S’mores Cupcakes

Nothing screams summer like camping! And what do you want most when you are camping? S’MORES! I wanted to recreate one of my favorite treats, but in cupcake fashion. After mulling over some ideas, I came up with the idea to do a graham cracker crust, an ooey-gooey chocolate cake and a marshmallow buttercream frosting. It was a cupcake to be eaten with a fork, let me tell you…but oh so delicious. I hope you enjoy as well!

S’mores Cupcake Ingredients
Graham Cracker Crust
  • 1 ½ cups finely crushed regular or cinnamon graham crackers (24 squares)
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
    (skip the sugar, even if your box of graham cracker crumbs tells you to add it)
Cake
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or substitute by putting 1 tbsp white vinegar in a cup then filling the rest up with milk; let stand 5 minutes until thickened)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee (or 2 tsp instant coffee in 1 cup boiling water)
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Frosting
  • ½ cup butter {room temperature}
  • 1 7 oz. jar Marshmallow Fluff
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • mini-marshmallows (for topper)
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  2. Mix together graham cracker crust and melted butter. Place heaping spoonful into the bottom of lined muffin tins and press down.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add room-temp eggs (one at a time), buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla extract and beat until smooth (about 3 minutes). Remove bowl from mixer and stir in hot coffee with a rubber spatula. Batter will be runny. Mix in mini-chocolate chips.
  4. Using a cookie scoop, fill muffin tins until 3/4 full and bake on middle rack of oven for about 35 minutes (it may take a bit longer with the graham cracker crust, so watch carefully if you leave in a tad longer than suggested), until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  5. Cool completely before handling or frosting.
  6. While cupcakes bake, start on your frosting. Beat butter and powdered sugar until fluffy and well mixed.
  7. Mix in fluff and vanilla by hand and mix well.
  8. Add to piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes.
  9. I decided to top with a few little mini-marshmallows and use a torch to get them nice and toasty. If you don’t have a kitchen torch, take a baking tray, cover it with tin foil, spray liberally with Baker’s Joy or Pam and stack up a few marshmallows in several piles (I would suggest four on the bottom, one in the center on top) and place under your oven boiler on low. Watch closely and pull as soon as they begin to get brown. Let cool for a minute, then use a spatula or butter knife (coat with additional baking spray for a less sticky mess) and remove from foil and place on top of the frosted cupcake. YUM.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

I had never eaten this treat prior to attempting to bake it. It feels very retro to me, which makes sense, given that I think its heyday was the 1950’s when maraschino cherries were all the rage. However, given that it’s a piece of American nostalgia and a favorite of many, I wanted to give it a try.

After looking at a bunch of recipes, I decided to go with the King Arthur Flour version as it looked super moist and their picture showed that buttery sugary goodness oozing off the platter. YUM.

I think I under-baked my cake just a tad as I was so fearful of the sugar burning. Just follow the instructions and you’ll be fine. Don’t get all antsy like I did! 🙂

TOPPING

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 20-ounce can pineapple rings in juice, drained
  • candied red cherries or maraschino cherries

CAKE

 INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9″ round cake pan.
  2. To make the topping: Melt the butter, and mix with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and ginger. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan.
  3. Space the pineapple rings atop the brown sugar mixture. Place a cherry in the center of each ring. 
  4. To make the cake: Beat the butter and sugar until fairly smooth.
  5. Beat in the egg, then the salt, baking powder, vanilla, and coconut flavor.
  6. Add the flour alternately with the milk, mixing at medium speed and beginning and ending with the flour. Once the last of the flour is added, mix briefly, just until smooth.
  7. Spoon the thick batter into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges of the pan. It may not cover the pineapple entirely; that’s OK.
  8. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Remove the cake from the oven, wait 3 minutes, then turn the pan over onto a serving plate. Wait 30 seconds, then lift the pan off. If anything sticks in the pan, just lift it out and place it back on the cake.
  10. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  11. Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

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Lemon Meringue Pie

Hello readers! Sorry it’s been awhile…life and work just keep getting in the way…but bakes have been coming out of the kitchen. I thought I’d talk lemon meringue today. Pies aren’t my thing, as I’ve mentioned in this blog before, because I struggle with making that perfect, flaky pie crust that stands up to the moisture of pie filling. I consistently practice, but just haven’t found the right pie crust for me. The struggle is real.

I made my first lemon meringue pie recently and it went, okaaaay. Right out of the oven I thought, “man, I nailed this”! As the pie cooled, I thought, “hmm, something didn’t come out quite right.”

After loads of research, I realized that I allowed the filling to cool for too long before I topped it with the meringue. It’s imperative that you have the meringue ready to top the piping hot filling with because the steam travels up and cooks the bottom layer of meringue. Without this, the heat from the oven will heat up the filling and trap steam in between the filling and meringue resulting in a watery layer that will eventually cause everything to separate and become runny. Yuck.

My meringue came out beautifully and so I do recommend following this recipe below, but time things carefully to ensure that you don’t make my mistake with the filling. Remember, PIPING HOT!

 

Lemon Meringue Pie
Recipe courtesy of Taste of Home

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 tablespoons cold water

Filling

  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice

Meringue

  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in shortening until crumbly. Gradually add 3 tablespoons cold water, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball.
  2. Roll out pastry to fit a 9-in. pie plate. Transfer pastry to pie plate. Trim to 1/2 in. beyond edge of plate; flute edges. Bake at 425° for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
  3. For filling, in a large saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt. Gradually stir in water until smooth. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes longer.
  4. Remove from the heat. Stir a small amount of hot filling into egg yolks; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Gently stir in butter and lemon peel. Gradually stir in lemon juice just until combined. Pour into the crust.
  5. For meringue, in a saucepan, combine 2 tablespoons sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in cold water. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is clear. Transfer to a bowl; cool.
  6. In a large bowl, beat egg whites and vanilla until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat in cornstarch mixture on high until stiff glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Spread evenly over hot filling, sealing edges to crust. (HINT: multi-task if you have a stand mixer and have your meringue whipping up while you are still stirring your pie filling in the sauce pan!)
  7. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until the meringue is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Cannoli Tart

I was browsing through an article of the “50 greatest desserts of all time” and came across a recipe for a cannoli tart. I love cannoli…though they are a great pain in the keister to make sometimes. The recipe seemed simple enough and though I was lacking a tart pan (I just used a regular pie pan, so pardon my very unpretty crust) I decided to have a go at it.

I was excited because I had just purchased a new food processor (I had one of those mini ones for years…and it just got to the point where I had to admit that owning a large one would be ever-so-helpful as my home baking skills increased) and I couldn’t wait to try it. I think I was a little over-zealous in my pulsing technique because my dough didn’t come together as nicely as it did for this blogger (jealous!) but it worked nonetheless.

The best part – it tastes JUST LIKE a cannoli! It was a hit in my office and is a really nice, light dessert that doesn’t feel too decadent after a big meal.

My only amendment to the recipe came from the use of the Amaretto. In hindsight, I would have subbed some almond extract (not too much, perhaps 1/4 tsp) for some of the Amaretto to really boost that almond flavor. I’m including this amendment in the recipe below. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE CRUST:

  • 2 cups Sifted Flour
  • ½ cups Plus 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ⅓ cups Cold Butter
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1 Tablespoon Milk

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 2-¼ cups Ricotta
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 2 teaspoons Sugar
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons Amaretto
  • 1/4 teaspoon Almond extract
  • ½ cups Chocolate Chips Or Chunks

PREP INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350ºF

For the crust:
In a food processor, add flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon and pulse a few times. Add butter, and pulse until butter and flour have formed pea-sized crumbles. Add egg and milk and pulse until a large ball is formed.

Place the dough ball in between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Roll dough out large enough to fit a deep dish pie pan or deep dish tart pan. Grease pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Gently place the dough into pan. Refrigerate while you make your filling and your oven is preheating.

For the filling:
In a food processor or mixer, blend ricotta, egg, sugar, and amaretto until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into crust.

Bake at 350ºF for around 25-35 minutes, or until your crust has slightly browned and the filling has puffed a bit. Serve cold or at room temp sprinkled with powdered sugar or drizzled with chocolate.

Easy Key Lime Pie

I have come to a very dangerous realization. Key Lime Pie is insanely easy to make. I’m not sure I wanted to know this. Now that I do, I fear that I will be making it ALL the time. It’s pretty much my favorite dessert of all time and last year, my husband and I trekked to Key West, FL for one of the greatest vacations we’ve ever been on (and we’ve been to quite a few places!) and I tried some of the world’s best. I have to say, this versions kicks some serious a$$.

KEY LIME PIE
(courtesy of Ann Richardson, Allrecipes)

Ingredients 

– 9 inch graham cracker crust (make your own, or store bought)
– 3 cups (16 oz) sweetened condensed milk
– 1/2 cup (4 oz) sour cream
– 3/4 cup key lime juice (if you are using key limes, you’ll need about 20 of those suckers)
– 1 tablespoon grated lime zest (HINT: avoid the pith so you don’t get overly bitter zest)

Directions

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees.

COMBINE condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice and lime zest in a mixing bowl and blend well.

POUR mix into graham cracker crust.

BAKE for 5-8 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of the pie. DO NOT BROWN. Chill pie thoroughly before serving.

GARNISH with whipped cream if desired.

It’s literally that easy. The addition of sour cream gives it a velvety smooth texture and cuts through the sour. MMM. Enjoy!

Baking Fails

For every successful bake I have, I have at least two unsuccessful ones. No one is perfect, least of all me. I can post all the pretty pictures of beautiful bakes I want, but the truth is…I fail more often than I succeed. Baking is a science and thus, there are so many things that can go wrong. Rather than hide these failures, or pretend like I am so adept in the kitchen that I am immune to making mistakes, I’m going to share a couple recent bakes that went wrong. Why? Because…I’m human. We all are. Nothing comes easy.  You have to work for it. You have to want it. You have to practice. You have to embrace your mistakes because how you come out on the other side of them is what shapes your success.

I know, I know – you are yelling at your screen, “get to the good stuff already!” So here are a couple “bad bakes” from the last couple weeks.

The Eclair.

I have made plenty of pâte à choux before. And I will make plenty more. I can make excuses…I was in my mother’s kitchen…in a different environment…with her new ovens…the weather was wonky (all these being true)…but something, I can’t put my finger on exactly what, went wrong. I ended up with flat eclairs. The upside? They were tasty AF. So…we ate them anyway. Just not pretty enough to make the cut for their own blog post. FEAR NOT, FOLLOWERS. I will be attempting them again! Also, don’t judge my horrible attempt at a chocolate glaze. In my defense, I didn’t use a recipe…I just threw some ingredients in a saucepan and it didn’t go well. Again, tasty. Just not quite right.

 

The Passionfruit Cheesecake.

Disclaimer: I legit suck at cheesecakes. This time was no different. Over the last weekend, I tried to make this particular cheesecake TWICE. Oh yes. Twice. Both abject aesthetical failures, one being edible, the other not so much.

I scoured three different grocers before finding passionfruit. And they cost me $1.99 EACH. For this recipe, I needed about 10 of them. So that means I spent $40 on a single recipe. I was so pissed, you don’t even know.

So the first time, I read the recipe as needed “passionfruit puree” – so I whipped up some passionfruit puree (which, as you may know, means you scoop out the pulp, you add some liquid and you create a thick mixture). 45 minutes into the bake, the cheesecake was jiggling waaaay more than it should. I baked it another 10 minutes…still a jiggle fest. So I check the recipe. It says PASSIONFRUIT PULP. PULP!!!!!! Not puree. So I added too much liquid and the cheesecake wasn’t going to set.

The second time, I carefully followed the ingredients, did everything the recipe called for…and it looked like this:

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SO SAD. I began researching…I followed the recipe TO THE LETTER. What went wrong?? Here are my theories.

  1. I didn’t grease the springform pan.
  2. I didn’t bake it with a water bath so it wouldn’t crack.
  3. Apparently, you aren’t supposed to whip a lot of air in with the eggs. So while I followed the instruction and added them in one at a time and mixed well after each…I did so on high speed and beat the crap out of that batter. So, loads of air, plus no flour to stabilize the cheesecake…means that as it cools, the air bubbles pop…and DEFLATEGATE.

Lesson(s) learned. The upside to this one, texture was creamy and smooth, passionfruit flavor came through very strongly and it was actually tasty to eat. Just not a pretty cheesecake and cutting it…it fell apart. I fed it to a couple of my colleagues who said that it was fine if I wanted to keep “messing up” my bakes if it meant they could eat it. Thanks guys 🙂

Moral of the story? I struggle to perfect recipes everyday. I’m a home baker. There are so many things I don’t yet understand about baking. And now, when you see me blog…just remember that, chances are, it took me a few times to get it right, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t nail it the first time. Mistakes in the kitchen are how some of the best recipes have been created, so embrace it!

Mini Pavlova

I first heard of the pavlova dessert when it was featured on the Great American Baking Show in a showstopper challenge. I thought they were so beautiful and looked incredibly yummy and of course, I wanted to try to make them. I settled on trying a “classic” pavlova (meringue, whipped cream and fresh fruit) to try and get the hang of it first. It’s actually a rather easy-to-follow recipe…it just requires patience and attention to the little details.

MINI PAVLOVA

Ingredients:

6 eggs whites, ROOM TEMPERATURE
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Frosting:

1 1/2 cups COLD heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons white sugar

For topping:

Fresh fruit like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc.

Directions:

PREHEAT oven to 225° F with the rack in the center of the oven.

LINE a large baking sheet with parchment paper (you may need two sheets). HINT: if you use two sheets, make sure you avoid the top rack and bake the pavlovas in the bottom 1/3 of the oven.

BEAT 6 room temperate egg whites on high speed for 1 minute until soft peaks form. With mixer on low, gradually add 1 1/2 cups of white sugar and beat for 10 minutes on high speed, or until stiff peaks form. The mix will be smooth and glossy.

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FOLD in (using over/under motion) 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract, then add 2 tablespoons of corn starch and hand mix until well blended. HINT: pre-measure these three ingredients while the mix is beating for 10 minutes as you want to quickly make these additions without letting the mix sit for too long.

PIPE meringue onto parchment paper (I used aWilton 1M open star tip). Using a spoon, indent the center to allow room for the cream.

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BAKE at 225° F for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Then, turn off the oven and DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR. Leave the meringue in the hot oven for another 30 minutes.  The outside will be dry, crisp and very pale while the inside is like a marshmallow.

TRANSFER the pavlova (leaving it on the parchment paper is best) to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile…

BEAT cold heavy whipping cream in a stand mixer with 2 tablespoons of sugar for about 2 1/2 minutes.

PIPE the frosting onto the pavlovas and top with fresh fruit.

I found that it’s best to leave them in the fridge as if left out at room temp, the whipped cream will start to fall through the meringue. It’s still delicious, but not quite as pretty to look at.

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These babies are sugar bombs. The whipped cream is necessary to curb some of the sweetness of the pavlova. But they are a unique texture that is sure to win some fans at your next gathering!