Celebrating the New Year and Top 12 of 2012

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It’s New Year’s Eve and while some of us will be popping bottles of expensive champagne to celebrate, the rest of us will be taking a much more affordable approach.  Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine and, in my opinion, is less dry and more delicious than your usual champagne anyway.  Mix it with a little pureed fruit or, for the lazier of us, peach nectar from a can, and you’ve got yourself what’s called a “bellini”.

Simple, delicious, bubbly.  Just like New Year’s Eve should be.

Making bellinis is super easy.  Just one part fruit juice or nectar to two parts prosecco.

Bellinis

  • 2 oz fruit juice or nectar
  • 4 oz Prosecco (the sommelier at our local grocer recommended La Marca brand)

Pour 2 oz fruit juice into champagne flute.

Add prosecco and let the bubbles mix it for you.

Drink, enjoy, pour another, drink more.

Happy New Year!

The Top 12 Posts of 2012

pds

moc

basil

ddcc

scc

peanut butter truffle brownies

gooey butter cake

chocolate peanut butter cake

smore cook

btc brownie

ccroll

chocolate peanut butter cupcakes

choco pb hi hat cupcakeThese types of things are generally far too involved for me… all the steps required, they’re just too much. Even BF said he was “really impressed” with me… lol ~ I love that I can impress someone just by not being lazy. Amazing, right? So hard – make cupcakes, cool cupcakes. Make frosting, pipe frosting, chill frosting. Melt chocolate, dip cupcakes, and (worst of all) clean up melted chocolate mess.

Have you ever had to clean up melted chocolate? It’s absolutely exhausting. I might be being a little bit dramatic, but still. So hard.

The allure of chocolate and peanut butter though… I had to have these. I set aside the whole day to make these. And they were so worth it. If I could inject that peanut butter frosting straight into my veins, I’d be hooked. Light and fluffy with the perfect balance of peanut butter salty-sweetness. Amazing.

These are medium fancy and super cute… and who can resist peanut butter and chocolate? Plus the novelty of a “hand-dipped” cupcake? Irresistable. Luckily this recipe only makes 10 cupcakes – so right when I was reaching the point of being ready to give up, I was done! Now I know 10 cupcakes is my limit.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

[ Printable Recipe ]

makes 10 cupcakes, active time 1 hour, total time 3 hours

  • For the Chocolate Cupcakes:
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the Peanut Butter Buttercream:
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • For the Chocolate Coating:
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Procedures

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F. Line muffin pan with 10 cupcake cups. In medium bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt until combined; set aside.

  2. In large bowl, whisk sugar, buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla until combined and smooth. Whisk in dry mixture until smooth. Spoon batter into cupcake cups, dividing evenly. Bake until center is just set, about 25 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to wire rack to cool completely.

  3. While cupcakes are cooling, prepare the buttercream. In bowl of standing mixer, whisk sugar, egg whites, and salt until combined. Set bowl over pan of simmering water and gently whisk until mixture registers 160 degrees F on instant read thermometer. Immediately transfer to mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until mixture resembles shaving cream and is just cool. On medium speed, whip in butter, one piece at a time, until combined and creamy. Add peanut butter and vanilla and beat until smooth. Transfer buttercream to pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch tip.

  4. Pipe about 1/3 cup frosting onto each cupcake. Chill cupcakes in fridge until buttercream is completely firm, about 1 hour.

  5. When cupcakes have chilled, make the chocolate coating. Place chocolate and oil in a medium bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water. Gently whisk until chocolate has just melted and mixture is smooth. Transfer to a large mug.

  6. Holding cupcake by the bottom, carefully dip in chocolate to submerge all of the frosting. Pull up and let excess chocolate drop off for a few seconds before turning cupcake right side up. Transfer to cooling rack and repeat with remaining cupcakes. Let cupcakes rest a few minutes to allow chocolate to set and buttercream to soften before serving.

Notes:

  • When preparing buttercream, make sure the butter is soft, or it won’t easily incorporate into the buttercream.
  • If you don’t have a pastry bag or tip, fill a zip-lock bag with buttercream and then snip 1/2 inch off corner.
  • Avoid letting the bowl touch the simmering water, or it will overheat the mixture.
  • You will have leftover chocolate coating. This is purposefully done so that there is enough to easily dip each cupcake. Freeze leftovers for the next time.
  • Store the cupcakes in a cool, dry place to enjoy a creamy, soft buttercream. For continued storage, refrigerate. Before serving, allow cupcakes to come to room temperature to re-soften the buttercream.

[ adapted from serious eats ]

strawberry cupcakes – and how to fix buttercream frosting

strawberry cupcake main

I’m still working through the summer strawberry harvest, not that I’m growing them – but I can’t seem to stop buying them. I don’t know what I plan to do with all these strawberries, but I always seem to find something. Today? Strawberry cupcakes with strawberry swiss meringue buttercream frosting (quite a mouthful, no?). This is probably my favorite frosting in the whole world, and I’m not generally a “frosting” person. I’m usually perfectly content to eat my cupcakes sans frosting and call it a day, but this frosting… this frosting is absolutely divine.

This wasn’t my first time making buttercream frosting, but it was my first time breaking it. “Broken buttercream” is apparently a common problem in the baking world, I guess I was just lucky that I’d never encountered it. It was so scary… I didn’t know what to do with myself. Luckily, I remembered this book that I got when I worked at Sur la Table.

I remember the exact moment I decided to buy the book, a coworker was looking through it and commented on how “it even shows you how to fix broken buttercream!” That seemed like a handy enough thing to know, and it gave me that last little nudge I needed to buy it. Not that I “needed” to buy it, I don’t think I “needed” a single thing I bought there. Sidenote: never work for a store you enjoy shopping at – I’m pretty sure I made negative money working there. I basically paid them to let me work there. Sad.

Broken buttercream happens when your mixture becomes too warm or too cold, and it causes the buttercream mixture to separate. The initial problem, I thought, was that my buttercream was too warm. I am in the desert, after all, and the butter was definitely a bit too soft as I was adding it. I remember thinking “I’m surprised this is working” just moments before I saw the frosting separate. The solution for broken buttercream that is too warm is to cool the bowl in an ice bath while continuing to beat How the heck am I supposed to create an ice bath around my mixer anyway? I tried holding a bag of ice up, but then my hand got cold so I just stuck the whole thing in the fridge for about 30 minutes. After that, I took it out and began whipping to no avail. I chilled it longer… another 30 minutes… nothing.

My stupid buttercream was stupid broken and I was so angry (since I didn’t really care about the cupcakes, they were merely a vessel for delivering this magical frosting into my mouth). Then I realized I had probably chilled the buttercream too much, and that now I had the opposite problem – my buttercream was too cold. Apparently, buttercream is the Goldilocks of frostings. Stupid Goldilocks, I never liked her much anyway.

I was one step from throwing it out and starting over when I had one last burst of motivation. The book said to put the bowl over simmering water for a few minutes until it was warmed… that wasn’t happening. Instead, I just soaked a dish towel with really hot water, rung it out, and held it against the side of the bowl while whipping with the paddle attachment. Voila – great success! Now that I spent like four times as long making this frosting as I had intended, it was FINALLY time to frost my cupcakes. At least I learned a valuable lesson… just look at those beauties :)

Strawberry Cupcakes

Printable Recipe

  • 2 3/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C cake flour, (not self-rising)
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 C sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 C whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 C diced strawberries
  • Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk flours, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

2. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, then eggs (1 at a time) beating after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl.

3. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk and ending with dry (so 1/3 flour>1/2 milk>1/3 flour>1/2 milk>1/3 flour). Mix on low until incorporated. Scrape sides of bowl. Stir in strawberries.

4. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake cupcakes until testers about 20 minutes until testers come out clean. Let cool in tins on wire racks. Cupcakes will keep, covered & unfrosted for up to 3 days, unless otherwise noted.

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

Printable Recipe

  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, pureed
  1. Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. (or until the mixture is smooth when rubbed between fingers)
  2. Remove from heat and attach bowl to a mixer. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking well after each addition.
  3. Switch to a paddle attachment. With mixer on low, add strawberry puree, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Use immediately, or cover, and refrigerate up to 2 days.

[Recipe from Martha Stewart: Cupcakes]

chocolate barometer cake – how to test your new kitchen

[ long distance celebration]

This past weekend was my BFF’s birthday, so I thought I’d bake her a delicious chocolate cake. Not just any chocolate cake, one that (she said) reminded her of one from her childhood. Nevermind that she’s 2,000 miles away and wouldn’t … Continue reading