I SURVIVED! My feet may never be the same and my running shoes have been temporarily banished to the back of my closet; but I have the blisters, bruises, and a medal to prove that I successfully completed a Half Marathon. After flooding my body with water at the finish line and slowly making my way back to my car, I began my carb-loading mission. First stop: I-Hop, where I inhaled a ridiculous amount of pancakes and hash browns in record time. Next: My local market, where I bought the makings of spaghetti with garlic bread, not to mention various junk foods that I had been denying myself for the past three months or so. Finally: home, where I took a steaming hot shower to ease my muscles and slept for almost 10 hours straight. Now that the endless training is behind me, I can focus on more important things like getting back in my kitchen on a regular basis. I have been making a list of all the goodies I want to blog about for the rest of the year, and it will be quite the sweet filled adventure. The chocolate-y wonder that is Nutella was one of the items that suddenly appeared in my cart on my post-race trip to the market. While I will gladly eat it with a spoon out of the jar, I had an overwhelming need to bake cupcakes. As I always have the baking staples ready at home it was no problem to whip up some simple yellow cake batter, which was a perfect vessel for the creamiest, lick-the-bowl-clean Nutella frosting that ever existed.
1 cup Nutella
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp. milk or heavy cream, either works fine
2 cups powdered sugar, or more depending on the consistency
Cream the Nutella and butter together and add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, alternating with the milk. Mix well until it reaches the appropriate level of "spreadibility" and don't be afraid to leave a little in the bowl for yourself.
Yes, I am fully aware that yesterday was "Pi Day" and I should have made a chocolate cream pie to mark the occasion, but I am a cake person, so there. Although I am still in training for my Half Marathon at the end of April, I couldn't stay out of my kitchen this week. I have never attempted a coffee cake before, for reasons unknown, but now that I know how simple and versatile they can be my friends and family will be seeing a lot more of them in the future. This particular recipe called for a cream cheese filling along with two layers of crumb topping. After fitting all of this in one pan, I nervously checked my oven every 20 minutes, praying that the cake would not exceed its 9x3 limitations. One hour later my whole house smelled like cinnamon and butter, the sacrifices I make in the name of baking, I swear! The next day the cake sat shotgun as I headed for the office and so far the only bad reviews I received are that there might not be enough for the next day.
Cinnamon Coffee Cake with Cream Cheese Filling
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
2 1/4 cup flour
1 1/8 tsp. baking powder
1 1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/8 cup plus 5 tbsp. sugar
4 large eggs
5 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup sour cream
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl whisk together the butter, both sugars, cinnamon, and salt from the crumb topping ingredients. Stir in the flour mixture slowly until it forms a ball of "dough". Set it aside and prepare to dirty every dish in your kitchen. Select your desired baking dish, I used a 9x3 round pan, but a springform pan would work well here too. In a large bowl sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. In a separate bowl cream the butter and 1 1/8 cup sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and 4 teaspoons of the vanilla extract and mix well. With the mixer on low, alternately add the flour mixture and sour cream until the batter comes together. Reserve 1/3 of the batter and set it aside. In a small bowl beat the cream cheese, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and the 5 tablespoons of sugar until light and fluffy. Pour the remaining batter into a greased pan and top with half of the crumb topping. Starting in the middle, add the cream cheese layer and spread it out leaving a one inch border around the outside of the cake. The filling may expand just a bit during the baking process and melt into the cake, but that just makes it all the better. Add the other 1/3 of the batter to the top of the cake and sprinkle it with the rest of the crumb topping. Bake for 1 hour or until a knife in the center comes out clean. This cake tends to rise quite a bit, but don't fret like I did, it all turns out okay in the end. The cake itself will get a little dark and you may be inclined to think that you have burnt it, but have no fear, it just creates its own "crust". Serve warm to all hungry work associates and enjoy the praise!
It has become painfully obvious to me, and my unusually clean kitchen, that I have not yet posted this year. I have plenty of recipes in the works, one whiskey based truffle is waiting in the wings, but I have made some rather lofty goals for 2015. One of them includes running a half marathon, go ahead and laugh, I'm still having a hard time believeing it myself. Ergo, this new life goal also comes with a heavy price. . . a diet. I have taken a temporary hiatus from baking so that I can fully devote myself to finishing this race in a timely manner and not crawling across the finish line. But if I know how my late night, snack-attack, and Netflix-driven mind works....I will be back in the kitchen sooner rather than later.
Christmas. Not really my favorite time of year. Mostly because I have worked in retail for about 80% of my working life thus far. I have seen what Christmas does to people. So in order to avoid the angry crowds and long lines I make most of my gifts. Good thing my family and friends love my creations! For my Dad this year I wanted to stray from the usual sweets and chocolates and give him something savory. Enter my favorite baking goddess: Brown Eyed Baker. Her recipes are always simple yet daring, and this one was no exception. I modified the recipe just a bit to give it my own "sauced" spin. Its a good thing it makes a large batch, because after I tested the finished product I was sure that my Dad was going to want both of the jars that I made.
Drunken Bacon Jam
1 lb. thick cut bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup brewed dark roast coffee
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. Jameson Irish Whiskey, feel free to add more if desired
1/3 rice vinegar
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
pinch of red pepper flakes
Brown the bacon in a large saucepan, about 20 minutes or until crisp. Remove the bacon pieces and saute the onions in the bacon grease until softened, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat and return the bacon to the pan as you add in the remaining ingredients, in no particular order. Allow the mixture to thicken at a low simmer for 1 -1 1/2 hours. Let the mixture cool and then transfer it to a food processor, pulse the bacon mixture until it reaches a jam-like consistency, do not puree. It may have a few chunks of bacon left, but I have never met a soul who didn't appreciate chunks of bacon, and if they don't there is something very wrong with them....
I feel as though this cake should come with a disclaimer of "Enjoy before New Year's Day", since most of the population's resolutions have to do with weight loss and this cake is no friend to your waistline. It is however, perfect for the holiday season as it features the most traditional flavor of Christmas: peppermint. This cake uses the same recipe as the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Cake, just the frosting has been altered. And by altered I mean that it contains 2 sticks of butter! Try it for yourself and see if it doesn't clog your arteries and expand your thighs.
2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
In a large bowl mix the butter, extracts, and salt together until smooth, gradually add the powdered sugar one cup at a time until the frosting becomes thick and shiny. Spread onto your cooled cake and decorate as desired. I styled mine up for a Christmas party so it would make a statement. Please excuse my lack of photography skills, it was part of a dessert buffet,
At the request of my cousin, probably the blog's biggest fan, I will now bombard you poor souls with holiday recipes, including a boozy cupcake set to start off the new year with a twist of whiskey! Who would dare turn their nose up at that? This cake was really born of last minute delays and pantry staples. My parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary this month, and they have yet to kill each other... I'm so proud of their self-control. I wanted to give them a gift that reflected the occasion. I looked into weekend lake rentals, sports tickets, and even spa weekends at hotels out of town. Unfortunately, my budget could not handle my grand plans, so I fell back on my trusted baking talent and made them an extravagant cake. Now, if only my mother had remembered her own anniversary. But the look of surprise and fear on her face was priceless when I told her I made something for her and Dad's anniversary. "What, wait....is that today?!"
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Cake
For the Cake:
3/4 cup butter, unsalted
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar, adding the eggs one at a time until the batter is smooth. Add the vanilla. In a small bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Alternately mix the flour mixture and milk into the wet batter until it is all combined. Grease two cake pans and pour the batter evenly between the two, bake for 16-20 minutes. While the cakes cool you can throw together this amazing peanut butter frosting recipe:
For the Frosting:
8 oz. pkg. of cream cheese
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tsp. vanilla
4-6 cups powdered sugar, depends on your desired 'spreadability'
1-4 tsp. milk, just as needed
Make sure that your cream cheese has come to room temperature before beginning this process, nothing worse than small pockets of cream cheese in your finished frosting. Mix the cream cheese and peanut butter together in a large mixing bowl. Add the vanilla. Gradually mix in the powdered sugar one cup at a time, adding a teaspoon of milk as needed to prevent it from getting too tough. In the end, this frosting is incredibly thick and rather difficult to spread. Take your time and I promise the reward is worth it. After your cakes have cooled they are ready to be frosted, but for some extra panache I gave mine a rich filling. I had half a jar of crunchy peanut butter and a bag of chocolate chips in my pantry, so into the cake they went. I nuked the peanut butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make it more pliable, I then topped it with chocolate chips. After frosting my cake I used some of the chocolate chips to decorate mine, but to each their own. Keep in mind the frosting recipe makes quite a bit, and although unsightly, I highly recommend eating the rest out of the bowl.
Let me begin my three part apology/excuse for not blogging in October by first stating that I was actively baking last month, some of the recipes were just not up to my high standards. I decided to make up for it by including a double feature in November due to the onset of the ultimate foodie holiday of Thanksgiving. And finally, we come to the real reason that I did not blog last month...unheard of and inconsolable depression. Let me paint a picture for you, if I may, imagine a young baker who has readied herself for Halloween by planning all sorts of delicious homemade candy recipes and indulged far too much in the seasonal pumpkin spice coffee creamer. Now picture this girl being told that two weeks prior to her baking extravaganza she must have her wisdom teeth removed. Do you feel the fear yet? Not only is a wisdom tooth extraction painful for your mouth in general, it also does unspeakable damage to your sweet tooth. Not only was my diet significantly altered for more days than I care to recall, but it gives one a new found respect and severe dislike for caramel and other deliciously sticky foods. In my melancholy state I temporarily lost the itch to create, as all I could think about was how easily said food could be ingested without causing any damage to my healing gums. Let me tell you from experience that digging food out of your "golf divots" is both unattractive and tedious. But I digress, Thanksgiving provided some much needed baking meditation and allowed me to explore new frontiers and revisit old ones. I often infuse my cupcakes with liquor to enhance the flavor but I have never attempted a cupcake spiked with soda before. After receiving a not-so-subtle nudge from my cousin to re-create a recipe for Mountain Dew flavored cupcakes, (I was gifted the required ingredients for my birthday) I accepted the challenge. I will say this, they are definitely different, the flavor is very light and the soda made for a very spongy cake.
Mountain Dew Cupcakes
1 box of lemon cake mix (don't shoot, I was just following the recipe)
1 box of lemon pudding mix
1 1/4 cups Mountain Dew soda
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the cake mix, pudding, and eggs until well combined. Add the vegetable oil and soda slowly, it tends to fizz a bit. Spoon the batter into cupcake liners and bake for 15-17 minutes or until slightly browned around the edges. While the cupcakes cool, you can whip up this simple frosting:
4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1/8 cup Mountain Dew soda
1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tbsp. lime juice
Cream the butter and citrus juices until smooth, add the soda and continue mixing. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. I zested the lemon and lime before juicing them to add some color and decor to the top of the finished cupcakes. I will say that there was not an overwhelming soda flavor from this recipe, it mostly tasted like a very dense lemon cake, but what makes my cousin happy makes the me happy!
Salted Caramel Apple Tart
1 sheet of thawed puff pastry
2-3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2-3 tbsp. salted caramel sauce, recipe follows
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a flat sheet pan with wax paper. Place the puff pastry dough in the center of the pan and arrange the sliced apples in a fan pattern atop the dough. Sprinkle the sugar over the apples and strategically dot with the cubes of butter. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the edges brown, they may also burn a little bit because of the sugar,but have no fear. As the tart cools, carefully make the salted caramel sauce as follows:
2 cups sugar
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. Fleur de Sel, or other fine sea salt
Heat the sugar in a medium sauce pan, stirring constantly. It will clump before it starts to brown, so don't worry. If you have a candy thermometer handy wait until it reads 350 before you add the butter, otherwise wait until it reaches a deep amber color. Caramel can burn easily and it will never recover, so be sure that you can provide it with your full attention. Add the butter and be sure to stir as you do so, it will bubble up violently but this is normal. After the butter has dissolved, off the heat add in the cream and mix until it is smooth. Give the caramel a moment to rest and then add the salt. Allow it to cool and thicken before topping your apple tart with its gooey goodness. This dessert is one of my favorites as it is simple to prepare and is sure to wow any crowd.