously coat the chicken, but I do love my sauces, and I would have liked more to put on the rice. I made just a few adjustments from the original recipe. The ingredients I used are below, click the link for the original. I love a healthy, quick, week night meal.  Hungry Girl has a few more recipe make overs that I'd can't wait to try.

10 oz. raw boneless skinless lean chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup flour, divided
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. maple syrup
2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp. ketchup
1/2 tbsp. lite/low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. crushed garlic
1 tsp. sesame seeds
2 tbsp. thinly sliced scallions
Optional: crushed red pepper 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray and set aside.

Place chicken in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and cover with egg substitute. Toss to coat and set aside.

Place 2 tbsp. flour in another bowl. Use a fork to transfer half of the chicken to the flour bowl, allowing excess egg substitute to drain back into the egg bowl. Thoroughly coat chicken with flour, and then transfer to the baking sheet. Wipe the bowl clean, and then repeat with remaining flour and chicken.

Bake chicken in the oven until fully cooked, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, combine broth with cornstarch in a small nonstick pot and stir to dissolve. Add syrup, vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic. Mix well and bring to medium heat on the stove. Stirring often, cook until thick enough to coat a spoon, 2 - 3 minutes. Set aside.

Place cooked chicken in a bowl, top with sauce, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions. If you like, add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.

Source: Hungry Girl

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wedding Cake Sugar Cookies: Round Two

Two days in a row! Can you believe it? This is just a quick post of some pictures of the cookies I made to go along with the cupcakes of yesterdays post. My friend, Patty, saw a version of these cookies in a post I did last summer and asked if I'd make some similar for her sisters wedding reception, along with the cupcakes. I'm always grateful for the opportunity to improve on a project. This time around I opted for the same design on each cookie. I thought that would look better on display. I picked this simple, but, classic cake design. I made these Friday night and the cupcakes Saturday morning. Brian was out of town for the weekend, so my sisters came over and we made a night of it! 
We had a good system going. I would pipe around the outside, then Mikken would fill the inside of the cookie with frosting using a squeeze bottle. (As show above, although my brother Jeff dug that cookie out of our graveyard and had Mikk frost it for him.)
After the fill frosting was in Brittany would complete the fill by dragging the frosting to the corners with a toothpick. Thanks girls for all you help! And Jeff too- I didn't have any cookies left over!
After the frosting set I piped on the cake decorations. I still find making the frosting the right consistency for piping a bit of a challenge. But it all seemed to work out in the end.

One of the hardest things about this project was figuring out how to pack everything up so it could be picked up and transported to LA. To pack the cookies I went to my local Dippity Doughnut shop and asked if I could buy some of their flat bakery boxes. The cute little lady working there was a bit stumped because she didn't know how much to charge me. After about 15 minutes of her scrounging around in the back looking for receipts to see how much she paid, she sold them to me for 50 cents a box. She did tell me that the more I bought, the cheaper they would be! (I'll remember that for next time.) So I bought my four boxes and a cake doughnut with white frosting and sprinkles and I was out the door. The boxes worked great for packing, just remember to keep the flaps on the outside of the box. I chopped off the sides of a few of the cakes before I figured that out. It was a late night, but all turned out well. Thanks again Patty! I had so much fun.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

As a kind friend pointed out to me the other day, it's been a month since I blogged. I couldn't believe it. Not to make excuses, but after those coconut cupcakes I skipped the country and took a little Eurpoean vacation. (Lot of food blog posts to come.) Then I came back and got sick, tis the season, and then work and life got in the way. But the good news is I was cooking and baking the whole time.

I had every intention of blogging last weekend, but I got a little tied up with these red velvet cupcakes. A friend that I teach with had asked me to make red velvet cupcakes and wedding cake sugar cookies for her sisters cocktail wedding reception. I was beyond excited to take on the challenge.
When you start a big project, make sure you have all your ingredients and plan a head. I ended up running out of red die after my first batch so I made an emergency run to the store only to find that they only had generic brands of die. The first time I made a red velvet cake I could taste the die in it, tasted like chemicals. I wanted to use the same brand I had tested this round with, McCormick's; I couldn't taste it at all.  Anyway, I went to a second store to get it and forgot that I also needed oil, so I run back into the second store for a second time, only to realize that I left my wallet in the car. I go get it, and get back in line for a third time. Moral of the story: plan a head (a little better than I did).

I enjoyed that this project gave me an excuse to learn how to pipe frosting on cupcakes, instead of just frosting with a spatula by hand. I bought the Ateco 6-piece pastry tube set and did a few practice tries before I took to the actual cakes.
 After the practice tries, it still took me a few to get it perfect. I held the large pastry tube in in my right hand, and used my left hand to guide it while I worked counter clockwise. (I'm right handed.) I still had a few kinks to work out. Here are a few of my early mistakes. 
The bald cupcake: I thought I was close to the edge on these, but turns out I wasn't. They look bald, and skimpy on the frosting.
The lopsided cupcake: As I tried to fix the first problem, I ended up with this one, a little too much frosting on one side. I tried to get closer to the edge, but turns out, only on one side.
The last problem I came across was this little beauty, where the frosting didn't quite meet.
After much practice, I managed to get the perfect swirl atop these lovely red velvet cup cakes.

Now just a few notes on the actual cupcakes. As I researched out and found a few recipes I wanted to try, I found a lot of talk about using butter verses oil in the recipe. As you can see above, mine were a little oily, as I went the oil route in the recipe. But I found the oil recipes to be much more moist than the butter recipes, and no one likes dry cake. I did double up on the cupcake liners, and cooled them on a paper towel on top of my cooling rack. By the time I packaged them up they weren't greasy on the bottom at all. But do note that the cake its self wasn't oily to the taste, just moist and delicious!  The recipe I ended up using comes from Cake Man Raven. He was featured on a Throwdown episode and I found his recipe again on the blog The Way the Cookie Crumbles, who does a great comparison of other red velvet recipes. This recipe was by far the easiest to make, very simple and straight forward.
Hand frosted

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Yields 24 cupcakes
2 1/2 c. cake flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 TBSP cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. buttermilk
2 TBSP (1 oz.) red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. white distilled vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar.  Beat on medium speed until well blended.  Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes.  Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.
(Note: I used a lot more frosting when I used the piping bag than when I hand frosted. You may want to double or make a batch and a half.)

Source: Cake Man Raven, adapted from Annies Eats, and The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Coconut Cupcakes

Working my way through the original Barefoot Contessa Cookbook let me to these little lovelies last weekend. And as hard as I tried to give all of them away, Brian and I were still left with a dozen. So we decided to exercise a little self control and not eat them all in one day. Yeah, that didn't happen. They maybe lasted until Monday. Brian would eat one for breakfast, then we'd each have one in our lunch, for an afternoon snack, and then for dessert. If I haven't mentioned it before, I love, love, love Brian's sweet tooth. He is so fun to bake for, and loves all my treats. Anyway, I mention all of this as a round about way of saying that these cupcakes are a. mazing. The use of the almond extract, that I've never used in cakes before, took these babies over the top, and gave them that little something extra. And, still wanting use up the extra buttermilk I had from two cakes ago, makes the cupcakes very moist. I got about 28 or so cupcakes from one batch, using regular size muffin tin. But I only used half a batch of frosting. I actually use this frosting for my coconut cake, and knew how much it made. So I cut it in half and had plenty to top the cakes with. Also, note that she uses extra large eggs in this recipe. Ina seems to be the only one using extra large eggs in baking, but I didn't doubt her, and went ahead and got the larger ones for this recipe. Loved the cupcakes. Love Ina.
I gave these away as a thank you. How cute do they look in this box?
I wrapped these up as pre-Valentine's Day treats!

Coconut Cupcakes
3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups of sugar
5 extra large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pur almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
 14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut
 Cream Cheese Icing (recipe follows)
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 
  • In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes
  • With mixer running on low, add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. 
  • Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well
  • In separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
  • In three parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. 
  • Fold in 7 ounces of coconut. 
  • Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  • Fill each cup to the top with batter
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops are brown and toothpick comes out clean. 
  • Allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes. 
  • Remove to a baking rack and cool completely. 
  • Frost with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle (or dip) in remaining coconut. 
Cream Cheese Icing
(This is the half recipe, for more just double)
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
3/4 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • In bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extracts. 
  • Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth
Source: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Dark Chocolate Frosting

    As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I tried a new chocolate frosting recipe. I have been doing some cupcake research for a upcoming wedding I'm baking for. In doing so, I stopped by our local cupcake bakery, Sprinkles. If you haven't been there, or heard of them, it's probably because they don't have a location in your city, yet. Sprinkles is the original cupcake bakery, and you may have seen owner, Candace Nelson, as a judge on Cupcake Wars. We've had our Newport Beach location for quite a while, but I usually only go there with out of town visitors. We buy a ton of different flavors and then taste test all of them. Their cupcakes are delicious, and they have so many flavors to choose from. The cupcakes are moist and the frosting is so creamy and full of flavor. But my favorite part is the simplicity in which they are frosted and decorated, the whole store, really. It's modern, sophisticated, simple and cute. Anyway, point of my story is that I went to google to see if I could find any of her recipes online, and I did. She did a few videos and lent a few recipes for I tried out the dark chocolate frosting and loved it. (She didn't give any recipes for chocolate cake though, sad.) The frosting calls for sour cream, so I'm not sure how long you should let them sit out, but we were eating them a few days later and lived to tell about it. I made a half a batch of frosting, and had enough to generously frost 24 cupcakes, probably more. I thought the frosting, on top of Ina's chocolate cake, tasted pretty close to a Sprinkles original.
    Sprinkles Dark Chocolate Frosting

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Chocolate Buttercream Cake (or Cupcakes)

    Making this recipe happened for two reasons. The first, and most common reason I make anything, I've been wanting to try this recipe. And two, I still had quite a bit of the German chocolate cake frosting that I thought I'd try on another variety of chocolate cake.

    As I sit her on my computer and look and a ton of different blogs and cooking websites searching for new recipes to try, across the room sit my lonely cookbooks, just longing to have their pages flipped through. I have made a point of collecting some good books, but find that I barely look at them. So as a small goal, I want to try to cook out of them more often and then share the recipes with you. Here's the first one. This recipe comes from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, and while she has many different cookbooks, this is the original one. I have seen Ina make this cake in a tiered form on her show, and you can find the recipe online here. I was comparing that recipe with the one in the cook book, and it looks like she just doubled the recipe to make the larger cake.

    I really liked this recipe. I actually don't have a ton of chocolate go to cakes, so was glad this one worked out. I made the recipe as written except omitted the coffee. I know the coffee just gives a depth of flavor, but I don't have coffee around, so I just omitted it.  I decided to put them in cupcake form, just for fun, and topped them with the left over frosting, and some new chocolate frosting (recipe to come). The recipe makes an even 24 cupcakes. Next time I think I will try this out in cake form.
    Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
    The Barefoot Contessa

    1 3/4 all-purpose flour
    1 cup good cocoa powder
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    1/4 teaspoons salt
    3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
    2/3 cup granulated sugar
    2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
    2 extra large eggs, room temperature
    2 teaspoons pure vanila extract
    1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
    1/2 cup sour cream at room temperature
    2 tablespoons brewed coffee

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    Sift together flour cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
    Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, on high speed, about 5 minutes
    Combine the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee (if using) in separate bowl.
    On low speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture alternately in thirds, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture.
    Mix the batter only until blended.

    Pour batter into two 8-inch, butter and floured, round cake pans, or 24 cupcakes.
    Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
    Cool for 10 minutes on a rack. Remove from pans to finish cooling
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