Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cherry Chip Cupcakes with Cherry Vanilla Buttercream

I've been craving cherry chip cake for almost nine years.


The first (and only) time I had cherry chip cake before this week was on Valentine's Day in 2003. I was in ninth grade.

One of the most popular classes available for ninth graders to take is Leadership. Its popularity can probably be attributed to the fact that it's the only class in which you get to practice valuable leadership skills do everything that's fun about school and very little actual work. Students in leadership get to do things like read the morning announcements, plan assemblies, and sell Otis Spunkmeyer cookies and one-button "espresso" drinks at the student store.

You know, real leader-y things.


My friend Sarah and I were in Leadership. But we didn't get to do everything that's fun about school. Ohhh no. Instead, we were chosen to work on a project called

The Digital Portfolio.

Those three words were a black cloud over our entire ninth grade year. Instead of making posters and coming up with ways to humiliate people in front of the entire school (which is apparently the purpose of most junior high assemblies), Sarah and I got to do a whole bunch of actual work. Things like typing and uploading pictures and talking to teachers during lunch.

By January, The Digital Portfolio had all but taken away our will to live. We needed to work on something else.

That something else turned out to be Valentine Grams.


Valentine Grams were a lot more fun than The Digital Portfolio. We got to spend fourth period calling flower shops and party stores. We got to sit in the lunchroom and take orders during the week leading up to Valentine's Day. We got to match up the construction paper hearts our classmates had filled out with the roses, carnations, balloons, and boxes of Sweethearts they had ordered.

It was a lot of work, but we didn't mind. We were finally getting to do everything that's fun about school.

Until Valentine's Day actually arrived.


And we realized that we hadn't asked anyone to help us pass out the hundreds of Valentine Grams, all of which had to be delivered during first period.

And we had to deal with seventh graders chasing us down, demanding to know why their secret crush didn't receive the carnation/balloon/disgusting chalk candy they ordered.

And we had balloons popping in our faces and thorny roses pricking us. All. day. long.

And we certainly weren't the recipients of any romantic Valentine's Day gestures we might have been hoping for, which is heartbreaking enough when you're fifteen. Even when you aren't spending your whole day delivering other people's valentines.

After that ridiculous day was finally over, Sarah came to my house. We ordered pizza and made cherry chip cake out of a box, topped with cherry chip frosting out of a can.

I can't speak for Sarah, but at that point it was just about the best cake I'd ever eaten.


Cherry Chip Cupcakes with Cherry Vanilla Buttercream
Adapted from Sprinkle Bakes

2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup maraschino cherry juice
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 & 1/4 cups granulated sugar
10 ounce jar maraschino cherries, finely chopped
4 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 340°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, salt, and baking powder. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the milk, cherry juice, and almond extract.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter for about one minute at medium speed. Add the sugar and mix about one minute more. Add the flour mixture and the liquid mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until all ingredients are thoroughly combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

4. In a small bowl, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour over the chopped cherries. Stir until the cherries are coated and have absorbed most of the flour. Stir the cherries into the batter.

5. Fold the beaten egg whites into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups; each cup should be about 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center cupcake comes out clean and the tops spring back when pressed gently. Cool completely before frosting.

Cherry Vanilla Buttercream

3/4 cup unsalted butter
3 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 & 1/2 tablespoons whole milk
1-2 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice, to taste

Directions:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter for about one minute at medium speed. Add the powdered sugar and salt, and mix at low speed until the sugar is completely incorporated. Add the milk and cherry juice. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1-2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies


I made these brownies last Tuesday.

I wanted to tell you about them as soon as possible. Really. I wanted to tell you how easy they were to make. How they formed a perfectly thin and crackly crust on top. And how they tasted even more fudgy the second day.

But then it snowed.


Snow may be old news to most of the country, but we really can't handle it here in the Pacific Northwest. If people hear that there's even a chance of snow, you can bet they're in their cars on the way to the store to buy firewood, bottled water, matches, and rope.

On Wednesday, it snowed more than six inches. Which was followed by freezing rain. Which turned everything into ice. Which was followed by the power going out for two days.

In a word? Snowpocalypse.


And so it came to be that instead of telling you about triple chocolate fudge brownies, I was

not washing my hair for two days
sleeping in the fort Stephen built in our living room
charging my iPad at Safeway
sitting in the car outside of the AT&T store and stealing their wireless internet
watching hours of Prison Break on Netflix
judging all the people at Starbucks who were surfing the internet in their pajamas

But at least I had brownies, right?


Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies
Adapted from Baking Illustrated

5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or dutch-processed)
3 large eggs
1 & 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil and coat with nonstick spray.

2. Combine the semisweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and butter in a small microwaveable bowl. Heat in the microwave in 30-second intervals until melted completely, stirring after each interval. Whisk in the cocoa powder, and set aside to cool slightly.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt until thoroughly combined. Add the warm chocolate mixture, and whisk until smooth. Stir in the flour with a rubber spatula just until combined.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until the brownies are slightly puffed, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few sticky crumbs. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Marbled Peanut Butter Double Chocolate Chip Cookies


This wasn't supposed to be cheesy. It just happened.

As I've mentioned before, I plan out what I'm going to bake each week a few months at a time. Partially because I want to make sure that I plan for upcoming holidays/birthdays/etc., but mostly because I'm just obsessive that way.

After the holidays were over, I was really looking forward to trying some recipes that had been put on the back burner during The Time of Baking Only Things That Involve Cinnamon Or Pumpkin.


I needed two things as soon as possible.

1. yellow cake with fudge frosting
2. anything with chocolate and peanut butter in it

As I was making these cookies, I was thinking about how I really should have made something to celebrate Stephen's and my six-year anniversary, which happens to be this week.

(Six years?! I'm guessing we'll be notified of our common law marriage any day now.)

And then I realized.

Two separate cookies rolled together into one cookie. What could be more perfect? Slash completely cheesy.


But the unintended timeliness is just a bonus. These cookies are incredible. Soft, chewy, and intensely flavorful.

The best peanut butter cookie I've ever had + the best double chocolate chip cookie I've ever had.

And combined? They're a perfect match.

...Awww.


Marbled Peanut Butter Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
Inspired by Bakergirl & Adapted from Baking Illustrated

For the double chocolate chip cookie dough:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
28 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant coffee
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 & 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar

For the peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough:

2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup peanut butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup dry-roasted salted peanuts, finely ground
1 & 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Make the double chocolate chip cookie dough:

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
  • Measure out 16 ounces of the chocolate chips (about 2 & 2/3 cups) into a microwaveable container. Melt the chocolate by microwaving in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval.
  • Combine the eggs, vanilla, and instant coffee in a small bowl, and beat lightly with a fork.
  • Using a hand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed in a large bowl for about 1 minute. Add the sugars, and beat about one minute more. Gradually add the egg mixture and beat at low speed until fully incorporated into the butter and sugar.
  • Add the melted chocolate and beat at medium speed for about one minute. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix at low speed just until combined. Stir in the remaining 12 ounces of chocolate chips (about 2 cups) by hand.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
3. While the chocolate dough is resting, make the peanut butter chocolate chip dough:
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • Using a hand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed in a large bowl for about 1 minute. Add the sugars, and beat about two minutes more, or until light and fluffy.
  • Add the peanut butter and beat until incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add the vanilla, and mix until combined.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix at low speed just until combined. Gently stir in the ground peanuts and chocolate chips by hand.
4. To make marbled cookies: Scoop each dough into 1-ounce balls (rounded tablespoons). Take one ball of each dough, press them together, and roll them gently into a large ball with your hands. Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Place the balls onto the prepared cookie sheets about three inches apart and bake for 14-16 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. The cookies are done when the edges are set. The middles will look underbaked, but they will firm up as they cool. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. To bake each cookie dough separately: Scoop each dough into 1-ounce balls (rounded tablespoons). Place the balls onto the prepared baking sheets about two inches apart and bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. The cookies are done when the edges are set. The middles will look underbaked, but they will firm up as they cool. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets (the peanut butter cookies for about 5 minutes; the chocolate cookies for about 10 minutes) before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Peanut butter dough makes about 55 cookies; chocolate dough makes about 60 cookies.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy Birthday, 2012! Yellow Layer Cake with Fudge Frosting, Redux

Hello, 2012. I made you a cake.


Maybe you recognize it? I made the same cake last year for 2011 and failed miserably. The top layer slid completely off the bottom layer and the frosting was full of crumbs.

But it was so good. The best yellow cake with chocolate frosting I've ever had.

Because that cake was such a failure, my 2011 new year's resolution was to successfully assemble and frost a layer cake. Which I did!

Since I wanted to make a birthday cake for the new year again, I thought... why not give last year's cake another try? I'm more experienced now, and I know how to avoid all the things that went wrong last time.

I failed miserably. Again.

I realize now that it's not really my fault. Fudge frosting just isn't the right consistency to hold a layer cake together. It is, however, the right consistency for this:


But?

It's still the best yellow cake I've ever eaten. And the fudge frosting? It tastes exactly like fudge. Ridiculous.

But just so you know...

This is not the kind of cake you slice into perfect, tiny wedges and serve on expensive crystal dessert plates at a fancy brunch. There are other cakes for those occasions.

This is the kind of cake you slice into however-big-you-want wedges and eat on your couch with a glass of milk,

the kind of cake you eat to celebrate buying a car for the first time (!!!),


and the kind of cake you give to your dad in a Pyrex dish that he can take to work.


In other words? This is my kind of cake.

Yellow Layer Cake
Adapted from Baking Illustrated

1 & 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 & 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into 16 pieces

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and grease the parchment paper. Dust the pans with flour.

2. Whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl. Measure out one cup of this mixture and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3. Turn the mixer on at low speed and mix for about 30 seconds to blend the dry ingredients. With the mixer running, add the butter one piece at a time. Continue mixing until the butter and flour combine and form pea-sized lumps.

4. Add one cup of the egg mixture and continue mixing at low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for about one minute. With the mixer running, add the remaining egg mixture very slowly, and mix until incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Beat the batter at medium-high speed for about 15 seconds more.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: If you plan to use fudge frosting for this cake, I suggest making it as a sheet cake instead of a layer cake. To do this, pour the batter into a greased and floured 9x13-inch pan. Since I haven't tried this myself, I don't know exactly how long it will take to bake. I would start at 20 minutes and then check it every 2-3 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you want to make a layer cake, I would suggest using a chocolate buttercream instead of the fudge frosting.

Fudge Frosting
Adapted from Betty Crocker's Cookbook: Heart Health Edition

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the granulated sugar and cocoa powder. Add the milk, butter, corn syrup, and salt, and heat to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil for about three minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. Cool for 45 minutes.

2. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla to the cooled chocolate mixture, and whisk to combine.

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