Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Baking Rewind

I'm sure you're all getting a little tired of my posts on baking, but I promise this is the third out of three. I can't end my baking series without sharing with you my new favorite cookie....

Before Christmas, we had a Christmas party at our house for some of Nate's co-workers. As usual, Nate made a ton of food and I decided to contribute by baking a couple of items. Item #1 was eggnog cupcakes, which I regrettably somehow have no pictures of. cry They were oh so yummy, for you eggnog lovers out there. Item #2 was Chocolate Toffee Cookies. Oh. my. gosh. Can you hear the angels singing? Just saying the name makes my mouth water.

The highlight of mixing these babies up was that I got to use our KitchenAid stand mixer for the first time... Beat batter for 5 minutes? No problem! Stirring in the toffee and nuts at the end did give my arm a bit of a workout, so don't think I got off unscathed.

One warning about this recipe, the dough is a bit sticky. I struggled a bit one the dough had been out of the refrigerator for a couple of batches, so I kept putting it back into the fridge in between. An option that was mentioned on the Smitten Kitchen blog where I got this recipe, was to do these as slice and bake cookies. I may give that a try next time.

The best part about this recipe? Well, besides the toffee, nuts, and chocolate....was that a bit of sea salt was sprinkled on the top of each cookie before baking. And chocolate and salt is a fab combo!

These came out warm and gooey and it was so hard not to immediately bite into one.

The toffee melts inside the cookie when baked and the cookies themselves are so chewy. And the salt on top....heaven!

And, even thought this recipe makes a lot of cookies, I would recommend making the whole batch. You won't be sorry. I had two ladies request the recipe after trying these, so here it is for you:

Just one piece of advice, be ready to exhibit some self control so you don't eat the entire batch!

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 3/4 cups (packed) brown sugar

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

5 1.4-ounce chocolate-covered English toffee bars (such as Heath), coarsely chopped

1 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped

Flaky sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl; whisk to blend. Stir chocolate and butter in top of double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Cool mixture to lukewarm.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in bowl until thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla.

Stir in flour mixture, then toffee and nuts. Chill batter until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Drop batter by spoonfuls onto sheets, spacing two inches apart. Sprinkle with a pinch of flaky sea salt, if you’re using it. Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Beer? In Cupcakes?

Yep, you read that correctly. I made cupcakes with beer in them. I wasn't sure what to think of it, but in the end I think the beer just added a bit of richness and moisture to the cupcake. There was no hint of bitterness at all....

I had come across this recipe sometime back reading Pinch My Salt, one of the food blogs I read on a regular basis. I was intrigued by the addition of Guinness to the chocolate cupcake recipe, so I bookmarked it for later. Well, with an extra can of Guinness leftover in our refrigerator from who knows what, I decided it was a sign. I was meant to try the cupcakes!

Most things in the recipe were rather normal. There was an addition of yogurt, which I assume was for some extra moisture and a bit of cinnamon, with which one can never go wrong. Basically, in the same process as the banana muffins, I mixed the wet ingredients together, I mixed the dry ingredients together, and I combined the two.

Into the oven they went, and they came out looking lovely.

A bit later after they had cooled, I whipped up the frosting. I thought it was a bit stiff, but in actuality, I think it could have been thicker. I used my new cookie press/decorator and I think it would have worked slightly better had the icing had a more firm consistency. However, after I got through icing a couple of cupcakes, I started to get better...

One of these days I'm going to be a real professional! wink These cupcakes were scrumptious. They were incredibly moist, with just the perfect amount of richness...and I could taste that tiny hint of cinnamon. And who doesn't love cream cheese frosting? I could have eaten the whole batch, so thankfully I shared them with my co-workers...two of whom commented on how good they were! biggrin

If you'd like to give them a shot yourself, here is the recipe. Happy baking!

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup plain, thick yogurt, at room temperature

6 oz. dark stout (I used Guinness), at room temperature

2 t. vanilla extract

1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa powder (I used regular unsweetened cocoa)

1 cup sugar

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line a 12-cup cupcake pan with cupcake papers; spray the whole thing, cupcake papers and all, with nonstick spray. Set aside.

3. Melt butter in microwave or on stovetop, then set aside.

4. In a large bowl, preferably with a pouring spout, whisk together eggs and yogurt. Add beer and vanilla whisk until well combined.

5. Sift all the dry ingredients together (cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking soda, and cinnamon) into a separate bowl.

6. Add about a third of the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and using a hand mixer, blend well. Add the rest of the flour mixture, a third at a time, mixing well after each addition. When all ingredients are blended, add the melted butter then continue mixing until very well combined.

7. Pour batter into the twelve cups, filling each only about 3/4 full.

8. Bake on center rack of the preheated 350 degree oven and for approximately 25 minutes.

9. When cupcakes are done (toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake will come out clean), remove the pan to a wire rack. Let cool for ten minutes then remove cupcakes from pan and let them cool completely on wire rack.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

4 cups powdered sugar

1/2 t. vanilla extract

Seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean that has been split and scraped

In a medium bowl, blend together cream cheese, butter, vanilla and vanilla bean seeds. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing well until it’s all incorporated. Use immediately. The frosting will harden in the fridge, so plan on bring it back to room temperature if you must refrigerate it before frosting the cupcakes.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Mmmm, mmmm....

Hello y'all! I got the chance to bake some yummy treats (for fun!) this weekend, so I thought I'd share my latest baking adventures with you. I got this nifty cupcake carrier for Christmas from my parents, so I thought, what better than to make one batch of muffins and one batch of cupcakes! biggrin Nate suggested I start putting out a tip jar in the break room at work next to my baked goodies...because my co-workers have got it made.... wink

I don't know about all of you, but when I have some over-ripe bananas, I toss them into the freezer with visions of baked banana bread in my future. Instead of banana bread this time, however, I decided to make Banana Crumb Muffins. My mom gave me this recipe from as part of my Christmas gift, so what better time to give it a try than the first time I use my cupcake carrier. Click the link above for the recipe, or here it is:

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease 10 muffin cups or line with muffin papers.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together 1.5 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping onto muffins.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

I began by preheating my oven, lining my muffin pan with muffin cups, and mixing the dry ingredients together, as the recipe states.

Then I peeled my black skinned bananas (ha!) and mixed those in with the wet ingredients.

Then I poured the wet mixture into the dry mixture, and wha-la!

Easy cheesy! Into the muffin cups they went... Then I mixed together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon (I added extra) and the butter. I ended up using the beaters from my hand mixer to cut in the butter, as I cannot find our pastry blender anywhere. Has anybody seen it? wink We re-org'ed our kitchen again over Christmas break, so I have a feeling it got lost in the shuffle.

Anyway, I sprinkled the topping over the muffin batter and put them into the oven straightaway...

I set the oven timer for the full 20 minutes, as our gas oven usually takes longer than recommended to cook things. However, when the 20 minutes was up, a toothpick inserted into the center came out clean. In fact, they were a bit brown around the edges, so I think I could have baked them the 18 minutes and they would have been perfect.

Regardless, they came out looking like this...

Big, fluffy muffins (now I know why the recipe recommends only making 10) and the crumb topping just looked scrumptious.

Of course I tried one (just one!). I love the crumb topping. I think this will definitely replace my traditional banana muffin recipe as my "go to." As I suspected, I think I cooked them a little too long, as the inside wasn't quite as moist as I had hoped. Not bad, by any means, but I'll keep a closer eye on them next time. Maybe it's the darker colored pan that made the difference.

Next up in my baking adventures, chocolate stout cupcakes...


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Years Eve

I'm so glad we decided not to be party poopers for New Years Eve this year! Nate and I wanted to get a group together to do something fun, however everyone we talked to seemed to be going out of town for New Years. What did we do? Well, we decided to do something just the two of us...

A dueling piano bar in St. Peters called The Jive and Wail was a having a New Years Eve party...appetizers, all you could drink, party favors and champagne at midnight. The best part (or so we thought)? It was close to us, so we took a taxi there and back so we didn't have to worry about driving.

We bought the more expensive tickets so we could have a reserved table, and I snapped these pictures shortly after we had gotten there.

And, of course, a festive photo of me Nate snapped early on...

You'll have to forgive the picture fuzziness from this point on. These were taken with my iPhone, which does not have a flash. It actually worked considerably well in the low light. Anyway, I digress...

The big coincidence of the evening, while I was waiting in line for the food pictured above, I ran into some friends of ours...Dan and Lauren. Dan worked for/with Nate for awhile sometime back. So ironically Nate and I went to the party just the two of us, but ended up hanging out with Dan, Lauren, and some of Lauren's family for the evening. We had a blast!

Here are Dan and Lauren...

And us...

Nate tried to snap a photo of lots of girls dancing on stage, but not much can be deciphered here...

This was actually a lighted image that was shining on one of the walls, pretty cool...

Then things start to get a little weird. I take this normal picture of Nate...

And then this follows shortly after. Uhh, what is going on??

He then proceeds to take this picture of me....nice aim, eh? (and no, I am not drunk, thank fact, I'll talk more about that in a minute)....

Finally, a self portrait at the end of the night....

So, as I mentioned, we had a really good time. My two beefs for the evening are as follows:

1. Drinks were not served fast enough. Since we had a reserved table, we actually were served drinks by a waitress the entire night. The problem is that by the time she took orders and got back to us, we had waited a long time. This isn't a bad thing when you're drinking straight vodka (Nate), however with gin & tonics (Kelley), this isn't ideal. Conclusion: I could have driven home at the end of the evening.

2. The taxi service on New Years Eve is riDICculous. Prescheduling a taxi to pick you up at the end of the night is not allowed. We proceeded to call for an hour prior to when we wanted to leave to several different taxi companies and all phones were either not picked up or busy. To call, one had to stand outside in the 20 degree WINDY weather and freeze. Brief periods of thawing happened when one would re-enter the bar and switch places with spouse. Then, we were all kicked out of the bar at 1:30 a.m. (Had been calling taxi's since 12:40 a.m.) So now we're both outside freezing to death, still trying to call a taxi, with no hope of warmth. Finally reach someone at about 1:50 a.m. Conclusion: I was FINE to drive. What the hell were we thinking??


Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Double Bind

I just finished a fantastic book, so I thought what better way to ring in the new year than to talk about it in a blog post! biggrin I have been quite absent lately, so I need to get things back in order in '09 with continuing our honeymoon narrative and keeping you posted on our everyday happenings. I did get an iPhone for Christmas which I'm loving, so now that I have the Internet at my fingertips 24/7, maybe I'll get better at posting. We'll see. wink

The book I just finished was called The Double Bind, by Chris Bohjalian. Talk about a page turner! The story was about a young woman, Laurel, who is attacked while riding her bicycle through Vermont's back roads. Formerly outgoing, Laurel withdraws into her photography, while spending all her free time at a homeless shelter as a social worker after graduating college. There she meets Bobbie Crocker, a man with a history of mental illness and a box of photographs he won't let anybody see. When Bobbie dies, Laurel discovers a deeply hidden secret. In a tale that has a strong connection with The Great Gatsby, it definitely left me speechless with it's sudden surprise ending.

By reading up on some of his other books, the author seems to pick somewhat controversial or "deep" topics and delve into them in his writing. Compelling, addictive....highly recommend! And you'll be seeing some of his other books on my wish list this year!!


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