Friday, January 29, 2010

The Most Delicious Cupcake (revisited) and a Give-Away!



Last year, in honor of Obama's inauguration, I made Ina Garten's Flower Cupcakes. To say they were a big hit would be an understatement. They were proclaimed by one and all to be "The Most Delicious Cupcakes in the World." Almost exactly a year later, I decided to revisit "The Most Delicious Cupcakes," this time for a baby shower, to see if the moniker still held true. A few of the same people ate them again this time. Upon seeing them, one person said, "Oh my gosh. Are those The Most Delicious Cupcakes in the World?" They are. They really, really are. The recipe can be found HERE, at the Food Network Website, but here's a very important tip: Do not fill the cupcake papers all the way full! They will overflow. A lot! I'm guessing this recipe could make around 36 normal-sized cupcakes. When Ina says it makes 22-24, I honestly don't know how she accomplishes that! And I made my own cream cheese frosting, not Ina's. Mix 1 brick softened cream cheese, 1 stick softened butter, 1 lb powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and a pinch of salt.



And now for the give-away: Today is my birthday, and to celebrate, I'm giving away one copy of Martha Stewart's Cookies!! The give-away will be open for one week. Next Friday morning, I'll close the comments and randomly choose a winner. To enter, just leave a comment on this post. You can say whatever you like (nice things please), but make sure you include your email address so I can contact you when you win! And if you mention my give-away on your blog, you get an extra entry; just leave a separate comment letting me know you blogged about it. Good Luck!!

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daring Bakers January 2010: Graham Crackers


The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge actually had two parts: homemade graham crackers and nanaimo bars. Nanaimo bars hail from Canada and are incredibly delicious. I've eaten them before, and have even made them before. I just didn't get around to making them this time. But I did make the graham crackers, and they were amazing! I chose to go ahead and use the original recipe from 101 Cookbooks instead of the gluten-free version, partly because of laziness and partly because of the dwindling amount of cash in my "Grocery" money jar.

The use of the food processor in making the dough made the whole process pretty simple. There were a few steps that involved chilling, some rolling, and presto!--delicious, crispy homemade graham crackers. While baking, they filled the house with such an amazing scent that I actually pounced on the pan as soon as they came out of the oven and ate one cracker hot. I literally had to blow on it too cool it down enough to pop into my mouth. It was fantastic. The convenience of store-bought graham crackers is, well, down-right convenient, so I don't know that I'll start making my own graham crackers all the time, but they would definitely make a delicious now-and-then treat.

For the recipe, visit 101 Cookbooks, a truly inspiring food blog.
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Black Bottom Brownies


Warning: I think these brownies could possibly give you a heart attack. That being said, they are basically amazing and we ate more than we should! And it would certainly be a sweet way to go!

This week's recipe from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book had a crazy list of ingredients: a full dozen eggs, 2 bricks of cream cheese, 2 sticks of butter, over 3 cups of sugar, unsweetened chocolate plus and entire bag of chocolate chips, etc, etc. Insanity! All of this only adds up to badness if you cut the finished brownies into 12 enormous servings, as suggested by the book. I went, instead, for 32 servings (4 rows, 8 columns). Given the fact that these brownies are very rich, and the fact that they are really tall, they actually turned out to be the perfect size.

They were a huge hit with everyone who ate one, and I will definitely be making them again. I'll just stick to my 32 servings! Thanks to Cynthia for choosing this installment of fantastic recipes from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book. You can find the recipe on her blog, the Bakingtherapist's Blog. Thanks Cynthia!
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cake Slice Bakers, January 2010: Red Velvet Cake


I have tried making Red Velvet Cake before, and got strange, not-delicious results. The cake was very moist, very dense, very red, and very salty. I felt it was my duty to eat it (because I spent so much time on it), but I honestly felt as though I were eating a play-doh cake, and you can probably imagine how not-tasty that was. So I approached this month's Cake Slice assignment with trepidation. I know people love red velvet cake. They swear that it tastes like heaven. I just hadn't had that experience with it. Until now. Nancy McDermott's recipe produced a light, moist, amazing cake. The frosting is another story (read: weird), but I chucked my frosting after tasting it and used plain old vanilla frosting and loved it.

I chose to make cupcakes instead of a layer cake. A) Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but I'm tired of making layer cakes; B) When planning out the baking schedule for the week, cakes--layer cakes in particular--seem to need an occasion, a dinner party or weekend meal or something just a little fancy, whereas cupcakes never need a reason. I imagine a conversation with my husband going something like this: "Cupcakes for dessert. Awesome. I love cupcakes." as opposed to, "Layer cake, huh. What's the occasion?" C) Cupcakes are just great, are they not? They're easy, they're portable, they're already in single-serving portions, yet you can eat two without feeling guilty. What's not to love?

To recap: this was a great Red Velvet Cake recipe. I will make it again. You should make it too.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Lemon-Sour Cream Pound Cake, huh?!

Due to a recently-diagnosed peanut allergy in the family, baking has been a little interesting of late. I missed last Sunday's Sweet Melissa recipe (chocolate pie crust), but wasn't about to miss two weeks in a row. I left out the called-for walnuts (why do they insist on processing all nuts in the same plant?) and forged ahead. I don't know what I did wrong, but the outside of the loaf burned and the inside stayed undercooked in places. I have no idea how this happened, but the recipe got raves from everyone else, so please check out the SMS blogroll to see how this cake should have looked and tasted! And thanks to Raeann of Basically, Baby Boots, who chose this week's recipe.

It was worse than it looked. Trust me!
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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Lemon Yogurt Cake


Right after Christmas, I felt very gung-ho about everything. I was gung-ho about getting the garage cleaned out. I was gung-ho about getting works-in-progress finished. I was gung ho about exercising. It took less than two weeks for that to go away completely! Maybe it is the abysmal, grey weather we've had all week, or the constant rain, or the staying up until the wee, small hours every night watching Mad Men on DVD. Mentally, I just feel blech: tired, slow, and terribly uninterested.

Citrus to the rescue! I said last week that I'm not a chocoholic; this week, the proof is in the pudding--or rather, the cake. I've been fantasizing about cake all day, but not chocolate cake. That thought never even crossed my mind. I've been thinking of lemon cake, bright and happy, a little spot of sunshine in this dreary winter weather.

Click HERE for the recipe.
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Buttermilk Bran Muffins


I'm curious about how many people actually think bran muffins sound good. I know when I'm trying to eat healthy and we're on vacation and there aren't any other healthy options, a bran muffin will do, but they don't even cross my mind when I think of delicious breakfasts. If I had to think of a word to describe most bran muffins I've had, something like "sawdust" or "cardboard" would probably come closest. If you feel the same, get ready to have your world rocked! These bran muffins are good! Not just if-there-isn't-anything-else-I'll-eat-it good, but I-look-forward-to-eating-these good! The massive amounts of buttermilk in the batter keep the muffins very moist, in addition to giving them a super pleasant tanginess. And if you substitute applesauce for some of the oil, they have a sweet, slightly fruity goodness.

If the enormous quantities of ingredients is freaking you out, let me assure that this makes more than a dozen muffins. It makes more than two dozen muffins. In fact, it makes a whopping 6 or 7 dozen muffins! What? You can't eat that many muffins in one sitting?! Another bonus: you can either make all of the muffins and freeze them, or you can actually just keep the batter in the fridge for several weeks! I know that sounds insane, but it is the truth. I've done both. The first time I made these, I made them all and froze them. Then, before I went to bed each night, I'd get a few out and leave them on the counter to thaw. Fresh muffins every morning! I've also made them by the dozen, keeping the leftover batter in a big, air-tight container in the back of the fridge. When we run out of muffins, I just scoop another dozen into the muffin tin and bake them. Again, fresh muffins every morning! Perfect for these chilly winter days.

Buttermilk Bran Muffins
makes many dozens!

6 cups All-Bran cereal
2 cups boiling water
5 teaspoons baking soda
4 cups buttermilk
1 cup oil or applesauce (I did 1/2 cup of each)
4 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
5 cups flour (I used a mixture of white and wheat flours)

Pour the bran cereal into a large bowl. Combine baking soda and boiling water, pour over cereal, and set aside. In a different large bowl, combine buttermilk, oil, applesauce, eggs, sugar, and salt. Add cereal mixture and flour, stirring until combined. Spoon batter into greased muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes.
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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Chocolate Creme Caramels (with Pink Himalayan Sea Salt)


Out of all the confections in the world, caramels are probably my favorite. I like chocolate, but I don't really consider myself a chocoholic. And I love fruity things--cakes, pies, candies--but even they don't top the list. What I love more then any other sweet is caramel. In a box of chocolates, I always go for the chocolate-covered caramels first (they are easy to spot, usually being square or rectangular with fairly sharp corners). In fact, if I get to a box of chocolates too late and the caramels are already gone, I usually don't have any.

I was thrilled that this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy was chocolate creme caramels. Oh my! They were so good. Since they start out blazing hot and take hours to cool and set up, I spent the interim scraping every last bit of chocolate caramel out of the pot and eating it with a wooden spoon! Since they didn't call for too much salt, I decided to sprinkle a little pink Himalayan sea salt on mine. Heaven!

Thanks to this week's hostess, Jeanette, for choosing this amazing recipe. I will definitely make these again, maybe next Christmas to give to friends. Or maybe I'll eat them all by myself! You can find the recipe on Jeanette's blog, The Whimsical Cupcake.
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