Thursday, July 29, 2010

Blueberry-Strawberry Coffee Cake

I follow a bunch of food blogs, both through blogger and through facebook. I love gathering inspiration and have enough recipes bookmarked that could probably feed a small army if I buckled down and tried them all in a row.

Recently, one of the blogs I follow via facebook popped up a recipe that looked way too good to pass up, so I put it on the shorter list of "make it really soon" recipes, and today was the day. I mean, how can you resist something called Blueberry Breakfast Cake?

Like most breakfast/coffee cakes, there were two main components to this cake - the cake itself and a streussel topping for it. Little whisked together the dry ingredients for the cake, then handled putting together the streussel topping while I put together the rest of the cake batter. I did make two minor changes to the streussel topping recipe. The recipe, as printed, calls for ground walnuts, but, as I may have mentioned before, my husband is allergic to walnuts, so I tend to avoid using them. I substituted pecans, of which I had just enough left over from the nut butter challenge a couple of weeks ago. The second change was to substitute brown sugar for white, which I did just for added oomf.

As the dough came together, I was a little worried. Even just reading the recipe, I could see that there was not all that much liquid (1/2 cup of milk and 1 lightly-beaten egg) for the amount of flour (2 cups) called for, and was concerned that the batter would be too dry or crumbly. As it turns out, the batter was very thick. But since coffee cakes are generally a little denser than, say, dessert cakes, I was not at all discouraged. To this batter, I gently folded in my berries. As you may have guessed by the title of this post, I made one more modification to the recipe. Rather than use only blueberries, I also added strawberries to my cake. Because, well, why not?

Once the berries were folded in and the batter was spread as evenly as I could get it into my baking pan, it was time to sprinkle on the streussel topping that little miss had prepared. She was very excited when I told her that she could use her hands to spread the topping onto the cake, and dove in very enthusiastically. Sufficciently covered in sweet, nutty goodness, the cake went into the oven.

I don't think I can even fully explain to you how good this smelled as it baked. By the time it came out of the oven, I was pretty sure that we would not be patient enough to wait until tomorrow morning to make this a breakfast cake - we would have to bust into it for dessert tonight, thus me dubbing it a coffee cake.

The little added extra for this cake, which makes it stand apart from others of its type, is a sweet, yummy drizzle made of confectioners sugar and milk. Once the cake cooled and as dinner time was approaching, just when little miss was starting to get a bit antsy from a full day, I let her mix together the drizzle and use it to help me decorate the top of the cake. I actually made half of the amount of drizzle that is called for in the recipe, and I felt that it was plenty to top the cake, but if you have a particularly strong sweet tooth, feel free to go all out with the full amount.

So was it worth not waiting until breakfast?

You bet. This was delicious. It puffed up nicely in the oven, but maintained the slightly thicker feel of a coffee cake. The berries give it a really fresh flavor, and the sweet, nutty topping gives it just the right amount of crunch, with just the right compliment to the flavor. This made a perfect dessert cake, but that doesn't mean that we won't be trying it for breakfast tomorrow, too! Little miss and daddy loved it, and I know I will be making it again, and will not hesitate to try it with different fruits, depending on the season.

So thank you, Amanda, and please, please, please keep these awesome recipes coming. As long as you keep posting them, I can guarantee that I will keep trying them!

Blueberry Strawberry Coffee Cake
(adapted from Amanda's Cookin', from Annie's Recipes)

For cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup blueberries
1 cup strawberries, cut

For topping:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup finely ground pecans
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons cold butter

For drizzle:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk (more or less as needed to get the right consistency)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and baking powder. Add lightly beaten egg, milk and butter. Mix just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in the fruit and spread the batter into a greased 9 inch square baking pan.

For topping, combine sugar, flour, chopped pecans and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the butter and either cut it in or combine it in with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the topping over the batter.

Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

For the drizzle, combine the powdered sugar and milk. If you need to thin it out to drizzling consistency, add additional milk a few drops at a time until it is how you want it. Drizzle over the top of the cake and allow it to stand until the drizzle hardens.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July Daring Bakers Challenge - Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

Time is flying, isn't it? It's Daring Baker post time again, so make yourself comfortable and enjoy the deliciousness that was this month's challenge.

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

To make it even cooler, Sunita not only "permitted" the daring bakers to deviate from the challenge recipes with respect to flavors, she encouraged us to let our imaginations and creativity run wild and see what we could each come up with.

When I first read this challenge, I happened to be sitting at the breakfast table with little miss, who loves to hear what each month's challenge will bring. When I explained this challenge - cake, rolled with whipped cream, turned into an even bigger cake using ice cream, I probably don't have to tell you that she was all on board for me to start in as soon as possible.

The more I read through all of the details of the challenge, the more nervous I became. There were a lot of components involved, each of which required several steps, which further necessitated a not-insignificant amount of planning and considerations to be made for timing. The challenge also required all of us bakers to make not one, but two flavors of ice cream. From scratch. Whether or not we have an ice cream maker (which I don't). I didn't even know it was possible to make ice cream without an ice cream maker. It was time to learn that one, and fast! This challenge further intimidated me as I began reading about (and seeing the pictures of!) the amazingly creative concoctions created by my fellow daring bakers, as they began sharing their completed desserts on the forums. I knew I had to step up my game.

After much thought, I finally decided to try to make an apple pie a la mode bombe. Now it was time to create the layers to make the bombe.

The first step was to prepare the cream mixtures for my two ice cream flavors. The first flavor that I chose to make was classic vanilla bean, for the "a la mode" portion of the apple pie bombe. I decided to make Philadelphia style ice creams, rather than custard based ice creams (ie: I did not make my ice creams with eggs), and was amazed at how straightforward the process was. I used this recipe for the vanilla ice cream, and was pleased with how simple it was. Once the cream, sugar and vanilla were heated, mixed, and fully incorporated, the mixture went into the refrigerator to cool overnight prior to freezing.

Once the vanilla cream was completed, I tackled the second flavor of ice cream that I had chosen - caramel. I thought that the caramel ice cream would be a good representation of the yummy syrup that develops when apple pie bakes. I chose this recipe (the Philadelphia style version), and began by carmelizing some sugar. Once the sugar is completely melted and golden, heavy cream is poured in. Which automatically makes all of that caramel syrup harden up. It took quite some time to finally re-melt the hardened caramel, but it was well worth it, as the resulting cream was smooth and had a very even flavor and color. Then the caramel cream joined the vanilla cream in the refrigerator to cool and await the freezing process.

For anyone with an ice cream maker, the next step in ice cream making, from what I understand, is pretty simple - freeze the ice cream maker's canister, fill with the prepared and cooled cream, and simply follow the manufacturer's directions. From what I understand, the ice cream will then be completed in a very short period of time.

For those of us without ice cream makers, it takes a little longer. It isn't difficult, but takes a bit more elbow grease and a lot more time. The cooled cream is put into the freezer, but has to be churned manually. On a regular basis. For a period of several hours. Both the vanilla and caramel creams were placed into the freezer, and little miss and I had a lazy morning, knowing we would have to mix them every 30-40 minutes. Basically, as each cream began to freeze around the edges, it is stirred to break up those ice crystals and ensure that the mixture freezes uniformly, to create a creamy ice cream, rather than mere frozen, icy cream. In true documentary style, I did actually photograph both creams each time they were removed from the freezer and each time they were mixed. I will spare you the full flip-book-style detail, but these snippets give the idea as to how the process works. Little miss and I mixed both creams every 30-40 minutes for a good four and half hour, but I honestly believe that that was what made our ice creams so smooth and creamy, so I am really glad that we did.

Once the ice creams were made, the next component I wanted to tackle was the swiss roll cake. After reading the Daring Baker forums, I saw that many of the bakers had difficulties with the cake, so I was very careful to follow all of the tips that the bakers had shared with the group. I took no shortcuts in preparing the ingredients for the cake. I separated the eggs to whip the whites and yolks separately, as recommended. I sifted my all purpose flour with cornstarch to make cake flour, I gave my granulated sugar a spin in my mini-blender to create my own caster sugar. I had very high expectations for this jelly-roll style cake. After the specified amount of time in the oven, the top of my cake was a beautiful, lightly golden color and it sprung back nicely when touched. I was so excited. Until I turned it out onto my powdered-sugar-covered towel and tried to peel back the parchment paper. When I was greeted with this:

Uh oh. That's not right. Somehow, the cake did not cook all the way through, and portions of the bottom were downright raw. And, try as I might, there was no way that I could get this cleanly back into the pan to re-bake in any way that would still be rollable. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed.

But I persisted and tried again, this time using a slightly different recipe (this one). Luckily, I had much better luck this time. I am not really sure what went wrong the first time, nor am I sure why it worked better the second, but I was pleased when I carefully peeled back the paper to reveal a beautiful, fully-cooked, golden layer that could easily and cleanly be rolled with the filling of my choice.

And what was that filling? Continuing with my apple pie a la mode flavor, I made a cinnamon sugar whipped cream, which little miss helped me to spread onto the cake and roll into a nice spiral.

At this point, there was only one component left to prepare. The given recipe for the challenge called for the two ice cream layers to be separated by a layer of fudge. This middle layer was actually the inspiration for my entire dessert. Instead of fudge, I pulled together an apple compote, combining chopped gala and granny smith apples with butter, brown sugar and a little bit of water, creating the "filling" layer for my apple pie inspired dessert.

All that was left for the final day of preparation for the bombe was the actual construction of the dessert, yet even this required plenty of time and patience. Each layer, once carefully arranged into the serving dish, needed to be completely frozen before the next layer could be added. From the spiral slices of the swiss-roll to each layer of ice cream to the middle layer of apple compote, this dessert is built upside down and then completely frozen.

As you can imagine, after three full days of measuring, mixing, stirring, freezing, baking and layering, I was very excited to unmold the dessert and see the results of all of that hard work. When the dessert came out of the bowl, the layers of plastic wrap were peeled back to reveal this:

Which would have looked much cooler if the caramel ice cream hadn't been so soft that, somehow, it managed to mostly seep through the swiss roll cake and coat the outside of the bottom of the bombe, rather than the inside. That aside, though, we thought that the dessert came out really well. Despite the mishap with the caramel ice cream, the other layers came out really beautifully, and, all together, the dessert really did taste like apple pie a la mode! What it lacked in presentation points, it certainly made up for in taste.

This challenge was a lot of work, but was very worth all of the effort that it entailed. I was so happy to learn that I can, in fact, make ice cream at home without an ice cream maker, and it was a lot of fun to exercise a little creativity within the challenge to make a unique dessert to share with the daring baker community. I can definitely see making another bombe for a special event, and can guarantee that I will make each component again individually.

Thank you, Sunita, for a really wonderful, creative, delicious challenge!

To see some of the other absolutely amazing work by the other Daring Bakers, check them out here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A two-cobbler weekend

We are very lucky to have some fantastic friends and neighbors, and we love the opportunity to spend time with them. This weekend, we were excited to be invited to the housewarming party of some wonderful people who we met when they were our neighbors, and who we now count as our friends. The event was pot luck, and, me being me, I decided to bring a dessert. With all the delicious summer produce available, it did not take me long to decide that a cobbler sounded like a great idea.

The recipe that I use for fruit cobblers is not your traditional sugared-fruit-covered-with-drops-of-biscuit-dough cobbler recipe. It is a recipe that, when I first saw it, I had to try it to believe it.

The recipe starts with melting half a stick of butter in the baking dish. Seriously, just put half a stick of butter into the pan, set the oven to preheat, and put the pan in the oven to melt the butter while you prepare the next step. Keep an eye out, of course, to make sure the butter doesn't burn, but it usually takes just about the amount of time to prepare the batter as it does to melt the butter, so that is a pretty easy step one.

The batter is a simple combination of flour, sugar, baking powder and milk. No eggs, nothing fancy - just those four ingredients. Once the batter is mixed and the butter melted, simply pour the batter into the pan, right over the butter. That's right, just pour it right on top. And don't mix anything.

Then take about two cups of whatever fruit you are using. We used a combination of peaches, strawberries and blueberries, all fresh. Sprinkle the fruit right on top of the butter and batter. And again - don't mix anything. If you are anything like me, you are probably thinking something along the lines of "how in the world is that going to work?" or "that looks nothing like a cobbler!" or maybe some combination of the two... At least, those were my two main thoughts when I first tried the recipe...

But, amazingly enough, what comes out of the oven is a golden, semi-cobbler-looking fruit-filled cake that is moist, delicious and super versatile. You can use any fruit you like, or if you are in a hurry, you can even use canned or frozen fruit. You can adjust the batter recipe to your liking - I sometimes add in a teaspoon of vanilla extract or substitute brown sugar for some of the white sugar called for. Super easy, super adaptable, super delicious. What more could you ask for? And it made a lovely addition to the dessert table at the party.

Now you may be wondering why I called it a two cobbler weekend. Or maybe not, what do I know. But in case you are...

Little miss and I were in invited for a play date tomorrow morning at a friend's house. Never one to want to arrive somewhere empty handed, I offered to make a snack for the kids to enjoy (and the moms, too!). With a still plentiful supply of blueberries and strawberries (no more peaches... oh well!), little miss and I decided to pull together another cobbler this evening to bring with us in the morning.

So after dinner (and a thorough hand washing), little miss mixed:

And she stirred:

And she sprinkled fruit:

(the pan had cooled from melting the butter, I promise!)

And she put together a beautiful strawberry-blueberry cobbler to share with her friends tomorrow.

If you are interested in trying this, and it is so easy and delicious, I think every one should, the recipe can be found below, here, or though a simple google search for either "easy fruit cobbler" or "berry cobbler" will yield you a number of almost identical recipes. Which further tells you it is worth a try!

Easy Fruit Cobbler
(from AllRecipes)

1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 cups cut up fruit (peaches, berries - whatever you've got!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and melt 1/4 cup butter in a 9" x 9" baking pan (just be sure the butter doesn't burn). Blend together flour, baking powder, sugar and milk. Pour batter into pan over the butter (but do not mix it together). Sprinkle the fruit on top of the batter. Again, do not stir. Bake for 1 hour, until golden brown.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Monkey Muffins

Sorry I haven't been posting so much recently. During the heat wave we've been experiencing recently, we have been spending a lot of time swimming and playing, so when we have been cooking and baking (which of course we have been doing!), I just haven't been documenting it as well as usual. But I promise to get back to it.

So, starting on that promise, here we go!

Seeing as little miss has been getting more actively involved in the kitchen, I have been looking for some new, fun recipes to try with her. When I first saw a listing for monkey muffins, I automatically thought that it was going to be a muffin-version of monkey bread, but I checked out the recipe anyway. I was surprised to find that this was actually a recipe for banana muffins! Since we almost always have bananas in the house, we are always looking for recipes to use them up when they start getting freckled, so I bookmarked this one to use the next time we had a couple extra bananas. And today was that day!

When I told little miss that we were going to make monkey muffins, the first thing she asked me (with a sneaky glint in her eyes, I might add) was whether they are made with monkey paws and tails. She then proceeded to laugh as though this was the best joke she'd ever heard. And, to be honest, it was pretty funny. Then I asked her what monkeys like to eat, and she figured out that these were banana muffins.

The first step was to mash the bananas, which little miss was more than happy to help with. After a few minutes, she told me that her hands were tired, but when I offered to take over, her hands suddenly woke up, so she wound up doing most of the work herself, which gave me the time to get everything else we needed ready.

The next step was to combine the dry ingredients together, another task that little miss wanted to handle herself. So while she whisked, I creamed together the butter and sugar. Little miss then joined me at the mixer as we finished up adding the rest of the ingredients and finishing the batter. The only change I made to the recipe as it is written is that I used plain yogurt in place of the sour cream that is listed.

When it was time to fill the muffin tins, little miss once again volunteered to help. Man, a mom could get used to this! (You know, assuming you are prepared for a little extra cleaning when you're done, but really, that is a small price to pay.) She is definitely getting better at getting the batter into the cups of the tin, and, believe it or not, the biggest mess during this step was made by me. Oops!

When the muffins went into the oven, little miss read books while I did the dishes. Unlike most muffins that I have made, they needed to bake for the longer end of the recommended baking time, rather than cooking faster, but they smelled super yummy as they finished up, so it was worth the wait.

So how were they? Pretty darn tasty! They made a tummy dessert, and I already know that they will make an super fun weekend breakfast tomorrow. I have to say, little miss is turning into one heck of a baker.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July Daring Cooks Challenge - Nut Butters

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

My first thought upon reading this challenge was "cool!" followed quickly by "uh oh..." As I have mentioned more times than I probably should have, I don't have a food processor. And the one time I tried to make peanut butter in my mini-blender did not turn out well. I was immediately concerned that my lack of proper equipment would stand in the way of completing this challenge. Luckily, though, my sister and fellow Daring Kitchen member happens to have not one, but two food processors. As she is always open to visitors, even those primarily seeking usage of her kitchen equipment Equipment (or access to it, anyway) secured, I was back on track with thinking about how cool this challenge was.

The first big decision was what type of nut butter to make. While I know of lots of peanut butter recipes, I didn't want to take the easy way out. Many recipes for walnut dishes looked great, but my husband is allergic to walnuts, so those were out. My usual substitution for walnuts is pecans, so I decided to go with those. But then I decided to go with one of my favorite nuts, too, and picked up some cashews as well. Double the challenge, double the fun!

To up the flavor of my nut butters, I decided to roast the nuts prior to grinding them. I simply spread the nuts on a baking sheet in an even layer and roasted them in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. I gave the cookie sheets a light toss in the middle, to ensure even roasting, but that was as difficult as it got.

The first butter that I made was roasted pecan butter. The process was amazingly simple. The roasted nuts are placed into the bowl of a food processor, and then the machine does all of the work. The nuts went through several phases - crumb and clump, as I referred to them - before turning into an amazingly smooth butter.

The amazing thing was that these pecans went from nuts to butter in just a couple of minutes. It was so easy.

Next I tackled the roasted cashew butter. I am actually glad that I made the pecan butter first, as the speed and ease with which it came together gave me a really great sense of confidence in the process. The process of making the cashew butter was the same, but the timing and results were pretty different.The "clump" stage lasted much longer with the cashews. That big ball of cashew butter that you see in the photo above took quite a while to break down, but it finally did, and the resulting butter, while thicker than the pecan butter, was smooth and delicious.

And in case you were wondering what little miss was up to during the process, she was highly involved, manning the food processor and letting me know when each nut butter was done.

And in case you were further curious whether or not roasting the nuts prior to grinding them made a discernible difference, my sister and I were able to do a side by side taste test. As I was at her home, and that she had already made cashew butter with unroasted cashews, we each took a taste of the roasted and unroasted versions to compare. We both felt that the roasted cashew butter had a deeper and more vibrant taste, though the unroasted still tasted fresh and delicious. It was definitely interesting to be able to compare them, though!

Nut butters in hand, it was time to head home and turn them into delicious savory dishes.

First up was the pecan butter. I had decided to double challenge myself by making pecan encrusted chicken with a pecan sauce. Why was this a double challenge? Because to ensure a proper pecan crust on the chicken requires a double-coating process, unlike the normal single coating that I usually do. I had planned ahead for this part of my personal challenge, and had reserved some of the crushed nuts from the food processor when they were at the "crumb" stage. The pecan crumbs were combined with bread crumbs, and the chicken, pounded, floured and dipped in egg wash, was coated with the pecan crumbs.

For the sauce, I pieced together my own recipe based on a combination of one of the recipes given in the challenge and several others I found online. I combined the fresh pecan butter with onion, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and chicken broth. Denied the opportunity of making the actual nut butters, my mini-blender was put to work blending the sauce. Once all of the chicken came out of the pan, the sauce went into it to be warmed and finished.

The resulting chicken and sauce were delicious, and made a fantastic dinner. The pecan flavor really came through. Again, as a comparison, I had breaded half of the chicken in the pecan crumbs and half in panko bread crumbs, and both my husband and I agreed that the sauce went very nicely with either (and made a really nice accompaniment for the "plain" chicken), and that the pecan chicken, even on its own without the sauce, had a really great flavor and crunch.

But wait - we aren't done with the pecan butter yet! Two days later, with absolutely no prompting (I swear!), little miss decided that she wanted to have a pecan butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. I kid you not. She asked for it by name. Then proceeded to make the sandwich almost completely by herself. She then proceeded to eat every single bite of it. The only problem was that she used the last of the pecan butter to make the sandwich, but I have a feeling that we will be making some more in the near future.

Next, it was time to use the cashew butter. I had several ideas, but finally decided to make a version of the cashew dressing that was listed in one of the challenge recipes for an asian noodle salad. While we nomally have salads with dinner evey night, we rarely actually toss our salads with dressing. One night this weekend, my sister in law joined us for dinner, so we were actually making enough salad to make it worth tossing for real. On a last minute whim, my husband and I decided to whip up our own version of the cashew dressing for our salad, and boy were we glad we did. We made more than needed for that one dinner, and have both been having it on our individual salads all week long.

I still have a couple of ideas for using more of the cashew butter, so hopefully you will be seeing further cashew recipes in the upcoming couple of weeks. That is... if I can keep myself from just turning it all into this delicious dressing.

Margie and Natashya, I can't thank you enough for this challenge. Most people, myself included, probably rarely (if ever!) think to make their own nut butters, much less to incorporate them into meals in such creative ways. This challenge truly inspired me and resulted in some delicious dishes that were loved by my entire family. I will definitely be making my own nut butters again in the future, and look forward to all of the amazingly delicious ways in which I will be able to enjoy them!
To see more of the amazingly creative and delicious dishes that were prepared by the other Daring Cooks, check them out here.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Tonight for dinner, for the first time ever, I made kabobs. It is probably really weird that I have never actually made kabobs before. I have eaten them, witnessed them being made, helped with certain parts of the process, but this was the first time I ever made them all by myself.

Part of the reason we don't make these on a regular basis is that we don't have a barbecue, and kabobs are most commonly cooked on the grill. I also don't have a grill pan, so there goes that option. I do have one of those George Foreman grills, but I rarely pull it out, and can't really see doing kabobs on it... so kabobs have fallen pretty low on the to-make list.

Until today.

We had a busy afternoon planned, so I actually did all of the prep work this morning, roughly chopping vidalia onions, red peppers and eggplant, as well as cubing the beef and preparing the marinade. All of the prep work done, meat marinating in the fridge, we were totally free to enjoy our afternoon.

When it was time to assemble dinner, all that was left to do was soak the skewers and cut the tomatoes. Little miss had the job of (carefully) handing me skewers as I was ready for them, and then to make sure I put a little bit of everything onto each kabob.

In lieu of any kind of grill, our kabobs were cooked under the broiler. It only took about 12 minutes for these guys to cook, with me turning them every three minutes or so, and I was really pleased that the veggies didn't burn. Every time I opened the oven to turn the skewers, little miss told me how good the kabobs smelled, and asked me when she could eat a kabob. To be honest, I think she just really liked saying the word "kabob," but can you really blame her?

Served on a bed of couscous with a fresh ear of corn, the kabobs made a great dinner. Little miss ate hers all up (with the exception of the eggplant, but I still thought that was great!), and daddy and I did, too. I can't believe that it took me so long to make these, and I look forward to making them again!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

I really wanted to sub-title this post something like "try them despite what they look like here!" or "taste success, presentation fail!" or something to that effect... Know up front that the pictures are a little blurrier than usual (I let little miss do as much of the work as possible, and trying to slow down a four year old baker to take photos is a little on the tough side...), and that these didn't turn out picture-perfect like most other websites would showcase... but they were super fun to make and are very yummy, so I will share anyway.

It is actually quite crazy that I wound up making cupcakes at all today. I have been wanting to make muffins all week, but we have somehow found ourselves (*gasp*) out of fresh fruit, which I always throw into muffins, so a trip to Produce Junction is in the plans for tomorrow. Anyway, as I was trying to think of alternative muffin flavors, my thoughts first went to dried fruit, then to chocolate chips, then to cinnamon. Cinnamon made me think of snickerdoodles. Which made me think of snickerdoodle cupcakes. Not a far leap, right? So I searched for recipes online. Not surprisingly, the source recipe for many, many, many of the snickerdoodle cupcakes that I saw posted was Martha Stewart's recipe. I chose this version, from Bakerella, but didn't do the fancy frosting and cookie version that she did. No matter how good it looked.

As I mentioned before, little miss was a very, very active participant in today's baking activities. She started by sifting the dry ingredients together. Well, whisking them, which is our version of sifting... then she measured and poured the butter and sugar into the mixer. Trust me, she measured and poured the sugar. That is the closest to an in-focus picture as I could get of that... I told you - hard to slow her down.

I handled cracking the eggs and measuring the vanilla, but once those were thoroughly mixed in, little miss helped me to alternately add the whisked dry ingredients and milk. Again, trust me, that's actually her hand on the bowl, pouring the flour mixture into the mixer.
She was having so much fun and doing such a good job with all the measuring, mixing and pouring that I got brave, and actually let her help me spoon the batter into the sprayed cupcake tin. She actually did a decent job, and wasn't all that much messier at the task than I was. Just a little clean-up required.

The only problem is that we (I) overfilled the wells of the muffin tin. Note to self: when the recipe says "fill each well 2/3 full" don't get too lazy to grab a second pan and just divide the batter evenly between the 12 spots. Fill each 2/3 of the way. Because this is what happens when you overfill your cupcakes:

They overflow the wells, the tops spread out, and they are very, very difficult to remove from the tin. And, as a result, most of them break on the way out. Oops.

On the plus side, little miss didn't care. In fact, I think she liked the fact that they broke a little, because she thought that the little pieces were perfect for tasting. Gotta love a four year old's persective on some things!

Anyway, we allowed these to cool while we ate dinner, then we added the final touch - a simple powdered sugar and milk glaze. I just made enough to drizzle over the two that we were going to have for dessert tonight. Keep in mind, by the way, that I am right handed, and this picture was taken with my left hand while drizzling on the glaze with my right hand, so the fact that the cupcakes are actually in the frame at all is pretty cool. To me, at least.

But the real test is in the tasting, and these absolutely passed, regardless of overfilled pans, broken pieces and my crazy lack of photography skills. Little miss, after each bite, told me quite how delicious she thought hers was, and I had to stop myself from grabbing more after finishing mine. These will definitely be made again. And I will try really hard next time to make them look as good as they taste.

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes
(from Bakerella)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup milk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare your muffin tin (spray or line with liners).
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed for about 2 minutes.
Add in eggs, one at a time, beating until combined.
Add vanilla and mix until combined.
Alternately add in flour mixture and milk, starting with one third of the flour, then half of the milk, then another third of the flour, the rest of the milk, then the rest of the flour mixture.
Fill baking cups to about 3/4 full. Bake cupcakes for 15-20 minute.
Remove cupcakes from the trays and allow them to cool.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chicken Fried Rice

I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend! Barbecues, fireworks - what a great way to celebrate our country!

One of the meals that we had over the weekend involved a simple roasted chicken. Which is delicious. And yields lots of leftovers. There is no shortage of things that can be done with leftover chicken, and I actually usually look forward to the meals made from those leftovers as much as the original meal itself.

For tonight's dinner, my husband requested that we make chicken fried rice with our leftover chicken. I have never made fried rice before, since one of the main flavoring ingredients for "real" (ie: traditional) fried rice is oyster sauce, something that I cannot really justify buying, since I would not use it all that often. We decided, though, that we should not let the lack of this ingredient get in our way of trying something new.

I had an idea in my head as to how I thought I would prepare the dish, but looked up "chicken fried rice" on anyway, just to see what other people have done. Most of the recipes that I looked at pretty much jived with what I had in mind, and looked like they would be simple and quick to prepare, so I was greatly encouraged. In case you are curious, I went with a combination of this recipe, this recipe and, well, my own recipe.

Aside from chopping the onion and chicken, this dish was so quick and easy. And even without oyster sauce, it actually tasted delicious and somewhat authentic! There's nothing like a quick, easy one-pan dish for dinner after a hot summer day. And it actually looked pretty good, too, if I do say so myself. I will definitely be making this again!!
Related Posts with Thumbnails