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S’mores Cupcakes

19 Apr

S'mores CupcakeMy favorite part of summer is sitting around a campfire and eating s’mores. After a long day of swimming and running around, there is nothing better than curling up in a flannel blanket, watching the night sky and consuming this sticky delight. The smell of toasting wood, combined with the fluff of the marshmallow melting into the creamy chocolate that’s barely being supported by crisp graham crackers is a staple at any outdoor gathering. I always compete with others to see who can get their marshmallow the most caramelized without burning it, dropping it, or setting it on fire. Naturally, there are always a few fluffy casualties in the process.

Making s’mores indoors has never been a successful experiment for me. I’ve blown up far too many marshmallows in the microwave. Plus, I miss the smell of the firewood that goes along with the great taste. As a quick fix to tide me over until summer arrives, I came up with the S’mores Cupcake to satisfy my cravings. Although I can’t promise an authentic camping experience from consuming one of these, it will make you feel better until you can get your hands on the real thing.

If you had any meringue left over from making our Lemon Meringue Pie, you can use it to top these cupcakes!

S’mores Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcake

1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole large egg
1 large egg yolk
4 graham crackers

In a small bowl whisk together the cocoa powder and the water until the cocoa powder is dissolved and let the mixture cool to room temperature. In a bowl whisk together the flour, the baking soda, and a pinch of salt. In another bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar. Add the whole egg and the egg yolk, mixing until batter is smooth. Alternate adding cocoa with flour mixture, mixing well after each addition.
Crumble graham crackers and add 1 1/2 Tbsp to each unlined cupcake pan. Press graham cracker down firmly and fill the rest of the tin with the cupcake batter; about 2/3 full. Bake in a 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Meringue

6 egg whites
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of cream of tartar

Whip whites and cream of tartar until frothy, and slowly stream in sugar. Whip until glossy, soft-peaks form.

Assembly

When completely cool, top with meringue. Happy Trails!

Lemon Meringue Pie

14 Apr

Lemon Meringue Pie

These days, my sous chef friend Lia and I find that running is the best way to discover new places, enjoy the weather, and makes an excellent excuse to treat ourselves to something sugary and delicious afterward.

On an extra-sunny day we stumbled across a local farmers market. The wonderful smells and bright colors were bursting from the stands of cucumbers, watermelons, oranges and bell peppers. Inspiration struck us when we saw a grand pyramid of lemons. What’s the old adage? When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?

Nope, we were going to make Lemon Meringue Pie.
This recipe comes from Lia’s personal collection. She is constantly developing and baking various recipes. I, of course, am always on hand to assist and to taste. Her version of this classic uses a shortbread crust instead of the usual pie crust. I find that the sandy texture of the shortbread is less overwhelming with the lemon curd than a traditional crust.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Curd

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/2 butter, cubed

In a 2 quart saucepan, combine lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, eggs, and butter. Cook over medium-low heat until thick enough to hold marks from whisk, and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.

Shortbread Pie Crust

1 cup butter
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly mix in flour and baking powder. Press dough evenly into a 9 inch pie pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Meringue

6 egg whites
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of cream of tartar

Whip whites and cream of tartar until frothy, and slowly stream in sugar. Whip until glossy, soft-peaks form.

Assembly

When pie shell is fully cooled, add lemon curd and top with meringue. Divide and enjoy!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

5 Apr

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

As long as I can remember, my dad and I have shared a love of pineapple. We always had a container of the fresh fruit cut up at all times, or backup cans in the pantry in case the ones at the market weren’t quite ripe enough.
One day, I took to the kitchen to find out what dessert I could make that would feature pineapple. We tried making cookies, but they were definitely out of the question, because they were so soggy! The combination of pineapple and chocolate didn’t appeal to us, so brownies and fudge cake were not an option either. Finally, we settled on vanilla cake. What could be better than making my favorite fruit into cake form? It was then that our version of pineapple upside down cake was born.
Years later, I’m still tweaking the recipe, adding spices and extra pineapple juice for a richer flavor, but it’s still the first recipe that my dad and I worked together on.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

4 eggs
½ cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 can sliced pineapple
1 cup cake flour, sifted
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp clove
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Take melted ½ cup of butter and pour over bottom of a 10 inch cake pan. Sprinkle brown sugar over butter and lay out pineapple slices evenly.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Separate the egg yolks and whites into two bowls. In one bowl, beat egg whites just until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating well after each addition. Beat until stiff peaks form. In another bowl, beat egg yolks at high speed until very thick and yellow. Gently fold egg yolks and flour mixture into whites until barely combined. Fold in the 1 tablespoon melted butter. Spread batter evenly over pineapple in pan. Bake for 30 minutes, and cool before flipping out of pan!

Mexican Hot Chocolate

29 Mar

Mexican Hot Chocolate

I can already predict that after Easter my apartment will remind me of Willy Wonka’s factory. I will be knee deep in chocolates that I know will last me until Halloween, unless I start using them in the kitchen. One of my favorite chocolate-centric recipes is a Mexican Hot Chocolate.

When I was 17, I left home for the first time to become a brand-new student at culinary school. Being an only child, this wasn’t as easy as I expected. One day, I was feeling particularly homesick. On top of that, I was in kitchen class and it seemed that everything was going wrong. I kept burning my sugar and over whipping my eggs. I was seriously overwhelmed.

When all hope seemed lost, a very kind classmate brought over a steaming mug to my station. I looked down and there was a thick cup of cocoa with a sprinkle of cayenne. I took one sip and I was instantly warmed from the inside out. The gentle spices and creamy chocolate instantly made the kitchen a little less scary.

The amount of spice is just a guideline, you can make it as spicy or as mild as you want. You can also add whipped cream, or a cinnamon stick for flare. If you’re feeling gutsy, you can also add a splash of rum or Bailey’s liquor.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

1 cup milk
2 oz chocolate (I like 70% for this but Hershey Kisses are great too!)
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Heat milk on stove until hot (don’t boil). Add spices, pour over chocolate. Stir and sip!

Coconut Macaroons

22 Mar

SONY DSC

Because my family had a very loving relationship with food, many of my first memories involve being in a kitchen. At an early age I quickly learned that dessert was my absolute favorite thing– Who am I kidding? It still is!

One day when I was 7 years old, my grandma took pity on me and let me assist in the kitchen. For most kids my age, this meant making something simple like rice krispy treats. But not me, I was going to make coconut macaroons.

I remember tossing the ingredients into the bowl and blending it with my hands. Being a messy kid, I found this step endlessly entertaining. Carefully shaping the mixture into tiny balls, I was surprised at how easy it was to make something so incredibly delicious. Watching the shiny orbs turn a caramelized, golden brown in the oven, I never could have imagined that they would taste like candied sunshine.

Coconut Macaroons

Ingredients:

2 egg whites
2 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups sweetened flake coconut

Mix together all ingredients until well combined (you can use a spoon or your hands!). Divide mixture into 8ths, and roll into well-packed rounds. Drop onto foiled baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes at 300 degrees.

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Whoopie Pies

15 Mar

moonpies

Whoopie Pies, also affectionately known as Moon Pies, were definitely a childhood favorite. These chewy, chocolate cookies cushioning a pillow of marshmallow fluff were the coveted snack of my elementary school lunchroom days. Luckily, becoming friends with Shauna meant that I had a constant supply of my favorite goody.

I’m going into my archives for this recipe which comes from Shauna, who was the queen of Whoopie Pies. Her’s were by far the best and most desired by classmates. We would hide them under our desks during class so we wouldn’t get caught snacking by the teachers.

I’ve seen versions of this recipe where people use frosting or buttercream filling, but there’s nothing like chewy, sticky marshmallow fluff for a Whoopie Pie. I definitely give this recipe an A+.

WHOOPIE PIES

Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1 stick soft butter
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup milk
3 cups marshmallow fluff

Cream together butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add egg and mix on low until combined. Alternate adding ⅓ of dry ingredients and ⅓ milk as to not overwhelm and clump mixture. Repeat on low speed until batter has barely come together. Spoon onto greased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and sandwich with fluff.

St. Patrick’s Day Guinness Cupcakes

8 Mar

cupcakes_Oh, St. Patrick’s Day. A time filled with four-leaf clovers and myths of leprechauns. Instead of drinking green beer this year, I want to celebrate the holiday with a festive treat. Since I’m not the biggest fan of food coloring, I’m choosing the next best thing to mark the occasion: beer as flavoring. I’m using Guinness not only because it’s Irish, but it’s a heavy beer which makes a really moist, delicious cupcake.

I first tried this recipe when I was secretary of the honor society in college. There was a fundraiser for the school’s club activities and we needed to represent the holiday. Being in college, most clubs took this opportunity to do jello shots and make foods like truffle fries and lobster mac & cheese that would be delicious when drinking beer. Did I mention I went to a culinary school? We liked to get fancy.

Being a team of mostly bakers, we decided cupcakes were our best option. The president of the society, Annabelle, and I stayed up all night testing cupcakes. After many sugary bites and lots of laughs, the Guinness Cupcake was born. The next day we sold out within the hour and people were begging for more!

For this recipe, I like to make a simple syrup out of the Guinness and brush it onto the cupcake after they bake so that the flavor isn’t lost in the cupcake. Feel free to also add a little bit to the frosting as well. Green sprinkles are always welcome.

GUINNESS CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Guinness
1 stick butter
3 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/3 cup sour cream

Simmer Guinness, butter, and brown sugar in saucepan until butter and sugar melt. Add cocoa and whisk until smooth. Remove from burner and cool slightly. Mix flour, sugar, soda, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix egg and sour cream. Add cocoa mixture and mix slowly for about a minute. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Pour into lined cupcake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until toothpick can be inserted and come out clean.

FROSTING
4 oz. cream cheese, soft
1/2 stick butter, soft
1/2 lb confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp Guinness

Mix ingredients together by hand. Once blended, whip on a mixer until light and fluffy.

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

25 Feb

SONY DSC

I’m going to confess something: I have a really bad habit of buying really nice loaves of fresh-baked bread with all the good intentions of making delicious sandwiches and then totally forgetting about them. This past weekend, my guy Stephen was pretty bummed when he went searching for bread and found a dry, week-old slab that just wasn’t cutting it as sandwich material. It seemed like a total loss until I found some chocolate chips lying around and decided that making bread pudding was the perfect apology and fix for such a sad situation. I grabbed a serrated knife and got to work. A little while later, I had a much happier companion and no stale bread!

Not only is this recipe great for using up older bread (fresh bread is perfectly okay too!), the add-ins and even the type of bread can be different every time. For example, chocolate brioche with dried cranberries makes an amazing wintry treat, or you can use sourdough and add nuts. If you really want to go out on a limb, cut the sugar amount in half to make a savory bread pudding; sausage and fennel with a cheddar cheese topping is my favorite. The options are unlimited.

For this recipe, the temperature is set to 325 degrees, but I prefer to aim lower at 300. It’ll take a little longer, but it will ensure that your eggs don’t overcook and nothing burns. You will also have to use a water bath, but don’t worry; find a baking dish that the bread pudding will sit comfortably in, set it in the oven and pour water to fill the pan, only halfway up. When it’s time to take it out, use oven mitts to extract only the pan with the bread pudding in it. Leave the water bath in the oven until it cools and can be safely taken out without burning yourself. Also, the timing on this has a little wiggle room since the bread needs about 15 minutes to really soak up the custard mixture.

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups of cubed bread (I like using challah for this recipe because it’s a rich bread)
3 eggs
1 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of milk
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup chocolate chips

Combine all wet ingredients and spices and whisk together well until it is a smooth mixture. Put bread in 6-8 inch pan and pour egg mixture over bread. Sprinkle chocolate chips and put in a 300 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm!

Raspberry Linzer Cookies Recipe

22 Feb

raspberry-linzer-cookie_sized

When I was invited to my friend Jayson’s dinner party, I went in search of the perfect cookie recipe to bring for dessert. I had just moved into my new place and only had one baking sheet, my KitchenAid mixer and a rolling pin unpacked.

I remembered a cookie that my college friends and I used to make when we were obsessed with British culture and insisted on having High Tea on the weekends. The Linzer Cookie. The crumbly, sandy cookie combined with the sweet jam was always a winner. We fought over them to the last crumb. They go perfectly with Earl Grey tea, and make wonderful take-home presents as well.

I love the playfulness of this cookie, because you can try using different cookie cutters to match the theme of your party. I like doing a classic heart cut-out top (pictured above) but you can also do fun shapes like teacups, crowns or mustaches. Never underestimate the power of a good cookie cutter!

Some tips I’d suggest: The prep time for this recipe is relatively quick since the jam can be store bought, but make sure the cookies are totally cooled down before adding jam, otherwise the jam will melt and make a huge mess! Also, make the dough a day ahead so it can rest in the refrigerator before you roll it. This gives it time to relax and prevents your shapes from warping when they bake.

So turn on the latest Downton Abbey episode and get baking.

Raspberry Linzer Cookies

2/3 cup toasted almonds
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 12-oz jar seedless raspberry jam

Directions:

Pulse toasted nuts and ½ of the brown sugar in a food processor until smooth.
Whisk together remaining dry ingredients in a bowl. In a mixing bowl, combine butter and remaining ½ of sugar until light and fluffy. Add nut mixture and mix until fully incorporated. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract. Reduce mixer to low speed and add dry ingredients in two segments, mixing until just barely combined. Wrap and chill dough overnight. Roll out to about ⅛ of an inch and cut as desired. Bake at 350* for about 12 minutes, or until edges are barely golden. When cooled, pipe jam so that there is a margin between it and the edge of the cookie. Gently press on cookie tops, dust with powdered sugar and dig in!

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