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Lunch Box Project Paints My Vanilla Cupcakes

9 Dec

I’m sure you all know about Lisa of The Lunch Box Project, right?  If you don’t–you should.

She paints pictures of food on playing cards and does all kinds of interesting food art (not art with food-but art of food).

Right now she is working on a poster of cupcakes featuring various bloggers cupcake recipes.

And I feel so proud, because she painted my cupcakes!

Remember when in the middle of a detox cleanse I made 100  mini cupcakes for the Bean’s school party?

Well, she painted them!  She is so talented–I wish I had some of that ability. I can’t wait to see the final poster.

You can check out all of her other cupcakes at her site.  Check out her store as well–there are lots of neat prints that could be the perfect gift for that last person on your shopping list.

Monkey Cake

3 Sep

As this blog is entitled, Forty Cakes and I am on a mission to make 40 Cakes (in about 400 days)–I decided to take creative license in renaming this particular dessert.  You see, most people would call this “Monkey Bread” which really makes no sense at all.  There is nothing particularly bread-y about it.  And nothing remotely monkey related–except that I made the bread for and with my little monkeys.  They  squealed with delight whenever the subject came up (and that alone made up for the guilt I was feeling the other day).

I got inspiration, the recipe and the guidance from  Brown Eyed Baker and pretty much followed her directions exactly.  And, as suspected, she didn’t let me down.  This cake was great-especially warm, right out of the oven.  A cinnamon roll shaped as a cake.  How can it get any better?

Monkey Cake

Adapted from the Brown Eyed Baker

Dough:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, 2 tablespoons softened and 2 tablespoons melted
1 cup milk, warm (about 110 degrees F)
1/3 cup water, warm (about 110 degrees F)
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 package instant yeast
3¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt

Brown Sugar Mixture:
1 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
6 T unsalted butter, melted

Glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk

1) Using the softened butter, grease up a bundt cake pan very well.  Set aside  (you can do this at first or after the first rising–it doesn’t really matter.)

2) Put the flour and salt in the stand mixer bowl.

3) In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, water, melted butter, sugar and yeast.

4) Turn the mixer on low–with the dough hook attachment and stir the flour and salt for a bit.  Slowly add the milk/yeast/butter mixture.  Continue on low until the dough comes together.  At this point, up the speed on the mixer a bit (medium) and let it do its job for about 6-7 minutes.

5)  Put your dough ball in a well greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow it to rise for about 1 hour.

6) After an hour, marvel at your new dough baby.  She is so soft and cuddly.  You will love her.  7) After marveling, roll out the dough baby into a rough square.  (Our square was very very rough….more like a rectangle/circle–but it worked.)

8) You are going to want to cut the dough into roughly equal pieces and roll those pieces into little dough balls.  (Your baby dough ball is going to have babies!)  64 little dough balls.

9) As you can see, our balls are not the same size or the same shape.  I promise you it won’t really matter (except to the unlucky person who gets a small piece).

10)  Melt your six T of butter and mix up your sugar cinnamon mixture (or have your monkeys do it–make them work for their cake!) 11) We started an assembly line.  I was responsible for the grabbing each baby dough ball and adding it to the butter.  Bean rolled them around in butter and then dropped it in the sugar.  Rosie covered the balls in sugar and dropped them in the cake pan.  It was amazing teamwork and there was no fighting!

12) You will want to fill up your buttered bundt pan with the dough baby balls.  Rotating the pan so that you have an even layer of dough balls.

13) You are going to let this rise…..for at least an hour–but longer seemed to work just fine. I let mine sit covered with plastic wrap for about three hours.  I came home to the dough baby balls bursting at the seams. (I wish I would have taken a picture–they looked so good.)

14) Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

15) Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes.  After that, flip the cake out onto a beautiful serving plate.  Mmmmm…look how ooey and gooey it looks!

16) While it is sitting, mix up your glaze.  Whisk together 2 T milk and 1 cup of powdered sugar.

17) Pour thin strands of the glaze over the cake, criss-crossing and looping over the entire thing.  Allow the glaze to slide down the sides and into the middle.

18) Serve slightly warm and allow each person to pull of the dough balls for themselves.  Pulling it apart is part of the fun!

Apple Crumble Tart

29 Jun

Just as everyone is ramping up their vegetable garden, ours is quietly dying.

You see, as you all were digging out of snow and ending your hibernation, I was picking the bounty of my garden.  You were jealous.  I was proud.

In March, we ate sweet grape tomatoes picked from the vine and gathered fresh strawberries by the handful.  In April and May, we picked large bunches of greens from the local organic farm and filled our crispers with wholesome goodness.  In June, it started to get hot.   I mean, really hot.  The weeds began to take over the garden plot because I couldn’t bear the heat and exertion needed to keep them at bay.  “Not to worry though”, I thought, “Jessica’s Organic Farm will keep me well stocked until fall.”

Until I went for my weekly trip, only to find that they were CLOSED for the summer.  CLOSED!  Where would I buy my fruits and veggies?

As I ponder how to deal with this tough situation,   I will tell you exactly how not to deal with this problem:

Don’t buy bagged apples.

I saw these at the local super BJ’s and thought I would give it a try.  I go organic as much as possible but I am willing to eat a few non-organic apples if neccesary.  Also, the price was right.  About $5.99 for 12 pounds of apples.  We eat a lot of apples.

Look at these things.

The outside appearance of most of the apples was terrible.  A few of them looked pretty good from the outside but were filled with deep bruises and mush, grainy insides.  Ewww.

The bag sat for awhile and I realized that I was not going to make a special trip to return the apples and I needed to use them up quickly. (That little one on the left breaks my heart–look at that bruise!)

Luckily, I had a pie crust in the fridge too…and set about making something with those sorry, sad, apples.

I looked around and found a recipe for Apple Crumb Pie from petebakes! and set out to modify it a little.

Here is what I did:

1) Peel, core, and slice about 8 apples.  You may need less if you can use most of your apple….mine were terribly damaged and I managed to cut out a lot of them.

2.  Put your sliced apples in a bowl with 1/2 cup of suagr and 2 T. of flour.  I added 1 T of cinnamon–because I like it.

3.  Get your pie crust ready.  If you are lazy, like me, use the one in your fridge. I used a tart pan instead of a pie pan because I wanted it to look pretty. If you are feeling particularly inspired, try this tart recipe (just so you know, but I am sure you have noticed, I have at least one reference to smittenkitchen in every post)

4.  Layer in your apple slices.  (This was the first time I actually layered in my fruit slices.  Usually I just dump everything in–this time I took care to layer things nicely and I was happy with the results!)

5.  Mix up your crumble. Or get your little sweetie to mix it up for you.  We mixed 1/2 cup sugar, 6 T butter chilled and cubed, 2 T of oatmeal, 3/4 flour, 1 T cinnamon, 1/2 tsp kosher salt. You will want to either process once in the food processor or use a fork or your hands to end up with a dry crumbly mixture.

6.  Sprinkle this over the entire tart.

7.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Let cool and serve with vanilla ice cream (or cinnamon ice cream if you have it!)

So, how IS that cleanse going?

13 Feb

Well, I am sort of embarrassed and very relieved to say that the cleanse is over.  I gave up after 5 days…….While doing the cleanse I did feel good except for the time I was crying in my boss’s office for no discernible reason, and the other time that I got mad at my mom for having to go home after cleaning my house and landscaping my yard for two weeks.  Yes, besides those odd emotional outbursts, the cleanse was good and I feel that I should attempt it again.  The real problem was that I hadn’t planned ahead enough and I would come home from work STARVING only to see a nice baguette with fine cheese staring me in the face.  It didn’t help that my daughter’s birthday was fast approaching, and I was busy baking.    

Since the end of the cleanse, I have found the perfect recipe for vanilla cupcakes.  These cupcakes are not  light and airy, but rather dense, moist and very rich in flavor.  The cake combined with the buttercream is a perfect treat. 

100 Mini Vanilla Cupcakes

 

The most perfect Moist Vanilla Cupcakes Ever! 

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated 

1 1/2 cups  unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 oz) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into sections
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin/cupcake tin with paper or foil liners.
2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add butter, sour cream, egg, and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain. At this point, the batter will be fairly thick. 
3. Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin using  ice cream scoop . Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 to 24 minutes for regular sized cupcakes Or about 15 minutes for the mini-cupcakes. Transfer to wire rack; cool cupcakes to room temperature, about 45 minutes. 

I frosted my cupcakes with the regular Wilton Buttercream recipe.  The first day, I used regular food coloring for the frosting—going for hot pink and lavender cupcakes for daughter’s birthday.  I just couldn’t get the colors right.  For the second attempt, I bought the Wilton icing gels (the concentrated colors) and it worked SO much better.  It was amazing how little color was needed to make the nicest brightest colored buttercream.  

 

My friend and master cake decorator, Mary Ellen, made the little red chocolate hearts and was responsible for the pretty dusting as well.

Cleanse Kick-off

3 Feb

What a way to kick of a no-sugar cleanse than to gorge on sugar.  My mom is here so, as a treat to her, I decided to make homemade oreos.  This recipe was found on numerous other blogs but I pulled it off of the smitten kitchen blog (my new favorite).  I modified the recipe slighty —and used only a cup of sugar for the cookie and I added 1 Tablespoon of Marshmallow Fluff to the filling.  Other than that, I followed the recipe to the ‘T’.  I wasn’t really that impressed though—my cookie just wasn’t crisp enough to be Oreo-like, —the filling, my least favorite part of the Oreo, did taste surprisingly similar to the real thing.  In my opinion these cookies were more like a a chocolate Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie (without the oatmeal), does that make sense?  Both my mom and husband thought the same. (Which gives me a bit of inspiration—-homemade Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie’s–anyone have any success with those?)   Don’t get me wrong……everyone in my house loved the Oreos and gobbled them up.  I, just didn’t love them. 

The recipe is here. 

 Sunday night, after hours of landscaping and power washing, I had some free time to peruse the cooking blogoshphere and what did I find?  A new post from Smitten Kitchen on the best cocoa brownies. These brownies are labeled as the best cocoa brownies, which got me to thinking that there must be other kinds of brownies out there–possibly those that use rich bittersweet chocolate bars —that I need to expereiment with.    I have only made brownies with cocoa and have felt that they were perfectly delicious—but maybe I need to branch out.    Anyway, these brownies were one of the easiest things I have made and tasted great, even better than my previous brownie.   I didn’t have any fancy cocoa, just the basic Nestle cocoa powder—but it worked.  The brownies were a very dark color and moist and chewy with a thin crunchy layer at the top.  I did have a problem cutting them into pretty squares and they ended up as mis-shapen polygons…..but we didn’t have a problem eating them. 

I only hope someone eats the rest of them soon, as this cleanse will be all the more difficult if I come home to a plate of those brownies sitting on the counter.  So, kids, if you are reading this,…..please eat the rest of those brownies for breakfast and take some more for lunch. 

If you are not starting a no-sugar cleanse tomorrow, I suggest you make these brownies right away.  They are perfect.

Best Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen after being Adapted from Alice Mendrich’s Bittersweet

Makes  25 small brownies

1 1/4 sticks of  unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons  unsweetened cocoa powder (I just used Nestle cocoa powder–nothing fancy at all)

1/4 teaspoon salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt, as I used)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional) (I skipped the nuts but they would have been great!)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and microwave on low for about four minutes—-checking occasionally to make sure the butter is melting.  Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.  

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me at least 10 minutes longer to get them set. Let cool completely on a rack. (This may have been why I couldn’t cut nice brownies….I never seem to be able to wait until things cool down.)

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. (Yay! No messy pans to clean!) 

Cut into  25 semi-squares and then proceed to eat seven of them.

Recipe: Shirley’s crazy cake with cream cheese frosting – latimes.com

22 Jan

This looks so easy and interesting, I have to try it.  Possibly tonight after I get a ton of work done, organize my house, and see Avatar!

Recipe: Shirley’s crazy cake with cream cheese frosting – latimes.com

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How old is too old for tofu?

21 Jan

I was asking myself this very question, just two days ago.  I was home.  I wanted sweets.  I am not sure if I have already explained one of my many New Year’s resolutions—but one of them was to stay out of the grocery store.  I am tired of running to one store or another every time I decide I am going to make something “special”.  I want to gather more from my garden, support my local farmers and fishers, and eat whatever we have at home. 

So……the diellema begins when I get a craving for something sweet.  I have some old Nila wafers, one pack of graham crackers, old tofu product, and a very old container of Cool Whip.  (I think I bought it to make that famous Barbara Mandrell cake—but never got around to it.)   My idea was to make a cream pie using the chocolate tofu product–however, the “use by” date was more than two months earlier!  What to do?  First, I researched.  I think I Googled, “How old is too old for tofu?”  and found many conflicting opinions.  Some said, “No way!”, others recounted graphic food poisoning stories, and still others wrote definitively that, “Tofu is fine until 70 days after the “use by” date.”  I liked the last commentors view on the subject but still wondered where his information was coming from. 

I called my mom for her advice—she said, “Eat it if it doesn’t smell.”  I asked a friend if I could feed it to her child; she said, “Sure! Tofu is already fermented.” 

Based on my research (which took about ten minutes), I felt confident in my decision to make (and feed to my two children and their friend), a chocolate tofu cream pie with a graham cracker crust.  We ate it and have reported no problems (except for fighting over the last slice).

If you happen to have these ingredients on hand—make this pie, and don’t be so worried about rotten tofu!

Tofu Chocolate Pie

1 cup of graham cracker crumbs

1/2 c butter, melted

1/3 cup sugar (I used brown because that is what I had–but white would work as well.

Mix crumbs and sugar.  Add melted butter.  Using your hands smooth out the crumb mixture in a pie pan.  Bake at 350 for about 4-5 min. 

Next, take chocolate tofu product.    This is what I had:

Mix 2T cornstarch and pour in pie shell.

Bake for 45 min at 350. 

Let the pie cool for a couple of hours or until the next morning (if you bake late at night).  Find some small children to pile Cool Whip and chocolate shavings on top!  Refrigerate for as long as you can wait and then dig in…….

Oh, just in case you are also doing reseach on how old is too old for tofu—-our tofu product was exaclty 69 days past the printed “Use By” date!