Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sunflower Oreo Cupcakes

Even though as I sit here writing this post there is snow on the ground, we are past the first day of spring.  And spring!  My aunt posted a picture of these cute cupcakes on my facebook page awhile ago and I thought this weekend would be the perfect time to try them.  I believe the picture that she sent me is from Fowl Single File. (Took awhile to chase the links).  I simplified her version a little bit and only used one type of piping tip because I am kind of lazy.

To start with, twist an Oreo in half.  Squirt some frosting on the bottom part of the cookie and "glue" it to the middle of the cooled cupcake.  Using a Wilton #67 tip (a leaf tip) pipe petals all around the Oreo. When I used the half of the Oreo with the filling stuck to it, I needed to pipe petals two rows high or my  Oreo would show.
Finally, pipe a row of petals around the top of the Oreo.  This part is a little tricky because if you do not go in an exact circle around the Oreo, it looks a little funky.  With my knockoff Oreos, there is a little inner circle that I followed to keep my circle looking well, circular.

I used a batch of this buttercream tinted yellow on plain vanilla cupcakes.  This should make enough to frost 2 dozen cupcakes.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Missing Her

Today would have been my grandmother's birthday.  She died unexpectedly in early December and I honestly couldn't have predicted the size of the hole left in my heart.  I miss her every day and frequently find myself forgetting she is gone.  A few weeks ago I found myself bookmarking a cake to bake for her birthday, a cake I no longer need to plan to make.

There are a thousand wonderful things that I could say about her, but probably the thing that I remember about her the most is how she was the absolute master of the little things in life.  Whenever you went there, it was like she was always waiting for you.  She would have your favorite food, your favorite pop.  She saved me coupons from my favorite fast food place and articles she thought I would enjoy reading.  She would ask you about your life and listen intently to your mundane stories about school or work, but if you wanted to sit in the quiet she would just sit with you.

My grandmother was a quiet woman.  One you would almost overlook upon first meeting her.  But she loved you intensely and she always made sure that you could feel that love even from a thousand miles away.  Everyone who knew her loved her, could recount a story of when she helped them up when they had fallen.

She always encouraged creativity.  If my sister and I could dream it, she would let us create it.  She would cut out pictures of crafts and baking projects from magazines to inspire us.  She would let us destroy her kitchen with flour and sugar to experiment. (And since she had 6 kids, there was always someone about to eat our "creations")  Without her, I don't know if I would be as fearless in the kitchen, willing to tear apart the kitchen in a frenzy to chase down some new project or idea that I had seen.  Without her I don't know if I would have been a lot of things.

Happy Birthday Grandma.  I miss you so so much.

Friday, March 22, 2013


I thought this was a cute way to do a get to know you post, so I am stealing this from Eat, Live, Run.  Let me know what you are currently up to.

Currently, I am:

Watching: Dr Who, I became addicted halfway through Season 5 and now I am going back and watching the back (new) Dr. Who before the Season 6 break is over.

Eating: Homemade granola bars.  I am recipe testing granola bar recipes to try and find a high protein tasty homemade bar for various upcoming climbing/hiking trips.

Planning: A backpacking trip to the Wind River Range in Wyoming and a weekend climbing trip to the Red for Dave's 30th birthday

Reading: Girl on the Rocks-a training for climbing book written by an awesome climber chick that my sweet friend sent me.

Excited for: Easter egg coloring with my little cousins and nephew on Good Friday.  They get so excited and silly for the Easter egg hunt.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

French Bread

When a wonderful reader (also known as my awesome cousin:) emailed me asking for a good homemade French bread recipe, I knew Peter Reinhart was where I had to turn.  I have made dozens of breads from his books and they rarely fail me.  This bread is so good that my husband and I ate an entire loaf one night for dinner when it was barely out of the oven, dipped in olive oil and red wine vinegar.  There is not a lot better tasting in this world than warm, fresh bread.

This recipe is a two day affair, but it is completely worth it.  I have made several direct method (1 day) French bread recipes and none give me that crusty crust with the chewy soft middle like this one.

I am going to be submitting this tasty bread over to Yeast Spotting on Wild Yeast.

French Bread very slightly adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice


2 ounces whole wheat flour
8 ounces bread flour
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
7 ounces water, room temperature

Stir together the flour, salt and yeast.  Add in the water and stir until mixture comes together.  You may need to knead the dough slightly to get it to come together.  Cover with a clean dish towel or plastic wrap and allow to sit out for 2-4 hours.  Put in the fridge overnight.


All of the pre-ferment
5 ounces all purpose flour
5 ounces bread flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
7 ounces water, room temperature

Take your pre-ferment out of the fridge at least 2 hours before you want to make your final dough.  Mix together pre-ferment, all purpose flour, bread flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl.  Add in the water a little at a time until you have created a dough that is damp but not liquidy.

Knead dough in stand mixer with hook attachment for about 6 minutes (or 10 minutes by hand).  Cover dough and let raise for 2 hours.

After the raise, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times.  To make baguettes, divide dough into two portions.  Stretch each piece of the dough to a length of about 12 inches long.   Allow the dough to rest and the gluten to relax for a few minutes.  Then, roll the dough into kind of a long snake, creating surface tention as you go.  I recently purchased a French bread pan to help my dough keep it's shape during the raise and baking, however one is not required by any means.  If you do not have a baguette pan, take a clean low lint towel (I like flour sack towels for this) and lightly dust with flour.  Lay one of your baguettes on the towel, then fold the towel the length of the dough.  Lay your other baguette right next to it and fold the towel on the other side the length of the dough (to kind of make a basket for the dough).  Allow dough to raise again for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Place a baking stone or cookie sheet in the oven on a rack about 1/2 way from the top.  Place a large cast iron skillet on the bottom rack of the oven.  This is your steam pan.

Take a razor blade or lame and cut slashes in the top of your bread dough.  I use a blade from a utility knife and it seems to work well.  In the past I have used a knife, and this works, but the slashes are not as nice.  When the oven is done preheating, slide your dough onto your hot stone in the oven.  (I like to use a piece of parchment paper on the back of a cookie sheet to help with this because I don't have a bread peel).  Take 1/2 cup warm water and pour into your steam pan.  Bake for 3-4 minutes.  Remove the steam pan and turn down the temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake for another 10 minutes, rotate the pan (in case your oven bakes unevenly) and then bake for another 10 minutes or so.

Remove from oven and allow to cool if you can.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tutorial: How to pipe basketweave

Being so close to Easter, I thought now would be a good time to have a little tutorial on how to pipe basketweave.  It is a fairly easy decorating technique that visually packs a lot of punch.  First, you want to start off with a basketweave tip :)  I use mostly Wilton tips and so the Wilton basketweave tip is tip number 47.  

Now that you have found the right tip in your collection of tips, fill your piping bag with your desired frosting.  To make the basketweave pattern really pop, you should use an icing with a fairly stiff consistency.  Pretty much what that means, is your spatula should stand straight up in your icing and not fall over.

What is kind of neat about the basketweave tip is that you can get two patterns using only one tip, it just depends on how you hold your piping bag.  To get the traditional look (on the left) you want to be sure that the teeth side of the tip is up so that you can see the teeth.  To get the smooth look (on the right) make sure that the teeth are pointing down toward the cake.  It's a good idea to have a piece of scrap parchment to practice for a minute to be sure that you have the correct side up before you start on your cake.

To start your basketweave, pipe a straight vertical line the length of the surface you are trying to fill (i.e. the side of the cake).

Next, pipe horizontal lines overlapping the first vertical line.   Make the spacing between the horizontal lines about the width of your piping tip.  Make the length of the horizontal lines a little more than twice the width of your piping tip.

Now make another vertical line, overlapping the ends of your horizontal lines.  

Start the next set of horizontal lines in the gaps from the previous step.  Again, make the horizontal lines a little more that twice the width of your tip.

Place another vertical line overlapping your horizontal lines.  The closer the vertical lines are to each other, the tighter your basketweave will appear to be.

Keep following the same steps until the entire surface is covered as desired.

If you like the smooth look, flip your tip over and pipe using the exact same steps.

Or, mix it up and use both sides of the tip for a mixed look.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Skinny Saturday-Banana Bread Redone

Just a little rework of my traditional banana bread recipe to make it a bit healthier without losing flavor.

Banana Bread

  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 2/3 cup honey or agave
  • 1 cup nonfat Greek Yogurt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, but very tasty)

Mash bananas with a fork in the bottom of a large mixing bowl.  Stir in honey.  Add in Greek yogurt and the egg.  Stir to combine.  Stir in baking soda and flour.  Fold in nuts.  Batter will be slightly thicker  and a little more foamy than traditional banana bread batter  (the acid from the Greek yogurt reacts with the baking soda).

Pour batter into a greased bread pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.  Because of the honey, this banana bread will get a bit darker than my traditional recipe.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rainbow Cupcakes with Whipped Cream Buttercream

I have been wanting to try this swirl technique for awhile, but was a little bit intimidated.  I thought that it would be much harder than it actually was.  Which is good, because I recently dove head first into Mac land after years of being a Windows gal and have also started using Lightroom to edit my photos, so anything too much harder would have pushed me totally over the edge.  I could barely manage to get these photos into this post.  Yay, learning new things!

Technical difficulties aside, making these cupcakes was really quite easy and fun to see the different swirls.  No two cupcakes were exactly alike.  Oh and yes, the actual cupcakes are green too.  A little food coloring to add to the St. Patrick's Day charm.

Rainbow Swirl Cupcakes

  • Prepare a 12 inch piping bag with desired tip.  I used a #12 round tip.
  • Paint stripes of gel food coloring on inside for bag.  I wanted big stripes so I used a wide paintbrush (1/2 inch).
  • Fill piping bag with white buttercream.
  • Pipe swirls on cupcakes.

If you do not have piping bags and tips, this look could probably be achieved with very similar results using a gallon sized freezer bag with the end snipped off.

Whipped Cream Buttercream

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 2 pound bag powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream (possibly more or less depending on desired consistency)

Beat butter until smooth.  Add in vanilla and beat until smooth.  Slowly add in powdered sugar and beat until all incorporated.  Add in whipping cream 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved.  To pipe, I like a fairly stiff consistency, meaning that my spatula, when stuck in the icing, stands up and does not list.

Monday, March 4, 2013

What is the difference between instant yeast and active dry yeast?

When baking bread, each recipe tells you the kind of yeast that you need to use.  Typically, for home bakers, there are two kinds of yeast that you need to worry about: active dry yeast and instant yeast.  Sometimes ou can get fresh yeast at specialty food stores, but the shelf life is short, so most home bakers use commercially grown dried yeast.

What is the difference?

Active Dry Yeast-yeast that needs to be "proofed" before using.  Proofing just means to wake up the yeast by placing them in a small amount of warm water for several minutes prior to including it in your bread recipe.   Why?  According to Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice, it is because, "active dry yeast is grown on larger grains of nutrient that have to be dissolved in warm water."

Instant Yeast-instant yeast can be added directly to a bread recipe.  There is no need to proof the yeast.    Why?  Again, according to Peter Reinhart, "Instant yeast comes on such small grains that it instantly hydrates when the dough hydrates so can be added directly to the flour."  It is often called quick rise yeast or bread machine yeast.  Because of the way it is processed,  you need to use slightly less instant yeast than active dry yeast in a recipe, about 25 percent less.

Either way, it is best to keep both kinds of dried yeast in the refrigerator or freezer after the jar has been opened to maintain freshness.  If your recipe calls for a packet of yeast, and you typically purchase your yeast in a jar like mine above, the conversion is 2 1/4 teaspoons per packet of yeast the the recipe calls for.

Source: The Bread Baker's Apprentice

Friday, March 1, 2013

Irish Soda Bread

A couple of years ago, my husband and I had the good fortune to get to visit Ireland for a week.  It was my first trip to Europe and it couldn't have been a better place to take my first overseas trip.  The sights were beautiful, there is something so humbling about seeing buildings that have been around longer than the country that you live in.

But of course, when my husband and I travel, we are all about the food.  And boy did we eat in Ireland.  Bangers and mash, fish and chips all chased with a nice tall glass of cider.  Delish.  Oddly enough, I didn't have any Irish Soda Bread.  In fact, the loaf above is the first time I have ever had Irish Soda Bread.

Irish Soda Bread adapted from Allrecipies

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups raisins
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk yogurt

In a small bowl, mix together milk and lemon juice.  Allow to sit for about 10 minutes to curdle the milk.  Here we are making our own buttermilk.  If you have buttermilk, omit this step and use 1 cup of buttermilk.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together: all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and raisins.

In the bowl with the buttermilk, mix together buttermilk, eggs, and yogurt.  Pour into flour mixture.  Stir to combine.  Dough will be thick but wet.  Plop dough into a greased cast iron skillet or greased round cake pan.  With a sharp knife, cut an X into the top of the dough.  Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour.  Cool and enjoy.

From our trip in 2008

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