Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Some Patriotic Sweetness

Hey everybody, it's the 4th of July, and you know what that means:
And, y'know, the whole Independence Day thing too.
I couldn't let this day pass without some red, white and blue cookies, and the nerd in me wondered: what better way to celebrate than to make one of my all-time favorite character's iconic shield?

Firstly, I'm not a fan of sugar cookies in general. I love they way they look when decorated, but I always find the taste so... blah. And the recipe I found for these cookies wasn't too bad, but not worth explaining in crazy detail, so here's a link to the original recipe (I tweaked mine a bit.)

I wasn't sure how to make these at first, but I'm pretty sure I chose the most difficult method possible, as usual. That's how I roll, which may or may not be recommended, but if you want to know how I did it, here's some instructions.

Firstly, gather the ingredients for your favorite sugar cookie recipe, as long as it's one that holds its shape well when baking (and always refrigerate your dough before baking to make sure the cookies keep their nice edges.) Then, you can either make it and divide the dough into thirds and color them separately, or you can be like me and divide your ingredients into thirds and mix the colors into the wet ingredients before mixing in the dry. One without color, one with blue coloring, and one with red coloring.
Scrape out the dough, wrap each color in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about 15 minutes or until firm enough to handle easily without being sticky. Using powdered sugar instead of flour to keep the dough from sticking, roll out each of them out to about 1/4 inch thickness.

Here you can see all the cutters it took to make these cookies: large (2" or 1 3/4") circles, one 1" circle, and two tiny linzer cookie cutters, one circle and one star.
Start by cutting out large circles, next cut out the 1" circle from the centers, and then cut out the stars from the smaller circles.
Secondly, take out the red dough and  use the 1" cutter to make circles, then the tiny linzer cutter to pop out the centers, just like with the plain dough (only smaller.) and cut long strips of red dough for the outer ring of red on the shield. Like so:
Oh yeah, I bet you're starting to see why this took me four hours to do. Though maybe I shouldn't include the time I wasted trying to find room in the fridge for the pan I was using to keep the dough cool...
Anyhow, next, take out the blue dough. I took the tiny round linzer cutter and cut out little blue circles. You don't need much dough for this, so I recommend doing the whole 'adding color after making the dough' method unless you're making some other cookies like I was. But those didn't turn out nearly so well and are best left forgotten.

Finally, it's time to ASSEMBLE the dough. (Okay, that was a bad one, I'll try to avoid any more horrible puns. Maybe.) Place the red circle within the white circle, and the blue within the red.
 Then cut out the little stars from the center, and replace them with the white stars that were cut out earlier. Believe me, having shaky hands doesn't help in the slightest.
To finish things off, wrap the red strips around the whole cookie and, voila!
Ready to bake! Don't forget to set them in the fridge to cool one last time, or they'll spread in the oven.

It worked! Hurrah! I was dancing around the kitchen when I pulled these little beauties out. I like to think I made Cap proud. Now, you can eat as many as you please, then store the rest in an airtight container for up to 4 or 5 days. Hopefully all of you had a fun 4th of July, and didn't spend nearly as much time as I did in the kitchen!

Image of Captain America borrowed from this site and drawn by Luke Ross

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sandwich-a-licious Cookies

I bet you guys thought I was long gone. Well... I was for a while, but I'm back, I promise! In fact, to make up for my long gone-ness, I have an awesome recipe that any self-respecting cookie lover should have in their collection.

Now, what comes to mind when you hear the phrase, 'America's favorite cookie?' apart from a nice warm, chocolate chip cookie, that is. You know, that one well-known name brand that will forever cause family divisions over the table about what's better, the creme or the cookie. Ringing any bells? Good, because I have one that's even better.That's right, you read that correctly. I've found a recipe that will make it easy to walk right on by that classic blue package without a pause.

Look at these beauties: crunchy cookies with a deep, rich chocolate flavor and and smooth, creamy vanilla center. Makes you just want to pour a tall glass of milk and have at 'em. Well, soon you'll be able to. I tried out three different recipes that all boasted having the best texture and flavor.

One had melted butter and chocolate, the second was a classic sounding recipe using the classic cocoa powder and creamed butter technique, and the last recipe used powdered sugar. One full day of shifting things around in my overstuffed fridge to precariously balance a cookie sheet to cool rolled dough and cutting little circles as fast as I could to avoid the stifling heat in the kitchen finally gave way to three very different cookies.

The recipe that involved powdered sugar was the worst. It was too sticky and took forever to cool down only to result in dry cookies with all the oomph of an old piece of toast. It wasn't even worth a picture, so it was out of the running as soon as it left the oven.

Next was the classic cocoa powder and creamed butter recipe, which was okay, but okay isn't going to make people demand more of these every time dessert comes around. I didn't bother with any filling for them, but they did earn a picture:
And then, just as I was losing hope, the first recipe I'd chosen came out of the oven and even the color was perfect. Add the heavenly smell and I was sure I had a winner. Once I tasted them I did a little dance, they were so good. It was a recipe I found in the flour cookbook, by Joanne Chang, who owns Boston's Flour + Cafe, and I have to say, this woman is an excellent storyteller. Every recipe has a tale and the whole book balances the perfect line between a bakery recipe book and enough details to work well for the home baker. She's got a creme filling recipe in the book to for these cookies, but I chose to make my own with coconut oil instead of butter, which gave it the perfect consistency.
Before you go and jump into making this recipe, know that you can go with two different techniques. Either rolling the dough into a log and storing it in the fridge until it is hard enough to slice into circles (a quicker method for sure, but for some reason one I've never really been able to pull off. Eh, apparently I'm not happy unless I'm doing things in the most difficult way possible.) 

Or, you could do it the long, hard and time-consuming, but more precise method (for me, at least) of rolling out to 1/8" thick and cutting out circles with a cookie cutter. And the cookies look so much prettier and uniform if you refrigerate the dough before cutting it and before it goes in the oven. This will prevent the cookies from spreading and bubbling as they bake.

Here's the recipe along with both the original creme and my own substitute. (I know, I know, took me long enough.)

Homemade Oreos from flour by Joanne Chang

1 C unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 C granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour (unbleached is best)
3/4 C dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

- In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar until well combined. Whisk in the vanilla and chocolate. Add the egg and whisk until thoroughly incorporated.
- Add the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Mix well until fully incorporated. The dough with pull together and become easier to finish mixing by hand. It should have the consistency of play-doh. If the temperature of your kitchen is on the cool side, leave the dough to sit for about an hour to set up, if not, move right onto the next step.
- Now drop onto a sheet of parchment and either roll into a log about 10 inches long and about 2 1/2" thick, roll in parchment and twist ends to seal. Or, set another sheet of parchment/wax paper on top and roll out to 1/8" thick, slide onto a baking sheet and place in fridge (or freezer if you are short on time.)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and ready a baking sheet pan with either spray or parchment/wax paper
- When cooled enough to be firm, pull dough out and either slice to 1/8" thick slices, or use a 2 1/2" cookie cutter to make circles and place on ready baking pan. 
- Bake for 10-15 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through the baking time. Remove from oven and let cool for five minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Vanilla Cream Filling

1/2 C unsalted butter
1 2/3 C confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
pinch of salt

- While the cookies are cooling, grab a spoon and beat the butter in a medium mixing bowl. Add half the sugar and mix completely. Add the vanilla and beat until smooth. Then add milk and salt along with the rest of the sugar and mix until smooth again.
- Scoop by rounded tablespoon onto the bottom side of one cookie, then top with a second cookie, bottom-side down and press gently to spread filling out to the edge. Repeat with until all of the cookies are filled.

BakerNerd's Vanilla Cream Filling

1/2 C expeller-pressed coconut oil (raw or virgin coconut oil tastes like coconut while expeller-pressed has a very neutral taste, which is better for flavoring. But if you want coconut flavor, feel free to go with raw or virgin coconut oil.)
1 C confectioner's sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Note: coconut oil is best beaten with a whisk and using as few additional liquids (such as extracts and flavors) and do NOT mix with milk, it will make a curdled mess. I know, because I tried it. It was ugly.

- While the cookies are cooling, grab a whisk and beat the coconut oil in a medium mixing bowl. Add half the sugar and mix completely. Add the vanilla and beat until smooth. Then the rest of the sugar and mix until smooth again. thickness will depend on how warm the mixture is so try cooling it a bit in the refrigerator if it is too thin. If still too thin, ad a bit more confectioner's sugar until it reaches a consistency you like.
- Scoop by rounded tablespoon onto the bottom side of one cookie, then top with a second cookie, bottom-side down and press gently to spread filling out to the edge. Repeat with until all of the cookies are filled.

Grab a glass of milk, and maybe a spoon to smack away sneaky cookie-snatching fingers, and enjoy!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

When life gives you lemons...

Actually it was my sister who gave me the lemons. A few months ago, she informed me that she wanted red velvet for her birthday which was this last sunday, lo and behold, saturday rolls around and she decides to inform me that she'd much rather have white cake with lemon curd.

Not only that, but she wanted white cake with lemon zest in it, lemon curd surprise in the cupcake and white icing. A rather simple and doable order, except that I had prepared for red velvet and had no lemons what so ever.

She happily informed me that she had gotten some lemons for me. Now I assumed she had gotten me maybe 4 or 5 lemons from the local grocery, oh no, she went to Costco and got a 7 pound bag of lemons.

I have no idea what she thinks I'm going to do with all those lemons, but I'm sure I'll think of something, get ready for some lemony recipes from me!

Anyhow, here's the finished product, doesn't look like much does it? Just another plain ol' vanilla cupcake, right?
So you bite into the soft, sweet confection only to get an explosion of lemony flavor bursting across your tongue! Mmmmm...

Here's how it looks on the inside (sorry for the terrible quality, I took a ton of photos and this was sadly the best I had...) And this was one that had less filling than most, all of the others were demolished by the time I reached for my camera. This recipe only makes a dozen, so feel free to double it.

White Cupcakes (with lemon zest)
Adapted from Julie Hasson's 125 Best Cupcake Recipes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt (only if using unsalted butter)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
2/3 cup buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, use you regular milk and add 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar, stir and let sit for 10 minutes)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
3. in a larger bowl, beat butter until smooth, beat in sugar completely. Add in egg whites one at a time, beating after each until smooth, add in extract
4. alternate adding in the flour mixture and the buttermilk, mix just until smooth
5. scoop batter into lined cupcake pans, bake 20-25 minutes, turning pans halfway through if needed. Cool 10 minutes in pan before finishing cooling on a wire rack.

Lemon Curd
I used a really simple but delicious recipe from a website I love:

You'll need a piping bag or a plastic sandwich bag with one corner snipped off (just a tiny bit!)

1. When both the cupcakes and lemon curd are cool (the lemon curd should be maybe lukewarm at most, room temp is best though) fill your piping bag with about a cup of the lemon curd. Make sure to seal or twist it shut as to avoid messes.
2. Poke a small hole into the top of each cupcake with a chopstick or cake tester, push tip of piping bag into the hole and squeeze gently until you feel the cupcake swell slightly or get a little heavier. Gently remove piping bag. Repeat with all of the cupcakes.
3. Gently wipe off any overflowing curd from the cupcakes and lightly frost the cupcakes, making sure to hide the holes.
4. Unwrap and take a bite!

The icing was just a basic vanilla buttercream, the cupcakes are pretty sweet so you don't need much icing to finish them off or it'll be too much.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

And the two shall become one...

Man, has it been a crazy few weeks since I last posted! Finishing up my semester and getting my camera fixed for picture posting are just a part of it.

Anyhow, I had to make some cupcakes for a teacher who was leaving due to family emergencies, and to send him off I had to make something different. The usual just wouldn't cut it this time. So I set off to find something comforting, delicious and maybe a bit surprising as well.

After the wildly successful coconut cupcakes, I took another browse through Julie Hasson's book, 125 Best Cupcake Recipes for something new. As I was flipping through the pages, somthing caught my eye.

It couldn't be, I thought, quickly turning back to make sure I'd not been hallucinating. But there it was, the Chocolate Brownie Cupcake. So simple, yet I hadn't though about it before, all the familiar comforts of a brownie with the lighter texture of a cupcake. How would it taste, would the cake become too dense, or would it be so airy as to deny its brownie integrity? I had to know.

Busting out the bowls, sifter, and wooden spoon, I set to work. bout 45 minutes later I pulled these pretties out of the oven.

Don't worry if they sink in the middle, just use the toothpick test to check if they're finished. They should also have a brownie-like crust over the top, it is more obvious once the cupcakes are completely cooled.

Here's another, closer look. Sorry about the lack of frosting, but the camera was still acting up and I couldn't get any pictures of these once they were frosted. They're not the prettiest cupcakes you'll ever see, but they won every taste test hands down.

I iced them with a coffee frosting (they only need a little) made the same way as described in my other post, the Tin Tin Surprise. Just halve the recipe to avoid making too much.

My worries about texture were proven insubstantial as these babies were not too cakey and not too dense, the perfect combo of cupcake and brownie, pcked full of chocolate flavor and then some chocolate chips. This one's a keeper for sure!

Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes (125 Best Cupcake Recipes, by Julie Hasson)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt (only if using unsalted butter)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temp
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond extract (I don’t use this, I just add more vanilla, but that’s optional)
3 eggs
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips (about ½ of one 12 oz bag)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
2. In a medium sixed bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt
3. In a larger bowl, whisk together (or use a good ol’ wooden spoon) granulated and brown sugars and butter until smooth. Mix in the extracts and then beat in the eggs one at a time until combined.
4. Add flour mixture until just combine and there are no clumps, stir in chocolate chips.
5. Scoop batter into lined cupcake pan (I use an ice cream scoop) and bake for 28 minutes, turning pan halfway through for even cooking. When toothpick tester inserted into center cupcake comes out with a few crumbs and melted chocolate (from the chips,) cupcakes are done. The tops will not spring back when pressed. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before finish cooling on a wire rack. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting of choice (I use coffee) and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Coconut Cupcakes


Alright, my oven has been fixed. And just ion time for my housemate's birthday!

She wanted cupcakes and she told me to surprise her with anything but chocolate. All I knew was that she liked coconut, so coconut cupcakes it was! And I found an amazing recipe for these litte jems. They were moist, light and super delicious!

I also had some pictures, but the camera has been taken across the country by my mother, so I'll add them in when she returns.

EDIT: The camera has returned!

Here's the pictures from my coconut cupcakes...

And here's the recipe (from 125 Best Cupcake Recipes, by Julie Hasson):

Coconut Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sweetened shredded/flaked coconut
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (only if using unsalted butter)
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 egg whites
1 cup buttermilk ( if you don't have buttermilk, use 1 cup of regular milk and mix in 2 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar, let sit for a few minutes before using)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. spread coconut evenly over a cookie sheet and toast in oven for about 5 minutes or until they are slightly brouwn, watch them carefully or they will burn! set aside to cool.
3. In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt (if needed.)
4. In a seperate, larger bowl, beat the butter until smooth, add in sugar and beat until light and smooth. Add egg whites one at a time, beating them in completely after each addition.
5. Add cooled coconut to flour mixture and pour half into the butter mixture. Mix well.
6. Pour buttermilk into the nowl and mix until completely combined.
7. Add in the rest of the flour mixture and mix until smooth.
8. Scoop into lined cupcake pans and bake for 20-25 minutes.
9. When cupcake are finished (a toothpick poked into the center of a cupcak in the middle of the pan comes out clean) remove from oven and let cool.

Frosting: If you like lots of frosting, this recipe can easily be multiplied.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (for buttercream, you need to use unsalted butter for the right taste)
pinch of salt (a tiny pinch, mind you)
3 cups confectioner's/powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sweetened shredded/flaked coconut

1. In a mixer, cream the butter (don't use the wisk! only the paddle attachment or a wooden spoon for those doing it by hand) until smooth and light. Add sugar and salt, beat until light and fluffy, add vanilla and beat until completely smooth. If the frosting is too thick, add 1/4 cup milk and beat until smooth.
2. In a shallow bowl or small plate, spread out the coconut.
3. Frost your cupcakes, then simply turn them puside down and dip into the coconut, making sure to completely coat the top. Repeat with all of the cupcakes, then unwrap one and eat it!

I really like this recipe and I might try to turn them into Pina Colada cupcakes. We'll see...

Monday, March 29, 2010


Sorry about the lack of posts these past two weeks, but my oven broke and I am eagerly awaiting the repairs.

Soon, there will be more baked goodness, but sadly, not today.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tin Tin surprise

So this past Sunday was my mother's birthday. She's Belgian and a HUGE fan of TinTin.

For anyone who doesn't know who TinTin is, he's a comic book sleuth, and very famous throughout Europe. The comic series originated in Belgium around the 1930's.

Here's a quick peek of the characters:

TinTin and his trusty sidekick, Snowy (Milou in the original french version)

The characters I used for my mom's gift are the five in the middle. Starting on the left, the bearded man in the blue sweater is Captain Haddock, then TinTin, Snowy and the identical not-brothers Dupond and Dupont (in english, they're called Thompson and Thomson.)I made fondant silouettes of the character's profiles and put them on cupcakes.

My mom was pretty psyched about the whole thing, bringing them in to the office to show them off to all of her co-workers. Mission birthday present was a success!

I used mocha cupcakes with coffee buttercream. The cupcakes were a little lacking, but the buttercream was a definate keeper! On the sweet side, but you can always use less sugar than the recipe calls for.


1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
4 tablespoons hot water

Cream the butter until smooth. In a smaller bowl, dissolve coffee granules in the hot water. Slowly add sugar 1 cup at a time to butter, alternating with sugar, vanilla, sugar, coffee, and finally sugar. Mix until smooth and spread onto cooled cupcakes of your choice.

This frosting is pretty sweet, so make sure to ice your cupcakes in moderation.

I wish I had some coffee beans to decorate these with! Alas, but oh well.
That's all for now!