Monday, June 29, 2009

Where the heck have I been?

Uhh, Paris. Of course.
Sure, maybe that was over a month ago. And maybe I've baked a million things since then and took pictures of many of them and really really thought about blogging but instead decided to check and see if any friends updated their Facebook. Whatever. Call me lazy.

I'm lazy and a procrastinator and have been happily baking and eating my way through the month of June without paying any attention to my blog, but perhaps you'll forgive me if I tell you I brought you a souvenir from Paris?

First, I have to back up a little bit and say (once again) that I've got a fantastic husband. Ugh, I know, you're tired of hearing it. But he really is super great. So great that he got me maybe the best Mother's Day present ever... a weekend in Paris PLUS two days of classes at Le Cordon Bleu. Seriously awesome. On the first day I did a market tour and then watched the chef prepare a beautiful meal with fresh ingredients. And then on the second day I did a more hands-on class where I learned how to make croissants, pains au chocolat, and several variations of brioche. Ohhh, the pastries. Ben signed me up for that one just so he could have as many croissants as his tummy could hold (he was not disappointed).

But the recipe that I bring you today is not pastry. It is instead from the market tour demonstration and it is much easier! No rolling and folding and chilling and rolling and flouring and praying! And wonderful for summer! And easy! Magnifique! I highly encourage you to make this and sit outside and eat while closing your eyes and transporting yourself to France. Sipping a glass of the leftover cabernet isn't a bad idea either....

Chilled Strawberry Soup

500 g strawberries
250 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
250 ml cabernet
100 g sugar
20 black peppercorns
50 fresh ginger, grated
1 vanilla bean
3 star anise
3 cardamom pods (whole or crushed)

Pour the juice into a small saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the juice and then add the pod as well. Add peppercorns, ginger, star anise and cardamom and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until reduced, and then remove from heat and place the pan in an ice bath.

Halve the strawberries and place them in a large bowl with the sugar and let sit for a few minutes. Add the wine to strawberries, and when the orange juice is cool, strain and pour over strawberry mixture. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

You can serve this with whipped cream, or if you're like me and routinely forget to buy things like cream, a little yogurt with honey and vanilla beans is also lovely.

Bon appétit!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Iron Cupcake Earth: Soda Pop

I'm a bit of a procrastinator. I always have a list of things I should do and I never seem to get to them. At least, not in a timely manner. For example, I should put Wesley's too small clothes up in the attic to make room in his dresser, read the baby sleep book that Ben finally got around to finishing (we're a procrastinating family), wash the dogs because they're getting a little ripe (but they go to the dog farm when we go on vacation next week, so a bath now would be useless, right?), and perhaps finally put away the Christmas decorations that we stuck up in the guest room "temporarily" when we finally managed to de-Christmas our living room in January.

So, yeah. I put things off. That it why I am super proud of myself for managing to bake appropriately themed cupcakes for Iron Cupcake before the deadline! Two months in a row now! Miracle! I even managed to plan ahead and have my wonderful parents send me ingredients that I can't get here.

And my superb planning and motivation + great parents who put up with my postal requests =

Root Beer Float Cupcakes!

The theme this month was Soda Pop, and my immediate thought was root beer floats. I had about 800 other ideas too, but Ben immediately suggested root beer when I asked him for ideas, and I trust his cupcake eating expertise so I went with it.

The result? We thought they were delicious, but you absolutely must use the glaze. The cupcakes themselves are nice enough, but somehow even with the massive amount of sugar and sweetness from the soda, they still tasted more like a sort of nice muffin to me. And muffins are good and everything, but cupcakes should taste like dessert. The glaze pushed them just over the edge into the sweet and wonderful dessert category. The frosting didn't hurt either.

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups root beer
1 tablespoon root beer extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Root beer glaze
Vanilla buttercream frosting
Crushed root beer candies

Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In a bowl, mix together root beer, root beer extract and vanilla extract and set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well after each one. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mixing at a low speed, add flour mixture and root beer alternatively, beginning and ending with flour. Mix until smooth and pour into a lined cupcake pan, filling about 2/3 full. Bake cupcakes about 15-18 minutes for normal cupcakes and 12 minutes for the mini cupcakes, until golden brown and cake springs back when touched.

Root Beer Glaze

1/2 cup root beer
1 teaspoon root beer extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Whisk together root beer, extract and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally until reduced by about half. Let cool.

Spoon a little root beer glaze over each cupcake and let set until cupcakes are completely cool and tops are dry. Top with vanilla buttercream and crushed root beer candies.


The voting begins on April 29, and you can go vote for me at Please vote for me! Pleeeeeeease! If I win, I will be the proud recipient of many fabulous prizes:

Our April ETSY PRIZE-PACK is from artists:

Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS,, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson,, JESSIE STEELE APRONS; TASTE OF HOME books,; a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, .

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cocoa Apple Cake

Living abroad brings lots of good things - adventure, travel, new experiences, new points of view, the opportunity to learn, grow, eat. I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to move to the Netherlands and I haven't regretted it once.

But even though I wouldn't trade our experience for anything, it has its downside, too. Sometimes I just get lonely and homesick. It's natural, I guess. You miss things - your favorite places, your favorite people, conveniences that you took for granted, speaking English, and just the comfort of feeling like you are where you are supposed to be.

I can't do much about the thousands of miles between our house and "home", but I can find a little bit of comfort here.

Comfort in the form of cake.

Cocoa apple cake has been one of my favorites for years. This might surprise those who know me because, while the cake does have a little chocolate, it is not chocolate with milk chocolate mousse and dark chocolate ganache and white chocolate shavings. Nope, no death by chocolate. It's just simple and happy and sweet and good. And it tastes kind of like home, and that's just what I need. And licking the cocoa glaze pan doesn't hurt either.

Cocoa Apple Cake
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup semisweeet chocolate chips
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream together the eggs, sugar, butter or margarine, and water until fluffy . In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and spices. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips, apple, and vanilla extract. Spoon into a buttered and floured bundt pan. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 60 to 70 minutes until cake tests done. Let cool completely and then drizzle cocoa glaze over the top.

Cocoa Glaze

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Melt butter in a small saucepan with cocoa and water. Blend in sugar and vanilla. Let cool slightly, stirring again if necessary before drizzling over cake. Mmmmmm.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Love affairs

Do you ever wonder how I'm not 800 pounds? I mean, have you seen all the cupcakes and cookies and cake and ice cream and... well, everything? Truly, I have a love affair with frosting. Sugar is my kryptonite. Chocolate will always have a special place in my heart and in my fridge. Cookies have never let me down.

But... One cannot live on sugar alone. So I have to confess... I'm in love with vegetables. My heart skips a beat when I see the beautiful piles of produce at our market. I dream of roasted zucchini, grilled portabellos, sauteed spinach. The phrase "Oooooh, vegetables!!!" often escapes my lips in moments of glee.

Dessert may be my one true love, but I eat vegetables on the sly and I just can't quit them. This works out well for me, though. Because while I indulge my dessert loving side every once in a while (and exile the brownies to Ben's workplace the rest of the time), I eat piles and piles of vegetables on a daily basis and it balances out the frosting habit. Often I can think of nothing better than a big plate full of veggies for dinner.

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that I'm a big fan of ratatouille. My ratatouille recipe (which I borrowed from Epicurious and tweaked to my tastes) is not fancy. It doesn't have carefully arranged slices of squash, artfully displayed in a beautiful dish. It doesn't need it, because it's got flavor and love and comfort. And enough vegetables to make me smile and sigh and rub my belly happily.


* 1 eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
* 400 grams of shallots, quarterd
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* coarse salt to taste
* 2 zucchinis or yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
* 2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
* 2 cans diced tomatoes
* 7 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
* 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
* 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

* grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Stir together eggplants, onions, 2 tablespoons oil, and kosher salt in a large roasting pan, then roast mixture in middle of oven, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Stir in squash, bell peppers, 1 tablespoon oil, and more kosher salt and roast mixture, stirring occasionally, until bell peppers are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

While vegetables are roasting, simmer tomatoes, garlic, thyme, and kosher salt in a heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir tomatoes into roasted vegetables and season ratatouille. Top with grated cheese.

Left to my own devices, I would eat this all by itself, day in and day out. But it is also delicious as a side to roasted chicken, with polenta (as we have it here) or a nice crusty bread, or served over pasta.

And then have a cupcake for dessert!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's that time again...

Time to support our military with baked goods!

For this round of Baking Gals, I'm not hosting a team, but I didn't want to miss out on my chance to say thank you to our hardworking deployed military men and women, so I signed up for a team and got down to baking! I highly encourage you to do the same! It will make you feel good and you can munch on a cookie or two while you're packing them up. Everybody wins!

This month I made Chocolate Crinkle Cookies and Snickerdoodle Blondies. I wanted to good, simple, yummy treats that would hold up well when shipped and I think these fit the bill.

Chocolate Crinkles from Betty Crocker

1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted, cooled
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. In large bowl, mix oil, chocolate, granulated sugar and vanilla. Stir in eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover; refrigerate at least 3 hours.
2. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheet with shortening or cooking spray.
3. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls into powdered sugar; roll around to coat and shape into balls. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when touched lightly in center. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.

Snickerdoodle Blondies

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
a pinch nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and/or line a 9×13 inch pan. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and set aside.
2. In large bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar for 3-5 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, and beat until smooth.
3. Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan (mixture will be somewhat cookiebatter-ish, so it’s best to spread it out with a greased spatula or your hands). Combine the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a little bowl. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter.
4. Bake 25-30 minutes or until surface springs back when gently pressed. Cool before cutting. Makes 20-24 bars.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

You know those cupcakes down in my previous post? They look good, huh? Wanna go vote for them in this month's Iron Cupcake challenge? Oui?

Okay, go to No One Puts Cupcake in a Corner, check out all the amazing entries, and vote from now until Friday, April 3! It's fun!

And if you vote for me, I'll give you a cupcake!*

*offer good only you come visit me in the Netherlands.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Iron Cupcake Earth: Nuts and Seeds

I was trying to think of a witty story to tell about my cupcake baking adventures and mishaps this weekend, but I kept coming up with nothing. Just cupcakes, yummy cupcakes. I joined Iron Cupcake last month, but didn't make a coffee themed cupcake because... well... baby, tired, sniffly, bored, baby, excuses, excuses... And so last week I was sitting, looking at frosted food porn on my computer, and all of the sudden realized, "Shoot! I'm going to miss the deadline again! I need to make cupcakes!"

So I did. I made cupcakes. This month is Nuts and Seeds, so I brainstormed a list of ideas and sent them to work with Ben so he could poll his colleagues. I figured I would let them choose because A) Once I start coming up with cupcake ideas I can't turn off my brain and there's no way for me to pick just one, and B) They are the lucky consumers of all of my baked goods, so I thought it might be nice to leave the choice up to them.

And they chose...

Chocolate cherry cupcakes with an amaretto cream filling and almond buttercream.

a.k.a. the only nutty cupcakes that will ever grace Ben's tastebuds.
Ben absolutely abhors nuts, all nuts, anything vaguely nutty, and yes, that includes peanut butter, pistachios, Nutella, and anything else that might fill in the blank in your question, "But what about ____? Not even ____?" Nope. No nuts. The only teeny tiny exception is almond flavoring. The actual nut is out, but he finds almond extract downright pleasant. Go figure.

So even though this month's Iron Cupcake theme is nutty, Ben was able to taste (and taste, and lick the bowls, and pat his stomach contentedly) and declare that my cupcakes were good.

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes
* 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
* 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 large eggs
* 3/4 cup warm water
* 3/4 cup sour cream
* 3 tablespoons canola oil
* 1 teaspoon almond extract
* 1 cup cherry preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.
Add eggs, warm water, sour cream, cherry preserves, oil, and almond extract, and mix until smooth.

Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full and bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Amaretto Whipped Cream

* 1/2 tsp gelatin
* 1 tbsp water
* 1 cup heavy cream
* 2 tbsp powdered sugar
* 1/4 cup amaretto

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1 tablespoon of cold water. Set the container into about 1 inch of hot water in a saucepan and let stand until gelatin dissolves. Remove from the hot water. Set aside for a minute to cool slightly. Whip the cream until almost stiff, then add the gelatin, amaretto, and confectioners' sugar. Continue whipping until stiff.

For the frosting, I used my regular buttercream recipe, found here, but I used a tablespoon of almond extract instead of the vanilla.

Cupcake assembly

Using a small knife, cut a cone shape out of the top of each cupcake. Set aside. Spoon a bit of whipped cream into the hole and replace the top of the cupcake. Frost. I topped the cupcakes with maraschino cherries because I love them and they're pretty. I think they would also be good with chocolate shavings, slivered almonds, or all of the above.

Competing in Iron Cupcake is not only fun, but also comes with prizes for the winner!

The March ETSY PRIZE-PACK is from artists:
Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers:
HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson,,
Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, .