Category: recipe (page 1 of 35)

Sweet summertime vanilla and cherry cupcakes

Vanilla and cherry cupcakes
Despite the weather in the mid-Atlantic being gray, wet, and dreary, I decided to look to sunshine and summer for my inspiration for this cupcake. Baked for a late-December baby shower for my co-worker and fellow sassy lady Julie, I kept things light, and let the natural color of the sour cherries celebrate that she and her husband are having a little baby girl.

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Because I am the most appropriate when decorating for a baby shower…the first shower I did for Julie had a banner that read “Yay!” This time, it was “Whoo!”

Sour cherries can be tricky to work with in a buttercream due to their liquid content — that’s why it’s important to cook them for a bit, then remove them from any of the juices that don’t cook down and cling to the actual fruit. Otherwise, you end up with a sad, watery buttercream, and no one wants that.


Sweet Summertime Vanilla and Cherry Cupcakes
Yield: 28 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients
• 2 1/2 cups flour
• 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 cup oil
• 4 eggs
• 1 cup whole milk
• 2 tbsp vanilla

Buttercream Ingredients
• 2 cups cherries (I used frozen sour cherries that I had picked last summer and froze)
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2 1/2 to 3 cups confectioners sugar
• 1 tbsp cream (if needed for consistency)

Directions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position the racks toward the center. Line pans with cupcake papers.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

Whisk the egg for 20 seconds, then add the sugar and whisk an additional 30 seconds until thick and frothy.

Add the oil and vanilla, and beat until combined. Alternate the flour mixture and whole milk and beat until combined.

Divide the batter between wrappers in cupcake tins and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

For the frosting, first heat the cherries over medium high heat until liquid is reduced. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the cherries into a food processor and pulse to chop, leaving behind the extra cherry juices. Add the butter and 1 cup of sugar, beating until combined. Add the remaining sugar gradually and cream. Transfer to a stand mixer and whip until light and fluffy.

Fit piping bag with a star tip (or your favorite), and pipe buttercream onto cupcakes. Enjoy!

Manhattan cupcakes

Manhattan cupcakes

You know I love booze in my desserts, and these Manhattan cupcakes won’t disappoint (but also won’t tip you over the legal limit!)

I made these as a dessert to accompany the first meetup of a group my friend Ryan has brought together to pair intellectually stimulating conversations with excellent food. And after enjoying a lovely meal of pho and Vietnamese vermicelli dishes, everyone dug into these cocktail-themed treats.

The base for this cupcake is chocolate, though I think I’d like to try it again, but with a whiskey cake instead of chocolate.


Manhattan Cupcakes
Yield: 24-26 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients
• 2 cups flour
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 3/4 tsp salt
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
• 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 2 eggs
• 1 1/4 cup whole milk
• 2/3 cup whiskey
• 1 tsp vanilla

Extra whiskey to brush on the top of the cupcakes

Buttercream Ingredients
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 3 to 3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
• 2 tbsp sweet vermouth
• 1/4 tsp cinnamon
• 1/8 tsp cardamon

Topping: Cherries (I prefer sour cherries over maraschino cherries)

Directions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position the racks toward the center. Line cupcake pans with papers.

For the cupcakes, combine flour, baking soda, salt and sugar, whisking to blend; set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed, medium pan, melt the butter on medium-high heat. Once melted, add the cocoa — gradually — whisking to combine. The mixture should come to a simmer, but not a boil. You want it to thicken.

Once thickened, cool the cocoa mixture for about 10-15 minutes (the freezer is handy here).

In your stand mixer, whip together the eggs and milk. Add the vanilla.

Once the cocoa mixture has cooled, slowly add a little bit of the mixture to temper the eggs, keeping the mixer’s paddle spinning constantly at a slow-medium speed (You can also accomplish this by taking the bowl off the stand mixer and whisking by hand, then putting it back on to the mixer for the dry ingredients).

Add the dry ingredients in 3-4 stages. Add the whisky, mixing well to combine.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about halfway full. Bake for about 20-22 minutes. When done, transfer tins to wire racks to cool 5 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.

If you want additional whiskey flavor, brush some on to the top of each cake before frosting with the buttercream.

For the sweet vermouth buttercream frosting, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add 1 cup of sugar, beating until combined.

Add the cinnamon, cardamom, and sweet vermouth, then add the remaining sugar in 1/2 cup increments to your own taste.

Whip on high for about 5 minutes to make the buttercream light and fluffy. Fill the piping bag, already fitted with your preferred tip, and pipe the frosting onto each cupcake. Top with a cherry and enjoy!

Triple threat cupcakes: Chocolate, vanilla, and caramel

Mocha cupcakes, dipped in ganache, topped with vanilla bean buttercream and finished with salted caramel

These are the cupcakes you bake when you want simple, well-loved flavors, but still want to impress the ever-living crap out of people. They’re a triple threat of chocolate, vanilla, and caramel and they LOOK classy as hell.

Gotta love a classy cupcake, right?

I made this as a mini-fundraiser for PAWS, a local shelter that I volunteer for and love very much. My coworkers and friends rose to the occasion, and from their pockets alone $79 was raised. To come up with a more rounded number, I threw in an extra $21 so we could make a $100 donation, which will enable PAWS to do some combination of the following:

PAWS donation possibilities

This cupcake was also a great way to get me back into the groove of baking, while still exercising my creative muscles just enough. I highly recommend putting the work into this recipe, because you won’t be disappointed when people are wowed by the dessert you bring to the table, that’s for sure!

Another quick note: I’m going to be gradually transferring all my recipes out of the various recipe plugins I’ve used over the years and into the main body of the post. I don’t like how they’re displayed currently, and since I’m a bit of a layout and formatting priss at work, this is definitely driving me nuts here. It’s going to be a slow process to convert, but totally worth it in the long end!


Triple Threat Cupcakes: Chocolate, Vanilla, and Caramel
Yield: 24-26 cupcakes

Mocha Cupcake Ingredients
• 2 cups flour
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 3/4 tsp salt
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
• 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp freshly brewed coffee
• 2 tbsp espresso powder
• 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1 tsp vanilla

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients
• 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
• 1/2 cup heavy cream

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Ingredients
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2 cups confectioners sugar
• Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• Heavy cream as needed

Salted Caramel Ingredients
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 2 tbsp water
• 1/4 cup heavy cream
• 1 tsp salt
• 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
Start with the salted caramel so it has time to cool to room temperature. Stir together granulated sugar and water in a saucepan, bringing to a boil over medium high heat. Cook without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color.

Remove from heat and slowly add in cream, stirring, until very smooth.

Add the vanilla and salt and stir until fully combined.

Let caramel cool for about 20 minutes, until it is just barely warm and still pourable.

For the cupcakes, heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position the racks toward the center. Line cupcake pans with papers.

For the cupcakes, combine flour, baking soda, salt and sugar, whisking to blend; set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed, medium pan, melt the butter on medium-high heat. Once melted, add the coffee and whisk together. Add the espresso powder and cocoa — gradually — whisking to combine. The mixture should come to a simmer, but not a boil. You want it to thicken.

Once thickened, cool the cocoa mixture for about 10-15 minutes (the freezer is handy here).

In your stand mixer, whip together the eggs and milk. Add the vanilla.

Once the cocoa mixture has cooled, slowly add a little bit of the mixture to temper the eggs, keeping the mixer’s paddle spinning constantly at a slow-medium speed (You can also accomplish this by taking the bowl off the stand mixer and whisking by hand, then putting it back on to the mixer for the dry ingredients).

Add the dry ingredients in 3-4 stages, mixing well to combine.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about halfway full. Bake for about 20-22 minutes. When done, transfer tins to wire racks to cool 5 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.

For the chocolate ganache, heat the heavy cream until simmering. Pour over the chocolate chips in a bowl and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Stir to combine and cool slightly so the mixture thickens a bit.

Once the cupcakes are fully cooled, dip the tops into the ganache, then let them sit and set before piping buttercream on. Wait at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours (just make sure they’re kept safe in a covered container).

For the buttercream frosting, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar a 1/2 cup at a time, beating until combined between measurements. Add the vanilla bean seeds and vanilla extract and beat on medium high speed for 2-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Double fig honey blondies with pretzel crust

Double Fig Honey Blondies with Pretzel Crust

Photo by Julia Silva

[Mel’s note: I’m slowly getting back into baking — whee! — but in the meantime, I want to share some of the original recipes I crafted for Table Matters with all of you. Recipes are my own, but I will be featuring the images of some talented photographers who were kind enough to make my desserts look damn near magical]

Bake these when you want to impress people with something decadent, yet quirky. The honey and figs — either chopped or jammed — are a perfect match, and the slightly salty pretzel crust keeps the dessert bars from being too sweet.

Cut these on the small size: Anything larger than a 1 x 2-inch rectangle will be too much due to their richness. Turkey and Calimyrna figs are both easier to find dried, but feel free to use fresh if you can find them.

For the jam, I like to use this recipe from the Kitchn when I’m working from dried figs.

Double Fig Honey Blondies with Pretzel Crust

Yields: 16 1 x 2 inch blondies

  • Pretzel Crust Ingredients
  • ½ cup flour
  • 4 oz pretzels (yields approximately 1 cup pulverized pretzels)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • Blondie Ingredients
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup de-stemmed and chopped Turkey figs or Calimyrna figs
  • 4-6 tbsp Mission fig jam

Heat the oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit and center the rack in the oven. Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with aluminum foil so that the foil overhangs the edges. Spray the foil with nonstick spray.

To make the pretzel crust, pulverize the pretzels in a food processor until broken down into small bits. Add the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon to the food processor and pulse to combine. Pour in the melted butter, pulse until the crust begins to come together (you’ll see it darken slightly and begin to clump).

Scrape the mixture into the lined baking pan, spreading out evenly, then pat down, making sure the crust is spread into the corners. Bake for 10-12 minutes until fragrant, then cool while making the blondie batter.

For the blondies, combine the flour, salt and cardamom in a mixing bowl and set aside. Combine the melted butter, light brown sugar and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla and egg, beating until combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients, beating slowly. Add the chopped figs and mix until they just come together — don’t overbeat.

Pour the blondie batter over the pretzel crust, gently spreading the blondie out to the sides as evenly as possible. Dollop 4 to 6 tablespoons of the mission fig jam on top of the batter. Use a knife to gently swirl the jam into the batter (do not cut down into the crust).

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the middle looks set (the blondies will still be a bit soft in the middle, but they’re better a little gooey!)

Cool fully on a rack before slicing.

Bacon Asiago Fig Scones

Bacon Asiago Fig Scones

Photo by Julia Silva

[Mel’s note: I’m slowly getting back into baking — whee! — but in the meantime, I want to share some of the original recipes I crafted for Table Matters with all of you. Recipes are my own, but I will be featuring the images of some talented photographers who were kind enough to make my desserts look damn near magical]

Because this recipe is designed so you can make and freeze the scones ahead of time, you can have them almost anytime you have a craving — and 20 minutes to spare! The bacon gives the scones a smoky flavor, and the chunks of figs give them a good chew, while the pastry surrounding the fruit flakes and melts in your mouth.

These would pair wonderfully with clotted cream, and really round out the breakfast plate. Feel free to sub in the same amount of dried Mission figs if fresh ones are unavailable.

Bacon Asiago Fig Scones

Yield: 8 Scones

  • Scone Ingredients
  • 2½ cups flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • 6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • ¾ cups de-stemmed and chopped Mission figs
  • 1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing on tops of scones
  • 1 egg
  • 4 strips of cooked bacon, cooled and crumbled
  • ¼ cup finely shredded asiago

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse for 12-15 times, until the butter is pea-sized. Empty the contents of the food processor’s bowl into a large mixing bowl. Add the figs, crumbled bacon, and asiago, and toss to combine.

Whisk the cream and egg together in a 2-cup measuring cup. Pour into the flour/butter mixture. Using a spatula, gradually fold the wet ingredients into the dry, turning the bowl as you fold. When the dough begins to come together, switch over to a bowl scraper to really bring it together into a ball, kneading it a little bit.

Scatter some flour onto your work space and turn the dough out onto it. Pat it down into a 7-inch circle and cut into 8 triangles. Place on a parchment paper-lined pan and freeze until solid, about 2 hours. Place in a plastic freezer bag, and the scones will keep for several weeks in the freezer.

When you’re ready to bake the scones, heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the scones on a parchment-lined pan, spread out so they’re at least 1-2 inches apart. Brush the scones with cream. Bake for 20-22 minutes, turning the pan halfway through. Cool slightly before removing from the pan. These are best served warm.

Hey there National Pizza Day!

Homemade pizza

 

I found out a little late, but yes, today — Feb. 9 — is National Pizza Day. Of course, it seems like every day of the year is National Something or Another, but pizza has always been one of my favorite things to make. It’s a great party entree, perfect for a small dinner when you size it down … and you know. It’s PIZZA!

So to celebrate, here’s a recipe for pizza dough that I’ve used for several years. It’s trusted, true, and makes enough to either prep 2 pizzas for a party or 4 pizzas for two!

Homemade pizza with marinara

Homemade crust, homemade marinara sauce, pickled banana peppers, sage, basil, rosemary, mozzarella and fresh cracked pepper.

 

Perfect Pizza Dough

  • Pizza Dough Ingredients
  • 1 lb bread flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey or sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 8 oz water, room temperature
  • Optional: fresh cracked pepper, herbs
  • Selection of delicious sauces and toppings

Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and combine the flour, oil, honey (or sugar), salt, and yeast in the bowl.

Pour in the water and mix on low speed until combined, 1-2 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until the dough becomes a pretty tight ball. It should be a little tacky, but should not stick to the bowl.

Spray a large mixing bowl (at least twice the size of the dough) with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around, coating all sides.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and ferment. You have 2 options here:

• Room temperature: Place the covered bowl in a slightly warm area and let the dough rise for 2-4 hours.

• Refrigerator: If you don’t have time to let the dough ferment at room temperature, or would like a slightly-sweet dough, refrigerate for at least 8 hours before working with it. Bring up to room temperature before working with the dough.

Once you’re ready to divide the dough, lightly flour your work surface. Place the dough on it and divide it into 4 (for pizzas that will serve 2 people 2 slices) or 2 (for a pizza that will fit a traditional pizza pan).

Wrap the dough pieces up in plastic wrap and freeze what you’re not using.

For the piece of dough you are using, shape it and place it on a lightly floured pizza pan (or use a pizza stone, if that’s your thing).

To bake, heat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Prebake the crust with nothing on it for 5 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven, add your toppings, and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes (or until your cheese is either melty or golden, depending on your cheese).

 

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