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Chocolate Pumpkin Bark

Chocolate Pumpkin Bark

Chocolate Pumpkin Bark

Another day of student meetings, hence another day to experiment with pumpkin recipes. I love making “bark” around the holidays – it’s so easy and always well received. It occurred to me to try to create a pumpkin bark. I searched for recipes and there’s actually quite a bit of variety. Some recipes don’t use any pumpkin at all (just pumpkin pie spice), some use a candy base instead of chocolate, some look really healthy and hearty with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, and some were very festive looking for Halloween. I encourage searching the many possibilities. As is typical, I morphed two recipes and adapted a bit for my liking and or what I had. I used semi-sweet chocolate (chips) because that’s what I had on hand, but I think I would prefer this made with milk chocolate. The semi-sweet (and also dark chocolate) has a more pronounced flavor which, in my opinion, distracted a little bit from the pumpkin flavor – and I was looking to have pumpkin be the star. Another option would be to do a layer of white chocolate on the bottom – this would be pretty and very festive for Halloween, but I’m not the biggest fan of the flavor of white chocolate. Whatever chocolate you use, choose a good quality. Anyway, here’s what I made:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Cups Milk or Semi-Sweet Chocolate (chips, chunks, or block broken into pieces)
  • 1 1/2 Cups White Chocolate (chips, chunks, or block broken into pieces)
  • 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree (unsweetened)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix together pumpkin puree and spice mix in a small bowl – set aside.pumpkin and spice combined Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. Melt your darker chocolate (either in a double boiler* or in the microwave). Melted chocolatePour the melted chocolate onto the baking tray and spread to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. The chocolate will not go all the way to the edges of the pan, and don’t worry about trying to make straight edges. Melt the white chocolate – if using the microwave, be careful not to overheat; white chocolate can be very sensitive. white chocolate chipsAdd the pumpkin mixture to the melted white chocolate. pumpkin and melted white chocolate combinedPour the white chocolate/pumpkin mixture over the spread chocolate on the baking sheet pour pumpkin white chocolate over bottom layerand use a knife or fork to swirl the top layer in with the bottom layer.swirled together Refrigerate until the chocolate is set. When hardened, break into pieces. break into piecesStore bark in the refrigerator to keep from melting.

*If you don’t have a double boiler, you can place a heat-proof bowl on top of a pot of water (water should just reach the bottom of the bowl).

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Pumpkin Muffins (Revisited)

Frosted Pumpkin Muffin

Frosted Pumpkin Muffin

I decided to revisit my pumpkin muffin recipe-it’s not that I’ve run out of things to make with pumpkin, (gnocchi, fettucini, mousse, and many others are still on my list to try) but I had to make treats for my students today, and muffins are usually well received. I love my other pumpkin spice muffin recipe because it’s bold and has great flavor, but it yields a denser heartier muffin. Today I wanted a muffin that bordered on being a cupcake. I made a couple of adjustments (borrowing a bit from my pumpkin cake recipe) to achieve a lighter airier pumpkin muffin. (Despite achieving “lighter” muffins, I still felt it prudent to work a 5K “muffin run” into my day)!  Because pumpkin has a fairly high water content, I increased the amount of baking powder in the recipe, sifted the flour, and used baking (also called “superfine”) sugar. I did still use a fair amount of spice, but it was really the pumpkin flavor that shined through. And, of course, because these muffins were to be devoured by teenagers, I frosted them (I really frosted them!). It would be interesting to do a side-by-side taste test, but for now, I’m just happy that this batch was well received. (Makes 12-16).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3  2/3 Cups Flour (sifted)
  • 1 Tbsp. and 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Ginger (plus more for frosting – see below)
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Cup (1 stick) Unsalted Butter
  • 1 1/3 Cups Baker’s (superfine) Sugar (substitute regular if necessary)
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1  15-oz. Can Pumpkin Puree

For the Frosting:

  • 4 Oz. Cream Cheese (at room temperature)
  • 4 TBS. Unsalted Butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1/2 Lb. (approx.) Confectioners (Powdered) Sugar

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 Degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl – set aside.sift flour

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, add butter and sugar.cream together butter and sugar Cream together butter and sugar (if using stand mixer, use paddle attachment) until well combined.  Add eggs one at a timeAdd the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the pumpkin puree and beat again.Mix in pumpkin Add the flour mixture in 3 parts and mix until thoroughly combined.

Line a muffin tin(s) with paper liners. Fill each muffin cup at least 3/4 full (I filled nearly to the top). Ready for ovenPlace on center rack of preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes (check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of a muffin – it should come out clean). out of the ovenRemove muffins from tin and set on a cooling rack. In the meantime, prepare the frosting.

Combine butter, cream cheese, vanilla and ground ginger in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add powdered sugar until desired consistency is achieved (I prefer a soft, creamy frosting, but if you want to pipe the frosting on, you’ll want to use more sugar).Frosting

Spread or pipe frosting onto cooled muffins (I don’t mind frosting when the muffins are still a little warm, but the frosting can be a bit drippy).

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Pumpkin Popovers with Maple Butter

Pumpkin Popovers

Pumpkin Popovers

Yes, the pumpkin obsession continues! Apparently, I am not alone in my reverie for all things pumpkin; I’ve received quite a bit of feedback from friends and readers who have expressed their love of pumpkin. I wonder if it’s the taste of the pumpkin alone, or possibly something more than that that makes me swoon for pumpkin anything. My childhood (and adult)  Halloween memories are quite magical, so maybe that’s an underlying factor. And there’s something about fall and the harvest season that brings out a thankfulness which maybe contributes to my reverie.

Well, enough of that – on to the popovers. As I mentioned in my regular popover post, these airy gems are a favorite in my family. They’re really quite easy to make and they are a fast alternative to traditional dinner rolls which require “rising time.” I altered my regular popover recipe to include pumpkin puree, traditional pumpkin spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) and added just a touch of sugar for fun. These popovers are not really sweet – you could increase the sugar or add maple syrup or agave nectar if you’re looking for more sweetness, but I like them just the way they are. The addition of the pumpkin puree does change the texture of the batter, and the finished product is a little less light, but not doughy and still light enough to legitimately be a popover.

INGREDIENTS:

  • ¾ Cup plus 2 TBS Milk (not skim)
  • 2 TBS Pumpkin Puree
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 TBS Unsalted Butter (melted)
  • 1 Cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • 1 TBS. Sugar
  • Butter or Butter Spray to grease tins

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add milk, pumpkin, eggs and melted butter to the blender and blend until well combined and smooth. Add the flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and sugar and blend again until smooth and bubblyMix in blender 1. Place a muffin tin or popover pan in the preheated oven for 2-3 minutes until hot. Remove the tin from the oven and thoroughly grease each mold with butter or nonstick spray. Grease tinTurn the blender back on for 10 seconds to re-mix the batter. Pour batter into the tin filling each section 3/4 full. Place the tin inthe oven and bake for 15 minutes – DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DURING BAKING PROCESS. After 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and remove popovers from tin when just cool enough to handle (I like to serve them hot, and I have very heat tolerant fingertips, so I do this almost immediately). Out of over)Serve warm. (You may want to poke a small hole in each popover or warn guests that steam will escape when broken open).individual popover

MAPLE BUTTER:

Combine 1/2 cup of softened butter and 1/4 cup of maple syrup (use a stand or handheld electric mixer for best results).Maple butter

popover with butter

Pumpkin Pecan Biscotti with Maple Drizzle

Pumpkin Pecan Biscotti

Pumpkin Pecan Biscotti with Maple Drizzle

Does the pumpkin season end after Halloween? I dare say No! After all, pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving tradition. But Starbucks will move on and begin advertising their peppermint drinks, visits to the cider mills will taper off, and real pumpkins will become a scarcity. But rest assured, that won’t stop me…I vow to enjoy the flavors of the Great Pumpkin well into November at the least.  To follow-up my pumpkin ice cream debut, I bring you my latest pumpkin endeavor- biscotti. I love biscotti because it’s not too sweet. While some shy away because it’s traditionally hard and dry, not all biscotti has to result in a trip to the dentist to repair a damaged tooth. This biscotti will hold up to dunking (hot cider, coffee, or chai are all good candidates), it’s not overly brittle. It’s super easy to make, and it keeps in an airtight container for well over a week (it won’t last that long for me). As is true for most of my recipes, this is easily adaptable. You can substitute a different type of nut, or leave out the nuts altogether. You could add a dried fruit or even pepitos (pumpkin seeds). You can also alter the drizzle; try a white chocolate or even a caramel drizzle. With all these modifications, you’ll be enjoying the flavors of pumpkin well into November as well.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 Cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cups (packed) Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp.  Salt
  • 2 tsp.  Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree (canned)
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 TBS. Vanilla
  • 2 TBS. Butter (unsalted)
  • 1 1/4 Cup Pecans (coarsely chopped)

For the Icing/Drizzle:

  • 1 Cup Powdered Sugar
  • 2 tsp. Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 3/4 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 2.5-3 tsp. of Heavy Cream

Instructions:

 Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, or bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. In another bowl, add eggs and whisk them lightly, add pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla and whisk until thoroughly combined. combine pumpkin and eggsSlowly add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture, (if using a stand mixer, use the dough hook attachment) stirring until dry ingredients are moistened and a dough is formed.mix dough

Melt the butter in a skillet or saute pan over medium heat; add nuts. Cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes until nuts begin to release their flavor – do not allow to brown too much. heat nuts in butterRemove from heat and cool completely. Knead or gently stir cooled nuts into dough.add nuts

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and divide into 3 portions. Shape each portion into a 3 x 7″ long log. Place logs 3″ apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. form into loavesBake for 25 minutes; cool logs 15 minutes. baked loavesReduce oven temperature to 300 F. After 15 minutes of cooling, use a serated knife to cut loaves diagonally into 1/2″ thick pieces. The interior of each biscotti will be a little softer than the exterior crust.slice loaves

Place the biscotti pieces with a cut side facing up on a half sheet pan and bake for 8-10 minutes, then flip the biscotti and cook with the other cut side facing up for an additional 10 minutes.biscotti on baking sheet

While the biscotti are cooking, prepare the icing/drizzle by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and mixing until smooth. Add more or less cream to achieve desired consistency.

Cool biscotti on a wire cooling rack keeping space between each piece to insure that they don’t soften. When biscotti are thoroughly cooled, use a spoon to drizzle icing over each piece.drizzled biscotti

 

Red Velvet Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze for Valentine’s Day Brunch

xo pancake

UPDATE: This post is from last year, but I’m reposting it because Valentines Day is tomorrow! From the looks of what I posted last year, February is just a crazy busy month- this year proves to be no exception. With one kid off at college, and another with a drivers license, I won’t be making a bit brunch, but I do plan to make a gluten free version of the pancakes for my Valentine friend Rob. 🙂

I have been working 16 hour days pretty consistently for a couple of weeks; my kids (and blog) have been pretty neglected in the food department. Valentine’s Day is later this week, and I won’t be able to celebrate it with them, so I decided to celebrate it with them in the few hours I had free this past Sunday. We had a great brunch – five teenagers and me! We enjoyed red velvet pancakes with a cream cheese glaze, a huge plate of bacon and sausage, sausage and baconscrambled eggs,scrambled eggs and some beautiful bright red berries. Valentines day brunch table 2The pancakes were a total cheat because I started with my favorite pancake mix (Krusteaz Buttermilk) and just added cocoa, powdered sugar, and some red food coloring gel. The glaze was also really easy – it was essentially my cream cheese frosting made a little thinner and with a little less sugar. If you would like to make heart shaped (or any other shape) pancakes, use a cookie cutter as your form. Note: the shaped pancakes are more time consuming, so I did a combination of plain round pancakes and made a few special shaped and decorated pancakes for each person.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Favorite Pancake Batter (mix or made from scratch)
  • 1-3 TBS. Cocoa Powder (use about1 TBS. for every batch of 6-8 pancakes)
  • 1-4 TBS. Confectioner’s (powdered) Sugar (can substitute granulated sugar, but be sure to mix really well)
  • Red Food Coloring Gel (I have never tried with regular liquid food coloring, but it would probably work fine)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Prepare pancake batter in desired amount as directed on mix (or according to recipe). Add cocoa and sugar and mix well until incorporated. Add food coloring until desired color is reached – you can experiment from everything from a light pink to a deep red.pancake batter Heat a non-stick pan or griddle. Ladle batter into pan. If you want to make shaped pancakes: generously grease a cookie cutter and lay in the pan; ladle batter into cookie cutter and spread to fill out the form – but don’t make too thick.valentines pancakes 1 When top of batter begins to show signs of bubbles, flip and continue cooking until cooked through (another 30-60 seconds depending in thickness of pancake). heart shaped pancake cookingIf using a cookie cutter to shape pancake: flip the cookie cutter over and gently push (from the cooked side) the pancake through and out of the cutter into the pan – then cook on remaining side. Serve with syrup of cream cheese glaze (see recipe below). If using glaze, you can decorate as desired.stack of decorated pancakes 2

For the CREAM CHEESE GLAZE:

  • 4 Oz. Cream Cheese – softened
  • 1/4 Cup Butter- Softened
  • 1.5-2 Cups Confectioner’s (Powdered) Sugar
  • Optional: 1-3 TBS. Milk

Combine all ingredients using enough sugar to reach desired consistency. cream cheese frosting for pancakesIf you want a thinner glaze, add milk to the mix. Drizzle over pancakes or add to a squirt dispensary bottle to write a message or decorate.pancake stackvalentines pancakes 2)

 

1.5-2 cups powdered sugar

Vegetable Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas out of the ovenThese enchiladas evolved recently from a batch of leftover grilled corn and some great summer squash that I had on hand. I offered to bring a batch of roasted corn salsa to a friend’s gathering, and when I learned he was also in need of a main dish, I thought to make the enchiladas. My chicken enchiladas are always well received- I recently served them as an accompaniment to chicken tortilla soup (that was the star because Hannah had requested it for her birthday dinner) and was reminded of how great they are to make for a relatively large group. Although my friend is not a vegetarian, he is a healthy eater who is drawn to a diet heavy in veggies. His cousin, who was actually the real host, is a vegetarian, so I figured she would appreciate the gesture. I was tempted to make homemade enchilada sauce this time around, but settled for the jar variety in the end. While I still love my “standby” chicken enchiladas, these are a great vegetarian alternative. I love grilled or roasted vegetables, but you could substitute steamed vegetables for the filling. You could also use frozen or canned corn, or add beans…really, the possibilities are almost limitless when it comes to dishes like this.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Large Red or Sweet Onion – cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Medium Yellow Squash – cut into 1/4″ rings
  • 2 Medium Zuchinni- – cut into 1/4″ rings
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers (can substitute another color) – seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2-3 Ears of Fresh Sweet Corn
  • 3 Cloves Garlic – finely chopped
  • 1 Medium Jalapeno Pepper – seeds and membrane removed and finely chopped
  • 3-4 TBS. Corn Oil
  • 2 TBS. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 TBS. Ground Cumin
  • 1 TBS. Chili Powder (adjust to taste)
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 10 – 12 Fresh Corn Tortillas
  • 1 28 Oz. Can of Enchilada Sauce (mild)
  • 10-12 Oz. Queso Chihuahua – grated (can substitute Monterey Jack or Mexican blend – just make sure cheese does not contain spices)
  • 1 TBS. Fresh Cilantro – chopped

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine all of the cut vegetables (except corn), garlic, corn oil, balsamic vinegar and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper in a medium sized mixing bowl. vegetables ready to roastAllow to marinate for at least 20 minutes (as long as overnight).  In the meantime, preheat grill to medium (or oven to 375 Degrees if oven roasting). Peel the corn and remove all of the silk. Brush corn with additional corn oil and season generously with Kosher salt and Pepper. Place vegetables in a grilling basket or grilling tray. (If oven roasting, lay in a single layer on a baking dish) Add vegetables and corn to the grill or the oven. Grill, tossing (turning, in the case of the corn) occasionally, until vegetables are tender.  When corn is cool enough to handle, cut kernels off of cobs.Thru March 20 131 In a bowl, combine corn and other grilled vegetables with 1-1.5 cups of shredded cheese.enchilada roasted vegetables Preheat oven to 375 Degrees. Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce into a  9×12 baking dish and set aside. Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce into a pie plate or onto a plate. Heat 3-4 tortillas in the microwave for 10-20 seconds just to soften so they don;t crack apart when rolling. Add a tortilla to the enchilada sauce (in pie plate) and soak on both sides. Add about 2-3 TBS. of vegetable filling to the tortilla, roll up tightly and place seam side down into the 9×12 baking dish. Repeat this until you have used up all of the filling – you should end up with 10-12 enchiladas depending on how fat you make your enchiladas. Pour a layer of enchilada sauce over the enchiladas Cover with a layer of sauceand top with remaining cheese (you can add more if you like). Place in oven and bake until cheese is melted and enchiladas are heated through (about 20-30 minutes).  Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

My friend who recently visited me at the cottage requested strawberry shortcake. I was only staying at the cottage for a week, and had limited baking supplies on hand. I had brought some buttermilk pancake mix (Krusteaz is my favorite brand), so I thought we could use that (I figured it wasn’t that different from Bisquick or Jiffy Baking mix). With some brief searching on the internet and a few modifications (based on ingredients we had on hand), we came up with a great recipe which resulted in great shortcake. This shortcake recipe will definitely be my new go-to for a quick, easy, summertime dessert.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4-5 Cups Fresh Strawberries- sliced
  • 2/3 Cup Sugar – divided
  • No-Stick Cooking Spray
  • 2 1/4 Cups Buttermilk Pancake Mix
  • 4 TBS. Cold Butter- cut up into small pieces
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • Whipped Cream

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 Degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine sliced strawberries and 1/3 Cup of sugar. Allow to sit at room temperature. In the meantime, prepare the dough. Combine pancake mix and remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Add cut-up butter to mix and work in with a fork or fingers. Add vanilla and milk, and mix thoroughly – batter will be very stiff. Coat a 9″ pie or cake pan (eoither round or square) with non-stick cooking spray and spread batter in pan.  Bake shortcake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and all to cool slightly – cut into individual servings, top with strawberries (and accumulated juice), and whipped cream.

Fresh Peach Cobbler

Fresh Peach Cobbler a la mode.

Fresh Peach Cobbler a la mode.

On Saturday I returned from a 16 day trip to China. I had high hopes of catching up on my blog and adding a lot of posts while I was traveling, but I discovered that my blog is blocked in China- not for any reason specific to my blog, but, apparently, all WordPress blogs (and many other blogs where people can freely express opinions) are blocked. My neighbors were initially surprised that I wanted to host our regular Sunday dinner so soon after my return, but then they thought about it and came to the realization that cooking was probably near the top of my list of things that I missed while away from home for so long – they were right. We enjoyed a great meal of grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, pasta with basil and lemon cream sauce, grilled bread, and fresh peach cobbler with a la mode. To me, grilling is like a true celebration of summer, however it’s not popular (at all!) in China, so it was what I craved upon my return. I believe I’ve posted most of the recipes for everything except the cobbler. Watermelon, berries,  and peaches are the fruits that come to mind when I think of summer. Since I ate an abundance of watermelon in China, that was off my list; so I settled on a dessert with peaches. The obvious choice… cobbler. I toyed with the idea of a pie, but cobblers, crisps, and buckles are just so easy, and seem so much more casual and homey. This cobbler was no exception. We enjoyed it still warm from the oven, but it’s great at room temperature, or reheated in the microwave. As with many desserts, it’s even better topped with ice cream or whipped cream. You could make a ginger flavored whipped cream or homemade ice cream which would be delightful, but I settled on store bought vanilla (the kind with the vanilla bean flecks).  You can adjust the spices a bit, I like a bit of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, but cardamom is a popular pairing with peaches as well (I didn’t have any ground cardamom on hand, and didn’t feel like grinding any). Serves 8-10 (with leftovers).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8-10 Peaches, peeled and sliced (1/4 inch)
  • 1 tsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 4 TBS. Corn Starch
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • 14 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 2 Cups Flour (I use 1 Cup of cake flour and 1 cup all-purpose, but can use just all-purpose)
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Cold Unsalted Butter (cut into small cubes)
  • 3/4 Cup Buttermilk or Heavy Cream

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. In a medium bowl, combine sliced peaches, lemon juice, spices, corn starch and all but a few tablespoons of the sugar (reserve for sprinkling on topping). Gently mix until all ingredients are incorporated and allow mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the topping. peaches coatedIn a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk together until well mixed. Add butter cubeswork butter into dry ingredient mixture and, using your fingers, incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the buttermilk or cream and use a fork to combine to make a dough – but do not overmix. The dough should be the consistency of a biscuit dough; it should hold together and be able to clump, without being too wet. If necessary, add a little more buttermilk or cream. Pour the peaches into a casserole dish or 9×13 baking dish.layer peaches in pan Top the peaches with the dough (drop clumps over the top until covered) and sprinkle with remaining sugar. peach cobbler ready for ovenBake at 350 Degrees for 50-60 minutes until crust is browned and filling is bubbly.peach cobbler out of oven

Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

Cupcake Bouquet with Strawberry Basil Cupcakes

Cupcake Bouquet

Cupcake Bouquet with Strawberry Basil Cupcakes

I have developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. It is a great resource for ideas and inspiration, but sometimes I become a little too inspired and ambitious. I love the way this “project” turned out, but I am going to be perfectly honest – it was a ton of work! The recipients were well worth the effort (I made these for a couple of special Moms on Mother’s Day), but I caution you to enter into this project naively. It can be challenging to find the supplies; I got very lucky to not only find the perfect parts, but to get a super great deal on the pots (Michael’s marked down to $2.99 plus I had a 25% off coupon). I found the water tubes at a local garden center/florist (English Gardens for those of you who are local to metro Detroit), but I had to ask the florist if they had them and if I could buy them (.25 each – a bargain). You can buy the tubes on-line, but you need to order a box of 100 – I will not be making 100 of these gifts! You can use any type of cupcake for this, but I went with my strawberry basil cupcakes because I wanted to use fresh basil as part of the bouquet. Some great alternatives would be lemon leaves (available at most florists), mint leaves, or any other herb or green (edible) leaf. I would recommend using a fairly sturdy stemmed green. The original project on Pinterest did not use any fresh greens (just tissue paper), but why settle for that when I could further enhance it?

When it comes to frosting cupcakes, my skills are lacking (or non-existent). There are a lot of resources on-line that show cool frosting techniques. You can choose any style that mimics a flower for these. I was going to try to do the rose pattern as shown on the original Pinterest post, but that was above my pay grade. I just kind of experimented (on a paper towel) first and ended up with a design that looked a bit like a chrysanthemum or a dahlia (notice I said “bit”). I used my the frosting recipe that for my strawberry basil cupcakes which is a variation of a buttercream/cream cheese frosting, but it contains strawberry puree (great color) and some basil infused milk). The problem was that the frosting was not stiff enough to achieve the petal design and because the cupcakes are kind of tipped when placed in the flower pot, you really need a stiff frosting that won’t drip. The solution for me was to just keep adding powdered sugar, but this took away from the strawberry flavor, so there was no point. I am including a recipe for a traditional stiff buttercream frosting which will pipe well and hold up. You can use a bit of food coloring if you want to achieve a particular color (the gel food coloring – available at specialty food stores like Sur le Table or Williams Sonoma- are great because they don’t dilute the frosting).

Recipe for Strawberry Basil Cupcakes

Basil Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1 Cup Unsalted Butter -softened (but not melted)
  • 3-4 Cups Confectioners (powdered) Sugar- sifted
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • 1 TBS. Vanilla Extract (or any other flavored extract you want)
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 4 Large Basil Leaves
INSTRUCTIONS:
Add milk and bail to a small saucepan and heat over medium to just below boiling. Cook for 20-30 minutes. Through October 9 004Allow to cool to room temperature (put in the refrigerator to speed up process) Transfer milk and basil to a food processor and puree. Add the butter to a large bowl (or the bowl of a mixer) and, using an electric miser, beat until smooth. Add about 3 cups of sugar and beat on low. Add salt, vanilla extract and a few tablespoons of the basil infused milk and mix until well combined. Check consistency and add more powdered sugar or milk to achieve desired consistency – should be stiff if you want to pipe flowers. Add food coloring (if using) and mix thoroughly.
Strawberry Basil Cupcakes:
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 10-12 Medium Fresh Strawberries (should measure 2/3 cup after pureed)
  • 8 -10 Large Basil Leaves
  • 1/4 Cup Milk (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extracr
  • 1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter (softened)
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg (room temperature)
  • 2 Egg whites (room temperature)

INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners (double up on liners to maintain the cute color or decoration of liners). In a medium sized bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. In a blender or food processor, puree strawberries and basil leaves.Through October 9 005 Add milk and vanilla extract to blender or food processor bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, (or bowl of a mixer) cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg and egg whites. Add half of the flour mixture and mix until blended. Add the strawberry, basil, milk mixture and mix again.Through October 9 009 Add remaining flour mixture and mix until well blended, scraping down sides as you go. Pour batter (evenly divided) into cupcake liners. Through October 9 010Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then remove cupcakes from pan and transfer to cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting. Frost with desired flowered pattern.cupcake bouquet4

To make the cupcake bouquet:

SUPPLIES:

  • 1 Cute Flower Pot
  • 1 Styrofoam Ball (should fit inside flower pot – diameter of ball should be about the same as diameter of top of pot)
  • Tin Foil or Newspaper (may not be necessary)
  • Toothpicks
  • 3-6 Water Tubes with Pointed Tips and Rubber Tops
  • Fresh Leaves (edible or food safe – basil, mint, lemon)
  • Tissue Paper (coordinating color)

Prepare pot by placing the foam ball in the pot. Use crumpled tin foil or newspaper in the bottom if you need to raise up the ball to desired height (roughly 1/2 of the ball should be above the top of the pot. Fill water tubes with water, place plastic top on each one and set aside. Plan out how many cupcakes will comfortably fit, and determine where the cupcakes will go. Insert toothpicks (two per cupcake) where you will place cupcakes. The toothpicks are easily moved, so you can adjust later if necessary. Insert the water tubes where you want to place leaves (you may want to temporarily place the cupcakes where they will go to determine the best placement and angles). If it is particularly difficult to insert the water tubes, use the tip of a knife or scissors to sort of pre-drill your slot. Add the cupcakes and adjust accordingly. cupcake bouquet5Add the leaves to the water tubes. Finally, fill blank areas with crumpled tissue paper.

Cupcake bouquet2

Savory Cheddar, Scallion, and Chive Scones

Cheddar Scallion Chive Scones

Cheddar Scallion Chive Scones

Scones are one of my baking “go to” options. I have recipes which include seasonal fresh fruit (berries) as well as recipes which don’t rely on fresh or seasonal ingredients. I love scones for breakfast or dessert, and they’re so easy to make. For Easter this year I wanted to make a variety of of homemade breads/biscuits. I have a great cheddar biscuit recipe which is hearty and rustic, but I wanted something a little more “elegant” than a biscuit for Easter dinner. I decided to incorporate the ingredients (with some additions) for my cheddar biscuits into one of my basic scone recipes. I will say that I was a little bit unsure as to how much butter to use (I decided on none at all) because I would be adding cheese. So I subbed out the cheese for butter, but increased the cream (to get a wet enough dough). The result was great – in fact, better than expected. The scones weren’t as flaky as my typical scones, but that was just fine since they were serving more as a dinner roll. You can alter the ingredient flavors by using a different type of cheese (stick with a cheese of similar consistency) or different herbs or substitute leeks, jalapenos, or roasted red peppers for the scallions. Really, the possibilities are nearly endless.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 1 TBS.  Baking Powder
  • 1 TBS. Sugar
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Scallions (green parts only)- chopped
  • 1/4 Cup  Fresh Chives- finely chopped
  • 1.5 Cups Cheddar Cheese (sharp, extra sharp, or medium – or your choice of cheese)- grated
  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream (plus a few extra TBS. for brushing tops)
  • Coarse Sea Salt (optional for sprinkling on top)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400°F.  In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add scallions, chives and grated cheese, and mix until well incorporated. Add Cheese and ScallionsUsing a fork, stir in most of the cream until a sticky dough forms. If dough is too dry, add more cream.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead with floured hands (don’t overwork) until dough forms a cohesive ball. Divide dough into two equal balls and flatten each ball to form about 3/4 – 1″   high round disc. shape the doughCut each round into 8 wedges. Brush tops of rounds with additional cream and sprinkle each with a little sea salt.brush scones with cream and sprinkle with salt

Arrange wedges about 1/2 inch apart on a parchment lined  baking sheet and bake in middle of oven until golden brown, about 18- 20 minutes.scones out of the oven Cool on a rack or serve warm.chedar scallion chive scones center