Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes

September meant back to work.  Which apparently was a big interruption to posting recipes.  I have so many great fall recipes to bake up that I decided I needed to get back here.  I made these cupcakes weeks ago for my friends birthday.  They are quite tasty.  I pretty much like anything with cream cheese frosting, and who can resist anything with the deep red hue of red velvet?

This is the perfect basic red velvet recipe.  The cake is very flavorful but not heavy, and light enough to balance out the rich, creamy frosting.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
From The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Makes about 20 cupcakes

4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Turn he mixer up to high speed, slowly add the egg and beat until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix together cocoa, red food coloring, and vanilla to make a thick paste.  Add to the butter mixture and mix until well combined and colored evenly. Turn the mixer to low speed and pour in half the buttermilk.  Beat until well mixed and then add half the flour.  Beat until well incorporated.  Repeat the process with the other half of buttermilk and flour.  Then turn the mixer to high and beat until the batter is smooth.  Turn the mixer to low and add the salt, baking soda and vinegar.  Beat until incorporated then turn the mixer to high speed and beat for a couple more minutes.

Spoon the batter into lined cupcake tin until two-thirds full.  Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

Once completely cool, frost with Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below).

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 2/3 cup powdered sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz. cold cream cheese

Beat the powdered sugar and butter together on medium low speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.  Add the cream cheese and beat until fully incorporated.  Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes.  Do not overbeat or it will become runny.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Football Sugar Cookies

I'm a big football fan, especially college football.  Can you guess which team I like? USC? Yep, you got it!  Maybe its because I went to USC for my undergraduate and graduate degrees during the peak era of Pete Carroll.  Anyways, I was very excited for our first home game this weekend (despite all the drama surrounding USC football lately, which most people could care less about, I'm sure!) and decided it was the perfect event to give royal icing a go. 

I've been making sugar cookies my entire life for every holiday with my mom.  Yes, we force the men in the family to help us decorate the countless cookies, even though it's probably their least favorite thing.  However, we have always used the old standby easy mix of powdered sugar and milk to ice our cookies.  After seeing amazingly iced sugar cookies with lots of beautiful details on many other blogs, I knew I had to try royal icing.


My favorite sugar cookie recipe is perfect for intricate cookie cutters as the do not change their shape when baked.  They taste amazing too!  I really think they are the perfect sugar cookie.  One of my friends who doesn't usually like sugar cookies thought they were great!

If you are looking for this cookie cutter to make cookies for your next tailgate, I got it at Sur La Table.


The Perfect Sugar Cookie

Makes about 3 dozen 3" cookies

3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix until well combined. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and slowly mix into butter mixture.  Mix until flour is completely incorporated and dough hold together.

Refrigerate dough for at least an hour.

When ready to roll out dough, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out dough to desired thickness on well floured work surface.  I like thicker cookies and roll them out to a little more than 1/4 inch thick.  Bake on parchment paper or a baking mat for 8-10 minutes until just golden brown.  Let cool completely before icing.

For my royal icing, I turned to Bridgit at Bake at 350.  She also has vlogs, that show you exactly how to do it here: University of Cookies

Have fun! 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Double-Double Brownies

I don't know anyone who does not like  love peanut butter and chocolate.  It is heavenly and sinful at the same time.  You could put anything with those two ingredients in front of me and I would lick the plate clean.  One of my best friends from childhood just moved to my area so I made a batch of these for her and took them over last night.  When I went by today, there was ONE left! ONE! Thats how good they are.

It may seem a bit amateur to use a brownie mix, but trust me, this one is better than homemade.  It is fudgy and rich... just the way I like them. 

You could say brownies are "my thing".  I would choose them over anything else.  And, I've made a lot of brownies.  This one wins my vote, hands down.  Especially with the addition of extra chocolate chips! And, its a heck of a lot easier than measuring all the ingredients.


These are "Double-Double" Brownies because they have double the peanut butter and double the chocolate.  It takes the brownies to the next level. Its a pretty easy recipe too. You simply make the chocolate batter and add peanut butter chips, make the peanut butter batter and add chocolate chips and layer and dollop them together, then swirl. It's easy, I promise! Try these today!



Double-Double Brownies
Adapted from Fake Ginger and Ezra Pound Cake

Makes 16 brownies


1 box brownie mix, prepared according to directions
3/4 cup peanut butter chips

PB Filling:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
3/4 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2  cup chocolate chips, semi-sweet or milk chocolate will do

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper.

Prepare brownie batter according to direction on package, or make your favorite brownie batter from scratch.  Add peanut butter chips and stir to combine.

Prepare peanut butter filing by stirring together melted butter, confectioners sugar, peanut butter, salt and vanilla.  Once combined, stir in chocolate chips.

Pour half of the brownie batter into prepared pan.   Dollop half of the peanut butter filling by the tablespoon over the batter.  Pour the remaining half of the brownie batter over top and spread to fill pan.  Dollap remaining half of the peanut butter filling over top. Swirl peanut butter batter into filling with a butter knife going lengthwise and crosswise.  

Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 15 minutes, then lift out and place on wire rack to cool completely.  Once cool, cut into 16 squares.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce & Margherita Pizza

This Spring, for the first time ever, I planted my own tomato plants.

For some reason odd reason, I love the smell of a tomato plant.  Is it just me?  I really can't tell you what it is about it, but I love that smell.  Weird? I know.

So in the spring, I planted my tiny tomato plants in big pots and was hopeful that come August I would have more tomatoes than I would know what to do with.  Well its September, and I've had 5 tomatoes.  Five! I was so excited to have some success at growing tomatoes.  That was until I went to my mom's house.  Her plants have at least one hundred tomatoes and are massive....Guess I wasn't that successful.

I blame it on the lack of sun they had.  Couldn't have been my forgetting to water them, then over watering them, then realizing the pots are really not that big....

Anyways, I took a bunch of tomatoes from my mom and decided to make pizza sauce with some of them.  This sauce is very light, perfect for a Margherita pizza.

Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce

Makes enough sauce for a 12-16" pizza

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
5-6 medium tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2/3 cup  or a 5.5 oz can tomato juice

Cut an X in the bottom of the tomatoes.  Prepare a bowl of ice water and set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Make sure there is enough water to cover the tomatoes.  Once boiling, place tomatoes in water for 30 seconds, or until the skin begins to peel.  Remove tomatoes and immediately place in ice water until cool (just a few minutes).  Once cool, peel skins of tomatoes, chop and seed.  Place tomatoes into bowl of a food processor and pulse until reaches desired consistency (some like their sauce more chunky, others like a smoother sauce). Set aside.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic to pan and cook 1 minute stirring frequently.  Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients to pan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

Margherita Pizza
The perfect method for a crispy crust without a pizza stone.  And a quick and easy pizza to show off your amazing homegrown tomatoes!  

Serves 4

1 store bought pizza dough (our favorite is Trader Joe's)
1 cup pizza sauce (recipe above)
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Grease a baking pan with vegetable or canola oil (this is the key to a crispy crust).  Roll or stretch out pizza dough to a 12-16" circle on the pan.  Spread pizza sauce evenly over the dough.  Arrange cheese slices evenly over the pizza.  Bake at 550 degrees for 12-15 minutes until crust is crispy and golden brown.  Cut pizza into 10 slice and sprinkle with basil.