Category: jelly

Red currant cupcakes.

This is probably the first and last time you’ll see red currants on this blog.

Red currants.

Enjoy it.

See… they don’t grow locally. And they’re usually imported, and they’re usually pricey. Like $5.99 for 6 ounces pricey. Mmm hmm. And they’re not for everybody. They’re not like apples or oranges that everyone loves. They’re kind of a niche product. Most Americans don’t even know what a red currant tastes like, let alone have they seen one.

I’m telling you. My whole life and I’ve seen fresh currants TWICE in a market. TWICE.

Red currant cupcakes.

But that’s why they’re perfect for Valentine’s Day. Because they’re hard to find, they cost a pretty penny, and they’re just pretty. They have these perfectly round, translucent little orbs on the cutest little vines. They’re very delicate, too, and you realize when working with them just how hard it must be to pick them without crushing them. Which I’m sure only adds to the price.

I stretched out 12 ounces of red currants to make two 8-oz. jars of red currant jelly and then I used a bit of that jelly to fill some cupcakes. And I had to top them with fresh red currants too. I mean… if we’re gonna be decadent and floss a little bit… *pops collar*

Red currant jelly.

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Hard cider jelly… yes please!

When (if ever) is it appropriate to quote Destiny’s Child when posting a jelly recipe? Just asking for a friend.

“I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly”: A few months ago, the folks at Woodchuck Hard Cider asked me to create some recipes with their ciders. They sent me a bunch of different ones to sample & create with, and when I got them it was so hot out I couldn’t even think of cooking. So, I made a cocktail. And it was delicious.

But now that it’s fall, and it’s apple-time, I started thinking about those other ciders. And I thought, “Why not make a hard cider jelly?” I did it with champagne, Guinness, and tea (twice! No- three times!), so why the hell not use a hard apple cider?

Jelly made from Woodchuck hard apple cider.

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2014 canning round-up!

Canning round-up 2014 - Cupcake Rehab dot com

Spring is here, summer is coming in a few weeks. Which means I’m sure that most of you “canners” (or preservers, or dabblers) have started making your lists for spring/summer 2014, or even started canning already. If you even make lists at all- which I usually don’t, but I’m trying to be  more organized this year. I haven’t really stopped canning all year, myself, between apples & pears in the fall, & all the winter citrus fruits, then the rhubarb. But this is really the time to start to prepare for the canning boom… pickled cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, & berry jams & jellies, oh my.

So this year I thought I’d do a little preparation post slash canning round-up, and what better to feature in the post than some of my vintage jar collection & my 1945 Kerr Home Canning book!

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New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

A vintage NYE! (click through for NYE recipes)

Well it’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, as Dick Clark would say. In just a few short hours, 2014 will be here. In case you’re lacking recipe ideas for today, I figured I’d give you some. Consider it a belated Christmas gift. Most of them require nothing more than a bottle of champagne & a quick run to the grocery store.

  • Champagne parfaits: A delicious & easy “champagne jell-O” that takes absolutely no time to make. A grown-up jell-O shot, if you will. Click here for the recipe.
  • Champagne jelly: Excellent melted on roast chicken, or as a topping on a chicken sandwich. And also excellent with cheese on crackers. But I’m sure you can come up with other uses! Recipe can be found here. (FYI: these jars were also a 2011 Well Preserved Pimp That Preserve winner!)
  • Champagne cupcakes: No explanation needed! Champagne cupcakes with sweet champagne frosting. Get the details right here.

This year I knew I wouldn’t be around; I’m presently packing to go to Connecticut. Jay is playing a show tonight at The Webster in Harftord, so I’m going with him. I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon.. so therefore no NYE recipes for me this year. Boo hoo. But also kind of exciting- it’s the first time he’s been off for NYE since 2009! And that means it’s also literally a New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

I hope you all have a fantastic New Year’s Eve, and an even better 2014. See you next year…

Happy New Year... A NYE recipe compilation! And most things don't even require more than an extra bottle of bubbly.

Freshly minted.

Fresh mint! Turn it into jelly in less than 15 minutes!

One of the best parts of having a garden in the summer is the fresh herbs. I use my cilantro in tacos, salsa, guacamole & jasmine rice while the green coriander seeds go into pickles, I use the basil & oregano on fresh pizza, Caprese salad or in tomato sauce as well as drying some, the dill goes into pickles & gets dried for winter soups & sauces, the tarragon goes into flavored vinegar & gets dried, same goes for the sage, etc. Everything gets used, ultimately, whether it gets used fresh… or dried.

Mint is excellent when used fresh. It’s awesome in water or lemonade, or as a garnish on ice creams/sorbets. But if you’re growing mint & not making homemade mint jelly, you’re seriously missing out. Even if you don’t like it you probably know someone who loves to smear it on lamb chops or a leg of lamb, so gift it to them.

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Blogging is hard. But there are cookies.

Most likely as you read that title, you thought to yourself, “Oh boo hoo. Rough life, baking/cooking & blogging about it. Cry me a river.” I wouldn’t be angry with you if you did, it’s a valid point. I do write about cupcakes, after all. And aside from that, I know a lot of people view blogging in general as superficial, silly, or self-indulgent. And that’s cool. Opinions are like assho- well, you know the rest. We’re all entitled. I do wish more people would understand what goes into blogging, or running a successful blog, before they made such a statement or held firmly to the thought that I’m just a vain, self-important ninny who likes to babble to herself on the interwebs.

Blogging is hard. Food blogging especially. But there are cookies...

Workspace.

I get it. I’m a punk rock kid grown into a woman who really could care less about what anyone else thinks (both about her & otherwise), and I have a blog. I’m not a professional chef, nor am I a writer. I’m not winning any James Beard awards or Nobel Peace Prizes… at least not that I know of. I’m not curing cancer, or inventing anything new & exciting. I’m pretty much just an average, every day home cook & baker with (a lot of) stuff to say. But believe me when I tell you- this is harder than it looks, it’s like a full-time job in and of itself and it doesn’t pay THAT well. But regardless of that, I wouldn’t stop doing it for the world.

You see, I didn’t start this blog with the intention of becoming Dooce or the Pioneer Woman. I have nothing against Heather or Ree, they’re both very interesting ladies, and hell yes I’d like to make enough money to retire & work from home strictly on blogging or have my own Food Network series & such. But that doesn’t happen to everyone, obviously, and I’m not stupid enough to expect it. I’ve been in the blog-o-sphere long enough to know these things happen randomly & are definitely not the norm. I’m what you would call the “accidental blogger”, or the reluctant blogger. See, before this blog, I’d had blogs in the past, many years ago. I thought that part of my life was over. I hadn’t gone anywhere near HTML except to build websites for people who were paying me to do so. I was just enjoying getting down in the kitchen, feeling my way through this weird new world of eating what you create (they frown upon that when you’re in art school, unless you’re on acid… in which case you get sent to a drug counselor & a therapist & your art probably gets hung in the lobby). When I began posting my baked creations on MySpace (ugh, I know, but it was 2006!) & people told me to get a blog… I dragged my feet. I eventually did, on WordPress.com. And I really liked getting back into it, but let’s face it: four people were reading my blog. And I knew all four of them. Which was fine with me! I was just enjoying it for myself, having fun with it. When I started getting comments from people I didn’t know and getting way more hits than usual, that’s when I was shocked. That’s also when I ended up with a domain & a hosting plan, courtesy of Jay, who saw something in it that I didn’t.

I guess sometimes you’re just meant to do things. And I’m meant to blog.

Joy the Baker: chasing the light
In this photo from Joy The Baker’s Instagram, you see a prime example of “chasing the light” (which I’ll discuss further in a bit)

 

So, there it was. March of 2008, I had a real blog again. With real responsibilities like installing the blogging software (this is before there was an instant installation option when you purchased your hosting plan), importing my posts from WP.com, installing “plugins”, learning PHP stuff (I was used to CGI), using widgets, finding a template for my layout, then designing it into a nicer layout, and so on. I also had to worry about spam comments, which soon began to drive me utterly bananas, leading me to install not one, not two, but THREE spam filters. My first camera wasn’t the best, and the next one I got had a flash that could blind a herd of elephants. My iPhone was a godsend when that camera broke, but it wasn’t until I got my DSLR just last summer that things really started to shine. But not everyone really cares about the photography (seriously, I don’t get it either ’cause that’s my favorite part of most blogs).

Easy jammy 'sammy' cookies! Kind of a vanilla shortbread/sugar cookie hybrid, filled with jams.

Espresso helps…

 

But all of that is really irrelevant and no one out there reading this cares… unless they’re a fellow blogger. The point I’m trying to get across: blogging isn’t as easy as it appears.

For example: recently, hackers have been attacking WordPress blogs. Why? No idea. Just because they can, I guess. So GoDaddy‘s team started working overtime to prevent any damage, and because of that my site was down off and on for three days, and when I got access I had to change my password and then delete my ‘admin’ user account and create a whole new account, as well as install even more security plugins to detect/prevent malware and all that other evil stuff. This is after already going nuts to install numerous security programs last year after my friend Yoyo’s blog was hacked. If I didn’t do all this, you might have come here & gotten a virus or had a terrible attack on your computer because someone hacked my site. On top of all of that? Google’s changes to it’s image search has drastically reduced the number of hits to blogs & websites. Most blogs are experiencing anywhere from a 40% – 75% DECREASE in hits. This is because of a few things, mostly the fact that the image search now allows you to just view the image as it is instead of clicking through to the website it’s from. But also because of Google Panda and changes to the search algorithms. Lower hits – lower money from advertising. Now I personally don’t care much, I’m not in this to make a fortune. But that’s not to say the extra money doesn’t come in handy, both to counteract hosting costs & fund other things blog-related. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop blogging- HELL NO. It’s just a small piece of the blogging pie (pun intended) that I’m attempting to explain the joys & downsides of.

Easy jammy 'sammy' cookies! Kind of a vanilla shortbread/sugar cookie hybrid, filled with jams.
… and Kraft paper helps make things look neat on your blog when your entire real life is in shambles.

It’s not all magic. There’s a lot of work that goes into this, and there are no elves or trained monkeys helping.

Another thing? The work that goes into preparing a decent blog post. Creating the recipe, writing it up, making it, hoping for good lighting by the time it’s done, possibly setting up a ridiculous “faux tableau” on the floor near a door or maybe even on a dresser, taking the photos, putting the photos on your computer/laptop, fishing out the decent ones, photo editing, photo re-editing, photo re-sizing, photo uploading, writing the blog post, re-writing the blog post to make it more interesting & less textbook, reading it & noticing grammar errors… you get the idea. That’s a lot of work. A LOT. If you’ve never done any of it, you can tell just by reading that; it sounds like a lot of work. It’s like being a photo editor, food stylist, and regular editor all at once. I happen to enjoy the photo editing & photo stuff- that’s all part of graphic design & my art background. I spend my time behind a laptop (on any given Adobe program) most of the day anyway. But still, don’t tell me it’s not work. It is. Essentially I, and most of my fellow bloggers, work on our blogs for free. Joy the Baker recently added part 2 to her original post about “Real-Talk Blog Tips” and that lays a lot of it out there for you non-bloggers in terms of what our concerns are & what kinda stuff we’re always thinking about. How we wake up early on days off to bake/cook & take good photos, and stay up late to write a clever blog post… for you.

So yes, it’s like working a second job, and for most of us it’s unpaid. But that’s all okay. Because there are cookies involved. Sometimes.

Easy jammy 'sammy' cookies! Kind of a vanilla shortbread/sugar cookie hybrid, filled with jams.

There’s a lot of heartache, stress, & bullshit involved. But I really do enjoy it. If I didn’t, I’d stop. Plus… the cookies do make it worthwhile, especially on a rough week.

So here are some really easy sandwich cookies that you can throw together at the last minute. You know, for when you need something to blog about uh, snack on.

EASY JAMMY “SAMMY” (SANDWICH) COOKIES (adapted from Martha)

Makes about 30 cookie sandwiches using a 2″ cutter, recipe can be halved

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • a variety of jams/jellies… or Nutella/Fluff/peanut butter… for filling

Directions:

  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat together butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Remove from the mixer and and knead until a dough forms.
  2. Divide in half. Flatten each piece of dough into a disk, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour and up to overnight. Bring to room temperature, about 10 minutes, before rolling.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees with racks in top and lower thirds. Roll out each disk of dough between 2 sheets of lightly floured parchment to just under 1/4 inch thick, adding more flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. Cut out shapes, making sure you’ve got an even number, rerolling scraps once. Place cookies 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  4. Bake until barely golden brown around edges, about 8 minutes for 1-inch cookies, 10 minutes for 1 1/2-inch cookies, and 12 minutes for 2-inch cookies, rotating halfway through. Let cookies cool completely on baking sheets set on wire racks.
  5. Spread (using an offset spatula) or pipe (using a pastry bag and a small plain tip) filling onto bottom side of half the cookies, and sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing gently. Repeat with all the cookies. Now turn on some Bad Religion, arrange the cookies on a plate or in some other cute display, take some photos of ’em (find the good light!) and then edit the photos. Once you’re finished, then & only then you can eat.
  6. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

Easy jammy 'sammy' cookies! Kind of a vanilla shortbread/sugar cookie hybrid, filled with jams.

These cookies are very delicate, like shortbread, so be careful in the cooling/filling phases. It’s got a really delicate vanilla flavor that’s pretty adaptable to any filling, but can be customized as well. You can just dip half of each cookie into a chocolate coating, you can add a sprinkling of crystal sugar on top before baking, etc. I like them for sandwich cookies, because the texture isn’t chewy, it’s got a snap & a crunch that reminds me of Oreo’s or those vanilla sandwich cookies.

I used caramel apple jamchocolate plum jam & vanilla-strawberry jam to fill mine, but I won’t judge you if you choose to fill your cookie sandwiches with both Nutella and a delicious jam. Do yo’ thang. Fluff goes with anything, too. Strawberry jam + Fluff, cherry jam + Nutella, grape jelly + peanut butter, peanut butter + Fluff… whatevs. Marmalade, if it’s on the thick side, works too. As does lemon curd.

Here’s a little diagram breakdown of my jamminess:

Easy jammy 'sammy' cookies! Kind of a vanilla shortbread/sugar cookie hybrid, filled with a variey of jams- although Nutella, Fluff & peanut butter work too.

Have fun. Meanwhile, I’ve gotta go do some more blogging. See ya at the next post.

Comfort food.

I don’t know about you, but this time of year is a tad depressing for me. It’s gray, it’s cold, it’s either snowing or there’s freezing rain pelting the windows, the Christmas lights are either down already or coming down this week, and most people have tossed their poor little Christmas trees to the curb (not me, however). And at the curb is where they lay, getting splashed by the car tires of passersby sloshing through the puddles of melted snow or rain. Their once proud needles falling off, now surrounding them like the Liliputs surrounding Gulliver as he awakens on the beach. It’s a sad state of affairs. The next “holiday” isn’t until February 14th, and that leaves over one month of dark, cold, bleak winter days to trudge through. I don’t do resolutions, but if I did? Mine would be something like “Don’t hide under the covers until April,” ’cause I really need that reminder this time of year.

And all of that calls for comfort food: thick & creamy baked macaroni & cheese with toasted breadcrumb topping, deep dish pizza’s loaded with extra cheese, roast chicken/coq au vin, beef bourguignon, potatoes au gratin, potato & leek soup, steak & buttermilk mashed potatoes, matzoh ball soup, tomato soup with grilled cheese. Heavy, hot, wintery food that makes me feel better about getting up in the morning when it’s still dark out. I guess that means something different to everyone, though. Maybe your comfort food is ice cream. Maybe it’s lobster bisque. Maybe it’s Ritz crackers with Cheez-Whiz.

No judgement.

Because… there’s more than just one kind of comfort food. One person’s comfort food might be macaroni & cheese, but your comfort food might be a ham & cheese sandwich, because that’s what your mom used to pack in your lunchbox. Food evokes memories, sometimes good… sometimes bad. I stopped eating a certain kind of chicken when I was younger because I ate it during a bad case of the flu & it didn’t sit well. So from then on, I associated that chicken with that illness. Or, an example in the other direction: Chinese food from a certain place reminds me of my childhood, and my grandma who used to love shrimp with lobster sauce, and having my mom pick the onions, egg & mushrooms out of the house fried rice before I’d eat it. So it’s a positive memory for me, and that particular Chinese food restaurant always makes me feel happy.

On that note, a peanut butter & jelly sandwich is considered comforting for a lot of people, too. Just a simple little sandwich can take you back to being a kid, and having your mom make you lunch. It can make you feel safe & taken care of even on the worst of days. And what’s better than a sandwich?

A cupcake.

A peanut butter & jelly cupcake to help combat the winter blues.

You might be surprised at the origins of the classic kid’s favorite:

In the early 1900s, peanut butter was considered a delicacy that was only served in New York City‘s finest tearooms. The product was first paired with a diverse set of foods such as pimento, nasturtium, cheese, celery, watercress, and on toasted crackers.[3] In a Good Housekeeping article published in May 1896, a recipe “urged homemakers to use a meat grinder to make peanut butter and spread the result on bread.” In June of that same year, the culinary magazine Table Talk published a “peanut butter sandwich recipe.”[4] The first reference of peanut butter paired with jelly on bread was rumored to be published in the United States by Julia Davis Chandler in 1901.[5] By the late 1920s, this sandwich eventually moved down the class structure as the price of peanut butter declined. It became popular with children.[6] During World War II, it is said that both peanut butter and jelly were found on U.S. soldiers’ military ration list, as claimed by the Peanut Board.[7]

PEANUT BUTTER CUPCAKES (from Martha Stewart)

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup natural, creamy peanut butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • grape or strawberry jelly (or the fruit jelly of your choice; either homemade or store bought)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line muffin tin with paper cupcake liners. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, peanut butter and sugar until smoothly blended and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. Mix in eggs. Mix the vanilla & sour cream together in a separate bowl & set aside.
  3. On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the wet ingredients in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing until the flour is incorporated and the batter looks smooth.
  4. Fill each liner about 3/4 full. Bake just until the tops feel firm, they are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 22 minutes. There will be cracks on the top. Cool cupcakes for 10 minutes in the pan on wire rack. Then remove from pan and allow to cool completely on rack.
  5. Once cooled, take a cupcake and fill the center with a bit of the grape jelly. There are two methods for this: one, cut out a piece of the center of the cupcake (with a round pastry tip or sharp knife) and replace it with a spoonful of jelly. Or, two, use a piping bag fitted with a small round tip filled with some jelly and poke it down into the center of the cupcake, then squeeze some out (not too much or your cupcake will “explode”). Repeat whichever method you choose for all the cupcakes. Then proceed to frost them.


PEANUT BUTTER BUTTERCREAM (from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter (or chunky, if you prefer that, but piping the finished product will be harder)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 – 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Fine salt (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cream peanut butter and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed.
  2. On low speed, mix in sugar until combined, then beat mixture on high speed until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add salt to taste, if desired. Use immediately.

BEST PEANUT BUTTER FROSTING EVER.


No joke. I got more compliments on this frosting than any other I can think of in recent memory. And I have to say, while eating it out of the bowl, I did notice it was amazing. I added a bit of jelly to the tops of cupcakes, too, but that’s just because these cupcakes were on my mind. I just sprinkled the gold crystal sugar on the frosting too, to make them a bit prettier.

Some people like peanut butter & strawberry jelly, so feel free to use that, too, or whatever kind of jelly you like. You can use homemade jelly & I’m sure you can use homemade peanut butter as well; but homemade peanut butter might be too “thin” for the batter & especially for the frosting, so just be aware that the texture difference between traditional store-bought & homemade might change the game a bit. However, an experienced baker should be able to accommodate any issues there.