Cupcake Friday Project

A one-woman test kitchen meets nano-bakery

Cookie-inspired beers from Flying Dog Brewery in time for the holidays

Flying Dog Holiday Collection of beers and cookies

A couple weeks ago I received one of the latest creative collections from Frederick Maryland’s Flying Dog Brewery: The Holiday Collection.

Since I’m on the brewery’s media mailing list, I often get a bottle of a new beer every now and again, and when it makes sense, I bake with and write about them. But this package was surprising and different from many of the others. Within, there were 4 bottles of beer and a box of Otterbein cookies. The press release explained:

Introducing The Holiday Collection: 4 Otterbein’s cookie-inspired craft beers in a brand new variety 12-pack.

A Baltimore mainstay since 1881, the Otterbein’s cookie recipes have been passed down among 5 generations. Pairing tradition with innovation, the beers were inspired by and meant to pair with these iconic cookies.

Opening the box was a bit like Christmas morning. I unwrapped each carefully packed beer, reading the amusing label copy (Flying Dog never fails to make their beers fun), and within a bakery box were multiple bags of crispy cookies.

I sat down and sampled each beer, along with the cookie designated for each, and here are my thoughts:

Imperial Hefeweizen, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Sugar Cookies
This beer was my favorite out of the 4. It hit all the right hefe notes, with a little more spicy punch and an amazing aroma. And the sugar cookie did not disappoint. All of Otterbein’s cookies are extremely thin, but they don’t lack in flavor. This particular sugar cookie had a great crunch, was buttery, and had some toasty notes. Out of the 4, I feel like this was the best beer and cookie pairing.

Roasted Peanut Brown Ale, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
According to my press sheet, the particular yeast strain used in this beer gives it some roasty peanut notes, which I thought was rather clever. At first, I didn’t pick up the peanut flavor, but it sort of “bloomed” on my tongue (just a little homebrewer speak there). Sadly, the flavor began to dissipate as I continued sipping the beer and I was left with just a nice brown ale. The chocolate chip cookie was also crispy, but there was something off about the chocolate. I think it was milk chocolate, which I’m not a fan of, especially in cookies.

Oatmeal Raisin Stout, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
For an oatmeal stout, this beer was a bit thin and seemed more like a porter. I unfortunately didn’t pick up any raisin in the beer, and I think an imperial-style would have been better for this particular flavor profile. As for the cookie, they were wonderfully spiced and crispy and quite the delight to nibble.

Oak-Aged Hazelnut Scotch Ale, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Ginger Cookies
This beer is another one that uses specific ingredients to get a unique flavor: in this case, the malts provide the hazelnut character. But I couldn’t pick up any hazelnut. For an oak aged beer, this also was a bit volatile when first poured (all I could taste was the barrel), but after letting it sit a few minutes, it settled and was pleasantly nutty (just not hazelnutty). The ginger cookie delivered on the ginger and had that wonderful Otterbein crunch, but the pairing fell flat for me. I think a molasses-based cookie would have worked better.

Though not every beer and cookie pairing worked for me, I enjoyed seeing Flying Dog flex their creative muscle and have fun. They’re the kind of brewery I’m always excited to see more from, and as a baker, I really like the fact that they fostered such a great relationship with a well-loved Maryland bakery.

Disclosure: I received the beers and cookies from Flying Dog brewery to sample, however my opinions are my own.

Stepping into David Lebovitz’s Paris Kitchen

My Paris Kitchen by David LebovitzI might be a little late to the David Lebovitz fan club, but I fell in love with The Sweet Life in Paris when I read it 2 years ago. As a former French student, it was fascinating to see what life is like in Paris outside of the confines of a text book, and the sprinkling of recipes was a nice touch.

Now we have a more intimate invitation to join him in My Paris Kitchen, and wow. What an invitation. The book is absolutely stunning — the photography is mouthwatering, but somehow ernest (nothing feels flashy). And with 100 recipes, ranging from savory to sweet, to choose from, there’s definitely a little quelque chose français for everyone.

While I’ve had a copy of this book for a bit, I haven’t cooked from it just yet, simply because I’m a bit overwhelmed and awed by the recipes. But I do look forward to making my first selection and feeling like I have David at my elbow, guiding me.

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

20+ tips for creating the perfect Thanksgiving pie crust

Beautiful top crusts for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is next week! Are you ready? Have you made your pie dough, polished your pie plates, and lined your recipes up? Or are you a bit of a hot mess who is this close to throwing in the towel and buying a Mrs. Smith frozen pie?

Well don’t give up yet! Making a pie doesn’t have to be the bane of your existence, and to help you out, I’ve pulled together some of my favorite posts about the formidable pie crust from pie-making masters across the web for a sum total of 20+ tips:

And if you’re looking for some Thanksgiving pie recipe inspirations, check out some of my own!

Hungarian chocolate cake — the third time’s the charm

Table Matters Hungarian Chocolate Cake

My most recent article for Table Matters had me taking on my grandma Betty’s Hungarian chocolate cake again.

I was a bit trepidatious, but I knew I had a wonderful story to tell and I wanted to master that cake. Or at least finish it to completion. And I did. I followed her recipe exactly, with a couple small tweaks here and there, and I did it.

It might not look like the fanciest cake. Sure, there are no layers swathed in pretty buttercream or sprinkles or whatever else. But it’s rich and flavorful and perfect in so many ways.

And I did it. I baked my grandma’s Hungarian Chocolate cake and I couldn’t be more proud.

Sugary, crackily Bundt cake crust tip

Lemon lady grey bundt cake with lemon icing

Who needs a glaze when you can have a crackily, sugary crust on your Bundtcake?

I’m a big fan of America’s Test Kitchen and enjoy The Well-Equipped Cook weekly e-newsletter that lands in my inbox. This week’s subject line caught my eye: “Let’s Make Beautiful Baked Goods” and the Test Kitchen Quick Tip is genius.

We wanted to come up with a way to give Bundt cakes a crackly, sugary crust while they bake, saving the need to make a frosting or glaze. First, we tried coating the pan with a hefty amount of vegetable oil spray before dusting it with granulated sugar, but the spray’s coating was too thin, and the cakes almost always stuck. Next, we tried brushing the pan with melted butter and then dusting it with sugar. These cakes released easily, but there was no crunchy coating (the sugar had dissolved in the water in the butter). In the end, we landed on brushing the pan with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil before coating it with 1/3 cup of sugar. It provided a thick coating of pure fat that was easy to brush on and guaranteed that the cake released with ease. What’s more, the sugar turned into just the lacy, sweet coating on the cake that we were looking for.

5 cupcakes to make with leftover Halloween candy

Halloween Cupcakes

From the top left: Milky Way cupcake, Butterfinger cupcake, NERDS candy cocktail cupcake with gin and lemon

Halloween is here! Do you have a plan for all the excess candy you bought (aside from slowing grazing on it at work for the next few weeks … oh wait, is that just me?).

Well never fear, here are 5 of my favorite candy cupcake recipes that use the leftover Halloween treats you have around the house. And if you don’t have any, then hit up your local grocery or drug store when it all goes on sale!

Butterfinger cupcakes
Junior Mints cupcakes
Milky Way cupcakes
NERDS candy cocktail cupcakes with gin and lemon
Twix cupcakes


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