We all know that candy bar- the one with coconut and almonds surrounded in chocolate. Right? You totally know what I’m talking about. It’s one of my favorites. Definitely in the top 10, anyway, since my absolute favorites are anything with caramel.
I made these with very finely chopped almonds, almond extract, toasted coconut and melted semi-sweet chocolate chips. I should probably also say I made these after shoveling for about an hour and a half, so at that point I was ready to throw everything in my cabinet into some kind of baked goods.
Feliz Día de Los Muertos, everybody! And if you’re a person of faith, Happy All Souls Day. Today is a date on the calendar that holds a lot of tradition and meaning, in many cultures.
Traditionally, these cookies are Italian cookies used to celebrate All Souls Day, which is today. The name is Ossi di Morto or Ossa de Mordere, and that means “bones of the dead.” Because of the tie-ins between Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and All Saints Day/All Souls Day, my idea was that they’d be a fantastic way to celebrate both days and both celebrations together, as one. They are so similar it seems only right… and we’ll get to that in a sec.
Growing up, my nana told me all about All Souls Day. My nana was 100% Irish, born to a mother who was a first-generation American, and her mother in turn was right off the boat so to speak. The tales and superstitions were a plenty. I grew up hearing all about them, and all about the reverence and respect for the dead this time of year is about. Traditionally, today is a Christian day to remember the souls of the departed, which to Catholics is known as the Commemoration of The Faithful Departed. Its a day to pray for those who’ve passed on, to remember them. You may be thinking, “Uhm, thats the same thing that the Day of the Dead is.” And you’re right. But you might not know that originally, the Day of the Dead was celebrated in summertime. During the 16th century Spanish colonization, Mexicans moved their celebrations of Día de Los Muertos to October 31, November 1 and 2 to coincide with the triduum of All Saint’s Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. November 1st is All Saints Day, however in Mexico it’s known as Día de Los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día de Los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels) and is primarily honoring deceased infants and children. The prayers were traditionally posed to the goddess known as Lady of the Dead, now known as La Calaveras Catrina– the popular skeleton woman we see in drawings and depictions.
Of course, the Mexican way of “celebrating” these days are actual celebrations; food- yes, those sugar skulls too, parties, parades, decorating ancestors graves and of course prayer too. The Catholic version of All Souls Day is more somber, however in Italy they do light candles in the streets and have a bigger, louder celebration of today than perhaps most other Europeans. Brazilians also have a similar way of celebrating today, they call it Dia de Finados and it’s a public holiday.
I did grow up loosely Catholic- so I’m well aware of the ins and outs of these days and I prefer the Mexican version myself, even though I am not of Mexican heritage.
Remember that Revlon lipstick, Cherries in the Snow? I believe they still make it. I remember as a kid my mom wore it, and I loved the name. What a great name for a lipstick. It was one of their best sellers for many, many years by the time I came along. Anyway… I always think of that lipstick when I see cherries, so it was more than a great name, it was great marketing!
This post isn’t really about Revlon or makeup or anything related to it at all, actually. It is, however, about cherries. Sweet, perfect cherries from the Rainier Fruit Company. And of course, part 1 (part 1… yes, there will be more) of what I did with them!
This post has nothing to do with babies. Not human ones. It has to do with another kind of baby: bundt cakes.
Did I mention I was getting married? Yep. No, no… really. Seriously. I’m actually actively planning a wedding. CRAZY, right? For someone who never wanted or thought she’d get married and who’s been engaged for almost two years it seems strange. But it’s true. And when you announce this fact, similar to when you announce the engagement, you end up with a few surprises showing up at your door, gift wrapped very sweetly from gorgeous houseware stores. The other day I got another one of these beautiful boxes, and I almost hated to even open it. Almost.
Inside were a set of bakeware from Williams-Sonoma, and two Silpats. Right off of our registry. From my lovely Matron of Honor & her husband. So sweet! We’re spoiled. One of the baking pans was a Nordic-Ware mini bundt pan, which I had wanted forever. No really. ForEVER.
That came super quick, didn’t it? Or maybe it’s just me.
Regardless, it’s here now. And on Christmas Eve I have a few family traditions: making the last of my Christmas Day treats (usually more fudge), pre-cooking whatever has to be done for Christmas Day (if anything), wrapping up any last minute gifts, and a eating a dinner made up of a variety of appetizers while drinking cocktails & watching A Christmas Carol; more specifically, the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim (the best version, in my humble opinion). Sometimes there’s a big, gigantic tin of assorted flavor popcorn thrown in there as well. That’s been the tradition in my house for as long as I can remember. When Jay came into the family, we had to work around his schedule as well as everyone else’s, which wasn’t really an issue until he became a cop. Then that kind of really threw a monkey wrench into things. And I don’t say that negatively; I say it meaning sometimes the Christmas Eve traditions end up being on Christmas Day, while the Christmas Day dinner ends up on Christmas Eve. Or sometimes, the big family Christmas dinner is pushed forward to the 26th or 27th. But that’s totally fine with me. I’m adaptable. I like having multiple celebrations, anyway… it’s fun to spread out the awesomeness for a few days!
(Pardon these photos… the lighting was poor & I was kind of rushing. I hope you get the gist of it, and can enjoy them anyway)
I had to make cupcakes for Christmas, that’s obvious. So I baked up those delicious Stollen-inspired cupcakes, courtesy of the Food Network magazine.
Stollen is a bread-like fruitcake made with yeast, water and flour, and usually with zest added to the dough. Candied orange peel and candied citrus peel (Zitronat),raisins and almonds, and different spices such as cardamom and cinnamon are added. Other ingredients, such as milk, sugar, butter, salt, rum, eggs, vanilla, other dried fruits and nuts and marzipan may also be added to the Stollen dough. Except for the fruit added, the dough is quite low in sugar. The finished cake is sprinkled with icing sugar. The traditional weight of a Stollen is around 4.4 pounds (2 kg), but smaller sizes are now available.
The Dresden Stollen (originally Striezel), a moist, heavy bread filled with fruit, was first mentioned in an official document in 1474, and the most famous Stollen is still the Dresdner Stollen, sold, amongst other places, at the local Christmas market, Striezelmarkt. Dresden Stollen is produced in the city of Dresden and distinguished by a special seal depicting King Augustus II the Strong. This “official” Stollen is produced by only 150 Dresden bakers.
So of course, these cupcakes aren’t genuine Stollen. They’re just inspired by it, and because I have this weird thing where my cupcakes have to have frosting, I added a vanilla whipped cream-ish frosting. I swear, making these cupcakes with no frosting almost killed me. I absolutely HAD to frost them! However, if you aren’t as opposed to frosting-less cupcakes, you can leave it at the confectioner’s sugar, or make a simple icing with heavy cream, rum & confectioner’s sugar to drizzle on top.
Also, that tablecloth in the photos was handmade by my mother when she was 10 years old. It’s red felt, with a little white fringed edge, and cut out green felt trees decorated with glitter, beads, sequins, & paillettes. That tablecloth plus my grandmother’s “spaghetti ware” Santas, the retro-y Meri Meri Merry & Bright Christmas cupcake kit I had & the stollen-inspired cupcakes (stollen always seems like an old fashioned dessert/bread to me), really made it feel like a vintage Christmas.
STOLLEN-INSPIRED CUPCAKES (adapted from the Food Network magazine, Dec. 2012)
Makes about 1 dozen cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
1/4 cup of a mix of citron, dried currants, dried cranberries & raisins, or whatever you like (optional)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup marzipan, room temperature & softened slightly
1/3 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted (for topping)
confectioner’s sugar (for dusting)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a larger bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), beat the softened butter with the marzipan and sugar until fluffy. Then beat in the 2 eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla & almond extract.
Slowly beat in the flour mixture and 1/3 cup milk in alternating batches. Divide among 12 prepared muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full, and bake 20-25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and set aside for five minutes. Brush with melted butter while still warm, but not hot, and dust with confectioner’s sugar. When 100% cooled, then frost.
1 cup whipping cream (regular or heavy, I used heavy)
5 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in small bowl to soften.
Scald 2 tablespoon of the cream; pour over gelatin, stirring till dissolved.
Refrigerate until consistency of unbeaten egg white. (This takes about 10-15 minutes.) Then, with a whisk, beat until smooth.In a stand mixer with a whip attachment, or with a hand beater, whip remaining cream, salt and sugar; whip in the smoothed gelatin mixture, stopping to scrape the bowl twice.
This recipe stands up well, even in warm weather. Keep leftover frosting and any product topped with it in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
I’ll avoid any overly sappy holiday messages… all I will say is that this Christmas we all have so much to be thankful for. After the Newtown, CT shooting I’m sure we all had a little wakeup call about that. I know all the parents that I know certainly did, and me too. I may not be a parent- but life is short, and you should appreciate what you have while you have it. You just never know what may come tomorrow. So be thankful for your family & friends & pets, tell them you love them every chance you get & don’t let fear get the best of you. I had to remind myself that after being in NYC during the 9/11 attacks- when it was time to get back on that train, it was kind of hard to do. Fear of what could happen should never take away from your life, or interfere with you living. And I know there are some parents who might feel a form of survivor’s guilt; why did their child live? How did they get to be so lucky when others were so terribly devastatingly ruined by this? I don’t know why or how, but I do know that you should just be thankful & not let that guilt or those questions take one minute of time away from you enjoying your family as much as possible. I don’t have the answers. And I don’t really have anything to say that can solve this, provide comfort, or take pain away from anyone. I do know that sweets make people happy. And when I make people happy, it gives me solace that my one little tiny act of baking a cake or pressing “publish” can maybe help make someone smile in an otherwise shitty situation. So in that vein, I’m continuing to light up my little section of the web with deliciousness (& hopefully a few laughs). Food can sometimes give the comfort words themselves can’t.
I’ll leave it at that and I’ll just get right to the point…
Snackle Mouth is an awesome company. I’ve done twodifferent posts with their delicious granola snacks before, and I had so many more ideas floating around my head. So I was thrilled when they offered me some boxes of their new varieties: Bacon Maple and Salty Chocolate. BACON. MAPLE. Did you read that? Bacon maple. And salty mutha’f’n chocolate. WHAT. Yes.
Sweet and Salty….we get it and we likey! Breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night, snack time – seriously, any time is the right time to eat Chocolate. So, we baked in loads of yum and sprinkled just the right amount of sea salt for a little zippy-do.
They sent these to me around a month ago, perhaps longer, and I couldn’t wait to start experimenting. But first comes the taste testing! And after thoroughly testing each one, I had some serious thinking to do. I had already done a coffee cake, and made parfaits with it. And being early August at the time, there weren’t a lot of “cozy” moments; it was hot as hell. So I was a little hesitant to bake. But that’s what I do, yanno? I bake. I get down in the kitchen with a wooden spoon and beat batter & people with whisks. Plus, fall is swiftly coming upon us. And I know the warm, late-summer days & nights are numbered. In a few weeks, maybe even days, things will change; I’ll be cooking up (& eating up) fall treats & I’ll want to wear toasty, fall-y clothes.
But now? Now there are still those hot, sweaty & humid days. Except now there are more of the much cooler, lovely nights. And I like to spend those nights drinking an Octoberfest or Pumpkin Ale, sitting around the fire pit. The smell of burning wood & toasting marshmallows, the crackling & snapping sounds, the need for a (light) sweater. So with all that in mind, I decided to bake something with the Snackle Mouth after all. And I came up with these babies:
Salty chocolate granola campfire bars. The granola’s name, Snackle Mouth, kind of reminds me of the crackle of a fire. So I thought, why not incorporate their salty chocolate granola into a more portable version of the classic campfire treat: the s’more. You all already know I love s’mores. But they can be messy, you know? And yeah the messiness can be the entire point, and even what makes it so fun, but what if you want a s’more at like, 12 noon on a random Thursday? Or while you’re at school… and there’s no campfire? That, my friends. That’s why you make these.
The bottom “cookie” layer has a graham crackery taste, but yet it’s soft, like a chewy chocolate chip cookie base. The chocolate chips melt just enough and the saltiness of the Snackle Mouth combined with the marshmallows… UGH. So delicious. And sweet. And a little salty.
I made this recipe three times, each a few weeks apart, and wrote and rewrote it numerous times before I got it to the point where it was good enough to write up for you guys on the blog.
I think this is it.
SALTY CHOCOLATE GRANOLA CAMPFIRE BARS
1 stick unsalted butter, melted & cooled to just slightly warm
Preheat your oven to 350° F. Line an 8″ x 11″ brownie pan (or a 9″ x 13″ pan) with parchment paper & spray lightly with PAM, or brush a little of the melted butter on it. Set aside.
Combine the butter, sugars, flour, vanilla, salt and honey in a bowl with a hand mixer. Once it’s thoroughly combined, pat the dough into the prepared baking pan, a handful at a time. It will be very moist but very crumbly. Using your (clean!) hands, press it and push it together to form a cohesive dough. Make sure it’s as even as you can get it so it bakes evenly. I made it slightly lower in the middle, making a little “crust” on the edges like a deep dish pizza, but you don’t have to do that.
Spread the chocolate chips on top in an even layer, pressing them into the dough just slightly. Bake it for about 15-20 minutes, or until the chips are almost but not yet completely melted. Remove from the oven and add the Snackle Mouth granola, pushing it down in between and on top of the chips.
Bake another 15-20 minutes or until the crust is baked through. Remove the pan from oven. On top of the granola layer, arrange the marshmallows evenly while it’s still hot.
Turn on the broiler and place the pan under the broiler until the marshmallows begin to toast & melt slightly. Remove immediately and let cool completely to room temperature before slicing.
If you drape the parchment like I did, it helps when you’re taking them out of the pan. If you’d rather cut them on a board instead of in the pan, just lift them up & out. Once they’re 100% cooled that is. Look at this melty goodness.
They were sweet, messy (when eaten on the warmer side as I did- I couldn’t help it) and perfectly campfire-y. I guess I’m just on a toasted marshmallow kick lately, huh? So I hope by now you’ve realized that granola, especially Snackle Mouth, isn’t just for snacking on right out of the box or for making into granola bars. You can use it in all sorts of different ways- coffee cakes, parfaits, cookie bars. And there’s more to come! I have tons of ideas. But these will tide me over until I come up with an appropriate Bacon Maple recipe. Hmm…
I think it goes without saying I lit a fire in the fire pit, settled in next to it and ate these until I couldn’t stand it anymore! And I hope that this Labor Day, you do the same, hopefully while remembering the reasons you have off from work.
“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good & loaded & whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon Appetit.” -Julia Child
I think every food blogger in the universe has been inspired by the book and the ensuing movieJulie & Julia; or at the very least thought, “Wow… that could happen to me!” But we love it not just because it’s a fabulous blogger-makes-good story, but because it involves Julia. The unflappable and beloved Julia Child, she herself who is an example of the very same path most of us food bloggers have taken: non-cook morphs into cook (or baker) and writes about it. And then- success! However, with bloggers, if we’re lucky we get one one-thousandth (or one one-millionth) of the readers that over the years have bought, read and attempted to execute recipes from Julia’s books. Julia was a pioneer in many ways, and her life was fascinating. Her relationship with her husband Paul reminds me a lot of my relationship with Jay; he was un-endingly supportive and encouraging of her in all her exploits & possible craziness. Of course he & I are not quite Julia & Paul Child clones- I doubt Julia ever had a mohawk and Paul was certainly never a cop nor was he in a death metal band- but seriously. Jay has humored me in all of my blogging lunacy, and it can also be said that without him there might not even BE a blog. And without Paul, there would have been no Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So yes, at this point it may seem cliche to love her and be a big fan of hers, but I can’t deny that I spent a large portion of my childhood watching the show Julia had on PBS with Jacques Pépin: Cooking at Home (as well as watching The Galloping Gourmet, the Frugal Gourmet & Yan Can Cook… remember those dudes!?). I always loved Julia, even before I knew who she was & how important she was. And whenever we were at my aunt & uncle’s house for dinner, my Uncle Pat used to do a hilarious impression of her while he cooked.
Well, today would’ve been Julia Child’s 100th birthday.
Child was born Julia Carolyn McWilliams in Pasadena, California, the daughter of John McWilliams, Jr., a Princeton University graduate and prominent land manager, and his wife, the former Julia Carolyn (“Caro”) Weston, a paper-company heiress whose father, Byron Curtis Weston, served as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. The eldest of three children, she had a brother, John III (1914–2002), and a sister, Dorothy Dean (1917–2006).
Following her graduation from college, Child moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter for the advertising department of upscale home-furnishing firm W. & J. Sloane. Returning to California in 1937, she spent the next four years writing for local publications, working in advertising, and volunteering with the Junior League of Pasadena.
Child repeatedly recalled her first meal in Rouen as a culinary revelation; once, she described the meal of oysters, sole meunière, and fine wine to The New York Times as “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.” In Paris, she attended the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and later studied privately with Max Bugnard and other master chefs. She joined the women’s cooking club Cercle des Gourmettes, through which she met Simone Beck, who was writing a French cookbook for Americans with her friend Louisette Bertholle. Beck proposed that Child work with them, to make the book appeal to Americans.
In 1951, Child, Beck, and Bertholle began to teach cooking to American women in Child’s Paris kitchen, calling their informal school L’école des trois gourmandes (The School of the Three Food Lovers). For the next decade, as the Childs moved around Europe and finally to Cambridge, Massachusetts, the three researched and repeatedly tested recipes. Child translated the French into English, making the recipes detailed, interesting, and practical.
In 1963, the Childs built a home near the Provence town of Plascassier in the hills above Cannes on property belonging to co-author Simone Beck and her husband, Jean Fischbacher. The Childs named it “La Pitchoune“, a Provençal word meaning “the little one” but over time the property was often affectionately referred to simply as “La Peetch”.
PBS announced an interactive celebration called Cook For Julia about a month ago, and I really wanted to participate. So I popped ‘Julie & Julia’ in the DVD player, flipped through Mastering the Art of French Cooking and got to work! ‘Cause see, I was debating doing a version of Julia’s cherry clafoutis, just with “drunken cherries” instead. That’s when I decided (as I often do) to go against the grain. And not just recreate a Julia recipe as they suggested, because everyone will be doing that… but instead, I made Julia some birthday cupcakes. That is, after all, what I do best. Cupcakes. For people in my family, every year, they get a batch of birthday cupcakes, and Julia should get the family treatment. Not only that but what better ingredient to use in a birthday cupcake than alcohol? Or even better… alcohol-soaked fruit?
Remember my bourbon cherries? Well the one month waiting period is up! And those little bourbon cherries are ready (and in turn, the cherry-infused bourbon is ready, too, but that’s another post).
I was thinking, what can I make with this stuff? I mean… a drink is obvious. Using the bourbon to make a glaze is obvious. And to plop one of these cherries in a cold glass of Coke is obvious, too. But I wanted to do something a little different. And after all, Julia loved to cook with liquor, and she even put it in the food sometimes. *wink*
So I decided to make cupcakes with those drunken little cherries instead of using them in a clafoutis! By the way, if you remember a while back (on my birthday, actually) I mentioned that those vanilla cupcakes were my new favorite- well, this is them. They’re moist with a great vanilla flavor and they aren’t cornbread-y.
CHERRY-BOMB CUPCAKES FOR JULIA
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup sour cream
12 brandy-infused cherries (stems, pits & all- you can also use regular fresh Bing cherries, but if you do, substitute 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract in the recipe with either Kirsch, brandy or bourbon)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir with a whisk lightly to incorporate. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the butter and sugar. Using the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Slowly add the vanilla (and/or Kirsch), milk and sour cream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually mix in the flour mixture.
Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full. Push a cherry into each, keeping stem end up. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.
Let cool 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Cakes can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature overnight.
Make sure, before serving, to tell everyone they still have the pits in them! No broken teeth for Julia’s birthday, k? It’s easiest to eat these with a spoon, that way you can eat around the pits… which brings me to what I served them with…
I served them with a some whipped cream in a jar, ’cause it just seemed like the right thing to do. It seemed like a delicious, fun, offbeat kinda way of topping these off, and just the kinda thing Julia would’ve approved of. It’s really cool, actually, and if you keep shaking it, you’ll get butter. Which also seemed incredibly appropriate for Julia.
We all know that long before Paula Deen, Julia Child was the Queen of Butter.
All you have to do is take a clean, empty 8-oz. jar. Fill it with 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, 1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar and two drops of pure vanilla extract. Close the jar tightly and shake! Seriously. Shake it. For anywhere from 2-3 minutes, vigorously. If you keep going, like I said, you’ll get butter. Then you can refrigerate it, add a little salt and shmear it on some toast. But if you wanna keep it at the whipped cream, be sure to check it after 3 minutes of shaking.
It has an amazing fresh taste. If you like your whipped cream on the sweeter side, add 1 full teaspoon of sugar.
They’re definitely an adult cupcake, not for children. You can definitely taste the bourbon, however it’s not overwhelming or overpowering at all. It just gives the cake and the cherry an extra added oomph. And the whipped cream on the side is just perfection. And as a matter of fact, it’s excellent to make at a dinner or a party. It would be so much fun to have your guests help you make it! Make the cupcakes, set them out, and then fill the jar with the ingredients. Then just pass it around, letting each person shake it. Then… voilà! Fresh whipped cream! And of course serving the entire kit & kaboodle with a cocktail made from the cherry bourbon is a must. Taking a swig or two while baking is probably even more of a must.
So that’s the end of my little tribute. I hope it’s something Julia would’ve been proud of. I can’t help but think that she would be… although seeing how she wasn’t a fan of Julie Powell (and her sometimes irreverent attitude) I don’t know if she’d much like me or my little blog. But it doesn’t matter. Because I have nothing but the utmost love and respect for her and all she did to pave the way for food freaks like me to feel comfortable talking about our dinners with such passion, our desserts with such gusto and our butter with such adoration.
Regardless of how she would feel about me, Happy 100th Birthday, Julia!
I love you, and as evidenced by this celebration, I think we all still love you. Bon Appetit!
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