A’Tempting’ Tuesday: College Baking and Chocolate Goodness

photoToday, I want to share something with all you chocolate lovers out there.  That’s everyone, right????

I got to spend a wonderful weekend recently visiting with my daughter in her college town.   While there, the weather became pretty dreadful.  Taylor (my daughter) is enjoying having her very first apartment and learning to cook in her kitchen.  We decided to stay in where it was warm one day and do some baking.

She and her friend, Kendall, took to Pinterest to find something they’d like to bake and the recipe they chose — Pinata Cupcakes —  actually came from this Blog.

I so enjoyed shopping with the girls to equip Taylor’s kitchen with everything she needed to make these, and then returning to walk them both through the baking process.  They did a wonderful job. All I did was answer their questions as they went.  I was so enjoying my time with them that I didn’t really focus on getting any great pictures, but I will share what I got.

The recipe is definitely worth sharing, but warning it is very, very rich.  I’m the epitome of the chocolate lover.  I think chocolate, along with cream cheese and Cool Whip, should be a staple in every kitchen.  You can cover anything in chocolate and it will taste great. I truly believe chocolate has healing qualities, and a balanced diet is chocolate in each hand.  Even I, and my love of all things chocolate had to indulge in this cupcake slowly.  I couldn’t eat the whole thing in one sitting.

Here goes y’all:

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PINATA CUPCAKES
makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup hot coffee
2 eggs
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter (again y’all, REAL butter)
M&Ms for filling the cupcakes
Sprinkles for topping (optional)

The Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Prepare 12 cupcake liners in a muffin pan.  Set aside.
  2. In mixer bowl, combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Mix well.
  3. In separate bowl, combine the beaten egg, vegetable oil and milk.  Mix well.
  4. With the mixer on low, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix on low until well blended.
  5. Pour the hot coffee into the batter and mix on low until smooth.
  6. Divide the batter evenly into the cupcake liners (about 3/4 full).  Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  7. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack. When cupcakes are completely cool, cut a cone shape out of the middle of each cupcake, reserving only the top of the cone for later use.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting:

  1. Place the chocolate in a medium, heat-safe bowl.  Set aside.
  2. Heat the cream and butter in small saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Bring just to a boil.  Immediately pour over the chocolate and allow to stand for a few minutes without stirring.
  4. Stir or whisk gently until smooth.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 30 to 45 minutes to set.

Assembly:

  1. Fill the “hole” cut out of each cupcake with M&Ms.  Cover the hole with the top of each cone that you previously cut out.
  2. Use a pastry bag with large tip to pipe frosting onto each cupcake.
  3. Top with sprinkles if desired.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.

Finally, ENJOY!!

Cook’s Talk:

  • The blog, Abusymom’s Blog, is not an American blog.  So many of the measurements were in grams.  Whew!  Above my plain-old-measuring-cup head, so we spent a lot of time Googling the conversions.  A couple of them were probably just a tad under or tad over what they should have been, but the cupcakes turned out just fine.
  • For the bittersweet chocolate for the ganache, we just used plain semi-sweet chocolate chips and it was wonderful!  I will also reiterate her, REAL butter please.  There shouldn’t be anything else.
  • The original recipe also said preheat the oven  to 160 Celsius.  If I am correct, that is 320 Fahrenheit.  My daughter has a college apartment.  The best we could do on her stove was 350 F.  They came out fine.
  • And lastly, back to converting. We just bought a big ole bag of M&Ms.  I was tired of trying to convert grams to ounces and cups and sticks by this time.  We put a few in each cupcake and whatever was left in the big bag I am sure was gone with 10 seconds of all her roommates coming home.
  • Also, make sure you let the cupcakes cool completely before putting the M&Ms in.  If they melted, it would kind of ruin the Pinata effect.

Until next time ….

A’Tempting’ Tuesday: The Good and The Bad

Fotor0114132316When I first started this blog, I pledged to myself to share the good, the bad and the ugly — whether it be cooking, crafting, organizational or life attempts.  Whatever it may be, I plan to be an open book because, well, this is a journey to where I want to be.

In today’s A’Tempting’ Tuesday installment, I have both — the good and the bad.

I love to bake.  I love to try new things.  I am always looking for new dishes and new baked goodies.  I have two that I recently tried.

Let’s start with THE BAD.

My hubby is diabetic with a sweet tooth.  I am sure it is complete holy hell for him because I bake.  A lot.  I’ve mentioned many times that baking is a great stress release for me.  I’ve been really stressed lately, so there’s been a lot of late-night baking.  I have really been making an effort to find more diabetic friendly recipes.  I’ve not come up with too many that I would call a success.  This one is no exception.

I found a … yikes, I hate to say it … BOXED chocolate cake mix that is sugar-free and not too bad.  I hate using boxed cake mixes so I cannot add insult to injury and also use an already-prepared frosting.  I found several easy recipes for sugar-free frosting that sounded promising.

Here’s the recipe I tried (I found it on All-recipes.com).

The result was pretty.  It tasted just okay and didn’t really work well with the cake.  I’d say this is one I will not try again.  The consistency was a little like a thin mousse, and way too thin to frost a cake.  It would make a better dessert  or filling, than a frosting.

Sugar-Free Frosting

1 (1.4 oz.) package sugar-free instant pudding mix (I used chocolate)
1 3/4 cups milk
1 (8 oz. package cream cheese)
1 (8 oz. ) container lite frozen whipped topping, thawed (I used sugar-free Cool Whip)

In medium bowl, combine milk and pudding mix.  Mix well and let stand until thickened.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pudding and mix well. Fold in whipped topping.

Cook’s Talk

  • As I said, this probably will not be a repeat.  But if I were to try it again, I think I’d cut the milk in half in hopes of making it more of a frosting consistency.  It might also be better in vanilla.  With the added cream cheese and whipped topping, it really wasn’t chocolate enough when paired with the chocolate cake I baked.
  • The best option would be to prepare an actual frosting, rather than use the pudding as s shortcut.  I’ve found a couple of others I will try soon.

Now, on to THE GOOD.

My children’s birthdays were last week and I decided to make cupcakes.  Cupcakes are so much fun and you can do so much with them.  I also love to find all sorts of colorful liners and creative wraps to make them unique.

I tried a recipe for cupcakes that I found on Pinterest.  They sounded good and were just so darn cute  I had to try them.  The result was a great tasting cupcake that again was “just so darn cute.”

The original recipe came from this BLOG.

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Cherry Coke Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk **see Cook’s Talk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 Tbs cocoa powder
1/4 cup maraschino cherry syrup
24 maraschino cherries

Cola Icing

1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs cola (I wound up using 3 Tbs)

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Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  Beat the egg, buttermilk and vanilla in a second bowl.  In a saucepan, boil the cola and cherry syrup gently for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and melt in the butter and cocoa powder.  Pour into the dry ingredients, stir well with a wooden spoon, and then add the remaining liquid ingredients, beating until everything is blended.

Pour into the cupcake pans with liners and push a cherry into the center of each cupcake.  (Make sure to remove the stem).  Bake for 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove from oven to wire rack to cool.

For the cola icing, mix the powdered sugar and cola with a spoon until smooth.

When the cupcakes are cool, remove them from pan, drizzle with the cola icing and let dry.  Top with cherry buttercream and a cherry.

Note:  The original post did not include a cherry buttercream recipe, so here is my take:

Cherry Buttercream

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature (Yes, y’all.  Real butter, not margarine)
3 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbs juice from the maraschino cherries
2-4 Tbs heavy whipping cream
1/4 tsp salt

Cream butter in stand mixer or with hand mixer. Add powdered sugar a little at a time, alternating with the cherry juice and heavy cream.  Add salt.  Continue beating for 3 minutes.   You will want a medium consistency (somewhat soft, but slightly stiff) for topping your cupcakes.  You can easily adjust this frosting if you feel its consistency is not quite right.   To thin, add more cream.  To stiffen add more powdered sugar.

I used a frosting bag and larger tip to pipe the frosting on the cupcakes.

That’s it!

And, again …SO DARN CUTE!  They were a hit with my kids and the leftovers were wiped out by hubby’s coworkers in about 5 minutes.

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Cook’s Talk

  • The batter for this cupcake is really thin, but don’t worry.  It bakes just fine and results in a really moist cupcake.  Because all ovens are different, I started checking for doneness at about 12 minutes, but wound up baking for the entire 15.
  • Of course, I forgot the buttermilk at the store.  To substitute, I used 1/2 cup 2% milk (because that is what I had on hand) and added 1/2 Tbs white vinegar.  I let it sit for 5 minutes and voila … a great substitute for buttermilk that saved hubby a last-minute trip to the store.

I hope you enjoy.

Until next time….

A’Tempting’ Tuesday: Ooey, Gooey and Good!

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This recipe ranks at the top of my list of yummy desserts.  The ingredients just go together.  Remember the old peanut butter cup commercials? (Here’s ONE for a refresher)   … You know “you got peanut butter in my chocolate.  You got chocolate in my peanut butter!”  What results is a perfect match.  This pie is kind of like that.

First  you have pecan pie  — amazing on its own.  The, you add chocolate.  You can’t get any better than that.  In my opinion you can cover most anything with chocolate and it tastes great.  Pair it with something that  is already good and you can’t go wrong.

I’ve had several different types of chocolate pecan pie, the main two being a pecan pie with a layer of chocolate on top, or a pie with the chocolate mixed in.  I prefer the latter.  It’s just ooey, gooey and good!

This recipe is a pecan pie recipe I’ve used for years. I don’t even remember where I got it.  It is  most likely off the back of a bag or box of something.  I just adjusted it to include the chocolate.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 cup corn syrup

1/2 tsp salt

3 eggs

1 cup pecan halves

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 375.

2.  In large bowl, beat eggs.  Add sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt and mix well.  Gently stir in pecans and chocolate chips.

3.  Poor mixture into a pastry-lined deep dish pie plate.

4.  Cover edge of pie crust with a strip of foil to prevent excess browning;  remove foil during last 10-15 minutes of baking.

5.  Bake pie until set, about 40-50 minutes.  Allow to cool before serving.

That’s it.   The hardest part is waiting on it to bake.  It is really good served with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Cook’s Talk

  • I could also provide you with a recipe for the crust.  Occasionally — and I do emphasize the “occasionally” — I do make the pie crust from scratch.  However, I’m not going to lie.  I’m busy.  More times than not, I use a prepared crust.  I do recommend using the type you roll out and put in your own pie plate.  (At least I generally use a pretty pie plate.)  I prefer Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust.  I can make a pie crust .  But why do it when you can buy one already prepared that is good too?  I will say for the pie plate I used for the pie pictured, a larger crust would have been better.  I didn’t get the edge I would have liked.
  • I like to brush the edges of the crust with melted butter before baking.  It’s not necessary, but gives the crust a much better color.
  • Light or dark corn syrup either one is fine.  If you look at any the “old school” recipes, many call for dark.  I’ve always been told mainly for the color.  With the chocolate added to the pie, you don’t have to worry about that.  I generally just use which ever is in my pantry.
  • You can use margarine if you’d like, but butter is better.  Come on.  It’s pie.  If you are going to eat a piece of pie any way, might as well go all the way.

Until next time…

A’Tempting’ Tuesday: Crock Pot Candy (my secret revealed)

DSC_4740As usual, I am in a mad dash to get in all the cooking, crafting and gifting I want to do for the holidays finished.  So at roughly a week before Christmas day, I’m always doing something easy.  Crock Pot Candy is definitely a go-to for easy hostess gifts or little extra gifts just to have in case you need it.  I plan to take this to all the men in my office (which is everyone, as I’m the only female).

I got this recipe from a friend several years ago. I have since used it several times and have seen several different versions.  It is easy, makes a lot and compared to the amount of candy it yields, is relatively inexpensive.

This candy is a perfect to make this time of the year.  It makes me think of some kitchen-gadget infomercial that used to come on.  I don’t remember exactly what gadget it was, but the guru who was peddling it would always say “just set it and forget it.”  You can do that with this recipe.  I start it and can usually complete another dish or project before I have to begin spooning out the candy.

So here goes.  You’ll thank me for this:

Crock Pot Candy

DSC_4726Ingredients:

  • 1 (16-ounce) jar dry roasted salted peanuts
  • 1 (16-ounce) jar dry roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 12 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 32 ounces almond bark
  • 1 (4-ounce) German chocolate bar (found in baking section)

Directions:DSC_4737

  1. Put peanuts in the bottom of your slow cooker.  Add all other ingredients on top of the peanuts.  (I don’t even chop the almond bark or the German chocolate.)
  2. Cook on low for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. When all chocolate is melted and incorporated with the peanuts, drop by rounded spoonfuls (mine wind up being about 1/2- to 3/4 -tablespoon) onto wax paper and allow to cool completely.  The candy will harden as it cools.

Cook’s talk: 

  • Like I said, I’ve seen several versions of this recipe, many of which use white almond bark.  I prefer the dark.
  • As the chocolates start to melt, begin keeping an eye on the mixture and stir occasionally to mix the peanuts into the chocolate.  If they remain on the bottom too long, they can scorch.  I’ve seen some recipes that say to cook the mixture for 4 or more hours.  I think that is way too much.  I’ve never gone more than 2.
  • You can be creative and add other nuts or ingredients as well.  I have used lightly crushed pretzels, adding them in just before spooning onto wax paper.   Be creative.  Just be careful of when you add your ingredients.  For example, when I use pretzels, I add the at the end so they retain their crunch.  Harder ingredients such as nuts can withstand long periods in the slow cooker as opposed to softer ingredients you don’t want to become soggy, or other candies (such as peppermint) that you wouldn’t want to melt completely
  • I always put the wax paper directly onto my counter when spooning the candy.  Once, I used sheet pans so that I could easily move the candy around.  The metal retained the heat a little longer and it took much longer for my candy to harden.

Now you know my secret!  This candy is so yummy, I almost hated to share the recipe.  Until now, everyone I have given it to thought I had worked really hard.  It’s the thought that counts, not the amount of time you spend in the kitchen, right?

I hope you enjoy.  Next week:  Chocolate Pecan Pie

Until next time…..

A’Tempting’ Tuesday: A Very Christmasy Cookie

Cookies
Whew! I’m really behind. We traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday for the first time in years, so I am not only behind on blogging, but also decorating. I still have Fall pumpkins all over my house.

I am a firm believer in leaving the Fall décor until the day after Thanksgiving, but on that day we were six hours away from home. It was worth it though, as we had a wonderful time visiting my in-laws and spending time with our daughter in her college town.

But, now we are “that” house on the block with no lights up yet, or no Christmas tree in the window. Fortunately, my recipe for today is definitely a holiday one and has me in the mood to decorate.  Since it is now December 3, I must get a move on.  But, first the cookies!

I’m invited to a cookie exchange this weekend. I really wanted to do something festive that I haven’t done before. I definitely have some great cookie recipes that are always a go-to, but decided it was time to try something new. I had a “friendsgiving” get together at my house recently so in preparation for the exchange, I made my friends my guinea pigs.

I picked this cookie mainly because of its holiday ingredients and appearance.  It calls for candy cane “dust.”  Doesn’t that just bring visions of Santa’s elves hard at work in the North Pole’s bakery?

I also chose these because my son is very much a fan of chocolate, minty-type things. This recipe for Chocolate Fudge Cookies with Candy Cane Buttercream fit the bill. It is definitely minty, and is a very pretty and festive cookie. My photo here really does not do it justice. Its appearance just screams “holiday”. Crushed candy canes give the buttercream frosting that is sandwiched between to chocolate cookies a pink color, with little flecks of red running through.

Again, this recipe came courtesy of another blogger, who I think found it from another. You can find the post I got it from HERE.

This recipe makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

Chocolate Fudge Cookies

1 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave for about 1 minute. Stir. Continue to melt in 30 second increments until fully melted and smooth. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla. Set aside.

With an electric or stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Beat in the sugars, scraping down the sides every 10 seconds or so. The mixture will be granular.

Mix in the beaten egg and vanilla until incorporated.

Add the chocolate in a steady stream and beat until combined.

Add the dry ingredients on slow speed.

Fold in the mini chocolate chips. Do not overmix.

Chill dough for at least 30 minutes.

Scoop about 1 Tbsp of dough and roll into a slightly flattened ball.
Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies have just begun to set with the centers still appearing very soft. They will firm up as they cool.

Candy Cane Buttercream
3/4 cup (1.5) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2.5 – 3 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk (I prefer heavy cream in frostings)
1/2 cup candy cane dust (about 8-10 candy canes ground to a fine dust in a food processor)
Crushed candy canes for rolling, optional (I did not do this)

Beat the butter for 1 minute with the paddle attachment on medium speed.
Add 2.5 cups of sifted powdered sugar and slowly mix on low speed.
Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 1 Tablespoon of cream/milk. Beat for about 1 minute.
Manually stir in candy cane dust.
If your buttercream needs to be thicker, add more powdered sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk/cream.

Frost the bottom end of a cooled cookie and top with another to make a sandwich.

Cook’s Notes: 

  • I premeasured everything before I began preparing the cookies.  I know this makes more mess to clean up, but baking is so much quicker and easier when I do this.  I don’t mind washing a few more prep bowls and measuring cups.
  • The original recipe I used called for sifting the ground candy canes before putting them in the butter cream.  I did not do this and it was fine.  If you pulverize it enough I don’t feel there is a need for the sifting.
  • This is a really, really sweet cookie.  Almost too sweet for my taste.  I do recommend using the dash of salt in the buttercream to cut some of the sweetness.
  • I did not prepare extra crushed candy canes to “roll” the cookie sandwich in.  I think for the exchange I will roughly crush candy canes of a different color, maybe green.

Tool Talk: 

  • I would recommend using a stand mixer with paddle attachment for the cookie dough if you have one.  (My Kitchen Aid Professional stand mixer is my pride and joy.)   It could certainly be done with a hand mixer, but the dough is really thick and is handled much easier with a stand mixer.

All in all, this batch of cookies was a success and I think they will work quite well for the cookie exchange.  As I mentioned above, it is a very sweet cookie.  Although they are good, one cookie is almost too much for my taste because of the sweetness.  I may try making smaller cookies for the exchange.

Hopefully by Friday, I will have some handmade tags for the cookie “packages” to share with you.

Until next time, enjoy….

Next Week:  Old Fashioned Cornbread Dressing

The Call of the Donut

Okay, junk food and diets do not mix.   I say this like I’ve just had some epiphany.  As if my newfound outlook on junk food is going to save the world.  As if this little tidbit of knowledge is something  new.  HA!!

As a woman always on a diet I do a pretty good at resisting the urge to partake in the lusciousness of potato chips, the occasional cookie or cupcake. I take pride in that. But some days, well, they are just better than others.

Take today for example.  Some EVIL sales rep, and I put the emphasis on evil, (he might have been Satan himself) decided to bring a box full of donuts into our offices. It’s not bad enough that he brought the donuts into our office, but he decided to put them in our breakroom — just a few steps from my desk.

Having had a long and very hard week, it was enough to put me over the edge.

Only moments after those heavenly sugarcoated, cream-filled and chocolate slathered pastries were placed on the breakroom table, the sweet smell of heaven started making it’s way under the breakroom door and tantalizing my sense of smell.  Ohhhh… such sweet contradiction .. heaven and HELL all at the same time.   I was being enticed.  I was being invited to “reward” myself for making it through another week.  It’s fate. It was mean to be.

I sat there trying to ignore it.. trying to ignore the fact that they were there.  At the same time, my mouth began to water.  I began fanaticizing about just one bite .. .just one bite of an amazingly delicious donut covered with heavenly chocolate. But I still didn’t go.

I felt the sweat on my brow as I began to hear my inner voice saying “Shelly go head, it’s okay.  No one will notice that extra roll around your midsection. It’s only a pool party for 20 .. one donut, go ahead take it.”

“No” I kept repeating to myself.  “No, don’t do it.”  My heart began to race.  I sat as if chained to my desk, staring blankly at my computer screen.”  I was so focused on ignoring the constant chanting of the donuts beating inside my ear like a bass drum trying to entice me into the donut den of iniquity, that I didn’t notice the steady stream of my coworkers passing by my desk.

 Those donuts seemed to have taken on a life of their own and they were filling my every thought with the promise of ecstasy.  They were taking me out of the Friday doldrums of work to a place I was sure I wanted, or better yet, NEEDED to go.

By this point I could almost taste it.  I could almost feel the creamy chocolate and taste of the mounds of sugar covering each sweet delicacy.  I was getting ready to cave.  But still I sat.  I sat hoping to hang to my last inkling of willpower and hoping that no one was noticing the trouble I was having just to keep my composure.  I was so hoping all this hard work, all this toil and turmoil, wouldn’t be in vain.  I was going to reign victorious over the call of the donut.

Just when I thought I might make it, that I might win this fight, I felt something take over me.  Was it the agony of defeat?  Could it be that evil was overshadowing all that is good, and there was a force much stronger then me pulling me slowly toward that breakroom door?  I felt my feet move.  Oh no, it was happening.  I felt the cold of the doorknob as my hand grasped it and turned it with great anticipation.  Now that sweet aroma was stronger than ever.  I felt it enter my nostrils and fill my body.  I was getting closer.

There it was. The box.  “Should I?  Should I do it?,” I was asking myself.  But I already knew the answer.  I had to. I was there.  It was before me.  I was ready to attack that donut like a vicious animal … THE CALL OF THE DONUT.  Without thinking, without looking I opened the box and started reaching in to grab the first donut when I realized they were all gone.  All that remained were a few crumbs of sugar and just a few signs that the box had once been inhabited by chocolate.

Could this be my fate?  Was this what was meant to be?  Was I victorious or was I just greatly disappointed that all this anticipation had led to this?  Had I entered heaven or hell?  What’s a girl to do — quietly and as inconspicuously as possible devour what few measly crumbs are left in the box?  Or, should I should enjoy my small victory and think about what could have been?

Oh well.

I must be really tired or really need a life.  Enough silliness.

Night all!