March 11, 2015

Honey Whiskey Cupcakes

I've said that I should have created a top 10 list of cupcakes when I baked a different cupcake weekly for my co-workers. I have recollections of which ones were really good, but a ranking of them that I constantly adjusted would be helpful.

These from Culinary Creations would make the top 10 for sure, but I'm not quite sure where they fall. The drizzle I could take or leave as it tends to be a bit grainy after cooling (even with reheating). The frosting is delicious with enough honey whiskey flavor to be delightful but not overpowering. The cupcakes are slightly dense, touch of whiskey flavor but mostly a delicious butter flavor comes through. I would highly recommend these cupcakes ... even if you have to divide your frosting to make some friendly for little faces and some fully delicious for adults. They are perfect for a whiskey lover but enjoyable for most everyone.

Honey Whiskey Cupcakes 
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. Honey Whiskey
3 Tbsp. milk
Bourbon Drizzle
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Honey Whiskey
1 Tbsp. butter 
Whiskey Buttercream
1 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey
1/4 cup heavy cream (as much as needed to get correct consistency)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare the cupcakes first. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and mix well.

Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the milk and whiskey, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.

Line your tins with 14 cupcake liners, and divide batter evenly into cups. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes until done. (Mine actually took more than 20 minutes.) Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the bourbon drizzle, combine all ingredients in a small pan. Bring to a boil, and boil for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool before drizzling on frosted cupcakes.

Note: The frosting makes a large amount. I divided the recipe and still had plenty to frost my cupcakes. To make the frosting, cream butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla and Honey Whiskey, and combine thoroughly. Add the cream one tablespoon at a time until your frosting is very light and fluffy and the desired consistency.

Frost cupcakes, and top with bourbon drizzle. Makes 14 cupcakes.

March 9, 2015

Brown Butter Rice Crispy Bars

This might sound weird, but I struggle making rice crispy bars. I think it's because I so often don't measure things precisely because I feel my approximations are perfectly suitable ... and then I ran into stale marshmallow issues.

I need to ensure I can make perfect rice crispy bars because these from Averie Cooks are amazing. They elevate a simple kid-friendly treat (that my 3-year-old doesn't like) into a true treat. Simply browning the butter makes all the difference. Normally I refuse to acknowledge a rice crispy bar unless it is properly topped in chocolate, but I didn't even break out the chocolate for these. (Of course, melting dark chocolate on top would only make them even more irresistible.)

Brown Butter Rice Crispy Bars

5 to 5 3/4 cups crisped rice cereal
1/2 cup salted butter, browned
10 oz. marshmallows

Grease an 8 x 8 pan, and set aside. Place 5 cups of cereal in a large bowl.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat, stirring nearly continuously or swirling the pan, until it turns golden and smells nutty. As soon at the butter begins to turn brown, take the pan off the heat, and continue to stir for about 1 minute.

Add the marshmallows, and melt over low heat until the marshmallows melt. You do not want to cook the marshmallows, only melt them. Stir to combine the marshmallows and butter. Pour mixture over cereal, and toss to coat. This amount of cereal will yield very gooey bars, so stir in up to 3/4 cup additional cereal to achieve desired texture. Mixture will be very gooey and buttery. 

Transfer mixture to prepared pan, and use a spatula or greased hands to press it firmly and evenly into the pan, making sure to really pack it down well and push it into the corners and edges. Allow bars to set at least an hour or two before slicing and serving. Makes an 8 x 8 pan that disappears quickly.

February 25, 2015

Oatmeal Cookie Granola

This is another recipe from Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant. I like this granola, especially with my substitution of a Ghirardelli dark chocolate with toffee bar chopped up to replace the chocolate chips. (Go figure. I misspelled kindergarten every time when I was researching if I really need to send my child to school, but I can type Ghirardelli perfectly the first time. Priorities.)

This probably isn't my favorite, but it's good enough to make the mix when I want something different.

Oatmeal Cookie Granola
2 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup flaxseed, ground
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line a baking sheet with a silipat or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, flaxseed, brown sugar salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Cook it, stirring often, until it is browned and smells nutty. Add the coconut oil and honey, and stir until they are melted and smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Combine with dry ingredients until evenly mixed.

Spread out evenly on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, stir and bake for 10 more minutes, stirring at least one more time. Remove from oven, and cool 5 minutes before sprinkling with chocolate. Stir gently, and then cool completely. Makes about 4 cups.

Chewy Granola Bars

I've had Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant for a couple months before I finally tried a recipe. Many of my favorite delicious desserts come from her blog How Sweet It Is, which is why I wanted her book. I made these granola bars with a few modifications from her recipe based on ingredients on hand.

These granola bars are tasty, but they cannot compete with my standard chewy granola bar. They simply aren't truly chewy. They remind me of a Cooking Light peanut butter granola recipe, which of course I can't find on my blog to link.

Short story: glad I made these, but they won't likely become part of our regular rotation.

Chewy Granola Bars
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup flaxseed, ground
3 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line an 8 x 8 pan with wax paper, and spray with nonstick spray. In a large bowl, combine oats, flaxseed, brown sugar, chia seeds, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the coconut oil, peanut butter and honey until melted and smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Combine with dry ingredients until evenly mixed.

Press mixture into prepared pan, smoothing with a spoon. Bake until bars are slightly browned on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Cut into desired shapes/sizes. Makes 9 to 12 bars.

February 12, 2015

Chocolate Cupcakes with Red Velvet Frosting

I have had this recipe from Spicy Perspective bookmarked for quite some time, over a year. I finally gave it a run this week. For whatever reason, my cupcakes failed horribly. They did that thing I hate where they don't dome nicely and instead spill over the sides, burn to the bottom of my oven and don't seem to set without being overbaked. Sometimes I just shrug it off when this happens, pry the remains out of the pans and attempt to cover the ugliness with frosting. This day I was so frustrated that I crumbled all the cupcakes into a bag and tossed it in the freezer. I was quite proud of myself for not destroying the mistake by eating it all ... it was that kind of day. So I made a second batch of cupcakes using a recipe I knew would work.

The frosting did not taste "red velvet" to me, but it was really good. Perhaps my mistake as I type this now is that I failed to add the cocoa powder. I guess I'll have to try again following the recipe more closely. I know my frosting is pink rather than red, but I apparently ran out of red gel food coloring without realizing it.

After all the hassle, I was quite happy with both the appearance and flavor profile of these cupcakes. Quite cute for the upcoming Valentine's Day. Too bad they'll all be devoured by then ...

Chocolate Cupcakes with Red Velvet Frosting
2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup hot water
2/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa (I used a dark variety)
3/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. buttermilk
Pinch of salt
1 cup melting chocolate wafers

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place paper baking cups in each of 24 regular-size cupcake tins.

In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder. In a small bowl, combine water and cocoa.

In a large bowl, beat shortening on electric mixer on medium speed 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. On low speed, alternately add flour and cocoa, starting and ending with flour. Beat just until blended.

Divide batter evenly among cupcake tins, filling each 2/3 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in tins 5 minutes, and then remove cupcakes to cool completely on wire racks.

To make the frosting, beat together butter and cream cheese. Gradually add cocoa powder and powdered sugar. Beat in vanilla. Dissolve salt in buttermilk, and gradually beat in buttermilk. Beat frosting until smooth and desired consistency.

Once cooled, frost cupcakes. If you desire to garnish them, melt the chocolate wafters, and place in a squeeze bottle. Squeeze out hearts onto wax paper, making sure your lines are thick enough they won't break easily. Chill to harden, remove and place on cupcakes. Makes 24 cupcakes.