Category: whipped cream

Blueberry cream pie for Dad, plus a bonus jam.

This is my dad. Well, it’s him in the 1970′s, anyway.

Mein papa, 1970's.

My dad likes food.

My grandpa Butch liked food too, but he was my maternal grandpa, so there was no blood relation between them. However, between the two of them, I think that’s where I inherited my love of eating, my ability to eat more food in one sitting than a truck driver twice my height & weight, and also… my ability to inhale food as if it was the last meal on earth. Honestly, I eat faster than anyone on the planet. Everyone yells at me, tells me not to rush, to enjoy it. AND I’M NOT RUSHING. I DO ENJOY EVERY DAMN BITE. I JUST EAT FAST. Get over it. I once had someone ask me if my parents were in the military, because they knew someone who grew up in a strict military house where meals were timed. No. My parents were not insane drill sergeants, and neither of them were in the military. I just friggin’ fast, okay? Sheesh.

Anyway…

Other things I get from my dad: my height (I’m 5’9″ or 5’10″, somewhere in there), my stubbornness, and I’m sure my mother could tell you many more.

My dad also likes blueberry pie (I did not inherit this).

Pie prep!

Blueberry cream pie for Father's Day! The only baking involved is the crust.

For Christmas, a guy Jay works with went and picked up a bunch of pies from this place out on Long Island called Briermere Farms. They’re known for their pies, and they’re pretty incredible I have to say. Even though the only one I’ve had so far is the chocolate cream, I’ve seen how they look & visually they look… well… they look like pies you want to dive into headfirst, basically. And the fact that they’re all natural, homemade & don’t contain nasty preservatives or fake stuff? Even better. From the website:

All of our pies, bread, muffins, cookies, cakes, jam, and jelly are made right here on our farm from scratch. There are no pre-prepared ingredients or fillings bought for use. Most of the fresh fruit used in our bakery is grown right here on our farm.

But anyway, this guy drove all the way out there with a list of pies that other guys ordered, and picked them all up, just because the pies are that good. I’m talking like 30-something pies. They’re that big of a deal. So Jay ordered us a chocolate cream pie for dessert, as well as blueberry cream pie just for my dad, since he’s such a big blueberry pie fan.

And it definitely lived up to the hype. Even Jay liked it- and he hates berries more than I do. So I thought, gee, when Father’s Day comes around next spring, I should try & duplicate that pie.

Blueberry cream pie!

And so Father’s Day is here. And who better to look to when recreating a fantastic, cream-filled pie than Paula Deen? I mean, really.

So I found Paula’s version of the blueberry cream tart, and I decided it seemed pretty damn good. Now I’m not sure if it tastes anything like the one from Briermere Farms, but my dad sure likes it. I adapted it slightly from Paula’s original recipe. And looking at this pie, I take back what I said about not being a pie person. I make a pretty awesome looking pie!

And I guess we won’t have to order this particular pie from Briermere Farms anymore.

Easy & delicious blueberry cream pie. Perfect for Father's Day or a summertime barbecue.

BLUEBERRY CREAM PIE (adapted from Paula Deen’s Blueberry Tart recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 pint (8 oz. or roughly one cup) fresh blueberries (I used Driscoll’s*)
  • One 21-ounce can blueberry pie filling (or equivalent amount of homemade blueberry pie filling)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  2. Make your pie crust, and press it into your pie dish, poking holes in the bottom and sides with a fork. Bake for 10-12 minutes (or as directed on the package if using frozen) until golden, then remove and let cool completely.
  3. Beat the cream cheese with the confectioners sugar. Beat the heavy cream with the granulated sugar until it forms soft peaks, then fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Add the vanilla. Fold in the fresh blueberries gently.
  4. Spoon the cream mixture into the cooled pie shell and top with blueberry pie filling. Refrigerate until well chilled.
  5. Serve to your dad & tell him to enjoy!
 *I used Driscoll’s berries because I really liked what I read about them over at Food in Jars.

Easy & delicious blueberry cream pie.

I’m sure you could probably use a cookie crust, like graham cracker, and there wouldn’t be any baking at all! You can totally make your own blueberry pie filling, and on the same note you can use a frozen pie crust if you prefer.

Yes, there are people who will tell you not to, yes there are people who’ll rip you a new one for not making your own everything… but do what’s best for you. If it’s your first pie, then take baby steps. Pie crust can be rough for a beginner (it took me a long time to get a handle on it and I still suck at fancy crusts!). Of course, this is an easy pie to start with if you’re new to pie-making: there’s relatively little to do, not a lot of baking involved, and not too much prep.

And not for nothing, I think this idea would work really well with cherries, too, and probably even raspberries.

Fresh blueberries for blueberry cream pie (and blueberry basil jam!)

And if you’re like me and you buy more fresh blueberries than you need, you can make a simple little jam, too.

I decided to create something a bit more unique than your average blueberry jam, however. An added Father’s Day bonus for dad, if you will. My friend Chrisie made blueberry basil preserves last year & ever since then I’ve been dying to do that myself. It sounded so different, like it wouldn’t work. But yet the smell of the blueberries cooking with the basil totally made sense. It’s a genius idea, really, even more so than my raspberry-jalapeño-cilantro jam.

So what I did was I took Love and Olive Oil’s recipe for blueberry basil preserves and used Food in Jar’s recipe for small-batch blueberry ginger jam and kind of made a Frankenstein monster of blueberry recipe jamminess.

Blueberry basil preserves.

SMALL-BATCH BLUEBERRY BASIL PRESERVES

Makes about 12 ounces; either one half- pint (8 oz.) + one 4 oz jar or three 4 oz. jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 dry pint fresh blueberries, washed & dried (again, I used Driscoll’s)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4-5 large basil leaves, washed & torn

Directions:

  1. Smash your blueberries a bit and place them in a bowl with the sugar. In a mortar & pestle, bruise the torn basil leaves slightly and add to the blueberries & sugar. Toss together & let sit for one hour.
  2. Meanwhile, sterilize two 8 oz. jars or one pint jar, and put the lids in hot water to soften the seal.
  3. When ready, put the fruit mixture into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 15-25 minutes or until it passes the plate test/reaches 220° F. This might take longer or maybe even less time; it will depend on the weather, how much liquid is in the berries, the ripeness, your stove, the type of pan you use, etc.
  4. Pour into warm prepared jar(s). Wipe rims, place lids & bands, and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

If you’re umfamiliar with term “the plate test“, you have no idea what I mean when I say “sterilize your jars“, then click those links, and if you’re totally new to the canning thing but you desperately wanna start… then go read my post Canning for Dummies.

Blueberries are like little bombs of pectin, so I’m not sure why people always want to add more pectin to blueberry jams. They don’t need it! Let them cook down on their own. Oh, and wear a dark-colored apron when you make this. Blueberries like to attack sometimes.

Blueberry basil preserves.

4-ingredient blueberry basil preserves.

I can’t speak on the taste, but it sure looked pretty. And that pool of clear blueberry “liquid” is actually gelled, & wrinkles when pushed, so the preserves aren’t as loose-set as they appear. I tried to show in the photos that there are indeed basil leaves in there, but those suckers were hard to find. You’ll have to trust me.

Happy Father’s Day to all the awesome dad’s out there. Enjoy your day!

 Sources & credits: Longaberger black 11″ pie plate, Sur La Table marble rolling pin, vintage silverware, Ball® 8-ounce jars can be purchased at freshpreserving.com.

Chocolate chocolate whiskey ice cream.

‎”Ice-cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal.” —Voltaire‎

Kings County Distillery chocolate flavored whiskey.

One can only imagine what Voltaire would say about this ice cream in particular: a double whammy of both chocolate and chocolate-flavored whiskey from the Kings County Distillery, made for my favorite guy’s 32nd birthday. Yup, that’s right. Jay turns the big 3-2 today! Just so you know- he’s older than I am (by a whopping 2 months & 7 days, but let’s not get into that). See the thing is, usually I ask him what he wants me to bake for him for his birthday (as I do with everyone), then I bake it and give it to him on the actual day. But this year, Jay’s been on tour for over a week and he’s got a show tonight too. So tomorrow is his only day off and then Saturday it’s back to work. I decided to make something that would keep well and only get better with age (like Jay!).

What better than whiskey ice cream?

Chocolate whiskey ice cream. Made with two types of chocolate and chocolate "flavored" whiskey from Kings Co. Distillery.

I mean, the man’s been on tour for a week drinking probably nothing but bourbon & whiskey. Why not just keep the streak going?

Not to mention the fact that I believe it’s officially ice cream time. Memorial Day is next week, and the weather was a partly cloudy yet humid 75° F when I made this batch. To me, that means it’s the start of ice cream season. The whiskey I used for this is, like I said, from Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, NY. It has actual bits of dark chocolate floating around in it. It’s pretty strong, in my opinion it’s not a terrific “sipping whiskey,” more so one that’s best suited for mixing or baking. However it also has a strong chocolate aftertaste that makes this ice cream super special. But a regular whiskey or bourbon works just fine, too. And I can just imagine using that cherry bourbon chocolate sauce on this… lawdamercy. But the topping I used was pretty spectacular (keep reading for that).

This should probably be called ‘triple chocolate whiskey’ ice cream since there’s two types of chocolate PLUS chocolate whiskey. Call it whatever you want. Either way, it’s amazing.

Chocolate chocolate whiskey ice cream made with two kinds of chocolate PLUS chocolate 'flavored' whiskey from Kings Co. Distillery.

Triple chocolate ice cream: the creamiest ice cream you'll ever make. Or eat. Made with Kings Co. Distillery's chocolate whiskey.I love the way the light reflected & made a halo around the bowls. Even Mother Nature loves this ice cream!

CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE WHISKEY ICE CREAM

Recipe can be doubled

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup Kings County Distillery chocolate flavored whiskey
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate
  • 2 ounces chopped dark chocolate

Directions:

  1. Whisk together egg yolks, whiskey and 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, whisk together cream, vanilla, chocolate and 1/4 cup of sugar. Simmer over low heat until the chocolate is melted. Temper egg yolk mixture by slowly adding hot cream mixture to the egg yolk mixture, with a ladle, a little at a time. Once egg yolk mixture is thoroughly warmed add to the saucepan with the warm cream mixture. Stir until thickened and remove from the heat.
  3. Strain mixture into a bowl over ice. Place the bowl into the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes. Spin in an ice cream maker for 25 minutes… it probably won’t get much firmer, but this helps “churn” it. Add to a freezer-safe container & freeze for 12-24 hours so it gets firm.

Peanut butter whipped cream!

For an extra special treat, for my peanut butter lover… I made some peanut butter whipped cream to top it with. I know. I know. Don’t even say anything. There’s nothing you CAN say, it’s ridiculous. If you use a creamy peanut butter, yours will look smoother. Mine was crunchy.

Oh. I almost forgot: there are chocolate sprinkles too. Can’t have a birthday without sprinkles.

PEANUT BUTTER WHIPPED CREAM (from Yes, I Want Cake)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter (chunky peanut butter works also, I used it)
  • 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it’s almost but not quite “stiff.”
  2. Add the peanut butter, sugar and vanilla. Beat for another minute & serve.

Triple chocolate WHISKEY ice cream. Two types of chocolate and chocolate whiskey come together to make the creamiest, smoothest, most chocolatey ice cream ever. Oh, and there's peanut butter whipped cream to go with it.

Yeah. Not much to say about that. Well, other than WHOA. This is literally the softest, most creamy ice cream I ever made. It’s super decadent, fudgy & delicious. But it also has a little whiskey bite. Not much, mind you, just enough. However… it melts fast! So be careful. Only take it out right when you’re gonna serve it. It does NOT have to sit out & soften. In my experience, it’s ready to go right out of the freezer. Of course, if you freeze it for weeks, it might get a bit harder, but it still isn’t going to take long to “defrost” enough to serve. I also wouldn’t serve it in cones, it’s far too creamy.

Chocolate chocolate whiskey ice cream. Dark chocolate & semisweet chocolate combine with chocolate whiskey to make a smooth, creamy, rich ice cream that you'll LOVE. Add some peanut butter whipped cream & chocolate sprinkles to complete the experience.

On that note I’ll end this by saying…

Happy birthday Jay! And many more…

Chocolate chocolate whiskey ice cream with peanut butter whipped cream!

Psst.. .the tiki mug giveaway is still going strong. You’ve got until May 27th at 11:59 p.m. to enter. So go!

Sources & credits: Arcoroc French made smoky-clear glass bowls; vintage, Le Creuset mini coccottes in “Twilight” (white shown).

Vanilla-strawberry jam cakes.

Sometimes you just want a really quick dessert that isn’t chocolate. Or maybe you don’t, but other people might. Some people are fruit people. I know a lot of folks that, when given the option, will take a fruit salad or blueberry pie over a dark chocolate cake or decadent seven layer salted caramel chocolate ganache thingy. Or maybe you want to start eating a bit lighter. Or perhaps you’re just wanting to use up some fruit jam or preserves.

I know how that is, sister.

Although in this particular case, I sort of made up the dessert around the fact that I had made the jam, not so much to get rid of it, but to showcase it. I was looking through the book Cake Ladies & I got inspired by all that Southern-ness. So I just decided spur-of-the-moment that I wanted to make a different spin on the strawberry shortcake. Well, that and it was 80 freakin’ degrees here in New York last week. I was not in the mood for heavy duty cakery or cupcakery. I wanted to make something fun & light. Strawberry shortcakes sounded fun, but I wanted to do a different twist on them, and so vanilla-strawberry jam cakes were born.

However, I cheated & used Bisquick because I wasn’t in the mood to labor over the dough. Plus… to be honest… I just felt like it. I’m not going to make any excuses. Sometimes you just have to take a shortcut. I’m not ashamed.

But if you’re anti-Bisquick or you just don’t have any/can’t get any, here’s a recipe for making your own. However, almost any drop-biscuit dough recipe will work here.

Or, you can make a traditional shortcake, if you have a family recipe you hold near & dear. A simple vanilla or unflavored scone recipe would work as well.

The jam is a great way to introduce yourself to making jam, if you’ve never made it before. It’s a really easy one, and it thickens easily. When it’s done, if you’re not making the cakes at all (and you just want the jam) or you aren’t making them right away, all you’ve gotta do is just put the jam in any clean, warm jar you’ve got. I say warm because the jam gets very hot (obviously) while it’s being cooked, and if you put it into a cold jar it could shatter or crack. I used canning jars, but old spaghetti sauce/pickle/mayonnaise jars or little jars with hinged lids work just fine since you won’t be “canning” it. Just be sure the jars are thoroughly cleaned.

VANILLA-STRAWBERRY JAM CAKES

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh strawberries, washed & hulled (a little over a pound, depending on the size of the berries)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice
  • 2 1/3 cups Bisquick baking mix
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions:

  1. Slice the strawberries & using a potato masher or your (clean) fingers, mash & squish them together. If this doesn’t work, and the berries are too firm, cut them smaller.
  2. Place the strawberries in a large saucepan. Split and scrape the vanilla bean, adding the seeds to the berries. Add the empty vanilla bean along with the 1/2 cup sugar & lemon juice, stirring & cooking over medium-high heat, breaking up any large chunks of berry with a wooden spoon.
  3. Cook until it thickens and you can see the bottom of the pan when you stir, roughly 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the vanilla bean with tongs and add the jam to your clean, warm jars. You aren’t canning this so just make sure the jars are cool before refrigerating them. If making the cakes right away, there’s no need to refrigerate them (unless you prefer the contrast of cold fruit filling to warm dough).
  5. Meanwhile, heat oven to 425°F. Stir baking mix, melted butter, milk, and 3 tablespoons of sugar in a mixing bowl until soft dough forms. Drop by 6 spoonfuls on to a greased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, and let cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Move to a wire rack to cool until just slightly warm. Plate the cakes, spoon vanilla-strawberry jam on, then spoon some fresh whipped cream on top (see below). Dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired. Voila!


WHIPPED CREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the three ingredients together with the whisk attachment until they’re thickened. Check the taste, add more sugar or vanilla as needed, by the 1/4 teaspoon.
  2. Continue beating until the whipped cream is the proper thickness, but don’t whip too much… you’ll get butter!

This very same recipe can be used without the jam, and with fresh strawberries. Or macerated strawberries if you prefer. I just think the vanilla-strawberry jam gives it a totally different spin. The jam is also great on oatmeal, English muffins, you name it. I should also say that this jam recipe would probably work well with raspberries or blueberries too, or even blackberries. The strawberries bright color lets you see the black vanilla bean flecks, but that doesn’t really matter. If you prefer blueberries, try making these jam cakes with them instead!

 

If you’d like to can the jam for shelf-stability, I’d recommend following a trusted canning-safe strawberry jam recipe and just adding the vanilla bean to that. Here’s a post I wrote up last year with more instructions on canning, and links to some reputable canning resources on the web.

Ye olde Irish dark chocolate Guinness pudding.

Nothing I am about to show you today is traditionally Irish.

guinnesschocolatepudding

Nothing.

Actually… I’m lying. The Guinness is. Other than that, it’s a conglomeration of the Americanization of Irish culture; throw something green in there & it’s automatically Irish! But that’s okay with me, really. Look at how we celebrate the Chinese New Year with orange chicken & fried rice. Or how we go to an Italian restaurant & eat “chicken parmigiana.” None of that is realistic or authentic. That’s just how we roll in America, and as someone of Irish descent who knows better (and corned beef isn’t really authentically Irish either, folks), I’m still okay with it. I like green cupcakes & bagels. It’s fun. Better to be celebrated in that way than overlooked, right? America was built on the backs of immigrants, many of them Irish, so in whatever way we choose to celebrate them, it’s better than ignoring them. Do I wish that it was more to people than just a day to get drunk? Of course. But look at the 4th of July or Memorial Day- most people use them as excuses to have barbecues & get hammered.

And I alone can’t change that. So I keep these holidays in my way, and you can keep them in your way. And I like to keep them in a fun way, even if it isn’t 100% authentic.

And naturally, there’s really nothing that screams ‘SAINT PATRICK’S DAY” in America more than Guinness stout.

Dark chocolate Guinness pudding with creme de menthe whipped cream!

Guinness (pron.: /ˈɡɪnɨs/ gin-is) is a popular Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness (1725–1803) at St. James’s Gate, Dublin. Guinness is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide. It is brewed in almost 60 countries and is available in over 100.[1] 850 million litres (1.5 billion imperial or 1.8 billion US pints) are sold annually.[1]

A feature of the product is the burnt flavour that is derived from roasted unmalted barley, although this is a relatively modern development, not becoming part of the grist until the mid-20th century. For many years a portion of aged brew was blended with freshly brewed beer to give a sharp lactic flavour. Although the Guinness palate still features a characteristic “tang”, the company has refused to confirm whether this type of blending still occurs. The draught beer‘s thick, creamy head comes from mixing the beer with nitrogen when poured. It is popular with Irish people both in Ireland and abroad, and, in spite of a decline in consumption since 2001,[2] is still the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland[3][4] where Guinness & Co. makes almost €2 billion annually.

Guinness stout is made from water, barley, hops, and brewer’s yeast. A portion of the barley is roasted to give Guinness its dark colour and characteristic taste. It is pasteurised and filtered.[citation needed]Making the product requires knowledge in the sciences of microbiology, mycology, bacteriology, and thermodynamics.[26] Despite its reputation as a “meal in a glass”, Guinness only contains 198 kcal (838kilojoules) per imperial pint (1460 kJ/l),[27] fewer than skimmed milk or orange juice and most other non-light beers.[citation needed]

Until the late 1950s Guinness was still racked[clarification needed] into wooden casks. In the late 1950s and early 1960s aluminium kegs began replacing the wooden casks; these were nicknamed “iron lungs”.[28]

Draught Guinness and its canned counterpart contain nitrogen (N2) as well as carbon dioxide. Nitrogen is less soluble than carbon dioxide, which allows the beer to be put under high pressure without making it fizzy.[citation needed] The high pressure of dissolved gas is required to enable very small bubbles to be formed by forcing the draught beer through fine holes in a plate in the tap, which causes the characteristic “surge” (the widget in cans and bottles achieves the same effect). The perceived smoothness of draught Guinness is due to its low level of carbon dioxide and the creaminess of the head caused by the very fine bubbles that arise from the use of nitrogen and the dispensing method described above.[citation needed] “Original Extra Stout” contains only carbon dioxide,[29] causing a more acidic taste.

Contemporary Guinness Draught and Extra Stout are weaker than they were in the 19th century, when they had an original gravity of over 1.070. Foreign Extra Stout and Special Export Stout, with abv of 7.5% and 9% respectively, are perhaps closest to the original in character.[30]

Although Guinness may appear to be black, it is officially a very dark shade of ruby.[31]

Bottle conditioned Guinness Extra Stout was available in the UK until 1994, and in Ireland until early 2000.[32]

My idea here was that there’s really nothing more fun than a good chocolate pudding. So why not make it a grown-up pudding? I thought of doing Jameson at first, but then I decided Guinness would go so much better with the chocolate. And I had some Lindt semisweet baking chocolate here just dying to be used up. So I really had to make this.

What? I did.

Dark chocolate Guinness pudding topped with creme de menthe whipped cream. Originally made for St. Patrick's Day but would also be great for Christmas! Substitute a chocolate or cream stout if desired.

So you’re remembering that ginger cake, or whatever, and you’re sitting there thinking “This bitch really loves Guinness.” And you’d be right. But even if I didn’t, it’d still be an easy to find stout that just works. It’s flavor just lends itself perfectly to baked goods, but it’s reasonably priced and can be found ANYWHERE. However I will say this: a chocolate or cream stout would work just as well. If you’re workin’ with the Irish theme then obviously I’d stick with Guinness. But in theory any rich, dark, thick, sweet stout would knock this pudding out of the park.

DARK CHOCOLATE GUINNESS PUDDING

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder (I like Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup Guinness stout (I used extra stout, feel free to use whatever you want… like I said, a chocolate stout would work well too)
  • 1ounce very good semisweet chocolate, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Pour the Guinness into a measuring cup, and set aside. Let sit until the foam subsides.
  2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light yellow and thick in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium-high speed. On low speed, add the cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring the milk & Guinness to a boil in a medium saucepan and, with the mixer on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the chocolate mixture. Combine well, then pour the mixture back into the pan.
  3. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon, until thickened. If the mixture begins to curdle, remove it from the heat and beat it vigorously with a wire whisk. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate, butter, vanilla, and heavy cream, and mix until the chocolate and butter are melted and fully incorporated.
  4. Strain through a sieve if desired or needed.
  5. Pour into serving bowls or glasses (or jars!). Place plastic wrap directly on the top of the pudding, and chill thoroughly. Serve with whipped cream… if desired, the creme de menthe whipped cream below…

CREME DE MENTHE WHIPPED CREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons good quality Crème de Menthe
  • 1 drop green food coloring (if you want the color brighter)

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the first three ingredients together with the whisk attachment until they’re thickened. Check the taste, add more sugar or Crème de Menthe as needed, by the 1/4 teaspoon.
  2. Continue beating until the whipped cream is the proper thickness, but don’t whip too much… you’ll get mint-flavored butter! Ew.
  3. Add a drop of green coloring to brighten the color if needed or desired.

Dark chocolate Guinness pudding topped with creme de menthe whipped cream. Originally made for St. Patrick's Day but would also be great for Christmas! Substitute a chocolate or cream stout if desired.

The flavor of the whipped cream reminds me of that infamous “Shamrock Shake“- so if you’re not a fan of that, you probably won’t like this. It’s a very straightforward mint flavor. If you’re unaware as to what it is, or you’ve never had it:

Crème de menthe (French for mint cream) is a sweet, mint-flavored alcoholic beverage. Its flavor is primarily derived from Corsican mint. It is available commercially in a colorless (called “white”) and a green version (which obtains its color from the mint leaves or from the addition of coloring, if extract and not the leaves are used to make the liqueur). Both varieties have similar flavors and are interchangeable in recipes, except where the color is important.

Crème de menthe is used as an ingredient in several cocktails, such as the Grasshopper and the Stinger, and is also served as an after-dinner drink and can be used in food recipes as a flavoring (see Mint chocolate).

The traditional formula involves steeping dried peppermint leaves in grain alcohol for several weeks (creating a naturally green color), followed by filtration and the addition of sugar.[1]

I’m a fan of anything mint, especially when paired with chocolate, so I love it. But I will agree that it’s an acquired taste. Another idea is to use peppermint extract & green food coloring, you can also just make regular whipped cream and color it green with just a drop of food coloring. And ANOTHER idea? Make it a Bailey’s Irish Cream whipped cream by substituting Bailey’s for the Crème de Menthe. The pudding recipe can be halved, but it doesn’t make such an exorbitant amount that you’d need to, unless there’s only two of you. Or one of you. I still don’t understand that because I can eat two 16-ounce jars of this all by myself… but oh well.

It would be super cute to tear off little shamrocks from a shamrock plant and use them as garnish for this! Not edible, but sure as hell cute. Damnit. Wish I’d thought of that before.

And Guinness in no way provided me with anything nor did they ask me to write this recipe up. Oh how I wish I was gifted with a gigantic case of Guinness stout! But alas, no. All ideas/recipes/opinions/etc are mine & mine alone, apropos of nothing but years of delicious Guinness imbibery (is that a word?).

Auld Lang Syne.

Here we are. Arriving at the end of yet another year. Another year older, and hopefully another year wiser. For many, NYE is a melancholy event, and for others it’s just an excuse to party hard & wake up the next morning with no clue of how/where the previous year ended. Neither of those describe me. Like I said on Facebook a few days ago, my idea of the perfect NYE? In my pajamas, eating take-out or a variety of appetizers while watching The Honeymooners. Then, right before midnight, switching over to the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve just to see the ball drop while drinking some bubbly. No parties, no bar-hopping. The furthest I’ll go is out to dinner. I am just not the partying type (anymore). And of course, being the significant other of a police officer means there’s not a whole lot going on on NYE anyway; he’s usually working, even if it’s a “day off.”

So on that note, every year for New Year’s Eve, since I’m usually home, I make something fun using champagne (or rosé or prosecco…). I think since champagne is the drink of the evening, it’s only right that any desserts or meals that are served not only compliment champagne & vice versa, but include it somehow.

This year, I was at a loss until I stumbled upon something on the Food Network website that gave me the perfect excuse to buy that extra bottle of champagne:

CHAMPAGNE PARFAITS. Whaaaat. I know.

This is probably the easiest dessert you’ll ever make. I know, I know, I always say that. But this time it’s 100% true: it takes absolutely no time at all to make, about 8-10 minutes, actually. And the rest of the time it just chills out in the fridge. You can make it the night before or that morning. It tastes just like champagne… but in a jiggly form. It’s a grown-up, classier, fancier version of a Jell-O shot… no fake fruit flavor added. Add some berries (berries bring out the flavors in champagne) if you like, or a little fresh whipped cream, or just eat it plain. You probably have all, if not most, of the ingredients already. And if you don’t? They’re easy enough to get a hold of.

Plus, it just looks spectacularly beautiful.

CHAMPAGNE “JELL-O” STYLE OR CHAMPAGNE GELATIN PARFAIT (adapted from a recipe by Claire Robinson at the Food Network)

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle champagne/rose/prosecco (750 ml)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packets unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoon’s confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raspberries or strawberries (if you prefer, it’s optional)

Directions:

  1. Put the champagne, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes to burn off some of the alcohol.
  2. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the gelatin until completely dissolved. Pour into parfait glasses, champagne glasses or a 9 x 11″ baking dish. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate to set up for at least 4 hours.
  3. When you’re ready to serve the parfaits, in a large bowl, whip the cream to medium stiff peaks, adding the confectioner’s sugar slowly. Then add vanilla. Whip with a hand mixer using a whisk attachment until desired thickness, but not so much it turns to butter!
  4. Remove the glasses with the gelatin from the fridge. If you’ve used a baking dish, cut the gelatin into 1 by 1-inch cubes and put into parfait or champagne glasses.
  5. Top each with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and berries.* Then enjoy!

*Another idea is to put the berries into the room temperature mixture before refrigerating it. Then they’d be “floating” in the champagne!

I am IN NO WAY encouraging anyone to pour a steaming hot liquid into a crystal vessel or a non-heatproof glass vessel. I can’t take responsibility for anyone ruining their good crystal by pouring hot champagne Jell-O mixture into it. That said, after allowing the mixture to cool (not to room temperature, just slightly above) and warming the crystal under hot water first (and gradually), I poured it into the champagne flutes and then let it come to room temperature. Once it was cooled enough, then I transferred them to the refrigerator where they stayed until serving time. Any quick change in temperature can cause glass & crystal to crack or even simply shatter. So if you are planning on serving these in the flutes, you have a few options:

  1. Do as I did: heat up your gelatin mixture, and let it cool off the heat enough so that it’s not scalding hot, but just very warm. Meanwhile, let cool water, then lukewarm water, then warm water, then hot water run over your crystal champagne flutes. When they’re prepared for the hot champagne mixture, place a thin tea towel on your table or kitchen counter and place the warm flutes on it. Put a small metal spoon in each one, then you can pour the mixture into them slowly. Then remove the spoons. Allow them to cool completely and come to room temperature, then place them in the fridge for 4 hours or until it’s time for dessert. The idea is that the spoons absorb the heat, and help disperse it, and the tea towel absorbs the shock making it less likely you’ll break the flutes. I’ve had no problem with this method- but again, do it at your own risk.
  2. Use cheap dollar store champagne flutes or wine glasses to attempt it- if you don’t want to risk your good crystal. I’d still use the method above.
  3. Use disposable plastic champagne flutes from a party store. If you personalized them (either the glass or the plastic) with Sharpies, your guests could then take them home! You don’t need to prep plastic first, they should hold up just fine with the warm liquid (not boiling!)
  4. Use parfait glasses. Since they’re usually thicker glass, there’s really less concern with breakage. I’d still run the hot water over them first like I said in #1.
  5. Use a heatproof glass baking dish, let it come to room temperature, and then put it in the fridge the same way. Then simply cut it into 1″ squares once it’s ready, and place it into the flutes/wine glasses/bowls for serving. Heatproof glass doesn’t need to be heated before having boiling hot liquid poured into it, it’s just fine to use & withstands drastic temperature changes pretty damn well.

If you’re frightened, then don’t do it. Use a baking dish, and cut it to serve, or use the plastic champagne glasses. But I will say that these are my grandmother’s crystal champagne flutes from 1940, and they held up just fine with the method I explained above.

Just as with the champagne jelly, you shouldn’t use an expensive champagne for this. Any champagne will do- don’t waste your Tattinger, Perrier-Jouet or Veuve Clicquot. Because after all, don’t forget, you’re boiling it & adding sugar to it anyway. Why use something really expensive when you won’t get the full taste? I used Andre extra dry which is about $4.99 a bottle for the 750ml, and it turned out excellent. Plus, there’s more sugar in cheaper champagne as a rule, so they make a better dessert. You don’t really want a parfait that isn’t sweet. If you prefer very dry champagne that isn’t sweet for drinking, that’s fine. But in a dessert, served with whipped cream & berries? You want a little bit of sweetness.

Save the good champagne for guzzling !

I hope you have a safe & happy end of 2012 & beginning of the year, and a healthy 2013 throughout. I’ll see you back here next year!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne…

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

 

The name “Jell-O®” is a registered trademark of Kraft Foods U.S/the Altria Group. & this company or the makers of J-ello have nothing to do with me, this recipe or this post. I’m using the name as a generic term for a gelatin -based dessert, i.e. the way “Band-Aid” or “Kleenex” is used to describe bandages or tissue paper.

Winter warmth in the form of… squash.

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Christmas is over. The cold weather is just kicking into high gear here in New York, as is expected.

I’m guessing most people in your house are preoccupied with new gadgets or toys right about now. That’s the best part of the week after Christmas: playing with your new toys! And sleeping late, too, if you’re able. Because pretty soon it’s back to business. Back to work, back to school… and it’ll be cold out there. So when it’s blustery & cold, and the hubbub of Christmas has worn down, and even when the new year doesn’t feel so new anymore, it’s important to have something warm & comforting to look forward to. Or to come home to. You know, a reason to turn on the oven. And of course, for me, that warmth almost always comes in the form of desserts. Although a beautiful new coat & some boots doesn’t hurt either… this is about pie.

Black pie plate from Longaberger, black appetizer plate from Ikea, little cocotte from Le Creuset

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I found this recipe way back in November when I bought a little book that contained a variety of best-loved pie recipes; all kinds, for all seasons, from frozen to fruity to creamy to nutty. I originally made it for Thanksgiving, and since it was such an enormous hit, I felt lucky to have some leftover frozen squash in the freezer so I could make it again. And that I did, just this week. The beauty of it is that you can use any of the following squash:

  • Acorn Squash
  • Blue Hokkaido Pumpkin
  • Butternut Squash
  • Cheese Pumpkins
  • Delicata Squash
  • Hubbard Squash
  • Kabocha Squash
  • Red Kuri Pumpkins
  • Rouge Vif d’Etampes Pumpkins
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Sugar Pie Pumpkins
  • Sweet Dumpling Squash
  • Turban Squash
  • White Pumpkins

Depending on the kind you use, your pie will have a slightly different color. I used butternut squash, myself, so my pie has an orange-y brown color that isn’t quite a pumpkin-y color. A white pumpkin might yield a more yellow color, a rouge vif d’etampes would give a redder color, etc. Also, while you can in theory use any of the aforementioned squash, depending on the variety you use you may have to puree the flesh or dice it more finely before using it- especially the varieties that hold their shape while cooking.

Winter squash is a summer-growing annual vegetable,[1] representing several species within the genus Cucurbita. It differs from summer squash in that it is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage, when the seeds within have matured fully and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. At this stage, most varieties of this fruit can be stored for use during the winter. It is generally cooked before eating.

Winter squash is a low-calorie, good source of complex vegetable carbohydrates and dietary fiber.

It is an excellent source of vitamin A, a great source of vitamin C[citation needed], potassium, dietary fiber and manganese, and a good source of folate, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 (thiamin), copper, tryptophan, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid).[2]

It is also a source of iron and beta carotene. Usually, the darker the skin is, the higher the beta carotene content.

-Wikipedia

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WINTER SQUASH PIE

Ingredients:

  • 1 single 9″ pie crust (frozen works just fine if you need to use it, just defrost according to package directions)
  • 12 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) frozen (or fresh) winter squash, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (thawed & drained first if frozen)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted (for topping)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° degrees F. Prepare your pie crust, place it into your pie plate and crimp the edges. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the squash, sugar, vanilla, egg & sour cream thoroughly. Add in pumpkin pie spice and salt, and whisk. Then whisk in the evaporated milk.
  3. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until set (mine took about 55 minutes).
  4. Remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Serve with whipped cream and top with toasted hazelnuts, if desired.

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It was so quick to make, the hardest part (and the longest part) was making the pie crust. May I just say, I think this is one of the best pies- visually- that I’ve made so far. The crust came out great, which is usually a problem for me. I’m so impatient I have a hard time making a pretty crust. I just wanna get it into the pie plate and start baking. But this time I ended up with a beautiful pie.

And what’s pie without whipped cream!?

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I decided to make a brandy whipped cream, a spin-off on that bourbon whipped cream I made before Thanksgiving. It was absolutely perfect with the pie. Regular whipped cream would be just fine, but you know me, I always have to be different. Besides, my grandma always used to say that brandy was “warming”… so it just makes sense to use it at a time when everyone wants to be warm & escape the cold. Not for anything, but check out that big, billowy brandy whipped cream. It’s to die for. I prefer to serve the whipped cream & hazelnuts on each slice individually, but you could also pipe the whipped cream around the edges of the pie and then sprinkle the nuts on top of it before you bring the pie out to serve it. That is, if you’re sure there won’t be much leftover, if any- the whipped cream doesn’t hold up well in the fridge (it’d have to be re-whipped due to lack of stabilizers & preservatives). It would make a lovely presentation that way. I know my audience, though, and that they can’t finish a pie like this in one sitting. So I keep everything separate.

It’s also easier to eat the whipped cream by the spoonful that way. But don’t tell anyone I told you that. Stay cozy & well-fed my friends.

Sources & credits: Recipe from Best-Loved Pies, Longaberger black 11″ pie plate, Ikea black plate, Le Creuset mini coccottes in “Twilight” (black shown).

And to all a good night!

Welp, today is Christmas Eve.

That came super quick, didn’t it? Or maybe it’s just me.

Regardless, it’s here now. And on Christmas Eve I have a few family traditions: making the last of my Christmas Day treats (usually more fudge), pre-cooking whatever has to be done for Christmas Day (if anything), wrapping up any last minute gifts, and a eating a dinner made up of a variety of appetizers while drinking cocktails & watching A Christmas Carol; more specifically, the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim (the best version, in my humble opinion). Sometimes there’s a big, gigantic tin of assorted flavor popcorn thrown in there as well. That’s been the tradition in my house for as long as I can remember. When Jay came into the family, we had to work around his schedule as well as everyone else’s, which wasn’t really an issue until he became a cop. Then that kind of really threw a monkey wrench into things. And I don’t say that negatively; I say it meaning sometimes the Christmas Eve traditions end up being on Christmas Day, while the Christmas Day dinner ends up on Christmas Eve. Or sometimes, the big family Christmas dinner is pushed forward to the 26th or 27th. But that’s totally fine with me. I’m adaptable. I like having multiple celebrations, anyway… it’s fun to spread out the awesomeness for a few days!

(Pardon these photos… the lighting was poor & I was kind of rushing. I hope you get the gist of it, and can enjoy them anyway)

I had to make cupcakes for Christmas, that’s obvious. So I baked up those delicious Stollen-inspired cupcakes, courtesy of the Food Network magazine.

A Stollen is a fruit cake containing dried fruit and covered with sugar, powdered sugar or icing sugar. The cake is usually made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts and spices. Stollen is a traditional German cake, usually eaten during the Christmas season, when called Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen.

Stollen is a bread-like fruitcake made with yeast, water and flour, and usually with zest added to the dough. Candied orange peel and candied citrus peel (Zitronat),[1] raisins and almonds, and different spices such as cardamom and cinnamon are added. Other ingredients, such as milk, sugar, butter, salt, rum, eggs,[2] vanilla,[3] other dried fruits and nuts and marzipan may also be added to the Stollen dough. Except for the fruit added, the dough is quite low in sugar. The finished cake is sprinkled with icing sugar. The traditional weight of a Stollen is around 4.4 pounds (2 kg), but smaller sizes are now available.

The Dresden Stollen (originally Striezel), a moist, heavy bread filled with fruit, was first mentioned in an official document in 1474,[4] and the most famous Stollen is still the Dresdner Stollen,[5] sold, amongst other places, at the local Christmas market, Striezelmarkt. Dresden Stollen is produced in the city of Dresden and distinguished by a special seal depicting King Augustus II the Strong. This “official” Stollen is produced by only 150 Dresden bakers.

-Wikipedia

So of course, these cupcakes aren’t genuine Stollen. They’re just inspired by it, and because I have this weird thing where my cupcakes have to have frosting, I added a vanilla whipped cream-ish frosting. I swear, making these cupcakes with no frosting almost killed me. I absolutely HAD to frost them! However, if you aren’t as opposed to frosting-less cupcakes, you can leave it at the confectioner’s sugar, or make a simple icing with heavy cream, rum & confectioner’s sugar to drizzle on top.

Also, that tablecloth in the photos was handmade by my mother when she was 10 years old. It’s red felt, with a little white fringed edge, and cut out green felt trees decorated with glitter, beads, sequins, & paillettes. That tablecloth plus my grandmother’s “spaghetti ware” Santas, the retro-y Meri Meri Merry & Bright Christmas cupcake kit I had & the stollen-inspired cupcakes (stollen always seems like an old fashioned dessert/bread to me), really made it feel like a vintage Christmas.

STOLLEN-INSPIRED CUPCAKES (adapted from the Food Network magazine, Dec. 2012)

Makes about 1 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of a mix of citron, dried currants, dried cranberries & raisins, or whatever you like (optional)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup marzipan, room temperature & softened slightly
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted (for topping)
  • confectioner’s sugar (for dusting)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a larger bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), beat the softened butter with the marzipan and sugar until fluffy. Then beat in the 2 eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla & almond extract.
  3. Slowly beat in the flour mixture and 1/3 cup milk in alternating batches. Divide among 12 prepared muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full, and bake 20-25 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and set aside for five minutes. Brush with melted butter while still warm, but not hot, and dust with confectioner’s sugar. When 100% cooled, then frost.

WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING (adapted from The Food Pusher)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
  • 2 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whipping cream (regular or heavy, I used heavy)
  • pinch salt
  • 5 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in small bowl to soften.
  2. Scald 2 tablespoon of the cream; pour over gelatin, stirring till dissolved.
  3. Refrigerate until consistency of unbeaten egg white. (This takes about 10-15 minutes.) Then, with a whisk, beat until smooth.In a stand mixer with a whip attachment, or with a hand beater, whip remaining cream, salt and sugar; whip in the smoothed gelatin mixture, stopping to scrape the bowl twice.
  4. This recipe stands up well, even in warm weather. Keep leftover frosting and any product topped with it in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

I’ll avoid any overly sappy holiday messages… all I will say is that this Christmas we all have so much to be thankful for. After the Newtown, CT shooting I’m sure we all had a little wakeup call about that. I know all the parents that I know certainly did, and me too. I may not be a parent- but life is short, and you should appreciate what you have while you have it. You just never know what may come tomorrow. So be thankful for your family & friends & pets, tell them you love them every chance you get & don’t let fear get the best of you. I had to remind myself that after being in NYC during the 9/11 attacks- when it was time to get back on that train, it was kind of hard to do. Fear of what could happen should never take away from your life, or interfere with you living. And I know there are some parents who might feel a form of survivor’s guilt; why did their child live? How did they get to be so lucky when others were so terribly devastatingly ruined by this? I don’t know why or how, but I do know that you should just be thankful & not let that guilt or those questions take one minute of time away from you enjoying your family as much as possible. I don’t have the answers. And I don’t really have anything to say that can solve this, provide comfort, or take pain away from anyone. I do know that sweets make people happy. And when I make people happy, it gives me solace that my one little tiny act of baking a cake or pressing “publish”  can maybe help make someone smile in an otherwise shitty situation. So in that vein, I’m continuing to light up my little section of the web with deliciousness (& hopefully a few laughs). Food can sometimes give the comfort words themselves can’t.

I’ll leave it at that and I’ll just get right to the point…

Merry Christmas to all… and to all a good night.

Santa Claus is coming to town…

AND HE’S COMING IN 21 DAYS.

(Better pick up that phone…)

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Wow. So it’s really December! Holy crap, right? Thanksgiving has come & gone. Black Friday is over, as is Cyber Monday (which sounds very dirty to me, sorry I’m a child of the ’90′s when “cybersex” was the big parental fear, not “sexting”). The pumpkins are gone & being replaced with lights. ‘Tis the season of Christmas cookies, Hanukkah recipes & gifts of all shapes & sizes. ‘Tis the season of peppermint everything & mistletoe, snow & fireplaces, Christmas lists & long lines. Toys & sleds. Snow & red noses.

I love Christmas time, but really, it’s enough to make you want to crawl under a down comforter until February. So let’s ease into it all, shall we? How about easing into it with some polka dot cupcakes, and some hot cocoa? Sound good to you? Vanilla cupcakes, with little green dots made from the same vanilla batter. So easy!

(Mugs & plates from Target. And yes, the mugs & plates are small… the cupcakes aren’t huge!)

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It’s so simple. Here’s what you do:

  1. Just pick your favorite vanilla cupcake recipe, make it, then take about 1/2 cup of the batter, maybe even just 1/4 cup, and put in in a separate bowl.
  2. Tint it whatever color you want (you can also do a few different colors by dividing the batter further).
  3. Pour the plain vanilla batter into cupcake liners, as usual.
  4. Then take the colored batter & spoon it into a disposable pastry bag, snip off the very bottom and carefully pipe “dots” on to the tops of your unbaked cupcakes. Or, you could use a very small round piping tip if you have one. My dots were uneven… what else is new, haha- but once they were baked you couldn’t even tell anyway.
  5. You can do red & green dots on vanilla cupcakes, plain vanilla dots in red velvet cupcakes, chocolate dots in vanilla cupcakes, vanilla dots in red velvet cupcakes, red dots in chocolate cupcakes, etc, etc, etc. The possibilities are endless!

I didn’t frost mine so the dots were visible. If you want, you could probably pipe the dots in layers so that you get polka dots all the way through the cupcakes. Never done it myself, but it’s worth a shot. The liners are from Michael’s, not sure what brand they are. You can definitely get similar red/white polka dot liners at any number of places, though: sweet estelle baking supply, Layer Cake Shop, Bake it Pretty, The Cupcake Social, Sweet Cuppin Cakes. Wherever you like to shop. I think dotted liners in a contrasting color look so cute, but stripes would be adorable too!

And of course… the cupcakes wouldn’t be complete without some hot cocoa!

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CUPCAKE REHAB’S HOT COCOA*

Makes about 6 servings, depending on the size of your mugs *wink*

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (you can use dark, too)
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • Candy canes, mini marshmallows, whipped cream & peppermint schnapps/peppermint syrup (all optional)

Directions:

  1. Mix dry ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir in the hot water & bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  2. Stir in milk and heat, but do not boil. Remove from the heat & add vanilla. Pour into mugs.
  3. Add a dash of peppermint schnapps, if desired, then add whatever you like on top: whipped cream, mini marshmallows or both. Add a candy cane stirrer (or crushed candy canes on top) & enjoy!
*this hot cocoa also works well with a dash of cinnamon sugar & a pinch of cayenne pepper instead of peppermint schnapps & candy canes.

If you’re caught without candy canes (hey, it’s only the BEGINNING OF DECEMBER!), some hard peppermint candies will, when smashed, work the same way. Or, you can use a squirt of peppermint syrup in the cocoa and skip the crushed candies on top. The peppermint is optional altogether, however, so don’t sweat it. I personally like a little peppermint in my hot chocolate, but this cocoa happens to be good enough on it’s own to stand up without any fancy stuff.

On that note, I look forward to spending another holiday season with all of you. Sláinte!

Maple + pumpkin + bourbon = happiness!

Yeah, you read that right. Motherjumpin’ MAPLE PUMPKIN. And do you know what the maple & pumpkin have done with themselves in this particular instance? They’ve put themselves into little maple pumpkin pastries, or pasties. And yes- it looks as good as it sounds. And it’s all really easy!

See, it all started like this: I had a load of pumpkin in my freezer that I had to use up before Christmas kicks in & everything becomes peppermint-y and not so much pumpkin-y. But I was stumped. Cupcakes, been there done that. Bread? That, too. However, randomly, while looking for something else, I found something that gave me an idea: orange ramekins. I know, you’re thinking, “What do ramekins have to do with anything?” Well, see, I had forgotten all about them. I bought them last year and never used them. I shoved them in a cabinet and forgot all about ‘em. But when I saw them this year I immediately thought of pumpkins… and I was originally going to come up with a pumpkin spice pudding, or a pumpkin-y bread pudding. But then… to add to my excitement over having ideas again… I saw this.

How the hell was I supposed to ignore a recipe that has both pumpkin and maple in the title?

However, while custard tastes delicious, it doesn’t look all that delicious, especially pumpkin custard. Pumpkin custard resembles something wonky that babies do when sick. It tastes amazing, but does not photograph well; unless of course, you’re working for Bon Appétit & have professional lighting & backdrops & such at your disposal. I do not. I live in a house, not a photography studio. My life is not ruled by food photography. I do not have professional lights & reflectors set up just so my custard photographs well. So I made the custard, and it was eaten up super quickly, but the photos left a lot to be desired. And that’s when I decided to hell with it. I’m going back to an old standby- mini pies.

Or pasties.

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Are they an “old standby” at this point? I don’t know, but somewhere between my Nutella pop-tarts and my mini-apple pies, I came to love the portable pie. And it became a fall-back for me when regular pies hate me, or, apparently, when custard doesn’t look appetizing. I had all this pumpkin left & I didn’t want to do a pumpkin pie, ’cause that’s boring. So I made little pies. This time, though, they look more like pastries, or pasties, more so than miniature pies… so I’ll just dub them maple pumpkin pasties (Harry Potter, anyone?). You can call them mini pies, or pumpkin pop-tarts, or pumpkin littles, or whatever cutesy name you like. They’re pie crust, cut into circles, filled with a maple pumpkin filling, folded over, brushed with egg… and then baked. When done, they’re a hand-held heavenly little cluster of amazeballsness. Or a pasty.

And before you go off thinking I’m talking about those little items strippers use, get your minds out of the gutter:

A pasty (play /ˈpæsti/, Cornish: Hogen; Pasti), (sometimes known as a pastie or British pasty in the United States)[1] is a baked pastry associated in particular with Cornwall in Great Britain. It is made by placing uncooked filling on a flat pastry circle and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. After baking, the result is a raised semicircular end-product.

The traditional Cornish pasty, which has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in Europe,[2] is filled with beef, sliced or diced potato, swede (also known as a yellow turnip or rutabaga – referred to in Cornwall as turnip) and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper, and is baked. Today, the pasty is the food most associated with Cornwall, it is regarded as the national dish, and it accounts for 6% of the Cornish food economy. Pasties with many different fillings are made; some shops specialise in selling all sorts of pasties.

The origins of the pasty are unclear, though there are many references to them throughout historical documents and fiction. The pasty is now popular world-wide due to the spread of Cornish miners, and variations can be found in Australia, the United States, Mexico and elsewhere.

-Wikipedia

So a pasty is just like a hand-held pie. Cute, easy, convenient,  and so much better than a regular ol’ pumpkin pie, especially with the addition of maple. But you might be wondering where the bourbon comes in. That part is the perfect example of how I can’t leave well enough alone. I thought some bourbon whipped cream (thanks for the excellent idea, Tanglewood Baked Goods) would be amazing with this. And I was right. As usual (kidding). But seriously, the bourbon whipped cream really gives it something. It elevates it, makes it more grown-up.

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 MAPLE PUMPKIN PASTIES (adapted extremely generously from a recipe by Joy the Baker & from these)

Ingredients:

  • 1 double pie crust recipe of your choice; made, chilled, rolled out to 1/4″ thickness & ready to cut
  • 3/4 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • cinnamon sugar (just mix together 2 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon in a little bowl), optional (I didn’t do it)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  2. Prepare the filling: whisk together in a small saucepan the pumpkin puree, maple syrup and spices, then, on medium-low heat, heat the mixture just until it’s fragrant. Remove from the heat. Add the egg & flour, whisking quickly. Set aside in the fridge to cool.
  3. Cut your pie crust into whatever shapes you want. I used fairly large circles that I then folded over in half to create half moons/crescents. You can also do rectangles, or do squares and fold them over in half to make little triangles, or make smaller circles and use two to mimic a teeny pie (like thus). Do as thou wilt, just know the bigger the shape, the less pasties you’ll get.
  4. Make sure you poke holes or slice little cuts in the top half of the dough; meaning whether it’s folded over or it’s a separate piece of dough, it has to have airholes to release moisture, gases & heat. You don’t want these little ones bursting open in your oven after all your hard work. Assemble your pasties by spooning the filling in, sealing them, and creating a crust with a floured fork. DON’T OVER-FILL THEM! They most definitely will burst open if you do. I definitely got a little over-zealous & had a few messes to clean up.
  5.  Place them on the baking sheet, leaving some space in between. Let them breathe! If this takes you a while and you notice that the dough is getting super soft, chill the pasties you already have made until it’s time to bake them. It’ll help them keep their shape.
  6. Brush the pasties with either a whole egg beaten, or just egg white, to create a nice brown crust. sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with bourbon whipped cream.

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 I know, they’re so messy. I don’t even know why none of my mini-pies ever come out even. I just can’t do anything 100% perfect, it always looks a little off and uneven. As a matter of fact, I gave up measuring my dough with rulers & shit, because it just never works out! But whatever they look like, I don’t care, they taste good. Isn’t that what’s important, anyway? It isn’t important how perfect they look, or how beautifully they’re shaped. What matters is if they’re edible, delicious, and if people love eating them.

And that, my friends, is exactly the case with these.

You can use any size cookie cutter you want, or you can make a larger calzone-sized pasty by using a cereal bowl as your shape. It all depends on what you plan on doing with them or how you want to serve ‘em.

BOURBON WHIPPED CREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons good quality bourbon

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the three ingredients together with the whisk attachment until they’re thickened. Check the taste, add more sugar or bourbon as needed, by the 1/4 teaspoon.
  2. Continue beating until the whipped cream is the proper thickness, but don’t whip too much… you’ll get bourbon butter!

You can also save the whipped cream overnight, but you’ll definitely have to re-whip it before you eat it again. It kind of re-softens and loses it’s whipped character the longer it sits. Remember- this is fresh whipped cream, not store-bought. There are no preservatives! It has to be re-whipped after it sits for any lengthy period of time. Also, just as an FYI- this would work with any liquor of the following: brandy, bourbon, whiskey, and vodka. Which wouldn’t really give it much of a flavor, unless you used flavored vodka. Which might be interesting.

Major thanks to both my orange ramekins & that maple pumpkin custard recipe (which really is delicious, and I highly recommend it) for inspiring me to create these. Maple & pumpkin, & bourbon. Nom nom. Although… I do think it might be time for me to make a full-size pie again. Soon.

And I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it’s only 3 days away. Time is flying…

To Autumn.

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Autumn hasn’t always been my favorite time of year. When I was a child, I didn’t like it because it meant summer was over and school was starting. No more sleeping late and floating in the pool all day, no more beach days, no more “fun.” As I got older, fall started to be my favorite season. I started to appreciate more the absolute beauty of it; the changing leaves, the pretty colored skies. I love sweaters and boots and knubby socks. I still despise the winter though, and all it’s grey-ness, snow and ice. That won’t ever change. If I could live somewhere that gave me the definite changing of the seasons but just skipped over the snow & -12°F temperatures we tend to get in the deep winter? Hell, I’d move there today. However the beauty of fall? That’s something I can’t deny. Summer is lovely.. slow, warm, soft and hazy. Summer is fans, porch swings and lemonade. Fall is crisp, golden, hurried. Fall is apple cider, pumpkins, the crunch of leaves under your feet and scarves. And most of all, fall is Halloween, which is my most favoritest holiday ever. So that means I’ve grown to love fall, and the clothing that comes with it. So I’m really, really, really going to miss summer, especially this year, for a lot of reasons. Most of which are sentimental and personal, which I’m not going to get in to here. And despite the weather, as of 6 days ago it’s official: summer is over & it’s completely autumn.

So in honor of that, today I present you with a delicious pound cake, loaded with flavor, moist and delicious, with a lovely sugary “crust” on top, and of course, served with whipped cream and some halved plums I canned in syrup.

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Plums are around from May through October, the peak time for them being August. But to me, they’re strictly a late-summer fruit.

A few days ago, I posted the spiked chocolate plum jam, with beautiful photos of the jewel-like deep purple plums in a bowl and the resulting beautiful, purply-red jam. But I didn’t tell you that I only used half of the plums in that jam. The other half? Well three were eaten right off the bat, and the rest were halved and canned in syrup. In terms of “whole fruits”, not jams or preserves, I had only ever canned peach slices, clementine slices & whole strawberries in syrup before, so I thought it was time I did something bigger. Canning whole fruit kinda scares me- I mean, how the hell do you fit a ton of whole nectarines into a JAR? Weird. It can only be explained by magic.

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Anyway, I halved the plums so I could fit more into one pint jar. If you want to make more than one jar, or you’re using quart jars, then double/triple/quadruple/etc, the following recipe to suit you.

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1 PINT of PLUMS IN SYRUP

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 – 1 lb. plums (purple or prune plums, Damson plums or Greengage plums work best)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Sterilize your jar, and pop the lid into a bowl of hot water. Keep the jar hot. Combine the water & sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Wash the fruit. If you’re halving the plums like I did, cut them in half and remove the pits. If you’re canning them whole, poke 3-4 holes in the skin of each plum to avoid “bursting” in the jar.
  3. Pack the plums tightly in your jar. Squeeze them in as best as you can without bruising or squashing them, they shrink up once they “cook” in the syrup.
  4. Pour the hot syrup over the plums, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Gently remove air bubbles with a knife or thin spatula. Adjust headspace if needed by adding more syrup.
  5. Wipe rim, place lid and screw band on to fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

Because my pint jar is the Collection Elite jar, it’s a different size and shape than the conventional pint jars. If you use a regular one, you might need a little extra fruit to fill yours (or maybe less, depending on the size of the plums you’re using).

And when you’ve got such a beautiful looking jar of plums, you need something to serve them with. And for that reason, there’s pound cake.

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Last summer I made a pound cake that was so incredibly delicious, so amazing, so perfect… that it was world-renowned. Maybe not world-renowned, but at the very least it was the talk of the family. It was almost obnoxious how “adults” almost killed one another to grab a slice. But I understood, because it was that good. I served it with a rhubarb-ginger jam the first night, after that it was eaten a variety of ways: with ice cream, plain, with fresh fruit, etc. Basically I’m using a lot of words to say this: it was amazing. I didn’t really think that any other pound cake could top it, actually, until I found one at the King Arthur Flour website that sounded equally delicious, but was slightly smaller in a lot of ways (except that whole five eggs thing). I didn’t want to make the other one again, because I was just making it to serve with the plums for a simple little dessert, and that’s quite a large cake. So I made this one.

And I figured best case scenario, I get rave reviews about the plums, the whipped cream and the cake itself. And on the other hand, at the very least it would just be the vehicle that transported the plum halves and piles of homemade whipped cream into people’s mouths.

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But I needn’t have worried. Jesus Christ on a cracker, this was some good shit. Was it as good as that other pound cake? Yes, however if I’m being honest, the other one was just a smiiiidge better. But more importantly- this makes a smaller cake. So if you have no use for a massive 10″ bundt-shaped pound cake but you still want a moist & delicious one, this one’s for you. If you’re feeding a lot of people, or you’re making it for a party or a bake sale, and you want a top-notch pound cake, then by all means make this one.

GOLDEN VANILLA POUND CAKE (taken & adapted extremely minimally from the King Arthur Flour website)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon if you use salted butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon water

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 5″ x 2 3/4″ loaf pan, or a 12″ x 4″ x 4″ tea loaf pan. To avoid overflow, be SURE to use the correct size pan!
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter, cream cheese, salt, sugar, baking powder & vanilla extract until well combined.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; the mixture may look slightly curdled/grainy. After you’ve added the final egg, beat at high speed for 3 minutes. Once all the eggs are added, stir in the milk.
  4. Sprinkle in the flour gradually, with the mixer going at low speed. Mix just until combined. The batter will be smooth and thick, but still pourable. Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. To make the topping, combine the sugar, vanilla, and water. Stir until the mixture is syrupy. At first it’ll seem very stiff, but will become “drizzle-able” as you stir. Set the topping aside.
  6. Set the cake on a baking sheet, for easiest handling and as a precaution against potential overflow (which shouldn’t happen if you use the correct size pan). Bake it for 55 minutes (for either size pan).
  7. Remove the cake from the oven, and brush/drizzle with the sugar mixture. Return the cake to the oven for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, and set it on a rack. Insert a toothpick into the center; it should come out clean. If you use an instant-read thermometer, the center should register about 200°F to 205°F. The very top, right under the crust, will still be kind of soggy; don’t worry about it.
  8. After 5 minutes loosen the cake’s edges and turn it out of the pan to cool completely on a rack.

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I was shocked when this cake came out so perfect. Usually I have a terrible time with loaf cakes; for some reason almost every time they overflow like crazy. I have no idea why. It’s as if all my loaf pans are magically from another planet. I measure them every time to make sure they’re the right size, yet almost every time I get overflow. But not this time! It just came out like… well… a piece of cake. The whipped cream is the always intriguing “whipped cream in a jar.” It’s very simply made by combining heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar & pure vanilla extract in a jar. Then you just shake it! For people like me who never have whipped cream in the house, but who usually have heavy cream, it’s an easy and fun way of making your own without whipping (no pun intended) your mixer out.

WHIPPED CREAM IN A JAR (adapted a bit from The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-4 drops vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Put all three ingredients in an 8-ounce jar. Close lid.
  2. Shake jar vigorously for about 3-5 minutes or until it becomes whipped cream (you’ll be able to feel when it no longer “sloshes” and it gets thick). Eat!
  3. Store in the fridge for a day or two tops, but best when eaten as soon as it’s made.

Who can turn down pound cake & homemade whipped cream? And the plums were the highlight, for sure. Who knew such a simple pairing, the components of which are all so incredibly easy, could make such an impressive dessert when put together?

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What a lovely way to welcome fall. See you all in October.

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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

“To Autumn”, John Keats (1795 – 1821)