Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mini Pineapple Turn That Frown Upside Down Cakes!

These were made on a whim to cheer up my Mamy who was having a bad day. I'm actually the one having a bad day today, but unfortunately these little babies won't be able to cheer me up because 1) they contain milk products, and 2) they have already been finished off! Oh well, at least I know they tasted good!

As you can see, there's a box of pre-packaged cake mix. Cut me some slack, this was a last minute goody decision! There's also some mini pineapple-banana juices that I bought for myself, but ended up not liking. I decided to put them to good use, except I didn't. I had enough reserve pineapple juice in the cans of pineapple rings. There's also a bottle of water. That's not part of the recipe, I'm just always thirsty (no, I do not have diabetes! The 2 are not correlational!). Not pictured: cupcake tins. You'll need those! 

I began my sweet little creation by pressing the pineapple rings into the bottom of each cupcake tin. I could have easily baked the cupcakes and then topped them with a ring, but what's the fun in doing things the easy way?! Instead, I made a mixture of butter and brown sugar to act as a sort of "glue" and then cut the rings to fit each tin. Yes, this was a bit tedious at first, but it actually got fun! I turned it into a game of seeing whether I could estimate the right amount to cut off. Yes, I am a major dork. After that was nice and settled, I made the cake mix. Instead of using the designated water in the mix, I replaced it with reserved pineapple juice in order to enhance the taste of pineapple in the cupcakes. 

After they finished baking, these little darlings proved to be a bit of a hassle for me! I wanted to take them out of the tins immediately since they were based on pineapple rings. The stickiness of the materials at the bottom of the tins made it difficult for the cupcakes to come out properly when I overturned the tray. Eventually, I managed to get them to cooperate with me and was able to place them all on cooling racks. While they cooked, I placed a maraschino cherry in each center.

Voila! How cute are they? They look like little rays of sunshine :). They were a big hit at the shop too! I can't even tell you how many "Oh my God"'s I received! Just wait until they see next week's treat ;). Anyways, the moral of the story is, these are a quick and (fairly) easy recipe sure to brighten someone's day. Who doesn't like golden delicious treats?!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sweetheart Chocolate Cupcakes!

I hate Valentine's Day about as much as I love Christmas. It's pretty serious. You can call me bitter all you want, but I'm really not. I just haven't experienced a happy one yet. I've literally either had a lonely or outright BAD Valentine's Day for as long as I can remember. But I can still get in the spirit of things and, therefore, I present you with simply sweet chocolate Valentine's Day cupcakes! Okay, honestly, my mom just asked me to make cupcakes for the shop, but at least I put some effort and creativity into it! 

The Magnolia Bakery came to my aid once again, except this time I used their chocolate cupcake recipe (which can be found here: I then spread a generous amount of fluffy strawberry icing on the cupcakes, topped them with a mixture of red and purple sparkly "cupcake pixie dust", and a strawberry heart made by cutting a strawberry in half (lengthwise) and making a triangular indentation at the top. These were definitely sweet looking and tasting! 

Homemade Pizza!

Before I developed milk allergies, my favorite food in the whole world was pizza. I could literally eat half a pie myself. Granted, I don't believe anything but cheese and sauce should top a pizza, but still. Since I don't actually drink milk itself, pizza was the hardest thing I had to say good-bye to :(. But my brother makes one amazing homemade pizza that my parents are always gushing about and I couldn't let him have all the glory, so I decided to try making my own variation of pizza! It was actually really fun to make because you have to let the pizza dough configuration set and rise for quite a while until it's ready to be baked. It was cool to see how this ball of mush grew. I felt like I was watching my baby grow up! Not really, but it was still pretty cool. 

So let me start from the beginning. I got to work with 2 ingredients I'd never used before: active dry yeast and bread flour. I read bread flour and was SO confused! I called my brother, "Tata, how in the world do I make bread flour?!" .. "Uhhh, dude, you buy it." .. "Ohhh!". I'm a spaz. A very smart spaz, but a spaz nonetheless. First I had to place the active dry yeast in a measuring cup and mix it with water. I let it sit in a warm enough area until it become frothy. In the meantime, I mixed the bread flour with salt and made a hole in the center (no, don't think doughnut this time, it was just a well). I added 1 olive oil, the reserved yeast mixture, and warm water, and then mixed it all together with a wooden spoon until it formed a smooth dough. I kneaded the dough on a floured surface - make sure it's floured or you're going to have sticky hands! I then returned the dough to the bowl, covered it with plastic wrap, and let it rise until it doubled in size. 

What did I do while I waited? Who knows, I was so bored I forgot. 

After about 30-40 minutes, it finally grew. It's aliiiiiive! Anyways, I stretched the dough out with my hands and placed it on our pizza stone (yup, we have a pizza stone, how cool is that?!). It was kind of a mission to spread it because it's not exactly the most cooperative form of dough I've ever worked with, but highly satisfying once I won and it had to succumb to it's circular mold. Muahaha. 

For the topping, I placed a can of crushed tomatoes, garlic cloves, dried basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large skillet and let it simmer in order to allow the sauce to thicken. Then I stirred in the tomato paste and let it cool slightly. Once it was ready, I spread it evenly over the pizza base and topped it with a plethora of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. My family are cheese fiends. 

I made half of it regular, the other half supreme cause I'm supremely awesome like that ;). I baked the pizza for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Actually, I probably left it a little longer because Mamy likes the crust to be real crispy. Not only was it real crispy, but it was real yummy too, from what I heard and saw .. more like, didn't see actually, because there was nothing left!

Buon Appetito! ;)

Easter Basket Cupcakes!

I remember this was one of the first treats I actually went out of my way to make. I had been telling my mom for about a month already that I was going to make the dessert for Easter (a carrot cake which I will post the recipe for later) and then I decided to include a group of special cupcakes. My mom had asked me to make a batch of basic cupcakes for the shop so I saved 6 (one for each of us here at home - this was before I developed my lactose intolerance) for me to decorate here. Naturally, I chose the 6 roundest, plumpest cupcakes. These cupcakes were also made from pre-packaged cake mix, so the main focus here is the decorating. 

I gathered my materials throughout the week leading up to Easter. I bought a pack of chocolate bunnies (wrapped in colorful foil depicting a bunny in detail), a bag of jellybeans (one of my 3 favorite kinds of candies!), a bag of Sweet Tart chicks, and a pack of strawberry Sour Patch straws. Those were nearly impossible to find! I knew I had seen them somewhere, but they weren't at Publix, CVS, WalMart, or Target. I had even succumbed to checking Winn-Dixie (I hate Winn-Dixie, it always smells funny). I finally checked Blockbuster and there they were! Yes, I went to Blockbuster with the sole purpose of buying a pack of Sour Patch straws. The guy at the checkout counter thought I was just as weird. Now I realize I could have easily used Twizzlers but, hey, you live you learn, right? 

This time I did dye the icing green. I slathered a generous amount of icing onto each cupcake and topped them with my sparkly green "cupcake pixie dust" (shh!). I then inserted each end of a Sour Patch straw into each side of the cupcake and proceeded to decorate them with the rest of the candy goodies. Like I've mentioned, I am a perfectionist. So each cupcake had 3 jellybeans - one pink, one orange, and one yellow - to represent Easter eggs and a blue Sweet Tart chick. The chocolate bunnies, still covered in their foil, were placed on the remaining area of the cupcake to make the finishing touch on my Easter bunny cupcakes! 

Since it was a special occasion, we ate at the dining room table and I placed a cupcake at each setting for decorative purposes. It was adorable :). PS - remove foil before eating chocolate bunny ;).

Peanut Butter Fudge Thumbprint Cookies!

I. Love. Peanut. Butter! It's healthy, but probably not at the level I love it. I don't like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches - I like eating it straight from the jar, like ice cream. I mean, come on. Creamy deliciousness named after a Disney character?! That pretty much equals heaven to me. 

I had to get rid of it somehow, before I ate the whole freaken jar! So I decided to take a classic "thumbprint cookie" recipe and make it a little nutty :).  I basically used a package of refrigerated, pre-made sugar cookie dough (although making sugar cookies is super fun, but I needed something quick and easy), 1/2 cup of peanut butter (R.I.P. jar of heaven), and a bag of Hershey's milk chocolate kisses. I kneaded the sugar cookie dough and peanut butter until they swirled; this was an ooey gooey mess! Good stuff :). Instead of using a cookie sheet where it's so difficult to mold cookies to a desired shape, I used a cupcake pan. After buttering the pan, I ladled a rounded scoop of dough into each tin and baked the batch for about 10-15 minutes (basically until the cookies were light golden brown). While they were still warm, I pushed a Hershey's kiss into the middle of each cookie and then let the chocolate set in as they cooled. 

Needless to say, this was a very pleasant surprise for the shop! 

Strawberry Sundae Cupcakes!

Did I mention how much I love birthdays? Whenever there is a holiday or one of my dad's employees' birthdays, I make a batch of special somethings and bring it over. This past September I decided to do something pink-themed because everything is better in pink. I ended up cheating and using pre-packaged strawberry cake mix (although I did incorporate my Stefy-twist by adding pudding for moisture and flavor), but then I thought, "What would go with strawberry cake?" .. Sundaes! 

I bought a box of vanilla waffle cones and baked the strawberry cake mix in them. I still used a cupcake pan to keep everything in order and filled the waffle cones only about 3/4 so that the baked product wouldn't overflow. Once baked (and cooled), I spread pink strawberry frosting (pink!strawberry!overload!) evenly on the cupcakes and added multicolored sprinkles to each one. I topped each cupcake with a maraschino cherry in order to complete the old-fashioned sundae look. In retrospect, I should have added those cute little flexible drinking straws, but I'm going to attribute that slight to over-exhaustion instead of laziness this time ;).

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes!

Birthdays, aside from giving me a reason to celebrate someone I love, also give me an excuse to bake an obscene amount of treats. For example, 4 dozen mini cherry cheesecakes! September 21st marked my brother's first birthday in he and his new wife's (my amazing sister-in-law, Erica!) new home as well as the last birthday of his twenties. In other words - bittersweet. So, I had to make something bittersweet that would be appropriate for a BBQ. I found this idea in a magazine and tweaked it a little. It's super simple, super refreshing, and with it's mixture of creamy cheesecake and tart berries, it pretty much defines the word bittersweet!

The supplies needed are pretty basic: muffin tins (not cupcakes!), 2" aluminum mini baking cups (they can be found at Publix, but they're pretty hard to spot, especially for short girls like myself! :\), 2 packages of cream cheese (8 oz. each), a box of vanilla wafers (you'll need 48 - I think a box contains 50), eggs, lemon juice, vanilla extract, sugar, and cherry pie filling. Actually, you could use ANY kind of pie filling - cherry, blueberry, strawberry, anything ending in "erry" :). 

Now for the fun part :). First, I lined the muffin tin with the aluminum baking cups. Unfortunately I only have one muffin tin, so I had to make a couple of batches. After placing the baking cups in their tins, I placed a vanilla wafer in each one (flat-side down) and proceeded to make the cheesecake portion. Okay, seriously, cheesecake is food of the gods. Who doesn't like cheesecake?! It has a whole freaken restaurant named in it's honor! I, for one, LOVE cheesecake. As you can imagine, it was kind of torturous making these .. but they were worth it! Cheesecake is fairly easy to make. Let the cream cheese soften (couple of hours at least) and mix it with the appropriate amounts of eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Of course, there are different ways to make cheesecake, which I have personally explored many of, but this basic mixture was perfect for this particular project. 

The ingredients were mixed until dreamily creamy (can you feel my pain here??) and then about a tablespoon was scooped into each baking cup. After baking each batch at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes and letting them cool, I topped the mini cheesecakes with a little spoonful of cherry pie filling. The result was the cutest tray of sweet tarts ever!

Happy 29th Birthday, Tata! :)