The Ultimate Cupcake

24 Mar

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Yes, I know its been awhile, and I do apologize to my readers. Things have been very busy on my side with my new job, however; now that I am finally back to my daily routine, I am going to start blogging again.

I haven’t had a chance to bake for awhile now, and on Friday I finally had the time, so I grabbed my apron, and started baking. What I didn’t know at the time was that what I would be making would turn out to be the most pleasing to the mouth cupcakes I have ever made.

I have this thing for cupcakes. I seriously love them, and love how creative you can get with each cupcake. If I were to have a cupcake everyday for the rest of my life I would be the happiest person on earth. They are my guilty pleasure, and I know we all have those guilty pleasure, for some it’s TV, others it’s steamy novels and for me, well it’s cupcakes. Funny I know, but there’s something about them that makes me smile!!

For awhile now, I have been in search for the a really great cupcake recipe. I have tried so many of them. And most of them come out dry, soggy or just not moist enough. Last month my cousin sent me this recipe, as she too has been looking for that perfect one. I was very hesitant to make them, thinking that this just might be a waste of time, they will for sure turn out dry, or hard. Trust me, I have made so really horrible cupcakes in my time maybe it’s me or maybe it’s the recipe, but i had yet to find ones that turn out so good. So as you can see by  this point, I had lost all hope in finding that perfect recipe. As I watched the cupcakes in the oven start to form, I thought to myself that if these turn out I will be the happiest person on earth (as you can see, it doesn’t take much to make me happy). Well the recipe was right, these are the ultimate cupcakes.

When they came out of the oven they were so soft. As I jump for joy, my husband was already putting his hand on them wanting to try one. Since he is my test taster for everything, I waited to see what he had to say. And sure enough, he said these were by the best cupcakes he has ever tried. I am not sure where she got this from, but whoever came up with recipe is a god sent.

So on that note, I am going to share the love and hope you do as well. With spring in the air, and Easter just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to get out those cupcake tins out and get your creative juices flowing, cause once you make these you wont want to stop!

Here are the two kinds that I made for Eaters. For the icing I just used regular buttercream icing and added little pink peeps to them and mini cadbury eggs.

The Ultimate Cupcakes.

Yield: 16 cupcakes

***I took out the vanilla bean part and just used pure vanilla instead.

  • 1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 3/4 cups (175 grams) cake flour, not self-rising
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) full-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup canola oil or vegetable oil (60 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon pure (not imitation) vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) whole milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. In a small bowl, combine sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean. (For those of you who are new to using vanilla beans, check out this video to learn how to get the seeds out of the bean.)
  3. Using the back of a spoon, move around the bowl and apply pressure to break up any clumps of seeds and to better infuse the vanilla flavor into the sugar. Set aside.
  4. In a medium-sized mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Add the vanilla bean sugar and mix until well combined.
  6. Add butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes.  Because there is so little butter, you’ll end up with a very fine crumb texture.
  7. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract until smooth.
  8. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.
  9. Slowly add milk and mix on low speed until just combined.  The batter will be liquid.  (Don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong.  It’s supposed to be that way.)
  10. Fill cupcake liners just over 1/2 full.
  11. Bake for 14 minutes and then test to see if they are done. They are done when a toothpick comes out without wet batter stuck to it.  The cupcakes should appear white with specks of vanilla bean. They should not turn a golden brown.  If they are not done, test again in two minutes.  If they are still not done, test again in another two minutes.
  12. When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the tins and leave them on a cooling rack (or just on your counter if you don’t own a cooling rack) to cool.

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Melt In Your Mouth Homemade Bread

20 Jan

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I feel like it’s been awhile since I last posted something. But to be honest, I haven’t been baking much over the past week. Sometimes life gets in the way of making that perfect cake, or wanting to make that perfect dish, when really all you feel like doing after work is going home and relaxing.

I have been taking a cake decorating class, so I have been busy making cakes to practice. I swear, once I get it right I will post pictures. I have perfected the chocolate, I know that much. Stay tuned cause next week I will have the recipe for that. It’s so moist that one piece is just not enough. However, my decorating skills are not all there yet but with lots of practice, I know I will get there. I’ll post pictures of my final cake next Sunday, hopefully it turns out the way I want it to.

This weekend, I decided to try a new bread recipe, sweet honey dinner rolls. This recipe is by far the best bread recipe I have tried. I was never a fan of making bread by hand. The dough never came out right, or my hands got tired of kneading the bread, but now that I have the dough hook for my kitchen aid mixer, it has become the quickest thing to make, and tastes so much better than store bought bread. But then again, isn’t everything?

Here is the recipe for this melt in your mouth bread. Trust me, if you have the time and have never made these before. I highly recommend trying it out, you will not be disappointed.

Yield: makes 3 dozen rolls

Ingredients (taken from I Wash You Dry Blog)

2 3/4 cups warm water (run hot water out of your tap)
1/4 cup honey
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup Butter Flavor Crisco ( I used regular Crisco)
1 1/2 tsp yeast
7 cups flour + more if needed
butter for brushing on top of rolls
Instructions

In the bowl of your stand mixer (fitted with your dough hook) add warm water, honey, salt and yeast. Stir it gently and let it sit for 5 minutes till the yeast activates and gets foamy.
Add the Crisco and one cup of flour at a time and mix until dough starts to form. Keep adding flour until the dough starts to pick up dough off the sides of the bowl and is not sticky when touched with your finger. Let your machine knead the dough for 15 minutes total.
Once it’s done kneading cover the bowl with a clean cloth towel and place in a warm spot (by a window or on top of the oven works) and let the dough rise for 1 hour.
After an hour punch down the dough and divide the dough into large golf ball size balls. Arrange about an inch apart on a baking sheet or casserole dish. Cover again with towel and leave in a warm place to rise for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Once the rolls have risen for the second time, place them in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove them from oven and immediately brush butter on the tops of the rolls.

Enjoy.

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Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread – Not Your Everyday Kind of Bread

4 Jan

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I’m on day 2 of work after being off for 12 days.  I am unsure about you but boy is it ever hard to get motivated. I find myself thinking about ways to never work again. The only solution I can come up with is winning the lotto max or 6/49 and living the life of leisure, however, who knows if that will ever happen so back to work I go and try to find my motivation. Thankfully, my job doesn’t require me to stay late or be in the office very early, so really I should not be complaining.

Last night I had dinner with my friend, for old-time sake we went to one of our back in the day favorite lounge. Back then it was the perfect spot to sit back enjoy a nice martini or glass of wine, and watch all the cougar try to pick up the young lawyers walking through the doors. After being closed for renovations for quite some time they had just opened up, so we decided to check out our favorite spot and see if it still had that magic touch. The atmosphere was the same, same people still hanging out there 7 years later; except, the decor was much better than before and the service seems a bit better as well. The food, on the other hand, was mediocre now. There was nothing great about it! It didn’t leave me with much of an impression to go back on. Being the foodie that I am, I think giving out sausages with cheese dip on a fancy platter really doesn’t call  for a $19.00 price range. I can just wait till stampede and get that for $5.00. But they did have something on their platter that inspired me to go home and cook. Again another sign of the food not being so magnificent, is going home to eat after you just spent a lot of money on what they call “food”.  All in all the company was great, and it’s always great to catch up with friends no matter where you are.

The restaurant had focaccia bread as part of their platter. It was a bit dry but still tasty. I figured it can’t be that hard to make bread. When I got home, I looked up a few recipes to make bread. Now before I continue, I must say, I have tried in the past to make bread, and it never comes out right, always hard, dry or the dough didn’t rise properly. Thankfully I married someone who is a rock star when it comes to making bread. There are very few men I know out there that make bread, but I got lucky found one that can (this made my mother happy I think). So after looking up a few recipes, I found one on Pinterest (surprise, surprise)…but it wasn’t focaccia bread, it was Parmesan cheese, pull apart bread. I thought for sure this might be a little much for me as I am not the best at making bread. But to my surprise it came out fantastic. Just goes to show, never doubt yourself on what you can do. Just because it turns out bad a few times, doesn’t mean you destined to never do that again, just means you need to keep at it. I now think my hubby may have some competition in the kitchen when it comes to making bread.

You can pretty much find this recipe anywhere on the internet, or make your own version of this bread. I think next time I make it I might add black olives and oregano to it. This is the easiest and most enjoyable bread you will make. Not only that, but isn’t fresh bread always better, plus it just melts in our mouth. There is nothing like the smell and taste of fresh bread right out of the oven. Serve hot and enjoy!!

Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread (source, Gourmet Italian Foods) 

(Yields 1 loaf)

For the bread:

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/3 cups barely warm water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups all purpose (or bread) flour

For the mixture:

1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the yeast and water, I also add in a little sugar to the yeast mixture, just a sprinkle. Let sit for 5 – 6  minutes until yeast is foamy.

Mix in the olive oil, salt, and flour. If you have a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and knead the dough for 5-6 minutes, or until elastic. If you are doing this by hand, knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until dough is elastic, 7-10 minutes. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until dough is doubled in size.
Punch down the dough. Tear off small pieces of dough (roughly the size of the bowl of a medium spoon), coat in the butter mixture, and place in the bottom of a bundt pan ( I used a loaf pan instead). Repeat this process until you have one layer of dough balls. Sprinkle on 1/3 of the Parmesan cheese. Continue layering the dough balls and cheese until you have enough layers. Cover the pan with a clean towel and allow to sit until dough has doubled in size, 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Cook bread for 25-30 min or until golden on the top.

Welcoming 2013 with a little splendid Italian pastry

1 Jan

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Welcome 2013!!!
I hope everyone’s holidays were wonderful. That you were surrounded by friends and family, enjoyed delicious holiday meals and treats till your hearts desired (or until you just couldn’t eat anymore). I know that’s what I did these past few days. Here’s to a new year, where hopefully this years resolution will happen or at the very least, last longer than a month. May you start 2013 feeling healthy and ready to take on what life tosses your way. Even if it’s a dessert here or there.

I know I haven’t written for a few weeks, but the holidays were a bit busy. I was too busy, skiing, sipping on coffee and baileys by the fire and enjoying time well spent with family in the mountains. Sounds rough, I know..but it was a blissful break from life and the everyday chaos that consumes my life.

2012 was a great year!! It was a year filled with wonderful memories, lots of love and laughter, and most of all it was the year of trying new things. Was taught how to ski, started this blog and for some strange reason I started knitting. Not sure how I got into knitting, but I find it is great way to relax. With the help of my mother in-law, knitting is coming along nicely. I wish I could say the same about skiing, but I’m sure it will get better with practice, that’s if I don’t break anything. I also signed up for professional decorating classes. I know I can make a good cake, but my decorating skills, or lack thereof, is driving me nuts. So what better way to learn, then to take a course.

Since today is the first day of 2013, I decided to do some baking. It’s the best way to start the new year, doing something you really enjoy.

Whenever I head home for the holidays, I always look forward to my moms cannolis. She pretty much nails it when it comes to making them. She makes her with ricotta, and I just savour them every time I go home. This year I decided that since I wasn’t going to be home to enjoy them, I was going to make them. They are by far the quickest and and most scrumptious dessert I have made. I also made them with homemade ricotta cheese, as like everything else, nothing tastes better than homemade cheese. The shells however, I did not make myself as I haven’t yet mastered that. I’m hoping if my mother ever makes her way out to Calgary she can show me the right way to do them. I picked up my shells from the Italian store and they are just as good and tasty.

To make these delightful little treats, I just mixed ricotta cheese and sugar till the the ricotta becomes nice and smooth. Because I am a chocoholic, I added chocolate chips to give it that little taste of chocolate. Once everything was mixed I then added them into the shells with a spoon, or you can use a pastry bag to fill the shells. Sprinkle some icing sugar on them and there you go!!! So simple, yet so good.

Cheers to 2013, here’s to a year of trying new recipes, mastering the ones you know, and sharing your treats with those around. Cause everyone loves a good cook.

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Cookie Exchange Fun

11 Dec

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Don’t you just love cookie exchanges!!! I love everything about them. The fun and creative cookies you can make for your friends and family is amazing. There are just so many type of cookies out there, and then there is the curiosity of what you get in return. Eekk, I can’t wait!!! It doesn’t take much to make me happy as you can tell. Not many people I know get excited over Christmas Cookie Exchange. My husband loves it..only due to the fact that I leave with these cookies and come home with a ton more. More for him to enjoy I guess.

I love that this year our office decided to do this, and not some sort of gift exchange. Don’t you just hate buying gifts for people that you’re not sure if they will take your joke gift seriously or not. Or the minute you open up your gift, you know it’s either going to be a regift or put in the closet till you forget about it, collecting dust. So cookie exchange just seemed like the perfect fit for our office. The only deal was you had to bake the cookies, no ifs and or buts..I especially like the fact that are a few non-bakers in our office that are pushing their limits and baking something. Whether they turn out or not (and I am sure they will all turn out), it’s really the effort they put in that pleases me.

I had decided to make Candy Cane Cookies. These were very easy to make and so much fun. I love having colour in my cookies. They are just prefect for the holiday, so festive and cute. The more festive the cookie, the less guilty I feel for eating so many. What makes these cookies so special you ask? It’s the candy cane kiss right in the middle. Makes them so scrumptious and magical. If you’re leaving cookies out for Santa, these would be the kind he wants to munch on…just make sure everyone else in bed first, or else there wont be any left for him.

How can you say no to cookies like these…Here is the recipe for these wonderful cookies.

Candy Cane Cookies

1 bag Hershey’s Kisses brand Candy Cane Kisses
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons milk
Red and Green colored sugar

Preheat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove wrappers from candies (approx. 35)

Beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and egg in large bowl until well blended. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add alternatively with milk to butter mixture, beating until well blended.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll in red and/or green colored sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8 – 1o minutes or until edges are lightly browned and cookies is set. Remove from oven; cool 2 to 3 minutes. Press candy piece into center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Yields approximately 35 cookies.

Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

Christmas Cookies Galore

9 Dec

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This weekend was all about the baking. With Christmas only a few weeks away, I had to finally buckle down and get baking. I managed to bake three types of cookies this weekend. Started Saturday afternoon and finally finished Sunday afternoon. I think of all the cookies I made this weekend, my favourite has to be the Christmas Crinkles. Who doesn’t love chocolate cookies.

The first batch of cookies I made were Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies. Lets think about this..Chocolate and Shortbread together….how can you go wrong on this? It just scream YUM!!
I found these the easiest to make. I love that you can be creative with these and put anything in the middle, jam, Nutella, chocolate, peanut butter..whatever your heart (or sweet tooth) desires. I find there are a few different types of recipes out there, but these are the easiest to make. This is a Martha Stewart recipe. I swear, what doesn’t this woman do??

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The second batch I made were Gingerbread Cookies. I’m not a big fan of these cookies, but I know my husband and his family enjoys them, so I made a small batch for them to enjoy as well. I’m pretty sure they will be the first ones gone. These were really quick to make, took about 10 min. for prep and 10 min for bake time. By the time I was done with these I was spent. I was done baking for the day.

This morning was a struggle getting out of bed. Who wants to leave the house when it’s -19C, -27 with the wind chill. But the Christmas shopping had to get done, or in my case, start it. Two weeks left and I just started my Christmas shopping. Yes, you can call me crazy. Now I have to deal with crabby mall shoppers who have all left their Christmas shopping to the end. The closer it gets to Christmas, the more men I see frantic on what to get their better half. It’s really funny to watch them. Asking random woman for advice, trying to figure out what perfume smells good and the best is when you see them trying to figure out sizes. I wonder if men have given up on all that and just go for the safety net…JEWELRY!! What girl doesn’t want that Christmas? Plus it’s the easiest thing for a guy to give as a gift. That’s probably why every store in the mall today that sold any type of jewelry was full of men. HA!!

After making my quick round through the mall, I came home and quickly started making one of my favourite cookies. Christmas Crinkles. These are so much fun to make and the chocolate cookies covered in powdered sugar makes them so decedent. To add a little fun to these, I added Hershey’s Cookies & Cream Chocolate in the centre. Seriously, you just can’t get enough of these cookies.

Here is a shot of my weekend baking. I love how my place just smells like a bakery.

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In between the baking and the cleaning, we did manager to sneak in a visit with some friends Diana, Jason and their adorable little boy Camilo. They have such a happy baby, just being around him melts my heart. For Christmas I wanted to get something that he could have with him on the plane as they are flying to Chile, so we got him a build a bear. Boy, the look on his face when he opened it up, reminded me of why I love Christmas so much. His eyes lit up as he smiled with delight, he couldn’t have been more happier to feel something so soft. Oh, how I love this time of year!!
Here is a little shot of baby Camilo…

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Yesterday was also my dads birthday. I called home ( or should I say Face Timed home) to wish him a happy birthday. My mom was as usual in the kitchen, and my dad was busy cleaning. The one thing that caught my eye when I talked to him, was seeing him so happy. I’m not sure if it was because he was enjoying the vacuuming or he was just in a happy mood. But I called at the right time! When you live far from home and don’t get to see your family often, knowing they’re happy puts a smile on my face and warmth in my heart. I know I couldn’t be there to help celebrate, but I was there in spirit!! Love ya dad!!! You truly are a wonderful father!! I’m so blessed to have a wonderful family, even if I don’t get to see them often.

Wicked Chicken Thursday

6 Dec

It’s been a long week and I feel like Friday should have been two days ago. Don’t you just hate weeks like this, where the days just drag on and on. Thankfully it’s almost Christmas and who doesn’t love this time of year. With the amount of goodies we get in our office, it just makes this time of year so much better. Don’t judge, but I have this profound love for chocolate in the morning. I look forward to getting into the office every morning as my breakfast is either, lady fingers, choice of cookies, chocolate or whatever other type of goodies is on our desk. If it contains chocolate, I’m eating it! It really is the most wonderful time of the year. It’s really the only time of the year you can get away with eating chocolate for breakfast.

My hubby is at a concert tonight, so I have the apt to myself. I had my whole night planned out tonight, I was going to come home and bake snickerdoodle, have dinner and enjoy the rest of the evening. But damn is it ever hard to find cinnamon chips in this city. I have searched high and low, either they are always out, or they don’t sell them. So if anyone knows where to get some, please, please, please let me know. Cause I am on a mission to make these!!!

I decided to make a dinner that he wouldn’t normally eat, and that is pretty hard, cause this man eats pretty much anything. So I decided to make balsamic chicken, with a side of asparagus and quinoa. I have to say, I have a new found love for quinoa..I have no idea why I am only discovering this now. I feel like I can eat it with anything. It is just that good!! If you haven’t tried yet, I highly recommend it. Go ahead try it, you will love it. TRUST ME!!! This dish turned out to be a great combo. The flavours combined made this the ultimate dish. I marinated the chicken in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic for 30 minutes as I was in a hurry to make dinner. Even though it was only 30 minutes, the chicken turned out so tender, it just fell off the bone. Next time I make this dish I will probably marinate it overnight.

Here is how my dinner turned out. This is why I called tonight, Wicked Chicken Thursday. For full details of this recipe click here.

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