Chocolate Cupcakes with whipped cream filling

cupcakes2
cupcakes2

I chose to make these chocolate cupcakes today for several reasons. First, these cupcakes are one of my favorites as well as a favorite among my friends and family that have had them. So, I’m counting on them being a hit for some other special people, too. Second, I recently purchased some new Russian piping tips that I have been dying to try, so this is the perfect opportunity to see if they measure up to the hype.

Russian piping tips
Russian piping tips

As some of my readers may have noticed, I’ve been on hiatus for a few months. Well, my mother had been sick, so sharing my recipes had to be put on the back burner temporarily. She is getting better every day, but she had to spend time in a local nursing and rehabilitation facility. She made some friends while there and she took a liking to some of the staff as well. I wanted to show my appreciation with a small token of what I do best. CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES.

cupcakes
cupcakes

I also had a friend’s birthday recently. She doesn’t ask for much, but she has been hankering something chocolatey. So, these chocolate cupcakes should do the trick.

They’ve got lots of butter and eggs, so they’re rich and moist. As an added bonus, I like to add a little fresh, whipped cream, peanut butter or jelly to center of these chocolate cakes, so you get a little surprise in each bite. There’s no limit to the possible types of frosting to finish them off either.

If you need some tips on making the perfect texture of cake, I provide a lot of information in my article Italian Cream Cake and Tips For A Better Batter.

Icing, glaze, ganache, frosting, or fondant?

So, what’s the difference between them all? It depends on who you ask. You’ll probably get a different answer from from different parts of the country and different parts of the world as well. But, I’m going to tell you what I call them so we can be on the same page for the purpose of these recipes.

Generally, though, frosting is thick and fluffy. The mixture is made from a base of dairy products, such as butter and/or cream cheese, and powdered sugar. It’s fluffy enough to stand on its own in various shapes made by piping, yet thick enough to spread with a spatula.

Icing generally has a thinner, glossier texture and is made with a powdered sugar base and water or milk and often times food coloring will be added. This mixture hardens somewhat when it dries, so it is perfect for decorating cookies.

A glaze also has a thinner, glossier texture and is made with a powdered sugar base, but generally uses a fruit juice for added flavor. This mixture can be easily poured over your scones, donuts or other pastries and cakes.

Chocolate ganache is the best of both of the worlds of frosting and icing. It’s thick enough to be a substantial addition to your cake, much like that of frosting. But it’s also thin and glossy, like an icing, that can just be poured over your desserts.

Fondant is a thick paste made of sugar, water and egg whites or meringue powder which, when dried, it can be rolled out into a sheet then laid out and formed around the cake.

Fun fact

Powdered sugar is also known as confectioner’s sugar, icing sugar or 10X sugar. The 10 in 10X represents the number of times the granulated sugar has been processed to make it into the fine powdery substance that easily dissolves. Powdered sugar is also a preferred sugar used by candy makers…or confectioners.

Cream filled Chocolate Cupcakes

A rich, moist, dark chocolate cake with a creamy filling.

Course Dessert
Keyword chocolate
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 15 minutes
Cooling and decorating 4 hours
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 42 cupcakes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 cup unsifted unsweetened dark cocoa
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee granules + 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 3/4 cups sifted flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

For the filling:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

For the cake:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine cocoa with boiling water, mixing together with a wire whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool completely (about 2 hours).

  2. In a small bowl, mix the instant coffee granules with the warm water until thoroughly dissolved. Add to the cooled cocoa mixture.

  3. Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt and baking soda.

  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with liners. (I would recommend baking no more than 24 cupcakes at a time, otherwise you may need to adjust your baking time and temperature. This recipe would require baking the batter in two batches.)

    You can also make this recipe into a 3-layer cake using three, 9 inch cake pans.

  5. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, at the setting for creaming, cream the butter and the sugar for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy.

    Cake batter adding flour
  6. Add the vanilla then the eggs, one at a time, just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added. Overmixing will flatten your fluffy butter mixture.

    Gradually adding the cocoa
  7. At low speed, beat in the flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with the cocoa mixture (in thirds) beginning and ending with the flour mixture, just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added. Overmixing will flatten your fluffy butter mixture and will alter the structure of your cake.

    Mix just until the ingredient is added
  8. Fill cupcake cups approximately 3/4 to the top of the liner and bake for 13-15 minutes. There should be a few moist crumbs on a toothpick when inserted to the middle of the cupcake. The cakes will finish baking while they are cooling down. Allow the cakes to cool for about 1 hour before proceeding to the next step.

    (If you prefer the layer cake, divide the batter evenly between 3 cake pans, bake 25-30 minutes or until a few moist crumbs remain on a toothpick when inserted into the middle of the cake.)

    whipped cream2

For the filling

  1. Whip the heavy cream, vanilla and confectioner’s sugar on high speed of electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

    Filling tip
  2. Once the cupcakes are cooled, using a decorating bag fitted with a filling tip, fill the bag with the whipped cream. Insert the tip into the cake and gently squeeze until the cupcake is filled with the cream.

    (If making the layered cake, simply spread the whipped cream between layers.

    Glass stand
  3. If you have trouble filling your decorating bag, try wrapping the opening of the bag over the rim of a tall glass. This will keep the bag open while you are scraping your bowl and filling the bag. You can also rest your bag in the glass when not in use to avoid a messy work area.

  4. Decorate with your favorite frosting or check out my favorite recipes below.

    filled cupcakes

No matter how you choose to top these delicious miniature cakes, any one of the following recipes will be sure to please the crowd. I’m partial to either buttercream, ganache or cream cheese frostings for cake and not really a fan of fondants because I prefer a fluffy, whipped texture as opposed to the sheet of sweetness. I’ve only used store bought fondant before, but I have a few recipes I want to try. Who knows? I may change my mind and give fondant another chance. Look for my recipes for icings and glazes in the near future. I think you’ll enjoy the pastries that go along with them too. 

Buttercream Frosting

Course Frosting
Keyword Frosting
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup crisco I use butter flavored crisco
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk if needed
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Beat butter and shortening until light and fluffy. (The butter should be at room temperature. If they are too soft, return to the refrigerator for a few minutes.)

  2. Add the vanilla.

  3. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar. Continue beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy.

  4. You may not need all the confectioner’s sugar. If your frosting becomes to thick, gradually add a teaspoon of milk at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

    buttercream divided

Cream Cheese Frosting

Course Frosting
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp milk if needed

Instructions

  1. Beat butter and shortening until light and fluffy. (The butter should be at room temperature. If they are too soft, return to the refrigerator for a few minutes.)

  2. Add the vanilla.

  3. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar. Continue beating until frosting is smooth and creamy.

  4. You may not need all the confectioner’s sugar. If your frosting becomes to thick, gradually add a teaspoon of milk at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

    cream cheese frosting

Peanut Butter Frosting

Course Frosting
Keyword Peanut butter
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup crisco
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 4-5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Beat butter and shortening until light and fluffy. (The butter should be at room temperature. If they are too soft, return to the refrigerator for a few minutes.)

  2. Add the peanut butter.

  3. Add the vanilla.

  4. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar. Continue beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy.

  5. You may not need all the confectioner’s sugar. If your frosting becomes to thick, gradually add a teaspoon of milk at a time until you reach the desired consistency. If the frosting is to thin, gradually add additional confectioner’s sugar.

    cupcakes

Chocolate Ganache

Course Frosting
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp instant coffee granules

Instructions

  1. In a double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate.

  2. Add instant coffee granules. Stirring until smooth.

  3. Gradually add the heavy cream and continue stirring until well incorporated and mixture is smooth and creamy.

  4. Decorate by dipping the tops of the cupcakes into the mixture or pouring the mixture over the cakes. The mixture will harden as it sits. 

    cupcakes

Chocolate Frosting


Course Frosting
Keyword chocolate
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Cooling time 1 hour
Total Time 20 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, combine the chocolate pieces, cream and butter.

  2. Stir until all chocolate pieces have melted and mixture is smooth.

  3. Remove from the heat.

  4. Gradually add confectioner’s sugar whisking until sugar is fully incoorporated and mixture is smooth. It may be necessary to to place the pan in a bowl of ice to help with the cooling down process. 

  5. Decorate as desired. 

    cream filled chocolate cake

Classic Potato Salad – A Summertime Standard

With summertime BBQ season upon us, what is the best side dish to bring to the party? Potato salad, of course. There are so many variations of potato salad out there, but I prefer the classic American, creamy, potato salad. My grandmother made this recipe, then my mother made this recipe, so naturally, I make this recipe, too. I do not have children to take over the recipe, so I hope someone else finds it and makes it a tradition in their family, too.

In my opinion, the star of the show is the dressing. The dressing is where the flavor is packed. Adding different toppings, such as bacon crumbles or hard-boiled eggs are delightful, too. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about what type of potato to use in your salad. Pick the wrong potato and they could end up getting smooshed during mixing when you add your dressing. Then you’re left with mashed potatoes with mayonnaise.

TUBER OR NOT TUBER?

Yes. A potato is a tuber, specifically a stem tuber. A stem tuber is basically an enlarged structure of the plant where it stores its nutrients it will need for winter and for regrowth. In order to pick out the right kind for your dish, you’ll need to know a few things. Essentially, there are three categories of potatoes based on their texture. Starchy, All-Purpose, and Waxy. Potato salads need potatoes that will hold their shape after cooking. So, understanding what happens during the cooking process will help when making your selection.

Starchy potatoes, such as Russets are good for baking, mashing or French fries. The highly dense starch cells swell and separate from one another when cooked which give these potato items a fluffy texture.

Waxy potatoes, such as Red Bliss, have the least starch, so there is less cell separation and are best for boiling, stews, and salads. There is less breakdown, so these potatoes will hold their shape very well.

All-purpose potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, have a moderate amount of starch and are ideal for au gratins, roasting or steaming. As the name implies, they can also be used for any purpose, but just note that your results may vary slightly.

Potato Salad

The creamy, classic American potato salad. 

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword Potato Salad
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Cooling time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds Red Bliss potatoes
  • 2 tbsp salt for potato water
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Splenda or sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste for dressing
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonaisse
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup diced celery

Instructions

  1. Scrub potato skins then cut into bite-size cubes.

    Potato Salad
  2. Place in a large pot, cover with cold water, add 2 tbsp of salt to the water. Cover the pot with a lid. 

  3. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Remove lid, lower temperature to medium/high heat and continue a slow boil for 8-12 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender. 

  4. Drain the liquid from the potatoes and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes. (Spreading them out over a cookie sheet will speed up the cooling process.)

  5. In a large bowl, add the vinegar, Splenda, salt, pepper, milk, and sour cream.

  6. Add the mayonaisse, a little at a time until the dressing reaches the desired thickness. 

    Potato Salad Dressing
  7. Add the celery and onions.

  8. Once the potatoes have cooled completely, add them to the dressing and lightly toss the dressing to coat the potatoes. 

    Potato Salad 3

Recipe Notes

I use Splenda instead of sugar because I have diabetics in my family and try not to use sugar where it doesn't make a difference to the outcome of the dish. It also dissolves a lot quicker than sugar. But, sugar absolutely works too.  

What is your favorite summertime side dish? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

Denver Omelet Breakfast Ring – Father’s Day Brunch

Omelets are my all-time favorite breakfasts. I have many variations that houseguests frequently request. And, in my house, breakfast for dinner is a common occurrence. Omelets were the first dish I learned to make on my own as a kid. I’ve added many different ingredients for some unusual combinations over the years. My favorite is the Philly Cheesesteak Omelet. A close second favorite is the Italian Hoagie Omelet. Coming in third is the Meatball Parm Omelet. They’re all exactly what they sound like, too. The awesome sandwich fixings stuffed inside an omelet instead of bread. I know, some of that sounds really weird, but trust me, they’re amazing.

When I was younger, I had thoughts of opening a breakfast restaurant. I was going to serve breakfast all day long, especially eggs, more specifically, these unconventional omelets. At the time, I lived on the cape of New Jersey. I was going to call the restaurant “The Great Eggs Cape”. If you say that quick enough, it sounds like The Great Escape. Well, I thought it was a clever idea at the time. That restaurant idea never panned out, but my experiments live on. I live in Maine now, so that name wouldn’t work, but if I ever have the inclination to open a restaurant here, it would be called Comfort Café.

With Father’s Day quickly approaching, I’ve been considering something different for breakfast. I’ve been thinking about a frittata and incorporating the toast into it somehow. But, I recently saw an edition of Taste of Home that had a dish using crescent rolls. I’ve made party food using these crescent rolls and shaped them into a ring before and they were pretty good, so I decided to give breakfast a shot. It’s not exactly what I originally envisioned, but most of my recipes transform from the initial thought anyway.

My dad likes ham and cheese in his omelets, but never complained when I added peppers, onions, tomatoes and garlic. Well, he might tell you I use too much garlic, so I’ll try to behave when adding the garlic this time. Since this dish has the ingredients of a Denver Omelet, I chose to go with that in the name, even though it’s not in the shape of an omelet. I did a test run of this recipe when visiting our family best friends (my Godparents) in Massachusetts this past weekend. It was a hit. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Denver Omelet Breakfast Ring

This dish has all the ingredients of a Denver omelet, but the eggs are scrambled and shaped into a ring over a base of Crescent rolls. Thick slices of ham layered over the dough hold in the egg filling. 

Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Keyword Omelet
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 8
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 11 Extra Large Eggs 1 reserved for egg wash
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large green bell pepper diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 medium/large tomato diced
  • 1 pkg Crescent Rolls 8 count
  • 8 slices of deli ham
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded
  • 1/2 tsp sesame seeds optional
  • 1/2 tsp dried minced onion optional
  • 1/2 tsp dried minced garlic optional
  • 1/4 tsp poppy seeds optional
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt optional
  • pinch oregano optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    Denver Omelet Breakfast Ring Veggies
  2. Dice pepper and onion. Sauté in a large skillet over medium/high heat until tender. Add the garlic during the last minute of sautéing. Reduce heat to medium/low heat. Add the butter and allow to melt before adding the eggs.

    Denver Omelet Breakfast Ring Veggies cooked
  3. Dice the tomato. (Add a little salt and oregano - optional)

    Denver Omelet Breakfast Ring Tomatoes
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until fully incorporated. Eggs are fully whisked when no signs of yolk or egg whites can be seen in the mixture. 

    Denver Omelet Breakfast Ring Eggs
  5. Add the whisked eggs into the skillet with the peppers and onions. Gently scramble the eggs mixing them with the peppers and onions. When the scrambled eggs are just about set (they'll still be a little wet, but not runny), add the diced tomatoes, stir until they are mixed in then remove the skillet from the heat.

    Denver Omelet Breakfast Ring Scrambled Eggs
  6. On a large baking sheet or pizza pan, lay out the crescent roll triangles in a circle with the pointy tip of the triangle pointing outwards. Overlap the wider edges and press the dough to seal the pieces together.

    Denver Omelet Breakfast Ring Crescent Rolls
  7. Lay the ham slices lengthwise over each triangle piece of dough. 

    Denver Omelet Breakfast Ring Ham
  8. Sprinkle 1 cup of the shredded cheddar cheese around the center hole.

    Denver Omelet Breakfast Ring Cheese
  9. Spoon the scrambled egg mixture over the shredded cheese. 

    Denver Omelet Breakfast Ring Egg Layer
  10. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the scrambled egg mixture.

    Denver Omelet Breakfast Ring Cheese 2
  11. Fold the pointy tips of each crescent roll over the filling and tuck under the ring. The filling may show through some of the openings. 

    Denver Omelet Breakfast Ring fold over
  12. Beat the remaining egg and add a teaspoon of water for the egg wash. Using a pastry brush, brush each crescent roll with the egg wash and sprinkle with the optional salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion and dried garlic. 

    Denver Omelet Breakfast Ring Toppings

What do you make on Father’s Day? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

 

M&M Cookies A Memorial Day Favorite

If You’ve Had One, You’ve Had Them All?

Homemade cookies are one of my favorite things to make. I know, I say that about everything, but here’s the thing, homemade cookies are not only delicious, they are also easy and quick to make, how can you not love them? Pretty much every drop cookie out there has been derived from the basic Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. But, does that mean that if you’ve had one, you’ve had them all? No, it doesn’t. There are so many variations available, how do you know which one to pick? I’ll share my M&M Cookies recipe today and then we’ll discuss what makes them soft and chewy, light and cakey or crisp and crunchy. We’ll also look at some mishaps in the kitchen and explain how to prevent cookie disasters.

But First, Some History

In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day, I thought it would be fitting to discuss the role U.S. soldiers played in the popularity of chocolate chip cookies.

The chocolate chip cookie, the official state cookie of Massachusetts, was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1938. She was the owner and chef at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts.

The original, Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie, rose to popularity during WWII. American soldiers stationed overseas would receive care packages, which included these cookies, from family in Massachusetts. The soldiers would share the cookies with soldiers from other parts of the U.S. and soon, those soldiers were writing home asking for them. That led to many letters being sent to the Toll House Inn requesting the recipe causing the cookie craze to take off.

Ruth sold the rights to use the recipe to Andrew Nestle for $1.00 in return for a lifetime supply of  Nestle’s chocolate. I think Ruth got the short end of the stick in that deal. But, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

M&M Cookies

This recipe is based on the Toll House Cookie Recipe. A couple simple modifications of increasing the amount of brown sugar and swapping out the chocolate chips for M&Ms make these a fun substitution for the original cookie.

Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword Cookies
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 48
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups mini baking M&Ms

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees

    M&M Cookies ingredients
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

  3. In a separate bowl, combine butter, sugars and vanilla. Beat until creamy. 

    M&M Cookies dough
  4. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat until each one is well blended. 

  5. Gradually add the flour, a little at a time. Mix until well blended. 

    M&M Cookies dough 2
  6. Stir in the M&Ms.

    M&M Cookies M&Ms
  7. Drop rounded spoonfuls of dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet. (I just use a teaspoon. For more uniform shapes, you can use a melon baller or small ice cream scoop.)

    M&M Cookies spoonful
  8. Bake 8-10 minutes. (I usually check them at 7 minutes...if they are starting to brown at the edges, I removed them from the oven and allow them to remain on the hot cookie sheet for a few minutes. They'll continue to "bake" while cooling down.) Move to a wire rack or a sheet of parchment paper to continue cooling. 

    M&M Cookies cooling

Soft and Chewy, Light and Cakey or Crisp and Crunchy?

What’s your preference? I prefer soft and chewy with a slight crisp around the edges. That can be a hard combination to master. You can look at a 100 different recipes and they’ll all have different measurements, but finding the one that gives you the texture you want is easier than you think.

In the Toll House Cookies recipe, the main ingredients which dictate what texture your cookies develop into are butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. A typical cookie dough recipe will have 2 sticks of butter and equal parts of granulated sugar and brown sugar. You can customize your cookies with a few simple alterations.

Here are a few hints:

For instance, if you’re going for crisper cookies, you’ll want a recipe to have more butter and a larger amount of granulated sugar than brown sugar.

If you prefer a light and cakey cookie, your recipe will use less butter and significantly less sugar (but still using more granulated sugar than brown sugar).

For the soft and chewy variety, you’ll just need to adjust the sugars. More brown sugar will yield a softer, chewier cookie.

Cookie Catastrophes

Cookies spread too thin

When you’re making your dough, keep an eye on the texture of your dough. If the butter is too soft, your dough may be too warm and your cookies could spread too thin while baking. When you soften your butter, you should be able to press into the butter with the side of a knife and feel a little resistance. If you press down and your knife plunges to the bottom, the butter is too soft. You can return the butter to the refrigerator for a few minutes. Or, if you’ve already made the dough, place the dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before spreading out the dough to bake.

Thin cookies can also be caused by not using enough flour. Try adding a little bit more flour a tablespoon at a time.

Cookies browning but are not overbaked

When you purchase your ingredients to make the cookies, keep in mind that using dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar can change the color of your cookie, so they may appear to be browning too quickly. If you choose to use corn syrup or molasses as your sweetener, you may notice that the cookies start browning before the cookie is baked through.

Also, it is possible that the oven is just running too hot. Reduce the temperature by 10 degrees. If you don’t notice a significant change, reduce the heat again.

Cookies are too cakey and very pale

The likely culprit of this blunder is too much flour. This can be tricky to fix, but adding a couple more tablespoons of butter just might save the dough.

OH NOOOOs

Have you ever gone shopping for all your ingredients then realize after you have returned home that you forgot something anyway?

Well, I do it all the time, so I have a list of adequate substitutions for just such an occasion. I wouldn’t recommend substituting every ingredient, but in a pinch, one will do. I mean, if you forgot everything, how bad could you want to make them anyway?

BUTTER substitutes cup for cup with margarine or shortening.

TABLE SALT can be replaced with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (you may also want to pulse it in the food processor a bit before adding it to your dough).

SUGAR can be swapped out for honey. 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar for 1 cup of honey plus 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. (Also, reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees to avoid burning.)

BROWN SUGAR Light or dark can be used in place of the other. If you don’t have either, you can make some by pulsing 1 cup granulated sugar and 4 tablespoons of molasses in a food processor.

EGGS can be replaced by using 2 eggs whites in place of 1 large egg. Or 1/4 cup of egg product per egg.

SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE can be substituted with any other type of chocolate, fruit, nuts, or chopped up candy bars of any variety. I’ve even used leftover cake pulsed in the food processor and mixed it with the cookie dough. I call them Cake Crumble Cookies. They are pretty good, too.

What’s your favorite cookie? Do you approve of using candy bar bits instead of chocolate chips? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to like us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coffee Brownie Bites with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting

I bake a lot. Mostly cakes for friends’ and family birthdays or other special occasions, miscellaneous events and holidays. I’m a sucker for coffee, chocolate chip cookies and brownies. So, when I bake for myself, how am I supposed to decide between the three. Well, I found a way to incorporate all my favorite things with these Coffee Brownie Bites with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting.

Don’t Fear The Dough Though

No one openly admits to eating cookie dough with raw eggs and there seems to be a debate about raw flour nowadays, too. Although, I have sampled my cookie dough many times prior to baking (I have to make sure it tastes right, right?), I have never once died nor gotten sick from it. But, not to worry, this frosting doesn’t have any eggs or flour in it, so it is totally safe to eat.

Don’t make the same mistake I made once though. I added the chocolate chips to the frosting then decided I wanted to use a cake decorating tool. Those chips don’t fit through the opening of the decorating tips. So, instead, I added spoonfuls of the frosting sandwiched between two brownies, topped with coffee frosting, nuts and a drizzle of chocolate ganache.

brownie cakes with cookie dough frosting
brownie cakes with cookie dough frosting

Brownies – Cakey or Fudgy? What’s Your Pleasure?

As I said before, I love brownies. I’m not a fan of brownies that are too cakey, but I’m also not a fan of brownies that are too fudgy either. If I want something chocolate cakey, I will make a chocolate cake. Likewise, if I want something chocolate fudgy, I will make chocolate fudge. (Yes. Don’t worry. I have great recipes for those, too. I’ll share them another time.) So, how do we compromise on the perfect balance of textures for a brownie? I like them chewy, if you do, too, this is the recipe for you. These are chewy with just the right amount of cakey and fudgy textures.

A Decadent Dessert, A Decade In The Making

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve made brownies. But, my quest started about 10 years ago. Each time I made them I was told they are perfect and don’t need any changes. I wasn’t convinced though. There was always room for improvement. They were either too cakey or too fudgy.

There are so many factors that can make or break your brownie. For instance, did you know that the order in which you add the ingredients can make a difference in how they turn out? I’ve never strayed from my original ingredients, but I have experimented with the order in which they are added so many times, I think I finally got it just right.

Also, the baking time plays a huge role in the texture. Experiment with what texture you like, but be sure to check the doneness often. You can always bake it for a few more minutes, but you can’t undo it if you bake them too long.

A Few Tips For A Perfect Brownie

Use a double boiler to melt your butter and chocolate. If you don’t have an actual “double boiler”, just use a medium pot with a smaller pot or heat resistant bowl nestled inside the larger bowl. (As you can see in the picture below…the smaller pot has a handle on either side, so it just hangs in the larger pot perfectly.) Be mindful to use just an inch or two of water in the pot and do not allow your inner pot or bowl to touch the water. Even though the name “double boiler” suggests boiling the water, in this case you just want to simmer the water.

Coffee Brownie Cookie Dough melted chocolate
Coffee Brownie Cookie Dough melted chocolate

Be careful not to let the steam escaping from the bottom pot to form any droplets of water that can drip into your chocolate. Even the smallest amount of water added to chocolate can actually seize the chocolate and will turn it into a big lumpy glob. (It is possible to rescue the chocolate by gradually adding warm milk or cream, but it’s best to avoid a potential kitchen fiasco altogether.)

Since we’re using butter in this recipe, I would suggest melting the butter first then adding a little chocolate at time while constantly whisking until the chocolate has melted and is well incorporated. This should help avoid the possibility of seizing. Also, be sure to keep the temperature low. Too high of heat will brown the butter and scorch the chocolate. Neither will taste good in your brownies.

Once you’ve melted the butter and chocolate then added the sugar, it is important to allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes before adding the eggs. You don’t want the eggs to start cooking before you put the batter in the oven. We’re making brownies, not chocolate scrambled eggs after all.

Once your batter is baking, it can be tricky to tell when it is done. Oven temperatures vary, so it’s best to not go strictly by the timing. You’ll need to text the doneness with a toothpick.

Obviously, if you check the batter and it’s still a jiggly in the middle, they’re not done. If it appears set in the middle and when you insert a toothpick it is gooey, they’re still not done. They’re done when you insert a toothpick and there are a few moist crumbs sticking to the toothpick. The brownies will continue baking as it cools, so you don’t need to worry about it being undercooked.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you insert the toothpick and it comes out completely clean, they are overdone. They’ll still be good as long as they’re not burnt, but they’ll just have a different texture.

Coffee Brownie Bites with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting

A dessert with various flavors. If you're just in the mood for a brownie without the other flavors, you can easily omit the coffee and the frosting and still have an excellent brownie.

Course Dessert
Keyword Brownie
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 16
Author Lisa

Ingredients

For The Brownies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 oz chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder

For The Frosting

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • chocolate chips or sprinkles

Instructions

For The Brownies

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8X8 inch baking pan by thoroughly greasing the pan, addling a sheet of parchment paper, then greasing the parchment paper. (This allows for the easy removal of the brownies from the pan.)

  2. Prepare the coffee by adding the instant coffee to a small bowl. Add the warm water and mix until the coffee has dissolved.

  3. In the bottom portion of a double boiler, bring about 1 to 2 inches of water to a low simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium/low. In the top portion of the double boiler, add the butter and allow to melt.

  4. Gradually add the chocolate chips to the melted butter, a little at a time. Whisking constantly until the chocolate has completely melted and is fully incorporated with the butter.

    Coffee Brownie Cookie Dough melted chocolate
  5. Add the vanilla, salt and prepared coffee. Continue whisking until well blended.

  6. Add the sugar, a little at a time, until well blended. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

  7. Mix the flour and cocoa powder. (The cocoa powder is basically just to retain the rich, chocolate appearance of the batter, otherwise the flour lightens the batter. I prefer a rich, dark, brownies, so I use dark chocolate cocoa powder.)

  8. Gradually add the flour mixture to the batter, a little at a time. Mixing just until the flour is incorporated. The batter should have a thick texture.

  9. Pour the batter into your prepared baking pan and spread evenly.

  10. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Starting at 30 minutes, test the center of the brownies with a toothpick. The toothpick should not be gooey, but if it is, let it bake for a few more minutes. If the toothpick test results in a moist toothpick with a few crumbs, they are ready.

    The brownies will finish baking as they are cooling down. This will yield a chewy brownie. Baking them too long, will result in a cakier brownie that may be a little hard. They'll still taste good, but the texture won't be quite right.

    Allow the brownies to cool completely before removing from the pan.

For The Frosting

  1. Cream together the butter and the brown sugar in large bowl of a mixer.

  2. Blend in the vanilla.

  3. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar, a little at a time.

  4. Occasionally check the texture of the frosting. If the frosting gets a little too thick add a teaspoon or two of milk.

  5. Once the brownies have cooled, cut into squares and add frosting as desired.

    Coffee Brownie Bites with Cookie Dough Frosting
  6. Top with chocolate chips or sprinkles.

 

Speaking of kitchen mishaps, I highly recommend the book “How To Break An Egg“. It’s from the editors, contributors and readers of “Fine Cooking Magazine”. It has 1,453 kitchen tips, food fixes, emergency substitutions and handy techniques. It is full of everything from how to carve a leg of lamb to measurement equivalents to caring for your pots. I use the emergency substitutions section the most, but the whole book is fantastic. It should be noted that I’m NOT being paid for this recommendation. But, I just truly have found this book to be the most used book in my kitchen.

What’s your biggest kitchen mishap? How did you remedy the situation? Tell me about it in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Cream Cake And Tips For A Better Batter

I love baking. Always have. I have to admit, though, that I haven’t always kept my recipes well organized. Some recipes get stuffed inside any one of 100s of cookbooks or notebooks, a shoebox or desk drawer. I decided to try to get more organized, as I was starting this blog, when I misplaced a few of my recipes including my all-time favorite non-chocolate cake recipe. An Italian Cream Cake. I’ve made it so many times, I should have it memorized by now. But, I try something different with it every time, so it’s never really the same. I’ve made a chocolate version, an orange version, a blackberry version and a raspberry filled version.

When I first realized I couldn’t find my recipe, I tried a random recipe I found online or a cookbook, but it wasn’t the same. Since I have no idea where I originally got the recipe, I’ve tried several times to recreate it and I think I have the right recipe now. Wish me luck. I’m making this for a dear friend’s 85th birthday, so I hope it turns out well.

There are several keys to making good cakes. You can’t just dump all the ingredients together all at once. Well, you can, if you want a dense cake. But, if your goal is moist and tender, you need to keep some things in mind that will, scientifically, make the best cake.

First, creaming together your butter and sugar is very important. The butter needs to be softened to room temperature. Leave it sit out for a half hour before baking. You should be able to lightly press into the butter and still have a little resistance without smooshing all the way through it. If it is still too cold, give it another 30 minutes. It’s tempting, but it’s not a good idea to try to soften it up in the microwave because melting changes the structure of the butter. Butter that is too cold or too hot will not give you the same result in your cake.

It should also be noted that using part butter and part shortening will produce a more tender cake as well. Shortening “shortens” gluten strands because it is 100% fat; whereas butter is only 80-85% fat and the remainder is water, which can toughen your cake. I’ve used all butter in this recipe and it is still delicious, but I prefer butter and shortening. You may have different preferences, so experiment with it until you get it to your liking.

Mixers vary in strength, so you’ll need to rely on texture and appearance to determine when the creaming is complete. Use the setting for “Cream” based on the manufacturer’s recommendation for your mixer. During the creaming process, the sugar crystals aerate the butter causing minute air bubbles in the butter…which will be activated by your leavening agent (baking soda or powder) during baking which will give you a light, fluffy cake. Test the texture of your mixture periodically. It will be ready when the sugar is almost dissolved, it will feel silky rather than grainy. The mixture will be visibly fluffy and still retain some of the yellowish tint from the butter.

Now that you’ve mastered the creaming process, making the rest of the batter will be a piece of cake. Sorry, bad pun intended. The important takeaway for the rest of the batter is to not overmix anything. Overmixing will ruin the aeration from the creaming. After the creaming process, adding the ingredients and mixing only until you can no longer see that ingredient is sufficient timing for mixing. Add the eggs (one at a time) after the creaming process. Then, add the extract. Then alternating dry and liquid ingredient additions to the mixture minimalizes gluten formation, resulting in a lighter, fluffier, moister cake. Finally, fold in the last ingredients and you’ve got an excellent cake batter.

Italian Cream Cake
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Italian Cream Cake

This delicious Italian Cream Cake is a favorite of mine that is frequently requested by family and friends. 

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 12
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra large eggs separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 cups powdered sugar

Decorations

  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut toasted

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    Italian Cream Cake ingredients
  2. In a small bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

  3. Separate the egg yolks and the egg whites. Set aside the yolks.
  4. Whip the egg whites until they form a stiff peak. Set aside.

  5. In a separate, large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy (approximately 5 minutes) checking texture periodically. Mixture, when rubbed between your fingers, should be silky rather than grainy.

  6. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing just until blended.

  7. Add vanilla.

  8. Add the flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with the buttermilk (in thirds), beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Be careful not to overmix any of the ingredients or the cake could turn out too dense. Mix just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added. 

  9. Gently fold the chopped pecans and the coconut into the batter.

  10. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.

  11. Divide the batter between 3 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans or 36 cupcake cups (filled 1/2 way).

  12. Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center, the cake is done when there are just a couple moist crumbs stuck to the toothpick and the cake is toasty brown. (If making cupcakes, start checking them between 15-20 minutes.)

    Italian Cream Cake layer
  13. Let the cakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing the cake. Then allow them to finish cooling on the wire racks for about an hour before decorating with the frosting.

Decorations

  1. Spread one cup of the sweetened flaked coconut into a small baking pan. Bake for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Tossing the coconut frequently. The coconut will burn easily, so make sure you check it often. 

    Toasted coconut

Frosting

  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese.

    Italian Cream Cake frosting ingredients
  2. Add vanilla.

  3. Gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time until it well blended. You may not need all 6 cups of the powdered sugar, but this should be a firm frosting if you're going to pipe the frosting onto the cake. The more pwdered sugar you use, the firmer the frosting will be and will hold it's shape better for piping.

    Italian Cream Cake crumb coating
  4. Once the cake is sufficiently cooled, layer the cakes with frosting between each layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake and refrigerate for one hour before continuing. (This is called a crumb coat. It will allow for easier spreading of the frosting while decorating and will keep the crumbs of the cake from mixing in while you spread your frosting. It will also cover the cake, so if you're piping on the frosting, any gaps in your piping will be concealed by the crumb coat.)

    Italian Cream Cake
  5. Continue decorating as desired with your favorite decorating tips.

    Italian Cream Cake cupcakes
  6. Optional: For this cake, I used raspberry preserves as a filling just as an added flavor. You can experiment with many different flavors for this cake or enjoy it as it was originally intended.

I haven’t been able to determine the origin of this cake. I’m not sure why it’s called an Italian Cream Cake, but there doesn’t seem to be any connection to Italy. It’s primarily a dessert served around the holidays in the Southern United States. I’m only guessing, but I think the frosting was probably made with mascarpone cheese once upon a time. Mascarpone being fairly expensive, perhaps someone started using cream cheese instead. It produces the same texture frosting and with the powdered sugar, the taste would be comparable.

If you know, let me know in the comments below.

The Easiest Way To Peel An Egg

My first goal today is to explain my technique for making the perfect hardboiled egg. I’ve heard of and tried all kinds of tricks for easy to peel eggs; such as adding salt and/or vinegar to the boiling water, or in desperation, even oil…eww. But, in the end, the simplest way requires only a pot and water.

Use the method I describe below and you won’t have to fight with the removal of the shell and inadvertently peel off huge, unsightly chunks of the delicate white of the eggs.  And you definitely won’t get any of that greenish-gray ring around the yolk from being overcooked. These snafus of hardboiled eggs can really ruin the appearance of your tasty deviled eggs or egg salad.

Speaking of egg salad, my second goal of today is share my egg salad recipe with you. So, egg salad, hmmm? Does there really need to be another egg salad recipe? A quick glance at Pinterest and you’ll probably find 100 recipes to choose from. They’re all the “perfect” recipe or the “best” tasting or simply “amazing”…you get the idea. And, I’m sure they are all delicious. I’ve never had an egg salad that I didn’t like; well, except, maybe, that one time. You know, when you eat it to be polite, but the greenish tint makes you hope that they’re just over-cooked and pray that they haven’t been sitting around a little too long. Anyway, I used to be satisfied with just adding a little mayo to the chopped eggs, but over time, it progressed into something a little different and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

Egg Salad

An easy to make egg salad recipe with a foolproof method of peeling off those stubborn shells.
Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Inactive time 13 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 6
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 6 extra large eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayonaisse
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp Ranch dressing
  • 1 tbsp onion minced
  • 1 tbsp celery minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt optional
  • pinch pepper

Instructions

  1. The key to easy-to-peel hardboiled eggs with a perfectly yellow yolk is to not overboil the egg.
  2. Place six extra large eggs in an empty pot. Fill with enough water to cover the eggs by an inch or two. Cover the pot with a lid.

    Egg salad ingredients
  3. Over high heat, bring to a rapid boil.
  4. Remove from the heat and leave covered in the pot for 13 minutes...exactly.


  5. Drain the hot water from the eggs and fill the pot with cold water. Lightly tap each egg...just enough to slightly crack the shell. Leave the slightly-cracked eggs in the cold water for 5-10 minutes. 


    Cracked egg
  6. Firmly tap the tips of the egg (this helps separate the shell from the egg) then peel off the shell.

    Peeling the egg
  7. To make the dressing, mince the onion and celery then add it to the mayonaisse, sour cream, Ranch dressing, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  

  8. Dice the eggs then add to the dressing and mix thoroughly.





    Egg salad
  9. Serve on your favorite bread or in place of dressing on a salad.

    Egg salad suggestion

I like to serve it on a toasted bagel or croissant. If you like croissants, I’ll be sharing my recipe in the coming weeks and hope to work on my bagel recipe, too. Please like my page on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest so you don’t miss any recipes.

 

Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

When I hear someone say that they don’t like cake, I can only imagine that they’ve only ever had boxed cake. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are very good, but if I’m going through the process of making a cake, I’m going all in and making it from scratch.  My parents have been good sports and sampled my countless experiments with baking from scratch since I was a kid. So, for my mom’s birthday the other day, I didn’t want to bake a cake she’s had a million times before. I thought about some things that she likes that I would be able to incorporate into a cake and the idea of the Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake was born.

She likes blueberries, however, it’s not really a good time of year for fresh blueberries, so I decided on a blueberry filling and a syrup made from blueberry jam for a topping to drizzle over the frosting. She likes buttermilk on occasion, so I thought the sourness of buttermilk with a the sweetness of blueberry filling would make a nice contrast that would still go well together.

Why mini cakes instead of a whole cake or cupcakes, you ask? Well, I just wanted to do something different and I found these cute 4-inch mini baking pan paper cups at the store recently and have been waiting for an opportunity to use them. By the way, you can certainly use this recipe for a layered cake or cupcakes, you’ll just need to adjust the baking time accordingly.

Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

This moist white cake is so versatile. You can eat it without frosting, add different fruit toppings or chocolate. Use a simple butter cream frosting for an everyday cake or dress it up with sprinkles or syrup for special occasions.

NOTE: I indicated that this recipe makes 24 servings because it makes 12 mini cakes and each mini cake is actually 2 servings.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Inactive time 1 hour
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 24
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Filling/Syrup

  • 2 cups blueberry jam divided
  • 1-2 tbsp water

Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the baking cups a couple of inches apart on the baking sheets. 

    Buttermilk cake ingredients
  2. In a small bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, salt, and baking powder.

  3. In a separate, large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar and vanilla, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, until light and fluffy - about 5 minutes. 

  4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until well blended. 

  5. Mix the flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with the buttermilk (in thirds) beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Be careful not to overmix the ingredients or the cake could turn out too dense. Mix just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added.

    Buttermilk cake batter
  6. Pour mixture into baking cups (about 1/2 full). Bake 18-22 minutes. Just until they barely start to turn golden. Insert a toothpick into the center, and if there are a couple of moist crumbs, it's time to take them out. 

  7. Let cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour.

Filling/Syrup

  1. Syrup - In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of jam over medium/low heat until the jam starts to melt. Gradually add water a little at a time and stir until it reaches the desired consistency. You may or may not need 2 tbsps of water depending on how thick or thin you want the syrup. (Set aside until after you're done frosting the cakes. The syrup will thicken a little upon standing. If it's too thick, return to the stove and add a little more water.)

    Buttermilk cake with filling
  2. Using a decorating bag filled with 1 cup of jam and a filling tip, insert the tip halfway into the cake and squirt just enough jam into the cake until you can see it. Repeat randomly throughout the cake.

    Tip: If you don't have a filling tip, you can use a small paring knife. Insert the knife halfway into the cake and gently twist a small hole. Cut a small tip off the decorating bag filled with jam and fill the holes.  

    Buttermilk cake decorative ideas

Frosting

  1. Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Mix in vanilla extract.

  3. Add powdered sugar. Mixing one cup at a time until it is well blended. You may not need all 5 cups of the powdered sugar. Add at least the first 3 cups, then test for firmness of the frosting.

    (If you're spreading the frosting over the cake, a thinner frosting like this would be sufficient. If you're using decorating tips and piping the frosting, you'll need to add more of the powdered sugar until it is firm enough to hold it's shape.)

    Decorate cakes as desired and drizzle syrup over the top

    Buttermilk cakes closeup

I actually want to try this with fresh blueberries when they are in season at a reasonable price, so don’t forget to like this page on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for updates. Also, comment below to tell me what other fruit you would try with this cake.

Colomba di Pasqua Italian Easter Cake

This is the first of a segment I call “Recipes with Friends”. The idea is that one of my wonderful friends who are also wonderful cooks or bakers will share a recipe with us and write a little bit about the recipe. Well, one particularly wonderful friend is an online penpal, named Max. He is from Italy and we’ve been online friends for 9 or 10 years. Max is a self-proclaimed-not-so-good-cook, although I think he is probably a better cook than he gives himself credit. So, I’m letting him off the hook and didn’t ask him to bake this delicious Colomba di Pasqua Italian Easter Cake, but I will give him credit for the idea.

Max has encourage me to start this blog to share my recipes, he’s given me advice and shared his opinion on many topics, so I found it fitting that the first “Recipes with Friends” includes something about him. Max and I share a fondness of nice shoes. I don’t have many opportunities to wear them these days, but Max likes to tease me and send me pictures of all the beautiful shoes he would buy for me if I lived in Italy. I must say, he has exquisite taste in shoes and is very fashionable.

We’ve talked about recipes and different food stuffs over the years. I’ve shared recipes and pictures of my creations with him. He has even shared some with me. This recipe is not one of them, however. When chatting of Easter plans he told me of this Easter cake he bought to take to his mother for the holiday. I’d never heard of it, so naturally, I looked it up. This was mere hours ago and I was quite intrigued. Usually when I want to experiment with a new recipe, I scour through the many recipes I have saved, look online and through my favorite cookbooks. I look for something that stands out as different then compile a list of ingredients. Next, I decide how large of a recipe I want to make and figure out how much of everything I will need. I try the recipe and make adjustments that suit my tastes. Sometimes it’s a hit. Other times I need to start over and create something from scratch. I looked at a few recipes for this cake, but chose to try the first one I came across that had an English translation (www.academiabarilla.com). It was nice to have the translation, but the measurements were still in weight, so I hope my conversions are right or, at least, close. This is one of those times I wish I had a scale. Anyway, it’s baking in the oven as I write this and it smells heavenly.

While the bread is baking, I’m reading some articles about the Colomba, which is the counterpart to the Christmas Panettone and Pandoro. Colomba is Italian for Dove by the way. Colomba di Pasqua translates to Easter Dove. This bread is supposed to be formed into a dove-shaped mold, unfortunately, I do not have one of those either, so I shaped it by hand. We’ll see what it looks like when it’s done baking.

Colomba baked
Colomba after baking

That doesn’t look anything like a dove. Well, maybe if you squint and tilt your head. Well, maybe not. But, it’s not bad for a spur of the moment, first attempt challenge. I just sampled a piece and it’s really very good. In the short amount of time that I’ve had to research this recipe, I have found that a traditional Colomba di Pasqua uses natural yeast and has an average rising time of 30 hours. Wow! 30 hours. I didn’t start this recipe early enough for that. I used a rapid rising instant yeast and the standard rising time of allowing for the dough to double in size before the next step. Maybe I’ll plan ahead next time and try the natural yeast instead.

Colomba di Pasqua

A quicker version of the traditional Italian Easter cake.

Course Bread
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Inactive time 2 hours
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 1 loaf
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 3 1/3 cups flour
  • 9 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 packets rapid rise instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp warm water
  • 5 oz mixed candied fruit (I used raisins and candied pineapple)
  • almonds and pearl sugar for sprinkling on top
  • 1 pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the yeast in a 1/2 cup warm water and gradually add 1 1/2 cups of flour. Set aside in a warm place and allow to rise to double the size (approximately one hour). This is the starter dough.

    Colomba ingredients
  2. In a separate bowl add the remaining flour, 3 well beaten eggs, sugar, salt and melted butter. Add this mixture to the starter dough and knead until incorporated. Set aside in warm place, cover with a towel, and allow dough to rise until it doubles in size again (approximately one hour).
    Colomba dough
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  4. Sprinkle flour over the raisins and candied pineapple and shake off the flour. This removes the stickiness from the fruit and will make it easier to fold into your dough.

  5. Beat the remaining egg with 1 tbsp of water to coat the top of the dough.

  6. When the dough has doubled in size, fold in the fruit. Be careful not to over knead the dough. Using a dove-shaped bread mold, shape the dough (or make a rough shape by hand if you don't have a mold) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a pastry brush, coat the top and sides of the loaf. Sprinkle the almonds and pearl sugar on top of the loaf.

  7. Bake the loaf for approximately 30 minutes.

  8. When the loaf is done baking, allow to cool to room temperature before enjoying.

    Colomba baked

Have you ever had Colomba di Pasqua before? Have you tried this recipe? Please comment below and let me know how this compares. Look for updates in the future as I’ll be experimenting with this recipe again.

Cranberry Orange Scones

What would Sunday morning be without fresh baked, buttery delicious, melt in your mouth, scones. Whether you’re hosting a family brunch or just lounging around having a relaxing day, these scones won’t take up all your free time to make them.

I’ve experimented with many different variations of this recipe and have a few suggestions that are key to creating the best scones.

  1. The butter must be kept as cold as possible. I usually dice the butter into cubes then put it in the freezer until I’m ready to use it. If at any time, while you’re rolling and cutting the shapes, the butter becomes soft, you should put the dough in the refrigerator for 10 or 15 minutes. It’s important to keep the butter cold right up until you put the scones in the oven. Cold butter, as it melts in the dough, is what gives the scones a flaky texture.
  2. Using frozen cranberries as opposed to dried cranberries, will help keep the dough cold as you’re working with the dough.
  3. If you’re going to switch out the frozen cranberries for dried cranberries, you’ll need to increase your cream in the dough by 1/4 cup. The frozen cranberries will provide extra moisture to the dough where the dried cranberries need the extra moisture to  reconstitute to their original state.
  4. Likewise, if you’re using dried cranberries instead of frozen, you’ll need to reduce the sugar by 1/4 cup. Dried cranberries have added sugar, so you won’t need the extra sugar in the recipe.
  5. Make sure your work surface, your hands and your rolling pin are all well-floured while working with the dough.
  6. When you mix the dough, only work it until it is blended and form it into a ball. Don’t over mix it and don’t worry about lumps in the dough. You need to have lumps of butter in the dough for the scones to become flaky. Over mixing the dough will make them tough.

Cranberry Orange Scones

Easy to make scones. Great for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. Make them as the recipe calls or swap your favorite ingredients. 

Course Breakfast, Lunch, Side Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 20
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Scones

  • 4 1/2 cups flour divided
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar divided
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 3/4 pound cold unsalted butter diced
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen cranberries

Egg wash

  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 extra large egg

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 4 tsp orange juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. Dice butter into cubes and place in the freezer until you're ready to add the butter to the dough. Cut the cranberries in half and return to the freezer until you are ready to add them to the dough.

  3. Whisk one egg and the 2 tbsp of milk together to make an egg wash and set aside.

  4. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, combine 4 cups of flour, baking powder, salt, 1/2 cup sugar and orange zest. Add the butter and mix at the lowest speed. Be sure to scrape the bowl to ensure that the butter is mixed with the flour. The cubes of butter should reduce to about the size of marbles.

    Scones ingredients
  5. Lightly whisk the remaining 4 eggs and combine with the heavy cream. Gradually pour this mixture into the flour and butter mixture. Mix just until combined. 
  6. In a separate bowl, sprinkle 1/8 cup of sugar over the cranberries and mix throughout the cranberries then add to them to the dough. Continue to mix on the lowest speed of the mixer, just until the cranberries are mixed in.

  7. Sprinkle flour on your work surface, rolling pin and hands. Transfer the dough to your work surface. Knead the dough into a ball. Being careful not to overwork the dough. It is normal to have lumps and to see bits of butter.
  8. Roll the dough evenly over your work surface until the dough is about 1/2 inch thick. Flour a round cutter so the dough doesn't stick to it. You can use any shape cutter you wish, but the larger the cutter, the longer you will need to bake the scones. I use a 3 1/2 inch round cutter. Transfer the cut out shapes to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

    There will be remnants of dough leftover after cutting out the shapes, simply gather up the dough, form a ball and roll out the dough again. Repeat this until there is no more dough remaining.

  9. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the entire top of each scone and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Bake for approximately 15-18 minutes or until the top of the scones are slightly browned and the sides are firm.

  10. Transfer the scones to a rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, add the orange juice to the confectioners sugar and whisk into a smooth glaze. Once the scones have cooled, using a pastry brush, dab the glaze over the top of the scones.

    Scones with glaze

Have fun experimenting with the recipe. You can swap out different berries or other fruit, add nuts or chocolate chips. Yes, you can even add cheese for a scone that is better than a dinner biscuit. Let me know how your scones turned out in the comments below.