Tag Archives: dessert

Get Busy Baking, or Get Busy Eating: Easy Pumpkin Cupcakes and Brownie Bites

6 Nov

Those little puffs of dessert-o-rific joy? Those would be Two-Ingredient (-ish) Pumpkin Cupcakes. I dove into sweets this week with two different adaptations of mixes, in the spirit of my earlier post about doctoring pre-made and store-bought products. The results were downright delicious, and — now that I’ve devoured them, as have my ravenous coworkers — this post was ripe to be written.

First on the menu? Those cupcakes, which I baked to a) experiment with the 2-ingredient (ish) method seen here. I had no idea that this was even a thing, a technique, a recipe, but then, I decided to try it. And it was fabulous! So easy, and surprisingly light, given that the recipe contains no oil or eggs. (With that in mind, I suppose it’s also, technically, vegan? Bazinga!)

Continue reading

Pinterest Challenge: Pumpkin Poppers

19 Sep

It’s getting chilly in the mornings, the crunchy leaves are rustling in cool breezes, and I’m in the mood for my “You’ve Got Mail” bouquet of sharpened pencils. What’s that spell, kids? F-A-L-L!

But seriously, lovely friends, it’s almost autumn, my favorite time of year. I’ll admit that I love doing fall activities like apple-picking or sweater-wearing (hey, that’s totally an activity), watching the weather change, and partaking of everything else that comes with the season. My favorite aspect by far, though? (And that says a lot, now that Sam Adams is putting out their fall seasonal brew-packs. Come to mama, Octoberfest.)

Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org.

Pumpkin! (And all of its accompanying spices — allspice, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon)

In the spirit of my favorite gourd — which can successfully be added to pies, coffee (thanks, Starbucks, for bringing back liquid crack your best seasonal latte), chili, tarts, and more — I came across this pin for Pumpkin Poppers, from the lovely Haley at Just the Little Things. Here’s the original, drool-inducing picture in all of its fall-flavor glory:

Is it appropriate to say “hubba hubba” to an inanimate dessert?

Yeah … this recipe had to happen. Thus, this weekend, I popped into my neighborhood Giant Grocery and grabbed (then promptly paid for — sheesh, guys) my first (of hopefully many) cans of pumpkin to make the recipe. After successfully baking a batch, and distributing them to my coworkers in an attempt not to slide into morbid obesity at the hands (er … cinnamon-sugar-sprinkles?) of these bad boys, here’s my verdict:

4.5 out of 5 Pinterest Ps.

Holy canolli, Batman, these bad boys were delicious. The recipe was easy to follow, and the result turned out almost identical to the original pinned one. Hurrah! Here are mine:

“Nommy nommy nom nom nom.” — the Pumpkin Poppers.

The moist, pumpkin-flavored cake centers were covered in a light layer of cinnamon sugar (adhered with melted butter — no way something this tasty could be totally healthy!), and the flavor combination of spices, pumpkin and fluffy cake was fabulous. When I brought these to work, they vanished by about 9:30 a.m. When I left a few at home, 4 may or may not have simultaneously disappeared immediately after baking. Huh. Mystery.

The stars of the show! (Well, aside from the sugar. There’s quite a bit of that.)

Pumpkin Poppers — adapted from Just the Little Things. Makes 24-ish mini-muffin-sized bites.

You’ll need:

  • 1 3/4  cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves [NOTE: you can substitute the previous 4 ingredients with 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, as well)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or applesauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin (for instructions for roasting your own, check Psych in the Kitchen’s post here)
  • 1/2 cup milk

For the coating:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or spray a mini-muffin tin.
  • Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a small bowl and lightly mix until well-combined.
  • In a larger bowl, combine oil / applesauce, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin, and milk.  Slowly add dry ingredients mixture and whisk / mix with a fork until just combined.  (Overmixing = not so tasty baked goods.) Using a tablespoon or ice cream scoop, fill mini muffin tins until nearly full and bake 10-12 minutes. 

  • For coating, melt butter in small bowl (45 sec – 1 min on high in the microwave should do it).  Mix cinnamon and sugar in a separate  bowl.  After the pumpkin poppers cool for a few minutes, dip each one in melted butter; then, roll them in the sugar mixture (a la snickerdoodles) and set aside on a serving dish / cooling rack until ready to serve.

Steps for dunking and sugaring your poppers: One, lightly “dunk” in butter until all sides are coated.

Step two: “Stir” the poppers in cinnamon sugar. And avoid getting your non-hand-model hands photographed.

Step Three: Admire your handiwork, and try to avoid eating each popper as soon as you’re finished.

Variation: If you’re lacking a mini-muffin tin, bake the mixture in full-size muffin tins at the same temperature for 18-20 minutes, topped with a quick “streusel” topping of 1-2 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp cold butter (cut into flour with 2 knives or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs), 1 tbsp chopped walnuts, 1-2 tsp brown sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

Aww yeah. These are also weirdly delicious with peanut butter.

Are you folks fans of fall cuisine? Are you pumpkin people, or do you prefer other flavors of the season? Have your Pinned recipes been successfully attempted, or are you mostly pinning-and-forgetting? (Like we all do — myself included!)

When Life Hands You Lemons … Make Cookies, People!

9 Sep

(Sung to the tune of “Badger Badger Badger”): Lemons Lemons Lemons Ciiitrus, Ciiitrus …

None of this lemonade nonsense! (Though a lemon cocktail sounds about right, too!)

A romp around the interwebs recently led me to a new recipe — Martha Stewart’s Glazed Lemon Cookies. With a friend’s housewarming BBQ* coming up soon, I thought they’d make the perfect “Hey! Thanks for the invite! Love your place. Want some baked goods?” sort of gift. 🙂 Plus, as something of a lemon addict (see: lemon pasta; lemon tea; impending other dozens of lemon-based recipes…), they seemed right up my alley.

Now often, Martha (arguably The Queen of Domesticity, minus the whole insider-trading-sent-her-to-jail thing) uses more challenging techniques and some hard-to-find ingredients; or, at the very least, her expectations of you, lowly little chef, are very high. And more often than not, Julia Child-style, I want to meet those high expectations with vigor! And spirit! And some sweat and tears thrown in for good measure! But for these cookies, on a relaxing and slightly rainy Saturday afternoon, I was on the hunt for something easy.

And easy I found. The recipe couldn’t be simpler; it’s essentially a standard sugar cookie infused with lemon zest and lemon juice, both in the actual cookie dough and in its light, lemony glaze. Try these for a holiday party (something slightly classier, like New Year’s, comes to mind) or to indulge the sweet tooth of a lemon-lover like myself.

* Out of 26 or so cookies originally, 5 were left by the time I decided to head home. Win!

Tragically, I didn’t remember to take any pictures of the cookies before heading to my friend’s housewarming. BUT! You can see them sealed under lots o’ plastic wrap here. … Tasty, right? 🙂

Martha Stewart’s Glazed Lemon Cookies — makes 24, or fewer if you’re into the “cookie-as-big-as-your-face” thing.

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest, plus 2 tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed or from a bottle are both fine)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the glaze, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Here’s what you do:

  • For the cookies, Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until “light and fluffy.” (Direct Martha quote!) Add egg, vanilla and lemon juice and beat until combined. Slowly add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients mixture, keeping your mixer on low. (If it gets too thick to beat with your hand mixer, finish combining ingredients using a large wooden spoon.)
  • Drop hefty tablespoons of batter onto ungreased cookie sheets (or nonstick, if you have those) and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Switch the sheets halfway through baking (as in, if one is on top of the other in the oven, swap them after 7-8 minutes). Allow to cool on cookie sheets for 2 minutes; then, transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
  • For the glaze, combine all ingredients using a small whisk or fork in a small bowl. Spread or drizzle glaze mixture onto cooled cookies. Allow the glaze to harden, then commence the nomming.

The best thing about these cookies, I think, is the combination of subtle lemon in the batter and “HOLY COW THAT’S LEMONTASTIC” in the glaze. You end up with cookies that, ironically, do taste like lemonade. 🙂 Enjoy!

What are your favorite lemony treats? What are your go-to cookie recipes? This one might work its way into my repertoire — how about you?

Quick Dessert: Vegan (or Not) Banana “Ice Cream”

16 Jul

This might be, by far, the easiest recipe I’ve ever tried. A coworker recently told me how his wife uses overripe bananas to make “ice cream.” The technique, he said, was simple:

  1. Freeze the bananas
  2. Blend them in a blender or food processor
  3. Eat

It can’t be THAT simple, I thought to myself as I visualized the 3 overripe bananas in a basket on my counter. Normally, my attack strategy is to make banana bread or banana muffins out of those bad boys. This time – with DC heat waves hitting some absurd highs a week ago – I decided to forgo any baking and give this “ice cream” a shot. And oh, how richly were my taste buds rewarded!

So creamy and delicious. And so, so easy!

Banana “Ice Cream” – 2 variations. Serves 1-2, or more if you have more bananas.

For the vegan version …

You’ll need:

  • 2-3 overripe bananas
  • 1-3 tbsp cold water

Here’s What You Do:

  • Slice the bananas into small chunks. Place the chunks in an ice cube tray (one chunk per “cube”), and freeze for an hour (or until fully frozen).
  • Add the chunks to a food processor or blender. Add 1 tbsp cold water to help the mixture blend. Blend or process on full strength (or “Puree” / “Liquify” on your blender) until the mixture is smooth, adding another 1-2 tbsp water if necessary.

  • Serve with a drizzle of agave nectar or real maple syrup and chopped walnuts. (Or, try a scoop of natural peanut butter if you’re feeling decadent!)

For the not-quite vegan version …

You’ll need:

  • 2-3 overripe bananas
  • 2 or 3 tbsp vanilla Greek yogurt (optional)
  • 1-2 tbsp milk

Here’s what you do:

  • Slice and feeze the bananas just as you would in the vegan version.
  • Add the chunks to a food processor or blender. Add your yogurt and 1 tbsp of milk to help the mixture blend. (The yogurt adds extra flavor and richness, but the bananas are just as creamy on their own – adding the yogurt is entirely up to you.)
  • Blend or process on full strength (or “Puree” / “Liquify” on your blender) until the mixture is smooth, adding another tbsp milk if necessary.
  • Serve with drizzles of your favorite sundae sauces (caramel sauce sounds particularly delicious), chopped walnuts, or chocolate sprinkles. Mine was delicious with a drizzle of honey and handful of walnuts.

As Ina Garten would say, how easy is that? I haven’t tried this technique with other frozen fruit, but I assume the effect would be sorbet-like. (Which sounds lovely and summery to me!) The bananas have such a natural creaminess, though, that they’re really ideal for this kind of preparation. You can also use leftover banana chunks for smoothies!

What are your favorite easy summer desserts? Any tips for more frozen treats?

Iron It Out: Stone Fruit Upside-Down Cake in a Cast Iron Skillet

23 Jun

Image courtesy of our friends at HuffPost Food. My skillet is just as drop dead gorgeous.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a new special someone in my life. Don’t worry — nothing has happened to my gentleman friend (Fun Blog Nickname pending). No, I’m talking about the deep love between a woman and her cooking supplies: specifically, my new-found adoration for the latest addition to my kitchen, my cast iron skillet.

I recently visited my favorite DC-area kitchen store, Hill’s Kitchen in Capitol Hill. While I normally peruse their goods for the sole purpose of spending time in a hallowed hall of culinary awesomeness, I stopped by this time with the intention of  buying. No more window shopping! Time to get serious. And for only $22.95, a cast iron skillet was made mine.

So many possibilities! What would I bake? Could I whip up traditional cornbread like the best of ’em? Make an impromptu frittata, like Harrison Ford does at his curmudgeonly best in “Morning Glory?”

Instead, for my first trick with my new friend, I whipped up a Stone Fruit Upside-Down Cake. This time of year, various stone fruits (peaches, plums, cherries, nectarines) are so abundant, fresh and delicious. This recipe is closely adapted from a delicious cast iron skillet Upside Down Cake by David Lebovitz.

For the fruit and syrup bottom of the cake, you’ll need:

  • 3 tbsp margarine (easily substitute unsalted butter)
  • 1/2 packed cup brown sugar
  • A splash of maple syrup
  • Enough slices of fruit to cover the bottom of the pan. I used plums, a peach or two, fresh cherries, a green apple (surprisingly good with its stone fruit friends), and raisins. DEFINITELY try the raisins — they’re transformed when you cook with them this way.

For the actual cake, you’ll need:

  • 8 tbsp stick margarine (again, easily substitute unsalted butter)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 room-temperature eggs (just let ’em chill on the counter for 20-30 mins while you prep the syrup and fruit layer)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup room-temperature milk (I used 2% without any issues, but skim probably wouldn’t work here.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Melt the 3 tbsp margarine in your pre-heated (medium-ish) cast iron skillet. Once the margarine is melted and slightly bubbly, add the brown sugar and splash of maple syrup. Keep stirring until the mixture is evenly combined, has thickened a bit, and begins to bubble into a kind of caramel. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the sugary goodness to cool.
  2. Slice your fruit and arrange it however you like on the bottom of the pan (as in, resting in the sugary goodness). I used something of a traditional pinwheel, with cherries and raisins in a ring around the outside, and alternating slices of green apple, plum, and peach in a spiral.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Start by beating the sugar and 8 tbsp margarine together (I used a Sunbelt hand-held mixer) until well-combined, light and fluffy-looking. Then, beat in both eggs and the vanilla on low to medium speed. Add each egg one at a time for even mixing.
  5. In a separate bowl, use a whisk to sift together your flour, baking powder and salt. (If you have a sifter, rock that bad boy.) Then, gently add 1/2 of the flour mixture to the bowl of wet ingredients, stirring with a spoon. Alternate 1/2 of the flour mixture with your milk, then add the rest of the flour mixture. Do not over mix! If you do, you’ll send the flour’s gluten into hyperdrive and end up with one nasty, gummy cake. (Ew.)
  6. Once the cake batter is mixed, spread it over the fruit layer in your cast iron skillet. Make sure the batter reaches the sides; you’ll know the cake is done baking when it begins to separate from the sides again.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour; the surface should be golden brown, and a toothpick should come out clean.
  8. After letting the cake cool for 20 minutes, use a dinner plate to gently flip over your cake. Then, you should be staring some glisteny, fruity goodness right in the face.

Oops, is that drool on my keyboard?

Do you guys love your cast iron skillets like whoa? What have you used them to make / bake / whip up?