Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday Things.

1. This used to be the cupboard where we kept bread. Oops.
2. I realized earlier this summer that nearly every book I've read this year has had at least one vampire in it. So I rebelled. I branched out. I read The Help. Then I read all three Hunger Games books (loved the first... hated the last one. Hated.). Somewhere in there I reread Pride & Prejudice & Emma

And now I don't know what to do with myself! I need book suggestions... or I'll be forced to reread Breaking Dawn. Again. Which is legit because the movie's coming out soon, but still. Help.

3. This is a problem.
No, really. There's something seriously not right with this picture. It makes me want to die melt cry lay on a beach and drink icy umbrella drinks. Seriously, what happened to pumpkin weather?   

4. It's okay though because I just ordered my Halloween costume! What! I can't tell you! It's super secret, but I'm really excited about it and it's going to be epic. And the best part of all is I got it for free. 

What! Yes. Free.  

Have you heard of Swagbucks? It's a search engine. Like Google.
... only every so often when you search for things like "what is 1/2 of 1 3/4 cup of butter?" (<-- real life) you're awarded with "swagbucks" which you can trade in for things like gift cards to Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, Fandango, and my favorite place to shop, Amazon. I've been using Swagbucks for awhile now. I have it set as my homepage and since it's the only search engine I use, I've been able to save up a lot of $5 Amazon gift cards to use for baking things, Christmas presents, and now... my Halloween costume. 

Want to get in on this? It's super easy. You can click here to be referred by me... and I'll love you/be your best friend/make you cookies. Or no biggie, you can just go here and sign up on your own.  

5. I'm totally craving a vanilla cupcake stuffed with pumpkin ice cream. Is this even a thing? Because it should be.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Jelly Doughnut Muffins.

Apparently pie is the new cupcake which the new cake pop which is the new whoopie pie. Whatever! I say doughnuts. I'm serious... I think it's their time to shine. They've waited long enough. Let's bring back good old-fashioned classy fried dough.
I know. "Doughnuts" is more or less Latin for "Are you sure you really want to eat that?" Is it even possible to eat a doughnut without feeling guilty anymore? I always feel like I need to go into witness protection after I do. But sometimes you really do need an apple fritter the size of your face! To me, doughnuts are a way to kick off a day extra right. Lazy fall mornings. Christmas mornings. Graduation mornings. Special mornings where you're feeling extra pretty and sassy... or did lots and lots of yoga. 

The only thing better than a doughnut on a lazy fall, extra-sassy morning? A big cakey version of a doughnut. Without the deep-frying.

Fat, fluffy, muffins. Or naked cupcakes. Whichever. 

I love this recipe. I really didn't expect them to taste like jelly doughnuts, but they totally do! They're light, fluffy, melt in your mouth, and somehow make you feel a little bit healthier while eating delicious cake for breakfast. 
... and even though they're piped full of raspberry jam and sprinkled with sugar, you still feel better about your life because it's not deep-fried or out of a pink box.

P.S. All I can think about staring at these photos is that I should've poked two holes in these and called them vampire muffins! 

I may or may not be really excited for Halloween. 
The point: Doughnut muffins. Cake for breakfast. Do it.

Jelly Doughnut Muffins

For 18 Muffins 
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 cup jam or jelly for filling (I used raspberry jam, but strawberry, cherry, or even apple jelly would taste amazing!)
1/4 cup powdered sugar for sprinkling

For 10 Muffins
1 1/6 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup jam or jelly for filling
2 tablespoons powdered sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 2 1/2-inch muffin pan with paper or foil liners and set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high for about 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla, and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add eggs one a time, beating well after each addition.

Starting with the flour, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, beating on low speed after each addition until just combined.

Spoon batter into muffin liners, filling each until about two-thirds full. Use the back of a spoon to smooth out batter in cups.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for five minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

When cooled completely, fill a pastry bag or a Ziplock bag fitted with a small round tip with your filling. Gently insert the tip into the center of the muffin and squeeze jelly inside until some of the jelly is visible on top. 
Sift powdered sugar over the top of muffins and enjoy!

Note: The powdered sugar will get absorbed into the muffins after the first day so if you're making these in advance, I would sprinkle them right before serving.   

Source: Brandy's Baking

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Skillet-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Instead of watching the new episode of Glee... I'm writing about a really big chocolate chip cookie.

I don't even know who I am sometimes. I need to get my priorities in check.
But this isn't just a really big cookie... it's a GIANT cookie, baked in a cast-iron skillet. Because nothing says fall like baking things in a cast-iron skillet. 

(Plus it kind of makes me feel like I'm on the Oregon Trail.)  

To me, there's two kinds of fall baking. 

1. The kind of baking that takes all day and makes you feel totally in control of your life... and kind of like a rockstar. We're talking hard. work. Kneading things. Whisking things. Probably some kind of apples or cinnamon or pumpkin. Fancy breads. Pumpkin rolls. Pies. Creme brulee.
Okay, I'm not entirely sure about the creme brulee, but it sounds legit. And I would totally feel like a rockstar wielding a kitchen torch.

2. And fall baking that requires absolutely no work, no time, and no trips to store (<-- most important). Baking that pretty much bakes itself while you're curled up under a pile of blankets, watching a Charmed marathon, drinking pumpkin lattes, and pretending it's snowing outside when really it's 80 degrees, but it's September and you're determined to live right. 
This is that baking. 
This. Is a chocolate chip cookie.
A chocolate chip cookie the size of personal pan pizza, if by "personal pan pizza" you mean stuffed-crust and exta-large and in my face.
It's an inch thick... 
.... which makes it more of a rich cookie-brownie than an actual cookie. It has crispy edges and a soft, chewy center... and yeah, maybe it's delicious with vanilla ice cream, a drizzle of chocolate syrup, and a spoonful of salted caramel.   

Or dipped in pumpkin latte.

That's weird. Don't do that. I did that. 
P.S. Don't have a cast-iron skillet? Use the recipe below for a 10-inch cookie & bake it in a 9-inch springform pan. Fancy! It's like cheesecake, but not.
P.P.S. This definitely happened. 
At least one of us has our priorities in check.

Skillet-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie

For A 10-Inch Skillet
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks or 12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (about 9 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

For a 13-Inch Skillet
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 sticks (18 tablespoons) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/8 cups light brown sugar
1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract, mixing until well incorporated. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the dough to an ovenproof skillet (I used a 13-inch cast iron skillet) and press to flatten in an even layer on the bottom of the pan (dough might be a little crumbly, but it'll bake up perfectly once flattened down).
Bake until the edges of the cookie are brown and the top is golden, about 40-45 minutes. Don't overbake it; it will continue to cook a few minutes out of the oven.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving. Best if served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. Enjoy!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Syrup for Homemade Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

Fall means a few things to me:

1. It's almost Christmas.

2. It's almost Christmas.

3. It's almost Christmas.


I really, really, really love pumpkins.
So to kick-start fall (even though I totally had a pumpkin scone in June... and already posted pumpkin churros), I made this pumpkin spice syrup.
Here's the science behind it: those addictive pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks are basically pumpkin-flavored syrup (no actual pumpkin!) + coffee + milk. One grande pumpkin spice latte (with whipped cream and milk... and P.S. who wants just a grande? I want to carve out a pumpkin and fill it with latte) has 49 grams of sugar. Forty-nine. That's dangerous ground for someone who wants/needs/must have a pumpkin spice latte in her face, everyday until Thanksgiving. Starbucks, why is there no sugar-free pumpkin syrup?  Get on this. 
But now I can make it home... and just how I want it too! I can add more syrup. Less milk. Extra cinnamon. I can drink it out of a pumpkin. I can eat spoonfuls of whipped cream. It's a bit like being a wizard. A coffee wizard.

And judge me all you want, but I made this using Splenda instead of granulated sugar and mixed it with heavy cream instead of milk. It tastes almost exactly like the fancy lattes I remember, but with nearly 3/4 less sugar and guilt. 
I mean, unless you start dunking pumpkin churros in it. Not that I did that/I totally did.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup for Homemade Pumpkin Spice Lattes

1/3 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to keep syrup from burning. 

Let mixture cook together until it becomes syrup-y and begins to coat the spoon (for about 10-15 minutes), then remove from heat.

Refrigerate in a heat-proof container. The syrup will thicken a bit in the refrigerator, but will become syrup-y again when heated. 

To make pumpkin spice latte, heat syrup with milk (about 2 cups of milk and 2-3 tablespoons of syrup, depending on how much milk or creamer you want to use and how pumpkin-y sweet you want your latte. I usually use about 2 tablespoons syrup + 2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream to cut down on the sugar.). Pour into a blender or whisk until frothy, for about ten seconds (to make it thick and prevent the pumpkin from settling on the bottom). Pour into cup and stir in about 1/2 cup or more of strong, hot coffee.
Top with whipped cream, a swirl of caramel sauce, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, or nutmeg. Enjoy!

Source: Bran Appetit.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Churros.

Ten Things I Learned This Week:

1. If you make pumpkin spice churros, pipe them into rings, fry them, then roll them in cinnamon and sugar... you've basically just made mini sugar doughnuts. 
And really, what part of that statement is a bad thing?  

2. Oil at 350°F is hot. Anything that touches oil at 350°F is hot. HOT THINGS BURN.

3. If you try to pipe a churro ring directly into hot oil, it will get confused and turn into a ribbon.
And forget about trying to pipe a heart.

(Although if you're lucky/use magic... you might end up with a heart-shaped churro hole.)
4. Homemade churros are best eaten on the day they're made, piping hot and freshly rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Leftover churros are soft and lose their crispiness. :( 

5. Frying things isn't as complicated it sounds. It goes a little like this: Heat oil. Put things in it.
6. People who make perfectly straight churros must use sorcery.

7. Just because a churro looks crispy and golden doesn't mean it's done on the inside. Be patient.
8. The thickness of your churro is directly related to the size of the piping tip you use. They won't puff up or get super thick when fried... hence, using a #1M tip will result in skinny, french fry churros instead of fat sugary deliciousness. 
Note to self: buy a larger open star tip.

9. If it looks like a doughnut and tastes like a doughnut... it's breakfast. 
10. If you get burned by hot oil, the best thing you can do is cry... then eat a churro.
P.S. I totally stole those leaves from my neighbor's yard. 

P.P.S. True Blood finale: Um... WHAT. Discuss.

Pumpkin Spice Churros

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup butter or shortening
4 eggs
Vegetable oil for frying

In a medium bowl, stir together sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon for tossing the finished churros in. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt and set aside.

Heat water, pumpkin puree, vanilla, and butter or shortening in a large saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

Quickly stir in flour mixture with a wooden spoon. Stir over low heat until mixture becomes doughy.

Remove from heat again and quickly stir in eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Mixture should be smooth.

Spoon dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large star piping tip; be sure to twist the bag closed.

Pour vegetable oil into a large pan fitted with a clip-on thermometer, with the oil coming up two inches on the side. Heat oil to 350°F. When the oil reaches 350°F, carefully pipe dough* into the hot oil with one hand and snip the dough with a pair of kitchen scissors in the other. Turn the heat down to fry the churros at 325°F. Be sure to watch the temperature in order to maintain it.

*You can continuously pipe dough into the oil and use kitchen scissors to cut it into strips, but I found it easier to pipe circles on a big spoon like this...
... and then carefully place/slide/shake dough off spoon into the oil. DO NOT DROP INTO THE OIL. It will splash and burn you. Ask me how I know.

Depending on the size of your churros, fry for about 4-5 minutes, flipping at least once with a fork. Again, be careful. 
When golden brown and done, remove and set on paper towels. Pat dry and immediately toss in cinnamon and sugar.

Serve warm.
Source: Rookie Cookie.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I have an obsession and it goes like this.

Every morning I stumble out of bed and turn on my computer for some important purpose. You know... things. Legit things. Email. Facebook. Uploading seventy-five photos of brownies. Seeing if the new episode of The Lying Game is online yet. Things.

And the next thing I know, I've just pinned fifteen photos of walk-in closets the size of my house. What?! And now I'm pinning bedazzled stilletos (I don't even wear heels) and every pumpkin recipe in sight. And before I know it, I've made an entire inspiration board full of cupcakes, glittery dresses, and wedding up-dos.
Pinterest. It's addicting. Are you on it? I love seeing what everyone else is pinning and finding new recipes and ideas and inspiration. It makes me feel so creative... even though I've really just been avoiding real life for the last two and a half hours and now my coffee's cold.

I thought I'd share some of my favorite finds here (which is code for I haven't baked that much lately. Which is code for I made pumpkin bars & ate them all before I could take pictures of them). It's like a sneak-peek inside my brain... or at my Christmas list! Here are ten of my favorite pins/obsessions from this week...

1. Sparkly nails (1, 2, 3, 4). Ob-sessed. I'm especially in love with that chocolate brown. It's so shiny! Confession? I've never had a manicure. Ever. 
I think I should change that.

2. This gorgeous bunk bed reading nook. I love everything about this... the lacy curtain, the bookshelves, the pops of color against the dark wood, the top bunk that I would totally pretend is a princess tower... I could seriously live here. 
3. Or here. Can you imagine? 
4. I'm seriously in love with this idea for wedding photographs. It's so creative! They're taken before the wedding, where the bride and groom can't see each other. I think I'd secretly bubble over with excitement at this point and sneak a peek... (Left photo, right photo)
5. Speaking of weddings... I'm wearing purple heels when I get married. Fact. It's just a bonus if I end up with legs like this too. 
6. I love this pin. I think it's something we all need to remember and hear everyday/right now/I hate scales. I wish I could frame it and hang it in my bathroom. And maybe on my bedroom ceiling and above my dresser and in my car and in the shower... 
7. Can a mixer be sexy? Because it just happened. P.S. Can I have this?
8. Keeping it real. This made me giggle.
9. I love Tangled and everything Disneyland so this pin makes me happy. P.S. I would so do this for Halloween, if I could convince someone to be my Flynn Rider. And, you know, if my hair was maybe a bit longer.
10. And speaking of Halloween, this. Because the only thing better than a pumpkin is an Eric pumpkin.