Friday, March 25, 2011

Dinner party for six...or two

If you're like me, after you made those chocolate chip cupcakes from last week, you were left with 4 egg yolks sitting in a tupperware, in the refrigerator, for days, thinking "What ever will I do with just 4 egg yolks?" And if you're like me even more, you immediately thought "make lemon curd!" (Obviously)

Surprisingly, I thought all lemon curds were made solely with egg yolks. But the more I researched, I found that lots of recipes call for whole eggs, not just the yolks.  I ended up doing a makeshift recipe of my own, because I didn't understand why all of them called for so much sugar and butter.  I also don't have any fresh lemons on hand, so I ended up using bottled lemon juice and some extract.

I convinced myself earlier this week that I needed to stop baking so much and replace that time with running more, but alas, Texas heat is already in full swing and I don't want to get burned running out in the  peak sun time.  Hence, I bake cook make lemon curd.

Then it occurred to cute would it be to make mini-lemon tartlets?! But I wanted graham cracker crust because that was easier and didn't require turning on the oven.   And then I thought, how cute would it be to make mini-lemon curd tartlets with meringue topping?!  Genius.

So there you have it folks.  A graham cracker crust with homemade lemon curd and a cute meringue topping.

I pretty much made these recipes up as I went along and thankfully they all turned out okay.  Perfect for a tasty after supper treat for a dinner party, and tonight, that will include me and the hubs. (And the dogs...but they don't get one)

Mini-Lemon Meringue Tartlets*

Lemon curd:
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar (heaping)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 tsp lemon extract
2 tbsp butter

In a medium saucepan, heat an inch of water to boiling then bring down to simmer.  In a metal or glass bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until completely combined.  Whisk in lemon juice and extract. Place bowl over simmering water.  Continue to stir for 7-10 minutes until mixture begins to thickens and coats the back of the spoon.  Remove from heat.  Add 1 tbsp of butter and whisk until completely melted. Add 2nd tbsp of butter and whisk until melted and combined.  Place piece of saran wrap over bowl and allow to cool.  Refrigerate.

1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar

Melt butter.  Add crumbs and sugar and mix until combined.  Line cupcake tin with 6 cupcake liners.  Distribute crust mixture into each of the liners and press down firmly.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

2 egg whites
4 tbsp sugar

With stand or hand mixer, whip egg whites until they become white and frothy.  Add sugar 1 tbsp at a time and continue to whip until bright white and makes stiff peaks.  Refrigerate.

Remove crust from cupcake wrappers carefully and put on plate.  Add dollop of lemon curd and spread evenly.  With a piping bag (or ziploc) and tip (or cut a hole in ziploc), pipe on meringue to each individually.  Place under broiler for 1 minute or until meringue is light brown.

*apparently there are two ways to spell tartlet/tartellette.  Spell it how you please. :)
**I already had 4 egg yolks in the fridge and so only used two egg whites.  If you are starting from scratch, you can double the amount of meringue you make and then maybe make those little meringue cookies.  Or make the chocolate chip cupcakes.

You won't use all of the lemon curd for these, only about 1/4-1/2.  So safe the rest and eat if on some yummy scones or toast....or by itself?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Not beautiful...but tasty

Today is Lucy's birthday and for my friend's special day, I made Toffee Bit Cookies.  I've never really used toffee bits before, but since I've met Lucy, I've used them multiple times.  They're her favorite after all. I was definitely trying to go for something other than cupcakes. I'm all cupcake-d out.  

But who am I kidding? I'll probably make more cupcakes next week...

In the meantime, toffee bit cookies.

 The toffee bit bag had a recipe on the back for their version of these cookies, however, I made my version.
 I used my favorite chocolate chip cookie dough recipe (aka Nestle Tollhouse with a tweak) and just subbed in heath bits for chocolate chips.  Notice how they spread out...well, that's probably because I nuked the butter in microwave.  I have no patience for room temperature things...we know this.
They aren't beautiful, but believe me, they are tasty nonetheless.

In addition to these cookies, I got her two new succulent plants! She's got a thing for succulents.  I had to channel my inner green thumb in order to pot these little guys.  Thank goodness for directions on the back of the "Cactus/Succulent Potting Soil."
Pretty, no?

Happy Birthday, Lucy!

Toffee Bit Cookies

2 sticks butter, room temperature or softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 bag ( 1 1/3 cup) toffee bits

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in separate bowl.  Beat together butter and sugars until fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs.  Add in flour mixture a little at a time until well combined.  Fold in toffee bits and scoop onto cookie sheets. bake 8-10 minutes or until golden.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the husband to pick me up a few baking necessities for my favorite chocolate chip cookies.  For the record, the husband has seen me make these cookies a million times and devoured them a million times.  Now what I consider common baking sense, the husband is clueless.  The sweet man comes home with three different types of chocolate chips.  Milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and a fancy chocolate chips with the percentage of "cacao" on the bag.

"I didn't know which kind you use for your cookies," he said, "so I just got an assortment and hoped one was the right kind."

Well, he's got a good heart.  I kindly told him that most basic chocolate chip cookie recipes called for semi-sweet...and then I called him a goofball...and made him cookies.

So I've had these milk chocolate chips sitting in my pantry for weeks and I'm not good about just letting things sit in there and not get used.  Which is why I decided to try out a new cupcake recipe....Chocolate Chip Cupcakes  (with milk chocolate chips).

I adapted the cupcake recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my home to yours cookbook.  It's her recipe for the "Perfect Party Cake" that I made a few tweaks and adjustments to.
The icing is a very vanilla buttercream that I adapted from My Baking Addiction. 
I stuck a mini chips ahoy in the top for good measure.
Props to the husband for holding up a placemat for a good background for the pictures.

Thoughts about these cupcakes:
1. The chocolate chips sank to the bottom.
2.  The milk chocolate chips didn't melt like I thought they would and make an ooey-gooey cupcake.  Instead the hardened right when they cooled.
3.  I'm sorry all my cupcake wrappers are in birthday print. I need some solid colors.
4.  I prefer cream cheese icing to buttercream.  
5.  The white cake was good, but is better microwaved than just at room temperature. 
6.  I need to move on from cupcakes.

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Cake recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick (8 tbsp) butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract (clear)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake tin with wrappers.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Whisk together egg whites and milk.
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add vanilla extract.  Alternate adding wet mixture and dry mixture until fully combined.  Beat another 2 minutes to ensure batter is thoroughly aerated and mixed.  Scoop batter into cupcake pan.
Bake 18-20 minutes.

Very Vanilla Buttercream

3 sticks butter, room temperature
2 lbs powdered sugar
2 tbsp clear vanilla extract
6 tbsp whipping cream
pinch of salt

Beat butter until light.  Slowly add in powdered sugar until combined.  Add vanilla extra.  Add whipping cream 1 tbsp at a time until desired consistency.  Frost cupcakes.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Toffee Caramel Crunch

This week, I watched these two little bundle of joys.
Don't lie. These are probably the cutest pumpkin patch pictures you've ever seen...and cutest kids.
Meet Aubrey and Owen---my older sister's 16-month old twins.  While my sister and her husband were vacationing in the Dominican Republic this week, my mom and I took turns with these little tykes.  Not going to lie. I have a totally new respect for parenthood after this week.  After my first full day and night with them, I felt like I was last year's self, working night shifts at the hospital---exhausted, sleep-deprived, and chugging caffeine.  
I semi-baby-proofed my new house, but nothing gets by these two.  Remote controls placed 6-feet off the ground---they'll just climb.  Try to do something not involving them---they'll pull your computer off the table to get your attention.  Despite all the running around and sleepless nights, I thoroughly enjoyed having them here.  (But not enough to have my own, so don't ask)
Anyways, after dropping them off at my mom's for their last hurrah with her before the 'rents come home, I didn't know what to do with myself.  But wait, yes I do.  Make cupcakes.  
This is my attempt to make my friend's third and final cupcake flavor for her wedding.  
Months ago, Lucy described a cake to me that she and her fiance' had had when they were visiting a small diner in Oregon.  She said it was their favorite cake and they always talked about it, but had never been able to find anything like it again.  We attempted a version of it a while back, but came up with something sticky and overly sweet.  I knew I would have to try to recreate this cake somehow for their wedding and here's my 2nd attempt.  I give you Salted Caramel Crunch Cupcakes. 
Chocolate cake with toffee bits, salted caramel frosting, and a drizzle of caramel and toffee bits on top.
You can do it with or without the drizzle if you prefer. They both look pretty yummy. 
I'm little bit embarrassed to admit that this is a glorified box cake mix.  It's doctored up and delicious, but a box nonetheless.  Not going to lie though, Betty Crocker does it right. It's hard to go wrong with a box cake mix.  
I adapted the recipe from My Baking Addiction for her Snickers cupcakes.  
In other news, I ordered new frosting tips and so begins the practicing.  :)

Toffee Caramel Crunch Cupcakes
1 box Devil's Food Cake mix
1 box Instant chocolate pudding
1 cup sour cream
1 cup veggie oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup toffee bits

Mix together all ingredients until combined.  Fill cupcake tin with liners 2/3 of the way full.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.


1 cup (2 sticks) butter---room temp
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 lbs powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup caramel sundae topping (and extra for drizzling)

Cream together butter and shortening. Add vanilla, salt, and caramel until well mixed.  Add in powdered sugar a little at a time until combined.  Frost cupcakes and garnish with caramel drizzle and toffee bits.