Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What's Baking?: Brownies!

So, I didn't participate in last month's What's Baking? challenge. Lame, I know, but the theme was a savory baked good, and this blog is all about sweets, so I decided to pass. When this month's theme, brownies, rolled around, I knew that I had to participate! We were to make a brownie recipe from scratch. Surprisingly enough, this is something that I only really started doing relatively recently. I used to be a big fan of boxed brownie mixes (especially if you substitute rum or your favorite wine or liqueur for the water that it calls for--try it some time!!!). But then, I discovered a brownie recipe that puts all others to shame. And, it's easy! Boxed brownies are a thing of the past, for me. And the best part about this recipe is that it's highly adaptable! This time, I added spiced rum, butterscotch chips, and hazelnuts because that's what I had on hand and what I wanted to use up. But I've added chopped Oreos, peanut butter chips, a cheesecake swirl, and marshmallows and graham crackers with success. That's the beauty of a good brownie recipe. So, while I'm sharing a recipe with you, I encourage you to experiment! Play around with what appeals to you!

Fudgy Brownies (brownie base from David Lebovitz)

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2/3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
  • Scant 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 c. spiced rum*
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 3/4 c. chopped hazelnuts**
  • 3/4 c. butterscotch chips**

Combine the butter and chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high in 30-second increments, stirring in between, until chocolate is softened. Stir until the chocolate and butter are combined. Stir in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla and rum (*note: feel free to substitute any liqueur or liquor that suits your fancy, here). Add the flour and salt and mix until mostly combined. Stir in your mix-ins (**again, feel free to substitute whatever you like!) until everything is mixed.

Pour into a greased 9x9 or 8x8" pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350*F, or until a toothpick inserted 1" from the edge comes out clean.

These brownies will be extremely gooey and soft out of the oven, so if you want to eat them warm, plan on doing so with a spoon. They'll set up a bit as they cool, but they are still an extremely rich, fudgy brownie (just the way I like them!). The taste of the liqueur/liquor is subtle, but it definitely adds a little something-something to the brownie! The combinations of flavors and mix-ins are endless, so play around until you find what works for you!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What's Baking?: Mulled Wine Cupcakes

It's that time again! Another What's Baking? challenge. This month's challenge was to make something with fall flavors, preferably other than apple and pumpkin. What a task! When I was pondering what other things come to mind when I think of fall, my mind went from hot apple cider to mulled wine. I love wine in any form, as anyone who knows me well (or even not so well!) knows, but there's nothing better on a chilly fall day than a warm glass of mulled wine. So, I decided to make it in cupcake form! Mulled wine is good. Cupcakes are good. So, wine + cupcakes = extra good!

I combined a couple recipes here and was pretty pleased with the results. I thought the spices turned out a little overpowering in the cupcake, so the recipe below has been adjusted to reflect that. If you're looking for more of a spice cupcake, feel free to double the spices.

Mulled Wine Cupcakes (cupcakes adapted from Missouri Wine, frosting adapted from Sprinkle Bakes)


  • 1 ½ cups of flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon from Horton Vineyards)
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. Set aside. Cream together brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the the eggs, one at a time. Add half of the flour mixture, and beat until just incorporated. Add the wine, and beat it in. Finally, add the remaining flour mixture, and beat until just incorporated.

Portion out into greased muffin tins (I got 10 cupcakes, but the original recipe yield is 12). Bake for 20-25 min at 350 degrees F, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely.


  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • Pinch cloves
Combine the red wine and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the mixture is reduced to a thick syrup of approximately 1/3 c. Off the heat, stir in cinnamon and cloves. Cool completely.

Cream together butter and red wine syrup. Mix in confectioner's sugar and salt until smooth and silky. Frost cupcakes. Devour.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What's Baking: My Mom's Apple Pie

It's time for another What's Baking challenge! I was particularly excited about this one--we were asked to make a recipe that has been in our family for a while and that our family is known for. Now, when I think of the family classics, three things come to mind: carrot cake, oatmeal scotchies, and apple pie. They're the three best things that my mom bakes (and she's a darn good baker!), and I believe all three recipes came from my grandmother, too, so they definitely fit the challenge! After polling friends, I decided on the apple pie. And, in the spirit of the challenge, I followed my mom's recipe exactly, which is pretty rare for me! This pie turned out wonderfully! I can't say it's as good as my mom's, but it was pretty tasty! I did bake it on a lower rack than usual, because I always have trouble with the bottom crust undercooking, and that seemed to help! So, on to the recipe!

My Mom's Apple Pie

  • 1 unbaked double pie crust
  • 6 c. peeled, thinly sliced apples (Cortland is my preference, but I had to use McIntosh)
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 Tbl. flour
  • 1 heaping tsp. cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg

Mix together apples, sugar, flour, and spices (I usually shake them around in a ziplock bag). Put bottom crust in your pie plate, then pour in the apple mixture. Give it a good shake to settle the apples, then put the top crust on. Seal the top crust to the bottom one, then cut air vents in the top. I wrote "Hi Mom," since this pie is in her honor, after all. Bake for 50 minutes at 400 degrees F, shielding the edges after the first 15 minutes.

Other options if you're not dedicated to following the recipe exactly: add a pinch of salt and/or a dash of lemon juice to the filling; brush the crust with and egg wash, adding a sprinkling of sugar overtop, if desired.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Green Tea Cupcakes with Pink Lemonade Frosting

The boyfriend and I were entertaining another couple last weekend, and we started planning the menu: Asian pork burgers with soy glaze and/or sriracha mayo and grilled chicken in an Asian-inspired marinade. Can you tell he loves grilling and loves Asian flavors? Anyways, I volunteered to come up with a similarly Asian-inspired dessert. I immediately thought of a box of matcha sitting on my baking shelf that I had ordered online, intending to bake something, anything green tea-flavored. Perfect! Green tea cupcakes! But then I needed a frosting flavor. I didn't want to go with matcha frosting, too...I wanted something that would complement and play off the green tea cupcakes. So I got thinking....

My favorite coffee shop in Rochester, NY is a little place called Java's. They have standard coffee house fare, but it's all just really good and in a fun, quirky environment. Being a non-coffee-drinker myself, my favorite drink on the menu is perfectly refreshing on a summer day, which is usually when I find myself at Java's. It's called a Kinky Reggae, and to the best of my taste buds' knowledge, it consists of a blend of iced green tea and pink lemonade, served nice and cold over ice. I know this is an unusual combination, but it's so good! And voila! I had my frosting flavor: pink lemonade!

These cupcakes turned out great! The cupcakes are a vivid green color (my Facebook friends had fun guessing what made them green!), and the grassiness of the green tea flavor is perfectly offset by the light sweet/sour flavor of the frosting. The only complaint that I have is that the frosting is ever so slightly grainy due to the pink lemonade powder, but that didn't stop me from wolfing it right down! This unusual flavor combination went over very well with everyone who tried it!

Green Tea Cupcakes with Pink Lemonade Frosting (adapted from Chockylit with an original frosting recipe)

  • 1 1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened, divided
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 egg plus 1 yolk
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbl. matcha*
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbl. pink lemonade powdered drink mix

Cream together 1/2 c. butter with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and egg yolk until incorporated. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and matcha. Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat just until incorporated. Mix in the milk. Finally, mix in remaining dry ingredients just until combined. *I bought my matcha from Amazon. If you don't want to do that, you could probably substitute 1/2 c. of very strong brewed green tea for the matcha and milk.

Portion the batter out evenly into greased muffin cups (I got 11). Bake for 22-25 min. at 350 degrees F, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Cream together remaining 1 c. butter with the pink lemonade mix. Beat in 1-2 c. of powdered sugar, or until desired sweetness is reached and frosting is a spreadable consistency. Frost your cupcakes using a knife when the plastic bag that you were using to pipe the frosting bursts. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake

My friend Christina was recently talking about how birthdays aren't a big deal in her family. This made me sad, because we always celebrate birthdays in my family--the birthday person gets to choose his/her favorite meal to be cooked or the restaurant to go to and gets to pick a sweet birthday treat for dessert! I love doing this for my friends, although I usually stick to just the sweet treat. So when Christina's birthday rolled around, and she asked for a chocolate raspberry cake, I knew I wanted to make one that was over the top! Thankfully, Annie over at Annie's Eats had just the thing with her Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Layer Cake!

I made this cake over the course of three days, and I highly recommend breaking it up like that to make your life easier! I baked the cakes on day 1, then made the ganache, raspberry filling, and raspberry frosting and filled and frosted on day 2, and finally, made the chocolate glaze and decorated the cake on day 3. This worked pretty well for me, although day 2 was a little long. It was totally worth it in the long run, though, as the birthday girl LOVED the cake and said it was the best one she had ever had! Everyone was ooooh-ing and ahhhh-ing over the presentation, too--it looks very professional, but it's actually pretty simple! But enough preamble...on to the recipe!

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake (very slightly adapted from Annie's Eats)

For the cake:
  • 1 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbl. instant coffee granules
  • 1 1/2 c. boiling water
  • 3/4 c. sour cream
  • 1 Tbl. vanilla extract
  • 3 sticks (12 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 c. plus 2 Tbl. sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 c. plus 2 Tbl. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
Combine cocoa powder and instant coffee in a small bowl. Whisk in the boiling water until smooth. Let cool slightly while you work on the rest of the batter, then whisk in sour cream. Resist the urge to lick the spoon (no,'s bitter despite looking like chocolatey goodness).

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture in three additions, alternating with the cocoa/sour cream mixture. Mix each addition until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly into three buttered and cocoa-powdered (won't leave your chocolate cake white like flour would) 9" round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cakes cool for 15 minutes in the pans, then remove them from the pans and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Once cool, level the cakes using a serrated knife.

For the raspberry filling:
  • 16 oz. frozen raspberries, thawed
  • Up to 1 1/4 c. raspberry wine, as needed
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 3 Tbl. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
Drain the raspberries, reserving the juice. Add raspberry wine (or raspberry liqueur or water) to the reserved juice until the total liquid is 1 1/4 c. If your thawed raspberries happened to leak bright red liquid all over your fridge, drink the leftover wine while cleaning it up.

Put the sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan, whisking to combine them. Transfer the raspberry liquid to the saucepan slowly, whisking it into the cornstarch so that it doesn't clump up. Heat over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from the heat, whisk in the lemon juice, and fold in the raspberries.

Cover and chill until you're ready to use it.

For the ganache filling:
  • 8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 3 Tbl. unsalted butter, at room temperature

Combine chocolate chips and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring in between each one, until chips have melted. Whisk in the butter, 1 Tbl. at a time.

Transfer 1/2 c. ganache to a piping bag fitted with a star tip and another 1/2 c. to a piping bag fitted with a plain tip. Let all the ganache cool until thickened but still soft enough to spread and pipe.

For the raspberry frosting:

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 21 Tbl. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 c. strained raspberry puree (just puree fresh raspberries and strain!)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine sugar and egg whites in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly, until sugar dissolves (it shouldn't feel grainy when you rub the egg whites between your fingers) or until egg whites reach 160 degrees F. Remove from heat, and whip egg whites until the mixture has cooled to room temperature and the egg whites have reached stiff peaks, about 8 minutes.

Add the butter, 2 Tbl. at a time, whisking until each addition is incorporated. If it looks curdled, just keep beating--it will come together! Once all the butter has been added and the frosting is thick and creamy, beat in the raspberry puree and vanilla extract.

For the chocolate glaze:
  • 4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 c. light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine chocolate and heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl--if you have a Pyrex measuring cup that is big enough, use that to save yourself an extra step! Microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring in between each one, until chocolate is melted. Stir in corn syrup and vanilla extract. Transfer to a pitcher or measuring cup with a spout.

To assemble:

Take one of your cooled, leveled cake layers, and put it on a cake board. Spread with approximately half of the chocolate ganache that's still in the bowl. Take the chocolate ganache in the plain-tipped piping bag, and pipe a border around the edge of the cake--this will help hold in the raspberry filling. Spread approximately half of the raspberry filling inside this ganache border.

Top with your second cooled, leveled cake layer. Repeat the process with the rest of the ganache and raspberry filling. Top with the third cake layer--put this one upside down so that the clean edges from the bottom of the pan are on top! This is a good point to refrigerate the cake to let the chocolate and raspberry fillings set up before frosting the cake.

Frost the entire cake with the raspberry buttercream, starting with the top and working the frosting down around the edges. Make the sides as smooth as possible! This is another great point to stop and refrigerate the cake to set the frosting before proceeding on to the next step.

Lastly, take the chocolate glaze, and pour it slowly over the top of the cake, making sure that it covers the entire top and just starts to drip down the sides. Refrigerate the cake for a while to let the glaze set.

Finally, take the ganache in the star-tipped piping bag, and pipe little swirls or rosettes around the top of the cake. Top each one with a fresh raspberry.

Pray to every god you can think of while transporting this cake that you've spent 3 days on to its destination. Glare at anyone who gets too close to the cake before the birthday girl has seen it in its pristine state. Revel in the delight in her eyes. Devour. :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What's Baking: Jello Pretzel Salad

I've been terribly negligent with my posts for "What's Baking?", so I promised myself that I'd get back into the swing of things, especially since this challenge sounded like so much fun! The theme this month was to bake something that reminded you of summer and/or used summer ingredients. Now, I don't know about you, but when I think of summer, I think of BBQs and family picnics. And if your family is anything like mine, there's always some sort of jello salad (or three) at these picnics. As much as I do try to stay away from the processed, packaged ingredients that these salads are always full of, they do hold some nostalgic value for me. But my absolute favorite one also makes use of a great summer fruit--strawberries!

Jello pretzel salad is this amazing concoction of a pretzel crust, cream layer, and jello top. It somehow manages to be both sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy. In short...awesome! This stuff is like crack to me. All of the recipes that I found called for frozen strawberries, but I wanted to use fresh ones in honor of strawberries being in season. Because of that, I decided to add some ice to the jello layer to help it set up. I think next time, I would use more ice/icewater or just use the frozen strawberries...something about the jello layer was throwing me off, and I think it was that it was too concentrated. I have updated the recipe below to reflect that. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy jello pretzel salad as much as I always have!

Jello Pretzel Salad (adapted from

  • 2 c. crushed pretzels
  • 3/4 c. melted butter
  • 1 c. + 3 Tbl. granulated sugar, divided
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened (can use reduced fat, but NOT fat free)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 8 oz. whipped topping, thawed (can use reduced fat/sugar-free/etc.)
  • 2 0.3-oz packages (the little size) OR 1 0.6-oz package (the big size) of strawberry gelatin
  • 2 c. boiling water
  • 16 oz. fresh strawberries, thinly sliced OR 2 10-oz bags of frozen strawberries
  • 2 c. ice water (omit if using frozen strawberries)

Crush the pretzels in a food processor. Add 3 Tbl. sugar and melted butter, and pulse until mixture is crumbly and starts to come together. Dump it into a greased 9x13 pan, and pat it down into an even crust. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, cream together cream cheese, vanilla, and 1 c. sugar until light and fluffy. Gently fold in whipped topping until thoroughly incorporated. Spread the mixture evenly over the cooled pretzel crust, making sure to get it all the way to the edges! Chill until set.

Mix together the strawberry gelatin and boiling water, whisking for 2 minutes, or until gelatin is completely dissolved. Add strawberries and ice water (if using). Stir until ice is melted. Cool mixture in fridge for one hour, or until partially set--it should be about the consistency of egg whites. Pour gelatin mixture over the cream layer, making sure it's in an even layer. Chill until ready to serve. This is best served a few hours or one day after making--the crust starts to get soggy if you make it more than a day ahead of time.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies

I was grocery shopping with the boyfriend and his son when said son spotted a bag of Reese's chips--and immediately asked me to make something with them. Never being one to turn down peanut butter, I was quite agreeable to the suggestion! I got them home and set about trying to find some inspiration for precisely what to make with the Reese's chips. Thankfully, shortly thereafter, someone on the What's Cooking? board posted this recipe for Peanut Butter Fudge Pretzel Brownies. Chocolate, plus peanut butter, plus salty pretzel-y goodness? I am so there!

Unfortunately, this recipe was somewhat disappointing. Because I had the Reese's chips, I substituted them for the chocolate chips that the recipe calls for. Given that the chocolate chips are optional and are not melted into the batter, this should not have affected the chocolatey-ness of the brownies. But, if you look at my picture, it looks an awful lot like a blondie instead of a brownie. That's because the "brownie" recipe from the original link only contains 3 Tbl. of cocoa powder, so it ended up being nowhere near chocolatey enough. Boyfriend insisted that they were still good, and his son enjoyed them except for the pretzel crust (that was a little too avant-garde for his 15-year-old taste buds, methinks), but I was sorely disappointed with the outcome. Next time, I will use my tried-and-true brownie recipe (minus the Oreos)! So that's what I'm writing here...the recipe that I will make next time!

Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies (inspired by How Sweet it Is, brownie base from David Lebovitz)

  • 1 3/4 c. crushed pretzel pieces
  • 14 Tbl. butter, divided
  • 4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. Reese's chips

Melt 6 Tbl. of butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Mix with the crushed pretzel pieces until thoroughly combined, then press into the bottom of a greased 8x8" or 9x9" pan.

In a separate microwave-safe bowl, combine 4 oz. chocolate chips with remaining 8 Tbl. of butter. Microwave in 30-second intervals until melted, stirring to combine. Stir in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time, and lastly the vanilla. Sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the chocolate mixture, stirring until nearly combined. Stir in the Reese's chips.

Pour brownie batter over pretzel crust, smoothing it out carefully so as not to disturb the crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the center is just set.

*Note: the crust ends up soft this way. If you like a crispier crust, bake it for 15 minutes or so without the brownie batter at 350 degrees F, or until it starts to feel set.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Oak Bars

When I stumbled across the recipe for Oak Bars on Cook Like a Champion's blog, I knew I had to make them. In fact, not only did I run right out to buy the ingredients to make them, I also hopped on Amazon and ordered the book that the original recipe comes from: The Boozy Baker. With a name like that, I was guaranteed to like the book, so I figured it would be worth my while to buy it. I've only made this recipe (so far), but I have no doubt that I will be pulling that cookbook off my shelf quite frequently. In fact, just because it seemed like a good idea, I ordered some of the other cookbooks that Amazon suggested, based off my selection: Cooking with Booze and Booze Cakes. Are we sensing a trend, here? Enough about my alcoholic cooking tendencies (for now), though....

I suggest going wine tasting at your favorite local vineyard(s) so that you can pick a nice, oaky Chardonnay. Don't skimp here. You want lots of oak. The recipe doesn't use a huge amount of Chardonnay, so it needs to pack a punch. I made the mistake of getting a recommendation from the wine guy at my local grocery store, and the Chardonnay was not oaky enough for my taste. I'm looking forward to trying this with one that's more heavily oaked. And, the recipe doesn't use much, so you can splurge on something that you'll enjoy drinking--after all, someone's got to finish the rest of the bottle!

The toasted cashews and butterscotch chips are the perfect counterpoint to this recipe--it's worth the effort to find unsalted cashews. I've never used them in a blondie recipe before--I usually just use walnuts, but the cashews definitely took this recipe over the top to add a whole new dimension of flavor. Walnuts just wouldn't cut it. And the butterscotch chips--need I say more? Everything's better with butterscotch chips! After one of the longest introductions I've done, it's high time to get to the recipe...hopefully all this buildup has succeeded in convincing you that you need to make these...NOW!

Oak Bars (from The Boozy Baker)

  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. Chardonnay
  • 1/2 c. toasted, chopped, unsalted cashews
  • 3/4 c. butterscotch chips

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then the Chardonnay. Add the dry ingredients, and mix until nearly combined. Stir in the cashews and butterscotch chips.

Pour into a greased 8x8" or 9x9" pan, and smooth the surface. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden at the edges and just set in the center.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Cookie Dough Monster

I had been eyeing Lindsay's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcake recipe ever since she posted it, which was more than 2 years ago! If you haven't seen her blog, definitely check it out. This weekend I finally got around to making the cupcakes, so without further ado, the cupcakes, and another cookie dough bonus!

First, the cookie dough
2 sticks butter, softened (or zapped in the microwave if you're impatient like me!)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (can sub light brown)
A splash of milk (a few Tbl)
2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugars together until smooth.  Alternate the dry ingredients (mix the soda in with the flour) with the milk, and stir until combined.  Fold in the mini chocolate chips.*

Roll the cookie dough into balls using about a tablespoon of dough, reserving 1/2 cup of dough in the refrigerator for each dozen cupcakes you intend to make (up to 3 dozen) and freeze on a cookie sheet until firm.  Feel free to transfer them to a freezer bag for longer-term storage.

Luckily the divot disappears!

The day you want to make the cupcakes, prepare your favorite vanilla or chocolate batter and fill the muffin tins 3/4 full.  Drop a frozen dough ball into the center of each, and bake until set and light brown in color.

While cupcakes are cooling, prepare the buttercream.

For each dozen cupcakes, cream
1 stick butter (softened)
1-1/3 cup powdered sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup of reserved cookie dough

Pipe onto cooled cupcakes, and sprinkle with extra mini chocolate chips if desired.

Note the * from earlier!  I was dubious at the probability of being able to pipe frosting with mini chocolate chips in it onto the cupcakes.  The first cupcake (the only one you'll see!) piped perfectly.  And then the tip clogged.  And clogged again.  So unless you have a really big star tip, or want to pipe using a plain tip, I'd suggest dividing the dough before adding the chocolate chips to the dough ball inserts, keeping the "frosting dough" free of clog-happy chips!

Now, what to do with those leftover balls of dough?

Coat them in chocolate!

Melt some chocolate (no need to temper for guilty indulgences), and stick a cookie sheet covered with foil in the freezer.  Grab your bag of frozen dough balls and coat them in the chocolate, setting them on the chilled cookie sheet to harden.

Freeze or refrigerate until the chocolate sets, and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Destination Post: Eggnog Cookies

I love eggnog. I mean LOVE eggnog. As in, drink-it-straight-out-of-the-carton love eggnog. As such, I love all things eggnog-flavored. Like my eggnog cream pie ( /shameless self-promotion). And I'm always looking for new things to put eggnog in. Conveniently enough, at the school where I work, we had a TON of eggnog left over from a canceled holiday party. And the dessert-of-the-week was cookies. Now, my mom has a nutmeg cookie recipe that I've always liked. It's awesome. And then I got to thinking...I like nutmeg on top of eggnog. And then I remembered that the recipe calls for some milk...that could easily be substituted with eggnog. So, I made eggnog cookies. And they were every bit as heavenly as I expected. I'm not a big cookie person, generally, but put eggnog in them, and I'm there! These have a subtle eggnog taste, enhanced by the nutmeg in the cookies. They're a cakey cookie, so be forewarned, if that's not your thing (it's not usually mine, but I like these in spite of that). And, to top it off, there's an eggnog glaze on top. Because, how perfect is that? I'm thinking that next time, I'll spike either the icing or the cookie (or maybe both!) with rum or whiskey.... Couldn't do that for the kiddos, but it would be a great touch for an adult version!

Eggnog Cookies (adapted from my mom's recipe)


  • 1/2 c. vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 3/4 c. packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbl. vanilla extract
  • 4 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 3/4 c. eggnog
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 c. white vinegar

Cream together the shortening, butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Note: if you have a vendetta against shortening or are just plain out of it, feel free to substitute all butter. Next, beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg. Add the dry ingredients to the batter in two additions, alternating with the eggnog. OVER THE BOWL, stir the baking soda into the vinegar. This is the fun part--it will foam up like a science experiment. Immediately stir it into the cookie batter. Chill the batter overnight. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees F. Cool, then frost with eggnog icing (listed below).


  • 4 c. powdered sugar
  • 6 Tbl. eggnog

Stir until well-combined, varying the amount of eggnog as needed to achieve a spreadable consistency. And, if you have to frost 700 of them, don't worry about whether the icing looks perfect, even for the ones you're taking a picture of.

Monday, February 28, 2011

What's Baking: Chocolate Strawberry Tartlets

So, I'm horribly late on posting this, and I've been horribly neglecting my poor readers. I heartily apologize. I've been baking, I swear...I just haven't had time to photograph it or blog it. I'm making an exception for What's Baking?, though!

Our challenge for February was to bake with love and make something appropriate for Valentine's Day. I did indeed make this for myself and a special someone on Valentine's Day...and given the fact that I made up most of it as I went along, it turned out quite nicely. I was making a whole French-inspired menu, from boursin and chevre as appetizers, to the beef bourguignon, green beans almondine, and herbes de provence-roasted potatoes. Then I got stuck on dessert. Since dinner was so heavy, I wanted something relatively light...which meant fruit. And appropriate for Valentine's Day...which meant chocolate. Thus, the Chocolate Strawberry Tartlet was born! So I hope you enjoy them!

Chocolate Strawberry Tartlets (crust from

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. plus 3 Tbl. sugar, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 2 Tbl. ice water
  • 12 oz. good semisweet chocolate
  • 2 c. heavy cream, divided
  • 1 lb strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • A few sprigs of fresh mint
  • 3 Tbl. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine the flour, 3 Tbl. sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk and 2 Tbl. of ice water, pulsing until the dough just comes together, adding more water as necessary. Form it into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Note: I cut the recipe more or less in 1/3, which yielded 4 mini tarts (maybe 3-in. in diameter). However, I screwed up and added the full egg yolk and the full amount of water, which resulted in a ridiculously hard, cookie-like crust. So don't do that. Please.

Roll out the dough to about 1/4-in. thick. Press into your favorite 9-in. tart pan or into several individual tart pans, making sure to get dough into all the corners of the fluted edges. Trim the top edges so that they look pretty. Refrigerate for another 15 minutes, or don't, if you happen to overlook that step of the directions.

Brush the tart shell with beaten egg white, and bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is a nice golden brown. Cool.

Meanwhile, microwave the chocolate and 1 c. heavy cream, stirring every 30 seconds, until the chocolate is melted. Pour ganache into the cooled tart shell(s) to a depth of about 1/2-in. Chill until the ganache is set.

Also meanwhile, combine 1/2 c. sugar with 1/2 c. water and the sprig of mint in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until the simple syrup has a nice mint flavor to it. Toss the chopped strawberries with the mint syrup, then spoon the strawberries over top of the tart(s). Chill until it's time to serve.

Just before serving, combine 1 c. heavy cream, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Whip until stiff peaks form, then dollop a healthy blob on top of each serving. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What's Baking: Swiss Meringue Buttercream

It's that time again! There was another What's Baking? challenge. This one was "try something new for the new year." When I read that, I immediately thought of egg whites. I've never made a meringue before. But then, I remembered that I don't really like meringue pies or meringue cookies much. And a better idea struck. On my message board, everyone RAVES about a specific kind of frosting. One that I've been meaning to try for a while and haven't gotten around to. One that works with egg whites. Specifically, Swiss meringue buttercream.

Conveniently, it was my friend's birthday, so I wanted to make cupcakes for him. Because, you know, I never bake for birthdays. Ever. /sarcasm. I wasn't sure as to his exact flavor preferences, but his wife assured me he liked everything. That's easy enough. I settled on vanilla bean cupcakes filled with homemade lemon curd and frosted with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream (of course).

These turned out really well! They were a hit with everyone who tried them. And the Swiss meringue buttercream was actually fairly forgiving. I was making a small batch, and I don't think my thermometer was immersed quite enough to get an accurate reading, so I'm pretty sure I cooked my egg whites pretty well past 160 degrees. In spite of this (and in spite of smelling disturbingly like scrambled eggs), the frosting came together fine and tasted alright. Now, personally, I don't like the taste of butter (*gasp*). And the difference between this frosting and the normal American buttercream that I usually make is that the Swiss meringue buttercream has a lot less sugar and a lot more butter. So, it wasn't my personal favorite in terms of flavor. I also found it very difficult to pipe. I never quite got to stiff peaks like the recipe calls for, as my egg white/sugar mixture was more like a marshmallow fluff consistency after cooking and whipping than light and airy peaks, so this is probably my own fault, and probably wouldn't have happened had I not overcooked the egg whites. I think the Swiss meringue buttercream is also a LOT more time-consuming than an American buttercream. So, while I'm not a convert, it was good to try something new!

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes (from Annie's Eats)

  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 c. flour (the original recipe calls for cake flour, but I used AP)
  • 1 Tbl. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 c. buttermilk
  • 1 Tbl. vanilla extract

Cream together the butter and sugar. Split open the vanilla bean, scrape out all the seeds, and add the seeds to the butter and sugar. Then, beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sift together the dry ingredients, and add them to the butter/sugar mixture in two additions, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla extract. Mix just until combined.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop the batter into well-greased muffin tins. This will make about 27 or 28 cupcakes. Bake at 350 degrees F for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Orange Curd (from Food and Wine)

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. orange juice
  • 2 Tbl. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. orange zest
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 stick of butter, softened, cut into small pieces

Whisk together eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in a small-to-medium saucepan. Whisk in the orange juice, lemon juice, and zests. Add butter. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens. Strain it through a fine-meshed sieve to remove any lumps and the zest. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly against the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight or up to one week.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream (from Annie's Eats)

  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 c. plus 2 Tbl. granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 sticks of butter, softened, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix together the egg whites, sugar, and salt in a heatproof bowl (I used my mixer's metal bowl). Set it over a pot of simmering water, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer (if needed), and whip on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature. Now, add the butter, about 2 Tbl. at a time, making sure to completely beat in each piece before adding the next. Note: the original recipe says that the recipe may look soupy or curdled at this point--mine didn't, but mine was also bordering on scrambled eggs. So, if that happens to you, don't panic. It means you're doing it right. Just keep mixing, and it will eventually come together. Once it does, mix in the vanilla extract. The frosting can be refrigerated for a couple days--just whip it up a little before you use it.

To assemble:

Take the cooled cupcakes, and cut a plug approximately 1 inch in diameter out of the center of each cupcake. The plug should NOT go all the way through the cupcake. Dispose of these plugs in any manner you like (personally, I ate them). Fill each cupcake with orange curd. Then, frost each cupcake with the Swiss meringue buttercream, trying not to disturb the orange curd. Devour.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Butterscotch Pie

Anyone who doesn't like pies quite as much as me is probably getting sick of pie posts. But I don't cater to crazy people who don't like pie. And this pie is right up there on my list of favorite pies. I'm combining my friend Paula's grandmother's filling recipe (you know it's got to be good if it's a grandmother's recipe!) with my friend Andrew's crust recipe...with a little bit of tweaking to both recipes. His crust is just a touch on the salty side, which is the PERFECT counterpoint to the sweet, rich butterscotch custard filling.

Butterscotch Pie (from Paula's grandmother and Andrew)


  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • Rounded 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 c. shortening
  • 1 Tbl. cold vodka
  • 2-4 Tbl. cold water

Pulse together flour and salt in a food processor. Add shortening, and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add vodka and 2 Tbl. of water. Pulse until mixture begins to come together. Add more water--a little at a time--if necessary, just until dough comes together.

Form dough into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Roll out dough, and transfer to a 9-in. pie plate, trimming the excess dough from the edges. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Bake at 450 degrees F until golden brown, about 12-14 minutes. Cool completely.


  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 1/4 c. dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 stick of butter, cut into small pieces and softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 Tbl. butterscotch Schnapps

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and egg together until well-beaten. Mix in the cornstarch until thoroughly incorporated.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugars, salt, and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until bubbles appear. Temper the egg mixture by slowly stirring in 1 c. of the hot milk mixture, whisking constantly. Once the eggs have been tempered, add them back into the saucepan of milk, again stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens considerably.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir in the butter, one piece at a time. Once all the butter has been incorporated, mix in the vanilla and butterscotch Schnapps. Strain the custard through a fine-meshed sieve into the cooled pie crust, and spread evenly. Lay a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pie to keep out air, and refrigerate overnight. To serve, top with whipped cream, if desired (or if your pie has big, gaping cracks in it that need disguising!).

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Spiked Eggnog Cream Pie

Eggnog is one of my most absolute favorite things about Christmas. I also love pie. And cream pies happen to be my favorite kind of pie. Naturally, I felt the need to make an eggnog cream pie for Christmas dinner. And of course, being me, I had to spike it. Yummmmm. I can't recommend this recipe highly enough if you're an eggnog fan, like me! I used Martha Stewart's Rum-Vanilla Cream Pie as a starting point/inspiration, but adapted both the method and the ingredients very heavily, so I'm comfortable calling it an original recipe.

Spiked Eggnog Cream Pie (a Brownies and Blondies original)

  • 1 9-in. pie crust, baked and cooled
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 c. eggnog
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Several dashes of nutmeg
  • 1/4 c. butter, cut into small pieces and softened
  • 1/4 c. white rum

Mix together egg yolks and cornstarch in a small bowl. It will be a pretty paste-like consistency.

Combine the sugar, eggnog, salt, and about 3 dashes of nutmeg in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat just until bubbles appear, stirring constantly.

Temper the egg yolks by slowly mixing in about 1 c. of the hot eggnog. Make sure to add it only a little bit at a time, so as not to scramble the eggs. Once you've added 1 c. of the eggnog to the yolks, pour them slowly back into the remaining eggnog in the pan, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens considerably. Remove from heat and mix in the butter, one piece at a time. Once the butter has all been incorporated, mix in the rum.

Strain the custard through a fine-meshed sieve into the cooled pie crust, and spread it evenly. Put a piece of cling wrap on the surface of the pie to keep out air, and refrigerate overnight. To serve, sprinkle with additional nutmeg, and top with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.