Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

My chat board mommy friends and I have started a weekly recipe challenge and this week I hosted with cupcakes! These were the winners. The cupcakes are tart and sweet, not to mention adorable! If I make these again I would do them in mini form and add lemon to the batter to up the tart level. I found the cupcake recipe here and the frosting is an adaptation of the Sprinkles cream cheese frosting, which is the MOST perfect cream cheese frosting I've found.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 egg whites
1/3 cup thawed frozen Pink Lemonade Concentrate
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 or more drops red food coloring
1 tablespoon lemon juice (I have NOT tried this yet!)

4 ounces cold cream cheese
1/2 stick unsalted butter, firm but not cold
Pinch salt
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons thawed frozen Pink Lemonade Concentrate

For cupcakes:
  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin pan with liners.
  • In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, egg whites and lemonade concentrate. Alternately whisk in flour mixture and buttermilk, making three additions of flour mixture and two of buttermilk, beating until just smooth. Add just enough food coloring to turn the batter a light shade of pink.
  • Scoop batter into liners (fill about three-fourths full). I got 9 perfectly flat cupcakes from this recipe. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack.
For icing:
  • Combine butter, salt, and cream cheese, 2-3 minutes on med-low.
  • Reduce to low, add the sugar and beat until incorporated.
  • Add vanilla and concentrate and beat just until incorporated. Do not over mix.
  • Add milk 1 teaspoon at a time if needed for consistency.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lemon Layer Cake with Raspberry Curd

This is a fantastic, light, and airy lemon cake. And the curd is perfect! You may notice the alarming amount of butter in all three elements, but hey, that's what makes it so good.

It's a bit time intensive but I never mind that when things come out this good!

2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
5 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Raspberry Curd
1 stick unsalted butter
12 ounce package frozen raspberries, thawed
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 tablespoons lemon zest
3 1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Curd (make the day before)
  • Melt butter over medium heat.
  • Add raspberries, yolks, sugar, and salt. Mash raspberries. Cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Pour through a strainer, pressing to extract as much as possible.
  • Cool to room temperature then stir in lemon juice. Chill.
  • Heat oven to 350. Prepare two 8x2 round cake pans. (I did not use parchment rounds this time and I regretted it. No huge harm done, they just didn't release as nicely as I would have liked)
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Pulse 1/4 cup of the sugar with lemon zest in food processor until finely ground.
  • Beat butter and zest mixture with electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add remaining sugar and beat until smooth.
  • Add 1/4 cup milk and beat until just blended. Reduce speed to low and alternately add flour and milk in 3 batches. Beat only until blended, no longer.
  • Beat egg whites in a large bowl until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat to stiff peaks.
  • Fold the egg whites into the batter carefully. (The point of "folding in" is to keep the air bubbles in the eggs, so do this carefully. If you're not sure how to do this, check here). This is really a very pretty batter!
  • Divide batter between the two pans and bake about 35 minutes.
  • Cool 10 minutes in pan then remove and cool completely.
  • Beat butter and zest until fluffy.
  • Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
  • Add lemon juice and beat for one minute.
  • Cut each cake into two layers.
  • Spread curd in between layers, leaving about a 1/2 inch border.
  • Frost. I used a zig-zag on the sides and smooth on top, but whatever floats your boat works.

A few tips:
  • Butter at "room temperature" does not necessarily mean YOUR room temperature. It needs to still be somewhat firm, just not solid and definitely not squishy. I usually take it out 20 minutes before I start and it's perfect. If I forget, 12 seconds on my microwave is perfect.
  • Separate eggs while they're cold, then let them come to room temp. It's easier to separate them when they're cold.
  • It's absolutely necessary to have a perfectly clean bowl when whipping egg whites. ANY fat or soap residue will make them stay flat. So, to make sure, wipe out the bowl with white vinegar then rinse with water.
I found this recipe in Luscious Berry Desserts

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Oatmeal Cranberry Bars

I found this recipe in my Everyday Food magazine last month but was hesitant to try it. They looked so tasty but I'm not a fan of raisins. So I decided to substitute cranberries and see how it was. I have to say, they're pretty darn tasty. Kind of like a thick oatmeal cookie. Nice and moist and chewy. Enjoy! And if you must, I'm sure they're decent with raisins too, just don't bring them to my house.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (NOT quick cooking)
1 cup dried cranberries

  • Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugars, egg, salt, and cinnamon until smooth.
  • Add flour, oats, and cranberries. Fold in just until combined.
  • Spread batter in pan and bake until toothpick comes out with moist crumbs, about 28 minutes.
  • Cool completely and slice.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Disclaimer: I'm having some technical difficulties with my fonts (obviously!) and I apologize. It's driving me crazy but I can't figure out why they're all coming out different sizes even though they're all marked as the same size. Suggestions?
I decided I needed to do a red, white, and blue cupcake for the 4th and my husband and I are constantly on the look out for the perfect Red Velvet Cupcake so here's my newest attempt. I really liked the taste and texture of this one but my husband said it wasn't moist enough, although I question his palate! He did say this after eating an unfrosted one (which, of course, is pure craziness! Everyone KNOWS the cream cheese frosting is what makes red velvet so irresistible).

Although I was happy with the flavor, I'm not a fan of my decorating skills. I've signed up for a Wilton class that starts next week so hopefully my treats will start looking a little prettier.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
2 1/3 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa powder (I didn't have any on hand and used regular with no ill results)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cold cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter, firm but not cold
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 ¾ cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon vanilla

For cupcakes:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugar in mixer for 3 minutes on medium until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, beating each until fully incorporated.
  • In a separate bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, and salt. In another bowl whisk together buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and food color.
  • Add a fourth of the dry ingredients to butter and mix, add a third of the wet. Continue adding in that pattern, ending with dry.
  • Scoop into cupcake liners about 1/2-3/4 of the way full. Bake 18-22 minutes.
  • Allow to cool completely before frosting

For frosting:

  • Combine butter, salt, and cream cheese in mixer and beat on medium 2-3 minutes
  • Reduce to low and add sugar, mixing until just incorporated. DO NOT over mix. It should be thick but not really "fluffy". Think ice cream texture.
  • Add vanilla. If necessary, add milk 1 teaspoon at a time to thin.
I've taken these recipes from two different places. The cupcakes came from Simply Recipes and the frosting is from the packaging of Sprinkles cupcakes that I received as a gift. This is, as far as I'm concerned, THE BEST cream cheese frosting I've ever tasted and use it for anything that calls for it.

Key Lime Pie

My husband is a huge fan of Key Lime Pie. I've made several and this is his absolute favorite. It's tart and cool, perfect for summer. I actually cheat and use regular limes for several reasons: 1) Key Limes are expensive, 2) Key Limes are a big ol' pain in the rear to juice, yielding what seems to be around 2 drops of juice per lime, and 3) I can't taste the difference anyway.

1 cup plus 2 ½ tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar

3 egg yolks
Zest of 2 limes
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

1 cup heaving whipping cream
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

For Crust:
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and parchment a 9 inch springform pan (you could use a pie pan as well).

Combine all crust ingredients in one bowl and mix until combined (it should look like sand).

Press mixture into pan and bake until the crust is set, about 8 minutes. Set aside.

For Filling:
In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and zest at high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, about 3 or 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer. Pour into pie crust and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the filling has set (not browned). Cool on wire rack, then refrigerate.

For Topping:
Whip the cream and confectioner’s sugar until nearly stiff. Refrigerate until ready to use. I used a star tip and icing bag to decorate the pie, but you could easily just plop a big dollop on each slice as it's served.

I found this recipe while watching Food Network. It's from Joe's Stone Crab in Florida.

Random tip: Use your fingers to separate yolks from whites. It's much quicker than the back-and-forth-between-shells method. Just crack the egg into your hand and let the whites slip through your fingers.

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

These are BY FAR my favorite cookies of all time. They are intensely chocolate, almost brownie like, sweet and a bit salty with the goodness of melty toffee chips and chocolate chips. I've had people tell me they were a bit "expensive" to make (there's a lot of chocolate and the toffee bits aren't cheap) but I can honestly say they are worth every single penny.

½ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped (you can use semisweet, but I prefer bitter)
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups brown sugar
4 large eggs
1-tablespoon vanilla
7 ounces toffee pieces
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl; whisk to blend. Stir chocolate and butter in double boiler until melted and smooth. Remove from over water and cool to lukewarm.

Beat sugar and eggs in separate bowl until thick
(about 5 minutes). Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture, then toffee and chocolate chips.

*The dough is very "wet" at this point. Almost brownie batter-like. Don't worry, it firms up.

Chill until firm, about 45 minutes.

Line baking sheets with parchment and drop rounds of batter
(I use a cookie scoop for this. Mine, unfortunately, is completely void of any markings referring to it's size but it's a "medium" sized one and the only one I use for baking. I would guess it's a bit short of 2 tablespoons), spacing 2 ½ inches apart. Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 15 minutes. Cool on sheets. Makes about 2 dozen.

I found this recipe in Bon Appetit quite a few years ago. I've adapted the size of the cookie, but other than that the recipe is the original.

The world is a better place

That may sound a tad dramatic, but it's so true! I just received my Side Sweep blade for my Kitchenaid and I'm in love. I was a bit skeptical but it actually does a pretty decent job at mixing without scrapping down the sides. There are two relatively minor drawbacks: It doesn't quite hit the bottom enough, but it only took about 2 seconds of hand stirring after the mixing was done and it's a bit of a bear to scrape clean with all the little silicon bits sticking out. But these are things I'm willing to overcome because I love that I don't have to scrap down the sides now!

If you want one (and you know you do) here's where I got mine: Sideswipe
It came to just over $30 with shipping.