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Caramel Apple Cupcakes

18 Jun

I think caramel and apples are one of the best possible combinations. When I was younger my mom sometimes packed that Margetti caramel apple dip and some sliced apples in my lunch. As an adult I don’t really allow myself to buy things like that for fear that I will just sit on the couch and eat it with a spoon. I don’t have a lot of will power.

But these caramel apple cupcakes are a perfect compromise! I planned on making them for the May beer dinner since the theme was iPAlooza and apple pie and IPA is supposed to be a good combination. Since I had served apple pie in the fall, I wanted something different. (I also tried these Apple Tartlets which were good!) The cupcakes ended up being suppppppper moist and the caramel flavored frosting amazing!

Shockingly, this is one recipe of mine that doesn’t start with creaming together the butter and sugar! Start by mixing together the sugars, vanilla, and eggs. Then, add some vegetable oil.

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In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

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Slowly combine the two, along with the milk.

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Then, add in the applesauce. I liked that this recipe used applesauce instead of apples – it was quicker and easier, plus I think the applesauce contributed to the high moisture content!

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Finally, distribute the mix into muffin tins and bake!

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For the frosting, I basically eyeballed it. I think I used two sticks of butter and about 3.5 cups of powdered sugar. Then, instead of adding milk, I added about half a jar of Trader Joe’s salted caramel sauce (adding the milk, too, threw off the consistency of the frosting). Top the cupcakes with frosting and enjoy!

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Caramel Apple Cupcakes (original recipe found at Kawaii Gourmet)

Everything you’ll needed

  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups applesauce
  • Your favorite frosting made with salted caramel!

Directions

  1. Mix together the granulated sugar (1 c), brown sugar (1/2 c), vanilla (2 tsp), and eggs (4).
  2. Add the vegetable oil (1 cup) until well mixed.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour (3 c), baking powder (4 tsp), salt (1 tsp), cinnamon (1 tsp), and nutmeg (1/2 tsp).
  4. Add the flour mixture to the sugar/egg mixture, alternating with the milk (1/4 cup).
  5. Finally, fold in the applesauce (2 cups), being sure to not over mix.
  6. Fill cupcake tins about 1/3 way full and bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool, then top with caramel buttercream frosting.

 

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Irish Coffee Cupcakes

16 Mar

This past Thursday was “the night” – a major presentation and the culmination of a project my 9th graders have been working on for the last six weeks. The school I work at uses projects and presentation as an evaluative tool instead of tests and this particular project was presented not just to me, but the whole school and larger community. We ran around like yahoos getting set up for at least the past week. And damn did they pull it off. I got to walk around all night just eavesdropping and there’s nothing sweeter than hearing that kid who never appears to be paying attention in class rocking his presentation.

Projects like this seem to take on a life of their own and overwhelm everything else the kids are supposed to be working on, so as a thank you for my colleagues who put up with it all I brought in Coffee Cupcakes. They were delicious and just the right kind of pick me up!

It being March though, and St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to Irish them up this weekend. You can’t exactly bring whiskey spiked cupcakes to school but I can certainly enjoy them from my kitchen! The first time I made them I followed “I Heart Kitchen’s” Triple Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes recipe with a buttercream frosting. The second time I modified a bit. And by modified, I mean added booze.

I started by adding the dry ingredients together. (I reduced the cocoa powder from four to three tablespoons because while chocolate is amazing, I’m not a huge fan of richly chocolate cake.)

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Next, whip up the butter and the sugar. Always butter and sugar. Then add the eggs until you have a beautifully yellow mixture.

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While the butter is a blending, combine the coffee, whiskey, and vanilla. (The original recipe was all coffee – I reduced the amount of coffee by the amount of alcohol I added.)

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Next, alternate adding the dry ingredients and liquid. Then, add some chocolate chips! I used the little ones because they’re cute and proportional to cupcakes but also doubled the amount called for.

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Distribute evenly into muffin tins – the recipe made 18 cupcakes.

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With the whiskey added the cupcakes didn’t rise quite as much as when I followed the original recipe but they were a lot moister. The whiskey flavor was very subtle, I could only taste it in a bite or two, and I was happier with the more minimal chocolate flavor.

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Of course, I can’t call this an Irish cupcake without a little Bailey’s. That’s what frosting is for!

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Topped with Bailey’s buttercream frosting and some green sprinkles, these cupcakes are perfect for St. Patrick’s Day or anytime you need a little coffee and booze break!

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The original cupcake recipe was from I Heart Kitchen and the frosting recipe was from Recipe Girl (I made it before to top my Irish Cream Cupcakes last year!)

Irish Coffee Cupcakes (makes 18 cupcakes)

Everything you’ll need

For the cupcakes

  • 1-3/4 cups flour, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • About 1 cup brewed coffee, chilled
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 50 mL whiskey
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

For the frosting

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients – flour (1-3/4 c. + 1 T), baking powder (2 t.), salt (1/4 t.), and cocoa (3 T).
  3. Combine the coffee and whiskey (should be 1 cup TOTAL) with vanilla (1/2 t.) and set aside.
  4. Beat together the butter (1/2 c.) and sugar (1 c.).
  5. Add the eggs (2) one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  6. Alternating, add the dry ingredients and the liquid to the butter-sugar-egg mixture, mixing well.
  7. Fold in the chocolate chips (1/2 c.)
  8. Line muffin tins and fill with 1/4 cup of mixture.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. For the frosting: Beat the butter (1 c.) and sugar (3 c.) together, then add the Bailey’s and vanilla. Add more powdered sugar if needed or thin (if needed) with a little milk.

Stuffed Peppers – Pizza Style

2 Mar

I teach junior high. When I tell people that, I’m always entertained by their response. Most of the time they recoil in horror (and if I’m totally honest, some days I do, too). But my kids are amazing and in general we don’t give kids enough credit.

The longer I teach the more I think childhood doesn’t change that much. Granted, my perspective isn’t that long-lived, but I still see my kids struggle with the same crises I did at 13, 14, 15. Negotiating relationships, playing with different personalities, trying to balance school and sports, parents’ expectations. I love teaching because I literally get to watch the struggle play out and the kids handle it with such incredible grace. Awkward, stumbling , pimply grace, but grace.

Cooking is a little like that – at least it has been for me. I try new recipes, stumble a bit, try again. In life, too, honestly. There’s definitely a little adolescence in all of us. So, a grown up take on pizza for that teen in all of us – Pizza Style Stuffed Peppers!

Start by cutting and seeding the peppers. This is the first stuffed peppers recipe I’ve seen where you lay the stuffing on top of the peppers instead of inside. I think it makes it a bit easier to eat. Parboil the peppers for a few minutes.

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Cook the quinoa, have a beer, cut some more peppers (especially if you’re serving 12!).

Quinoa and Peppers

Mix the quinoa together with mozzarella, pasta sauce, mushrooms, basil, and spinach or zucchini.

Stuffing Mix

Carefully spoon the stuffing mixture onto the pepper halves and top with parmesan cheese. Bake for about 45 minutes and then enjoy!

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I decided to pair the stuffed peppers with an Amber. The Mission Brewery Amber was on sale and went pretty well!

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Pizza Quinoa Stuffed Peppers – Original recipe at rachelcooks.com (Her version included pepperoni but I went veggie so left it out.)

Everything You’ll Need

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 8 ounces pearl mozzarella, drained
  • 3/4 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped (I’ve also substituted zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 5 peppers, sliced in half and seeded

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bring a large pot of water to boil.
  2. Place the pepper halves into the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes; allow to cool so they can be handled.
  3. In a large bowl mix together all of the other ingredients except for the parmesan cheese.
  4. Fill the pepper halves with the quinoa mixture and place in a large baking dish. Sprinkle peppers with parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake 40-45 minutes until the cheese is melty and peppers are heated through.

Validation Beer Brownies

29 Jan

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about big life events. Those milestones we judge our life by and use to compare ourselves to others. Maybe it’s because I just turned 30. Maybe it’s because in the last 5 months I know of 11 babies that have come into the world (that’s 10 pregnant friends, twins for one), with one more expected yesterday. We have baby showers and bachelorette parties, bridal showers and weddings to acknowledge these huge events and validate our life decisions. And these haven’t happened for me yet. I’m pretty much 100% OK with that – I’m not ready to be married, I don’t want the responsibility of a child – but sometimes I need a little validation, too. Where’s the party for going on another awkward first date? The party hat for being the only single person during dinner at the wedding reception? Hanging up your own curtain rods. Again. So that’s where brownies come in. (And beer, let’s admit.) Amazing, chocolaty, gooey brownies to celebrate a Tuesday night.

Even better than being validation brownies, these have beer in them! Chocolate and porter – the best of my two favorite food groups!

Chocolate and beer

You start by getting all the various ingredients prepped – mixing the flour and cocoa together, beating together the sugar and eggs.

Prep

Melting the chocolate, testing the beer (it was good to go).

You also brown the butter a bit before adding it to the chocolate along with the beer and some vanilla. I almost stopped right there…

Chocolate mix

Mix all the ingredients together and add chocolate chips…

Batter

…then pour into a prepared pan. Parchment paper is the best.

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I cooked mine for about 40 minutes but ended up putting them back in for another 5 after I started cutting into them – just a little too underdone in the middle. The top end up being wonderfully cracked.

Baked brownies

Such a delicious pairing – although the brownies would have been wonderful with milk, too!

Brownies and beer

Total credit for the recipe goes to Claire at the Kitchy Kitchen for this Beer Brownies with Milk recipe.

Everything you’ll need:

  • 3-1/2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup butter, browned
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup porter or stout
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

As I type this, I realize I didn’t follow the directions on The Kitchy Kitchen exactly. Below is what I did…

  1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees and prepare pan (butter and flour or line with parchment paper).
  2. Carefully melt the chocolate either in a bowl over boiling water or in the microwave. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the flour (1 cup) with the cocoa powder (1/4 cup) and set aside.
  4. Cream together the eggs (4) with the sugars (1 cup white, 1 cup brown), about 2 minutes.
  5. Separately, brown the butter (1/2 cup) in a saucepan.
  6. Combine the melted chocolate, browned butter, vanilla (2 t), and beer (1/2 cup).
  7. Add part of the flour mixture to the egg/sugar mixture, beat. Then, add the wet ingredients and mix. Finally, add the rest of the flour mixture.
  8. Fold in the chocolate chips (1 cup).
  9. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake 45 minutes.

Pretzels!

17 Nov

For October’s beer dinner I decided to go with an Oktoberfest/Fall Beers theme. I knew I wouldn’t be there with the Germany sausages but still I wanted something…Oktoberfest-y. So…pretzels!

Now these things are the craziest  I think I’ve ever made. Once you form the pretzel you boil them before baking. Plus you get to play with yeast and rising! (I’m looking to start playing with bread soon, too. Yeast is cool.) Essentially the pretzels were pretty much twisted bagels but they were really good and surprisingly fun and easy to make.

First you combine a package of yeast with some brown sugar…

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….and water and let it stand until it starts to foam. Then, you add some more brown sugar and water and mix it up.

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Next, add some of the flour and salt and stir until blended.

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Then, add the rest of the flour a cup at a time. The original recipe said to do it by hand but I wondered if I could have used the dough hook on my mixer. I think I’ll try it next time.

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Once all the flour is incorporated, the dough needs to be kneaded 5-7 minutes. The first time I tried making the dough I didn’t get all the flour mixed in and there were little fleck but the second time I kneaded longer and that seemed to take care of the problem. After that you want to transfer the dough back to a bowl, cover it with a towel, and let it rise for 40 minutes.

After the dough has risen, you divided it into piece and then roll each into 1/2″ thick  ropes. The first time I made the pretzels I divided the dough into 12 sections and the second time into 16, smaller sections. It just kind of depends on how big you want your pretzels to be.

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Next you shape the dough into pretzels. I had trouble deciding how exactly they looked so the first time I just folded/criss-crossed them and the second I kind of tied the ropes in a knot. Go with what feels right. You can also connect the rope end to end to make a bagel. Cover the shaped pretzels with the tea towel and let rise again for 20-30 minutes.

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OK here comes the totally weird and fun part – you boil the pretzels in water and baking soda! Basically you plop the bagels in water (they float!) and let boil for one minute, then flip, and boil on the other side for another minute.

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They come out kind of spongy and a little cooked. Totally crazy.

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Next, top with salt and pop in the oven to make 10-12 minutes!

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When they first came out of the oven I ate my pretzel plain. The next day I dipped one in some Nutella and  another in mustard. So good and fun! Enjoy!

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Hot Soft Baked Pretzels by Julievr at Babble.com

Everything You’ll Need:

  • 1 pkg. (2-1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups flour

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast and half the brown sugar (1/2 T) and 1/2 cup of water, then let stand 5 minutes until it starts to foam.
  2. Add the rest of the brown sugar (1/2 T) and water (1 cup) and mix.
  3. Add 1 cup of flour and the salt (1 t) and stir until the flour is blended in. Then, add the remaining flour (3 cups) one cup at a time, mixing until fully mixed.
  4. Knead the dough on a floured surface for 5-7 minutes, then transfer to a bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise for 40 minutes.
  5. Once the dough has risen, divide into even pieces on a floured surface and roll the pieced into long ropes, about 1/2″ thick.
  6. Shape the pretzels, then cover with a towel and let rise another 20-30 minutes.
  7. Bring a pot of water with 1/2 t of baking soda (if available) to a boil and drop the bagels in. Allow to cook for 1 minute before flipping and cooking for another minute. Remove from water to a baking sheet.
  8. Sprinkle pretzels with salt and bake for 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees.

 

Um, whoa… White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

18 Aug

It’s been almost three weeks but this time I have an excuse – I moved! For the last two weeks or so  I’ve been busy unpacking boxes, building Ikea furniture, and hanging pictures. The first room that got totally unpacked was the kitchen. Not even the closet was fully unpacked before all of my dishes and serving ware had found a home. There’s not a ton of storage or counter space but with my own DIY Pinterest project I solved that problem.

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With moving and the summer job ending I decided to push August’s beer dinner to September (so much for bi-monthly) but that has given me more time to try out recipes. I decided to fancy it up this time and make a cheesecake! I told my sister this and she looked at me somewhat incredulously and said, “But that’s not chocolate.” Thus the white chocolate.

So I’ve never made a cheesecake and I have to say, they’re a little fuddly. This one starts with an Oreo cookie crust. The issue, though, is that you have to separate the stuffing from the cookie. And then of course you can’t let all that stuffing go to waste…

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I got the crumbs mixed up with some sugar and butter and pressed it into the bottom of my spring-form pan.

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Next  the raspberry part – what a mess! You boil the frozen raspberries with some sugar, cornstarch, and water and then have to strain the seeds out. I kind of smushed it through the strainer to get more of the liquid.

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On to the actual cheesecake part. Being white chocolate I  melted the chips with some half-and-half and mixed it up until smooth.

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Then added that to a mixture of cream cheese, sugar, and eggs.

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Finally you pour half the cheesecake mixture into the pan and drizzle some of the raspberry stuff on top.

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Pour the rest of the cheesecake on top and more of the raspberry, swirling it with a knife. The cheesecake gets baked and then has to rest in the oven. The recipe I followed said to wrap the pan in foil (which I did) and set it in a roasting pan with an inch of water (which I didn’t). Like I said, the process was a bit fuddly but look at the glory you get in the end!

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Plus, it was delicious. I paired it with Framboise Lambic by Brouwerij Lindemans. This was the first time I had tasted this beer and it was amazing. A total raspberry attack in the mouth with a kind of fizzy carbonation. Total winner all around.

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White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake, from Avocado Pesto

Everything you’ll need:

For the crust

  • 2 cups Oreo cookie crumbs (~15 cookies)
  • 1 Tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

For the raspberry topping

  • 12 ounce package frozen raspberries
  • 4 Tablespoons white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup water

For the cheesecake

  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 24 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup water sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

For the crust

  1. Process the Oreo cookies in a food processor and mix with sugar (1 T) and the melted butter (1/4 cup).
  2. Press the mixture into a spring form pan wrapped in aluminum foil and let sit in the fridge while making the cheesecake.

For the raspberry topping

  1. In a saucepan, combine the raspberries (12 oz.) with the sugar (4 T), cornstarch (3 t), and water (1 c). Bring the mixture to a boil and continue boiling 10-15 minutes for the sauce to thicken.
  2. Using a strainer, separate the liquid from the seeds.

For the cheesecake

  1. Combine the half-and-half (1/2 c) with the white chocolate chips (2 c) and microwave for 20 intervals, stirring after each until smooth.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese (24 oz) and the sugar (1/2 cup) until smooth.
  3. Add the eggs (3) one at a time, beating after each one until combined.
  4. Add the vanilla (1 t) and the white chocolate mixture and beat until combined.

Assembling and baking

  1. Pour half the cheesecake batter into the pan and drizzle ~5 Tablespoons of the raspberry topping over the batter. (When I pour the remaining batter on top of this the raspberry kind of smushed towards the edges so you might want to concentrate it in the middle.)
  2. Pour remaining cheese cake into the pan and drizzle 6-7 Tablespoons of the raspberry on top. (Oops, I accidently pour all the remaining raspberries on top – turned out fine.) Use a knife tip to swirl the raspberry into the batter.
  3. Bake for 45-50 minutes at 325 degrees, then turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in for 40-45 more minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and let cool, then place in the refrigerator overnight.

Popcorn Cookies Say-What!?

19 May

Yeah, that’s right, popcorn-chocolate chip cookies. With extra salt. I mean, let’s celebrate the joy that are these cookies. First, they’re chocolate chip cookies. Only the best food ever. And then there’s popcorn. I’ve been on a major popcorn kick lately (maybe that’s what I have for dinner some nights….maybe). And then you add a pinch more of salt!? What could be better I ask?

One thing only could make these cookies rise a notch higher – sharing them as a birthday treat with my friend Bonnie. We were tossed together when working at an outdoor school 8-ish years ago (OMG, Bonnie, it’s been 8 years!) and our friendship has endured, bolstered by salt and butter…..and wine if I’m being totally honest.

Happy, happy birthday, friend!

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This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen a la Joy the Baker (I love Joy – she’s awesome – I want to cook like her, I want her dishes).

First, of course, you have to make the popcorn. I picked up this little air popper for $5 on clearance at Target one fateful night. Not the most efficient popper but it works!

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(I went for an action shot….not the greatest.)

Then, you make the dough. Start, of course, by mixing the sugar and butter.

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After the egg and vanilla you mix in your dry ingredients.

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It doesn’t look like a ton of dough but that’s ’cause you need room for the good part – fold in the popcorn!

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And the chocolate chips!

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The popcorn basically breaks down a bit as you mix it in and gets all yummy and crumbly.

Scoop the dough you didn’t eat straight out of the bowl onto the cookie sheet to bake.

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Yummy, delicious, weird, but awesome cookies are the result! I literally laughed with glee when I pulled them out of the oven.

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I also tried to get all artsy-fartsy like Joy and make a glorious stack of cookies. They fell over instead. So I just ate a few. Hope you enjoy, too!

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Buttered Popcorn Chocolate Chip Cookies (from Joy the Baker)

Everything you’ll need:

  • About 4 cups butter popcorn
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • Sea salt for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Make the popcorn! Joy does her’s on the stove, Smitten Kitchen went with microwave, I used my air popper.
  2. To begin making the dough: Cream butter (1/2 cup) and sugars (1/2 cup brown, 1/3 cup granulated) together for about 3 minutes.
  3. Beat in the egg and vanilla (1 t).
  4. Add the flour (1-1/4 cup), baking soda (1/2 t), and salt (1/4 t) and beat until just combined.
  5. Use a spatula to fold in the popcorn (about 4 cups).
  6. Fold in the chocolate chips (1/2 cup).
  7. Scoop dough until a baking sheet and sprinkle the tops with sea salt.
  8. Bake 10-13 minutes at 350 degrees, then let rest on the pan for 5 minutes before removing.