Strawberry Cupcakes

I know I’ve been posting a lot of recipes lately, but I’ve been doing a lot of baking!  A friend wanted some strawberry cupcakes (also, some salted caramel cupcakes — yum yum) for a party she was going to.  I did some searching online and found the Sprinkles strawberry cupcake recipe.  I went to Sprinkles once before, mainly because of all the hype.  (I have shared before how I used to really not like cupcakes.)  I fell in love with their vanilla cake, but all the others were only okay, in my opinion.  They seemed a bit dry.

But in the interest of giving the benefit of the doubt, I thought I’d try it.  Well, they were fine.  They tasted alright, but again, were a bit dry.  So I took matters into my own hands and created my own!

I tend to think of baking in bases.  Have a good vanilla base?  Then you can add flavors to it to change it up.  Same with yellow cake, chocolate cake, etc. I basically took the same recipe as my Cookies & Cream cupcakes, but changed just a couple things.  And of course, omitted the cookies and added strawberries.

The frosting on top is to die for!  So go ahead, make this recipe, and thank me later. 🙂

Strawberry Cupcakes
Makes about 28 cupcakes.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1/3 cup strawberry puree
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 heaping cup strawberries, macerated and chopped

For the chopped strawberries:
First, take 1 heaping cup strawberries and hull and quarter them (or halve them, depending on size).  Place in a bowl and add enough sugar to coat them.  Let this sit for at least an hour (or as long as overnight) to macerate them.  (This means you are going to be making some delicious sugary strawberry juice!)  Once the strawberries are ready, place in a food processor and chop finely – but not so finely as to puree them.  Once they’re chopped, you’ll have finely chopped strawberries in strawberry juice.  (Resist the urge to eat it with a spoon.)

For the pureed strawberries:
Take about 2/3 cup strawberries and hull them.  Place in a food processor and grind them until pureed.  This should yield you about 1/3 cup of strawberry puree.  *Hint: Puree extra strawberries for the frosting.

For the cake:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flours, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.  Whisk and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Put 1/3 cup strawberry puree into a 1 cup liquid measuring cup.  Pour enough milk over the puree to fill mixture to 1 cup.  Mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Alternate mixing the flour mixture with the strawberry milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.  Blend until just combined, but do not overmix.

Take the chopped strawberries (juice and all) and fold them into the batter.

Line muffin tins with cupcake liners and fill 3/4 full.  Bake about 20 minutes, rotating half way through.

Strawberry Buttercream
2 sticks butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons pureed strawberries

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese.  Add in the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Gradually mix in the powdered sugar.  Add 3-4 tablespoons of pureed strawberries, until frosting is at desired consistency.  If frosting becomes too thin, just add a little more sugar.  Mix until all the powdered sugar is incorporated.

Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.  If you are not piping frosting, you can make 1/2 to 3/4 of this recipe.

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The Search for the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie

I know I have already made a post about my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.  But in the past week I have come upon two other recipes that looked and sounded delicious.  So, I knew I would have to make all three to figure out which one I liked best.  🙂

This was a difficult experiment, I tell you what.  Making a bunch of cookies and then eating one from each batch?  Soooo hard to do.

So, cookie #1 was from Jacque Torres.  (I actually made half the recipe and got 2 dozen large cookies.) It calls for bread flour and pastry flour, which gives it a crispy, yet tender texture.  It’s both chewy and soft, with tons of chocolate.  It calls for bittersweet, but I just used the semisweet chips I had on hand.  I actually even forgot to put in the salt and this cookie was still delicious.  I know it would’ve been even better with the salt.

Cookie #2 was from New York City’s Milk & Cookies Bakery.  It calls for old-fashioned oats, finely ground.  I could definitely tell there was oatmeal in this cookie by its texture, even though it was finely ground.  It also had a lot of chocolate, and I again used the semisweet chips.

Cookie #3 was my chocolate chip cookie recipe, but this time instead of milk chocolate chips, I got a block of milk chocolate from Whole Foods.  I made about a half cup of chocolate ribbons and then made a cup of milk chocolate chunks.  This meant that chocolate was all through the cookie (from the ribbons) and in big chunks, which were gooey and delicious.  The cookie was still sweet and soft, with slightly crispy edges.

My verdict?  I still LOVED my cookies, and with the changes in the chocolate, I loved them even more.  And I declare these the winner!!!

In second place, I’d give it to the Jacques Torres recipe.  Third place will be the Milk & Cookies recipe, mainly because of the oatmeal texture.  I’ve really only liked oatmeal in oatmeal raisin cookies and I just wasn’t as crazy about this cookie texture (though they were still good.)

What’s your favorite cookie recipe?  Any special methods you use in your cookies?

Also anyone want to come take all these chocolate chip cookies off my hands?

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Oh, my, are these delicious.  If I do say so myself.  And, of course, I’ve been super annoying to anyone who has tried them — “don’t you like them?”  “aren’t they delicious?”  “that frosting is so good, right?”  “did you know I made up that recipe myself?”

Clearly being humble is not my strong suit.

Also, imagine what I would be like if I regularly created my own recipes.  Yikes.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
Makes about 26 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup milk
15 Oreo cookies, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flours, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  Mix together with a whisk or fork and set aside.

In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and mix.

Mix the flour mixture into the dough, alternating with the milk.  Your flour mixture should be added in three parts and the milk should be added in two parts.  Begin and end with the flour mixture.

Fold in the chopped Oreos.

Place cupcake liners in your muffin pan and fill each cup about 2/3 full.  (I use the largest Pampered Chef scoop.)  Bake for 17-20 minutes, rotating halfway through for even baking.  Cool thoroughly before frosting.

Frosting for Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
(note: If piping on your cupcakes, use the full recipe as piping uses more frosting.  If spreading frosting on with an offset spatula, you could easily make half or 3/4 of this recipe.)

16 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 tablespoons butter (one stick), at room temperature
heaping 1/4 cup homemade Oreo cream filling (recipe to follow)
6-8 cups powdered sugar
Milk or heavy cream

Mix the cream cheese, butter, and cream filling until combined.  Slowly add in the powdered sugar.  (I use about 7 cups, but less would enhance the cream cheese flavor.  It’s what you like best!)  Add enough milk or heavy cream to thin it out a bit.

After frosting, top your cupcakes with some Oreo cookie crumbs and a full-size or mini Oreo.

Homemade Oreo Cream Filling
1/4 cup shortening (I know, ew.  But I use organic palm shortening which is actually a natural product.  Or you can just use Crisco.  Either way.)
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix all ingredients together with a stand or hand mixer until the consistency of Oreo cream filling.

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Celebrate Dad: Homemade Barbeque Sauce

Most of the guys I know are big fans of the grill.  They like cooking burgers, steak, brats, or pork and for some, barbeque is king.  So I thought it would be fun to make some homemade barbeque sauce!  This recipe is so easy (in fact, I had almost everything on hand) and you could give it with some new grill tools so Dad can make some delicious dinners all summer long.

I know that there is a lot of debate among barbeque lovers.  Some like vinegar based sauces, some like ketchup based sauces, others like no sauce.  Some like to baste while cooking, others like to cook their beef or pork in the sauce (this, I do not recommend), and still others like to serve it up on the side (my personal preference).  This sauce has both ketchup AND vinegar, so I’m hoping it will please all camps in the barbeque world.

Note: since I didn’t have enough ketchup, I lowered the amounts of all other ingredients by a little bit.  And, since I didn’t have Worcestershire sauce I omitted it altogether.  Still tasted great to me!

Use these Father’s Day labels from Martha Stewart to dress up your jar of sauce.

Neely’s Barbeque Sauce Recipe (source)
2 cups ketchup
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
5 tablespoons light brown sugar
5 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon ground mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients.  Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to simmer.  Cook uncovered, stirring frequently, for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Recipe claims you’ll get 3 1/2 cups.  Even if I had all the ingredients, I would bet I’d only get 2 cups.  Mine reduced a lot.

Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes

I’ve never been a huge fan of cupcakes.  Call me crazy, but I’d rather just eat a piece of cake.  But once I tried this recipe a little over a year ago, all that changed.  Though I still eat my cupcakes with a fork, like I would a piece of cake. 🙂  Just a little glimpse into the way my mind works.  Don’t stay too long; it could get scary!

Anyway, you’ll need:

The first thing you’re going to do is combine the cake flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.  Mix until these are combined.

Take your butter and make sure it is cut into cubes.  I usually cut 1 inch cubes and then cut those in half.

Mix just until all the butter is covered in flour.

In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together your milk, eggs, and vanilla.

Add the liquid to the flour/butter mixture.  Do this in three parts and mix until everything is combined, but do not over mix.  The batter will have lumps; don’t worry!

Fill the cupcake liners with the batter.  I actually overfilled mine a little, but fill them a bit more than halfway.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 18-25 minutes.  Since mine were fuller, they took 25 minutes.  The recipe says you’ll get 30 cupcakes; I got 23.

Once they were cooled, I took some homemade buttercream frosting (recipe here) and used a large piping tip to pipe the frosting.  I added some white sprinkles to them and …

DELISH!

Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes (source)
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Stir to combine.  Add butter and mix until just coated with flour.

In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla.  Add to the dry ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Beat until everything is incorporated, but do not overmix.

Scoop batter into cupcake liners and bake for 18-25 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Once cupcakes have cooled, frost the tops with buttercream frosting.  Add sprinkles if desired.

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Race Day Week: Lemon Bars

Well, here in Indianapolis we all have Indy 500 fever!  So I’ve decided to do a Race Day Week series with recipes you can use for your upcoming race day party.  (And if you don’t care about race day, these recipes are perfect for Memorial Day festivities as well!)

Monday: Appetizer – The Perfect Deviled Eggs
Tuesday: Entree – Pulled Pork
Wednesday: Sides – Easy Mac & Cheese and Baked Beans
Thursday: Desserts
Friday: Decor
Saturday: Bloggy Roundup – More Recipes and Ideas

This afternoon I’m featuring Ina Garten’s Lemon Bars.

You’ll need:

To start, go ahead and zest all your lemons.  You’ll need 2 tablespoons of lemon zest, which is about 4-6 lemons.

Zesting is shaving off the peel (the yummy part), but not going so far as to get the pith (the bitter part).  Your lemon should look something like this when it’s all zested.

Now we’ll go ahead and make the crust, since the hard part of the recipe is done.  (Maybe not hard, but a bit tedious.)

Cream some butter and sugar together.

Combine the flour and salt and mix with the butter and sugar.

Gather the dough into a ball and plop it right down in your greased pan.  A 9×13 baking pan or bar pan would be fine for these.  (The recipe actually calls for you to combine the dough on a well floured board before plopping it on your pan.  I found this step totally unnecessary.)

With your fingers, press the dough down and push up a 1/2 inch on all sides.

The recipe says to chill the dough.  Since I like to play it fast and loose with the term chill, I’m pretty sure I didn’t chill the dough.  I just baked it for 17-18 minutes at 350 degrees.

Once it was done baking, I let it sit for a little bit to cool down.

Now for the filling.

I would suggest juicing your lemons at this point.  You’ll need about a cup of juice.  You can get away with about 3/4 cup, though.  Not that I would know that.  Since I didn’t spill any of the juice on my countertop or anything.  Ahem.

Now whisk together the eggs and sugar (no one said this recipe was healthy!).  This recipe calls for 6 extra-large eggs.  Since I really only buy large eggs, I added about 3.5 tablespoons of water to supplement the liquid.  If you have a full cup of lemon juice, I wouldn’t worry about adding the water.

Then add the zest, juice, and flour.

Pour it over your crust and bake at 350 degrees F for about 35 minutes.

And when they’re set they’ll look like this:

Once they’re cool, sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top, cut into pieces, and serve on a platter.  (Or if you can’t resist, just eat straight out of the pan.  No one’s judging here.)

Lemon Bars (source)
Crust Ingredients:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 tsp. salt

Filling Ingredients:
6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Powdered sugar, for dusting the bars when done (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

For your crust, cream together the butter and sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Add to the butter/sugar mixture.  Form into a ball and press into a greased 9×13 baking pan, building up a 1/2 inch of crust on all sides.  Chill (if desired).

Bake for 15-20 minutes and let cool for a little bit.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, zest, juice, and flour.  Pour over the crust and bake for about 35 minutes.  Allow the bars to cool.  Dust with powdered sugar and cut into squares.

Come back tomorrow for some decor ideas for your race day party!

Race Day Week: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Well, here in Indianapolis we all have Indy 500 fever!  So I’ve decided to do a Race Day Week series with recipes you can use for your upcoming race day party.  (And if you don’t care about race day, these recipes are perfect for Memorial Day festivities as well!)

Monday: Appetizer – The Perfect Deviled Eggs
Tuesday: Entree – Pulled Pork
Wednesday: Sides – Easy Mac & Cheese and Baked Beans
Thursday: Desserts
Friday: Decor
Saturday: Bloggy Roundup – More Recipes and Ideas

I know what you’re thinking — chocolate chip cookies?  I can get a recipe from the back of my Toll House chocolate chips.  BUT WAIT.  Make these and you’ll thank me.  These could be the best chocolate chip cookies you ever ever ever eat.  Ever.

Ever.

(Also did I mention these are giant cookies?  Cause they are.)

What you’ll need:

(Please note that from here on out my pictures show a WHOLE LOT more ingredients than called for.  I was making 3 batches of cookies at one time; something I would not necessarily recommend, as I think it affected the outcome a little.  But I digress.)

Cream your butter for a bit and then add your brown and white sugars.

Then mix in your eggs and vanilla.

Then add in your flour, baking soda, and salt.

OK, I’ve been asked a couple times if I use special ingredients for these cookies, even asking if I’m loyal to specific brands.  The answer is no.  However, I do use finely ground sea salt in all my recipes.  I don’t really like regular table salt and I use it more for that reason, but if you need an idea of what I’m talking about I’ve included a picture.

Mix in your chocolate chips.  I use milk chocolate.  I am one of those weird people who has an overall aversion to plain dark chocolate.  Unless of course it is covering a Milky Way Midnight.  In which case, yes please, I’ll have another.

Using a large cookie scoop (I use the Pampered Chef version), scoop onto parchment lined baking sheets.  If you don’t currently use parchment in your baking, you should start.  I can’t sing its praises enough, simply for clean up reasons.

(For reference, the large scoop holds a heaping 1/8 cup of dough.)

I can fit about 6 cookies on a baking sheet at a time.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.

(I know.  It doesn’t seem like long enough, but it really gives the cookie the perfect texture.)

Let these cool on wire racks and then serve yourself a modest portion.

(I jest.  Maybe don’t eat 6 at a time.  4 would be more reasonable. 🙂 )

Now, if you want to take this dessert REALLY over the top?  Serve it up Diddy Riese style.

When I used to live in the Los Angeles area, my friends and I would occasionally drive down to UCLA and buy $1 custom ice cream cookie sandwiches from there.  (OK, now they’re $1.50, but who cares.)

Take an ice cream scoop and put a large scoop or two (at this point, who is really counting?) of ice cream on top of one of the cookies.

Take the other cookie and smoosh the ice cream down (technical term, no?).

Dig in!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
8-12 ounces milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream butter and sugars.  Add in eggs and vanilla.  Mix in flour, baking soda, and salt.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Take a large cookie scoop (heaping 1/8 cup) and drop onto a baking sheet.  Bake for 12 minutes.

Cool on wire racks and resist the urge to eat them all at once.

Stay tuned for another dessert recipe later today!

Somewhat Simple