There’s No Such Thing As Too Much Frosting

Mmm, cupcakes! Over-frosted, obscenely moist (seriously, these things last for almost a week without getting the least bit stale), mint-chocolate cupcakes with matching mint frosting. If baked goods are the universal currency of the world, these belong in your bribery arsenal, stat.

Lots of them! With lots of frosting!

The recipe:

Minty Green Frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter
6 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
peppermint extract
green food color

Minty Green Frosting – The Cheater’s Version
1 tub of plain white frosting (not whipped or anything special – plain!)
peppermint extract
green food color

Do This
Make* (or buy) your frosting and put it in a medium-large mixing bowl. I use a regular tablespoon to stir and frost the cupcakes; grab one and give the frosting a good stir. Add a few drops of peppermint extract – how much you add depends on taste, but I generally add at least a teaspoon. Stir the frosting well – it should be a little bit softer once the mint extract is added. Slowly add green food color, a drop or two at a time, stirring the frosting constantly to even out the color and texture. When you have the perfect shade of mint green, stop adding food color, but keep stirring until the frosting is a bit runny (but still firm enough to stay on a cupcake).

Grab your cupcake. If the cupcake is fresh-baked and still warm from the oven, even better – it’ll make the frosting easier to work with. Glop a giant tablespoonful of frosting on top and use the back of the spoon to smooth it out. Add more frosting as desired (the ones in the photo have a moderately obscene amount of frosting, you may want a bit less!) and swirl it with the back of the tablespoon until your cupcakes are adorable and perky. Put them in the fridge for about a half hour. The frosting will harden just enough to counter the thinning that occurred from the mint/food dye/heat, but be perfectly shiny and stay in the shape you created. Voila! Pretty cupcakes.

*I just realized that I forgot to say what to DO with the ingredients! Soften or melt the butter. Combine with milk and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the sugar, stirring in about 1/2 cup at a time. As the mixture starts to thicken, switch from a spoon to an electric mixer on low speed. Continue to add sugar until frosting is desired consistency.

I’ll post the cupcake recipe next.

I have a tendency to make these cupcakes as often as possible, generally in quantities of two dozen or larger. I bought my roommate a set of cupcake containers so she could take them to work. Yeah, I’m an enabler.

Also, I just noticed that I have a thing for mint-chocolate. Don’t be surprised if I make homemade mint-chocolate-chip ice cream in the near future.

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I need a Food Porn Room!

I just added another foodie to my list of daily reads: The Steamy Kitchen.

Mostly because of this post: http://steamykitchen.com/blog/2008/01/29/steamy-kitchen-food-porn-room/

All I can say is…what have I been doing taking photos in the middle of my kitchen floor?

Oh yeah. I’m a poor student who can’t afford a Food Porn Room. Kitchen floor it is, until I have a real job.

Not-so-thin Mints

Some friends were having a housewarming party this weekend, and I wanted to bring a fun baked treat. The hostess made a delicious and fancy Italian-style tapas spread, and I knew (via Facebook stalking – shameless, I know) that she had made limoncello cheesecake, so something lemony or tart was out of the question. But chocolate? And mint? Those were a definite option, and even better together.

I have a serious problem with following recipes. I just can’t follow them verbatim, ever – there always has to be something tweaked. Even when the recipe comes from Martha. I used her Chocolate-Mint Wafer recipe as a jump-off point, and learned a few new tricks in the process.

I also caught something on fire. Pretty standard.

Martha’s recipe yields 44 cookies. My variation made just under two dozen. Hers are thinner and slightly smaller, and mine are a little bit heavier on the mint. Not-so-thin Mints, if you will.

I know, I fingerprinted it and messed up the sprinkles. But otherwise it’s so pretty! Plus, The Boyfriend wouldn’t let me sit on the floor taking pictures of the cookies all night because we had to bring them to the party.

The recipe:

Not So Thin Mint Cookies
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Mint-Chocolate Coating
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
assorted sprinkles

Do This
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer on low speed, cream butter and sugar, then add in egg, vanilla, and mint. Slowly add dry ingredient mixture; mix until combined. If the dough is clumpy because of the mixer, use a spatula or large spoon to mash it down.

Martha’s awesome trick to making perfectly round cookies: Form balls of dough, and place on a baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Dip the bottom of a glass in water, and flatten balls into 1 1/2-inch rounds. Martha says to make the balls with a teaspoon’s worth of dough and press to 1/4″ thick, but I used a tablespoon and made bigger, thicker cookies. Thin Mints these are not.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes (Martha says 8-10, but the thicker cookies require a slightly longer bake time). Remove from oven, allow to cool partially, and remove from baking sheet. Cool on a wire rack, or if you don’t have a wire rack, on a dinner plate (guess which one Martha does and which one I do).

While the cookies are cooling, make the chocolate-mint coating. Either set up a double-boiler or balance a metal bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Place semisweet chocolate chips, peppermint extract, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in the bowl. As the water boils underneath, the chocolate will melt. Use a spoon or fork to stir the peppermint and salt into the chocolate, and continue to heat until the mixture is smooth*.

Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper, or freezer paper if that’s all you can find at your grocery store. Martha encourages you to “set each cookie across the tines of a fork, dunk in chocolate, then tap underside of fork on side of the bowl to allow excess chocolate to drip off,” but most of the time I just threw the cookie into the bowl of melty chocolate and fished it out with the fork. Place the coated cookies on the paper-covered baking sheet, and add your choice of decorative sprinkles. I opted for chocolate sprinkles and non-pareils. On a side note: non-pareils are really annoying – I’d stick with the chocolate sprinkles. When the baking sheet is full of pretty, chocolatey, sprinkled cookies, place it in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour.

*At this point, Martha suggests removing the bowl from the heat. I didn’t read this part, and instead opted to wrap a dishtowel around my hand and try to steady the bowl as I dipped the first cookie. The burner was still lit, and, predictably, the dishtowel caught on fire. I suggest that you don’t do this, especially if the dishtowel isn’t yours.

I enjoyed these cookies, and I think they went over pretty well at the party. I’ll probably make them again, if for no other reason than to get a photo of a cookie that I didn’t fingerprint!

Derailment, or, Not A Real Salad

The recipe I was aiming for originally was the Bulgur, Celery and Pomegranate Salad Recipe from the Moro East cookbook. I don’t read many cookbooks*, so i’ve never picked up a copy of Moro East, but I found the photo (and recipe) on 101 Cookbooks and thought “Oh my, that is a lovely photo, I must make that!” (it’s really a gorgeous picture, look at it)

So! Ingredient list in hand, off I went to the grocery store, thinking that this fabulous and pretty Bulgur, Celery, and Pomegranate Salad would be a great starter at dinner. I filled up my little basket with celery and walnuts and parsley and a little bottle of pom juice, and then I wound my way around the produce section, scanning for pomegranates. Strange! They weren’t there! And then I remembered – poms aren’t in season. Derailed!

At this point, I’d already committed to the idea of making a pretty salad, and a lack of pomegranate seeds wasn’t going to stop me. Sure, the Craisins I ultimately tossed in might not have the delicate, jewel-toned sheen of the pom seeds, and the nectarines were sort of a last-minute grab just so I could have some fresh fruit in the dish, but I don’t actually know what a proper Bulgur, Celery, and Pomegranate Salad tastes like, so it’s all okay. The important part is that the resulting Bulgur, Celery, Nectarine, Parsley and Craisin Salad in Pomegranate Dressing (or as The Boyfriend likes to call it, Not A Real Salad, because there’s no lettuce) was tasty and refreshing. And, of course, pretty:

Camera zoom does wonders. I don’t think the bulgur is that big in real life.

The recipe:

Not A Real Salad
2/3 cup bulgur (medium grind)
4-5 stalks of celery, finely chopped
a large handful of Craisins
a large handful of walnuts
a medium bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 large nectarine, chopped

Pom Dressing
3/4 cup pomegranate juice
2 tbsp minced garlic, mashed into a paste with the back of a spoon
a liberal pour of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Do This

Boil 1-2 cups of water in a small saucepan. Put bulgur into a small bowl, set aside. Chop celery, parsley, and nectarines, and place in large bowl with Craisins. Pour boiling water over bulgur, let stand for 15-20 minutes. Drain excess liquid with a colander or paper towel, add cooked bulgur to large bowl and toss until the mixture is well-blended.

Mash the minced garlic into a paste with the back of a tablespoon, and stir into the pom juice. Pour a generous amount of olive oil into the pom/garlic blend, add salt and pepper as desired, and stir. Drizzle the dressing over the salad mixture, and toss again. Add a handful of walnuts, serve immediately. Try to convince your boyfriend that it is, indeed, a salad.

Before I forget – the photo above is of the un-dressed salad non-salad whatever. It’s naked! Food porn, indeed. Anyhow, it’s naked because I snapped these photos before the salad was served, and I didn’t want to have to wash another plate. I’m aware of how lazy I am. The bulgur will take on a dark purple-y red tone after the salad is dressed, and it will also taste very nice.

*with the exception of Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess, and I really only bought that one because there’s a giant cupcake on the cover

Bacon and Cupcakes, A Love Story (But Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough)

My roommate and I have two great loves: bacon and cupcakes. What better entry to start this off with than…bacon cupcakes?

This was the test batch. I’d like to make the batter from scratch and fry the bacon myself, but the smart move was to do a trial run with Betty Crocker and some bacon bits. You know, just in case bacon and cupcakes didn’t have a perfect storybook romance. If, instead, they had an awkward first date and then bacon decided never to call cupcake again, well…at least I didn’t put too much into it?

As it turned out, bacon and cupcake had some pleasant conversation, but there just wasn’t that chemistry, you know? They’re still friends, they’ll say hi to each other at parties, but this isn’t a match made in foodie heaven. But it’s not awkward! Bacon and cupcake are completely secure with themselves, and are even ok with introducing each other to some friends. You know, in case that works out.

(In other words, the cupcakes were too sweet and the overpowering vanilla flavor just did not match the bacon.  A second attempt with dark chocolate cupcakes is inevitable.)

I’ve elected not to take photos of these cupcakes. I don’t want to ruin Bacon and Cupcake’s friendship by rubbing it in that they used to date.

Hey, world!

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved food.

She was accident-prone (and may have caught her hair on fire once or twice) but ambitious, and determined to master the culinary arts. Some of them, at least. At this juncture, she’s entirely self-taught, with a bit of help from an arsenal of cookbooks and several episodes of The Martha Stewart Show.

She started a food blog to document her assorted adventures (or mis-adventures) in the kitchen — the good, the bad, and the highly flammable. Mostly good, she hopes.

Welcome to The Reckless Chef!