28 May 2008

S'mores [cupcakes]!

Oh my gosh, I have been so unbelievably busy. Since my last update, I've started back at both of my summer jobs, acquired a new kitten [Lucy!], and had my wonderful boyfriend, Bryce, up to visit for 4 days. As promised, oh so long ago, I have more baking to share! After making the peanut butter banana bars we realized those alone were not enough to take to my sister's function. I've been aching to try a new recipe and this was the perfect opportunity.

I used my little Rocket blender to crush up the graham crackers, which worked so much better than my usual rolling pin and plastic bag method. And while the "crust" added a nice visual touch to the cupcakes, I don't feel like they added very much flavor-wise. Now, this could be due to the age of the graham crackers because I have no idea how long those have been in our pantry. The cake was a light and beautiful dark chocolate that was perfectly chocolatey and not too sweet.

The most exciting part of making this dessert was the frosting. I've never made a frosting like this before and I was worried it wouldn't turn out right. It took quite a while, but everything worked out just right and I ended up with some amazing marshmallowy frosting to pipe on the tops of my cupcakes. I'm still getting the hang of piping but practice makes perfect, right? These cupcakes were a huge hit. My dad ate two in one sitting and even eyed up a third before being scolded by mom. I would most definitely make these again and I don't think anyone would object to that.

Since baking these, I've also baked up a batch of amazing chocolate brownies [which I do believe are Bryce's personal favorites] and another batch of the pb banana bars, which my sister devoured. I did change up the recipe a little bit, using some brown sugar in place of white sugar and adding a little more peanut butter. They had a different, moister texture and a more prominent peanut butter flavor which is a winner in my book.
I also picked up a new cupcake cookbook at Barnes and Noble and I'm sure I'll be baking something out of there very soon.

20 May 2008

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Bars

I went on a bit of a baking spree this past Saturday. My sister needed some sort of baked good for an event and I, of course, volunteered. We had two incredibly over-ripe bananas, so I figured I would try a recipe I found for these bars. I wouldn't really call them blondies but I also wouldn't call them cookie bars...so I'm not too sure what they are, other than amazingly easy and delicious.

2 eggs, beaten until frothy
3/4 c sugar

1 c flour

1/2 c butter or margarine, softened

1 over ripe banana

1/2 c peanut butter
1c chocolate chips

I sort of added the ingredients in whatever order I seemed fit and combined until smooth. You can bake them in a greased 8x8, 9x9, or 7.5x12 pan at 370 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. The original recipe suggests turning once halfway through baking, so I did and everything was evenly baked. I baked mine for about 25 minutes because they batter was much thinner when spread in a 7.5x12 pan rather than a 9x9 pan. To test for doneness [yes, I'm aware that isn't a real word but I'll use it anyway] insert a knife into the middle and if it comes out clean, they're done!
These bars are absolutely delicious and not too sweet, which is a nice change of pace for my family. And, surprisingly, my sister has already requested more. She's the picky eater of the family and I really did not expect HER to enjoy these. Now we're just waiting for our latest batch of bananas to ripen enough for more of these bars!

Now, I did say Saturday was a baking spree and these bars themselves don't quite constitute the use of that word. While the bars were amazing, they didn't make a large amount so I had to bake something else...which I will post about later :-]

14 May 2008

Rainbow Cupcakes!

I first saw these on a LiveJournal baking community and I fell in love instantly. The swirls of bright colors and the individuality of each cupcake made these look like so much fun. I had to try making them and I figured my sister's 15th birthday would be the perfect opportunity. I went out to the craft store and bought Wilton's food gel [it doesn't water down the batter or icing!] plus some piping equipment. I had never tried piping my frosting before and figured I would add even more adventure to this baking excursion.

As for the recipe, I turned to Billy's Bakery Vanilla Vanilla cupcake recipe that I used in at least 2 other baking episodes. The flavor and texture of these cupcakes has always been amazing, so why try something new? I also used the vanilla buttercream recipe from Billy's Bakery because, again, why try something new when you have already found something that's nearly perfect? I cut both recipes in half because I knew there was no way my family would be able to eat the entire batch ourselves. I don't know if my measurements were off or if it was just from cutting the recipe in half, but the consistency of the batter was off. At first I thought maybe I was imagining things or had forgotten what the batter was like, but after baking the cupcakes weren't nearly as light and fluffy as usual and didn't rise as much as usual. Oh well, I can't expect perfection every time.

I thought the frosting would be fine for piping and I even added more powdered sugar than usual, but it was still a little too soft. It didn't hold it's shape as well as I would have liked, but it still looked cute and it was something fun and different. In the future I would try another frosting or I would add more powdered sugar.

So I may not have been 100% satisfied with the results, but at least the cupcakes still taste great! The family agreed that these tasted just as delicious as previous batches and my sister was so excited to have her own birthday cupcakes on her very special day.

11 May 2008

Scones for Mother's Day!

I finished off my junior year of college [woo hoo, I'm a senior!] and made my way home on Thursday. I've been itching to bake. I have a list of at least 5 different cupcakes I want to try, as well as brownies and cookies. Unfortunately, we've been very busy around the house lately and I've been sick so I've had to control myself, which went pretty well...until this morning! I wanted to do something special for Mom for Mother's Day and I figured I could bake something for her. She loves scones, so I decided I would wake up early and bake some blackberry scones for breakfast. After much searching through www.allrecipes.com I found this recipe, which received rave reviews. I altered the recipe slightly and the finished product was absolutely amazing, so I'll post my version.

Basic Scones
3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup butter
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter. Mix the egg and milk in a small bowl and then stir into the flour mixture until moist. NOTE: You may not need all of the milk. Add a little at a time.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead BRIEFLY. Roll out dough into a 1/2 inch thick round. Cut into 8 wedges and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired. Bake 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool.

Now I took that basic recipe and added fresh blackberries, but you can add anything you'd like [chocolate chips, cranberries, blueberries, etc.]. I was worried that blackberries were a poor choice and anticipated ending up with stained hands. Fortunately, the berries held together fairly well and the mess was minimal. Just so you know, the dough is incredibly sticky. I had "club hand" seconds into the kneading. This could be due to using too much of the milk mixture and I'll be more careful with that next time.

I've made scones before, but these are the best I've had! They're incredibly fluffy and buttery, with a very soft and tender texture. I would definitely make these again in the future and I'm sure Mom wouldn't object. She talked about the scones all day and even considered having another for dessert after we returned home from dinner. I'm so glad they turned out so well and I'm even more glad that she enjoyed them on Mother's Day.

Hopefully I'll be posting more soon. My sister is planning on having a birthday party with a couple friends and I'm planning on baking some cupcakes for the occasion. I also got sent home from school with a pile of hot chocolate mixes [thank you, Bryce!] and I want to make some Hot Chocolate cookies with those.