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Archive for the ‘Candy’ Category

Courtesy cupcakes and well-mannered meringue.

I often think about how I would act in front of the Queen of England.

The term “lady-like” does not come to mind when I think of myself — I hate sitting with my ankles crossed. It’s not natural! Or curtsying? Yikes…I don’t know about that one either — I don’t think I’m coordinated enough to lightly shake her fragile hand and do a half-pliet at the same time. Also, what the heck do you talk to her about? Do you talk to her at all? Am I supposed to dance for her? Make balloon animals? Perform my rendition of Broadway’s “Cats”? That’s a lot of pressure. She might prefer The Lion King…

In my fantasy world, the Queen and I would be sitting in two giant comfy chairs in her extravagant living room, where there is a faint background hum of subtle classical music. While she tells me story after story of her past romantic affairs that no one knows about, we sip tea and coffee out of tiny delicate gold-trimmed cups that sit beside some scones that I made for her. She loves them. She ate six. It turns out that she finds me so charming and charismatic that she wants me to move to England for the sole purpose of our weekly afternoon gossip sessions. I do this. Life is cool.

Sounds reasonable. I’m sure this happens. It’s…casual.

I’ve made a list. A list of behavioral faux pas I’ve observed over the past few weeks. Imagine if we all had the courtesy and politeness required when interacting with Her Majesty?

Okay, I agree, that’d be a bit much, and pretty boring, but really all I’m talking about is common courtesy, people. Basic manners. Simple things that seem like common sense, but for some reason, I’ve noticed that apparently, they’re not. Taking a general interest in someone’s life, when they are constantly interested in yours, is common courtesy. Smiling when you see someone instead of frowning or having a scowling look…common courtesy. Asking how someone’s day was…common courtesy!

THINGS YOU SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT DO WHEN YOU ARE A FUNCTIONAL MEMBER OF SOCIETY

1. Saying “hello” to the person behind the counter before starting to speak – GOOD

2. Not reciprocating a “How are you” question – BAD

3. Holding the door open for someone, even if its your dog (especially if its your dog) – GOOD

4. Holding the door open for someone, only to let go at the last possible second to make it completely awkward and unmanageable for the person about to walk through, resulting in pain. – BAD (was that too specific?)

5. Remembering names – GOOD

6. Forgetting names – BAD

7. Using “please” and “thank you” on a regular basis – VERY GOOD

8. Interrupting someone when they talk – VERY BAD

9. Asking how someone’s day was – GOOD

10. Chewing with your mouth closed – GOOD

11. Batting someone’s face when they’re sleeping – BAD (I think it might just be Kitten that does this, but if you do it…stop it. Weirdo.)

12. Complimenting someone – GOOD

13. Telling someone they look like Jane of the Jungle because they’re having an “off” hair day – BAD

14. Giving (welcomed) hugs – GOOD

15. Answering phone calls or texts in the middle of a deep face-to-face conversation – BAD

16. Referring to someone’s hobby as “stupid” to their face – VERY BAD

17. Asking about someone’s hobby because you really care – VERY GOOD

18. Baking lemon cupcakes – GOOD

19. Pairing the cupcakes with a blueberry compote – GREAT

20. Topping the cupcakes with an airy meringue – EXCELLENT!

There are a lot more where that came from. But these are truths. Necessary truths. Specifically the last three…and number seven. And eleven…

These cupcakes came together better than I imagined. I got home from work, took off my blazer, and got to baking. There was no recipe written down anywhere, and I never even tried to look up suggestions on how to make a perfect compote. I simply looked at the recipe for my mom’s favorite lemon cookies and made it into a super moist, fresh, lemon cake. The flavor is perfect. The texture? Lighter than freaking air.

Mama was happy. And we all know that when Mama is happy…say it with me…everyone is happy!

I topped it with a perfectly sweetened blueberry compote, and whipped up some meringue. And as you can see, I had a little bit of pyro fun with a small torch. ūüôā

The Event Blossom theme this week is Something Blue. Adorable! These cupcakes with the blue wrappers are a perfect pair for a summer engagement party. Make sure to take a peek at what Kim did with this kit on her blog!

Perhaps the Queen might enjoy them too…I’ll consider making them for her for next week’s afternoon tea.

Now, please, try these cupcakes.

Come on…I said please!

Lemon Cupcakes with Blueberry Compote and Meringue

1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup non-fat half and half
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter
1 tbsp lemon zest
juice of two fresh lemons

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line muffin pan with papers.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl using an electric mixer, beat butter until smooth and pale.

4. Add eggs, beat well on high.

5. Add vanilla, beat well.

6. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. Beat for about 30 seconds.

7. Add half and half, lemon juice, and zest until evenly distributed. Do not over mix.

8. Fill cups 1/2 full and bake for 18 minutes.

Note: These rise a LOT. I was not expecting this. So you’ll notice that this says to fill the cups 1/2 full instead of 3/4 full. There’s a reason for that. Do as I say. (Please..)

Blueberry Compote

2 cups fresh blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp water

1. Simmer all ingredients in a small saucepan for about 8 minutes. The blueberries should start to pop and the mixture will begin to thicken. Stir occasionally.

2. Remove from heat and let cool. If it is not thick enough, add 1 tbsp corn starch and place back on the heat for another couple of minutes. Let cool completely before using on cupcakes.

Meringue

6 egg whites
5 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla

1. Beat egg whites until frothy.

2. Add sugar until stiff peaks form.

3. Add vanilla, continue to beat on high.

4. To test if the meringue is ready, you should be able to hold the bowl upside-down for 30 seconds. Yes, 30 nerve-racking seconds.

Bon appétit!

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Ice cream, you scream!

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Oh my gosh I want ice cream!” But then two seconds later think, “Blast! I am without an ice cream maker. No ice cream for me.”

No? You’re normal and just turn to the pros at DQ or Baskin Robbins?

…and don’t say “blast”?

Well I don’t function that way, people! And after today’s recipe, I’m pretty darn sure you’ll think twice before putting their ice cream before yours! Yes, yours! I bring these beautiful recipes to you so you can take credit for them and look like a flipping genius. I bring these to you because I love you and I want you to look smart.

This is truth.

Another truth?  My family loves ice cream. At least my dad’s side of the family loves ice cream. It’s serious business. You might be thinking “oh well everyone’s family loves ice cream.” Well let me correct you…your family does not love ice cream the same way that my family loves ice cream. It’s really weird. But weird in a totally awesome way, because let’s face it, it’s ice cream, not like…crack. Win.

So when my dad sends me a text that only reads “Great ice cream!!!!!!” I know I did something right.

Because this might be the easiest recipe I’ve ever put on here next to brown sugar, I really don’t see why you shouldn’t try this.

Impress people. You’ll look cool and there’s a high probability that you’ll make friends.

Read the recipe. Make the ice cream. Don’t lick the screen.

Loaded Mocha Ice Cream
base recipe from Kevin & Amanda

2 cups of heavy whipping cream
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup brewed coffee, cooled
1 1/2 tsp smashed espresso beans
3/4 cup chocolate covered almonds
Smucker’s Magic Shell topping

1. Beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form.
2. In a medium bowl, combine condensed milk and vanilla, coffee, espresso beans, and almonds.
3. Fold in whipped cream.
4. Add about a 1/2 tsp of Magic Shell topping.
5. Store in a tupperware container and place in the freezer.
6. After about an hour, remove the ice cream from the freezer and drizzle the Magic Shell topping on top. Do not mix. Let it freeze for another hour and then gently break the shell and mix in. Add more if desired. (Don’t be afraid to leave big chunks of it in there…that is definitely allowed…and encouraged.)

The total freeze time should be around 6 hours. Although around 5 it is like soft-serve, and if that’s what you like – grab a spoon!

I also made…

Reese’s Ice Cream!
(if you really thought I wouldn’t bring peanut butter cups into this, you clearly don’t know me at all…)

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (not the giant bag, greedy people, the normal bag), chopped
1/4 cup fudge sauce

1. Beat whipping cream to stiff peaks.
2. Combine PB Cups and condensed milk in a medium bowl.
3. Fold in whipped cream slightly, drizzling fudge into the mixture between folds.
4. Freeze for 6 hours.

Do you know what the best part about this ice cream recipe is? You can add whatever you want. I mean it. What. ever. you. want. Go crazy!

And it’s officially October, which means a lot of candy is coming our way.

Snickers? Rad.

Milky Way? Genius.

Almond Joy? We’re quickly becoming life-long friends.

Or if you don’t feel like using candy, get creative! Perhaps add some cinnamon and baked apples…apple pie ice cream? Or maybe mix in some chocolate chips and pour in a little Bailey’s or Kahlua and make it a grown-up treat. I think yes.

You have free-range to add whatever your taste buds tell you is right thing to do. They’re usually spot-on. So I’m not even being bossy by telling you what to add! Woohoo!

Get in the kitchen!!!!! <— motivating, not bossy…

Bon appétit!

Pucker up!

I am in denial.

There’s no way around it. I just cannot face the truth.

What is the truth?

Summer…is over. Yuck.

It might not be over for you quite yet, but it definitely is in my world as of 7pm tonight, when I walk into a classroom for the first time in several months. ¬†That’s real pain, people.

It’s over, and I’m left with nothing but a faded tan and hair that is terrified for Fall.

Fall = wind. I really, really dislike wind. Breeze? Lovely. Wind?  No.  Go away.  Bye.

But a few days ago, something wonderful happened! A gluten-free friend of mine gave me a recipe that screams summer! Grapefruit cake!

Grapefruit? Genius! Way to keep summer going, Sam! ūüôā

While she is making the gluten-free version of this recipe (which she will write about on her own blog, “Excuse Me, What?”), I made the regular gluten-filled version.

So grapefruit is obviously not something you think about when you think “cake.” And this recipe is NOT what I think about when I think “Paula Deen.” Why? Because this recipe contains no butter. I’ll say it again…

This Paula Deen recipe does not have a drop of butter in it. I didn’t even know how to react to this. I was in such denial about the lack of butter, I bought some when I went to the store anyway. Perhaps I am the one with the butter problem, not good ol’ Miss Deen.

As far as the recipe goes, the flavor was deeeeeelicious. I upped the amount of zest and juice in the batter to give it more shazaam. The cream cheese frosting was odd. It didn’t turn out quite the way cream cheese frosting usually turns out, and I omitted the crushed grapefruit and again just added more zest. Flavor? Awesome. The texture of the cake was soft and very light. ¬†Dainty, if you will. ¬†Personally I prefer a heartier cupcake, but this one is pretty darn good. ¬†I think it’s just cake flour that I don’t care for. It’s just not my thang.

Oh and I got a little fancy and candied some grapefruit rinds! ūüôā

SO. Next time, regular flour. My own frosting recipe. Possibly buttercream…the cream cheese is a little heavy for the flavor of the cake.

Grapefruit (and Sam) – thank you for reminding me that summer can live on!

Grapefruit Cupcakes
from the wonderfully charming Paula Deen! (with a few minor changes)

1 1/2 cup sifted cake flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
4 tsp grapefruit zest
5 tbsp grapefruit juice
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with papers.

2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Create a well in the center of the mixture.

3. Add egg yolks, water, oil, zest, and juice to the dry mixture. Beat until well combined.

4. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

5. Fold the egg whites into the wet mixture until just combined. Do not stir! Fold! (You’ll take all the air out of the whites if you’re not careful.)

6. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for 9-11 minutes.

Grapefruit Cream Cheese Frosting
also adapted from Paula Deen

2 pkgs of cream cheese
4 tsp grapefruit juice
2 1/2 tsp grapefruit zest
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1. Beat cream cheese until light and slightly airy.

2. Add juice and zest until evenly combined.

3. Add powdered sugar and beat until well-combined.

4. Allow to cool in the fridge until ready to use.

^ He’s smirking! ¬†I guess my mom never told me not to play with my food…

Candied Grapefruit Rinds

1 grapefruit, peeled…eat the fruit.
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water

1. Slice the peel into thin strips, about 3 inches long. It’s okay to leave a little part of the white rind.

2. Grease a wire rack and cookie sheet. Set rack in cookie sheet and set aside.

3. Boil the sliced rinds in a medium sauce pan for about 10 minutes. Drain.

4. In another pan, bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil or until all the sugar dissolves. Add rinds.

5. Allow the peel to boil in the sugar mixture for about 15 minutes. You’ll notice that the sugar syrup being absorbed into the rinds. Remove from heat, and transfer rinds onto wire rack. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

6. Fill a shallow bowl with the remaining cup of sugar. Lightly roll each candied rind in the sugar, and set back on the wire rack to set and cool completely.

Sprinkle with sugar, and love.  Then eat.

Bon appétit!

Good things DO happen after 2 a.m.!

"Nothing good ever happens after 2am." <-- Lies! (as of now)

What do you do at 2:16 am?

Watch  a movie?

Read a book?

Watch infomercials?

Seriously consider buying the products from the infomercials? (No?  Just me?)

Question life’s purpose?

Or the ever-so-popular….sleep?

Yeah, I usually sleep.

But lately, my mind doesn’t shut off at a decent hour. ¬†So I do all of the above things.

(But let me be clear…I have not purchased a ridiculous infomercial product from television………yet.)

And after all of that, I make brown sugar!

Yes, I said make brown sugar.

It couldn’t be easier, honestly.

You need 3 things:

2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 tbsp unsulfured molasses
fork

You put the ingredients in a bowl…

Mix them all together with the fork…

And voila!  Brown sugar.

I’m not kidding. That’s it. ¬†Add a dash of vanilla if you feel so inclined. ¬†It turns out SO soft and fresh – I really think it’ll be difficult for me to justify ever buying brown sugar from the store now.

Now.  What to do with this delicious homemade treat?

Brown sugar cookies!

“Um, Kate, that sounds boring…”

Shh. ¬†Just, shh. ¬†Do not be fooled by its looks and spiritless name. ¬†It’s simple. ¬†No frills. ¬†It is a tasty cookie. ¬†A verrrrrrry tasty cookie. ¬†And in the end, that’s really all that matters.

Perfectly sweet, perfectly buttery, perfectly soft, yet still perfectly crispy.  I am in love.

I’ve made sugar cookies before. ¬†And I was quite clear to state that they’re not my fave. ¬†These are different. ¬†Brown sugar cookies totally own regular sugar cookies. ¬†I might even put them up there with chocolate chip!¬†<– (got carried away, but they are REALLY good!)

Make. these. now.

Brown Sugar Cookies

14 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups plus 2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp vanilla extract

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a shallow dish (i.e. pie dish, small casserole dish, etc.) combine 1/4 cup of the brown sugar and the granulated sugar using your fingers until it is evenly combined. Set aside.

3. Melt 10 tbsp of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Once melted, continue cooking the butter, swirling the pan constantly until it reaches a light brown color and has a slight nutty aroma (this should take about 2-3 minutes).  Remove the butter from heat and transfer the butter to a medium to large heat-proof bowl. Stir in the remaining 4 tbsp butter until completely melted.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

4. While that cools, combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.

5. Add the rest of the brown sugar and salt to the melted butter until completely combined.

6. Add egg and yolk and combine until completely incorporated. Add vanilla.

7. Fold in the flour mixture until completely combined. Do not over mix, just combine until you can no longer see flour.

8. Roll the dough into balls slightly larger than 1 inch. Lightly roll the ball of dough in the sugar mixture and set on the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.

9. Bake for about 10-13 minutes. They will have a slightly cracked top with golden sides. Don’t over bake these, you’ll regret it. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 3 minutes.

P.S. I hate when I use the term “don’t over bake.” It’s so obvious. But I’m just trying to emphasize how important it is that these are soft.

I also cooled them on paper towels, not a wire rack. Why? Because I don’t want that air to circulate around my cookies, making them all crispy and crunchy and no fun.

I love crispy cookies too, but they have no business butting in on my beautiful soft cookies!

Bon appétit!

Mixin’ it up with coffee and toffee!

My kitchen and I received an amazing birthday present.

Like, absolutely fan. freaking. tastic.

I’m talking about life-changing things here, people.

What am I talking about?

Awww yeah, that’s a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. My baking life is forever changed.

And it’s yellow! Which obviously makes it that much cooler. I love yellow, it’s such a happy color. I would paint my kitchen yellow if I didn’t think it would drive my neutral-color-loving boyfriend away. *sigh*

I’ll settle for a yellow mixer, dish towels, and butter dish….for now. ūüėČ

After my first time using it, I learned a few very important things about using a stand mixer:

1. If you just added a flour mixture, set it to “stir” first. Otherwise your Piggy cookie jar (seen above) will end up covered in cocoa powder and flour. (Sorry, Chef Piggy!)

2. If you just added liquid to the mixture, start it out on a low speed…THEN work your way up, slowly. Piggy got another little bath…whoops!

3. These machines work QUICKLY! Beating egg whites, a task that used to take upwards of 15 minutes with a hand mixer, took only a few very short minutes! It literally seemed like I turned away for a second and they were ready. I think it’s going to take me a while to get over that one. It’s incredible. Really.

So now that I am no longer living in the cave-man baking era, I wanted to make something delicious! (Thank you, captain obvious.)

While looking through recipes, I honestly felt like none of them were good enough for my new piece of kitchen equipment. But time was quickly passing me by, and I had to make a decision, so I chose…

Mocha cupcakes with Toffee buttercream, topped with a piece of homemade toffee! (Totally worthy of my pretty mixer!)

The cupcakes came out soft and decadent, the buttercream smooth and buttercream-y, and the toffee sweet with the perfect crunch.

And by the way, incase you didn’t know, toffee is really, really easy to make. Don’t be scared! You can do it. Plus it makes your kitchen smell a. maz. ing.

So give a big round of applause to the lovely and very talented Brown Eyed Baker, Paula Deen (sometimes butter does make it better!) and Rock Recipes for christening my mixer to make one deeeeelicious treat!

English Toffee
from Mrs. Deen, love her!!

1 stick plus 6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp cold water
1 tsp vanilla extract
dash of salt
1 16 oz bag of chocolate chips or thin chocolate bars
1/2 cup pecan pieces (or almonds, or walnuts, or whatever)

1. Butter a cookie sheet very well. Don’t forget the sides of the pan, too!

2. Heat the butter, sugar and water in a saucepan on medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring the entire time (about 10 minutes).

3. After 10 minutes, remove the spoon and allow the mixture to cook to a brittle stage. If you have a candy thermometer, use it. It will read about 300 degrees when it is ready. If you do not have a candy thermometer, drop some of the toffee in a glass of cold water. If it separates into little threads, it is done.

4. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the vanilla and salt. Be careful, adding the vanilla will anger the mixture, as it will spit and spatter. So back off and then stir it in.

5. Pour the mixture on the prepared cookie sheet. Allow it to cool slightly.

6. Place chocolate on top, and spread the chocolate over the toffee as it begins to melt. Sprinkle the pecans over the chocolate.

7. Store the toffee in the refrigerator until it is completely cooled and hardened.

Mocha Cupcakes
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp whole milk
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
2 tsp espresso powder
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup loosely packed dark brown sugar
1 egg, room temp

1. Dissolve the espresso powder in the brewed coffee. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line cupcake pan with liners.

3. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together.

4. Beat butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together until light and fluffy.

5. Add the egg, and beat until just combined.

6. In a small bowl, combine coffee mixture, milk, and vanilla.

7. Alternately, beginning and ending with flour, add the flour mixture and coffee/milk mixture to the butter mixture, combining well after each addition. Do not over mix.

8. Fill cupcake liners and bake for 15-17 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack. Allow them to cool completely before frosting.

Toffee Buttercream
adapted from Rock Recipes

1 3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp molasses
3 tbsp maple syrup
6 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3 tsp vanilla extract
4 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1. Combine brown sugar, molasses, and syrup in a saucepan and bring to a boil. You don’t need to stir it. Just let it do it’s thang. Bust out that candy thermometer again and make sure this gets to 240 degrees. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.

2. Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla until medium-soft peaks form.

3. Add the molasses mixture to the egg whites, avoiding the beaters, and continue to beat the mixture for about 10 minutes until the mixture is completely cool.

4. A few tablespoons as a time, add the butter to the mixture. Combine for about a minute, and add the confectioners’ sugar. Combine until a desired consistency is reached.

Note: It took a little while for my frosting to thicken up, but juuuust as I was about to lose hope and start over, buttercream appeared! Moral of the story? Cherish your patience. It is your friend.

Frost the cupcakes! Now, I placed a chunk of toffee as a garnish for my cupcakes. But next time I will definitely crumble the toffee and mix it in to the frosting for an added “umph” and of course, “yum.”

Bon appétit!