Wednesday, July 27, 2011


1. You know what I've learned about boys since I've started baking? Boys I'm dating, boys I'm friends with, boys I'm related to, the three or four boys who read this blog... they like it simple. Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies, rich peanut butter fluffernutter gobs (<-- my favoritest cookies ever, btw), iced, lemony black & white cookies, don't even get me started on cupcakes... they're... well, they're nice. And "interesting". But they're kind of like that extra fork at a fancy restaurant. What is this? What's it for? Is this a cookie or a pancake? Why is there an Oreo inside my cookie? Why do you keep baking me things with marshmallows

Real life.

You know what boys really like? Besides soft, flowery-scented hair and phone apps and Michael Bay movies? 

Chocolate chip cookies. Snickerdoodles. Peanut butter oatmeal cookies. Rice Krispie treats. Brownies. Banana bread. Anything with M&Ms.
Simple. Classic. The kind of baked goods they've grown up with. Don't fight it.

2. Side note? Those are my three most boy-requested cookies. Sometimes I rebel. My boyfriend asked for "those peanut butter oatmeal graham cracker thingies" and I made them with homemade brown sugar and bite-size Reese's peanut butter cups.

And then I froze them. And ate them. And eventually got around to giving him one or two.

... I'm just a sparkling awesome girlfriend like that.

The point is... find a boy. Make him these cookies. Expect diamonds. Kisses. Flowers? At least a high-five.
3. Confession: I haven't baked anything in a hundred years.

Okay, two weeks. Two & a half weeks. Since these chocolate cauldron cupcakes. I've made scrambled eggs. Can I post that? No? Well then... this just got awkward.

Real life is happening. I've been visiting my boyfriend, interviewing for a job, eating vanilla bean scones everyday for breakfast and wondering why my pants don't fit. I've seen Harry Potter three times (four, by the time you've read this). I finally organized my baking things, scrubbed the frosting off my camera and put away my tripod for the first time in four months. Instead of baking and photo-ing and editing and posting, I'm finally reading Pioneer Woman's book (do this.), catching up on Pretty Little Liars (what? Yeah, I said it.), and getting back into the groove of eating salads and strawberries for lunch instead of frappuccinos and frozen cupcakes.

In other words... I've been taking a bakecation. Baking was getting stressful & my pants were getting tighter & I just needed some time to, you know, lose twenty ten pounds, read a book, breathe, see Harry Potter four times, paint my toenails sparkly pink, and get back to that place where baking was fun... something I wanted to do, not something I "had" to do because I have nothing to post this week except scrambled eggs.

But I'm starting to dream about banana bread and brownies so I think it's safe to say that my bakecation's almost over.

Hope you're all having a happy summer! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chocolate Cauldron Cakes.

Awesome Exciting Thing #1: This is my 100th post! *throws confetti everywhere* 

Awesome Exciting Thing #2: It's less than 48 hours til the midnight release of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part II! 

If you're like me, you've grown up with Harry, Hemione, & Ron, secretly wishing you were a witch or wizard too, living at Hogwarts and spending weekends in the snowy village of Hogsmeade, watching Quidditch and practicing spells with the D.A. (I'm firmly convinced my Patronus would be an elephant) and, you know, battling dark wizards. 
I'm pretty sure these books will always hold a special place in my heart and finally, finally seeing it end on the silver screen is both exciting, epic, legendary, and kind of bittersweet and sad, all at once. 

Ron: "One person can't feel all that at once, they'd explode."
Hermione: "Just because you've got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn't mean we all have!"

Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix, p. 459

It's like when Sauron's tower FINALLY cracked in half at the end of Return of the King and you thought FINALLY. and then, Oh... it's over. Now what?

Well anyway. My family & I have been in Harry Potter-countdown mode all week, rewatching all the movies. And now I'm frantically re-re-re-re-reading through The Deathly Hallows. No, really. Like... right now. It's on my lap. Type type type, read three pages. Type type type... horcruxes, what? Why is this book so long? How many hours til the movie? Wait, how many more pages? 

I need a cupcake butterbeer.

Awesome Exciting Thing #3: I made cauldron cakes. I think you should too.
Awesome Exciting Thing #4: On Saturday I'm testing for a job near my boyfriend's zipcode... and Tuesday I have an interview for another job! A job I really really really want. Passionately.

Which is why these cakes are filled with sparkly gold Felix Felicis potion. You know. Liquid luck! 
I've never been to the Wizarding World, but I would give up baking and blogging and texting and Coke Zeros for a year if I meant I could go right this minute. Especially to visit Hogsmeade & Honeydukes. Pumpkin pasties, licorice wands, chocolate frogs... and cauldron cakes!  
Unrelated: Does the park have Fred & George's joke shop? Do they sell Pgymy Puffs? Wants.

I've been wanting to something Harry Potter-y for the longest time. Butterbeer? I can't handle drinking something full of melted butter. Pumpkin pasties? I love everything pumpkin, especially scones and lattes, but it's not very summery. Maybe cauldron cakes? 
... I like cupcakes.

And cauldrons. And magic.

Cauldron cakes from the Wizarding World, courtesy of Google. 

Cauldron cakes from me.
Sparkly! My dad threw down and said these were the best cupcakes that I've ever made. 
Moist, rich chocolate cupcakes filled with a light, creamy chocolate mousse, dipped in melted chocolate, and topped with chocolate buttercream frosting. 

And liquid luck. 
And sparkly silver sugar stars.

I wish I'd had a hemisphere pan for making these, but honestly, who has one of those just lying around? And even though I got a little impatient with piping the frosting, I still think they turned out super cute and whimsical... even if they are a bit, well, imperfect.  
In my defense, I made these in one night... and had to start over after I burnt the first batch of cupcakes. Real life. It happens.

... and it took about three hours. What you can't tell is that I added chocolate chips to the batter... they sunk to the bottom. Then when I peeled off the paper liners, all the chocolate chips fell out and left the cauldrons uneven and wobbly. The point is, if you want to be authentic and make these chocolate chip cupcakes, use a denser batter or toss the chocolate chips with some flour. But these are rich enough on their own, I don't think they need it.
These are a little bit time-consuming, I won't lie to you, but even though there's a few extra steps, they're super easy and fun to make... if you don't burn the cupcakes, try to spike them with chocolate chips, or make them all in one night after a crazy-long day.

And can I just say? Cupcakes should always have a crunchy, dipped-in-chocolate bottom. It's lie magic shell, but for your cupcake. Do this. It. is. so. good. It was my favorite part.

Because, you know, obviously putting them in the freezer didn't work out so well for my waistline.  
Accio cupcake!

Chocolate Cauldron Cakes

Printable Recipe

3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot, strong-brewed coffee
3/4 cup bread flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Mousse Filling
1 tablespoon Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 1/2 tablespoons hot water
3 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
Pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
4-6 tablespoons milk, depending on the consistency desired
Gold luster dust, a few drops of clear extract (vanilla, almond, lemon, etc.), & a small artists' paintbrush for brushing on color, or gold & silver sprinkles, optional

STEP 1: Cupcakes.

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with paper liners. Place chocolate and cocoa in a medium bowl and pour the hot coffee over it. Whisk until smooth and transfer to the refrigerator to cool completely, about 20-30 minutes.

Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Whisk oil, eggs, vanilla, and vinegar into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until batter is smooth.

Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake until cupcakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 17-20 minutes. Allow to cool in pans 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. I recommend placing them on a wax paper-lined baking sheet and placing them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. They're easier to dip in chocolate if they're a little bit firmer.

STEP 2: Cauldron Feet.

When cupcakes have cooled completely, remove their paper liners. Use a paring knife to cut a small cone of cake from the center of each cupcake (I used a large decorating tip. Just press into the center of each cake and twist.)
Place three chocolate chips in triangular formations on a Silpat mat or parchment paper. Each cake will get tripod-like feet.

Melt about 1 cup of milk or semisweet chocolate. Dip the base of each cupcake into the melted chocolate. Tap off every bit of excess chocolate, then set the cakes on the prepared chocolate chips. Be careful not to press too hard. You want the cauldrons to be just resting on top of the chocolate chips.

I was feeling lazy and didn't really pay attention to this tip... here's an example of a less-than-perfect cupcake.
And a cupcake that turned out perfectly.
STEP 3: Mousse Filling.

To prepare the mousse, combine cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl and set aside.

Place chocolate in a medium bowl and melt in microwave in 10-second intervals, stirring between each until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixture fitted with the whisk attachment, whip cream, sugar, and salt at medium speed until slightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and continue whipping until soft peaks form (the consistency of whipped cream). Whisk in the cocoa mixture until smooth, then fold in the cooled melted chocolate mixture until combined and no white streaks remain.

Put mousse in a pastry bag fitted with a rounded tip or in a Ziploc bag with the tip cut off and pipe into the center of each cupcake, overfilling them so it looks like cauldron's potion is bubbling out, like so.
STEP 4: Cauldron Handles.

Melt about 1 cup of chocolate in the microwave in ten second intervals, stirring between each. (I added a little bit of shortening to make the chocolate a little bit smoother).

Fill a Ziploc bag with melted chocolate, cut off the tip, and pipe wide U-shaped handles onto a cold baking sheet lined with a Silpat mat or wax/parchment paper. The cold baking sheet will help them set faster. To make sure they're wide enough. place one of the cakes on the sheet, then draw the handle next to it, making it just slightly narrower than the top of the cakes. To see a picture of this step, check out Darla's post. She's the genius behind these cupcakes. (I also recommend making as many handles as you can fit on the baking sheet in case some break or melt when you're assembling the cakes later).

Place in freezer until ready to use.

STEP 5: Frosting.

To make the chocolate frosting, beat butter and shortening in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and salt. Beat in confectioners' sugar 1 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons of milk; beat at high speed until light and fluffy. Add additional milk as needed for desired consistency (I used about 5 tablespoons of milk total).

Put frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a rounded tip or in a Ziploc bag with the tip cut off and pipe a wide ring around the edges of each cupcake, then fill the center with a rounded blob of frosting to cover the mousse. Use a knife to make two small slits, one on each side of the cauldron, where the chocolate handles will be placed.

When frosting is set and dry, mix gold luster dust with a few drops of clear extract, such as clear vanilla, almond, or lemon extract. Use a small brush to paint the color over the frosting in the center of the cauldron. Or sprinkle with gold or silver sprinkles.

STEP 6: Assemble!

Remove chocolate handles from freezer and carefully peel off wax paper. Working quickly (otherwise the heat from your fingers will start to melt the handles), gently press handles into the slits you marked in the frosting.

Store in freezer or refrigerator, to prevent chocolate handles from breaking or melting. 

Makes about 15 cauldron cakes.

Source: Idea, inspiration, assembly instructions from Bakingdom. Cupcake recipe slightly adapted from Cook's Illustrated, May/June 2010. Buttercream recipe slightly adapted from Pillsbury's Fall Baking, #93. Chocolate mousse recipe from Cook Like a Champion.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Real life: I've just spent the last three hours covered in frosting and melted chocolate making the best cupcakes of my entire life. And now... I'm tired.  I want pajamas. I feel like I just did dishes for days. Everything from my Blackberry to my laptop to my camera is covered in powdered sugar. Is it just me or do people only text you when you're covered in powdered sugar? Oh man, no lie? My puppy just jumped on my bed... covered in powdered sugar. This can't be real life.

Well anyway.

The point is... I was feeling brilliant so I hid the cupcakes deep in the depths of my freezer, thinking hello, genius, if I can't see them, then I won't eat them all for breakfast.

But then I realized that they're getting all fudgey and frosty and delicious asItypethis.





Also, fact: Frozen cupcakes > regular cupcakes... > no cupcakes. Check out those math skills.

Anyway.  All I can think about now is shoving seven of them directly into my face.

So to distract myself, for the sake of my pants, I'm writing about cookies. These cookies, with their crisp, golden edges, chewy, crunchy oats, gooey centers, and ribbons of melted chocolate.

... oh yeah. This plan's working out marvelously.
I like these cookies. They're simple. They're full of chocolate chips instead of raisins, but have oats which makes them healthy. They're like cowgirl cookies, but less dolled-up. And can I tell you? They taste amazing sandwiched around a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.

Oh yeah. Homemade ice cream. That went down in my kitchen too. No biggie.

I need a bakecation. And maybe a salad.

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Printable Recipe

1/2 cup (1 stick) + 6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, optional
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two cookie sheets and set aside.

Beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar together on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until well combined. 

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, then add to the butter mixture and beat until combined. Stir in oats and chocolate chips. 

Scoop dough into rounded tablespoons and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Lightly press down to flatten each dough ball. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until done (these won't look done at first glance, they'll have a gooey, dough-y looking centers that sets when they're cooling, so I baked mine until they were crispy & brown around the edges. You can always poke them with a toothpick if you want to be sure). Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies. 

Source: Adapted from Quaker Oats.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Crazy Feta.

Crazy feta.

I've been saying that all day.

Ca-razyyy feta. What makes it so crazy? Spicy jalopenos. Carmelized garlic. Sweet, tangy lemon zest. This needs to happen in your kitchen. It's seriously an explosion of flavors you have to experience for yourself. Like a delicious punch in the face. 

And when you turn the oven on to 400 and start roasting garlic and peppers in the middle of the hottest, most  humid day of the universe summer... your family will look at you like you're crazy.

When your mom starts a conversation with, "I wish we had some sort of delicious cheese spread to put all over these pita chips" the very moment you slam down this recipe and get to business... that's crazy.

Making something that doesn't make the entire house smell like cinnamon and cookies? What's going on here. Crazy.
The smell of garlic roasting and spicy jalopenos? Crazy mouth-wateringly delicious. Are these real words? I don't know. I don't care. I just want a candle that smells like this.

Standing around the kitchen counter with your mom eating feta off pita chips and spoons? Mmmm. Lifetime movie moment. Crazy.   

Sprinkled on top of scrambled eggs? Crazy. Who does that? You. You do that.

And me. ... I'm doing it right now.

Warm and melty in a tortilla? On top of a hamburger? Crazy good. Best idea ever. Do this.

With spinach? In salads? On top of grilled zucchini? Wait... spinach? Salads? Vegetables? Crazy! 

Spooned into your mouth off a serving spoon? DO IT. CRAZY.

Make this. Eat this. Love this. Hide the serving spoons and invite me over for lunch. Go crazy.
Crazy Feta

Printable Recipe

2 bricks of feta cheese, 8 ounces each (or 2 8-ounce containers of pre-crumbled feta)
3 whole jalopeno peppers
1/4 cup olive oil + 1 tablespoon
1 bulb garlic
The zest & juice of half a lemon
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400° F. Chop the top off the garlic bulb and drizzle it with a teaspoon of olive oil. Wrap it in foil and roast 25-30 minutes, or until garlic is golden in color. At the same time, brush the jalopenos with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Either grill or roast them (I stuck them in the oven with the garlic and just watched until they were charred)
Remove both from oven and let cool. Once jalopenos are cooled, remove skins, cut in half and discard the seeds. Chop into small pieces. Don't touch your eyes!

In a large bowl, crumble the feta bricks. Add chopped jalopenos and the juice and zest of half a lemon. Squeeze the garlic out of the bulb directly into the feta. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil and mash with a fork. You want the feta to be "wet"- somewhere between a dip and a spread. There is no right or wrong- make it however you'd like. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with pita chips, warm pita, naan, or spread on sandwiches. Store in the fridge for up to one week. Also, it tastes best at room temperature so allow it to sit out for 30 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Waffles of Insane Greatness.

Today I realized it was Wednesday. I thought it was Tuesday. Technically, if you're reading this then it's already Thursday. Confused? Me too. Hey, look, waffles!
The art of distraction. I has it.

I had brilliant baking schemes planned for this week, honestly I did, but between the 4th of July, spontaneously visiting my boyfriend, eating lots of barbeque, setting off fireworks, seeing Transformers twice, and thinking it was only Tuesday... it just didn't happen. So I thought we could just relax today. Have some coffee. Stay in our pajamas. Talk about waffles and boys and True Blood. 

Mmm. Waffles. Crispy, crunchy, fluffy waffles. Forget talking about them, let's eat a tower of them.

I know. I just posted waffles. Chocolate waffles. Why would you make these when you could make chocolate waffles? 

I'll tell you why. One word: buttermilk. 

Also: They're life-changing. They're delicious. They taste like funnel cakes. They make boyfriends happy. They're golden and crispy on the outside, and light, airy, and tender on the inside. It's crispy, sweet-but-not-too-sweet cake for breakfast, covered in melted butter and berries and surgary syrup. Get on this.
Sigh. I wish I had one right now.
Oh and two things: 

1. Don't be afraid to double (triple! quadruple!) the recipe. This only made enough for about 2-3 people... if the third person wasn't very hungry and if neither of these people were my boyfriend. And my wafflemaker makes really thin waffles, so if you want thicker, Belgian-style waffles, I imagine it'll make even less.

2. After mixing the waffle batter together, it needs to rest for 30 minutes. What? I know. I didn't read that part until I was ready to fire up the wafflemaker... and then I had to deal with a hungry boyfriend for half an hour. Can I tell you? Not pretty.   
Waffles of Insane Greatness

Printable Recipe

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, slightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Whisk together to blend. In another mixing bowl, beat together the milk, buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients and whisk just until incorporated and few lumps remain. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat a waffle iron. Fill waffle wells and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions. Cook until crisp and golden. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chewy No-Bake Cookies & Cream Treats.

Things I don't understand:

Macarons. Cake pops. Cake in a jar. We get it. You're fancy. 

Nutella. What is the deal. I remember eating this as a kid and thinking score, chocolate on my toast! Chocolate for breakfast! Chocolate in my face!  But people go kind of crazy for this stuff, no? I don't know. Team Peanut Butter.

Red velvet cake. I feel like I'm going to get radioactive superpowers from all that food dye.

Fondant. I don't like you.

Gnocchi. Quinoa. Dulce de leche. Mascarpone. What are you. I can't even pronounce you.

Brownies. Can I throwdown? I don't like brownies. I mean, if you held me down and shoved a warm, chocolatey brownie into my face, I wouldn't punch you in the kneecaps, but they're just kind of boring and square and dense. Like they tried to be cake and failed. Chocolatey bricks. I just can't get behind this. Put some rocky road on that.  

Things I do understand



These are similar to the chocolate chip cookie treats I made last month, except these use a whole package of crumbled Oreo cookies instead of chocolate chip! The chocolate chip cookie treats are still my favorite... but then I've always preferred them to Oreos. 
These... let me tell you. These taste like a chewy, cookie-y, Oreo marshmallow Rice Krispie Treat. So. Good. Addictive really. And dangerous. 3 ingredients, 15 minutes, and this no-bake dessert can be in your face. Don't you just love summer? 

I know. I didn't mix them enough. They should actually be black, like an Oreo, not gray, like a slab of concrete. Don't be like me.
Chewy No-Bake Cookies & Cream Bars

Printable Recipe

1 (16-ounce) package of Oreo cookies
5 cups (1 bag) of large marshmallows
4 tablespoons butter

Line an 8x8-inch baking dish with aluminum foil, allowing the foil to hang over the edges, and set aside.

Place Oreo cookies in food processor (or crush in a large Ziploc bag with a rolling pin) and pulse until crumbly, but not ground.

Melt marshmallows and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl until puffy, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove and pour in ground cookies. Quickly stir to combine, then transfer to baking dish. 

Allow to set for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove bars from pan by foil edges. Cut, serve, and enjoy!

Source: Picky Palate.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

 Wishing everyone & their families a wonderful 4th of July, full of great memories, fireworks, and food!