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.

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.

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!

Irish Cream Cupcakes

I love a festive cupcake – heck, I love cupcakes for all occasions. So, even though I’m not an Irish lass, I celebrated with some green and a nip of Bailey’s to mark St. Patrick’s Day!

This super moist cupcake packs a little surprise with the addition of just a few mini chocolate chips and frosting can easily be adult-only or kid friendly to your liking.

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Let’s get started, shall we? Recipe adapted from http://www.food.com

Cake Ingredients

3/4 cup unsweetened Ghirardelli cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot water
6 tablespoons butter
1 2/3 cup cake flour (you can sub all-purpose if you want)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

Frosting Ingredients

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 (1 lb) package confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream (sub heavy cream for kid friendly cupcakes)
1/8 teaspoon gel/paste food coloring

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tin with liners (I made about 24 cupcakes with this batter).

MIX cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl until dissolved; set aside.

MELT the 6 tablespoons of butter in a microwave proof bowl or cup; set aside

STIR flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.

ADD buttermilk, eggs, melted butter and cocoa mixture to flour/sugar mix and beat until fully incorporated.

STIR in mini chocolate chips.

DIVIDE batter among liners. HINT: for perfectly even cupcakes, use a disher (aka, a mechanical cookie scoop) to divide the batter among the liners. If you use the Oxo brand, I use two medium scoops per liner.

BAKE 18 – 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

TRANSFER cupcakes to wire racks to cool.

Meanwhile…

BEAT 1 cup room temperature butter until fluffy.

STIR in confectioners’ sugar until blended.

ADD Bailey’s (or heavy cream) and beat until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).

STIR in food coloring until blended.

PIPE or spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes.

ENJOY!

Nestle®Buncha Crunch Oatmeal Cookies

My local grocer was having a sale on all the specialty baking products they bring in for the holidays. I got my hands on a bag of the Nestle Buncha Crunch Baking Bits.

Buncha Crunch

Couldn’t pass up this gem! On the back of the bag was a recipe for oatmeal cookies and I knew I just had to try them. First of all, I love a good, chewy oatmeal cookie and second, who doesn’t enjoy chocolate covered rice crispy treats!? The combo sounded like a winner and so I set to making the cookies.

The recipe is very easy and if you can’t find any Buncha Crunch Baking Bits…just chop up some Nestle Crunch Bars for the same affect.

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) of butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
4 cups quick or old-fashioned oats (recipe calls for 4 1/2 cups, but I found that 4 is more than enough)
1 package (13 oz) Nestle Buncha Crunch candy
Directions
PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl with a whisk. Set aside.

BEAT butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture.

STIR in oats and Bunch Crunch.

DROP by rounded tablespoon onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

BAKE for 8-10 minutes or until very lightly browned. Cool on baking sheet for two minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

I found that, in my oven, it took 11 1/2 minutes to get a golden color as I definitely went bigger than 1 tbsp per cookie, but ovens vary, so definitely start with 8 minutes and check on the cookies. If you like them slightly under-baked, pull them just as the edges start to brown.

I brought these to my office to celebrate a colleagues birthday and they were definitely a hit! Highly recommend if you are a fan of oatmeal…and feel free to adapt this recipe with other treats like chopped up peanut butter cups, chocolate chips or butterscotch depending on your mood. This is a great oatmeal base that doesn’t include spices like cinnamon (that you often find in oatmeal raisin recipes) and I find it pairs much better with sweet chocolate treats.

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Apple Crumble (aka French Apple Pie)

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With all the snow blanketing New England, I felt the need for a warm, homey slice of apple pie. New Englanders will tell you that apples are “out of season”, but really, with produce shipped in from all over…you can get great quality apples no matter the time of year and, personally, I think a slightly more tart apple makes for a better pie. All the sugar and spices make it sweet enough as it is.

I still struggle with making a decent pie crust. I can’t seem to get two large enough pie crusts out of Betty Crocker’s two crust recipe…so I usually have to double the two crust recipe to make sure I can get two viable pieces. I mean, really…it’s THREE ingredients. Flour, fat and salt. Why can’t I get it just right?? The struggle is real, folks.

And while a good crust is appreciated, let’s face it. The buttery decadence that is the crumble topping…it’s just too good to pass up.

My Mom gifted me the 8th edition Betty Crocker cookbook years ago when I ventured off to live on my own and it’s a staple in my kitchen. Under the apple pie recipe, she has a couple variations – one being “French Apple Pie”. Really though, we all just call it Apple Crumble. I always wondered though – what is the difference? Apparently, if you compare Dutch Apple Pie to French Apple Pie, it’s really just a matter of sugar. There is less sugar in the crumble for French Apple Pie and in some cases (but not in the Betty Crocker cookbook) you’ll see recipes adding raisins in with the apples. I couldn’t find a link directly to Betty Crocker, but this blogger used the same cookbook I did (though she admits to using frozen pie crust for efficiency) so you can follow the recipe there. Fun fact, like the blogger in this link, I too skip peeling the apples. Not only does it save time, but like she indicates, the peels have additional nutrients and there is a lot less waste.

For a little Valentine’s Day inspiration, I used a little Lindzer press heart cookie cutter to stamp out heart shaped pieces of dough and wet the rim of the pie plate to adhere them in place.

Definitely hit the spot on a cold winter’s night. Happy Baking!

“Where The Wild Things Are” Cupcakes

WTWA

My beautiful and wonderful best friend just recently had her first child – a gorgeous baby boy whom she named Maddox…”Max” for short. For her shower, her very creative (and very talented in their own right), MIL and step-MIL hosted a Where The Wild Things Are themed event. Her step-MIL sent me a note and asked if I would make cupcakes and I couldn’t wait to try my hand at decorating  cupcakes for such a special day!

I made Red Velvet cupcakes filled with pastry cream (recipe for the cake can be found here) and I looked up some pictures of other Where The Wild Things Are cupcakes for inspiration. I picked up some pre-made fondant in orange (Carol’s nose), white (Carol’s teeth) and yellow (the crown). I also grabbed some candy eyes from Michael’s (they have everything!). I dyed the coconut buttercream I made black for Carol’s fur and to pipe Max’s name and just left the remainder of it white for the background frosting. I used a “grass” tip to make the fur…which I think came out pretty convincing!

I might skip the black frosting if I ever make these again because the dye makes it very messy to eat (though very cute to look at) in favor of using chocolate frosting (dark brown would look great too and there would be no messy dye to contend with).