Category: “Lola”

Sweet little s’mores meringues.

I love making meringue. Ever since Lola came into my life, it’s been easier than ever. But even with my hand mixer (better known as He Who Must Not Be Named), it’s pretty simple. And fast. I haven’t made them in years, though. I figured it was time. And now that I have a new oven… Well, it doesn’t matter the reason. There’s never a bad reason for cookies.

So yeah, I decided to do something I hadn’t done in a while: meringues.

Meringues turned into s'mores? YES.

And meringues- or meringue in general- is extremely easy to make, if you have a mixer. Even a not-so-strong mixer can handle making meringue. I do recommend a stand mixer, however. Mainly because you can walk away & just let the mixer do its thing, without standing there with your arm feeling like it might fall off. I will say, though, that meringue has been made in France & Switzerland since before 1692, and they didn’t have stand (or hand) mixers. So it’s definitely possible… it just isn’t as easy.

But its still easier than mixing cheesecake by hand. Did I ever tell you about the time I broke a mixer on cheesecake batter? It was cray x 100.

Okay, anyway. Back to the subject at hand. Yep. These are meringues. However… not just any meringues:

S'mores meringues: vanilla meringues dipped in chocolate and then sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs.

Meringue cookies are actually quite simple. Even more simple than your average chocolate chip cookie, really. They require 3 ingredients, the mixing is 1-2-3 and the baking time isn’t very important to get perfect since they need to be “dried” in the oven anyway. The roughest part is the mixing- or the creation of the foamy egg whites (or worse yet, the notorious “stiff peaks”). And the chocolate sauce is really easy too, I swear.

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Cookie jars, pink cookies, and a giveaway.

COMMENTS CLOSED & GIVEAWAY OVER!

Okay everyone… the winner is… SARAH! Comment #73 (the last comment)! Congrats Sarah! I’m e-mailing you now. Thanks everyone for entering.

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I have a kind of obsession with cupcake cookie jars. I love all cookie jars, actually, and one of my favorites- not to mention my pride & joy in this particular arena- is a vintage 1930′s Minnie/Mickey Mouse one that belonged to my great grandmother Mary (whom I’m named for, kinda sorta). But I really love ones shaped like cupcakes, for obvious reasons. I’ve got four so far: one pink & blue, one black/orange/white for Halloween, one that’s all patriotic & red/white/blue and then this, my newest addition from Sourpuss Clothing.

So… you wanna see my new addition?

HOW CUTE IS THAT. Adorable. I’ve been lusting over a cupcake cookie jar with a skull on top forever now! And one that isn’t in Halloween colors. That’s kinda hard to find, ’cause for some strange reason people associate skulls just with Halloween. Weird. Oh, and you see those super cute little pink gingham cupcake towels underneath it? Yeah, I got those too. And an apron to match! CCO. Crazy cuteness overload.

Me & Sourpuss Clothing go back a long way, back to when Cupcake Rehab was just a baby blog. They have the most unique housewares for the most unique homebodies among us. I love them. So much so, in fact, that in addition to a Cupcake Rehab sticker, Lola actually sports a Sourpuss sticker too!

So yeah, they’re pretty freakin’ awesome. And they sent me this awesome cookie jar. And when I get a new cookie jar, it makes me want to make cookies to fill it with. And what cookies would I fill it with but pink cookies!? And what’s better than cookies with M&M’s? And how about if they’re coconut M&M’s? Pretty much makes them automatically awesome. Yep, I braved the high humidity & to make cookies just to fill my new cookie jar. I’m kinda insane. But you knew that.

..

Now, you probably don’t need another cookie recipe (but I’m gonna give you one anyway). Come on. THEY’RE PINK.

PINK COCONUT M&M COOKIES

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup solid vegetable shortening
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • a dash of Wilton Rose or Christmas Red food coloring gel, or another color if desired
  • 1 small bag coconut M&M’s (for these I only used the white & brown colored ones) or regular M&M’s, or chocolate chips, or white chocolate chips… or whatever the hell you want!

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F degrees. Prepare baking sheets by covering them with parchment.
  2. Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  3. Beat together shortening, sugars and vanilla in a seperate, larger bowl until creamy. Add egg whites, beating until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Add food coloring, mix until combined. Adjust until you get the desired color. Stir in M&M’s.
  4. Drop batter by well-rounded teaspoonful on to greased baking sheets. Add more M&M’s on top, if desired.
  5. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden on the bottoms & puffy. Cool cookies on sheets on wire rack for 2 minutes. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

Side note: striped paper straws make everything, including milk, taste better. True story. Thanks Yoyo for sending me a bunch, I love them.

So maybe you didn’t need that cookie recipe.

What you do need, however, is that cookie jar. Amirite? You totally, 100%, without a shadow of a doubt need that cookie jar in your life. And I want to give it to you. I really do. ‘Cause I’m nice like that. And Sourpuss Clothing is nice, too, which is why they’re making it possible that one of you lucky dogs out there will in fact end up with a cookie jar.

You will not, sadly, get the cookies too. Those you have to make yourself. So… what do you have to do to get this cookie jar?

  • First, and most important, you have to tell me something: if you were to win this cookie jar, would you like it in aqua or pink? And why? ‘Cause it matches your mixer? Your kitchen? It’s your favorite color? Do tell.
  • Finally… tell everyone in your social network about it! Copy and paste the following into a tweet or post it on your Facebook page for an extra entry (then come back & let me know)-

I just entered to win a cupcake cookie jar from @SourpussBrand at @CupcakeRehab! And guess what? You can too: http://cupcakerehab.com/2012/06/cookie-jars-pink-cookies-and-a-giveaway

And that’s it. Super easy peasy. Two different chances to win for each of you. I’ll select a winner at midnight via random.org. This little giveaway ends at midnight on June 19th. I’ll announce the winner here and also e-mail them right away to let ‘em know the awesome news- so make sure you leave a valid e-mail address with your comments. ‘Cause I know you’ll be having trouble sleeping with excitement.

Hey there, (peanut butter chocolate with a pretzel on top) cupcake.

It’s been a long time since I made anything with peanut butter. Yeah, I’ve made peanut butter chocolate fudge about a year ago, and some peanut butter ice cream, but I haven’t actually baked with it since April of 2010! And I had some really yummy Trader Joe’s peanut butter hangin’ around. So of course, I started thinking about what I could bake with it. Ahhh… cupcakes! I hadn’t made ‘em in a while. Not with frosting, anyway. And the last time I made peanut butter cupcakes, they were Fluffernutter cupcakes. Kid stuff. So how about a fancier, more grown-up peanut butter cupcake, made with organic sea salt peanut butter? Mmm hmm. Maybe some pretty peanut butter frosting? Maybe chocolate chips, or a chocolate sauce?

And… what about throwin’ a pretzel on top? Just because. Just because I can, really.

I haven’t broken Lola out for a baking task in quite some time. So, I thought we’d bond a little over some frosting. That’s Lola *points to the photo to the right* Pretty, pretty Lola. Lola is one of the loves of my life that doesn’t have a heartbeat, but a motor. Seriously, getting her changed my baking life 100%. I didn’t know how deficient I was until she entered my world. Or rather, until my man gifted me with her. If you don’t have a stand mixer, and you bake a lot, you need one. Yes, hand mixers are great, and I love mine tons. But stand mixers are a different animal. Once you get one you’ll never want to use anything else and you’ll even try to stuff your pillow and blanket in the bowl to sleep in it. Or maybe not. I don’t really know anybody that crazy. Hah. Anyway. If you do not have one, and you’d like a chance at winning one (in a beautiful bright blue called ‘Crystal Blue’) then head on over to She’s Becoming DoughMessTic and enter to win it. You can’t really live without one, if you love to bake. And if you’re sitting there thinking, “It’s just a mixer” then you really have no freakin’ idea, buddy.

Okay, what was I saying? Oh. Cupcakes. Yah. Anyway… I wanted to get some baking done before the weather got crazy hot. Things have been so bizarre weather-wise; snow in October, practically no winter, then 80˚ degree temps in March, then almost two weeks of pouring rain straight. I can’t predict how the summer will be but just in case it’s hot as balls, I wanted to bake up some pretty cupcakes.

PEANUT BUTTER CUPCAKES

Makes from 12-18 cupcakes, depending on the size of your pans & how much you fill them

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚ degrees F.
  2. Combine milk and vanilla in small bowl. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in another small bowl. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugars in mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs and blend until smooth. Slowly mix in peanut butter, then oil, until combined. Add half the flour mixture and blend slowly.
  4. When fully incorporated, add milk mixture. Continue to blend slowly. Add remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Scoop into 12 lined baking cups and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I could’ve left it at this… but no…

….

PEANUT BUTTER BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. In large bowl, combine butter, peanut butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons milk.
  2. Mix well, adding more milk as needed to make a fluffy spreadable frosting.

For the cupcakes, just be sure to fill the liners more than halfway so you get a nice rise. I could’ve filled mine more, clearly. You can use whatever kind of peanut butter you want. I obviously used an organic, natural one with a bit of grit. You can use super thick, smooth, crunchy, whatever. The frosting is a bit different. If you use crunchy peanut butter, you can’t really pipe it nicely, so you’ll want to use something smoother unless you want to slap it in a food processor. This frosting is so extremely creamy and soft, and perfectly peanut-ty. Some of the best ever. It pipes into big ol’ swirls of soft-serve-ice-cream looking frosting. Oh, how delicious it is. But no, I didn’t leave it at that, although I could have. And you can too. No. I went further.

So clearly, I made both of these recipes, then when the cupcakes were cooled, I frosted them with a large star tip. Then… then… then, I added the ganache. Yes, ganache. And then topped ‘em with a little pretzel stick. And that was when they were done. My “ganache” is basically 2 tablespoons shortening with ½ cup -1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted until smooth (either in a microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring in between… or in a double boiler, or just very carefully in a saucepan, and I stress carefully because it will scorch). Ta-da! After being used, the ganache or sauce will harden into a firm, but not too hard layer of chocolate-y goodness. You could also frost on top of it once it’s firmed up, if you prefer. You can use this sauce hardened or in liquid form, it’s very versatile. If you let it harden, it will become the consistency of a soft truffle, almost. You can roll it into balls and dust it with cocoa powder and use it that way. However, it does melt easily in high humidity or heat. It’s the perfect chocolate sauce for topping a creamy peanut butter cupcake.

And you could top them with roasted peanuts if you want, but honestly, pretzels just go so well with peanut butter and chocolate.

While I’m on my way out: congratulations to Tim & Jana who got married yesterday, and a belated happy birthday to my “sister-in-law” Jen (also yesterday!). Cupcakes all around!

Eye of newt & toe of frog.

This year for Halloween, when it came to edibles, I was 100% inspired by Martha’s Halloween issue. Literally, 100%. I found the perfect cupcakes for Halloween, not to mention other treats & ideas that I just had to make (see picture on the right). Some of them you’ve already seen (like the pumpkin cupcakes, or the candy apples with witches’ attached!), but these are the pièce de résistance, if you will. Gorgeous green pistachio eye-of-newt & toe-of-frog cupcakes, complete with chocolate frogs! As soon as I saw them I just knew they’d be absolutely amazing, not to mention they’d look perfect on my table for Halloween. I told you I was completely inspired *ahem* by Queen Martha’s Halloween issue this year, didn’t I? I know I must have. Like I said, I haven’t had an original cupcaking thought in my pretty head all season, sadly. I’ve also been nursing a wicked painful back lately, which is actually most inopportune for a lot of reasons- but such is life when you get old like me you’ve got a chronic back problem, and on top of that I’ve been fighting (and losing) a battle with a hardcore cold. Bottom line is I needed some ideas. These cupcakes jumped out at me; regardless of what plans I had for Halloween these babies were going to be on the menu. Ghastly, ghostly, sickly green cupcakes accompanied by my lovely skull (with his friend The Rat & Mr. Tarantula), not to mention some extra (kinda cute) edible ‘croaking’ friends. I usually make cupcakes frosted high with tufts of perfectly piped buttercream… but not this time.

This time I wasn’t going to be frosting the little green-ish cakes, but glazing them in two different shades of green goo. Sounds yummy, right? Haha. At Halloween, anything is acceptable! And honestly, how could I possibly name them anything other than ‘Eye of Newt & Toe of Frog‘ cupcakes? I could not. I would be doing a disservice to my literary education as well as underestimating (or rather under-using) my quick wit.

So like any good witch would do, I took a break from drinking Egyptian Licorice tea, blowing my nose & rubbing Tylenol Precise on my back (sexy, I know), took out my magical mixer, Lola, and started to create some evil, er, delicious cupcakes. Lola may be pink, but she’s pretty diabolical. Together we whipped up some rather eerie yet delicious green-tinted pistachio cakes with green glaze & little frogs. The chocolate frogs are made from frog-shaped candy molds. I used chocolate Candy Melts (and Spooky Green colored melts to make the dots on them) and then brushed them with green pearl dust when they were cooled.

The irony is, my dad’s birthday is the 29th of October, so every year I try to make a big batch of cupcakes & use half for his birthday, half for Halloween. Some years it doesn’t quite work out, and I end up making two batches anyway. But it just so happens that this year he requested pistachio cupcakes weeks before Halloween, and I never mentioned the fact I had planned on making these. So killing two birds with one stone made everyone a happy camper this year. And who wouldn’t love chocolate frogs!? Even Harry Potter likes chocolate frogs! They’re clearly magical.

What an amazing looking set of cupcakes these turned out to be! And moist. And tasty. Who doesn’t love pistachio? I admittedly amped up the ‘nut’ flavor with some almond extract myself (which I included in the recipe below), but if you’re a purist you can just use a full 2 teaspoons vanilla.

EYE OF NEWT & TOE OF FROG CUPCAKES (adapted very slightly from Martha Stewart’s Halloween magazine ‘pistachio cupcakes’, 2011)

Makes 36

Ingredients:

  • 14 ounces unsalted shelled pistachios (about 1 ¾ cups)
  • 1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line 36 cups of standard muffin tins with paper liners. Coarsely chop ¾ cup pistachios, and reserve. In a food processor, grind remaining pistachios to a paste.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, cream cheese, and pistachio paste until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add sugar; beat until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until each is incorporated, and scraping sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla & almond extracts. Reduce speed to low. Add flour & salt, beating until just combined. Fold in chopped pistachios by hand.
  3. Divide batter among lined cups, filling each almost ¾ full. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. (Cupcakes can be stored up to 1 day at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.)
  4. Place on wire racks that are over rimmed cookie sheets. Drizzle lighter glaze (see below) over each, let set until no longer tacky, 30 to 60 minutes. Drizzle with darker glaze, allowing the lighter to show around the edges, let set before decorating with chocolate frogs. Serve & enjoy.

GHASTLY GREEN GLAZE

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • Gel-paste food coloring in Moss Green, Brown, Juniper Green and Royal Blue (all Wilton)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth & combined. Transfer half to another bowl.
  2. For lighter green glaze (base color), add 4 drops Moss Green & 2 drops Brown food coloring to one bowl; stir to combine, adding more of each color until desired shade is reached.
  3. For the darker glaze (top color), add 4 drops Juniper Green, 2 drops Royal Blue and 1 drop Brown to the second bowl; stir to combine. Adjust by adding more until desired shade is reached. Use immediately (above).

I bought my pistachios at Trader Joe’s because they’re the only place that sells unshelled pistachios (other than perhaps Whole Foods, but Trader Joe’s is closer to me). The frogs Martha uses are from Black Dinah Chocolatiers. I, however, made my own. Like I said above, I bought a frog candy mold (slightly bigger than the Black Dinah “froglets”) and used Candy Melts to create the frogs. Do as you wish in that department. I also used slightly different colors of Wilton gel-paste food coloring (just the greens) for the glazes. I couldn’t find Juniper Green & didn’t want to order it online, so I used two other Wilton greens I already had. It worked just fine.

And also I carved my jack-o-lantern! I screwed up a bit, it’s supposed to be Jack Skellington but I broke two carving saws doing it & so he’s not the best. I had further plans for it, but like I said, I broke the tools & it was around midnight, so here it is. Not perfect. I’m a perfectionist, though, so it’s disappointing. Boo (pun intended). But it came out pretty decent, either way, better than a lot I’ve seen. And I roasted the seeds with Kosher salt & olive oil. Mmm. That makes up for any mistakes, right?

In case you aren’t aware, the phrase “eye of newt & toe of frog” is Shakespearean. It comes from the same text as “double, double, toil & trouble” and “something wicked this way comes”, also very popular terminology in modern vernacular… all of which just so happens to be from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I’m 100% certain most people who use these terms haven’t a clue what their origins are. However I do, and it’s one of my absolute favorite literary classics. Anyway, the line about newts & frogs is from the part where the Three Witches (or “Weird Sisters”) are concocting a spell in the final scene. For those of you who slept through high school English class, here’s the full excerpt:


1 WITCH. Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
2 WITCH. Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.
3 WITCH. Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!
1 WITCH. Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH. Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
3 WITCH. Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches’ mummy; maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg’d i the dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,—
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingrediants of our caldron.
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH. Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.


Those of you familiar with Shakespeare will align the image of the skull with another of his works, Hamlet. I guess these cupcakes are just totally Shakespearean! And now you know the origin of “double, double, toil and trouble.” Go impress your friends.

that ends our Halloween fare for the year (almost- bwahahahaha). I can’t believe in just 4 short days it’ll be Halloween- where the hell did the time go!? Insane. There might just be one more trick… or treat… before this month ends..

No pain, no gain.

Of course by pain I mean the French word for ‘bread.’ Duh. And by gain? I mean weight. Haha. Yeah I know, I shouldn’t quit my day job.

Don’t you just love bread? I certainly love bread. All kinds of bread. Soft white bread, dense 9-grain bread, whole wheat bread, sandwich bread, artisan bread, ciabatta bread, sourdough bread… you get the idea. I’d never go on a diet where bread was a no-no. Actually, I’d never go on a diet, period. Thankfully I’m blessed with good enough genes so I can fit into my jeans. Hah. Lately I’ve been on sort of a carb-kick, well actually a bread-kick, and the desire to make my own was upped to the highest levels possible. Especially after making some garlic knots. I have been craving homemade bread with salty, creamy butter for ages now. I just needed to get off my lazy ass and make some, which is where this post comes in.

Abby’s Sweets has a recipe for French bread from Taste of the South magazine and just looking at her pictures of it sold me. It sounded very easy, the rising times didn’t seem incomprehensible, and I figured it was worth a shot. And it really was easy. I made it and when I was finished I actually looked at the clock and was amazed; it hadn’t taken much time at all. I was sitting there, eating warm slices of delicious bread before I knew it. Therefore, I put it in the ‘quick & easy’ category, although I’m aware that those words to some people imply opening a can or defrosting something in the microwave. Those people should either close this page right now, or attempt to make something more complex than a Hungry Man dinner. YOU CAN DO IT. I promise. This bread does not involve a starter and it comes together really easily.

Okay so, I love making breads, but the thing that I hate is the kneading. Sure, I could just leave it in the mixture & have the dough hook mimic the kneading, but I think hand-kneading really makes a difference, so I always try to do it. But boy, did I get a workout with this one! 10 minutes of kneading this bread and my muscles rivaled Popeye‘s, without the benefit of spinach. It really is a stiff dough. I used 5 cups of flour and it was more than enough, but it’s one of those things, you have to play it by ear. Or uh, by hand? Add more flour as needed, if the dough is sticky, add more. If it’s not, then don’t.

Lola wanted some face-time again, and I can’t blame her. She did all the heavy-lifting & hard work. All I did was buy the ingredients, measure them out, knead the dough, grease the bowl, divide the dough, shape the loaves, bake them… hey, wait a minute. I did most of the work! Sneaky mixers, tryin’a take all the credit. She’s still beautiful though, so here she is. Love her. Appreciate her. Be jealous of her. My mixer can kick your mixer’s ass any day, and not get the slightest chip in her enamel.

(Honestly, if there’s anyone out there reading this who doesn’t have one of these & bakes a lot or is contemplating getting one but is on the fence- stop whatever you’re doing & just order one. It will change your fucking life. BUY ONE. NOW. Go. I’ll wait for you… *lengthy pause* Done? Good. You won’t be disappointed.)

FRENCH BREAD (from Abby’s Sweets/Taste of the South)

Le pain ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 (.25 oz) package active-rise yeast
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 5 ½ -6 cups bread flour, divided
  • ¼ cup cornmeal

Le pain directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine warm water, sugar and yeast. Let stand until foamy, approximately 10 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a large stand mixer, combine yeast mixture, 1 tablespoon oil, salt and 3 cups flour. Using the dough hook attachment, beat for 2-3 minutes, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Stir in enough of remaining flour to make a stiff dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, approximately 1o minutes.
  3. Grease a large bowl with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to coat all sides. Cover, and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in size. About 1 ½ hours.
  4. Punch dough down, and divide in half. Shape dough into 2 (approx. 17″ x 3″ inch) loaves.
  5. Spray 2 baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with cornmeal. Place each loaf on a prepared baking sheet. Make 4 cuts diagonally across the top of each loaf. Cover, and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Bake until crispy and golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Just a side note: Only use stainless steel, Pyrex or plastic bowl for the dough. Don’t use aluminum or any other reactive metal- it’ll mess with the rising. It’s also important to use bread flour, or a flour with a high-gluten content. That gives the bread it’s heft, and it has a higher protein content which results in the perfect texture. You could use all-purpose, and get a decent bread out of it, it just won’t be as chewy or have the right feel to it. I’d just use the bread flour if I were you. And if you do not have a KitchenAid stand mixer, or a stand mixer at all, especially one without a dough hook… I don’t recommend using a hand mixer. Even if it has a dough hook attachment. You’ll end up with a burned-out motor and a doughy mess. You’re better off using your hands if anything. But like I said- get a stand mixer!

I don’t like measuring, and I certainly don’t like being told how big or small to make my bread. So when it came to shaping them into loaves, I just winged it. No idea how long or wide they were. They were not 17″ though. I made mine more misshapen/rustic, and slightly shorter & wider. It’s an absolutely gorgeous bread when finished baking; it would make a beautiful grilled cheese (especially with this recipe), an amazing bruschetta, and a perfect hearty sandwich bread.

However… like I said, it’s fantastic alone with just butter.

Frosting tutorial part two: the icing on the cake.

Sorry, it’s been longer than expected. I’ve had a few setbacks, if you’re a regular reader you’re aware of myEYE PROBLEM and my broken coupler… *sigh* But we’re back in business now, folks. Hope all you mommies had a wonderful Mother’s Day. Now let’s get back down to business.

I’m really glad that part one of the frosting tutorial was a success, and that people found it helpful. Here’s where we get into the real stuff, though: piping using a pastry bag and frosting using an offset spatula. I’ll be frosting these using three different tips, as well as telling you how to use the tips, fill the bags, and pipe the frosting so it looks super pretty. I made cupcakes especially for this occasion (well, and for Mother’s Day), they’re lemon cupcakes with a light lemon buttercream, and I topped them with raspberries. If you’d like to make them as well, the recipe and all credits for it and the liners, etc will be at the very end of the post. Boy, it felt good to make some cupcakes again! I hadn’t made any since my Fluffernutter cupcakes from April 15th.. that’s a month ago. A month without cupcakes, how sad. Anyway here’s what the finished products looked like:

Pretty, aren’t they?

I’ll say this again: I am not a professional. There are people out there with much better techniques than I, I’m sure, for frosting cupcakes. I don’t think I’m all that and a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, believe me. But people asked me to do this, so I am, because I want to help them out. However please don’t take this to mean I’m conceited and think I’m a pastry chef or anything. I’m just a regular chick, with a regular kitchen, who likes to bake and happens to be sorta good at it. And if by sharing my tips, tricks and cheats I can help a few other people get in touch with their inner Francois Payard, then by all means… I just don’t want anyone thinking I’m walking around looking for accolades on my frosting techniques.

First of all, the following Wilton materials will be used in this tutorial:

  • 16″ pastry bag – I recommend this size because it holds enough frosting for at least 24 cupcakes without having to refill
  • disposable pastry bags – definitely needed if you’re using colored frostings, they’ll dye your polyester reusable bags something fierce, you can also use these instead of reusable bags, despite the horrible effect they probably have on the environment, it saves time: instead of washing ‘em, you toss ‘em
  • large coupler – this is what you use to attach the tips to the bags.. duh… although when using disposable bags, this isn’t needed
  • offset spatula – important for frosting cupcakes that you don’t want to pipe, or for creating smooth tops on them, like this
  • 1A tip (large round) – this tip makes the frosting look like these examples: onetwothree (also it’s good for piping on frosting before you spread it out with an offset spatula, like this)
  • 1M tip / #2110 (large star) – this tip makes the frosting look like these examples: onetwothree
  • 4B tip (open star) – this tip is also known in some brands as a “french star”… I just got it so I don’t have any examples to show you other than the cupcakes I’ll be frosting today

To begin, we’re going to get our bags ready. We already made our frosting and covered how to make it pipable in the last post. So here I’ll show you how to fill and use a reusable bag as well as a disposable. To use a reusable bag, first you have to put the coupler base in the bag. If you haven’t already cut your bag, you’ll have to do that before you do anything else. To cut the bag, you have to first push the coupler base as far down into the bag as you can. Then, using a pen or pencil, mark the bag where the bottom screw thread is outlined against the bag material. Push the coupler base back out of your bag, cut the bag on the mark, and push the base back in. It should fit perfectly. Now put the tip on, and then screw the coupler ring over the tip. It should fit snugly, and not be wobbly or uneven. I can’t show you pictures of this because I cut mine a long time ago, but it should be fairly self-explanatory. To prepare a disposable bag, when marking the spot on the outside of the bag, do it about a ¼ of an inch below that screw thread line. You don’t have to use a coupler for disposable bags- I never do. I won’t be doing so in this tutorial either, but if it makes you feel more comfortable, you can use one.

Filling a reusable bag with an offset spatula…

To fill the bag, you have two options. Option one is the way Wilton will tell you to do it: hold the bag in one hand, and fold the top over to form a large “cuff.” With an angled spatula or silicone spatula, fill the bag with about ½ – 1½ cups frosting. The second way to do it is to use a drinking glass to hold the bag. Then fold it over to form the cuff, and fill it, lifting the bag up and shaking it slightly every so often so that the frosting works it’s way down to the tip. When you’ve filled it enough, close the bag by unfolding the cuff and twisting it closed, forcing the frosting down into the bag further. This prevents “frosting farts”; aka when you think you’ve filled the bag and didn’t push it down enough, so when you try and pipe frosting on your cakes, a bit comes out, then stops, and when you push the frosting comes “farting” out with an obnoxious sound and splattering itself all over the top of your cupcake. This can also happen when your bag is running low on frosting, so make sure you’re aware of how much you have in there.

Once you have your bag filled and ready, position your tip over the cupcake. Depending on the look you’re going for, and the tip you’re using, you can either do a straight pipe or a circular pipe. A straight pipe is when you hold the bag directly perpendicular to the cupcake, place the tip against the cake, and slightly push on the frosting bag. Continue pushing until the frosting “blooms” out large enough, while lifting the bag upwards. When you’re finished, do a final little push into the frosting while doing one last little squeeze on the bag. Then just lift it away. Ta-da! This looks awesome with a large round tip when using meringue type frosting, but for these purposes I used the 1A tip to frost and then smoothed it with an offset spatula. This, like anything else, requires an amount of practice. The 1M star tip also makes a nice look when used like this.

Using a disposable bag there, as you can see


Another way to pipe is the circular pipe. To do this, you place your tip over the cupcake much in the same way as previously stated. Instead of pushing down in one spot in the center of the cake, however, you push down a little ways away from the center, and go in a circle, pushing the frosting out of the bag all the while… making a coil. Usually, I try not to go around more than once or twice, ending with a pretty point on the top (ending in the same fashion as above: doing a final little push into the frosting while doing one last little squeeze on the bag, then quickly releasing pressure and lifting the bag away). But depending on how thick your frosting is and how steady your hands are, it’s possible to go 3-4 times around. Also, try making circles if your coils don’t work. Make a larger circle, then a smaller one on top, then finish it with a “dollop” on top of that. It has the same look, especially when using a round tip, but easier to try and get the hang of. All three tips I used today can be used in this way, as well as tip 2A.

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While I’m frosting I find it helpful to listen to music or have a DVD on of a movie I like. I find that listening to Lady Gaga & Beyonce sing ‘Telephone’ or something makes it not only more fun but helps me get into a “zone” of sorts. Though depending on the type of cupcakes or dessert I’m making, different music is in order. These cupcakes just made me think of Nicki Minaj & her “Harajuku Barbie”-ness, but sometimes Green Day, Black Sabbath or Social Distortion and even Method Man, Mos Def or Lil’ Kim is necessary. Movies with a lot of awesome music make for good frosting assistants too- for example, Quentin Tarantino movies, biopic movies on musical artists, etc. Find your groove and rock out while frosting. I promise you, it helps!

I thought I’d show you all how they came out, and maybe seeing the differently frosted finished products would also help you in your frosting efforts. The tips used, in order, are: 4B, 1A, 1M and 1A that I then spread out with the offset spatula.

The main thing to remember is practice really makes perfect when it comes to frosting. As long as your frosting is the right consistency, you’re on the right path. Just attempting these things over and over again will let you work out, through trial and error, the best way of doing it for you. Just practice, you can even practice your technique on paper plates until you get the hang of it.

Of  course, Lola got jealous of all the equipment and stuff being photographed, and she wanted some face-time too. She’s such a camera whore. But it’s allright, she’s beautiful. She deserves to be seen.

LEMON CUPCAKES (tweaked from original cupcake & frosting recipes courtesy of ourbestbites.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest of 2 lemons (just zest the other lemons before you squeeze them)
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Don’t go skimping here–you want the mixture to be almost white and super fluffy. This is absolutely essential to the outcome of the cake.
  3. While butter and sugar are mixing, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside. After butter and sugar have mixed sufficiently, With the mixer running, add eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Beat in vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  4. With mixer on low speed, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating until fully incorporated.
  5. Fill the liners with the batter. DO NOT FILL THEM TOO HIGH. They will rise, and rise, and rise.  Be super conservative. These cupcakes won’t have a nice, curvy crown, but that’s okay–no one will ever know or care. However, they will rise like you have no idea. A tablespoon of batter might be just right, but do a test run or two to make sure.
  6. Bake about 20-25 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. You don’t want to overbake these even a bit, or they’ll start to lose their delicious moisture. Remove from oven and cool completely.

LIGHT LEMON BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups butter (2 ½ sticks)
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Beat butter, lemon rind, and vanilla in an electric mixer until creamy.
  2. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating to spreading consistency. Makes 2 ¾ cups frosting.

I used pink polka dot and pink solid liners from sweet estelle’s baking supply and topped the cupcakes with frozen raspberries that I defrosted, then laid out on a paper towel and sprinkled with sugar, then let rest a while before putting them on the cakes. By all means if you want to use fresh raspberries you can, I just used all mine up in the pie and had happened to have some frozen ones in the freezer. After a few minutes on top of the cupcakes, the raspberries leak a little bit of juice, and it looks pretty when traveling down the rivets of the frosting. I halved the recipe and I got about 18 cupcakes, so keep that in mind. Also, DON’T TRY THIS RECIPE WITH ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR. Only use cake flour for this. And trust me on what I said in the recipe about them rising. I’ve made them twice so far, and the first time I listened to the recipe author’s advice to fill the liners up to almost the top… and it was disastrous. Cupcake batter overflowing everywhere. So really, trust me on this, fill them halfway (if that, even) and do a trial run or a test cupcake to make sure.

I hope this tutorial helps you, and if you have any questions, feel free to comment and I’ll answer them best I can. Or, alternately, if you have any tips I didn’t list here, feel free to add those in the comments as well so everyone can benefit. And if there is any other topic you’d like me to cover, please tell me, if enough people want it then I’ll do a part three.

Before I forget… mucho thanks to everyone who made Cupcake Rehab reach the big 231 “likers” this past week on Facebook. Let’s get to 250, shall we?

Valentine’s Day strawberry heartcakes, plus a ton of other stuff.

Hey cupcake whores- Happy (day before) Valentine’s Day! I hope all you cookin’ & bakin’, movin’ & shakin’ wives/girlfriends get KitchenAid stand mixers tomorrow, or a pretty apron, and if not, I hope you at least get cupcakes… or flowers (and I hope you guys all get something sweet too). Yoyo is having a 13% off sale just for today (the 13th, duh) so get on over there and buy something

I’ve got some new news for you all before I start talking about frosting & such. For one, my darling friend Cece (I call her Chichi- but you cannot) has opened her blog, and whaddaya know? The artwork at the top was done by yours truly. Yes, the cute little “bakeasaurus” at the top was drawn by moi. Second of all, I insist everyone bookmark bakeasaurus.com and make it part of your blogroll. Thirdly, my friend Brianne from Iron Chef Mommy just bought her very own domain and will be entering the world of independent blogging very shortly. So congratulations to her on becoming a .com owner! I did some logo work for her as well so I’m excited to see it in action. My fourth item of business is that you all keep track of that blog as well, because you’re in for some delicious recipes plus pictures of the adorable Maddie, Brianne’s 2-year-old daughter. The fifth thing (I know, bear with me…) is that my other friend Jeanine is going back to being a vegan, and she’s starting her own vegan blog: vegannourishment.com. So I want everyone to keep an eye on that blog too, ’cause Jeanine is becoming quite the awesome cook/baker lately, and I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve for it. And the last thing is that I designed & drew a new logo for Cupcake Rehab that very well may become a part of this layout eventually… but seeing has how I just changed it a few weeks ago, it wouldn’t be for a while. It debuted itself on the Cupcake Rehab Facebook page a few days ago. If you’re interested in me doing some graphic design/illustration work for you, e·mail me & we’ll talk.

click to view full size

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I’m going to post this a day early so anyone who’s lacking inspiration can maybe get an idea for a sweet Valentine’s dessert. Valentine’s Day rocks. I dig it. I always have, even when I was in my super-punk, “I hate everything” phase, I still loved Valentine’s Day. I love antique-y and vintage-y postcards and ephemera so I suppose that’s part of it, since Valentine’s Day is all about the lacy valentine cards and old-fashioned images. And I love lingerie too, I have a slight problem with it, really. I have two overflowing drawers filled with lingerie of every style and shape in color order. And Valentine’s Day is all about that stuff. And  it’s all about the the color pink. I love the color pink- my KitchenAid mixer (Lola!) is pink, my camera is pink, and my laptop (a.k.a. June Carter) is pink, this website is pink… you get the point. So when thinking about what kind of cupcakes to make for Valentine’s Day this year, I opted for some pink frosted confections, courtesy of a strawberry swiss meringue buttercream I got from How To Eat A Cupcake. I haven’t made any pink desserts in quite some time, and my favorite Valentine’s day cupcakes were the ones I made 2 years ago, and they were pink. Also, because I haven’t baked much lately, I decided to make something chocolate as well. I’m not going to give you the recipes for the vanilla buttercream, because it’s already on the site here somewhere (and the chocolate cupcake recipe can be found on my other cooking website,  Cooking the Books). But because I am a nice person.. I will link to a bunch of related recipes at the end of the post for you lazy people, including every other vanilla cupcake recipe I have so you have an assortment to choose from. Lazies! IDLE HANDS ARE THE DEVIL’S TOOLS, PEOPLE.

Textbook fucking cupcake there, people. Take note.

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So I put this on a plain vanilla cupcake (my favorite) and topped them with a sliced strawberry that resembles a heart. Aww. For the chocolate, I went with the traditional buttercream frosting and topped them with some heart-shaped chocolates & Red Hot candies. I’m normally not much into strawberry, but this was really good.  I used all natural Seriously Strawberry jam by Peanut Butter & Co. I recommend them- they make delicious stuff, and 100% of their packaging is recyclable and they start with recycled materials whenever possible. You can also fill the cupcakes with some jam too, just carve out a hole, fill it, cover it and then frost.. or fill a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip with jam, poke it into the cupcake and squeeze a bit. If you wanna make this and don’t have access to strawberries or strawberry jam, try my Kool-Aid buttercream recipe, just use strawberry flavored Kool-Aid. I actually made the frosting a bit more pink using food coloring. Is it obvious? *wink*

I finally used the Amy Sedaris vanilla cupcake recipe again. This time my results were much better than the last time, when it was quite cornbread-y and dry. Of course, that was quite a few years ago (before I even had a blog) and although I can’t rule out doing something wrong, I did make it three times with the same result. Who knows what I did this time to make it come out different. But it was. So I no longer will talk shit about this recipe. It has redeemed itself! Which is cool, because I love Amy Sedaris.

AMY SEDARIS’ VANILLA CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1 ¾ cups of sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 ½ cups of flour
  • 1 ¼ cups of milk

Directions:

  1. Beat butter and sugar well, then add the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Fill cups, and bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes. You should get 24. I get 18, ’cause I’m doing something wrong.

STRAWBERRY SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened, cut into tablespoons
  • 1/3 cup strawberry jam

Directions:

  1. Put egg whites and sugar into the top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees).
  2. Pour heated egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 7 minutes.
  3. Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low, add butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add strawberry jam and continue beating 2 minutes to eliminate air bubbles.
Do you love my sparkly pink heart plate? Yes, you do.

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For the people who want to see the chocolates, here they are (& the recipe is here):

Psst.. the cupcakes in the background? They’re made of cloth, handmade and hand-painted, and were a gift from my mother. If you’d like to know where to buy similar creations, shoot me an e·mail or ask me on Twitter!


And for those of you who hate this holiday, have no fear. I have a recipe for you too. Click here and you will be taken into the depths of the world of Anti-Valentine’s Day cupcakes… where everyone wears black, cuts the buds off roses, and hates life. No, wait, that’s just my idea of a fun Saturday night. Nevermind. Anyway, just keep in mind that my piping technique has considerably improved since then. What a difference two years makes, eh?

Okay lazies here you go, here are ALL the vanilla cupcake recipes I have on here:  Magnolia Bakery vanilla cupcake recipe, Billy’s Bakery vanilla cupcake recipe, Martha Stewart’s white cupcake recipe. And here’s a vegan cupcake recipe for those of you who refuse to be like me and ingest things like eggs, milk and butter. And here is a recipe for red velvet cupcake & cream cheese frosting, just in case you want to make something red.

Now go forth and make cupcakes! And have a great Valentine’s Day!

Even cupcakes deserve ornaments at Christmas.

And speaking of ornaments, and deserving things… the famous Yoyo has added some new things to her store; including aprons and credit card holders, and perhaps soon- some doggie blankets. I highly suggest if you need to buy last minute gifts or you’re not seeing family/friends until after Christmas, that you check it out. The dog blankets are amazing, Indy has two and adores them, and I have two of her aprons myself and they’re beautifully made. Not to mention Yoyo’s other merch; like pouches, clutches and credit card holders. They’re all awesome.

This, my last batch of Christmas cupcakes, is an adaptation of a recipe I found in Bon Appétit. That recipe was for a peppermint meringue cake with chocolate buttercream, and it was basically chocolate cake layered with peppermint meringue cake layers, topped with the buttercream. I didn’t want to make a cake, but this recipe was sort of calling out to me. I knew I didn’t want to “layer” my cupcakes, that was way more effort and thought than my lazy ass was willing to put into these (especially with all the other baking/cooking that had to be done), however… I liked the idea of the peppermint meringue and chocolate combination.  So I used that concept to make little peppermint “ornaments” for the top of these chocolate cupcakes out of meringue. Every year it seems I make a chocolate/peppermint combo of some sort. I just love it. Don’t hate.

The meringue has to be made the night before you make the cupcakes, so keep that in mind. Also, be sure to use peppermint extract, not mint. The mint is sweeter and not as strong, it’s more like a spearmint-y flavor. You definitely want peppermint for this particular recipe. But again, you can flavor meringue with any flavor you want. And technically, they’re meringue cookies, but I think being that it’s Christmas they should be called “ornaments.”

CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

Consists of:

  • 2 sticks softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs (one at a time)
  • 6 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Which you do the following with:

  1. Cream butter, granulated sugar and light brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add 4 large eggs (one at a time) and beat each until thoroughly combined, then add  chocolate (chocolate should be melted, then cooled for approximately 15 minutes before being added)*. Add and alternate cake flour plus baking soda with buttermilk (room temperature) plus vanilla extract.
  3. Place cupcake paper into each cup of 2 muffin pans (each pan yielding 12 muffins). Then fill each cup with 1 leveled off scoop of an ice cream scooper.
  4. Bake at 350° degrees in regular oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

CHOCOLATE FROSTING

Get some:

  • 1 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup cocoa or three 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups (approx. 1 lb) sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk

Then do this:

  1. Cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add cocoa and vanilla.
  2. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry.
  3. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
  4. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

PEPPERMINT MERINGUE “ORNAMENTS”

First ya get some:

  • 6 large egg whites
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • ½ tsp peppermint extract**
  • 1 & ½ cups superfine sugar

Then you’re gonna:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200° degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low-medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until mixture holds soft peaks. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue hold very still peaks.
  3. Paint two food coloring stripes on the inside of a prepared pastry bag- either one red, one green, or two of the same color (what I did), one on each side of the bag. Transfer the meringue to the pastry bag, which has been fitted with either a ½ inch plain or star tip, being careful not to smear or smudge the stripes. Or you can simply drop the cookies using two spoons if you’re a plain Jane, and then using a toothpick swirl some food coloring in them before baking. If you are piping them, pipe the cookies onto the paper in a size that would make sense for topping a cupcake- not too large, not too small. They should come out with pretty stripes on them.
  4. Bake the meringues for about an hour and a half, possibly a little longer, rotating the baking sheet from front to back to ensure even baking. The meringues are done when they are pale in color and fairly crisp. Turn off the oven, open the door a crack and leave the meringues in the oven to finish drying overnight.
  5. Place the “ornaments” on top of the completely cooled and frosted cupcakes.

*If you only have unsweetened cocoa powder, not baking chocolate, and still want to make these cupcakes, you can. For every ounce of baking chocolate required, simply use 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon oil or shortening. Ta-da! If my calculations are correct, which I’m sure they are, that roughly means 6 tablespoons shortening or oil plus ¾ cups of cocoa powder for this recipe. You do not have to melt it together separately. Just add it when it says to add the unsweetened chocolate. Or, alternately, you can just add unsweetened cocoa powder to the dry ingredients. That’s what I did.

**Like I mentioned, you can make these any flavor you want.

These recipes are HUGE. The cupcake recipe gives you about 27+ and the frosting makes enough for that and more.  I halved both and ended up with 18 cupcakes and enough frosting for maybe a dozen more. Yeah. Huge recipes.

I’m like, the master of meringue now. For a long time I had problems with it, but now I can make it in my sleep. Lola does most of the work, truth be told. Without her, I had many issues; it wouldn’t stiffen, etc. Now it seems to be a breeze. Yet another endorsement for KitchenAid! Seriously, I don’t know what I’d do without mine. So any of you men out there who have wives/girlfriends/daughters/sisters/cousins/aunts/boyfriends/transvestites who happen to want one… buy it for them. Same goes for anyone else- if you women have a man in your life (or woman) who wants one, get it. You will not be sorry. They will forever love you for it, and you’ll benefit from the baked goods and food you get in return.

So on that note, I won’t be back before the big day on Friday, so… I wish you all a very Merry Christmas… and Santa, baby… I’m waiting…

Root beer floats, take 2.

Before we get to the cupcakes, Lola (my pink KitchenAid mixer) has been feeling a bit neglected. Sure, I use her all the time, and I mention her every now and then. But I haven’t given her any face-time in a while. So here’s Lola:

“Yes, I’m gorgeous.” -Lola


Anyway, back to the baking. Last year I attempted some root beer cupcakes, and they were less than stellar. They looked great, but they just didn’t have the oomph I was looking for- the root beer flavor just wasn’t there like I wanted it to be. I decided to try them again and put the idea on the back burner (I swear that’s not an intentional lame cooking pun, I didn’t even realize it until proofreading the post). But when I got an assortment of awesome extracts from Jay for Christmas, there was a root beer extract among them and it made me think of making them again. I forgot about it until recently, when looking for my coconut extract, I moved some lemon extract out of the way and saw the root beer extract again.

And it was on like Donkey Kong!

I’m corny and used straws again. Hey, what’s a root beer float without a straw!?


So I came up with a new version of Root Beer Float cupcakes. I combined components from a few different recipes, and came up with this. It’s pretty stellar. It involves root beer cupcakes, a root beer glaze and a thick vanilla buttercream to mimic the ice cream on top. Talk about a powerful root beer flavor! I finally achieved what I wanted. Bwahahaha! *lightning crashes*

Of course, I go to the dentist tomorrow to have some cavities filled, and I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be as excited about my root beer cupcakes as I am. Okay, I know she wouldn’t.

ROOT BEER CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups root beer
  • 1 ¼ tsps root beer extract
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsps baking powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In a bowl, mix together root beer and root beer extract. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth, light and fluffy. Add egg, mix until smooth.
  4. Sift in flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix with hand mixer on low, while slowly pouring in root beer mixture.
  5. Mix until smooth and lump-free. Pour into lined cupcake pan. Fill nearly to the top, resist the urge to use more than 12 cups.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cake springs back when touched. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove and allow to cool on rack for 10.
  7. Frost cupcakes with buttercream, generously.
  8. Pour a teaspoon or so of glaze on top, allowing it run down over frosting.
Yeah, looks like caramel, but it ain’t!

,,,

ROOT BEER GLAZE

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ – 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • ¼ cup root beer
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon root beer extract

Directions:

  1. Put all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Mix until smooth and lump free.

VANILLA BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Place the butter and shortening in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla.
  2. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency.
  3. You may not need to add all of the sugar. Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

You could also put the glaze on the cupcake, allow it to set, then frost it. I like how the glaze looks over the frosting myself, though.

OH! And the extract I use is by Watkins. Word to your moms.

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, thats amore!

Is there anyone who doesn’t like pizza? Maybe you don’t like sauce on it, maybe you only like mushrooms and anchovies, maybe you’re one of those weirdos who likes ham and pineapple (thats just sacreligious to me).. but either way, you HAVE to like pizza.

I’m from New York, and here we have quite a pizza tradition. Once you leave New York you will never get a good slice of pizza (real pizza, not Ci Ci’s or Pizza Hut) again, unless you go to Chicago- they’ve also got quite a pizza scene. But New York pizza and Chicago pizza are very different. New Yorkers eat their pizza thin, Chicagoers (Chicagoans? WHATEVER) eat their pizza thick and deep dish. But either way, in NY, pizza is a way of life here. You can’t walk down ANY street without seeing 5 pizza places. They may not all be the best, but they’re better than pizza in, say, Wisconsin… I can bet my life on it. Some of the best pizza I’ve had in my life was at Ray’s pizza (the REAL Ray’s!! I know, there are about 700 Ray’s pizza’s and they all claim to be the original…) at 5 a.m. after a night of bar-hopping. Pizza at 5 a.m.? Yeah, sweetheart, this is the city that never sleeps. Some of the other best pizza’s were at random, tiny, small holes-in-the-wall that you’d never even know were there.

Well today I give you a recipe for crusty pizza dough. Is my pizza dough as good as the “best”? Who knows. But its damn good to me. It involves yeast, and I know a lot of people (including myself, admittedly) get intimidated when yeast is involved, but trust me. Its so easy a monkey could do it. I guess pizzeria owners would get a bit miffed at me for that one… but really its true. You will however need a strong mixer with a dough hook for this recipe. Which brings me to… have I mentioned how much I love my KitchenAid? Have I? I think once or twice I may have mentioned it in passing. Even covered in flour shes gorgeous! I’ve named her Lola. If you love to cook and bake from scratch a mixer like this is really an excellent investment, and I’d seriously suggest it. But an easy shortcut is to buy some dough from your favorite pizza place and make some homemade pizza. This is something kids would love: have a homemade pizza night and let them make their own pies! Plus its fun to watch the dough rise, too.

As anyone knows, what really makes a pizza is the toppings. I prefer cheese or extra cheese, or margherita. Jay likes broccoli and mushroom, chicken and mushroom, pepperoni… you get the idea. You’re free to choose your own toppings… I don’t care if you take it old school classic with pepperoni, make a white pizza, go margherita style and use fresh tomato, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella or go all rustic and use potatoes. Its up to you. I’m just giving you the base- the rest is in your hands!

As Lidia Bastianich would say, “Tutti a tavola a mangiare!” (Everyone to the table to eat!)

CRUSTY PIZZA DOUGH

Ingredienti:

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (105° – 115° F)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2½ -3½ cups flour
  • 1 tbsp cornmeal

Indicazioni:

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in the bowl of a mixer that has been warmed (run it under warm water for a bit). Add salt, olive oil and 2 ½ cups flour. Attach bowl and dough hook to mixer. Turn to speed 2 and mix about 1 minute.
  2. Continuing on speed 2, add remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, and mix until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl, about 2 minutes.
  3. Knead on speed 2 for about 2 minutes longer.
  4. Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft until doubled in size- about 1 hour.
  5. Punch dough down. Preheat oven to 450° F.
  6. Brush 14-inch pizza pan with olive oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Press dough across bottom of pan, forming a collar around the edges to hold the toppings.
  7. Add desired toppings. Bake at 450° F for 15-20 minutes.*

* For me, in my oven, it was closer to a half hour.

Remove from oven, cut… and eat! This recipe is for one pie. I split it to make two smaller pies (one plain and one mushroom which is the one pictured), and it fed three people total, with no leftovers. You could double this and make two large pies or four small ones, etc, etc. I also added ¼ tsp olive oil to the dough before putting the sauce and toppings on. I find it makes the dough smoother and its easier to spread the sauce on. If you like thin pizzas… make the dough VERY thin before cooking, because it rises and gets thicker in the oven. I thought I made my second pie pretty flat but it turned out more like a deep dish, which was a very nice surprise.

I do not use a pizza stone, I use a regular old school round pizza pan. I’m fairly sure the cooking time would change if you used a stone, so just be aware of that.

I’m told it was the “the best dough” people had ever tasted. Heh. Take that, Ray’s pizza! ;)

Oh- and if you are unaware what the title of this entry refers to, please, meet my husband Dean Martin and learn a thing or two.