Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sweet Potato (Yam?) Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallows

First off, what the hell is the difference between a sweet potato and a yam? I thought I knew.

Every time I go to the store I wind up holding what is called a "yam" in one hand and a "sweet potato" in the other not knowing why the sweet potato is white and if my local grocery store just doesn't stock the orange ones or if they in fact don't exist. I have yet to happen upon this produce chupacabra. Is the joke on me? I'm not so sure....Are we all being fooled or am I the only one who is unable to find an orange sweet potato?

To make a long story short, I in fact used yams because like I said, the above mentioned do not exist, at least in my world. The color was all I was looking for and the flavor is essentially the same so I went with it (after probably 15 minutes of waffling and googling in the grocery store).

Mashed yams I made by roasting them and scooping out the innards

Regardless of the tuber used, these cupcakes turned out brilliantly and although this post is fashionably obscenely late, were the perfect accompaniment to a Thanksgiving feast. Like all my favorite treats, they were not too sweet and didn't have a ton of coma-inducing frosting (just marshmallows) so they didn't completely weigh you down after an already sleep-inducing meal.

I have be eyeing the recipe in Martha's "Cupcakes" book for some time and surprisingly got a huge response in favor of making them for Turkey Day. They are definitely appropriate but I figured the masses would be clamoring for chocolate and pies etc. instead of a sweet potato cupcakes. Turns out it was a great choice.

Also, as a side note, I think a marshmallow frosting or even a toasted meringue icing would really kick these up a notch. That is if you don't have a 3000 calorie meal beforehand. Or even if you do. Who am I to judge?

All I made was fudge for xmas and proceeded to eat it ALL so no posts necessary for that. Have I posted  a fudge recipe? I can't believe it. It's my mom's recipe and the easiest and best fudge ever! Make and eat immediately! It's still fudge season (when isn't it?).

3C chocolate chips (for the love of God, use GOOD chocolate, it makes all the difference)
7oz sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla (I often forget this in the excitement of fudge and haven't noticed a huge difference)

Melt chips and milk in a heavy bottomed pot and remove from heat, add the vanilla (if you remember) and pour into a 8X8 baking dish lined with wax paper. Put in the fridge for a couple hours to harden and then cut into cubes. Voila! Could it be any easier?!

No. It can't.

Photos by Collin Monda and myself.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer Berry Trifle

My first attempt at an English trifle. I was dissatisfied with most recipes I found out there on the web (and in the cookbooks I own) mainly because they all required far too much work. I figured, all thats involved is cake, a cream filling, whipped cream, and berries/fruit. Why are these recipes calling for elaborate concoctions requiring literally days worth of work? Please. So, I forged ahead on my own, making a simple vanilla pound cake, some mascarpone honey cream, whipped some cream, chopped some berries, assembled it and called it good. Turned out ok right?

I don't think a rustic (well as least in my opinion) dessert should require more effort than that. So make any cake you like, any filling you like (even just whipped cream), add some fruit and put a little more effort in to making it look pretty rather than slaving away making a bavarian cream or some such thing. The pound cake recipe cake be found here as well as the filling here. As it turns out, the pound cake was a little stiff for a trifle. Traditionally, the cake should really absorb the juices/cream and become really soft. Mine was more cake with cream and berries rather than a singular dish. So keep this in mind if you make it. Perhaps use a standard cake recipe that turns out softer than a pound cake. Such a great summer treat though. We enjoyed this in the sun, on a boat in Lake Washington. So pleasant.


Photos by Collin Monda

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pistachio Cupcakes with Honey Vanilla Frosting

I made these cupcakes for Collin's aunt Lacey's baby shower about a month ago and would probably have never thought to try pistachio unless she has asked for them and due to the pregnancy or not, is loving them right now. I'm so glad that I did some research and found a great looking recipe because I'm pretty sure this now takes the cake, literarily and figuratively for the best thing that I've made. These cupcakes are incredible. So moist, just a touch of savoriness and a healthy amount of crunch from the pistachios, mixed with the smoothest, subtly sweet frosting. Simply perfection. Who knew that I could love pistachios so much? Sure, I adore the actual nut, but have never gravitated towards pistachio flavored anything, probably because it looks terrible. Neon green and a strange flavor that doesn't resemble the actual nut what so ever. But these cupcakes on the other hand, use no chemicals to get a "pistachio flavor" they use the actual nut which just adds a touch of salty and a soft crunch to an otherwise smooth as can be cupcake. Amazing. 

There are some hazards to be aware of though when making these. For some reason (and this happens to me a lot) the first time I make something it goes perfectly, no errors or problems what so ever, but then when I go to make it again, thinking that I've mastered it because the first time was so easy, it utterly fails. A strange psychological game I end up playing making me feel terribly inadequate. I usually can recover from the fail and everything works out but the road is a rocky one. At any rate, a couple problems occurred the second time. 

ground pistachios (nice, bright, green color)

Number one, make sure there aren't too many brown skins on your pistachios because when you grind them up it turns brown instead of that lovely, vibrant, green color. Not good for the inside of the cake (although it works) and certainly not good for topping the cakes with. You can buy already shelled pistachios (again look for more green ones) or shell them yourself, takes a little bit longer but when I did this there were hardly any brown skins left on them. 

Number 2. Cook the frosting till it's THICK. The first time it was a breeze and I cooked it until it was the perfect consistency (ok, ok, AFTER I burned the first batch). But when I made it the next time (3rd?) I didn't cook it nearly long enough and the frosting ended up being way too thin and had to thicken it with extra sugar and some refrigeration time. Annoying to say the least. At any rate, make sure to cook it till it's pretty hard to stir. Almost like a dough, but not quite. Also, whisk the h*ll out of it so it doesn't burn. Don't leave it. The first few minutes it's ok but once it gets heated that milk will burn in a hot second so watch it. Even though this frosting sounds annoying, believe me, it's worth it. The cooking portion really isn't all that bad if you heed my advice and after that you just add your body weight in butter and a little honey and vanilla and it's done. Not too bad really. 

If you love pistachios make these. If you're unsure or don't like pistachio flavored things still make these. It surprised me too. You can find the recipe here that I used. In general, this cake is referred to as the Aunt Sassy Cake. I think I would prefer just pistachio cake but I guess if you enjoy saying "Aunt Sassy Cake" then go for it. For my purposes, I call it just pistachio. 

Photos by Collin Monda

My cupcakes are also linked over at the blog Sweet As Sugar Cookies. Check it out!

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

A few weeks back for a morning group meeting I made an apple streusel coffee cake from the book of the moment/year/forever Rose's Heavenly Cakes. This cake was surprisingly simple (this is saying something considering the book. Everything in there is insanely complicated) and the perfect treat for the morning. Plus, anything with streusel is always good right? Definitely a great recipe to keep in the arsenal. But, I would suggest waiting for honey crisps to come back in season because there really just isn't any replacement for them. I used pink ladies for this and although it was great, I think it would have been that much better with honeycrisps, but I am uncommonly biased towards them.

Photos by Collin Monda

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tres Leches Cake


For this past Cinco de Mayo I thought what better cake to make than a Tres Leches? I had never made it before and thought the new experience would be fun and enlightening. This cake was definitely different, in terms of preparation and the final product. It was shockingly moist and just sweet enough to feel like a dessert but wasn't overwhelming. It was on the other hand incredibly rich, as I'm sure you can guess, from the cups upon cups of heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk poured on, and subsequently absorbed in to the cake. But the richness is what makes this cake stand out. It's absolutely like no cake I've ever made or eaten before. It's wonderfully decadent and such a treat. And even the tiniest sliver is satisfying, so a little goes a long way with this one. I can't wait to make this cake again and am thinking this would be a perfect summer treat considering that I chilled it before serving, making it refreshingly cool and satisfying.

Frosted with simply unsweetened whipped cream

Prepping the ingredients

Begin with a rather stiff cake

Letting the cake absorb all the cream and milk making it
sublimely tender and moist

**Recipe from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Will post soon.

Photos by Collin Monda

Monday, May 9, 2011

S'mores Cupcakes and Baby Jesuses

I finally did it. I made Collin's fantasy dessert: S'mores cupcakes. Whether or not they remain so is the question. They were good to be sure. But somehow seemed more like a chocolate cupcake with fixings to me. However, I must say, like pie, s'mores are not my favorite thing. Sure, while camping they are delicious and a must-have treat, but I'm not sure I would choose them otherwise.

This particular group meeting happened to fall on Mardi Gras and for the longest time, I've wanted to make a cake with a baby Jesus inside. Traditionally they are baked in king's cakes and whoever gets a slice with the baby Jesus means various different in things in different cultures. I like the version that it means good luck so I told my coworkers that whoever found it would have good luck for the rest of the year. Oleks was the victor after quickly downing two cupcakes to try and find it. Good luck for him in 2011!

Hiding the Baby Jesus

What could be more fun than a baby Jesus? I had just as much fun baking it and not knowing which one it went in to as I had eating them and hoping for the Jesus in my cake. It would have been a little too suspicious if I found it. The people would have revolted no doubt. So I'm glad I can share the luck with another.

If you're a s'mores fanatic like Collin, these would most definitely appeal to you. They aren't too difficult to make but the frosting in a little labor intensive and messy considering it is a meringue. Looking back, a marshmallow fluff would have been much better as a topper for these and much more appropriate. This is common though to many of the s'mores recipes out there and I wonder, why? You certainly don't whip up a meringue around the campfire to enjoy with graham cracker and chocolate, where did the marshamallow go?? Nary a marshmallow in sight. So sad. Perhaps this was the reason for it's downfall (at least for Collin and myself). I did love that the graham cracker was mixed with a bit of melted butter and packed in to the bottom of each cupcake. So so great. I doubt Martha could do any better with her recipe. Off Martha for awhile. Too hit and miss. Why do I always go back to her?

S'mores Cupcakes (adapted from Annie's Eats)

Crust ingredients
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 oz  finely chopped dark chocolate

Cupcake ingredients
2 cups + 2 Tablespoons of sugar
1 3/4 cups of all purpose flour
3/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon of cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup of whole milk (I used buttermilk)
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
1 cup of Boiling water

Marshmallow ingredients
8 egg whites, at room temperature
2 cups of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar
2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

Prepare the crust: Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 2 muffin tins (24 muffins all together.) In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Mix until well combined. Drop about 1 tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture in the bottom of each cupcake liner and press down to line the bottom. I used the back of a measuring Tablespoon to so this. Sprinkle a small amount of the chopped chocolate on top of the graham cracker crusts. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven. Leave the oven at 350F.
Prepare the cupcakes: Sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine, set aside. In the bowl of your stand mixer, or any large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract; whisk together. Add to the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the boiling water and stir just to combine (the batter will be thin, don't panic.)
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about 3/4 of the way full. Return the pans to the oven and bake about 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Rotate the pans halfway through baking. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Prepare the marshmallow topping: Combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler. Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it reaches 160° F with an instant-read thermometer. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form. Mix in the vanilla until combined. Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired.
If you have a blow torch, you can use it to carefully toast the marshmallow frosting. If you don't have one, slide the frosted cupcakes under your oven's broiler. (Note: I placed my cupcakes on a cookie sheet while doing this.) Keep moving the cookie sheet around while the cupcakes are under the broiler. They burn very fast, so don't wander around while they're toasting.
Remove and serve immediately
Makes 24 cupcakes.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Oatmeal Cream Pies

What could be better right? In my book, nothing. Sure, I'm a chocolate fan. And yes, I love coconut, and carmel, and even crispies, but if I had the option of choosing any of those over an oatmeal creme pie? I'd go for it every time. Delicious and sweet and a touch healthy. Never stomach-ache inducing (unless you eat your body weight in them, not uncommon, but none the less), and always so satisfying.

I took my time selecting a recipe. Anyone can write an oatmeal cookie recipe but it takes a very special recipe indeed to make the right filling. It's oreo-like. Flaky and buttery, yet light and not too sweet. It's an enigma. And in searching for such fillings I discovered it's true secret. Nay, the secret to anything good. And no, it's not butter, but rather it's evil and alluring cousin, shortening. Oh yes, this is the key. Make it and forget you added it. It's incredible and the best frosting ever. You can find the cookie recipe here (but really use whatever recipe you like, just something soft and chewy.

I scoured the internet looking for the perfect cream filling and the most common recipe involved "very hot" water and lots of work. This frosting recipe killed it. Hands down best I've had/made. LOVE it. I found it here, along with another, I'm sure equally as delicious cookie recipe.

Cream Filling
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (I imagine butter would work just fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups marshmallow cream
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 tbsp milk, as needed
Cream together the shortening and marshmallow cream. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, beat well. Thin with milk until you get the right consistency. The mixture should be thick and creamy, but easily spreadable.
These cookies turned out amazing. I had many of them and they were all worth it. I love me an oatmeal cream pie. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Another Martha-inspired recipe. I've been on a cookie kick lately, mainly because they seem infinitely easier to tackle at the end of a day than say, a cake. The thought of them being completed the moment they are baked has been quite appealing lately. Plus, there are SO many delicious looking cookies in the Martha Cookies book that I feel compelled to make them all every time I browse through it. And you know the funny thing? They've all been pretty good. Surprisingly good. Unlike some of her other creations. If you click on the link above and go to "Look Inside" you can scroll through tons of recipes without actually having to buy the book! Best part? The chocolate chip cookie recipe is included in that preview under "Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies" (from the name alone I knew they would be good. This is my favorite kind of choc. chip).

These cookies turned out amazingly and honestly, I think they are the best I've ever made. My new cookie scoop has helped out immensely since I've made these. Mine doesn't happen to be a Martha, but it works just the same. Makes the process SO much easier and they turn out perfectly with a pre-measured scoop. Never going back to the spooning method (I was never very good at it anyway!). If you're in need/want of some choc. chip cookies, look no further. These are best (that I've found anyway).