Tag Archives: baking

Dexter Themed Cupcakes: A Gig

5 Feb

Friends come to me with various food questions quite regularly. This project started in much the same way. One friend wanted Dexter themed cupcakes for a friend of hers that is a huge Dexter fan.  Her inspiration was from a picture of cupcakes that were made for Magnolia Bakery for the show’s premier.   I gave her some names of local bakeries I knew of that did custom and theme cupcakes, but as she called around, it became obvious that no bakeries would make it. One offered to make it without the “glass,” but that just took the drama out of it.

I looked at the picture, looked around for sugar glass recipes, and concluded that I could absolutely make these cupcakes.

And so my first “paid gig” for baking began.

Since this was my first “professional” assignment, I decided it was absolutely necessary to make a test batch first.  The cupcake recipient actually was not a fan of chocolate, so my red velvet idea went quickly out the window.

First, I found a Martha Stewart recipe for the sugar glass, but I long ago realized that Martha’s kitchen staff makes everything look a whole lot better than I could ever get out of my kitchen. So I went on a quest for a “normal person” recipes and once again, AllRecipes.com came to the rescue.

I combined them both (and the use of 2 different thermometers to check on the temperature) and made my attempt at sugar glass.

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I was really excited when it actually worked! It was ever so slightly yellow tinged, which was disappointing, but I deemed it good enough to work.

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And made a few batches of varying thickness.

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And just for fun, I dyed some blue and made some Breaking Bad Blue Sky (and put it all chopped up into a baggy for the friend who made the order, knowing she is a huge Breaking Bad fan.)

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It was a bit rippled when I made the thick one.

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But the thinner one was very clear and shattered just like glass.

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And cut like it!

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(Just kidding! Sort of…) It was definitely sharp, but it made for some great gag glass with just a bit of red food coloring.

For the cupcake itself, I decided to go with a very basic cupcake that I added some spices to (ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg) and then used the Bailey’s frosting that everyone loves.

Then it came time to figure out how to fill these bad boys. I wanted them to be filled with a blood colored jam of some kind that when cut into, would look like it was oozing blood.

First I tried a cherry pie filling (without the solids) in a squirt bottle.

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And while it looked a bit like it, the narrow amount just didn’t have the impact I wanted and it absorbed into the cake in a few minutes, so it didn’t really ooze all that well.

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So next I tried the “cone” method where you cut a cone out of the cupcake…

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… then remove the section…

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… fill the hollow with the filling…

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… then replace the very top of the circle to fill the hole. This proved to be a pretty good method and I declared the trial a success. (The hole also let me drop a cherry into each, which I hoped would add to the flavor a bit).

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And then it came time to assemble.  I used a pastry bag to pipe the frosting on, stuck the sugar glass on it, then splattered the top with red food coloring.  And then… we had a Dexter cupcake.

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We tried a few different “splatters.”  Red food coloring, red gel icing, cherry filling, jam… But the good ol’ red food coloring was really the best.

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And cutting into the inside wasn’t as oozy as I wanted, but the cherry inside was a really nice addition.

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And since I had a few extras from the trial, I filled a few with jam and topped them with peanut butter instead of frosting.

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Have I mentioned that I am a sucker for all things peanut butter and jelly?

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So then came the day of the actual party.  I had ordered some specialty accessories including blood spatter cupcake liners, bone sprinkles, and bloody cleaver toothpicks.  (More on those later)

While the cone cutting was working, I decided to look through my stock of random kitchen accessories to see if I had something better. Sure enough, an old fashioned apple corer was perfect.

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It pulled out a good well to add the cherry and cherry pie filling.

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And left the top circle intact for replacing on the top.

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All ready for frosting!

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We decided to go with a spread frosting instead of a piped frosting, and then put the shards of sugar glass in them.

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Then set up an elaborate blood spatter lab where we coated everything in saran warp, dropped the cap into the sink, and used pastry brushes to splatter the food coloring blood.

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Then put them into the cupcake holder (which is never stable enough… why don’t they make the sides of those things just a bit higher?)

Ready for delivery!

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But I figured I could get even more creative.  So I took a piece of sugar glass that looked like a knife, molded a chocolate handle, inserted a birthday candle and made an edible knife/candle holder.

Then I took a “naked” cupcake, strapped it down under plastic wrap, and stabbed it with the knife.  I hope Dexter fans will appreciate.

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I also wanted to create some different kinda of decoration, so I decided to use the meat cleavers and bones in red topped cupcakes.

This is where I caution you… it is just about impossible to make RED frosting. I wound up with a whole lot of very pink frosting.  I then proceeded to dump every red colored thing in my cabinet into this (which included just about every fruit jam in history) and yet… it was still pink.  So Mike popped out to the store and got an industrial sized bottle of red food coloring and I dumped it in. I was concerned that the high concentration of red food coloring would change the flavor, but as it turns out there was so much fruit in there from all the jams that you couldn’t taste it (though no promises it wouldn’t dye your teeth red!)

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The bar where they set up was dark, but I was told that they were the hit of the party.

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And I’m very glad to have done such a fun project and make a Dexter fan happy.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cups

18 Sep

I am a huge fan of Pinterest.  I have posted my favorite recipes and restaurants, as well as recipes I want to try. And don’t even get me started on how much of my wedding I have been pinning!

One recipe I stumbled on was Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Peanut Butter Cups.  My homemade peanut butter cups are pretty well known and the idea of making cookie dough cups seemed pretty awesome.

You start by heating butter until milted and then stir in brown sugar, then remove from heat and whisk in the peanut butter.

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I whisked in the vanilla and it looked pretty liquidy.

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But after the 20 minutes of cooling, it firmed up nicely, just like dough.  And I added the chocolate chips (mini chips would be best for this).

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While it cooled, I lined my most favoritist cup molds with chocolate.  I have found an even faster way to do this by putting just the right amount of chocolate chips (6 small or 4 big) into each cup and then putting that in the microwave until it just melts. Then using my finger to spread it around and up the sides. SO simple!

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Once the dough was cool, I rolled it up into little balls.

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And placed each ball into a cup.

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The pushed each ball down so it was flat and just below the top.

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At this point I melted more chocolate, placed a dollop on top of each cup, and then tamped it down so it created the top of the cup.  When you bought into it, you could see a perfect dough filled chocolate cup.  I am explaining this to you because I was too busy eating these suckers to take a picture. WHOOPS!

I really liked these, but they were just too close to the peanut butter cups (and not quite as good) to make it into the usual repertoire.  I made these again the following week and did it without the peanut butter.  I kept adjusting the recipe until it tasted more like cookie dough (including adding flour to get the consistency right) and it was DAMN good.  That version may make it… we’ll see.

Here is the recipe that connects from Pinterest.

Cream Puffs

30 Aug

I really love when Mike comes home and says “You know… my coworker says they really love ______.”  And then suddenly I find myself searching for recipes and Mike finds himself lugging lots of tupperware into his office.  I love a good baking challenge.  So when a love for cream puffs was mentioned, I began scratching my head.

Aren’t cream puffs really hard to bake?

As it turns out… NO… Not even a little bit!

I scoured AllRecipes.com and eventually landed on this recipe. I was skeptical how vanilla instant pudding would work out, and while it felt a bit like cheating, the rave reviews about it made me try it out.

The dough is actually started in a pot on the stove. Water, butter, flour, salt. 

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And then put into a mixer and beat in the eggs.

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It made a perfectly thick dough, which I then dropped by the spoonful onto a silpat and baked.

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I was so excited when I opened up the oven and there were perfect little puffs.

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The recipe says to slice the tops off, put the filling in the middle, and then put the sliced top back on.  But I wanted to fill these little beautiful puffs.

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I first tried the old “Put it in a ziplock and cut off the corner” piping method, but the bag was just too soft to get into the cream puff in any sane way.

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So I began to look around the apartment for something to make it easier (and also allow Mike to take it into the work and do it there, so it didn’t get soggy).

Then I remembered my trusty little squeeze bottles.  I don’t know what I ever did before these babies!

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So all you do is flip it over, put the spout into the bottom of the puff, and squeeze until full. There is a hollow space in the puff and it works like a charm.

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And when you popped them open, they were flaky yet doughy and tender puffs with a crispy shell and great filling.  It was a really awesome recipe.

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These were so easy to make, that I would easily do these for any dinner party. They are impressive without being time consuming. And I was impressed that they lasted overnight and that Mike could fill them the following day.

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RECIPE
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Ingredients

  • 2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  •  
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs

Directions

  1. Mix together vanilla instant pudding mix, cream and milk. Cover and refrigerate to set.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  3. In a large pot, bring water and butter to a rolling boil. Stir in flour and salt until the mixture forms a ball. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon or stand mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Centers should be dry.
  5. When the shells are cool, either split and fill them with the pudding mixture, or use a pastry bag to pipe the pudding into the shells.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/cream-puffs/detail.aspx

Quick Tip: How to Juice a Key Lime

13 Jun

I set upon the task of making a key lime pie recently. I have a recipe that I really enjoyed last time, and was thankful that Fresh Direct now stocks key lime.

But then I realized that I needed to squeeze roughly 30 individual limes… and that seemed like quite the undertaking. So I went browsing through the tips to find some way to make this easier. Someone mentioned a genius solution… juice the limes with a garlic press.

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It worked perfectly!

I cut all the key limes in half and then pressed them to juice them. It also meant that there were no seeds in the juice.  It could not have been easier.

And the pie?

Perfection.

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Homemade Chocolate Mousse

24 Apr

Certain recipes instantly go into the “filed for life” box.  This is one of them.

I love chocolate mousse when it’s good. But so many times it’s just not.  It’s not chocolaty enough or it’s gritty or it’s sickeningly sweet.  This mousse is just perfect. And much easier to make than I anticipated.

I found this recipe on AllRecipes.com. Step one: whip cream to form light peaks.  You would think that I have done enough homemade schlag in the past to know better than to leave the mixer unattended while whipping, but alas, I wound up with some stiffer peaks than I anticipated. Luckily, this didn’t impact the recipe from what I could taste.

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This recipe especially caught my eye because Ghirardelli is my favorite chocolate to bake with. Hands down, changing to these chips made every recipe better. Every time I run out and use Nestle’s or Hershey’s, the taste difference is noticeable and if I’m making anything with melted chocolate, these cheaper brands just don’t temper as well, come out as smooth and uniform, nor taste anywhere near as good.  Lesson for anyone new to chocolate: Spend the extra $1 on the good chocolate chips. It’s worth it. Case in point, these melted perfectly smoothly in my double boiler (metal bowl placed on top of a pot with simmering water… hint: make sure the bowl is bigger than the pot so steam doesn’t work it’s way out of the pot and into your chocolate).

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AllRecipes is my favorite recipe site because of the dedicated readers who leave comments on the recipes. Thank goodness for them!  While certain times I don’t follow their advice and end up with a mess, this time, they guided me in the right direction, because while the recipe calls for 4 eggs, they really meant 4 egg WHITES.  Big difference.  The egg whites fluffed up perfectly with the sugar.

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I think the next ingredient is where this recipe really takes on a new level.  1/4 cup of coffee added to the recipe gave it a richer flavor that also countered some of the sweetness without making it taste less chocolaty.  A few people mentioned that they left out the coffee and regretted it later.

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You stir the coffee into the chocolate and then quickly add the eggs and fold in the whipped cream. I was nervous that the chocolate would bind upon adding the coffee (chocolate basically turns into an ugly mess when it’s mixed with water), but working quickly left me with a perfectly smooth and delicious mousse.

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Any elegant chef might pour these into a martini glass or mason jar to present, but I had to make them transportable to offices, so I went with Dixie cups.  Keepin’ it classy.

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I also wanted to top each with whipped cream, but whipped cream won’t stay fluffed overnight, so I added a tiny bit of gelatin to my whipped cream for the first time to stabilize it and, surprisingly, it worked. And it still tasted great.

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This recipe was perfectly delicious and surprisingly easy to make. I highly recommend this as a crowd pleaser (and impresser!)

Ghirardelli Chocolate Mousse
 
recipe image
Rated: rating
Submitted By: Ghirardelli®
Servings: 8
“Serve this simple chocolate mousse in a martini glass for a fancy presentation. A dollop of whip cream adds an elegant touch.”
INGREDIENTS:
10 ounces Ghirardelli 60% Cacao
Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup coffee, hot
4 eggs, room temperature (JUST THE WHITES!)
2 tablespoons sugar
DIRECTIONS:
1. Whip the cream to form light peaks. Set aside in the refrigerator. Melt the chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl set over barely simmering water. Meanwhile, whip the eggs with the sugar until very fluffy and thick, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir the hot coffee into the melted chocolate chips. The mixture will start to thicken, so work quickly. Quickly stir in the beaten eggs, then fold in the whipped cream. Pour or spoon mixture into cups or bowls, and chill until firm, about 2 hours.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2012 Allrecipes.com Printed from Allrecipes.com 4/22/2012

Sludge Fudge

22 Mar

For my coworkers birthdays, I have sent surveys to ask for their favorite desserts.  My one coworker said “anything with raspberries and chocolate” so I went about trying to find a fun recipe that included both.  I was surfing through allrecipes.com and came upon a beautiful looking chocolate and raspberry layered fudge recipe

It started out pretty good… made some easy chocolate fudge and layered it on the botton… then made some of the raspberry fudge and layered it on top, then topped it with raspberries. 

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It sure looked pretty.

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That is… until I tried to get it out.

Turns out, the top layer didn’t actually set up.  It was basically raspberry mush… and it caused what can only be defined as “goop” to spread all over the fudge below as soon as I cut into it.

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Don’t get me wrong, it still tasted DEElicious, but it was a sloppy, gooey, sticky mess.

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The notes on the recipe said that a lot of people had this issue, and I should have listened.  Only a few people had issues, so I figured they screwed up and if I followed the recipe pretty closely, I’d be fine.  Wrong.  It didn’t seem that the ratios between the chocolate fudge and the raspberry fudge were that different, but white chocolate does act very differently.  I would make this again, but with more white chocolate and no cream, and perhaps some gelatin.

 

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RECIPE
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Raspberry Truffle Fudge

 
recipe image
Rated: rating
Submitted By: Leeza
Photo By: littlemisscook
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
Servings: 40
“A unforgettable double-layer confection that’s absolutely perfect for your true love!”
Ingredients:
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed
milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
salt to taste
 
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup raspberry flavored liqueur
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (substitite white chocolate to get the top layer to be pink)
Directions:
1. Spray a 9×9 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray, and line with wax paper.
2. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine 3 cups chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Heat in microwave until chocolate melts, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to let it scorch. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Spread into pan, and cool to room temperature.
3. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine cream, liqueur, and 2 cups chocolate chips. Heat in microwave until the chocolate melts; stir until smooth. Cool to lukewarm, then pour over the fudge layer. Refrigerate until both layers are completely set, about 1 hour. Cut into 1 inch pieces.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2012 Allrecipes.com Copied from Allrecipes.com 3/18/2012

I made bread!

24 Jan

Two years ago, I epically failed at making bread. I went into it with such gusto… but it was so traumatic that it took a full 2 years for me to pull up the courage to try again.

I received a recipe that my friend Lillian had been using for years.  By the time I put all the dough together and kneaded, I wound up with a perfect ball of dough.  A much better state than the one from 2 years ago at this point.

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And then I left for a bit and came back the requested 1 hour later and was overjoyed to see my dough had risen SO MUCH that it was playing pic-a-boo under my dish towel.

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Now that was SOME rise!

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I pulled it out and took out some aggression by punching it in the face. (And while you’re there… LIKE NYC Nom Nom on Facebook!)

I then split it into 2 loaf pans and one mini loaf pan.

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And since I just can’t 100% follow a recipe without adding something to it… I painted the top of olive oil and then added flake salt to the top of the mini loaf.

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And when it came out of the oven, I was ecstatic.  Not only did it LOOK like bread… it SMELLED like bread!

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And it’s hard to resist a wee loaf.

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The bigger loafs also… amazingly… both LOOKED and SMELLED like bread.  It was so satisfying! (So satisfying, in fact, that I debated not cutting into it just in case I screwed something up)

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But cut into it we did and it sliced up perfectly.

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And then we ate it with homemade jam…

And it was good.

Damn good.

It was BREAD! Real bread!

And I made it.

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RECIPE
_______________________

Homemade White Bread from Lillian (original source unknown)

INGREDIENTS:
7 1/4 to 7 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon nonfat dry-milk powder (they sell this in big packets in big boxes)
2 packages active dry yeast
2 2/3 cups water
1/3 cups shortening
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt

DIRECTIONS:

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups of the bread flour, the nonfat milk powder and yeast; set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat and stir water, shortening, sugar and salt until just warm and shortening almost melts (I actually got nervous because I know temperature is important for yeast, so I looked it up and found this handy dandy chart. I realized my water was WAY too hot already, so I pulled it and let it cool down to below 130°)
  • Add water mixture to the dry mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl constantly.
  • Beat on high speed for 3 minutes.
  • Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can with a wooden spoon.
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface.
  • Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that’s smooth and elastic (8-9 minutes total). Shape the dough into a ball.
  • Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease the surface of the dough. Cover and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size. (45-60 minutes)
  • Punch dough down.
  • Turn out again onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 2 or 3 equal portions.
  • Cover; let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, lightly grease two 9x5x3 inch loaf pans or three 8x4x2 inch loaf pans.
  • Shape each portion of dough into a loaf by rolling on a lightly floured surface into a 12×8 inch rectangle. Roll up, jelly-roll style, starting from the short side. Seal with fingertips as you roll.
  • Place into prepared loaf pans.
  • Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled (20-30 minutes).  (Mine didn’t really rise MUCH more, I guess because it rose SO much in the first round, but it turned out just fine)
  • Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when you tap the top with your finger. (My mini loaf took about 20 minutes total)
  • Immediately remove bread from pans and cool on wire racks.

YIELD: 2 or 3 loaves

Not all experiments work…

12 Jan

I had some extra pumpkin cheesecake batter and an egg white.  So inspiration set in.  Can I bake a mini cheesecake with a meringue top?

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Would the cheesecake set without burning the meringue?

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Would it all stick together to make one ultimate dessert of 2 of my favorite things?

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Would this be my claim to baking fame?

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Could it be? Could it work?

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As it turns out… the answer was no.  The light meringue crisp didn’t work with the dense cheesecake, and the tops just popped right off.

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Sure… they could be reassembled into little toadstools.

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But the only real way to eat it was upside down in a mess of a recipe that just didn’t work…

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But even experiments that don’t taste as you intended can be delicious in their own way 🙂

Best Recipes of 2011

29 Dec

As I reflected on the past year and searched for recipes, I realized a very important thing about 2011… we didn’t cook NEARLY as much as we did the years prior (2010 best recipes here) or at least didn’t post as many recipes.  And almost everything I cooked was of the dessert variety. Hmmm… Reflection is 20/20.

So without further ado… please enjoy my favorites of 2011:

Pancakes

Bailey’s Frosting

Fudged Fudge

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

The Famous Cider

Strawberry Shortcake

Salted Caramels

Grandma’s Plum Tart

Homemade Popovers

Drunk ‘N Nutty Pie

Happy Nomming!

“What do I make for my Cookie Exchange?” (AKA The Big Dessert Post) – 2011 Update

12 Dec

#1 question that is coming up right now:

“What should I make for my cookie exchange?”

(Funny story… I have never been to a cookie exchange. I do love the concept… trading recipes and eating cookies does sound particularly awesome.  Perhaps I shall host one next year!)

In honor of the holidays… here is a selection of options that I have blogged about in the past that are great for a cookie exchange (with some 2011 updates):


Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars/Cups (cups recipe at bottom of post)

Black and White Cookies

“O” Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cake Balls (they’re almost a cookie)

Homemade Crunchie Bars AKA Chocolate Covered Honeycomb (also not quite a cookie, but I think candy can count for an Exchange)

Chocolate Coffered Toffee with Salt (Candies for Cookies)

 

2011 Update:

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

 

Chestnut Cookies

 

Homemade Salted Caramels (this photo was done in a mold and topped with chocolate)

 

Faux Fudge:

 

Meringue Mini Pies

 

Not into cookies/candies but still need a good dessert?


Peach and Pear Crumble

Key Lime Pie

Pie Variation #1 (Apple, with detailed instructions on making pie crust)

Pie Variation #2 (Cranberry Apple Pie- Prepared Crust)

Berry Belt Cake

 

2011 additions:

Grandma’s Plum Torte

Pumpkin Cheesecake: (and how to water-bathe it)

Drunk ‘N Nutty Pie

Strawberry Shortcake

Confetti Cupcakes with Bailey’s Frosting

 

If anyone does use any of these recipes for an Exchange, just give them this blog URL and ask them to tell all their friends!  K? 🙂

I will continue to add to this post as I post more dessert recipes.  So bookmark it or find it in the “Best of the Best” tab on the title bar.