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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Learning from Delicious Failure



“Learning Through Failure: Mom’s cherry covered chocolate cupcakes”
Back in July, I got inspired to create what I call, “DC Cherry Cupcakes.” It’s a white almond cake topped with a fresh cherry almond puree and cherry almond butter cream. I took my regular butter cream and used fresh cherry juice as the liquid and used almond and vanilla extract. The result was a delicate rose butter cream, very similar to the color of cherry blossoms. I used a star tip to create a rose design on top. This is actually ridiculously easy. If you’d like to try it yourself, start with a large star tip (4 or 5). Fill your pastry bag (or Ziploc, no judgments here) with your favorite frosting, slightly stiff. Hold your bag perpendicular to the cup cake and start in the center. Squeeze out the frosting in a circular motion until you get to the edge. Voila! That’s it. I kid you not, it’s that easy.

        My friends and family have willingly become my guinea pigs (ironic, since I’m allergic to actual guinea pigs). They loved these cupcakes! I was making a test batch, so I did a few cupcakes without the cherry puree.  I marked the ones with the puree by drawing with melted chocolate on top. My friend Laura, who’s not crazy about cherries, loved the cherry almond butter cream. Hell, I loved it so much; I spread it on graham crackers! My mom liked them, but said, “Not enough chocolate” (I wonder where I get my chocoholism from?).  I agreed that they would be good with more chocolate. I decided I would try chocolate shavings in the butter cream next time. 

        Flash forward to August and my mom’s birthday rolls around. She claimed I didn’t have to bake her anything. “I don’t need a cake!” she said, but I knew the truth. I decide to create, “Mom’s Cherry Covered Chocolate Cupcakes.” I started with our basic chocolate cake recipe. I replaced the unsweetened cocoa powder with Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
and I subbed out 1 ½ teaspoons of the vanilla extract for almond extract. The cake batter, holy balls the cake batter, it was heavenly!
I made cherry puree by pitting about 2 cups fresh cherries, throwing them in a food processor and draining through a sieve. I saved the cherry juice for my butter cream. I added 1 teaspoon of sugar and a healthy splash of Disarrono amaretto.  I stored this in the fridge while the cupcakes cooled and went to work on the pièce d’ résistance; cherry almond butter cream with dark chocolate shavings. I wanted the chocolate and cherry to stand as separate notes, that’s why I chose the chocolate shavings instead of cocoa powder or chocolate extract. I also added a little amaretto, because why the hell not? I topped my cooled cup cakes with the fresh cherry puree.
Next, I intended to decorate the cupcakes like the DC Cherry cupcakes, with the star tips roses.  What I utterly failed to consider, and some of you smarties out there might have guessed, especially if you’ve ever had a chocolate chip Blizzard, is that the chocolate shavings would clog my star tip. Not knowing this, I loaded my bag with a #5 star tip and delicious frosting. I’ll admit, at this point, I had sampled some of the amaretto (for quality purposes, of course, I HAD to). Image my surprise when the first rose turned out like utter crap! I was flummoxed for all of two seconds, and then I remembered my own extensive Blizzard experience and the chocolate clogging the straw.  Normally, you could just scrape of the frosting and try again, but the puree was already on these cupcakes. I wish I had taken a picture of how effed up these cupcakes were, but my first instinct was to fix it, not photograph it. I did, rather pointlessly, try another large tip before just cutting the end off the bag and doing a basic swirl. I blame the Friday night dumbs and the amaretto for not skipping that middle step. Then arrived problem number two. The delicate chocolate shavings that were solid enough to clog my tips were also melting in the bag from the heat of my hands. This turned my delicate rose frosting with dark flecks to a dusty pink frosting with some brown streaks.
I stared at my crappy looking cup cakes in slight despair. These were not the cupcakes I wanted to present to my mother. It was time to bite the bullet, or cupcake. I said a quick prayer that they didn’t taste as bad as they looked. I got out a plate and a cup of milk to go with my cupcake (professional tip- just saying’).  OH MY F#@*ing CRAP, these were the ultimate ugly duckling cupcakes! The flavors did just what they should; explode on your tongue, do a little dance and party in your mouth. This, IMHO, is an awesome cupcake.  I do recommend storing them in the refrigerator. To quote my mom, the birthday girl, they are “Divine.” My friend Jen texted me, “Hoooolyyyy crap!!!!” and “So good. Possibly even better that is was cold. It was still gooey and delicious”
*Sadly, my mom went to sneak the last cupcake when everyone else in her house was asleep (so she didn’t have to share) only to discover that ants had invaded her container and were eating her cupcake. She did not heed my fridge suggestion. *
Now on to learning from my delicious failure: the next time I make these I will simply do a big only swirl design. These darlings don’t need fancy looking frosting. I should probably chill the frosting in the bag for a few minutes to avoid the chocolate melting. For your viewing displeasure, here are a few of my bad pics. 
Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for more baking adventures, tips, triumphs and mishaps. ~Megan


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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Megan’s Chocolate Craving Cookies



Megan’s Chocolate Craving Cookies:
On a cool July afternoon, (high of 70) I was hit by a monstrous chocolate craving. I tried waiting it out. I talked on the phone with my best friend for an hour and a half. When we got off the phone, surprise! I still wanted chocolate.  I knew I had milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips in the pantry, but I also knew a handful of chips wouldn’t cut it. I decided this unseasonably cool weather was a great excuse to experiment with a cookie recipe. I started my favorite chocolate chip recipe and added two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder along with the flour.  Then I folded in a heaping cup of milk chocolate chips and heaping cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I grabbed my trusty medium scoop (from earlier blog posts, you know scoops are a great tool for even cookie sizes) and went to get out my cookie sheet. I could not find my favorite cookie sheet anywhere! Expletives were flying out of my mouth. I wanted a cookie so bad.  My stoneware cookie sheets were already in the preheated oven (*I'll explain that later). I was so desperate for a cookie; I grabbed my brownie pan and scooped out six cookies to pop in the oven while I continued the hunt.  Ten LONG minutes later, with a cool breeze coming from the window, I was pulling these heavenly cookies out of the oven. They were so chocolaty; I had to line the rest of the cookie sheets with parchment paper.
I can proudly say, these babies really hit the spot! AND, they got rave reviews from everyone who tried them. My step-dad doesn’t even like chocolate chip cookies and he went back for seconds.


The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe:
1 cup softened butter                      1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar                          2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract                        3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda                          2 tsp. hot water
½ tsp. salt                                      2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
(To make Megan’s Chocolate Craving cookies; be sure to make the changes listed above. These cookies are pretty bad ass on their own)
1     Preheat oven to 350°.
2     Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.
3     Beat in eggs, on at a time.
--   4.  Stir in the vanilla extract.
5    Dissolve baking soda in 2 tsp. hot water
6   Add the baking soda mix to the batter, along with the salt.
7   Stir in flour (and cocoa, if you’re feeling the chocolate craving)
8   Stir in the chocolate chips.
9   Drop by the spoonful (or scoopful, they really are handy dandy kitchen tools) on to ungreased cookie sheets. I used parchment to line the cookie sheets for my chocolate craving cookies.
10.Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are slightly brown. Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheets for 2-3 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
This recipe makes about 4 dozen freaking awesome cookies. They freeze well, if you want to set aside a dozen for a rainy day.

  Happy Baking! Remember to subscribe to our blog for delicious recipes and excuses to bake. Let us know if you have any questions or you'd like us to try out any recipes for you.



*Stoneware can be stored in the oven and actually helps maintain even temperatures. The stoneware actually reduces the amount of energy it takes to keep the oven hot.  I have a gas oven, so this is especially important. They only time this backfires is if you don’t know that you need to use one until it is already 350°.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Caramel-Ginger Cookie-Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

It's quite a mouthful...to say and eat...and you won't regret trying this recipe!


With any ice-cream maker, ice cream is super easy to make!  It takes some waiting time for the ingredients to cool, etc., but there is hardly any actual work involved, just patience.

I usually allot 2 days for ice cream-making.  My Kitchen Aid bowl has to be frozen for long enough, and my cooked custard needs to chill in the fridge.

Yummy ice creams happen for those who wait!

To read more on ice cream-making and explore another recipe, check out a previous blog post: 
 and pardon the wonky camera filter :)

In this post, I'll walk you through the steps of making a caramel ice cream, and also reiterate some general ice cream-tips.

Then you can make and eat this:


I think this is the last recipe I'll try from: 
This book as served me well, and it's time to end on a high note.  

Caramel-Ginger Cookie-Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream:
time-consuming, but easy

Needed ingredients: 
2 cups heavy cream*
1 cup whole milk*
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
6 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
12 soft-molasses cookies**
1/2 cup ganache(half of recipe) : 10 oz bitterseet chocolate and 1 cup plus 2 TBSP heavy cream***

* Feel free to play around with substitutions here.  I use some half and half, etc.  It changes the richness of your ice cream a little, but not much, and is worth a calorie exchange if you're really watching.  I don't recommend using skim milk--too watery.  

**If you want to go all out, you can find the recipe for these cookies here.  This makes the recipe take even longer, mind you, because you have to make the cookies first.  For this recipe, I spared no expense.  But more likely, next time, I'll just see what I can find at the ole' grocery store.  Please note the amount of cookies used will vary based on the size of the cookies you put in your ice cream.  It's your ice cream.  Use your own discretion as to how much cookie filling you want in it. :-)

***Use that same discretion on the amount of ganache you put into your ice cream.  I made the whole recipe, so I put the whole recipe into my ice cream.  I did not regret the extra chocolate!


So like I said before, ice cream takes time to make, but is really simple.  You heat some stuff, temper some stuff, stir some stuff, and eat.

Like so:

Stir together milk and cream (or half and half or whatever you're using) in a medium saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, stir together sugar and water in medium, stainless steal saucepan. (Like most of us have anyway.)  Cook over low to medium-low heat until the caramel is dark amber in color.  DO NOT STIR.

I was scared to make a caramel, so I thought you might be too.  Fear not.  Leave it alone, and the magic happens.  Here's what you can expect:
Not a whole lot of action, but it starts to bubble.  DO NOT STIR.

Oooh a little more bubbly.  Some more action in the pot.  Watch it, admire it, DO NOT STIR.

Now it's really going.  Guess what?  Still DO NO STIR.

Oh yes, now we're cooking.  Sugar's melting point is VERY HIGH so DO NOT TOUCH and DO NOT STIR. But watch it.  Once your caramel gets to this point, it can burn really quickly.  Keep an eye on it.

This is a light caramel color.  Yummy.  The directions said: "Dark Amber"

So here is where I said: DONE!

Now we're going to temper some stuff.

Tempering is slowing introducing cooking mixtures of different temperatures.  We do this in small amounts to slowly let the mixes marry and reach a common temperature.  If we were to be impatient and dump the caramel into the cream mixture, we might curdle something or separate something, and those are all bad somethings.

Remove your caramel from heat and CAREFULLY pour in about 1/4 c of the hot cream mix. The caramel will bubble fiercely (good work, recipe!) so do this SLOWLY.  



Gradually add in the rest of the cream mix in 1/4 cup increments, stirring until all is well combined.  The caramel should dissolve.  If it doesn't, heat the mix A LITTLE again while you stir.  

I am lucky enough to have a 1/4 cup measuring ladle (as pictured above).  Use whatever ladle you have.  The 1/4 cup measurement doesn't have to be exact, just slowly introduce the cream to the caramel and you should be fine.

You have the start of a caramel ice cream!



Next, whisk together the egg yolks and salt in a large bowl until smooth.

We're going to temper the eggs now and slowly heat them to the same temperature as your caramel mixture.  If we do this too fast we'd have scrambled eggs.  Eew.  So, again, take your time.



Drizzle the caramel cream in with the yolks slowly to temper them.  Whisk together.  Add a little more.  Whisk a little more.  You should be an expert at this by now.



Once the eggs are warmed up, pour everything back in the big saucepan and heat over low heat until the mixture is thick and coats the back of your spoon.  STIR CONSTANTLY.  
I run my finger down the middle to check.  You want to see the line distinctly.  



Strain your mix into a bowl and add the vanilla.  
This strain is to make sure any un-melted chunks of caramel, or scrambled egg (hey, we're only human) don't make it into your final ice cream.  Don't skip this step.

Cover the bowl and let it chill in your refrigerator for at least 6 hours, up to overnight.  See?  Takes time, but it's not hard. :-)  


The next day...


Break a part your cookies into chunks for your ice cream and make the ganache:

Combine the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 20 second intervals.  Stir between each until smooth.  Set aside and let it cool.

I microwaved it 2 1/2 times:  20 sec, 20 sec, 10 sec and it was melted.



Get out your handy dandy ice cream maker.  I don't like to waste a lot of time, so assemble my bowl quickly and make sure the ice cream mix is ready to pour in.



Mix according to manufacturer's instructions.

I stirred in the cookies and chocolate the last 10 or so minutes of stirring time, then pop everything in the freezer for at least an hour.

Like I said before, I went ahead and used all of the chocolate.  I stirred some in, so it got cold and broke into little pieces throughout the ice cream, and dropped some chunks in to find--like a prize!--while I ate my bowl of ice cream later.

I also used some soft cookies and some that were baked a little longer for crunch.  I liked the varying textures in my ice cream.


The caramel flavor is soo delicious and smooth.  The cookies add just a hint of ginger and spices for a savory element, and the chocolate balances everything out.  

My husband and I love this ice cream!


Caramel-Ginger Cookie-Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream:
time-consuming, but easy

Needed ingredients: 
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
6 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
12 soft-molasses cookies
1/2 cup ganache(half of recipe) : 10 oz bitterseet chocolate and 1 cup plus 2 TBSP heavy cream

Stir together milk and cream (or half and half or whatever you're using) in a medium saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, stir together sugar and water in medium, stainless steal saucepan. (Like most of us have anyway.)  Cook over low to medium-low heat until the caramel is dark amber in color.  DO NOT STIR.

Remove your caramel from heat and CAREFULLY pour in about 1/4 c of the hot cream mix. The caramel will bubble fiercely (good work, recipe!) so do this SLOWLY.  Gradually add in the rest of the cream mix in 1/4 cup increments, stirring until all is well combined.  The caramel should dissolve.  If it doesn't, heat the mix A LITTLE again while you stir.  

Next, whisk together the egg yolks and salt in a large bowl until smooth.  Drizzle the caramel cream in with the yolks slowly to temper them.  Whisk together.  Add a little more.  Whisk a little more.  

Pour everything back in the big saucepan and heat over low heat until the mixture is thick and coats the back of your spoon.  STIR CONSTANTLY.  

Strain your mix into a bowl and add the vanilla.   Cover the bowl and let it chill in your refrigerator for at least 6 hours, up to overnight.

The next day, prepare the ganache and let sit at room temperature.  Mix your ice cream according to your manufacturer's instructions.  Don't forget your cookie and chocolate add-ins!

Enjoy!