Learning to bake fearlessly <3


flowers and chocolates

This is one recipe I’ve been excited about for ages. I looooooooooove love love love LOVE rose-flavored things. My first experience with the flavor was sweet, cold gelato, and I’ve been infatuated ever since. It’s definitely not a taste for everyone, but I feel like a princess or pixie, daintily snacking on flowers. (My favorite perfume is rose too–go figure!) But, rosewater isn’t readily available around here (few things are–I live in the middle of nowhere, we just got a Trader Joe’s late last year), and since I was out of a job til recently, I didn’t want to spend the money on shipping. But for Christmas, I got all sorts of fun kitchen goodies! Rosewater, lavender extract, chocolate extract, all manner of sprinkles–eeeeeeeeeeee! Santa was so good to me. And so these were finally realized. They’re sweet, floral, and pair marvelously with the chocolate, though you may want to put a thinner layer than I did so the rose isn’t overwhelmed.

rosewater

Macarons are another thing that have scared me for a while. Measuring by weight, and the list of borderline magic tricks to make them work… But if you know what you’re doing, they’re really not hard! I measured by volume and they ended up just fine. I’ve also made them on humid or rainy days without trouble. Just make sure they bake thoroughly–this is one time you’ll want to err on the side of overbaking, rather than under. In both senses, actually. Shells will break, I’m telling you now, so be prepared with more than you need. And if they’re not cooked through, the insides will fall out on the cookie sheet–gah! So frustrating. You also want to make sure they’re fully cooled before trying to take them off.

tiny feet

Feel free to fill the cookies with whatever you like–strawberry jam sounds delicious with roses!

Rose macarons with chocolate ganache
6 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar (superfine is generally used, but I’ve always used granulated sugar for meringue without trouble)
3 cups powdered/confectioner’s/icing sugar
2 1/4 cup almond meal (you can buy it at Trader Joe’s, or grind your own in a food processor from slivered almonds)
3 tsp rosewater
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
food coloring (if desired)

To start with, preheat the oven to 375 F and line a cookie sheet with a silpat (I got three for Christmas! Looooooove it) or parchment paper. Next, whip your egg whites with the whisk attachment of a Kitchenaid on medium high (about a 6) til foamy. When it’s nice and frothy, add the cream of tartar, and continue to beat for a minute or two. Gradually add the sugar, and when it’s all in there, turn it up to a 7 or 8. Whip into stiff, lush peaks.

Sift in your almond meal and powdered sugar, and add your coloring, rosewater, and vanilla bean paste or extract now. Fold the mixture together, but there’s no need to be gentle–we’re trying to deflate the batter a bit. You want it to be thick, but if you drop a ribbon of batter into the bowl, it should disappear within ten or so seconds. Otherwise, your shells will turn out bumpy.

rose macaron cup

Pipe dollar coin sized circles onto your baking sheet. You can also make nickel-sized baby ones, or pretty shapes, pretty much anything you want! Once they’re piped, let the sheets sit for at least 45 minutes to an hour. This creates the “feet” on the bottom of the macaron.

Put the sheets in to bake with the oven door cracked (put a wooden spoon in the door to hold it open just a bit), and immediately decrease the temperature to 325 F. Bake 10-15 minutes, checking for browning on the tops. If you see it, take them out, but they’ll be done in the middle even without browning. Let sit until completely cool, and make your ganache.

heart rose macaron

Dark chocolate ganache
8 oz semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup heavy cream

Chop (or I usually run it through the food processor) your chocolate finely and place in a heat-safe bowl. Heat cream on the stove on medium til simmering, watching carefully to see that it doesn’t boil over–it’ll escalate more quickly than you think. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and stir til smooth.

Wait a bit for it to thicken, and then fill and sandwich macaron shells. Enjoy!

You’ll notice I don’t have a recipe for the white chocolate ganache–I tried to replace the semisweet chocolate with white chocolate chips in the above recipe. Don’t do that. It went badly. Oh well, live and learn!

Chocolate truffle cupcakes


Occasionally, I get genius ideas about things to make. A recipe catches my eye, or I think of a combination based on a character, or someone makes a request. And I figure it up and write it down and plan it out, and then…it sits. And I ask the boytoy what I should make next, and give him a few ideas to choose from, and bless him, he doesn’t really care for sweets or really food in general (he’s more interested in soda), but he chooses one, and then…it sits. And eventually it gets made, and I kick myself for not doing it sooner. But it does get made eventually! That’s the important part.

This was one of those times. I ran across the truffle filling in a tart recipe and…while I’m sure it’s amazing (Annie’s things always are, without fail), I was in a cupcake sort of mood. So I set out to make the richest, most chocolatey decadent cupcakes in the world. And while it’s no Golden Opulence Sundae, these cupcakes are a little slice of heaven. Perfectly moist and fluffy dark chocolate cake, semisweet chocolate truffle filling, and perfectly smooth and satiny and not so sweet as to overwhelm chocolate swiss meringue buttercream…mmmmmm. And they disappeared four and five a day, which means they were a winner with my family as well. Love it!

Chocolate truffle cupcakes
Makes about 24

First: bake the cupcakes

Dark chocolate cupcakes
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 4.3 oz box chocolate pudding mix
2 eggs
1 cup black coffee
1 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 F, and line your cupcake pan. Whisk together the dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer. Add the wet ingredients and mix on lowest setting with the paddle attachment until just combined, then at medium speed (around 6 on a Kitchenaid mixer) for two minutes. The batter will be thin, that’s fine. Fill your baking cups about ¾ full and bake 15-19 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean or with a few crumbs clinging to it.

Cool these, then take the center out with a melon baller. While they’re cooling, make the ganache:

Truffle ganache filling
Adapted from Annie’s Eats
12 oz semisweet chocolate (I always use Baker’s, and it’s never let me down)
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened and cut into squares
1 cup heavy cream

Chop up the chocolate, combine with butter in a heatproof bowl. Heat cream to simmering on the stove; watch it carefully because cream goes from 0 to simmering happily in a millisecond sometimes. Remove from stove and pour over the chocolate and cream, whisking til smooth.

Reserve about a third for the buttercream and set aside. Carefully fill the cored cupcakes with the remainder, then stick in the fridge to set the filling.

Chocolate swiss meringue buttercream
6 large egg whites
1½ cups granulated sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, not cold, cut into cubes
1/8 teaspoon salt
Reserved truffle filling, cooled but still liquid

I always cube and set out my butter on a plate first thing, and let it warm up while I work on the rest. Wipe out your mixer bowl and mixer attachments VERY well, making sure there’s no trace of grease. The first thing you’re going to do is make a meringue, and any grease could cause it to fail. Heat a large pot with an inch or so of water on the stove until it’s just simmering—we don’t want to cook our egg whites. Add the egg whites and sugar to your mixer bowl and whisk constantly until the sugar is melted and the egg whites are warm.

Stick your bowl on your mixer with whisk attachment and whip the egg/sugar mixture on medium-low (say 3 on a Kitchenaid) for a couple minutes, then switch to medium-high (say 7 or so on a Kitchenaid) until they’re white and fluffy, and the bowl is neutral to the touch. For me, it takes around 7-8 minutes. Voila! You made meringue. But it’s going to get even better still.

When the bowl feels room-temperature, switch to the paddle attachment on low speed and add your cubed butter one or two cubes at a time. This is the tricky part, and where it looks like everything’s gone wrong. At this stage, it is totally okay if your buttercream looks grainy, more like scrambled eggs. Trust me! Just keep whipping it, scraping the paddle clean if need be.

Add reserved ganache and salt, and whip it a bit longer, until they’re evenly incorporated. Pipe onto cupcakes, but make sure you have a little left over to eat with a spoon! ;D If you’d like to pipe these high, I’d double the recipe, but I don’t think this recipe needs it, as rich as it already is.

Remove cupcakes from fridge and pipe on frosting. Enjoy!


Aaaaah, autumn. It’s probably my favorite time of year. Falling leaves, dropping temperatures, the idea of snow teasing, Halloween, Christmas shopping, and all the lovely flavors–apple, pumpkin, maple, spice. These were just what I needed to get back into the baking groove–as it turns out, all I really need is one batch of excellent cupcakes to get excited about baking again! And these were definitely it. I’m planning on making these for my family as dessert on Thanksgiving.

I also learned how fun it is to work with foil-lined cupcake papers! They stay so lovely and vibrant. I might never use anything else!

Pumpkin spice cupcakes
Adapted from Crumbly Cookie

Makes about 20 cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing pans
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1¼ cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (one 10-oz can)

Preheat your oven to 350 F, and line your cupcake pans. Beat the sugars and butter together with your mixer on medium til light and fluffy, it might take a bit. In another bowl, whisk your dry ingredients together. Add your vanilla to your milk, and set aside.

When the butter-sugar mixture is ready, add your eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated between each. Then add your flour and milk mixtures bit by bit, alternating and mixing until just combined. Finally, add in your pumpkin, and mix til smooth.

Fill your cupcake liners half to 3/4 of the way (these will rise a good bit, so you can get away with half if you don’t want tall cupcakes). Bake for 20-25 minutes (20 was just about perfect for me), until a toothpick comes out clean or with only a few crumbs clinging to it.

Nutella cinnamon swiss meringue buttercream
6 large egg whites
1½ cups granulated sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, not cold, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup nutella
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Makes enough frosting for 2 dozen cupcakes

I always cube and set out my butter on a plate first thing, and let it warm up while I work on the rest. Wipe out your mixer bowl and mixer attachments VERY well, making sure there’s no trace of grease. The first thing you’re going to do is make a meringue, and any grease could cause it to fail. Heat a large pot with an inch or so of water on the stove until it’s just simmering—we don’t want to cook our egg whites. Add the egg whites and sugar to your mixer bowl and whisk constantly until the sugar is melted and the egg whites are warm.

Stick your bowl on your mixer with whisk attachment and whip the egg/sugar mixture on medium-low (say 3 on a Kitchenaid) for a couple minutes, then switch to medium-high (say 7 or so on a Kitchenaid) until they’re white and fluffy, and the bowl is neutral to the touch. For me, it takes around 7-8 minutes. Voila! You made meringue. But it’s going to get even better still.

When the bowl feels room-temperature, switch to the paddle attachment on low speed and add your cubed butter one or two cubes at a time. This is the tricky part, and where it looks like everything’s gone wrong. At this stage, it is totally okay if your buttercream looks grainy, more like scrambled eggs. Trust me! Just keep whipping it, scraping the paddle clean if need be.

Add vanilla, nutella, cinnamon, and salt, and whip it a bit longer, until they’re evenly incorporated. Pipe onto cupcakes, but make sure you have a little left over to eat with a spoon! ;D

Winner winner!


Sorry for the wait, y’all! The winner of our contest is…

Comment #13, Cheri! Thank you to everyone that entered, I’ll be sure to do more of these in the future! :)

Our first giveaway!


Hi everyone!

This week, I got something very special in the mail. I’ve been obsessed with dollhouse miniature jewelry for a while, but I wanted to wait for something a bit special to come along before I bought anything. Something delicious and well-made. Something absolutely, perfectly me. And man, did I find it!

My very favorite color is this shade of blue, and a lot of my friends associate hearts with me just because I’m so huggy and smiley, and I pepper my online chats with hearts like cupcakes with sugar sprinkles–which I love equally much, with a huge dollop of frosting just like this. And the blue parts are sparkly. Can you believe it? It’s perfect. It arrived promptly and was so perfectly sculpted, it looked edible. So you know what? I thought y’all needed one, too. Unfortunately I can’t ship one out to each and every one of you, so the seller and I decided on a giveaway! One of you will win an item (one necklace, ring, magnet, or pair of earrings of your choice) from her shop. How do you enter? Comment on this post with which one you’d like (be sure to use an email I can reach you at)! The giveaway closes on September 15th, 2012. Good luck!

Some highlights from her shop:

But there’s so much more to see, especially the scrumptious cupcakes, so gogogogogo!


My baby brother’s going off to college in Florida next weekend. It’s a little nerve-wracking–my baby brother is all grown up and leaving home! :c But you know we’re gonna be keeping in contact, probably more than he’d like, but I’ll be sure to send him treats, so that should make up for us hovering. ;) We’re doing all his favorite things before he goes, since he won’t be back in town again til Thanksgiving. Like making his favorite meals, and this definitely makes the list.

There used to be a restaurant around here called Cheeseburger in Paradise, where all the burgers were named after Jimmy Buffett songs, where we’d go as a special treat. While the burgers were good, the real treasure was the fried pickles. We’d always get two orders to share. Sadly, a while ago, Cheeseburger in Paradise went the way of the dodo in my town. My dad and brother decided this would not stand, and pretty quickly, through trial and error, they replicated the pickles exactly! Now we have them as a side dish with dinner sometimes.

The reaction I usually get from the unintiated in the ways of fried pickles is “Ewwwwwww!”, but they’re really good, crisp pickles coated in a crunchy fried cornmeal coating. And the horseradish dipping sauce is the perfect complement, creamy and spicy.

For the pickles
1 jar (6-7 pickles) Klaussen kosher dill whole pickles, cut into thin slices
3 cups self-rising cornmeal mix
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
milk, to dip

For the sauce
1 cup creamy horseradish sauce
1 tbsp french dressing

oil for frying

Mix cornmeal mix, salt, and pepper well in a small bowl, fill another small bowl with milk, and top a large plate with a paper towel to drain the fried pickles.

Bring your frying oil to 350 F in a deep pot on the stove. Dip pickle slices in milk, then coat them in cornmeal mix, and finally drop them in the pot to fry. Fry til golden brown, about a minute. Drain on paper-towel-covered plate, then prepare sauce.

Mix horseradish sauce and french dressing in a bowl or ramekin. Dip the pickles in and enjoy! Be sure to eat them on the same day they’re made.


Ribbons of sweetness
This is my second post on caramel, this time candies. Now that I know I can do it, I’m excited, it’s like a new toy. Caramel ALL THE THINGS! These were also partly for my brother, who’s going off to college this month. *sniffle* He’s all grown up! But he knows to expect regular baked treats from his big sis. (Any suggestions for things that ship well?) Anyway, he loves sweet/salty things, so salted caramels were a no-brainer.

As I was boiling the sugar mixture, I had a moment of panic. “Oh no, it smells like it’s burning!” …uh, duh, Shiro love. Haha. I did cook these a bit darker than the sauce, and it worked out well; I wouldn’t have cooked them one second more or less. I also uh, didn’t have a candy thermometer for the first batch, just a meat thermometer that only goes up to 220. So I winged it (wung it? wang it? how do I words) and cooked it to there, and then about a minute more. The caramels turned out marvelously chewy and flavorful.

You’ll notice I specified a combination of salted (2 tbsp) and unsalted (3tbps) butter on the salted caramel recipe. I used that because that’s what I had on hand, and it turned out really yummy. But I’m sure all unsalted butter would taste just as good.

You’ll want to really line and butter the pan well; I didn’t and paid for it. Also, though it’s tedious, it’s important to wrap these. Otherwise they’ll all stick together and you’ll end up with a mass of caramel instead of neat individual candies.

Once I had cut my teeth on the fairly standard salted caramels, I wanted more. What I really wanted to make was raspberry caramels. But, googling around, there was no recipe for it! So I adjusted the recipe slightly to allow for fresh raspberry puree instead of vanilla extract. And it was soooooooooooooo good, deep caramel with fresh raspberry flavor permeating. It was perfect. I’m so proud!

I’d never worked with vanilla beans before this. It’s wild to see how many seeds they have! What do they do with them all?
Vanilla seed fingers!

Sea salted vanilla bean caramels
From Confessions of a Foodie Bride

1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tbsp salted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean pod, split and scraped
1 1/4 tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

To start with, line a 8 inch by 8 inch pan with parchment paper and butter it lightly.

In a smallish saucepan, combine cream, butter, vanilla extract, seeds, and pod, and sea salt. Heat on the stove over medium high heat til just boiling, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

In a larger, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir together, then heat on the stove on medium high, whisking often, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then keep heating, but do not stir. Swirl the pot gently instead, frequently, until the sugar mixture is a nice golden color.

Remove the vanilla pods from the cream mixture and pour into the sugar mixture. Careful! The mixture will bubble up. Keep heating, whisking frequently, until the mixture is 248 F. Then take it off the heat and pour into the prepared pan. Let it set for half and hour, then sprinkle with sea salt. Allow it to cool completely, then cut into small squares with a buttered knife or pizza cutter and wrap in waxed paper. Enjoy!

Raspberry caramels

1 cup heavy cream
5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tbsp fresh raspberry puree, strained and seedless
1 vanilla bean pod, split and scraped
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

To start with, line a 8 inch by 8 inch pan with parchment paper and butter it lightly.

In a smallish saucepan, combine cream, butter, raspberry puree, vanilla seeds and pod, and sea salt. Heat on the stove over medium high heat til just boiling, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

I love the slight pinkness.

In a larger, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir together, then heat on the stove on medium high, whisking often, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then keep heating, but do not stir. Swirl the pot gently instead, frequently, until the sugar mixture is a nice golden color.

Remove the vanilla pods from the cream mixture and pour into the sugar mixture. Careful! The mixture will bubble up. Keep heating, whisking frequently, until the mixture is 248 F. Then take it off the heat and pour into the prepared pan. Allow it to cool completely, then cut into small squares with a buttered knife or pizza cutter and wrap in waxed paper. Enjoy!

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