Recipes

Homemade Brown Sugar

I am about to reveal a secret that will blow your mind. If you already are aware of the fact I am about to share, I am obviously very excited so the least you can do is play along. So here it is: you can make your own brown sugar. Are you still there or did your head explode with that knowledge? That is how I felt when I stumbled across this nugget of information. Brown sugar is simply granulated sugar with molasses added. Who knew?! Well, maybe you did. But shh! Don’t spoil the moment.

When you buy a fresh box of brown sugar at the store, bring it back and open it up, it’s so soft and fluffy. You measure out your necessary amount with ease and since no recipe exists that calls for an entire pound of brown sugar you always store the rest of it. A few weeks later you have a cookie craving so you go to take your brown sugar out of the pantry and it looks like this:

Look familiar? You chip off a chunk and follow the “re-softening” directions on the box. Somehow after putting it in the microwave with a wet paper towel over top it is now both syrupy and still hard. How is that combination of qualities even possible?

It’s time to say goodbye to your brown sugar woes forever. You can simply make your own fresh brown sugar whenever you need it. Just mix one cup of granulated sugar with one tablespoon of molasses. That’s it! For dark brown sugar use two tablespoons of molasses.

Homemade Brown Sugar
 
Yield: 1 cup
Ingredients
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses, 2 tablespoons for dark brown sugar
Directions
  1. Pour the sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Add the molasses.
  2. Stir with a fork. This takes some time. After the first five minutes it will look barely any different and you will think there’s no way this is going to look like the picture. You will want to give up, but you can’t! All good things come to those who wait so keep stirring and fluffing with the fork. Stir and fluff until no molasses clumps remain. Suddenly, ta-da! Brown sugar.
Notes
*No need to lift weights after this recipe. Your bicep will grow a whole ¼ inch from this recipe workout!
*Sometimes I have had some excess brown sugar and have stored it in a plastic container. I used it in the next couple weeks and it was still soft enough to measure out perfectly.

Recipe from Joy the Baker.

Leftover Halloween Candy Cookies

Happy Halloween! I wanted to post a recipe that would utilize leftover Halloween candy and I came across this idea in a magazine. Cookies are delicious, but what makes them even more decadent? Candy! Most people usually have leftover Halloween candy so you may find yourself in this very situation tomorrow. Maybe you didn’t get that many trick-or-treaters this year or you bought too much because you were worried about running out. Or maybe you live in an apartment building with no kids, but bought a bag of Halloween candy anyways because you have serious chocolate addiction problems that you should really see someone about.

For all you leftover candy havers it’s time to reinvent your candy. Sick of all those miniature Milky Ways? Transform them into cookies! Suddenly it’s a whole new food group. For all those less fortunate folks who got picked clean from those neighborhood rascals, don’t pout just yet. Now all the Halloween candy is on sale; unless they already replaced it with Christmas candy, which is both extremely possible and incredibly ridiculous. So go buy some so you can put it in these cookies.

I used miniature candies for these, but if you’re one of those houses that hands out the full size candy bars, first of all kids everywhere thank and applaud you. Second, you can just add an extra step and cut your large candy bars into one inch squares to use in this recipe.

The cookies are soft and chewy, which nestles the gooey candy center perfectly. I used a chocolate chip cookie base without the chocolate chips, but if you’re feeling extra devilish this Halloween you can always add one cup of chips to the batter. Muhahaha!

Leftover Halloween Candy Cookies
 
Yield: 16 cookies
Ingredients
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 16 unwrapped miniature chocolate candies
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Melt 10 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. While the butter is melting, whisk together the flour and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl.
  4. When the butter has melted, keep it on the heat and swirl the pan until the butter is a golden brown. This should take 2-3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Continue to stir until completely melted then transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the brown sugar, sugar, vanilla and salt to the bowl with the butter. Whisk to combine.
  6. Add the egg and egg yolk to the butter mixture. Whisk until the mixture is smooth.
  7. Let the mixture sit for 2 minutes then whisk again for 30 seconds. Repeat this 1 more time so that the mixture is smooth and shiny.
  8. Using a rubber spatula carefully stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined. If you were including chocolate chips you would add 1 cup of them to the batter after this step.
  9. Scoop out about 3 tablespoons of batter and press one of the unwrapped candies into the center. Carefully form a ball with the batter and the candy in the center with your hands then place on the baking sheet.
  10. Continue this process until you have 16 cookies total, 8 per baking sheet.
  11. Bake 1 tray at a time for 8-10 minutes or until the edges have begun to set and the cookies are golden. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through the baking time.
  12. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack and let sit for a few minutes then transfer cookies to the wire rack using a spatula to cool.

Recipe slightly adapted from May & June 2009 issue of Cook’s Illustrated.
Inspiration from October 2011 issue of Everyday Food.

Prosciutto & Gruyere Pinwheels

Sometimes the simple things in life are the most delicious. Especially when they involve cheese. And prosciutto; prosciutto makes everything better. These prosciutto and gruyere pinwheels made with puff pastry are simple, delicious and fitting for the next time you’re cooking for guests.

Every year my friend goes on a trip with the same group of women and for one of the nights they have an appetizer party. All the women bring a couple appetizers and they cook the miniature items up for dinner. Brilliant! Smaller sizes of candy is a total bummer. But bite sized food? Now that’s a whole different ball game. The joy of appetizers is that you can have thirds, fourths and fifths. Just do a little drive by on your way to refill your wine glass and pop a pinwheel in your mouth. No one will be the wiser!

This year my friend commissioned me to make her appetizers and these pinwheels made it on the list. According to my friend the pinwheels were one of the favorites of the trip. I tried one and the buttery flakiness of the puff pastry with the saltiness of the prosciutto and the creaminess of the cheese made it an incredibly satisfying bite. A kind of bite you would pull an oh-I-don’t-mind-if-I-do-definitely-not-my-sixth maneuver on.

Except I couldn’t do that. I could have one. As in singular. And that, my friends, is why I could never be a caterer. You make all this food, but aren’t able to sit down and have a major snarf session when it’s all done? Torture! So when you make these pinwheels cook up some extra so you and all your guests can have fifths and sixths.

Prosciutto & Gruyere Pinwheels
 
Yield: 16 pinwheels
Ingredients
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
Directions
  1. Defrost both puff pastry sheets according to the directions on the package.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Lay the defrosted puff pastry flat and evenly spread the mustard leaving a ½ inch border on 1 long side of the puff pastry.
  4. Evenly place the prosciutto on the mustard topped puff pastry.
  5. Sprinkle the shredded cheese evenly over the prosciutto.
  6. Brush the beaten egg on the ½ inch border.
  7. Roll the topped puff pastry up the long way starting at the long edge without the egg, similar to rolling a jelly roll. Make sure the roll is sealed.
  8. Wrap the roll in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  9. Take the roll out of the fridge and cut into ½ inch slices.
  10. Place the slices on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Recipe adapted from Pepperidge Farms.

Halloween Witches’ Cauldron Cupcakes

Halloween is my favorite holiday, right after Christmas and my birthday. Just kidding about the birthday part… maybe. A day where it’s equally acceptable to gorge on candy, dress up in a ridiculous costume and watch Disney Channel Halloweentown movie marathons? Count me in! My love of Halloween also comes from my dad. Anyone who knows my dad is aware of how infectious his excitement and enthusiasm is, and since Halloween is his number one favorite holiday the fondness rubbed off on me throughout the years. From helping my brother and I with haunted house creations to every year faithfully taking us to the neighborhood with the best candy to embarrassing me by showing up at my college dorm in a full clown suit, my dad has always made sure I associated Halloween with fun and laughter.

These cupcakes may take a bit of work, but they are cute, fun and will definitely put a smile on everyone’s face this Halloween. I saw these cauldron cupcakes in last year’s Halloween issue of Food Network Magazine and have been counting down to Halloween so I could make them. The cupcakes look spooky and taste delightful so it’s win-win!

Halloween Witches' Cauldron Cupcakes
 
Yield: 16 cupcakes
Ingredients
  • 24 chocolate cupcakes in black or dark brown wrappers
  • 1 batch chocolate frosting
  • Red sugar sprinkles
  • Bright green decorator’s icing
  • 16 thin pretzel sticks
  • 1 bag cotton candy
  • Black licorice laces
  • 1 toothpick or skewer
Directions
  1. Unwrap 8 of the cupcakes and cut them in half horizontally (the top of the cupcake will be one half and the bottom of the cupcake will be the other).
  2. To assemble the cauldron, spread a thin layer of frosting on top of one of the still wrapped cupcakes. Top with 1 cupcake half and try to line the edges up as well as you can. They won’t match up exactly because of the rounded cupcake tops.
  3. Seal the cupcake half to the rest of the wrapped cupcake by covering the entire extra-tall cupcake with frosting.
  4. Pour some sprinkles onto a small plate and pile them together. Slowly press the edge of the cupcake nearest the wrapper into the sprinkles. I did this by holding the bottom of the wrapped cupcake in my right hand, slowly turning and re-pressing into the sprinkles, while pressing the index finger of my left hand into the top center of the cupcake to keep it steady. This is the trickiest part.
  5. Press your finger into the top center of the cupcake to make a small indent about half an inch deep and the size of a nickel.
  6. Fill the indent with the green decorator’s icing and squeeze it over the sides of the indent so it looks like it’s oozing out.
  7. Place a pretzel stick in the indent so it looks like a witch’s broom sticking out of the cauldron.
  8. Carefully place some of the cotton candy behind the green decorator’s icing. I used a fork to grab it from the bag and fluff it since it tended to lose its airiness if I pressed too hard with my fingers.
  9. Break off about a 3-4 inch piece of black licorice. Poke two holes into opposite sides of the cupcake with the toothpick. Carefully place one end of the licorice into the first hole then arch the licorice to create the cauldron’s handle and place the other end in the other hole.
  10. Repeat for the remaining 15 wrapped cupcakes.
Notes
Do not put these cupcakes in the fridge as it will cause the cotton candy to dissolve and shrivel. I found cotton candy in the candy section of my grocery store. I had to go to quite a few different candy stores to find black licorice laces, but you could always use red laces if you are unable to find black laces.

Inspiration from October 2012 issue of Food Network Magazine.
Find the chocolate cupcake and frosting recipe here.

Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes & Perfect Chocolate Frosting

This recipe is so delicious, so chocolately and so perfect in every way that we need to start talking about it right now. No wasting time reading about my childhood breakfast memories or my typical New Englander obsession with fall or my confusion about why anyone would ever think smaller sizes of candy are “fun” – I just don’t get it! We need to be quick about this so you have time to run to your kitchen and start baking these cupcakes immediately. Your tastebuds will thank you. Your stomach, however, will curse you for eating three of them faster than someone can say, “Where did all the cupcakes go?” Or maybe you’re an normal unusual human being with self control around moist chocolate baked goods, in which case maybe you can teach me someday.

If you don’t yet have a go-to chocolate cake recipe you can stop your search right now. And if you do have one it’s time to make these cupcakes and reevaluate that statement. Over the last two years I have made this recipe dozens of times in the form of cupcakes, layer cakes and sheet cakes and it always comes out amazing. “Wow,” “omg” and “mmm” are the three most common exclamations when people try these cupcakes, typically mumbled while still mid-bite. Who knew a cake would be so life-changing?

When a cupcake is this good you need to make sure you have a frosting that is equally drool-worthy. This chocolate frosting is creamy, rich and as the title states, perfect. The combination of melted chocolate and cocoa powder provides a pure melt-in-your-mouth chocolate taste, instead of the overwhelming sugary or buttery attributes that are often associated with buttercream frostings. I made it for the first time this past weekend and there’s something so exhilarating about stumbling upon a recipe that you know you will return to time and time again. So go bake these cupcakes and get exhilarated.

Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes & Perfect Chocolate Frosting
 
Yield: 24 cupcakes
Ingredients
for the cupcakes
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk, see note
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee, see note
for the frosting
  • 2½ sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
Directions
for the cupcakes
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together until smooth.
  4. Pour the hot coffee into the batter and stir until combined. The batter will be extremely liquidy. Divide the batter between the 24 cupcake liners, filling them slightly more than half full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes back mostly clean. Alternatively, they are done when you gently press your finger on the center of a cupcake and it lightly springs back. I find mine to be done at exactly 19 minutes.
  5. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes then remove to a wire cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
for the frosting
  1. Set the chocolate over a double boiler on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a food processor or in a large mixing bowl with an immersion blender. Pulse until mixture is smooth and well combined, making sure to scrape sides as needed.
  3. Add the corn syrup and vanilla extract to the butter mixture. I like to lightly spray my measuring cup with cooking spray before measuring out the corn syrup because it helps the corn syrup from sticking to the measuring cup when you go to use it (this works well for honey, too).
  4. Pulse the mixture until well combined, making sure to scrape sides as needed.
  5. If the chocolate is completely melted and smooth, remove from the heat for a few minutes. Carefully pour the melted chocolate into the mixture and process until smooth.
Notes
To make your own buttermilk: pour 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar in a liquid measuring cup. Pour milk, any fat percentage, into the measuring cup until you have 1 cup. Let sit for 5 minutes before using.
If you don’t want to use coffee you can use hot water, but the flavor of the chocolate won’t be as pronounced. You can use decaffeinated coffee if you prefer.
The cupcakes, unfrosted, freeze very well if you want to make them ahead of time.

Frosting from Fun Foods on a Budget!