Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best of Marzipan 2010

The year is winding down and it's time to look back on 2010 and reflect on drool over the past year's posts. It was a good year! So good, that some of these recipes deserve some awards, so drumroll please...

The 5 most-viewed 2010 Marzipan recipes are:

Banana Cupcakes with Pastry Cream

Also, I voted and decided on the following awards for 2010:

Best of 2010 1

Most Beautiful Dessert: Lemon Curd Fruit Tart

Best Comfort Dessert: Creamy Rice Pudding

Best of 2010 2

Best Dessert which can disguise itself as Breakfast: Blueberry Crumb Cake

Best of 2010 3

Most Delicious Savory Dish : Lemon and Basil Pasta

Best of 2010 4

Best Cupcake: The Hostess

Best New Cookie: Melomakarona

Best of 2010 5

Best New Cake: The Grasshopper Cake

Most frequently repeated in my baking repertoire: Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

That's it! Let's toast to a Grand New Year and lots of new and tasty recipes!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Brown Sugar and Spice Stars

Brown Sugar and Spice Stars

It's time for relaxing after a busy holiday season. That means time again for afternoon tea and cookies. This cookie is one of my all-time favorites and it's perfect for dipping in tea. It's a crunchy cookie with lots of cinnamon and a bit of cloves. They last for weeks in an airtight container and get better with age. I don't know why, but I always make these in a star shape. I brush them with a little egg white and sprinkle turbinado sugar on them before baking. This step adds a little more crunch and dresses them up, eliminating the need to add an icing or decoration.

Put these on your Christmas cookie tray, but save a few for those recovery days after the holidays!

Cookie Tray

Are you a dunker?? If so, here are more great cookies for dunking:

Melomakarona (walnut stuffed honey soaked cookies)
Homemade Oreos (best dipped in milk!)

Brown Sugar and Spice Cookies

1 cup firmly packed Light Brown Sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (or nutmeg if you prefer)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with Silpats or parchment.

Beat brown sugar and butter in large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until creamy. Stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and salt; gradually add to sugar mixture. Beat until combined.

On well-floured surface, roll out half of dough at a time to 1/8-1/4 inch thickness. Cut into shapes with floured cookie cutters. Bake on prepared cookie sheets 12-15 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Marzipan Christmas!

Cupcake Ornament

I talked with my mom on the phone the other day and she said, "I know you're busy because we haven't seen anything new on your blog."

That's right, I've been busy baking cookies for neighbors, cakes for Christmas celebrations, and toffee for gifts. I just haven't had the time to share it with you, or take pictures, and after Christmas you probably won't want to see another cookie post for another 10 months!

I did make time to sew by hand these adorable cupcake ornaments made of felt and embroidery thread for my soul sisters Handmade Christmas Ornament Exchange right down to the handmade packaging and toffee.

Other things we've been doing:

Listening to 3rd graders play Christmas Strings at the Wintergarden at PPG Place in Pittsburgh...

and skating at the PPG outdoor skating rink...


and drinking hot chocolate...
Winter 2010

and decorating Christmas trees...

Christmas 2010

and touring bakeries in New York City (I'll be posting more on that!)...

Winter 2010

I'd love to hear what festive activities you've been doing this busy month!

Happy Holidays from the Marzipan Kitchen!

Winter 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How to Make Any Cheesecake Recipe into Cheesecake Bars


Want to make this Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake or your favorite cheesecake recipe into smaller bite-sized pieces? If you are offering more than one type of dessert, smaller pieces mean your guests won't have to fill up on one rich slice of cheesecake and instead can take a sampling of all there is to offer. It's a good thing.

(These can also be made ahead and frozen - in fact, I prefer to eat them 5 minutes out of the freezer about halfway between frozen and thawed - yummy!)

Here's how it's done:

1. Line your 9x13 pan with parchment paper so that the parchment is hanging over both long sides of the pan. Use a large paper clip to secure the parchment to the rim of the pan. The parchment will make it easier to lift the cheesecake out of the pan to cut it after it's been frozen and the paper clips keep the parchment from touching the top of the unbaked cheesecake filling.

2. Make 1 1/2 times the crust and press it evenly into the 9x13 pan.  Bake as directed in the recipe for about the same amount of time. Keep an eye on the crust. It should be only lightly browned around the edges. You could also use (2) 8x8 or 9x9 pans, dividing the crust and filling between the two, but adjust the baking time to compensate for the smaller pans.

3. Have ready a large roasting pan that the 9x13 pan will fit inside of. This will be for the water bath. I tried to bake one without the water bath and it was a complete flop, so I highly recommend using a water bath even if you have to borrow a roasting pan from a neighbor.

4. Heat a teapot of water while you make the filling.

5. Place the 9x13 pan into the roasting pan and make the filling as directed (no need to increase the filling amount as you did for the crust).

6. Pour the filling over the crust and place the roasting pan on your middle oven rack. Pour hot water into the roasting pan until it comes about halfway up the sides of the 9x13 pan. Bake at 325 degrees F. Check for doneness in about 45 minutes (less for smaller pans). The cheesecake is done when it is just ever-so-slightly wobbly in the center. This could take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour or more. Just keep checking it by wiggling the pan every so often and see how much it jiggles in the middle. Remove from the oven and run a knife all the way around the sides of the pan and then allow the cheesecake to cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least two hours or overnight.

7. After the cheesecake is frozen, lift it out of the pan using the parchment paper as handles onto a large cutting board. Using a sharp chef's knife or serrated bread knife, cut the cheesecake into squares. Wipe the knife or rinse it with hot water between cuts to make the cuts clean and neat. Place the squares into mini cupcake liners and either re-freeze up to 2 weeks or refrigerate up to three days in an airtight container.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake

If you're looking for a great make-ahead dessert for the holidays, look no further! Make this creamy pumpkin cheesecake, let it cool to room temperature and then wrap and freeze it, right in the springform pan if you want. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and you've got yourself an impressive dessert with no last minute prep - maybe just a dollop of freshly whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon to top it off.

This cheesecake is so creamy and light, your guests will have a hard time believing that there is even cream cheese in it. I have made this recipe using both crusts and they are both wonderful. The ginger pecan pastry crust makes the cheesecake a little more like a pumpkin pie while the gingersnap crust gives a more sandy texture to the crust which pairs nicely with the creamy spiced filling.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Ginger-Pecan Pastry Crust or Gingersnap Crust
adapted slightly from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle

(makes one 9-inch cheesecake)

For the Ginger-Pecan Pastry Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger (or use 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger if you want a more pronounced ginger flavor)
1/3 cup pecans
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold & cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tbsp cold water

For the Gingersnap Crust
1 1/2 cups finely crushed gingersnaps (I used a food processor)
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar

For the filling
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp allspice (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 lbs cream cheese, at room temperature (it is very important that the cream cheese be soft before you start the recipe)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
4 large eggs, at room temp.

Position oven rack in the center and preheat oven to 350F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x3 inch springform pan. Wrap the outside of the pan with 2-3 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil. Trust me, this is an important step to prevent a soggy cheesecake. Have ready a large roasting pan that the springform pan will fit into and put your teapot on the stove and start heating up some water for the water bath.

If making the ginger-pecan pastry crust:
Place the flour, sugar, salt, ginger, and pecans in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the pecans are finely ground. Add the cold butter cubes and pulse until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add the cold water slowly until the dough just comes together. Press the dough into the bottom of your prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the crust just starts to brown. Cool crust completely on a wire rack.

If making the gingersnap crust:
Place the cookies in a food processor and process the cookies to fine crumbs. Measure out 1 1/2 cups and place them in a bowl. Add the melted butter and sugar and stir until combined. Press the crumb mixture evenly into the bottom of the springform pan, pressing with the bottom of a flat-bottomed measuring cup to pack it down and make it level. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until fragrant and slightly browned.

To make the filling
Reduce oven temperature to 325F. In a bowl, whisk together pumpkin, heavy cream, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium-low speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugars and beat on low speed until smooth, scraping the side of the bowl a few times as necessary. Mix in the pumpkin mixture, then add the cornstarch and mix until just blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and do a final mix by hand to make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated.

Pour the filling in the cooled crust. Set the foil-wrapped springform pan in a large roasting pan. Carefully pour enough hot water into the large pan to come 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 70 to 80 minutes until the center is set but still a bit wobbly.

Remove cheesecake from water bath to a cooling rack. Carefully remove the foil and run a thin knife tip around the edge of the cake. This will loosen the cake and help prevent the top from cracking. Cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate the cooled cheesecake overnight or freeze up to one month.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Cookies!

Christmas Cookies

It's officially the Christmas season and the countdown begins! We got our first dusting of snow this morning so it finally feels like the real deal! We're all super busy this time of year, so I thought I'd put all my cookie recipes in one place to make them easier for you and me to find.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Make and Freeze...Applesauce


Our new house has four huge oak trees on the property. Two are registered more than 200 years old and the other two are probably as old as our 80-year-old house. These oaks produce a ton of acorns and the squirrels have been scurrying around trying to collect what they can before winter settles in.

As I watch the squirrels do their thing, it occurred to me that I'm a little like that too. I hoard seasonal foods when they are plentiful and store them in my freezers to eat all winter long. When strawberries are plentiful, I'm freezing bags and bags of them to use in smoothies. When tomatoes are abundant, I make and freeze tomato puree for use in soups and sauces, and I freeze pizza sauce and marinara sauce in containers just the right size to serve my family one meal. I freeze raspberries for pies, locally raised chickens for roasting and local organic beef in 40-pound installments. I've got two full upright freezers and two refrigerator freezers and they're nice and full this time of year.

I thought some of you might be interested in some basic freezing advice and so I'm starting a new series called "Make and Freeze". Here I will highlight recipes and techniques for freezing foods that are in season for use throughout the year. If you have anything to add, or if you do it a little differently, I'd love to hear about it in your comments! So grab a bunch of apples and let's make and freeze some applesauce!

Choose your apples...
To make smooth applesauce, choose an apple variety which is soft and sweet such as Macintosh (used here), Galas or Fuji, or use any combination of these or other varieties of apples. If you're looking for more information, lists many of the varieties of apples and what they are best used for.

Prepare the apples...
Wash the apples in a tub of water, quarter them and remove the core. Some may think it's not necessary to remove the core, but I like to remove it just to be sure there won't be any hard bits of core that end up in the sauce. If you have a food mill, you can leave the skins on which will save you a lot of time. If you do not have a food mill, you can peel the apples and use a food processor or even a potato masher after the apples have been cooked.

Making Applesauce

Cook the apples...
Place the apples in a large stock pot and add just enough water or apple cider to coat the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching. I added about 1/4 cup of water. Place a tight-fitting lid on the pot and cook over med-high heat. Stir once or twice in the beginning until the apples start to release their juices, then lower the heat to medium and keep the lid on until the apples are completely steamed through. This might take 15 to 20 minutes or so.

Making Applesauce

When the apples are cooked, the applesauce aroma will start to fill the kitchen and they should look like the photo below. Give the apples one more stir to feel for any apples which are not quite cooked. If you feel any uncooked apple chunks, cook for another 5 minutes or so with the lid on until all the apples are soft.

Making Applesauce

Mash the apples...
While still hot, spoon the apples into a food mill. I use the disc with medium holes since I like my applesauce not too chunky and not too smooth. If you have peeled your apples, you can let them cool a bit and use a food processor or simply mash them with a potato masher right in the pot.

Making Applesauce

Kids love to help turn the crank on the food mill so if you've got any kids around, put them to work! Here are the apples - skins and all - ready for milling.

Making Applesauce

After the apples go through the mill, they will look like this.

Making Applesauce

Sweeten and spice up your applesauce...
While the applesauce is still hot, you can add the cinnamon and sugar if you like. I prefer to leave them unsweetened these days, but if you want to add sugar,  add it when the sauce is still warm so the sugar will dissolve completely. Add just a little at a time and taste it as you go until the applesauce is just as sweet as you like it.  

Making Applesauce

Do the same for the cinnamon. Cinnamon is not optional in my opinion, and if you add cinnamon, you might find you don't need to add as much sugar.  I like plenty of cinnamon, but you could omit it or add it later if you prefer.

Making Applesauce

Contain and freeze your applesauce...
Place your applesauce in containers and let them cool to room temperature with the lids off until they come to room temperature or are just slightly warm, then cover and freeze. I love these Ziploc square quart-size containers. They stack nice and neat in the freezer and hold just the right amount to serve our family of 5 with dinner. A half bushel yielded about 10 quarts of applesauce and I filled about 3 stockpots full of uncooked apples.

Making Applesauce

Be sure to label the containers with the contents and the date. This applesauce is so much more flavorful and thicker than the applesauce from the supermarket.  If you've got extra apples, make a little or a lot and freeze the extra.

Making Applesauce

Eat your applesauce...
I like to add just a sprinkling more cinnamon just for good measure!

Making Appplesauce

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Cookies

Happy Thanksgiving!

A little Thanksgiving Trivia for you to ponder as you sit down to eat your Thanksgiving dinner...

Sarah Josepha Hale, born in New Hampshire in 1788, was a teacher, a writer, and a supporter of women's rights. She was also a single mother of five children after her husband died during the pregnancy of their fifth child. She spent 40 years writing to congressmen, lobbying five presidents, and writing numerous editorials in her campaign to create an national official day of thanks. Before then, it was only celebrated in New England states. President Lincoln was the first president to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 as a result of Sarah's efforts. Thank you Sarah Hale!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Melomakarona - Walnut Stuffed Honey Cookies


Melomakarona is a Greek walnut-filled spiced cookie soaked in honey. They are flavored with cinnamon, cloves, and orange zest. According to Aglaia Kremezi in her cookbook The Foods of the Greek Islands, Melomakarona are a popular cookie made year-round all over Greece and especially at Christmas.


They're odd-looking cookies, but one bite and you get over it. They are really good! They are even better alongside a cup of tea. The only thing that might improve afternoon tea and a Melomakarona cookie is actually being on one of the Greek Islands while having tea and cookies! Maybe someday...


Melomakarona (Mel-o-MAK-re-na)
(Walnut Stuffed Honey Cookies)
adapted slightly from The Foods of the Greek Islands by Aglaia Kremezi

1 1/4 cups light olive oil or a combination of olive oil, canola oil, and/or safflower oil
1/3 cup sugar
grated zest of one orange
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3-4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups fine semolina flour
1/2 cup brandy
grated zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups water

In a large bowl, beat the oil and sugar with an electric mixer until blended. Beat in the orange zest and juice. In a medium bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour and the baking powder. Gradually beat the flour mixture into the oil mixture. Beat in the semolina, brandy, lemon zest, cloves and cinnamon. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding 1 cup or more flour as necessary to obtain a smooth, soft, oily dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Make the filling by combining the walnuts, cinnamon and sugar in a medium bowl.

Take pieces of dough the size of a small egg and roll with your hands into ovals, about 2 1/2 inches long. Push three fingers into the bottom of each cookie to make an opening, and stuff with 1 teaspoon of the filling. Press the dough to close the opening. Slightly flatten each cookie and if you like, make an indentation on the top with the tines of a fork. Place the cookies on ungreased baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Set aside any remaining filling.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until they just start to color. Allow the cookies to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, make the syrup: In a medium saucepan, simmer the sugar, honey and water for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Place the cookies in a large dish or baking pan that holds them snugly, and pour the hot syrup over them. Let stand for 15 minutes. Turn the cookies to moisten the other sides and let stand until the cookies have absorbed all the syrup. Place the remaining filling on a plate and roll each cookie in it to coat on all sides. Place the cookies in an airtight container, with parchment or waxed paper between each layer. Let stand for at least 1 day before serving. Store for up to 1 month.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Mini Tartlets with Sea Salt

Chocolate Caramel Tartlets

Sweet and salty is all the rage right now and these bite-sized Chocolate Caramel Tartlets with Sea Salt are an impressive addition to your chocolate sampler tray next to your Chocolate Raspberry Truffles and Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons.

If you've tried your hand at ganache, caramel, and pastry then these will be a snap to make. If you haven't mastered these yet, then these tartlets are a good reason to try these techniques again. Use a 9" tart pan if you're not into making dozens of tiny tart shells.

I've had these little mini tartlet molds ever since I took a cooking class in a little local kitchen shop about 15 years ago. I'm embarassed to say that this is the first time I've used them. But then again, I got a little busy in those 15 years...(my kids are 14, 11, and 8!)

The tartlet shells are a sweet pate sucree dough. I pricked to bottoms with a fork to eliminate the possibility of air pockets. No need for pie weights with a shell this small but if you are making a larger tart, bake the shell for half the total baking time lined with parchment and pie weights, then remove the paper and weights and continue baking until golden brown.

I thought the tart shells looked just like sunflowers...

Chocolate Caramel Tartlets

Spoon in the caramel filling...

Chocolate Caramel Tartlets

And then top with chocolate ganache and a sprinkling of gourmet sea salt. I picked up this pink Himalayan Sea Salt at Marshall's. If you look closely, you can see a hint of pink.

Chocolate Caramel Tartlets

Place your chocolate goodies on a pretty platter. Now who could resist these?

Chocolate Caramel Tart with Sea Salt
Makes one 9-inch tart or about 24 mini tartlets
Note: to make the mini tart shells, I cut circles out of the rolled-out dough and worked the dough into the tartlet molds. Prick the bottoms with a fork and bake until golden, about 8-10 minutes.

1 9-inch pre-baked pate sucree tart shell or 24 mini tart shells

for the chocolate ganache:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream

Sea Salt for garnish

Place the chocolate into a medium heat-proof bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until just boiling. Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate and let it sit for one minute. Stir with a rubber spatula or whisk in a small, quick circular motion, starting in the center of the bowl and working your way out until the ganache is shiny and all the chocolate has melted.

Assemble the tart:
Pour enough caramel into the tart shell to come up about 1/3 of the way up the sides of the tart shell. Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes to harden the caramel. Pour the chocolate ganache over the caramel to fill about 2/3 of the tart shell. Sprinkle with sea salt and allow to set for 30 minutes in the refrigerator or 2 hours at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons

It's chocolate week here at Marzipan and I'm highlighting the best of the chocolate goodies I made for a friend's Wine, Cheese, and Chocolate Party. When choosing the menu, I wanted a variety of chocolatey things - some intensely chocolate, like Chocolate Raspberry Truffles, and some with just a bit of chocolate, like these coconut macaroons. Coconut is the star in these delicious cookies and the chocolate just dresses them up a bit. They'll give your chocolate tray a little texture and contrast.

When I made these, a bit of the egg mixture came out around the bottom of the cookies while baking. This has happened to me before with other macaroon recipes - it might be the type of coconut I use. If this happens to you, just cut around the bottom of the cookie (I used a round cookie cutter just the right size) after the cookie has cooled.

Coconut Macaroons
from Luscious Coconut Desserts by Lori Longbotham via Tish Boyle

1 ½ cups granulated sugar
5 large egg whites
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
4 cups shredded unsweetened dried coconut
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, plus one 2-inch chunk of shiny, well-tempered chocolate

Make the cookies:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two large baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
2. Whisk together the sugar, egg whites, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl until well combined. Add the coconut and stir until well combined. Drop the batter by packed level tablespoons onto the baking sheets using a medium cookie scoop, leaving an inch between cookies.
3. Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, or until an even golden brown and dry looking. Let cool completely on the baking sheets on wire racks.
4. To temper the chocolate and dip the macaroons: Melt the chopped chocolate in a bowl set over barely simmering water and stirring frequently (do not let the chocolate go above 120°F.) Add the chunk of well-tempered chocolate. Place the bowl in a cool place and let cool, stirring frequently, to 84°F. Return the bowl to its position over the hot water and stir until it thins slightly and reaches 90°F (but not higher—watch the chocolate carefully at this point).
5. Dip the bottoms of the cooled macaroons into the tempered chocolate, shake off the excess, and place the macaroons chocolate-side down on parchment-lined sheets. Let stand until chocolate sets.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chocolate Raspberry Truffles

Raspberry Truffles

When is the last time you threw a real party? For us it's been quite a while. Of course we've had friends over for summer campfires and we've had family at the house for small birthday parties. A small party doesn't need to be fussy - some wine, a simple, delicious dinner and dessert doesn't require that much planning or energy.

But I can't remember the last time we had a "50 of your closest friends, neighbors, and co-workers party". We've been busy moving and doing new house stuff and old house stuff and kids' school stuff... oh, and working. We're just too exhausted to do anything else.

But one of our new neighbors threw a party like that last weekend. It was a "wine, cheese, and chocolate" party. She hired a caterer for the savory stuff, bought the wine, made adorable fall themed wine glass charms and made up the cheese plates herself, and asked me to help with the chocolate portion. So I hope you don't mind if the next few posts revolve around bite-sized chocolate goodies. (I didn't think so!)

So, first up....Raspberry Truffles! My first attempt at tempering chocolate and my thermometer goes on the blitz...actually two of my thermometers went on the blitz during my chocolate week, but all turned out ok in the end.

Raspberry Truffles

These truffles are flavored with strained raspberry jam and chambord. Of all the chocolate goodies I made for the party, these were the most time consuming, but well worth it!

Chocolate Raspberry Truffles

7 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (I used Callebeaut semi-sweet)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons strained raspberry jam
1 tablespoon Chambord or other raspberry-flavored liqueur
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Tempered chocolate for dipping
Pink sugar crystals for garnish
Mini cupcake liners (these are made by Reynolds and can be found in the supermarket)

Bring the heavy cream just to a boil and pour it over the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Whisk until shiny and chocolate has melted completely. Stir in the jam, Chambord, and vanilla. Cover the bowl and chill at least 45 minutes. With a small ice cream scoop, make rounds of chocolate and place them on a baking sheet. Chill for another 45 minutes or freeze until ready to dip. Dip in tempered chocolate and sprinkle on the sugar crystals before the chocolate sets. After the chocolate has set, then transfer the truffles to mini cupcake liners. Store in the refrigerator.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How to Make Homemade Hostess Cupcakes

Making Hostess Cupcakes

These cupcakes are so incredible! (Read: these are nothing like the store bought ones.) And I'm going to teach you my method for making them. I love to share my recipes and I don't believe in keeping recipes secret - until it came to this recipe, that is. I'm not sure why, but this recipe is so perfect and so special that I didn't want to share. But I'm over it, so consider this your lucky day!

{I don't generally have the patience to take step-by-step photos, but I thought I'd try it here because frankly, I don't know how I'd explain the process using only words. Some of the photos are a little blurry, but hopefully you'll get the idea. I have whole new respect for you bloggers who take a picture of every step of a recipe!}

Making Hostess Cupcakes

First, make the retro vanilla filling and the chocolate glaze (recipes follow). These can be made a day ahead. Then bake your cupcakes. The recipe below makes about 45 cupcakes. You want a nice flat cupcake, not a domed one. The secret is not to fill the liners too full - 1/2 to 2/3 full at the most. It's always tempting to fill the liners a bit more, but please try to resist!

Making Hostess Cupcakes

After the cupcakes are completely cool, take a thin knife - this $5 Rada tomato knife is perfect - and cut at an angle, with the point of the knife near the bottom center of the cupcake, all the way around until you've cut an upside-down cone shape out of the cupcake. 

Making Hostess Cupcakes

See how it comes to a point at the bottom?

Making Hostess Cupcakes

Holding the cone with the pointed end up, slice off the pointed end with your knife. You'll end up with just the top layer of the cupcake plug. Discard the cutaway scraps. Rest the "lid" on top of your cupcake and cut the remaining cupcakes in the same manner.

Making Hostess Cupcakes

Here are the cupcakes all ready to be filled.

Making Hostess Cupcakes

Fit a piping bag with a coupler and a medium-sized round tip and fill the bag with your vanilla retro filling.

Making Hostess Cupcakes

Fill the hole with filling ...

Making Hostess Cupcakes

...and replace the top of the cupcake. Press down lightly on the top.

Making Hostess Cupcakes

Your cupcake will now look like this.

Making Hostess Cupcakes

Dollop a spoonful of chocolate glaze on the top of the cupcake and spread it out with a small spatula or butter knife. Let this set for a few minutes before decorating.

Making Hostess Cupcakes

Swap the tip of your piping bag filled with retro filling to a small round tip - around size 3 or so. Using a coupler on the piping bag makes it easy to change tips. Then pipe the characteristic squiggly on top,

Hostess Cupcakes with Chocolate Espresso Glaze

or pipe whatever you like - an initial, stripes, dots, whatever tickles your fancy.

Sloat Cupcakes

I'm pretty sure I could open a shop that sold only these cupcakes and it would be a roaring success...

Eating Hostess Cupcakes

But for now I'll settle for just eating them. Oh, and grab a fork - they're oooey, gooey, and delicious - the perfect meld of vanilla and chocolate with a hint of espresso!

Chocolate Cake
from Sky High by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne
Makes a 9-inch triple layer cake, Serves 16-20

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups hot, strongly brewed coffee
2 eggs
1 cup real mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment and spray the parchment with cooking spray.
2. Brew the strong coffee. While the coffee is brewing, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and cinnamon and set aside.
3. Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Bring the milk to a simmer. Pour the hot coffee and milk over the chocolate and let stand for a minute. Then whisk the mixture until smooth and set aside to cool slightly.
4. In a mixer bowl, beat together the eggs, mayonnaise, and vanilla until well blended. Gradually beat in the sugar. Add the dry ingredients and mocha liquid alternately in 2 or 3 additions, beating until smooth and well blended. Divide the batter among the 3 cake pans.
5. Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out almost clean. (I also lightly press a finger on top of the cake and if it springs back, it's done.) Let the cakes cool in their pans on wire racks for 10-15 minutes. Unmold onto racks; carefully peel off the parchment and let cool completely, at least one hour.
6. To assemble the cake, place one layer on a cake stand. Cover the top evenly with half the White Chocolate Mousse, leaving a 1/4 -inch margin around the edge. Repeat with the second layer and the remaining mousse. Set the third layer on top and pour half the Sour Cream Chocolate Icing over the filled cake. Spread all over the sides and top. Don't worry if some of the cake shows through. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the icing to set. Cover the rest of the icing and set aside at room temperature.
7. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining icing, which should have the consistency of mayonnaise. If the icing is too soft, chill briefly. If it is too stiff, microwave on high for just 2-3 seconds to soften, then stir to mix well. Use an offset spatula to swirl the frosting around the cake.

Retro Vanilla Filling

1/4 pound or one stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup or 2oz powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt and blend well. Add the marshmallow cream and beat only until combined. Store at room temperature.

Chocolate Glaze

8 ounces or 1 cup sugar
3 ounces espresso
1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup or 1 ounce unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup or 2 sticks butter

In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and espresso to a boil. Whisk in the chocolates, cocoa powder, and salt until smooth.

Place the mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. On low speed, add the corn syrup and butter. Beat until smooth and cool. Store at room temperature. The mixture should be somewhat liquid so that it makes a smooth icing on the cupcake, but not so runny that it drips down the sides. If it is too stiff, you can microwave it for about 10 seconds once or twice until it is the correct consistency.


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