Category: nut (flavor)

Candy girl.

Did you ever get a craving for candy at like, 3 a.m.?

Sometimes I do. Sometimes I just decide at midnight that I want a piece of candy… and usually I never end up filling that wish, unless I have some in the house or I can convince someone to go get me some. Those are the lazy nights. And then there are other nights, nights when I have baking chocolate, sugar, & all the ingredients necessary to make my own candy… so I do.

I get asked fairly regularly some variation on the following theme: “Giiiiiirl, how do you make all this stuff and not weigh 600 pounds?” or “How do you stay so damn skinny when you bake all of this delicious stuff?!” or “OH MY GOD how can you exist in a home with all of this food & not EAT IT ALL ALL DAY LONG?” No joke, I think I get asked something like that at least once a day. And my answer is, in a word: moderation. All in all, I eat well. Yeah, I eat cake & cookies. And I eat a lot of cheese & carbs, too, as well as drinking an obscene amount of coffee (including lattes) and Coke Zero. And I absolutely love me some good red wine or good beer. However on the other hand I also eat a lot of broccoli, salad, carrots, etc… & I drink a lot of water. I don’t believe in restriction, I don’t believe in denying yourself anything or busting your ass in the gym because you ate three cookies instead of two. I don’t think a life where vegetables are your only food source is much of a life at all… but that’s just me. So yeah, in short, I eat good quality baked goods but I eat far more well balanced food. And as much as I F$#!ING hate him (and I really do) I agree with Anthony Bourdain’s quote: “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”

I mean, I’m not making broccoli in the wee hours of the morning. Jay is, not me. I’d eat it, though, if I was hungry. ‘Cause broccoli is friggin’ awesome.

Shit. Sorry. Got distracted. Back to the homemade candy…

Yes, folks, I made some homemade peanut butter cups! I had this massive tub of peanut butter left from those cupcakes… plus I had tons of chocolate left from Christmas. What else is a girl supposed to do!? They’re insanely easy. You can be finished with a batch in a half-hour, no joke. And there are a lot of recipes out there on the web, some more difficult than others, but mine is relatively simple & to the point.

It goes like this:

  1. Melt a bag of milk chocolate chips in a double boiler, or microwave, half of the bag at one time.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together 1 1/2 cups peanut butter, 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, 3 tablespoons melted (& cooled) unsalted butter and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Make sure it’s thoroughly combined & smooth. Fill a disposable plastic pastry bag with the peanut butter filling & set aside. If, for whatever reason, it’s not thick, add more sugar & peanut butter until it’s thick. You want a thicker consistency than regular peanut butter (so it resists melting in the warm chocolate).
  3. Line mini-muffin pans with mini cupcake liners or spray them well with PAM. Spoon some melted chocolate into the liners or the muffin tins, smoothing it up a little onto the sides with a small spoon or your (clean) finger to create the bottom of a “cup.” Place the tin in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to fully cool & harden.
  4. When it’s hardened, take it out and pipe a decent-sized ball of peanut butter filling into each cup. Once every cup has filling, use the back of a spoon or a finger dipped in water to push the balls of filling down more to make them a bit flatter. Then spoon more melted chocolate on top of each.
  5. Once the entire pan has been filled, tap it gently on the counter until the chocolate smooths out. Then put the pan back into the freezer for another 10 minutes or until hard.
  6. Repeat the process until all the chocolate and all the peanut butter filling is done.

Et voilà! Peanut butter cups. No preservatives, no chemicals, no additives.

Now in theory you could probably just use straight peanut butter instead of making a filling out of it. It would still work. I just think you need a sweeter filling for these, and regular straight peanut butter can be too “dry” or salty. Plus I think it’s just way too soft, and it’d probably melt as soon as the very warm chocolate hit it. But if you like it that way then hey, go for it. I think you could probably use chunky peanut butter as well, you just may need to make larger peanut butter cups (and a larger pastry tip too). Also, if you want to experiment with other nut butters- heh, I said nut butters- then you can probably do that as well. Just take into consideration the consistency of it, as long as it’s thick enough & not liquidy, you’re good. Same goes for chocolate; use dark chocolate or semi-sweet even, if you prefer. I’d actually like to make them with a white chocolate coating next time. And for Valentine’s Day, you could sprinkle some heart-shaped sprinkles on top! Or, make them in those heart-shaped silicone baking cups.

And speaking of peanut butter… I think I kinda wanna read this book!

My new favorite thing: Snackle Mouth!

A few weeks ago, my friend & fellow blogger Xenia told me about Snackle Mouth. I had seen the pictures of it on her blog, and read her reviews of it, and I was intrigued. First off, I loved the packaging. Coolest granola packaging ever, for sure. And anytime you have bacon in anything, you win me over. So the fact they make a Bacon Maple granola? Insane. In a good way.

Snackle Mouth is a brand spankin’ new company:

Snackle Mouth® was given wings by one of the Founder’s, John Raptis. “Rapits” (his call name by virtue of the fact that there are 3 guys named “John” in the business) was really the main man. As a reformed real estate developer, he crafted a healthy, tasty, and simple granola nut snack with a high degree of clumpability. We define clumpability like so: a phenomenal flavor cluster, embodying superior taste, and made from the most simple natural and organic ingredients on the planet.

Raptis hit the lab to produce a snack with those basic snack components in mind. From his own kitchen he watched his son and friends constantly forage for food and he developed a recipe to make a snack that Moms would approve of for their children, thus, Snackle Mouth® was born.

So they may be new, but they’re pretty awesome, and they’ve got a lot going for them:

  • Combine All Natural and Organic Ingredients
  • Mix in the Best Nuts We Could Find
  • NO Refined Sugar, NO Trans-Fats, Low Glycemic
  • Cool new name, Snackle Mouth®
  • Most Fun Package Design on the Planet
  • End Result, Great Tasting Granola Nut Clusters

They’re made with naturally yummy things like fruit juice, organic dried fruit & nuts, brown rice syrup, oat bran and organic blue agave. So when James from Snackle Mouth offered to send me these goodies… you can imagine how excited I was. And am. I received a box with three varieties: the almond pecan maple, the almond berry and the peanut cranberry. See, I wasn’t lying about the awesome packaging.

After sampling each kind, I knew what I’d do first. It was really warm and kind of sticky out, so I decided to wait for a slightly cooler day to make something really awesome. In the meantime, I continued sampling.

But really… I wanted more than to just snack on it. I wanted a unique Snackle Mouth creation. So on a slightly cooler, much more overcast day, I came up with this.


And this, my friends is the pièce de résistance: a granola nut coffee cake- it’s the same principle as a coffee cake with a streusel crumb on top, except in my version there’s no streusel, just granola nut clusters. To be precise, Snackle Mouth Almond Pecan Maple granola nut clusters. Genius, right? I thought so. Except it was a little too dark. The inside stayed very moist and delicious, but the granola got a bit too caramelized. Which might have been a nice effect, especially had I been using the Bacon Maple granola. But I wasn’t, and I wanted something a little lighter and more… summery?

And it was good, trust me. Like I said, the first time the top did get a little dark, meaning the granola got a little dark too, but it didn’t deter anyone from eating it. It was still quite delicious nonetheless, and it was all gobbled up (pretty damn fast actually). But I went back to the drawing board, being the perfectionist that I am, & I came up with a revamped & better version. And that version used Almond Berry Snackle Mouth as the topping, and a cup of fresh blueberries were added into the batter before baking. It paired excellently with the berry variety of Snackle Mouth, since it’s made with blueberry juice. I made that for my father for Father’s Day (he’s a blueberry freak) and talk about a huge hit! He seriously loved it. On this one, I also smashed the granola with a hammer before using it for the topping. It came out much better, since it was in smaller pieces, obviously. You live, you learn. I had never made a coffee cake with a granola nut topping before!

So the first version was just an experiment. But the second version? Ohhh, the second version… it came out fantastical.

And now you get to reap the benefits of my trials & tribulations. Here’s the recipe for the best coffee cake ever.

BLUEBERRY COFFEE CAKE WITH ALMOND BERRY SNACKLE MOUTH GRANOLA NUT “STREUSEL”

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus two tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (or the berry of your choice)
  • 1 box Almond Berry Snackle Mouth granola nut clusters (or the flavor of your choice)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300° F and grease an 8″-inch square baking pan. Smash the granola with a hammer until it breaks into slightly smaller pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add egg, and beat until combined. Add vanilla extract to the milk in a glass measuring cup and alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the creamed butter mixture three times, starting with and ending with the flour.
  3. Mix the berries in gently, until thoroughly combined.
  4. Spread batter into prepared baking pan. Smooth it as evenly as possible, tapping the pan on the counter a few times if necessary. Sprinkle the granola on top, until the cake is pretty well covered.
  5. Bake 50-70 minutes (depending on your oven and what kind of pan you use: glass or metal), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool. Serve while slightly warm or at room temperature.


Perfection. My mother pronounced it the best coffee cake she ever had, and said it reminded her of one she used to eat as a child.

If you’re more health-conscious, try it using whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour). You could also use an agave sweetener instead of sugar, or applesauce instead of the egg. There’s tons of room to mess around with this recipe. Not to mention that if you use the Peanut Cranberry Snackle Mouth, you can use a cup of fresh cranberries in the batter, and it’d be absolutely amazing. 100% adaptable to any combination. The cake is baked at a lower temperature in a very slow oven to keep the granola in good shape; it’ll start to burn long before the cake is done, otherwise. And burnt granola isn’t what you want. If you aren’t using the granola, if you’re using regular streusel or making it plain, you could bake it at 350° F for 35-40 minutes with no problem. And I have to say, this is a really unique way to do a streusel without the hassle of making a streusel. Especially if you’re like me & your streusel-making is hit or miss. It’s fail proof and delicious, and it travels well. Great for picnics or to bring somewhere for a party or cook-out.

It’s very moist, with a perfect crumb… but it’s also a very dense cake; so just be aware that if you think you can eat that big slice, you probably can’t.

Trust me. I could barely get through one normal sized slice!


This isn’t the last you’ll see of Snackle Mouth around here. That’s all I’m sayin’… just keep your eyes peeled, if you catch my drift.

Thank you, Snackle Mouth, for letting me play with your food! Now everybody go buy some. You won’t be sorry. And of course, let’s not forget social media! Follow @SnackleMouth on Twitter and become a Snackle Mouth fan on Facebook, too!

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!

Opium cakes.

Opium den images courtesy of Retronaut

Opium used to be the big drug back in the day. I guess it was the crystal meth of the time, around the turn of the century/1920′s. It contains something like 12% morphine, and codeine & hydrocodone are derivatives of the same family of drug- hence the name opiates. It’s serious stuff. Laudanum was made from opium & alcohol & was used to treat a variety of stomach ailments fairly regularly back then. But in modern times, all we know about it is what we read from an Edgar Allan Poe story or William S. Burrough’s novels, not to mention glib pop culture references. We all remember that Seinfeld episode where Elaine’s urine test comes back positive for opium because she ate a poppy seed bagel, right? I always thought such a thing couldn’t happen, unless you eat 1,000,000 poppy seed bagels in one day. But I was wrong: eating poppy seed muffins, cakes or bagels can indeed land you in a heap of trouble. As a matter of fact, back in January of 2005, Anahad O’Connor wrote in the New York Times Science section that “eating just two poppy seed bagels heavily coated with seeds can result in morphine in a person’s system for hours, leading a routine drug test to come back positive… [therefore] because of this possibility, the federal government recently raised the threshold for opiates in workplace testing to 2,000 nanograms a milliliter, up from 300.” And by that reasoning, this cake could possibly get you fired from your job or make you lose custody of your kids. It’s loaded with poppy seeds. Loaded. Both in the cake itself and on top.

Which is fine with me. I love me some poppy seeds. Poppy seed bagels are my favorite bagels ever. So when I was reading one of the (many, many, many, as you can see here) books I got for Christmas, Cake Ladies by Jodi Rhoden, and I saw this triple layer poppy seed cake with almond icing, I just had to make it. I never make cakes, as you probably know. This was an exception. It’s a huge cake: a pound of butter & a half-dozen eggs. But worth it. However… I ended up halving the recipe & making two dozen cupcakes instead. I know, I know.

But it just seemed so big. So many eggs, so much butter, etc. And it is big, because if half the recipe makes two dozen cupcakes, the whole recipe must make FOUR DOZEN. That is huge. And crazy. And ¼ cup of poppy seeds is a lot of poppy seeds. It’s a wonder I didn’t get high off it. As far as the taste goes, they were pretty unique, I have to say. Very different, but I loved them. Cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, poppy seeds, almond extract & the tang from the vinegar-milk combination; all very subtle but what flavor! A surprisingly delicious winter cupcake. Moist cake filled with tons of warming spices, albeit subtle like I said, and then some crunch from the seeds. I topped them with the almond buttercream from the book and then some little flowers made of almond slices with poppy seeds for centers. Really cute, I thought. Next time, however, I’d make little red poppies out of fondant. ‘Cause that’d be doubly cute.

Of course, I’m giving you the adapted cupcake version of the recipe that I made. For the full cake recipe, you’ll have to buy the book. Bwahahaha.

POPPY SEED CUPCAKES WITH ALMOND BUTTERCREAM ICING (adapted from a recipe by Lisa Goldstein of Celo, NC, from Cake Ladies by Jodi Rhoden)

Ingredients:

Cake:
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 cup milk at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of ground cardamom
  • ¼ cup poppy seeds
Icing:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, room temperature
  • 2 ½ – 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons half-and-half (plus more if needed)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites together with the cream of tartar on high speed, until soft peaks form. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl of the stand mixer, this time fitted with the paddle, cream the butter, sugar and honey together until light and fluffy. While beating on low speed, add egg yolks, one at a time. Beat after each addition. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat again until the mixture is smooth, light and creamy.
  3. In a glass measuring cup, combine the milk, vinegar and almond extract. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Add that mixture to the creamed butter mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk mixture, and mixing lightly but thoroughly between each addition, until ingredients are just combined.
  5. Add the poppy seeds, folding them in by hand until combined. Quickly re-whisk the egg whites by hand if they’ve separated, then fold them into the batter gently, in three batches.
  6. Add cupcake liners to muffin tins and fill each with batter, around two-thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in each cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool 10 minutes in tins, then remove to wire rack. Cool thoroughly before frosting.
  7. To make the icing, cream the butter and confectioner’s sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until it makes a thick paste. add and combine the vanilla & almond extracts. Then add the half-and-half, one tablespoon at a time, blending on low speed until fully incorporated.
  8. Add more if needed to achieve a creamy, fluffy consistency. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the paddle, bottom and sides of the bowl. Re-mix until no lumps remain.

Excuse the frosting job on the back left one; I was trying to find the best way of doing it

They came out really rustic-looking. So much so I almost wish I had one of those cake stands made of an old tree. They’d be so sweet on one of those. Dammit, I wish I had one now! I’m going to have to get my hands on some cut down trees & get Jay to start cuttin’ it up! He’s a big, handy fella. He can do it. Why buy when you can DIY!

If you’re looking for a unique recipe to try, this is it. It’d be fabulous as a triple layer cake, too, of course. And in case you’re wondering, I got a lot of cookbooks for Christmas, so you’ll be seeing a lot of recipes from them in the coming months. And I’m not into New Year’s resolutions so they’ll be loaded with butter & eggs & sugar. I’ve got to maintain my girlish figure somehow.

And if poppy seeds don’t interest you, later on this week there’ll be a post featuring a giveaway I’m doing together with Yoyo from Topstitch, so keep your eyes peeled.

C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me (+ a book giveaway)!

THE CONTEST IS OVER! Thanks so much to everyone who entered, I hope to have many more giveaways in the future, so make sure if/when I do, you enter. I wish I could give you all a book! But I can’t. So the comments are closed & I picked a number via random.orgANNNNND THE WINNER of The Cookiepedia IS…

POLLY PERRY!


Enjoy your new cookbook, Polly! I’ve sent your address to Quirk Books already!

****************************************************

I received this book, The Cookiepedia, a few months ago. Quirk Books sent me a copy & it’s pretty awesome. So awesome, in fact, I’m willing to ignore that little comment about how “trendy cupcakes may come & go”… *wink* Because you see, I love me some cupcakes, I do. Hell, I named my site after ‘em. But cookies are awesome. And they remind me of being a kid. Plus, cupcakes are portable cakes, yes, but cookies are the most portable of all! They’re the über-portable treat-type thing thats easiest to bring with you anywhere you go. You can ship ‘em to somewhere like Abu Dhabi with minimal damage (for the most part) & they’re eaten in less than three bites, no napkin needed. So yah, I dig cookies.

One of my favorite things about the book (aside from the pages & pages of delicious cookies, I mean) is this quote on one of the opening pages:

So true. I could use a nap right now.

So in the book, Stacy really goes into detail on defining popular baking terms such as sifting, dusting, creaming, piping, etc. She also gives helpful tips on how to get the best possible results, making this book really good for beginner bakers. I don’t consider myself a beginner per se, however I really enjoyed reading it cover to cover. You can never know everything, or remember everything, & everyone can use a book filled with a few refreshers on “the basics.” The book is also, and more importantly, full of crazy-good sounding cookie recipes, from really simple ones to more exotic ones. From cornmeal cookies with rosemary to alfajores with dulce de leche filling, to green tea cookies & back to pignoli cookies. Being that it’s fall, the first cookie that jumped out at me was the frosted maple pecan cookie.

I’m not gonna lie, any recipe that says ‘toast the nuts’ makes me giggle like a 13-year-old boy, and anything that makes me giggle is worth looking into further. Also, I might have mentioned before that Jay’s favorite cookie I ever made was the maple-iced fall leaf cookie. Well have I mentioned that he stalks me to make more of them? No? Well, he does. He drops hints, he talks about them all the time, etc, etc. If I make another kind of cookie, he gets almost offended. Same with the french toast cupcakes. If I make a chocolate cupcake, or lemon, or orange, or whatever… he pouts because it isn’t maple frosted French toast cupcake with crumbled bacon. So when I opened the book & saw these, I thought of him first. I knew he’d love them, & truth be told I haven’t baked anything for him in quite some time; rock star that he is will soon be off in Texas playing the Goregrowlers Ball so I might as well give him some homemade, home-baked goodness before he’s down there away from home, playing death metal with a bunch of sweaty men, eating (probably) fast food.

Anyway, making cookies is so much fun. I almost forgot how fun. It really is a totally different experience than cupcakes, or pie. My first attempt was a failure; I didn’t let the butter soften enough, then didn’t chill the dough enough either & so the cookies spread & were thin & crispy on the edges. Blah. My own fault, admittedly. Putting the dough in the fridge for 15 minutes on a night where it’s hot & humid isn’t smart, especially when it was supposed to have chilled for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. However they tasted amazing! Great maple flavor. So I knew I had to try again, this time the right way. Also on a drier, much cooler day (whereas my previous attempt at making them was on a day we were having a heat spell in October; an unheard of 84° degrees!) since the weather the first time didn’t help my non-chilled dough any.

Yeah, they came out amazing the second time around.

And whattaya know, the next time I made them, it was a very, very cool day (actually it was almost freezing out by the time I turned the oven on to bake), I followed all the directions exactly (including letting the dough chill for an hour), & they were a rollicking success. There’s a time & a place to be a baking rebel… cookies aren’t that time. There are some who’ll tell you there’s no room for rebellion in baking at all, but I don’t believe that. I’ve used all-purpose instead of cake flour like it’s nothing, substituted mayonnaise for eggs & made my own buttermilk like a champ. From now on though, I’ll keep the rebel yell for cupcakes. Cookies seem to be a bit more temperamental. But that’s okay, I love them anyway. And when done right… oh boy.

Like I said- the second time around, these babies were freakin’ AWESOMESAUCE. Instead of using Stacy’s exact vanilla frosting on them, I added a smidgen of maple extract to it (hence the mauve-y brownish color to the frosting). You could also add some maple syrup to it, or just keep it vanilla. I swear, this way it really was like eating pancakes!

Why does my handwriting always come out so bad on labels when I know they’ll be in pictures? Ugh.

Anyway, I was really pleased with these cookies, and the book, and it made more than I had anticipated. So packing some of ‘em up for Jay (he took them to band practice, and let me just say- HUGE HIT) & other lucky folk, I came across a great idea. I decided to use some of my jars to pack the cookies in. I used two of my flip-top lid jars (the ones I’ve used previously for pickles & blueberry jam) and for the third batch I used a 16 ounce wide-mouth Ball® jar. So cute. Imagine the lid covered with a square of plaid fabric, or even just the way I did it: a cute label (thanks to this post for that idea) & some twine… it’s just the cutest idea ever for sending someone home with a bunch of cookies. Way cuter than Tupperware, anyway.

So now that I’ve shared my cookies & cookie-packaging ideas with you, I’m going to share something else: I’m giving away an actual copy of The Cookiepedia, Stacy’s book, so you can make these cookies too!

Exciting, I know. What do you have to do to win? Easy. Leave me a comment telling me what your favorite cookie of all time is. Not only that, but tell me why. Do you love gingersnaps because your grandma taught you to make them? Do you adore chocolate chip cookies because you made the Toll House kind with your mom at Christmas? Or maybe you love oatmeal cookies because they remind you of a happy moment including wacky tobaccy & your college life. Whatever it is, tell me. I’ll choose the winner via random.org one week from today. U.S. residents only, please. I know, I suck. But I’m cute.

And for bonus entries (bonus entries are not mandatory):

  • Follow me on Twitter! After that, comment here telling me you’re a follower (I have to accept you, so give me some time, but you can comment after you make the request- you don’t have to wait until I accept!). Make sure you also tweet @ me telling me you commented here first.
  • Then, tweet about the giveaway! Copy & paste the following (or write up your own tweet, just make sure you link back to this post)!

    @CupcakeRehab is giving away @TheCookiepedia by Stacy Adimando thanks to @QuirkBooks! I entered to win, so can you: http://cupcakerehab.com/2011/11/c-is-for-cookie-thats-good-enough-for-me-a-book-giveaway/

  • Become a Facebook fan of Cupcake Rehab! Then come back here and comment again letting me know.
  • Share this post on your Facebook page (either personal or blog, whichever) and then comment telling me you did! (This one is honor system)
  • Follow Stacy herself at @TheCookiepedia… then come back here & let me know.
  • Follow @quirkbooks on Twitter, then guess what? That’s right, comment here again telling me you did.
  • Become a fan of Quirk Books on Facebook… and you know the drill.
And remember, if you’re already following me on Twitter or you’re already a Facebook fan, then you can still comment for each. Each one of those is an extra entry! So in total you can enter 8 times each. Eight times! That’s a lot of chances to win. And by commenting I mean HERE, not on Facebook! And at 12 a.m. (midnight) EST on November 18th I will close the comments & pick a winner. Just please make sure you leave a valid e-mail address! That is, after all, how I’ll be contacting the winner. I can’t promise you’ll have it by Thanksgiving, but remember Christmas is coming. I guarantee you’ll want to be makin’ up some of these delicious cookies for your Christmas baking (I definitely will be). So come on, get on it- ENTER! Everyone has a shot, it might be you.

Une petite glace à l’amande avec les financiers.

Before I start in on ice cream & financiers & such, I just wanna say that Jay is home from Switzerland! In case you didn’t know, Mr. Rockstar was over there playing a music festival in Muotathal. He’s safe & sound back in New York now. It’s nice to have him back in the same time zone as me, let alone the same breathing space. It was really weird to imagine he was somewhere 6 hours ahead of me. But anyway, I got my Swiss chocolates, and plenty of them. I shall be gorging myself on these for a few days, or at least a couple more hours. The first one there, the Cailler of Switzerland Lait & Caramel Pointe de sel? I can’t wait to hang my fangs on that one. The Lindt assortment is pretty amazing, though, in and of itself. I haven’t opened the Camille Bloch Torino one yet, but I’m intrigued to try it; it’s a ‘chocolat au lait suisse fin fourre creme de noisettes et d’amandes’ or, as it’s said in English, fine milk chocolate filled with a creme of hazelnuts & almonds. Mmm.

So speaking of Europe & European confections, last month, the people at Donsuemor contacted me and asked me if I’d come up with a recipe featuring one of their delicious French cookies for their Dessert a Day project. Being a little bit of a  francophile (although also an anglophile, and pretty much someone who’s enthusiastic about everything in general, especially desserts), I immediately jumped at the chance. I chose the French almond cakes, or financiers & I could not wait to get my hands on them. For a non-French company that’s fairly new (started in 1976), the selection of items & the implied quality impressed me. So I really was excited to make something with these little cakes… oh, and eat some too.

And then… they arrived! Pretty quick, actually. Oh, happy day!

Sacré bleu! I’d been brainstorming all kinds of recipes for these guys. Ah, little did they know when I first opened that box what their ultimate fate would be. Mes petits financiers, mes pauvres. Groped at by greedy hands was the least of it.

French Almond Cakes, or <financiers>, as they are known in France, are elegant little cakes with the rich and nutty taste of sweet almond. Soft and moist with crisp edges – a “Donsuemor signature” – these elegant treats are made with the finest quality, all natural ingredients.

Led by the drive and determination of our talented French pastry chef and dedicated team, inspired by the Parisian original, Donsuemor proudly launched the French Almond Cakes in September 2009. Although we had the desire to bake other products over the years, we committed to do so only if they could live up to the standards of the madeleine. The French Almond Cakes exceed our standard, and thus became the first new product Donsuemor developed since the first madeleine was baked in Berkeley in 1976.

History of Financiers

Financiers were created by a baker named Lasne in the financial district of Paris in the 1890′s. Named after the rich financiers who frequented his bakery, traditionally baked in the shape of gold bars, Lasne designed the little unglazed cake to be enjoyed without utensils or risk to suit, shirt or tie.

Financiers are as rich as the bankers they were named for. They are made with ground almonds, butter, sugar, flour, and eggs – pure and simple ingredients.  Once you taste Donsuemor’s French Almond Cakes, you will know why Donsuemor is the one you remember.

- text & French Almond cakes photo from Donsuemor.com

I had to resist eating them all before making the recipe, but I managed. I also managed to keep them out of everyone else’s hands. Partly because I hid the box. Yes I did, & I have no problem admitting that. Although people I know will read that & get a bit miffed, I’m sure, considering I think I told them there weren’t any more. Oops.

The quality & taste was definitely what I had expected. Anyone who knows me or reads the blog knows I’m honest to a fault, so trust me here. My father liked them so much, he asked for the website name (perhaps ordering me a gift… hmmm?).  They were very moist, very cake-like, and had a great almond flavor. Because it was so warm & humid, I decided to go with an ice cream instead of a baked dessert; an almond ice cream to be exact. I crumbled up some of the cakes and mixed it in with the ice cream, and then topped each serving with a cookie. Mmmm.

Delicious little surprises in the form of chunks of almond cake throughout, plus those sliced almonds.

Do you love my ice cream sundae glasses? Not to mention ma petite tour Eiffel!

I’m not kidding when I say this is some amazing ice cream. Fantastique. You know birthday cake ice cream? It has bits of cake floating through it, and sometimes ribbons of buttercream or sprinkles? Well, that’s awesome, but too much for me. I find it too sweet after a few bites. This was not. I ate way more of this ice cream than you’d think was humanly possible. Seriously. I even ate it for dinner one night. I broke out my grandmother’s vintage jadeite dessert plates, too. This ice cream (& me) certainly deserved it.

Okay, enough teasing. You want the recipe, don’t you?

ALMOND ICE CREAM WITH CRUMBLED DONSUEMOR FRENCH ALMOND FINANCIERS

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4-6 Donsuemor French almond cakes, crumbled, plus more kept intact for topping (if desired)

Directions:

  1. Whisk together cream, milk, sugar, and eggs in a heavy medium saucepan until they’re completely combined.
  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture is thick enough to coat back of a spoon. Strain custard through a sieve into a medium bowl. Add vanilla & almond extracts and stir to mix thoroughly. Cool completely, then chill in the refrigerator (covered), 6-8 hours.
  3. Freeze in ice cream maker according to maker’s directions, adding the crumbled cakes 2-3 minutes before it’s finished. Ice cream will be the consistency of soft serve, freeze overnight for firmer set.

I have the KitchenAid ice cream maker stand mixer attachment, so it took about 20 minutes in there. However I made mine on a night when we had torrential rain, incredibly high humidity and it was pretty hot on top of that. Thanks to those conditions, my first attempt at photos were an epic fail; sure they looked cute, mainly thanks to my vintage plate & Eiffel tower set up… but the ice cream was a melty mess. On top of the initial ice cream’s soft consistency, it just melted all over the place in the high humidity. So I popped it in the freezer and the next day, voilà, perfection. With a mug of hazelnut coffee made in my Keurig… *sigh* However it’s positively French-Victorian picnic style when served with a cut crystal goblet filled with some cold sparkling Effervé lemonade.

Effervé had nothing to do with this post, it’s just delicious lemonade.

A great way to salute the swan song of summer & say a delicious goodbye to that wonderful season. If not grudgingly. Also a good reason to hide in your house & hope Hurricane Irene steers clear of your home. Not that I speak from experience or anything…

Spring has sprung.

Not 100% of course, but for the most part anyway.

I’ve done one of these little compilation posts for Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas, Valentine’s Day & St. Patrick’s Day, so here’s my springtime/Easter version. I don’t really do “Easter”, I like bunnies, baby chicks, lilies & chocolate… so I celebrate those things & call it Easter. I’m not one of those Wiccans or “Pagans” either. I’m Agnostic, but I do love me some holidays. I can’t help it. I love to decorate and bake and cook and that’s the best part of life, in my opinion. So why not celebrate everything!?

The real meaning of Easter:

Easter (Old English: Ēostre; Greek: Πάσχα, Paskha; Hebrew: פֶּסַח‎, Pesakh, “Passover“) is the central religious feast in the Christian liturgical year.[1] According to Christian scripture, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. Some Christians celebrate this resurrection on Easter Day or Easter Sunday[2] (also Resurrection Day or Resurrection Sunday), two days after Good Friday and three days after Maundy Thursday. The chronology of his death and resurrection is variously interpreted to be between AD 26 and 36, traditionally 33. Easter also refers to the season of the church year called Eastertide or the Easter Season. Traditionally the Easter Season lasted for the forty days from Easter Day until Ascension Day. The first week of the Easter Season is known as Easter Week or the Octave of Easter. Easter also marks the end of Lent, a season of fasting, prayer, and penance.

Easter is a moveable feast, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox.[3] Ecclesiastically, the equinox is reckoned to be on March 21 (even though the equinox occurs, astronomically speaking, on March 20 in most years), and the “Full Moon” is not necessarily the astronomically correct date. The date of Easter therefore varies between March 22 and April 25. Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar whose March 21 corresponds, during the 21st century, to April 3 in the Gregorian Calendar, in which calendar their celebration of Easter therefore varies between April 4 and May 8.

Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In most European languages the feast called Easter in English is termed by the words for passover in those languages and in the older English versions of the Bible the term Easter was the term used to translate passover.[4][5]

Relatively newer[citation needed] elements such as the Easter Bunny and Easter egg hunts have become part of the holiday’s modern celebrations, and those aspects are often celebrated by many Christians and non-Christians alike. There are also some Christian denominations who do not celebrate Easter.

Yeah so that last part applies to me. Delicious chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs filled with creamy fondant? Yes please. I guess, though, I more celebrate just the coming of spring itself, which is more like Ostara:

Old English Ēostre (also Ēastre) and Old High German Ôstarâ are the names of a putative Germanic goddess whose Anglo-Saxon month, Ēostur-monath, has given its name to the festival of Easter. Eostre is attested only by Bede, in his 8th century work De temporum ratione, where he states that Ēostur-monath was the equivalent to the month of April, and that feasts held in her honour during Ēostur-monath had died out by the time of his writing, replaced by the “Paschal month“. The possibility of a Common Germanic goddess called *Austrōn- was examined in detail in 19th century Germanic philology, by Jacob Grimm and others, without coming to a definite conclusion.

Linguists have identified the goddess as a Germanic form of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn, *Hausos, some scholars have debated whether or not Eostre is an invention of Bede’s, and theories connecting Eostre with records of Germanic Easter customs (including hares and eggs) have been proposed.

Notice the spelling similarities between Eostre and Easter? Hmm. Food for thought. I’ll let ya chew on that one.

So in short, I like to eat and make stuff, and that’s what holidays are all about, really. I don’t think you have to believe in a God to celebrate the coming of spring, especially after a winter where here in New York we got a whopping 60.9″ of snow total. At any rate… here are some delectable cupcake confections that celebrate this time of year, and can be adapted/used whether your celebrations are referred to as Ostara, Easter, Passover or just plain spring.

One of my favorite Easter cupcakes; lemon-vanilla cakes with a lemon-vanilla buttercream, topped with toasted coconut “nests” and Cadbury mini-eggs. Super cute and so easy! These were a humongous hit with everyone who ate them, I highly recommend trying them. Recipe here: Nest Eggs.

I grouped these two together because they’re in the same post from last Easter. The top ones are Creamsicle mini-cupcakes topped with a thick marshmallow Fluff buttercream, and the bottom ones are carrot cupcakes topped with a lavender-tinted cream cheese frosting. Check both recipes out here: Easter?
I didn’t actually make these for Easter, I made them for my grandmother’s 92nd birthday… however they’re a perfect springtime cupcake idea. A light chocolate cake topped with an Earl Grey/lemon icing and candied lemon peel garnish (which is deceptively easy). Very sophisticated & delicious. Find the recipes for the cake, icing and lemon peel here: Earl Grey with lemon “tea party” cupcakes.
Another one I didn’t make for Easter, I made them for Cupcake Rehab’s 1st birthday, but yet they would be totally appropriate for spring. Neapolitan cupcakes- vanilla cake, strawberry Kool-Aid frosting and chocolate sauce drizzled on top. Extremely delicious. Recipes: Neapolitan “happy 1st birthday Cupcake Rehab” cupcakes.
These I definitely didn’t make for Easter. But being that they’re almond cupcakes with a white chocolate buttercream, they’d be so cute with marzipan fruits or hand-rolled marzipan Easter eggs on top for Easter, wouldn’t they? This is one of my favorite cupcakes ever. Try them yourself: Frau Marilla’s Alpenblume Weiße Schokolade Kleine Kuchen!


So that’s that. If you’re not drooling by now, there’s something wrong with you. Also, I also have a recipe for chocolate hi-hat cupcakes that I made for Easter a few years back that I didn’t include above. So knock yourself out!  And If you’re looking for something more Passover-y, I have a recipe for sweet noodle kugel. I also have TONS of other cupcake and cookie recipes that can be adapted or used for this time of year, with just a little creativity.

As usual, I’ll be posting more spring-y things in the weeks to come so stay tuned... and tomorrow I’ll be guest posting over at Frosting 4 the Cause, so please come and check that out. I promise you’ll like it.