Category: molasses

Amish baking at it’s best… Shoo-fly pie.

Amish Shoo-fly pie.

Shoo-fly pie is one of those extremely interesting pies that’s really nothing more than sugar. It’s a goo-pie, really. Made with sticky molasses & sugar. And a little flour, and baking soda. But mostly sugar.

Obviously, it’s one of my favorite things.

So back when Jay surprised me with a new cook book, I was pleased to find out that it was this one!

The Amish Cook's Baking Book (and a recipe for shoo-fly pie!)

It’s filled with amazing pies & cakes & cookies & Amish stories. The first thing I wanted to make was the shoo-fly pie.

However, truth be told, I was hesitant to try to make a shoo-fly pie. See, Dutch Haven in Lancaster, PA makes THE BEST shoo-fly pie, ever, and I’ve eaten enough of it to know. Most shoo-fly pies aren’t as sweet as theirs, and that’s what I love about it. It’s a lot to live up to. Trust me, I know this well. Jay & I once went in three times in one day to sample it (they offer everyone who enters a sample!). We bought three to take home. And ate them. In like a week. So yes, I know all too well the high standard of shoo-fly pie.

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Gingerbread cake with marshmallow snow & paper trees.

For some reason, as I was writing the title of this post, I thought of the lyrics from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Odd.

Anyway, gingerbread is one of my favorite holiday treats. I love the cookies, I love it in a spicier form like pfeffernusse and I love gingerbread cake. I don’t make it nearly enough, though, even around the holidays. I have a favorite gingerbread cookie recipe & a favorite Guinness ginger cake recipe, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying others. So I thought that this year, I’d make a plain gingerbread cake- no Guinness, no chocolate- and top it with some fluffy white snow.

And trees. Gotta have trees.

Gingerbread cake with a marshmallow "snow" and paper cupcake liner trees. And elves!

For the trees, I got the how-to from The Cake Blog. Pretty self-explanatory, but still. It’s a fun & easy way to make cupcake or cake toppers.

It’s so retro-looking, isn’t it?

Cupcake liner Christmas trees!

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I didn’t know what to call these, so how about ‘peppery orange ginger muffins’?

After a while, coming up with names for things gets old. And tiresome. And when I’m doing 600 million other things (like for example: painting 5 rooms, 1 ceiling & a hallway, refinishing hardwoods, installing new light fixtures, getting new appliances, redoing my bathroom- there’s literally NO walls just studs & insulation, and of course on top of all that figuring out what’s going on for Thanksgiving) I can’t really focus well enough to come up with a name thats either a) clever or b) makes sense.

See, there’s been a lot of work going on at the house. There are a lot of people working very hard- myself included. I need to have snacks & goodies on hand to feed the troops… or else they might revolt. And the revolt might include not finishing my house! So I try to throw together things that are unique and not just your average snack repeated over & over. Being that it’s been so chilly & windy, I thought a warm, spicy, gingery muffin would work. Then I’d post the recipe if they came out good. Which they definitely did.

Peppery orange ginger muffins. Or spiced orange ginger muffins with black pepper. Whatever they are, they're amazing!

So I just gave up.

Peppery orange ginger muffins it is!

They’re like gingerbread cake, but with orange to sweeten it up a little more. There are so many flavors going on in these, you’d think they’d be “messy” tasting, but they’re not. They’re right on target.

Side note: they came out so delicate & perfectly rounded. Not big or obnoxious or overflowing out of the pans. I don’t know why that is, but they’re good. And I guess it really doesn’t matter. So I eat two instead of one. Big deal.

Ginger muffins with orange zest, candied ginger & black pepper.

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In need of something stout & hearty.

Argh. I know I’ve been repeatedly saying this, over & over again. But let me reiterate: it’s f*!%ing cold.

Early Sunday Morning on Orchard Street, by Vivienne Gucwa

Pardon my French, but really. It’s freezing. And one of those eerie signs of a cold day in New York? A white sky. When it’s just stark white or a very pale milky grey, my grandma used to say it was a sky full of snow. When it looks like that, I have no desire to do anything other than stay under the duvet in a warm, dark room, playing around on my MacBook listening to music while the wind whistles outside & frost patterns form on the windows. Screw interacting with society. I’m better off indoors, warm, with my four-legged companion(s) and my kitchen. There goes that Lisbeth Salander tendency again- good thing I got rid of the mohawk.

And good thing I love New York, & I was born here… or else this shit would get really old, really quick. I’m used to it… but that doesn’t make a 19° degree temperature any less shocking.

Anyway, this cake is warming. And really easy- which means I don’t have to be out of bed for very long to make it.

The best part? It’s made with beer.

Guinness stout, actually. It’s a delicious… cake. Bread. It’s more like… I don’t really know. It teeters between a bread and a cake, and just when you think it’s one thing, it’s another. Just when you’re thinking it’s a great dessert it jumps up and slaps you right in the face, saying: “I’d be excellent for breakfast, too.” And if you’re thinking that a cake with beer in it wouldn’t work for breakfast? Well then you’re not Irish/Polish/German and you’ve also never had this cake. It isn’t sweet, it isn’t savory. It’s an enigma. It’s like gingerbread, just not as sweet. And it’s like a brown bread, but moister and not as savory. And when I say moist? I mean it. It’s not something you can gorge on- one small slice at a time is plenty. You can add some diced candied ginger to the batter, or you can add a little fresh grated ginger, just to up the gingerbread-y-ness of it… or you just can top it with some whipped cream & then put some candied ginger on top. Speaking of whipped cream? I think if you put a whiskey whipped cream or a bourbon whipped cream on it, you’d knock your guests right out of the chairs. On the other hand- it would be good toasted (or baked twice) into an almost biscotti-like texture and paired with a soup that borders on the sweet side, like a creamy chestnut soup. It would even be good toasted, with butter, but you just can’t imagine how good it is plain, at room temperature, with just a bit of mildly sweet, homemade whipped cream.

But then again, everything is better with whipped cream, no?

I know, it doesn’t look like an enigma, does it? But it is. It’s a cake-bread. A bread-cake.

Anyway. It is what it is. You make it & figure it out.

All I know is that it’s spectacular with a simple whipped cream and a smidgen- just a sprinkling- of confectioner’s sugar, accompanied by a hot cup of Irish coffee made with Bailey’s Irish Cream.

GUINNESS GINGER CAKE (adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup Guinness Irish stout*
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan, and set aside.
  2. Over medium heat, bring the Guinness to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir occasionally. Take off the heat and add the baking soda (mixture will froth). When the foaming subsides, stir in both sugars & molasses until dissolved. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining dry ingredients. In another large bowl, pour the Guinness mixture. Then whisk in eggs & oil until thoroughly combined.
  4. Whisk the wet mixture into the dry mixture in thirds, stirring until completely smooth between each addition. DO NOT OVERMIX/OVERBEAT: less is more.
  5. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and gently tap it on your counter to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the top of the cake is just firm and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve.

*If you haven’t got Guinness, any stout will do. Samuel Adams cream stout would work wonders too, I imagine.

I repeat: it is NOT a sweet cake. It’s not a chocolate fudge caramel drizzle cake that’s going to make your teeth ache just looking at it. And it’s NOT a full-on bread, because it’s too sweet to be. It is nothing like a beer bread at all, and it’s not like any cake you’ve ever had before. Seriously. Maybe if you use a more chocolatey stout, or maybe Samuel Adams Merry Mischief stout, it’d be a bit sweeter (and also stronger! That Merry Mischief stuff packs a wollop!)… but that’s up to you to experiment with, if you so choose.

I’m secretly giggling at that little peak that formed in the whipped cream… (!) It almost looks like a middle finger, doesn’t it?

Yeah. You’re welcome.

Now I’m crawling back into my warm bed, with a full plate & hot mug of Irish coffee, of course.

Sources & credits: Bailey’s mugs; vintage, silverware; vintage.

Beers & barbecues.

It’s that time of year again. When everyone starts to grill their meats, when the sun sets later and when corn on the cob becomes the staple side dish. It’s been an unusually warm winter and an early spring, despite the temperatures dropping quite low at night lately (which has threatened crops that started to grow far too early when it was 80° degrees in March), it is indeed only a few weeks from the unofficial start of summer: Memorial Day.

I saw this recipe at The Black Peppercorn and I knew I’d have to make it myself. I’ve made Guinness cupcakes, Guinness jelly, even put Guinness in macaroni & cheese. Why not Guinness barbecue sauce? Beer & barbecues go together like… rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong. Or peanut butter & jelly. I love me a good beer. Don’t you?

This was my first attempt at a barbecue sauce. I was a bit nervous, actually, but I think it all worked out just fine in the end.

GUINNESS BARBECUE SAUCE (adapted slightly from The Black Peppercorn)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 onions, minced (I used one very large white onion)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 cup Guinness beer
  • ½ cup white distilled 5% vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 “shakes” Tabasco sauce
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 18-oz. can tomato paste

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion, and garlic to the saucepan and saute until they are tender and beginning to caramelize, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the molasses, beer, brown sugar, both vinegars, salt, pepper and cayenne . Bring to a boil. Let it cook with a low rolling boil for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the saucepan.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste & Tabasco and lower the heat. Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool slightly. Puree, I did so right in the pot using an immersion blender.
  5. For shelf-stable sauce: pour into hot sterilized jars to within ½” from the top. Process in a waterbath for 20 minutes for pint jars, 15 for half-pints. Allow to cool overnight, then check the seals. As always, if the top pops up and down, the seal is damaged and you have to put it in your refrigerator and use right away. If you’re using the sauce immediately or don’t want to make it shelf-stable, you can pour into any container and either use right away or put it in the fridge.

There’s no end to the possibilities for this sauce. You can make it hotter, make it sweeter, do whatever you want. You could even totally alter it and use some Jack Daniel’s or Jameson, or a lighter beer. Play with it, tinker with it. Come up with your own sauce! And the best part? It doesn’t have to be a “canned” recipe. You can use it right away or put half in the fridge in a Tupperware. But if you do decide to jar it up, just know I got 5 half-pint jars and I would’ve had enough for a 4 oz. jar as well. And also know that in order to “can” it, the acidity has to be of a certain percent, so do your research before you tinker with it!

So how did it taste?

Right before I put it on the grill!

e…

Delicious. I had it on a steak and it was just great. Not too sweet, not too tangy, not too overpowering. It’s a subtle taste, and you could taste the actual steak, not just the sauce like can happen with some sauces. And it actually mellowed more in the jar, after processing. Initially it was a bit tangier, after a day or two it was much mellower. I can’t wait to try it on chicken next. Actually, I can’t wait to try my hand at making more barbecue sauces & dipping sauces in the future. Thai hot & sweet dipping sauce, anyone!?

Perfectly irregular little Christmas trees.

Most people know I’m a New Yorker. I’m a New Yorker through & through- I like my clothes black & my coffee expensive, I walk fast & hate eye contact with anyone unless I know them. What most people don’t know is the history of one of New York’s most beloved traditions: the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

When I was little, my Aunt Winnie bought me a book called the A Perfectly Irregular Christmas Tree. It told the story of a little tree that grew to become the tall, beautifully lit Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, and at the back of the book, it told the story of the origins of the tradition. Ever since then, I’ve been totally in love with the concept. Not that I wasn’t before that… but it wasn’t until that book that I really even thought about it. It was sort of like I just assumed the tree was always there or something. I know, silly, but come on, I was like, what, 7 years old?

..

Basically there’s a very important history behind the origins of that big ol’ tree, and not many people know it.

Although the official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933 (the year the 30 Rockefeller Plaza opened), the unofficial tradition began during the Depression-era construction of Rockefeller Center, when workers decorated a smaller 20 feet (6.1 m) balsam fir tree with “strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans” on Christmas Eve (December 24, 1931), as recounted by Daniel Okrent in his history of Rockefeller Center.[10] Some accounts have the tree decorated with the tin foil ends of blasting caps. There was no Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 1932.

The decorated Christmas tree remains lit at Rockefeller Center until the week after New Year’s Day, when it is removed and recycled for a variety of uses. In 2007, the tree went “green,” employing LED lights.[11] After being taken down, the tree was used to furnish lumber for Habitat for Humanity house construction.[12]

Anyway, in addition to all that New Yorker-ish stuff about me, I also love to bake, as is evidenced by this blog. And occasionally I get an urge to do so randomly, or I get inspired by something. So it happened one night that I wanted to make some frosted (or iced?) cookies, and I got the idea that they just had to be gingerbread. I had a few recipes already, stashed in cookbooks or ripped from magazines, most of which were supposedly awesome, but I thought I’d check Twitter & see if anyone had any they really liked. Gabrielle from The Punk Housewife responded super quick with a vegan version from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero.

Now, I’m not vegan. I’ve made awesome vegan cupcakes before, and even made a dip entirely with vegan-friendly cheese & other non-dairy products (which I can’t say I’d do again, really). I have no problems with vegans or anything, but I myself can’t do it. I have a hot, dirty love affair with butter & cheese… & I like it. So I don’t usually have things like soy milk on hand, & if I’m going to bake something I’m usually going to go “whole hog” so to speak. However, by sending me that recipe she gave me a sort of kick in the pants to use that recipe as inspiration & then build on it with a few non-vegan tweaks. Sure, I could’ve just made it by substituting the soy milk with regular, but where’s the fun in that?! Basically, it forced my hand to do my own little gingerbread cookie thang. And that’s just what I did. So thank you, Gabrielle! I totally de-veganized that puppy. I made up my own little gingerbread cookie recipe as I went along, and then what did I do with that dough? I cut out little trees, as my homage to the big 74-foot guy in Rockefeller Center who just so happened to be having a little party & “lighting” in his honor last week. Of course mine weren’t lit- but they were all iced up with some royal icing & sprinkles.

Yeah, at this time of year EVERYONE makes cookies, especially gingerbread, & everyone seems to be in on the “fancy royal icing decorating” craze now as well. But I’m not aiming to be like everyone else, so hopefully mine are not only perfectly imperfect (more on that in a bit), but unique.

GINGERBREAD COOKIES CUPCAKE REHAB-STYLE

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup molasses (I personally like Brer Rabbit full flavor, even though that & Grandma’s are now owned by the same company)

Directions:

  1. Unroll a fairly large piece of plastic wrap & sprinkle lightly with flour. Set aside.
  2. Cream the butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Mix flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice & ginger together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Add egg & molasses one at a time to butter/sugar mixture, beating after each until combined.
  4. Add flour mixture gradually, until a sticky dough forms. Form dough into a ball the best you can & place on plastic wrap, rolling it up tightly. Chill for anywhere from 1 hour to overnight (but no longer than that).
  5. Remove dough from fridge & if too firm, let sit for 20-25 minutes before rolling out. The dough will be quite sticky, so have flour on hand. Preheat oven to 350° degrees F, meanwhile roll out onto lightly floured surface to about ¼ – ½” thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out shapes & using a thin spatula, carefully place onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (they will be very soft!!! BE CAREFUL HERE). Re-roll the scraps left over until you haven’t got enough left to use, then just lay the pieces on the sheet (they make for nice nibbles later while you’re decorating your cookies).
  6. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

ROYAL ICING

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons milk or water
  • 4 tablespoons meringue powder

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. If too thick, add more liquid, if too thin, add more sugar. Add food coloring as desired. Ta-da!

There are tons of different recipes for royal icing- some include pasteurized egg whites, some using regular old egg whites, some meringue powder, some just cream of tartar. Any of them work just fine as long as they’re the right consistency for what you’re using it for; i.e. outlines, flooding, etc. This particular recipe can be halved, quartered, doubled, tripled, etc. to suit your needs.

So once these babies are 100% cool, you can decorate them all fancy-like using that royal icing there. I obviously made little trees, so I decorated them like trees (duh). You can make anything from snowflakes to bells to holly to whatever. And then just decorate them using the icing & top it with quins, jimmies, sanding sugar, dragees- anything! The icing part can be a bit tricky if you’re not used to it. I’ve been icing cookies with royal icing since my mom made gingerbread & sugar cookies when I was a kid & let me decorate them. Now, I’m far from an expert on this, my main decorating niche lies within the cupcake sphere, so I’ll leave the explanation of how to decorate/frost cookies like a pro to Marian at Sweetopia who really is the expert. She not only does it way better than I do, but her explanation of how to decorate the cookies is probably way better than I could write. Not that mine came out terrible… I mean they’re cute, fairly neat & most importantly they taste great. So they’re not perfect, they’re ‘perfectly irregular’; like the tree in the book. But thats totally cool with me. I’m not perfect either. What in the world is perfect, exactly?

Well, cookies & tea are pretty damn close.

Amazing. There is nothing, NOTHING like a good cookie. I have to say I really, really loved these. I had like 8 of these the first night, with a cup of Licorice Spice tea. So after that one batch of trees were such a success, the next night I made some little Christmas wreaths. I used green royal icing this time, along with red tie-dyed looking marzipan for the bows, and some round pink sprinkles in different sizes that Lyns sent me back in October. I wasn’t 100% pleased with how these came out though. I think I like the trees better. Oh well. It was a cute concept, poor execution.

It was almost disgusting how good they were. The dough is very soft. VERY. Which admittedly can make it very hard to work with. It will definitely be a tricky dough, but the flavor is so amazing & perfect, and the texture is also so amazing & perfect, it’s well worth it. Just right for a cold December night while looking at how pretty your tree looks under a blanket on the couch. The best chewy gingerbread cookie I’ve had in a while; not hard as a rock & teeth-breaking, not flavorless nor overpowering. They’re just the right amount of soft, sweet & spicy.

But at this time of year, you can’t keep ‘em all to yourself. Or rather you can… at the risk of being compared to Ebenezer Scrooge. I prefer to share the wealth (to an extent). I put them in a little box (originally a cupcake box, I just removed the insert) courtesy of Bake-A-Box that was perfect for showing them off. And how cute is that gingerbread ornament?

As if you haven’t noticed, I’ve been including vintage postcards at the bottom of all my holiday posts. This one is just so pretty I had to share it, plus it’s eerily perfectly appropriate for this post; it’s a big, beautiful tree & the baubles on it look just like the ones on my cookie wreaths.

Now bring us some figgy pudding, & bring some out here!

So, if you’re like me, that line from We Wish You a Merry Christmas always made you giggle as a kid. I mean, I’m sure most of us, especially us Yankees here in America, have asked ourselves at one point or another: “What the hell is a figgy pudding, exactly?”

Figgy pudding is a pudding resembling something like a white Christmas pudding containing figs. The pudding may be baked, steamed in the oven, boiled or fried.[1]

The history of figgy pudding dates back to 16th century England.[2] Its possible ancestors include savory puddings such as crustades, fygeye or figge (a potage of mashed figs thickened with bread), creme boiled (a kind of stirred custard), and sippets. In any case, its methods and ingredients appear in diverse older recipes. Today, the term figgy pudding is known mainly because of the Christmas carolWe Wish You A Merry Christmas,” which repeats, “Oh bring us a figgy pudding” in the chorus, indicating that it was a Christmas traditional dish served during the season and thus might potentially be given to Christmas carolers.

Well, us Americans have a different concept of “pudding” than the Brits do; our idea of pudding is Jello instant pudding, or the pudding cups you bring to school in your lunch bag as a kid, or even a homemade pudding made with cornstarch and heavy cream, but regardless, all three have the consistency of what the English call “custard.” Over there, in jolly old England, pudding is more like a cake. Sticky toffee pudding, figgy pudding, spotted dick- they’re all more like our idea of fruitcake or rum cake. Oh! Speaking of England, the wonderful Nancy from The Inky Kitchen recently was kind enough to send me a package of some British candy not easily found here in the States: Galaxy Ripple and Cadbury Flake! We do have specialty stores that sell British candy, but it’s sort of hit or miss. You never know what they’re going to have, and since the turnover isn’t very high, sometimes it can be old & sitting there awhile. Needless to say I tore into those pretty quickly. And of course, in turn, I sent her two packages of candy not available over there; Candy Cane Hershey’s Kisses and Mint Truffle Hershey’s Kisses. What a nice Christmas present to get, right? Thank you so much Nancy. I hope you enjoyed your Christmas Hershey’s Kisses! I certainly enjoyed the ones you sent (and my mother loved the Ripple!). And just so you know, her blog, The Inky Kitchen, is great- awesome content and I love the artwork- so I suggest you take a look.

Upon learning last December that Cupcake Royale makes a figgy pudding cupcake, I decided to tackle the concept myself this year. Although mine is quite different- no chocolate chunks, no cocoa powder. Mine is more like a traditional figgy pudding in the sense that it’s a spice cake with molasses & buttermilk, with figs and walnuts in it. Traditionally, I’ve seen pictures of it topped with a sort of confectioner’s sugar glaze or icing, or a heavier creamier icing, usually poured on top and allowed to drip down the sides. I decided to use a regular frosting on them, instead of doing a glaze, but I added a little something extra to it. I made them as a sort of “gift” for my mother & father. This time of year I’m always making baked goods & giving them away. So this time it’s figgy pudding. I brought them some figgy pudding, and brought it right here!

“I am a wee figgy pudding… eat me!”

Full recipe makes around 18, if you halve it you’ll get 8 or 9 depending on your methods (whether you use a whole egg or take one egg, beat it in a bowl, and use half). If you do halve it, then DEFINITELY halve the buttercream (if you like really tall mounds of frosting) or quarter it, or else you’ll end up with tons left over. The full recipe makes 4 cups, so you do the math. I halved both recipes, and piled the frosting pretty high and still ended up with enough frosting left over for a good 5 cupcakes, so if you halve the cupcake recipe, you might actually want to quarter the frosting recipe. Unless you like having brandy buttercream in the freezer for later… hmm, I wonder if that’s where they got the idea for alcoholic whipped cream from?

FIGGY PUDDING CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon*
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg*
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups dried figs, stemmed and chopped fine
*optional

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and lemon zest; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Beat in figs and walnuts until combined thoroughly.
  2. Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Frost after completely cooled.

ITALIAN MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM FLAVORED WITH BRANDY

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 5 large egg whites
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon brandy

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Continue boiling until syrup reaches 238° degrees on a candy thermometer (soft-ball stage).
  2. Meanwhile, place egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat on medium-high speed until stiff but not dry; do not overbeat.
  3. With mixer running, add syrup to whites in a stream, beating on high speed until no longer steaming, about 3 minutes. Add butter bit by bit, beating until spreadable, 3 to 5 minutes; beat in vanilla, then the brandy. If icing curdles, keep beating until smooth. Don’t be alarmed if the frosting gets “slippery” in the bowl; that’s from the alcohol. It’ll pipe just fine.
Seriously… check out that buttercream…


Gorgeous.

Depending on the taste you’re looking for, you can start off with less or just add more brandy until you feel it’s got the right flavor, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to use too much. Using a dark rum would also work if you’re not a brandy person. If you’re not a drinker or never have alcohol in the house, some brandy extract or rum extract would be nice, or just plain ol’ vanilla too. I also added some little holly branches and berries on top to make it more traditional-looking (and a big thanks to Yoyo for my surprise Christmas cupcake package that those toppers & liners were included in).

If you prefer to make them look more like traditional figgy pudding, you can make a brandy sauce, and then dip the tops of each cupcake (after they’re cooled) into the sauce. Obviously, I didn’t use it, but because I’m really sweet and it’s the holiday season, I’m going to give you the recipe for a brandy sauce.

BRANDY SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter, very soft
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup brandy

Directions:

  1. Beat egg white in the bowl of a stand mixer until stiff.
  2. Add sugar, egg yolk, whipping cream, butter.
  3. Stir in brandy. Dip cooled cupcakes into sauce.

If you’ve never given baked goods as gifts before, it’s a great idea. First of all, for someone who’s hard to buy for or who has everything, baking them something they love or something they would love is a fantastic idea. Anyone who bakes from scratch or knows what it’s like to do so would appreciate a homemade, delicious, from the heart cake/cupcakes/bread/etc. And baking a Christmas-themed baked good is an even better idea; that way, when the person you give it to is entertaining they can serve it. Especially if they can’t bake themselves. Or they can just eat it all themselves, which I wholly endorse.

In honor of the season, I’d like to share with you my favorite Christmas commercial ever since I was a child. Seven days ’til Christmas- happy baking, eating, shopping and gifting!

And before you go, did you enjoy my interview with Pamela Ahn, contestant on The Next Great Baker? If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? Go check it out, it’s the post right below this one.

A new spin on pumpkin muffins.

A bunch of stuff has been going on lately, and I’m kind of all over the place (not to mention still fighting off this disgusting cold that just won’t die… it’s like a bad zombie movie: Night of the Living Mucus). I wanted to thank everyone who purchased from Yoyo‘s webstore on November 1st. Thanks to you all she was able to raise a whopping $351 dollars for Delaney’s Dream! Amazing. That’s her highest amount yet. Everyone should be so lucky to know someone as generous and spectacular as Miss Yoyo. She doesn’t have to do this, but she has such a big heart. Who else do you know takes time out of their life to sew all these awesome handmade creations, then uses 100% of the profits of one entire day (every month) of sales and contributes it to a different charity? Probably not many people. Most people are flaming douchebags. Yeah, I said it. Anywho… then a night or two ago, some crazy shit went down with the Cupcake Rehab MySQL database and all my posts and pages magically disappeared. Yeah, three years worth of blog posts GONE. Poof. Just like that. So after a brief freak out and after talking to the folks at GoDaddy (who were very nice, and ran all sorts of checks, but weren’t very helpful in terms of fixing it), I just did a Google on it, found some directions on repairing the problem and just fixed it myself. Lesson here: back up your databases if you’re running PHP-based websites, especially blogs, on a regular basis, and always know what you’re doing when you own/run a site so you don’t need to rely on the people at Tech Support to save your ass. Seriously. Buy some books for dummies and get on that shit. Right now. Otherwise you may find yourself in a sticky situation. If I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t know what the shit a MySQL database was or how to find it, I might have just scrapped everything, or maybe if I did know what it was but didn’t know how to get in there and fix it, I might have created a new database and reinstalled a new WordPress because I didn’t know any better; or maybe just cried and deleted the entire site, or paid some other asshole an arm & a leg to fix something that took me literally 2 minutes to do. So that’s basically whats been going on over here. Let’s talk about pumpkin muffinage, shall we?

So every fall, Starbucks & Dunkin’ Donuts have their pumpkin-flavored coffees & lattes, and some fall treats too. D+D (what Dunkin’ Donuts is referred to around here, for all you West-coasters or international visitors) has pumpkin muffins as well as pumpkin donuts. Now I myself have never had one of either item, but I see the muffins all the time & I think “I could make those.” They’re a pumpkin muffin topped with a streusel-y topping and then drizzled with a cream cheese icing. Are you drooling yet? No? Then look at this:

,…

Yes, I managed to tear myself away from Boardwalk Empire and thinking about how delicious Jimmy Darmody is for 5 minutes to make some pumpkin muffins in the style of those infamous ones from that popular donut chain. What can I tell you? I guess I’ve got a thing for guys with guns. And a thing for muffins.

I’ve made pumpkin muffins before, but not with an icing. I did make ones with rum recently, though. These, however were completely different. Rich, comforting, with great spices and the streusel with rolled oats was amazing. Talk about the perfect Thanksgiving morning breakfast treat. If you make these along with some cream cheese cinnamon rolls on Thanksgiving morning, your family will love you forever. Because they don’t really have to love you forever now, you know. You’ve gotta earn that. It’s true, I swear. Even I, who isn’t such a huge pumpkin fan, enjoyed these immensely.

(No clever name for these. What you see is what you get, here. Besides, I’ve seen a few blogs lately where the bloggers clearly desperately try to be funny with the titles, and my feeling is, if it’s overly cheesy or obvious you’re trying too hard, then it’s not funny. Not that I’m saying that I’ve never used a cheesy title- but there’s a thin line between outright cheesy and funny cheesy. Are you taking notes? Anyway speaking of cheese… let’s get on with the show…)

PUMPKIN STREUSEL MUFFINS WITH CREAM CHEESE ICING (adapted from Taste Of Home)

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg (I use whole and grate it myself)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Streusel:
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats (optional)
Cream cheese icing:
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • about 1 – 1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ – ½ cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Cream together butter and sugars until creamy. Beat in pumpkin, buttermilk, eggs, and molasses. Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl and mix into the batter. Stir just until combined. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin tins 2/3 full of batter.
  2. For topping: combine the flour and brown sugar and oats (if using)  in a small bowl. Cut in butter until the mixture is crumbly. Spoon streusel topping over the muffins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from pans very gently using a large spoon & butter knife, being careful not to burn yourself. Place on wire rack.
  3. For icing: beat cream cheese and heavy cream together until smooth. Add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time until desired consistency is reached. Add extra heavy cream if needed (consistency should be similar to a frosting, somewhat thick but not too thick). Drizzle over still-hot, right out of the oven cupcakes. It will melt and drip accordingly.

So are you drooling now? You should be. Again, while I haven’t had the Dunkin’ Donuts muffins, I can pretty much bet that these are just as awesome, if not better, than they are. I have it on good authority from people who have indeed had those D+D muffins that these are way better. And that icing is like melty cheesecake. I was feeling lazy and used a sandwich bag with the corner cut off to drizzle the icing, but a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip or a disposable pastry bag with the tip cut off would work just as well.

These are best when eaten fairly warm, but just as good room temperature. I’m sure you could pop ‘em in the microwave for a few seconds to heat them up though, if that’s how you prefer them. Just be careful- you don’t want the icing to get too melty in there… So make these, shove ‘em in your face while watching your local Thanksgiving parade or as fuel before you start your Christmas shopping. I know there are some of you crazy people out there who already have gifts hidden in your house. You animals. Save some for the rest of us who shop on December 21st!

Vintage-style chocolate & Ovaltine for Halloween.

I’m sure you’re tired of hearing by now how much I love Halloween. Well, tough noogies I say. I’ve got my costume all ready (Merlotte’s waitress, complete with bloody vampire bites on my neck & requisite t-shirt, black shorts, & black Adidas sneakers), my house is all decorated with orange & purple lights, pumpkins, mums, zombies, faux spider webs, scarecrows and other assorted scary creatures, my jack-o’-lantern is carved (well actually, it will be tonight), and I’m excited. Bring on the monsters! Anyway, today I’m not going to be showing you a cupcake that’s gorey, just gooey. No gimmicky Halloween stuff, just… Ovaltine. Yep. Ovaltine.

Ovaltine always reminds me of vintage, old-fashioned things. Maybe it’s because you don’t often hear of it anymore, maybe it’s because of ‘A Christmas Story’, who knows. Either way, to me, Ovaltine & “malted milk” are really old-timey notions. Notions? I’m even talking old-timey now. This is a recipe I got from Bon Appétit’s September issue. Chocolate malt cake with malt crumbs, chocolate fudge sauce mini-marshmallows). Sounds amazing, right? Yeah that’s what I said too. So I decided to adapt it into a cupcake for Halloween, since it was dark & chocolatey. I omitted the malt crumbs because they just didn’t fit in with a cupcake version of the recipe- since you don’t “layer” a cupcake, there was nowhere to put them! I figured there was enough going on with these as it is, you know?

So here we are. Chocolate-malt cupcakes, filled with malt-fudge sauce, topped with amazing marshmallow Fluff buttercream (& if you like, you can add some charred mini-marshmallows, or just char this frosting itself!), adapted from a recipe by Christina Tosi, Momofuki Milk Bar‘s pastry chef. You can also use Swiss meringue, but I know some people find it tricky. So I included a recipe for an easy and delicious frosting alternative that’s equally as “pile-able” and smooth. Happy Halloween!

Have a fang-tastic Halloween… perhaps I should’ve used those toppers on these?


CHOCOLATE-MALT CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate (70% to 72% cacao), chopped
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 ¼ cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons Ovaltine Chocolate Malt mix (Classic Ovaltine can be used also)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place chocolate in a small, microwave safe bowl. Melt in microwave in 15-second intervals until just melted, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
  3. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into medium bowl. Combine butter, sugar and corn syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on medium high speed until fluffy and pale, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs; beat on low speed to incorporate, then increase speed to medium high and beat until mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  4. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add melted chocolate & Ovaltine. Beat until blended, about 1 minute. Add buttermilk, oil, milk and vanilla; beat on medium high speed until pale brown, about 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients; beat on low speed until just blended- about 45 seconds.
  5. Divide batter amongst muffin tins, filling about halfway full. Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in pans on racks.

MALT-FUDGE SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cups Ovaltine Chocolate Malt mix
  • 4 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate (70% to 72% cacao), chopped
  • 1 teaspoon mild-flavored molasses
  • Pinch of coarse Kosher salt
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Place first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Combine cream, corn syrup, and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  3. Pour cream mixture over chocolate mixture in bowl. Let stand 1 minute.
  4. Stir until smooth. Whisk until sauce is glossy, about 1 minute.

MARSHMALLOW FROSTING

First you get:

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 (7½ ounce) jar Fluff, or similar marshmallow cream
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Then you’re gonna:

  1. Beat butter in a large bowl with mixer on high speed until creamy. Beat in marshmallow cream. Reduce speed to low, and beat in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Increase speed to high; beat until fluffy.
  2. Frost cooled cupcakes.

SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup butter, cut into pieces
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth.
  2. Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don’t worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add vanilla, and beat just until combined.
  4. Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes. If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.

PERFECT CUPCAKE FROSTING (courtesy of Our Best Bites)

First, get this:

  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk (whole milk is best)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (NOT margarine!)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

And then yer gon’ do this:

  1. Whisk together the flour and the milk. Heat in a small sauce pan on medium heat.
  2. Whisk continuously until it starts to thicken. Let it cook, while stirring, until you can start to see the bottom of the pan. It should still be liquid-ish though. It’s okay if you have lumps, because we’re gonna strain those out right now. Place the mixture in a mesh strainer and stir with a rubber spatula to push it through.
  3. You should end up with a nice, smooth mixture. It’s almost like pudding before it’s set.
  4. Put this mixture in the fridge and let it cool completely, it’s fine if it stays in there long enough to get chilly, you just don’t want it warm at all. When it is chilled, you can move on to the following step.
  5. It an electric stand mixer, beat the butter and the sugar for a minute or two until well combined and fluffy. You’ll want to use the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, not the flat paddle. Then while beating, add in the thickened milk mixture and the vanilla. Beat to combine and then scrape down the sides. Don’t be scared. It’s going to look like a goopy mess and kind of lumpy and separated.
  6. But you just wait. It’s gonna blow your mind in a few minutes. Beat on med-high for 7-8 minutes. Yes, that long. I know it seems like forever, but that’s when the magic happens!
  7. After 7-8 minutes it will have transformed from that sloppy mess into something gorgeous, fluffy, and incredibly light and silky.

I should tell you I halved the cupcake recipe, but not the sauce recipe. I got 18 cupcakes and had PLENTY of sauce, so if you’re planning on making the entire recipe as cupcakes, you might not have to double the sauce.

Now you can use these elements in any way you like. What I did was I cut a hole out of the middle of each cupcake using a round Wilton 2A tip, then filled it with the malt-fudge sauce (when they were completely cooled but when the sauce was still warm and gooey). Then I frosted them high with a fluffy, creamy, shiny marshmallow Fluff  frosting that I split into two batches; I colored one batch violet and one green. I had already done the black & orange thing, and the blood red thing, so the only option left to cover this year was zombie skin green and mottled-flesh purple. Of course, to stay truer to the Momofuku version, you can also spoon the sauce over the tops of the cupcakes, then use mini-marshmallows on top and char them or just the frosting using a kitchen torch. That is if you use the marshmallow frosting. Don’t try and char Swiss meringue!!

Can you say DELICIOUS? It’s like eating a cup of Ovaltine with chocolate candy… in cake form. And if you added the marshmallows, it would be like hot chocolate or hot Ovaltine in a cupcake. Perfect for Halloween when everyone indulges in sweets & treats that really are just a bit too decadent. The fudge-malt sauce is to die for, and when it sets, it doesn’t get too hard, so it’s the perfect filling. But like I said, you could even use it as a frosting.

Liners and toppers are Martha Stewart for Michael’s, and the cupcake stand is by Wilton. Happy Haunting! And if you’re still looking for Halloween-themed treats… look no further than here, here and here.

Gingy’s gingerbread cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting & gumdrop “buttons.”

I’m sure most of you have seen Shrek. Regardless of having children or not, it’s a movie that by now most of the world I think has either seen, read about, or heard enough about to know about Gingy. There’s even been a Broadway play version of it. So unless you live under a rock, you know Shrek. But you may not know Gingy. Gingy is the little gingerbread man that Lord Farquaad tortured, cut his legs off and upon threatening to remove the gumdrops running down his body… Gingy cries “NOT THE BUTTONS… NOT THE GUMDROP BUTTONS!”

It’s adorable. Even a cold-hearted bitch like me thinks so. Gingy comes out of it just fine  (his legs reattached with some icing, of course) in the end and appears in two more movies, and a TV special, and video games. Lucky little cookie man has a bigger bankroll than most human actors at this point.

This time of year is definitely gingerbread time. Gingerbread, like shoo-fly pie, always amazes me. It’s amazing that you can use molasses to create something that smells so good, and tastes so good, when molasses is the vilest thing on earth, smell and taste wise. Anyway, I wanted to make something gingerbread for the holidays, but I didn’t want to go with the cliched gingerbread man and woman cookies… so I figured I’d make some gingerbread cupcakes in tribute to our little gingerbread buddy, Gingy. I added some gumdrop “buttons” on top for him too.

GINGERBREAD CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup hot milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter or line with paper liners a 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. Cream 5 tablespoons of the butter with the white sugar. Add the molasses and the egg and egg yolk.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt. Dissolve the baking soda in the hot milk. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in the hot milk mixture. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared tin.
  4. Bake at 350° degrees F (175 degrees C) for 20 minutes or until slightly springy to the touch. Allow to cool a few minutes in the pan and remove to a rack to cool.

LEMON CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract

Directions:

  1. Cream the 2 tablespoons butter and the cream cheese together.
  2. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add the lemon extract and beat. When the cupcakes are cool, frost the tops with the frosting and serve.

You wouldn’t think of lemon and gingerbread together but its a really good combination, and smells fantastic. This is the lightest gingerbread cupcake you can imagine. Yes, light. It’s not at all like a rock, as you’d imagine gingerbread cupcakes to be. You can add some yellow food coloring to the frosting if you like as well, just to give people a hint as to the flavor. And of course, the gum drops on top! Mini ones would be cute too,  lined up in twos or threes like Gingy’s buttons… but I couldn’t find any myself. Listen, ya work with what ya got, my friends.

Before I go- I want to wish Brianne, my fellow Cooking the Books blogger, a very happy birthday! It’s today, and as an early birthday present she got a gorgeous KitchenAid Artisan mixer named Betty. I can attest to the fact that they make the best birthday gifts. *wink* Brianne, you’ll love it, it’ll complete your life in ways you never knew it could. Seriously. Lola has her own category here.

And as promised, here are some more pictures of the beautiful NYC at Christmas:

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The angels in Rockefeller Center, and the big red balls… haha, they’re located on 6th Ave