Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pschyedelic Witch Embedded in Asphalt Cupcakes

A few years ago, I did a recipe, based on a "thumbprint cookie" with the same idea of an orange witch hat embedded in asphalt.  Well, I'm at it again.  I could blame it on all the contruction cones I've come across lately, but admittingly, it's missing laughing with Kelly over this ridiculous comparison we heard one evening while watching a comedienne do her skit.  We both cracked up and to this day, it's one of my favorite phrases when I pass a construction cone to comment on.
photo courtesy of the internet
To make the cones or witch hats, I used Bugles--remember those corn snacks from the 60's?  They were the brainchild of a food engineer named Joe Applebaum, who worked for General Mills. They are fried in coconut oil, unlike most snacks which used Soybean oil, and they come in a number of flavors.  They're pretty addictive and it was adventure to find a store that still sold them.
Over a double boiler, melt orange wafers.  Scoop out almost half of the melted wafers onto parchment paper and spread to about 1/8".  Dip the Bugles into the mixture and set on top of the rectangle.  Allow to dry completely.
Black Velvet Cupcakes
6T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 T shortening
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2T Dutch-processed cocoa
2T Specialty Dark cocoa by Hershey's
1 T black food coloring gel
1/4 cup boiling water
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1T apple cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line muffin pans with paper liners.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and shortening together.  Slowing add the sugar while the mixer is running and beat together for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating them into the batter thoroughly.  Again, scrape the sides.

In a small bowl, mix the cocoa's with the food coloring, then, add the boiling water and stir to combine.
Sift the flour and salt together.  Add the buttermilk and vanilla to the cocoa mixture.  Add the dry ingredients alternatively with the cocoa/buttermilk mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
In a small bowl, add the vinegar to the baking soda.  After it finishes "fizzing," add it to the batter and beat on low just until combined.
Use a #20 scoop to fill the cupcake liners (almost 3/4 full).  Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes (don't over bake or the cupcakes will be dry).
While the cupcakes are baking, make Chocolate Butter cream. I used an apple corer to remove a "plug" from the cupcake so I could pipe some of the butter cream into the center.
Now, it's just a matter of piping the butter cream, adding some Cocoa Krispies around the sides (I thought that gave it a nice touch to resemble gravel in the asphalt.)

 Finally, I used a paring knife to cut a square around the cone and placed it on top of the cupcake.
I definitely have a big smile while I construct these cupcakes and think Kelly would be laughing too. Enjoy!

A dear friend sent me this today and I want to share it:

At birth we boarded the train and met our parents, and we believe they will
always travel on our side.  However, at some station our parents
will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone.  As time
goes by, other people will board the train; and they will be significant
(i.e., our siblings, friends, children and even the love of your life.)
Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum.  Others will go so
unnoticed that we don't realize they vacated their seats.  This train ride
will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hello's, goodbyes, and farewells.
Success consists of having a good relationship with all passengers
requiring that we give the best of ourselves.

The mystery to everyone is: We don't know at which station we ourselves will
step down.  So, we must live in the best way, love, forgive and offer
the best of who we are.
It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down
and leave our seat empty, we should leave behind beautiful memories
for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.

I wish you a joyful journey on the train of life.  Reap success and give lots of love.  
More importantly, thank God for the journey.

Last, I thank you for being one of the passengers on my train.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Homemade Velveeta Cheese

Would it surprise you to know that Velveeta Cheese was invented in 1918 by Emil Frey of the Monroe Cheese Company in Monroe, New York?  It was sold to the Kraft Company in 1927 and reformulated to the cheese spread I grew up with in 1953.  The name comes from its velvety texture which is a result of combining the whey with the curd to produce a smooth, clump-free cheese which maintains its integrity when heated--unlike cheese that separates at a higher temperature.

I recently came across this blog post by PJ Hamel of King Arthur Flour with the title, "The Secret Ingredient Chefs Won't Admit Using: And How to Make It At Home."  Well, that piqued my interest yesterday and I made my first block of Homemade Velveeta!  Apparently, lots of restaurants use it in making their Mac & Cheese dish and others swear by it for a superior grilled cheese sandwich.   I can honestly say, I've used Velveeta for years to make both of these...and of course, the Ro*Tel cheese dip for parties--who hasn't!  Now, I can rest assure I'm not incorporating preservatives that may be harmful; PJ says, "this recipe comes from Michael Symon, Food Network's Iron Chef and restaurant owner/chef and will keep in the refrigerator for one month.

Homemade Velveeta Cheese
First, line a 9" x 4" x 4" loaf pan with plastic wrap.
6T dry milk (I used Baker's Special Dry Milk
1/4 ounce dry unflavored gelatin (a little less than a 1/2 tsp.)
In a food processor, blend the dry milk and gelatin briefly just to combine.

Add 1 cup boiling water to the mixture and process until smooth, IMMEDIATELY, add 16 ounces of shredded cheese.  I used 8-ounce bags of sharp shredded cheese, but you can also use mild.
Process until totally smooth.  Pour or scoop the mixture into the lined pan and make sure it's wrapped securely--no bare surfaces showing.  Refrigerate for several hours.

I removed the block from the pan and wrapped it in plastic wrap, then wrapped it in aluminum foil and placed it in my cheese drawer of the refrigerator.  I think Mac & Cheese is for dinner tonight:-D Enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lemon Chess Squares

Chess Pie has its historical roots in England and brought to America where it has become just as beloved.  A simple custard type of pie, similar to vinegar pie, these bars hit the mark for allowing you to "pick up" the square as a snack rather than serve a formal dessert.  In the South, Chess Pie has been changed up with the addition of lemon, which is fine for me.

Lemon Chess Bars
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. milk

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, then spray evenly with a baking spray.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together until pale and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.  Add the egg and beat until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients, milk and lemon juice and beat on low speed just until the dough comes together.  Transfer dough to the baking dish and use your fingers to press evenly into the bottom.

1-8oz pkg. cream cheese
3 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
1 (1 pound) box confectioners' sugar, sifted (this is also called icing sugar)

In the same bowl, switching to the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the lemon zest and the confectioners' sugar and beat on low speed until mixture is smooth.  Pour the mixture over the dough, spreading it out to cover.  

Bake about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly and the top is lightly browned.  Let cool completely, then, cut into small squares--they're very rich so small bites are a good thing.
A quick snack or add some raspberries, a sprinkle of confectioners' sugar and serve as a dessert.  Enjoy! 



Monday, October 20, 2014

Polka Dot Cake...easy as pie!

Traditionally, polka dots are used in clothing, specifically with Flamingo and Polka dancers, which, the latter, is probably where the name came from.  Concentric circles in a specific pattern, whether large or small, have been one of my favorites since I was little and sewing for my girls when they were little.  (BTW...did you notice the polka dot pattern on this month's give-away apron!)
 With inspiration from a new baking book I came across, Surprise~Inside Cakes: Amazing Cakes for Every Occasion--With a Little Something Extra Inside, I decided to try this technique with polka dots. Basically, I baked a round shape, thanks to a new little pan I discovered at Sur La Table, and set them in the pan with a different batter poured over.
I have definitely embraced the Southern way of cooking and baking living in North Carolina and chose Red Velvet cake for the polka dots.  I used my recipe which I did a few years ago, but you could "cheat" and use a cake mix (recommend German's Chocolate, adding 1oz of red food coloring).  Either way, you will have more batter than you need for 36 cake balls, so bake up more and freeze or make a dozen cupcakes.

Polka Dot Cake
Recipe for Red Velvet Cake or use a German's Chocolate Cake Mix + 1oz of Red Food Coloring
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees and grease and flour the Cake Pop Baking Pan.
Place the bottom (without the hole) on a baking sheet and 1 tablespoon of batter to each well.  Place top on and secure with locking pins.
Bake for 10 minutes; the hole in the top allows you to use a cake tester for doneness.  Remove from oven and unlock.  Use a small spatula to release the balls from the pan.
Wash pan and grease/flour two more times until you have 36 "dots".

White Cake
3/4 c shortening
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, separated (you will only use the whites)
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk (or sour milk--2T vinegar added to milk)

Separate the eggs and allow the whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the shortening and sugar for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add the whites, a little at a time, while the mixer is running and beating until incorporated.  When all eggs have been added, add the vanilla and beat again.

Add the dry ingredients alternatively with the buttermilk (sour milk) and mix just until combined.

Your oven should still be set on 350F-degrees.  Thoroughly grease and flour a tube pan with a removable bottom.  (I didn't do it, but the next time I make this cake, I will also add a ring of parchment paper on the bottom for an easy release.)

Add half (18 balls) to the bottom of the tube pan, alternating the pattern.
Add half of the batter on top, thoroughly covering all of the balls.
Set 18 more balls over the batter, then add the rest of the batter.

Bake for 65-70 minutes or until a long wooden skewer comes out cleanly.  Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes.  
Run a long spatula around the sides and the inside tube (which I forgot to do and had some of the cake stick:-( )
Easy Marshmallow Frosting
In a large bowl (I used my stainless steel bowl from my stand mixer) add:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cold water
2 egg whites (at room temperature)
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Use a hand mixer to combine the ingredients, then set them over a make-shift double boiler--a large sauce pan that the mixing bowl can set on top of without touching the bottom on the stove--with about 1 1/2 inches of boiling water.  Beat the mixer on high speed for 10 minutes or until stiff peaks form.  Remove from the heat and add 1 tsp. vanilla and beat 3 minutes more or until spreading consistency.  Makes about 5 cups of frosting.

Frost the cooled cake completely and add a sprinkling of shredded coconut on top, if desired.
I think this cake is so fun and can imagine it for the holidays--Halloween: chocolate cake balls in an orange-flavored cake; Thanksgiving: pumpkin/spice cake balls in a yellow cake; and Christmas: combination of red and/or green velvet cake in white cake. Enjoy!


Friday, October 17, 2014

Autumn Double Delights

When Fall comes in, I can't help but think about pumpkin to enhance my baking.  Something new this year, by Nestle, is Pumpkin Chips.  I saw it advertised on television, but couldn't find them in my grocery store, so I ordered on Amazon.
I can tell you, after sampling a few, these morsels do indeed taste like pumpkin!  Pumpkin was Kelly's favorite flavor; she always asked for Pumpkin Pie for her birthday, which was these month on the 8th.  I couldn't help, but think she would have really loved to bake something with these to celebrate, so I did in her memory.

One of Kelly's best friends from high school sent me this photo last week with a touching note of how she came to have it.
"The reason I'm writing is that this picture (which I'm fairly sure is Kelly) 
showed up in an old purse at my mom's house the other day.
...Kelly gave me this, I think it was probably back when you
moved to Laguna & Kelly and I would mail letters to
each other with locks of hair, pictures, & hilarious stories.
We must have exchanged baby pictures during that time.
In any case, I wanted you to have it on her birthday.
I think the fact that it just showed up after so many years
is Kelly letting us know she's still around.
Your daughter was one of those truly wonderful & warm & silly
individuals that always put a smile on my face."
So, with tears in my eyes, but a happy heart, I baked and came up with something pumpkin to remember all the good memories I have. (And, Lisa if you are reading this post, thank you for sending me the photo).

Autumn Double Delights
Chocolate~White Chocolate Chip Base
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Lightly spray a 13" x 9" pan with baking spray.  Set aside.  In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix together.  Add the dry ingredients and beat until combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
Place the dough in the baking pan and use floured finger tips to spread the dough.
 Bake in the preheated over for 12 to 14 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you prepare the  Pumpkin Chip Blondie mixture.

Pumpkin Chip Blondie:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 pkg. Nestle's Pumpkin Chips
1 1/2 cups lightly toasted walnut, coarsely chopped

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar and melted butter together to combine.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition to incorporate completely.  Stir in the dry ingredients and 1 cup of the Pumpkin chips and half of the walnuts.  Pour the mixture on top of the cookie base.
Sprinkle the remaining pumpkin chips and walnuts on top.
Bake an additional 25 minutes-tester should come out cleanly.  Allow the bars to cool about 1 hour before cutting.
I hope you're having a beautiful fall day and thinking about all the good memories in your life.  Thank you Lisa for adding to mine.  Enjoy!


Sunday, October 5, 2014

German's Chocolate Lace Cookies & October's Give-Away Apron

Lace cookies have always been a favorite of mine--I love the crunchy chewiness--and German's Chocolate Cake was a favorite of both my mother and Kelly.  On this fall-like day, it was a good recipe to come up with to honor their memory.

German's sweet chocolate was developed by an American chocolate maker, Sam German of Dallas, Texas.  However, on June 3, 1957, it was the "Recipe of the Day" in the Dallas Morning Star created by Mrs. George Clay. The cake is made with German's chocolate, with a filling and topping of a caramel made with egg yolks and evaporated milk, then coconut and pecans are stirred in.  Just typing these ingredients make my mouth water!

These cookies have that caramel-like taste with the addition of brown sugar and the rest of the ingredients added; coconut, pecans and melted German's chocolate.  It has a small amount of flour with the addition of Old-Fashioned Oats giving them their lacy affect.  All-in-all, a pretty good replica of that famous cake from the 50s.

German's Chocolate Lace Cookies
1- 4oz pkg. German's sweet chocolate
2 T milk

In a small bowl, rough chop the chocolate and pour the milk over it.  Microwave on high for 40 seconds. Stir and microwave another 20 seconds.  Stir until smooth.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 3T firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
Scant 1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups Old-Fashioned Oats
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the vanilla and melted chocolate mixture and beat again.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix just until combined.

Scoop 1 tsp. of the dough onto the prepare sheet, leaving plenty of room for the cookie to expand.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring them to a rack, or if you like a rolled effect, over a rolling pin covered with wax paper.

 The cookies are nice and crunchy and if you're needing a chocolate fix, these will provide that. Enjoy!

As promised, here is October's Give-Away Apron, full of the colors of Fall with a little bit of Halloween thrown in:-D  Just make a comment on any of the posts this month, and this apron could find it's way to your home.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Whipped Shortbread Cookies & September's Apron Winner

Whipped shortbread, or as we know it here in the United States, Spritz, has all the characteristics of shortbread with the addition of eggs or sometimes heavy cream.  This addition makes them very delicate, almost melting in your mouth and wanting more.  I know this cookie well, as I have helped my mother makes dozens of them, mostly for holidays, so choosing them today brought back some wonderful memories. 

However, as usual, I "upped" my recipe with the addition of almond flour, which you can find in the baking section of your grocery store (although I purchased mine from King Arthur Flour).
It's delicate, nutty flavor married well with the lemon zest and vanilla extract which I also use.  This time, I piped a "ring" with the dough and dipped one end in bittersweet chocolate, then, sent them on their way with my hubby to Las Vegas where his nephew is getting married this weekend.  I'm home minding the three new kittens and sewing a Halloween costume for my grandson and a new apron for October!
Our little rascals dove into the suitcase and wanted to go on an adventure:-D 
Whipped Shortbread Cookies
1 1/2 cups (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 cup Almond Flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

In a stand mixer, using the whip attachment, cream the butter until fluffy.  Add the confectioners' sugar and whip once more until combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed, with a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well until fully incorporated.  Add the lemon zest and vanilla and whip once more for 3 minutes.  The batter should look a light yellow and airy.

Add the flours and salt and mix just until combine.  Use a cookie press or a pastry bag and tip (as I did) to pipe the shape you want.

Bake in the preheated oven for 13 minutes, or until a golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to set several minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.  Once cooled, mix up the glaze, if using.

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze
1/2 cup heavy cream, heated until almost boiling
1 T Karo Light Corn Syrup
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

Pour the hot cream and Karo Syrup over the chocolate chips and allow to sit for a few minutes.  Then, stir with a small rubber spatula until you have a smooth, consistency.  Dip the cooled cookies into the chocolate or you could spread a thin layer on the bottoms.

As my daughters would say..."these cookies are super good!"  I have a couple last night while watching Bones and relaxing after working in the garden.  I have a lot to do over the next months/year to get my gardens back to what I had accomplished at our old house, but I'm up for the challenge. Enjoy!
Dwarf Buddleja, Columbine, and a border of Liriope are a start!
A very blank canvas, but to me, that's a good thing!

The weather is cool and the leaves are starting to turn, which making gardening so pleasurable.

Speaking of challenges...well, not a big one since I only posted a couple of times in September, but I did want to announce that Gloria from "Quilter" won the apron for the month.

Please email me your address and I will get this lovely apron out to you so you can do some fall baking:-D  I will October's apron up soon...maybe tomorrow!