20 7 / 2012

You know when it’s just “one of those days?”  Those days when you’re pooped to the core, it’s raining, it’s muggy, and you’re just feeling blahhh?  Well, that’s today. When we were kids, a little ice cream or candy always did the trick and never failed to bring out a big old smile.  Here’s a good recipe for those days when you need a sugar rush-in a big kid type of way.

Dark Chocolate Cherry Sundae Cupcakes
This recipe is rich rich rich. Crazy rich chocolate! It’s also filled with boozey cherries. Here is how you begin.

  • 42 red cherries (ripe and sweet!), pitted and stems removed
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2c. sugar
  • 1/2c. water
  • 1/4c. kircshwasser (cherry brandy), or vodka

In a small pot, add the cherries, cloves, sugar, and water.  Bring to a rapid boil and then reduce the temperature. Let the mixture simmer for about 15-20minutes. There will be a lot of liquid left over, but this is okay!  You’re going to be using it.  Remove from heat and add the liquor.  Allow it to cool completely.

Next, make the cake. Start by pre-heating your open to 350 degrees.

Step 1

  • 2c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2c. dutch processed cocoa powder

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and make sure that they are combined well.

Step 2

  • 2/3c. light brown sugar
  • 3/4c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1c. sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons bourbon vanilla extract
  • 2/3c. of the cherry syrup you made earlier (only add the liquid, not the cherries!)
  • 6oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine the butter and light brown sugar and mix until well combined.  Then, add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.  Slowly add the dry ingredient mixture to the wet until the batter is nice and smooth.  Use an ice cream scooper to scoop the batter into lined muffin tins.  Pop in the oven for about 24 minutes. 

Step 3

After you’ve removed the cupcake from the oven and they , using a little brush, glaze the top of each cupcake with some of the cherry syrup you made earlier.  FYI let them cool off before you move any further!

Then, punch a hole in the top of each cupcake.  You can use a cupcake corer, but I like to use the flat back-end of a wine opener (sometimes in life-you learn to be frugal!).  Scoop the cherries you made earlier into the hole, making sure to fill it up the best you can.  Noms.  P.S. make sure that you don’t stick a clove inside the cupcake accidentally so that way no one will be in for a rude surprise!

Step 4

What you’ll need for the frosting:

  • 8oz. package of cream cheese at room temperature (the full fat version please. At this point, it’s utterly useless to try to save on calories)
  • 1/4c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 tablespoons of red cherry preserves
  • 2 1/2c. powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Cream the butter and cream cheese together. Slowly, add the powdered sugar, preferably 1/2 cup at a time until nice and fluffy.  Add the preserves and the extract and mix until completely combined.  In this muggy weather, your frosting might feel runny.  Instead of adding more sugar, just pop it in the fridge for a few minutes to stiffen it up.  Next time I make these, I’m going to try using an ice cream scoop to frost them with a more sundae-like effect. So, frost at your leisure and then top with a cherry! Bam. Done.

Hope this give you the little bit of sunshine you were looking for =) Enjoy!

~Isabella

21 5 / 2012

"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude." -Julia Child

Pictured above in my very first gum paste flower.  In the picture, the flower looks pur-dy but it did NOT start out that way. Let me tell you, it took me over two hours and several upside down petals to make one flower.  Everyone else in the class (mind you, they were actual pastry professionals) was able to chat away idly as their hands performed miracles that I could only dream of.  Anyways, that being said, awesome experience and I can’t believe that people make hundreds of these by hand.  This is likely to be my one and only flower and I am cool with that.  =) 

~Isabella

08 4 / 2012

htmlpoetry asked: I love your blog. :) x

Thank you! xoxo

08 4 / 2012

Today is a celebration of spring! Out with the old, in with the new.  A celebration of renewed life, sunshine, and blossoms. Here’s a little something refreshing to help you take this new step into warmer days: Infusions.

There are 3 types of liqueur pictured above.  Starting from the left we have: Pineapple and vodka, mango and rum, and passionfruit and pisco.  

Just in case:  

pis·co

  [pis-koh, pee-skoh]: a brandy made in Peru

How it’s done:
  • Pick a fruit and pick a type of liquor.  Citrusy fruits like pineapple, orange, key limes, etc. work best since we will allow them to soak for up to 3 months.  
  • Buy an air tight glass container (only glass, no plastic).  I found these jars at TJMaxx, Homegoods, and Michaels. 
  • Cut your fruit into relatively small chunks, but at least larger than 1in.x1in. Place fruit in jar and pour your choice of liquor over it.  Make sure that the fruit is completely covered by the liquid.  If it starts poking up and floating after a few days, just give the jar a shake or push the fruit back down, no biggie.
  • Place jar near a window where the sun can shine through it.  Let sit at least 2 months, and up to 3 months.
  • After three months, strain the liquid through a cheese cloth.  An old t-shirt works also.  Squeeze all of the liquid out of the fruit and discard pulp. Measure out how many cups of liquid you have.  Set aside.
  • Now, make your simple syrup.  Simple syrup is one part water to one part sugar.  In this recipe, you will add 1/3 (of the amount of the liquor) in simple syrup. For example, you have 6 cups of liquor.  Therefore, you will add 2 cups of simple syrup.  
  • In order to make simple syrup, put how ever many cups of sugar and water you need for your particular recipe in a saucepan.  For my recipe I needed approximately 4 cups of simple syrup.  Therefore, I added about 6 cups of water and 6 cups of sugar to my pot (because it will reduce).  Cook on high heat and until it comes to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Allow it to simmer until it reduces by about a third.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. 
  • Don’t stress out.  The amounts don’t need to be perfect.  It’s going to taste great no matter what so don’t fret too much about the exact amounts. Relax. 
  • Once the syrup is cool, add it to the fruit infused liquor and mix well.  Bottle in glass containers. Done. (Pictured: Pineapple Vodka)
  • Sweet, refreshing, delicious, cheap…all you need is a bit of patience.  But we all wait patiently for spring, don’t we?
Good Luck!
~Isabella

24 2 / 2012

It’s February.  Generally the coldest month of the year for us here in the mid-atlantic region. It’s the time for hot chocolate, sledding, sleeping in, fleece blankets, and mulled wine.  Today, it was 72 degrees.  Snow count for winter 2012 where I’m located: 0.2 inches.  Needless to say, nature seems ready for summer.  On the other hand, society is longing for a blizzard.  In this warmth, I’m longing for a snow cone…and my favorite mulled wine. Solution: Mulled Wine Granita in a dark chocolate cup.

"Granita": It can be best described as Italian ice, or shaved ice. 

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of sweet red wine or red table wine
  • juice of 1 orange as well as it’s rind (for the mulled wine and for garnish)
  • juice of 2 lemons as well as 1 rind for mulled wine
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6-8 whole cloves
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • chocolate chips (dark, milk, or white-you pick!  In this recipe I use the dark chocolate chips)
  • Fresh mint sprigs (for garnish)

Other supplies: chocolate molds for making chocolate cups (these can be found at art supply stores like Michael’s.  These cups are made of a thin rubber which allow the chocolate cups to be removed from the mold quite easily. 

Step 1: The mulled wine
In a large pot, add the bottle of wine, lemon juice, orange juice, lemon rind, 3/4 of the orange rind, cloves, cinnamon stick, and sugar.  Slowly, bring the mixture to a boil.  Once it is boiling, reduce to a simmer and allow it to simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. 

Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Once cooled, pour into a shallow, flat bottomed plastic container and pop it into the freezer until solid.

P.S. The mulled wine will make your home smell amazingly good.

Step 2: The cup

While the wine is in freezer, make the chocolate cups.  Melt the chocolate chips (I used half a bag for 4 cups, use more or less depending on the amount of cups you’re making).  Then, fill your mold with the melted chocolate.  Then, turn the mold upside down for the excess chocolate to empty out.  This will leave you with just enough chocolate to make your cup!  Set the cup aside until the chocolate is solid.  To quicken up the process you can put the mold in the fridge until the chocolate is solid.

Once the chocolate cup is solid, gentlyyyy peel back the mold taking care not to break the cup.  If you’re anything like me, it’ll drive you up the wall.  Set cups aside.  You’ll fill these with the granita once it’s ready to scoop!

Step 3: The garnish

For the garnish we will use fresh mint sprigs and flaked candied orange rind.  in order to make the candied rind, first make a small batch of simple syrup by adding 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water to a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for about 6 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Using a wooden spoon, gently dip each piece of rind into the simple syrup, and then immediately roll it around in granulated sugar.  Allow them to dry and you have a nice little garnish!

Step 4: Putting it all together

Now that the granita is fully frozen you’re ready to serve!  Using a table spoon, simply scrape the granita and place it into the chocolate cup until it’s full.  Garnish with a mint sprig and a flake of candied orange rind.  Super refreshing but yet keeps your soul in touch with winter. Enjoy! ^_^

~Isabella

15 2 / 2012

It’s mid-week and the day after Valentine’s Day.  Let me just say, yesterday was nuts.  People dashing frantically into grocery stores last minute to pick up roses and cheap chocolate like it’s the apocalypse.  Romantic, eh?  Anyways, being around all the hustle and bustle made me want to offer the poor souls a drink.  A chocolate-y, easy to make cure for the madness.  (drumroll) Rum Balls!

Bam!  So here’s how it’s done:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of dark rum (you can use any rum but I like the taste of the dark)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Box of Vanilla Wafers
  • 1/2 cup coarsely ground or chopped pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc.
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons of honey
  • 1 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • Toppings: extra cocoa powder, powdered sugar, jimmies/ sprinkles, white chocolate, dark chocolate, vanilla sugar, or whatever else your heart desires!

In all, this recipe takes about 20 minutes to complete:

  1. Toast the nuts in the over for extra flavor.  To do this, spread a thin layer on a cookie sheet and pop them in over on 375F for about 6 minutes. Set aside to cool, then chop by hand or give them a whirl in a food processor.
  2. Place the vanilla wafers in a food processor until they are finely ground.
  3. Sift the cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, and powdered sugar in a large bowl and add the rum and honey.  Mix well and then add the nuts and ground wafers.
  4. Mix well and then place mixture in the fridge for about an hour, or in the freezer for 15 minutes.  (I’m slightly impatient, so I took the freezer route) The mixture will look dry, but do not fear-it’s perfect!
  5. Taking the mixture between your palms, form balls.  If you shoot for about a 1 inch diameter, then you’ll come out with roughly 40 rum balls.
  6. Roll the balls in whichever coatings you choose! If you’re rolling them in chocolate, add a bit of butter while melting the chocolate for an easier to work with consistency. 
  7. Place the rum balls in mini cupcake liners for a nice finishing touch.  Then, pack them in an air tight container and leave them in the fridge over night…they get better with time!

And there’s your cure for Valentine’s Day madness.  Nothing like a little rum and chocolate to help ease anxiety. =)

Until next time,

Isabella

03 1 / 2012

For her birthday, my Mom said she wanted me to make Chestnut cupcakes.  Instantaneously, I wondered where in the world I would get chestnuts.  Lucky for this daughter, I found chestnuts at Trader Joe’s and also a can of Hero chestnut puree.  Voila! The hard part was over.

For this challenge, I decided to make a Vanilla cupcake with a chestnut puree filling and a vanilla buttercream to top as well as a candied chestnut to garnish.

1.)  I started by candying the chestnuts first.  There was no way I was going to roast them from scratch so I found some already roasted at Trader Joe’s.  

True candied/caramelized chestnuts are called “Marrons Glaces” and take several days to prepare.  We’re working on a bit of a time crunch here so this is the short way:

Candied Chestnuts with Rum 

-approx. 12 chestnuts, cut into fourths

-1 cup granulated sugar

-2 cups water

-1 tsp vanilla extract

-1/4 (ish) cup of rum

Start by making your simple syrup by adding the sugar and water to a pot.  Let the sugar dissolve.  In the meantime, cut the chestnuts into fourths.  As soon as you see that the sugar is dissolved, throw your chestnuts in there with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and allow them to simmer.  In about 30 minutes, you’ll see that the liquid has turned to a golden brown and that it has reduced a whole lot.  It should be thick and syrupy.  At this point, add your rum.  Again, let it keep simmering on low heat until it reduces.  Turn off the heat and allow them to cool.  They should be thick and sticky!

I’m not going to lie, I probably ate half of these in the process…

2.)  The Vanilla Cupcake

What you need:

The liquidy stuff

-1/2 cup of unsalted butter (1 stick) at room temperature

-1/2 cup sour cream (don’t try low fat)

-3 lg. eggs at room temperature (1 whole egg, 2 yolks)

-2 tsp. all natural vanilla extract

The dry stuff

-1 cup granulated sugar

-1/2 tsp. iodized salt

-1 1/3 cup flour (all-purpose)

-1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat your oven 350F.  Sift all the dry together in one bowl.  Mix all the liquidy ingredients in another bowl.  Using a hand mixer or a standing mixer, slowly add the dry mixture to the wet.  Scrape down the sides using a spatula every once in a while to make sure it’s all well integrated.  Line a cupcake tin with paper liners…I’d say this recipe makes about 18 cupcakes but I swear it never comes out the same every time.  After your mixture is nice and smooth, use an ice cream scooper to fill the liners.  Bake for about 22 minutes until the tops are golden brown.  If unsure, stick a toothpick in there and if it comes out clean they’re done!  Let them cool and remove from the tin as soon as they’re cool enough to handle.  

 

3.) When they’re cool, punch a hole in the middle.  You can buy these nifty little “cupcake corers” at the store, but the back of any cooking utensil works fine.  I use the flat handle-side of a bottle opener.  After you do that, take your:

-1 1/2 c. chestnut puree (buy it canned)

-1/2 c. heavy whipping cream

Using a mixer, combine these two ingredient until they’re well intregrated.  Using a piping bag, fill the cupcakes.  If you have a cookie press, that works just fine to get the filling inside of the cupcake also.  They should look kind of like this….

I took the liberty of drizzling some of the liquid from the candied chestnuts in there for extra flavor.

4.) Last Step: Vanilla Buttercream and garnish

What you’ll need:

-2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature

-4 cups powdered sugar

-1 tablespoon vanilla extract

-4 tablespoons of heavy cream

Beat the butter on medium until it is nice and fluffy.  Add the powdered sugar little by little and turn your mixer on low.  I like to add the powdered sugar in half a cup at a time so I don’t cause a blizzard of sugar in the kitchen.  Do this until the butter and sugar are fully combined.  Add the vanilla extract and heavy cream and mix on medium.  If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar.  If it’s too thick, add more heavy cream.  Don’t be afraid to play with it a little!

Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes using your favorite tip.  Garnish with a few pieces of your caramelized chestnuts (make sure they’re 100% cool!).  I also added some crushed meringues for a holiday “snow” effect.  =) 

The Final Product:

~Isabella