Monday, July 21, 2014

Margarita Cupcakes

Time to bring on the booooze to this little blog, my friends.




Tequila is definitely my drink of choice, because I love all of the yummy citrus that goes with it. I have been wanting to make some variant of a cocktail cupcake for quite a while now, and I'm always saving different recipes I find to experiment with (so many recipes to try, so little time). Somehow now is when I am just getting down to it (though, summer is the bestttt time for this particular thing anyways... so go me!).


The other day I got home from work with a major urge to bake (pretty normal feeling for me, no weirdness there). I work at a women's gym, and a large chunk of my time when I'm not cleaning/organizing is spent perusing the interwebs for baking ideas.


My family had just gone grocery shopping that day, anddd tequila was one of their purchases.
I instantly remembered finding a few different recipes for Margarita Cupcakes on Pinterest, and voilá!
They had to be made.


They turned out surprisingly yummy (which is always the best feeling). The cake is so perfectly lime-y and tangy with a nice tender crumb, and the frosting is fluffy like air, but with a nice balanced sweetness verse the lime and tequila.


These guys would be absolutely perfect for dessert on a taco night, Cinco de Mayo, or just as a sweet treat to end a ladies night full of other boozy fun. :)


Tequila-Lime Cupcakes: (Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker) Yield: 12ish cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temp
1.5 limes, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons tequila (plus 1 tablespoon for brushing)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk

Tequila-Lime Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Adapted from Jason and Shawnda)

2 cups granulated sugar
8 egg whites
12 ounces unsalted butter (3 sticks), room temp
2 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 to 2 tablespoons tequila


To Make the Cupcakes:
Prepare your cupcake tin with liners, and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter until creamy and pale in color (about 5 minutes). Then add in the eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Add the tequila, lime juice/zest and vanilla all at once and mix on low until combined (it may start to look separated and yucky at this point, but just keep going, it turns out fine).

On low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 batches alternating with the buttermilk (added in twice). Mix until just combined. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl again.

Divide the batter into your cupcake tin, and bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out with only a few crumbs. Let cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan, and while they are still warm, brush the tops with the extra tablespoon of tequila.


To Make the Buttercream:
Place your stand mixer bowl over a small pot of simmering water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). Whisk together the sugar and egg whites over the bain marie until the sugar dissolves and it reaches 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

With the stand mixer and whisk attachment, beat the sugar/egg whites on high speed until cooled and thick/glossy stiff-peaked meringue forms (about 10 minutes). Switch to the paddle attachment, and add the butter one bit at a time on medium speed.

If the buttercream starts to break just keep beating it (you may need to do some extra maneuvering to get it to the right consistency). Add the lime juice and tequila, and beat on high until it comes back together and is a smooth delectable buttercream.

Assembly:
Using whatever tip you prefer (I used a Wilton open-star 827 tip), pipe the frosting over the cakes. Top with lime zest, sliced lime and salt (or however you'd like to garnish it).


Line up some salt, some lime wedges, and shots of tequila...
That's pretty much what these delicious little cakes are reminiscent of.
(Only...Duh, these are wayyyy better).


Boozy desserts are so fun.
This might become a thing here on this little blog. 
Watch out!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Meyer Lemon Popsicles with Berries

Helloooo summer, officially (as of yesterday). 


One of the best things about coming home for summer is all of the fun baking and cooking I get to do with my family.


My dad has a really beautiful garden full of all sorts of goodies to bake with, and one of the best items to harvest there for baking etc. are his Meyer lemons.



The flavor of Meyer lemon is so perfect for lemonade/pops because it is naturally more sweet than Eureka lemons, and has this extra oomph of special lemon-y-ness (yes, that is a technical term) that I looove.


I typically like my lemon desserts on the more tart side, and that worked perfectly in balance with these refreshing popsicles. The berries add a nice texture to bite into and contrast to the tartness of the lemon.


Popsicles are incredibly easy to make and so versatile, you can change these up in any combination of flavors you'd like.

Simple Syrup:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a low boil and cook until the sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool before use. Should make about 1 1/3 cups.


Popsicle Base (Lemonade):
1 cup Meyer lemon juice
1 cup simple syrup (recipe above)
4-5 cups water (depending on your taste)
Handful of blackberries and raspberries (or any fruit you prefer)
Popsicle molds

Mix together all of the ingredients into a large pitcher. Chill until ready to freeze, or pour directly into popsicle molds. Add the fruit in whatever combination you prefer. Transfer to freezer until firm (at least 3 hours).


So simple and yummy. And if you run out of popsicle molds 
(like I did) you can just drink the extra Lemonade. With mint. Yum.


I think my next dabble in popsicles will be based on a cocktail! 
Ya know...it's summer. Live a little. :)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Apple Pie Cookies

Hey y'all. I'm baaaack! It's unbelievable that my last post was in April...I have been quite busy these past two months, explaining my prolonged blog absence.


It feels like just a few days ago that all this happened, but alas time is flying by just like usual: way too fast.

I finished my final semester. I graduated from college (...still processing that crazy fact). I went to Israel for over two weeks (whole 'nother story for another time, which will include more Challah and Rugelach recipes).


Now I'm back in the San Francisco bay area...and today I start my culinary classes!! The long anticipated wait for going to culinary school is finally over. I'm so much beyond excited.

Anyways...so the pie cookies. In honor of Father's Day, I decided to try a new recipe! I do not know for the life of me how my family hasn't thought to make these before.


Cookies and pie are like the two most prized baked items in our family repertoire, and combining them?! GENIUS.


I have always been a lover of pie crust. There are stories told to this day of me going around the pies at Thanksgiving when I was like six, and snagging the crust off the Pumpkin pie while no one was looking. It was always the best part! Especially if it had a little bit of the pumpkin filling on it. Nom.


These pie cookies were maaade for people like me... who are more about the crust than the filling. Don't get me wrong. I love a good whole slice of pie, but the crust is always where the allure is.

These guys are just the right ratio of filling to crust that would be expected if you were to make a pie cookie. The all-butter crust is nice and flaky, and there is just enough apple and cinnamon-y flavors to feel like you're having a bite of real apple pie.


Pie lovers...I compel you to give these a go. For real! Your mind will be blown. And if it isn't, then you can't possibly be a true pie lover (hehe, sorry...pie snob aficionado typing here). Even if you don't love pie, try them anyway. I honestly can say you won't be disappointed.

Apple Pie Cookies: (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

For the Crust:
2.5 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cubed and very cold
1/2 cup very cold water

Filling:
3 apples (whatever variety you prefer, I used Granny Smith)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of pumpkin spice

Topping:
1 egg for egg wash, whisked together in a small bowl with a splash of water
Coarse sugar for garnish

Make the dough: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter, and work into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter until the butter is about pea-sized. Dribble in the water, and mix with a rubber spatula (or your hands) until it just comes together. Form into a ball, and cut in half. Wrap in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before rolling out.

Prepare your cinnamon sugar mixture for the apples while the dough is chilling. Also prepare your egg wash if you have not done so. After your dough has chilled, turn it out onto a well floured work surface until about 1/8th inch thick. Using a 2.5 inch round cookie/biscuit cutter, cut out rounds of dough. Transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet, and chill in the refrigerator while cutting the apples, until assembling.


Peel your apples, and cut into 1/8th inch slices until you hit the core. Repeat on the opposite side of the apple. Then using a 1.5 inch cookie/biscuit cutter, slice little disks of apples to put inside the dough disks.


Assembly: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Dip your apple slices in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Wet the bottom round of the pie-lets with a little bit of water (use your fingertips), then place on the apple slice. Seal the top round over the apple and bottom, and use your fingers to pinch the edges. If one pan is finished, stick them back in the refrigerator to chill while you assemble the rest.


After all the pies are sandwiched, go around the edges with the tines of a fork. Then using a sharp knife, make some slits in the top of the dough to allow the pies to breathe. Paint the tops with a light layer of egg wash, drizzle with the coarse sugar. Bake for 25 minutes on parchment lined cookie sheets until the tops are golden.


While having to assemble each pie-let can seem a little more time intensive than making one single pie, it is so worth the effort. They are so flaky and the perfect sweet little snack when you're craving something pie-like.


Summer is here, and pie is a seasonal MUST. 
Why not mix it up with a relatively easy spin on a classic? 


:) I'm oh so pleased, and my sneaking suspicion is that you will be too!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mexican Hot Cocoa Thumbprint Cookies with Spicy Dulce de Leche

I cannot believe we are so close to it being May. Seriously. Where did this year go? I feel like it was just a couple months ago that I was finishing my semester in Spain and getting ready for my travel adventures across Europe. It's been almost a whole year already since then!


In just a few short weeks I finish my undergrad and graduate! Then four days after graduation I fly to Israel! AHH. I will be doing a 10 day Birthright-Taglit trip, and staying an extra week afterwards to travel around with my sister and friends. To fast forward to then (past final exams, projects, papers...wahhh) would be absolutely wonderful.


This month we are making Cinco de Mayo cookies for the Creative Cookie Exchange! I figured, chocolate, cayenne, cinnamon, dulce de leche...where can ya go wrong?


I've always been intrigued by making cookies with hot chocolate mix, so I thought I could incorporate the Mexican-Chocolate flavors with these guys as thumbprints. The dough was definitely a different texture than normal cookie dough, but they worked just fine with extra chilling in the freezer.



The cookies are slightly fluffy in texture, and while the cinnamon and cayenne are not overwhelming flavors against the chocolate, the tingle from the pepper definitely builds up with each bite. Such a fun way to literally spice up plain chocolate!

Ingredients:

Cookies- Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate
2 cups flour
1/4 cup hot cocoa mix
1 1/2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

In a small saucepan, melt the butter on low heat. Add the chocolate, and stir with a rubber spatula until melted. Set aside to cool for a few moments.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, cayenne, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.

In your stand mixer, beat the sugar and eggs on medium-high until creamy. Add in the vanilla and mix until combined. Then add the dry ingredients and mix on low, adding the chocolate/butter as you mix until everything is incorporated. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

Using a teaspoon, portion out the dough and roll into balls, place them a parchment lined cookie sheet. Using your pinkie make a deep well in the center of each cookie. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Chill in the freezer for about 20 minutes before baking. Bake for 6-10 minutes until set. Let chill on a wire rack before filling.


Spicy Dulce de Leche Filling-
1 can Dulce de Leche (or homemade)
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cinnamon

In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients and cook on low until a nice texture for filling the cookies (smooth, but not too runny). Using a small ziploc or piping bag, fill your mini thumbprints with the Dulce de Leche, and 'garnish' how you like (I just drizzled over some melted chocolate chips).


There ya go. Even with this awful cold I have, I can taste the hints of cinnamon and cayenne verse the chocolate. Super tasty and tingly. :D




The theme this month is Cinco de Mayo - and what better way to celebrate than baking cookies! Creative Cookie Exchange has decided to stop using the linky. What this means is that the only way to join in the fun is to become a host. Just contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes--
be sure to check out our Facebook page, our Pinterest Board, and our monthly posts. 
You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month!

:)

Here's what the other cookie creators have been up to for Cinco de Mayo:

  • Mexican Chocolate Wedding Cookies from Stacy at Food Lust People Love
  • Polvorones con Chocolate from Laura The Spiced Life
  • Feast Day Cookies from Felice at All That’s Left Are The Crumbs
  • Margarita Cookies from Tara at Noshing With The Nolands
  • Cinnamon Coffee Meringue Cookies from Kim at NinjaBaking
  • Cinnamon and Piloncillo Cookies from Renee at Magnolia Days
  • Chocolate Chilli Roll Out Cookies from Jill at Made with Love
  • Dulce de Leche Alfajores from Holly at A Baker’s House
  • Triple Orange Mexican Cookies from Karen at Karen’s Kitchen Stories
  • Ducle de Leche Cookie Bars from Kathya at Basic N Delicious
  • Saturday, April 12, 2014

    Sourdough Challah Mini Braid and Swirls filled with Cinnamon Brown Sugar

    Gosh, I was so excited to tackle this recipe. 


    I grew up making Challah with my dad pretty often as his side of the family is Jewish...but it had been quite a while since I'd made it so I was a little nervous. Plus, the added challenge of using sourdough instead of yeast as the leavener was exciting and a little nerve-wracking.


    I've been keeping Sid (my sourdough starter) in the fridge for the majority of his life up here where I go to school, and feeding him as needed...but I really haven't experimented with him as much as I should. A few things here and there (bread, pancakes). (Yes, Sid is like a third being in our abode. He has a name, gets fed. He's like our mascot.)


    When I was thinking of things to attempt in the sourdough realm, I immediately thought of Challah because I'm going to Israel this summer. I hadn't heard of sourdough Challah before, but when I was looking up recipes I read that it may actually be more similar to the traditional ways of making it back in the day with natural fermentation before yeast!


    I was super frustrated by the braiding process (apparently I suck at braiding anything) but I was able to get a mini 6 strand braid complete. Then I did two snailshell swirls filled with cinnamon brown sugar. SO GOOD.


    The sourness of the bread is juuust right. It's not like you're eating straight up sourdough bread in the shape of Challah. It's slightly sour Challah, still with it's perfect sweetness from the honey. And the crust! Perfect.


    Recipe adapted from: The Fresh Loaf

    Prepping the Starter: (the night before baking)
    2 tablespoons very active sourdough starter (refreshed 8-12 hours before)
    1/3 cup warm water
    About 1 cup bread flour

    Final Dough: (day of baking)
    1/4 cup warm water
    3 eggs, plus 1 for glazing
    1 1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 cup olive oil (or vegetable)
    3 tablespoons honey
    3 cups bread flour

    Filling & Topping:
    3 tablespoons brown sugar
    1 tsp cinnamon
    Poppy seeds or sesame seeds for top

    The Starter: (night before baking)
    In a small mixing bowl, mix together the starter and water. Then stir in the flour. Measure out 1 cup of the new starter mix and place in an airtight container (discard the extra, or save it for another use). Let ferment/rise overnight 8-12 hours. It should triple in volume overnight.

    Final Dough: (day of baking)
    In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, water, salt, oil and honey until well combined. Mix in the bread flour with a wooden spoon until it creates a shaggy ball. Scoop out onto a work surface, add the sourdough starter and knead until it forms a smooth dough (no more than 10 minutes). It will be a fairly firm dough, but if it's too hard to work with (too dry or wet) add a tablespoon of water or flour to get it to the right consistency.

    Transfer the dough to a clean warm greased (olive oil) bowl and let ferment for 2 hours. It probably will not rise at all (that's normal).

    After 2 hours, divide the dough however you'd like. You can do two 1 pound portions for loaves, one 1 1/2 pound loaf and smaller pieces for rolls (which is what I did) or look up different ways to do it. This page is a great resource. Braid or shape them how you prefer, and then transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

    Cover with plastic wrap, and let proof for 5 hours. The recipe I followed said they should triple in size (however, mine did not...and turned out fine. I think it just depends how active your sourdough is).

    Half an hour before baking, move your oven racks to the upper and lower third positions, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once the 5 hours are up, whisk together the final egg in a small bowl with a splash of water. Paint the tops of your Challah with the egg wash.

    Bake small rolls for 15 to 20 minutes, 1 pound loaves for 25- 35 minutes, or the 1 1/2 pound loaf for 35 to 45 minutes all until they are well browned. Halfway through baking turn your pans around to ensure even browning. You can tent them with foil if they are browning too quickly. Transfer to a cooling rack.


    And there you have it! I figured making Challah the weekend before Passover would be quite fitting. 


    I'm very happy with how it turned out and I want to keep working on the braiding. I absolutely love Challah. It's always so beautiful and delicious! Can't wait to experiment more. :D

    Sunday, March 30, 2014

    Chocolate Bouchons

    Bouchon. Booooshawnnn. Boooshaun.


    Leave it to the French to make something super yummy yet impossible to say. Bouchons are little brownie cakes in the shape of a cork. Bouchon means cork in French evidently (...in Spanish it's 'corcho' so no Romance-language connection there). I just love how silly and stumpy they look.


    These guys take me right back to two summers ago, working at the SweetLife Bakery in San Anselmo.  I'd make them every day to go along with our jars and jars full of giant cookies. Super chocolatey, dense, screaming for a hot beverage (tea, coffee...whatever floats your boat) to wash them down with.

    They are one of my favorite decadent desserts. Simple, but oh so delicious and rich. 



    They really let the grade of the ingredients shine. You really don't want to skimp on quality with regards to ingredients for this recipe. High-end cocoa powder and European style butter truly make them that much better. These go beyond your average brownie.


    With each bite you really do taste the richness of good quality cocoa, and Plugra butter can do no wrong. I recommend making these if you have guests over for dinner as an end of the meal treat to pair with a warming drink.



    They're best to serve the day they're made, but you can always make the batter beforehand, freeze it in the molds and bake them when you want them (as we did at the bakery :D).

    Bouchons: (Adapted from Thomas Keller)

    3/4 cup all purpose flour
    1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I recommend Valrhona)
    1 teaspoon salt
    3 eggs
    1.5 cups plus 3 tbsp granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    12 ounces unsalted butter (European style), melted and just slightly warm
    6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (good quality is best!)
    Confectioners' sugar (for dusting)

    Butter a silicon baba mold (I got mine on Amazon) and place on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

    Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt in a small bowl. In your stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes until very thick and pale. Add the vanilla.

    Then on low speed add one third of the dry ingredients, and then one third of melted butter. Alternate adding each until everything is thoroughly incorporated (but do not overmix). Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Mix in the chocolate chips.

    Transfer to a piping bag, and fill the molds just up to the brim (if not a little below). Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean (a few crumbs are ok!).


    Let cool for a few minutes on a cooling rack before inverting the molds carefully to release the bouchons. Transfer to a serving dish and dust with powdered sugar.


    And there you go! 
    They are so yummy and chocolatey and moist. 


    DO IT.