Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fail: French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes (★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆)

French Toast is good. Bacon is good. French Toast with bacon is good. So why wouldn't a french toast and bacon cupcake be good? These were...well, let's just say...weird.

I still think the concept could be successful, but not the way I went about it.

These I made on a whim. My friend was having a little get together, so what a better way to be able to try a new recipe, AND get a good chunk of them out of my house ASAP.

A couple of things I did wrong:
1) Used a box mix. If it's not chocolate...don't do it!
2) I used veggie bacon. The things you will do when your bestie is a vegetarian. Not only did
they taste like crunchy salt sticks; they looked like dog treats. Do yourself a favor and tell
your veggie bff to pick off her bacon...or better yet, just don't put one on hers.

This was my inspiration: French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes

After my Black and White cupcake, I thought I had finally found a good white cake mix.
Nope. Still looking.

For the french toast flavor. Making use of my $$$$ vanilla bean paste.

We always have maple syrup on hand so I added that instead of maple extract.

There has to be better veggie bacon than this.
Cause even vegetarians don't want to eat doggy salt sticks.

The finished product.

Well, at least I can say they incited conversation even if they weren't the hit of the party. One day I'll try these again. I love breakfast foods, and I'm thoroughly convinced that with the proper ingredients they would make excellent cupcakes.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Simple Apple Tart (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

I had been baking up a storm when I decided to try this apple tart. Wanted to stretch my culinary skills and attempt..."the crust." I don't know how I came across this recipe, but the tart was so beautiful (Can I say that about a baked good?) that I was compelled to make it.

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen. It's one of my favorite baking blogs...I can spend hours looking through all of their great ideas: Simplest Apple Tart

Delicious "tart" apples

Cutting them this delicately thin required concentrated effort.
I'm more of a "chunky" cutter by nature.

Make the dough and refrigerate at least 30min.
You can make this ahead of time if you'd like.

Probably the most frustrating part of the whole process. Getting the dough thin enough to not only cover the bottom of the dish, but over onto the sides of the tart as well. And don't get me started about "rippage." Far from impossible, but it took me a few tries.

Couldn't get them to lay out QUITE like the original blog, but
wait till the ending picture. It works out.

Dust it with sugar. Actually, this recipe calls for almost no sugar at all.
It was a truly "tart," tart. ...That was lame. And yet, in it stays.

You save the core and peels to boil in a water-sugar mixture for a glaze.
You brush it on top of the tart when it is fresh out of the oven.

Awaiting anxiously. I can't believe I actually wore an apron! I never do that.
Mess on my clothes? Who cares. Sugary snack for later.

Viola! The masterpiece.

The tart was really good. It could've used WAY more sugar though. Like a good cup more. I know some don't like super sweet desserts. So if sticky sweetness isn't your thing grab a cup of coffee, some whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla cause this guy is pretty sour.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Candied Apples (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

This past Halloween some friends of mine decided they wanted to put on a small carnival in their front yard for their neighbors. I thought that sounded like a blast so I offered my whatever capacity they so desired. So in addition to manning the dart board, I was tasked with making candied apples.

I'm a baker, not a candy maker. To this day I have yet to make a good peanut brittle or toffee. Not only was this my first attempt at candied apples, this was my first experience with candied apples at all. I've always been partial to the chewy goodness of caramel on my apples, but try I did...and if I can do it - anyone can.

I found this website that has some pretty awesome details and instructions for making candied apples; it should calm the fears of even the most timid of confectioners. How to Make Perfect Candied Apples

I dipped some apple slices in the extra so my family could have some. I still prefer caramel apples, but these were pretty good. Definitely could rip a tooth out if you are not careful and don't wait for it to harden completely though.

Fyi, cleaning that plate was an utter joy.

Deep Dark Chocolate Cupcakes (★ ★ ★ ★ ☆)

What's more enjoyable than a good chocolate cupcake?

A dark chocolate one.

It doesn't get much better than that right?

Well, actually, it does. These DEEP dark chocolate beauties were THE best chocolate cupcakes...scratch that...chocolate "cake" period...that I've ever had.

One of my high school friends had been bugging me to teach him to bake. By now you have all figured out I'm not afraid to try things...and more often than I like, fail. So when I knew he was coming over I tried to stick to the basics. And what a good decision that was. My main goal was to make everything from scratch. Cake. Frosting. The whole kit and caboodle.

I found this recipe online and it was actually the almost black color of the cake that drew me to it. Little did I know what a great recipe I had stumbled upon. Hershey's Deep Dark Chocolate Cake

My favorite frosting (besides plain ol' whipped cream) is cream cheese. When I found this recipe for chocolate cream cheese frosting I got really excited! Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

The recipe was pretty good. I bought special cocoa powder just like it called for. I think it was all the way from Holland or something like that. Honestly, I couldn't tell the difference. Save yourself the $12.

I had to add a TON of cocoa powder in order for the frosting to taste like chocolate. The cream cheese flavor was just too powerful. I think this recipe would've been better suited for a vanilla cake...actually it would've been amazing. It wasn't bad on the chocolate, but just not the most ideal pairing.

I dropped off some of my extra cupcakes at my friends house and one of her roommates told me it was one of the first cupcakes she had thoroughly enjoyed in a long time.

Definitely my go-to chocolate cake recipe.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Decadent Peanut Butter Pie (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

My Aunt pulled this recipe out of the Tuesday Ads and HAD to make it.

Now I'll admit it looked pretty good, and I'm a sucker for peanut butter, but she has a habit of being swayed by advertisement. Like that one late night she was house-sitting and my sister and I left her with the parting message, "don't buy anything on tv!" If she's reading this, we all know how that turned out. Living room. Workout DVD. Extremely weird facial exercises. All bad.

Thankfully, this is not one such story AND we actually improved upon the recipe: Decadent Peanut Butter Pie
Instead of "frozen whipped topping" ...which we all know is Cool Whip, but they won't say it cause they're not besties with Cool Whip... (Jif and Smuckers are super exclusive) we made our own whipped cream from scratch.

Trust me, it made all the difference.

Only problem is you have to be more religious about refrigerating it. Leave it out too long and it starts to melt.
We used the brands that were called for in the recipe and I would stick with Jif even though there are better peanut butters out there. This one's got a great consistency for recipes like this.

I would, HOWEVER, ditch that Smuckers stuff..gasp!

I just dissed Jif's BFF.
Oh, know I didn't!

There are better brands than this watery goop.
Peanut Butter gloriousness.

"Cranny Clumps" (★ ★ ★ ★ ☆)

This is going to be quick.

Because, honestly, all I can say about these cookies is that they are so ridiculously delicious that me and my best friend decided they needed an "unappealing" name to stall the world from discovering these things.

See if we got the world hooked and then some how all the white chocolate chip farms and cranberry factories, ...

...not to mention the quick cook oatmeal fields, exploded we'd have mass hysteria on our hands.

The real kicker is that my mom found the recipe on the back of a Craisins package:
Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

The rest is history.


Chipotle Cinnamon Chocolate Cupcakes (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

I'm not sure what in the world possessed me to ever make these cupcakes, but I LOVE food. I love thinking about it, eating it, trying new when I come across an interesting recipe that sounds like it has even a microscopic chance of being a hit - I'll do it.

I've been working in my church cafe for about two years now. I brought these to the first team meeting I ever went to. Actually, I went to a meeting before I was ever actually scheduled...I got some confused looks when I arrived. Thankfully, I was bearing cupcakes to help ease the tension.

Recipe Inspiration.
I found this particular idea from the "Vanilla Garlic" blog. You can check it out here:
Chipotle Cinnamon Chocolate Cupcakes

Yes, I used a chocolate box mix. I've found chocolate mixes to be quite satisfactory. No need to get out an apron and measuring cups when a good pair of scissors will do the job. I went with dark chocolate this time.

Into the batter went cinnamon, chopped up chocolate chips, and chipotle powder.

Here's the interesting part...for those of you weren't "impressed" with the cinnamon-chipotle combination -- there is NO frosting. That's right, just a little dusting. Put a criss-crossed cooling rack on top to make a nice design.

The powder sugar and chipotle dusting is complete.

They were a hit! Mostly because of the interesting combination, everyone wanted to try one. But I think next time I'd go with a cinnamon or caramel icing/frosting. It was missing that little extra sweetness. And not only did the powdered sugar make the cupcake a little "drier" if you didn't eat it carefully, you got a shirt full of sugar while you're trying not to die from powder inhalation. Not an epic way to go. Not at all.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Black & White Cupcakes (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

I made these for our church picnic. They were super simple...I used two box mixes AND canned frosting. Yup, I said it: Canned Frosting. Not my proudest moment but how easy is that? Well, manuvering the cupcake liners to accomidate both chocolate and vanilla cake batter without completely mixing them together was a little bit of a challenge. I found spooning the batter in while tilting the liners was the easiest way.

I mixed two whole box mixes. I used chocolate and french vanilla.

Of course, if I have plain yogurt or sour cream on hand I always add a
nice dollop for extra moistness.

I was surprised how great these turned out and how delicious they were. It was the first time I had used a French Vanilla box mix and I thought I had finally found my "go to" vanilla mix. Chocolates in general are pretty good, but I have never found a vanilla box mix that I have been happy with. I've used the French Vanilla mix by itself since I made these and I wasn't impressed. It must have been the chocolate/vanilla combination that made it so good. Some sort of "box cake mix" chemical reaction... ;)

This is where I failed. I admit it, but I was pushed for time...and I'll admit, a little bit lazy. BUT I used cream cheese and chocolate fudge...which are the best of the "canned" variety, if there is such a thing.

I frosted them so the chocolate and vanilla frostings were on opposite sides of the cupcake.

Each cupcake was topped with a little piece of Hershey's Cookies and Cream bar to tie the whole thing together.

Just a little idea for those times when you don't want to get too involved, but still want add a little creativity to your baking.

Root Beer Float Cupcakes (★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆)

So I haven't blogged in awhile. But the baking has continued. This has led to quite the back-log of needed entries. Feeling rather overwhelmed with the prospect of writing about my ever growing baking adventures, I did what every other self-respecting procrastinator does: I watched tv instead.

Lately, I've been baking more and I kind of miss tracking all of my projects. Hence, the blog is back up and running.

I made these Root Beer Float cupcakes when I had a "Sixth Sense" movie screening in my backyard during the summer. They were kind of a flop. They didn't taste like Root Beer and they were pretty ugly, although I must say the cupcake itself was pretty delicious. But as I've said on here before...presentation is almost just as important as taste to me.

I got the recipe inspiration from this website: Root Beer Float Cupcakes

I put root beer both in the cake batter and in the glaze.

The ugly cupcakes. They didn't puff up and they were super
sticky...which made them very moist and delicious!

The root beer glaze. I scooped out a little section of the top to help it soak in.

I used the "Best Buttercream" recipe from this website: Vanilla Bean Buttercream

It was good..kinda of grainy and gloppy looking, but tasty. Definitely not the "best" though. My search continues.

They swore that vanilla "paste" is the secret to amazing frosting. So I spent $11 on this sucker and I can't really say it made all that much difference. I've used it since, in some of my other recipes, but only cause I have it. I probably wouldn't buy it again. Save yourself the cash.

As you can tell by the first picture, this frosting doesn't hold up very well. So my swirly mounds of "ice cream" turned into mushy poop. I had to stick them in the freezer till it was time to serve them so they didn't completely fall apart.

I wasn't lying. :)

Not my most successful experience. But at least I tried it. To more successful adventures...