Thursday, March 31, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins with Cinnamon Crumb Topping


I made muffins. With fruit in them.

And then I realized how out of place these muffins were going to feel in my recipe index next to the peanut butter cup cookies and the chewy brownies and the best chocolate chip cookies ever. How could they possibly compete? They'd be forced to hang out in the healthy section with the peanut butter and jelly muffins and the banana bread. Social suicide.

So I decided to help these muffins up their game a bit. I added some Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips (because we all know how far a little name-dropping can get you) and topped them off with a cinnamon brown sugar crumble. Accessories are a must.

If you think about it, it's just like the movie She's All That. Just think of me as Zack Siler's sister, and you'll see. Exactly the same.


Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins with Cinnamon Crumb Topping
Adapted from Chocolate & Tea and Bake or Break

For the muffins:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened and cubed
1 large egg
3 large bananas, mashed
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 & 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips

For the crumb topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer. Add the egg, bananas, yogurt, and vanilla extract. Continue mixing with the electric mixer until fully combined. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing just until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Divide the batter among the muffins cups, filling each cup completely.

5. Prepare the crumb topping by stirring together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Cut in the butter with a fork or pastry blender until the mixture forms large, moist clumps. Top each muffin with about 2 tablespoons of the mixture, lightly pressing it into the batter.

6. Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center muffin comes out clean and the topping is golden brown.. Allow the muffins to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. As you probably guessed, I tried to eat one right away. It was good, but not as good as the second one I tried 30 minutes later. For some reason, these have a strange texture when they first come out of the oven and need to sit for awhile to become achieve a "muffin-y" texture.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cup Cookies


I'm sorry, is that confusing? Let me break it down.

Start with peanut butter cookie dough. Hopefully you won't eat all of it before you get to step two. It was a close call for me.

The chocolate chips come next. Bonus points if you use miniature ones. You'll have the perfect amount of chocolate in every bite.

Here's where things take a turn for the best. You know how to scoop cookie dough into little balls and place them on baking sheets, right? Well, go ahead and do that with about half of the cookie dough. THEN. Then. A full-sized Reese's Peanut Butter Cup (see also: crack) goes on top of each ball of dough.


Guess where the rest of the cookie dough goes?


After you're done contemplating the wisdom of eating one of these raw, put them in the oven. Just be warned that you're going to be dealing with this when they come out:


This recipe is supposed to make twelve cookies. I only ended up with eight, which quickly turned into six once they came out of the oven. So, let's not think about what that means for my hips.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
Adapted from Recipe Girl

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup miniature chocolate chips
8-12 full-sized Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Place the butter and peanut butter in a medium bowl. Cream for about one minute with an electric hand mixer. Add the sugars, and cream about one minute more, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the egg, and continue mixing until light and fluffy, about thirty seconds.

3. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix at low speed just until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula.

4. Scoop the dough into balls about one to two tablespoons in size. Place the dough on the baking sheets about three to four inches apart. Press each ball of dough down with a fork. Top each ball of dough with a peanut butter cup, then place another ball of dough on top of each peanut butter cup and press down with a fork. Shape the dough around the peanut butter cups, covering them as much as possible. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown and almost set.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hostess Cupcakes


The evidence is mounting that I may, in fact, still be 8 years old.

I pack my lunch for work in a children's lunch box. It's pink and green, and it has a matching water bottle that clips onto the side. There's even a space to write my name on the back. Be jealous, first graders.


Goldfish crackers, frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts, cinnamon graham crackers, peanut butter sandwiches, and kiddie protein bars are staples in my diet. Okay, maybe not the strawberry Pop-Tarts, but I do keep a box of them in my cupboard. You never know when the craving will strike.


I watch Boy Meets World every night during my workout, and Up, Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, and Despicable Me are some of the better movies I've seen recently.

Also, I don't like chocolate ganache.

There, I said it. My tastes are not sophisticated. I would rather have sweet, creamy milk chocolate than fancy dark chocolate.

I've been so excited to make these knock-off Hostess cupcakes ever since I first saw them on Bake at 350. And don't get me wrong, I think they're about 85% delicious. The cake and the marshmallow filling are iresistible. But the ganache is just dark enough that it shattered my hopes that these cupcakes would taste just like the ones I remember from when I was actually eight years old. You know, those delicious little pillows of enriched bleached wheat flour, high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil? Delish.

So don't let my unrefined tastes deter you from trying this recipe. After all, they're super cute, and I'm sure real adults will love them, ganache and all.


Hostess Cupcakes
Adapted from Bake at 350

For the cake:

1 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 & 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs

For the filling:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup marshmallow creme

For the ganache:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the icing:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

This recipe has quite a few components and steps involved, so I highly recommend measuring everything out ahead of time. Make the cupcakes first, and while they're baking and cooling, prepare the filling and the icing. Wait to make the ganache until you're actually ready to frost the cupcakes because the ganache will stiffen if it sits for too long.

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.

2. Prepare the cupcakes. Bring the sugar and 1 cup of water to a boil in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Pour the warm sugar water into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the chocolate and butter, and allow the chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally. Once the chocolate is completely melted and slightly cooled, stir in the vanilla.

3. Add the eggs one at a time with the mixer at medium speed. Once the eggs are incorporated, reduce the mixer to stir and add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Continue mixing on stir until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated, then increase the speed to medium and mix for about 30 seconds.

4. Fill each cupcake liner with approximately 1/4 cup of batter. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean. The cupcakes will look sunken in the middle, but they will puff up when the filling is added. Cool the cupcakes in the pans for about 15 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. For the filling, cream the butter for about 1 minute in an electric mixer at medium speed. Reduce the speed to stir, and add about half of the powdered sugar. Once most of the powdered sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla and 1 tablespoon heavy cream. Increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth. Reduce the speed to stir and alternately add the remaining powdered sugar and heavy cream. Increase the speed to medium and add the marshmallow creme, mixing for about 1 minute.

6. For the icing, cream the butter and vanilla for about 1 minute in an electric mixer at medium speed. Reduce the speed to stir, and add the powdered sugar. Mix until most of the powdered sugar is incorporated, then add the milk. Increase the speed to medium and mix for about 1 minute, or until smooth.

7. For the ganache, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the heavy cream and butter just until boiling, then pour the cream over the chocolate. Let the chocolate and cream stand for 3-5 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Stir in the vanilla, and allow to cool slightly.

8. To assemble: Spoon the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Insert the tip into the center of each cupcake, and fill until the top of the cupcake puffs up a bit. Be careful not to overfill. Spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of ganache onto each cupcake and spread with a knife or the back of a spoon. Chill for about 10 minutes. Spoon the icing into a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip, and pipe onto the cupcakes to decorate.

Store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cinna-Buns


Are you aware of the existence of mall walkers?

You know--people who wake up early and go the mall to exercise before it opens? It's a real thing. And while I've never actually witnessed this phenomenon, I have to assume that these people wear nylon jumpsuits, neon sweatbands and New Balance tennis shoes. I'm also pretty sure that they have Pat Benatar and Def Leppard on their workout playlists.

Although I don't see myself ever partaking in this particular form of exercise, I actually have quite a bit of respect for mall walkers. I mean, just think how many times they must walk past Cinnabon. If I were a mall walker, I would walk past Cinnabon exactly zero times. Who cares if I came to the mall to exercise? Suddenly I can think of 53 reasons why I deserve to eat a cinnamon roll instead.


Since I'm not a mall walker, I skip the exercise altogether and move straight to the cinnamon rolls. I've made cinnamon rolls once before, but the recipe I followed this time promised a Cinnabon-esque result. And it did not disappoint. The intensity of the filling pairs perfectly with the sweet, creamy frosting, and the pastry almost seems to melt in your mouth.

The most difficult part of this recipe is waiting for the dough to rise, but I promise you the end result is worth the wait. Just know that you might end up eating two cinnamon rolls in one sitting, and if this happens multiple times, you might actually consider becoming a mall-walker to shed the extra pounds that will inevitably adhere themselves to your hips and thighs.

It's a vicious cycle.


Cinna-Buns
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Dough:
8 ounces lukewarm milk
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup (2-5/8 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed
4-1/2 cups (19-1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1-3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup (3-1/2 ounces) sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

Filling:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Icing:
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer, and mix on low with the paddle attachment until a cohesive dough forms. Switch to the dough hook, and knead the dough for 4-7 minutes at medium speed. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise for 60 minutes, until it's nearly doubled in size. (My dough didn't rise much at this point, but the rolls still puffed up when they baked).

2. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and roll it into a 16 by 21-inch rectangle. Spread the butter evenly over the dough. Combine the cinnamon and brown sugar, and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the dough. Lightly press the mixture into the dough with your fingertips.

3. Starting with one of the short ends of the rectangle, roll the dough into a log as tightly as possible. Cut the log into 12 slices with a sharp knife. Arrange the slices in a lightly greased 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 30 minutes. (Again, my rolls didn't rise much during this step).

4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and bake the rolls for 15-17 minutes or until golden brown. While the rolls are baking, prepare the icing. Cream the butter and cream cheese for about 1 minute in an electric mixer at medium speed. Add the vanilla and beat 30 seconds more. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium and beat 1-2 minutes.

5. Spread the icing on the cinnamon rolls while they are still warm, and serve immediately.