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Best Frosting Ever | Nutella Buttercream Atop Chocolate Cupcakes

5 Sep

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I can’t post this without first acknowledging that it’s been a LOOOONG time since my last post. Phew, so sorry! I promise this hasn’t turned into an orphan blog. She still has loving parents. 🙂 I hope this recipe is well worth the wait (I think it is).

A note about the cupcakes. Yes, they are indeed vegan. Gasp. Your friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers won’t notice. It’s a great recipe to have on hand when you are low on things like butter & eggs but want to make an amazing treat to brighten someone’s day. If you are making these cupcakes for a vegan friend, frost these with a vanilla or coffee “buttercream” (make any standard buttercream recipe but use shortening and/or a vegan “butter” substitute for the butter & soy, almond or coconut milk for the liquid) — sadly the Nutella buttercream recipe that follows the cupcake recipe is not vegan.

Your Basic Chocolate Cupcake 

Recipe credit: Original recipe from “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World” baking book — adapted by Jess.

Makes 12 cupcakes (We almost always double the recipe!)

Ingredients

1 cup soy milk (You can use almond milk or if you’re not worried about making these vegan you can also use regular milk or buttermilk. If you use buttermilk, omit the vinegar below.)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (It’s our secret weapon! When added in small amounts to chocolate baked goods, it brings out their chocolately goodness. It can be found in the coffee aisle of most markets and/or specialty stores. It is different from ground espresso as it dissolves completely in water.)

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

2) Whisk together the soy milk (or whatever you’ve decided to use*) and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. *You’re basically making “buttermilk” so, again, if you decide to use buttermilk, skip the vinegar & this step.

3) Add the sugar, oil, and vanilla extract to the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy.

4) In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder. Add in two batches to the wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are okay).

5) Pour into liners, filling three-quarters of the way. Bake 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (we rotated the pans after 13 minutes).

6) Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.

Nutella Buttercream Frosting

You don’t have to love Nutella to love this frosting but it’s true, you MUST like a chocolate/hazelnut combo. The frosting is super fluffy & light. The salt is an absolute necessity as it perfectly cuts the sweetness of the Nutella. We use a pastry bag to appropriately gob the frosting on top of each cupcake — and be warned — it’s quite tempting to pile some onto a spoon for eating.  Try to show some restraint, okay?

(Recipe credit: I referenced a few recipes online before mixing & matching & adapting.)

This should frost a layer cake and 12 cupcakes but I usually second guess it and double the recipe (and always end up with leftovers but I’d rather have leftover frosting than be scrambling to make another batch!).

Ingredients

1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup of shortening

2 cups powdered sugar

2/3 cup Nutella (hazelnut spread)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

2 tablespoons whole milk

1) In a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening and sugar together on low until well combined. Add the Nutella and increase speed to medium. Beat for two minutes.

2) Add the vanilla and salt, beating for an additional 30 seconds.

3) Last, add the milk and continue to beat for about one minute, or until frosting lightens slightly in both color and texture.

4) Frost cupcakes & enjoy. YUM!

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Beatin’ the Heat | Frosty Pup Treat Recipe

3 Jun

Ollie is 4!

It is hard to believe that Ollie turned four yesterday. It seems like only yesterday I found a post on Petfinder about a tiny special needs Red Boston Terrier, named Brass Monkey, when in all reality is was in the Fall of 2009. Truth is, if a good Samaritan hadn’t found a Craigslist ad posted in Texas, by a puppy mill breeder then he wouldn’t be with us today. We love our little guy, and he has brought tons of laughs, kisses, and joy to more than just our tiny little family

Kate and I  have little traditions we do to celebrate the pups and Sitar’s birthdays. Stevie always gets a real balloon that he loves, while Ollie on the other hand is afraid of balloons so each year Kate humors me and draws a birthday balloon for Ollie. We tape it above his crate on the wall! We also bake birthday treats for them, there is a great Pupcakes recipe in our blog that Kate posted and the pups adore 🙂 This year is was miserably hot in our apartment and I really didn’t want to subject any of us to turning the oven on, so I came up with a frosty birthday treat recipe for the pups that they inhaled.

frosty treat prep

Ollie’s Frosty Pup Treats
makes 8 frozen treats

Ingredients

1 – 6 oz container of Chobani Vanilla Yogurt*
1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup of 100% pure canned pumpkin

*If you want to control the sugar content in this recipe, just substitute Chobani Plain Greek Yogurt. Dogs don’t need the extra sugar but we made these as an extra special treat so I sweetened them with the Vanilla Chobani.

Steps

1. Whisk all of the ingredients together in a medium size bowl

2. Place cupcake liners in a muffin pan.

3. Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, filling cups a generous half full. (I got 8 frosty treats out of my batter.)

4. Place in the freezer, our treats were frozen solid in 2 hours.

frozen treat unwrapped

Notes

  • These treats are great for pups with allergies, Stevie is intolerant to all things poultry, they are vegetarian, wheat, and soy free.
  • If you have difficulty removing the frozen treats from the muffin pan, just flip the pan over and run warm water on it for a few seconds.
  • The cupcakes wrappers are easy to remove and just peel off, no need for non-stick spray.
  • If you opt to use the Chobani Plain Yogurt, add some sweetness using molasses approximately 2 teaspoons should do the trick!
  • If you are looking for other flavors to mix it up for your beloved pups, try subbing the pumpkin out with an equal amount of sweet potato, peanut butter, or banana.

patiently waiting

This was the easiest birthday recipe I have created in a long time.

frosty treat massacre

On the other end of it, I think these birthday treats were gobbled up the quickest as well, ha! Stevie & Ollie devoured and approved.

Simple Side Dish | Roasted Sriracha Brussels Sprouts

6 May

One of my favorite places to eat locally is Highland Kitchen. Highland Kitchen is a family owned neighborhood restaurant and bar located in the heart of Somerville. They serve American comfort food, local craft beer, creative cocktails and great service. Recently Kate and I had an impromptu date night there, and this is when I remembered one of their famous side dishes, buffalo brussels sprouts. As we walked out, I brainstormed with Kate about making a riff on that buffalo brussels sprouts recipe at home for us one night the following week. Kate in all of her genius, then exclaimed… it would be tasty if you used Sriracha instead of Franks Red Hot Sauce. Done and done.

sriracha brussels

Sriracha Brussels Sprouts
serves 2

Ingredients

 1 lb brussels sprouts (cleaned and cut in halves)

3 TBS melted butter

1 tsp – 1 TBS Sriracha (hot chili garlic sauce) 

salt and pepper to taste

cut brussels

Steps
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick spray or olive oil
3. Place the cleaned and halved brussels sprouts in a medium bowl
4. Combine melted butter and Sriracha, pour over brussels sprouts, stir to combine, make sure they are coated evenly.
5. Place coated brussels sprouts on to the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.
6. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
7. Bake 20 – 30 minutes depending on the roast level you desire. Stir brussels half way through to ensure even browning.
8. Remove from oven, season before serving with salt.

Notes
1. Sriracha is a sweet hot chili garlic sauce, 1 tsp will give you a slight heat factor, feel free to increase the Sriracha in this recipe to increase the heat!
2. This recipe could be used with roasted cauliflower too. Y-U-M!
3. If the brussels sprouts are particularly large, cut them into quarters.

Make My Morning | Easy Dairy Free Baked Oatmeal

13 Jan

baked oatmeal

My first post of 2013, making changes and organization continues… are you sensing a theme from our tiny household? Last Fall I got into making a large baked oatmeal recipe that Kate and I would take pieces of for breakfast to have at work during the week. It was addictive and I made it several times, each time mixing it up a bit and changing the fruit I added to it. I even got Kate’s dad, Denny, into making it and eating it!

Needless to say, after a while I got sick of baked oatmeal every morning, and I stopped making it. That was last year and with the new year, Kate asked me to start making it again in order to get back into healthier habits 🙂 Below is the recipe I created for 2013 and even made dairy free and gluten-free! The best part about this recipe is that it can all be made in one bowl, easy to put together and even easier clean up.

Dairy Free/Gluten-Free Baked Oatmeal

Ingredients
2 eggs
1 c soy milk (I used vanilla that is what we had on hand)
1/3 c maple syrup
1/2 c apple sauce
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 c walnuts (chopped)
1/3 c shredded coconut
2 c frozen berries (I used blueberries and blackberries)
1/3 c dried cranberries
2 c rolled oats (I used gluten-free rolled oats from Trader Joe’s)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

Steps
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2) Spray a 9 or 10 inch pie plate with nonstick spray

3) In a large bowl whisk together all of the wet ingredients

4) Add the remaining ingredients to the wet mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula

5) Pour mixture into your prepared pie plate

6) Bake for 40 – 45 minutes until golden brown

Notes:
1) Kate loved this recipe, but I found that it was too dry for my liking.
2) Denny loves his baked oatmeal more moist, he usually adds double the amount of milk to the recipe, I’m sure this would work with this recipe too.
3) Try topping this recipe it with 2 TBS of melted Earth Balance non dairy spread right when you take it out of the oven.
4) Serving suggestions: top with maple syrup, or Chobani Greek yogurt (if you like dairy), or pour some warm soy milk on top.

Happy and healthy 2013!

We Made It! | And…What the Heck is a Dutch Baby?!

30 Dec

YAY, it’s almost 2013! Which means, we’ve made it through the holiday season unscathed. I know…so dramatic. But in addition to the goodies & gifts we like to make around the holidays (granola, candy cane bark, sweet cards & gift tags, DIY all purpose cleaner (more about that in a future post!), broccoli shallot quiche, avocado coffee cake, the list goes on and on…) my Etsy shop, Opal & Ollie was bursting at the seams with holiday orders (I had over 100 Etsy orders in 1 month — not including the 2 local shops I had to keep stocked up!). So I feel like it’s totally acceptable to breathe a deep sigh of relief and reset after a few days off. Now on to organizing, cleaning & putting away our abundance of Christmas gifts (wheeeee!).

This morning, when Jess started flipping through cookbooks BEFORE we’d even had our morning coffee, I knew something was up. In typical Jess fashion, she was looking for the perfect compliment for a jar of Nutting Farm maple butter that I’d tucked in her stocking (from our excursion to Eat Boutique — which was amazing, by the way — where Jess met on of her fav bloggers in all the whole world, Joy the Baker). That perfect compliment came in the form of a dutch baby. What the H is a dutch baby, you ask?! Read on…

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We were first introduced to dutch babies at a small historic inn in rural Vermont where we spent the weekend attending the wedding festivities of our friends Lindsay and Jonathan. The inn keepers cooked meals for the guests so we headed to the dining room for breakfast one morning. Plates were placed in front of us with an odd looking berry-muffin-popover-like thing in the middle. This particular dutch baby was not my jam (you could tell it had been pre-made & heated) but none-the-less I was intrigued. So fast forward to this morning when Jess stumbled upon the Smitten Kitchen dutch baby recipe below. It’s a delicious breakfast treat that’s like a popover and a crepe/pancake had a baby (maybe that’s where the name comes from?!). They weren’t too sweet — just right topped with a dusting of powdered sugar & some maple butter (or in my case, maple syrup). Dutch babies are also called “german pancakes”. Somehow this makes more sense to me now.

Pros: It’s lighter than a pancake. It doesn’t require the baby sitting/tending that pancakes require — since you bake it in the oven. So I was able to enjoy coffee with Jess instead of stressing about when to flip the pancakes & then how to keep the first batch warm as the other batch cooked in the skillet. It’s also really delicious and paired perfectly with maple goodness and soy sausage patties.

Cons: Ours cooked a little too much on one side so one edge was a little dry — but nothing that a little extra maple butter or syrup couldn’t fix!

Recipe notes: We only had 3 eggs in the house so we made 1/2 the recipe. It worked out great. The tablespoons of butter that the recipe calls for is definitely for the batter (and doesn’t include what you use to grease the cake pan) — we thought that was a little confusing. You could totally make these in muffin tins for cute-sized individual portions.

mapledutch

Recipe credit: Smitten Kitchen

Dutch Babies/German Pancakes

Yield 2 9-inch pancakes.

4 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup flour, sifted
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons soft butter

Heat oven to 400°F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans well. Put eggs in blender container, cover and process at until light yellow in color. Remove cover and add remaining ingredients; process until smooth. Pour into prepared pans and bake 20 minutes; then reduce heat to 350°F and bake 10 minutes. Slide onto hot plates. Serve with lemon slices, powdered sugar and butter if you follow recipes to the letter, maple syrup if you’re me and maple butter if you’re Jess. It would be really yummy with fresh berries too.

Happy baby making! (Ha…) And happy almost 2013!

Happy National Vanilla Cupcake Day! | Our Best Baking Discovery Yet…

10 Nov

We’ve been baking up a storm recently. Yes, even I (“maker”) am inserting myself smack dab in the middle of the confectioner’s sugar and flour melee! The dogs are thrilled. Ollie literally sat behind me in the kitchen, nose up, tongue out, licking the sweet air as I sifted 16 cups of confectioners sugar for buttercream frosting.

I inherited my mom’s endless search for a homemade vanilla/yellow cake that satisfied my picky palate. I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by home baked goods. The only thing my mom and grandmother ever made from a box was Jiffy cornbread. My dad is famous for his amazing breads and blueberry muffins…oh and his raspberry & peach jams. Lucky, yes…but I’ll never forget my first taste of yellow box cake at a friend’s birthday party. I begged & begged my mom for a box cake for the next several birthdays. She refused but spent lots of time researching cookbooks & experimenting with recipes trying to emulate that funkily delicious yellow box cake flavor. She even tried trickery — adding yellow food coloring to a sponge cake recipe — but I was not to be fooled!

Fortunately, our current searches for recipes have broadened immensely thanks to the interwebs. It’s how I stumbled upon, quite possibly, the best vanilla cake recipe I’ve ever made. I think my search is over! It’s been a long time coming & there were certainly false glimpses of hope. Like the time a friend shared a recipe online for the famous Party Favors (a local bakery) cupcakes. They’ve mastered the yellow cake from scratch. It’s honestly INSANELY good. Like so good, it was our wedding cake — plain & simple yellow cake with vanilla buttercream. The recipe can be found here, BUT I must warn you, it’s not worth your time. 1) I’m sure they didn’t share the actual recipe. 2) It doesn’t seem quite right — as is sometimes the case when bakers/cooks try to scale down BIG recipes for the home baker/cook. The recommended buttercream frosting recipe is amazing. I’ve also shared it below.

Ok. So on with it. The BESTEST vanilla or “yellow” cake we’ve ever baked. To think it was sitting under our noses on one of our favorite blogs, to boot! Mom…this one’s for you! xo

Cake recipe credit: Smitten Kitchen: Best Yellow Layer Cake

Best Yellow Cupcakes
Yield: ~ 20-22 cupcakes

Ingredients
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (480 grams) cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken

Steps
1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 cupcake tins with cupcake wrappers and set aside.

2) Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled…don’t panic…this is exactly how it should look). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

3) Use an ice cream scoop, ladle or large cookie dough scoop to fill each cupcake wrapper about 2/3 full. Rap each pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean – 20 minutes. If your oven is a little wonky, like ours, rotate the cupcake tins after 14 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from tins & let cool completely on a wire rack.

Frosting recipe credit: Wilton’s Cupcake Fun (p. 101)

Silky Smooth Vanilla Buttercream

Ingredients
1 stick butter, softened

½ cup vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar (approx. 1 pound)
2 tablespoons milk

Steps
1) In a large bowl, beat (or “cream”) shortening and butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

2) Add vanilla, mix well.

3) Note: I hate sifting but trust me, you must. It’s important that you sift the confectioner’s sugar BEFORE you measure it (or you’ll end up adding too much sugar to your frosting & it will be a little too stiff/sweet). Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed; scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar is mixed in, frosting will appear dry. Add milk; beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

4) Have fun decorating! As you can see, we love using pastry bags & decorative tips to add gobs of frosting. Oh, and when peanut butter buttercream is involved, Ollie is Head of QC (see photo below). 

ENJOY and happy Vanilla Cupcake Day! Wheeeee!

Making & Baking Our Way into Fall | Pics & Links

3 Sep

Oh hi! Here’s what we’ve been up to (a meaty post with pictures & links!)…

Savoring summer, time with Kate’s dad & the best lobstah roll ever (PJ’s Family Restaurant in Wellfleet).

Making pickles! Refrigerator style using this recipe and farm fresh pickling cukes from a farm near Jess’s home town. We added cloves of garlic & black whole peppercorns to each jar. We also made a spicy batch for our neighbor by tossing in a sliced jalapeno from our container garden (YAY!). We’ve been eating them on EVERYTHING (pictured below on turkey sandwiches).

Salivating over a new issue of Bon Appetit and celebrating awesome neighbors with this delightful coffee cake. Toss blueberries in panko breadcrumbs? SURE!

Here’s what the blueberry coffee cake looked like sliced (just before it got hand delivered to our favorite neighbors). This Instagram filter makes it look straight out of my mom’s 1970 Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.

Catching up on crafty gifts, part I! Long overdue wedding card/art piece for friends Emily & Chris. Those are heart shaped bits I cut out of their save-the-date & invitations. I love sewing paper.

Catching up on crafty gifts, part II! Finally getting around to finishing this advent calendar project for 2 very special little boys (yes, that’s 48 little fabric bags). Promised last year that I’d make these & we’d fill them with goodies each year…literally the gift that keeps on giving! The first time I stumbled across this project on Lansdowne Life, I obsessed over the adorable vintage looking fabric…to die for, right?!? Can’t wait to fill the bags with goodies & send them off. Oh & those pinking shears were an amazing vintage find at a little consignment shop on the Cape. 

Officially launching Opal & Ollie on Etsy. YAY! A selection of my etched glass mason jars are also available at Magpie in Davis Square & On Centre in Jamaica Plain.

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