Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Etsy Sale!

After you brave the crowds at the mall to get your half off tvs (that's my goal) today, kick back in front of your computer and get 20% off everything you order from my Etsy store today only! Happy shopping!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

OMG Amazing Cupcakes!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you are all enjoying the company of family and friends, entertainment of thanksgiving football, and culinary delights of a traditional thanksgiving feast! Now, Thanksgiving isn't a traditional cupcake occasion, but I think the following bakers definitely captured the spirit of the holiday in their confections:

Turkey Cupcakes from Tallgirl197528 on Cake Central:

Cherry Pie Cupcake (and maybe a blueberry pie hiding in the back) by Nellie Cakes:

Visit Flickr to see these cupcakes that look like thanksgiving food staples by Christine Campanelli: DINNER!

And finally, this cupcake looking like the entire thanksgiving table by Baierman:

Thanks to everyone who has been reading my blog, have a great holiday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Pockets

As a dessert for my little thanksgiving dinner, I made some pumpkin pie pockets form a recipe I found off of a favorite blog of mine, Three Baking Sheets to the Wind. She had been doing a Harry Potter week in honor of HP7:PT1 coming out (it was awesome-you should go!) and had labeled these Pumpkin Pasties like from the movies. I guess I should have known the outcome since I don't really like pie crust (hence the lack of pies on my blog), but I was sad to find that I didn't like these very much. I think they could definitely be made better by the following: making your own crust, rolling crust thinner, and add ins a cinnamon sugar dusting to the tops. Experiment with this recipe on your own and let me know what you come up with!

And this is Baloo licking the baking sheet I used to bake the pie filling:

Pumpkin Pie Pockets (from Three Baking Sheets to the Wind):
Pumpkin pie filling, prepared
Pie crust pastry for a 9in pie

Bake the filling and cool. Beat filling in a large bowl to make it smooth and homogeneous. Roll out the pie crust and cut about 4" circles out of it. Add a dollop of pie filling to each mini crust. Fold crust over and seal with fork. Cut air vents in the top of the pastry with a knife. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 400F for 10 minutes.

*Also, the new cupcake stand that is in the photo is from Jeanette Zeis Ceramics on Etsy and I love it!

My Personal Thanksgiving Dinner

My first two years living in Houston, I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for a few friends at our apartment/house. The next year, I went over someone else's house for dinner as I am this year, and decided to have a mini turkey dinner for myself so that I could have leftover turkey for sandwiches, yum! So, this year I picked a new recipe for my little turkey and gave it a whirl. It has been the best recipe I've made yet! Completely moist and very flavorful! The recipe is called Poblano and Cilantro Citrus Roast Turkey from Rachel of A Southern Fairytale. Such a great recipe, and hardly any work. Here's how my turkey looked fresh out of the oven:

Poblano and Cilantro Citrus Roast Turkey (adapted from Rachel of A Southern Fairytale):

~12lb turkey

Brine (to soak turkey the day before you cook it-so make sure it is completely thawed a day before you want to serve the turkey):
1/2 gal water
1 gal apple cider
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2C brown sugar
1/2 C Kosher salt
1/4C fresh ground pepper

Rub (applied right before cooking):
2T brown sugar
1t oregano
1 1/2t Kosher salt
1t cumin
1 t cayenne pepper
1t fresh ground black pepper
8 cloves garlic, minced

Flavor Stuffing (placed in the turkey cavity before cooking):
2 poblano peppers, cut in large pieces
1 gala apple, cut in large pieces
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
1 orange, cut in large pieces

Combine brine ingredients. Remove neck and giblets from turkey cavity. Pour brine into a container (I used an turkey oven bag) and submerge the turkey in the brine. Soak in refrigerator for 12-24 hours.

Remove turkey from brine, pat dry. Combine rub ingredients. Carefully separate skin from the flesh and massage the rub into the turkey beneath the skin. Rub some olive oil on the skin and massage any leftover rub into the skin.

Prepare inside ingredients and stuff the cavity. Cook turkey according to instructions on wrapper, usually about a half hour per pound. I cooked mine at 350F for 4 hours (basting every 30 minutes) before the thick of the thigh reached 180F. I also tented the turkey with aluminium foil after the skin began to brown. Once turkey is finished cooking, remove from oven and allow to sit for 15 minutes to reabsorb some juices.

*Go to the link from A Southern Fairytale to see how to make gravy to go with this turkey (I hate gravy so I passed).

To complement my turkey I also made peppered green beans and duchess potatoes. The potatoes tasted amazing, but I overcooked them and the end result was not as pretty as I would have liked. Here is a picture of my first attempt (I will be making a second attempt very soon):

Duchess Potatoes (from Nicole of Baking Bites)

2lbs russet potatoes
1/2c butter (less is ok for lower fat)
1 lg egg

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Peel and quarter potatoes in a large pot of boiling water. Cook until tender. Drain and transfer to large bowl. Add butter and seasonings and mash potatoes well. Allow mixture to cool for 10-15 minutes. Mash in the egg until smooth. Transfer potatoes to piping bag and pipe potatoes onto the baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

What are you having for thanksgiving?!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jesse's Stuffed Cupcakes

Speaking of my awesome sister that just visited me in Houston, she recently sent me some pictures of her extremely successful attempt at making the pumpkin pie stuffed cupcakes I featured on my blog awhile back. I haven't tried these because they seem obscenely labor intensive and I'm too lazy for that action. Jesse, however, conquered them and here's a look-see at her mastery:

Amazing work, Jesse!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Southern Red Velvet Swirl Bars

I actually made these early last week and have just been really lazy about posting the recipe. I love, love, love red velvet so when I saw these pop up on Baked Perfection, I knew I had to try them immediately. Luckily I had all the ingredients I needed and got right to it. They are very similar in taste to a red velvet cupcake, just more dense. I didn't get any individual pictures of the cut brownies, but here are some of them right out of the oven:

Southern Red Velvet Swirl Bars (recipe from Risa of Baked Perfection)

Red Velvet Portion:
1 stick butter, melted
1c sugar
1t vanilla
1/4c cocoa
Pinch salt
1T red food coloring
1t apple cider vinegar
2 eggs
3/4c flour

Cream Cheese Portion:
8oz cream cheese, softened
1/4c sugar
1 egg
1/2t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 8"x8" pan. For red velvet portion: to a large bowl, add butter, sugar, vanilla, cocoa, salt, rood coloring, and vinegar, mixing in between each ingredient. Whisk eggs in a small bowl and add them to the cocoa mixture. Fold in flour until just combined. Pour all but 1/4c into the baking pan.

For the cream cheese portion: beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla together in a large bowl. Gently spread the cream cheese layer over the red velvet layer in the pan. Place small dollops of the remaining red velvet portion on top of the cream cheese layer. Using a toothpick, swirl the two layers in a swirl design. Bake about 30 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.


Jesse's Visit

In addition to the much chronicled cupcake tour of Houston, I also took Jesse to see the Spazmatics at Scout Bar in Clear Lake. When I asked for a bar scene type, Jesse said dancing and bands so I knew Spazmatics would be perfect (even though it was too packed to really dance). Despite the usual disgustingly smokey atmosphere of Scout bar, the night was a great time with some friends and 80s jams. Here are some pics from the night:

We also went to my soccer game on Saturday (which we lost, boo) and to my favorite sushi place, Sushi Coast for dinner on Saturday night. Followed by some serious people watching and a couple of bottles of wine at Brixx. Thanks to everyone for hanging out this weekend, especially Jesse for coming to visit!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cupcakery Review: Sprinkles Cupcakes in Highland Village

Last stop on this crazy sugar rush of a cupcake tour was the new Sprinkles Cupcakes in Highland Village. I've already visited this cupcakery as well but it was only once and I was hoping for some new flavors. The only new flavor that I saw on that day was salted caramel (yes my second of the day), so I ordered that and Jesse got a chai latte cupcake. These were also eaten later since I was near explosion at this point. I was pleasantly surprised by my salted caramel cupcake because the icing and cupcake were flavored caramel, unlike my earlier cupcake. The icing had quite a bit of the sea salt crystals so I could really taste the contrast. Very good cupcake. Jesse apparently loved this chai latte cupcake and has declared it her fave of the crawl as per her comment.

Definite B+ here too, I would just like more variety as well. Sorry for all the posts, I just wanted to make each review a separate post. Hope they were helpful!

Cupcakery Review: Crave Cupcakes in West University

Our third stop was Crave Cupcakes, my running favorite cupcakery in Houston. I wanted to visit their new location in West University (I've visited their Uptown Park location many times as well). I ordered a white chocolate macadamia nut and a cinnamon cupcake. Jesse ordered a chocolate espresso cupcake. At this point we were beyond full (we also ate a Niko Niko's for lunch along the way) so we tasted these at home later. I already knew the white chocolate macadamia was delish and my cinnamon turned out to be the same. Jesse said her chocolate espresso was insanely espresso-y and I tried a piece of the icing and nearly had my socks knocked off. The icing is like espresso fudge, thick and STRONG! I liked it because I really like strong flavors, but it might be a little overpowering for others.

Decidedly still my favorite cupcakery in Houston: A+++

Cupcakery Review: Frosted Betty Bakeshop- Food Truck

After Celebrity Cupcakes I received a tweet (yes, I twitter, it's fun) that the Frosted Betty Bakeshop food truck was going to be out and about in the Heights (which Jesse wanted to visit to view some neat architecture anyways) so we booked it over to 19th street in search of a food truck. We found it just in time. I was excited to see some cupcake flavors listed that I had never tried before such as pistachio cardamom, but, alas they were sold out already. I ordered a salted caramel cupcake and Jesse got a vanilla cupcake with nutella icing. The guy actually was really nice and gave us a free coconut mini. The cake was good, but I pretty much hate coconut haha. It was nice all the same! Jesse's nutella icing was delicious. I've never had Nutella plain but I think I might have to try making some icing form it in the future. My salted caramel didn't taste super caramel-y and the chocolate cupcake was dry.

Overall: C+ for excellent friendliness and excitement of tracking down the truck, cupcakes only so-so.

*Note: I still want to visit their brick and mortar shop in Katy because they have an amazing variety on their menu!

Cupcakery Review: Celebrity Cupcakes in Rice Village

This past weekend my sister, Jesse, came to visit Houston! I was pretty excited because the last time she visited I was new to Houston and hadn't really gotten to know my way around yet. Also, she was underage then so our activities were restricted to under 21 festivities. For our first activity I decided to take her on a cupcake tour of Houston. First, because we both share an interest in baking and therefore bakeries and the phenomenon that is cupcakes. Second, because I wanted to make sure I knew where the best cupcakes in Houston were! Our first stop was at Celebrity Cupcakes in Rice Village. This was my first time visiting so I was pretty excited. The store was extremely small but adorable. I ordered a pumpkin cupcake and a southern red velvet mini. Jesse got a southern red velvet cupcake and a lemon mini.

My cupcakes were definitely good. The pumpkin was strong and topped with cream cheese icing, my fave. The red velvet was paired with what I think was swiss meringue buttercream instead of the usual cream cheese and was pretty good as well (I prefer the traditional topping). Jesse also liked the lemon, but the minis were, by their nature, a little dry. It's really hard to avoid that (in my personal experience) so not complaints there. I think the pumpkin was a bit dense like a muffin but over all I'd say Celebrity gets a B+. I'd like to see more variety to get a better review.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cupcakery Review: Delesandri's Gourmet Cupcakes in Clear Lake Shores, TX

On my way to a doctors appointment today I saw a sign for a Cupcakery where an ice cream parlor had once been. I made it a point to stop at Delesandri's Gourmet Cupcakes on my way back from my appointment because, OMG a cupcakery in Clear Lake-it's what I've been waiting for! I walked in and ordered a mocha latte, white chocolate macadamias nut, boston creme pie, and a eggnog cupcake. Once I got home and had eaten my lunch I decided to dive in and try them all before going back to work (don't judge me, I have soccer tonight I promise). I ate half of each cupcake and, unfortunately, was disappointed all around. The mocha latte was extremely dry and had only a faint coffee flavor in the icing. The white chocolate macadamias nut wasn't bad, just lacking in the actual macadamia nut department (and a hot mess to eat with the icing dripping down the sides). The Boston creme pie was good (I love custard), but then I kept tasting this strange aftertaste of what I assume to be the preservative juice from the maraschino cherry on top. It made the ganache taste really strange and chemical. And finally, the biggest disappointment was the eggnog cupcake. Generally the flavor of eggnog pretty much knocks your socks off, but this cupcake didn't taste like anything other than a vanilla cupcake. And the icing not only looked like straight butter piped on top, it also tasted like it. I couldn't eat more than the first bite of that one. Here are some pictures if you are still interested in checking them out:

Mocha Latte Cut:

White Chocolate Macadamia Cut:

Boston Creme Pie Cut:

Eggnog Cut:

I hate to post a negative review, but I was super excited about this cupcakery and was, therefore, all the more disappointed during my tasting. Sad times.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Most delicious richness ever: Snickers Tart

I was invited to attend a Halloween carnival with my friend Stephanie this past weekend and there happened to be a dessert contest following for the 'young adults' of her church. Now, I love me some competition and Halloween AND baking so this was going to be money. The contest indicated that the dessert had to be Halloween-ish and I had this recipe from the last Martha Stewart Living that I was waiting for a reason to try. The dessert was called a Peanut, Caramel, and Chocolate Tart but I call it the Snickers-inspired Tart. This is not for the faint of heart, I can barely finish a sliver per sitting. It's uber decadent and somewhat time consuming. Here are some of my pictures of the final product (*note: they do not do it justice, see pictures from Martha's website):
Assembly Line of Ingredients:

The Mangled first slice (there were only plastic knives at the event):

Clean slice:

Snickers-Inspired Tart (from Martha Stewart Living)

Cookie Crust:
1 (9oz) box chocolate wafer cookies, finely ground (for this I bought a package of store brand oreos and scraped the cream off the center and blended the cookies in my blender)
1 T sugar
1/4t salt
1 stick butter, melted (perhaps less because my crust was rock hard)

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine cookie crumbs, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Stir in butter. Press mixture into bottom and up the sides of a 9" springform pan. Bake until dry and firm, about 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Caramel Sauce:
1 1/4c sugar
1/4c water
1c heavy cream
1/3c creme fraiche (I used crema mexicana)
1c roasted salted peanuts

Heat sugar and water in a medium saucepan over med-high heat until a dark amber color (about 12 minutes). Carefully add heavy cream (it will bubble and hiss). Bring mixture to a boil and melt any caramel that seized when cream was added. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in creme fraiche. Refrigerate until cool. I actually froze mine for about an hour to speed the process up. fold in peanuts.

Peanut Butter Mousse:
1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2c powdered sugar
1/2t salt
1 1/4c smooth peanut butter (I used reduced fat JIF)
1/2t vanilla
1c heavy cream

Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until fluffy. Beat in salt. Add peanut butter and vanilla, beat until well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk heavy cream until medium stiffness peaks form. Fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture in 3 additions, making sure whipped cream is fully incorporated for each addition.

**Here you should assemble the parts of the tart that you have. Pour the caramel into the crust and then carefully spread peanut butter mousse over the caramel, ensuring that the layers don't mix. You can also refrigerate the crust with the caramel sauce for 30 minutes to ensure no mixing of layers. After you add the peanut butter, refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Chocolate Ganache:
8oz semisweet chocolate
1c heavy cream

In small saucepan, bring heavy cream to a simmer over med-high heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate to the cream and let sit for 1 minute. Whisk until completely combined. Pour ganache over peanut butter mousse layer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Really involved process, but totally worth it! Enjoy!

P.S. I won a $10 gift card for winning the dessert contest!

Halloween Baking

For the Halloween party I attended, I baked a few goodies to share. First was a round Spiderweb version of the King Arthur Fudgy Brownie (recipe HERE). I made the brownie recipe and poured it into a greased 9" springform pan. I then made a mixture of the following:

4oz cream cheese
1 egg yolk
1T flour
2T powdered sugar

I put the mixture in a Ziplock sandwich bag and snipped a very small part of the corner off (about 3mm). I piped the cream cheese mixture first into the center and then in concentric circles out from the center. I then took a knife and dragged lines radiating out from the center. I used the remaining cream cheese mixture to draw lines over the knife drags. Baked for 35 minutes at 350F. The result was this:

The second treat I decided to try was the pumpkin whoopie pie. I've been noticing that whoopie pies are all the rage on blogs lately so I made some for the party. They were pretty delicious, I must admit. Next time I will use a smaller cookie scoop, though, because these were ginormous:

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (from King Arthur Flour):

1/2c butter, softened
1/2c vegetable oil
2c firmly packed brown sugar
2T molasses (I used honey because I didn't have molasses)
1t baking powder
1/2t baking soda
1t salt
2t cinnamon
1t ground ginger
1/2t ground nutmeg
1/4t ground cloves
2lg eggs
1 1/2c (one 15oz can) pumpkin
2 1/4c flour

Preheat to 375F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat together butter, oil, sugar, molasses, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Scrap side and bottom of bowl to ensure all ingredients are fully incorporated. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in the pumpkin. Add the flour in 2 additions, mixing well after each one. Scoop batter onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet and space about 2 in apart. Bake about 15 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.

1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese
4T butter, softened
1t vanilla
2c powdered sugar

Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.

Once cookies are cool, pipe filling onto a cookie and then press another cookie on top. To store, wrap in plastic wrap and keep in an airtight container.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween 2010!

Halloween is my favorite holiday but for some reason I'm always super busy in October and have yet to realize my extravagant costume dreams. This year I was just a generic character from True Blood. I ordered the Fangtasia t-shirt from and hot some red heels to match and painted on bite marks with fake blood. Here are some pictures of my friends and I in costume:
LOVE True Blood:

70s guy, Baker, Waldo:

The baker with a Girl Scout:

Me and the injured Romo (taken out by the GIANTS btw):

The baker, oven, and bun :) *Cutest costume award

Me and David Hasselhoff circa Baywatch *Best look-alike award

The ladies: Me, A Convict, Oven and Bun, Half of the double rainbow *Most Clever Award, Girl Scout, Freddy Kruger, and Raggedy Ann:

I hope everyone had a great Halloween!