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December 15, 2009

{MSC} Gingerbread Cupcakes

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Kayte from Grandma's Kitchen Table chose this month's MSCupcake -- gingerbread cupcakes -- which was an easy recipe to put together. I cut the recipe in half and came out with 8. The one thing I didnt like about the recipe was all the butter in it, even at half recipe, 1.5 sticks was used. I should have went with my gut and just used 1 stick of butter because out of the oven, these were oily. The taste was sort of there but they were too dense.... not fluffy at all.

I didnt even bother with the cookies cutouts that were supposed to go on top. Instead of vanilla frosting, I used some cream cheese frosting that I had. Sorry to say but this was a disappointing recipe from Martha. I hope the other MSC Bakers had better luck than me.
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December 13, 2009

::SMS Rewind:: Honey Beescotti

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This Sunday the rest of the gang is taking a break so I decided to make the very first SMS Recipe I missed — Honey Beescotti (page 70-71), which was chosen & hosted by SMS Founder, Lorelei of Mermaid Sweets. The recipe can be found here.

I reviewed the P&Q section for the biscotti and here are some of my notes:
◊ Make your own candied orange peel by following Giada De Laurentiis' recipe, which can be found here.
◊ The caraway seeds are preferential: they may or may not make or break your biscotti. I left them out because I dont have any and I didnt feel like buying it, especially since they taste like licorice.
◊ Freeze your dough (bowl and all) for 20 minutes before shaping into logs because a lot of the bakers' complained about really sticky dough); then refrigerate.

I've never made biscotti but always wanted to. I ate at least 3 of these when they were out of the oven. I am so glad I made these because they were easy to make and delicious!

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December 06, 2009

::SMS:: Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake

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Our last SMS recipe for 2009 was chosen by Shandy of Pastry Heaven.

I rather make a cheesecake than eat it. Odd, right? I hope not. I think cheesecakes are an acquired taste. My brother loves cheesecake, but he's not too fond of chocolate! So what in the world do I do in this situation? Go for it? Take a pass? I missed last Sunday's recipe and I almost bowed out of this one but I went for it and I made the chocolate espresso cheesecake... but into minis.

I've made quite a few cheesecakes in my time but I never made a chocolate one because my family prefers a plain one. Melissa's cheesecake was interesting one: you've got a chocolate crust covered with a layer of melted chocolate. Then you have cream cheese, add in some more melted chocolate, then add in some cream made with instant espresso AND more chocolate. How can you go wrong?

Melissa's recipe yields one 8-inch cheesecake. I made three minis — approx. 4.75-inches each. My bake times varied: 300° for 40 minutes, then 30 minutes at 250°. Then I turned off the oven and left them in for another 45 minutes.



Thanks, Shandy for a luscious recipe! This was great. I didnt go for the blackberry glaze cause I thought this was enough work for a cheesecake. Melissa Murphy says in her cookbook, this is a very rich dessert -- it's SO TRUE!

The SMS Bakers are taking a break for the rest of 2009... but I will remake a few of the recipes I missed, so come back next Sunday for a make-up recipes.
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November 30, 2009

{MSC} BONUS: Applesauce-Spice Cupcakes

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Over the weekend, I posted about a dessert dish I made for Thanksgiving — Pecan Pie Cookies. The other dessert I made was determined by the MSCupcake Group — our November Bonus Challenge — Applesauce-Spice Cupcakes.


I knew these were going to be a hit, as well as SUPER moist ('cause of the applesauce)! I was right! Another super easy and delicious recipe!


After reading, Martha's frosting recipe, I thought it would be too sweet, so I went with another one that I found on www.allrecipes.com. I thought this one was pretty good and not overly sweet. The ingredients are:
• 4 ounce cream cheese, softened
• 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 tablespoons light brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 tablespoon honey
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cwf ::: Flourless Chocolate Cookies

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Today's another double header post day. Be sure to come back later this afternoon to see my second Thanksgiving dessert.

In case you missed it, I joined another baking group last month. We're baking thru Chocolate Epiphany: Exceptional Cookies, Cakes, and Confections for Everyone by Francois Payard. Some of the recipes in the book are quite extravagant — to me, a little on the difficult side — but probably because I read thru the book rather quickly.

I got to choose this month's Chocolate w/Francois creation. I wasn't really up for a challenge yet so I chose something super quick & easy. As stated in the cookbook:

Their crackled surface gives them an elegant look, and because they're so easy and take barely any time [or effort] to make, they are great for last-minute entertaining. They have a slightly crunchy texture and a soft, almost brownie-like interior.
Enough said. These were awesome!

Ingredients:
• 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
• 3 cups confectioners' sugar
• pinch of salt
• 2 3/4 cups walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
• 4 large egg whites, room temp.
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Place a rack each in the upper and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Combine cocoa powder, confectioners' sugar, salt and walnuts in the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1 minute. With the mixer running, slowly add the egg whites and vanilla. Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes, until the mixture has slightly thickened. Do not overmix it, or the egg whites will thicken too much.

With a 2 ounce cookie or ice scream scoop or a generous tablespoon, scoop the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, to make cookies that are 4 inches in diameter. Scoop 5 cookies on each pan, about 3 inches apart so they don't stick when they spread. If you have extra batter, wait until the first batch of cookies is baked before scooping the next batch.


Put the cookies in the oven, and immediately lower the temperature to 320 degrees F. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until small thin cracks appear on the surgace of the cookies. Switch the pans halfway through baking. Pull the parchment paper with the cookies onto a wire rack, and let cool completely before removing the cookies from the paper. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.


NEXT MONTH: Pine Nut Turron Cake
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November 27, 2009

ːcookie carnivalːPecan Pie Cookies

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Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving!
For the holidays, I take on the task of providing the dessert course of the meal, and it usually takes me a few days (to a few weeks) to come up with my dessert options. This year, I let my baking groups choose for me.

First up, Pecan Pie Cookies... (recipe can be found here)
which was the November recipe for the cookie carnival, chosen by Jen from Beantown Baker. As stated in the recipe, these cookies are "the flavors of pecan pie in a special thumbprint cookie."

And were they ever! Easy to put together, a cinch to bake and delicious!
(Be sure to come back on Monday afternoon to see the cupcakes I made for Thanksgiving.)
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November 22, 2009

::SMS:: Raised Waffles with Warm Brown Sugar Bananas

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"Leggo my eggo!?" Where ARE the eggos?

Have you heard about the Eggo shortage? Two months ago, they were on sale. Now, you can't even find them. Perfect timing for a Sweet Melissa recipe! Thank you Lauren of Fried Pickles and Ice Cream, who chose this Sunday's recipe.

I made these twice. Last weekend, was my first attempt. I started the batter the night before and in my haste, and a not-so-thorough read of the recipe, I tossed the eggs into the batter that night. In the morning, I added the baking soda and made the waffles. The batter was super-thin. It took me a few tries but I eventually got a normal looking waffle. The first two had a lot of holes in them. While my waffles were "rising," i made the brown sugar bananas.


THE VERDICT: I thought the waffles were bland, even with the brown sugar bananas. I LOVED the syrup though. Were my waffles flavorless because of my egg mishap? I dont know, but there was only one way to find out. Make them again (with some adjustments)!

~~~

Second Attempt

So yesterday, I did it again. The adjustments:
• Instead of 1 teaspoon of sugar, I used 2 teaspoons of cinnamon-sugar
• Instead of a pinch of nutmeg, I used 1/4 teaspoon
• Instead of adding in the eggs when I shouldn't have, I added them in the morning like i was suppose to.
• I added 2 teaspoons of vanilla when I added in the eggs.
• I pulled out my Belgian waffle maker.
• For the syrup: I omitted the alcohol altogether. Instead of 1/2 cup of maple syrup, I went with 1/4 cup of maple syrup + 2 tablespoons of honey. Instead of cooking the bananas in the syrup, I added them on top of my cooked waffle and then spooned the syrup on top.


THE VERDICT: Much tastier than the first time. The texture was about the same and I think I know why: my waffle maker's setting should be set slightly higher than what I had it on. I'm definitely going to make this again, using my 2nd version; perhaps, I'll even come up with something else. That's whats' great about these recipes, there are so many great variations!
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November 19, 2009

Giveaway Winner!!!

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YOU'RE ALL THE BESTEST — now I know how to increase traffic to my blog — host a giveaway! Wasn't this fun? It was fun for me to read all your comments and I thank you, thank you! I will definitely be hosting another giveaway soon.... maybe for Christmas? New Years? MY Birthday? You'll have to come back again and again to see what I'll do next, won't you?


And now the winner....
Using random.org

Congratulations, NINA!!! I'll be emailing you shortly for your mailing address. Check out Nina's blog, too, because we're in two of the same baking groups!
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November 15, 2009

{MSC} (Candied) Sweet Potato Cupcakes

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It's a double header post day! Today is the 15th of the month and what do we have? MS Cupcakes! Today is also Sweet Melissa Sunday... click here for my Butter Toffee Crunch.


I actually made these cupcakes two weeks ago for Megan's 2nd Birthday-Halloween Party. For the party, I made 1 dozen Chocolate Spiders, 1 dozen Vanilla Cupcakes and 1 dozen of these SWEET Potato Cupcakes. Took me two nights but I got it all done.



I made the sweet potato cupcakes the night before the party. As soon as they came out of the oven, I shoved one down my throat. OMG.... these were unbelievable! (I love sweet potato pie and after years of searching, I found a recipe my family and I fell in love with.) I cant even describe my love for THESE cupcakes. I regretted making the vanilla cupcakes because I surely should have made 2-3 dozen of these babies. They were HUGE hit at the party!


Martha Stewart suggests using a marshmellow topping for the cupcakes.... i guess for the "candied" part of the name. I think sweet potatoes are perfectly sweet so there was no need to add more sugar to the recipe (besides, there was already and overload of sugar on the table).... so I just made a whipped cream topping with 1-2 tablespoons of granulated sugar.

I can't post the recipe cause those are one of the rules to the MS Cupcake Club. If you want to make these, I suggest you go buy the cookbook because these cupcakes are definitely worth the price of the book! I thank all the MS Cupcake Bakers for baking with me this week and I hope you all enjoyed my pick. Be sure to check out everyone else's blogs -- click here for the list.

Don't forget to enter my Blogiversary Giveaway for your chance to win some cool colored cupcake liners -- all you have to do is leave a comment and you'll be automatically entered -- there are 2 days left!
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::SMS:: Butter Toffee Crunch

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Kaitlin of Kait’s Plate chose this weekend's SMS recipe: a candy recipe! I can't remember if i have EVER made candy before (besides caramel). I read this recipe over quite a few times. The first thing that caught my attention was that the recipe would yield THREE POUNDS of CANDY! Hubs is not a big candy eater, let alone candy with nuts — and I wasnt about to make 3 lbs of this stuff. I cut the recipe down — way down — to 1/4 of the recipe. According to my calculations, it would yield approximately 3/4 lb — still a lot of candy if you ask me.


You're suppose to use a rimmed cookie sheet or a jelly roll pan. All my cookie sheets are the "un-rimmed" kind and ummmmm.... I.... uh.... dont have a jelly roll pan. I do have a lot of 7" round aluminum cake pans and when I say a lot I mean I bought a case of these and have about 150 of these in the basement — hubs is not too fond of my side of the storage area.


I quickly made my candy in a round cake pan. When I mean quickly, I mean you have to work super fast during the time it takes your sugar to go from 280° F to 290° on a candy thermometer. One other adjustment I made (because I love almonds) is right before you add the chocolate, I added another handful of almonds (and I used slivered almonds).


The end result was one big hunk of candy and it was a little on the thick side too. I tried to break this by hand but got chocolate all over my fingers. The only thing I could find in my drawers that had substantial cracking power was my meat tenderizer! So I whacked it to bits.


I liked the toffee crunch a lot and its quite addicting. I might end up hating myself if I eat all this cause of what this is going to do to my teeth! If I smash this up some more this will work great as an ice cream topping too!
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November 10, 2009

First Blogiversary & Giveaway

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In 2004, I bought my first home. As soon as the kitchen was ready, I baked up a storm. In 2007, I got pregnant and the baking came to a halt. A year after my baby girl was born, I started baking again because I decided to bake her birthday cupcake. Pretty soon, friends asked me for recipes and urged me to blog about what I was doing in the kitchen.

Here we are --- 27,000+ hits, 130 blog entries, 4 baking groups (Sweet Melissa Sundays, MS Cupcakes, Cookie Carnival & Chocolate w/Francois) and a long list of blogger friends --- one year later!

I can't believe it's been a year already. I've baked, ate & shared so much --- wouldn't you think i'd be tired by now, especially with raising a toddler, who's been going thru her terrible twos since she was a year old --- NOT! I'm hooked! I can't stop. And I'm so glad you're all along for the ride with me.

So what's a blogiversary without a giveaway? To celebrate and to thank all of you, my dear friends, followers and blogging buddies, i'm hosting my first giveaway! One lucky person will receive this... a beautiful rainbow assortment of cupcake liners.


Just leave a comment and enter by 11/17/09. I'll randomly choose and announce the winner by 11/19/09. Good luck!
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November 08, 2009

::SMS:: Apple Cranberry Muffins

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After baking (& cooking) for my daughter's birthday party, one would think I'd be exhausted and take a break from baking for awhile, right? Yes and no. Yes, it WAS a little tiring but do I want to take a break? No. There's so much good stuff to bake & eat!

So here we are for another installment of SMS. Jennifer of Maple N’ Cornbread chose this week's recipe — PEAR Cranberry Muffins w/Gingersnap Crumble — which is a "spin-off" of a previous SMS recipe. You see, Melissa Murphy has a recipe for Sweet Muffins, and with that you can make just about any type of sweet muffin, using the basic dough. In August, we made Peach Muffins. Today, I made APPLE Cranberry Muffins.

I pretty much did the same thing I did last time:
• I made half the recipe.
• I used 3 tablespoons of heavy cream.
• This time, instead of using honey, I added 1 tablespoon of agave nectar.
• Instead of pears, I used apples because that's what I had.
• Instead of the gingersnap crumble topping I just topped the muffins with cinnamon sugar because I liked it a lot the last time I made these muffins. I liked these as much as I liked the Peach Muffins. These were good... nice and tart from the apples with just enough sweetness from the cinnamon and sugar.

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November 01, 2009

Happy Birthday, Baby & Happy Halloween to All

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First off, I'd like to apologize to Candace of Candy Girl and to all the other SMS Bakers for not making the Sweet Almond Bread Pudding this weekend. Please be sure to check out what they've done cause it's an easy recipe and I will make it one day.

This is why I've been slacking on my posts. I've been planning this for the past 2 weeks. My Baby's TWO!!! And to celebrate, we combined her birthday with Halloween.


Here's the rundown of the food:
Whole Wheat Pasta w/Turkey Sausage & Mushrooms for the kids
My dad made his Curried Chicken Empanadas
(both of which I totally forgot to take photos of)

Hot Artichoke/Spinach Dip
(Food Network's "Lighter" version)


Sandwich Platter from a great deli near our house


Can't have a birthday party without cupcakes and you cant have a Halloween party without something black or orange.... so I combined the two.




Chocolate Spider Cupcakes


Vanilla Cupcakes w/Vanilla Buttercream (tinted orange)




The Birthday Cupcake


The Birthday-Supergirl


Supergirl, eating her cupcake


Supergirl & Friends:





Halloween Cupcake Ideas on Foodista
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October 30, 2009

Chocolate w/Francois ::: Chocolate Creme Brulee

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I've taken on so many projects these last two weeks. I dont know why I do this to myself but I do. What in the world am I talking about? This week, I've been planning my daughter's Birthday Halloween Party (be sure to come back in the next few days for that post).

And now, I'm barely making it on-time for my new bake-along!

Ready for CHOCOLATE overload? Welcome to another monthly baking adventure --- this one, dedicated totally to CHOCOLATE! My new baking group will be baking thru Chocolate Epiphany: Exceptional Cookies, Cakes, and Confections for Everyone by Francois Payard.




Information about this new group, as well as a list of bakers can be found here. Anyone else dare to do death by chocolate?

Our first recipe, Chocolate Creme Brulee, was chosen by our leader, Julie of A Little Bit of Everything. Click here to see the recipe. I've never made creme brulee before so this was totally new to me. Actually, this was a very easy recipe to follow. I cut the recipe in half and the result was 4 ramekins of lusciousness.


This was really, R-E-A-L-L-Y chocolatey.... maybe even a little TOO rich for me. It took me 2 days to eat one. Hubs thought it was nice and rich... and then he thinks he rather eat it WARM!?


Be sure to come back next month (on the 30th to be exact) for MY pick: Flourless Chocolate Cookies!
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October 29, 2009

Chocolate with Francois

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Another baking group, another cookbook.

Completed & upcoming recipes:
1. Chocolate Creme Brulee
2. Charlie's Afternoon Cake
3. Flourless Chocolate Cookies
4. Pine Nut Turron Cake
5. Chocolate Pets De Nonne
6. Paris-Brest
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October 25, 2009

::SMS:: Devils Food Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

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Holly of Phe/mom/enon chose this Sunday's recipe. I love Holly's blog -- she takes the most amazing photos. If you've never checked out her site, please do!

Hubs COULD NOT wait for me to make this one! He loves chocolate AND peanut butter. He eats Reese's PB Cups all the time! Before making this, i asked him twice -- if he would eat this because a lot of the treats I make he doesnt really eat. He's really picky when it comes to desserts (although, he loved the Sticky Buns). He said, "make a cake, not cupcakes, please!" He thinks cupcakes are too "dainty" and "cutesy," so I went for the full cake (plus some cupcakes for me, of course!). Using the full recipe and 7" pans I got a 3 layer cake plus 6 cupcakes.

This was my first time making peanut butter frosting but not my first time making buttercream frosting, whether it's chocolate or vanilla. I read thru Melissa's Peanut Butter Frosting recipe 4 times. I sat there in awe and said to myself, "1 1/2 pounds of butter???" That's SIX STICKS of butter plus only 2 cups of powdered sugar and only HALF a cup of peanut butter?! I'm sorry -- but for me... that's insane. Everytime i've ever made frosting, there's always at least 4 cups of powdered sugar -- now maybe i'm overdoing it on the sugar but (no offense, Melissa) but 6 sticks of butter was too much for me.

So I changed it slightly to:
2 sticks of butter
3-4 cups of powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you do or dont want it)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup of peanut butter


I liked the taste of this frosting a lot. It wasnt overly buttery and the peanut butter flavor was just right. The devil's food cake was good. I used really strong Kona coffee and I loved the flavor. Hubs liked this one a lot.
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October 20, 2009

HELP the Cookie Carnival Leader!

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Help support a fellow blogger! Kate from the clean plate club, aka the Cookie Carnival host, is trying to land a blog job and she needs help from the blog world! Click here to read her story and then click on the icon below to vote for her every day til Oct. 31!

Vote for Me
Good Mood Gig from SAM-e


and a note from kate's daughter:

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