Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Mint Oreo Truffles

So there is one bad thing about baking Christmas cookies and sending them to all your friends. You are left with an empty fridge and one heck of a sweet tooth!

I have one tin of cookies left, but I have sealed it with ribbon so I can't sneak any cookies since they have to make it to my in-laws house in Florida. My only option is to make something new!


Rewind to yesterday...the hubbie asked me why I didn't make any rum balls this year. I told him that "I've never made rum balls in my life!" He said then "What are those cake things you decorate?", ahhh he meant cake balls! Silly hubbie, although they are addictive they don't have rum in them. He was right though, I hadn't made any this year. I decided to try something new, since I have been addicted to mint oreos ever since I put them in homemade ice cream, I made mint oreo truffles. 

These are super easy, hardest part is waiting to eat them. Believe me not all of the truffles made it to the candy coating step!


Christmas Mint Oreo Truffles 

1 package Mint Oreo Cookies
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
white chocolate bark 
red and green candy melts

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat, set aside. Remove 6 oreo cookies from package, crush, and set aside for later use (or eating). Finely crush remaining cookies in a food processor or in a ziplock bag using a rolling pin (more therapeutic). In a large bowl combine cookie crumbs and cream cheese. Mix till completely combined and shape into 1-inch balls on prepared pan. Chill for 30 minutes.

In a deep dipping bowl, melt chocolate bark or candy coating according to package directions. Dip each oreo ball into chocolate using a small spoon, gently shake to remove excess chocolate and place back onto prepared pan. Repeat with remaining oreo balls and chill till coating has hardened. 

To decorate, place remaining chocolate bark or candy coating in a pastry bag fitted with a small tip or use a small ziplock bag with a corner cut off. Once oreo truffles have hardened, use pastry bag to decorate with Christmas shapes or drizzle. If you would rather decorate with remaining crushed oreos, while chocolate bark or candy coating is still wet sprinkle crushed oreos over the top. 

I used white chocolate bark, my preference, and red and green Wilton candy melts. If using white, I like to double-dip my truffles to ensure there are no dark oreo colors seeping through.



These guys are one of the easiest things I made all season, so no worries you still have time before the family comes over to make them. If you can't find mint oreos, this recipe would still work for regular oreos!


Happy Baking!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peppermint Marshmallows and Rocky Road Fudge

This is a bonus post today as I am going to present two recipes! Hopefully the second recipe will cover up for my slight fail on the first one, please?


This homemade marshmallow post by The Cilantropist had me excited from the first time I read it, thanks to Project Food Blog there were so many good posts and this was by far one of my favorites, mostly since I have a weak spot for s'mores. I decided to change it up a little for the season by adding some peppermint extract. Well, not thinking about how much stronger peppermint extract is than vanilla extract, I used WAY TOO MUCH peppermint extract. As perfectly fluffy and cute the marshmallows turned out, they were potent! They tasted like you just swallowed a bottle of Scope! I know the picture is deceiving, they look innocent!

So with some reading around and slight adjustments, here is the recipe with the correct amount of peppermint extract!

Peppermint Marshmallows

~1 cup confectioners sugar
3 and 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 egg whites
1 tsp peppermint extract

Grease the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 pan with butter, sift confectioners' sugar over the butter till the pan is completely covered in sugar, chill in refrigerator. In a large mixing bowl pour 1/2 cup cold water and sprinkle gelatin packets over, mix slightly and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the egg whites and beat till stiff peaks, chill in refrigerator till later. 

In a large saucepan combine remaining 1/2 cup cold water, sugar, salt, and corn syrup over low heat. Stir mixture till the sugar is dissolved, then increase heat to medium-high. Do not stir the mixture any longer, you will have to fight the urge to scrape the sides of the pan, just don't do it! Heat the mixture till a candy thermometer measures 240 degrees. This will take 10-15 minutes, depending on the heat and pan. 

Once the sugar mixture has reached 240 degrees, remove from heat and pour over the gelatin mixture from earlier. Using the whisk attachment on your stand mixer, beat on low till gelatin has dissolved into sugar mixture. Then beat mixture till it has tripled in volume and is a creamy white texture, about 6 minutes. Add the peppermint extract and chilled egg whites and mix just until incorporated. Pour the mixture into prepared chilled pan and sift confectioners' sugar over the top till covered. Let marshmallows chill for 2-3 hours or let stand at room temperature overnight.

Prepare a cutting surface with sifted confectioners' sugar. Once marshmallows have set, run a thin knife, or in my case with a non-stick pan I used nylon pan scraper, around the edges of the pan. Using gravity's assistance, turn the pan upside down and loosen the marshmallow from the bottom of the pan till it drops to the cutting surface. Using a greased knife, scraper, or pizza wheel cut the marshmallows into 1-inch cubes. Throw cut marshmallows back into prepared pan and sift confectioners' sugar over cubes till they are completely coated on all sides. Store in airtight container till ready to use.


The marshmallows were fun to make, that is if you think making a mess is fun! You will go through what feels like a bag of confectioners' sugar and it will end up everywhere! The end result is so worth it though, if you have never had homemade marshmallows they are these delicious, spongy, cloud-like little squares of joy.

Since I had a whole batch of fluffy marshmallows and didn't want to waste them I racked my brain for recipes with marshmallows, what could I make with these so mask the potent taste?


Besides putting them in hot chocolate, I can only drink so much, I decided to dice em up and throw them into a super easy batch of Peppermint Rocky Road Fudge. This was YUMMY! The potent marshmallows gave the fudge a slight peppermint taste, perfect for the season and just in time to send out to friends and family! 

Peppermint Rocky Road Fudge

3 cups mini-peppermint marshmallows
1 and 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Line a 13x9 pan with parchment paper, then grease lightly and set aside. In a medium saucepan over low heat combine the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Stir till chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, walnuts, and marshmallows. Using greased hands, press the mixture into the prepared pan. Chill the fudge till hardened or ready to serve. Cut into 48 small pieces. 

Hope you enjoy both recipes, I would love to hear some other marshmallow variations!

Also some exciting news, I'm now on Twitter! Bare with me as it is like learning a whole new language!

Happy Baking!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mint Chocolate Delights and an Award

I know everyone has their favorite cookies they make each year for the holiday season. Mine are these Mint Chocolate Chip delights. I actually found the recipe on the back of the Mint Chocolate Chip bag a few years ago and have been making them ever since!


Mint Chocolate Delights:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 10-ounce bag dark chocolate and mint chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, then set aside. In a large bowl combine butter, vanilla, and sugars and mix till creamy. Add in eggs one at a time until thoroughly combined. Slowly add in flour-cocoa mixture till incorporated. Gently stir in chocolate and mint chips. Drop by tablespoon onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on wire cooling rack.

I learned a great tip recently about re-using the same baking sheet. I had always used two baking sheets when making cookies, this allowed the first baking sheet to cool so all the cookies baked evenly. That was until recently I read to simply rinse the back of the hot baking sheet with cool water, wipe it down and voila the same baking sheet is cooled to room temperature and you can use it right away!

Besides the recipe being on the back of the bag, it is online as well: verybestbaking.com.


I am also behind on getting my award posted and I really can't wait to pass it along to other bloggers. Kitchen Morph, KonstantKraver, and Gingerbread Bagels have given me the One Lovely Blog Award. I am truly honored by these bloggers, they have an intense amount of creativity and really show it in the kitchen and through their blogs. So thank you and please go check them out!!


So the rules of the award state that:
1. You accept the award and thank the person that gave it to you.
2. Pay it forward to 15 bloggers, whose blogs you admire.
3. Contact those bloggers to let them know they have been given the "One Lovely Blog" Award.

It was so easy to decide who to pass the award on to, I have some definite favorites and have also started reading a lot of great new blogs.

1. Comfort of Cooking: Georgia is one of my go-to blogs for recipes and she has just re-designed her blog, so what better time to give this award!
2. Cooking with Sugar: Sugar is truly inspiring, she has a passion to encourage woman to cook again and it really shows in her blog.
3. The Mom Chef: Mom Chef devours magazines for recipes and brings us the good and the bad of all her favorite finds, I love her honesty!
4. Bakergirl: She has made quite possibly the cutest Christmas cookies I have seen all season, you must take a look!
5. Sweet SugarBelle: I recently found her blog via University of Cookie and fell in love. I am obsessed with her beautiful sugar cookies and find her hints extremely helpful!
6. Patty's Food: This girl has delicious recipes for things I haven't dared to try yet, like these chocolate fig bars that I wish I had right now!
7. Meet the Shannons: Annie and her husband are working their way through the Betty Crocker cookbook vegan style! I am no vegan, but love the way she makes veggies look delicious!
8. swEEts by e: Evan, a fellow Texan, makes my dreams come true with her Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares!
9. Krafted by Kelly: I love love love her blog. Not only is she a baker like me, but she doodles. These are not your ordinary heart and flower doodles, she write comics from people's tweets! You MUST check her out!
10. The Pink Apron: She has some cute Christmas baking going on that I think you all need to check out, plus she gives the secret to making better chocolate chip cookies!
11. Chicago Cuisine Critique: I am not from Chicago, but love reading her stories and yummy recipes. If you live in Chicago or plan to visit, reading her Chicago dining reviews is a must!
12. Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker: Her family history in the culinary arts is inspiring, you will love her series of posts "Make your own Monday", I can't wait to try her cake donut recipe!
13. Momma Hen's Kitchen: Her Christmas baking ideas had me drooling all over my keyboard!
14. Fragrant Vanilla Cake: Amy has taken her love of baking and put a healthy spin on it, I love her creative substitutions in recipes.
15. Sinful Southern Sweets: Not only does she make some of the cutest desserts, but she creates gift tags for them, some of which you can download from her site!

Thank you to everyone!

Happy Baking!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chocolate topped Coconut Macaroons

Believe it or not I have never tried a coconut macaroon! I semi-like coconut so I was a little nervous to make a whole batch of these without ever trying them before. Then again, anything dipped in chocolate is good right?


Well I finally tried them and I love em! These cookies are so moist and sweet each one tastes like they just came out of the oven.

These cookies are often confused with the french macaron cookie. Similar in origin both cookies are meringue-like made with egg whites and ground nuts or coconuts. The french macaron is made with ground almond flour and egg whites. The american macaroon is made with coconut and is typically much denser. I have yet to make the french macaron cookie, I'm still too chicken! So for now, hope you enjoy!
 

Chocolate topped Coconut Macaroons

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
14 ounce bag sweetened shredded coconut
4 ounces chocolate candy coating
sprinkles

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat. In a large bowl combine together the condensed milk, egg white, vanilla, and salt. Add in flaked coconut until thoroughly combined. Drop coconut mix by tablespoon onto prepared baking sheet and form into tiny mountains using fingertips. Wet fingertips with water as needed to prevent sticking to the cookie dough. Bake cookies for 18-20 minutes or until slightly browned. Let cookies sit on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on wire rack. Once cookies have cooled, melt chocolate per package directions and dip macaroons halfway into chocolate. Immediately decorate with sprinkles or crushed candy.


This recipe was adapted from FoodNetwork.com. If you cannot find chocolate candy coating simply melt together 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips with 1 tbsp shortening. If you really want to get creative, you could mold the macaroon into Christmas shapes using cookie cutters as I did with the no-bake cookies a while back. I think they would be super cute so let me know if anyone tries that method!

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Banana Chocolate Chip Biscotti

I love this time of year. I love having an excuse to be in the kitchen all day long baking christmas cookies to send to all our friends and family. Since my husband and I have family all across the US we always end up shipping presents everywhere and I love including some holiday cookies and treats to enjoy right away!



There are some favorites each year, but I like to mix it up by including some new flavors. This year that includes these banana chocolate chip biscotti. I don't drink coffee, but I will gladly make myself some hot chocolate to eat these guys up! Plus, as you all have read before, I hate wasting bananas so here is a perfect recipe to use those last two brown bananas.

For those that don't know what biscotti is, it is basically a twice baked cookie. The italian word biscotto literally means twice baked or cooked. This method of twice baking cookies creates a dry cookie that is commonly served with coffee or tea. Because the cookies are so dry they typically last a long time, hence why they are a great Christmas cookie to make in advance!

Banana Chocolate Chip Biscotti

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup ripe bananas, mashed (~2 medium)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat. In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt, then set aside. In a large beat sugar and butter till creamy. Add in banana, vanilla, and eggs and mix till smooth. Slowly add in flour mixture till completely incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips just until combined. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a 10x3 rectangle on the prepared cookie sheet. Dough will be sticky so use greased hands to shape each half into the rectangle. 

Bake biscotti loaves for 25-28 minutes or until toothpick entered in center comes out clean. Let cool on cookie sheet for 15 minutes. Move each loaf to cutting board and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Place each biscotti piece cut side down onto cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Flip each piece and bake other side for additional 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove cookies from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.


To grease my hands I lightly spray them with non-stick spray, this is not the most pleasant feeling but it works and its quick! To cut the biscotti make sure to use a serrated bread knife, this will prevent them from crumbling and give you nice even cuts. The biscotti alone have a great crunch, but to really get the banana taste I definitely recommend serving with a hot drink!

Look out for more Christmas cookies posts, including my favorite Chocolate Mint Delights.


Happy Baking!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mom's Famous Ham, Scallion, and Pecan Cheeseball

I have to give credit and thanks to my mother this Thanksgiving Season, you will too after trying this recipe!




I am going to share with you one my family staples. This cheeseball has been made for every single family gathering we have had since I can remember. I know when I go home, mom is making cheeseball and this Thanksgiving will be no different. I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it home (yes, I still call my mom's house my home) with my work schedule, but last minute we were able to secure some flights and I will be headed to St. Louis to enjoy this and all my favorites over the holiday. I cannot wait!


This is such a simple recipe but is really a great starter with some nice flavors to warm up your palette for all that turkey this Thursday. So get to the store, buy some cream cheese, and make it, I promise it will be a hit...




Mom's Famous Ham, Scallion, and Pecan Cheeseball


16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 ounces ham, diced
6 scallions, finely chopped
1 and 1/2 cup halved pecans
crackers for serving


Line a small bowl with cling wrap leaving a small amount of excess wrap and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, ham, and scallions. Mix till thoroughly combined. Spoon cheese mixture into prepared bowl lined with cling wrap, fold over excess wrap to cover cheese ball and press down to form a level surface. Chill cheese mixture in small bowl for ~2 hours. Once cheeseball has chilled remove top of cling wrap and flip onto serving tray. Cover with pecans and serve with your favorite crackers.


I usually make this the night before which makes it is so easy to just pull out of the fridge, top with pecans, and serve! My favorite crackers are usually wheat thins or triscuits, but I have been wanting to make my own and Gina has a great post on Rosemary Parmesan Crackers at What's for Dinner Across State Lines. I would love to know how the two recipes pair together, let me know if you try!




Happy Baking and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Butterbeer Cupcakes

OK, I know this is the second post of cupcakes this week, but I haven't been this excited about a post in a while! I even got up early to write this post and get my pics taken!




For those that don't know, tomorrow is the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (part 1), which means I will be going to the movie at midnight tonight! Since reading the first book, I have been to every midnight premiere whether it be a book release or a movie showing, I just love it and am a little impatient to wait till the next day!


In addition to it being Harry Potter day today, it is also my friends birthday. So inspired by the most popular drink in the book/movies series I decided to make Butterbeer Cupcakes. From what I can find around the interwebs and what people have tasted at the Harry Potter theme park, this is simply a mixture of cream soda and butterscotch. 




So this cupcake recipe is exactly that, a butter and cream soda cupcake, with a butterscotch ganache filling, and topped with a butterscotch buttercream. These cupcakes have quite a different taste than anything else I have made, probably because I never bake with butterscotch, but they are delicious! So without further ado....


Butterbeer Cupcakes


Cupcakes:
2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter flavoring
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cream soda


Ganache:
11 ounce bag of butterscotch chips
3/4 cup heavy cream


Buttercream:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup butterscotch ganache
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter flavoring
1/8 tsp salt
16 ounces of powdered sugar


To prepare cupcakes, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with liners or spray with nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In a large bowl cream butter for one minute or until fluffy. Add in sugars and mix until combined, scraping sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Add in eggs one at a time mixing thoroughly after each addition, then mix in vanilla and butter flavoring. Alternate adding in buttermilk, cream soda, and flour mixture until thoroughly combined, scraping sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Pour batter into prepared cupcake pans and bake for 15-18 minutes or until toothpick entered in center of cupcake comes out clean. Remove and let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Let cool completely on cooling rack. 


To prepare butterscotch ganache, in a double broiler or in a bowl over simmering water heat heavy cream. Just before cream begins to simmer add in butterscotch chips and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cupcakes have cooled, insert small amount of ganache filling into each cupcake using a squeeze bottle or using the Wilton #230 tip. Save a little ganache to drizzle over buttercream. 


To prepare buttercream, cream butter for one minute or until fluffy. Mix in butterscotch ganache, vanilla, butter flavoring, and salt until well combined. Sift in powdered sugar one cup at a time until completely mixed in, scraping sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Beat buttercream on medium-high for 2-3 minutes or until shiny and fluffy. For a thinner frosting, add in a tbsp of milk or cream and mix till combined. After cupcakes have cooled and been injected with ganache, top with buttercream and drizzle with leftover ganache.


Recipe adapted from AmyBites.


For the ganache, the original recipe called for a whole cup, but this gave me a super thin butterscotch sauce (good for ice cream). So another trip to the grocery store (thanks hubbie), I re-made the ganache starting with 1/2 cup of heavy cream and slowly added more cream as needed to get to the correct consistency. For the buttercream, I prefer a stiff icing so I usually skip the additional liquid addition. Overall, like I said, these cupcakes were delicious and I can't wait to share them! 




One thing I would love to find out from all of you, how do you fill your cupcake pans? I feel like I have tried every method and I still end up with a mess all over the pan. I have tried using a pastry bag, a large spoon, a ladle, and this time I tried a 1/4 cup measuring cup and every time I drip batter all over the place. Anyone have a mess proof method?


Happy Baking!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Anyone else feel like they are in a slump lately? For some reason the daylight savings this year has really messed with me. I hate leaving work at five and its already dark outside! I feel like my night is so cramped, but in reality it is the same length, weird right?!


So since I feel like I have no time, I have been making rather simple recipes lately, which is great around this time of year when we all start getting busier with preparing for the holidays. I know a lot of you are probably busy too, but don't forget to go vote for you favorite blogger in the FoodBuzz Project Food Blog. There are some really great videos out there promoting some great recipes!

These cupcakes are simple yet delicious. They are a dark chocolate cupcake with a creamy chocolate buttercream. There are so many ways to spice up chocolate cupcakes, but it all relies on a good base cupcake recipe...here is mine.




Double Chocolate Cupcakes


Cupcakes:
1 cup and 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 and 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup and 2 tbsp whole milk
1/3 cup strong coffee or espresso
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Frosting:
1 cup butter, softened
2 and 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

To prepare cupcakes, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with 12 liners or spray with non-stick spray and set aside. In a small bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, set aside. In a medium bowl mix egg, brown sugar, and white sugar till combined. Add in milk, coffee, and melted butter till combined. Mix in dry ingredients till combined and spoon mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then let cool completely on cooling rack.

To prepare frosting, in a double broiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, melt chocolate while stirring continuously. Once melted, set chocolate aside until cooled. In a large bowl using the whisk attachment on medium-high speed, whip butter for two minutes, cleaning sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Slowly sift in confectioners' sugar while mixing on low speed, cleaning sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Once all sugar is incorporated add in vanilla and blend. Add in melted, cooled chocolate and beat on medium-high for 2-3 minutes or until frosting is shiny and smooth. Fill pastry bag with your favorite tip, Wilton 1M for me, and decorate cooled cupcakes.


This recipe makes 12 cupcakes and equivalent frosting. Perfect for the small family or gift, but easy to double it up for a party, like your big Thanksgiving dinner!

Happy Baking!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chocolate Cream Puffs and Eclairs

These are something that the hubbie has been asking for now for a while. I do not personally like eclairs or cream puffs, but I aim to please around here. It was also something on my list of things to tackle. After watching a special on Pate a Choux by Alton Brown, I was ready to try and manage these little guys.



Thanks to everyone for all the kind words in my last post, you are an amazing group of people! For those of you that follow the space program, I am sure you saw the Shuttle did not launch last Friday and it has been delayed to no earlier than November 30th. I will keep you up to date, but if you are interested in all the details of the problems the Shuttle engineers have been having, I prefer Spaceflight Now. They have daily updates on the status of the Shuttle mission.

Chocolate Cream Puffs and Eclairs


Dough:
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs


Cream Filling:
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 cup whole milk
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract


Chocolate Frosting:
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 tbsp butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp hot water


To prepare the cream puffs or eclairs, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium saucepan bring water and butter to a roiling boil. Stir in flour and reduce heat to low. Continue to stir vigorously over low heat until the mixture forms a ball, about a minute. Remove from heat and beat in eggs. With a spoon continue to beat until smooth. To form cream puffs, drop 1/4 cup of mixture on prepared baking sheet. To form eclairs, fill a prepared pastry bag with mixture and form a line 4-5 inches long and 1-2 inches wide, think "finger-shaped". Bake for 35-40 minutes or until puffed and golden, remove from oven and let cool away from drafts.


To prepare cream filling, mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Add in milk and stir continuously over medium heat until mixture thickens and begins to boil. While stirring, let mixture boil for one minute. Remove from heat and add half of milk mixture to slightly beaten egg yolks. Mix, then place milk and egg mixture into the saucepan with remaining milk. While continuously stirring, bring to a boil over medium heat and let boil for one minute. Remove from heat and add in butter and vanilla. Pour mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap directly on surface, and let refrigerate for at least 1 hour to chill.


To prepare chocolate frosting, melt chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Once chocolate is melted, remove and add in powdered sugar and water. Beat until smooth and spreadable.


To fill cream puffs or eclairs cut off the top third of each and fill with cream filling and replace tops. An alternative to filling cream puffs would be to inject the cream filling. To do this, use a sharp object to create a small hole in side of cream puff or eclair, then using a prepared pastry bag inject the cream filling. While chocolate is still warm, spread over filled cream puffs and eclairs.




I found that my cream filling was a bit on the runny side, to cure this I lowered the amount of milk required in the recipe. This is why I injected the cream filling rather than cutting the tops off. If you like a thicker cream filling be sure to boil until it has thickened to your liking. When chilling your pastry cream, be sure to place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream, otherwise it will form a thickened crust on the top and no one wants to eat that!


I used a pastry bag to make both the eclairs and cream puffs, this allowed an evenly distributed circle and finger shape. After forming the shapes, slightly dampen your finger and smooth out any leftover points made by the pastry bag, you don't want a pointy cream puff! For filling these guys, I found if I didn't pre-cut a small hole that when I tried to shove the pastry tip into the cream puff it would crack the surface. You can use any sharp object to create an entry point, first thing I saw was my meat thermometer!


This recipe is slightly adapted from BettyCrocker.com


Happy Baking!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese with a side of ME!

I feel that I owe all my readers an apology. I have missed the kitchen in the past week, so I figured it was about time to fill everyone in on where I've been. As you all know I live in Houston, but what you don't know is that I work as a contractor for NASA at the Johnson Space Center. I am a flight controller for the International Space Station and am currently a lead for the upcoming Space Shuttle flight.


Photo Property of NASA


If you follow NASA's Space Shuttle program, you know the last flight of Space Shuttle Discovery was supposed to launch this past Monday, well 5 days later I am still praying for a launch today. So cross your fingers and if you can turn on the NASA channel or go to NASA.gov and tune in around 3pm Eastern to watch the 133rd launch of the Space Shuttle. This mission will have Discovery and it's crew delivering some hardware and the final module of the Space Station as well as performing some EVAs, so stay tuned!


Needless to say I have been extremely busy at work and the hubbie has been in charge of everything. One thing I did get to make was some comfort food, of course, Mac'n'Cheese. Actually any kind of pasta is comfort food to me, but I had a little bit of pumpkin left and tons of cheese, so here goes...



Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

1 cup pumpkin puree
12 ounces macaroni 
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp ground mustard
2 cups whole milk
1 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
2 slices bread, crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 9x9 pan or individual ramekins, set aside. Prepare pasta according to box. Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter then add in flour and mustard. Whisk continually for 1 minute until thick. Slowly add in milk while continuing to whisk. Bring mixture to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes, or until sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from heat, add in cheeses and pumpkin puree, then gently mix in cooked pasta. Spoon mixture into prepared pan/s and top with bread crumbles. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top has browned and cheese is melted. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve.


Concerning the pasta cooking, I always make mine Al Dente as they will soften while baking. I do this by cooking ~1 minute less than directed or until pasta is slightly firm but not hard. For bread crumbs, I used this method which gives the topping a lighter, but still crunchy texture.


Hope you enjoy and Happy Baking!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mini Pumpkin Swirl Brownie Cups

That seems like a long name...well THIS is what I made: 



Yeah so that is a pumpkin swirl brownie made in mini-muffin pans. These are of course for the Halloween party I am headed to tonight, I am so excited and hope everyone remembers them before drinking too much "punch"!


I have been seeing pumpkin recipes all over the place and the ones that stuck in my mind mixed fall's favorite flavor with chocolate. I really wanted to make cheesecake pumpkin bites, but the hubbie talked me out of it since they will be staying out all night, but send me your recipes if you have a great recipe so I can try later! Hope everyone isn't pumpkin'd our yet cause these are too cute to pass up. They are not too sweet but have a nice pumpkin and chocolate taste.




Mini Pumpkin Swirl Brownie Cups


1/2 cup butter
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
chocolate candy coating
sprinkles or candy corn


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 mini-muffin pans or use mini-baking cups and set aside. Combine chocolate and butter in a double broiler or in a bowl over simmering water. Stir until smooth and melted, set aside and let cool. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt, whisk to mix and set aside. Combine sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat until well combined and slightly fluffy ~3 minutes. Slowly add in flour mixture, just until combined. Divide batter into two bowls (about 2 cups each). Add chocolate mix to one bowl and stir till combined. Add pumpkin puree, oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the other bowl and stir to combine. 


Fill prepared pans half way with chocolate brownie mixture. Top with pumpkin brownie mixture until completely filled. Bake mini-brownies for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick entered in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let sit in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on cooling rack. Using chocolate bark/candy coating dip brownie tops into melted chocolate and decorate with sprinkles or candy corn pieces. 


The recipe was adapted from MarthaStewart.com. If you want to make them into actual brownies, just bake in a 9x9 pan for 40-45 minutes. If you don't have mini-muffin pans, buy some or put them on your Christmas list, because they are just so darn cute!


Happy Baking!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Hubbie's Texas Chili

Since fall has officially arrived here in Texas, which means I'm not melting in jeans and a t-shirt, it is time for those warm, fill you belly kind of meals. AKA man food.



The hubbie seems to lose his chili recipe all the time, mostly because my recipe book is so overstuffed everything falls out of it. Although, it is not my fault he scribbles it on the back of the grocery list and I accidentally throw it away. We don't even know if that is really what happened! Now we will have the recipe forever on the blog and we get a chance to share the recipe with all of you!


The Hubbie's Texas Chili

2 (15 ounce) cans Organic Tri-blend beans, rinsed and drained
2 (8 ounce) cans of tomato sauce
1 (15 ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
2 tbsp fresh parsley, diced
1/2 tsp oregano
1 and 1/2  tsp cumin
2 tbsp chili powder
1 cup water


In a large skillet brown the ground pork and beef over medium heat. Drain and set aside. In a large soup pot, combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, and corn over medium-high heat. Saute until onions are translucent. Add in cooked meat, tomatoes, water, and spices (everything except for beans). Heat to boiling, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour stirring occasionally. Add in beans and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and cook on low, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring as needed. Chili will thicken the longer it is simmered. Serve warm with sour cream, shredded cheese, tortilla chips, fritos, cheese bread....whatever floats your boat!


If you can't find the tri-blend beans, it is a combination of red kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans, so just pick your favorites. If you have time, just let the chili simmer for 2-3 hours (adding water as needed) and the flavors will really come out, in fact it is usually better the second day. Also note, this recipe makes A LOT of chili, enough for lunch all week, so I hope you like it!


Happy Baking!
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