cafela: (nutmeg)

I am not terribly breakfast-inclined. At least, not when it comes to making my own. Most weekends, I scrounge up some leftovers to reheat rather than eat cereal or poptarts. It's not that I don't like breakfast foods--I love breakfast foods! But I'm not a morning person, and if I take the time to cook breakfast, it's automatically going to end up as brunch, or possibly lunch. I never cook breakfast on weekdays because I'm always scared I'm going to forget to turn off the stove or the oven. But breakfast is an important meal, and I try not to skip it. Most of the time, that means I take an apple to work, or maybe a fruit cup, because they're easy to pop into my purse and I can eat them at my desk with little fuss. I tried the pop-tart route when I was a teacher, but since I quit teaching, eating pop-tarts just reminds me of how dreadful my weekday mornings were back then, so they're not an option.

However, sometimes I get sick of apples and fruit cups. Fortunately, we always seem to have bananas that sit on the counter, not getting eaten. Yes, they're still fruit--but they're fruit that can be turned into delicious muffins. I arrived at this recipe through some trial and error--the original recipe called for coconut flour, which I don't keep and which is basically the alternative baking flours opposite of almond flour. The great thing about it is how good for you it is--almond flour is just very finely ground almonds, so you get lots of fiber and healthy oils and cut down on carbs. Also, there's no added sugar, but it doesn't taste as though it's missing. They're good for breakfast, a snack, or a simple dessert.

I will say, these have a slightly weird texture, and they're one of the few foods that are much better eaten after waiting for them to cool--when they're hot out of the oven, they're not quite set up, no matter how long you've left them in the oven. It's like they need to sit and dry out a bit. The great thing about this quality is that they stay fresh and really get better with each day; they last up to a week if you keep them covered.

Banana Bread Muffins
3-4 very ripe bananas
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup almond flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt

Mash or whip bananas in your mixer until nearly liquefied. Add the other ingredients in the order given, beating slightly after each addition. Pour into well-greased muffin tin. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes (check at 30 minutes) or until a toothpick comes out clean. The muffins will look very dark brown, but that's okay, they're not burned, it's just a super dark muffin. Makes about 18 regular muffins.

*Note for those with gluten allergies: You can make this without the all-purpose flour, using just almond flour, but you should omit the vegetable oil and add another egg if you do.
cafela: (chocolate)
A few weeks ago, I made Homemade Twinkies, and that got me to thinking--what about other homemade versions of that kind of snack cake? One of my husband's favorites is Hostess cupcakes, so after I looked through a few recipes, I gave it a try.

It's actually a super easy recipe for what it is. All you really need is a solid chocolate cupcake recipe that you like, essentially the same inner creme recipe used for the Twinkies, and some chocolate ganache. And a little patience when it comes to those well-known curlicues that grace the top of the cupcakes.

I'll confess: after making enough cupcakes with curlicues for blog picture-purposes, I stopped doing them. I did not have the patience (plus the plastic bag I was using to pipe the icing burst open) to do more than five like that. There was no difference in taste between the ones that had the curlicues and the ones that didn't, so only do them if you want the look.

Homemade Hostess Cupcakes
1 batch chocolate cupcakes (approx. 24)

For the filling
1/4 tsp salt
1 tb hot water
7oz marshmallow fluff
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 oz)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Extra powdered sugar (to thicken remaining filling to pipe curlicues)

Chocolate Ganache
1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (Hershey's special dark or Ghiradelli are perfect)
1/4 c cream
1 tb butter

First, bake your cupcakes--use whatever your favorite chocolate cake recipe is, so long as it's sturdy enough to hold frosting on top (a box mix is fine). Let them cool. While they cool, make your filling.

Start by dissolving the salt into the hot water; set aside and let cool. Mix all the other ingredients together until fluffy, then add the salt water and beat another couple of minutes. The filling should be *almost* the consistency of frosting, but not as stiff.

Once the cupcakes are cool and the filling is prepped, scoop the filling into the appropriate device (injector or decorator bag). To get the filling into the cupcake, jab the injector or the decorating tip into the cupcake as shown in the picture, and squeeze the filling in. Don't put too much, or the cupcake could bust. If you're planning to make the curlicues, set aside about 1/3 c of the filling to use to make them.

Now you get to make the ganache, which is SUPER easy. I don't get why everyone freaks out about making it, but it does taste amazing. All you do is dump all the ingredients into a shallow pan, and whisk them slowly over low heat until everything melts together. Don't rush it, or you will burn it, and don't add any more cream or butter after you start, or it could thicken and become awful. If you keep it low and slow, everything should melt into a delicious swirl of smooth chocolately awesomeness. When it does, take it off the heat.

Now you can dip the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache. I used a small icing spatula to smooth the top out, very much the same way you smooth icing--the only trick is once the ganache cools, it's harder to work with, so try to smooth it out somewhat quickly. They should end up looking something like the pictures below:

Now, you can stop at this point, and you will have delicious cupcakes. But if you want the curlicues, take that filling that you set aside, and thicken it with more powdered sugar. I honestly don't remember how much, but at least a few tablespoons. Get it stiff enough to pipe. Then you just draw the curlicues on, which may take a little trial and error.

And that's all there is to it!

cafela: (alice in wonderland)
As everyone knows, Hostess went bankrupt. There was a rush on Twinkies. Fortunately for me, I've actually never been a huge fan of Twinkies. Growing up, we were more of a Little Debbie house, so I prefer oatmeal creme pies and Swiss cake rolls (though I haven't had any in ages). Still, all these Twinkie recipes kept popping up on Pinterest and various recipe blogs.

It was easy to avoid the siren call of the Twinkie for awhile simply because the canoe pans you bake them in were sold out everywhere. The pans did eventually show up on Amazon at a relatively cheap price, so it was then that I pounced. I'm glad I did, because this semi-homemade recipe is pretty amazing, and not full of preservatives like regular Twinkies. I'm not saying this is a "healthy" recipe, mind you, just that it's slightly better for you than the original. So do pace yourself.

Homemade Twinkies*
For the cake part
1 box yellow cake mix + ingredients on the back of the box
2 tb vegetable oil
1 egg

For the filling
1/4 tsp salt
1 tb hot water
7oz marshmallow fluff
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 oz)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

*Recipe adapted from several found online.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the cake mix, plus ingredients called for on the back of the box, plus the oil and the egg until well mixed. Spoon into pan, cook until done. If you have canoe pans, you only want to fill it the cavity about half full; it will rise plenty. Keep the leftover batter in the fridge while each batch cooks. It should take about 10 minutes for the cakes in the canoe pan to cook. Check with a toothpick in the center; when it comes out clean, it's done. Remove and let cool. You should get about 3 batches.

Once all the batches have cooked and are cooling, it's time to make the filling!

Start by dissolving the salt into the hot water; set aside and let cool. Mix all the other ingredients together until fluffy, then add the salt water and beat another couple of minutes. The filling should be *almost* the consistency of frosting, but not as stiff.

The canoe pan comes with a "filling injector" that's kind of a pain to use (super messy), but it will do if you don't have other decorating tips. If you do have other decorating tips, use those. Either way, scoop the filling into the appropriate device (injector or decorator bag). To get the filling into the twinkie, jab the injector or the decorating tip into the cake, and squeeze the filling in. Don't put too much, or the twinkie will bust.

Then you can enjoy your delicious homemade Twinkies! They taste best on the 1st and 2nd day after they're made.

Note: If you don't have the special canoe pan, you can bake these as cupcakes and it will be mostly the same. Instead of filling with the filling, you can simply swap out the 1/3 cup powdered sugar for about 32 oz of powdered sugar plus an extra 1/2 stick of butter and make a marshmallow buttercream to pipe on top.

cafela: (nutmeg)
It's the holidays, and I like to bake treats for my coworkers to share on the last day before the break--ah, the joys of working in academia; we might not make much money, but we do get Christmas break!

Anyway, this year I came upon this tutorial for making apple pies shaped like roses on Pinterest, and decided I had to attempt it. I figured, worst case scenario, it doesn't work and I end up with a normal apple pie. I wanted to make some individual mini-pies for coworkers that had gifted me little presents, and one larger pie to share with everyone. So that's what I did.

The trick to the roses is that the first one is rough, and you don't want to use crisp or long apples because they break more easily. So when you buy your apples, buy short, squat ones, not tallish ones. Unless you are amazing at cutting thin slices, you'll need a mandolin slicer to get them thin enough. Also, you kind of need to hold the rose in your hand until you're done with it, so it's hard to do one that's the size of an entire normal-sized pie. It could be done, though, it would just take more work. I recommend starting with smaller, mini-pies/tarts first.

Rosy Apple Pie


2-3 red apples, not too crisp

2 tb lemon juice*

4 tb sugar*

1 tsp cinnamon*

3/4 tsp nutmeg*

**You need a mandolin-style slicer**

pie crust (whatever pie crust recipe you prefer; refrigerated dough is fine)

*I eyeballed these when I added them, so this is a guesstimate--add what seems to be right for the amount of apples you have.

Go ahead and put your pie crust in your pan (or in your mini pans). Next, wash and core your apples. Do NOT peel them! You want the red contrast of the peel so that the rose shape stands out.

To core your apples, slice them so that you get a square core. Go here to see what I mean. Stop once you reach the part where the core is removed. From that point, you'll need a mandolin to slice your apples. Very thin slices are key to being able to make the rose. Once you have your apples sliced with the mandolin, you're ready for the next step.

Dump the slices into a bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients; mix them in with your hands (to help prevent breaking the slices. Now, you get to make the rose! Start with one slice curved in on itself, forming a kind of tight circle. Then add another slice to sort of "close" that slice. Keep adding slices around and around, building by overlapping the slices you just added.

It will be tricky the first time. My second rose turned out a lot better than the first. Be sure to have good look at the first tutorial I linked to, because she has great step-by-step pictures. When you've got the rose big enough, set it into the pie pan, and add a few more slices at the edges as needed. Repeat until you've made all the pies you want to make. This recipe should net you about 4 mini pies or one large pie.

Now, keep in mind that if you messed up a bunch of your slices, it's no big deal--use them to create an edge around the rose (you'll see that's what I did with my larger pie). If you can't get the rose at all, you can still make a great apple pie by layering the slices flat in the pan, or even just dumping them in haphazardly.

Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden. Cool for about 10 minutes, then serve!

cafela: (Default)
I've been wanting to make this dessert for ages. While my husband and I were on our honeymoon in St. Martin (yay, French Caribbean), we got to try a lot of awesome food, including a variation on this dish. It's a surprisingly easy and simple dish, and before trying it, I never would have thought that pears and chocolate would make such a good pair (pun intended). But, oh, it is delicious.

Poires Belle Hélène


2-4 pears, peeled (I used Bosc pears)

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup water

4 or 5 oz chocolate in pieces(I used Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips--affordable but good quality, and you need quality chocolate for this sauce. Check the ingredients and make sure that chocolate/cocoa/cacao is the first ingredient, and you should be good to go.)

2 tb butter

vanilla ice cream

a deep pot with a lid (needs to be deep enough for the pears to sit upright)

Peel your pears. Leave the stem for decoration (you will not be able to pick them up by the stem after they've poached). In a deep pot, mix the sugar and water while on medium heat, stirring until the sugar melts. Once it melts, place your pears inside, and get the water to a low boil. Cover, and let poach for 20 minutes.

After the 20 minutes is up, remove your pears and let them cool to room temperature. I used tongs to remove them and keep them whole. If you're serving them a day or two later, put them in the fridge, but be sure to let them return to room temperature before coating them with chocolate, because the pears won't be as good cold. I let mine cool, then placed them in dessert dishes.

While they cool, you should turn the stove to high and reduce the remaining liquid to about half what it was, so you get a pear-flavored syrup of sorts. If you're serving the pears the next day, reserve this liquid to make your chocolate sauce.

Just before you're ready to serve the pears, dump your chocolate into the warm syrup. Do not boil! At most have the heat on medium low, but low is probably better.

Stir until the chocolate is mostly melted. Add the butter, stir it in. Now, spoon the chocolate sauce over the pears.

Add ice cream, dig in! In retrospect, it might be better to have scooped the ice cream first, put the pear on top, and then covered in chocolate sauce; either way, it ended up delicious!

cafela: (Default)
I was first introduced to this pastry/cookie via the vending machine on the first floor of CIDEF in Angers, France. CIDEF was part of the university where I spent my first semester abroad in France, and while on the campus, if my friends and I weren't in class or hanging out in our program director's office, we were often near the vending machines, catching a quick snack before going back to class.

The madeleines from the machine were okay. Not great, but not bad. Better than the dry ones you can get at Starbucks. At the time, they were one of the better snacks on offer, and definitely one of the more filling. At some point, I bought some from a pastry shop, and was surprised that they were even tastier than I thought they'd be. Freshness makes all the difference!

The great thing about madeleines is that they're really easy to make. The real trick is having a madeleine pan so that you get them in the proper shape. But even if you don't have a madeleine pan, you could still make them in mini muffin or even regular muffin tins. Amazon has some affordable madeleine pans. For the recipe below, I got about 24 madeleines, so I had to use my pan 2 times. Luckily, they bake very quickly. :)

Another issue with madeleines is the hump. Some claim that the hump is the sign of a good madeleine; others say madeleines with no humps are the marker of a good chef. All I know is that if you want the hump, fill the mold to the top of the edge. If you don't, fill the mold about 2/3 full.



2 eggs (at room temperature!)

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

grated zest of one lemon

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp lemon extract*

1/2 tsp almond extract*

5 tb unsalted butter, melted and cooled

*If you don't have one or either of these, just use more vanilla.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease your madeleine pan, even if it's non-stick.

Relative temperatures are important in this recipe if you want your madeleines to come out crisp and light. Start by combining your dry ingredients(flour, baking powder, salt) in a bowl. Next, beat the eggs and sugar together at medium-high speed until they're thick and pale (about 2-4 minutes in a stand mixer).

Now, add the zest and the vanilla and other extracts. Beat until mixed in (maybe 15 seconds?). Next the fun part--folding in the dry ingredients! This is the only onerous part of madeleines; you want to be careful to fold in the dry ingredients (about a third of the dry stuff at a time) and not just mix it in, because you want to keep the lightness and volume that the whipped eggs are giving you. So just take your time, and once you have all the dry ingredients folded in, you then fold in the melted butter. Don't be dumb like I was once, and forget to fold in the butter at the end.

Most recipes I've seen for madeleines say that you should chill the batter for about 3 hours (up to 24 hours) before baking. I somehow didn't see that step in all the recipes I consulted, and went ahead and made them. They turned out fine. So if you're in a hurry, you can skip that step, though after filling the molds, you will want to put the remaining batter in the fridge to chill while each batch bakes.

Let each batch bake for somewhere between 6-12 minutes. Look for the edges to turn golden brown. You'll have to keep an eye on it for your first batch, because the time is going to depend on how hot your oven gets and the size of your madeleine molds. Mine are usually done within 7 minutes, but most recipes I've seen said 12 minutes.

When you get your madeleines out, toss them in sugar (powdered or regular both work). They're at their best when they're still warm from the oven, so be sure to taste-test/quality control at least one. ;) Serve within 48 hours. They go great with coffee, tea, as dessert, or as breakfast!

cafela: (alice in wonderland)
I love pineapple, and my husband loves coconut. When I stumbled across the recipe for this bread on Pinterest, I knew I had to try it sometime soon. A couple of days ago, the grocery store had pineapple on sale, and that decided it.

There's a lot to love about this recipe. It tastes very fresh, and there's a good crunchiness throughout the bread. Best of all, you can do this as jumbo muffins, and simply cut the baking time in half. It comes together very easily, and isn't overly sweet (and if you worry about that, you can leave out some of the sugar).

Pineapple Coconut Bread


7oz bag sweetened shredded coconut

1 stick butter, at room temperature (NOT COLD)

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup or 8oz sour cream

2 1/2 cups fresh pineapple, diced into chunks (a little over half of a pineapple)

Turn the oven on 350 degrees F.

First, toast about 2/3 c of your shredded coconut(the rest you will save for topping). Spread it over a cookie sheet, and stick that in the oven for about 6 minutes. Watch it, because you don't want to burn it, you just want to bring out more of the flavor. Some of it should get to be a nice golden color. You can dice up your pineapple while you wait for it to toast. When the time is up or the coconut has turned golden, pull it from the oven and let it cool.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix your butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add eggs, one at a time. Next, add about 1/3 of the flour mixture. Then add half of your sour cream. When that has combined, repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture, and the rest of the sour cream. When that has combined, add the last 1/3 of the flour mixture, and mix just until everything is incorporated.
Now you get to add the toasted coconut and the pineapple.

When that's done, pour the batter into a greased 9x5 loaf pan or into jumbo muffin tins. I did a little of both, because our loaf pan is 9x4 and I didn't want a super tall loaf.

Sprinkle the top of the loaf or muffins with the untoasted coconut. If you're doing jumbo muffins, at this point you can just pop them into the oven for about 30 minutes (regular muffins should probably cook about 15-20 minutes). If you're doing a loaf, you'll need to cover the top with tin foil for the first 30 minutes to keep the coconut from burning (or you can just add the coconut topping after it's baked for 30 minutes). The loaf will need to cook for about an hour total.

Let the muffins/loaf cool before eating--the pineapple will retain a lot of heat, and you don't want to burn your mouth just because you were a little impatient. ;)

cafela: (Default)
I made this for the first time at my sister-in-law's house, while visiting in July. She had a bunch of zucchini to use up, and I wanted to bake something to thank them for letting us stay with them, and this recipe was born! It's incredibly easy, since you pretty much just throw the ingredients together, mix, and bake. It's a pretty standard zucchini bread recipe, with some extra spices added to make it extra delicious. My niece and nephew gobbled them up quickly.

Cinnamon Nutmeg Zucchini Bread


3 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tb cinnamon

1/2 tb nutmeg

3 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar (if you don't have brown sugar, just sub another cup of white sugar)

1 tb vanilla

2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium zucchini--if you grate it and end up with a little more than 2 cups, it's fine)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 2 loaf pans or 24 standard muffin tins.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the oil, sugar, and vanilla, then mix. Add the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg (if you want, you can mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl first, but I've found it doesn't make a difference in this recipe). Mix.

Add the grated zucchini, and mix with a spoon (the grated strips will get caught in a whisk/etc.) until incorporated. Pour batter into loaf pans or spoon into muffin cups. Bake loaves for 45-55 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Muffins will bake for a shorter time; start checking at 20 minutes.

Let bread cool, then remove from pan. Voila, a tasty treat for breakfast, or just for snacking.

You can play with this recipe by adding nuts, raisins, or by swapping the zucchini with carrots.
cafela: (chocolate)
I made a chocolate cake for my father-in-law's birthday this past weekend. The recipe for the cake was basically me adding an extra tablespoon of oil and a couple ounces of melted chocolate to a devil's food cake mix. I usually bake from scratch, but there's nothing wrong with improving on a cake mix you know will work. Especially when you waited until 9pm to start said cake. But since I did take the easier route, I wanted to give this cake a special touch. I started by using 6-inch cake pans instead of 8 or 9 inch pans--this gives you a much taller (and cuter, I think) cake.

I love my 6-inch cake pans. You can either use 3 of the cake pans and have a very tall cake, or use 2 and pour off enough batter for a couple of cupcakes. I usually go the extra cupcake route, because it's a good way to test to make sure the cake turned out well, or to fend off those who might want to cut into the cake too soon.

Raspberries were on sale (probably for the last time this year) at the grocery store this past week, so I decided to dress the cake up with some well-placed raspberries. It's an easy way to make most any cake look a lot more impressive, and the raspberries lend a fresh sweetness to each slice. Here's the finished product:

cafela: (Default)
How about something to drink? This is a good treat at the end of the day, and it doubles as a dessert!

Now, you may not have all of the ingredients called for--this is okay! If it doesn't have an asterisk* next to it, then you can still make a perfectly good chocolate martini without it, and simply increase the amount of chocolate liqueur to make up for what was left out. I believe in having a well-stocked bar with a lot of variety, but mine took time to build up. I started with a bottle each of rum, vodka, and Cointreau, along with a bottle of peach liqueur given to me by my French host family. As I held parties/tried new recipes/made more friends/experienced new drinks/traveled, my collection slowly grew into what it is today.


1 scoop vanilla or chocolate ice cream*

1/2 c milk or half n half*

1 shot Godiva chocolate liqueur*

1/2 shot vanilla vodka

1/4 shot Kahlua liqueur

1/4 shot Amaretto liqueur

1/2 shot Godiva white chocolate liqueur

finely ground/shaved chocolate (just use a square of baking chocolate and a cheese grater or zester)

Pour all ingredients into a martini shaker; shake until blended, pour into martini glass. Garnish with ground chocolate/chocolate shavings if desired. It's that easy!

For a more elegant look, before pouring the drink in, you can dip the rim of the martini glass into milk and then roll in the ground chocolate.

If you don't have ice cream, you can always increase the milk by a 1/4 cup and use ice in the shaker, but this will leave you with a watery martini.

April 2014

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