Friday, December 30, 2011

Sparkling Champagne Cupcakes

Sparkling Champagne Cupcakes

Posted by: Maggie

Happy New Year's Eve-Eve everyone! 

I've been wanting to make these cupcakes since seeing them on Heather's blog last December. I loooove champagne, and I love an opportunity to make a holiday themed cupcake even more.

If your New Year's resolution falls into the drink less booze/eat less junk category that so many resolutions do, I recommend making these pronto, while you still have the chance.

What you're looking at here is a vanilla cupcake spiked with champagne, a champagne flavored pastry creme center, and a champagne buttercream. Festive, right?

Here's what you'll need:

For the cupcakes:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup champagne (no need to use the good stuff $4 bottle of Andre worked quite nicely)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line cupcake tins with 17 paper liners. Adjust oven rack to middle position.

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together sour cream and champagne.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and the champagne mixture to the butter/egg mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Using level 1/4 cup measures, divide batter between prepared cupcake tins. Bake for 17-22 minutes, rotating cupcake tins halfway through baking time. Set aside to cool completely before filling and frosting.

For the pastry creme filling:

1/2 cup heavy cream, divided
1/2 cup champagne
2 tablespoons cornstarch
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and the cornstarch. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the remaining 1/4 cup heavy cream, the champagne, and the sugar. Stir to combine, and bring to a boil over medium heat.

While waiting for the mixture to boil, beat the egg, and yolks into the heavy cream and cornstarch mixture.

When the champagne mixture is boiling, remove from the heat, and add 1/3 of it to the egg mixture, whisking constantly so the eggs don't cook. Return the champagne mixture to a boil, and add in the egg mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly.

Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens, and remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla, and continue to stir until the butter has melted completely.

Allow the mixture to cool for 15 minutes before filling cupcakes. Using a paring knife, or one of these handy dandy cupcake corers (I got mine from Target) cut out the center of the cupcake, and fill with cooled pastry creme. I spooned mine into a large ziploc bag, and snipped off the end to make this easier.

You will have leftover pastry creme. I'm sure you can figure out what to do with it! Allow the filling to cool completely before frosting the cupcakes.

For the frosting:

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon champagne
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Add 1 cup of champagne to a small saucepan. Simmer over medium-high heat, until it has reduced to 2 tablespoons (about 7-10 minutes, but keep an eye on it!) Transfer to a small bowl to cool completely.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and powdered sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Add in reduced champagne, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of champagne and beat until smooth.

Store cupcakes in the refrigerator, and bring to room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

Source: Sprinkle Bakes

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Peanut Butter and Fleur de Sel Brownies

Posted by: Maggie

Merry Christmas Eve! I know everyone is basically done with their holiday baking at this point, but I couldn't resist squeezing in one more recipe.

I recently discovered an awesome store called Spice and Tea, which is barely a mile from where I live in Virginia. It's a tiny store with walls of spices, teas, and fancy salts, and I literally could've spent hours in there just staring. I'm still in shock that I've lived so close to it for years and had no idea it existed. I tweeted a picture from when I was there a couple weeks ago if you want to take a peek at the insane wall of spices.

Anyway, I bought a little bag of fleur de sel when I was there. I've been drooling over this recipe that Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil made last month, and decided that they'd be the first thing I baked with my fancy new salt. If you make these for someone who loves the sweet and salty combo, or the peanut butter and chocolate combo, they'll pretty much worship the ground you walk on.

I hope all of you who celebrate have a very Merry Christmas tomorrow!

Here's what you'll need:

For the brownies:

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the frosting:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon Fleur de Sel (or another flaky sea salt)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Butter an 8 inch square pan, and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Butter the parchment paper.

In a microwave safe bowl, combine the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Microwave in 30 second increments on 50 percent power until the butter is just melted. Stir mixture until smooth.

Add the eggs to the cocoa mixture one at a time, stirring well after each to fully incorporate. Stir in vanilla extract. Lastly, mix in the flour, and stir about 40 times, or until just incorporated. Do not overmix! Spread the batter evenly into the pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool on a rack.

To make the frosting, cream the butter and peanut butter. Slowly add the powdered sugar, and beat until combined. Spread the frosting on the cooled brownies, and sprinkle with sea salt. Cut into 16 squares.

In an effort to cut these neatly, I froze them until the frosting had slightly firmed up. I wiped off the knife in between cuts, and dipped it in hot water, and shook off the excess before making each slice.

I put half of these in the fridge, and left half at room temperature. I strongly preferred the cold ones!

Source: adapted from Love and Olive Oil, originally from Not Without Salt

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Taco Dip

Taco Dip

Posted by: Maggie

I took three years of high school Spanish, spanning from my freshman through junior year. Ten years after my final class, I'd guesstimate that I have a Spanish vocabulary of roughly 150 words. I can count to 100, pronounce and accurately describe most menu items at Tex-Mex restaurants, and know a handful of Spanish curse words. Before going to Peru back in June, I brushed up on my Spanish pleasantries, learned how to order my beverages sin hielo, and reminded myself that el baƱo and la biblioteca are two very different places, that should not under any circumstance be confused. 

I really wish that I'd paid more attention back in high school Spanish, because as an adult I can finally understand the value of knowing a second language. As a teenager, the only thing I cared about in that class was the "fiesta" we got to have every semester. Our fiesta was really just a day off from learning, where everyone brought in junk food to pig out on for the whole 45-minute class. This dip was always my contribution to our fiesta, much to my poor mom's dismay. She got stuck making this dip for every single Spanish class party. A considerate kid would've signed their mother up for napkin duty. I volunteered her for $15 worth of dip and tortilla chips, roughly six times throughout high school. Sorry Mom!

Gone are the days of sharing this taco dip with 25 of my grody classmates. My mom doesn't make this dip for me anymore; I whip it up myself whenever Annie comes to town. She was here last weekend to go on our annual Christmas bar crawl, and we inhaled this on her first night here.

You can make this recipe more homemade if you desire, but I just use canned refried beans and packaged guacamole. My mom has always used chopped tomatoes as a topping, but the winter tomatoes where I live taste like old cotton balls soaked in V8 juice, so I opted for Rotel instead. It was a delicious substitution that I think I'll stick with the next time I make it.

What you'll need:

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 envelope low-sodium taco seasoning
1 16-ounce can refried beans
1 7-ounce package of guacamole (about 14 tablespoons)
1 - 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
3-5 scallions, washed, dried, and thinly sliced
1 small can sliced black olives, drained
1 10-ounce can Rotel diced tomatoes, drained well, and squeezed of excess water between a thick layer of paper towels (I used the lime juice/cilantro variety)

In a small bowl, mix sour cream, mayonnaise, and taco seasoning. Set aside. On a large plate, spread the refried beans into an even layer. Spread the guacamole on top of the beans, and then spread on the sour cream mixture. Top with cheese, scallions, olives, and Ro-tel.

Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Source: My lovely mom, with a couple changes by me!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pear Spice Cake with Walnut Praline Topping

Posted by: Maggie

This cake would be delightful for Christmas morning brunch.

Or, for Christmas Eve dessert.

Or perhaps as a snack for Santa in lieu of cookies?

It doesn't matter what your reason is for making this delicious, moist, lightly spiced cake. Just make it soon, and enjoy it fresh from the oven with a hot cup of coffee or cocoa.

I promise you won't regret it.

Here's what you'll need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cup peeled, cored, and diced pear (I used about 2 pears to get this amount, but it will depend on the size of your fruit)
1 cup walnuts, toasted, cooled, and finely chopped

Move the oven rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a bundt pan.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium-high to combine butter, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add egg yolks 1 at a time and beat well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add in flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in batches, and beat well after each addition. Gently fold in pears and walnuts.

Clean the mixer beaters. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Fold whites into the batter gently, but thoroughly.

Transfer batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Cool in pan, on a rack for 10 minutes, and then invert onto rack.

I topped my cake with the praline topping while it was still warm to help the glaze spread easily, but if you prefer, you can wait for the cake to cool completely.

To make the glaze:

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped, toasted

Stir brown sugar, cream, and butter in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat until smooth. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the walnuts, and carefully pour over the warm cake.

P.S. Here's a photo of (almost) the whole cake. I didn't get a nice pic of the uncut cake because Jeff and I cut into it at night, and by the time I had daylight for photographing it the next day it wasn't so pretty :)

Source: Adapted from Joy the Baker, originally from Gourmet Magazine

Friday, December 16, 2011

Soft Gingersnap Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks

Posted by: Maggie

(Please read the following as if a Gingersnap Cookie is speaking in the first person. A Gingersnap Cookie with the smooth voice of Isaiah Mustafa. Yup. I promise not to post again while exhausted and/or after spending too much time on the You Tubes.) 

Hello Readers.

Look at your cookie. Now back to me.
Now back at your cookie. Now back to me.
Sadly, it isn't me.
But if you go to the grocery store and buy some molasses and white chocolate it could taste like it's me.

Look down, back up, where are you?
You're in your kitchen,
making the cookies your cookies could taste like.

What's in your hand? Back at me.
I am, I'm a warm, soft, cookie with those two Christmas flavors that you love.
Look again, the Christmas flavors are now melting in your mouth.
Anything is possible when your cookie tastes like molasses and white chocolate, and not high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.
I'm on a diabetic horse.

What you'll need:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for coating cookie dough balls
1/2 cup molasses
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 large eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until creamy. Add in the molasses, canola oil, vanilla extract, baking soda, salt, and spices, and beat until well combined. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low, gradually add in the flour. Do not overmix. Stir in the white chocolate chips.

Using a cookie scoop, form the dough into balls and coat in the extra granulated sugar. Place on the prepared cookie sheet, two inches apart. Bake for 7-9 minutes. Remove from the oven, and allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Adapted from: Two Peas & Their Pod

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Beef and Bean Chili

Posted by: Maggie

I was browsing through our recipe index recently, and realized that Annie and I have been complete failures in providing recipes in certain food categories. There are recipes for cookies, cupcakes, and vegetarian food galore, but only FOUR beef recipes in our entire 2-year history of blogging. 

As an ex-vegetarian who now loves bacon and juicy medium-rare steaks (especially if the latter is wrapped in the former,) this realization was simply unacceptable to me. I decided that a giant, meaty pot of chili was a necessity in my life, along with a batch of my favorite cornbread recipe.

I know I've mentioned on here before that I'm not crazy about most leftovers, and this is absolutely an exception. I sent Jeff home with a large portion of leftover chili, and still had enough to eat leftovers over rice, over pasta, over a baked potato, and over Fritos. Not all in one night of course. Eating that much chili in one night would be a bad decision for even the strongest of stomachs.

Here's what you'll need for about 3 quarts of chili:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds 85-percent lean ground beef
2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree
Toppings: limes, cilantro, sliced jalapenos, diced avocado, shredded cheese, diced red onions, and sour cream or greek yogurt are all good choices!

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium until shimmering. Add the onions, red pepper, garlic, and spices (except salt) and cook, stirring occasionally until the veggies are soft and the spices are fragrant (about 7-10 minutes.) If the veggies and spices start to stick to the bottom of the pan add a small splash of water. Increase the heat to medium-high and add half of the ground beef, breaking up with a wooden spoon and cook until no longer pink (about 3-4 minutes.) Add the remaining beef, breaking up with a wooden spoon, and cook until no longer pink.

Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer with the lid on for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid, and simmer for 1 more hour, stirring occasionally. I actually ended up simmering my chili for about 3.5 hours total since I was waiting for my dinner guest to arrive. If chili starts sticking to the bottom of the pot you can add in a bit of water and continue to simmer, but you probably won't need it. My pot isn't fancy - it's a thin, stainless steel pot from Target and I had no sticking problems.

Adjust seasonings to taste, and serve!

Side note: The chili is super duper thick on the first day you make it, and will thicken more as leftovers. In the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to note that the photograph above was taken on day 3 of my chili's life.

Source: slightly adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monster Cookies

Posted by: Maggie

So, two weeks ago I did something kind of weird.

I baked three dozen cookies and wrapped them up all purty...

monster cookies

...and then I mailed a dozen each to three complete strangers in Illinois, Texas, and Georgia.

christmas light bokeh

Why, you ask? Well I was participating in the 1st Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! I was assigned Lori, Lindsay, and Alison, and they each received a dozen Monster Cookies home-baked by yours truly. I received delicious cookies from Susan (who has the cutest little pug who I wish was shipped to me with my cookies!), Jill, and Michelle. Thanks ladies! 

monster cookies

Of course I kept a couple for myself. These things are too good to give them all away. Not only are they delicious, they're simple, and you can convince yourself that eating three in a row is okay because oats are healthy. 

In my experience, there are monster cookies that are crunchy, and monster cookies that are chewy. These are the chewy variety, and will stay that way for several days. Not that they'll last that long. 

Here's what you'll need: 

1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
4 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 
1 cup Christmas M&Ms, plus additional for decoration

Position oven rack to the middle. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars with an electric mixer. Add in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in vanilla extract and baking soda, and mix well. Mix in peanut butter until well blended. Dump in the oats, and mix until combined. Mix in chocolate chips and M&Ms with a rubber spatula. Chill dough in the refrigerator for at least 90 minutes before using. 

Using a large cookie scoop, drop cookies onto parchment lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Press a few M&Ms on top of the cookies. Bake in the preheated oven for 11-13 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 


- I do not recommend baking more than one sheet of cookies at once. It's important that these cook evenly!

- This recipe makes 19-20 very large cookies. If you need to double it (which I did) you'll probably need to do it in separate batches unless your bowls are ginormous. This makes a LOT of dough. 

Source: Adapted from Everyday Home Cook

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bourbon Truffles

Posted by: Maggie

Can we all just agree that one fabulous thing about being an adult is the ability to eat candy with booze in it? 

I assume you're all nodding your heads in consensus.

Does anyone remember those little liquor filled chocolate bottles that used to come out at Christmas parties back in the day? As a kid I remember resenting the fact that I couldn't partake. Not because I was interested in drinking at the ripe old age of ten, it was just because I really wanted the chocolate.

When I saw this recipe it reminded me of those tiny, boozy bottles, and I instantly wanted to make them.

I'll warn you that these are a little tricky to work with - prepare to be covered in chocolate up to your elbows during the rolling process. I promise that they're worth the hassle, and if you pack them up in a pretty box they'd be a perfect gift to bring along to a Christmas party instead of the typical bottle of wine!

Here's what you'll need:

For the filling:

1/4 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup bourbon
Dutch process cocoa powder for dusting

For the coating:

1 12-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
Topping of your choosing (I used sprinkles, finely chopped nuts or melted white chocolate would also be nice!)

To make the filling, heat butter and cream over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan. Stir until the butter completely melts, and the cream simmers. Remove mixture from the heat, and stir in the milk and semi-sweet chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth (you may need to briefly return the mixture to the heat to help the melting process.) Mix in the bourbon, and transfer mixture to a bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 40 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Scoop the filling by tablespoonfuls and drop onto the baking sheet. Cover and freeze for 20-30 minutes, or until the filling is firm but still moldable.

Spread the cocoa powder on a plate. Remove the filling from the freezer, roll the chocolate mounds into balls, and then coat in cocoa powder. The filling may be difficult to work with at this point - I just formed the filling into balls as best as I could, and re-rolled them again AFTER dipping in the cocoa powder to completely smooth them out.

Return the truffles to the baking sheet, and freeze them while preparing the chocolate coating. I recommend dividing the chocolate and the shortening, and making the coating in two batches, so it stays smooth. Add the shortening to the chocolate chips, and melt according to package directions.

Re-roll the truffles to remove any loose cocoa, and dip in chocolate. The best way I've found to get a neat coating is to gently remove the chocolate ball from the coating with a fork, scrape the bottom of the fork on the side of the bowl to remove excess chocolate from the bottom, and gently nudge the truffle off the fork, onto a baking sheet with a second fork or knife. Work quickly with the filling so it doesn't melt in the hot chocolate coating. Immediately sprinkle with your chosen topping after coating each truffle.

Refrigerate uncovered for 1 hour, or until firm. For best taste, allow to sit out for about an hour before serving. Makes 18 truffles.

Source: Williams-Sonoma 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie & Oreo Fudge Brownie Bar

Posted by: Annie

While I was making these brownies, I couldn't help but be reminded of the SNL skit "Taco Town." The skit is a parody of a commercial for a chain taco restaurant, and advertises the most ridiculous taco ever. The taco ultimately ends up wrapped in a blueberry pancake and deep-fried. For your viewing pleasure (and so I don't seem like I'm totally crazy) I have included a link:

As tempting as it was, I did not roll these brownies in a pancake and deep fry them. But, these brownies, like the taco town tacos, are truly three great tastes all rolled into one. When you make these brownies you can't help but relate to the taco town commercial as you are pouring a layer of brownie batter on top of an entire package of double stuffed Oreos, that are sitting on a layer of chocolate chip cookie get what I mean.

When Scott walked in and saw these brownies, he immediately had to try them - despite the fact that they had only been out of the oven for like ten minutes. Needless to say, he was floored. He may have even been speechless - maybe because his mouth was full of hot brownie, but seriously they are amazing. I also went a little "taco town" on these brownies and put additional hot fudge sauce on top - so, so, worth it!

What you will need:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 package double stuffed Oreos
2 boxes of your favorite brownie mix - I chose Ghirardelli Double Chocolate
1/4 cup hot fudge

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9x13 baking dish, then line with parchment paper and generously butter the paper.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed for approximately four minutes. Add in the eggs and vanilla. Lower the speed, and gradually mix in the flour, until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread the cookie dough in the bottom of the prepared dish. Top the cookie dough with a layer of Oreos.

Next, prepare brownie mixes according to package directions. Mix in hot fudge sauce. Pour brownie batter over the cookie dough and Oreos, and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes. Let brownies cool completely before cutting. Serve with additional hot fudge topping if desired.

Source: Brown Eyed Baker
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