Category Archives: yumminess

needs more practice.

I mentioned the other day that I may or may not have made some awesome cupcakes recently. As it turns out, I did make cupcakes. Were they awesome? Eh.

I really don’t make a lot of cupcakes, and never really have. Don’t know why — I certainly enjoy cupcakes. I think maybe because I suck at frosting things, so it’s an automatic mental block when considering recipes. Either way, I decided I need to start honing my cupcake skills. I’m a honer. 

I found this recipe at Annie’s Eats. It’s for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes. There are many things in that title that I support fully.

I’ll tell ya, these took me a total of about 4.5 hours to finish. There are several components to it: the cupcake batter, the filling, and then the frosting. PLUS, I had to search for my muffin pan for like 30 minutes. Totally couldn’t find it. Looked in EVERY kitchen cabinet…all the downstairs closets…the laundry room…the drawers in the guest room furniture. I even texted Meghan to see if she remembered me doing anything weird with the pan after we used it at Christmas. She did not. Then I got Mister to look behind me…and in all fairness, he didn’t see it the first time he looked in the specific “baking pans go here” cabinet…but on second review, ta da. That’s also the very first cabinet I searched. Apparently it’s a much deeper cabinet than I realized.

I also apparently have only one muffin pan, for 12, and the recipe makes 24 cupcakes. So I had to bake twice.

You know what I like best about brown sugar? How well it molds. It’s like building sand castles…sorta.

The filling is made with sweetened condensed milk. Therefore, it is SWEET. Like really.

This was my first experience, as well, with filled cupcakes. So I had to cut out the middles, all cone-shaped and whatnot – 

–and I wondered what the protocol is for those cupcake middles. What do people generally do with those? I mean, I ate several, and Mister had one…and I picked the chocolate chips  out of a few so the dogs could have little mini cupcakes. Then I threw the rest away. Seems wasteful.

Now here’s where I got kinda dumb. I had it in my head that I was going to pipe the frosting on these bad boys…even with the knowledge that I have no piping bags or tips. I used to have piping tips…and I still have the box that the set came in…but the tips seem to have disappeared. So I decided to just use a freezer bag, snip off the tiniest little corner, and wing it. I know that can be successful. Can’t say that it was successful at this time.

Well, those are just sloppy blobs of frosting right there. I swear it really was the tiniest little corner that I snipped off the bag…but this is what happened. I clearly didn’t do a great job of controlling the icing — it owned me. Plus I ran out of frosting with about 4 cupcakes still to go. I SHOULD have just accepted defeat and recovered by just swooshing the frosting on with a spatula…but by this time, I was tired of these cupcakes. So, done!

As tends to happen with me, these weren’t very pretty, but they were quite tasty. Like I said, REALLY sweet, at least the filling and frosting…but a nice snack. The bulk of them went to Mister’s office, and they were all eaten. That’s gotta count for something.

Check out the full recipe over at Annie’s Eats!

Advertisements

In the kitchen with Beanie

Okay, buckle in. This is gonna be a long one. (heh)

After Christmas, my mom, grandmother, and cousin came to stay for a few days. I decided this would be a great time for my grandmother, AKA Beanie, to let me document the making of the thin layer chocolate cake for which she is famous. These cakes have been huge in my family for mostly forever…I actually always thought it was just something that only MY family made — my Granny (great grandmother) always made them, and so did Beanie — because I never saw these cakes anywhere else, and it was like a staple for us. It was only about 10 years ago, when I saw the same cake in an issue of Southern Living, that I realized this is not just us. Sometimes I live in a bubble. But still, our family rocks these cakes.

PLEASE NOTE: the above picture is from Delish.com – it is not a picture of the cake we made. This is critical information. However, that IS the same cake type. Mmmmmm.

So, here’s my history with the thin layer cake. I have tried making it on my own three times in my life:

1) I was about 13, I think…and my 13 year old brain decided that the way to thin the cake batter was to add milk. That is incorrect. I ended up with 2 very thick layers, rather than 12 thin ones. It tasted great, still…it just wasn’t a thin layer cake.

2) Probably about 12 years ago: when I made the icing, which is boiled, something charred in the bottom of the pan, so my icing had little burnt flakes all through it. That’s not attractive on a cake.

3) Probably about 10 years ago: The layers were thin…the icing was good…I iced it all up and then left it on top of the stove, in my glass cake stand with the lid on. The surface heat from the stove, as well as just the weather that day, melted the icing…so when I came back an hour later, the layers had all slid down into a spiral of goopy icing. Still tasted great, but was no longer really a “cake”, at least in form.

So, Beanie agreed and packed up all her pans and pan racks and brought them with her. This is how it goes:

That’s Beanie. Those are her pans. There are 12. I think you follow the logic. Her first step is to cut out 12 circles of wax paper to fit the pans…

…and then it’s time to spray like you’ve never sprayed before. She told me to be sure that I had a full can of Pam because she swore we would use it all. We didn’t. But we did use a lot. The way it goes is first you spray the heck out of the bottom of the pan…then place a wax circle in there…then spray the heck out of that wax circle.

These layers are super thin, so you really do need that much non-stickfulness to help insure the layers don’t come out of the pan in pieces.

Now it’s time for cake making. Beanie only uses this mix:

She’s tried other mixes, but nothing works as well. The cake gets mixed up per the instructions on the box, EXCEPT that you add 1 Cup, and then a little more, of water, rather than 2/3 C as the mix calls for. Once your batter is ready, it gets spread out over your 12 cake pans. That’s a lot of pans.

Beanie has a very methodical way of completing this step. She sorta plops a random amount in each pan, for about 9 pans (I think),then goes back and spreads it out very thinly in each. What’s interesting is that as she spreads, she scoops off excess and dumps it in an empty pan, or one that needs a little more, or whatever…and so, as she goes from pan to pan, she’s more evenly distributing the batter. She also wipes off the edge of each pan with a paper towel as she goes…she’s like a machine.

Now, we bake. We did 6 layers at a time, 3 on each rack, and baked them for the time indicated on the cake box. At least I think we did…I’ve since forgotten. But I know it was a pretty short time, about 8-10 minutes…I would just recommend that you keep your eye on them to make sure nothing is baking too quickly.

Here’s where things get fun. As soon as the layers come out of the oven, go ahead and start popping them out of the pans. Remember all that spraying we did earlier? Totally worth it. We used a knife to get under the edge of each layer, and then the whole thing slid out pretty easily. We got them all out of their pans and onto the racks…

…and then it was time to remove the wax paper. Flip them over and find a loose edge, then just start peeling…just be careful, since you want the paper to come off without pulling little pieces of cake with it.

Although sometimes that still happens. If it does, just keep the little pieces that come apart – you can use them to fill in spaces when you put your layers together.

While the layers cooled, we started the icing. This is amazing stuff, and pretty simple. Start by melting your butter, and once that’s good and melted, add sugar and cocoa and get that all stirred up really well. It’ll be kinda dry, but not for long…

…because you’ll add canned milk (evaporated, not condensed) to get things going. After you get the milk really well mixed in, add a dash of vanilla, and then let it boil.

Definitely keep stirring as it builds to a boil. Once it starts boiling, let it boil for 6 minutes, and NEVER stop stirring. After 6 minutes, remove from heat, and be ready to start icing your layers RIGHT THEN. As this icing starts to cool, it stiffens and becomes sort of fudge-like…which you can sort of see on this spoon:

So you have to work quickly before the icing gets too stiff to spread. Just put down your first layer and give it an even coat…then the next, then the next, and so on, and so forth.

Now, hopefully, you’ll be able to measure out the icing evenly enough to have plenty left once you get to the top. Of course, after all the layers have been put into place, you want a nice coating over the entire cake. Well…that didn’t work out for us. My cousin, Damon, was taking care of the icing, and we ran out with about 3 layers left to go. So, no problem, we decided to make another half batch of icing. Since the pot we used for the first batch hadn’t been washed, I just grabbed a different pot. THIS IS CRITICAL.

The half batch of icing cooked up just as expected…it was smooth and creamy and chocolatey…so we got back to the cake. We were able to finish the layers, then move on to the outer coating.

So far, so good. It had only taken 2-3 minutes to get to this point…which was plenty of time before the icing started to stiffen…and then something got weird. The icing started to stiffen QUICKLY…like, as soon as Damon started trying to spread it all around. He got one pass around the sides…

…and then the icing was so stiff that it seemed to just be tearing the cake. Beanie gave it a go and was able to get it all covered…it just wasn’t pretty.

We can’t explain it. My best guess is that the 2nd pot we used was too thick of a metal or something…that’s the only difference between the two batches of icing. This is also further proof that the universe does not want me to carry on this cake tradition. Beanie said she had never seen that happen before…it’s a mystery. Just know that her cakes usually come out much prettier and look a lot like that Delish pic I included up top. 

So, at the end of it all, we had a pretty goofy looking cake…

…that still tasted pretty awesome.

Tada! 

Thin Layer Chocolate Cake

Cake: use Duncan Hines Butter Golden cake mix; follow the directions on the box, EXCEPT use 1 Cup water (and then a little more), instead of 2/3 C water.

Icing:

1 stick butter

2 cups granulated sugar

6 TBSP cocoa

1 cup canned milk (evaporated)

1 tsp vanilla

Melt butter in your pot over medium-high heat. Once melted, add sugar and cocoa and mix well. After mixing, add milk and stir well, then add vanilla. Continue stirring until icing comes to a boil; let boil for 6 minutes, stirring constantly. After 6 minutes, remove from heat and begin icing cakes immediately.


Look what else we made: truffles this way and that, part 2.

Hi! Truffles! Chocolate chip cookie dough! Dark chocolate!! GO!

I found these at Love and Olive Oil and they’re really easy. It’s a matter of mixing everything up – just basic cookie stuff (but no eggs!) and throwing in some mini chocolate chips:

Let the dough chill in the refrigerator for a while, to make for easier rolling. Then, you know…roll.

This recipes yields a TON of truffles — unlike the Sugar Cookie Truffle recipe – I lost count, but I know we filled an entire cookie sheet, and about half of another. I also ended up with this little guy:

Kinda spooky.

Once you’re all rolled out, let the dough set up in the freezer for a bit before you start dipping. We just used dark chocolate chips, as opposed to baking squares or candy coating, and melted them slowly in the microwave. Then it was time for the fork dipping method, because we’re fancy:

…and we just placed them right back on to the wax paper. I suspect that we didn’t do nearly enough tapping off the excess in the beginning, so we were scraping the bowl to coat the last group. We still got them coated, but they weren’t quite as pretty. Here are some well-coated ones:

..and then some that we dipped at the end:

Very different in appearance, but still just as yummy. And ohmygoodness SO YUM. Meghan and I both test-tasted at the same time, and it was like *bite*…pause…*wide-eyed glances at each other*…pause…*nomnomnomnom*. These are super rich, so just one is plenty…I mean just one at a time…but another, like, 20 minutes later. And repeat. 

My cross-section pic is a bit blurry, sorry…sugar jitters.

Be sure to let the chocolate chill until set before packaging these…and keep them refrigerated afterward!

Get the full recipe at Love and Olive Oil!


Look what else we made: truffles this way and that, part 1.

More holiday baking for you today. This was the first year that we tried some truffles…well, back in the day when I would bake for my team at work, I would make truffles…but these were the first for me and Meghan, and were also the first cookie dough truffles I’ve tried. Highly recommended.

We made two kinds…let’s start with the Sugar Cookie Truffles that I found on Munchkin Munchies. Mmmmmmmm.

I picked up a tube of refrigerated cookie dough for the sugar cookies — I considered making some from scratch, but this is really so much easier. I baked them ahead of time, by a day or 2, so that they were all ready to go when Meghan and I got to work. I pulled out my handy-dandy food processor that I only use, like, twice a year…spent my standard 15 minutes trying to remember how it all goes together…and then just broke up the cookies and dumped them in there.

It only took a few whirs to get the cookies nice and crumbled —

…and then you add a little bit of cream cheese and it starts getting kind of sticky and squishy:

If you want to let the dough firm up a little, you can stick it in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to let it firm up. What you may not want to do is forget about it and leave it in there for, say…3-4 hours. Just a suggestion for what not to do. IF that should happen, then you’re gonna need to let it sit out for a while so that it isn’t hard like brick. So I’m told.

Anyway…once it’s firm but still workable, just start rolling it into little truffle balls. The texture on these was kinda weird and grainy…like a sugar scrub…and they were a little challenging sometimes to hold their shape. But we got them all rolled — not that the recipe really yielded that many. We were surprised.

After they’re rolled, let them firm up again for just a little while in the fridge while you get your chocolate ready for dipping. It’s super easy – just melt the white chocolate (or almond bark) and shortening together in the microwave, in  short bursts, and be sure to use a glass bowl! We just used forks to dip them in the melted chocolate and then placed them back on the wax paper…and we learned that the chocolate cools quickly, so you gotta sprinkle fast!

We stuck these back in the refrigerator for a few hours just to be sure the chocolate was all set before we put them in their container. And, of course, you want to keep these in the refrigerator except when they are being actively eaten. They turned out really yummy…kind of light, pretty sweet, and a nice little pop of goodness.

Tada! I’ll share the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles tomorrow(ish) — find the full recipe for these Sugar Cookie Truffles over at Munchkin Munchies!


Look what we made: Popcorn and turtles

Happy New Year!

I told you that my niece Meghan and I would be baking fools for Christmas, and we were. Everything was good and fun and awesome…and BOUNTIFUL. SO. MUCH. FOOD.

That was Christmas Day. Most of that is from me and Meghan, but there was even more from the rest of the family. Insane.

I’ll  be sharing each recipe we did with you over the next week or so…today, I’m starting with our two favorite, and easiest, recipes. These are the ones we always take care of first.

Cinnamon Caramel Corn – this is fun. Start by popping a regular ol’ bag of microwave popcorn — I think you can use any flavor you want. We’ve done it with plain popcorn, as well as salted and buttered popcorn, and it’s all been good. You also want to roughly crush a bunch of pecans to mix in with the popcorn…I go the easiest-cleanup route and just smash ’em, with a rolling pin, in a freezer bag.

Dump the popcorn and pecans in a huge bowl – the biggest one you have – and mix ’em up. Inevitably, the pecan pieces will always fall to the bottom, but give it the college try.

Set that aside, then start the caramel amazingness. You have to mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together first — I don’t know why, but you do…

…and then add your butter and corn syrup. You microwave that a few times, in short bursts, and stir between each burst, until it’s nice and smooth…

…and then you do science. When you add vanilla and baking soda, it gets all foamy and bubbly and stuff…it also pops a little. It’s fun.

Oooohhhhh.

Now you have to pour it over your popcorn and pecans and mix it all up…which is why you want a giant bowl, because this gets tricky. I go with the two-spoon method myself.

Just sort of stir and toss until you get it all as coated as you possibly can, then dump it out onto your pan. I use a jelly roll pan that’s a little deeper than your average cookie sheet, and make sure it’s completely covered in foil. Spread the popcorn out and then bake it at 250 for 30 minutes. You do want to stir it up every 10 minutes…but this is a great time to start prepping whatever else you may have to do…or take care of clean up…while the popcorn is baking.

After 30 minutes, just pull it out and let it cool a little bit, then it’s time for the drizzle. WE LOVE THE DRIZZLE. We usually use almond bark and melt it slowly in the microwave**, then just drizzle it over the popcorn with a fork. Meghan will demonstrate:

Let the drizzle harden and everything cool down, and this is what you have:

Right!?!?! SO GOOD. I have these super large plastic lidded containers that I use for this — once it’s all cool and set, I just lift up the sides of the foil to loosen the popcorn, then just grab the big pieces and throw ’em in the container, then dump all the little pieces. This really is so easy, and so yummy, and is a HUGE hit with Mister’s family AND my family. Win-win, we call that.

**Oh, btw, when you melt the bark or candy coating or whatever you may use – definitely use a GLASS bowl in the microwave. Plastic is no good. Don’t ask how I know. Kthx.

Get the full recipe at Our Best Bites.

Okay, you want something even easier? I GOT THAT. Pretzel turtles. Done.

Cover your baking sheet with foil and set the oven to 350. Just go ahead and dump a ton of pretzels on your sheet and spread them out in a single layer. Then, just plop an unwrapped Rolo on each pretzel.

I put mine in the oven for 4 minutes – the first time you make these, I’d suggest checking them at 3 minutes, just to be sure they don’t get TOO melty. When they’re ready, they should be kinda shiny, and should squish really, really easily…but they should still appear in their original shape. Pull them out of the oven, and get to squishing quickly, before the Rolos cool down again.

We do pecans and we also do M&Ms…and really, you could use anything at all. Just squish your chosen item down onto the melted Rolo, and ta da.

Let them cool completely so that the chocolate and caramel are set, before you package them up. And be careful opening that M&M bag – it tears easily. (every time.)

You will go crazy for these. They’re highly addictive. Salty and sweet, and kinda tiny so you’re like “oh, this is just a quick little bite, no big dealNOMNOMNOMNOMNOM” and then 10 are gone. Be careful.

You can find this full recipe over at Our Best Bites, too!


Let the baking commence!

I do major – MAJOR – baking for Christmas. My niece, Meghan, comes over for a day or two and we crank out holiday goodies like whoa. All those goodies then go to Mister’s mom’s house on Christmas Day, where the whole family enjoys the BEST CHRISTMAS BRUNCH IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Seriously, we all start talking dreamily about it every year in, like, July. You’ll be hearing more about that next week, I’m sure. 🙂 Mmmmm brunch……

Anyway…Meghan and I are kicking off our baking this afternoon. Here’s the plan:

Eggnog Cheesecakes with dulce de leche

Glazed Sprinkle Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

Sugar Cookie Truffles

Lemon Sugar Cookies (these are a ‘maybe”)

Cinnamon Caramel Corn

Pretzel Turtles

Oh, we’re not fooling around. SERIOUS BUSINESS. Next week (or so) I’ll share how all that goes with you, too.

Now, for some actually done baking: I kicked off my extra baking this past weekend with one of my favorites: Eggnog Bread. SO. GOOD. I know some folks (Mister) are iffy about egg nog, but I have always, always loved it…to drink and in recipes. This bread is really easy to do, and pretty quick prep (you don’t even need a mixer), so I made a few loaves and put them in the freezer until this weekend.

Start with throwing all your dry stuff together and whisking it up:

…and then mixing all your wet ingredients together in another bowl:

Make sure to create a well in your flour mix before you add the wet stuff – it just makes it easier to get it all mixed in together.

When you bring wet and dry together, just whisk until it’s well mixed — it will be kinda lumpy, you don’t need it to be smooth. BTW, making this bread is when I realized that I LOVE the smell of nutmeg. It’s just a homey, cozy scent. And also BTW, since I do love the smell of nutmeg so much, I tend to use quite a bit more than the recipe calls for. I rarely measure it, since the recipes usually state, like, 1/4 teaspoon, which is nothing…so I just shake it straight into the bowl until I decide I like the looks of it. How’s that for science??

I used spray butter for my pan, but you could certainly literally butter the pan if you’re a purist. 🙂 Scoop all the nutmeggy goodness in there and smooth it out, then pop it in the oven.

I baked mine for about 50 minutes…at 45 minutes, I was still getting a lot of batter on my toothpick when I tested it. After it comes out of the oven, let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes or so, then pop it out and let it cool completely.

Yum. I love how it splits on top…mostly because those splits create a perfect crevice to collect glaze. OH YES, THERE IS GLAZE.

Look at all that nutmeg!!! Once the bread is completely cool, then you pour the glaze all over. Make sure you let that glaze set, too, before you wrap up the bread…or else you get smeared glaze all over…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t have any pics of sliced bread since these are being saved for Christmas Day…but I do plan to take my fancy camera to brunch with me so that I can get more pics of things being eaten. MMM BRUNCH.

Get the full recipe for this bread over at Recipe Girl!


Look what I made: I swear this blog is not compensated by the makers of Rolo candies.

So, if you remember, my kitchen recently got super ultra cool and hip:

I did some baking this past weekend, which was actually planned before I even knew about the KitchenAid, and so Mister decided to go ahead and give it to me so I could use it. AND OH, I DID. I made more Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars (nomnom) AND tried a new recipe that coincidentally also uses Rolos. I made the Rolo snickerdoodles at Thanksgiving…now I’ve made Rolo brownies, and at Christmas I will make approximately 6.2 tons of Rolo turtles. I’ve only just now realized that I am keeping Rolos in business. You’re welcome.

So, about those Rolo brownies. I found this recipe for Rolo Brownie Bites at Bakers Royale, and bookmarked it for future occasions. We had Mister’s family over for dinner this weekend, and that seemed like just the right opportunity. It’s a pretty simple recipe – you mostly just mix everything in together and then, you know, bake it. Ta da! (This is why I don’t write recipe books.) First, though, you do beat the eggs nice and frothy before adding the rest. This was where I first got to see the KitchenAid in action. Go, mixer, go!

That was, like, 3 seconds of hardcore power. Or maybe 15 seconds…I really don’t know. Next the sugars get added and mixed all up…and here’s where the handy-dandy little shield/guard thing comes in…well, handy.

It’s cool because it has a little chute where you can pour stuff…and the guard does help with splatters. This thing has serious speed, and I may have learned the hard way that without the guard, you just end up with little flecks of everything all over everywhere. So we use the guard.

After the sugars, everything else goes it. Here’s an in-progress chute view:

…although I did find it easier to just pull the guard off while I dumped in most of the stuff, then just replace it when I was ready to mix. It just lifts off, so it’s no big deal.

Lots of cocoa in these brownies, so they’re super rich. Nom.

There are 2 main things I learned about a KitchenAid mixer:

  • Since the bowl doesn’t spin, because the beater goes all around and whatnot, then it’s harder (or impossible) to scrape the sides down as you’re mixing. I have used Sunbeam mixers all my life – and they’re really great mixers, absolutely – and they have a spinning bowl. So my habit is to scrape as it spins…so this is an adjustment. Not an obstacle, just something new.
  • The KitchenAid beater is harder to lick than a traditional beater. Harder, but not impossible. NOT AT ALL.

Once it’s all mixed up, just pour it in your pan. Bakers Royale used an actual brownie bite pan, which is super cute, but I don’t have one of those. So I used my mini-muffin pans, and I think they work just as well. I dropped about 1 TBSP of batter in each cup, then went back and pressed Rolos in the centers. In case that wasn’t clear.

I baked these for 15 minutes exactly. In hindsight, the Rolos may not have been quite as melted as they should be, and the brownies were a little squishy on the bottoms…so I could probably have gone another 2-3 minutes. I was also hoping the Rolos would be swallowed up when the brownies baked…but that didn’t happen. 

After they cool for a little, you can dip them in ganache…or spoon the ganache over them, whichever. One batch of ganache, per the recipe, did not cover all 48 of my brownies, so I whipped up a second batch. The first ganache I did per the instructions, as far as melting over simmering water…which is slow. The second ganache I just melted in the microwave, using a glass bowl and just hitting it 20 seconds at a time, stirring after each burst. I didn’t really notice any difference between the two ganaches, so I think you could really go either way.

I dipped my cupcakes — and the Rolo didn’t get covered on most of them since it was indented in the cupcake, but who’s it gonna hurt? I bought some caramel sauce and just drizzled/poured that all over…not very artsy-like, I’ll admit. 

I tried to cut this first brownie in half so you could see the nice gooey Rolo in the middle…but the entire Rolo just came out on my knife. So that didn’t work.

I tried again a little bit later, and it went better with the second one. Mmmmm, Rolo gooey goodness.

These are tiny little brownies, but ohmygoodness so rich! Even so tiny, just one is plenty! Mister’s family declared them a success…and half of them were sent to Mister’s office, where I’m told they were well-received. Yay!

Get the full recipe at BakersRoyale!