Friday, March 25, 2011

Cookies and Cream Peanut Butter! Yeah, seriously!

After all the baking I have been doing over the last few weeks, I decided to take it easy this week and make some cookies and cream peanut butter.  I first saw this recipe over on Picky Palate's site and thought it looked interesting.  I was wrong, it is amazing.  Seriously, I don't know if I am ever going to be able to bring myself to eat regular peanut butter ever again!  I sent it in to my daughter's preschool for snack with some apples and the kids all loved it, the parents who tried it loved, my skeptical sister-in-law, who took one look at the strange color and raised her eyebrow at me, loved it!  Basically, everyone loves it!  So go grab yourself a pack of Oreos, some white chocolate chips and a jar of peanut butter and get started.  It's super easy and quick and well worth the 5 minutes it will take you to make and the extra 10 it will take you to tear apart your cupboards looking for a lid for the jar you put it in!

Crush up your Oreos...

Melt your chips and 2 Tbps. peanut butter in a double broiler

Mix Oreos, melted chips and peanut butter together


Cookies and Cream Peanut Butter
from Picky Palate

2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
10 Oreo cookies
1 cup white chocolate chips

First, crush up your Oreo cookies.  You can do this a number of ways, by placing them in a ziploc bag and breaking them up by hand or a rolling pin, or you can put them in a food processor.
Note: If you place them in a food processor, try not to over crush them, they should still be kind of coarse with some sizeable chunks.  If you do over crush them, no real big deal...just be aware that if you mix the fine crumbs in really well with the peanut butter it makes a weird color...learn from my mistakes people!  LOL

Next, melt your chips and 2 Tbsp. of peanut butter over a double broiler or in the microwave.

In a larger bowl, add the 2 cups of peanut butter, the melted chips/peanut butter and the Oreo crumbs.  Mix as little or as much as you want.  You can leave swirls of Oreo crumbs or mix it until it is all incorporated like I did.  Place your peanut butter in a jar and try not to eat it all in 24 hours.  Ours has been in the house for 4 days or so, so I guess that means we have some self-control...well at least a few of us do!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day...have a cake pop!

I'm sure many of you know that yesterday was St. Patrick's Day.  A day for eating strange green foods and putting shamrocks on everything and of course drinking ridiculous amounts of alcohol.  Although I over course, like a good Irish girl, did all three, here we will talk about the eating green stuff part cause this is a food blog after all!

A friend of mine recently brought to my attention that my experience is sorely lacking in one baking craze that is super popular right now, cake pops.  Until a few days ago, I had never made them...thought about it once, but I decided it wasn't worth the time and effort for the occasion. She of course begged me to do a post on them though because she wants to make them for her daughter's birthday.  So, being the wonderful friend that I am, I spent my day off working on cake pops.  I learned a few, I seriously have no patience with disobedient baked goods and two, cake pops aren't all that hard, they are just time consuming.  Originally I was supposed to make a batch of rocky road ones for my friend but since I was making them the day before St. Patrick's Day I figured  ought to make some for the holiday too.  

Crumble the cake into a bowl and add frosting

 Stir in frosting until all of the cake is moist

Roll into balls and place in the refrigerator for an hour or so

Melt candy pieces in a microwave, be sure to watch carefully so you don't burn them

For the Grasshopper ones, add a bit of food coloring or buy green ones.  Also add peppermint flavoring, mix well and add more chocolate if needed to get the right consistency.  

Dip the stick into the chocolate and then push into the cake ball.

Place back in the refrigerator so that the cake balls do not warm up and fall off the stick.  When coating them in chocolate, be sure to only take out a few at a time so that they don't warm up before you can coat them.  They will fall off the stick if they warm up too much before being coated, trust me I know...

Very gently dip them into the coating, covering them fully. 

Allow any excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl and then place the cake pops into a prepared Styrofoam stand.  I got mine at Wal-Mart in the craft section for $7 and pre-poked 48 holes spaced far enough from each other so that the pops wouldn't touch.

Rocky Road and Grasshopper Cake Pops
makes 48-60 depending on size
ideas and hints mostly borrowed from Bakerella

Chocolate cake mix, any flavor or kind
Chocolate frosting, any flavor or kind
1 bag of dark cocoa candy melts, found at craft stores
1 bag white candy melts, or pastel green if you can find some
1/8 tsp green food coloring
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
lollipop sticks
pecan pieces and mini marshmallows
1/4 cup white chips, melted and placed in a pastry bag
styrafoam for holding cake pops

Bake cake according to package instructions.  Allow to cool completely, I baked mine first thing in the morning and then worked on making the cake balls after lunch.  When the cake is completely cool, crumble it into small pieces over a bowl large enough to mix in.  Add about 3/4 of the frosting to the cake crumbs and mix until all of the cake is moistened and a consistent texture is made.  Roll into approximately 1 Tbsp. size balls and place on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for an hour or two.  

Melt candy melts in a bowl, adding the food coloring and peppermint extract to the white ones, and dip the tip of a lollipop stick into the candy then stick into each cake ball.  Place back in the refrigerator for a bit, I waited until after dinner, and then taking a few out at a time, dip into the melted candy, sprinkle on decorations or toppings and place in styrafoam holder.  The candy melt will harden pretty fast as the cake balls are so cold.  This will help minimize the drips, but still be sure to let all excess candy coat drip back into the bowl before placing in the holder.  Allow to sit for a while to ensure that they are entirely cooled and hardened.  I topped my grasshopper ones with white chocolate shamrocks to make them more festive.  

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March Birthday Goodies Part 2: Angel Food Cake

As I said in my last post, we had two birthdays in our family last week and as such, it fell to me as the baker of the house to make their cakes.  No store bought cakes or mixes for my family!  No way, no how!  Anyway, my mother-in-law decided that she wanted an angel food cake.  A plain one...with nothing on BORING!!!  Sigh, but she was the birthday girl and I guess she could have a silly, boring, nothing on it angel food cake if that is what she wanted.  I'm such a good daughter-in-law...she should know how blessed she is!  :D

One note here...I hate to admit this but I screwed this cake up!  And as much as I would love to pretend like I know all about baking and cakes, I knew nothing about angel food cakes when I made this one and I didn't not turn the pan upside down to cool like I was supposed to, so mine sank a little bit, not too much but some.  So, sorry Dianne, that your cake was not perfect.  Maybe you don't have the best daughter-in-law in the world after all, it's still close though!  At least it tasted good, thats what is important, right?  I can try again at Mother's Day if you want!  I'm not sucking up...I swear...LOL

The egg whites after 2 minutes of whisking

Egg whites dusted with flour

This is the look your batter will have when you are done

Angel Food Cake

1 3/4 cups sugar, spun in a food processor until fine
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup cake flour, sifted
12 egg whites, room temperature
1/3 cup warm water
1 tsp. orange extract
1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a food processor spin sugar about 2 minutes until it is superfine (or use superfine sugar). Sift half of the sugar with the salt and cake flour, setting the remaining sugar aside.
In a large bowl, use a balloon whisk to thoroughly combine egg whites, water, orange extract, and cream of tartar. After 2 minutes, switch to a hand mixer or stand mixer. Slowly sift the reserved sugar, beating continuously at medium speed. Once you have achieved medium peaks, sift enough of the flour mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Using a spatula fold in gently. Continue until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.
Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan. Bake for 35 minutes before checking for doneness with a wooden skewer. (When inserted halfway between the inner and outer wall, the skewer should come out dry).
Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least an hour before removing from pan.
You can make a glaze or slice up some fresh fruit for your angel food cake if you work was done at this point though!

Monday, March 14, 2011

March Birthday Goodies Part 1: Blueberry Cake

So this week was a busy week for baking in the house...we had two birthdays in two days and, being the good little daughter-in-law and sister-in-law that I am, not to mention baker, I volunteered to make the cakes.  I asked both of the birthday girls what they wanted and they decided on an angel food cake and a blueberry cake.  We will get around to the angel food cake...honestly I am not a fan and was not so excited about that one.  Plus I promised all the girls at work that I would post the blueberry cake recipe like a week ago, so I guess I had better get on that!  LOL

My sister-in-law loves, loves, LOVES blueberries.  She would eat blueberries for every meal honestly, so the fact that she chose a blueberry cake was not really a surprise.  This of course meant that I had to find a recipe, since I didn't already have one.  After reading a ton of different recipes and looking at lots of pics, I chose this one because it seemed over loaded with tons of blueberries and I wouldn't want to disappoint the birthday girl or anything!  This cake was so good in fact, that my daughter, who is also crazy for blueberries, demanded that I make her this cake for her next birthday too!

The egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar, beaten until stiff peaks formed

Fold the egg whites into the shortening, sugar and flour mix

Fold in the blueberries...

Blueberry Cake
adapted from Reluctant Gourmet

4 eggs, separated
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup shortening
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour, sifted
2 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup milk
3 cups blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Using a mixer, beat the egg whites together with 1/2 cup of the sugar until stiff, glossy peaks are formed.  Set aside until later.  Sift together the flour and baking powder, then set aside.

Cream the shortening together with the rest of the sugar until it is light and fluffy.  Beat in the salt and vanilla.  Now add the egg yolks, one at a time, being sure to incorporate them entirely.

Toss together the blueberries with 1/4-1/2 cup of the flour mixture.  Mix in the remaining flour mixture alternately with the milk.  Beat just until incorporated then gently fold in the egg whites followed by the blueberries.

Pour into a greased 9"x13" baking pan and bake for 45-55 minutes.  Watch it carefully near then end as it can dry out quickly.  I grabbed mine out of the oven just in time.  (I still think it was a tad on the dry side but everyone else said it was perfect.)

Blueberry Frosting
makes 3-4 cups

1 1/2 cups butter or margarine (3 sticks), room temperature
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 to 1 1/2 cups blueberries, mashed, strained and cooled

Using a mixer, beat the butter until soft and fluffy.  Slowly add in 2 cups of powdered sugar. Add blueberry mixture and remaining powdered sugar until a good consistency is reached.  

To make the blueberry "mash", simmer blueberries on low heat until they release most of their juice.  Remove from heat and mash.  Strain to remove most of the skins then set aside to cool so that it does not melt the butter in the frosting.  Don't forget to strain it!  I did at first and found out the hard way that it is difficult to get the skins through smaller decorating tips...yeah.  I was not happy...but it all turned out in the end.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tiramisu Cupcakes!

Today's post begins with a story.  A few days ago I had a customer come in looking for a tall cup of espresso. Not just a doppio (that's 2 espresso shots for those of you who don't speak Starbucks) he wanted 12 ounces of espresso, something that would normally cost him a pretty penny.  One store had told him it would be $15, another said $10.  Well, we decided to be nice and only charge him for part of his drink and send him on his merry way, end of story.  Well, until he walked into our store on Sunday with yummy looking slice of tiramisu that he brought for us.  Now, normally I would not eat something that a stranger brought in for me, but seeing as this was kind of one of those paying it forward nice gestures, I decided to take a chance and try it.  It was amazing and when it was gone I was sad and wanted more.  Now one of the classes at my other job was having an end of the quarter potluck and I had planned on bringing cupcakes...but I was craving tiramisu.  What to do, what to do?!  Make tiramisu cupcakes of course!  I even had a recipe for it already thanks to a spur of the moment purchase of the Martha Stewart Cupcake cookbook as I was waiting in line to see, don't judge me...New Moon...with my bestie (that's you Sarah).

So here they are, tiramisu cupcakes!

Tiramisu Cupcakes
makes 18 cupcakes
Recipe from Martha Stewart's Cupcake cookbook

1 1/4 cups cake flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup milk
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scrapped and reserved
4 Tbsp. or 1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3 whole eggs plus 3 yolks, room temperature
1 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Line a cupcake pan with liners and set aside until later.

In a medium bowl sift together the cake flour, salt and baking powder.  Heat milk and vanilla bean pod and seeds in a small pan on medium heat just until the edges start to bubble.  Remove from heat and whisk in the butter.  Let the mixture stand for 15 minutes and then strain through a fine sieve to remove the vanilla bean pod (See pictures above).  Set the milk aside until later.

Now, whisk together the eggs, both whole and yolks, and sugar.  Set the bowl over a a pan of simmering water, kind of like a double broiler, and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the eggs are warm.  This took a few minutes and you will feel when the sugar is fully dissolved because the mixture becomes thinner and easier to whisk.  Pour the mixture into your stand mixer bowl and whisk on high speed until the mixture is fluffy and pale yellow and holds a ribbon on its surface for a few seconds when the whisk is lifted (again see pictures above).

Fold the flour mixture into the eggs a little at a time, being very gentle as you mix them together.  When all of the flour is incorporated, mix 1/2 cup of egg/flour mixture into the milk, to thicken it up and then gently fold it into the batter just until it is fully combined.  Don't over mix don't want to make the eggs loose their fluff.

Pour the batter into the 18 cupcake liners, filling each about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake for 20 minutes, turning the pans once halfway through.  Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack completely before finishing.

To finish, brush or spoon coffee mixture evenly over the top of the cupcakes.  Use as much or as little as you feel is necessary...I didn't quite use all of mine.  Let the coffee soak in for about half an hour and then top with a spoonful of the marscapone frosting, smoothed and sprinkle lightly with cocoa powder.  Refrigerate until you are ready to serve them.

Coffee Syrup
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. espresso or strong coffee
1 ounce marsala (or substitute 1 tsp. rum or 1/2 tsp.rum extract)
1/4 cup sugar

Stir together the coffee or espresso, marsala or rum and sugar until the sugar if fully dissolved.  Set aside for later.  Be sure that the mixture is cool, not warm when you use it.

Marscapone Frosting
Makes about 2 cups
Recipe from the Martha Stewart Cupcakes cookbook

1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces, 1 pkg. marscapone cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar

Using a mixer on medium speed, whisk cream until stiff peaks form.  In a separate bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and cheese until smooth.  Gently fold whipped cream into the marscapone mixture until completely incorporated.  Use immediately.