Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Apples

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It’s a caramel apple with a kick, folks. Except the “kick” is cooked off in the process and is present to simply add a little bit of extra dimension to the standard Autumn confection. I made these bad boys for a friend’s baby shower over the summer. The theme was “The Giving Tree” and it only seemed fitting. This treat is much more appropriate now that apple season is in full swing.

As always, making caramel can be finicky and I often get myself all flustered and nervous in the process that I almost undoubtedly ruin the first batch. That’s exactly what happened in this case. I should have calibrated my candy thermometer before I started, but I didn’t, and I thought it would be wise to let it go just a touch past the 245 degree mark; just in case. I’m not really sure why I thought that was a good idea; but I had morphed into a semi-panicked, self-doubting lass as the process neared its end. I had the same feelings of unease as I did while I was watching the final scenes of Argo. Clearly, I have a bit of a warped perspective on caramel-making. It was no surprise when the caramel started to cool that it had reached the hard-ball stage and could easily be used as a make-shift weapon. So those ingredients went down the drain and I started again. I got it together, and the end product was much better.

I’m hoping to make these again soon. With a renewed sense of confidence in my back pocket.

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A few pictures from the shower I co-hosted with my lovely friends, Jess and Chelsea. 

Chelsea constructed this adorable tree

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Jess made most of the delicious, apple-themed food

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Chelsea’s cheese “branches” and chocolate pretzel “bark”

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I made apple cupcakes (vanilla buttercream)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made apple cupcakes (vanilla bean with vanilla buttercream)

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The beautiful new mama

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And, of course, the apple of my eye. My boy.

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HAPPY OCTOBER!

Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Apples

Ingredients

8 medium-sized apples (I used Gala)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup bourbon
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

8 wooden craft or popsicle sticks

Directions

1. Remove stems from apples and push the popsicle stick inside each. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly coat it with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan (bigger is better to avoid overflow), stir together the sugar, cream, bourbon, corn syrup, butter, and salt. Cook over medium high heat , stirring constantly, and bring to a boil. Attach a candy thermometer to the side and cook without stirring until temperature reaches 245 degrees F (about 20-25vminutes). Do not leave the caramel because it can heat very quickly towards the end of the process.

3. Once it reaches 245 degrees, remove from heat. Carefully stir in vanilla (it will bubble violently). Dip apples immediately, sprinkle with toppings (if desired) and place on wax paper. Let sit in the fridge until firm, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container or wrap in cellophane to keep them fresh for a few days.

Source: Slightly adapted from How Sweet It Is

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting

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Aw yes. The old favorite pair: chocolate and peanut butter. It’s hard to resist the salty and sweet combination. Want to make it even more irresistible? Add in butter. A weight watchers trifecta of evil, if you will. I made these bad boys for a surprise welcome home party for my sister a few weeks ago and they were a hit.

I used my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe and then topped them with a glorious whipped peanut butter buttercream. It’s fabulous on cupcakes and it would also be great on brownies, graham crackers, rice cakes… ok, let’s get real- these foods are just going to be a vehicle to get this stuff from point A to your mouth. I liken it to my mom serving us steamed artichokes when we were young and we got to dip them in melted butter. We were just in it for the melted butter. Honesty is the first step to acceptance.

To actually make the frosting, you must know that the whipping of the butter is the key to a great buttercream. Allow the butter to soften to room temperature and then beat it with an electric mixer or handheld mixer for 8-10 minutes at a medium-high speed. The butter will become pale yellow and fluffy and it will strengthen your faith in God. It’s magical, really, and it yields pillowy frosting that pipes like a dream.

Piping icing gives me an inner peace that I imagine yogis feel while they are in the middle of meditation. Namaste, my friends, and have a fabulous weekend!

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Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting

Yield: About 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. Place the butter  into a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high for 8 minutes, until pale yellow and fluffy. Add in the peanut butter and beat for about 4-5 mins longer. Add in the vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Mixture will appear crumbly. Add in the cream and beat until smooth and fluffy, about 2 mins longer. Add more cream if mixture is still too thick. Frost your baked good of choice or store in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

Source: Adapted from Allrecipes.com

 

Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookies

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We just got back from a lovely Independence Day celebration at Lake Erie with my sister’s family. Selby is now officially back in Ohio and I couldn’t be more excited. I have already seen her more in one month than I probably did in one year while she was living out of state. It’s fabulous.

A lot of people have already started asking Robert and me if we want more childrenMy first thought is, “more kids already?! My little pup is not even crawling yet!”  But my next thought (and my response) is, “absolutely- we would love nothing more than to give Smith a sibling.”

You see, there is no bond like that between siblings. My sister and I didn’t always get along. In fact, we really butted heads growing up. We had different interests and different personalities. She was always very outgoing and assertive and I was more shy and sensitive. Selby was the homecoming queen. I was focused on school and sports. She has the dainty, thin feet and I have pizza wedge, size 11 feet.  I once joked, “I don’t think we would be friends if we weren’t sisters.” Probably not the nicest thing I’ve ever uttered; but to the naked eye, it’s the truth.

It wasn’t until Selby was in college that we started to connect more. I started to realize how much I really needed and depended on my older sister. And I think we both started to see that we were more alike than we had previously thought. We shared the common bond of childhood. Selby was my first friend. All the road trips, holidays, and even the fist fights at Vacation Bible School created this strong relationship that trumped those moments when I lambasted her in my fourth grade diary or the time she threw scissors at me (kids do the cutest things). Yep, Selby and I are two peas in a “night quite right” pod; but we wouldn’t have it any other way. I think the line from Little Women sums it up pretty well, “I could never love anyone as I love my sister(s).”

As for these cookies, they have absolutely no tie in to my little narrative above; but they are still lovely in their own way. Chewy and soft, they are very comforting and their looks don’t do them justice. They won’t win awards for looks; but they will win your heart with taste. They are even better if you let the dough chill for 24 hours to allow the flavors to really meld and develop.

Here’s to more random thoughts and unrelated recipes.  Plenty more where that came from. :)

Oh and I just have to share this picture of my nephew, Jack, enjoying his first ever s’more over the weekend!

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Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookies

Yield: About 4 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups quick cooking oats
  • 2 cups cinnamon chips

Directions

1.In a medium bowl, cream together butter and both sugars.

2. Beat in eggs, one at a time until well blended. Stir in vanilla. Add in the molasses and whip until combined. Scrape down the sides as needed.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon.

4. Add in the oats and stir just until combined. Add in the cinnamon chips and, again, mix just until combined.

5. Transfer the dough to plastic wrap, cover, and chill for at least an hour (24hrs is best!).

6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheets. Roll the dough into 1 1/2 inch diameter balls and place on the cookie sheets, about two inches apart. Press down gently with fingertips.

7. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Don’t overbake. Allow to cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Source: Adapted from allrecipes.com

 

Food Memory Friday: Strawberry Shortcake

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It sure has been a long time since I’ve posted a “Food Memory Friday.” Today’s recipe happens to be based on one of Robert’s favorite treats. The summer after Robert and I started dating, I was over at his house (now our house) eating dinner and mama Connie served up some strawberry shortcake for dessert. It was much different than the kind my mother made. I watched in curiosity as Robert and his dad tore up the biscuit-like cake, scooped macerated strawberries with lots of sugar on top, and then poured a generous amount of whole milk over it. I was skeptical. Just as skeptical as I think they were of me when I decided to top my strawberry shortcake (sans milk and with the cake still in its original form) with a little drizzle of chocolate syrup. “Chocolate?,”Connie questioned with a friendly smirk. Yes- chocolate. Because, is there any dessert where chocolate doesn’t belong? No.

Bert and I got to see a lot of the differences in our families as we continued to date and spend more time together. My Irish catholic side and his Amish/Mennonite side. His parents focused on teaching their boy how to put in a hard day’s work and mine focused on studying hard to get good grades and get into college. His house was always stocked with a candy bowl that I couldn’t (still can’t) avoid dipping my hand into. My house never had a regular supply of desserts. My family reunions involved adult beverages. His family get togethers featured lots of delicious Amish food. It was, and still is, an eclectic mix of two cultures that has been beneficial for both of us.

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Now here we are, sitting in the same spot enjoying strawberry shortcake that we first did over a decade ago. I like to think we’ve successfully brought pieces of both of our sides together into our little family. I’m hoping our baby rump roast will get the best of both worlds. A nice blend of feisty Irish and hard-working Amish.

And time will tell what type of strawberry shortcake he will prefer.

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Strawberry Shortcake

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup low fat milk
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • Additional sugar for berries, as desired
  • Whipped cream, optional

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Sprinkle in the butter and use your (clean) hands to rub the butter and flour mixture together until the mixture resembles flakes of oatmeal.

3. Combine the milk and vanilla and slowly pour into the flour mixture. Gently fold with a wooden spoon, until just combined. Drop a generous spoonful of dough onto a baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

4. Remove from oven and allow shortcakes to cool. Split in half and top with berries, sugar, and whipped cream. Store unused shortcakes in an airtight container for about 2 days.

Source: Slightly adapted from Alton Brown

Vanilla Cake with Fresh Strawberry Filling and Vanilla Bean Frosting

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I’ve written about it before, and I’ll write about again. Mornings are my favorite time of day. Surprisingly, even more now with a baby. Smith is so cuddly in the morning and I love the feel of my warm, bleary-eyed little ham ball swaddled up and tucked tightly against my chest.

Numerous people have told me to cherish these moments. They say time goes too quickly. You wake up one morning and your babies are babies no longer. There will be a day when he doesn’t need me to come rushing into his nursery in the middle of the night to put his binky back in or when he doesn’t think making raspberry noises is the most hilarious thing on earth.

I try to keep reminding myself of this. That the unorganized disaster in the basement will eventually get sorted and the pile of clean laundry will find its home someday. In the meantime I will just enjoy my little boy sleeping in my arms. His long eyelashes and chubby little feet and perfect little sausage fingers. My whole world. Ahhh… there I go again.

Let me talk about this cake.

I made it for a Good Friday get together at Robert’s cousins’ house. I was thinking of making a carrot cake, but Bert crinkled his nose at the sound of it. Apparently vegetables and dessert don’t mix. Lame.  My next choice was vanilla bean. Even better, I found some really delicious strawberries at the local grocery store and decided a strawberry filling would be a great way to jazz things up.

I used a cake and frosting recipe from Sweetapolita and I was really happy with the results. As she warned, you have to be really careful not to over bake the cake. Unfortunately, I was preoccupied tending to my crying babe and I let the cake bake just a little bit too long. It was a little dry as a result; but I am sure it would have been just right if I would have taken it out of the oven sooner. I know I will use this recipe again.

On an unrelated note, I am still trying to find the best place in our house to take pictures, so I hope you enjoy the lovely front door in the background (don’t worry-I had the cake on cake stand, so it didn’t touch the floor). ;)

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Vanilla Bean Cake with Fresh Strawberry Filling

Yield: 16 servings

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 5 large egg whites , at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into 24 even pieces

For the frosting:

  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 3 cups chopped strawberries
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions

1. Make the strawberry topping: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, water, and cornstarch. Set aside. Place the strawberries and sugar in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, gently mashing the berries with a wooden spoon, until the mixture comes to a low boil. Add in the cornstarch mixture, bring to a boil again, and cook for 1 minute longer until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

2. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 8 inch round pans with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, stir together the egg whites, whole egg, 1/4 cup of buttermilk, and the vanilla. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the dry ingredients until combined (about 30 seconds).

With the mixer on low speed, add in the butter one piece at a time (about every 10 seconds) until the mixture is a fine mixture (about the size of oatmeal flakes). Gradually add in the buttermilk, and mix on low speed for 5 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and slowly add in the egg mixture in 3 separate batches, mixing until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Stop the mixer and fold with a spatula to ensure batter is evenly mixed.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake for about 25- 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake only has a few crumbs. DO NOT OVER BAKE! Remove from oven and place on cooling racks to allow cake to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans.

3. Make the frosting: Place the butter in an electric mixer fired with a paddle attachment. Whip on high speed, for about 8 minutes, until the butter becomes pale and fluffy.Add in the remaining ingredients and mix for about 4 minutes longer.

4. Assemble the cake: Pipe a ring of frosting around what will be the base cake to ensure the strawberry filling won’t ooze. Gently spoon the filling on top of the cake and spread evenly. Place the other cake on top and frost/decorate with vanilla bean frosting. Serve immediately or refrigerate for 1 day. Be sure to remove the cake from the refrigerator about 1 hour before serving to allow the butter in the frosting to soften. Enjoy!

Source:Cake and frosting from SweetapolitaStrawberry filling adapted from Annie’s Eats

Chocolate Pots de Creme

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I am going to show you the very erudite side of me and tell you that I used to pronounce this lovely custard treat “pots-day-cream” until I saw a chef making it on a cooking show about five years ago and he was saying it the correct way, “poh-de-cccccccrem.” I was just a little bit embarrassed, but I did manage to laugh at myself. That’s what life is all about, right?

Those silly French folk and their fancy words and my phonetically-centered brain. I would fit right in in France. Can’t you see Ina Garten and me perusing the markets while Jeffery worked on his computer back at our Parisian apartment? Yeahhhh…. neither can I.

Nonetheless, pots de creme is a surprisingly easy dessert to make. There is no baking involved and it requires very few ingredients. You just need to allow some extra time for it to set in the refrigerator and the end result is a big ol’ pot of CCCCCCCCCCREM. How fancy; just like those French.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Bonjour!

Chocolate Pots de Creme

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. Arrange 6 small bowls on a cookie sheet and set aside.

2. Pulse the chocolate chips, salt, and sugar in a food processor until ground into fine pieces.

3. Add in the egg and pulse until smooth. Set aside.

4.. Place the cream in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat on the stove until bubbles just start to form along the edges (not a full boil). Remove from heat.

5. Turn the food processor on and slowly add the cream through the feed, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides as needed. Mix until well combined and smooth.

6. Pour the mixture into the bowls, dividing evenly, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Enjoy with whipped cream, cookies, and/or fresh fruit.

Source: King Arthur Flour

Homemade Peeps: Version 2.0

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To celebrate this beautiful Easter weekend, I attempted to make homemade peeps again. My first attempt was last spring. Visions of beautiful, sparkling marshmallow treats danced in my head. I had seen several versions on Pinterest and I knew it was destined to be a hit. I was so young and naive.  As you can see in the picture below, the magical peeps I had envisioned ended up looking like it belonged perfectly on a Pinterest Fail blog with the caption, “Nailed It.”

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Not only did the marshmallow I piped on parchment paper turn into a pastel and turd-like blob, the said blobs stuck to the parchment paper even after cooling and there was no salvaging this mess. I was a bird with a  broken wing.

When spring rolled around again this year, I came down with peep fever; and I decided it was time to try again. This time I stuck with a homemade marshmallow recipe I had used before. To prevent the little devils from sticking, I lightly sprayed the parchment paper with cooking spray. Though my homemade version featured a very diverse array of imperfect peep shapes and looks (morbidly obese, two-headed, evil eyes), I was much happier with this year’s version.

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I will definitely be making these bad boys again next year, hopefully with my little sous chef by my side.

Happy Easter, everyone!

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Strawberry Delight

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We are slowly getting settled into our new lives in the country. Things I have observed so far: it gets very dark and quiet at night, having family close by is wonderful (especially when you get sick and you have an infant to care for), I no longer have to pick up Athena’s excrement when we take her on walks because the roads are already sprinkled with horse dung, Athena is the happiest she has been ever, and we have wild turkeys in the woods behind us (that I mistook for Athena one Sunday afternoon).

It’s been a little over a week since we moved in and the reality of being back in the area we grew up in is gradually sinking in. Small town living means that I now usually recognize or run into someone I know every time I go out to run errands. It’s definitely a big change from the anonymity I grew accustomed to in Columbus. But it’s a good change. While living in a small town has its drawbacks, it also has its benefits. There are lots of friendly faces and people willing to help each other at a moment’s notice. The sense of community is strong. We are lucky to have some great folks in our lives.

Speaking of wonderful people, we had my in-laws over for dinner last weekend as a way to thank them for all the help they provided us. We made a simple dinner of barbecued chicken, red potatoes, mixed greens, and this dessert. Strawberry delight is my twist on a classic treat in this area, cherry delight. Traditionally made with cherry pie filling and cool whip, I swapped in a homemade fresh strawberry sauce and heavy whipping cream instead. The end result was a really tasty finish to a meal that was very well-received by our company. I am looking forward to many more family dinners in our new home.

Country living is going to suit us well.

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Strawberry Delight

Yield: 12 Servings

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the cream cheese filling:

  • 2 8oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 oz heavy whipping cream

For the strawberry topping:

  • 3 cups chopped strawberries
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions

1. Make the strawberry topping: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, water, and cornstarch. Set aside. Place the strawberries and sugar in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, gently mashing the berries with a wooden spoon, until the mixture comes to a low boil. Add in the cornstarch mixture, bring to a boil again, and cook for 1 minute longer until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

2. Bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the graham crack crumbs, melted butter, salt, and sugar. Gently press the crumb mixture into a 9×13 pan with your fingers until evenly distributed. Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

3. Make the filling: Place the whipping cream in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Place whipped cream in a separate bowl. Add the cream cheese to the now empty bowl of the electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until creamy and smooth. Add in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in the powdered sugar until well-incorporated. Gently fold in the whipped cream until smooth (don’t over mix!).

4. Assemble: Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the cooled crust and top with strawberry topping. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. This dessert keeps in the refrigerator for about 2 days.

Source: Adapted from a local cookbook; Strawberry topping adapted from Annie’s Eats 

 

Chocolate Pecan Pie

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I’ve obtained several cookbooks and baking books since I got married 6 and a half years ago. During the days of low carb dieting in my past, I would peruse longingly through the beautiful pictures in the Barefoot Contessa’s cookbook series or Taste of Home magazines. It was cathartic in a strange, carb-obsessed way. However, now the “dark ages” without carbs are only a distant memory (bread is the meaning of life), and my culinary literature collection continues to grow.

I love all the books on my shelves, but there is only one that I have of which I want to make every single recipe. That book? Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. Talk about sensory overload. Everything sounds, looks, and reads positively scrumptrulescent. It’s really quite overwhelming. Even better, since owning this precious classic, every recipe of Dorie’s that I have made has become an instant favorite of mine. She really knows her stuff.

The most recent recipe of hers that I have made is her chocolate pecan pie. I happened to have a leftover pie crust in my fridge a few weeks ago and the urge to bake hit me on a Sunday afternoon. This pie popped into my mind as I had been thinking of making it for awhile, and away I went. The end result was a nice spin on what I consider traditional pecan pie. The chocolate and cinnamon are a really delicious addition and this treat would be a great addition to any Thanksgiving menu (well, actually, not great for people with nut allergies so check on that first!).  It would be even better with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Printable Version

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 9-inch single pie crust
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) pecan halves or pieces
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used chocolate chips because I didn’t have baking chocolate)

Directions

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a pie plate on a cookie sheet lined with parchment  paper and set aside.

2. Whisk together the corn syrup and brown sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Carefully whisk in the butter, followed by the eggs (one at a time) until well-combined. Next, add in the cinnamon, vanilla, and salt and stir to incorporate. Tap the bowl against the counter to remove air bubbles and then mix in the chocolate and pecans.

3. Carefully roll out the pie crust and gently mold into the pie plate. Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. While the pie is baking for the first 15 minutes, make a foils shield for the crust by cutting out the center of a 12 inch square of aluminum foil (directions here).

4. After the first 15 minutes of baking, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and place the foil shield on top of the pie crust to prevent over-browning. Bake the pie for an additional 2o minutes, or until the pie no longer jiggles when gently tapped. Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a baking rack until it reaches room temperature.

SourceBaking: From My Home to Yours by: Dorie Greenspan

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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Oh sweet baby Jesus- I do love Septembers. While I enjoy summertime, I sometimes get a little overwhelmed with how chaotic it can get. Weddings, traveling, cookouts. It’s all wonderful stuff, but I find I always welcome the return to routine that the ninth month of the year brings. We are home more on the weekends and football Saturdays seem to make time slow down a little bit.

Another good bonus is that I have more time to bake. I made these particular  cupcakes for my friend Jess’s owl-themed baby shower that her husband’s side of the family threw her. I also made pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, and chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter buttercream, but these were my favorite of the three. The cake has a lighter texture and the addition of real vanilla bean takes the flavor up a notch. The fluffy buttercream frosting is delicious and a perfect pairing with the cake base.  I found the idea for the royal icing owl toppers from the fabulously-creative Bridget at Bake at 350. I am always amazed at the magical nature of royal icing and was very pleased with how these babies turned out. They are a much cheaper option than the cupcake-toppers available online and in craft stores.

I will definitely be saving these recipes for future vanilla baking adventures.

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Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Icing

Printer-friendly version

Yield: About 2 dozen cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cupcake Directions

1. Center a rack in the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisktogether the flour, baking powder and salt.

3. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla bean seeds at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 mins). Add in the vanilla extract and one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until well incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter fully incorporated and smooth, then gradually add in the last of the dry ingredients.

5. Once ingredients are well incorporated, mix the batter for 2 minutes longer to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Using a 2 inch ice cream scoop (or large spoon), distribute the batter evenly, filling each well 2/3 full.

6. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers come out clean. Cool on wire rack. Decorate with vanilla buttercream icing as desired (recipe below).

Frosting Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or ½ pound), softened (but not melted!) Ideal texture should be like ice cream.
  • 3-4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted***
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream

Frosting Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium high speed for a few minutes with a mixer with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy. Turn the mixer off and gradually add in the powdered sugar (about 1 cup at a time), mixing on low speed after each addition until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 4 tablespoons of cream and beat for 3 minutes. Store in an airtight container or ice cupcakes right away.

Source: Cupcakes- slightly adapted from My Baking Addiction; Frosting- Savory Sweet Life; Owl Royal Icing Cupcake Toppers- Bake at 350