Wicked Cool

Oh my, I’m famous! Ok, maybe not famous, but the Trib seems to like me!

It’s ultra-flattering to be included in the same list as 37signals and Chicagoist.

Here’s a snippet of the other Food/Drink/Restaurant blahgs (you can also click the image above to get to the Tribune page):

March 24, 2008
Chicago food, drink and restaurant blogs

The Windy City is home to some of the world’s finest restaurants and chefs. Luckily for us, there are great bloggers here who help us stay abreast of what’s going on in the food world.

These guys cook up restaurant reviews, share recipes and provide commentary on Chicago’s booming restaurant and bar scene, so you’ll definitely want to keep up with these blogs:

HungryMag – The Hungry Magazine blog, run by Chicago-based foodie Michael Nagrant.

Chicago Foodies – One of Chicago’s best food and restaurant resources.

The Reckless Chef – Recipes, cooking tips and photos from someone who really likes to cook.

Best of the Best Dining Chicago – Food and restaurant reviews from around town.

If you’d like to suggest a blog, you can do so right here!

Check out those other blahgs, too. They’re pretty spiffy!

Woooo, college!

Long weekend + no plans + 2 free bottles of VOX vodka = my roommate and I decided to pretend we were still in college for a night.

That means…jello shots!

These Jell-o cups are not for kids.

Anyone who’s ever been to college should know how to make these, but just in case you haven’t – or if you want to recreate the flavors we chose – here’s what’s in them:

The recipe:
Jello Shots
3 packets Jell-o gelatin (raspberry, strawberry, and black cherry)
1 bottle VOX Green Apple vodka, or your favorite brand (I chose VOX because I won some in a raffle!)
1 bottle VOX Raspberry vodka
water
small plastic cups

Do This
Boil 1 cup of water for each packet of Jell-o. Pour the contents of each Jell-o packet into a separate bowl, and pour 1 cup of boiling water into each bowl. Stir thoroughly, until powder is dissolved. Measure 1 cup of vodka (we matched green apple with black cherry, raspberry with strawberry, and half and half with the raspberry gelatin) and pour into the jello. Stir until the jello and vodka are mixed and there is no dry powder remaining.
Pour into small plastic cups. The best vessels for jello shots are the little plastic containers that restaurants use for to-go salad dressing or sauce, but small plastic cups work as well. I couldn’t find the little containers, so I bought some 3 oz plastic “bathroom cups” and they worked just fine. I filled mine about 2/3 of the way and got about 26 jello shots from the entire batch.
Place the cups on a tray, and let the gelatin set for about 3 hours. Enjoy your shots!

According to my roommate, these are stronger than “regular” jello shots. Please enjoy them responsibly!

A spoon might be helpful. Also, a designated driver is good.

Can a cupcake live two lives?

But wait! There’s more!

Two-faced cupcakes.

I couldn’t make cupcakes for the Harvey Dent campaign without them being…two-faced!

This recipe comes from….scribbles in a notebook. It’s loosely based on the basic chocolate cupcake recipe I use (again, minus the mint extract), but there’s butter in it, the ratios are a bit different, and only half of the recipe gets cocoa powder.

The recipe:
Two-Face Cupcakes
2 cups flour, either cake or all-purpose
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup water

Do This
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl, either with a mixer on low speed or with a spoon. I used a spoon this time, it was actually much more effective than my hand-mixer once the dry ingredients came into play.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually stir this dry ingredient mixture into the butter-sugar-egg-vanilla mix until it is a thick batter. Add in mayonnaise and oil, mix until well-blended.
Grab a second mixing bowl. Transfer half of the batter into this bowl, and add the cocoa powder to one of the batters. Stir until there is no dry cocoa powder remaining and you have a bowl of vanilla batter and a bowl of chocolate batter.
If either batch seems too thick (as in, if it won’t come off the spoon on its own when you try to spoon batter into cupcake papers), gradually add water until the desired consistency is reached. This should be slightly thicker than “normal” cupcake batter – it shouldn’t be runny at all, and it should hold its shape when dropped into a cupcake paper. This will prevent the two batters from blending, and allow for dinstinct yellow and chocolate halves.
Carefully spoon batter into cupcake papers. These two-toned cupcakes were much easier to make than I expected. Initially, I tried to use an index card as a separator inside of the cupcake papers. I thought it might help prevent the batter from running (and blending, and ruining the two-tone effect). But! It really wasn’t necessary, and after coating a few index cards with batter, I realized that this particular batter was thick enough to just carefully spoon into opposite sides of the cupcake papers and smooth out with a tablespoon.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes, do a toothpick-test, and remove from the oven when the toothpick comes out clean. Cool (on a wire rack, or propped up on your stove) for at least 15 minutes before frosting. Frost with colorful buttercream frosting of choice. Slice crosswise with a butterknife to impress your friends.

I’m very happy with how these turned out. I wasn’t sure if the batter would hold its place enough to bake a truly two-toned cupcake, but it definitely worked well!

Oh yeah, and I didn’t make anything green for St. Patrick’s Day, but if you want to see green cupcakes, go back to this post.

I believe in Harvey Dent…do you?

I might have submitted a photo to the Harvey Dent campaign site.

It might have been a photo of some patriotic “campaign bake sale” cupcakes I baked specifically for that photo.

Pretty, patriotic cupcakes.

I’m not obsessed with Batman at all…

Guinness is Good For You

And now, the Irish Cupcake Bomb!

These were a huge hit at the South Side Irish Parade. The Boyfriend doesn’t like sweets, but he ate two. The bouncer at Duffy’s called them “a party in [his] mouth,” and some strangers decided that I was their hero for making them. I’d say that’s a pretty good vote of confidence for these cupcakes.

I added the Jameson back into the equation because I’m really weird about authenticity sometimes. These cupcakes really do taste like Irish Car Bombs!

The Irish Cupcake Bomb, shamrocked and all.

The recipe is based on the Chocolate Beer Cake from The Delia Collection: Chocolate, found here and Frosted’s Bailey’s Buttercream recipe, found here.

The recipe: Irish Cupcake Bombs

Guinness Cupcakes
9 tbsp of cocoa powder
7 fl oz of Guinness stout
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp sour cream

Bailey’s Buttercream Frosting
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
Bailey’s Irish Cream
Jameson Irish whiskey

Do This
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter, sugar, and eggs in a large mixing bowl until they are light brown and well-blended. Slowly add in the dry ingredient mixture, and blend on low speed (or faster if you really feel like it, but the flour tends to fly everywhere if you mix it too fast).
Pour Guinness into a liquid measure. Mine was from a can (I know, wrong! But that widget is pretty cool.) and I let it set for a moment so the head could form. In my liquid measure, the stout came up to the 6 oz mark and the head came up to the 7 oz mark. In a separate bowl, slowly pour Guinness over the cocoa powder, and stir until you have a mixture of about the same consistency and appearance as chocolate syrup. Pour this into the large bowl and mix until the batter is thick and completely blended.
Put cupcake papers in your cupcake tin. The batter is pretty thick, so I used two papers (one paper and one foil) for each cupcake. Spoon the batter into the cupcake papers and shake or tap the tin against the counter to settle the batter in each cup. About 2/3 full is ideal for these cupcakes – they’ll come out nice and rounded above the tops of the papers, but not overflow.
Set the oven timer for 25 minutes and put the cupcakes in the oven. Do a toothpick-test (stick a toothpick in the middle of the biggest cupcake in the batch, and the cupcakes are done when this comes out clean) and continue baking as necessary. Mine finished in about 27 minutes.
Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let them cool for several minutes while you make the frosting.
Put the stick of room-temperature butter in a large mixing bowl, and beat at medium-to-high speed for a few minutes. Add a few short glugs (a tablespoon or two) of Bailey’s and a tiny bit (less than a tablespoon) of Jameson, and mix at low speed. Don’t worry if the butter and the liquor don’t mix all the way, the sugar will take care of that.
Gradually spoon confectioner’s sugar into the bowl, mixing on low speed. The frosting recipe I based this on calls for 3 cups of sugar, but I just kept adding a tablespoon at a time until the frosting was the texture I wanted. It might have been more or less than 3 cups – keep adding sugar and mixing until you have a creamy, thick frosting. If you accidentally go overboard with the sugar and it’s too thick, add a little bit more Bailey’s.
Frost your cupcakes, and refrigerate them until you’re ready to serve them. If you feel like adding a little shamrock like the one in the photo, take note that it’s not as easy to draw on a cupcake as it is to etch into the foam on a pint of Guinness. Most of my cupcakes ended up shamrock-free.

A few quick notes for anyone who wants to try these:

  • I’ve modified the recipe since its original posting, and added in the mayo and sour cream. I usually use these to make chocolate cakes/cupcakes more moist, but wasn’t sure how it would work with the Guinness in the mix. It does, in fact, work, so if you made the original version of these cupcakes and weren’t thrilled with the texture, they’re much more moist and fluffy now.
  • These would probably work better as mini-cupcakes. I’d like to have made at least a dozen or two more to share with people at the parade. I just couldn’t find the smaller papers.
  • If you don’t like Guinness (or car bombs), these probably won’t be your favorite cupcakes. While there is chocolate in the batter, they definitely taste more like Guinness, and they’re not super sweet.
  • Go very light on the Jameson if you want the frosting to taste like frosting and not whiskey.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Sláinte!

Thin Mints, The Remix

I might be a teensy bit obsessive-compulsive. And by a teensy bit, I mean a lot. But I just could not handle having the only photo of my faux Thin Mints be messy and fingerprinted. I know, I know, they look more real if they’re messy. But still.

And so…the remix. They’re shaped differently, I changed techniques a bit, and there are no fingerprints on the chocolate. I mean, not that you can tell, since I took these photos in natural sunlight, and the dark chocolate is just too sophisticated and classy to look fingerprinted even if I had messed them up, but I feel much better about these ones.

Rectangular (and fingerprint-free) thin mints.

Obviously, these ones aren’t round. And they’re actually thin, so I can call them Thin Mints instead of Not-So-Thin Mints.

Basically, Martha’s awesome bottom-of-the-glass trick wasn’t working for me this morning. I don’t know what the deal was, but every time I tried to make pretty, round cookies, they’d end up all funky and not-round. Rather than fight with the cookies, I opted to put the dough in between two pieces of plastic wrap (I ran out of parchment paper this morning, too) and beat it into submission with the rolling pin. Um, roll it into submission. Anyways, then I took a butterknife and cut out rectangles (about 1/8″ thick, 1/2″ wide, 3″ long), and then carefully transferred them over to a baking sheet.

10 minutes in the oven*, 6 minutes to cool. Mint chocolate spread on top instead of dipped (this makes them set faster, who knew?), sprinkles applied, refrigerated until pretty and smooth, and then photographed until my camera battery died.

Pretty solid remix.

*By the way, the new oven rocks my socks off. Not only does it preheat in less than 45 minutes, but there’s a little screen at the top that tells me exactly what temperature it’s at. LOVE.

My landlord deserves some cookies

Remember that time I wished I had a new oven? Ask and ye shall receive! My roommate and I snuck a little note in with our rent check asking if maybe sometime in the future we could get the oven replaced, and – magic! – within 48 hours we have a new oven. Our landlord said “You two are good girls. You deserve it.” 

When I get home today, I’m totally going to bake something. Probably a batch of cookies for the landlord.