Cupcake Friday Project

A one-woman test kitchen meets nano-bakery

The pie’s the limit!

Earl Grey Peach Pie with Thyme missing a sliceOn Saturday, Collingswood Farmers Market hosted its annual peach pie baking competition, and this year Ray and I changed it up a bit. We BOTH entered.

Both of our pie ideas were just too good to pass on, so when you have 2 ideas and 2 people, you get 2 pies. Or in this case, a pie and a tart.

Herb and Chevre Peach Tart with Balsamic Crust

Ray’s entry into the peaches-plus category: Herb and Chevre Peach Tart with Balsamic Crust

However, today’s post isn’t going to have my usual pie recipes in it. For that, you’ll have to wait for my article on Table Matters to publish (mean, I know).

Early Gre Peach Pie with Thyme

My entry into the peaches-only category (where peaches are the only fruit to be used): Earl Grey Peach Pie with Thyme

The outcome of the baking contest was that my pie came in 3rd place for presentation, Ray’s tart made it up onto the scoreboard for his category of peaches-plus (I think he was in 4th or 5th place), but my Earl Grey Peach Pie with Thyme did not get any flavor points from the judges in the peaches-only category. Maybe it was too weird, but we really liked it!

Blueberries and cream cookies

Blueberries and cream cookies
While I think I like blueberries fresh off the bush the best, these cookies may become my new favorite. The cookie is chewy, caramely, with a gentle crunch to the edge, and then the tartness of the blueberries comes in. Heaven. Absolute heaven.

The cookie base for this recipe is inspired by Serious Eats’ Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, and I think it might become my new base for all cookies that have add-ins like this. I used to be a big fan of the New Best Recipe Chocolate Chip Cookie, but unfortunately those have been coming out hard. I much prefer a chewy cookie.

What have you been baking this summer? I know I’ve been keeping my baking to a minimum, mainly because I’ve been so busy working on our condo, training for the Bike MS: City to Shore Ride, volunteering at PAWS and writing for Table Matters. But I haven’t forgotten about all you lovelies!

Blueberries and cream cookies

Yield: Approximately 48 cookies

Ingredients

Blueberries and Cream Cookie Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons ice water
10 oz (approximately 2 cups) flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
5 oz (approximately 3/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 oz (approximately 1/2 tightly packed cup plus 2 tbsp) brown sugar
8 oz dried blueberries
8 oz white chocolate chips

Directions

Melt the butter in a medium pan over medium-high heat.

Cook the butter, swirling regularly, until the butter is browned and has a nutty aroma. This should take about 5-7 minutes, depending on the strength of your stovetop.

Whisk in the ice water (which replaces the moisture cooked out while browning the butter), and cool in the fridge for 20 minutes.

In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine both sugars, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix on medium high speed until the mixture is golden, about 5 minutes.

Set the mixer on low and slowly pour in the browned butter. Once added, turn the speed up to medium and mix until combined.

On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients, scraping down when necessary.

Add the dried blueberries and white chocolate, mixing to combine.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill the cookie dough for at least 8 hours or up to 72 hours.

When you're ready to bake the cookies, heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line cookie sheets with either parchment or baking silicone.

Scoop the cookies onto the sheet, leaving at least 1.5 inches between cookies.

Bake for 7 minutes, then rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back. Bake for an additional 6-7 minutes.

Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and place on cooling racks. After about 5 minutes, the cookies can be transferred off of the cookie sheet and directly onto the rack.

Allow cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

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Sour cherries, summer baking, and food writing

Table Matters Tarte Diem post

It’s been nearly a month since I last posted … yikes.

Since then, I’ve road-tripped to Asheville with Ray, picked sour cherries, wrote about sour cherries, baked cookies, made caramel corn, and baked a bunch of cupcakes.  All in the heat of Philly’s summer, which let me tell you, is not the most pleasant when your kitchen is tiny and very far away from the AC window unit.

Summer has also drained away some of my baking inspiration, which has been sort of eating away at me. But, my somewhat monthly writing gig for Table Matters has been pretty awesome, and helps me stir up some baking mojo.

Cherry Cheese Pie Recipe for Table Matters

My post about sour cherries was the first that was photographed by their staff photographer, and wow. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen my desserts look this good before!

Rosemary Sour Cherry Galette recipe for Table Matters

And those cookies I mentioned? Well they turned out divine; I think I have a new base I can use for everything from chocolate chip to dried fruit cookies. Look for a post in the next week or so!

And I think once the weather cools off and the busyness of summer calms down, I’ll be back in the kitchen and telling you all about it.

Fried & True: Stepping away from the oven and up to the skillet

Fried and True

Though it’s not baking related, I HAD to share this new book, Fried & True by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman (with a sassy and thoughtful foreword by Whoopi Goldberg). The big pull for me, I have to admit, was that this book contains THE recipe for some of the most amazing fried chicken I’ve ever eaten, from Federal Donuts in Center City, Philadelphia.

The book contains more than 50 recipes for fried chicken, and yes, if you didn’t think it was possible to make fried chicken 50 different ways, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out how wrong you are.

Fried & True is broken up into the following sections:

  • Southern Inspiration
  • American Originals
  • Pacific Rim
  • Sandwiches, Wings, Li’l Bits, and Special Diets

And it offers a little something for everyone, including delicious side dishes such as biscuits, hash brown casserole, smothered cabbage, as well as recipes for rubs, sauces, brings and more.

I was happy to see that the book doesn’t skimp on food photography … almost every other page has a stunning photo of fried chicken and sides. Of course, excellent photography adds to the visual appeal of flipping through a book, but I also think it’s extremely helpful to be able to look at food photos for guidance. Does my chicken look like that? Yes? Ok then … time to eat!

The front of the book, even before diving into the recipes, has a full photograph tutorial showing how to break down a full chicken, as well as a spread explaining the variety of fats and oils that can be used (I totally geeked out while looking through the book for the first time on the couch with Ray, exclaiming, “Ohmigod, it includes the smoke points!!!” I’m such a nerd.)

My only criticism is that paperbacks don’t always make for the best cookbooks because they’re hard to keep open without weighing them down with something, and then things can become awkward. But if that’s the only beef I have with this book, then I can look past it.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Pecan pie caramel corn

Pecan pie caramel corn

I realize that pecan pie is more of an autumn dessert, but I couldn’t resist! That, and I had a bag of pecans I wanted to use up, so it made sense to craft this delectable caramel corn.

When looking up pecan pie recipes, however, I didn’t see any of them using spices, which perplexed me. So I decided to use cinnamon and cloves, since I felt like those two spices would support the molasses and pecans best.

And I was right!

Pecan pie caramel corn

Yield: Approximately 26 oz

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp molasses
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups pecans

Directions

Heat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large dutch oven, combine the olive oil and popcorn kernels over medium high heat. Put the lid on, and pop, shaking the pot from time to time. When the popping stops, remove the popcorn from the heat.

Sort through the popcorn, removing the unpopped kernels. Return the popcorn to the dutch oven, and set aside.

To make the caramel, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Once melted, add the brown sugar and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Add the molasses, then turn the heat up and boil the caramel for 2-3 minutes until a deep amber.

Add the salt, cinnamon and ground cloves, stirring to combine.

Add the baking soda, stirring until dissolved (the mixture will bubble up and lighten in color).

Add the vanilla, but be careful. The caramel will sputter when a liquid is added. Stir to combine.

Pour in the pecans, stirring to coat.

Pour the caramel over the popcorn in the dutch oven and stir to coat.

Pour the caramel corn onto the parchment paper, spread out, and place in the oven.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 20 minutes.

Once done baking, cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes before enjoying. Store in an air tight container to keep the popcorn fresh.

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Sugar cookie cupcakes with cookie butter frosting

Sugar cookie cupcakes with cookie butter frosting

Another month, and another cupcake taking its inspiration from a dessert. This time? The humble sugar cookie, which, when done right, is delightful on its own, with tea, or dressed with a simple icing.

For the cake, I kept it simple, using my tender and fluffy vanilla cake. This recipe bakes up beautifully and fills the entire house with the alluring scent of vanilla. Then, I used a secret weapon in the frosting: cookie butter spread. Some know it as Speculoos, or Biscoff Cookie Spread. I know some people who SWEAR by Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter. “But what the heck is it?” you ask.

Speculoos/Biscoff/Cookie Butter is a spread made with Belgian cookies that have been baked, crushed, and then mixed with oils to create a spread. The flavor is a little caramely, with hints of cinnamon, and it’s delightful. If you haven’t tried it before, I highly recommend picking up a jar.

As with most spreads, this whips into the buttercream beautifully. Definitely taste in-between sugar additions—you don’t want a sickeningly sweet frosting.

The garnish—in this case, actual sugar cookies that are about 1 1/2-inches wide, finish off the cupcake. You can either purchase your favorite sugar cookie, or bake some yourself, using this base cookie recipe. You’ll only use about 1/4 of the dough for the cupcake toppings, but you can easily freeze the rest of the sugar cookie dough for another time. Shape the remaining dough into a 1-inch disc, then wrap twice in plastic wrap—the dough will keep for at least 2 months if wrapped up well.

Sugar cookie cupcakes with cookie butter frosting

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

Vanilla Cupcake Ingredients
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/8 cup (6 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla

Cookie Butter Buttercream
1/2 cup (1 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup cookie butter spread (like Speculoos)
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cream (as needed for texture)

Sugar cookies as garnish

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position the racks toward the center. Line pans with cupcake papers.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and gently mix to combine. Set aside.

Cream the butter with the sugar, beating until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing to combine.

Alternate the dry ingredients and milk, and mix until combined.

Add the vanilla extract, mixing to combine.

Divide the batter between 12 wrappers in the cupcake tins and bake for 20-22 minutes.

Cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

For the cookie butter frosting, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add a 1/2 cup of sugar gradually, beating until combined.

Add the cookie butter spread and vanilla extract, then add the remaining sugar in 1/2 cup increments to your own taste. Check the texture ... if it's too stiff, add the cream, then whip until fluffy.

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