Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Coconut Cupcakes

It has been ages since I wrote on this blog, mainly because I have not been working for 2 weeks. Now, though, I just found out I start my new job this Monday so I decided to get busy in the kitchen and enjoy the time off.

Josh's office has been craving sweets and I was craving cupcakes so I decided to try a recipe I have wanted to test for a long time. Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame, makes amazing food and I love everything that she creates. Her coconut cupcakes were no exception. I scored rave reviews with these, even though I will admit to using storebought frosting in a pinch. I topped the cupcakes with Duncan Hines white fluffy frosting and then sprinkled them with toasted coconut. They were sweet and moist and fantastic. Try them out...

Ina's Coconut Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/3 cup flaked sweetened coconut

Line 16 muffin cups with paper baking cups, and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and set oven racks at top and lower middle levels.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar and butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
Turn the mixer speed to low, and add the eggs one at a time, beating 1 minute after each.
Beat in the vanilla and almond extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat again briefly. Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately to the butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.
Fold in the coconut.
Fill each muffin cup almost full with batter. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 11 to 14 minutes on the top and lower-middle racks of oven, then reverse the positions of the two cupcake pans (putting the one from the top on the lower middle rack and vice versa), and bake another 11 to 14 minutes or until the cupcake tops are golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.


Monday, February 12, 2007

The Brownie Quest

Yes I baked again this weekend, I think it has become a sickness. It seems like a personal mission to get through that pile of never tried recipes. Lately I have been having such great luck in the kitchen - minus the granola fiasco - so that just furthers my drive to dwindle the pile down to nothing.

This time I decided to try a brownie recipe. I did this with much trepidation because brownies are not my friend. I know, I know, brownies are by far the simplest of all baking. Not so in my world. My brownies are dry, crumbly, form huge fissured through the middle, never cook in the middle and turn inedibly black along the edges... can anything else go wrong? Even if the brownies tasted good and just looked shabby, i could overlook it. But they taste horrible and can't hold their shape. So after a total disaster this Christmas with my York Peppermint Patty Brownie recipe, I gave up and vowed to never make a brownie again. How quickly I seem to forget my feelings toward evil recipes.

The recipe was for Malt Brownies and uses one of my favorite things - Ovaltine powder. I was so curious what a cherished childhood drink mix could do to a potentially nightmarish recipe, that my baking conscience was set aside and I took a chance.

I am posting the recipe because these are, yes I admit, the best brownies I have ever had and probably will ever have. I made a full batch with the intention of sending them with Josh to work but, sorry guys, Licia was over for the weekend and we almost devoured the pan. They are really that good. Looks like I am on a hot streak in the kitchen, maybe I should tackle pie crust...

Chocolate Malted Brownies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for buttering pan
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup malted milk powder, such as Ovaltine Malt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300F. Brush a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with melted butter. Line bottom with parchment paper; set aside.
Sift together flour, malted milk powder, cocoa, baking powder and salt; set aside.
Melt chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until combined. Turn off heat and transfer mixture to a large bowl.
Add dark brown and granulated sugar and stir with wooden spoon until smooth.
Add vanilla and eggs and mix well.
Stir in flour mixture until just incorporated. Let batter cool 5 minutes. Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Spread with a spatula to evenly distribute batter and malted milk balls. Bake until center is firm and surface looks dry, about 45 minutes, turning the pan once after 30 minutes. Let brownies cool completely. When ready to serve, cut into 20 2-by 2-1/2 inch pieces. Serves 10 to 12.

Friday, February 9, 2007

A Favorite

I always enjoy trying a new recipe, even if that recipe disappoints me horribly and leaves me despising the kitchen for weeks afterwards. There is something very satisfying about finding a gem among, lets face it, alot of duds. I have stacks and stacks of recipes that I have yet to try and really want to.

So why did I fall back on an old favorite? To use up the unbelievable amounts of canned pumpkin I have. I bought it all in October thinking that I would be baking pumpkin everything for the next two months. Wrong. I got completely sidetracked with new recipes and the poor pumpkin kept getting shoved farther and farther back into the pit that is my cupboards. Finally, after throwing a fit about the state of my baking shelf, I cleaned everything up and salvaged the cans.

I made my grandmothers famous Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Rum Cake which really should be a staple in everyones house. Now that I am married and on my own, the recipe has been passed onto me from my mother so that the pumpkin rum goodness need never die. Though I admit, my first time making it was yesterday and already I have messed with the recipe. I didn't change a single ingredient because there really is no need, but I just didn't want to make a bundt cake. Josh's office, as I have mentioned before, is extremely hectic and no one has time to sit down with a plate and fork and eat a piece of cake. They can, however, tote a muffin around the office while they work. So the cake turned into 18 beautiful mini bundts, each with their own glistening rum glaze.

Again, a recipe met with rave reviews. You have to try this one!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Rum Cake
One bundt cake or 18 muffin size cakes

4 eggs
2c. sugar
1c. oil
2 cups canned pumpkin (14 fl. oz.)
2t. baking powder
2t. baking soda
1/2t. cinnamon
3c. flour
1 1/2c. chocolate chips
2T. water
1/2c. sugar
1/4c. butter
1/4c. rum

Beat eggs and sugar until fluffy.
Add pumpkin.
Mix in all dry ingredients just until incorporated.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Pour into greased bundt pan or muffin pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes for the cake or 25 minutes for the muffins.

For the glaze, bring water, sugar and butter to a boil and stir for two minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the rum.
Brush onto still warm cakes and then brush on again when the first coat has soaked in.
This cake is even better the second day.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

I take it back

Ok well maybe I don't completely take it back but I am willing to say that there are a few good souls out there.

I am talking about my rant on ungrateful food receivers which I typed out in a huff last week. Normally I would be glad that someone proved me wrong and then move on, still too upset about the other people to let the glass be half full. But this time I have to write about it because I am just so happy about my new culinary enthusiasts.

Josh's office, it turns out, is full of non-bakers and total sweet addicts. This is the office that dies a thousand deaths when I send over Eiffel Tower bakery pastry trays. Since they enjoy baking so much, I decided to use them as guinea pigs over the holidays to try out my many new recipes. The two heaping plates that Josh wrapped up - a mixture of every different cookie and candy I could make in 2 weeks - were devoured by lunch with big compliments all around. So when the baking bug hit these last two weeks, and Josh not wanting to eat my creations, I sent them to the office. The Nutella cookies made on Monday night were completely demolished yesterday. Maybe they are all so stressed over there - it is a magazine after all - that food is the big comfort. Yes, sweet sweet carbs once again save the day.

So I just want to admit that there are baking appreciative people out there in the world and I am glad for the compliments because they will be rewarded ten fold. I hope they know what they are getting themselves into...

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


After Sundays frustration with the oven, I was determined to make proper granola last night. I suppose I could have eaten the last dregs of Kashi cereal in the cupboard and not bothered to do anything at all (except watch some Frasier and sip a glass of Chardonnay), but I hate to eat the bottom of the bag of cereal. I always feel that there must be something wrong with it. Why hasn't it been eaten up by now? Is it even remotely fresh at this point? Or will I chip a tooth and be more miserable than I was after the granola disaster? In the end, more work for better cereal. And it was definitely better. I ran out of cranberries but we discovered dried pineapple at Community Health and Josh fell in love with it. So that was chopped up along with the usual fare and I stirred the brown sugar in before the oil and honey which i think made it mix better. The real solution to the burning, though, was to use a 35o degree oven and cook until barely 15 minutes had passed. It was golden and chewy and crisp at the same time and, this morning with yogurt, was absolute heaven.

My other project last night was to use up the jar of Nutella in the fridge that taunts me. What is better than Nutella licked from a spoon? I could devour that calorie laden spread if I didn't come up with some ways to use it. I had never heard of baking with Nutella which is odd because it has the texture and creamy-ness of peanut butter so it should be quite versatile. Once I started reading blogs, I realized I was not the only one with a Nutella obsession. Cheesecakes, crepes, cookies and cakes were experimented with and deamed worthy of the Nutella goodness. So I found a cookie recipe at Alpineberry that seemed simple and had at it. This cookie is similar to a peanut butter cookie in terms of crumb and texture but the addition of cocoa and chocolate chips adds an incredible richness. Josh's office loved them this morning with coffee and I think they just might be worthy of a recipe card...


Nutella Cookies
(makes 30 cookies)
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
7 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp.
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted & skinned hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350F.
Sift together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside dry ingredients.
Cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in Nutella and vanilla extract. Mix in egg.
Add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.
Add chocolate chips and hazelnuts.
Drop tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for about 11 minutes until the edges look set. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then carefully remove to cooling racks.

Monday, February 5, 2007


I know I promised to make granola, cookies and a cake this weekend but only the granola ended up happening. Not because I am lazy in any way. The grocery shopping was done, the kitchen clean and I was just about to start when Josh surprised me with the news that we were headed to Banff for the weekend.
What a great time we had! I have never stayed in a hotel like the Rimrock before so I felt very rich and pampered. We ate amazing food, sat in a beautiful lounge to watch the Flames game and then came home rested and refreshed for the work week.

I did attempt the granola later on Sunday evening and I would like to show you the finished product but I burnt it. Yes, my gorgeous honey and cinnamon granola shrivelled up and smoked after only 20 minutes. I am still getting used to a brand new stove and I never know what temperature to make my usually tried and true recipes. I really did try to salvage it but the cranberries were black and the whole thing made our yogurt taste burnt as well so I wasted yogurt, I wasted granola, got very angry and gave up on the whole thing. Tonight I am going to try again, underbaking this time, because I really don't think I like crunchy granola. As for the recipe, I use whatever nuts and dried fruit I have on hand. Just make sure the total amount of ingredients is the same or you will end up with an oily sticky mess.
Letters, Gourmet, November 2006. Adapted from Calle Ocho, New York city
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (I use a thick cut oat like Bob's Red Mill)
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
½ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup sliced almonds (1 oz)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (I used sunflower seeds)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup mild honey
Pinch cinnamonPinch salt
1 cup tart dried cherries
½ cup dried blueberries
½ cup dried pears (¼ inch dice)
½ cup diced dried apricots (¼ inch dice)
1/3 cup golden raisins
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together all ingredients in a large bowl until combined. Spread mixture evenly on a large (17-by 12-inch) shallow baking pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 15 minutes.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Musings on a Kitchen Aid

How I love my Kitchen Aid! Have I made that apparent yet? I don't know what it is about that sleek black machine but I could use it every day and never tire of it. When we were first registering for wedding gifts, Josh and I just assumed that we had to put one on the list. After all, how could I possibly bake with an inferior model? What could possibly whip my egg whites as frothy while at the same time being able to handle my doubled Cinnamon Bun dough? Ahhhh, the sweet sweet Kitchen Aid. This mixer is a triumph of machinery in every way. I know of people who will not buy one because of the price, but I am here to say that it is worth every single penny, and yes I am aware that they cost a huge amount of pennies. Just buy it in time for Christmas baking next year and I swear you will be in mad, passionate love.

The weekend is fast approaching and I am going to bake again because, surprisingly, I have learned restraint when it comes to cookie eating. It is time to tackle the mountain - and I mean mountain- of recipes I have printed off of the internet. I know I could fall back on my tried and trues, but if I don't get a handle on this stack soon, I will need a filing cabinet to house them - and there is no room for a filing cabinet in my apartment. Definitely not!

So the goal is to make Nutella cookies (I can't remember the blog I found this on. Speak up you!) as well as attempt to make the Apple Bundt Cake out of this months Bon Appetit. The cake is a bit of a toss up because it calls for grated apples and there is no way that I am grating 8 apples. So instead I am replacing the grating with unsweetened applesauce and I just hope that it sets up properly. Hmmmm....

Outside it is snowing and blowing and at least -25. Oh to be inside with my Kitchen Aid and a warm oven. Can it be the weekend now?