Tuesday, October 23, 2012


A few months ago I decided to participate in my first Reddit Gift Exchange...books! I spent a lot of time trying to find something my match would like and sending it out...worrying that I had picked something she wouldn't like or already owned...and then waiting...and waiting...and waiting some more for my gift. Nothing ever came, and thus was I a touch unimpressed with my first experience of Reddit gifts.

Then in late September they posted an exchange that I just could NOT pass up. Doctor Who! I am a newly converted Whovian. I just started watching the "New" Who in July of this year...and I haven't stopped since. I enjoyed Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor...I was enthralled with David Tennant as Ten...and I suppose I tolerate/enjoy Matt Smith as Eleven.

So when this exchange came up...I knew I wouldn't be able to restrain myself, despite my earlier disappointment.

I got my match selected some items for her and shipped them away, but I didn't want to get excited or anxious about my match because I didn't want to be let down again. I was looking at it as a nice thing to do for someone else and didn't worry about reciprocation this time.

There was absolutely NO need for me to be worried...my match was FABULOUS! He did some stalking (just a bit, it didn't take much) and found out that I used to have this tiny little miniscule baking blog with a lovely friend and from there he selected an item that I have wanted since I watched my first episode of Doctor Who - way back in July - a TARDIS Cookie Jar!
I've been lusting after this cookie jar, which lights up and has a sound effect when someone opens the lid, I just couldn't convince myself that it was okay to buy the thing for myself. It has been in my cart on Amazon and ThinkGeek on multiple occasions. What I am saying is I am delighted with your selection gift giver!

Then - on top of that fabulousness - he also threw in a version of Ten's Sonic Screwdriver!

Both of these lovely items actually arrived last Friday, but I wanted to wait to post until I could bake actual cookies to put in my cookie jar.
That is a small flashlight version of Ten's Sonic Screwdriver that I also received. Adorable!
The jar even lights up and makes the sound of the Tardis when you open and close the lid!

I took some time trying to decide what cookies to bake and settled on Mountain Mama Cooks Browned-Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. After receiving my gift on Friday...taking a quick trip to Noblesville on Saturday to see Katie, Jason and Jonah...I finally had time to make them Sunday night.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated


1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

14 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375F degrees. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in bowl; set aside. Heat the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling the pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from heat and transfer butter to large heatproof bowl. Add both sugars and vanilla to bowl. Whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and egg yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth and no lumps remain. Using a spatula, stir in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and give the dough a final stir to ensure every thing is well mixed. Drop dough by the spoonful on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or greased) 2 inches apart. Bake cookies 10-11 minutes until cookies are still puffy and golden brown. Transfer cookies to cooling rack and cool completely.

The cookies were pretty delicious. They didn't spread nearly as much as I had feared they would...and they were just a touch crunchy on the outside but still chewy and delicious in the middle. For me they tasted like a really yummy version of a Tollhouse cookie. Very basic. But with just that little bit extra to make them totally worth being made from scratch. I will definitely make them again.

As for the cookies and the cookie jar? They didn't disappear into time and space, they made a trip to work, where I am sure my co-workers were pleased to see some baked goods out of me. (I haven't been bringing much in lately, due to making larger orders for other individuals and some serious back pain over the past few years. Also, I am poor.)

Rainbow Revisited

It was a busy couple months for first birthdays. After Jonah's birthday in August, a co-worker's granddaughter had her first birthday party in mid-October. She asked me if I would make some rainbow cakes and cupcakes in sticking with their loose theme of vibrant colors. She wanted 4 dozen cupcakes, a rainbow layer cake with a rainbow inside AND out and a smaller layer cake for the birthday girl to have to herself. I was a little concerned about getting the bright colors for both the cake and the frosting, but that is what she wanted, so that is what I did! After learning my lesson - and using most of my gel dye stash - for Jonah's cupcakes, I ordered the Ateco Spectrum Gel Paste Food Dye. It was cheaper to get the 12-pack on Amazon than to try to track down individual colors, so that is what I went with.
These were spectacular. I usually like Wilton products, but based on my rather limited experience I prefer these. They gel produced vibrant colors without having to use the entire bottle. I was also really pleased that the dye didn't alter the flavor of the buttercream that significantly. Bonus: The squeeze bottles were so much easier to use than the little pots that the Wilton's gel comes in and I didn't end up with dye all over my hands ands counter. Leery of the frosting not being vivid enough I prepared it the night before.
Of all of the colors. I will say I was most displeased with the red. It worked and I think I'm probably the only person who cared...but I have never found a red dye that I was happy with...this did come the closest though. The next day it was time for the batter. The recipe I decided to use was from Whisk Kid. I have lots of other white cake recipes I could have just colored, but I wanted to make sure the batter was sturdy enough to hold up in the thin layers, so I went with the recipe from someone who had previous success. If I was going to make this rainbow cake again just for a friend, it would have to be a GOOD friend, as this was a LOT of work, I would go with the white buttercream on the outside with the rainbow surprise!
The cupcakes looked so pretty before going in to the oven!
And Just as pretty once they came out!
A swipe of vanilla buttercream and some coordinating sprinkles...and the cupcakes were done!
I didn't do much in the way of process for the cakes...but here is the inside...
...and the outside as was requested.
It was an interesting experience...and a far cry from our first attempts at rainbow baking back in 2008.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jonah's Birthday

Warning: These pictures were taken with a iPhone 3G that was more than four years old. Don't judge.
So I've felt like a return to blog posts lately - if not a return to baking - although I am still doing a fair bit of that, just less often and in greater quantity. To start myself off I thought I'd post some pictures of something a little bit adorable that my dear friend Katie and I worked on for her son's first birthday back in August. Of course Jonah was the cutest thing around, but he isn't mine to post pictures of on the Internet, so I will refrain. Katie did a LOT of work for the little guy's first birthday party and her whole family chipped in to help with cleaning and decorating the house and feeding everyone at the party. I, however, am only going to show you what I had a tiny part in - the baked goods for the Sesame Street themed event.
• Chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream as Elmo, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch. • Jonah's smash cake. • White chocolate dipped oreo pops. • Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats (DELICIOUS!) Katie had picked out the cupcakes she liked the look of from some images online and was confident that with our powers combined we could manage to pull off some Sesame-Street-esque faces. I was not so sure and was hopeful that I could convince her to just let me pipe some brightly colored frosting...I failed. I still am not sure how I feel about the cupcakes as a whole, but I think you can probably tell who they are supposed to be.
Wehad a heck of a time getting Elmo's red frosting. It was pink for a very-very-very long time. Lesson learned, the frosting really does get darker as it sits...and sometimes Wilton Gel isn't the best option. Jonah's smash cake was just a three-layer 6-inch cake. I made up some marshmallow fondant with thoughts of doing something a little more detailed for his big day...but in the end time was not on my side and we went with simple instead with some brightly colored buttercream and his name cut out of white fondant. I tend to like simple anyway. I'm not sure how pleased Katie was with it though.
I'd post some recipes, but the chocolate cake was one that I actually posted on here years earlier. The buttercream was very basic. The vanilla wasn't amazing. Oreo pops don't really have a recipe. And the Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats were entirely Katie's doing. (Did I mention those were delicious? Totally worth the effort Katie put in.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bacon Bluegrass Cupcakes

Soo....2 and a half years later...

As you may or may not know. I am a avid University of Kentucky basketball fan and when it comes to March Madness I can be a little bit ridiculous in both my fervor and my superstitious behavior.

Last Friday UK met up with the Indiana Hoosiers on their way to the Elite Eight. IU and UK have a pretty great traditional rivalry going on under regular circumstances and meeting up in the NCAA tournament after IU beat UK in the regular season on a last-minute shot took the rivalry to new heights.

To direct some of my nervous energy prior to the game I decided to make some kind of Kentucky cupcake. I'd seen some people making Kentucky Blue Velvet Cupcakes, but I'm just not a huge fan of any variety of velvet cupcakes. So I thought about what else Kentucky was known for...I didn't have to think very long...and came up with BOURBON! Yum!

After a few minutes scouring the Internet I settled on an amalgamation of a couple different recipes.

I went with the Chocolate-Bourbon Cupcake recipe from http://allisoneats.com. Which was an awesome decision. These cupcakes retained their bourbon flavor. WIN! They were also delicious and moist sans frosting. Right out of the oven these had a lovely almost caramelized top which had just a little bit of crunch to them. I've only made these once, so I don't know if that was a side affect of the liquor, or if I screwed up something about the recipe. Either way it turned out tasty.

1 cup bourbon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two muffin pans with paper liners.
Bring the bourbon and butter to a simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add bourbon-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.
Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full (I just used an ice cream scoop and they turned out well) and bake 20-25 minutes (mine actually took a bit longer), until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

For the frosting I started off with a Maple-Bourbon recipe from http://hauteapplepie.com.

1 stick butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese
3-4 C powdered sugar
2 Tbsp good bourbon, such as Maker’s Mark
1/4 C real maple syrup OR 1/2 tsp maple extract
+ additional sifted flour as thickener

Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in one cup of powdered sugar. Add bourbon and maple syrup and beat well. Beat in remaining powdered sugar. If frosting is not thick enough to your liking, beat in 1/4 C flour or additional sugar to thicken.

I ended up using additional flour, and a mixture of maple syrup and maple extract. As with most frosting I used the recipe as a jumping off point and went from there until I got something that I could pipe...and taste the way I wanted it too. The bourbon was also definitely present in this frosting too. I also wouldn't recommend the frosting for piping in any kind of warm temperature. It worked, but it was very very soft and if it had been warm or not it wouldn't have held its shape at all.

I topped it all off with some bacon bits. I baked the bacon in the oven which made it not to crunchy and not to underdone. It worked out really well. The salty bacon really tempered the incredibly sweet frosting. Or at least I thought so!