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August 30, 2009

::SMS:: Fresh Peach Muffins

The week before our SMS creations are posted, many of us express opinions (raves, reviews, tips, etc.) about the chosen recipe. After reading the comments about today's recipe, Fresh Peach Muffins, chosen by JoVonn of The Givens Chronicles, I almost opted out of this one. I certainly didnt want a dense muffin that wasn't the least bit tasty. But I'm glad I went ahead and made the muffins anyway.

First off, I made half the recipe. Halving the ingredients meant I was suppose to use 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of heavy cream and 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of milk. Instead, I used 3 tablespoons of heavy cream. Some bakers expressed that the muffins weren't sweet enough so I added 1 tablespoon of honey. I used a very ripe white peach. Right before I put the pan in the oven, I topped the batter off with some cinnamon & sugar (I had leftover my Snickerdoodle-fest). I didnt have to worry about the muffins not being sweet enough because they were perfect & they werent dense at all.

My taste tester enjoyed them very much, especially right BEFORE her dinner!
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August 23, 2009

::SMS:: Mom's Banana Apple Bread

Apples in banana bread??? YES. YES. OH, HECK YEA!!!

I actually made this when I first got the book back in April and I made it a few more times after that. Joy of Hot Oven, Warm Heart chose Banana Apple Bread for today's Sweet Melissa Sundays, and the recipe can be found on her blog. I think what makes this a FANTASTIC banana bread is the addition of brown sugar & cinnamon apples!

I used my mini loaf pan to make 8 lil loaves, after baking for only 30 minutes.

Great choice, Joy --- this is one of my family's favorite Sweet Melissa recipes. Be sure to check out the other SMS bakers for their creations.

Banana Bread on Foodista
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August 19, 2009

Light & Airy Pound Cake

I've made a few pound cakes: there was Elvis' Fave, Ina's Lemon-Yogurt, & Entenmann's Copycat, all of which were "POUND-like." It was time for something light & airy. And boy was I ever "smitten!" when Smitten Kitchen whipped this one up recently. If you've never checked out her site, please do --- she's witty, her recipes are great & her photos are fantastic --- just like this recipe!

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted from James Beard’s Beard on Food

Makes one loaf cake

2 sticks of butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Cognac [brandy works as well, as does rum, as would one teaspoon of an extract of your choice]
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
(instead of the lemon zest because I didnt have any, i threw in 3/4 cup of chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan. Sift the flour onto waxed paper and then spoon it gently back into the sifter, adding the baking powder and a good pinch of salt. Sift the mixture twice more, each time spooning it lightly into the sifter. YES, three times!

2. Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks and then gradually beat in 1/2 cup of the sugar, two tablespoons at a time. Transfer to a bowl.

3. Fit the electric mixer with a paddle attachment and cream the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining six tablespoons of sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks until light and lemon-colored and then add the Cognac and zest.

4. Gradually fold the sifted flour mixture into the butter-egg mixture. Fold in the beaten egg whites just until the batter is smooth. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick pierced in the center comes up clean. Cool in pan ten minutes on a rack, then cool the rest of the way out of the pan.

Light & Airy Pound Cake on Foodista
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August 16, 2009

::SMS:: Hazelnut... er.... CASHEW Truffles


I met Annie, of Living Life Foodcariously, a few years ago when we were planning our weddings. First, it was just chit-chatting online about our upcoming nuptials. Then, it was meeting for dinner & drinks with other brides-to-be in NYC. Now it's baking & blogging together. Annie chose a super easy recipe for Sweet Melissa Sunday --- HAZELNUT TRUFFLES.

Easy to make, that is. I usually have a lot of ingredients on hand. Unfortunately, hazelnuts were not one of them. AMAZING?!?!? I went to 5 SUPERmarkets! NOTHING! I was blown away! Even the Diamond brand -- Out. Of. Stock! I went back to my pantry to see what I had: almonds, peanuts & cashews. I never had truffles with cashews before UNTIL NOW! These were great!

This super-easy-simple recipe can be found on Annie's blog. Some of the other SMS Bakers had some trouble finding hazelnuts and went with other nuts, as well as other variations. Be sure to check out what they did!

Hazelnut Truffles on Foodista
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August 15, 2009

{MSC} Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes


Welcome to the premiere of MARTHA STEWART'S CUPCAKES Club, where a group of bakers come together and bake a recipe monthly from the CUPCAKES cookbook and blog about it! Our featured cupcakes will be posted on the 15th of each month. Betty of eat my cupcake is our gracious leader and the host for this month. For our first cupcake she chose CHOCOLATE SALTED-CARAMEL CUPCAKES.

I dont have a mini cupcake pan so I just baked them in a standard cup pan. The amount of flour used looked like I would get approximately 12 cupcakes so I doubled the recipe, baked for 22 minutes and got 30 cupcakes. I think I could have ended up with more if i didnt fill the cups almost to the top. I know the recipe says to fill 2/3 full but a lot of times when I do that, I end up with small cupcakes. And yes, i did get a few overflows but it wasnt a catastrophe.

The next step was making a well for the salted caramel. I used my melon baller. In the book, Martha says to "throw away the scraps." ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?! Who in the world would do such a thing? BabyM enjoyed the scraps as much as i did! Plus, I used the scraps to "cap" the cupcakes.

And finally, theres the dark chocolate frosting.

VERDICT: The chocolate cupcake itself was good. I dont think I made the caramel correctly. I was boiling it for a good 15-20 minutes and it didnt turn golden. It did reach 350 degrees on the candy thermometer. I poured the cream into it and went ahead anyway. After I spooned the caramel into the wells, some melted into the cupcake whereas some just sat there. Go figure. I tasted the cupcake with the caramel (without the frosting) and I didnt really taste the caramel --- like i said, i think something went wrong. With the frosting, the cupcake was really, really chocolate! Great cupcake, but next time I think im going to go without the caramel.

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August 09, 2009

::SMS:: Snickerdoodles (x 2)

I was meeting my girlfriend (who's 6 months prego) for Sunday brunch and since I havent seen her in about three months I thought I would surprise her with a sweet treat. How about a Snickerdoodle CUPCAKE topped with a Snickerdoodle COOKIE?

Would you believe it if I told you that all this baking & blogging time, I've only READ recipes about Snickerdoodles. *sigh* I know, I know.... I NEVER ate one & i've been meaning to make them but I always get sidetracked with other wonderful recipes.

I was so glad when Spike the Baker chose this Sunday's cookie recipe. The recipe for these scrumptious cookies can be found here on Spike's blog. And I had to stop myself from eating them cause i needed them for the cupcakes. These were THAT good -- light, buttery & chewy.

And it was doubly super that I remembered that Betty from eatmycupcake baked a Snickerdoodle Cupcake and I couldnt wait to give that a try.

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes
(yields 12 cupcakes)

1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temp.
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 almond extract
3/4 c. whole milk

Preheat oven at 350. Whisk first four dry ingredients, make sure there are no clumps. Combine remaining wet ingredients in a separate bowl before mixing in with dry ingredients. Pour batter into liners and bake for 20-25 min.

Cinnamon Vanilla Buttercream frosting
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
4 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tbs. milk

With an electric mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low speed to combine.

I prepared the cookie dough which was really easy to put together & while they were in the fridge firming up, I made the cupcakes. After those were cooled, I frosted them with Cinnamon Vanilla Buttercream. Then I baked my cookies for about 10 minutes -- everything was perfect!

Out of all the cookies i've made from the Sweet Melissa cookbook, these are my FAVORITE.
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August 06, 2009

Crème Caramel II

After my first flop with flan, i was graciously showered with other flan recipes to try. So I decided to do a taste test of a few of them. This recipe is courtesy of Hanaâ, and its from America's Test Kitchen.

Classic Crème Caramel (Serves 8)
from the Episode: Puddings — from Simple to Spectacular

1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups light cream
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch table salt

1. For the caramel: In a medium nonreactive saucepan and without stirring, bring sugar, water, corn syrup, and lemon juice to simmer over medium-high heat, wiping sides of pan with wet cloth to remove any sugar crystals that might cause syrup to turn grainy. Continue to cook until syrup turns from clear to golden, swirling pan gently to ensure even browning, about 8 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan gently and constantly, until large, slow bubbles on mixture's surface turn honey-caramel in color, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Remove pan immediately from heat and, working quickly but carefully (the caramel is over 300 degrees and will burn you if it touches your skin), pour a portion of the caramel into each of 8 ungreased 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins. Allow caramel to cool and harden, about 15 minutes. (Can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days; return to room temperature before adding custard.)

2. For the custard: Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat milk and cream, stirring occasionally, in medium saucepan over medium heat until steam appears and/or an instant-read thermometer held in the liquid registers 160 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes; remove from heat. Meanwhile, gently whisk eggs, yolks, and sugar in large bowl until just combined. Off heat, gently whisk warm milk mixture, salt, and vanilla into eggs until just combined but not at all foamy. Strain mixture through fine mesh sieve into large measuring cup or container with pouring spout; set aside.

3. Bring 2 quarts water to boil in kettle. Meanwhile, fold dish towel to fit bottom of large baking dish or roasting pan and position in pan. Divide reserved custard mixture among ramekins; place filled ramekins on towel in pan (making sure they do not touch) and set pan on oven rack. Fill pan with boiling water to reach halfway up ramekins; cover entire pan loosely with aluminum foil so steam can escape. Bake until a paring knife inserted halfway between center and edge of the custards comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer custards to wire rack; cool to room temperature (Can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 2 days.)

4. To unmold, slide a paring knife around entire mold perimeter, pressing knife against side of the dish. Hold serving plate over top of ramekin and invert; set plate on work surface and shake ramekin gently to release custard. Serve immediately.

For one large crème caramel: Follow recipe for Classic Crème Caramel, pouring caramel and custard into 1 1/2-quart straight-sided soufflé dish rather than individual ramekins. Fill roasting pan with boiling water to reach halfway up sides of soufflé dish; increase baking time to 70 to 75 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of custard registers 175 degrees.

VERDICT: Muuuuuuuuuuuuchhhhhhhhhh better than my first attempt. I think one of the things I did wrong the first time was cook the caramel too long. This time the caramel taste wasn't as strong as the last time. And the texture of the flan? Silky & smooth. I liked this one! Thanks, Hanaa!

My brother, on the other hand, had a totally contradicting opinion:
"It's good but... there are not enough eggs & your caramel isnt dark enough"

Go figure.... well... i'm making this for me and not for him, so there!

The most difficult part of this recipe was dealing with the hardened caramel in the pot, on the spoon & on the countertop. To remove the caramel from my pot & spoon I soaked them overnight in soapy water. For my countertop, i was ready to pull out my torch to melt it down but eventually, i just scraped it off.
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August 04, 2009

Vegan Banana Walnut Muffins

My mom loves my baking.... so much that her doctor told her to stop eating all the treats, i.e., cause of the sugar, the fat, the calories, etc. etc. So i took on the task of making her "healthier" things so she can still enjoy baked goods without all the good (or in my mom's case, the bad) stuff.

I recently discovered Agave Nectar which makes a good substitute for sugar. Agave nectar is a real sugar, as opposed to an artificial or non-nutritive sweetener. It has properties similar to many sugars with one important exception: its glycemic index is significantly lower. This makes it a healthier alternative to many processed AND natural sweeteners. You can read more about it here.

Wendy of Pink Stripes recently "veganized" Starbucks Banana Walnut Bread. I took it one step further and used agave nectar instead of the sugar. Wendy's veganized recipe can be found here. Starbuck's Banana Walnut Bread recipe can be found here.

And heres mine, with minor changes to Wendy's recipe:

Printable recipe

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons water
1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 very ripe medium bananas, mashed
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Pre-heat oven to 325° degrees with rack in middle. Mix ground flaxseed with water and set aside.

If using a loaf pan: grease & flour a 9x5x3 loaf pan.
If making muffins, line with liners or grease & flour muffin pan.

Whisk together flours, baking soda, and salt. In separate large bowl, mix together flaxseed mixture, agave, and apple sauce until combined. Add flour mixture and when combined add in vanilla, and bananas. Mix until combined. Fold in 1/2 cup of walnuts and pour into prepared loaf pan. Top with remaining 1/3 cup of nuts.

For loaf pan: bake for 45 to 60 minutes
For muffins: bake for 25-30 minutes
or until a thin knife inserted in middle comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes on wire rack before removing from pan.

These were MUCH better than my Banana Espresso CC Walnut Muffins. They were very moist and very yummy!

Vegan Banana Nut Muffins on Foodista
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August 02, 2009

::SMS:: Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

Whenever I'm invited to a gathering, whether it be with family or friends, I usually bring dessert. This weekend was no exception. My brother had a BBQ yesterday and I made cupcakes (posts to follow) and Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies. Stephanie of Ice Cream Before Dinner chose this week's Sweet Melissa Sunday recipe and it can be found here.

Super simple. I had all the ingredients on-hand. Except for the PB... which was odd, cause i dont remember finishing it all. Anyways, I got the PB and made these the night before. The dough came together nice & quick but a problem did arise (at least, I thought it was a problem). Maybe my butter was TOO soft but the dough was really, really sticky. And when i tried to make the cross-hatch marks with my fork -- they came out really gooey. So I popped them in the fridge for 15 minutes. "Cross-hatching" came easier the 2nd time.

Baked for 12 minutes & voila!

I had to stop myself from eating them and save them for Saturday's BBQ. These were really good. Hubs had one too. Next time, he wants me to drizzle some chocolate over them! They were a hit at the BBQ!

Thanks, Stephanie for choosing another SMS winner. Be sure to check out the blogroll for everyone else's creation as we have some new bakers onboard!
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August 01, 2009

Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

I'm baking my way thru another cookbook.
For a list of participating bakers, click here.

Here's a list of our completed & upcoming recipes:
8/15/09: Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes (pages 148-149)
9/15/09: Zucchini-Spice Cupcakes (pages 44-45)
9/30/09: Banana Pecan Cupcakes (page 41) * BONUS
10/15/09: Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes (page 236)
11/15/09: I PICKED: Candied Sweet Potato Cupcakes (page 243)
11/30/09: Applesauce Spice Cupckes (page 55) * BONUS
12/15/09: Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cookie Cutouts (page 246)
1/15/10: Coconut Cupcakes (pages 28-29)
2/15/10: S'more Cupcakes (pages 150-151)
3/15/10: Lemon Meringue Cupcakes (page 142)
4/15/10: Jumbo Cream-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes (page 133)
5/15/10: Tres Leches Cupcakes (page 48)
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