Friday, February 25, 2011

Orange Creamsicle Cookies

A dear friend of mine came over today for lunch and cookbook browsing. She brought a delicious cauliflower chowder and I made Garlic Knots for dipping in the soup and these Orange Creamsicle Cookies. The food was delicious and we had a fabulous time!

These Orange Creamsicle Cookies were inspired by the Strawberry Cream Cheese Cookies I found at Espresso and Cream and made just before Valentine's Day. The strawberry version of these cookies were to die for and I immediately wanted to try an orange version. I imagined the cream cheese frosting when paired with an orange cookie would taste just like a creamsicle!

These cookies were almost as good as I imagined. I used Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Orange Supreme Cake Mix as the base for these cookies. The resulting cookie was a little more tart than I was imagining, but still really yummy! I think I preferred the strawberry version of these cookies a bit more than the orange but they were still delicious and I'm curious to try more variations. These are a easy treat to throw together and look super cute when decorated with sprinkles, colorful sugar, or edible pearls. With so many cake mix flavors available, the combinations for these cookies are pretty limitless.

Orange Creamsicle Cookies
inspired by and adapted from Espresso and Cream
makes ~2 dozen cookies

For the cookies:
1 box of Duncan Hines Orange Supreme Cake Mix
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Sift the cake mix into a large bowl. Add the lightly beaten egg, oil and water; stir by hand until the ingredients are evenly combined. Using a 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop the dough and roll between your hands to make a smooth ball. Set on a baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Lightly flatten the tops of the cookies.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until slightly cracked and very lightly golden around the edges. Be careful not to over bake. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for a minute or two, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:
8 oz. package cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon orange bakery emulsion (optional)
sprinkles for decorating (optional)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat until well combined. Add vanilla extract, orange bakery emulsion, if using, and milk. Beat until fully incorporated and frosting is smooth.

Using an offset spatula or a knife, spread frosting on top of cooled cookies. Immediately garnish with sprinkles. Frosting will be very soft at first, but will set up slightly (enough so that cookies may be lightly stacked) in a few hours. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for a few days.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Sometimes a song or an idea gets stuck in your head and lingers for weeks on end. In my case, I've been obsessed with malt flavored desserts since I made Chocolate Malt Cupcakes a few months back. I have quite a few malted treats on my to-bake list and among them was the idea for some strawberry malt cupcakes inspired by strawberry malt balls I found while shopping for some regular Whoppers. I didn't have any luck finding an existing strawberry malt cupcake recipe online, so my plan was to adapt a plain strawberry cupcake recipe to give it a hint of malt flavor.

Since I had never made any strawberry cupcakes before, I decided to start out by finding a plain strawberry cupcake I liked that I thought would work well with the addition of malted milk powder. The Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcake was my first strawberry cupcake to try. I chose to top mine with a strawberry version of my favorite basic cream cheese frosting. Unfortunately overall the hubby and I weren't totally in love with this cupcake. Despite only baking my cupcakes for 15 minutes they were on the dry side and lacked strawberry flavor. The frosting was okay, but oddly enough the cake masked the tangy flavor of the cream cheese that we love so much about this particular frosting recipe.

Despite receiving mixed reviews, I wanted so much to love these cupcakes. I thought the batter itself tasted divine and the cupcakes baked up so pretty--pale pink with perfect little domes. Honestly, I would be curious to try this recipe again in the future. I'd probably pull the cupcakes out of the oven before they were even fully set to hopefully keep them from drying out, and I'd likely try them as mini cupcakes to see if the smaller bite and larger cake to frosting ratio would aid in them not tasting so dry. I've been curious about using simple syrups to add flavor and moistness to cakes and if I could concoct a strawberry syrup for these cupcakes it could be the perfect thing to add a bit more flavor and much needed moisture.

All said, I don't think these cupcakes are exactly what I'm looking for to adapt into the strawberry malt cupcakes of my dreams. Perhaps with a little tweaking these could become the perfect strawberry cupcakes. I'll include the recipe below as I made the cupcakes, for those who are interested in giving them a try. I certainly can't compare them to any other strawberry cupcake recipes as they are the first I've baked (and really some of the only strawberry cupcakes I've ever tried). I do think they're quite cute, and as mini cupcakes could make a darling addition to a bridal or baby shower dessert spread.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
cake from Martha Stewart, frosting inspired by Milk and Honey Cafe
makes ~1 dozen

For the cupcakes

  • 2/3 cup whole fresh or frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature

  • 1/3 cup strawberry puree
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
    1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    1 cup sugar
    1 large egg, room temperature
    2 large egg whites, room temperature

    To make strawberry puree, start with approximately 2 cups fresh or frozen, thawed strawberries (I used frozen). Heat berries and a tablespoon or two of sugar in a small saucepan over low heat, mashing them with a potato masher or the back of a spoon. Cook the berries until they are very soft. Remove from heat and let cool. Blend the strawberries until smooth and strain to remove any large pieces.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.

    In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and 1/3 cup of the strawberry puree; set aside.

    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.

    With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.

    Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes (mine only took about 15 minutes). Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

    For the frosting
    8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
    1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    3-4 cups powdered sugar
    1/4 cup strawberry puree

    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until completely smooth. Add vanilla extract and beat until combined. Sift in 3 cups of powdered sugar until well incorporated and fluffy. Add strawberry puree and beat to combine. Taste frosting and check for consistency, if a sweeter flavor or thicker texture is desired, sift in an additional cup or more of powdered sugar, to taste.

    Frost cooled cupcakes and store in the refrigerator until 15 minutes or so before serving.*

    *Once my frosting had came together, it was still a bit runny to hold up well to piping. I chilled my frosting in the mixing bowl for about an hour, then beat it again briefly before frosting. If you aren't going to pipe your frosting, you could skip this extra chill without any problem.

    I used an Ateco 869 French star tip to frost these cupcakes.

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Cake Batter Pancakes

    From the moment I saw these Cake Batter Pancakes on How Sweet It Is, I knew I had to make them! I figured they'd be the perfect treat to start a Saturday morning and they certainly didn't disappoint.

    As Jessica suggests, I definitely had to do some tweaking to this recipe to get it just right. I ended up adding about 1/4 cup more cake batter and used about 1 3/4 cups milk in the pancake batter. I also choose to thin out the glaze considerably (I wanted something very thin and pourable and not too terribly sweet), using about 1/4 cup milk total. This recipe is all about personal preference; you decide how intense you'd like the cake flavor in your pancakes and how thick or think you'd prefer your glaze. I'd suggest using Jessica's recipe as a staring point and tweaking as you go to suit your tastes.

    The hubby and I enjoyed these pancakes by themselves for breakfast, but thought their sweetness would be best rounded out when served with a savory item or two. These pancakes have such a whimsical charm and they'd be perfect for a birthday breakfast or for feeding a bunch of hungry kids. If you're a fan of cake batter flavored treats, I most definitely recommend these pancakes!

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

    I've been shamefully absent from the blog lately. A few weeks ago I came down with the flu and as soon as I was feeling mostly like myself again, the hubby started getting sick as well. I've been in a general funk lately with all the cold and snow we've seen this winter and am desperately craving spring and sunshine! I'm longing for warmer weather and am daydreaming of so many little projects I'd like to tackle come spring. My mind's a flurry with recipes I'd like to try and improvements I'd like to do around our new home. I hope to get back on the blogging bandwagon so I can share them with you all!

    I was dying to bake something last night and had a difficult time choosing between a few recipes that I fortunately had ingredients on hand to try. Ultimately I decided to go with these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies because of their ease of preparation. I originally wanted to make these as an excuse to bake with some Reese's Mini's, but ultimately decided that another application would better to highlight their flavor (I'm thinking some peanut butter cup cheesecake bars are in my future).

    These blondies came together fast with little mess in my kitchen. The flavor was simple yet satisfying. I fed these to a room full of guys and they were quickly devoured. The taste and texture reminded me a lot of these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies I made last year, which is fantastic because those cookies were divine!

    If you're looking for a quick way to satisfy your peanut butter + chocolate cravings, I'm sure these will be a hit!

    Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies
    adapted from Smitten Kitchen
    makes 24 blondies

    2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
    1 3/4 cups sugar
    1 cup creamy peanut butter
    2 large eggs, plus 1 large yolk
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the middle of the oven. Butter a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan, then line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment.

    Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, then add peanut butter and beat until incorporated. Beat in whole eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low, then mix in flour and salt until just combined.

    Fold in chocolate chips, then spread batter in prepared pan, smoothing the top. (The batter will be thick, almost like cookie batter.)

    Bake until blondies are deep golden, puffed on top and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with some crumbs adhering, 40 to 45 minutes.

    Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours.* Remove from pan and cut into 24 squares.

    *The original recipe calls for the addition of a ganache topping, but I didn't have enough chocolate on hand nor the patience to wait for the bars to cool enough for the ganache to set properly. I removed mine from the pan, cut and served them after about 30 minutes of cooling time. They were cool enough to handle but the chocolate was still nice and melted. Perfect!
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