Thursday, April 19, 2012

Raw Vegan Chocolate Mousse

I find even I need a break from flour and dairy every now and again. I'm sure we all do, although my break is how Rachel from Friends sees a break. Not Ross'. 

No, never Ross'.

I first heard about this treat from my BFF, who took a Raw Foods class last year. I finally decided to give it a try when I scored a 5 pack of this-close-to-being-overripe avocados from the market. We love avocados, especially in guacamole, so they never last too long in this house.

Needless to say, my family devoured the mousse and were none the wiser. Even I was impressed. It's really good and ridiculously simple to make! Seriously, you'll be pleasantly surprised. 

Or your money back. 

Okay, not really, but it made for a good ending.

Recipe adapted from Serene Kitchen via Sheryl Crow

2 large ripe avocados
½ cup organic unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup agave nectar, plus more to taste
1½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1½ teaspoon almond extract

Cut avocado in half. Remove pit. Spoon out meat of the avocado and blend to break down a bit. Add in cocoa powder, agave nectar, vanilla and almond extracts. I use a hand mixer to ensure it is all blended, then transferred into a food processor to get the bits I couldn't break down all the way.

Please know that I doubled this recipe, so if you choose to do so, increase amounts accordingly.

Refrigerate overnight for optimum results.

Happy, er,  Baking!

share this on »

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Grandma's Rhubarb Tarts

I have the world's best Grandma.

When I was growing up, every summer until I was 11, my Grandma would take my sister, brother, and me as well as 5 of our cousins during the school summer break. She had a 3 bedroom house that would nearly burst at the seams most days. We learned at a very young age what a hard day's work really was. She had us up at 6am and to bed by 9pm. We were never allowed to say a mean word to or about one another, but if you were caught, it was Hades for you. She broke every child labor law there was. She drove a Chevy Nova and SOMEHOW got everyone of us in that car to go to grocery shopping and church every Sunday.

Funny thing? These are my most memorable and favorite childhood memories.

She was awesome in the kitchen. She made some amazing meals and nothing ever went to waste. She lived in the country on some good acreage, so berries of almost every kind were quite abundant. She also had a rhubarb patch not too far from the house. She would often promise a nice treat after a long day of hard yard work. We learned all too soon not to get too excited.

Her idea of a nice treat was stewed rhubarb. With no sugar. Ick. I began to hate that patch with a passion. I didn't come around to the idea of rhubarb until I was in my 20s and she made this magnificent cobbler for a BBQ. Seriously, where was this deliciousness when we were growing up??

Grandma is now 93 years old. She's in a nursing home, living out her winter years. She sometimes forgets who I am when I visit, but I don't mind. She's given me the most wonderful memories a girl could ask for which helped mold me to the person I am today.

This post is dedicated to you Grandma. You made me eat rhubarb until it beat me into submission.

And for that, I thank you.

Recipe adapted from my beautiful Grandma

Before making the tarts, the rhubarb must be blanched.

½ cup water
½ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
5-6 cups rhubarb, chopped into bite size pieces

You can certainly use a ready made pie crust for this recipe if you wish, but homemade dough is best. This is a favorite recipe of mine.

2¼ cups cake flour
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, COLD and cut into cubes
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

¾ cup sugar
½ cup flour
5 cups blanched rhubarb

½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup steel oats
4 Tablespoons butter, cold and cut into cubes

To blanch rhubarb: 

Combine water, lemon juice, and sugar in heavy large saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring sugar water to a boil. Add rhubarb and boil for a minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Allow rhubarb to simmer for several minutes. Remove pan from heat, keeping covered until rhubarb is tender. Uncover and cool completely.

To make crust:

Sift flour, sugar, and salt. It's important to always sift cake flour. In a stand mixer (or using a fork or pastry blender), mix flour mixture and butter together. Start on low speed, combine until flour resembles course meal. Empty dough onto floured surface and bring together until just incorporated, You don't want to work the dough too much or it will yield a tough texture. Roll into logs and cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator and chill for several hours.

To make filling:

Combine blanched rhubarb, sugar, and flour. Stir together.


Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin and generously sprinkle with flour. To avoid over working the dough, I cut mine into small sections and work.

Roll out dough. Using a circular cookie cutter, cut out 12 circles and press to fit into hollows. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine sugar and flour and mix until incorporated. Add to rhubarb and mix well. Fill cups to top.

In small bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, almonds, and oats. With pastry blender or fork, add butter and mix until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle on top of rhubarb mixture.

Bake 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is set in center. Cool completely.

Yields: 12 Rhubarb Tarts

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chocolate Eclairs with Baileys Custard Cream


I was watching the reality show, Four Weddings, over the weekend and I ended up throwing a shoe at the TV. 

Well, it was actually a slipper, but still.

Why on earth would a bride subject herself to such scrutiny on one of the most important days of her life....on purpose?? Is a honeymoon that important to win? Some of these girls are really mean and catty. I can't even imagine what thoughts would be running through my mind if I were a contestant and the episode finally aired. Actually, I would probably be pretty devastated. I wouldn't like someone criticizing my choices. Thankfully I'll never have to find out.

The upside to watching was one of the girls had this amazing dessert table. She had all sorts of candy, cupcakes, cookies, tarts. And chocolate eclairs. 

Oh My Yum.

Naturally, I was on it. 

I'm certainly not a pastry chef by any means of the word, but I do have an incredible eclair recipe from a family friend I attempted once years ago and it was a major flop. Literally. My puffs deflated 4 seconds after they were removed from the oven.

This time, I figured it out. It's all about the air.

Which is probably the main content in the brains of those that choose to go on reality shows.

Lots of air and a smidge of insanity.

Recipe adapted from family friend, Marie McKinnon

Choux Pastry:
¾ cups milk
½ cup butter
1 cup flour
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons sugar
pinch salt

Baileys Custard Filling:
Please see my Boston Cream Cupcakes for cooking instructions

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups whole milk**
½ cup Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur**
6 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

**You can add more or less Baileys to your liking, just be sure the milk/Baileys creates 4½ cups in total. I would strongly recommend you do not add more than 1 cup of Baileys as the flavor will yield a very strong liqueur flavor. I would imagine Baileys Creme Caramel or Coffee versions would be spectacular in this treat.

Chocolate Ganache:
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup good quality chocolate

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone mats. 
In a large saucepan, combine milk, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil. Once butter has completely melted, remove from heat and and slowly add flour, stirring constantly.

Put saucepan back on heat and continue to work with a wooden spoon. Continue to vigorously stir until dough forms a ball. 

Remove from heat and add eggs, one at a time, stirring as fast as you can! It is important that you do this. You will end up with scrambled egg dough if you do not work quickly. I prefer and recommend that you use a stand mixer if you have one. Place dough in mixer and add eggs one at a time. I did the hand method to show it can be done this way while getting an upper body workout!

Fill a piping bag with dough. Squeeze out 4 inch lines onto baking sheet, keeping them spaced apart about 2-3 inches. 

Bake for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 375°F and bake another 12 minutes with the oven door open. Remove from tray and allow to rest on a wire rack. It's important to keep them well ventilated so they don't go soggy.

Using a knife, cut slit at top of eclair and pipe custard into it until it's filled. Set aside to rest.

To make Chocolate Ganache:

Place cream in saucepan and bring to a good simmer. Place chocolate into a heatproof dish. I use a glass measuring cup. Pour hot cream over chocolate and stir until melted. Let cool. Transfer into a piping bag. I used a star tip for decoration, but you can use any tip (or none) if you wish.

Yield: About 18 eclairs.

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Friday, April 13, 2012

Vanilla Chai Shortbread Cookies

There is nothing like a good cup of tea.

Since the benefits of tea are pretty remarkable, I have experimented with it in some unorthodox methods - in a bath, in soap, as a mask on my face, even incorporated it into some recipes. Unfortunately, I don't look any younger, my laugh lines are still intact, and it didn't save me money on my car insurance. I'll just stick to what I know and pray it's doing something other than requiring me to use a whitening toothpaste daily.

To appease my neglected cookie jar, I made her some treats. Because Chai is my most favorite tea blend of all, I made some Vanilla Chai Shortbread cookies. These are major and the flavor is incredible.

My cookie jar is speaking to me again and my stomach is one happy organ. It's a win-win all around. Except for my thighs. Yeah. Not so much for them.

But you can't please everyone.


2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of cardamom
4-6 Tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom together; set aside.

In another bowl, combine butter and sugar together and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until smooth. Add vanilla. Add in flour mixture slowly, blending until fully incorporated. You'll want the dough to come to a ball form.

Using an ice cream scoop with a retractable mechanism, drop onto cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Transfer to racks to cool.

For glaze:

Combine sugar and spices into a small bowl. Slowly add one tablespoon of water to mixture and stir. You may need to add more or less water than specified to yield the proper consistency. You're looking for an almost runny texture.

Line the counter with foil under racks. Using back of spoon, drizzle over warm cookies. Allow to set.

Yields: About 3 dozen.

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cracker Jack Cupcakes

Baseball season is back! 

We love the sport collectively as a family, but it's my husband's pride and joy of all sports, which is quite funny considering he's from England. He looks forward to opening day for months. In fact, he and a bunch of his cronies headed to Cleveland last week for their opening day. He couldn't wait for the season to hit here.

Unfortunately, my daughter continues to break his heart where the sport is concerned. He is a diehard Atlanta Braves fan, she is a Colorado Rockies fan. Why? Because the team wears purple. What can I say? We're girls. We do that. Thankfully, he's extremely patient and forgiving. 

I decided to celebrate our city's opening day with some cupcakes. I don't know what it is with me and cupcakes lately. I haven't abandoned my love of cookies, it's just that cupcakes have been calling to me more so than usual. Mind you, I do think I need to make a batch soon. I don't know if it's me or all the sugar I've been ingesting lately, but just the other day, I SWEAR I saw my cookie jar flip me the finger.

But that, my friends, is a WHOLE other ballgame. 


Peanut Butter Cupcakes:
2½ cups flour
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
1¼ cups buttermilk

Salted Caramel**:
1 cup sugar
½ cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon salt

Salted Caramel Frosting:
1 cup salted caramel
4 cups powdered sugar
½ cup butter

1 bag caramel corn
½ cup chopped peanuts, unsalted
Salted caramel

**This recipe yields 2 cups. The frosting recipe I have above is for 12 cupcakes. You can either double the frosting recipe or store remaining caramel in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for the next use. This is really tasty over vanilla ice cream!

To make salted caramel:

In a small saucepan, add sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes. It will turn fast, so do not leave the stove!

Remove from heat and slowly add heavy cream and vanilla - the cream WILL bubble like mad, so be careful. Stir with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Add butter and stir until melted.   

To make cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two 12-cup muffin trays with cupcake liners.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar together until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat again until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk, beating together until incorporated. Scrape bowl down.

Fill liners about two-thirds of the way. Bake for 14-18 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean, checking as soon as 13 minutes. Do not overbake. Mine were done in 17 minutes.

Remove from oven and transfer onto rack. Allow to completely cool.

To make frosting:

Using an electric mixer, add butter and beat until light in color and fluffy. Add salted caramel and powdered sugar slowly and mix until fluffy and completely incorporated. Cover and refrigerate until stiff in form, but still spreadable.

Pipe or spread cupcakes with frosting and top with caramel corn and chopped peanuts. Drizzle with salted caramel.

Yields: 24 cupcakes.

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Coconut Cream Bars

Happy Easter!

Aside from the usual suspects, for me, nothing screams Easter quite like coconut. It's really the only time of year I will consume my weight in the nutty fruit. That is if you don't count Bounty, Almond Joy, or Mounds Bars. I can eat those everyday.

Unfortunately, as I was taking the last process photos of these lush bars, the memory card decided it needed to format itself - and delete all the photos on it as well. Are you kidding me? I was absolutely raging, but then I took a moment to chill. There are worse things happening in this world than losing photos, not to mention the sacrifice the Lord took for us and the reason we celebrate Easter in the first place. Yeah. Perspective.

So, I decided to take the high road, put my big girl panties on, and share the only photo I have. Hopefully it will speak a thousand words, which is funny because that's about how many delicious calories are in them. 

Indulge my little chicken. Be blessed.

Coconut Cream Bars
Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Martha Stewart Living, May 2004

2½ cups sweetened flaked coconut
3½ cups shortbread cookies, finely ground
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
4½ cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Whipped Cream Topping:
1½ cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spread coconut in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring once or twice, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely. Leave oven on.

Process cookies and ½ cup coconut in a food processor until finely ground and mixture begins to clump together, about 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to a 9x13-inch rimmed baking sheet; press into an even layer on bottom. Bake until golden and firm to the touch, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheet on a wire rack.

Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a large saucepan. Whisk in milk and egg yolks. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a boil, 5 to 6 minutes. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 3 minutes more. Remove from heat. Add butter, whisking until combined. Stir in 1½ cups coconut.

Spoon the custard onto cooled crust; smooth top with an offset spatula. Press plastic wrap directly onto custard surface, to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.

Beat cream and powdered sugar in a bowl until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Cut custard-filled crust into bars. Transfer to a platter. Spoon whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip. Pipe. Sprinkle bars with remaining ½ cup coconut or finely ground shortbread cookie. 

Yields: 24 Coconut Cream Bars.

Happy Baking!

share this on »

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tipsy Irish Cupcakes

I'm a complete teetotaller.

Actually, I lied. I'm not completely. I am known to have an occasional mixer or alcopop if I'm out for a girls night, hen night, or wedding.

Problem is, I nurse it all night that the alcohol pretty much evaporates before I hit the bottom of the glass. Other than that, I'm a total tea girl. Iced, hot, or chai. In fact, you buy me a venti nonfat Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks and I am all yours.

However, if cupcakes were alcohol, there wouldn't be time for a cup of tea.

I would be drunk. ALL. THE. TIME.

Mark my words.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup Guinness Stout Beer - or any stout beer will do
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
cup buttermilk - original recipe calls for the use sour cream. I just prefer buttermilk.

Whiskey Ganache Filling:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate - I used semi-sweet chocolate chips
cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon butter, room temperature
3 teaspoons Irish whiskey

Irish Cream Buttercream Frosting:
4½ cups confections sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
6-8 tablespoons Irish Cream Liqueur - like Bailey's

Cocoa powder for dusting - optional

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 12 cup muffin tins with paper liners. 

Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt to blend. Beat in eggs and buttermilk. Add stout-chocolate mixture to mixture and beat just to combine.

Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them about ¾ of the way.

Bake for 17-19 minutes or until tester inserted into center comes out clean. Mine took 18 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Add chocolate (or chips if using), to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until it comes to a good simmer and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.

Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped into cupcakes.

Using the back of a large decorating tip or apple corer, cut the centers out of cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for about's of the way. Put ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.


Whip the butter in the bowl with a hand or stand mixer for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add powdered sugar in ½ cup increments, alternating with the Bailey's by 2 Tablespoons each time. Mix until everything has been completely incorporated. 

Pipe or spread onto cupcakes. 

Yields: 24 cupcakes

Happy Baking!

share this on »