Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Light & Lemony Shortbread

I'm thinking Spring...even though the thermometer reads barely above 40-degrees today, my daffodils confirm my belief.  And, with St. Patrick's Day just a few weeks away, I thought I'd get started on baking some shortbread to give as gifts.

Shortbread is a soft crumb cookie that due to it's high fat content (butter) inhibits the long strands of gluten to form and create this texture. It is typically made from one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts oat flour, which present day baking has substituted all-purpose flour for.  I like to create a mixture and add in rice flour for some of the all-purpose to give this "biscuit" it's rightful texture, however, if you own a food processor or Vita Mix, grinding old-fashioned oats into flour will work too.  The sugar should be superfine, which you can find in the baking aisle, but could also substitute confectioner's sugar if you can't.

The other nice quality about Shortbread is that it goes perfectly with a cup a tea--which I've been drinking a lot lately due to my cold--and did you know this is "National Hot Tea Month!"

Light & Lemony Shortbread
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and softened to room temperature
1/3 cup superfine sugar
2 T confectioners' sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. Lemon extract
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rice flour

Preheat oven 300F-degrees.  Spray a 9" x 9" x 2" square pan with baking spray (or 2 ceramic shortbread pans).
In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the lemon zest and extract.  Beat again to combine.

Add the flours and mix on medium speed until the dough comes together.

Press dough into the prepared pan(s) and prick the surface with a skewer to ensure even baking. If you're baking in the square pan, lightly score the dough into squares.

Bake in preheated oven 35 to  45 minutes until golden brown.  Let cool about 5 to 7 minutes and then invert onto a baking rack.

Optional Lemon Glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. Light Karo syrup
additional hot water to create a glaze

In a small bowl, mix up everything, but the hot water.  Add the hot water, one teaspoon at a time until the consistency of a thin glaze.  Spread onto the top of the shortbread and sprinkle with yellow sparkling sugar, if desired.

Use a sharp knife to cut through the squares.  Let the shortbread cool completely before serving.

Truly, there's nothing more comforting than a warm cup of tea with this shortbread when you're feeling lousy with a cold or just want to cuddle up on the sofa with a light comedy and a fire (I recommend "It's Complicated" with Meryl Streep, Alex Baldwin, and Steve Martin!) after a long day.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Savory Chili~Cheese Muffins

A couple of years ago, I featured a bread made with a mystery ingredient, compliments from one of my favorite mystery authors--JoAnne Fluke.  The spice bread's ingredient was a can of pork & beans, but you would have never known that from the delectable taste of it.

Tonight, while picking out ingredients to make a pot of soup, I saw a can of Bush's Chili Beans on the shelf, next to the cannellini beans I was using.  My memory flashed back to that bread and I thought I could easily make up a savory muffin version to go along with the soup I was making--Bean & Kale Soup.

It's been a rainy week that called for a pot of soup, but honestly I could eat soup any time and these muffins were the perfect accompaniment.

Savory Chili~Cheese Muffins
4 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1-16oz. can Bush's Mild Chili Beans, pureed
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground Cumin
1/2 tsp. Chili powder
2 green onions, chopped
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
3/4 cup shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
1 cup chopped walnuts (measured after chopping)

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray a 12-cup muffin pan and a 6-cup muffin pan with a baking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs to combine, then, add the oil and whisk to thoroughly blend.  Stir in the pureed chili beans and sugar.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.  Use a large scoop to fill the muffin tins almost to the top.  You will be able to get 18 regular sized muffins.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 22 minutes until the tops of the muffins are firm to the touch.  Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes.  Then, turn the muffins on their side to finish cooling. (This allows their "bottoms" to dry!)

 I have another end-of-season cold and soup is just what I needed.  This recipe has so many possibilities, either sweet or savory, and I'm glad I came across it two years ago.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mardi Gras Trio Cookies

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) begins tomorrow--the day before Ash Wednesday.  This festival of celebration may be different from city to city, but for many it means the last day of eating rich, fatty foods ;-D  My memory of Mardi Gras centers around my mother making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday; something we all looked forward to as the special treat of having breakfast for dinner and then, talking about what we would give up for Lent. 

Today, my daughter, Erin was very ambitious and made this beautiful King's Cake in the celebratory colors.
Maddie holds up the King Cake they'll eat tomorrow!
Since I spent most of the day in my studio, working hard, I opted for a quicker treat to bake.  The Trio Cookies are rolled in sparkling sugars in the traditional colors for Mardi Gras~Purple represents Justice ~ Gold represents Power ~ Green represents Faith and they're flavored appropriately to add a little surprise.

Mardi Gras Trio Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour (plus another 1/4 cup when mixing in the flavorings)

1/4 cup Pistachios, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. Almond extract
1/2 tsp. Blackberry flavoring 
1/2 tsp. Lemon extract
1 tsp. Lemon zest

Preheat oven o 350F-degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter until fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then, with the mixer running on medium, slowly add the sugar.  Mix in the vanilla extract and scrape down the sides again.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add it to the dough, while the mixer is on low.  When all of the dry ingredients are added, turn off the mixer and scrape the dough onto a bread board.
  Divide the dough into thirds for adding the different flavors and colors.
 One, by one, I place a third of the dough in a bowl and stirred in the flavorings I was adding.  You're welcome to be creative and choose the flavorings you want to go with the colors.
Once all the flavorings have been added, pinch off enough dough to make a 1-inch ball and roll into the appropriate colored sugar.
Place on the lined baking sheet.
 Press the balls together and place the baking sheet into the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes.  The coolies should have a "golden brown" color around the edges.  Remove from the oven and let cool about 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
 I know my family would eat each colored ball separately to savor the flavors better and tomorrow, I will make pancakes.  What is your family tradition for Mardi Gras?  "Laissez les bons temps rouler" --Let the good times roll!  Enjoy!!    


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chocolaty Chocolate Chip

Just in case you haven't had enough chocolate this week, I baked a chocolate~chocolate chip cookie to satisfy any chocoholic or take the stress of the day away...which is what I needed.  I'm laughing because thinking back, with eight children, maybe this is why chocolate was one of my mother's favorite flavors!

Chocolate, which comes from the cacao tree, is a legume.  I've recently learned that from taking the "What's Your Chocolate IQ?" test in the February issue of the food network magazine.  I only missed three questions out of 20, which put me in their "Super Sweet" category!--Which must mean, I have chocolate in my veins...LOL!  I know I have it in my genes ;-)

The earliest record of chocolate was in 1100 BC with the Aztec culture, who made a beverage called xocolatl, meaning "bitter water."  Subsequently, it was important in both Mayan and Aztec religious ceremonies where the priests offered up the cacao pods to their gods and served the drink.  However, it was the Europeans who added milk and sugar to sweeten it that has become what we all enjoy as chocolate today.  I was especially pleased, and know my mother would have been too, that bittersweet is actually considered "healthy" (in moderation).

Chocolaty Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Vanilla beans, split and scraped or 1 T. Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp. Red Velvet Cake Flavor
2 large egg
1/2 cup cocoa (I used a Cocoa Rouge)
2 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 1/4 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
In a bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream butter.  Add the sugars and vanilla (beans or extract) and beat until fluffy, scraping down the sides between the beating.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.  Scrape down the sides.

In a separate bowl, mix the cocoa and the rest of the dry ingredients together, using a whisk to combine.  Add to the batter and on medium speed, beat to combine.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Using a one-quarter-cup scoop, measure out the dough on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes, rotating the pan once to ensure even baking.
 Let cool for 5 minutes, then, transfer to a rack to cool completely.  Makes 2 dozen 3-inch cookies.

Another thing I learned from this issue was that "If you treat yourself to chocolate, you're probably a more generous person."  Hmmmm, I think I know some people to send some to! Enjoy!!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Banana~Split Cheesecake

As I looked around my kitchen for inspiration for what to bake...I espied a couple of bananas hanging from the wooden rack.  I frowned.  I didn't feel like banana bread or muffins, but if I've learned anything from my mother, it is, "you don't throw anything out."

Literally, I've made every kind of banana bread combinations known to bakers, Bundt cakes, pudding and cupcakes, so what's left?  Well, I thought...I've never made a cheesecake and, now I had a plan.  However, I soon realized from the start that I didn't have graham cracker crumbs and had to substitute a package of Biscoff cookies that I did have. (You could have also use Nabisco Vanilla Wafers.)  I had so many ideas of what could go with a banana cheesecake--salted caramel, chocolate chips, peanut butter; the list goes on, but I had just bought a flat of California strawberries and decided on a take of a banana split.

Admittedly, I had ice cream on the brain since my sister and I had just reminisced how my mother loved to go to Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor in Springfield, Virginia, and order a triple hot fudge sundae--one of her favorite desserts.  In my final presentation, I had to add hot fudge in memory of my mother ;-)

Banana~Split Cheesecake
8.8 oz. bag Biscoff cookies
2 T granulated sugar
7 T unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375F-degrees. Spray a spring form pan with a non-stick baking spray and line with a parchment round--makes for ease of presentation.
Place Biscoff cookies in a food processor and crush to fine crumbs.  You may need to use the pulse button to achieve an even crumb.
You should have about 2 cups of crumbs.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix.  Press crumbs into a 9-inch springform pan on the bottom and about 1 1/2-2 inches up on the sides.
Bake in the preheat oven about 9 minutes. I wrapped aluminum foil on the bottom and also placed the pan on a another baking sheet.  Remove and place on a rack to cool while you prepare the cheesecake.  Turn the oven down to 325F-degrees.

Cheesecake filling:
4- 8oz. pkg. Cream Cheese
2 T flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 medium bananas, peeled and mashed (should have about 1 cup puree)

1 T Vanilla + 1 Vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 tsp. Banana Flavor
4 large eggs

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until fluffy and no lumps remaining.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and turn the mixture on medium to slowly add the sugar and the flour.  Scrape the sides again.  Add the vanilla, vanilla bean and banana flavoring and mix on medium once more.  Finally, turn on the mixer and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down the bowl and remove the paddle attachment.

Pour into the 9-inch spring form and place on the middle rack of the oven.  Place a baking pan on the bottom shelf and add 1-inch of boiling water.  This method helps ensure your cheesecake doesn't crack in the middle.

 Bake 65 to 75 minutes until the center doesn't jiggle.  Turn oven off and crack the oven.  Let cool for about 30 minutes, then, remove to a baking rack to cool completely to room temperature.  Cover and let cheesecake chill for at least 8 hours or up to 3 days.  At this point, you could also freeze it for later.
Pineapple Topping:
1 20oz. can of Pineapple tidbits in juice, drained and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup Turbinado sugar
1 Vanilla bean, split and scraped

In a saute pan, on medium heat, place the sugar in the pan.  As it starts to melt, add the pineapple and vanilla, making sure to add in the scraped bean as well. When the mixture comes to a boil, turn down the heat to low and let the mixture cook for 30 minutes until a golden brown color occurs.  Remove the vanilla bean and transfer to a dish--refrigerate to cool.

Strawberry Topping:
2 pints of fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup Turbinado sugar
1 Vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 T cornstarch

Repeat the method as in the Pineapple Topping.  The strawberries will release more juice, so you need to make a roux to thicken.  I mixed cornstarch with 2 teaspoons of water and blended to a smooth mixture.  Add to the strawberry mixture and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Remove the vanilla bean and transfer to a bowl to cool.
The hot fudge sauce I made comes from the Serendipity Sundaes book by Stephen Bruce with Sarah Key--it's one of my favorites because it doesn't have corn syrup in it which has anti-setting properties.

Fabulous Hot Fudge Sauce:

Makes about 1 1/2 cups
4 T unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped or use chips
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light cream
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. Vanilla extract

Combine the first six ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly until smooth.  Remove from heat.  Add the vanilla and stir again.  Serve immediately or microwave 20 seconds to heat.

To assemble:
I spooned the pineapple topping in the center of the cheesecake and surrounded it with the strawberry topping.  I chilled the cheesecake once more for about 1 hour.
To plate:  I placed a ring of hot fudge around the dessert dish, then, cut a slice of cheesecake to placed it in the center.  Finally, a piping of fresh whipped cream on top finishes off the Banana~Split!

My mother would have asked for triple hot fudge with her cheesecake..."because you can never have too much chocolate." Enjoy! 

I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day.  My hubby brought me pink roses, which my cat enjoyed as much as I did.  LOL!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Breathe of Spring~February's Give-Away

This past week I got to take in a little breathe of Spring by attending the 24th Annual Flower Show in Seattle, Washington.  I say breathe because as soon as you walk into the Exhibit Hall, you're greeted with the scents of Hyacinthe's, Lilies, Daffodils, Tulips, Primroses, Magnolia, Hellebores, to name a few. I look forward to this event each year to give me the assurance that Spring is definitely coming!
 This month's apron is bright with butterflies in pink, orange, and yellow hues--I loved the fabric the moment I saw it in the store and knew it would be perfect for February.  Who cares what Punxsutawney Phil predicts! 

The rules are simple~every time you post a comment your name is placed into the garden pot.  And, the more you post, the more chances you have to win...I'm feeling generous for being so tardy in my sewing-LOL!

Good Luck, XOXO

Friday, February 10, 2012

Red Velvet Scones

Valentine's Day is around the corner and while chocolate and roses maybe the most sought after, I like to start the day with breakfast, so I  came up with a special scone for the occasion. In addition, Go Red for Women in February has become as popular as the pink ribbon for breast cancer in October and I wanted to emphasize this as much as the one day we exchange gifts of love.

My Grandma Gladys died, at age 72,  of heart disease in 1973, the day before our daughter Kelly turned one year old.  Because of her condition, she never even got to hold her youngest great-granddaughter--something that made me extremely sad.  Awareness and prevention is the focus of various events that are held all over the country in hopes that one day heart disease and stroke will be a thing of the past;  heart disease still remains the #1 killer of women, ahead of the top three cancers.

Red Velvet Scones
4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 T. Dutch-processed cocoa
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
10 T unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/3 buttermilk
1 large egg
2 tsp. Red Velvet Cake Flavor (or 1 T red food coloring)

3 T. half & half
Sparkling Sugar
Preheat oven to 400F-degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, with a paddle attachment, mix all the dry ingredients.  Add the butter pieces, in batches, until it is mixed into the dry ingredients.  Whisk the egg and Red Velvet Cake Flavor (or food coloring) into the buttermilk.  While the mixer is running, slowly add the buttermilk mixture and beat just until the dough comes together.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured bread board and knead a few times until the dough is smooth.  Roll out the dough to 3/4-inch thick and cut with a round or heart-shaped cookie cutter.
Transfer scones to a baking sheet and brush the tops with the half & half, then, sprinkle with the sparkling sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven 15 to 17 minutes until done.  Let cool while you make the Mock Devonshire Cream (optional, but sooooo good!)

Mock Devonshire Cream
8 oz. pkg. of cream cheese
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 tsp. lemon juice

In a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.  While the mixer is running, slowly add the heavy cream.  When the cream cheese and heavy cream are thoroughly combined, add the confectioners' sugar, lemon zest and juice.  Start the mixer on low and gradually speed up to high to whip the cream.  Place in a bowl and serve with the scones.  Additionally, you could also have some raspberry or strawberry jam to top the cream!
After breakfast, take a walk with the one you love for exercise...and some alone time--it's good for the heart.  Enjoy! 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Lemon~Chocolate Chip Tea Cake

Today would have been my mother's 92nd birthday.  A truly remarkable woman, who raised eight children, sometimes on her own when my Dad's duty assignment was at sea and she survived The Great Depression, a World War, the Korean conflict and living on a budget before credit cards were popular!  She was my mother and when I got married and had children, my best friend and always my mentor.

This tea cake I made in her honor has her two favorite flavors--lemon and chocolate and I'm sure it would have pleased her.  It's an interesting combination, which my girls would have told anyone, she was famous for.  Once, when my dad picked them up from school while I was working, they came back to the house and my mother was eating Cheetos dipped into Marshmallow Fluff!  Also, I blame her for giving me my obsession with sweet and salty with all the chocolate dipped pretzels and potato chips we sampled throughout the years.

February 6th is a tough day, but baking and being able to talk to my sister today made it bearable.  Memories and traditions have sustained us through the worse times and losing our mother at such an early age is definitely one of those times.

Lemon~Chocolate Chip Tea Bread
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
Juice and Zest of one large lemon
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. Kosher salt
2/3 cup sour cream
3/4 cup Mini Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1 tsp. Light Karo Syrup

Candied Lemons (optional)
If you are doing the candied lemons, begin the process before starting the batter.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Lightly spray a non-stick pan(s) with baking spray.  
In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the eggs, one at a time, continuing to mix on medium speed and thoroughly combined.

Mix together the dry ingredients and add to the batter alternately with the sour cream.  Beat for 1 minute on medium speed (don't over mix).  Finally, stir in the mini chocolate chips.

Distribute batter in a 9" x 5" loaf pan plus 2-3 muffin or small loaf pans.  I used a decorative loaf pan and two paper baking forms in a heart shape.

As you will notice, I decorated the tops with the some of the candied lemons, but that's a bad idea because they end up browning way too much.  If you make the candied lemons, decorate the tea cakes after they are baked!

Place pan(s) in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Lower temperature to 325F-degrees and continue to bake another 15 minutes.  I baked the loaf pan for 35 to 40 minutes.  A skewer poked in the center should come out clean and the tops firm when pressed with your finger tips.

Mix up the glaze and pour over the loaf and small cakes (I poured over the candied lemon slices.)
Serve warm or cooled.  The loaf has a wonderful texture and the flavor combination is memorable.  It's not a fancy cake, but my mom would have loved it with her coffee--she liked the unusual and to be surprised.  Wishing you were here to have a slice with me...

January's Winner is...

Congratulations to Ellen!  Your name was chosen for this apron representing the Year of the Dragon for Chinese New Year 2012.  Please email your address and I will send it out ASAP with love.  

Today, would have been my mother's 92nd birthday and with everything else, I am running a tad behind.  February's apron should be up shortly and celebrates the month of love!

Thank you all for posting.  I love the comments and the connections--this maybe your lucky month! XOXO

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Familiar~Favorite Chocolate Cupcakes

My mother was a great cook and baker; something that I've share with you all for the last 2 1/2 years with my blog.  However, I have to admit, when I was in elementary school, I had a dessert envy of those kids that brought Twinkies, HoHo's, Ding Dongs, Snowballs, and yes, Hostess Cupcakes.  I realize, now, it was the "packaging" that intrigued me more or as much as the treat itself.

Over the years, my love of baking has helped me create my own treats (Twinkies) to surprise my family and friends and today, I decided to replicate another familiar and favorite treat that I yearned for--Hostess Cupcakes.  These snack cakes were the inspiration of D.R. (Doc) Rice, who, in 1950 added the vanilla cream filling and the seven (7) squiggles on top of the chocolate icing to the existing chocolate cupcake from 1919.  Their slogan was, "you get a big delight in every bite!"  So, I had a challenge before me when I set out to create my own cupcakes that would satisfy even the most skeptical believers.

Deep chocolate cake, a stabilized vanilla whip cream, a deep chocolate ganache, and the familiar royal icing squiggles is my version.  A little more decadent to make up for the packaging! LOL!!

Dark Chocolate~Vanilla Cream Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Ganache
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 Vanilla beans, split and scraped (or 1 T Vanilla extract)
1 tsp. espresso (optional, but enhances the chocolate flavor)*
2 1/2 cups Queen Guinevere Cake Flour
2/3 cups Dark Dutch Cocoa 
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
*For my friend, Ellen, at the Bake It With Booze blog, you could substitute 2 T Kaluha for a grown-up version)

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the softened butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the scraped vanilla beans (or extract) and beat once again.  Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.  On medium speed, continue to beat 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Either sift the dry ingredients or place them in a bowl and use a hand whisk to combine.  Add the the dry ingredients alternatively with the buttermilk, starting and stopping with the flour mixture.  Turn the mixture to medium/high and beat for 1 minute until fully combined.

Use a scoop to place the batter into the paper-lined pans.  I filled the papers almost to the top and was able to get 20 cupcakes.  If you want to fill the pans with the usual recommended two-thirds full, you will get an even 2 dozen--your choice.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, being careful not to over bake, which is easy to do with chocolate batters.  Also, if you don't fill two pans with the cupcakes, add water to the muffin openings so you ensure even baking.

Vanilla Cream Filling
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 T Whipped Cream Stabilizer

2 T granulated sugar
2 Vanilla beans, split and scraped

Mix the stabilizer with the granulated sugar.  In a bowl, using a whisk attachment or as I do, in a copper bowl, start whisking the heavy cream, sprinkling the stabilizer/sugar mixer over it.  Continue to whisk until thicken.  Add the vanilla bean "paste" and whisk to combine.  Set aside.

Dark Chocolate Ganache 
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips

In a small sauce pan, over medium heat, heat the heavy cream until bubbles appear around the outer edges.  Remove from heat--don't let it boil.  Pour over the bittersweet chocolate chips and let set a minute or two.  Slowly whisk the mixture to combine.  Set aside.

Royal Icing
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 T meringue powder
2-3 tsp. cold water
Mix the meringue powder into the cold water, then, add it to the confectioners' sugar.  Whisk to combine.

Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, use an apple corer to remove the center--save the cupcake pieces.  Place the stabilized whipped cream into a bag with a #7 tip and pipe the Vanilla Cream into the center.  Use just the top (the outer baked part) of the cupcake "plug" and place on top of the cream to cover it before dipping into the ganache.

You can either use an offset spatula to frost the cupcake, or as I did, dip the cupcake into the ganache, then, smooth it with the offset spatula.  

When you finish with the ganache step.  Fill a small bag with a #3 or 4 tip and pipe the squiggles over the ganache frosting.  Let the cupcakes set for an hour or more before serving or packing up to give.

The moist, dark chocolate cupcake, with the vanilla cream and ganache frosting was just what I envision to be my version of this favorite lunch time snack.  And, just like the snack cakes I envied my classmates having, these also have a "big delight in every bite." Enjoy!