Sunday, April 27, 2014

Embracing The Box: Dark Chocolate Strawberry Filled Cupcakes

So, today I had every intention of featuring a blog post all about strawberry turnovers; flaky, delicate, and delicious. Well...that didn't happen. As with baking, sometimes things don't go accordingly and you have to figure out another direction; so I made cupcakes. Cupcakes make everything better.

From my failed turnovers, I was able to salvage a flavorful filling that I incorporated into boxed dark chocolate cake. Now, that being said; 'boxed' is not a dirty word in my kitchen - it's realistic. Sometimes you want something sweet and fluffy, but not the work from-scratch baking can involve. Embrace the box and the ease it brings to baking, and take it one step further to make it your own. In this case, my own is a dark chocolate cupcake filled with a bright strawberry filling and topped with a bit of homemade cream cheese frosting.

One note that I think is worth mentioning that my household is small, and in order to avoid covering every surface in my kitchen with cupcakes (there are certainly worse things), I only use half of a boxed cake mix when baking. That amount makes about 12 regular or 6 jumbo cupcakes. The half I don't use is put into a labeled zip-lock bag and I write the ingredients and baking information right on the bag.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Strawberry Muffins

Hosting a brunch is a popular Easter celebration, and though I'm not hosting this year, I did find a small way to contribute to my family's table - Jumbo Strawberry Muffins. These are an easy and hearty muffin that hold up better than you might think given the water content of the strawberries.

When I started working on this recipe, I turned to one of my favorite recipe websites, Allrecipes. The original strawberry muffin recipe, found here, was a good starting point, but I really try to avoid using oil whenever I can - I find that butter, no surprise, is just better. Better taste. Better crumb. I also like to increase the amount of baking powder and give the muffin a bit more bounce.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

More Than "Basic" Cream Cheese Frosting

I found that cream cheese frosting is, for the most part, recognized as a fall/cold weather dessert component. It compliments warmer flavors, like the spice cake I made earlier this week. But don't relegate this creamy deliciousness to the cold months; there's so much more to this versatile, subtle frosting that makes it an easy go to...especially when you might not have enough butter in the fridge to make both a cake and a butter cream; this can be a life saver.

There are a ton of variations floating around out there for a basic cream cheese frosting, and one of the big differences I've noticed is that some include a bit of butter and other do not. I've found that the recipes that do include butter are a bit more stable. They're still creamy, but I think the frosting is more likely to hold its form when piped, especially when taken straight from the fridge. And, certainly, different consistencies are are needed for different baked goods; the recipes I've included can be easily adjusted to work with both cinnamon rolls and piped cake frosting by adding a bit more powdered sugar or a bit of milk.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Betty Crocker Experiment #1 - Double Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Cookies

Betty Crocker. This brand is synonymous with baking, and has been since the early 1920s. With a baking mix for almost everything, Betty is my go-to for any emergency baking, including late night treats to satisfy the sweet teeth at home. The cookie mix pouches are a staple in my kitchen and offer a nice and easy alternative to from scratch baking; but as with everything, I needed to find a way to make the Betty Crocker products my own. So the experimenting began!

I've tried several combinations, all of which had the same or similar baking times and temperatures, and this was one of our firsts.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Banana Bread

Over the last few years, I've made a solid effort to perfect a few basic recipes, including the classic banana bread. This warming breakfast and anytime snack doesn't last very long in my house; my husband has been know to polish off a whole loaf in a day or two. And with good reason!

No matter what you're into, this basic bread has a variation for everyone. After working with a couple variations, this one is my favorite; starting simple, it offers tons of opportunity for customization and to really make this into your own. Personally, I still prefer my banana bread plain and simple - baked up and cut while still warm with a bit of butter. Having tried it though, I also included an oat topping that is also really tasty.