Chocolate Bark

I love working with chocolate. The possibilities are endless, and let’s admit it, a chocolate drizzle makes everything better. Because I just love playing with chocolate so very much, I have 2 chocolate bark variations in this post. They are easy and fun to make, and if you need a last-minute “cookie” for a cookie swap or holiday party, these are always a big hit. Also, as far as DIY gifts go, these are pretty awesome. So make one, make them all, and for the love of my girlish figure, someone please come over and eat all of these!

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Before I get started on these beauties, let’s have a quick chat about melting chocolate. For these recipes and for melting chocolate in general, I recommend using baker’s chocolate or melting chips, rather than say a solid chocolate bar, or white chocolate chips. The reason for this is that I’ve been burned before, or more accurately I’ve burned chocolate before. A lot actually. It’s so easy to do. Especially white chocolate, so that’s why I recommend using a chocolate that is intended to be melted. Also, white chocolate can totally be a pain in the butt, and some white chocolates actually need some oil added to them, so really save your sanity and buy melting chips or baking chocolate, it melts nicely and nothing needs to be added to it.

Also, I do not like melting chocolate in the microwave. If this is your preferred method, you have my blessing, but if you, like myself, belive your microwave is an inconsistent appliance out to get you, set up a double boiler.  You don’t need any special equipment for this; all you need is a pot with about and inch or two of water in the bottom and a heat proof bowl that can put on top of the pot so that it receives the heat from the steam but is not directly in the pot.

Put the pot on your stove top and put on medium heat. Break up the chocolate you are melting into medium-small pieces. Set aside 1/4 of the amount and save for later. Put 3/4 of the chocolate in to the bowl resting on top of your pot.

Depending on the amount of chocolate you are melting and how large the pieces are, this could happen pretty quickly so keep a close eye on your chocolate. Stir the chocolate gently as it begins to melt. Once it is about 75% melted remove the bowl from the heat. Add the reserved un-melted chocolate and stir to combine for 30-60 seconds.

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Put the bowl back over the pot, and let the mixture continue to melt. Once the mixture is almost melted, but still has some small lumps, remove from the heat. Stir the chocolate until smooth.

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Melt your chocolate like that and you will not burn it, and it will be just lovely to work with.

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Christmas Bark with Cranberries and Pistachios

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz chocolate (any kind you like, white, milk, dark, etc)
  • 1/4 c pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c dried cranberries, roughly chopped*

*Don’t like cranberries? Try dried cherries, or freeze-dried strawberries

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Directions:

Melt the chocolate per the instructions above. Pour the melted chocolate onto a flat pan lined with parchment paper.

Spread the melted chocolate out to the desired thickness.

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Or using a large spoon dollop chocolate onto the parchment paper to form bite-size circles.

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While the chocolate is still warm top with the nuts and dried fruit.

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Allow the bark to cool and harden at room temperature.

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This will take some time, but if you put it in the fridge the chocolate will most likely bloom (bloom= unsightly white circles and dots will form on your chocolate). Once the chocolate has cooled completely cut up into smaller pieces (if desired).

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Aren’t these just lovely? So festive, I love it!

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Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz white chocolate
  • 8 oz dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup crushed candy canes

Directions:

First, melt the white chocolate and pour on to a flat pan lined with parchment paper. Spread the melted chocolate out to the desired thickness. Allow the white chocolate to cool and harden. Once the white chocolate is mostly dried, melt the dark chocolate, and pour on top of the white chocolate. While the dark chocolate is still warm sprinkle the candy canes on top.

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Allow the chocolate to cool and harden completely before cutting.


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Christmas Bark with Cranberries and Pistachios

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz chocolate (any kind you like, white, milk, dark, etc)
  • 1/4 c pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c dried cranberries, roughly chopped*

*Don’t like cranberries? Try dried cherries, or freeze-dried strawberries

Directions:

Melt the chocolate per the instructions above. Pour the melted chocolate onto a flat pan lined with parchment paper.

Spread the melted chocolate out to the desired thickness, or using a large spoon dollop chocolate onto the parchment paper to form bite-size circles.

While the chocolate is still warm top with the nuts and dried fruit. Allow the bark to cool and harden at room temperature. This will take some time, but if you put it in the fridge the chocolate will most likely bloom (bloom= unsightly white circles and dots will form on your chocolate). Once the chocolate has cooled completely cut up into smaller pieces (if desired).

 

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Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz white chocolate
  • 8 oz dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup crushed candy canes

Directions:

First, melt the white chocolate and pour on to a flat pan lined with parchment paper. Spread the melted chocolate out to the desired thickness. Allow the white chocolate to cool and harden.

Once the white chocolate is mostly dried, melt the dark chocolate, and pour on top of the white chocolate. While the dark chocolate is still warm sprinkle the candy canes on top.

Allow the chocolate to cool and harden completely before cutting.

Red Velvet Snowflake Cookies

 

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It’s the holiday season and I’m ready to get started on some holiday baking! Rather than make the same cookies every year, I wanted to make some new-to-me cookies this year. There are so many delicious cookies/dessert recipes that I’ve collected over the last year (thanks a lot Pinterest!) that it’s hard to choose which ones to make.

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Despite my growing list of cookies I want to make, these tasty little buggers were actually inspired by a recent trip to Panera. I saw a poster advertising these red velvet cookies, and I thought to myself, “I can make those!” I’ve made chocolate crinkle cookies in the past, but I was excited for the challenge of adapting the recipe to be a red velvet cookie. Unlike the chocolate crinkle cookies I’ve written about in the past (check out the original article here), these are a bit richer and much more chocolately. So, I hope you enjoy this recipe, honestly, they are so tasty you might want to eat them all yourself!

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Red Velvet Snowflake Cookies

Recipe adapted from Country Living

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 oz red food coloring
  • 1 1/4 c chocolate chips
  • 1 c confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together all the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt) in a small bowl and set aside. Next, using a mixer beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Then, add the brown and granulated sugar and beat until combined.

Add the eggs, vanilla extract, and red food coloring to the mixture and beat on a low speed until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl. Continue mixing until all ingredients are incorporated. Mixing on a low speed add the dry ingredients to the red mixture. Continue mixing until a soft dough forms. Lastly mix in the chocolate chips.

*For this next step I highly recommend wearing gloves to prevent getting dye on your hands.*

Put confectioner’s sugar in a medium sized bowl. Using a spoon or small cookie scoop, drop a small amount of dough into the bowl of confectioner’s sugar. With your hand, roll the dough around the bowl to form into a sphere (doesn’t have to be perfect) and generously coat in sugar.

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*Typically, I try to make 1 inch-1 1/2 inch balls, these cookies are pretty rich, so I generally don’t make them too big.*

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Place the sugar coated dough on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a baking mat, spacing the balls 1 inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies have puffed up slightly and have started to crack. After removing the cookies from the oven allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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This recipe makes just over 2 dozen cookies depending on size.

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Stay tuned, there are more holiday treats on the way!

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Red Velvet Snowflake Cookies

Recipe adapted from Country Living

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 oz red food coloring
  • 1 1/4 c chocolate chips
  • 1 c confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together all the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt) in a small bowl and set aside. Next, using a mixer beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Then, add the brown and granulated sugar and beat until combined.

Add the eggs, vanilla extract, and red food coloring to the mixture and beat on a low speed until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl. Continue mixing until all ingredients are incorporated.

Mixing on a low speed add the dry ingredients to the red mixture. Continue mixing until a soft dough forms. Lastly mix in the chocolate chips.

*For this next step I highly recommend wearing gloves to prevent getting dye on your hands.*

Put confectioner’s sugar in a medium sized bowl. Using a spoon or small cookie scoop, drop a small amount of dough into the bowl of confectioner’s sugar. With your hand, roll the dough around the bowl to form into a sphere (doesn’t have to be perfect) and generously coat in sugar.

*Typically, I try to make 1 inch-1 1/2 inch balls, these cookies are pretty rich, so I generally don’t make them too big.*

Place the sugar coated dough on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a baking mat, spacing the balls 1 inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies have puffed up slightly and have started to crack. After removing the cookies from the oven allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

This recipe makes just over 2 dozen cookies.

DIY Christmas Gifts Ideas: Part II

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Welcome to Part II of my DIY Christmas gift series. This is where I test out DIY Christmas gift ideas I would like to give this year and decide if the results are worthy of becoming Christmas presents.

In part I of this series I wrote about these simple and delicious cheddar cheese crackers. Check out the recipe here.

This week I’m going to test out a recipe I saw in the December issue of Cooking Light. I’m usually a big fan of this cooking magazine and I have to say this month’s issue is full of really great recipes. The recipe I’m going to show you is Intense Fruit Gelees (pronounced jellies). They are easy, delicious, and so very pretty!

Before I jump into this, a huge thanks to my mom and my sister, who not only helped me with making the gelees, but also agreed to be hand models for the post. Who knew, it was easier to take action shots when the one taking the pictures isn’t doing the action?

Intense Fruit Gelees

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine (click here to view the original recipe)

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Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup fruit concentrate*
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 (3-ounce) package liquid fruit pectin (such as Certo)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

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*A note on the fruit concentrate; Cooking Light suggested flavors such as tangerine, lemon, and pomegranate. They also recommended ordering some the puree or concentrate from www.perfectpuree.com. I used  grape juice concentrate and I think they turned out fabulous, and very rich in flavor. I am looking forward to experimenting with more flavors.

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After the ingredients have been gathered and the flavor of the gelee has been selected it’s time to prep the pan. Grab a loaf pan and line it with plastic wrap. Spray the plastic wrap with cooking spray.

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Next combine 1 1/4 cup sugar with the fruit concentrate, applesauce, and corn syrup in a large saucepan.

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Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer the temperature you’re looking for is 224 degrees F).

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After cooking the mixture for 10 minutes add the liquid pectin, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute stirring often.

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Remove the pot from the heat and pour in the lemon juice.

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Give it a stir.

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Then pour it into the prepared loaf pan.

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Tertius wants to know what’s going on up there and if he can have some.

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Let the mixture cool and then cover and let it sit overnight in room temperature. In the morning you have a delicious, gelatinous, fruity treat. Does that sound unappetizing? I promise these taste amazing, or as my sister put it; “It’s like a mini grape pie in my mouth.”

Now that the mixture is solidified, let’s cut them up!

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First, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on the top of the gelee.

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Next, tip your loaf pan upside down, the gelee will flop right out. Get rid of the plastic wrap. Then start slicing up the gelee. My sister recommends starting in the middle, then cutting in the middle of that half, followed by cutting down the middle of the two sections and so forth. Can ya’ dig it?

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They look pretty already!

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Next put the remaining sugar in a small bowl and slice the columns of gelees into cubes and toss into the sugar to evenly coat them. I suggest keeping the cubes on the small side, these are sweet, rich candies.

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The verdict: these rock! They are absolutely scrumptious and I will definitely be giving out little boxes of these as gifts this year.

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Intense Fruit Gelees

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup fruit concentrate*
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 (3-ounce) package liquid fruit pectin (such as Certo)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and spray with cooking spray. Next, combine 1 1/4 cup sugar with the fruit concentrate, apple sauce, and corn syrup in a large saucepan.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer the temperature you’re looking for is 224 degrees F).

After cooking the mixture for 10 minutes add the liquid pectin, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute stirring often. Remove the pot from the heat and pour in the lemon juice. Give it a stir. Then pour it into the prepared loaf pan.

Let the mixture cool and then cover and let it sit overnight at room temperature.

To de-mold and cut up; first, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on the top of the gelee. Put the remaining sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Next, tip your loaf pan upside down, the gelee will flop right out. Get rid of the plastic wrap. Then start slicing up the gelee into cubes. I suggest keeping the cubes on the small side, these are sweet, rich candies.

Toss the gelee cubes into the sugar to evenly coat them.

 

Homemade Caramel Corn

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Oh, caramel corn! Cue dramatic sigh. I love caramel corn! This is a childhood favorite of mine. My Nana used to make huge batches of this during the fall/winter and it brings back memories of watching football games at my Nana and Papa’s house where my Dad and Papa are yelling at the Buffalo Bills.

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My Nana was a huge influence on me growing up. Like myself, she loved cooking and baking. She especially loved candy making, and I remember the homemade peanut butter cups and turtles she used to make at Easter time. But that’s another story. My Nana had a huge collection of recipes, and over the next few months I hope to share a few more of my favorites from her collection. Here is her recipe for caramel corn.

Homemade Caramel Corn

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • 1 1/3 c unpopped corn kernels
  • 2 c nuts (optional)*
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 c brown sugar
  • 1 c butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 c light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt

*I used a combination of peanuts and walnuts but you can use any nuts you would like (or none at all).

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Directions:

First let’s get this popcorn popped. I find it’s easier to do this in two batches. Start with a large-sized pot and heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Heat until the oil is shiny and easily coats the bottom of the pan. When I say medium-low heat I mean somewhere between a 3-4 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest) Every stove is different, but I can tell you that if you have the temperature too high the kernels will pop very quickly and it will burn easily; if you have the temperature too low you will be waiting for the kernels to pop for a while. You know your stove top best, so adjust as needed.

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Add 2/3 c of corn kernels to the warm oil and stir with a wooden spoon so that the kernels are evenly coated and spread out over the base of the pot. Cover and let the kernels pop (aprox 10-12 minutes).

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Stay close to the pot, if you don’t hear any popping within a 4-5 second interval it’s time to take the pot off the heat. Once the kernels are all popped remove from heat. VERY CAREFULLY, using hot-pot-holders, firmly hold the lid down on the pot while you flip it over 2-3 times. This releases the steam from the popcorn. Next pour the popcorn into a large bowl.

Pick out any burned kernels and throw away.

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This will make 3 quarts of popped corn, so if you’re going for the whole 6 quarts repeat this process, if you are looking to only make a half batch stop here. If you make a half batch be sure to cut the measurements in half for the caramel sauce. I note this because, this is my Nana’s recipe. And it makes a lot. A whole lotta caramel corn.

Before we get the caramel sauce started, preheat the oven to 250 degrees, and spray 2 shallow pans with cooking spray. If you do not have large shallow pans I recommend foil roasting pans. Also, before starting the caramel sauce measure out the baking soda, set aside, and add the nuts to the bowl of popped corn.

Next, in a saucepan (large enough to hold 2 quarts), combine the brown sugar, butter, light corn syrup, and salt.

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Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and let the mixture boil for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Tip: if your hand gets too hot while stirring put a pot holder over your hand for while you stir.

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After boiling for 5 minutes the caramel should look something like this:

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Now comes the fun part! After the caramel sauce has boiled for 5 minutes remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble slightly, lighten in color, and the texture will become slightly fluffy. Pour the sauce over the popped corn. Working quickly using a slotted spoon, mix the caramel sauce over the kernels, it will start to cool and harden quickly.  Warning: this caramel sauce is hot, and it will make the bowl hot, so watch those fingers! Also note it’s helpful to have a lovely assistant present to hold the pan while you scrape the caramel sauce over the kernels. Distribute the sauce as evenly as possible over the popped corn and nuts. Then pour the mixture into the prepared shallow pans.

Bake for 25 minutes, remove the pans from the oven and stir the caramel corn. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes.

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After baking allow the caramel corn to cool slightly and then break into small pieces.

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Store in zip lock bags. Or large Fall-themed mugs.

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Don’t fret over the caramel sauce pot; some hot soapy water will dissolve the caramel in a jiff.

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Homemade Caramel Corn

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • 1 1/3 c unpopped corn kernels
  • 2 c nuts (optional)*
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 c brown sugar
  • 1 c butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 c light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt

*I used a combination of peanuts and walnuts but you can use any nuts you would like (or none at all).

Directions:

To pop the popcorn; I find it’s easier to do this in two batches. Start with a large-sized pot and heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Heat until the oil is shiny and easily coats the bottom of the pan. Add 2/3 c of corn kernels to the warm oil and stir with a wooden spoon so that the kernels are evenly coated and spread out over the base of the pot. Cover and let the kernels pop (aprox 10-12 minutes).

Stay close to the pot, if you don’t hear any popping within a 4-5 second interval it’s time to take the pot off the heat. Once the kernels are all popped remove from heat. VERY CAREFULLY, using hot-pot-holders, firmly hold the lid down on the pot while you flip it over 2-3 times. This releases the steam from the popcorn. Next pour the popcorn into a large bowl. Pick out any burned kernels and throw away.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees, and spray 2 shallow pans with cooking spray. If you do not have large shallow pans I recommend foil roasting pans. Also, before starting the caramel sauce measure out the baking soda, set aside, and add the nuts to the bowl of popped corn.

Next, in a saucepan (large enough to hold 2 quarts), combine the brown sugar, butter, light corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and let the mixture boil for 5 minutes stirring constantly.

After the caramel sauce has boiled for 5 minutes remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble slightly, lighten in color, and the texture will become slightly fluffy. Pour the sauce over the popped corn.

Working quickly, using a slotted spoon, mix the caramel sauce over the kernels, it will start to cool and harden quickly. Distribute the sauce as evenly as possible over the popped corn and nuts. Then pour the mixture into the prepared shallow pans. Bake for 25 minutes, remove the pans from the oven and stir the caramel corn. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes. After baking allow the caramel corn to cool slightly and then break into small pieces. Store in airtight containers or plastic bags.

Very Angry Cupcakes

This post has been sitting in my draft box for a couple of months, but better late than never! For Joe’s birthday this summer I threw him a surprise Angry Birds party.

The party was complete with a string of Angry Bird balloons I made,

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Stuffed Angry Birds to throw at the birthday boy…

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And of course, the best part, some very angry cupcakes!

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These cupcakes were a lot of fun to make!

I started with cutting up the candy to make the faces of my angry birds. I used licorice bits for the eyebrows and for the center of the eyes, small marshmallows for the whites of the eyes, the pig snouts and ears, and the bellies of the birds. I also used peach gummies for the beaks. I was able to cut everything up pretty easily with kitchen scissors.

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I frosted my cupcakes with colored buttercream frosting; in general I prefer to use gel food coloring rather than liquid because it results in deeper colors without changing the consistency of the frosting.

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I added sprinkles to the tops of the cupcakes to add some texture.

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From there I started to assemble the faces of the birds and pigs.

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The eyebrows are really what make these faces, observe; angry cupcakes,

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Concerned cupcakes.

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For the white chests I flattened marshmallows with the bottom of a cup and for the beaks I cut the peach flavored gummies into triangles.

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For the pigs’ ears and snouts I cut up the marshmallows and pressed the sticky sides into green sprinkles.

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And there you have it, some very angry cupcakes!

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How to Make Filled Cupcakes

This weekend I came across a cake recipe that I had to try out immediately. Actually thanks to Pintrest, I’m finding a lot of cake/baking projects I want to pursue, however my particular weakness for white cake got the best of me and about 20 minutes after finding this recipe I was in the kitchen gathering ingredients.

I tried this recipe from the food blog Sprinkle Bakes.

I have to say, they came out just perfect. For years now, when it came to white cake, I used my default betty Crocker recipe for Silver White Cake. I liked this new recipe better but not by much, both are outstanding recipes for white cake and I would recommend either.

Essentially there are two kinds of vanilla cake; either a gold vanilla cake, which gets its color from the egg yolks that go into the cake, or white cakes that retain their white color from a lack of yolks. Example; Funfetti is a type of white cake. If you like Funfetti these cake recipes are the ones to try. You shall not be disappointed.

Getting back to these cupcakes, I decided to make them filled cupcakes. Who would say no to these tasty cupcakes filled with a fruit filling? This technique is easier than it looks and is a fun way to add an extra twist to any cupcake.

To get started you need a batch of cupcakes completely cooled and a filling. In this particular example I made a simple fruit filling. To make a fruit filling simply pour 1 cup of frozen fruit (I used a mixed fruit blend) into a sauce pan, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar and cook on medium heat.

The idea is you want to cook down the fruit until it turns into a syrupy, jam-like mixture. This should take less than 10 minutes on the stove and give the mixture a stir every so often to make sure it’s not burning on the bottom Once the fruit is cooked down remove from the heat and place in the refrigerator to cool. Once the cupcakes and filling are both cool you’re ready to get started.

Using a knife cut into the top of your cupcake, cutting downwards. Do not cut all the way through the cupcake, cut about 2/3 of the way down. When cutting into the cupcake cut into the cupcake at an angle so forming a cone shape with the point towards the bottom of the cupcake and the wide part of the cone at the top of the cupcake. After making the circular cut, lift the cone-shaped center of the cake out of the cupcake with the knife.

Next cut most of the cone off of the center that was cut out leaving a small top.

Finally fill the cupcake with a small amount of filling. Be sure not to overfill.

Then top the cupcake with the small top that was cut off of the cone.

Voila, filled cupcakes!

Slather some of your favorite frosting on top, in my case that would be a cream cheese frosting, and eat immediately. Or share it with friends if you must.

I would not, however, recommend cutting a cupcake in half and spilling half of it on your windowsill as you try to photograph it in the remaining daylight.

Just saying. There’s no fixing a cupcake after it’s been spilled on a windowsill. The other half was still good though.

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It’s a Lovely Day for a Guinness

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Happy 3-days-’till-St. Patty’s-Day everyone! In celebration of this upcoming holiday I’m sharing my recipe for Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes.

This is a recipe I developed last spring when I was getting ready for Cupcake Camp Boston. The cupcakes were a big hit at the event and my co-workers enjoyed testing out the cupcakes as I worked on the recipe.

However, before I get started on this recipe, I want to take a second to talk about my mixer. The stand mixer that I had been using for the last few years died on me a couple of weeks ago. One of my roommates was using it to make pizza dough and it just stopped working and never turned back on. But do not frett, I have a back-up mixer! And no harm came to said roommate, because honestly, I knew the mixer was on it’s way out.

Behold my new-old Sunbeam mixer!

Ah yes, gaze upon it’s retro-lovlieness, it’s creamy avacado color. And check this out, the different mixing levels are labeled.

I got this fabulous new-old mixer from Mary, one of my coworkers from Pearson. Aside from my parents I believe Mary to be my # 1 fan. Thanks again, Mary for this fantastic mixer, I am so happy to have it!

Ok, onwards to the delicious Guinness cupcakes. This is pretty simple recipe, and yields 28 tasty, moist cupcakes. Here’s what you’ll need;

  • 1 bottle of Guinness (12 oz)-room temperature
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 c sour cream

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees and preparing cupcake pans with liners. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool slightly. The butter should be melted completely, but not piping hot. Next, in a small mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, combine the Guinness, melted butter, and vanilla extract.

Next add the eggs one at a time.

After the eggs, add the sour cream to the mixture, and mix until the ingriendents are thouroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Finally, add the dry ingredients to the batter 1/3 at a time.

Pour the batter into the lined cup pans and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pans and bake for another 10-12 minutes. The cupcakes are finished when they are slightly risen and domed, and set in the middle but still soft and tender.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting. I suggest using your favorite vanilla buttercream or a whipped cream frosting. And enjoy with a tall glass of Guinness. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of Guinness (12 oz)-room temperature
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 c sour cream

Directions:

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees and preparing cupcake pans with liners. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool slightly. The butter should be melted completely, but not piping hot.

Next, in a small mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, combine the Guinness, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Next add the eggs one at a time and mix to combine.

After the eggs, add the sour cream to the mixture, and mix until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Finally, add the dry ingredients to the batter 1/3 at a time.

Pour the batter into the lined cup pans and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pans and bake for another 10-12 minutes. The cupcakes are finished when they are slightly risen and domed, and set in the middle but still soft and tender.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with an Elegant Champagne Cake

*This article was originally posted on www.Somerville.Patch.com*

This cake is light and fluffy and infused with a rich champagne flavor

This elegant white cake has both an excellent flavor a light, fluffy texture—a perfect dessert to make for your Valentine. Though much champagne doesn’t go into making the cake, without any other flavors present it retains a lovely champagne flavor. The flavor is greatly effected by the kind of champagne selected. I recommend a sweet Moscato sparkling wine.

On the scale of cake textures, heavy cakes such as pound cake being on one end and super light, fluffy cakes such as angel food cake being on the opposite end, this cake falls towards the lighter end of the texture spectrum. This cake falls into the category of chiffon cakes, which are not quite as light as angel food cakes, but still very light in texture. What qualifies this cake as a chiffon cake is that the last step for making this cake is folding the batter into beaten egg whites.

The key to success with this cake is retaining as much air as possible during the mixing process. After adding the champagne to the batter, do not over mix; mix until all ingredients are just combined. This recipe also calls for sifting the dry ingredients onto a sheet of wax paper. This way, when it’s time to add the dry ingredients they can be added by simply picking up the piece of wax paper and pouring it into the bowl, rather than compressing the ingredients into a measuring cup.

The last step to this cake, which creates a light, fluffy texture, is gently folding whipped-up egg whites into the batter. When separating the eggs, be careful not to get any of the yolk into the whites. If there is any yolk present, the whites will not whip up because they will not whip up with the presence of any fat. Also, be sure to beat the egg whites in a metal mixing bowl, and when combining the egg whites with the batter, be sure to use a spatula to fold them in, rather than stirring them in with a spoon or whisk.

If you are feeling particularly caught up in the spirit of Valentine’s day add a few drops of red food coloring to the cake batter to create a soft pink hue to the cake.

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Champagne Cake
Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups white sugar

3/4 cup champagne (or sparkling wine of your choice)

6 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350 and generously grease an angel food cake pan or a bunt cake pan. Next, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper and set aside. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat together the butter on medium speed until the butter lightens in color and becomes slightly fluffy. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar and continue to beat until combined and the mixture has increased in volume by one third.

Lifting up the sheet of wax paper, pour one third of the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture and combine on a low speed with the mixer. Next, pour in half of the champagne. Continue to alternate between the dry ingredients on the wax paper and the champagne until combined. Be careful not to over-mix. Set the mixture aside.

In a separate metal mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand or stand mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold one third of the stiff egg whites into the cake batter. Once combined, continue to fold in the egg whites in one third at a time. Be careful to use a folding technique so that the cake retains a light and fluffy texture when baked, do not stir in with a spoon or whisk.

Pour the batter into the greased cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. The top of the cake will be golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean when the cake is finished. After the cake has finished baking, invert the pan on a sturdy glass. If you do not invert the cake during the cooling process the cake with “fall” or become condensed, rather than airy and fluffy.

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One Step Italian Meringue Frosting
Ingredients

3 egg whites, at room temperature

1 cup, plus 2 Tbsp sugar

3 Tbsp cold water

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

In a medium sized saucepan, bring 3 inches of water to a gentle simmer. Combine all the ingredients in a large metal bowl. Place the bowl over the saucepan and using a hand mixer, beat together the ingredients on a low speed for 5 minutes.

Increase the speed to high and beat for 4 more minutes, or until the mixture has become very thick and shiny. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat for an additional 4 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Once the champagne cake has cooled completely, remove from the cake pan and frost with the meringue. Serve immediately.

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A Tasty Trio of Christmas Cookies

*This article was originally posted on www.Somerville.Patch.com*

Three cookie recipes that are sure to impress any crowd at any party or serve as the perfect last minute gift.

‘Tis the season of frantic gift shopping, decking the halls, and of course, holiday baking! As we get down to the wire on holiday baking, here are three cookie recipes that are sure to impress any crowd at any party or serve as the perfect last minute gift.

Before getting started here’s a quick kitchen tune-up to make sure you’re ready to go:

  • After selecting the recipe, read through it carefully to make sure you have any equipment needed.
  • Take stock of the ingredients and make a thorough list of what you need to buy and what you already have—there’s nothing worse that taking extra trips to the store this time of year!
  • Are the ingredients you have relatively fresh? Some ingredients (such as spices or sprinkles) are ok to sit on your shelf for a while, but others, such as baking soda or brown sugar, can actually become stale.
  • If your baking soda or baking powder has been on your shelf for more than a year, replace it.
  • When you’re ready to start baking, begin by wiping down all the surfaces you will be working on in the kitchen and getting out all the ingredients and equipment that is needed.
  • Read the recipe all the way through one more time before starting.

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Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

Ingredients
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/2 c creamy peanut butter
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Hershey Kisses to top cookies

Using a stand or hand mixer beat together the butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until well combined. Next add the egg to the mixture. Stop the mixer to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon). Once all the ingredients have been combined chill the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

After the dough has been chilled preheat the oven to 375. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 8-10 minutes. After taking the cookies out of the oven place a Hershey Kiss in the center of the cookie while still warm.

Yields about 3 dozen cookies.

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Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Ingredients
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz. unsweetened baker’s chocolate, melted
2 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c confectioner’s sugar

Using a stand or hand mixer beat together the eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla until well combined. Next add the melted chocolate to the mixture. Stop the mixer to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

Slowly add in the flour and baking powder. Once all the ingredients have been combined chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

After the dough has chilled preheat the oven to 375. Pour the confectioner’s sugar into a medium-sized bowl. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and generously coat in confectioner’s sugar by rolling the dough balls in the bowl of sugar. Place the dough 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes.

Yields about 3 dozen cookies.

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Peppermint Swirl Cookies

Ingredients
3 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c granulated sugar
1/2 c butter
1 egg, beaten
Red food coloring
Green food coloring
2 tsp mint extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

To create a tri-colored, swirled effect the dough needs to be made in three batches. In a bowl beat 1 egg until it is frothy and the yolk and white are combined. Using a measuring cup, separate the egg into 3 equal parts (to be used for each batch).

To make the first batch start by sifting together 1 cup of the flour and 2/3 teaspoon of baking powder, in a medium sized mixing bowl. Next, using a stand or hand mixer, in a separate bowl beat together 1/3 cup of sugar and 5 1/3 tablespoons of butter.

Once the butter and sugar are combined add one of the parts of beaten egg that was set aside and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the dough and mix just until the ingredients are combined. Scrape the dough out onto a sheet of wax paper and set aside.

For the second and third batches of dough follow the instructions in the paragraphs above with the following exceptions;

For the red dough; after mixing in the egg add drops of red food coloring until the desired shade of red is achieved. Instead of vanilla extract use 1 teaspoon of mint extract.

For the green dough; after mixing in the egg add drops of red food coloring until the desired shade of green is achieved. Instead of vanilla extract use 1 teaspoon of mint extract.

Once all three batches of dough have been made it is time to roll them out. Starting with the vanilla dough, roll out the dough so that it stays on the sheet of wax paper. The dough should be rolled out so that it is longer and in an oval or rectangular shape about 1/8 of an inch thick. Set the vanilla dough aside.

Next roll out the red or green dough in between two sheets of wax paper into a similar shape as the vanilla dough. After rolling out the colored dough remove one of the sheets of wax paper and place the dough on top of the vanilla dough. Remove the remaining layer of wax paper.

Repeat this step for the other batch of colored dough so that you have all three rolled out and on top of each other. Keeping the dough in one sheet of wax paper, roll the dough into a narrow log to create the spiral effect of the three colors. Chill in the freezer for 1 hour.

After the dough has been chilled preheat the oven to 350. Take the sheet of wax paper off of the log of dough and place on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife slice the log of dough into cookies that are 1/4 inch thick and place 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Yields about 3 dozen cookies.

Holiday Recipe: Cake Balls

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*This article was originally posted on www.Somerville.Patch.com*

These trendy, bite-sized desserts are easy to make great for holiday parties.

It feels like cake balls and cake pops have been appearing everywhere lately. These small servings of cake that have been dipped in chocolate are even available at Starbucks now. As it turns out, these adorable treats are actually not so hard to make at home!

They can be made with any cake recipe (from scratch or box), an easy cream-cheese frosting to hold the cake together, and melted chocolate. Cake balls also can be decorated in any which way or left in just a coating of melted chocolate.

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Cake Balls

Ingredients

1box of cake mix

8 ounces cream cheese (not reduced fat)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 bag of chocolate chips

In a well greased 9×13 pan bake your favorite cake. Whether it’s your grandma’s fudge cake or fun-fetti, any cake will do. I selected a red velvet cake for this batch. After the cake is finished baking and a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean, cover the cake with a dish towel and put on a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cake cools whip up some cream cheese frosting. The frosting will be used to hold the cake together and give it its shape. Using a stand or hand mixer beat together the cream cheese and butter. Once the two are well combined turn your mixer on low and slowly add the confectioner’s sugar. Stop the mixer to scrape the sides of the bowl, and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then turn the mixer on medium-high and beat for 2-3 minutes.

Once the cake is completely cooled and your frosting is ready it’s time to turn your sheet cake into balls of cake. Cut the cake into four equal sections and put one section into a large mixing bowl. Using a fork shred the section of cake until it is completely crumbled. Continue to do this one fourth at a time until the entire cake is crumbled finely.

Next, add the prepared frosting to the bowl of cake crumbs. Using a fork work the frosting into the crumbs until the cake and frosting are combined. Even if you are using a chocolate cake, the frosting will eventually blend into the cake. Using a small ice cream scoop to measure, roll the crumbs into balls that are 1 ½ inches in diameter and place on a baking sheet. Finally, put the sheet of cake balls into the freezer for 1 hour.

After the cake balls have been in the freezer for an hour it’s time to coat the cake in chocolate. To prepare the chocolate coating you’ll need to melt a bag of chocolate chips over a double boiler. Fill a medium sized sauce pan with 2 inches of water and place the half of the chocolate chips in a high-heat friendly bowl.

Put the bowl on top of the sauce pan, the bowl should be well above the water. Turn on the burner to medium heat and stir the chocolate as it melts. Using a double boiler (versus melting the chocolate in the microwave) is better for melting chocolate because it allows you to control the temperature.

Sometimes when chocolate is being melted it gets hot too quickly and turns into a thick and pasty texture, this is called breaking. If the chocolate starts to break remove your chocolate from heat and stir in either a splash (very small amount) of milk or vegetable oil and gently work it into the chocolate. This will smooth out the texture.

Next, coat the cake balls by putting one cake ball into the melted chocolate and gently covering using a spoon and fork to maneuver the cake ball in chocolate. Once evenly coated place the cake ball on the baking sheet. If you are topping the cake ball with any decorations, do so before the chocolate hardens. Topping suggestions: sprinkles, crushed candy canes, melted white chocolate, or chopped nuts.