Sunday, April 22, 2012

Strawberry Meringue Butter Cream Cupcakes

Welcome to heaven, population: you.

Too corny?  Oh well.  It was difficult for me to share these cupcakes with my family, so I really do believe I've found my favorite recipe.

But it's not just the cupcakes, trust me.

I was planning on using an angel food recipe for the cake, but then found this handy dandy box of strawberry cake mix at the store and quickly ditched my preliminary efforts.

 I followed the box mix directions, with one minor exception.

I added about 1 cup of diced strawberries to the mix.  This way it really reinforced the strawberriness of the cupcake.

And it wasn't over powering.  It was still the light and fluffy that I was looking for, just with little chunks of love added!

 Where I really wanted to spend my time was with the Strawberry Meringue Butter Cream frosting.  I know I try to avoid Martha Stewart, but I think she really nailed this one.

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) strawberry jam, pureed in a food processor
I started off by using my PC Batter Bowl over a sauce pan of simmering water.  I combined the egg whites and sugar until dissolved and warm to the touch.

You're supposed to use your free standing mixer bowl, but since my KitchenAid is shoved back in the corner of a deep cabinet, this was a close second.

 Next, I added my whisk attachment to my hand mixer (again, I was supposed to use the free standing mixer), and whisked until there were stiff, wet peaks, which felt like forever.  Martha claims it's 6 minutes, but with a hand held, it certainly felt longer.

Finally, I'll let Martha take it from here...

With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. (If frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more.) Beat in vanilla. Beat on lowest speed to eliminate any air bubbles, about 2 minutes. Stir in strawberry jam with a rubber spatula until frosting is smooth.
 Here's where I added my own trick...
You know I love to can, right?  Well, I didn't have a plain strawberry jam in the house, but I did have one better: I had a strawberry jam with Thai herbs that I made about a month ago.  It's sweet like strawberry jam, but the basil, mint, and cilantro add just a bit more.  I processed it, as per directed, and then used my hand mixer to blend the entire thing together.  (It was much quicker than doing it by hand.  I tried that first and got extremely frustrated.)

By the time I was done, none of my frosting tips were wide enough for my chunks.  So, I just took a spoon and smeared the frosting on.  For the topper, I just took a quarter of a strawberry and made two cuts along the length of the strawberry from the hull, leaving the tip connected.  With the little bit of left over frosting, I just dipped in the leftover strawberries.  I had to force myself not to eat it all.  SO GOOD!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Whiskey Salted Caramels

Well, I've been going back and forth about posting this, but I'm going to share my fail turned some what of a success.

I found this recipe for Whiskey Salted Caramels.  I have never made caramels for caramel sake.  I've made Caramel Corn (a multitude of times), but never just snacking caramels.  I also love whiskey recipes, so I knew this was the recipe for me!
 I did everything that the recipe said to do.


I know what caramel is like, so I didn't want to mess this up.

When it was ready, I put it on a cookie sheet (lined and sprayed), and put it in the fridge.

I waited about an hour, then put some yummy, yummy salt on top.

After two hours, it was still soft, so I put it back in the fridge.

Left it overnight.

It was more solidified the next day, but it pulled like taffy and wouldn't really stay as a piece of caramel, just a soft, stringy lookalike.

So, what does any self respecting cook do?
Make Brownies!

I just made a triple chocolate Ghiradelli box mix.

Then, I strung out the caramel and placed it on top, just as they came out of the oven.

The caramel melted into ooey, gooey deliciousness.

And I forgot to take a picture.

But they were good. And I'd highly recommend them.  I'd also highly recommend the salted caramels, but you might have to be better at them than I in order to enjoy them as they're supposed to be.

Sorry about that!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Taste of Sweetness Saturday: Mini Cannoli Cups

For every St. Patrick's day, there's a St. Joseph's day...

Whatever the reason for making them, this is a really easy recipe that people (who like cannolis) enjoy.  I am not one of those people, but from a multitude of people who tried them, I can say they're nice.

 The recipe can be found at this link.  There's also a video if you're lost.

Simple and relatively quick!

 I made up the cups on a Friday, made and filled them on Monday.  Served them through Wednesday.

They preserve well, surprisingly, in the fridge, in an airtight container.
Yeah, check out that doily action!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nutella Banana Bread

Banana bread kick, still?


Yes.  It's not my fault.  Stores always seem to have really ripe bananas that call out to me.

And I only enjoy green bananas, so mine also get to that point fairly quickly.
 Whatever.  The idea of adding Nutella to my banana bread really appealed to me.

Here's the recipe, please go to see the Six Sisters' for their easy to follow instructions.

 I really enjoy swirling.

The whole concept is fun.

And it's just so pretty!

Just a note - this takes a LONG time to bake.  even at an hour, the middle was liquidy.  Plan for longer, much longer if you want it to stay together when you cut it!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pumpkin Biscuits

 Pumpkin Dog Biscuits, that is!

The good for your dog, if slightly expensive, due to being gluten free.  The bonus, however, is that you can make a ton of them relative to the cost, and probably still come out ahead compared to buy dog treats elsewhere.

We made them thin so they're nice and crunchy, but obviously you can roll them more thickly if you want something chewier.

Here's the copied recipe...

Pumpkin Dog Biscuits

2 eggs
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons dry milk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/2 cups rice flour *

Preheat oven to 350.

In large bowl, whisk together eggs and pumpkin to smooth. Stir in dry milk, sea salt, and dried parsley (if using, optional). Add brown rice flour gradually, combining with spatula or hands to form a stiff, dry dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface (can use the brown rice flour) and if dough is still rough, briefly knead and press to combine.

Roll dough between 1/4 – 1/2″ – depending on your dog’s chew preferences, ask first – and use biscuit or other shape cutter to punch shapes, gathering and re-rolling scraps as you go. Place shapes on cookie sheet, no greasing or paper necessary. If desired, press fork pattern on biscuits before baking, a quick up-and-down movement with fork, lightly pressing down halfway through dough. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully turn biscuits over, then bake additional 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely on rack before feeding to dog.

* Brown rice flour gives the biscuits crunch and promotes better dog digestion. Many dogs have touchy stomachs or allergies, and do not, like many people I know, tolerate wheat.

Makes up to 75 small (1″) biscuits or 50 medium biscuits