Friday, May 25, 2012

Chocolate Chip Muffins

I'm making these muffins before tomorrow's outing. We've had some early mornings, and we'll have two more. I think chocolate chip muffins are the perfect remedy for jet lag, hangovers, homesickness, and being up way too early :)
These muffins are super easy, and you probably already have all the ingredients you need in your pantry! The sugar crust on top adds an extra sweet twist.

Sugar-Crusted Chocolate Chip Muffins
Courtesy of Simply Scratch
Yield: One dozen regular-sized muffins, or 2-3 dozen minis
Sugar- 1/2 c + 3 tbsp set aside (for sugar crust)
Brown sugar- 2 tbsp (for sugar crust)
Flour- 2 c
Baking powder- 1 tbsp
Kosher salt- 1/2 tsp
Milk- 1 c
Grapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil- 1/3 c
Vanilla extract- 1/2 tsp
Egg- 1
Mini Semi-sweet chocolate chips- 3/4 c
1. Mix 3 tbsp sugar and the brown sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Combine rest of sugar, flour, baking powder, chocolate chips and salt in a medium bowl.
3. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, vanilla, grapeseed oil and milk. Pour into flour mixture and mix by hand until incorporated.
4. Fill cups 2/3 full and sprinkle with sugar mixture. Bake at 375 degrees F for 18-20 minutes (times vary by oven, check yours at 15 minutes- minis should be done after ~10).

Serve with a glass of cold milk!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Graduation Cookies

On Monday, my best friend graduated from college.
Me & Cat in high school
I'm not gonna brag about her too much, but she's kind of super smart. Like, graduating with honors and having international schools fight over you kind of smart.
I couldn't be there because I was getting ready to leave for London. So I did the next best thing: I sent cookies!!!
These cookies are really, really good. I'm not big into cut out and decorate cookies but these are top-notch.
BC's caps are boring black, so I used their school colors instead
Bridget at Bake at 350 is incredible. She is a cookie decorating PRO. Please, please do yourselves a favor and head over to her site. Totally mind-blowing!
Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies
Courtesy of Bake at 350
All-purpose flour- 3 c
Baking powder- 2 tsp
Sugar- 1 c
Salted butter- 1 c (2 sticks, cold and cut into chunks)
Egg- 1
Pure vanilla extract- 3/4 tsp
Pure almond extract- 1/2 tsp
1. Combine flour and baking powder in a medium bowl, and set aside.
2. Cream sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, vanilla and almond and beat.
3. Gradually add flour mix and beat until just combined. Knead dough together as you scoop it out of the bowl.
4. Roll dough on a floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
Bridget's Royal Icing
Meringue powder- 4 tbsp
Water- scant 1/2 c (a little less than full)
Powdered sugar- 4 c (1 lb)
Light corn syrup- 1/2-1 tsp (to make it shiny)
Clear extract- 1/2-1 tsp (I used almond and it was delicious!)
1. Combine meringue powder and water in bowl of a stand mixer. Beat with the paddle attachment until combined and foamy.
2. Sift in powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. (Yes, you really do have to sift this time. Use a sieve if you don't want to mess with a super irritating sifter.)
3. Add light corn syrup and extract. Beat on medium high/high for ~5 minutes just until stiff peaks form. (Yes, you really do have to beat for 5 minutes.)
For detailed, illustrated instructions, check out Bridget's page: Royal Icing 102
Europe is in for a serious 1-2 punch. Take cover!!! :D

Monday, May 14, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake

Another entry in the "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" files :)
I love strawberries. Looooove them. I'm allergic to a lot of fruits, but not berries.
My mom's birthday request is always strawberry shortcake. I'll be in London on her birthday, so I decided to make strawberry pie for Mother's Day! The pie part didn't work out great, so I made these yummy biscuits and called it shortcake!
Me & my mom at my high school graduation :)
These biscuits are probably better for dinner, but we loved them nonetheless.
The strawberry mix would be delicious on top of ice cream, pound cake, brownies, even as cake filling! The possibilities really are endless with these babies.

Did anyone else watch Strawberry Shortcake as a kid? I LOVED that show. Apparently I always called the main character Strawberry Shortcakie, so that's what I'm gonna call these :)

Strawberry Shortcakies
Strawberry Topping
Adapted from The Nifty Foodie
Fresh strawberries- 4 pints (~3 lbs), gently rinsed, dried, and hulled
Sugar- 3/4 c
Cornstarch- 2 tbsp
Sure-Jell (liquid)- 1 1/2 tsp
Table salt- a generous pinch
Lemon juice- 1 tbsp
Cool Whip (for topping)
1. Pick through your strawberries and choose ~6 oz worth of the ugliest ones- misshapen, squashed, under-ripe, etc. Halve the large ones. Use a food processor or blender to puree the berries ~30 seconds. This should leave you with 3/4 c of pureed berries.
2. Combine pureed berries, sugar, cornstarch, Sure-Jell and salt in a medium sized saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
3. Bring mix to a full boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Make sure you scrape the bottom and sides of the saucepan multiple times.
4. Take mix off the stove and stir in lemon juice. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
5. Pick through remaining strawberries and choose 2 lbs of the prettier berries. Halve the large ones.
6. Add the berries to the cooled strawberry mix and fold gently to coat. Let cool ~1-2 hours. Serve over warm biscuits with a dollop of Cool Whip.
Buttermilk Biscuits
Courtesy of The New York Times, via Food People Want
Yield: a LOT of biscuits, depending on the size of your biscuit cutter (at least 2 dozen 3")
Note: these steps have to be done one right after the other, so make sure you have all your ingredients out and measured before you start!
Cream of tartar- 1 tbsp
Baking soda- 1 1/2 tsp
All-purpose flour- 5 c, plus more as needed
Kosher salt- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Lard or unsalted butter- 1/2 c + 2 tbsp (1 stick + 2 tbsp), chilled and cut into pieces
Cultured buttermilk- 2 c, chilled
Unsalted butter- 3 tbsp, melted (for brushing on biscuits afterward)
1. Make your own baking powder by combining cream of tartar and baking soda in a large bowl (makes biscuits with lots of lift).
2. Add flour and salt. Add lard/butter and quickly toss the pieces with the flour and rub together. The pieces should be coarsely blended and look like large peas.
3. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk. Mix ingredients together until mixture just comes together. Add 1-2 tbsp more buttermilk if it seems dry.
4. Turn out the dough onto a generously floured surface and knead about 10 times until a ball forms. Gently flatten the dough and use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out a thickness of 3/4 inch.
5. Dip a fork in flour and pierce dough at half inch intervals. Stamp out biscuits using a 2 1/2 or 3" biscuit cutter. (The recipe recommends fluted, but my straight edged ones worked fine.)
6. Arrange biscuits on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 500 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and brush tops with melted butter.

Note: for dessert biscuits, use just 1 tsp of salt, and sprinkle some sugar on top before baking.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chewy, Fudgy Brownies

These brownies are perfect! People have different brownie preferences, and I like 'em chewy and fudgy... But sometimes I like 'em cakey. These are fudgy! And super easy!
Taken at my parents' house, their kitchen windowsill is perfect!
Even yummier with mint chocolate chip ice cream!
This will be a short post, I've got a huuuge to-do list before I leave for London in... 11 DAYS! Yeee!
Chewy Fudgy Brownies
Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen
Yield: ~9 brownies, depending on how you cut 'em (I think little brownies are dumb, so I cut 'em big)
Unsalted butter- 10 tbsp (1 stick + 2 tbsp)
Sugar- 1 1/4 c
Unsweetened cocoa powder- 3/4 c + 2 tbsp (Dutch process or Natural is fine)
Salt- 1/4 tsp
Vanilla extract- 1/2 tsp
Large eggs- 2, cold
Flour- 1/2 c
*optional* Walnuts or pecans- 2/3 c (I HATE nuts in my sweets, but to each his own)
1. Combine butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a medium heatproof bowl. Set over a small saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot. 
3. Remove bowl from the skillet, and let cool for ~5 minutes until warm but not hot. Note: It will look kinda gritty at this point, don't panic!
4. Stir in vanilla with a spoon or spatula. Add eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition. At this point it should look well-blended, shiny and thick. 
5. Stir in flour until completely blended, then stir vigorously ~40 strokes. Stir in nuts if using.
6. Prep an 8x8" square pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil so it overhangs on two opposite sides. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake at 325 degrees F for ~20 minutes. The tester should come out moist but not drenched.
7. Stick pan in fridge for ~15 minutes (this makes cutting & serving easier). Cut brownies in the desired size. Serve with milk or a scoop of ice cream!


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Apple Do..muffins?

These are delicious, but I'm not entirely sure what to call them. They're like muffins. Or donuts. Or dumplings? So we're gonna go with Apple Domuffins.
Isn't that a cute little prop? I got it when I went antiquing last month :)
They're incredible, especially served warm. I've made them four times in the last two months. Yummy!
Apple Donuts/Muffins/Domuffins
Courtesy of Casa Veneracion
Yield: 1 dozen regular-sized or 2 dozen mini
Fuji apples- 2
Flour- 1 1/2 c
Sugar- 1/2 c
Baking powder- 1 3/4 tsp
Salt- 1/2 tsp
Ground nutmeg- 1 tsp
Cold butter- 1/3 c, cut into small pieces
Egg- 1
Milk- 1/4 c
1. Peel and roughly chop the apples.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
3. Add the butter to the flour mixture, and rub the butter against the flour until the mix resembles coarse crumbs.
4. In a small bowl, whisk egg. Pour in the milk and stir lightly. Add chopped apples and stir.
5. Pour apple mixture to the flour mix. Stir (using your hands is fine) until just blended. Do not overmix! Batter will be stiff.
6. Form batter into loose balls and place in the holes of a greased & floured muffin pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.
Topping (make while domuffins are baking)
Butter- 1/4 c, melted
Sugar- 1/3 c
Cinnamon powder- 1 tsp
Mix together. When the domuffins are still warm, dip tops into butter, then roll in cinnamon sugar mix. Serve warm!

On a side note, congratulations to the JMU Class of 2012! In one year, I will be joining you as a Dukes alum :)

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