Avocado Bacon Spiralized Hotdogs

bacon avocado hotdogsIt’s rare that I find a technique that is life-changing. I love trying out new ways to do things. Mostly because they are novel and I’m always looking for ways to grow and learn in general. I’ll usually try something once or twice, but that’s about it. It’s on to the next obsession, the next trend, the next new way to do something.
spiralized bacon avocado hotdogBut this, oh man… It is such a simple technique but it makes the average hot dog 10000% tastier than what it was before. You simply stick a skewer into the sausage, take a knife and create a swirl pattern along the meat, which will result in a Slinky looking piece of meat. It does not look like much but once you cook it, the increased surface to volume ratio creates extra crisp, juicy, meaty goodness.
bacon avocado hotdogThe first time I made this on a grill, the neighboring party came over and asked what kind of meat I was cooking. Once they saw that it was just a hot dog cut up into a fancy shape, they amused at its novelty and went about their merry way. Little did I know that I was a monkey about to touch the monolith.
bacon avocado hot dogsI’ve eaten my fair share of hot dogs and this one is right at the top. Neck and neck with the deep fried hot dogs they sell at a local hot dog joint in my town. Yes, true to the busy spatula fashion, I had to jazz it up by adding bacon, avocado, Sriracha and Kewpie mayo. (Which by the way, if you can do it, you must. It is a serious flavor bomb.) But honestly, this post is really about the technique. Simply cutting it up in a spiral shape will be life changing. I promise.
bacon avocado hot dogs
Avocado Bacon Spiralized Hotdogs

Ingredients:
Hot dog sausage
Avocado, peeled and cut into thin slices
Bacon
Sriracha
Kewpie Mayo (yes, there is a difference between this and regular mayonnaise)
Potato hot dog buns
Skewers (I understand that this is not an ingredient but SO NECESSARY)

Instructions:

  1. Stick a skewer through the middle of a hot dog sausage. If it does not go straight and pokes out the side, pull it back and continue until you get it to the other end of the sausage.
  2. With a sharp knife, make a continuous spiral cut along the sausage, using the skewer as a guide to know how deep to cut the sausage.
  3. Spread a thin layer of mayo over potato hot dog buns and toast it in a heated frying pan.
  4. Remove toasted buns and cook sausage over medium heat until well browned and crispy.
  5. Remove sausages, turn heat to low and cook bacon until desired level of crispness.
  6. Top toasted hot dog bun with sausage, avocado slices, bacon, Kewpie mayo and Sriracha.
  7. Enjoy immensely.

Honey Caramel Cheesecake with Crispy Meringue Bits and Almonds

Honey Caramel Cheesecake 7This is the prettiest dessert I’ve plated so far. I’ve never really mastered the art of plating, but for some reason, I couldn’t help myself when arranging this dessert. It might be because there are so many components to it, or because I was just excited to do something intricate for once, but this one is a stunner for sure, both on the eyes and on the palate.
Honey Caramel Cheesecake 4Honey Caramel Cheesecake 2Sometimes I look at certain recipes and wonder, “Uh…. Yeah, right. Who has the time for that??” I’m thinking this recipe will probably give a lot of people the same thought. I honestly set out with a simple recipe in mind: a honey caramel swirled cheesecake topped with meringue bits. But when I tried this new method of making meringues, I botched the first try and baked the sugar for way too long which resulted in caramelized sugar bits. Luckily, the second time was successful. I have to say, it was worth the trouble because I’ve always had a tough time making meringues that don’t crack or stay perfectly white and this method worked wonders.
meringue flowers caramel shardsIt’s crunchy, crispy, creamy, smooth, nutty, sweet, salty, rich and light. It’s pretty much a party in your mouth.
Honey Caramel Cheesecake 1
Honey Caramel Cheesecake with Crispy Meringue Bits and Almonds

Ingredients:

Honey caramel cheesecake (recipe below)
Honey caramel (recipe below)
Crispy meringue bits (recipe below)
Caramelized sugar bits (recipe below)
Almonds, chopped into small pieces
Maldon sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Trim the edges of the cheesecake to get neat sides.
  2. With a sharp knife, cut cheesecake into long strips, wiping the blade of the knife down after each cut.
  3. Top each cheesecake pieces with crisp meringue bits, caramelized sugar bits, almonds and sea salt.
  4. Optional: put dollops of honey caramel around the edges of the plate and top with sea salt and almond pieces.

Honey Caramel Cheesecake

Ingredients:

½ c. butter, softened
½ c. sugar
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract, divided
¼ tsp. kosher salt
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
6 tbsp. heavy cream
honey caramel (recipe below)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven 350˚F and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, flour, vanilla and salt until a dough forms.
  3. Press dough into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
  4. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk until homogenous.
  5. Add egg and heavy cream and mix until combined.
  6. Pour cream cheese mixture on top of the flour mixture.
  7. Put dollops of honey caramel and swirl with a toothpick to form swirls.
  8. Bake 20-25 minutes in a preheated oven until cheesecake is set.
  9. Cool on a wire rack and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Honey Caramel

Ingredients:

½ c. honey
¼ c. heavy cream
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. kosher salt

Instructions:

  1. In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine honey and cream.
  2. Cook until mixture reaches 238˚F.
  3. Remove from heat; stir in butter, vanilla and salt.
  4. Cool, and refrigerate if storing for future use.

Crispy Meringue Bits

Ingredients:

150 g. superfine sugar
75 g. egg whites, room temperature
1 pinch of cream of tartar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Spread sugar in an even layer over parchment.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and the cream of tartar.
  4. Place sugar into the oven and bake until the edges of the sugar begins to melt but not brown, about 5 minutes.
  5. Once the sugar begins to melt, turn the mixer onto high.
  6. Remove baking sheet from the oven and the eggs whites should be foamy.
  7. Turn the mixer to medium high and slowly pour the hot sugar from the parchment paper into egg whites.
  8. Once all the sugar is added, turn the mixer onto high and mix until stiff, shiny peaks form.
  9. Reduce oven to lowest setting 140˚F.
  10. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper.
  11. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a closed star tip, make small flower shapes until you have used up all of the meringue.
  12. Bake about 10-20 minutes until they are crisp and hollow.
  13. Turn off oven and let it dry out for about 30 minutes to an hour.
  14. Remove meringues out of the oven and store in a cool, dry place.

Caramelized Sugar Bits

Ingredients:

50 g. superfine sugar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Spread sugar in a thin even layer over parchment.
  3. Place sugar into oven until it becomes liquefied and golden brown.
  4. Remove and let stand until completely cool.
  5. Break into small shards of crisp sugar.

Tiramisu Crunch Ice Cream Cake

Tiramisu Crunch Ice Cream Cake 1I made this cake for my sister’s birthday last week. As far as sisters go, my sister and I are as different as night and day. We don’t look alike, with the exception that we both share freckles. Growing up, I would be pale from staying in and reading books while she would be as tan as can be from playing outside. She loves the color black while I love white. She is loud and I am quiet. She prefers vegetables, while I prefer steak. She likes things simple and casual while I cannot get enough frills and bows. She favors pants in comparison to my preference to dresses. She is also not partial to desserts whereas I cannot live without them (as evidenced by this blog). I always tell people that whatever she is good at, I lack it and whatever I am good at, she lacks it.
Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake 3I love creating cakes and I look forward to baking one for all of my family members on their special day. But my sister does not like cake. HOW?! As someone whose life (or a good part of their life) revolves around frosting, and sugar and flour, it is hard to understand someone who does not like cake. So every year on her birthday, I resort to an ice cream cake. Because let’s face it, who doesn’t like ice cream?
Tiramisu Crunch Ice Cream Cake 2Tiramisu was one of my least favorite desserts because I used to rarely drink coffee. If anything, I loved it for the mascarpone cream. (Ah, mascarpone cream… everything you touch becomes a magical milky confection.) But ever since I gave up diet coke, I’ve been leaning towards coffee for my caffeine fix and I’ve managed to fall in love with the bitter brew. My sister’s preferred choice of drink has always been coffee, so tiramisu was a no-brainer when it came to a flavor choice.
layoutI have to say, this cake ranks as one of the best cakes to come out of my kitchen. It features layers of coffee ice cream sandwiched between coffee syrup soaked sponge cake, chocolate almond crispies (!!!), and is covered by a blanket of mascarpone whipped cream and adorned with dark chocolate accents and cocoa powder. I know. It sounds like it is too much work and it is true that there are many components to the cake. However, each part is simple to make!
mascarpone cream I always use high quality ice cream when it comes to ice cream cakes. It is important to have the lower air content so that the ice cream stays firmer, longer. I used Haagen-Dazs in mine. The sponge cake is a standard sponge cake that is divided in half. The coffee syrup is nothing more than a mix of sugar and dark brewed coffee. The chocolate almond crispies provide a crunch and a textural contrast to the smooth ice cream and cake. To make it, you simply stir chocolate almond spread with Rice Krispies cereal until it is evenly coated. The mascarpone whipped cream is a mix of vanilla extract, powdered sugar, mascarpone, and cool whip. I am not a fan of cool whip, but when it comes to ice cream cakes, I think it is superior in terms of spreadability and stability. To make the chocolate accents, simply melt some chocolate and using a small offset spatula, drag a dollop of chocolate over parchment paper and repeat until you have as many pieces as you need. They will not all look uniform, but I think that’s what makes it look slightly “rustic”.
Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake 4I understand if you are a little overwhelmed by it. But trust me, it is worth every minute you spend making it. ;)

Tiramisu Crunch Ice Cream Cake

Ingredients:

56 oz. premium coffee ice cream, softened
sponge cake, halved horizontally (recipe below)
coffee simple syrup (recipe below)
chocolate almond crispies (recipe below)
whipped mascarpone cream (recipe below)
dark chocolate, melted (for garnish)
cocoa powder (for garnish)

Instructions:

  1. Line two 8-inch cake pans that are 3 inches deep with a double layer of plastic wrap that overhangs over the cake pan.
  2. In one of the cake pans, place one half of the sponge cake and brush liberally with coffee syrup. (You do not want to soak the cake, but put enough of it that it is moist.)
  3. Layer 28 oz. of coffee ice cream over the cake base, smooth so that the coffee base is as smooth as you can get it.
  4. Place pan in freezer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, make the chocolate almond crispies.
  6. Get half of the chocolate almond crispies and layer it over the ice cream, flattening it with an offset spatula to make it as flat, even and smooth as possible.
  7. Wrap the overhanging plastic wrap over the cake pan and place in freezer until completely frozen, preferably overnight.
  8. In the second lined cake pan, smooth 28 oz. of coffee ice cream with offset spatula evenly.
  9. Chill in freezer for 10 minutes.
  10. Layer the remaining chocolate almond crispies over the coffee ice cream.
  11. Place the second half of the sponge cake and brush liberally with coffee simple syrup.
  12. Wrap the overhanging plastic wrap over the cake pan and place in freezer until completely frozen, preferably overnight.
  13. On a cake board you are planning to serve, carefully unmold the first cake pan you put together by lifting the plastic wrap off of the pan and unwrapping it completely.
  14. Take the second cake pan and unmold it, and place on top of the first cake pan layer with the sponge cake layer facing downwards. Apply pressure to fuse the two layers together.
  15. Place in freezer to harden for about 20-30 minutes.
  16. Meanwhile, make the whipped mascarpone cream.
  17. Remove frozen cake from freezer and frost the outside of the cake with ¾ of the whipped mascarpone cream.
  18. Place cake back in the freezer and put the remaining whipped mascarpone cream in a piping bag with a plain large round tip.
  19. Remove cake from freezer and use the piping bag to place decorative dollops of cream over the top of the cake by making even vertical rows of cream.
  20. Using a mesh strainer, liberally dust the top of the cake with cocoa powder. The cocoa powder will dust the surface of the cake board too, carefully use a wet paper towel to clean the cake board off.
  21. Place cake back in the freezer.
  22. While cake is freezing, make decorative chocolate pieces.
  23. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  24. Using a small offset spatula, drag dollops of dark chocolate to create a streak. Use larger dollops for the bottom and smaller dollops for the top. Place in refrigerator to set for 5-10 minutes.
  25. When set, remove the cake from the freezer and decorate the bottom of the cake with the longer chocolate pieces and the top of the cake with the smaller chocolate pieces.
  26. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Vanilla Sponge Cake

Ingredients:

½ c. all-purpose flour
½ c. cornstarch
4 large eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ c. sugar, divided
pinch of salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F and grease the inside of an 8 inch baking pan with nonstick spray.
  2. In a small bowl, sift together flour and cornstarch.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks, vanilla extract, and ½ c. sugar on high until thick and pale.
  4. Transfer mixture into a large bowl.
  5. Thoroughly wash and dry mixing bowl and whisk attachment.
  6. In a clean bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.
  7. Slowly incorporate the remaining ¼ c. of sugar into the egg whites and mix until whites are stiff and glossy.
  8. Fold egg whites into the egg yolk mixture in three additions.
  9. Fold in flour mixture
  10. Transfer batter into the prepared cake pan.
  11. Bake 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  12. Cool cake on a wire rack until ready for use.

Coffee Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

½ c. strong, dark coffee
¼ c. sugar

Instructions:

  1. Heat coffee and sugar together until sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Cool until ready for use.

Chocolate Almond Crispies

Ingredients:

3 c. Rice Krispies Cereal
1 c. chocolate almond spread (I used this one from Trader Joe’s)

Instructions:

  1. Heat chocolate almond spread until easily pourable.
  2. In a large bowl, mix chocolate almond spread and cereal until cereal is evenly coated.
  3. Cool mixture until ready for use.

Whipped Mascarpone Cream

Ingredients:

12 oz. Cool Whip (thawed)
1 lb. mascarpone cheese
3 tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, whip Cool Whip and half of mascarpone cheese until smooth with an electric hand mixer.
  2. Add the remaining half of the Cool Whip and mix until incorporated. Do not over whip.
  3. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract and whip until homogeneous.

* Vanilla Sponge Cake recipe from Martha Stewart.

{Simple Sundays} Salted Milk Jam aka Dulce de Leche

salted dulce de lecheThe weather is finally turning warm! Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and pollen is flying… I’m lucky enough to not have seasonal allergies, but I am sure many of you are suffering from it. It might be best to just stay in and make this milk jam. Making this milk jam (or dulce de leche) is so ridiculously easy, I don’t know if I should even write a recipe for it. It uses two ingredients: sweetened condensed milk and fleur de sel.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit that my devotion to sweetened condensed milk borders on idolatry. I believe that anything with sweetened condensed milk is delicious and so many tasty things are born from it. Banana pudding, Thai iced tea, flan, tres leches cake, even my favorite recipe for pumpkin pie has sweetened condensed milk in it. If you’ve never had it, you must try it. It is life changing.
dulce de leche recipeI can’t say dulce de leche is very close to a caramel because it has a distinctively different taste from it. I would say that it is more complex instead of the bold one note sweetness you get from caramel. The traditional way would be to boil down a lot of milk and sugar for many hours and constantly stir it until you get your desired shade of brown. The method I used is a shortcut. You take a can of sweetened condensed milk, put it in a pot of water and keep it at a gentle simmer for 2-3 hours. Cool. Open. Enjoy. Top liberally with fleur de sel if desired. (You know, if you’re into that sweet-salty thing. Let’s face it though, who isn’t?)
salted milk jamThe layer of the light colored dulce de leche is a mistake that I made. When I say gentle simmer, I mean simmer. I was scared about simmering too strongly so I kept it at a bare simmer for two hours. When I opened the jar, it was too pale to be called dulce de leche yet too dark to still be considered sweetened condensed milk. Don’t be like me. Put the pedal to the metal.how to make dulce de leche You can use dulce de leche on so many things. You can top ice cream, or pound cake or toast or crackers. You can also use it to fill a cake, sandwich in between cookies (alfajores!!) or macarons, or my favorite, eat it straight out of the jar, with a spoon. Seriously, the possibilities are endless! Or if you are feeling especially kind, you can also put them in little mason jars and gift them.

Salted Milk Jam

Ingredients:
1 can sweetened condensed milk
fleur de sel (optional, but recommended)
water (for submerging can in water)

Instructions:

  1. Remove the label off of the can of sweetened condensed milk.
  2. Place can in a large pot and fill pot with water, making sure the can is completely submerged. (At least 2 inches above the can.)
  3. Heat pot until water is simmers. Simmer can for 1½ hours, making sure that the water level does not fall below 1 inch above the can.
  4. Turn can upside down, simmer for another 1 – 1½ hours. Continue to monitor the water level, making sure the can is completely submereged.
  5. Remove can from water and let cool.
  6. Open can, top liberally with fleur de sel. Add salt to taste, pending on how much of a salty –sweet contrast you like.

A (Belated) Blogiversary, A Funfetti Cake Batter Cake & A Giveaway

Funfetti Cake Batter Cake and Macarons 3It’s my first Blogiversary! One year ago, I started blogging on this little website with a lot of encouragement from friends and family. I cannot believe that it has already been a year. Each time I am able to share recipes, tutorials or whatever this brain of mine thinks of, I am so grateful to be able to send off a little piece of my creativity into the webosphere.  I’m even more grateful to the all of you who take the time out of your day to read the little bits of me that I post on my wee space on the internet.
funfetti macarons Funfetti Cake Batter Cake and Macarons 2Because anything celebratory requires sprinkles (or glitter) in my brain, I made a little cake chock-full with sprinkles for this post. It has sprinkles in the frosting, around the outside, and on the macarons. (I originally wanted to do a funfetti cake, but being me I totally forgot to add the sprinkles to the cake batter so instead it went into the frosting.) And because I love all things macarons, I added some funfetti macarons. The cake and the macarons are filled with cake batter frosting. My secret ingredient to making it taste like cake batter? Boxed cake mix. *GASP*I know. I never ever ever ever ever use boxed cake mix but this is the one time exception. And because it uses boxed cake mix, it is definitely on the sweeter side of the dessert spectrum. It also has that nostalgic bake sale cupcake taste that I loved in my youth.
Funfetti Cake Batter Cake and Macarons 5 Funfetti Cake Batter Cake and Macarons 6To celebrate my ridiculously belated blogiversary, I’m hosting a giveaway! If you know me at all, Target is one of my favorite places to shop. I’m telling you, I cannot walk out of that store without something in my hand! It literally has everything you need so I’m giving away a $25 gift card so that you too can enjoy a small shopping trip to Target.*  Entering the giveaway is so simple! Simply follow me on Instagram and like my giveaway photo and for an extra entry, like and leave a comment on this post about what kind of cake you like. The giveaway ends on Friday, May 8th and if the winner does not respond within 3 days, I will be selecting another one. Funfetti Cake Batter Cake and Macarons 4Funfetti Cake Batter Cake and Macarons

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake (recipe below)
Funfetti Cake Batter Frosting (recipe below)
Funfetti Macarons (recipe below)
1-2 c. Sprinkles

Instructions:

  1. Evenly fill and stack each layer of vanilla cake with funfetti cake batter frosting.
  2. Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of cake batter frosting (funfetti cake batter frosting without the sprinkles.)
  3. Place cake in freezer for 5 minutes until the frosting on the outside sets firmly.
  4. Once crumb coat is set, frost the entire cake with cake batter frosting.
  5. Take a handful of sprinkles and slowly cup the outside of the cake, patting it to ensure full coverage. (This part will create a mess. Sprinkles will bounce and fall everywhere.)
  6. Let frosting set in freezer for 5 minutes.
  7. Take cake out and frost little mounds of frosting around the top of the cake and attach a funfetti macaron for decoration.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake

Ingredients:
3 c. cake flour
2  c. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1¼  c. buttermilk, divided
8 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
4 eggs, room temperature
2 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line four 6-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix until combined.
  3. On low speed, add 1 c. buttermilk and butter and mix until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolk, ¼ c. buttermilk, and vanilla extract until homogenous.
  5. On low speed, slowly add the egg mixture to the flour mixture.
  6. Increase speed to medium, and mix until combined.
  7. Evenly divide cake batter into the three cake pans.
  8. Bake about 20-25 minutes until cake is done or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, and then move onto a cooling rack until completely cool.

Funfetti Cake Batter Frosting

Ingredients:
3 c. whole milk
¾ c. flour
¼ tsp. salt
1½ 1b. (6 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 c. sugar
¼ c. cake mix
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
½ c. sprinkles

Instructions:

  1. In a saucier pan, put milk, salt and flour and whisk until combined on medium heat.
  2. Continuously whisk mixture until thickened to a pudding like consistency.
  3. Once thickened, strain through a mesh strainer into a bowl with a spatula to remove lumps.
  4. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the flour mixture and put into the fridge until fully cool.
  5. In a mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the sugar and butter on high speed until fluffy and pale about, 5-10 minutes.
  6. Add the chilled flour mixture and continue to whip on high speed until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is no longer gritty, about 5-10 minutes.
  7. Add the vanilla extract and cake mix and mix until combined.
  8. Reserve ⅔ of the mixture for filling the macarons and frosting the outside of the cake.
  9. Mix ½ c. sprinkles into the remaining frosting for filling the cake.

Funfetti Macarons

Ingredients:
212 g. almond meal
212 g. powdered sugar
172 g. egg whites, divided to 82 g. and 90 g (aged, if possible)
236 g. sugar
158 g. water
nonpareils for decorating
cake batter frosting (recipe above)

Instructions:

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add the almond meal and powdered sugar and pulse until thoroughly combined.
  3. Sift the mixture over a large mixing bowl, throwing out the lumps as they appear.  Add the crystalized lemon and 82 g. of the egg whites and stir until you get a thick mixture.
  4. In a small pot attached with a candy thermometer, combine the sugar and water over medium heat and boil until the syrup reaches 200˚F.
  5. Once the syrup reaches 200˚F, start whipping the remaining 90 g. in the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks are reached.
  6. Once the syrup reaches 248 ˚F, remove the pot off the burner and slowly pour the syrup down the side of the mixing bowl with the egg whites on medium speed.
  7. Once the egg whites are fully incorporated, increase the speed to medium high until egg whites form glossy, stiff peaks.
  8. Mix a ⅓ of the egg white mix to the almond mixture and stir together until the batter is slightly lighter and less pasty.  From then on, fold in ⅓ of the egg white mixture at a time until the mixture “flows like magma”.  The mixture should be smooth and run thick ribbons off the spatula.
  9. With a pastry bag fitted with a ½ in. plain tip, pipe 1¼ – 1½ in. rounds.
  10. The piped batter may have peaks but should smooth away in a minute or two.
  11. Sprinkle nonpareils evenly over macaron shells.
  12. Let the batter stand until the tops of the macarons are dry to the touch, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  13. Preheat the oven to 275-325˚F.  If your oven tends to run hot go for 275˚F, if not then 325˚F.
  14. Bake 10-13 minutes, until the feet are formed and the tops are smooth.  The batter is done when you slightly wiggle it and it starts to come off of the parchment paper / silicone mat.
  15. Once cool, frost the inside of the macaron shell with cake batter frosting and sandwich with another macaron shell.

* Open to U.S. Residents only. Winner will be contacted via email.

Easy Peanut Butter Eggs


peanut butter eggs 4One of the best things about holidays is all the holiday themed candy that comes out on display. Packaged in brightly colored bags and interesting designs, they are already hard to pass by, but what makes me really want to buy them are the words, “limited edition”. What do they mean by limited edition? Am I going to see the same product next year or is this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? What if it is something absolutely delicious and I can never have it again? All of the sudden I HAVE to have whatever is in inside the shiny wrapper. I would say 9 out of 10 times I end up buying it to try it out. Am I the only person who is like this? … Possibly.peanut butter eggs 3My #1 favorite Easter candy is the Reese’s peanut butter eggs. I think the ratio of the peanut filling to chocolate is just right and it is perfectly smooth without the thick ridges that the peanut butter cups have. The lazy side of me secretly likes the fact that I don’t have to unwrap each egg I consume (except for the initial packaging of course).
peanut butter eggs 5These peanut butter eggs are super smooth and deliciously peanut-y. It’s also really simple to make! No fancy equipment needed and it is all done in one bowl.  I made mine small, because honestly to me, smaller = cuter. I went a little overboard with the way I decorated mine (which took a lot longer than I’d like to admit). I think it’s the perfect project to do with kids and they can go as sprinkle crazy as they want or not. (But most likely they will because more sprinkles = more fun.)
peanut butter eggs 2For more Easter projects, here are my previous Easter themed posts:

Bunny Cake Pops
White Chocolate Tiramisu Eggs
Easter Bunny Surprise Cake

Easy Peanut Butter Eggs

Ingredients:
½ c. creamy peanut butter
1 c. powdered sugar
2 tbsp. butter, melted
⅛-¼ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
chocolate or candy melts (whichever you prefer)
optional: sprinkles and sanding sugar (for decorating)

Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, mix peanut butter and sugar until combined.
  2. Add butter, vanilla extract and ⅛ tsp salt, mix and taste. If needed, add an additional ⅛ tsp. salt.
  3. Chill mixture until firm, about 1 hour in the fridge.
  4. On a baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper, dose out ½ tbsp. portions of dough and use your palms to roll and form into egg shapes.
  5. Place egg shaped dough into freezer to chill and set 15-20 minutes.
  6. Melt chocolate or candy melts and dip chilled peanut butter eggs and shake off excess chocolate.
  7. Decorate as desired.

Recipe adapted from Serious Eats.

Lemon Basil Macarons

Lemon Basil Macarons 2The first day of spring came and went with a generous dose of snow in New Jersey and there are still patches of snow here and there. Like many of you, I’m craving warm weather like a breath underwater. I kind of feel like I’m at the end of a race and I can see the finish line, but no matter how fast I run it’s not getting any closer.
Lemon Basil Macarons 4As I stared blankly into my fridge on a frigid Saturday morning, I saw a bag of lemons I bought a couple of weeks ago. Isn’t it funny how we tend to forget things in the crisper drawer? I swear, once I found a few grapes that were beginning to become raisins. Okay, that was kind of gross. Anyways, something about the bright yellow of lemons conjured up thoughts of springtime, warm weather, fresh flowers, sandals, dresses without tights, picnics and longer days, and I just had to use them right away.
Lemon Basil Macarons 7 Lemon Basil Macarons 6These lemon basil macarons are made with lemon macaron shells and filled with a vanilla basil buttercream and homemade lemon curd. The flavor of the basil is subtle and hits you at the very end. I should tell you that as the days go by, the basil becomes less and less pronounced so it is better eaten sooner than later. I thought about incorporating a stronger basil flavor by steeping some basil in warm milk before making the buttercream, but I got cold feet. In fact, I wasn’t sure if lemon and basil would make a good pairing. I’m a little wary of adding a savory element to my desserts but it turned out very tasty. If you love basil though, it might not be enough of a “punch” for you. I suppose you could add more basil to the frosting to increase the basil factor.
Lemon Basil Macarons 5For the lemon macaron shells, I used crystallized lemon. I happened to have some True Lemon lying around and I think it’s a better alternative to using lemon juice. As you know, macarons are very finicky and I’m not quite sure how the extra liquid in lemon juice would affect the batter. If you want, you can omit the crystallized lemon in the recipe. I feel that the lemon curd has enough of a citrus punch but if you can use it, I recommend it.
Lemon Basil Macarons 1The lemon curd recipe makes more than you need, but it’s so delicious that I’m sure you won’t mind having extra around. I’m already thinking of another recipe to use it in. These macarons really taste like springtime in your mouth. I think you’ll love it.
Lemon Basil Macarons 3Lemon Basil Macarons
Ingredients:
212 g. almond meal
212 g. powdered sugar
172 g. egg whites, divided to 82 g. and 90 g (aged, if possible)
236 g. sugar
158 g. water
1 ½ tsp. crystallized lemon
yellow gel food color
green gel food color (optional: for decorative brushstrokes)
vanilla basil buttercream (recipe below)
lemon curd (recipe below)

Instructions:

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add the almond meal and powdered sugar and pulse until thoroughly combined.
  3. Sift the mixture over a large mixing bowl, throwing out the lumps as they appear.  Add the crystallized lemon and 82 g. of the egg whites and stir until you get a thick mixture.
  4. In a small pot attached with a candy thermometer, combine the sugar and water over medium heat and boil until the syrup reaches 200˚F.
  5. Once the syrup reaches 200˚F, start whipping the remaining 90 g. in the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks are reached.
  6. Once the syrup reaches 248 ˚F, remove the pot off the burner and slowly pour the syrup down the side of the mixing bowl with the egg whites on medium speed.
  7. Once the egg whites are fully incorporated, increase the speed to medium high until egg whites form glossy, stiff peaks.
  8. Add yellow gel food coloring little by little until the desire color is reached.
  9. Mix a ⅓ of the egg white mix to the almond mixture and stir together until the batter is slightly lighter and less pasty.  From then on, fold in ⅓ of the egg white mixture at a time until the mixture “flows like magma”.  The mixture should be smooth and run thick ribbons off the spatula.
  10. With a pastry bag fitted with a ½ in. plain tip, pipe 1¼ – 1½ in. rounds.
  11. The piped batter may have peaks but should smooth away in a minute or two.
  12. Let the batter stand until the tops of the macarons are dry to the touch, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  13. Preheat the oven to 275-325˚F.  If your oven tends to run hot go for 275˚F, if not then 325˚F.
  14. Bake 10-13 minutes, until the feet are formed and the tops are smooth.  The batter is done when you slightly wiggle it and it starts to come off of the parchment paper / silicone mat.
  15. Once cool, mix a tiny bit of water with a small amount of green gel food color and with a small (food use only) paintbrush, paint small strokes onto the macaron shells. Let dry.
  16. Pipe a small circle of vanilla basil frosting on the outer border of a macaron shell. This creates a dam so the lemon curd does not ooze out.
  17. Fill the center of the macaron with the lemon curd and top with another macaron shell.

Vanilla Basil Buttercream

Ingredients:
½ c. whole milk
3 tbsp. flour
⅛ tsp. salt
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ c. sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. fresh basil, finely minced and stems discarded

Instructions:

  1. In a small pot over medium heat, whisk milk, salt and flour until combined.
  2. Continuously whisk mixture until thickened to a pudding like consistency.
  3. Once thickened, strain through a mesh strainer into a bowl with a spatula to remove lumps.
  4. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the flour mixture (to prevent skin from forming) and put bowl into the fridge until fully cool.
  5. In a mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the sugar and butter on high speed until fluffy and pale about, 5-10 minutes.
  6. Add the chilled flour mixture and continue to whip on high speed until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is no longer gritty, about 5-10 minutes.
  7. Add the vanilla extract and minced basil and mix until combined.

Lemon Curd

Ingredients:
5 egg yolks
1 ¼ c. sugar
⅓ c. lemon juice
zest of 4 lemons
1 pinch of kosher salt
4 oz. (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 8 pieces

Instructions:

  1. Start a double boiler by adding water in a small pot and bringing it to a simmer.
  2. In a medium metal bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until smooth. (Make sure the metal bowl is wider than the small pot of water.)
  3. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and salt and mix until combined.
  4. Place the metal bowl above the small pot of simmering water and whisk until the mixture is thickened. About 8 minutes or around 170˚
  5. Once thickened, remove from heat and stir in butter one piece at a time, making sure each piece has melted before adding the next.
  6. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

*Macaron recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller, Sebastien Rouxel.
** Lemon curd recipe adapted from Alton Brown.

Garlic Naan

Garlic Naan 1As much as I love trying out new restaurants and cuisines, I have a terrible habit of ordering the same menu items wherever I go. It’s not that I don’t like trying new things, I suppose I know what I like and I always crave that same dish every time. For example, at Thai restaurants it would be pad thai, chow fun at Chinese restaurants, gyro at Greek restaurants and chicken tikka masala and naan at Indian restaurants. Which brings us to today’s recipe, naan. As a lover of all things bread, fresh naan is one of those things that I can eat every day without complaint. (My waistline on the other hand is another story.) Glistening with melted garlic butter and specks of kosher salt, this buttery, chewy, slightly salty, sweet and crispy yeast bread is amazing.
Garlic Naan 4Garlic Naan 8What makes this garlic naan extra garlicky is the addition of granulated garlic to the yeast dough. That plus the chunks of fresh garlic in the melted butter makes this a flavor bomb that is just waiting to be consumed.
Garlic Naan 7 Garlic Naan 6If you’ve never worked with yeast before, I can understand why you would be wary of this recipe. Don’t be scared! Yes, the yeast can die on you but you can easily dump it out and try again if it fails. Just make sure that the filtered (don’t use tap water!) water is not over 115˚F when you add the yeast. Before I got a thermapen (Which btw, is awesome. It is worth every penny), I used to stick my finger in the water and if I didn’t have to immediately pull out my finger from the heat, I knew it was ready to go. Silly I know, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Garlic Naan 3Cook it under the broiler for that perfectly brown, slightly charred taste that you can probably replicate on the grill. I once read that it also works well on a George Foreman grill and also a greased pan on a stovetop. I’ve tried both methods and the broiler is the best. Hands down.
Garlic Naan 5Garlic Naan

Ingredients:
1 (.25 oz) package active dry yeast
1 c. warm water* (not above 115˚F)
¼ c. sugar, divided
3 tbsp. milk
1 egg
2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 tbsp. granulated garlic
4 to 4 ½ c. all purpose or bread flour**
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
6 tbsp. unsalted butter

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, stir water, 1 tbsp sugar and yeast together until yeast is incorporated.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix 3 tbsp sugar, milk, egg, salt, garlic and 4 cups of flour until combined.
  3. Once yeast has proofed, add it to the flour mixture and mix in the standing mixer with the dough hook attachment until combined. The dough should look fairly wet.
  4. Let the dough rest for 8 minutes.
  5. With the mixer on medium-low speed, knead dough until dough is smooth and pulls away from the bowl, about 6-8 minutes. If the dough does not pull away or show signs of it at 5 minutes, add the additional ½ c. of flour ¼ c. at a time until desired consistency forms.
  6. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour or doubled in size.
  7. On a floured surface, deflate and divide the dough into 16 even pieces and form into smooth balls.
  8. Place dough balls on a baking sheet and let rise for 30-45 minutes, or doubled in size.
  9. While the dough is rising, preheat the broiler in your oven. Line the broiling pan with a sheet of aluminum foil.
  10. In a microwave safe bowl, add the minced garlic and the butter and gently melt the butter.
  11. Once the dough has risen, flatten out the dough into a round or oval shape by gently stretching it out. The naan becomes crisper the thinner you stretch it.
  12. Place dough onto the broiler pan and cook 1-2 minutes until golden brown and slightly charred.
  13. Flip the dough over and cook for another minute or two until desired color is reached.
  14. Take naan out and while it is still hot, brush on melted garlic butter and sprinkle with kosher salt.
  15. Continue this step until all of the dough is cooked, buttered and salted.

*Make sure the water is not above 115˚F
**Both types of flour work well, but the bread flour produces a chewier naan.
***Recipe adapted from allrecipes.

Blueberry Pie Doughnuts

Blueberry Pie Doughnuts 3It’s the ultimate Pi Day! As you may or may not know March 14th (3.14) is Pi Day, but this year is extra special because it is 2015 which makes it 3.14.15 = 3.1415. Last year I made some pie pops which were tasty and cute but this year I fused two of my favorite things… pies and doughnuts.
Blueberry Pie Doughnut 2This blueberry pie doughnut is a light yeasted doughnut filled with blueberry filling and topped with a vanilla and blueberry glaze. I won’t lie, the recipe takes time and it’s a messy process, but definitely worth it. A word of warning, putting the blueberry glaze is the messiest part. The glaze sets quickly so it is similar to working with hot candle wax. Just go Jackson Pollock on it and have fun. As for the mess you make, some things are just worth the extra effort.Blueberry Pie Doughnuts 4

Blueberry Pie Doughnuts

Ingredients:

1 ½ c. milk
⅓ c. vegetable shortening
2 tbsp. active dry yeast
⅓ c. water (95 to 105˚F)
2 eggs
¼ c. sugar (divided)
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
5 1/4 c. all purpose flour
Oil, for frying
Blueberry filling (recipe below)
Vanilla glaze (recipe below)
Blueberry glaze (recipe below)

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine milk and shortening and heat until shortening melts.
  2. In a separate bowl, stir water, 1 tbsp sugar and yeast together until yeast is incorporated.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix eggs, 3 tbsp. sugar, salt, nutmeg and flour until combined.
  4. Once yeast is proofed, add the milk and yeast mixture to the flour mixture and mix in the standing mixer with the dough hook attachment until combined.
  5. Let the dough rest for 8 minutes.
  6. With the mixer on medium-low speed, knead dough until dough is smooth and pulls away from the bowl, about 6-8 minutes.
  7. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour or doubled in size.
  8. On a floured surface, roll out dough to ¼ in. thick and cut dough using a 2 ¾ inch round pastry ring and 1 inch round pastry ring for the center of the doughnut.
  9. Set punched out dough onto a baking sheet and cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
  10. Preheat oil in a pot to 365˚F and cook for 1 minute per side.
  11. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool before glazing.
  12. Cut cooled doughnuts in half using a bread knife.
  13. Dip top half of the doughnut in the vanilla glaze, and generously cover the bottom half of the doughnut with blueberry filling.
  14. Assemble the doughnut and splatter blueberry glaze over the top.

Blueberry Filling

Ingredients:

3 c. of blueberries*, divided
⅓ c. sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Instructions:

  1. In a small pot, combine 2 cups of blueberries with ⅓ cup of sugar.
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until all the berries burst and sugar is completely melted; about 5 minutes. The mixture should look very liquid.
  3. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water until it becomes a slurry.
  4. Add to the blueberry mixture and cook until it becomes thick. It will become almost paste-like.
  5. Transfer blueberry mix to a bowl and rest of the blueberries and lemon juice.
  6. Add more lemon juice if needed.

Vanilla Glaze

Ingredients:

¼ c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. powdered sugar

Instructions:

  1. In a saucier, heat milk until it simmers.
  2. Slowly add sugar, whisking in one cup at a time.
  3. Add vanilla extract.

Blueberry Glaze

Ingredients:

1 ½ tbsp. milk
1 c. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. blueberry filling (more or less depending on how deep of a purple you want)

Insturctions:

  1. In a saucier, heat milk until it simmers.
  2. Slowly whisk in powdered sugar.
  3. Mix in blueberry filling.

{Simple Sundays} Corn Muffins

Corn Muffins 1One of the best things about baking is that there are so many ways to make the same things: cookies can be crunchy or chewy, muffins can be dense or light, and brownies can be cakey or fudgy. The thing is everyone is usually in one camp or the other. For me, cookies must be chewy and brownies must be fudgy, but when it comes to muffins, I love both kinds as long as they’re not tough.
Corn Muffins 3A few days ago, I was really craving corn muffins. (Not corn bread, which I think is a different breed.) The last time I had corn muffins was on my trip to Atlanta. We stopped by a Cracker Barrel as a rest stop and had a satisfying meal… satisfying except for the corn muffins. (I call it corn muffin because it was not square but baked in a muffin pan.) Ick! What is that stuff? As I bit into the corn muffin, disappointment filled my mouth in the form of salty, bland and coarse morsels. I need my corn muffins to be sweet and corny. I set out to make my own recipe. When freshly baked, it has a crisp exterior and a light and sweet interior. I wish I had some corn kernels to add to it, but I did not at the moment. I would encourage it if you have some on hand.
Corn Muffins 2Corn Muffins

Ingredients:

1 ½ c. flour
1 ⅓ c. cornmeal (stone ground if possible)
1 c. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. kosher salt
¾ c. milk
4 oz. unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 ˚F and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix milk, butter, oil and egg.
  4. Mix milk mixture into the flour mixture and fold batter until just combined.
  5. Scoop batter evenly into the paper lined muffin pan and bake about 13-18 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Cool and enjoy.

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