Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes for a spring potluck last week and they were pretty tasty.  I really wanted to make these so I could use my new vanilla bean paste and see those wonderful vanilla bean specks in the cake and frosting.  The vanilla bean paste is a really cool product.  I got mine from a local specialty grocery, but you can also order it online.  You can use vanilla bean paste in place of vanilla beans and it is much less expensive but still packs a lot of good vanilla flavor.  I definitely recommend giving these a try.
From Cookie Madness

6 large egg whites (3/4 cup), at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool and cut into pieces

2 sticks (8 oz) butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
2 tablespoons milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcake pans with paper liners.

2. Combine egg whites, milk, almond extract and vanilla paste in a large glass liquid measuring cup. Mix with a fork until blended.

3. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter and beat on low speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.
Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 30 seconds longer.

4. Divide batter evenly between cupcake cups. Bake on center rack for 18-20 minutes or until cupcakes test done – a toothpick should come out with moist crumbs.  Let cupcakes rest in the pan for about 5 minutes, then carefully remove them from the pans and let them cool on a rack.

5. To make icing, mix together the butter and powdered sugar. Mix in the vanilla bean paste and some of the milk. Beat on high until light and creamy, scraping sides of bowl. Add remaining milk if needed. Taste test and add more sugar, vanilla bean paste or milk to get the consistency you want.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Classic Cheesecake

This cheesecake was made on request for a very special birthday.  Until this past week, it had probably been over a year since I baked a cheesecake, so I was slightly nervous that there would be issues.  Luckily, everything went smoothly.  The cheesecake turned out great - it was rich without being too heavy, and had a nice creamy consistency.  The recipe is simple and can be dressed up in a variety of ways.  I simply cut up a pint of strawberries, sprinkled them with sugar, let the berries sit overnight, and served the sweetened strawberries on the side.
I don't know why the top of the cheesecake is kind of spotted.  I suspect it had something to do with my not-so-stellar apartment oven.  Thankfully, the texture of the cheesecake was unaffected.
I will definitely not wait another six months before making cheesecake again!
From Hannah's Kitchen

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

2. Prepare a water bath by placing a large pan filled with about 1/2 inch of water into the oven while it preheats.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press the crumb mixture into and up the sides of a 9-inch spring form pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.

4. Wrap a large piece of heavy duty foil around the bottom of the pan to keep the cheesecake in the water bath.

5. In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, vanilla, and lemon juice. Mix for a couple of minutes or until the ingredients are smooth and creamy. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl and then add them to the cream cheese mixture. Blend the mixture just enough to incorporate the eggs.

6. Pour the cream cheese filling into the crust.

7. Carefully place the cheesecake into the water bath in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes at 475 degrees, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the top of the cheesecake turns a light brown or tan color.

8. Remove the cheesecake from the oven to cool.

9. When cheesecake cools to room temperature, cover with foil and chill for 6-8 hours before removing the outer ring of the pan and serving.

This post is linked to Sweets for a Saturday.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Using bacon in sweet applications seems to be all the rage, so of course I had to try it.   I candied the bacon in these cookies before chopping it up and adding it to the batter.  When I showed up at work and told people that there was bacon in the chocolate chip cookies I was met with skepticism.  However, everyone who tried the cookies thought they were good and the cookies soon vanished.  The candied bacon provides a sweet, salty, and smoky burst that really compliments the dark chocolate chips.  This cookie makes me think of my maternal grandmother, who never met a piece of bacon she didn't like, and who also happens to be one of the best bakers around.
The bacon goes into the oven sprinkled with brown sugar.
After baking, the bacon is dark and sweet.
The bacon is diced and mixed into the dough.
The end result is an interesting and delicious cookie!
From Hannah's Kitchen

12 slices thick-cut bacon
1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 slices candied bacon, diced
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. For the bacon: preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place bacon on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle bacon with half of the brown sugar.  Bake for about 15 minutes total.  Halfway through the baking time, flip the slices of bacon over, drag them through the syrupy liquid in the pan, and sprinkle the slices with the remaining brown sugar.  Continue baking until bacon reaches a dark mahogany color.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.  Once bacon is cool and crisp, dice into small bits.

2. For the cookies: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream butter, shortening, and sugars together until light and fluffy.  Mix in vanilla and eggs until combined.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips and bacon pieces.  Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are set and just turning light brown.  Cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

This post is linked to Sweets for a Saturday and Sweet Tooth Friday.