Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mini Reindeer Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes specifically for my coworker's son Mason and his class. Mason is four-years-old, so I wanted to make something fun, but not too sugary (I can't even imagine a class full of children on a chocolate high). Of course, all of the reindeers are Rudolph, because he's the most famous reindeer of all.

Mini Reindeer Cupcakes
24 mini vanilla cupcakes
Chocolate buttercream frosting
8 ounces milk chocolate
24 Red Hots (or cinnamon dots)

Make at least 24 mini vanilla cupcakes and a batch of chocolate buttercream frosting, using your favorite recipes. Cool the cupcakes and frost.

Spread parchment paper over a cookie sheet. Melt 8 ounces of milk chocolate and pour into a piping bag with a skinny tip (#2), or pour into a plastic ziploc bag and cut a small hole in one of the bottom corners of the bag. Pipe two chocolate dots for eyes onto each cupcake. Then, pipe the chocolate into pairs of antler shapes, but be sure to make extra because these guys are fragile! Put the baking sheet in the refrigerator or freezer to let the chocolate set. Once set, arrange the antlers on each cupcake. Then finish Rudolph by placing a cinnamon dot on each cupcake for a nose.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

peppermint white chocolate cupcakes

I reallllly don't like Starbucks. The coffee always tastes burnt + I do not appreciate the high cost for an espresso beverage. However, I do have a soft spot for one Starbucks product.... the peppermint white chocolate mocha complete with a gloriously red holiday cup. This decadent beverage warms my heart + is the perfect holiday treat. Although this drink sets you back about 400+ calories, its nice to indulge once in a while.

Inspired by my favorite holiday beverage I made some chocolate cupcakes with peppermint white chocolate frosting this past weekend for a friend's birthday; mini chocolate cakes swirled with white chocolate-pepperminty buttercream + topped with a candy garnish, they were a delight.


White Chocolate Peppermint Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
12 ounce white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1-2 cup confectioners' sugar *
1 tsp peppermint extract

In a large bowl beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Beat in the melted white chocolate. Add confectioners' sugar in stages + peppermint extract. Whip until light and fluffy.

* Add confectioners' sugar until reaches sweetness + consistency desired. May be more or less.

Peppermint Candy Garnish
Evenly space the circular red peppermint candy on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 300 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes. If left in the oven too long candy will turn yellow. After removing from the oven use a pizza cutter to make even (or uneven) cuts through the melted candy. Once hardened, the candy will break apart easily using the cuts as a guide.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Peppermint Oreos

Reading directions is apparently not my thing today. I misread the directions for the cookies and started mixing the butter and egg before I realized I was supposed to mix the sugar and egg. In an attempt to salvage the butter, I rinsed off the egg in a colander. This was such a ghetto thing to do, but I didn't want to be late for a painting class that Ashley and I were on our way to this afternoon.

I also misread the directions for the icing and put in 3 1/2 teaspoons of milk, instead of the tablespoons the recipe called for. I realized something was up when the mixture was still solid and then compensated. The icing turns out as more of a cream/glaze than true icing.

I choose this recipe today because I've been in such the holiday spirit! I'm going to visit Katie and Julie in NYC tomorrow for work, and we are going to see the Rockettes. Our tree is decorated at the house, and even Bacci can't wait for Santa.

After all of the ridiculous screw-ups, these cookies turned out great! The chocolate wafers were crunchy and tasty and the icing provided just the right amount of peppermint. If you want to get creative, you could tint the frosting green or red or crush up some peppermints and rolls the sides of the cookies in them.

Peppermint Oreos
adapted from a Whole Foods recipe

For the cookies:
1 2/3 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspooons vanilla extract
3/4 cup butter, softened

For the icing:
3 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon peppermint flavoring or extract
Pinch of fine salt

For the cookies:
Whisk together flour, cocoa and salt in a large bowl; set aside. In a second large bow, beat sugar and egg together with an electric mixer (I used the paddle attachment) until pale and thickened, about two minutes; beat in vanilla. Add butter and beat again until smooth, about one minute more (side note: here's where my batter wasn't as smooth as I thought it should be. I had some tiny beads of butter that just wouldn't disperse, probably because my butter was rinsed with water, and at the risk of overbeating, I let it go. If this happens to you, don't fret, the cookies still turned out fine). Add flour mixture in two parts and beat until combined. Shape dough into two logs that are uniformly round and about 8 inches long then wrap each snugly in parchment paper or saran wrap, twisting the sides of the paper/wrap. Chill for two hours.

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut dough crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices and place on baking sheets about one inch apart. Bake until puffed and just cooked through, nine to ten minutes. Set aside to let cool completely.

For the icing:
Put sugar, milk, butter, peppermint flavoring and salt into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for one minute. Spread the flat side of half of the cookies with a dollop of icing, then sandwich with remaining cookies. Serve immediately or store cookies in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Yields about 40

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oops we missed November.

November flew by without a post so here is a quick summary to catch up on the past month from the West Coast:
I wrapped up the bread portion of my program finishing off the 8 weeks with bagels, pretzels + flat breads. I've been covered in butter since starting + completing the 3 week Viennoisorie portion learning croissants, brioche, danish, cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, panettone, pan d'oro, and stollen...just to name a few.

I had family + friends visiting from New York City, Chicago, Miami, London + Portugal via Austin Texas. I went back to Chicago for Thanksgiving but the 20 degree weather reminded me how lucky I am to live in beautiful San Francisco.

It's now Decemeber + time for some holiday baking. Although this recipe is one I made a while ago they are perfect for this time of year. Roll in sugar + enjoy.
Chocolate Ginger Cookies
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped or mini chips
additional sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and all spices, set aside. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg, followed by molasses, vanilla and balsamic vinegar. Gradually stir in the sifted dry ingredients mixing until flour is incorporated. Stir in chocolate chunks. Scoop dough into balls and roll in sugar. Press lightly to flatten and bake for 10-12 minutes.

*You can also mix in crystallized ginger for added ginger flavor.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Bars

San Francisco is a city that is often recognized for fostering a healthy lifestyle among its residents. Now that I live here I must embrace this healthy lifestyle and transfer it to my baking. I know that pumpkin has some wonderful health benefits so I figure that if I make a snickerdoodle cookie base, layer it with pumpkin pie-ish filling + top it with cinnamon sugar it must be good for you. Make these, eat a lot of them + you will have glowing skin, boosted immunity + balanced hormone levels.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Bars
Recipe from here
Snickerdoodle Layer
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla

Pumpkin Pie Layer:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Snickerdoodle layer: Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan.
Pumpkin Pie Layer: In a large bowl mix together butter and sugar. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until well combined. Pour over the snickerdoodle layer + smooth over the top. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 33-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Allow the bars to cool completely. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

apple cranberry crisp

In keeping with the theme from my last post (which was in August... oops), I have been focusing on recipes that require very few ingredients and simple techniques- without sacrificing any flavor. Being that we are in the height of apple season, I ran out to the market this morning and picked up the freshest organic fruit I could find to make these easy yet delicious Apple Cranberry Crisps.

Ready in a mere 45 minutes and relatively healthy (until the ice cream gets placed on top, yum), these Apple Cranberry Crisps are a perfect five-spoonful treat for a Sunday evening curled up on the couch.

Apple Cranberry Crisp
adapted from here

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch diced pieces
1 cup fresh (or frozen) cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
zest and juice of 1 orange

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 8 inch pan or six 5 ounce ramekins and set aside.
2. For the topping, combine butter, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Mash ingredients together well with hands until the mixture becomes crumbly. Add in pecans and set aside.
3. Toss apples, cranberries, sugar, zest and juice together in a bowl. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan(s). Sprinkle topping evenly over the fruit. Bake until bubbly and the apples and cranberries are tender (about 30 minutes).
4. Let the crisp cool slightly. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream on top.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

blondie. baking. bonding.

Seven strangers picked to live in a house... this is what I walked into when I arrived in San Francisco. I moved into a mini Pacific Heights mansion with 6 people I (sort of) didn't know + although there are no cameras or Jersey Shore drama this place is pretty amazing. I've been baking a lot for my new roommates since I moved in; maybe maintaining a kitchen stocked with treats is my attempt at bribery to ensure that I "make" friends here in California, but that's besides the point.

Last night we had our first ever joint baking experience. We sat around watching TV, discussing the idea of doing a triathlon together + after searching for one unsuccessfully, we decided to bake something instead. My helpful sous chefs Jason + Stew made some freshly ground coffee, toasted + chopped peanuts + documented the experience with my camera. From fitness to fatness, at least we're all going down together.

Enjoy this recipe for peanut butter blondies with a kick of espresso, a suprisingly delicious combination. We collectively decided that they could have used even more coffee/espresso flavor, the recipe reflects these changes.

Peanut Espresso Blondies
1 cup + 2 tbsp browned butter*
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 -3 tbsp finely ground coffee or espresso**
2/3 cup toasted peanuts, chopped
1 cup crunchy peanut butter

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil + coat with non-stick spray. Brown butter in a sauce pan then pour into a large mixing bowl. Mix in brown sugar, vanilla + eggs. Once combined add dry ingredients + nuts, stir until incorporated. Pour mixture into pan + dollop peanut butter over the top. Using a knife marble the peanut butter into the batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes until blondies have turned golden in color + puffy in appearance.

*I'm obsessed with brown butter, I think it makes everything better but you can use plain melted butter if you prefer.
** I used 2 tbsp but would definitely use 3 tbsp if not more next time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bridal Shower Cupcakes

Katie and all of the bridesmaids

I have been scared out of my mind for the past month, wondering if the bridal shower I was helping to plan would turn out how we all imagined. All of the bridesmaids helped to plan my best friend Katie's bridal shower, and I was in charge of the desserts (and the favors). At first I wanted to make petit fours, then I decided against it in favor of cupcakes. But then the search for the perfect bridal shower cupcake went into effect. I wanted something that Katie would love and would also tie in with the other food and decor. Katie loves red velvet, so I made a batch of red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. But I had to make another type of cupcake, so I went with lemon poppyseed cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and lemon zest. Sims came up with the great idea to use lemons as card-holders to designate what each item was, so everything went well together. I was so excited that everything turned out beautifully, and here's a few pictures of the brunch. We were so lucky that Michelle offered up her gorgeous home to host the shower, and Katie got so many great kitchen items that I think I'm going to have to start cooking at her house when they move in at the end of the month!

The spread


Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat your over to 350 degrees, and line cupcake or muffin pan with cupcake liners.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed. Add the eggs, lemon zest and lemon extract, and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute. Add the sour cream and beat until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners, filling each about three-fourths full. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Frost with your favorite buttercream recipe and garnish with lemon zest.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

pumpkin {baguette} bread pudding

I'm drowning in bread. School started last week + we've only been making baguettes... lots + lots of baguettes. Everyday it's scale, mix, wait, scale, shape, wait, roll, wait, load, eat. Everyyyy single day. It's great practice but the magic of bringing home a brown bag FULL of bread has lost some of its romance by day 8. Not to mention our garbage can was filling up with all the old bread that steadily grew into a heaping mound. I was feeling a bit guilty about throwing away all the extra baguettes; I tried offering it to a homeless guy who declined the free bread + proceeded to ask for money or marijuana or both. So instead I opted to use the day old bread to make a perfectly fall dessert, pumpkin {baguette} bread pudding.

The addition of cloves or pumpkin pie spice would give this bread pudding a warm spicy flavor-unfortunately I didn't have either. However, if it's bread that you've run out of please let me know, I have PLENTY.

Pumpkin Baguette Breading Pudding
1 1/2 cups heavy cream/milk (I used 1 cup cream 1/2 cup milk)
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar (plus more for sprinkling)
2 eggs + 1 yolk
1 heaping tsp cinnamon (plus more for sprinkling)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
5 cups cubed (1 inch) day-old baguette
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter + toss with bread cubes in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl whisk together cream/milk, pumpkin, eggs, sugar + spices until well combined. Pour over bread cubes + toss until bread is thoroughly coated. Pour into an ungreased 8 x 8 inch baking dish. Sprinkle top with additional brown sugar + cinnamon. Bake for 25-30 minutes until custard has set.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Boston Creme Pie - Cake Wreck

I've been eying this recipe for a few months now. The picture in the book looks absolutely mouthwatering, and while my treats never seem to turn out pretty enough, I thought I could at least come close on this one.

Baking in my new kitchen is now such a treat for me. I have plenty of counter space to work on and cabinets to store the ridiculous amounts of supplies I accumulate. My oven even works how it's supposed to and doesn't burn the edge of everything to a crisp while leaving the center completely raw. With all of these kitchen advantages, I still managed to completely ruin this recipe.

Instead of waiting for the creme patissiere to cool completely, I assembled the finished product to transport it to my parents' for dinner. I carefully braced the plate in a cake carrier, which I also braced in the trunk (to compensate for my erratic driving). When I got there, the plate and the carrier hadn't moved - but the cake slid off the top and all of the filling had oozed out. Shocking, right?

We ended up just standing around the cake wreck and eating it. The flavors were great, but this recipe is obviously not meant to travel! I'll share the recipe next time I actually manage to make a proper Boston Creme Pie.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cookie Crazy

Lately I have been cookie obsessed. I've been trying to create a buttery, caramely, brown sugary cookie base for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I've tried many recipes including Cook's Illustrated "The Perfect Chocolate Chip", Alton Brown's "The Chewy" and variations of the "The Puffy". I've changed and doctored the classic Toll House recipe, gave the Baked NYC cookie a whirl and tried the New York Times Chocolate Chip by Jacque Torres. I agree that good things come to those who wait, but waiting 24 hours to eat a cookie that you wanted yesterday is too much.

After many hours of baking, lot's of dough scooping, cookie eating + constructive feedback I finally made my perfect chocolate chip. My family, friends + co-workers have all approved. Not only have I used the batter for chocolate chips but I tried white chocolate chips, cookies + cream (with crushed oreos) and a cookie with pretzels and toffee. Although I can't share this new secret recipe (in hopes that it will be a top seller in a non-existent future business) but I will provide a few helpful ideas for your own cookie adaptations.

1. Brown the butter, this makes for a rich, caramel-like flavor
2. Use bread flour, not only bread flour but a combination with all-purpose flour.
3. Use dark brown sugar + lots of it. I increased the amount of brown sugar in my recipe over granulated, it provides a better texture + flavor.
4. Add both milk chocolate + semi-sweet chocolate chips.
5. Salt, use it. As Dorie Greenspan said, "You can't underestimate the importance of salt in sweet baked goods."
6. Always, always use parchment or a silpat. Nobody likes a cookie scraped off a pan leaving behind melty chocolate delight.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lemon Bars

Sweltering heat + terrible humidity = unhappy chicagoans. I'm hating this ridiculously hot weather. I don't have a pool, so I decided to make lemon bars; cool + refreshing. Lemon bars are the perfect combination of tart+ sweet, although heavy with their custard-like base, it's hard to eat just one. Enjoy this recipe if you too find yourself melting, beach anyone?

Lemon Bars
adapted from Classic Star Desserts by Emily Luchetti via Foodgal

For crust:

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

12 tablespoons cold unsalted, butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

For filling:

6 large eggs

3 cups granulated sugar

1 cup + 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup flour

To make the crust: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine flour and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until mixed. Add butter and continue to mix until butter is the size of small peas, about 30 seconds. The mixture will be very dry. Gently press mixture evenly onto the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

To make filling: In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and granulated sugar until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and then the flour. Pour filling on top of crust.

Bake until lemon filling is set, about 30-40 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and then put in the refrigerator for 1 hour or keep at room temperature for 3 hours before cutting. Cut into squares measuring about 2 1/4 inches and dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes + San Francisco

I spent the past weekend exploring + eating my way through the city of San Francisco. I'm embarrassed to admit that I gained 3-5 lbs in just a few days by eating delicious meals that I immediately followed with some form of delicious sweet treat. And I mean every meal. Breakfast was followed by lemon-almond tea loaf at Tartine, lunch was followed by cream puffs at Thorough Bread + Pastry and dinner was finished with moscato-marinated strawberry mascarpone tart AND chocolate gelato with amaretti. I'm leaving out the details of each fabulous meal and all the snacks that shamefully snuck in there as well because, frankly if you read how much I actually consumed you would be shocked or amazed, or both.

For those who don't know, this September I am making a cross-country move from Chicago to San Fran to attend a professional bread + pastry program at the San Francisco Baking Institute. After checking out my new city, I could not be more excited! Upon my arrival home I had a request for a cupcake order. So here I share the recipe for fabulous vanilla bean cupcakes + rich chocolate frosting. The richness of the frosting is cut by the not-too-sweet vanilla cake. Enjoy!

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

from Annie's Eats

3 cups cake flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
16 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside. Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter and discard the pod (or reserve for another use.) Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.

Add the sugar to the butter mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full (you will likely have batter left over after filling 24 wells.) Bake 18-22 minutes**, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Replace paper liners and bake remaining batter if desired. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

**I made mini cupcakes, baked to perfection in 13 minutes.

Rich Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 stick salted butter, softened

1 cup shortening

1 tbsp vanilla

2 lbs powdered sugar

4-6 tbsp milk

12 oz. good qualitysemi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

3-4 heaping tbsp cocoa powder

2-3 tbsp Kahlua

Whip together butter and shortening until smooth. Add in vanilla. Whip in confectioners sugar 1/4 at a time until it's all added. Pour cooled chocolate and cocoa in and mix until combined. Add milk one table spoon at a time until it reaches desired consistency. Mix in Kahlua and whip until light and fluffy.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Torta di Mele

I was fortunate enough to study in Sesto Fiorentino, Italy (a town right outside of Florence) for a semester during college. I loved absolutely everything about my time there: the history, the fashion, the art and the views. But if I had to pick only one thing that defined my time there, I most definitely have to say it was the food.

We had our own chef in the villa I lived and studied in, an adorable old man named Nino. Day after day, he would go to the market to pick up fresh ingredients in order to prepare us our daily lunch, dinner and dessert. The ingredients came from within miles of where we lived and were purchased every morning; words cannot express the true freshness that was contained in every meal we ate. (Well, there was a lot of butter in there too, which would explain why everyone on the program gained about 10 pounds...)

But the most amazing part about what Nino cooked for us every day was the actual simplicity of his dishes. He could create true masterpieces with the use of only a few simple ingredients, something that few people can do with their cooking and baking.

While unpacking a box this week, I stumbled on some crumpled pieces of paper. As I unfolded them, I realized I had just found gold: my copies of recipes from the Villa Corsi-Salviati kitchen. While most of them are pasta dishes (including the best pesto recipe ever), there are a few dessert recipes as well, one of which I am sharing in this post.

This Torta di Mele is extremely simple to make, requiring only 9 ingredients and a few minutes in the kitchen. If you make sure to use the freshest milk, apples and lemons in this torta, you will not be disappointed with the result. You may even feel like you are on a quick trip to Italy.

Torta di Mele
from the Villa Corsi-Salviati kitchen

3 Granny Smith apples
juice of one lemon
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
7 tablespoons melted butter
a little over 3/4 cups sifted flour
2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Peel the apples and cut them into thin slices. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle with the lemon juice. In a separate bowl, mix all other ingredients until it becomes a semi-liquid batter. Add in the apple slices to the mixture and stir until coated and thoroughly mixed in.

Pour mixture into a round pan and place in the oven for about 45 minutes. The torta should be golden brown on top. Once removed from the oven and slightly cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Buon appetito!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

S'more bars

When I think about summer quite a few things come to mind; sun, street festivals, poolside cocktails + s'mores. I really like s'mores, unfortunately I don't have the best track record around open fire. I've had quite a few instances where flaming marshmallows or other burning particles have wound up stuck on my body, clothing or hair. I even lit my sleeve on fire once while enjoying table-side s'mores at the supposedly safe Cosi restaurant.

These are a great alternative for those of us who are prone to catching fire. They taste just like a s'more only better. Instead of a plain old graham cracker the marshmallow + chocolate is nestled between an almost brownie like consistency of graham cracker delight. They are best eaten when they are still a bit warm, while the chocolate + marshmallow is still gooey. Enjoy!

S'more bars
adapted from Cooking with my Kid

1/2 cup butter, room temp
1/4 brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 king sized milk chocolate bars (I used milk chocolate chips instead)
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Use an electric mixer to cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Set aside. Meanwhile,whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture until combined. Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the dough, enough to create an even layer of chocolate. Spread marshmallow fluff over chocolate (I heated the fluff for easier spreading). Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (roll out the dough in flat pieces and lay over the fluff, it's ok if its not perfectly even). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Be sure to cool completely before cutting into bars.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Monster Cookies

Monster cookies seemed appropriate for my new monster kitchen. Ok, well maybe it's not monstrous, but it's definitely a huge upgrade from my last kitchen. It's bright, with big windows, a functioning stove and an inordinate amount of cabinetry. I even have a pantry! (Can you tell I'm excited?) Either way, these cookies were the perfect experiment to learn my way around my new kitchen. Also, apologies for my lack of posting, as Krissy has reminded me, over the last seven weeks. But now I'm all settled in, ready to bake.

These cookies are adapted from the illustrious Paula Deen, and they combine everyone's favorite parts about standard cookies: chocolate and peanut butter. These are super easy to make (I never even broke out the mixer) and are sure to please everyone.

Monster Cookies
Adapted from here

3 eggs
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar (light or dark both work fine)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup M&Ms
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup raisins (optional, I omitted these)
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups quick oats (NOT instant)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or your handy Silpat (which I love and comes in real handy if you just want to keep using the same cookie sheet for baking each batch. Krissy - best birthday present ever!).

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugars (Confession: I mixed everything by hand with a wooden spoon and it turned out great. No need to dirty beaters for this recipe). Mix well. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter and butter. Mix well. Stir in the baking soda. Mix well. Then add the M&Ms, chocolate chips, raisins (if using) and oats. Mix until oats are completely covered.

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. These cookies will spread out. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (I would err on the side of 10 minutes), but do not overbake. Let cookies rest for 3 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring them to a wire rack.

Makes about 5 dozen.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Classic Birthday Cake

Summer is the hardest time of year to bake. After walking around in 90 degree weather all day, the absolute last thing anyone wants to do is hang out in a 100 degree kitchen. That being said, it takes a lot for me to actually bake during the months of June, July and August (which explains my recent lack of posts).

Anyway, with yesterday being Dan's 26th birthday, I decided to brave the heat and make him a birthday cake from scratch. My apartment only has one tiny window air conditioner in it, so when I say my blood, sweat and tears went into this cake, I mean it... with a big emphasis on the sweat.

Moist Yellow Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting
adapted from here and here

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a small bowl and whisk to get ready of any lumps or chunks.

Place butter into a bowl and mix on a medium or high speed until fluffy and light in color. Add in sugar and vanilla, and beat until thoroughly creamed and mixed in. Add egg yolks one at a time, letting each egg yolk mix fully in before adding the next. Add the whole eggs one at a time as well, allowing 1 minute of mixing between additions. The mixture should be very pale in color at this point.

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredient mixture and mix until incorporated. Add in half of the milk and mix until incorporated. Continue to alternate adding in the dry ingredient mixture and milk until all ingredients are thoroghly mixed in and the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter between two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans. Be sure to butter them thoroughly before filling with batter! Bake until the cake edges slightly pull away from the pans and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out dry with just a few crumbs, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Remove the pans from the overn and let cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:
3 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
2 2/3 cups of powdered sugar, sifted (VERY IMPORTANT!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

Beat the butter with a mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy.

Stop the mixer and add the powdered sugar in stages until it is fully incorporated. Add in the vanilla and chocolate and beat on a medium high sped until the frosting is light and airy.

To frost:
Make sure the cake is thoroughly cooled before frosting. The frosting should be at room temperature for frosting, but don't let it get too soft or else it will become runny and won't hold on the cake.

I assume most of you know how to frost a cake, but if you don't, click THIS fantastic link for a video tutorial.

Monday, July 12, 2010

decorating tutorials + mint buttercream

Cake decorating is an art. Some people have a wonderful ability to create beautiful (and delicious) cakes with fancy decorations and designs. I'm slightly challenged in the decoration department but my Aunt Kathy is a natural. We have all seen her showpieces from the Girard Family Cake-Off, but this weekend we in Chicago had an opportunity to watch the master at work.

She worked quickly, eh... not exactly quick but diligently. She confidently frosted the layer cake like an old pro sharing tips + tricks with her captive audience along the way. After perusing the food coloring options + piping tips she choose to decorate the cake in a beautiful rose petal pink. I always have fun with Aunt Kathy, we laughed a lot. Enjoy the photos.

{she showed us how to use a decorating triangle}

{A closer look at the final product + intricate details}

Lastly, I made a few cupcake varieties with the left over cake batter. Here is a recipe for mint buttercream. It's delicious on a chocolate cupcake served cold with a glass of milk.

Mint Buttercream Frosting

1 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon mint extract
green food coloring

Beat butter until creamy. Gradually add the sifted powdered sugar, milk, and peppermint extract, beat until combined. Add green food coloring until frosting reaches desired color.