Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mochaccino Cupcakes

In the past few years I started drinking coffee-like drinks. I say coffee-like because really, they were minty hot chocolates that had a splash of coffee. The mint, whipped cream, and general awesomeness covered up the coffee flavor. I always loved how coffee smelled, just not the taste. Anyway, the practice started when I moved out here to California and I was invited to join up with some fellow math teachers for Teacher Tuesday. Teacher Tuesday started out as a few of us meeting at Starbucks every Tuesday. It grew to quite a large group at one point and we decided that these "dates" needed to be preserved. As every teacher knows, to keep your sanity you need to get together with other teachers and "discuss" (read: bitch and moan) about the students, parents, administration, and general craziness of your day to day life. Only other teachers really understand. So, in order to preserve these precious "meetings" we came up with the name Coffee across the Curriculum, or CAC. We had added a few non-math teachers, so the "across" was legit. And it looked official on Excel calendars "CAC: 3:00-5:00", so anyone who saw the public calendars wouldn't try to schedule pesky parent meetings during our time.

So what started as a few teachers (and really, has ended up as only a few after it's peak years) is what started me on coffee. Back to that...

I eventually became aware that Peppermint Mochas have roughly 1,345 calories and 67 grams of fat. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. So I cut out the whipped cream (boo) and switched to skim milk (double boo, who actually LIKES blue milk anyway? And why is it blue??). Doing that shaved off 14 calories or so. So I decided to try REAL coffee. Hey, almost no calories, can still hang out with the cool teacher group. And I figured I'm probably have a fighting shot of liking it after all the years of mochas.

I was right! I like coffee. Real, coffee-flavored coffee. Now, don't get me wrong. A Peppermint Mocha will beat coffee any day, and I get one every few weeks and revel in it's awesomeness. But for day to day, just regular ol' joe is fine. And once a year, on my birthday, I get a full-fat, whipped cream version of my Peppermint Mocha and I smile for the rest of the day.

So, coffee-flavored cupcakes were last weeks treat! A pin off Pinterest that looked too pretty to pass up. Perfect flavor, the coffee cut the sweet of the frosting, generally yummy!
Mochaccino Cupcakes

3/4 cup butter
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk (use whole)
1/2 cup STRONG coffee, cool
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
instant espresso + water

For cupcakes:
  • stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, and salt.
  • in a separate bowl combine milk and coffee
  • beat butter until fluffy, gradually add sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.
  • alternate flour mixture and coffee mixture, beat until just combined.
  • bake about 18 minutes at 350 degrees.
For frosting:
  • beat butter until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and coffee and beat until smooth.

  • The original recipe called for adding coffee to the frosting. I wasn't a fan of this idea. The amount of liquid it was asking for would mean a TON of powdered sugar to thicken it back up. I'm not afraid of powdered sugar but I usually put a POUND of it in my vanilla frosting and that doesn't have any liquid other than vanilla. So who knows what adding 3 Tablespoons of coffee would require. So, I made an espresso slurry of sorts. I added about a teaspoon of instant espresso to very hot water. Just enough water to dissolve the crystals. It came to about 2 teaspoons. I added that to the butter and sugar and although still a little sweet, a much better option than adding even more powdered sugar.
  • The recipe also called for chocolate chips to be added to the batter. I left those out. Chunks belong in muffins, not cupcakes. :)
  • The little cookies I have as toppers I found at Trader Joe's. Chocolate cream filled pillows and they are FABULOUS!
Slightly adapted from bhg.com.

Creamy Lemon Crumb Squares

I made these a few weeks back for some friends we had over to watch football. They were super easy to put together and very yummy. They weren't too tart, but that could be because I used Meyer lemons from my little backyard tree!

Creamy Lemon Crumb Squares

1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick butter, slightly soft
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oats

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed mil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For crust/crumb:
  • mix butter and brown sugar together
  • sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Add oats.
  • press 1/2 of the mixture into the bottom of a 9x9 pan that is lined with parchment.

For filling:
  • mix together milk, juice, and zest. Spread over crust.
  • crumble the remaining crust/crumb mixture over the top. Don't press it down, just sprinkle it all over.
  • bake 20-ish minutes or until golden
  • cool for 30 minutes on the counter, then put in the refrigerator for a few hours to get completely cold.

Slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman.

Notes: the only real change I made was to the pan size. The original recipe calls for an 8x11. I really thought there wouldn't be enough lemon filling if I had to spread it out and I think I was right. These weren't filling heavy but had the perfect amount of creamy lemon.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake

I love making cheesecakes. Really love it! Mostly because I love EATING cheesecakes. But I don't typically make them all that often because they're not as easy to pawn off onto people. My dear husband does a fantastic job of carting in and delivering cupcakes and cookies to his coworkers but I don't know if I can convince him to bring in a cheesecake. It's not really office-friendly, you know?

So, I don't get to make them unless I plan to have someone over that I can force feed a few slices to. And usually Dave (the husband) is really persuasive and gets the remainder sent home with the guests.

I've been eyeballing this cheesecake on Pinterest for awhile now and finally found an excuse to make it! My friend's husband just returned from a deployment of 6 months and I figured anything I served him MUST be better than food that sat on a boat for 6 months. So I had them over for dinner.

Turns out, I was wrong. Mostly because I apparently lost my mind while prepping for the two fabulous pizzas I was going to make. FYI, when making pizza dough and proofing it in the oven (the only really nice, warm place in my kitchen), it's typically a good idea to REMOVE the balls of dough while preheating your oven to 500°. I'm lucky the house didn't burn down, since I had a cotton towel covering the dough.

So off to a pizza joint for dinner. It wasn't as good as my planned goat cheese and roasted pepper pizza, but it wasn't half bad. And we came back for dessert!

Luckily, dessert WAS better than anything sitting on a boat for 6 months.

It was a bit more time intensive than other cheesecakes, but only because you have to make the brownies first. The brownies were good IN the cheesecake but they weren't great on their own. Not bad, and certainly better than a box, but not great. You will have more than you need for the cheesecake.

Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1½ sticks unsalted butter
1¾ cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
  • Preheat oven to 350°. Line 13×9-inch baking pan with parchment.
  • Melt chocolate and butter together until smooth.
  • Stir in sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt.
  • Bake 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature then chill in refrigerator.
  • Once chilled, chop into 1 inch squares. Measure two cups. Do what you will with the rest.

5 ounces chocolate graham crackers, crushed to a sandy texture
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Mix together all ingredients. Press into a springform pan lined with parchment. I only press into the bottom. If you want crust on the side, double the above measurements.
  • Chill 2 hours.


3 (8-oz) packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla.
  • Fold in brownie cubes gently
  • Pour into pan.
  • Bake for 15 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 200° and bake another hour-1 hour 10 minutes. Center should still be just a tad wobbly.
  • Let sit in the oven with door open for about 2 hours or until room temperature. Remove then place in refrigerator 4 hours or overnight.

Ganache Glaze

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ stick unsalted butter
¼ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

  • Place chocolate in a glass bowl. Scald the butter and cream then pour over chocolate. Let sit 30 seconds. Stir until smooth then add vanilla and powdered sugar.
  • Poor over cheesecake the place back in refrigerator to chill another 2 hours.

Note: I ALWAYS cook my cheesecakes without water baths and at a low setting for a long time. Every single time I try any other method, they crack. With this method, I've NEVER cracked a cheesecake. Even this one, which I overbaked by probably 10 minutes, didn't crack. I think lining the springform with parchment helps with this as well, since the cheesecake sides have some give this way (not stuck to the sides of the pan). To line a springform, I spray the pan with non-stick spray then place a sheet on the bottom piece. Clamp the sides on over the bottom piece of parchment, locking it in. Then I cut strips as wide as the sides and stick them on. The non-stick spray holds them on.

Slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blackberry Pie

Dave and I took the monkeys raspberry and blackberry picking last weekend. It was fantastic! Quinn had a blast and literally ate her weight in raspberries. She refused to give up any for the basket, just walked up and down the rows grabbing and shoveling in. Colin was less than enthusiastic about it and after a few berries decided that rock throwing was much more entertaining.

While the raspberries were a hit and overflowing, the blackberries were a bit tougher. First, they have NASTY thorns. Not easy picking when you're wearing short sleeves. And Quinn didn't like them as much as the raspberries, so she got bored quickly. But Dave and I managed to get about 2 pounds of them before we gave up.

All in all we ended up with 6 pounds of berries. What is it about picking them yourself that makes you want to pick WAY more than any reasonable human being should eat? I'd never BUY 6 pounds of berries, so why the need to pick that many? Anyway, we got home and quickly realized that even fresh off the vine, berries turn quickly to mush. So of course I baked!

With half of the raspberries I made a quick jam to be used for homemade pop tarts this week. The other half was quickly going to waste, so in the freezer they went for smoothies. The blackberries got a pie!

I'm very pleased with my newly acquired pie crust-making skills! This was a double crust and this was the first one of those I've attempted. I didn't feel like I was ready for lattice work so I punched out some hearts and I have to say, I love it! Very Better Homes and Gardens. :)

So here's the blackberry pie. This is a definite keeper recipe. With a few adjustments for the filling it was perfect. Not too sweet, not too tart. Held it's shape, berries stayed plump, crust was flaky and buttery.

Double crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I froze mine)
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening (also frozen)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 to 6 tablespoons ice water

Berry Mixture:
6 cups blackberries (1 3/4 lb)
1 to 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (I used 1 cup)
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoon quick-cooking tapioca (small pearl)
1 tablespoon flour

1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon sanding (coarse) or granulated sugar (I used turbanado)

  • Pulse flour, butter, shortening, and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  • Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of water over mixture and pulse until it starts coming together. Add more water if necessary. I needed about 5.5 tablespoons. You want the dough to still look separate but be damp enough to squeeze in your hand and hold it's shape.
  • Split into two, form each into a disk, wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
  • After chilling, roll one disk between two sheets of floured parchment (I never flour my parchment for anything else but this really seems to help with pie dough). Roll it to about 14 inches across the center. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a pie plate. Leave the excess hanging over the edge. Fill with berry mixture (below).
  • Roll out second disk. I used a small cookie cutter to cut out some hearts. Or you can try the lattice. Whatever you do, you need some sort of hole to vent the steam out. Place rolled dough over berry mixture. Roll edges up and over and crimp or otherwise seal closed.
  • Brush egg white over entire top, sprinkle with sugar.

Berry Mixture
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Toss sugar, cornstarch, flour, and tapioca together. Add berries and toss to coat. Add butter and lemon juice, toss again. Let sit 20 minutes.
  • Spoon mixture into pie crust. I had barely any liquid, which seemed to be perfect.
  • Top with crust.
  • Place on a covered cookie sheet (I placed parchment directly on my pizza stone that stays in my oven at all times). Bake for about 45 minutes then check to make sure the crust isn't browning too quickly. Mine needed a foil top (just toss it on there, no need to be pretty or tight) at this point. Bake another 15-25 minutes or until juices start to bubble through the holes/slats. Mine took 1 hour 10 minutes exactly.
  • Let cool completely.

Notes for next time:
  • The adjustments that I made worked perfectly. Not too soupy, held it's shape, perfect!
  • Serve with vanilla bean ice cream!
  • Although I ogle the pretty ruffle edge ceramic pie plates every time I go to a cooking store, I'm sticking with my Pyrex pie plate for now. It's clear so I can see when the crust is really done. So ugly and cheap stays until I start feeling more confident!
  • Make sure not tapioca pearls are on top of the mixture before the pie crust goes on. The ones just kind of sitting there on top didn't cook all the way through and stayed crunchy. Not tasty! So just poke them down into the mixture before topping.

Pie crust from Epicurious
Pie slightly adapted from Epicurious

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Deep Dish Peach Pie with Pecan Streusel

Ok, I'm back. For realsies this time. Promise.

It's been a hectic year here in the 'Rillo (Camarillo, CA for those of you not in the know). Having a preschooler and a toddler keeps me busy. It's mostly keeping busy by vacuuming 32 times a day, 47 loads of laundry a week, and making fresh, healthy, tasty food that neither monster will come within 15 feet of for fear of contamination. As everyone under the age of 5 knows, the only safe food is Kraft Mac & Cheese. Or string cheese. Most certainly NOT homemade mac and cheese with REAL cheese. God forbid.

Quinn, brave little soul that she is, will eat pretty much anything I BAKE. Cook, not so much. Bake, yes. If it's in cookie or muffin/cupcake form she'll snarf it right down (if I could just figure out how to bake a chicken breast into a cupcake...). But alas, I don't have high hopes that it will keep. Colin was the same once and now only chocolate chip cookies or "normal" cupcakes (read: chocolate, vanilla, or red velvet) are acceptable. He turned his nose up at chocolate chocolate chip cookies this week. Something is seriously wrong with the kid. If he didn't look like a clone of his dad I'd worry he was switched at birth. No kid of mine should be walking away from a cookie. Ever. Well, unless there's raisins in it. And even then, they can be picked out.

I HAVE been baking. A lot. But the blogging and the photos stopped. When Q-tip is squawking for one more Bubble Guppies and C-dog is screaming on the floor for Angry Birds, setting up my photo "booth" seems to get knocked down on the list of fires to put out. So more often than not, my treats sit on their pretty white plate for a day or two before I give up the fight and put it out of it's misery.

So, that's what I've been up to. I don't have many back-logged photos, so I'm just starting from scratch. Here's the plan:
1) re-bake all of my old recipes that have gathered dust. I submitted a cake to the Ventura County Fair that I could swear must have been excellent. Why else was it in THE BINDER? Only sacred, drop dead deliciousness go into THE BINDER. But....not so much. Apparently it was excellent before I knew any better. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't binder worthy.

2) Work through the 1,247,313 pins I have on Pinterest. I've made a dent, really more of a ding, but it counts. You're on Pinterest, right? If not, go NOW. NOW, I said! It's like crack but without those unsightly track marks.

If you go check out my pins and see something you want me to make, tell me!

Let's get this party started! This pie was fabulous!! Very summery but different than the peach cobbler that I usually make with farmer's market finds. I will most definitely make it again.

Deep Dish Peach Pie with Pecan Streusel

Streusel topping
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup cup (packed) golden brown sugar (I used dark, I had some extra sitting around)
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped


1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced (I froze it with the shortening)
1/3 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening, frozen, diced
3 1/2 tablespoons (or more) ice water


3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca (I used small pearl)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (didn't have any so I upped the cinnamon to 1 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 3/4 to 4 pounds peaches, peeled with vegetable peeler, halved, pitted, cut into 1-inch wedges (I only used about 2.5 pounds because I don't have a deep dish plate)

Streusel topping
  • Stir flour, oats, sugar, and salt in medium bowl.
  • Cut in butter with a fork or cutter. You're going for small moist clumps.
  • Mix in pecans.
  • Cover and chill.
  • In food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt for 5 pulses.
  • Add butter and shortening. Pulse until you get very coarse meal (about 5 long pulses for me)
  • Drizzle 3.5 tablespoons water over the mixture. Pulse again until it just starts coming together but is not a big lump. If you squeeze it in your palm it should stay as a moist (not wet) clump.
  • Gather into a disk, wrap and chill for one hour. Any longer than that and you'll need to let it sit out for about 10 minutes to soften up a bit.
  • Roll out onto parchment paper, transfer to a pie plate, fold over edges (or cut them off, whatever you like), chill.
  • Stir sugar, tapioca, and spices in a bowl. Mix in lemon juice then peaches and toss to coat.
  • Let sit 20 minutes or so, mixing once or twice.
  • Preheat oven to 400°. Spoon filling into crust then sprinkle with topping. Place pie plate on a cookie sheet (it WILL bubble over!)
  • Bake 30 minutes then turn down the oven to 350° and bake another 45-ish minutes. Cover with foil if necessary. Cool for several hours.

Notes for next time:
  • I used white peaches. To do again, I'll use yellow. The white are too mild.
  • The crust is FABULOUS. I'm not a seasoned pie baker. I've really only ever made a few with scratch crusts. I feel like everyone who makes a really good pie crust had a nice, squidgy-around-the-middle grandma to teach them. My grandmother preferred that I polish silver in my spare time. But even with very little experience this crust came out perfect. Crisp, flaky, buttery, relatively easy to work with. Next time, I'll bake the pie directly on my pizza stone to crisp up the bottom a little more.
  • It's too juicy. Not that this is bad, but it most certainly doesn't make for pretty slices. I did cut the peaches down to 2.5 pounds but left the spices, tapioca, and sugar the same. After sitting there was quite a bit of juice, which I just dumped over the peaches before I added the topping. It did thicken (thank you miracle tapioca!) but still made for one overly sloppy pie. Next time I'll up the spices and leave that extra syrup out. On a side note, trying to take a picture of a pie that won't hold it's pie-shape is less than amusing. Especially when Quinn is pulling on my pant leg and yelling for milk (kids are just so NEEDY). It took all of my photography set-up prowess to get a picture that looked kind of like pie and not crumble. All of that prowess being a C battery propping up the back of the crust. Don't hate on the mad skills.
  • Streusel was perfect. Pecans gave a nice crunch, oatmeal gave some chew. Leave it as is!

Slightly adapted from Bon Appetit