Sunday, September 9, 2012

#WTFSEPT Photography Challenge - Days 7-9

Day 7 - now playing
Here you can see that I am incredibly dorky since I own the Harry Potter version of Clue. I was tempted to take a picture of my Simpsons chess set, which is even cooler than this, but I guess I don't care enough about y'all to set up all of those pieces just for a photo. Sorry. Your loss.

Day 8 - I am _____
This one's an easy one. I am evil. There. Done. Good thing NJ and Hell have pretty much the same landscape so the view outside the bedroom window really works for this photo.

Day 9 - on the run

No, today's picture did not turn out as I'd hoped. No, I didn't even bother to go for a run today. The best I managed was putting on my running shoes for this photo. Bad me.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

#WTFSEPT Photography Challenge - Days 5 & 6

Day 5 - flare

 Oh look, I happen to own a pair of flared Lululemon pants. I knew they would come in handy one of these days.

Day 6 - bright
That's right. Today's theme is bright and I have egotistically posted a photo of myself. In case you weren't already convinced that I'm bright, I went ahead and wore my nerdy glasses. Poor vision = intelligence, right?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

#WTFSEPT Photography Challenge - Day 4

Day 4 - sweat
Today's theme isn't particularly pretty. Sweat. Great. How am I going to maintain my aura of ladylike sophistication if I have to show y'all my sweat?

The other day I had a particularly ridiculous bout of vanity when I seriously considered skipping my workout because my hair looked so good. Of course, I quickly realized how silly I was being and did my usual workout as penance for those donuts I'd indulged in, giving up my perfectly straight, shiny locks for a frizzy, curly mess atop my head. Probably a wise trade-off. This is how awful my hair looks when I get done working out. Not exactly glamorous, eh? But hey, it's a sign that I worked hard and don't have to feel too guilty about all of those cupcakes I eat.

Monday, September 3, 2012

#WTFSEPT Photography Challenge - Day 3

Day 3 - reflection

You know us girls. Sometimes when we look in the mirror we simply don't like what we see. It's almost as if there's a monster staring back at us.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

What the Focus September Photography Challenge - Day 2

Here are are again. Yet another photography challenge. Prepare yourself for the onslaught of photos. Fortunately for the both of us this one only lasts 30 days. Because it's hosted by Lululemon, a workout clothing company, many of the prompts are fitness related. Perhaps this challenge will serve two purposes: force me to get my camera back out and keep me motivated to do my daily workouts.

Of course, I already outwitted them and came up with a wildly unhealthy picture for the first prompt.

Day 1 - centre

I behaved myself with the second prompt, "set the bar(re)," and came up with something suitable.  At the recommendation of a friend, I recently added some Pure Barre DVDs to my workout routine. They're a grueling combination of ballet, pilates, weight training, and even a little kickboxing. Definitely heavy-duty work for the lower body. There are long sections of exercises done en pointe, or at least as high up on my tippy toes as I can manage. By the end of it I'm usually cursing the instructor and her entire family, pets included. My poor little legs. This stuff had better be working!

Day 2 - set the bar(re)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lemon Rolls With Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

I began this long holiday weekend planning to make another batch of lemon pull apart bread. I'd been looking forward to it all week and the big bag of lemons sitting in my fruit basket teased and tantalized me with the promise of delicious baked goods. So what changed that plan? 

I discovered another photography challenge I'm tempted to try. You may have noticed I flaked out and gave up on the photography challenge I began at the beginning of the year. I have a million excuses from life getting in the way to my camera crapping out on me but the bottom line is I lost my mojo and haven't felt like picking up my camera for a while. I guess I go through phases like that in my life. A friend sent me the link to a photography challenge hosted by Lululemon, a workout clothing company that I've become more than a little obsessed with. I figure if I spend so much of my life working out I might as well invest a little in looking and feeling cute while I do it. Anyway, the challenge features 30 days of prompts that look to combine my love of being healthy with my love of photography. Let's ignore the fact that today's picture focuses more on butter and sugar than healthy living. It was such a simple switcheroo to find a lemon roll recipe that incorporated the same elements as that lemon pull apart bread, thus perfectly meeting the qualifications for today's photography theme: Centre. We all know the center is the best part of the roll.

The recipe I found was so similar to the pull apart bread that I knew it would be just as delicious. The recipe upped the yummy quotient by adding ginger and nutmeg, two of my favorite things. As I expected, the lemon flavor is strong in this one. Just the way I like it. Eating a few of these in place of lunch was a great way to kick off the holiday weekend.

Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing
Recipe adapted from The Kitchn 

For the dough:
1 envelope (0.25 ounces, or 2 1/2 teaspoons) active yeast

3/4 cup milk, warmed to about 100°F (warm but not hot on your wrist)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft, plus 3 tablespoons more for roll assembly
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you may not use it all)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs
Zest of one lemon

For the sticky lemon filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
Zest of two lemons
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons orange zest

For the lemon cream cheese glaze:
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons milk
2/3 cup powdered sugar

Make the dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a few minutes or until foamy. With the mixer paddle, stir the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour into this milk and yeast mixture. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, and the lemon zest. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pliable.

(If you do not have a stand mixer, stir together the ingredients by hand, then turn the soft dough out onto a lightly floured countertop. Knead the dough by hand for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, pliable, and stretchy.)

Lightly grease the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled — about one hour.

Make the filling:
In a small bowl, mix 1 cup sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in the lemon zest (1/3) with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles soft sand. Slowly pour in the lemon juice, stirring. Stop when the sugar and lemon juice form a thick, clumpy mixture like wet sand. (You may not use all of the lemon juice depending on how much juice you got from your lemon.)

Assemble the rolls:
Lightly grease a 13x9-inch baking dish or two 9" cake pans with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10x15 inches.

Spread the dough evenly with 3 tablespoons of very soft unsalted butter, then spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Stretch and pull the dough taut as you roll, to keep the lemon sugar firm inside. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls. Pinch the bottom of each roll closed to help keep the lemon sugar inside, and place each one, open and cut side up, in the prepared baking dish.

Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (You can also refrigerate the rolls at this point. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap or a towel, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge, and let them rise for an hour before proceeding with baking.)

Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into a center roll reads 190°F. Check the rolls after 20 minutes and if they're getting dark on top cover loosely with foil for the remainder of the baking time.

Make the glaze:
While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small food processor (or with a mixer, or a sturdy whisk), whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and blend until well combined. Add the milk and the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.

Finish the rolls:
When the rolls are done, smear them with the cream cheese glaze. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving, but do serve while still warm.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Guest Post at love.bug -- Chocolate Chunk Blueberry Cupcakes

I've done another guest post for the lovely Amy at love.bug. Today's cupcake involves lots of chocolate in the form of chocolate cake, chocolate chunks, and chocolate ganache. But I assure you they're actually a health food since I included blueberries in there as well. That makes it nutritious, right?

Head on over to take a peek at my chocolate chunk cupcakes bursting with blueberry pie filling, topped with blueberry buttercream, and drizzled with rich chocolate ganache. You won't be sorry!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Taste of the Season: Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

I know I've said before that one of my favorite things about summer is the abundance of fresh fruit. In fact, I feel unmotivated to bake during the summer both because of the heat and also because it's kind of unnecessary when I have so many naturally sweet treats sitting in my kitchen. However, I had no choice but to bake for our book club meeting. I fear there would be an uprising if they were to show up and find I'd neglected to make something yummy. After sending them waddling out the door last month, stuffed to the brim with Peanut Butter Oreo Cupcakes, I figured I should give them a bit of a break this time around. Plus I'd just stocked up on fresh blueberries and always love the combination of lemon and blueberries. 

The cupcakes I settled on are perfect for the season. Buttery cake studded with blueberries and lots of lemon flavor from fresh lemon zest and juice. The lemon cream cheese frosting is tangy and refreshing. Honestly, you can't go wrong with this combination and this recipe is a simple way to make those flavors shine.

My only complaint is that some of my cupcakes were a little puny. It's been so long since I last made these that I can't recall if that happened before. Next time I might make the same amount of batter but make just 10 cupcakes. Several of mine only hit the top of the paper liners once they'd domed.

I've had this recipe in my baking arsenal for years and somewhere along the line lost the source. If you recognize it please let me know as I feel incredibly guilty not having anyone to cite.

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes
Recipe from ??? (Please let me know if you recognize this recipe)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp grated lemon zest
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon oil or lemon extract
2/3 cup fresh blueberries

1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 12 cupcake wells with paper liners. If you would like bigger cupcakes try 9-10 liners instead.
2) In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
3) In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter, and egg until smooth. Add yogurt, lemon zest and juice, and lemon oil/extract, beating until smooth. Add flour mixture, beating just until smooth. Gently fold blueberries into the batter.
4) Scoop batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1) In a bowl using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together cream cheese, butter, and salt until creamy.  
2) With mixer on low speed, beat in two cups of powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Increase speed to medium-high, beating until light and fluffy. 
3) Add lemon zest and juice, beating until mixed. Add extra powdered sugar if necessary. Refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes before spreading/piping onto cupcakes.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Peanut Butter Oreo Cupcakes

I don't think I really need to do much to sell these cupcakes now that you've read the title of the post. I mean, how can you resist a chocolate cupcake lined at the bottom with an Oreo cookie, stuffed with a mini Reese's cup, and topped with peanut butter Oreo frosting? Need I say more?

I wish this were my brainchild but, alas, I cannot claim credit for this display of just how crazily indulgent and over-the-top one cupcake can be. The credit belongs to Melanie at The Sweet Life. I humbly bow at her feet.

 My motivation for making these cupcakes was to reward the gals in my book club with something extra sweet. This month's book club read was a little... dark. Surprise cannibalism, anyone? Not at all what I expected when I started to read Jamrach's Menagerie so I'm sure the gory, descriptive passages of dismembering and chowing down on former friends came as a surprise to everyone else as well. After reading our way through that gruesome of a story I figured we deserve some sort of recompense. I'm sure you too can come up with a convincing excuse in your life to make a batch of these for yourself. You certainly won't regret it, but then you don't need me to tell you that. The title says it all.

Peanut Butter Oreo Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from The Sweet Life

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk
20 Oreos (or any chocolate sandwich cookies)
20 mini peanut butter cups, unwrapped

1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) Line cupcake pans with 20 paper liners. Place one Oreo in the bottom of each liner.
3) Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.  Stir in the chopped chocolate.
4) In the bowl of stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on high until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the buttermilk and allow to incorporate for 30 seconds.
5) Pour in the flour mixture and beat on medium until fully incorporated, about 1 minute.  Divide the batter evenly among the paper liners, filling each about 2/3 full.
6) Bake for 8 minutes, then remove from oven and press a peanut butter cup into the center of each cupcake.  Bake for 10 more minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake near the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes from the muffin tin to cool completely on a wire rack.  

Peanut Butter Oreo Frosting
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
1/4 cup peanut butter
2-3 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons Oreo cookie crumbs

1) Separate approximately 4 Oreo cookies and discard the cream filling. In a food processor or plastic bag, crush the cookies into fine crumbs.
2) In a large bowl, beat butter and shortening on high until fully combined. Beat in peanut butter.
3) Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add 2 cups of the confectioner's sugar and 2 tablespoons milk. Start the mixer on low, then eventually crank it up to high and beat for 2 minutes. 
4) Add more confectioner's sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.
5) Add the cookie crumbs and beat on high for 2 minutes.
6) Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and store in a sealed container at room temperature.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Guest Post at love.bug. -- Salted Caramel Coconut Macaroon Cupcakes

Today you can find me over at love.bug. with another extravagant cupcake creation: Salted caramel coconut macaroon cupcakes. Amy and I have become photography buddies and now that I've discovered her beautiful blog I'm sure we'll be great blogging buds too. She's like me in that she tries to eat healthily most of the time but believes there's room for a little indulgence now and again. Usually in the form of lots of sugar and butter!

I know, I know, I've been neglecting my own blog but jump at the chance to do a post for someone else's blog. Sometimes my logic defies me. I promise to be back soon with a proper post about everything I've been up to. I don't suppose claiming I was abducted by aliens is enough of an excuse. Instead I'll tell you I am in the CIA and was sent away for a super secret mission researching a recent spate of alien abductions. Yeah, that's more plausible.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

52 Week Photo Project [Week 13]

Last week's Paint the Moon theme was "Look out for curves."

Sorry I'm falling behind so much on this project. I took this photo during the appropriate week and then waited almost a week and a half before processing it. I started out motivated and inspired by the themes and now find myself struggling to come up with anything good. I'll keep plugging away but it's become quite a chore for me.

52 Week Project Photo Paint the Moon Photoshop Actions PSE

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cupcake Baby Jacket

I can't believe I did this to myself again! After all of the hard work and hours I put into making my first Baby-in-the-Hood Jacket from Anna Maria Horner's Handmade Beginnings I wasn't eager to do it again. Which might explain why it took me over a year to get around to making another one. Guess I managed to forget the trauma in the ensuing months. I've also been a little burned out on sewing so it wasn't until I uncovered my sewing machine to make a bag for my aunt (no pictures, alas, so no post about it) that I got the motivation to tackle another baby jacket. Because, let's face it, babies are fun to sew for. You can get away with using all sorts of cute fabrics an adult would never wear.

I'm happy to report that the pattern did go more smoothly the second time around. In fact, I was able to whip this up in one weekend. Granted, I didn't get much else done that weekend so I'm sure there were many hours of sewing involved. Still, the jacket turned out just as I'd envisioned it, which is always the mark of a successful sewing project for me.

My best tip is to ignore what the instructions say and always start with the lining pieces first. You are basically making two identical jackets here so why not start with the one that will be less visible? It gives you practice before tackling the outer portion of the jacket. Plus there are some mistakes you can let slide if they're going to be tucked away inside the jacket, which isn't the case for the outside if you're a perfectionist. I remember having to undo a lot of stitching the first time around and didn't have to do that much this time, so I think that tip helped a lot.

The adorable cupcake fabric came from Jo-Ann Fabrics, bought some time last year when I was mindlessly purchasing anything with a cupcake theme. I had a few cupcake fabrics in my stash to choose from but this one went so well with the heart fabric I used on the accents, also from Jo-Ann. I have no idea why I bought so much of that but I was glad to have it in my stash for this project. The striped lining fabric was given to me by my mother when she was clearing out her sewing supplies now that she no longer sews. I have a feeling that she used some of it in the past to make an outfit for one of us kids. Or perhaps a trio of coordinating outfits. Yes, she sometimes did that to my brothers and me. Before you get your hopes up, any pictorial evidence of this will remain buried in the family archives, never to see the light of day. Instead I'll leave you with one last photo of the cupcake jacket that's almost good enough to eat.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

52 Week Photo Project [Weeks 10-12]

I've been lax in posting lately. My apologies! Between my dad's visit last week and the lovely warm weather we've been having I've been spending less time on my computer and more time out and about. I'm three weeks behind in posting my photographs, which is just as well since I only got around to taking last week's photo today. Oops!

Week 10 Theme: Monochrome

Week 11 Theme: Teeny Tiny

We just so happen to call Loofy "Teeny Tiny" on account of her small size. I mean, all of our cats are unnaturally thin but she takes the cake at only seven pounds. We do feed her, I swear!

Week 12 Theme: Vintage

I know I've already taken pictures of the Ford Galaxie 500 from every imaginable angle, so instead I tried something a little different with the processing. Hope you like it.

By the way, word verification for comments is back on after another slew of spam comments. Not sure that'll cure the problem but I'll try whatever I can to keep that crap off of my blog.

52 Week Project Photo Paint the Moon Photoshop Actions PSE

Monday, March 5, 2012

52 Week Photo Project [Week 9]

Now I remember why I was so glad to finish my 365 project. The pressure of getting a good shot for the theme can really get you down.

Last week's Paint the Moon theme was "framed." I had a few good ideas but they all required lots of natural light. Of course, the only time I'm home when there's light coming through the windows is on the weekend, so I had to wait until then. I was pretty busy so by the time I settled down to try out my ideas it was already late Sunday afternoon, the last day to post my photo. Turns out all of my ideas were horrible failures so I found myself rushing around in the rapidly dying light trying to come up with another idea. Any idea would do, really. So this is what I came up with at the last minute. I don't think poor little Punky will ever forgive me for this indignity.

And before you go thinking she's an unnaturally patient and willing model, I will confess that there was a little Photoshop magic involved. I actually took the picture holding the glasses up a few inches in front of her face, then put the glasses down and took a few pictures so I could edit my hand out. I know from the time I tried to make her wear a chicken hat that she is not at all cooperative about wearing a costume. I do still feel a little guilty about this:

52 Week Project Photo Paint the Moon Photoshop Actions PSE

Sunday, February 26, 2012

52 Week Photo Project [Week 8]

This week's Paint the Moon theme is "simplicity." Earlier in the week I came up with the below photo but wasn't 100% happy with it. I mean, I like how it turned out but it wasn't very original and certainly didn't tell a story. So today I played around and came up with one that reflects the simple pleasures of life for me. None better than curling up with a good book and a cup of hot tea on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Poor rejected photo

52 Week Project Photo Paint the Moon Photoshop Actions PSE

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Death by Chocolate Cupcakes

These are the cupcakes I would have made for Valentine's Day if only my husband weren't such a freak. He's not a fan of chocolate so I'm thinking these cupcakes with four different chocolate elements would probably kill him. Once again my book club comes to the rescue! I know those gals wouldn't ever think there's such a thing as chocolate overload. In fact, they seem to embrace this kind of indulgence.

The cupcakes are inspired by one of my favorite desserts: Marcel Desaulniers' Death by Chocolate Cake. I miss living in Virginia where I could just hop in my car for a day trip to Williamsburg, sometimes expressly for the purpose of getting a slice of that cake from The Trellis. To. Die. For. Hence the name, I suspect. I don't know if I'll ever be ambitious enough to tackle making the seven-layer cake myself. That's right; I said seven. Seven layers of chocolate elements including brownie, mousse, cocoa meringue, and oodles of ganache. I'm starting to get a sugar buzz just thinking about it. It's just as rich as you'd imagine. No, make that richer than you imagine. Your imagination cannot possibly behold the majesty of that cake. And let me tell you from experience that if, by some superhuman display of gluttony, you are able to eat an entire slice by yourself in one sitting you will receive a look of shock, horror, disgust, and, I like to think, a little envy from your server. I've only done that once as I prefer to savor my leftovers the next day and continue the sugar high. Alright, I'll also admit that even I felt a little ill after that particular feat.

So until I pluck up the courage to make the entire cake I figured I could incorporate some of the elements into a cupcake. My favorite part of the cake has to be the surprising crunch from the meringue layer so I knew I had to incorporate that somehow. For Valentine's Day I piped the cocoa meringue into large heart shapes so they can serve double duty as a delicious element and cute toppers. The cupcakes are filled with chocolate mousse and the underside of the heart has a dab as well to help adhere it to the cake. The rich chocolate cupcakes are dunked into ganache twice for an extra thick layer. I'm pleased to report that a lot of the experience of eating the cake is here with my cupcakes. My success with these makes me think I just might be able to handle making the real deal one of these days. Don't worry; I'll be sure to share the cake if I do.

Chocolate Cupcakes
Recipe from Southern Food

8 ounces butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa, such as Valrhona or high-quality, such as Scharffen Berger*
3/4 cup water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour, stir before measuring
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

*If you're using a standard baking cocoa (not Dutch-process or high-quality) add 1/2 teaspoon more of baking soda to the dry ingredients.

1) Line 24 cupcake wells with paper liners. Heat oven to 350°.

2) Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat; add cocoa, stirring until smooth. Whisk in the water and remove from heat. To the warm cocoa mixture, add the sugar, sour cream, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and eggs; whisk until smooth. In another bowl combine the flour, soda, and salt. Add all at once to the first mixture, whisking until well blended.

3) Scoop batter into prepared pans. Bake for 18 to 24 minutes, or until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans and let cool completely on rack.

Chocolate Mousse Filling
Recipe from Death by Chocolate by Marcel Desaulniers

6 ounces semisweet chocolate , in 1/2 oz pieces
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 egg whites
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1) Ahead of time, put mixing bowl into the refrigerator to chill.

2) Heat 1 inch of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium heat (If you are not fortunate enough to own a double boiler, just stack a small saute pan on top of a small sauce pan. The lip of the saute pan should be just a bit wider than the sauce pan so that no steam escapes. Be very careful to keep any moisture out of your chocolate while you are melting it, or else it will seize and be very difficult to work with).

3) Place 6 oz of semi-sweet chocolate in the top of the double boiler and tightly cover the top with plastic wrap (do not allow the wrap to touch the bottom half).

4) Allow the chocolate to melt slowly, about 9 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Keep at room temperature until needed.

5) Place 1 1/2 cups heavy cream in the well-chilled bowl of an electic mixer. Whip on high (using the balloon whip attachment) until peaks form, about 1 minute. Set aside.

6) Whisk 3 eggs whites in a large stainless steel bowl, until soft peaks form (about 3 minutes).

7) Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form, about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

8) Add a quarter of the heavy cream to the chocolate and whisk quickly, vigorously, and thoroughly, then add it to the eggs whites. Now add the remaining heavy cream. Fold everything together gently but thoroughly, and put it in the fridge until needed (for at least one hour).

Cocoa Meringue Hearts
Recipe adapted from Death by Chocolate by Marcel Desaulniers

4 egg whites
1⁄8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa , sifted
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1) Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 225° F.

2) Put the 4 egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt into the electric mixer bowl. Whip on high (using the balloon whip attachment) until soft peaks fom - about 45 to 50 seconds.

3) Gradually add 1 cup sugar while still on high. Continue to whip until the peaks are stiff, about another 1 1/2 minutes.

4) Remove the bowl and use a spatula to fold in and thoroughly combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tbsp cocoa, and 1 tbsp cornstarch.

5) Fill a pastry bag with the cocoa meringue (if you have no pastry bag, fill a Ziploc bag and snip off one of the corners). Pipe 24 hearts onto parchment paper, about 2.5" big.

6) Place the meringue in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 200°F and bake for an additional 1 hour, 30 minutes.

7) Remove the meringues from the oven and let cool on a rack for about 45 minutes before handling.

Chocolate Ganache
Recipe adapted from Death by Chocolate by Marcel Desaulniers

3/4 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
11 ounces semisweet chocolate , in 1/2 oz pieces

1) Heat heavy cream and butter in a 2 1/2 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.

2) Put 11 oz semi-sweet chocolate in a stainless steel bowl. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth.


1) Using a Bismarck tip or the cone method fill each cupcake with chocolate mousse. You should have some left over for step 3.

2) Holding each cupcake by the base, dip tops of cupcakes into ganache. Place on a wire rack to set. Once done coating all of the cupcakes dunk them all a second time. Let sit at room temperature to set.

3) Immediately before serving, place a dollop of chocolate mousse on the bottom of each meringue heart and place on top of cupcakes.

Hoosier Homemade - Cupcake Tuesday

Friday, February 17, 2012

52 Week Photo Project [Week 7]

Smooth Criminal

This week's Paint the Moon theme is "smooth." Just like this smooth hunk of white chocolate. Oh yeah, baby.

Alright, I did not steal this chocolate. No criminal activity involved here. But the post-Valentine's Day sale price was a bit of a steal. :)

52 Week Project Photo Paint the Moon Photoshop Actions PSE

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Zero Bar Hi-Hat Cupcakes

You may have noticed by now that I tend to use any major and minor holiday as an excuse to indulge. Valentine's Day is no exception and because the only presents my husband has on his wish list are big ticket items we skip giving each other gifts and I bake him something sweet every year instead. This year I got my inspiration when he bought a few of his favorite candy bars a couple of weeks ago. Many of you probably have no idea what a Zero bar is. Understandable. They're one of the few white chocolate candy bars out there so, like me, you probably pass them up in favor of something more, well, chocolaty.

Candy Blog described the essence of the Zero bar far better than I ever could. "It looks like a bar of the future. Something that robots would eat. Or maybe robots would bring them to us. They’d enter the room through the shooshing automatic door with a tray full of snacks that we munch on while watching TV beamed directly into our optic nerve." It's a white fudge-coated bar filled with almond, peanut, and caramel in some sort of nougat-like configuration. Not bad but wouldn't those flavors be even better as a cupcake? A cupcake covered in a ridiculous amount of frosting and then dunked into chocolate? Heck, wouldn't anything be better with that particular treatment?

Thus was born the Zero Bar Hi-Hat Cupcake: Light and fluffy almond-flavored cake filled with both peanut nougat and caramel, a blend of white chocolate and peanut butter frosting piled high on top, then dipped into a white chocolate coating. Even I thought I was going a little overboard with this one.

Despite being a bit of a Herculean task to eat one of these cupcakes the flavors all shine through nicely. I had to interrogate my husband to see if it was at all reminiscent of a Zero bar and he confirmed that it is. Mission accomplished!

As a side note, I noticed while mining previous blog posts for frosting recipes that many of the cupcakes I make are absurdly complicated. To the point where they probably put off most of you readers from ever attempting any of them. I think I should point out that if you're not feeling as ambitious as I you could usually make substitutions to save a few steps. For example, with these cupcakes there's no reason why you couldn't use store-bought caramel or even just stick a piece of a chopped up Zero bar into the middle of each cupcake instead of making the filling. Believe me, there are plenty of recipes I look at online and think I would never be skilled enough or want to put that much time into baking something. I don't want my recipes to be the kind that get ignored for that reason.

Almond-Flavored Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 cup granulated sugar
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
2/3 cup milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.

3) Add the butter and beat with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.

4) Combine the milk, vanilla, and almond extract and add, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.

5) With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Add the second egg, again beating for 30 seconds.

6) Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat briefly, just until smooth.

7) Scoop the batter by heaping 1/4-cupfuls into the prepared muffin tin. A muffin scoop works well here.

8) Bake the cupcakes for 23 to 25 minutes, until they've domed, and are a light golden brown around the edges. They'll spring back when pressed gently on top, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

9) Remove the cupcakes from the oven, cool in pan on a rack for ten minutes. Then remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely on the rack.

Caramel Filling:
Recipe adapted from Sprinkle Bakes

1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Pinch of salt
1/8 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons heavy cream, at room temperature

1) Melt the sugar over medium heat in a large pot. With a wooden spoon, stir the sugar as it melts and cook until it becomes a deep amber color.

2) Add the butter and salt and stir it in until melted.

3) Pour in the heavy cream (mixture will foam) and whisk until you get a smooth sauce. You may have some lumps but keep stirring until they have melted. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Pseudo Nougat Filling:
Recipe adapted from Cake Central

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup marshmallow cream
1/4 cup malted milk mix
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
1/4 cup chopped peanuts

1) Cream butter, shortening, and marshmallow cream together. Add malted milk, vanilla, and cream or milk and continue to cream until well incorporated. Beat on high for a minute until fluffy. Fold in the chopped peanuts.

2) Using the cone method fill each cupcake cavity half with caramel and half with nougat filling. Be sure to trim the excess cake off the bottom of each cone and replace just the top portion to cover the filling.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Recipe from 125 Best Cupcake Recipes by Julie Hasson

2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp heavy cream or milk

1) In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together confectioner's sugar and butter until creamy. Add peanut butter, beating well. Add milk and beat until smooth and creamy.

White Chocolate Buttercream
Adapted from BBC Good Food

90 grams white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar

1) Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, stirring often. Cool.

2) Beat the butter and powdered sugar until creamy. Beat in the chocolate and continue to beat at medium-high speed until fluffy.

3) Using a spatula "paint" white chocolate frosting on one side of a piping bag and peanut butter frosting on the other side. (I found that my frostings kind of blended together despite this method working with other recipes in the past, so there's really no need to be precise here. You won't be getting that two-tone effect anyway from the frosting so feel free to just jam it all in there.) Pipe onto cupcakes using a large round tip in a tall spiral pattern.

4) Put the cupcakes in the freezer while you make the white chocolate coating.

White Chocolate Coating
Adapted from Martha Stewart

2 cups white chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

1) Combine chocolate and oil in a medium heat-proof bowl set over a medium saucepan of barely simmering water; stir until melted and smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, and let cool about 15 minutes.

2) Holding each cupcake by its bottom, dip cupcake in the chocolate to coat frosting, allowing excess to drip off. Transfer to a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack. Spoon more coating around edge of cupcake and any exposed frosting; none of the frosting should show. Let cupcakes stand at room temperature 15 minutes before eating.

Hoosier Homemade - Cupcake Tuesday