Old Fashioned Cherry Pie Filling

I wrote a very thoughtful, well-written piece of prose about my love of bourbon, the merits of sharing pie with friends, and the marvelous weather NYC has been experiencing. And then the internet decided to bend me over the butcher block.  Thanks interwebs. I love you too. I just wish you didn’t love me back so much. I could complain about it some more, but I would much rather tell you what pulled me back into the kitchen and prompted me to turn my oven to 350 on a 90 degree day.

soaking cherries

It was cherries. But more than just cherries, it was bourbon my longing for what I consider to be a winter cocktail. While I favor bourbon above all other liquors, like so many wool sweaters, it gets cast aside in the warmer months in favor of lighter, more sparkling fare. I have since discovered that there are, indeed ways to enjoy bourbon in the summer time that won’t have me wiping sweat glistening rose-scented dew from my brow.

painstakingly latticed crust

So when my place of business had cherries sale for the tune of 2.99/lb and I came home with way more than enough for…Well, I didn’t know – but I would figure something out. And damn, did I ever figure something out. See, this pie isn’t name after some mythical good ol’ days of yore. No. It is so much more than that. It is named after a much loved cocktail. One with a muddled cherry and orange slice at the bottom. One that warms you up after a chilly walk – and Old Fashioned.

slice of delicious heaven

I soaked my cherries in bourbon for a shamefully long time. You don’t necessarily have to wait that long. And let’s just get this out of the way. Yes. I pitted over 2 lbs of cherries. Yes it’s a pain. But no, you don’t have to shell out for a unitasker. Therefore, you should partake of this pie. It was a big hit with roommates and co-workers alike. Especially those of the bourbon loving ilk…tha’t ilk, not elk. But I would love to see a bourbon-loving elk. Also, you will have leftover cherries. Set them aside for less bountiful seasons or if you’re anxious, put them in sangria.

Old Fashioned Cherry Pie Filling

  • 2 lbs cherries, pitted and stemmed
  • 3/4 c sugar, divided
  • Bourbon
  • Angostura bitters
  • 1/4 c orange juice
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch

Place the pitted cherries and 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl. Pour bourbon of your choice over the cherries until they are covered. Yes, it will be a lot of bourbon. Buy something on the cheap side. Cover and place in refrigerator for a shamefully long time. Full disclosure, mine soaked for 6 days. 6 days! It’s shameful. One or two days will do the same trick, though.

Remove cherries from the fridge (duh). In a medium sauce pan, using a scale, measure out 22 oz. of both cherries and liquid. Liquid should measure roughly 1/2-3/4 of a cup, the rest should be cherries. Add the orange juice, cornstarch, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and 5 or 6 healthy dashed of bitters. If pressed, I would say maybe 1 tsp of bitters.

Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Let boil about 5 minutes or until thickened.

Pour into your favorite pie crust, and follow baking instructions. Or pour it over ice cream. Or eat it by the spoonful.

There is no pie crust recipe included because I don’t consider myself knowlegdable in the least about that art form.  Here’s some tips from someone who is.

Maple Gingerbread Cake with Salted Maple Caramel Sauce

This recipe has no backstory.  I saw it in Bon Apetit’s October issue and it had to be made.  Period.  And not in cupcake form.  Once I decided to make it in layer cake format, as per the recipe, I thought back on all the layer cakes I had made over the years…None.  I had never made a layer cake before this one!  Crazy, I know.

Anyhow, I knew I had to have this cake, and throw a party for it.  Which is exactly what I did.  Because cake is a reason to have a party – not the other way around.

And it was a big hit.  I did the unveiling, cut a few pieces, the lovely Shelby Moore snapped a few photos, we walked away, came back, and it was gone.  The cake, the cake sauce (which was what my friends were calling the caramel), the whole shebang and not a single crumb less.

If your family is not pie friendly, this would be a great alternative fall dessert.  It involves a decent amount of effort and planning so it is just as impressive, if not more so, than a pie.  Most of the steps can be done ahead of time.  The way I did it (because believe it or not I have a life outside of my kitchen…sort of) was to make the caramel sauce a week or less ahead, then the maple pecans a few days before, then the frosting a day or so before, then the day you make the cake that is all you have to do.  This helps with dishes too, if you’re dishwasher-less, like me.  Having said that, I also think the caramel sauce and the pecans are both worth making on their own and would make great gifts.  If you plan to make either as a gift, I recommend doubling the recipes to fill a pint mason jar.

Salted Maple Caramel Sauce
makes about 1 cup, takes about 15 minutes

Ingredients
1/4 c (1/2 stick) butter, preferably unsalted
1/2 c maple sugar – if you can’t find this at your grocery store, Whole Foods carries it, and so does Amazon
3/4 c heavy cream
1/8 tsp kosher salt
5 to 6 drops, or 1 tsp maple extract

Method

  • Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add sugar and whisk until sugar melts and mixture is boiling, about 3 minutes.  If you think it’s taking your sugar longer than normal to melt, don’t freak out.  It just takes a while.
  • Gradually whisk in cream.  Really.  Gradually.
  • Whisk constantly while bringing mixture to a boil until it is thick enough to coat a spoon.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in the salt and maple extract.
  • Cool, cover and chill.

Maple-coated Pecans

Ingredients
3/4 c pecan halves, toasted
1/4 c pure grade B maple syrup
coarse salt

Method

  • Place a large piece of foil on a counter.
  • Combine nuts and syrup in a heavy skillet – do not use nonstick.
  • Over medium high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, tossing to coat.
  • Cook until syrup is dark amber, almost cooked away, and thickly coats nuts.  This will take about 3 minutes or so.
  • Scrape onto foil and separate nuts with a fork.
  • Sprinkle with salt and let cool one hour.
  • Store airtight at room temperature.

Frosting

Ingredients
1 1/3 c chilled creme fraiche
1 1/3 c chilled heavy cream
1/2 c maple sugar
6 tbsp powdered sugar

Method

  • Combine creme fraiche, cream, and sugars in a large bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer until thick and stiff.
  • Cover and store in fridge until cake is ready for assembly.

Cake

Ingredients
2 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder – if you don’t already have this in your pantry, buy some.  It’s a mixture of anise, Chinese cinnamon, cloves, fennel and sichuan pepper.  Every time you make a stir fry, fried rice, or other Asian-style dish, add a dash or two.
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp coarse salt
1/3 c finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 c maple sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 c hot water
2/3 c light molasses

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350.  Generously butter and flour 2 nine inch cake pans – these babies are sticky and non-stick spray won’t do the trick, trust me.
  • If you have a food processor, put the crystallized ginger in the bowl with some of the flour and spin until the ginger is finely ground.  If not, chop the ginger as finely as you can.
  • Combine the dry ingredients, including the ginger, in a large bowl and whisk together.
  • Using a mixer, beat the maple sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
  • Add one egg and beat to combine.  Add the second egg and beat to combine.
  • Combine molasses and hot water in a small bowl.
  • Starting and ending with the dry ingredients, add dry mixture  in 4 additions alternating with the molasses and water in 3 additions.  I.e. add a little flour and beat; add a little wet mixture and beat.  Repeat.  The largest addition of dry ingredients should be at the end to prevent over developing the gluten in the flour.
  • Divide batter between the 2 prepared pans, about 2 1/2 cups each.
  • Bake about 30-32 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool cakes in pans on racks.
  • Once cool, cut around pan sides to loosen cakes and turn them out onto the racks.

Assemble

  • If you made the caramel in advance, you will need to warm it up before assembly, making sure it is not so warm as to melt the frosting.
  • Place one cake layer on a platter or cake round.  Spread with 1 1/3 c frosting.
  • Drizzle 3 tbsp of caramel sauce over the frosting and top with second layer.
  • Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.  Press the pecans into the sides of the cake and drizzle the top with 3 tbsp of caramel sauce.
  • Cut cake into wedges and spoon extra sauce over each slice.

Fall Treats – Graham Crackers, Hot Cocoa, and Maple-Cinnamon Marshmallows

I’ve got big news.  I turned my oven on for the first time since May.  And it has been amazing.  While there are still some warm days, fall is almost in full-swing.  Ovens are being turned on around the country and houses are starting to positively reek of baked goods and root vegetables.

The only cookie-cutter shapes I have are hearts and circles I hope you're better equipped.

While I am not ready to gain all that holiday weight just yet, I have been craving a fall-type snack, and I came up with just the right barely-fall snack – cinnamon graham crackers and hot cocoa with maple cinnamon marshmallows.  Light enough to not concern yourself with holiday weight, but full of warm fall flavors.

Are you fantasizing yet?

If you’re looking for Honey-Maid, Jet Puffed, and Swiss Miss, save yourself the trouble and just stop here and go read another blog.  These recipes taste nothing like those flavored sugar store brands.  This group of recipes provide all the nostalgia of childhood fall treats, but with a much more adult flavor.

The graham crackers have a coarse texture, suitable for dunking, and a hint of bold molasses flavor.

The cocoa actually tastes like cocoa – not sugar.

And the marshmallows….Oh. My. God.  The Marshmallows.  If you don’t at least make the marshmallows you will be doing yourself a huge disservice.  They are fantastic on their own, but when added to cocoa lends a warm maple-cinnamon flavor that really revs up the cocoa.  Happy fall everybody!

Cinnamon Graham Crackers
makes about 3 dozen 3 square inch crackers

Ingredients

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

1 cup AP flour

1 tsp coarse salt

2 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

¼ cup honey

¼ cup robust or blackstrap molasses

1/3 cup plus 4 tbsp sugar, divided

¼ cup milk

½ tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp cinnamon

Method

  • In a bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, AP flour, salt, and baking powder.  Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or your fingers, until the mixture looks like coarse wet sand.
  • Add the honey, molasses, and 1/3 cup sugar and combine.  Add the milk and vanilla, using your hands to mix it together until it forms a stiff dough.
  • Lightly oil 2 baking sheets.  Split the dough in half.  Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a work surface and shape half the dough into a rectangle.  Cover the dough with another sheet of parchment and roll it out until it’s about ¼ inch thick, and roughly 12 x 15 inches.
  • Combine 4 tbsp sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon.  Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over the rolled dough.
  • Cut the dough into whatever shape you wish.  If you have cute cookie cutters, now is the time to break them out – pumpkins, leaves, ghosts, whatever you want.  If you’re like me and don’t have any cool fall cookie cutters, break out your pizza cutter and cut into rectangles.  Or get out your Valentine cookie cutters.
  • Once your shapes are cut, prick each shape with a fork all the way down the middle.  Then, since you’re the only one in the kitchen and you’re super curious, eat one of the dough scraps.  Very carefully transfer the shapes to one of your prepared pans and place in freezer to chill for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350˚F.
  • Repeat with second half of dough, and bake for 18-22 minutes, until browned at the edges.
  • While I am a BIG fan of fresh-from-the-oven goodies, you will want to let these cool completely before digging in.

Store in an airtight container, for up to 2 weeks.

Maple Cinnamon Marshmallows
makes about 36 medium-sized mallows

Ingredients

2/3 cup water, divided

3 packets (¼ oz. each) unflavored gelatin

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

pinch of kosher salt

1 tsp maple flavoring

1 cup powdered sugar

3 tsp ground cinnamon

Method

  • Lightly oil an 8×8 inch pan and coat generously with powdered sugar.  Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, pour 1/3 cup the water and 3 packets of gelatin.  Let stand for ten minutes or until gelatin has softened.
  • In a saucepan, off the heat, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/3 cup of water.  Place the mixture over medium-high heat and clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom.
  • Cook the mixture without stirring until it reaches 240˚F, or soft ball stage.
  • Turn your mixture on low speed and very carefull add the molten lava hot syrup to the softened gelatin.
  • Add the maple flavoring and turn the mixer to medium-high speed.  Beat for 8-13 minutes.  Set a timer – you do not want to underbeat these puppies.
  • When the mixture is white, stiff, and sticky, turn the mixer off and spread the mixture into your prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula.  Set aside for at least one hour.
  • Sift together the cinnamon and powdered sugar into a bowl or shallow dish.  Run a wet knife around the edge of the marshmallow to loosen it.  Turn the pan out onto a work surface.
  • Cut the marshmallow into squares, wetting the knife between cuts.  Toss each marshmallow in the cinnamon sugar to coat.

Store in a single layer, or in layers separated by wax or parchment paper.  They will keep for 1 month when stored airtight at room temperature.

Hot Cocoa Mix
makes approx. 36 cups of cocoa, or 4 ½ cups dry mix

Ingredients

2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder – splurge on this one, otherwise it won’t be worth it.

2 ½ cups malted milk powder – if you can’t find malted milk powder, just use nonfat dry milk powder

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cornstarch

1 pinch cayenne pepper – you won’t be able to taste this; it just amps up the chocolate flavor.  If you want to be able to taste it, use about a tsp of cayenne.

Method

  • In a large, airtight container combine all ingredients.  Secure the lid and shake to combine.
  • For hot cocoa, use 2 heaping tablespoons of dry mix per (regular size) cup.

Peanut Butter Pie with a Spicy Twist

peanut butter pie, take one

I originally wasn’t going to post this recipe, but when I put the above picture on my Tumblr a friend got so excited I had to do it.  But I did it a little different.  It’s not my typical, all day long life-stopping recipe.  This recipe will take you 30 minutes to throw together, and will take even less if you use a store-bought graham cracker crust like I did, but I’ve included a graham cracker crust recipe if you want to make a smidge of extra time and effort.

it was a big hit

I came across a peanut butter pie recipe while looking for no-bake desserts and was intrigued, but I’m not super crazy about peanut buttery sweets.  So it wasn’t until a friend requested a peanut butter birthday dessert that I broke out the recipe.

peanut butter pie redux feat. cayenne, cinnamon, and banana

It was a hit at his potluck and even caused an argument or two because people didn’t want to share.  So if you’re cooking for more than 4 people, you might want to plan on making more than one pie.

peanut butter upside down pie...i say oops a lot

The mexican twist was inspired by the enchilada dinner I was gearing up for on Tuesday.  Adding spices to chocolate desserts is a very easy way to make an easy dessert slightly more exotic and intriguing – ice creams, cakes, ganaches, you name it.

this one was a big hit too

Peanut Butter Pie with a Spicy Twist

Crust Ingredients

Ten 4 3/4-by-2 1/2-inch graham crackers, broken into pieces

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling Ingredients

3 oz. milk chocolate – if you are using bar chocolate, it will need to be chopped

1 cinnamon stick

1 whole dried cayenne pepper, de-seeded (to deseed a dried pepper, hold it gently but firmly between 2 fingers, cut side down, and flick it)

1 3/4 cups heavy cream, divided

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

4 oz. (1/2 cup) cream cheese

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 banana, thinly sliced

Method

  • Crush up the graham crackers.  A food processor works magic, but if you don’t have one, put the crackers in a plastic bag and do some good ol’ fashion stress relief.  Transfer to a medium bowl, and add the melted butter. Stir with a fork until thoroughly combined.
  • Put crumbs in your pie pan and press them up the sides of the pan to form the edge and then evenly over the bottom of the pan. Place in the refrigerator while making the filling.
  • Put 1/2 cup cream, cinnamon stick, and chile in a small saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Remove the cinammon and chile and pour over chocolate, and set aside for 5 minutes to yield chocolate ganache. Whisk to combine and set aside to cool, whisking occasionally.
  • Remove the crust from the refrigerator and pour ganache into the bottom of the crust, tapping gently to settle.  Top ganache with the sliced banana.
  • Meanwhile, whip 3/4 cup heavy cream to soft peaks. Set aside.
  • Whisk together the peanut butter, cream cheese, and sweetened condensed milk until smooth and fluffy, then add the whipped cream and whisk until combined.
  • Remove the almost-pie from the refridgerator and spoon the peanut butter mixture into the pan, smoothing the top.
  • Place in refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.  Before serving the pie, top with whipped cream and chocolate curls, if desired.

If you’re timid about spice, feel free to omit one or all of the spices, the pie will still be delicioso.

Earl Grey Ice Cream

i present to you another breakfast appropriate ice cream ©Tim Romero

Because we need more refined ice cream.  Because it is damn hot outside and it’s only going to get hotter.  And because I love you.  Meet Earl Grey.

©Tim Romero

Charming, subtly seductive, and easier than a drunk teen on prom night.  At first I couldn’t decide what kind of tea to use for this recipe, then I tasted the earl grey ice cream by Van Leeuwen and sugar, was I sold hard.

©Tim Romero

And yet, this creamy cup of delicious falls just short of perfection.  Because perfection has music…bluesy, sultry music.  And alcohol…shaken with ice, poured into a chilled glass, and rimmed with flavored sugar.  Plus, let’s face it, I can’t just make ice cream for the rest of that summer.  Where would my love handles be come Halloween?

So I’m doing a giveaway.  One happy little lamb will receive enough of next week’s recipe for 2 and a CD by the lovely, sexy, sultry, Audra Mae.  If you’re in the New York area, your prize might just be hand delivered by yours truly.  Provided you don’t mind sharing – if you’re extra nice maybe I’ll bring a little extra.

this CD makes me a very happy lamb

To enter, leave a comment telling me your favorite happy hour music and I will randomly select one.  And now back to ice cream.

Earl Grey Tea Ice Cream
makes about 1 quart

Ingredients
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup honey
5-6 Earl Grey tea bags, or tea bags of your choice
- if you are using loose tea, it’s about 4 tbsp.
5 egg yolks

  • Warm the milk and honey in a saucepan. Remove from heat, place tea bags in the pan, cover and steep for roughly an hour. Remove tea bags or strain out the tea leaves.
  • Place tea-infused milk over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk egg yolk until lighter yellow and frothy.  To temper the yolks, pour in a tablespoon of milk at a time.  Feel the bowl for warmth.  When the egg yolks are warmed, slowly pour the milk and egg mixture into the saucepan, whisking constantly.
  • Heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Chill the mixture in the refridgerator for at least 8 hours, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can use plastic zip top bags.  Fill a gallon-size bag with ice and a tsp of salt.  Put the milk mixture in another, smaller zip top bag and place inside the ice.  Churn it by moving the bag around with your hands.  Takes about 30 minutes. Or you can do this.

**UPDATE**  The winner of the CD and taste of tomorrow’s recipe is Sarah – Girl, get your ass over here and drink with me!

The runners up, who will receive enough of tomorrow’s recipe for 2 (because it’s happy hour) are Sam  and Anna- Give me your address ladies.  Hit me up with a facebook message.

Cereal Milk Ice Cream

So I haven’t posted in a while.  I was busy, broke, and many other things.  However, I was given a good bit of advice, “Be too stupid to give up.”  I mulled it over for a good long while and decided to ignore my bank account and lazier self and keep on the keepin’ on.

my discount won't buy me Trix

But it was too hot to bake, so I made ice cream instead.  Cereal milk ice cream.  I was always the kind of gal who let her milk get warm at the dinner table.  These days I blame it on the fact that the milk was skim, which I do still buy on occasion, but it usually goes bad because fat free milk is simply unacceptable for baking and drinking.

cooking custard

The skim milk sitting beneath my morning cereal, however, got slurped up faster than the cereal itself.  So when a friend told me about the flavor he had at Momofuko’s Milk Bar in the city, I knew I was hooked – AND I HADN’T EVEN TASTED IT YET!  I was hooked on just the idea.

easy, freezy, beautiful

See, my mom never really bought junk food when I was younger, and still doesn’t, and truth be told, neither do I, much to my boyfriend’s dismay.  However, she did indulge us in her purchase of sugary cereals.  My favorite cereal was always Honeycomb, but in a strange and unexpected twist, the best milk hid under a bright colorful mound of Trix – mildly fruity and sweet enough to classify as dessert any day.  I don’t get Trix at 20% off, though, so I settled for what I hoped would be the next best thing, and it was.

i think it qualifies as a breakfast-appropriate ice cream

Cereal Milk Ice Cream

Ingredients

1 ½ cups whole milk, divided

1 cup heavy cream

1 ½ cups cereal of your choice

¼ cup sugar (or less, depending on your cereal)

3 egg yolks

Method

  • Combine 1 cup whole milk and 1 ½ cups cereal in a bowl.  Allow to set in the refrigerator for no more than 30 minutes.  Set a timer and don’t forget about it!
  • Drain the milk into a saucepan and discard the soggy cereal.  Add the ½ cup whole milk and sugar.  Heat gently and stir, allowing the sugar to dissolve.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks until lighter yellow and frothy.  Temper the yolks by slowly pouring some of the cream into the bowl while whisking.  An extra set of hands, or a stand mixer helps a ton!  Once the yolks have been warmed gently, pour them into the milk and sugar mixture while whisking.
  • Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the custard thickens.  It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Place 1 cup heavy cream in a bowl, place a fine mesh strainer over the bowl.  Once the custard has thickened, strain it into the cream, and stir, checking for any stray custardy lumps.
  • Allow to refrigerate overnight, then churn according your ice cream maker’s instructions.

I’ve always found the hardest part of making ice cream is waiting for it to be ice cream consistency, which can take up to 8 hours!  Yuck!  Solve this dilemma by churning the custard first thing in the morning while you get ready for work.  When you get home, you’ll have delicious ice cream ready in time for dessert!

I topped mine with the fruity bunnies I used to flavor the milk, but considered mixing them in.  Next time my mom visits me, I’m definitely making Lucky Charm ice cream, and plan on mixing in the marshmallows.

Jack and Coke Cupcakes

When I was invited to a friend’s birthday party last week, I was so excited because it meant that I would get to make cupcakes, and it had been a while.  It was her 21st birthday, so I wanted to do an alcohol-themed cupcake.  I love Smitten Kitchen’s carbomb cupcakes, but I wanted to do something different.

I was poking around the internet and came across a bakery review on Cakespy – Lollicake, I think.  Anywho, one of the photos was of jack and coke lollicakes (think cake pops), and it got me excited.  Jack and Coke is my well drink of choice, second only to gin and grapefruit juice (actually called a greyhound, I think).  I know not everybody slugs down whiskey, but hoo boy!  Like me, this girl hails from Tennessee, so I knew I had to do it.

Then oddly enough, I couldn’t find any recipe on line.  I didn’t know whether to be excited or appalled, so I was a little of both while I mish-mashed this recipe together.  Then I got so sick that I couldn’t even deliver them to the party, but I hear they were a hit!  The recipe made so many I also brought some to work and to the guy that does my hair… and a couple neighbors.  It sounds like I should have saved them all for the party, but I know the other people appreciated them too!

These are perfect cupcakes for a 21st birthday party, or any birthday party, or no party at all, just bring someone you like a treat.  It’s like the cocktail you can’t have because you’re still at work!

Jack and Coke Cupcakes

Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes, or 12 regular size and about 16 or so minis.

Adapted from SmittenKitchen’s Chocolate Whiskey and Beer cupcakes.

For the Coca-Cola Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 cup cola
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sour cream at room temperature

Ganache Filling

  • 8 ½ ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons whiskey

Whiskey Buttercream Frosting

  • 6 cups confections sugar
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperatue
  • 6 tablespoons Jack Daniels, or other whiskey

Cupcake Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup cola and 2 sticks butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Allow to cool for at least fifteen minutes.

    chocolate, butter, cola

  • Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, whisk eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add the sugar and whisk to combine.  With the mixer on, pour in the cola-chocolate mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.
  • Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Be really careful about not overfilling them – this cake rises and will spill over.  I put the batter in a plastic bag and pipe it into the papers.  Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

    batter, almost as good as the cake

Ganache Method*

  • Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth.  Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.

    ready to ganache it up

  • Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped.
  • Meanwhile, using a 1-inch round cookie cutter, an apple corer, or a paring knife, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes.

    like a hole in their hearts, they yearn for ganache filling

  • Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

    chocolate chocolate chocolate AACK!

*If you make the ganache a day ahead of time, it will keep fine and minimize waiting time.  Just make sure to let it come to room temperature before storing in the fridge, and allow to come to room temperature before trying to pipe it into the cupcakes.

Frosting Method

  • Whisk the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.  It does make a difference.  The frosting will be less grainy, and require less sugar to thicken them up.
  • When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the whiskey and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin, beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.  Don’t worry about trying to use all 6 cups, just use your intuition and stop when it seems thick enough.
  • Ice and decorate the cupcakes. I used a plastic zip top bag to pipe the frosting, and topped them with Wilton’s white sparkling sugar and Haribo gummy colas.  I also think little gummy lime wedges would be adorable.

    i was trying to recreate a favorite photograph

You can bake the cupcakes a week or two in advance and store them, well wrapped, in the freezer. You can also fill them before you freeze them. They also keep filled — or filled and frosted — in the fridge for a day. Just make sure to bring them to room temperature before serving!

Sticky Lemon Buns with Cream Cheese Glaze

Ever since the last time I made cinnamon buns, it set my mind spinning with all kinds of different filling possibilities – cheese, dried fruit, spices – lots of things.  But I got caught up in all this other life and never got around to experimenting.  It seems, however, that the lovely people at TheKitchn.com did.  I guess great minds think alike.

These are for the rainy spring morning what the cinnamon bun is for a snowy winter morning.  Warming, bright, gooey, and surprisingly light in the tummy.  It makes you totally forget about the drizzle outside and brightens your kitchen with thoughts of sunny summer days to come.

don't blame me

Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
Makes 12 large breakfast rolls

Lemon Roll Dough
1 envelope (0.25 ounces, or 2 1/2 teaspoons) yeast
3/4 cup milk, warmed to about 100°F or warm but not hot on your wrist
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 lemons, zested
2 eggs

Sticky Lemon Filling

1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 lemons, zested and juiced *
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
1 lemon, zested
Method
In the bowl of a stand mixer sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a couple minutes. With the mixer paddle, stir in the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pliable.

Spray the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled – about an hour.

clear glass bowls might make for better photos and someone has a birthday coming up

In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in the lemon zest with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles wet, soft sand. Stir in the juice of 1 lemon. (Reserve the juice of the second lemon for the glaze.)

sugary, lemony

Lightly grease a 13×9 inch baking dish with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10×15 inches. Spread evenly with the softened butter, then pour and spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls, and place them, cut side up, in the prepared baking dish.

ready to roll

Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (You can also refrigerate the rolls at this point. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge, and let them rise for an hour.)

this is pre-second rise, if you can believe it. these puppies were HUGE

Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into a center roll reads 190°F.

While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small food processor (or with a mixer, or a sturdy whisk), whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and blend until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.

When the rolls are done, smear them with the cream cheese glaze, and sprinkle the zest of 1 additional lemon over top to garnish. Serve while warm.

for some reason "When the rolls are done" just doesn't seem to cover it

piping hot, gooey, and sweet as hell

I think the next time I make these (which will be the near future), I will swap the lemon juice in the filling for raspberry puree, and toss in a sprinkling of some chopped fresh mint.  It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.  If anyone does this before I get a chance to, please let me know how it comes out!

Pomegranate Frozen Yogurt

Last weekend’s warm weather got me so excited to post this recipe, along with a sunny blog about how it feels like spring is just around the corner.

And then Snowpocalypse 3.0 happened.  Yeah, snow is pretty.  Yeah, I got a much needed day out of the office.  But I hate the cold.  And I hate the snow.  And this was all preceded by two days of walking around in a city-flavored slushy, while the heavens poured Slusho mix all over our heads.  Gross.

But I still made the yogurt, and ate every bit of it.  It’s yogurt, so it’s healthy, right?

The thing about frozen yogurt….Forget TCBY, and Häagen Dazs.  That stuff is just like ice cream, and if you’re eating frozen yogurt to replace ice cream, calorie-wise, it’s not gonna do the trick.  Check the carton.  Most store bought fro-yos have only 20-50 less calories than their non-dieting sisters.  It’s true.

And anyhow, frozen yogurt should not just be a heavy woman’s ice cream.  It’s a completely different tasting beast when done properly.  It should be tangy and not overly sweet, and invite a fruit (or granola!) accompaniment as though it were it’s long lost twin.  If you’ve been fortunate enough to try Pink Berry, you know what I’m talking about.  That stuff was a revelation.  A realization of all that stuff I just said. If you haven’t, making this frozen yogurt will be as close to a life-changing event as you’ll get in the kitchen.

Pomegranate Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients

1 quart of Greek yogurt (roughly two cups) strained, or 1 quart of strained plain yogurt (NO FLAVORS – THIS IS IMPORTANT; however you may use whatever fat content you like.  I used low-fat because my store was out of non-fat at the time)

1/3 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla

3 tbsp pomegranate jelly

Method

  • Whisk ingredients together and allow to cool for at least one hour.  This is important.  Skip this step and you will not achieve creamy frozen heaven.
  • Start ice cream maker and pour mixture in.  Let machine run for about 20-30 minutes.  With ice creams it will stop itself and you will hear a clicking noise.  This did not happen with the yogurt.
  • Once mixed, eat immediately for soft-serve consistency, or chill in freezer for up to 3 hours for one more ice-cream.

teeny mint leaves for a pretty garnish

This will refill the yogurt container to a little under half, if you’re storing for later snackage, but I’d be really surprised if it lasted that long.

If you want to mix in fresh pomegranate seeds, wait until the very end of the cycle and then toss them in.  I think that would be delicious, but I’m broke and can’t afford these things.  I also think a little lemon zest would be delicious and pretty.

Lemon Ginger Lozenges, and an Anti-Valentine to Alton Brown

Folks, the equation is simple.

Sugar + Equal Amount of Water + Heat = Candy

Yup.  With no flavoring though, you might as well suck on a sugar cube.

The first time I made this recipe, I gave it as a gift, which was brave considering I had no idea what they would taste like, if they would ship well, or hell, even if they would pack and store well.  They didn’t, by the way.  Because the majority of sugar in AB’s recipe was honey, it still didn’t quite set at hard crack stage, and actually ended up chipping the tooth of a friend who tried to chew on it (whoops!  Her dad’s a dentist though, so it turned out to be OK).

Then, shortly after my mom requested the recipe, I came across this Instructable…And I was so angry with Mr. Brown.

You see, his instructions at the end said to spoon teaspoons of the liquid candy onto parchment paper.  They looked fine in his pictures; in my kitchen, not so much.  And on top of that it was counter to EVERYTHING I had ever learned from him – there might be a process, but if there’s an easy way with the same resulting taste go that route.

Oh, AB.  How could you let me down like this?

Needless to say, this new method not only is much easier in terms of portioning out the candy, but also in storing it.  I love simple solutions, but this one has made me call my favorite TV chef into question.

Lemon Ginger Lozenges

Ingredients

2 c. water

4 tea bags (doesn’t have to be Lemon Ginger, just pick a good flavor of good tea)

2 c. sugar – I used 1 c. turbinado and 1 c. honey

Zest of 1 lemon

Powdered sugar

Method

  • Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a high sided sauce pan and steep the tea bags for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Add sugar and turn the stove back on medium low heat.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring the mixture to a boil, occasionally washing the insides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.

    process shot! see I told you I was working on it

  • The mixture needs to read the hard crack stage without the sugar burning, which is between 300 & 310 degrees.  Grab a book, this is going to take forever, but keep a watchful eye on your stove.
  • Before the mixture reaches 310, prepare your candy mold!  Oh my, you don’t have one?  Me neither.  Here’s the handy trick I was talking about.  Get out a pie pan, or a cake pan, or a casserole pan…any shallow-ish pan with sides.  Put some powdered sugar in it, enough to make indentations in, about a half inch to an inch oughta do it.  Then, get out some sort of roundish bottomed thing (like a food coloring bottle, or a glass tube that your vanilla beans came in)…are you seeing where I’m going with this?instant candy mold
  • Go around the pan, making indentations in the sugar, making sure they’re about 1/4 inch apart.  I needed 2 pie pans for the amount of candy I made.
  • When the mixture reaches hard crack stage, remove from heat and add the lemon zest, stirring just to combine.
  • Pour mixture over the mold slowly and watch the magic happen.

    pour slowly to make sure this doesn't happen, but if it does just leave it and break it apart later

  • Allow mixture to cool and harden, about one hour.  Toss the candies with the powdered sugar in the pans, making sure each one is coated thoroughly.  Sift the excess sugar off the candies (or not), and store in a container of your choosing.

HOW EASY WAS THAT?  No parchment paper, no sticky teaspoon…  Alton Brown, why, oh why, did I have to see this on Instructables and not in your book with your recipe?  As I type this I’m finding it very hard not to use caps and unnecessary punctuation.  I am that upset about it.

That being said, I think this would also be good with lemon extract , cinnamon, or any number of flavor combinations.  Just be sure to add them at the end right before pouring into your nifty molds.  Here are some suggestions:

Lemon + Ginger – I would actually add some grated ginger to these next time, as the tea didn’t really carry the ginger flavor through all that well.

Cinnamon + Chai

Ginger + Peach

Black Tea + Lemon

Green Tea + Lemon

Green Tea + Orange

Black Tea + Orange

Mint + Raspberry (think fresh mint and raspberry extract…mmm)

The possibilities really are endless.

Oh and here’s a tip for the dish-doers in the bunch:  To clean, fill the pot with water and bring to boil.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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