Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Apple Cider Caramels

I love making caramel almost as much as I love making jam. When I hover over my blue dutch oven filled with bubbling deliciousness I feel like a voodoo doctor simmering a magic potion in a cauldron, patiently giving it a stir or a nudge and carefully watching the magical transformation from grainy sugar to a beautiful golden syrup. Then carefully offering the cream as a sacrifice to the erupting volcano gods of sugar, accepting the tower of steam as a reminder of their power and feverishly stirring to ensure that the offering is accepted and the mixture turns smooth. Heating the glossy mixture until it's practically pillow-like, and then the eternal wait after the lot has been poured and stands cooling on the counter. But if all was done just right and the lords of caramel are kind, you will be rewarded for your vigilance with pretty bits of luscious candy to be shared with only those most worthy of your efforts.

Apple Cider Caramels

The lovely Kate at Our Best Bites posted this recipe for Apple Cider Caramels on her blog and I absolutely had to give them a try. Twice. I followed her instructions in all things except for the cutting. A long time ago, I saw caramels at a gourmet shop being sold in logs. Like a 9"x.5"x.5" square log wrapped up in parchment and a pretty sticker keeping the center from unwinding and two little ribbons on the ends. Kind of like a cut your own damn caramels system and since I hate the individual wrapping part, I went with the logs, which cut down the wrapping process dramatically. Plus, as Kate pointed out, "Cut your own damn caramels" makes for a fantastic slogan and works in all sorts of real world situations.

Apple Cider Caramels
Recipe from Our Best Bites

2 cup high-quality apple cider
1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup real butter, cubed

- Pour cider into a medium saucepan and boil on high for about 20 minutes or until the cider is reduced to 1/3 c. Keep an eye on it...it might try to run away. Set aside to cool.
- Line an 8" square pan with parchment paper, making sure to leave about 1" hanging over the edges for easy removal. Coat with a bit of vegetable oil and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine 2/3 c. cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and reduced apple cider. Set aside.
- In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, 1/3 c. whipping cream + enough water to reach the 1/2 c. line on the measuring cup, and corn syrup. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Insert the candy thermometer and simmer until the syrup reaches 234 degrees.
- Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Add the cubed butter and stir until the cream and butter are fully incorporated. Return the pan to heat and re-insert the candy thermometer. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 248 degrees.
- Remove from heat and pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let the mixture cool completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator. I covered the top of the pan loosely with saran wrap and left it out overnight. You could cut the caramels into 1/2" squares and wrap each caramel in wax paper, but I'm lazy so I cut the caramel into 1/2" logs, which meant that I had exponentially fewer pieces to individually wrap. Store in an airtight container or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, but I can guarantee that they won't last that long. These things are delicious!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shortbread Walnut Sandwich Cookies

I can't help it, I must bake for the holidays. It's in my DNA. In fact, if you looked at my DNA string, I'll guarantee you that there will be ladders of links to recipes and tiny sticks of butter connecting them twirling about. I've tried to keep the craziness to a minimum. There are no "regulars", no white chocolate cranberry cookies, no toffee (I'm sorry family, tough noogies). I'm only making time for the new stuff, the stuff that's exciting and interesting to experiment with. But believe me, this cookie is a keeper.

I bought these little molds from King Arthur Flour ages ago, and I'm now glad that I did, because it looks like they don't carry them anymore. The closest thing they have now is this, but it's not the same. I found them when I was reorganizing my kitchen last weekend and I set them out, determined to make use of them. A few days ago I said to myself, if I have everything needed to make these, if I don't have to make a grocery store run, these will get made, if not, back in the drawer they go. Lucky for you the recipe, which I also got from KAF, is the simplest thing in the world. Butter? check. Walnuts? check. A little bit of time had to be invested, just because you need to fill each mold individually, but I put on some reruns and got into the rhythm of it. Very therapeutic.

The cookies are tender, buttery, with a wonderful toasted walnut flavor. I didn't use KAF's filling recipe, going with a Nutella spiked ganache instead, but the chocolate filling is really only there to keep the two walnut halves together and to accentuate the walnut flavor, so it doesn't really matter which way you go. I've made this recipe twice now and trust me, it's totally worth it.

Walnut Shortbread Cookie

Shortbread Walnut Sandwich Cookies
adapted from KAF
The recipe they listed didn't make nearly as many cookies as they said it should have. Maybe I was overly generous when filling the molds, but they came out great, so I'd recommend doubling the recipe, like I did here.

1 cup soft butter
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup very finely chopped walnuts

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup Nutella

- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Get out your molds or a mini madeleine pan; there's no need to grease anything.
- Beat the soft butter, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla until fluffy.
- Stir in the flour, cornstarch, and nuts. Just use a spoon or a sturdy spatula. It comes together quickly and you won't end up covered in flour like you would be if you tried using the mixer. Trust me.
- Shape the dough into a rectangle or square, wrap it in saran wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cut the block of dough into squares a bit smaller then 1/2 inch thick. You don't have to, and you may need to adjust the square size, but for me, this made filling the molds faster then pulling off pieces and trying to keep things uniform.
- Press 1 teaspoonful, or a pre-cut square, of chilled dough into the bottom and up the sides of each well in the pan.
- Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, until they're browned around the edges. Cool for a few minutes, then push on the thick edge of each cookie to pop it out of the pan. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- While the cookies are cooling, chop your chocolate into small pieces and put into a medium sized bowl.
- Combine the cream butter and honey in a small pot over high heat and stir until the butter has melted and the mixture comes just barely to a simmer, then pour the whole thing over the chocolate.
- Let the chocolate sit for a few minutes and then stir or whisk the mixture until it's uniform, smooth and yummy looking. Add the Nutella and whisk again to completely incorporate.
- Allow the ganache to sit at room temp for a little while to firm up, then spoon some into a piping bag and pipe a little less then a teaspoonful into half the cookies. Let them sit for a few minutes to partially set up, then sandwich a filled half with an unfilled one. Eat. Repeat.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pretty Teacup for Teatime

Normally, I'm not a big fan of working from home. I know that's weird, but I actually like getting dressed, heading out in the cold, and interacting with coworkers face to face. But when I have to log in at 7am, and I have the option to sleep through the commute time and just roll out of bed, I'm going with the fuzzy robe and slippers routine. While it's too quiet and I'm working straight through lunch, I do get to drink fancy shmancy tea in my pretty tea cups, and that almost makes up for things.

Tea at Home

This is blueberry tea I bought a long long time ago, and while I haven't started baking cookies yet, I make sure to always keep little chocolates at home, just for these occasions.

Tea at Home 2

So in this hectic time of work, holiday shopping, cookie baking, and decoration frenzy, I urge you to take 5 minutes, pour yourself a cup of your favorite tea in the prettiest cup you own, find a cookie or a little treat, and just relax. Just for 5 minutes. Check out this link. Then you can go and wrap the neighborhood in garlands or cover the driveway with tinsel if you like.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

Amidst all the jolly, bright and shiny posts I'm seeing all over the blogosphere these days, I can help but feel a bit like a Grinch. Or rather to be more accurate, like a lump of coal. I really want to like the holidays, I really really do. I love everything about them. The over the top decorations, the carefully wrapped presents, the flurry of warm cookies and hot cocoa. But the best part is that you see all your friends and family, even the ones you haven't seen or heard from in months. Unfortunately, due to the nature of my job, it's also the time of the year when I become a hermit (hence my absence from this blog). The hours are longer and the days are more hectic and I've been trying to get everything in my neglected home back to order during what little spare time I can squeak out of my day. The sun sets almost as soon as it rises so some days I feel like I truly am living in a cave somewhere in the farthest reaches of Siberia. Have you ever felt exhausted even though you've been sitting at a desk all day? That's essentially where I am right now.

I finally got away for a quick dinner with two of my closest friends last night and it was such a great feeling to just sit and chat for a little while without a todo list or somewhere I have to run to next. I want more of that. I want people to drop by for a few minutes and chat over a cup of tea. I want to go outside and make a snowman, or just go for a walk and look at lights. And I want more energy to bake. I keep bookmarking all these recipes and wishing I had the time or the will to try them.

That's not to say that I haven't been baking. I mean what is sleep, after all? No one really needs it, right? So while I don't have festive holiday cookie exchange recipes for you today, I do have these amazingly quick and incredibly easy cupcakes. They have orange zest in them, so they're totally festive. I promise.

Chocolate Orange Cupcake 2

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
Cake recipe adapted from Martha Stewart and frosting is adapted from Whipped


3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup orange juice*
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange*

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, orange juice, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and zest, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Just use a whisk or a spoon and give your KitchenAid a rest this one time. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

2. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 18 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely and revel in the fact that you've only really dirtied one bowl and one whisk. Yay for easy cleanup!


24 ounces high-quality milk chocolate (I used Valrhona), chopped
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
zest of 2 oranges *

Place chocolate in large metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Add butter and stir until melted, then add sour cream, corn syrup and zest, and whisk until smooth. Let frosting stand at room temperature until thick enough to spread, about 20 minutes. You can also nuke the chocolate in the microwave in 20 second intervals, until it's melted and warm, and save yourself a few extra dishes you won't have to wash. Guess which version I went with?

Frost the cooled cupcakes and enjoy. They're actually better if you keep them in the fridge and serve the next day. The orange flavor permeates the cake and frosting giving both a more pronounced flavor. Just make sure you let them come to back to room temp before eating.

* If you just zest 3 oranges and split the zest between the cake and the frosting, you can squeeze out the oranges and use the juice. It should be enough to make the cake and you won't end up with naked albino oranges getting crusty and neglected on your counter.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

I want there to be 30 hours in a day, even if it's just to get a full night's sleep. And while I'm excited about hosting Thanksgiving, you know what I think my favorite part of the night will be? It'll be the cup of coffee at the end. Believe me, it'll be a cup well earned.

I always start out planning a modest dinner, after all, my family is small, but one thing leads to another, one blog post with amazing pictures and recipes leads to more and more items on my must try list. Before I know it, I'm planning three main entrees and at least a half dozen side dishes, not including soup and salad and a dessert or two. The big day will still be days away and you'll find me huddled in a pile of cookbooks rocking back and forth mumbling something about time and only one oven. Inevitably on the big day something will be forgotten or I will simply run out of time and scrap a dish or two, but there will still be a ton of food on the table and not a single person will walk away hungry, and I know that, but I still can't help scheming and planning.

Pumpkin Pie Cupcake

The point of this is that while I'd love to share with you my Thanksgiving recipes, I still haven't quite decided what I'll be making and I try not to repeat dishes from year to year. So the recipes for the dishes I'll make won't really go up here until after the big day, right about the time when even the sight of turkey will have you running for the hills. And yet I feel like I need to contribute something to your menu plans, and so I give you these: Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes.

I won't take the credit for the idea, it wasn't mine. I was inspired by this post from Cupcake Project, and while I didn't use her recipes, the spark, that bit of genius, was entirely hers.

The first thing you'll need to do is go here and make this pumpkin pie, sans crust. Just pour the mess into a pie dish and bake as instructed. Go on, I'll wait. This, by the way, is my all time favorite pumpkin pie recipe. It has the perfect blend of spices and the dark rum adds just the right kick. I usually add a dash of nutmeg and cardamom to round things out too, but other then the one time I accidentally doubled the amount of rum, I make it as is. As a side note, the double rum version took a bit longer to bake, but tasted amazing, even if it was fantastically boozy. Once the pie is baked, let it cool completely, or even toss it into the fridge overnight.

Next you'll want to bake the pumpkin cupcakes. For this I went with the best source there is, Martha Stewart. Believe me when I tell you that these cupcakes are to die for. They bake up with those perfect little mounds on top and are amazingly moist. I added a few of the pumpkin pie spices to the cupcakes too, so that they match up to the "frosting" a bit better, otherwise I used this recipe as is as well. These days I have too many things going on to try and experiment or innovate, so I just went with what I know would work.

Once the cupcakes are cool, whisk the cooled pumpkin pie filling from before a bit to make sure the mix is uniform, scoop into a pastry bag fitted with your favorite tip, and pipe on top of the cupcakes. Feel free to squirt some filling directly into your mouth, it's kind of like a no-carb slice of pie. Plus a pumpkin is a vegetable, so that makes it healthy, right?

Place a perfect pecan half on top and marvel at your creation. Thanksgiving dessert in a cupcake! Something to be thankful for, no?

Monday, November 15, 2010

NY and Momofuku

You know what has been the single most ubiquitous cookbook in my world for over a year now? Momofuku. I have seen the sneaky peach from that book's cover peek at me from shelves at numerous book stores, from the counters of a dozen different food stands and restaurants, and list upon list of this year's best cookbooks in magazines and blogs all over. That peach is literally everywhere, but unfortunately, the restaurant is in NY and I'm in Chicago. I was talking to my friend Joy a few weeks ago when the book popped up prominently displayed right by the register of Saigon Sisters inside the French Market, and her exasperated response was: "Momofuku! Momofuku! I'll give YOU Momofuku!" There may have been some swear words in there too, but I like to keep my blog PC. I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself here, let's start at the beginning.

Last weekend, the opportunity to go to NY for a family friend's wedding came up, and this being our first visit to the Big Apple, my sister and I decided to pack as much as was humanly possible into our two short days there. We ran through Times Square, packed with tourists and giant billboards all lit up. The Naked Cowboy was nowhere to be seen, but then it was kinda chilly.


We did make a brief impression on the city via a live video cam on top of Forever 21. Just look for the goof doing the funky dance and me taking her picture:


My sister barely survived an attempt on her life by the Cookie Monster. I'm telling you, that guy is vicious. He probably thought she had a cookie in her pocket:


We zoomed past Rockefeller Center where my sister pretended she was a cast member from 30 Rock, past the giant Lego store, taking a short detour to split a Rockette Red Velvet cupcake and a glass of milk at Magnolia's:



We made a point of grabbing a couple of hot dogs from a street vendor as well as a bag of piping hot roasted chestnuts, singing "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" at the top of our lungs (no one paid us any attention):


We popped into MoMA for a bit of culture, and stayed long enough to become part of the art:




I mean really, what ARE those black canvases supposed to say?

And in a completely sober moment, I kissed a goat. That's right. There's proof and everything.


We drooled over the dozens of amazing shops at Chelsea Market. I'm telling you, I wanted to buy a tent and a sleeping bag and move in there permanently. A dozen bakeries I'm sure you've all heard about were represented, including Fat Witch Brownies and Jacques Torres Chocolates. There was also a small but extremely packed shop called Buon Italia which had row after row of amazing european sundries, including this ginormous jar of Nutella that my sister wanted to smuggle back home and dedicate the rest of her life trying to slowly consume:


My sister's friend met up with us at Buddakan in Chelsea for dinner and while I don't have pictures of the food, I have to say that stopping there is an absolute must. Pop into this gorgeous place, order up a glass of Fate (a lovely cocktail with St. Germain liquor, pineapple juice and a splash of Prosecco), and pull up the menu. The tuna tartare spring roll was a crispy shell that gave way to delicate tuna flesh, lightly soaked in ponzu sauce. The roast duck noodles and the Asian stir fry were pretty good, but the Glazed Alaskan Black Cod was the softest and most delicious piece of fish I've ever had. We finished things off with another round of drinks and the Honey Jasmine Cheesecake, which was almost mousse-like, but if you pile a bit of the moscato sorbet and carmelized pears on a bit of cake and stuff the whole thing in your mouth, the combination of textures and flavors taste just like fall. The interior was dark and elegant, so I couldn't get very many pictures, but if I find myself back in NY, I'll definitely be back for more.


We ended the first day (yeah, that's all day one) with Avenue Q. The muppets were unexpected, neither of us knew what to expect, but we laughed nonstop from the time the curtains opened till the last of the actors were taking their bows. Amazing show, but not exactly kid friendly. Let's just say that muppet porn was an unexpected element and leave it at that.

The next day, we took our breakfast to go and spent the morning running randomly down trail after trail in our attempt to cover the southern half of Central Park. Did you know there was a castle in the middle there?


This beautiful bridge has been featured in countless different romantic comedies set in NY so it was fun to walk across and pose for pictures on it:


Skimming around the outskirts of the Central Park zoo, we were lured by the smells coming from this Belgian Waffle vendor:


Do you remember this spread I told you all to run out and get a few months ago? Well, they had it, and spread over their freshly baked yeasted waffles, or Dinges as they called them, it was amazing. Lucky dinges indeed.


Taking a quick jaunt through FAO Schwartz, past the Toy soldier made out of jelly bellys, past bin after bin of various candies, past a whole department full of muppets, and the famous giant piano, we headed south to Ssam Bar, Momofuku.




Finally, I was going to see what all the fuss is about. We settled at the bar and right in front of us, nestled next to the row of wine glasses was "the book", as if it's been waiting for us to join it for lunch all along.


All the talk and all the hype was definitely not for nothing. The meal was fantastic and this time I made sure to take pictures of everything. We started with a pair of mattaki oysters. I'm a huge huge huge oyster fan and these didn't disappoint. They arrived inside of a bowl of ice and tasted fresh and salty like the ocean. The cranberry halves were interesting, but I could have done without them.


Next up were the hot open faced steamed pork buns. Each bun was soft and fluffy and brimming with tender pork slices that practically melted in my mouth. If I didn't have more food coming I would have definitely asked for seconds.


My sister ordered the cotechino, which is a spicy sausage served with maitake mushrooms, tiny buttery brussel sprouts (which were almost good enough for me to start liking brussel sprouts...almost), and a green apple puree for a tart contrast. Each element complimented the others and we scraped that bowl clean with our forks, wishing we had some bread to mop up the juices.


The roasted blackfish that I ordered was very good as well, but we were already slightly jaded by the cod we had at Buddakan the night before. Nonetheless, the soft sweet fish paired with tiny cubes of squash and peekytoe crab was delicious.


At this point we were full and toying with the idea of skipping dessert, but in the end we decided that since we were finally there we may as well go all out and picked the light sounding apricot sorbet. It was very light and not too sweet, which is something I love in desserts. The crunch shortbread cookie, sage mousse and a tart tapioca provided a variety of textures and we kept trying to build spoonfuls with all the components until the plate was scraped clean.


The rest of the trip made me happy to be a Chicagoan and I'll skip the drama, but I'm glad I was able to finally taste the wonder that is Momofuku and if I ever find myself in this great city again, I'll make sure to spend more time in Chelsea...I may need to bring an extra suitcase for all the loot I'm already planning to acquire.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Apple Pie Caramel Apples

Cinnamon Caramel Apple 2

Sometimes I feel like I'm really missing out on something. The whole world, it seems, is full of people dreaming lush complicated, strange, and insightful dreams every night, but most nights when I finally sink into my pillows, it's like the light switch is flipped and no one bothers to come back and switch it back on until the alarm jars me awake in the morning.

Every once in a while, on those rare mornings when I can sleep in a little, I'll wake up with the vague feeling of having interrupted someone who was telling me a story. A complicated one, with many plot twists. And I'll wake up wanting to stay in bed, if only to find out how things ended, but finding the threads of the dream unwinding and disappearing even as I desperately clutch at them, trying to weave them back. I'll pretend that I never woke up, lying to myself and hoping that if I can really fool my brain, the story reel will sputter back to life and play till the end. It never works, and by the time I've washed my face and brushed my teeth, I can't even remember what I was dreaming about in the first place.

It's strange, but it's only when I'm sick (or sleeping off a night of drinking, to be completely honest) that I end up remembering my dreams. Probably because I don't sleep as deeply when plagued with coughing fits or when my head is throbbing. But if I do remember them, I remember them forever.

There are a few regulars that replay in my head like a worn movie, with only minor variations, like puzzles that I try to solve in different ways, but without seeing the big picture, the great plan, I always get the same results. There is the occasional "why didn't I put on my pants before I left the house this morning?" dream that everyone gets. But once every few years I'll get a completely new dream. One that is strange and disturbs me on a whole new, previously unimaginable, level. And then I'm thankful for missing out in the first place.

Cinnamon Caramel Apple

I ran across this post over at How Does She, and white chocolate and caramel enrobed apples sprinkled with cinnamon sugar looked so beautiful and sounded so dreamy that I had to give them a try. Plus, I got to pose them with one of my favorite tea cups. It's pearly white and delicate, with golden spider webs and spiders that manage to look elegant and not creepy. In the middle of the saucer is a spider who just finished spinning the name Hazel into the center. While I don't know who she was, I can dream up quite a character for what she might have been like, and I think she and I would have gotten along quite nicely.

I didn't really follow the recipe on that site, just used the idea, and the apples came out great. I'm still looking for that perfect caramel recipe though, so until I'm happy, I'll just tell you to head over there and give her recipe a try. It looks and tastes just like an apple pie. Yummy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Cupcake Contest and Tiramisu Cupcakes

Recently I've made the decision to say "yes" more often, within a reason of course, so now I'm making an effort to not count myself out and to throw my hat into every ring. But you see, my hat doesn't yet belong in every ring. Sometimes my hat is more like a fez, perfectly awesome, but doesn't necessarily belong alongside a dozen fedoras. But life is one big lesson, right? And it's exactly why I had to send in my entry into last weekend's cupcake contest, despite actually being very good at cupcake decorations. Sure I can make pretty swirls and toss in some sprinkles, I've even gotten pretty good at piping roses, but I'm still leery of anything to do with fondant, which limits what I can do, but not necessarily what I think I can do.

The contest was hosted by the French Pastry School in Chicago, and the criteria stipulated that we had to expand on a pound cake recipe for our cupcakes. I set out with a great idea: I was going to make tiramisu inspired cupcakes. I did a lot of research, tried a few things, added my favorite tiramisu cream and let me tell you, the flavor, texture, everything tasted fantastic. But then it came time to decorate and all my attempts fell short. I made a batch of chocolate marshmallow fondant and tried to shape it into trees...it didn't work. Then I tried to make tomb stones...they kept drooping. And finally I decided to just make mummies. I pulled out a face mold, and a piping bag and came up with something fairly decent, or so I thought. They're mostly grading on taste anyways. Right? Well, no backing out now.

Zombie Thumbs Up

Wow. When I showed up and people started putting their cupcakes up on the display table, I was almost ready to pack up and go back home. No way were my cupcakes good enough to compete. But I was there already, and my parents were coming to support me, so I stuck it out and spent the next two hours biting my nails and drooling over all the other entries:

Just look at this detail:
Cauldron Full

That green stuff is melted sugar, how cool is that:
Bubbling Cauldrons

This one actually ended up being one of the runners up:
Yummy Ghosts

Aren't those roses cute:
Tomb Stone

This was just awesome. It's an axe and a severed hand on a tree stump...all edible:
Chopping Accident

I thought these were fun. I don't know the flavor, but this would be fun for an oreo or a cookies and cream theme, don't you think?
Skeleton In The Dirt

The tables were right in the middle of a mall and both kids and adults passed by pointing out their favorites. This mademoiselle couldn't tear herself away until she went through all of them, and picked out the ones she liked best. Isn't she adorable? I want that coat in my size.
Cupcake cutie

I thought these were the coolest looking ones out of all of them. Would you believe they didn't even place? I guess the taste didn't measure up, but come on, don't they just look awesome?
Red Apple Witches

And this was the grand prize winner. I'm waiting for them to post the recipe, I'm really curious to see what was so special here, just looks like a chocolate cupcake to me. (I may also be a sore loser...maybe)
Winning Spiders

Yeah....these were mine and no, they didn't win. Please please please don't make any creepy bundled baby jokes, I know. My friends told me all of them. I can tell you though that despite the looks, they tasted awesome, so I'm including the recipe, should you want to try making them yourself...sans "mummy" of course.

Scary Tasty

Chocolate Tiramisu Cupcake

3 tsp. instant espresso powder
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. hot water
2 and 3/4 cups unsifted All-Purpose flour, King Arthur
1/4 cup unsifted cake flour
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. Dutch processed cocoa
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, large
1 cup sour cream, thick style
2 Tbsp. heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare two cupcake pans with liners.
Stir together the espresso powder, vanilla extract, and hot water in a very small bowl.

Onto a large sheet of parchment or wax paper, sift together the flour, cake flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium size bowl, toss the chocolate pieces with about 1 Tbsp. of this flour mixture. Set both aside.

In the large bowl of your mixer, cream the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl.
Pour in the granulated sugar in 3 additions, mixing for about 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the bowl frequently to ensure even mixing. Add in all of the brown sugar and beat for 1 more minute. Scrape again.

One at a time, add in the eggs, beating for 45 seconds after each one. Scrape!
Blend in the espresso mixture.

On low speed, add in the sifted ingredients alternately with the sour cream (3 additions of flour and 2 additions of the sour cream). Scrape after each addition. Blend in the heavy cream.
Fill cups ¾ full and bake for 30 min.
Once cupcakes are cool, cut a cone shape out of each one. Slice the cap off of the cone and set aside the rest in a bowl. Fill with tiramisu filling and replace the cap on each cupcake. Crumble the cake bits into crumbs.
Dip each cupcake in slightly warm ganache and sprinkle cake bits on top. Put a fondant mummy head on top, pipe the body out of ganache and add mummy wrappings with the fortified cream cheese/tiramisu frosting.

Tiramisu filling and Cream Cheese Frosting

3 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 (8-oz) container mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
1 8oz package cream cheese

Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Beat in mascarpone until just combined.

Beat whites with a pinch of salt in another bowl with cleaned beaters until they just hold soft peaks.

Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, then continue to beat whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat cream in another bowl with cleaned beaters until it just holds soft peaks. Fold cream into mascarpone mixture gently but thoroughly, then fold in whites.

Once the mixture has been used to fill the cupcakes, whip the cream cheese until soft in a separate bowl, add in whatever is left over of the tiramisu filling and whip together. This will give you a stiffer frosting to pipe the mummy shapes with.


8oz dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp instant espresso powder
¼ cup honey

Put chocolate into a bowl and combine the rest of the ingredients in a small pot set over high heat. Stir until honey is incorporated, butter has melted, and just until the first bubbles appear around the edges. Pour over chocolate, let sit for 2 minutes and then whisk together until well blended.

Shape mummy heads out of the fondant and let dry overnight. Or leave them off entirely...yeah, much better to just leave them off.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Winner and a Loser

First and foremost, thank you all for coming by and leaving me such great comments and ideas on what to do with my dutch oven. Lots of curries, I'll definitely have to give one a try. While I wish I could give each and every one of you something, I only have one GC to give, and according to Random.org, that goes to Anita:


Anita, congratulations! It doesn't look like you left any way for me to get a hold of you though, so please email me at blondiescakes at gmail dot come right away and I'll send you your GC code. If I don't get a reply in a week, I'll have to pick someone else, so please please come back for your winnings :D

As for me, well, I'm the loser in this episode. Wanna guess where I am this week and why it took me so long to post this? I'll give you a hint:




And a whole lot of:


No idea? Here a few more clues and I'm sure you'll get it:

New York New York

Fountains at Bellagio

I'm spending a few days in Vegas for work and already I've gambled away the few bucks I made on my last cupcake order. I may have even learned a lesson about gambling...or something. Anyhow, that's all I have for you today. Since I haven't been home in almost two weeks, there's not much in terms of recipes that I have ready to share with you, but thank you for stopping by...I'll put a fiver on black 27 for you ;)