Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cherry Shortbread Hearts Dipped in Chocolate

I am leaving in a few minutes for vacation.  While I am gone I have attempted to schedule two automatic posts on cupcakes.  This is my first time doing it this way, so I hope it works!  If not, I'll post them live when I'm back in a little over a week.  Please bear with me!  Now, onto the cookies....

I'll get right to it....these didn't turn out exactly as I had planned.  I've made this shortbread cookie before and it's heavenly.  This time I forgot to skim the recipe beforehand (have I mentioned it's so important to read the recipe before beginning!) so I rolled the dough too thin.  When that happens they  brown past the edges.  When that happens the don't taste great.  Trust me.  Not that they were AWFUL, just not what they could and should have been.  Here's the recipe, which, if you follow correctly, will produce wonderful, buttery shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate.  Promise!

Shortbread Cookies
Adapted slightly from Ina Garten

3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maraschino cherry juice
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, chopped
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
A few drops red food coloring (to desired hue)
6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together butter and one cup of sugar until they are just combined.  Add the vanilla, cherry juice, cherries and food coloring..  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt and add them to the butter/sugar mixture.  Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.  Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a disk.  Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2 inch thick and cut with chosen cutter.  Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet and sprinkle with sugar.  

Bake 20-25 minutes or until edges begin to brown slightly.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

When the cookies, place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Put 3 ounces of chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Stir with a wooden spoon.  Continue to head and stir in 30 second intervals until the chocolate is just melted.  Add the remaining chocolate and allow to sit at room temperature , stirring often, until it is completely smooth.  Stir vigorously until the chocolate is cooled and smooth and slightly cooled.  Stirring makes it glossier.

Drizzle each cookie half way with enough chocolate to coat it.

I also have a difficult time with achieving glossy chocolate.  Still working on that.  The chocolate was too thick for me to drizzle, so I dipped, but the line is uneven and trying to fix it made things worse.  I will definitely make these again and try to improve on it.  The cherry flavor was nice and I like the bits of cherry throughout the cookie.  I thought about skipping posting these cookies altogether, but I promised I'd show the good, bad, and the ugly.  These cookies are a combination of the three, I think!

If you try your own version and have success, let me know!

I have shared this recipe with:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fresh Raspberry Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream

Yum Yum Yum!  That's how will I sum up the taste of these cupcakes!  I found some raspberry extract while shopping, which, I'll be honest, I never even knew existed, and wanted to use it in a recipe immediately.  I bought some fresh raspberries and looked up a vanilla cupcake recipe on Martha Stewart and went to work.

Scratch Raspberry Vanilla Cupcakes
Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons raspberry extract
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pan with liners; set aside.  In a medium mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  In a large mixing bowl cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time,  mixing until incorporated.  Scrape down sides of bowl and mix in vanilla.

Add flour and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Add whole raspberries to batter and use mixer to incorporate.  The berries will break up into pieces but will not alter the color of the batter.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about 2/3 full.  

Bake until cake springs back, approximately 18-20 minutes.  After removing pan from over place on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.  Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely on rack.

Oh, did my house smell SOOO good while these were baking!  I was anxious to get the cupcakes frosted so I could try one.  I knew I wanted to use buttercream icing, but wasn't sure if I wanted to make it raspberry flavored.  I figured why not, the worst that could happen was an overdose of raspberry, and I was okay with that!

Raspberry Vanilla Buttercream Icing

2 sticks of butter (I did use salted)
4 cups of confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon raspberry extract
1/2 cup of fresh raspberries
3-5 tablespoons half and half

Using a mixer, beat butter until it is fluffy.  Add 3 cups of sugar - one cup at a time - mixing until it's completely incorporated.  Add vanilla, raspberry extract, fresh raspberries (rinsed and dried THOROUGHLY) and half and half along with the last cup of sugar and mix together, adding more half and half until the icing is the desired consistency.

This icing is absolute heaven!  I mean, really.  I could eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The fresh berries turned the buttercream into the lovliest shade of pink.  They elevated the taste to perfection.  I could not wait to eat one, so I used a piping bag to frost each cupcake.

Delicious.  I might like these better than the Bellini cupcakes.  It's hard for me to make that call!  The cupcake itself was a bit too dense for me, so I think I'm going to try a new vanilla cupcake recipe, but the flecks of fruit throughout were SO good!

If you love or even just like raspberries, I urge you give these a try!

I have shared this recipe on:

A Little Nosh

Raising Oranges

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Monday, January 23, 2012

Raspberry Brownie Bites

These are hands-down my favorite "go-to" recipe for instances I need to provide a quick treat for any occasion.  They require minimal preparation and everyone loves them!  Brownie  Bites are extremely versatile.  You can substitute raspberries with mini peanut butter cups, Hershey Kisses, M&Ms, etc. However, I think that the Dark Chocolate/Raspberry combination can't be beat!

To begin you will need a box Dark Chocolate brownie mix.  I have tried these  bites with non-Dark Chocolate mixes, and the taste isn't quite as good.  After preparing the batter as directed, use a cookie scoop to fill the cavities of a greased mini muffin pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan.  Place bites on a cooling rack set over waxed paper.

While the brownies continue to cool, prepare the chocolate ganache.

Chocolate Ganache for Brownie Bites
recipe by Betty Crocker

2/3 cup whipping cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a one quart saucepan heat whipping cream over low heat just to boiling.  Remove from heat; stir in chocolate chips until melted.  Let stand for 15 minutes or until mixture coats a spoon.  Pour 2 teaspoons of mixture over brownie bite.  Top with fresh raspberry if desired.

Really, these are the perfect sized treat and present wonderfully on a dessert table.  I've used them for just about any occasion imaginable and they are always a huge hit!  I'm sure you will love them, too.  :)

I have shared this recipe with:

Cast Party Wednesday

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Camouflage Cupcake Sandwiches

After Amy and I made the neon rainbow cupcakes and whoopie pies a few days ago, I started thinking about making a camouflage version of a cupcake sandwich instead of a true Whoopie Pie.  The problem with Whoopie Pies, for me, is that I just can't stomach the idea of using a cup of shortening in a frosting/filling.  At some point I guess I will have to get over it, as it really is necessary sometimes, but for now I'm just going to avoid it and make cupcake sandwiches with buttercream icing.  There is such a difference in the taste to me when using shortening.  Do people really like it??  Until I get with the program and make proper Whoopie Pie filling I'll call these Cupcake Sandwiches.

Anyway, my Sister's boyfriend is going to Kuwait for a year.  He is in the National Guard (as is my sister  Sandy, who completed a tour in the Guard in Iraq) and has been given his orders to leave soon.  They have a 5 month old daughter, my incredibly beautiful niece Ellie.  She is the smiliest baby I've ever met!  Needless to say, they are quite unhappy about being separated for so long.  I feel terribly for Sister, Nate, and Ellie.  I wish there was something I could do to help, but there really isn't.  I can only bake.  So I dedicate this post and made these cupcake sandwiches in honor of them:  Army Camouflage for Nate and Sandy (who is also in the guard and served in Iraq), pink Camouflage for Ellie.

Here's how I made them:  I used a french vanilla boxed cake and split half of the batter into four equal parts in four separate bowls.  Put the other half of the batter aside.  I then dyed one of the four bowl black (using black gel dye), one army green (using kelly green gel mixed with some brown gel dye), brown (using brown gel), and, lastly, beige (using just a touch of brown gel added with a toothpick to control the amount added).  

Next, I spooned very small amounts of each color at a time into a whoopie pie pan.  After filling each cavity, I baked them for 8 minutes on 350 degrees.  

Before Baking
After Baking
Remove each cake and let cool on a wire rack.  With the other half of the cake batter, I again separated it into four separate bowls and dyed them varying colors of pink.  I baked them the same way.  While the cakes were cooling I made the icing.

Vanilla Buttercream Icing

2 sticks of butter
4 cups of confectioner's sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-5 tablespoons half and half

Using a mixer, beat butter until it is fluffy.  Add 3 cups of sugar - one cup at a time - mixing until it's completely incorporated.  Add vanilla and half and half along with last cup of sugar and mix, adding more half and half until the icing is the desired consistency.

For the army Camo cakes I dyed the icing light army green (a small amount of both kelly green gel and brown gel dye). 

 The pink Camo cakes I iced with pink buttercream.

I think they turned out quite nicely and would be great for birthday parties or a Soldiers' "Welcome Home".  I look forward to making them for Nate again a year from now!  I hope you like them....that is, if you can see them...because they are camouflage, ha ha ha....get it?!  This has been my Husband's favorite on-going joke.  And I miss it every time.  Maybe it will make you laugh, ha ha ha.

Thank you, as always, to our Armed Forces (especially my many family members) for all you do to protect and serve our country.

I have shared this recipe with:


Cast Party Wednesday


A Little Nosh

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rainbow Revue - Cupcakes and Whoopie Pies

When I started this blog 5 months ago one of the first things I attempted was rainbow cupcakes.  I had issues with the icing method I experimented with.  I painted stripes of color on the inside of a pastry bag and then filled it with white icing.  

What I hoped would happen was a colorful blend of icing when I piped the buttercream.  Instead, I had  spots of color running through mostly white icing.  I was not happy and have been wanting to try again.

So, my friend Amy joined me to give it another go.  To make it a bit different and more fun we mixed in neon colored gel dye, rather than the usual red, orange, yellow, etc.  Also, we used four colors instead of six.  This made it easier to prevent overfilling the cupcake liners.  We used the same method for the cupcakes as my original Rainbow Cupcake post, which you can find here.  

There was enough batter to make about three more cupcakes, but Amy had the idea to make Whoopie Pies with the extra.  We used a Whoopie Pie baking pan and she filled each cavity with several colors instead of just one.  They were adorable!

While the baked cakes were cooling, I mixed up a batch of vanilla buttercream.

Vanilla Buttercream Icing

2 sticks of butter
4 cups of confectioner's sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-5 tablespoons half and half

Using a mixer, beat butter until it is fluffy.  Add 3 cups of sugar - one cup at a time - mixing until it's completely incorporated.  Add vanilla and half and half along with last cup of sugar and mix, adding more half and half until the icing is the desired consistency.

We decided to use the same four colors of the cupcakes for the icing.  I split the buttercream into four bowls and Amy added the gel dye.  When she was done mixing, I spooned a small amount of each color, one on top of the other, into a pastry bag.  The result was much closer to what I had in mind color-wise.  The colors did mix together in the bag creating some new shades, but I loved the finished cupcake!

After the cupcakes were frosted, we put a ring of icing on the base of a Whoopie Pie and capped it off.  We loved them, too!

I read about a THIRD method of making color swirl icing, which I'll try at another time.  In the meantime, I am really taken by these neon cakes.  They make me smile, and, hopefully, they'll do the same for you, too!

Cast Party Wednesday