Cooking Food and Stuff – January through March 2015

Winter is just the worst, guys. It’s dark all the time. It’s cold. Sometimes you wake up and you look outside and there’s snow all over your car and the road and everyone’s like OMG SNOW DAY and you’re like “no, no, I have a huge project at work and need to leave the house.”

And then you make food for dinner and there is no soul in it, just necessity. And even if you do make something exciting the pictures look so bad because of The Darkness. I am definitely not a photographer at the best of times, and winter food pictures are…unpleasant.

BUT it appears to be spring now. There is sunshine! I can go outside without four sweaters! I am pleased. My cooking magazines have piled up and are full of dog-eared pages. Things will be made from them!

Since I have actually cooked a bit this winter, some of it from my news year’s resolutions, this post will be a bit of a roundup.

Basketweave covers a multitude of lopsided layers

Basketweave covers a multitude of lopsided layers

Chocolate Layer Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Icing and Raspberry Filling

We had an extremely well-coordinated surprise party for my friend Krystal, who was quite surprised that her friends had shown up in her house and decorated it and brought food. We only had 15 balloons and two things of mismatched crepe paper for decorations because apparently none of us are on pinterest, but we had a giant cheese plate with heart shaped brie, so.

I made a cake! Per her husband’s request, it was a chocolate layer cake with chocolate buttercream. I layered it with raspberry filling to balance the sweetness of the chocolate. The decorations were sugar/gum paste flowers I made the week prior.

  • The cake base was this fantastic one-bowl chocolate cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart, same recipe split into two 9-inch cake pans. It is not as sturdy for layering as the butter cake I usually use, so I may keep hunting for a sturdy chocolate cake recipe. This one is quite delicious though. One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
  • The chocolate buttercream was Wilton’s recipe. I made it with cocoa powder and did the extra fudgy version. I doubled the recipe and also added two tablespoons of meringue powder so it would ice better. It was VERY thick so I thinned it slowly with extra water until I could pipe it easily. Chocolate Buttercream Icing  
  • This raspberry filling recipe is amazing. I use it all the time. The only thing I do differently is just get regular frozen raspberries instead of sugar-packed ones. I let them defrost all the way on the counter and then microwave them to get the maximum raspberry juice through the strainer. Raspberry Filling

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers – New Year’s Resolution #1

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

Action shot seconds before they disappeared

OH YES these happened. I made them for a faux-superbowl party and they were glorious. If you haven’t made them, you must. They are not too spicy for the fearful among you, once you remove the seeds and membrane from inside the pepper. Then you fill it with cheese and wrap it in bacon. I followed this recipe by Pioneer Woman, which has you brush a little bit of barbecue sauce on the bacon before cooking. You must absolutely do this. It makes the bacon taste like candied bacon. They were gone almost instantly at the party.

 Lasagna – New Year’s Resolution #2

If I had not promised myself to make this for New Year’s and wanted to point out that it had been accomplished, I would not be posting about it. This was sort of a disaster. I tried making my own ricotta, but didn’t have heavy cream and the low-fat milk just curdled and it was horrid. There was a foot of snow outside and we risked life and limb to drive to the store to get MORE ricotta and somehow, when everyone was frantically buying milk and bread for the 12 hours of being housebound, they bought all the Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles. So I used Trader Joe’s brand, which is NOT the preferred brand of Italians everywhere. They were very gummy and I do not recommend them. My mother, who held my hand via the phone throughout the process, almost disowned me for frying up ground beef and sausage for the meat layer instead of making small meatballs, per our family’s tradition. However, the spaghetti sauce did turn out perfectly and I will post that recipe at some point very soon.

The lasagna itself was not photographed, because there was a group of hungry snow refugees at my house and I do not usually take pictures of hot food if there are hungry people waiting for it. Everyone said it tasted very good, so I will remake it with the correct ingredients that one can usually find if they are not trapped by accursed snow.

One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes

I think everyone has that imaginary version of themselves they like to trot out from time to time. I, for instance, like to pretend I’m the type of person who can whimsically whisk cupcakes together at a moment’s notice, sans recipe, perhaps while competing on Master Chef. No recipe, needed, thanks, I know 17 cupcake recipes by heart.

PLEASE HOLD YOUR SHOCK, I don’t actually know 17 cupcakes recipes by heart. I do think, however, this one-bowl chocolate cupcake recipe takes me one step closer to Imaginary Allison. It’s really simple. It’s the type of recipe that becomes a staple, the one you turn to when you need to bring a dessert and you want something tried-and-true, with no crazy ingredients.

One bowl, people. You mix the dry ingredients together, then whisk in the wet. No creaming of butter necessary, simply melt it in the microwave. I believe the one thing that sets these apart is the buttermilk, which adds a lightness to the cupcake.

Be warned before you melt your butter – this recipe makes more than twelve cupcakes.  Twenty-four, in fact. If you plan to cut this recipe in half, plan it out now. I melted my butter prior to realizing this, and ended up making three batches of cupcakes. SPOILER ALERT, it turned out ok! I survived and had an extra dozen cupcakes. I’ve managed to eat them, bravely.

I topped these with my all-butter version of the classic Wilton’s Buttercream recipe. No imaginary Allison needed for this one, I could pretty much make it in my sleep. This is the best icing, guys.

I realize it looks fancy-ish, but I promise it’s actually easier to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes than to try to smear it on with a spatula. I used a disposable plastic decorating bag and tip #2D. Start piping on the outside and twirl the cupcake until you get to the middle. If you make cupcakes even semi often, I really recommend getting a few decorating tips and bags. It’s honestly easier, and you’ll be slightly closer to the imaginary version of yourself that makes the fanciest cupcakes in the land.

One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes 

From Martha Stewart’s Cooking School

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 large whole eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled.
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Prepare oven and tins. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.
  2. Combine ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in eggs, yolk, water, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla until smooth and combined, about 3 minutes.
  3. Bake. Dive batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about halfway. Bake cupcakes, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
  4. Cool and frost. Transfer to wire rack; cool 10 minutes, then turn out cupcakes onto rack. Let cool completely before frosting. Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container, up to 3 days at room temperature or frozen up to 1 month.

 

Classic Buttercream Icing

Adapted from Wilton’s recipe.

Notes:

  • The meringue powder will help the icing maintain its shape after you pipe it. It’s nice but optional.
  • I’ve doubled the recipe below to match the amount needed for the cupcakes.
  • If you cut the recipe in half, I REALLY recommend buying the one pound box of powdered sugar. It’s much easier than measuring, since powdered sugar shifts so much.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsalted butter (four sticks), softened to room temperature.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  • 4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons water
  • 2 lbs pure cane confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Meringue powder
  • Two pinches of salt.

Instructions

  1. Measure out the water in a small bowl, then dissolve the salt in the water.
  2. Cream butter, vanilla extract, and salted water until butter is fluffy.
  3. Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until thoroughly mixed. Blend and additional minute or so until creamy. Be careful not to overwhip, this will form large bubbles in your icing that looks odd when piped.