Monday, April 30, 2012

Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake

I'm going to be honest here-- sometimes baking doesn't go as planned. I was baking this coffee cake to take somewhere important. You'll see in the pictures below that I baked it in a bunt pan. The pictures of the sliced cake? NOT in a bunt pan. The story goes like this-- I had a very busy weekend and was ROCKING my to-do list, when the coffee cake decided not to come out of the bunt pan. I don't know why it wouldn't come out, the pan was greased/floured/all kinds of prepared- but, as anyone who has ever baked anything knows-- sometimes this just happens. Sometimes it's because you did something wrong, and sometimes it is just because it happened that way.

So, there I was, thinking I was ready to go, and I had a broken bunt cake. I had to do an emergency re-bake and bake it in a loaf pan to ensure it would come out of the pan. Luckily, cake tastes the same no matter if it is in a lovely bunt form or in a boring loaf form. And, since I was plating the cake to take tot he event, it didn't really matter. Except in my head, where this was a disaster of epic proportions. I'll ask you to do me the favor of pretending that you do not notice that my tutorial photos show a bunt pan, yet my cake is not in bunt form, umkay? Thanks. I knew I could count on you.

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here)
Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake (Yield - two loaves, one 9x13, or one bunt)
(Adapted from the 'Favorite Coffee Cake' recipe in the 1969 version of the Betty Crocker cookbook featured in my sidebar)

3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs


2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
6 tablespoons firm butter
1 cup chopped walnuts

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pear Almond Muffins

In the parallel universe that exists only in my brain, muffins are healthy and acceptable to eat at every meal, chubby women are hailed as goddesses of beauty, and all matters of justice are handled by Atticus Finch, Detective Stabler, Batman, and The Doctor. This blog is really only equipped to handle the muffin issue.

A few months ago, I had a really delicious pear muffin at a bakery near my house, and then a really delicious almond muffin at a different bakery. I have since been obsessed with developing a hybrid of the two. This is what I've come up with.

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here)
Pear Almond Muffins - Yield 10-12 muffins

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup sugar (+ extra for topping)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 sliced almonds, toasted and ground (+ extra for topping)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup chopped fresh pear

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chocolate Fluffernutter Cupcakes

 I needed something REALLY awesome to celebrate the amazing Erin completing her first half marathon, so I came up with these. They are chocolate cupcakes, filled with marshmallow fluff, and topped with peanut butter icing. Need I say more?? I used the chocolate cake recipe my mom used for birthdays and special occasions when I was a kid, which is not only delicious, but easy to make.

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here)
Chocolate Celebration Cake (Yield 2, 9" layers or 24 standard cupcakes)

2 eggs
2/3 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 1 cup water
1 cup sour milk*

*Sour milk can be made by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice per cup of milk. Stir well and allow to sit for a few minutes before adding to the batter.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Easy Homemade Bread

Remember when I hosted that birthday party and made a big bread and cheese tray? This is one of the breads I made for that tray. I chose this one because 1) it's good, 2) it's something everyone likes, and 3) it freezes well, so it can be made ahead of time.

Bread is really not hard to make, it's just time consuming because you have to allow it to rise. And, it can be a bit of a mess. In my instructions below, I detail how I reduce the mess as much as possible. I live in a very small apartment with a very small kitchen, so reducing mess is high on my priority list.

Though I'm usually a fan of wheat and seed breads (recipes for some of those to come!), there is a great deal to be said in the favor of a classic, homemade, loaf of white bread. We aren't talking about preservative filled, fluffy, store bought, nutrition-less white bread-- we are talking about dense, delicious, hot-from the oven white bread. I can't say it's the highest on the nutrition scale, but, if that concerns you, this recipe works exactly the same with whole-wheat flour. This recipe is one I adapted from one in the 1969 vintage Betty Crocker Cookbook. Cookbook info. is in my sidebar.

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here)
 Easy White Bread Yield 2 large loaves

2 packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
3/4 cup warm water (105*-115*F)
2 2/3 cups warm water
1/4 brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons butter (if you are diary-free or keep kosher and want this to be parve, you can use shortening)
9 - 10 cups of all-purpose flour (you can use bread flour/self-rising flour, but then omit the salt)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sheep Cupcake Decorating Tutorial

I was invited to Easter at a friend's house this year and was very excited at the prospect of baking cute, kid friendly Easter things.  This is the first time I've done any Easter baking, and everyone told me that meant I had to make a lamb cake. I googled lamb cake. I entertained the idea for about a twenty-four seconds before one of the ladies at work mentioned that, unless you really know what you are doing, the head of the lamb cake often falls off. I'm a lot of things, but I am NOT the guest who shows up with the decapitated lamb on Easter. (Maybe on Christmas.........;-))

Risk of headless lamb aside, I continued to google and see if I could find an adaptation of the lamb cake that held less risk of accidental, offensive, mutilation. I came up with these little lamb cupcakes that are SO CUTE!! (My inspiration came from here and here.)

What you need to make these little sheepy cupcakes:

- One dozen cupcakes (I used the dark chocolate cake recipe here. I wanted the cupcakes to have nice, high, domes on top, so to bake them, I started them at 450* for seven minutes, then took them down to 350*F for another seven. This process makes them 'poof' more while baking.)
'Poofy' cupcake
- Approximately two cups thick white icing. (I think one store bought can would do it, but I used the recipe below since it is easy and tastes better than canned icing.)

- One medium sized bag mini-marshmallows.

- One dozen Milano cookies. (Chocolate ones also make cute little sheep, but they are more difficult to find.)

- Two dozen mini-chocolate chips or two dozen candy eyes. (I used Wilton candy eyes.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Passover Bagels

So, anyone who has ever been to a Passover Seder knows that Passover baking is not always the finest. During Passover, those who celebrate remove all grains and grain based items from their homes, with the exception of matzo and flour made from matzo. We also refrain for eating anything with leavening, such as yeast, baking powder, or baking soda. (This article does a good job of explaining the basics, if you are interested.) Naturally, this makes baking complicated. Things tend to not taste quite like what they are trying to be and often end up like edible rocks.

My family celebrated almost every year of my childhood with another family, and that other family always made Passover Bagels. The matriarch of the other family, Susan, remains to this day as one of my favorite adult figures from my childhood. Susan didn't cook-- in the whole of my youth, I recall her making a total of three things, all of which made repeated appearances at various functions: orange jello mold, caramel brownies, and passover bagels. All three were delicious. Though Susan passed away a number of years ago, I think of her every Passover, and this year, I tried my hand at her Passover bagels.

Before we get to the recipe, keep a few things in mind: 1) generally, these don't look exactly like bagels-- in fact they look a little bit of a mess; 2) they won't taste like regular bagels; 3) despite items 1 and 2, they are delicious. Susan used to make hers the size of regular bagels, I made mine a bit smaller so that they can be eaten like a dinner roll with the Passover meal.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tommy's Team - Have you joined yet??? {{GIVEAWAY}}

A few weeks ago, I blogged about Tommy's Team, the team I will be representing in the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago's 5k race in May. 

Erin, Tommy's mom, is hosting an AWESOME giveaway in honor of Tommy's Team and in hopes that you might join us at one of the two races in May. You can win a $30 gift card to Starbucks, Sephora, iTunes, Amazon, or Dunkin' Donuts (winner's choice!).

You can enter the giveaway here. All you have to do to enter is to visit the epilepsy facts page and tell her something new you learned about epilepsy. That's it! You can get additional entries for joining Tommy's Team or for donating, but neither are required to gain your entry!

As a reminder...........

Erin is heading up the main division of Tommy's Team at the Wheaton race on May 12, 2012. I will be heading up division two at the Montrose Harbor race on May 19, 2012, since I, sadly, cannot attend on the 12th. This is a walk/run family friendly event-- you do not have to be a runner! (Let's be glad for walk/jog/walk/walk/walk/jog/pant-for-breath/walk combo is slightly far from professionally competitive).

If you are interested in joining us on Tommy's Team at either location (or any of the other locations!), you can register here and THANK YOU, you RULE. If you are not so into the racing, but are interested in making a donation, then, THANK YOU, you also RULE. You can make a donation here.

For those of you out there that have already joined or donated-- THANK YOU SO MUCH! I'm excited for race day!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cake + Decorating Tutorial

Doesn't this cake look awesome??!!!

It's so easy to make, it's almost embarrassing.

I'm serious.

I have the step-by-step for each part of this cake-- the baking, the decorating and the making of those cute flower toppers--here in this post. ANYONE can make this cake, I promise!

The cake.......

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here)
Dark Chocolate Cake (Yield 3, 9" layers)
Adapted from Sweetapolita's Rich & Dark Chocolate Cake

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups dark cocoa powder, such as Hershey's Special Dark
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup strong black coffee
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract