Monday, January 30, 2012

Nutella Brownies

Hello there again,

So I have to admit I am a bit late to the Nutella bandwagon. I had done a home-stay in France when I was 13 (back when Nutella really wasn't known in the US) and I just couldn't get my mind around the idea of chocolate frosting for breakfast, because that's what it is.

I know I know - why argue if you're being offered chocolatey goodness for breakfast by a beautiful, smiling Frenchwoman? This is coming from the kid who only ate (and still eats) plain cheerios for breakfast.

Well, I learned my lesson. Now Nutella is everywhere - in grocery stores and all over the blogosphere, and when my boyfriend so sweetly picked me up a "Nutella on the Go", how could I say no?

Friends, I see my error (I was only 13) and I repent. Nutella is fabulous, and I am going to dedicate two back-to-back posts to it and it's wonderful complement to my favorite sweets.

So for today - what better way to kick off the morning than with Nutella Brownies! I got up early to whip these up...and according to one of our friends who slept over the night before, "it was like waking up to heaven".

Can't go wrong with that idea.

It was a bit of a workout to whip each egg in by hand (although maybe it's a sign that I should exercise instead of baking so much...nah) but it was completely worth it.

These are like heaven - fudgy, dense, moist, and in the midst of all the chocolate that faint hint of hazelnuts that I have learned to love

BUT be prepared...the heavenly scent can attract chocolovers everywhere, so it might be a good idea to make more than one batch.

Happy Baking!

Nutella Brownies Via That'sSoYummy

1 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup Nutella (heated in microwave for about 45 seconds)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a square baking pan with parchment paper/foil
2. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, melt butter and then whisk in sugar and vanilla. Let cool before beating in each egg, one at a time, until fully incorporated.
4. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture until fully combined. Stir in melted nutella. Fold in chocolate chips.
5. Pour into prepared pan and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes (it's done when you shake the pan slightly it does not jiggle)
6. Let cool completely

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Homemade Strawberry Pop Tarts

Hello there friends!

I know it's been so long - but I come bearing exciting news!

You can make pop-tarts at home!

This may/may not come as a shock to you, but the idea sounds pretty fantastic to me. My boss at work asked me to whip some up as a challenge to a fellow co-worker who claimed he could make them from scratch but had yet to do so (Pop Tart Showdown anyone?) He was even so nice as to pick up the major ingredients for me since I was snowed in this Saturday and kept from going the grocery store...

I guess someone really wants to try a homemade pop tart!

It turns out they are not too difficult to make (just a bit time consuming - so be prepared to be patient) and you can even pull a Sandra Lee and Semi-HomeMake it with pre-made pie crust. I opted for fresh pie crust since I had the time and I wanted to go all out for these babies. In retrospect, it would've saved me a good hour or two if I used the premade crust - if you plan on making alot of these (the recipe only yields about 7), I would suggest picking up a couple refrigerated doughs ahead of time.

So...not only is making your own pop tarts super fun (and impressive - seriously imagine telling your friends 'oh yeah I just whipped up some fresh, from-scratch pop tarts the other day...') it is also extremely versatile. Now that I know this works I can easily switch out the strawberry preserves for peach, blueberry, or even a brown sugar cinnamon filling! Possibilities = endless & delicious.

I hope you enjoy trying these out (if you have children this would be so much fun on a rainy Saturday) and be sure to keep an eye out for my next post on Nutella Brownies!

Happy Baking!

Homemade Pop Tarts Via Bake Me More

1 refrigerated pre-made pie crust OR 1 batch fresh pie crust (recipe follows)
1 medium jar strawberry preserves/jam (or any flavor of your choice!)
egg wash OR vanilla glaze
sprinkles (optional)

Homemade Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt
3-4 tbsp cold water

1. Combine flour and salt. Add shortening and butter and cut into flour with pastry cutter or your fingers until consistency is coarse
2. Slowly add a tablespoon at a time of water until dough comes together and forms a ball

Vanilla Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
milk (as needed)

1. Add powdered sugar to medium bowl. Add milk slowly (one tablespoon at a time) and combine until consistency becomes like very thick syrup.

Assemble Pop Tarts:
1. Roll out pie crust and cut into equal sized rectangles. Line out half the rectangles on a greased/lined cookie sheet
2. Spread a generous dollop of strawberry jam/preserves in center of rectange. Cover with another pie crust rectangle.
3. Use a fork to crimp edges all the way around. If not using glaze, brush lightly with egg wash
4. Bake at 450 for 7-8 minutes or until golden brown
5. Glaze and decorate if desired

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Strawberry Whoopie Pies

Hello all,

The return to winter weather (for me) is approaching quicker than ever, and I am so not looking forward to it. It has been an average of 70 degrees for my winter vacation, and the idea of bracing the average 35 degrees up in New Brunswick fills me with dread. With that said - the rest of my baking adventures until I leave will be delectable, fruity, and full of Spring/Summer fun.

After the huge success of the Strawberry Shortcake Muffins, I just had to see what else I could whip up with these amazingly juicy little fruit that have just come into season down here in Florida. I came across Strawberry Whoopie Pies on SweetPea's Kitchen and I knew I had to try it.

I always thought shortening was the key for Whoopie Pies, but apparently vegetable oil and some sour cream can go a long way. These are chewy, cake-y and full of fresh strawberry flavor. Although they are sort of, well, huge (she said heaping tablespoons...) it will keep me from eating all of them in one go; I hope.

I hope these remind you of summer as much as they do for me (I bet it would work with blueberries or raspberries as well!) and as always,

Happy Baking!

Strawberry Whoopie Pies 
slightly adapted via SweetPeasKitchen

3 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup finely chopped strawberries
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt

1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Combine oil and sugar, whisking until thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in sour cream and strawberries.
3. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Fold in flour mixture in two batches; do not overmix
4. Cover and refrigerate for 1/2 hour
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter onto the baking sheets approx. 2 inch apart (to allow for spreading).
7. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from one of the cookies.
8. Let cool on pan for 10 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Frost - Flip cookie upside down and place large dollop of Buttercream in center. Place another cookie on top and gently press to spread Buttercream to edges.

Strawberry Buttercream

1 cup softened butter
1 cup finely chopped strawberries
4 cups powdered sugar
1-2 drops red food coloring

1. Beat butter until fluffy, then add in powdered sugar. Slowly add in strawberries and food coloring and beat until frosting reaches uniform consistency.

Whoopie Pies on FoodistaWhoopie Pies

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Triple Citrus Cupcakes

Hello all!

I know it's been so long since I last posted, but who knew having your wisdom teeth out could take so much out of you. Now that my face no longer resembles that of a Cabbage Patch Kid (as my mother so lovingly called me) and I can open my mouth enough to eat, I decided to celebrate with cupcakes!

It also happens to be a lovely 80 degrees here in Florida, so Triple Citrus sounds splendid to me and my long neglected sweet tooth. Lemon, Lime, and Orange? Yes Please!

Of course I wanted to break out the icing tips for these and attempt to beautify them, but wouldn't you know it that as soon as I piped an adorable little mound of frosting, it flattened out to this...

Oh well, you can't blame a girl for trying. Though I have to admit, it now looks like I covered my cupcakes in what they covered young children in on Nickelodeon's SlimeTime Live. Does anyone else remember that show besides me? What was that stuff? At least mine is citrus-y sweet and made from ingredients that are indeed edible. 

As always, for me - taste is paramount; so I wasn't too upset about the icing since the entire cupcake screams "summer" in my mouth. For someone who's facing a return to dreary, New Jersey weather in a week, I plan to enjoy these and the warm Florida weather for as long as I can!

I've included the recipe from Read. Cook. Digest. below, and if you really enjoy citrus, I'd suggest adding an additional tsp of zest (or two!) in the batter and the frosting. 

As Always, Happy Baking!

Triple Citrus Cupcakes Via Read. Cook. Digest.

1- 8oz pkg cream cheese
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tbsp orange zest (increase to 3 if you really love orange!)
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 325 and grease/line 2-12 cup muffin pans
2. Cream butter, cream cheese, sugar, and orange zest in a medium bowl.
3. Beat in eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. Beat vegetable oil into wet ingredient mixture. Then, alternately fold in flour mixture and milk, starting and ending with flour. Mix only until just incorporated.
5. Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until they spring back when lightly touched.
6. Let cool while you prepare the frosting

Citrus Frosting

3 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp (or 2!) lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup softened butter
food coloring (optional)
splash of milk (optional)

1. Combine all ingredients and beat until you have a smooth consistency. If too stiff, add splash of milk.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Macaron Success and Homemade Bagels

Happy New Year all!

Although I can honestly say I don't often partake in the New Year festivities, I decided to ring in 2012 with a new, never-before attempted recipe for...


But, before I get into bagels and bread, I must share with you all a photo that makes me smile with joy every time I gaze at it.

My friends: I have made a successful French Macaron!

What a relief, that after 5 unsuccessful attempts to recreate my favorite French cookie, I finally had a macaron I could be proud to call my own.

What I've learned:

1. Add the granulated sugar to the egg whites right at the beginning: it saves you a lot of stress.
2. Don't feel like aging egg whites? Buy a carton of Egg Beaters Egg Whites and bring desired amount to room temperature.
3. Make sure to let the cookies rest on the counter for at least 30 minutes to form a crust.
4. MOST importantly - do not be impatient. STIFF peaks means stiff peaks. If you flip that bowl over those egg whites better not move an inch!

Thank you to all who commented and shared links with helpful tips and tricks; it all made such a difference!

Now enough with the cookies - it's time for bagels.

Unfortunately, for any of you who are overly-excited or extremely impatient in baking (as I am), then making bagels may be a bit taxing on you. It is a two-day process, and a bit of a tedious one at that.

I utilized the Kitchen Aid for all of the kneading, but if you don't have one then it's perfectly fine to use your hands and knead away. After bringing the dough together, it needs to proof overnight in the fridge; only after this important step can the fun begin.

Another tip I want to stress: spray whatever surface you happen to be working on with the bagels with Pam. I made the mistake of placing the shaped bagels on plain parchment paper, and when it came time to take them off the paper to place them in the simmering water, I entered into a few aggravating battles with the bagel dough.

I decided to do a nice mix of flavors, ranging from plain to salt and (my favorite) Asiago.

Ah! I plan on throwing one of those Asiago Bagels right in the toaster and smearing butter all over it. Happy New Year indeed!

Handmade Bagels

3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey
1 cup + 2 tbsp warm water

poaching liquid:
3 quarts water
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Assorted Toppings: sea salt, sesame seeds, Asiago Cheese etc

1 Day Before Baking

1. Hydrate the yeast in 2 1/2 tablespoons warm water and a pinch of sugar. Allow to reach foamy stage (about 10 minutes)
2. In a small bowl, combine rest of warm water, honey, salt and yeast mixture.
3. Add wet ingredient mixture to bread flour in a large bowl.
4. Knead by hand (or with dough hook attachment on the lowest setting) for 3 minutes. Dough should be fully hydrated; if it is too dry add a little bit more warm water.
5. Let dough rest 5 minutes.
6. Repeat Step 4
7. Place dough in large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for one hour; then place in refrigerator overnight or for up to 2 days.

On Baking Day:

1. Divide dough into 6 or 8 equal portions. Shape each into bagels by using both thumbs to poke a hole through the center and shape around fingers. Preheat oven to 500 degrees
2. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large stockpot. Reduce heat to maintain simmer and add baking soda, salt, and honey.
3. Place on bagel into a bowl of cold water - if it floats then it is ready to be poached; if not let sit for another 10 minutes.
4. Once bagels pass the float test, place as many as will easily fit into the simmering liquid and let simmer for 1 minute. Gently flip bagels and let simmer for another 30 to 60 seconds
5. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bagels and place onto a lightly oiled, parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle any toppings on immediately.
6. Place sheet in oven and immediately reduce heat to 450 degrees.
7. Bake for 8 minutes, and then rotate pan. Check underside of bagels - if they are browning too much then insulate pan with a second pan underneath it.
8. Bake for another 8-12 minutes or until golden brown.
9. Let cool 30 minutes on wire rack before serving.