St. Patrick’s Day and my Irish Roots!

Okay, so maybe you can tell I’m part Irish by looking at me…I’ll give you that!  I’m still a very proud Irish girl, and shout it out with my auburn hair and hazel eyes whenever given the opportunity.  So, St.Patrick’s Day is a fantastic day to celebrate that heritage!  Did you wear green and show YOUR Irish pride?  Well, here’s some of my Irish bakes!  There’s a two-tier cake, some cupcakes and decorated sugar cookies, Irish Soda Bread and Traditional Oat Scones.  Be sure to share your Blarney Tales below! LOL  Enjoy!

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Valentines Day Baking in Review!

Now, as I begin work on St. Patrick’s Day goodies, I can take a breather and reflect on my work over Valentines Day.  I’m brushing up on my skills!  Things are coming back to my from my days taking Wilton classes!  It’s been a very good start to a very bright future!  Here’s some food “porn” from the Heart-lover’s Holiday!  Enjoy and share your baking victories in the comments below!  Happy February, Happy Spring-is-almost-here, Happy just because!

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It’s National Vanilla Cupcake Day!

What a great excuse to have a cupcake today!  National Vanilla Cupcake Day rocks!  I enjoy making cupcakes even more than cakes at times because I can change out the tips and frost them each differently, decorate them and give them each their own personality, or make them all stand at attention in the same exact fashion.  Either way, they just scream, “Jump in my belly!”.  Most of the time, cake recipes can easily be used to make cupcakes with little to no modification, except for baking pans, liners and the time baked in the oven.  My first sort of “from scratch” cupcakes came from the beginning of my adventures in “caking”.

The “bug” for cake decorating started with advertisements from that well-known national craft store, offering a certain brand-name series of cake decorating classes most of us are all too familiar with….  Needless to say, I bit!  I loved every minute of it!  I spent way too much money on those brand-name products, striving for student perfection.  One of the most treasured gifts from the instructor, whose name I’ve long forgotten, is the standard modified box-mix cake recipe.   I’ve modified a few things along the way, as I’m sure many of you have, just tweaking things to my liking.  I have also historically used this very same recipe when making cupcakes.  So, here it goes!

Cupcake Ingredients:

1 package Duncan Hines French Vanilla cake mix

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 dash of salt

3 whole room-temperature eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup sour cream

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

Frosting Ingredients:

1 32oz package confectioners sugar, sifted

2 tsp meringue powder

pinch of salt

2 sticks unsalted room-temperature butter

1 cup vegetable shortening*

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup French Vanilla liquid coffee creamer (refrigerated)

gel colors of choice

*shortening must contain trans-fats

cupcakes1Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In three 12-cup cupcake pans, place paper or foil cupcake liners.
  3. In a large bowl sift together dry ingredients.
  4. In mixer bowl, wet ingredients and blend until just incorporated.
  5. Add approximately 1/2 the dry ingredients and stir on low about 30 seconds.  Scrape down sides of bowl.
  6. Add remaining dry ingredients and stir on low another 30 seconds.  Scrape down sides of bowl.
  7. Turn mixer to medium and mix for another 2 minutes.
  8. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full using a medium to large scoop.
  9. Bake 16-20 minutes, depending on oven, until golden and springs back to touch…and if still unsure, check with a toothpick or cake tester.
  10. Cool 15 minutes prior to removing from cupcake pans.
  11. While cupcakes are cooling, place butter and shortening in mixer and cream together.
  12. Add meringue powder, salt and 1 cup of sifted confectioners sugar and mix on low, covering mixer and bowl with a slightly damp towel to prevent a sugar “cloud”.
  13. Continue to add confectioners sugar one cup at a time, mixing between each cup until incorporated.  Frosting will be VERY stiff.
  14. Add extract and 1 tablespoon of coffee creamer and mix until smooth.  Continue to add coffee creamer 1 tablespoon at a time until desired thickness.  This may vary according to humidity and elevation.
  15. Divide frosting and color as desired.  Place frosting in piping bags with desired tips and pipe onto cupcakes.

 

 

 

Death by Dark Chocolate Doughnuts

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I’ve recently tip-toed into the world of cake doughnuts.  While searching for basic cake doughnut recipes (I usually review several recipes and pick parts and pieces of each to create my own unique recipe), chocolate donuts in particular, I discovered none of them were adding anything to amplify that chocolate flavor.  The usual suspects were present some of the time….vanilla extract….salt…..but, what about adding melted chocolate, coffee, almond extract…ANYTHING!

So, I just had to jump in and experiment.  I couldn’t just stop at cocoa powder, it had to be dark chocolate cocoa powder.  I couldn’t use just plain old coffee, it had to be brewed espresso.  Extracts didn’t give it enough of that special something (I did use vanilla extract)….I added spices…but, not to the doughnut….no….to the ganache!  Oh, yes….the ganache!!

Did I have you at GANACHE?!  I will admit, I didn’t have any heavy cream at the time.  So, my “ganache” came out a little on the thin side and ended up eventually soaking into the doughnuts a little bit…but, the best part was this kept the doughnuts very moist and delicious even at three days old.  Who says however-many-day old doughnuts are no good?!  Not this baker!

Take this recipe for a spin and let me know what you think!  Remember, a love of baking equals love IN the baking!


Ingredients:

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup dark cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 large room-temperature egg

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup brewed espresso

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Accidental “Ganache” Ingredients:

2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

1/4 cup dark cocoa powder

1/4 cup milk

1 tbsp brewed expresso

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

dash of salt

dash of cinnamon

dash of nutmeg

*sprinkles and/or other toppings of your choice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. If using doughnut pans without non-stick coating, lightly grease
  3. In a large bowl, combine all the dry doughnut ingredients and whisk together
  4. In a small bowl, combine all the wet doughnut ingredients and whisk together.  Be sure to either allow time for the espresso and butter to cool slightly, or temper them into the other wet ingredients to prevent “scrambled” egg.
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, folding gently until just combined.
  6. Pour mixture into quart size storage bag, seal and cut off one of the bottom corners (or use a pastry bag without a tip)
  7. Squeeze batter into doughnut pan in equal amounts, being careful not to overfill.
  8. Bake for 10-11 minutes or until doughnuts spring back when touched.
  9. Remove, cool in pan for 5-10 minutes.
  10. While doughnuts are cooling, mix ganache ingredients together, stirring until any and all lumps are dissolved.  If the ganache is too thick, add more milk.  If it’s too thin, add more confectioners sugar until desired thickness.  Be sure to offset the extra sweet of additional confectioners sugar with a dash or two of salt.
  11. Dip the top of the doughnuts in the ganache and serve!  If thicker ganache is preferred, use heavy cream and start with 1/8 of a cup…or roughly 4 tablespoons, adding more one tablespoon at a time until desired thickness.

 

FALL into Baking!

ground-cardamomIt’s that time of year again!  The baking season is upon us!  Now, some of you might think I’m a bit early….I know, I know…it’s not even Halloween yet…but, remember all those things you have to do between now and that dreaded Holiday Season?  Yeah…there ya go!  The sooner we get started, the better!  Not to mention, it IS Pumpkin season again!  Enter warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom….what’s that?  Cardamom? YES, Cardamom!  I know most of you have heard of it, but how many of you get to raise your hand when I ask who has it in their pantry????!!!  HUH????!!!  Me!!!!!!  MEEEEEE!!!!  Okay, okay…I’ll stop gloating now!  Yes, I love that little something extra called Cardamom.  It’s my mystery ingredient in many fall recipes…some of which you are familiar with….like my Pumpkin Cheesecake with Chocolate Crust, or my Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones, and others.

Now, I know I probably didn’t list this ingredient on my recipes but, trust me, I’m by far not the ONLY one who has left that little extra something off the ingredient list.  But, I’ve officially come clean!  LOL!  I don’t even measure it because I just literally put in a dash.  So, enjoy this tip and no….this is NOT an endorsement for Simply Organic…just happens to be my favorite image!

I quote Wikipedia here: 

Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance. Black cardamom has a distinctly more smokey, though not bitter, aroma, with a coolness some consider similar to mint.

Green cardamom is one of the more expensive spices by weight, but little is needed to impart flavor. It is best stored in the pod as exposed or ground seeds they quickly lose their flavor. Grinding the pods and seeds together lowers both the quality and the price. For recipes requiring whole cardamom pods, a generally accepted equivalent is 10 pods equals 1 12 teaspoons of ground cardamom.[citation needed]

It is a common ingredient in Indian cooking. It is also often used in baking in the Nordic countries, in particular in Sweden and Finland, where it is used in traditional treats such as the Scandinavian Jule bread Julekake, the Swedish kardemummabullar sweet bun, and Finnish sweet bread pulla. In the Middle East, green cardamom powder is used as a spice for sweet dishes, as well as traditional flavouring in coffee and tea. Cardamom is used to a wide extent in savoury dishes. In some Middle Eastern countries, coffee and cardamom are often ground in a wooden mortar, a mihbaj, and cooked together in a skillet, a mehmas, over wood or gas, to produce mixtures as much as 40% cardamom.

In Asia both types of cardamom are widely used in both sweet and savory dishes, particularly in the south. Both are frequent components in spice mixes, such as Indian and Nepali masalas and Thai curry pastes. Green cardamom is often used in traditional Indian sweets and in masala chai (spiced tea). Both are also often used as a garnish in basmati rice and other dishes. Individual seeds are sometimes chewed and used in much the same way as chewing gum. It is used by confectionery giant Wrigley; its Eclipse Breeze Exotic Mint packaging indicates the product contains “cardamom to neutralize the toughest breath odors”. It is also included in gin and herbal teas.

Okay!  So, there’s the deets!  What’s YOUR favorite way to use Cardamom?  Comment below!  And remember, a love of baking is baking in some love!

Quick Tip #4.24.16

Pumpkin Pancakes

Love to make pancakes from scratch?  I most certainly do!  However, when you put the leftovers in the refrigerator and reheat them the next day, they don’t keep their moisture.  It’s like when you try to reheat something like say….french fries???… YUCK!!!  Well, here’s a tip I use every time I have leftover pancakes.

Allow the pancakes to cool to room temperature.  Grab a gallon size resealable bag.  Layer the pancakes like the photo below.  Get as much air out of the bag a possible. Seal the bag and place on a flat surface in the freezer.  Then, when you want a couple pancakes, pull out as many as you like.  Place them on a microwave-safe place and reheat on 50% power for 3-5 minutes, varying from microwave to microwave.  Start with three minutes.  If they are still cool in the middle, move them around so that different parts of each pancake overlap.  Reheat in increments of one minute at a time until warmed through.  Enjoy!

Frozen pancakes

 

 

Phat Pumpkin Pancakes

Looking for something to make for Sunday breakfast?  Why not mix it up and serve a “fall” pancake to remind you why you appreciate spring!  Even though pumpkin is a traditional fall ingredient, it’s great anytime of the year.

So, here I go again..using up some of that delicious pumpkin I froze last fall.  I have to admit that this is not my original recipe (credit: Allrecipes.com).  However, as any good cook does, I modified it to my liking and taste.  These pancakes rose like no other before them.  I was THRILLED with the rise, texture and taste.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Pumpkin Pancakes

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups milk

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 egg

2 tbsp canola oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

3 tbsp light brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat a griddle to medium high heat.
  2. In a medium bowl mix together the wet ingredients.
  3. In a separate medium bowl whisk together the dry ingredients.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. Lightly oil griddle.
  6. Ladle approximately 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle for each pancake.
  7. Once the edges bubble and steam is coming through the cakes, turn and continue to brown until done.
  8. Serve with butter and real maple syrup.
  9. *Optional:  serve with sliced bananas and chopped toasted pecans.

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