Friday, January 28, 2011

Doughnut Muffins


I'm not really sure what it is I've made.

They look like muffins, but they taste like... well, nutmeg cake.

I have to admit, I really got my hopes up that these muffins were going to taste exactly like old-fashioned cake doughnuts. I thought that maybe through some kind of sorcery that would take place in my oven, I could make doughnuts without having to actually make them.


It's not that I have anything against real doughnuts. In fact, I think I've mentioned my ridiculous, unconditional, Jack-and-Kate-esque love for them. I was just hoping for a shortcut that wouldn't require me to break out my candy thermometer or figure out how to dispose of ten cups of vegetable oil.

Once I got over their failure to be doughnuts, I realized that these muffins are actually really delicious. Half of them I rolled in cinnamon sugar, and the other half I dipped in a vanilla powdered sugar glaze. Both were delicious, but I liked the glazed ones a little bit more... probably because of the rainbow sprinkles.

Maybe I just should have made doughnuts.



Doughnut Muffins
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk

Directions:


1. Preheat oven to 425˚F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.

2. In an electric mixer at medium speed, cream together the butter, oil, and both sugars 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing completely after each one.

3. Reduce the mixer speed to stir, and add the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla.

4. Add the flour and milk alternately to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.

5. Scrape the bowl with a spatula and ensure that all ingredients are fully incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups. Each cup should be nearly full.

6. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center muffins comes out clean and the muffins are light golden brown.

7. Cool the muffins about 5 minutes, or until you can handle them. Dip the top of each muffin in melted butter and roll in cinnamon sugar, or dip in the glaze of your choice.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever


Having tasted these cookies, I can now say with confidence that my life is complete.

I've found the perfect guy, the perfect brownie recipe, and now, the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. As long as I keep plenty of chocolate, butter, sugar, and flour on hand, what more do I really need?

I think I just won at life.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2-1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-2 cups chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325˚F. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions.

2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together butter and sugars until blended. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla, and mix until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

3. Divide the dough into portions of about 3-4 tablespoons each, and roll each portion into a ball. Pick up one of the balls and hold it with the fingertips of both hands. Pull the ball apart into two equal pieces. Rotate the pieces 90˚, so that the jagged edges (which were created when you pulled the ball apart) are facing up. Pinch the two pieces back together at the bottom, leaving the top jagged. Repeat with the rest of the dough. This extra step will give the cookies a crackled appearance on top.

4. Bake for 13-18 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. The cookies are done when the edges are beginning to turn golden brown, but the centers are still soft and puffy.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Butter Pecan Cake


In my opinion, I have the best parents in the world.

They taught me everything I needed to know in order to become a successful life participant. Where would I be if it weren't for them?

I wouldn't know how to cross the street. First look left, then look right, and then look left again just in case a car came while you were busy looking right. Genius! I never would have thought of that last part on my own.

I wouldn't know how important it is to wear a coat any time you're going outside, even if you reallyreally don't want to. I mean, what if the car breaks down? You'll definitely be wishing you had that coat when you're stranded on the side of the road!

I'm on the left, and I'm not happy about the coat situation.

I wouldn't know how to clean up spilled milk. You may think you're done after you wipe off the countertop and the front of the cabinet, but did you check the underside of the cabinet? Milk totally splashed up there too! Now there's a piece of knowledge that can be applied to other situations--just think how useful that will be if I ever become a crime scene investigator.

I can't think of a time that my parents' advice has ever failed me, and I trust their opinions on pretty much everything. Including cake.


I'm not sure about my dad's opinions on cake, but I know that my mom's opinion is that 1) the frosting is the most important part, and 2) the more there is of it, the better. Good call, mom.

Now that I've made a potentially short story unnecessarily long, let's talk about this cake in particular, which I made for my mom's birthday. I'll be the first to say that the cake itself is irrelevant. What I really want to tell you about is the frosting--cream cheese frosting with crunchy, buttery toasted pecans.

It's the kind of frosting that compels you to stick your finger in the cake when no one's watching. And even if someone does see you, it's so good that it's worth acquiring the social stigma of being that person.  

...just another thing I learned from my mom.

Butter Pecan Cake
Adapted from Bake or Break

For the cake:

6 ounces white chocolate chips
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups cake flour

For the frosting:

1/4 cup butter
2-1/2 cups pecans, chopped
22 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
32 ounces powdered sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

For the cake:

1. Place white chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour boiling water over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flower three 9-inch cake pans.

3. In an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter for about 1 minute by itself. Gradually add the sugar with the mixer still running, and continue to cream for about 1 minute after all the sugar is added. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each one. Reduce the mixer to low speed, and add the white chocolate and vanilla.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and baking soda. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour to the wet ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk. Begin and end with flour.

5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

6. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

1. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped pecans and cook for 5-10 minutes, until toasted. Cool completely.

2. In a mixer on medium speed, cream together the cream cheese and softened butter. Reduce the mixer to low speed, and gradually add the powdered sugar until fully incorporated. Stir in the pecans and vanilla. Chill at least 1 hour.

You'll probably have some frosting left over, but I'm sure you can find something to with it. Charlie was under the impression that it would be given to whomever asked for it most politely.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Chewy Brownies


Also known as the best brownies everrr. Yes, with three R's.

As you may have guessed, I've made brownies once or twice before. And each time I try a new recipe, I am hoping for a very specific brownie: dense, chewy, and fudgy with a thin, flaky crust on top. That's right, friends. My idea of brownie perfection is none other than the boxed-mix brownie.


Sacrilege, I know. But, not to worry. I've found the solution: a homemade boxed-mix brownie. Let me spell this out for you: this recipe produces a brownie that is just like a boxed-mix brownie, only better. Homemade taste, boxed-mix texture. Brownie perfection. Words simply cannot do this brownie justice, so I think you're just going to have to make them. Right now. You don't need a mixer, and you only have to get one bowl dirty. Seriously. If you have a legitimate reason not to immediately stop what you're doing (um, reading this?) and make these brownies, I'd like to hear it.

That's what I thought.

Make sure you eat the corner pieces before anyone else can. Pro tip, right there.


Chewy Brownies
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped finely
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1. Adjust oven rack to the lowest position and preheat to 350˚F. Line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with two pieces of foil. One piece should be placed in the pan widthwise, and the other should be placed lengthwise on top of the first piece. Both pieces should be long enough to hang over the edge of the pan on both sides. Coat with nonstick spray.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and boiling water. Add the unsweetened chocolate, and whisk until it is melted. Whisk in the butter and vegetable oil.

3. Add the eggs, yolks, and vanilla, and continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add the sugar, and whisk until completely incorporated. Fold in the flour and salt with a rubber spatula just until combined.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted halfway between the edge and center comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire rack for 90 minutes. Use foil to remove the brownies from the pan, and return them to the wire rack to cool completely.