Dec 21, 2011

Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I made banana cupcakes again when my friend came visit over thanksgiving break. Last time I made those cupcakes and frosted them with chocolate cream cheese frosting. This time I made them again and frosted them with cream cheese frosting; and they were equally awesome.
The recipe can be found here!
Special thank to my dear friend for taking some pictures for me while I bake :)

Filling the mini muffin pan

Right outta' the oven!
I have been using Mexican chocolate discs in baking for a while now. It is made of cocoa nibs, sugar, cinnamon, and sometimes other spice. I substitute chocolate chips with it in cookies, cupcakes, muffins, quick bread, etc. It is absolutely amazing, it gives the baked goods more flavor; although it is sweeter than the regular chocolate chips, it is not overly sweet. Try it, you’ll be surprised.

Although it tastes amazing in baked goods, you don’t wanna eat it by itself, it just taste like sweetened cheap chocolate.
I bought this baby from Trader Joe's, and I'm so in love with it! I sprinkle some over these cupcakes, which makes them so stinking cute! anyways...

Butter Sandwich Cookies with Dulce de Leche

If you read my last post about my macarons... with pied, you’ll know that my friend and I ate all the macaron shells before the dulce de leche is done cooking… ok fine, she ate one and I ate the rest.
But yeah I had 14 ounces of dulce de leche sitting in my fridge, so I decided to make some butter cookies. And let me tell you, they.are.heavenly, I’m telling you.
Those cookies are different from shortbread cookies. They are both buttery, but those butter cookies are not crumbly like the shortbread cookies; they are crispy. I can’t believe I’m actually saying thing because I never liked crispy cookies, but can I just tell you, they are SO YUMMY and so easy to make! You gotta make them, please.
Butter Cookies
1 C butter, softened
2/3 C granulated sugar
2 C flour
¼ C cornstarch
Pinch of salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
1. Sift together flour, cornstarch and salt, set aside
2. Whip butter and sugar until light and fluffy
3. Add in half of the flour mixture, and continue beating the mixture until well-combined. Add in the rest of the flour and the vanilla extract and mix well. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and roll it into a log.
4. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 340F
6. Cut cookie dough into ½ inch slices. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until the edges start to brown. (I baked mine for 14 minutes)
When you are creaming the butter and sugar, really whip it, beat the xxxx out of it.
When placing cookie dough on the baking sheet, you don’t have to put them too far apart, they barely spread.
Unlike shortbread cookies, those butter cookies contain granulated sugar instead of confectioners’ sugar; and I think that’s what make them crispy.
You can eat those cookies as they are, or you can be fat like me and eat two at a time with some dulce de leche.

I Now Pronounce You... Macarons!

Over thanksgiving break a dear friend of mine came visit and I baked like a mad person. The night she arrived I made macarons... WITH PIED!
Earlier that week I called her and told her, you can order anything, ANYTHING, and I’ll make it. Then she said she wanted macarons. Barnacles, my greatest fear, the little devils that gives me headaches. But then I thought, what the hell, I still have a bag of almond meal sitting in the freezer, might as well give it a try.
This time I got my recipe from The Traveler's Lunchbox
Basic Macarons
1 ¼ C powdered sugar
4 oz almond meal/almond flour/ground almond
2 egg whites
Pinch of salt
¼ C granulated sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1. Sift together powdered sugar and almond, set aside
2. Beat together egg whites and salt until foamy, and then whip on high speed and gradually add in granulated sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peak forms
3. Fold in half of the almond mixture and mix with a spatula. At this point, there’s no need to fold it carefully, but you don’t want to over-mix it either; mix it until no lumps of almond meal can be seen.
4. Add in the rest of the almond mixture and FOLD until the batter is well blended.
This is how to check if your batter is mixed perfectly. You scoop some batter and drop it on a plate; if it stays its shape, gives it maybe 10 more folds; if it stays its shape for 3 seconds and slowly flatten a but, you’re ready to pipe the batter on your pan
5. A…..nd pipe the batter on the baking pan. They do spread, so make sure you pipe them 1 inch apart from each other.
6. Let the macarons dry in the pan at room temperature for about 30 minutes-1 hour. If the weather or your kitchen is humid, let them dry for an hour, if not, 30 minutes is fine. I let mine sit out for 30 minutes.
7. Preheat your oven to 325F
8. When the surface of macarons are dry enough to touch, put them in the oven and bake for 10-11 minutes (I baked mine for 10 minutes)
When I was ready to put them into the oven, I realized I forgot to preheat the oven, so I waited for another 10 minutes, and this is what happened.
If you’re forgetful like me, this is how your macarons will turn out. If you let your macarons sit out for too long they will crack when they bake. My guess is that when you bake them, the steam inside won’t be able to get out, since the skin is too thick; which eventually causes it to crack. But I don’t know, I ain’t no expert, it’s just a guess. If they don’t stick to your finger when touching, they’re ready to be baked.
Also, use parchment paper instead of a silicon mat when making macarons. I’ve tried using both and the batch baked on the silicon mat has air pocket on the bottom. Almost all of them do. The taste is the same, but the hallow gaps between the shell and the pan cause some batter to remain stuck to the baking mat. Anyways, just try to use parchment paper. Like I said, I’m not an expert or a chemist, but my guess is that air can’t escape from the bottom of a silicon mat; and I guess it can when macarons are baked on a parchment paper. Ok, I didn’t just make this up; the reason I said this is because whenever I use parchment paper to bake cookies, my baking pan will still end up greasy, and if the grease didn’t seep through the parchment paper, I don’t know what happened. But again, I ain’t an expert nor a chemist; it’s just my guess.
Anyways, back to those little pain in my butt. THEY FINALLY TURNED OUT PERFECT!
As crazy as it sounds, I think the reason why I succeeded this time was because I didn’t care and think as much when I was making them. The last time I made them I made sure I followed every single step from the blogs I read, sifted powdered sugar and almond, let my egg white aged in the fridge, I timed myself when I was beating the egg white, did exactly 50 folds, leave the macarons batter out for exactly one hour, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that those tips exist for reasons, and I think they make sense. But you shouldn’t be all nervous and stressed like I was, you don’t have to be so specific about every single step.
This time I did NOT sift the flour and the almond. Ok to tell you the truth I was just lazy to get the sifter out from the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet. You should still sift your flours though, seriously, don’t be like me. I used fresh egg white right out of the fridge because I had no time; although I don’t think it affect the result that much, still, don’t be like me. I did NOT time myself when I was beating the egg whites, I just stopped when I thought they were ready. I used the “dropping batter on a plate” method to see if I’d folded them enough. And when the top of the macarons are dry enough to touch you’re ready to bake them; no need to set your timer.
So, next time you want to make macarons, just chillax, and you’ll get perfect macarons. Even if you don’t, who cares, just give it another try if you have almond meal chillin’ in your freezer (oh yeah by the way I keep my almond meal or any kind of nuts in the freezer to keep them fresh)
Oh and I did make some dulce de leche for the filling but I finished eating the macaron shell before the condensed milk was done cooking…
ANYWHO, back to what I was saying baking is a great way to relax, you should have fun and enjoy it. Although I did refer macarons as the “little devils that give me stress, not anymore. I think I’ll make them again sometime soon.

Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

I have to admit, I have A LOT of pictures and recipes of my baked goods in my computer waiting for me to share with people. But I just get lazy sometimes just don’t have the time to.
I just uploaded two posts of the desserts I made last night for a hot pot party. And then I remembered I have a lot more pot luck recipes I need to put up and since the Christmas music has put me in a good mood, I’m gonna keep writing.
So I went to a thanksgiving potluck over thanksgiving break; yeah I know, it’s been a while… I just didn’t have the time!
Anyways, I made some awesomelicious banana cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese frosting. I’m a huge fan of bananas, and I’ve tried many banana bread, muffin, and cupcake recipes and finally came up a banana cupcake recipe I’m satisfied with.
Banana Cupcakes
2 ½ C flour
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 pinch of salt
½ C butter, softened
¾ C + ¼ C granulated sugar
¾ C brown sugar
2 eggs
4 medium-size bananas, very ripe
1/3 C milk
1/3 C yogurt
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Mash the bananas and mix in ¼ C sugar, set aside
3. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt, set aside
4. Beat together softened butter, ¾ C granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy
5. Mix in yogurt and mix in eggs, one at a time. Mix until well-blended before adding the next egg
6. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition
7. Stir in the banana sugar mixture and mix well
8. Fill cupcake pans halfway full. Bake for 20-25 minutes (I baked mine for 22 minutes)
9. Let cool before frosting
* When it comes to adding yogurt or substituting butter with it in a recipe, I always use 2% Greek yogurt because its thick and creamy texture is closer to butter
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting (it is HEAVENLY)
8 oz cream cheese
½ stick butter
2 ½ C powdered sugar
½ C cocoa powder
1. Sift together powdered sugar and cocoa powder, set aside
2. Whip together cream cheese and butter until fluffy, gradually add in powdered sugar and cocoa powdered sugar mixture. Continue beating until well-blended
3. Frost your cupcakes!

Dec 19, 2011

Hot Pot Night II: Cream Puffs (step-by-step)

I used the perfect recipe I spent two years looking for :)
Put butter, water and salt in a sauce pan and bring mixture to boil
Stir in flour and cook until the mixture starts to come together and form a ball
When the mixture has cool down a bit, add in eggs one at a time.
At first it will look ugly
but then, as you keep stirring, the dough will come together
then, add another egg
keep stirring
Pipe pastry dough on to the baking pan
bake for about 20 minutes
Next time I'm gonna try making some giant cream puffs.. or maybe just slightly bigger ones so I can put more filling in them. hehe

Hot Pot Night Dessert I: Cranberry Tart

Yesterday I was invited to this hot pot party and I wanted to bake something for dessert. So I decided to make some cream puffs and I also wanted to give those cranberry tarts another try.
Last time I made it, I gave them out to my friends and had them try them and some of them thought they were a little too tart and sour. So I changed the recipe around a little.
Cranberry Tart II
2 C cranberries, washed and rinsed
2 Tbsp apple cider
¼ C orange juice (please use real orange juice!)
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp lemon zest
2/3 C sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp butter
1. Put cranberries, apple cider, orange juice, cinnamon stick, ginger, nutmeg, orange and lemon zest in a saucepan.
(I also put in 1/4 of the orange to add more flavor)
Over medium heat, bring mixture to a boil.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low, and then cook for another minute, or until most of the cranberries are popped.
3. Add in sugar and flour and cook for another minute or until the mixture thickens.
4. Remove the pan from heat and stir in butter, set aside and let cool while you prepare the tart crust.
I actually used another recipe this time.
I used a pie crust recipe instead.
Pie crust
2 ½ C flour
¼ tsp salt
½ C shortening, chilled
½ C butter, chilled
3-4 Tbsp ice cold water
1. In a bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Put into the freezer
Yup, in the freezer
2. Cut the butter and shortening into small pieces
put them in the freezer for about 15 minutes
3. After all your ingredients has been chilled, cut the butter and shortening into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or I just used a fork. Try to work the dough as little as possible; you don’t want to over mix it!
4. When the mixture has the texture of wet sand, sprinkle in 2 Tbsp of cold water and toss the mixture around with the fork.
If the mixture is still too crumbly, sprinkle in more water; just make sure you don’t add in too much water at a time.
The way I test my pie dough is to put some dough in your hand and slightly squeeze it; if the dough comes together and holds its shape, you know it’s done!
5. Put the pie dough into the fridge (not freezer) and let it chillax for at least 30 minutes.
Assemble the Tart!
1. Preheat oven to 400F
2. Roll the pie crust out and press into your tart pan
3. Pour cranberry filling into the crust and bake for 28-32 minutes (I baked mine for 30 minutes)
* Like I mentioned in my last post, you can dust this baby with powdered sugar when it’s done baking, or you can take this to a whole new level and enjoy it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of fresh whipped cream. YUM!
Aaannnndddddd I made some cream puffs while the tart is cooling down. I let the cranberry tart cool to room temperature before I put it into the fridge. That will be in the next post.

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