Thursday, February 14, 2013

Low-Dye Red Velvet Cupcakes

Happy Valentine's Day, all! I'm not a big Valentine person-- I used to teach in the public schools. Valentine's day is teenaged license for PDA, crying in the bathroom when one should be in class, questionable behavior in every nook and cranny the building has to offer, etc. But, in the spirit of fun and chocolate, I decided to make some treats for my office.

Red velvet and I have been in a blood feud for quite some time now. I love really good red velvet, but absolutely cannot rationalize the gross amounts of food dye used to achieve the red color. A little history lesson before we velvet, done correctly, is a chocolate cake with a red hue, not a white cake with a whole bottle of dye dumped in it as is common today. The red hue was the result of a reaction between the cocoa powder, buttermilk and vinegar. The red hue was easier to achieve using this method before the days of Dutch process cocoa, which is why you probably don't see it even if you are using your great-great-grandma's recipe. Over the past century, many methods for making red velvet have unfolded-- ranging from using beets (which, actually, started during WWII due to food rationing and not, necessarily, just to get a red cake), to making a white cake and dumping huge amounts of dye into the batter. (We've all had that cake, right? The BRIGHT RED cake that you can psychosomaticly feel turning your digestive tract into cancer with all its Red #40? No? Just me???)

Put simply, I hate food dye. Not to say I never use it, but I try to avoid doing so. I've been working for a while now to come up with a solid red velvet recipe that uses little to no dye, and I've gotten to this recipe here, where a deep maroon can be achieved with only one teaspoon of food color. One teaspoon in the whole batch-- I can live with that.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fish Fingers and Custard: A Timey Wimey Birthday

A very fantastic lady I know turns 30 today. This weekend we celebrated with food, friends, *a few* adult beverages, and, or course, cake. Katy is possibly the biggest Dr. Who fan I've ever met, and, therefore, required a Dr. Who cake. Though this is far from a tutorial, I'm going to try and walk you through what I did in case you, too, have a Dr. who inclined person in need of a cake (I link to a bunch of free printables, too). If you are not familiar with Dr. Who, then nothing about the this cake will make sense, so just go with it and smile, ummkay? I've tried to include as many explanatory links as possible for anyone wishing to be who-enlightened.

I'd love to say I invented an amazing new flavor of cake to post here, but what I really did was use the apple cake recipe posted here and pair it with the caramel icing posted here, for an all around caramel apple flavor. Reviews were positive, so, YAY!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Cranberry & Apple topped Cheesecake

I had the pleasure of baking for my family and some awesome friends over the holidays, so I had to make sure I baked something extra delicious. It was the holidays, so I also wanted something easy so I didn't have to spend all day baking. Enter, what I like to call, the 'cheater cheesecake.' This cheesecake base recipe is based off of one on Kraft's website, and is super easy. No water-bath, no tricky ingredients, no complicated instructions. I put a graham crust on it so that you don't even have to worry about pre-baking a shell or mixing up dough. It's also almost impossible to mess up, which I know for a fact, seeing as I slightly over-bake it almost every time I make it and it has never come out anything but delicious.

The cranberry-apple topping is a beast of my own creation in response to the fact that I, one, wanted something unique, and two, find a lot of traditional toppings to be overly sweet.  The cranberries give this topping a tangy twist that helps balance the sweetness of the apples and the rest of the cheesecake. If you are really short on time or lacking in motivation, you can buy a can of pre-made fruit topping and forgo making your own. Since you can make the topping while the cheesecake bakes, it doesn't really add much time onto the process and it tastes way better than store bought, I say go for it-- but if you need that hour to clean your bathroom before your guests come over, or to get that mysterious stain out of your shirt before you go over to someone's house for dinner, I totally understand.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Cookie Lineup - 7 EASY Recipes

'Tis the season of baking! Most of us will be baking in the next two weeks, be it for parties, our own holidays or new year celebrations.  Since I plan on being occupied with my own fun over the next few weeks, I thought I'd do one of those fantastic cheater posts where I review my favorite holiday-friendly cookie recipes in case you are making some last minute dessert menu decisions. The best part about my list is that they are all SUPER easy, so if you have one of those, "OH CRAP, I FORGOT TO GET A GIFT FOR SO-AND-SO," moments, you can quickly whip up a batch of cookies and act like you planned it that way all along.

Have a cookie that should be on this list? I'm not fancy enough for a linkey, but leave a comment with a link to your favorite, easy, cookie and let's all share!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Drop Sugar Cookies

This recipe is a favorite from my childhood that I recently made as holiday treats for my co-workers. They are quick and easy and very unique. They are soft, light and cakey. I'm told that they taste like old-school Archway soft sugar cookies, but, having grown up in a household that did not believe in store bought cookies, I'll have to take other people's word for it. These are fun because you can add some food coloring to make them festive for a special occasion, and also because THEY ARE DELICIOUS.

This recipe originates from my great grandmother and, other than adding some food coloring, I never alter it. It makes a lot of cookies, so you could easily cut it in half, but, why would you want LESS deliciousness???? :-)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gingerbread Ninjas (or Ninjabread Men)

Last summer, I bought ninja shaped cookies cutters. I have since been waiting and waiting and waiting for it to be gingerbread season so I could make the coveted ninja-bread-men. As in, gingerbread men shaped like ninjas. If you are not ridiculously excited right now, then I just have to say it-- we can't be friends. But, I guess I'll also state that this recipe does not exclusively work for ninja shaped cookies, and if you wanted to make non-ninja gingerbread men (or ladies), then I suppose that would be acceptable.

To ice these, I used royal icing for the first time. Since I was a first-timer, I used Wilton's recipe. I found I needed to add 3-4 more tablespoons of water than it called for in order to make it pipe-able, and also that it dries so candy-like that it fell off the cookies very easily. However, it piped on well and made for good detailed decoration. Anyone with royal/detailed icing tips, I'll gladly take them!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stamped Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Let's start by saying this-- if you've never considered what short bread cookies are made out of, then turn away now and never read this post. Eat your tin of Walkers in blissful ignorance and rejoice in it's delicious splendor......If you already know what goes into a shortbread cookie, then, welcome, pull up a chair-- let's clamp off our aortas together. :-)

As you may have guessed by their flaky, delicious nature, shortbread cookies are pretty much pure butter. WHICH IS WHY THEY ARE SO AMAZING. My baking tends to err on the side of extra chocolaty, a habit I've needed to break since a number of the recipients of my baked goods do not eat chocolate. (Shocking, I know....I'm not sure why they are my friends....) I also like to have a couple of things in my arsenal that are a light, refreshing balance to some of the heavier chocolate based items. These lemon shortbreads are something I created to serve alongside my favorite brownies. I mean, let's be honest-- there is a tray of cookies/brownies.....who eats ONE, right? But two of my favorite brownies leads to being curled up in the corner wishing that I had the good sense to only eat one, so, enter the lemon shortbread!