Sunday, July 8, 2012

Coca-Cola Cupcakes


Now, I'm gonna be honest with ya'll (clearly living in the South has changed me a bit)...I turned my nose up to all recipes I saw that had any kind of soda in it: cherry cola, Mountain Dew, Sprite, you name it. Being the classic cook that I am, I just couldn't understand why someone would think a soda could make a cake taste any better than classic, all-natural ingredients.

It wasn't until I found a recipe for Coca-Cola cake on my favorite blog, Serious Eats, that I decided to give this idea a chance. Like the name suggests, this blog is about serious eaters who seriously know their food. So I trust [mostly] anything they say.

And the recipe wasn't half bad. I decided to make them into cupcakes, since it's easier to distribute to the people in my office that way. I wouldn't do it again, however. They didn't really hold onto the icing that well so most of the icing dripped down the wrapper, which, as you can imagine, got pretty sticky. Yucky. But the flavor was pretty amazing! So just make it has a cake rather than cupcakes and you'll be fine.






Recipe (courtesy of Serious Eats):  

For the Cake
  • Baking spray
  • 2 cups (about 10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup natural cocoa powder
  • 1 cup Coca-Cola
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows 
For the Icing
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup natural cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons Coca-Cola
  • 16 ounces confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional) - I used them in my recipe and I think they added a great texture to the cake but I think I'd leave them out next time so they don't take away from the cola flavor of the cake.

Procedures

  1. For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with baking spray. Combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, and salt in large bowl.

  2. Bring butter, cocoa powder, and Coca-Cola to boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until mixture is homogeneous, and stir into flour mixture.

  3. Stir baking soda into buttermilk until completely dissolved and add to flour mixture; whisk to combine. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk to combine. Stir in marshmallows.
     
  4. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer cake to cooling rack and cool 10 minutes, then make icing.

  5. For the Icing: Bring butter, cocoa powder, and Coca-Cola to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Whisk in sugar, vanilla, salt, and (optional) pecans and pour onto cake immediately, spreading and swirling decoratively with back of a soup spoon. Serve warm, or cool to room temperature.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chocolate-Covered Turtles with Bacon

It's back! After a few months off, I finally received another food challenge at work. No, not another bake-off challenge, but an ingredient challenge.

The partner at my job loves to make requests/challenges for Friday treat that I'm bringing in that week. Of course, I take each challenge like a champ. This week's challenge was to make a dessert with bacon. I tried to pretend like it would be impossible for me to find a dessert with bacon and taste good (sometimes it's better that I keep my public displays of cockiness (or PDC) to a minimum). But little did he know, bacon in desserts was a huge fad a couple years ago and still is today. So I knew I'd be able to rock this challenge without a problem (aaand the PDC returns).

After seeing a bunch of maple bacon cupcakes, maple bacon doughnuts, and even maple bacon cookies, I was a little concerned that I wouldn't find anything unique enough. And you know me, I all about the edgy stuff.

But then, there it was...the bacon dessert recipe that blew my mind. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before, but yet, such a simple concept: Chocolate-Covered Turtles with Bacon.




First, I guess I should explain what a turtle is, in case you live in a cave. Ok, that was mean. I apologize. You're may just be uneducated in the confections of the world. And I shouldn't blame you for that.

So yeah, turtles...turtles are pecans covered in caramel and then coated with chocolate. Typically, one uses five pecans to resemble a turtle: four feet and a head (apparently, tails aren't important). The caramel/chocolate coating represents the shell. And there you have it...a turtle!

Now, I'm  sure there's a few of you out there that aren't really feeling the chocolate + caramel + pecans + bacon idea, maybe even a little disgusted by it (shame on you, by the way). But let me tell you, all these flavors really work! The bacon is very subtle but present enough to make a difference. To test this, I didn't tell my co-workers about the bacon, but rather suggested that a "surprise" was in the middle. I'd have them eat it and then guess as to what the surprise was (this was mostly to prevent any sort of skepticism that's inherent when offering a dessert with bacon in it). They all thought it was pretty tasty but most had no idea what it could be. They were all so shocked to find out it was bacon. I fooled them! Bwahaha!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my partner loved them. He had two before 9am. Needless to say, I'm going to get promoted real soon. Or a big fat raise. One of the two.

Recipe (courtesy of Serious Eats):

  • 3/4 pound whole pecan halves (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 5 strips bacon
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • One (12-ounce) package bittersweet chocolate chips* 
*I accidentally purchased milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet (surprisingly, I do this a lot). But I actually liked this a lot better than I would have liked the semi-sweet. 

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Spread pecans in even layer on baking sheet. Bake until the pecans are fragrant and toasted, stirring occasionally, about 6 or 7 minutes. Remove pecans from oven and let cool. This is important. By toasting the pecans, you give them a much-needed crunchy texture. If you skip this step, the pecans will taste raw and chewy. Not okay. 

Fry bacon in large skillet until very crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate and let cool. When bacon is cool enough to handle, cut each strip into six pieces with kitchen shears. Set bacon pieces aside.
 
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Arrange pecans in star-shaped clusters of five. You should have enough whole pecan halves to make 30 clusters. (If you don't, you can arrange broken pieces into little piles. They won't look like turtles, but they will still be delicious.) Set baking sheets aside.
 
In small saucepan, combine heavy cream, butter, and vanilla extract. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then immediately remove from heat.
In medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook sugar mixture, without stirring but swirling pan occasionally, until it is beginning to turn golden-amber in color, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Very carefully, pour hot cream mixture into sugar mixture. It will bubble ferociously. Stir until combined. Clip candy thermometer to side of pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 248ºF (firm ball stage), 10 to 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow caramel to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

Mmm caramel

It's ready!
Using soup spoon, drop mounds of caramel into center of each pecan cluster. Top each with one piece of bacon, pressing gently to adhere. (If caramel becomes too stiff to work with, reheat gently over low heat.) Set turtles aside to cool, 45 minutes to 1 hour. If you try to cover the turtles before the caramel has cooled, it will mix with the chocolate and make it impossible to coat them completely without making a mess.

I had some without bacon since we have a few vegetarians on the team
Heat two-thirds of chocolate chips in heat-proof bowl set over pan of simmering water until melted and candy thermometer registers 110ºF - 115ºF. Remove bowl from pan and allow chocolate to cool until thermometer registers 95ºF - 100ºF. Stir in remaining third of chocolate chips until melted. This process is called tempering the chocolate. In short, tempering is a process used to in candy making to keep the chocolate from remaining soft when it gets back to room temperature. In other words, it give the chocolate a slight hard shell when it cools.
 
Using a soup spoon, top each turtle with spoonful of melted chocolate, smoothing to cover bacon completely. Set turtles aside until chocolate hardens. Turtles will keep for up to two weeks, stored between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature.

This recipe looks intense since it has a bunch of steps but, I promise, it's not that bad. It took me about 1.5-2 hours from start to finish. Not bad, huh?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pretzel Rolo Cookie Cups

This week's post comes from, you guessed it, another request from work. I love making things that people suggest. Plus, it opens me up to recipes that I probably wouldn't have made otherwise.

This recipe was found by one of my co-workers on Pintrest. The pretzels on top threw me off a bit so I don't think I would have tried this recipe had she not suggested it. And man, would that have been a huge mistake! The pretzels add just the right amount of saltiness, giving these little bites the perfect balance of sweet and savory. And who doesn't love that.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fleur de Sel Caramels

French cuisine has to be my favorite cuisine of them all, not just because it tastes great (which it so does) but because of how classic it is. Don't you just feel more sophisticated when you're eating a soufflé or a croissant or coq au vin or brie or buerre blanc? Well no one just eats buerre blanc, but you know what I mean. So many classic techniques come from French cooking. So I absolutely adore it.

Which brings me to today's recipe...fleur del sel caramels! Fleur de sel is a French salt that is hand-harvested from the sea (thanks, Wikipedia). It has a relatively milder salt-flavor than your typical table salt so it doesn't over-power the taste buds as one would imagine. I'd seen it used many times on the Food Network and was always intrigued by the use of it in sweet dishes. When I found a simple recipe from Ina Garten, I thought, why not? Ina makes it look so simple! I can do this.

I've been wanting to make these for the looooooongest time. So when I found out my friend at work loves butterscotch I thought...(1) I can make fleur de sel caramels for her! and (2) caramels are like butterscotch, right? Close enough.

Before I go on, you must see how they came out:


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Blueberry Crumb Bars

As you probably know by now, most of my baked goods are made specifically for my co-workers. I love baking (duh.) but there's no way I could keep all of these goodies at my house. So I take them to work. Since my co-workers are the one's that eat the majority of the things I make, I like to make things they'll actually enjoy.

That brings me to this week's recipe...blueberry crumb bars. My one co-worker (the same one who challenged me to the bake off in the last post, actually) loves anything with blueberry in it. And since I felt bad for beating him so bad in the bake off, I figured I'd make something he'd especially enjoy, as would the rest of the team.

Check 'em out!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Lemon Poppyseed Pound Cake

Well, it happened. Someone decided to challenge me to another bake-off at work. Let me remind you the last time someone decided to challenge me to a bake-off...well, all you really need to know is I kicked Little Debbie's ass. Ok, fine. I guess if you want the whole story, you can read it here.

So this edition of Office Bake-off was with lemon pound cake. Another co-worker of mine told me his mom had an excellent lemon pound cake recipe that she passed on to him. He then proceeded to tell me that his mom's recipe could beat any lemon pound cake that I made. Oh, no he didn't.

I used this lemon poppyseed pound cake recipe that I'd been saving. My other co-worker LOVES lemon poppyseed pound cake so I was going to make it for her eventually. Now, I finally had a reason! Before I give you the results, see how it came out:


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bourbon Peach Hand Pies

This week's baked good was inspired by my co-worker's love of the fried peach pies that are served at the Varsity, a famous fast-food spot here in Atlanta. They're similar to the apple pies from McDonalds, just with peaches instead of apples. We've discussed them multiple times in the office so when I stumbled upon this recipe from smitten kitchen, I knew that I'd end up making them eventually.

When I heard that this same co-worker was getting Lasik eye surgery, I decided to make him these peach pies as a good luck gift. Nothing cures pre-surgery jitters like some pie, right?? Well, I guess pie with alcohol does, too.