Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Butterfly Cupcakes

It has been a very long time since I have posted anything. Life got super busy when our third little one came along, and though I have been baking, I have not had much time to post anything.

We had our annual spaghetti dinner this Sunday at our church, and I always sign up to bring in a baked good. I like to make something special for the kids as I know how excited my girls get about kid friendly treats. I saw these cupcakes on the Martha Stewart website and knew they would come together relatively easily, so I decided to give them a try. The original "recipe" used plain pretzels, but I found these yogurt pretzels at our farmer's market and thought they were adorable.

I used a plain vanilla cupcake and frosted with a sour cream vanilla icing I found in the Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I loved the frosting, but something a little thicker would probably work better in the future. The Martha Stewart website recommended a swiss meringue buttercream.

I was thrilled with how the cupcakes turned out, and my daughters loved them. They must have been a hit because they were gone by the time we got to the dinner later in the day. I will definitely be making these again!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

SMS- Golden Almond Fruitcake

After what seems like a very long wait, it is finally my turn to host Sweet Melissa Sundays! For months now, I have flipped through the book trying to decide which recipe I wanted to choose, and like many others, I always seemed to come back to one recipe- the Golden Almond Fruitcake. Despite the fruitcake's reputation, it holds a very dear place in my heart. My grandmother used to make many fruitcakes every year at Christmas and would give them to all my aunts and uncles. My dad in particular loved it and savored every last slice. He used to slice it up, wrap each slice in plastic wrap, and freeze the slices. I think he could make two bundt cakes last until March! My grams died two years ago this spring and our world has been fruitcakeless ever since. We looked everywhere for her fruitcake recipe after she died, but could not find it. So you see, my purpose for picking this recipe is two fold. First, it is to honor my grandmother who is very near and dear to my heart. The second is so my dad can finally have his fruitcake again.

Despite a long ingredient list, the recipe is relatively simple and straightforward. To start I chose my fruits- apricots, cherries, and golden raisins which the recipe suggests and I had on hand. To soak them, I ended up going with the brandy. After searching high and low for almond flour with no success, I did have to make my own. I'm not sure my almonds were ground quite fine enough because I forgot about having to add a portion of the sugar to the almonds when processing in the food processor. I let my mini prep run for a minute or two and figured it wasn't going to get much better than what I was left with. Though I tried to adhere to the original recipe as much as possible, I did have to make one small change. In true Melissa Murphy fashion, the stars of the recipe are almonds and citrus zest. I only had one lemon left in my refrigerator and it was definitely not zest worthy, so I ended up omitting the zest.

Now I have never been very good at reading directions. I tend to read what I think are the important parts of each step and skip the rest of the wording. Case and point- making the almond flour (without the sugar). So when I came to the last step before baking, I saw fold in prepared fruit and nuts. Done. I mixed in my brandy scented fruit and chopped almonds and poured the batter into the prepared loaf pan. I had about ten more degrees before my oven was preheated so I set the loaf pan on the counter and started to clean up. As I was putting the pan in the oven, the phrase "omitting the marzipan would be a sin" popped into my head. I totally missed the marzipan! I quick pulled it out of the freezer and folded it in as best I could.

I must admit, this recipe is nothing like my grandmother's, but it smelled wonderful baking in the oven. It has a very strong almond flavor (with almond flour, almond extract, and marzipan) whose aroma warmed the entire house. The loaf baked pretty close to the entire time specified in the recipe, though I did reduce the temperature a little early because the edges started to brown around twenty minutes into the first baking cycle. I glazed the cake with orange juice because I ran out of brandy when I soaked the fruit. Though now I won't feel like I have to say no when my three year old asks me if she can try it!

The verdict? Well, its definitely not my grandmother's fruitcake so I will have to do a little more searching before I settle on a recipe to make for my dad (ugh! fruitcake isn't something you want to experiment with considering how hard it is to give away). However, this recipe is definitely a keeper. In the preface to the recipe, Melissa Murphy states they have to give a lot of samples away at the holidays to get people to buy the fruitcakes. I can see why she says once they try it they walk away with more than one. My suggestion is if you are going to make it for someone else, don't tell them its a fruitcake! Without the red and green candied cherries, they will never know the difference!

Be sure to see what all the other SMS bakers thought of my choice for this week's recipe. Hopefully, people were not too scared by the choice and exahusted from their Thanksgiving baking!

Golden Almond Fruitcake (p. 18)

For the Cake

1 cup chopped dried fruit (1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces)
1/4 cup brandy, apple juice, or orange juice
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 t freshly grated lemon zest
3 large eggs
1/2 t almond extract
1 t pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup almond flour or 1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t cardamom
1/4 t freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 t kosher salt
1/2 cup whole natural almonds coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (2.5 ounces) marzipan, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces and frozen

For the Glaze

1/4 cup brandy, apple juice, or orange juice
3 T sugar

Pro Tip: To make your own almond flour for this recipe, in a food processor, pulse 1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds with 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar called for in the recipe until it becomes a coarse texture. The remaining 1/4 cup sugar should be added to the butter for creaming.

Before you Start:

Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter and flour a 1 1/2 quart loaf pan.

1. In a medium saucepan over very low heat, heat the dried fruit and brandy, stirring occasionally. When the mixture comes to a simmer, remove from the heat and cover (allowing the fruit to absorb the brandy), stirring occasionally.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitten with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugars, and zest until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the almond extract and vanilla. Mix until combined (At this stage, the mixture will appear slightly broken).

3. If using the sliced blanched almonds, in a food processor fittes with the metal blade, pulse grind the almonds until a very fine flour (as fine as you can get). In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, all purpose flour, baking soda, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt.

4. On low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in two batches, mixing until just combined after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dried fruits along with their soaking liquid. Fold in two thirds of the chopped almonds and the frozen marzipan (it's easy to forget this because its in the freezer).

5. Pour the batter into the prepared load pan and sprinkle the remaining chopped almonds on top. Bake for 25 minutes, then rotate the pan and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Bake for an additional 25-35 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean (Be careful when testing with the wooden skewer. You could poke into a piece of marzipan which will look like raw cake batter on the skewer, so test the loaf in a few different spots). Remove to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before unmolding the cake onto the rack for glazing.

6. For the glaze, warm the brandy with the sugar until the sugar dissolves (its easiest to do this in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time).

7. Using a patry brush, brush the glaze over the fruitcake while it is still warm. You will not need all of the glaze, but use as much as you like. Glaze the cake at least once, but if you want more, simply wait for each layer to soak in before you glaze again. The more you glaze, the boozier your fruitcake will be. Let cool to room temperature.

This cake keeps very well tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for 2 days. For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 5 days. Or freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum fool for up to 3 weeks. Defrost still wrapped at room temperature.

Monday, November 23, 2009

No Sweet Melissa Sundays

My apologies to Lauren who was hosting this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe. The teflon started to peel off my waffle maker a while back and I had to chuck it. With Christmas right aroud the corner, I couldn't really justify spending the money on a new waffle maker... I'll definitely give the recipe a try once I get one!

Be sure to check out Lauren's blog and see what the other SMS bakers thought! I'll have last week's recipe up shortly. Even though I actually had the recipe done EARLY last week, life has gotten a little crazy so I haven't had time to post it yet.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sweet Potato and Cranberry Hash

I was on the Williams Sonoma site looking for a waffle maker (I think I will pick one up at Macy's instead!) and took a look at some of the fall inspired recipes they had posted. Under the cranberry section, they had this recipe for a sweet potato and cranberry hash. Even though I knew no one else in my family would eat this but me, I decided to try it anyway. I love sweet potatoes and the thought of them paired with apples and cranberries sounded incredible.

Before I went to work yesterday, I baked the sweet potatoes and chopped up the remaining ingredients. The recipe said to cool the potatoes before peeling and cubing for the hash, so I ended up doing that part when I came home. The recipe itself could not be more easy to throw together. You saute the apples in some butter, toss in the cranberries and green onions, add the spice, and add the sweet potatoes at the last minute. The only tricky part is stirring everything once you add the sweet potatoes so they don't turn to mush. I kind of had to toss everything in the pan instead of stirring it.

I have to say, I was very impressed with this recipe. I was a little skeptical about the green onions at first, but they definitely add a little something to the dish. The picture does not do the hash justice, but it was dark outside and my husband was in no mood to wait for me to get a good picture! After being called in to work in the middle of the night, he hadn't eaten since dinnertime the night before. I served the hash with a honey soy gingered chicken which was delicious as well. And as I predicted, I couldn't even get my husband to try it and my one year old poo-pooed it as well. She is not a fan of sweet potatoes to begin with but she did end up picking out the apples and eating them. My three year old and fellow sweet potato lover was at grammy's house last night, but I'm betting it would be too many flavors mixed together for her. I should have halved the recipe because I will probably be eating sweet potato hash for the rest of the week now!

Monday, November 9, 2009

SMS- Pear Cranberry Muffins with Gingersnap Crumble

This week's recipe for Sweet Melissa Sundays is pear cranberry muffins with gingersnap crumble by Jennifer of Maple and Cornbread. What a great pick! I absolutely love pears and gingersnaps together! A couple years ago I had a pear cheesecake with a gingersnap crust and it was incredible. Ever since then, I have been in love with the flavor combination so I was really looking forward to this one.

The muffins are super easy to make- we have made two other varieties already- but I wince every time I read the recipe and see that it calls for a stick of butter, cream, and whole milk. On several occasions, I have subbed buttermilk for the cream with great success. This time, I had some half and half to use up in the fridge so I ended up using that instead of the cream and subbed the buttermilk for the whole milk. Even though I always have whole milk on hand for my daughter, I thought the buttermilk may help lighten up the density of the muffins. And after much deliberation, I decided to make the gingersnaps for the cumble. Since I was going to be baking for Joy's Operation Baking Gals team this month, I figured an extra batch of cookies couldn't hurt!

The muffins puffed up beautifully in the oven and the smell of the gingersnap crumble was wonderful. I brought them to my in-laws for dinner last night and everyone loved them. The combination of the sweet pears, tart cranberries, and spicy crumble was delicious! I would highly recommend using buttermilk instead of the whole milk since it seemed to lighten the density tremendously. I ended up bringing the leftovers to work today. We'll see how long they last!
I will post my "pictures" of the muffins a little later. As luck would have it, BOTH of my cameras had dead batteries. I thought I could take pictures with our video camera but couldn't figure out how to do it. Out of desperation and frustration I just decided to take a video. I just have to find the cables and figure out how to get the video on to my computer! Hopefully, its not too complicated- it says YouTube compatible right on the camera so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!!

Jennifer- what a great pick for this week! I think the pear is often an overlooked fruit for the fall that PAIRS quite nicely with our favorite fall spices (sorry for the bad pun). Be sure to head over to Jennifer's blog for the recipe and check out what all the other Sweet Melissa Bakers thought.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Halloween Treats (a little late)

So I know its a little late, but these were too cute not to post. I was hoping to do it earlier in the week, but lets just say my body has never adjusted well to daylight savings time!

Ever since my daughter's birthday party this past year, she has been asking to have some of her friends over again. Since we love Halloween so much in our house, I thought it would be a perfect time to have another little get together. And what fun we had! To see her running around screaming with her little friends- so great. Its what I signed up for... I didn't want to go with the traditional candy bags for party favors so I went to marthastewart.com to see if I could find any cute ideas. I found a template to make witch hats you could attach to the top of popcorn balls wrapped in green celophane. I wasn't sure about the popcorn but thought I could easily sub out the popcorn for caramel apples. The caramel was pretty wasy to make but took a LOT longer than I anticipated to get to the correct temperature. The one thing that amazes me about candy making is how the temperature will stay in one spot forever and then all of a sudden, it goes up thirty degrees in a minute! Good thing I kept a watchful eye! The recipe said it yielded six apples and there were going to be seven kids, so I also made six chocolate peanut butter apples (before the caramel). Turns out, I could have made a dozen apples easily, so I now have a little pint jar of caramel sitting in the fridge. The witch hats were made out of construction paper and I used ribbon I had left from my sister-in-law's baby shower. All in all, I think they turned out adorable!

For a snack I set out the traditional fruit and goldfish, but wanted to make some sort of cupcakes as well. I saw this recipe for pumpkin cupcakes on Tracey's Culinary Adventures when I was in search of cupcake recipes for my other daughter's birthday and thought this would be a perfect time to make them. The spiderweb design on top was so cute for Halloween! I made them the morning of the party and after reading the recipe I realized the icing was cream cheese icing. Experience has taught me pre-schoolers are not big fans of cream cheese icing and after realizing they would be getting enough sugar on Halloween, I decided it would be better not to ice their cupcakes. I did ice what was left after the party because the cupcakes on Tracey's site were so cute, I had to try it. It was surprisingly easy- you just drag out the icing from the center of three concentric circles. The cupcakes were delicious on their own and no one missed the icing, but the cream cheese icing was great as well. And the cinnamon icing used to pipe the design on top gave a little something extra to the finished product.

Everything was a lot of work, but so worth it! My daughter was very excited about the caramel apples- it was everything I could do to stop her from eating one until after the party- and everyone loved the cupcakes. I'll definitely be making the cupcakes again! The recipe for the caramel apples can be found here and the instructions for the witch hats can be found here. The recipe for the cupcakes can be found on Tracey's blog here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

SMS Sweet Almond Bread Pudding with Raspberry Sauce

This week's recipe was chosen by Candace of Candy Girl- Sweet Almond Bread Pudding with Raspberry Sauce. I was super excited about this recipe because I love bread pudding! No one else in my house is, so I planned to make about half of the recipe and freeze some of it. I picked up a half loaf of brioche on my way to work on Friday hoping it would be stale by Sunday when I planned to make it.

After reading through the whole recipe earlier in the week, I became less and less excited about the raspberry sauce. It just didn't scream fall to me. And I only had whole raw almonds on hand so I knew I was going to have to make some alterations to the recipe this week. I also had a hard time with the thought of using an entire quart (or half quart in my case) of heavy cream, so I opted for half and half instead. So lets just say I used the recipe as a guide and kind of did my own thing.

The basic recipe is super easy to follow. Heat the cream and sugar, temper the eggs, and soak the bread in the custard mixture. My only snafu was I had just opened a new bottle of vanilla that had a flip cap on it. Not even looking, I squeezed the bottle assuming it had a squeeze top not realizing it had a pour spout on it. I think I ended up with three times the amount of vanilla I should have used! I just crossed my fingers and moved on. Instead of using the almonds, I ended up topping the mixture with sugar and pecans because pecans have become my favorite nut to bake with. I baked the whole mixture for about 45 minutes since it was only a half recipe and it came out perfect.

I tasted a tiny sliver of the bread pudding after it cooled slightly, and oh my goodness was it good. Flavorful (with triple the amount of vanilla) and creamy. It would have been perfect with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream! I did end up skipping the raspberry sauce and settled on a butter rum sauce instead. My aunt used to make something similar with her apple cake and it was delicious! There were a ton of recipes online, so I picked the most fattening and sugary one and went with it (only because I skimped on calories with the pudding). Knowing no one else would want a piece, I waited until my girls went to bed, sliced a piece of the pudding, topped with a nice helping of rum sauce, and enjoyed! Just one word- awesome! I didn't feel like struggling with lighting and my camera so I will post pics tomorrow.

I know bread pudding is probably one of those desserts most people either love or hate, so if you're one of the lovers, definitely give this recipe a go. You can find the original recipe on Candace's blog. And be sure to see what all the other SMS bakers thought of this week's recipe!

Here are my alterations to the original recipe...

-Used half and half instead of heavy cream
-Used pecans in place of almonds
-Omitted the almond extract and doubled the vanilla

And here is the recipe I used for the rum sauce which I found on Cooks.com

1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Butter
2 T Rum (I used Capt. Morgan Spiced Rum)

Combine all ingredients but rum in a saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Continue to boil for another five minutes. Add the rum and combine.

Questions or Comments?

I would love to hear from you! E-mail me at sugarspicekitchen@yahoo.com.