Mess Free Piping

I’ve been seeing people use plastic wrap inside of their piping bags for some time now- on other blogs, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.- especially when piping two or more colors together to create a fun swirl on a cupcake or to pipe flowers. I haven’t had a reason to try it until this past weekend when I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting to go along with the carrot cake I made for Easter. Carrot cake is usually not a hit amongst kids so I decided I should bake something that was more kid friendly and you can you can’t get more kid friendly than a chocolate cupcake with colorful frosting.

After tinting the frosting I placed small amounts of it on a decent sized piece of plastic wrap as below.

Next I folded the plastic wrap in half and then simply rolled the entire thing to create a cylinder shape and tightly wound the ends of the plastic wrap so the frosting couldn’t “escape.” I quickly realized that I may have placed too much frosting on the plastic wrap since I didn’t have too much plastic wrap on the ends to wind together.

I then snipped one of the ends of the plastic wrap off and dropped it into a piping bag that I had already fitting with a Wilton 2D piping tip.

And I simply piped a large rosette on the cupcake to get this beautiful and colorful top.

I used the same technique to decorate the top of my Easter cake, using pastel colors to match the Mini Cadbury Eggs I placed on top of the cake. Instead of rosettes though, I simply decorated the cake with drop flowers, once again using the Wilton 2D piping tip.

In all honesty I think I will be using this plastic wrap method going forward with all of my cake decorating / piping. One of the things I dislike about using piping bag is no matter how tight I wind the top of the bag or use a rubber band to seal it, frosting always seems to seep out. And also, I just find it super messy having to refill the bag with more frosting while I am decorating. With this method I can simply remove the plastic wrap wrapped frosting and drop in another. Yes, I may be using extra plastic wrap doing this, but, it’s worth it.

Bunny Hug Cookies

Still looking for something fun and simple to bake for Easter… These Bunny Hug Cookies are quick, easy and adorable. You’ll need three things to make them – sugar cookie dough (use your favorite recipe or go the short-cut route like I did and use a store bought prepackaged mix), Cadbury Mini Eggs and a gingerbread man cookie cutter. You may be scratching your head on that last one, but, I’ll get to that in a few.

Since I opted to use store bought, more specifically Betty Crocker’s Sugar Cookie Mix, I didn’t have to wait for the dough to chill in the refrigerator as is necessary with most sugar cookie recipes made from scratch. So, once the dough came together I rolled it out on a lightly floured surface and cut out the bunny shape. Here’s the trick to using a gingerbread man cookie cutter to cut out a bunny, hold it upside down. The legs are then the bunny’s ears, while the gingerbread man’s head becomes the bunny’s body and the arms, well, they are still the arms on the bunny.

Once you cut out all of your cookies transfer them to a parchment lined baking sheet and place a Cadbury Mini Egg in the center of the cookie between the arms and gently wrap the arms around the egg, the arms won’t completely wrap around the egg. Lightly press the dough onto the egg so it can stick. Don’t worry if the dough slightly tears when you fold up the arms. Once you bake the cookies it will be fine. Use a toothpick to poke eyes and a nose and then bake the cookies in a 350 F (anything higher and the Cadbury eggs will crack miserably) for about 8 -10 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden around the edge. Let the cookies rest on the pan for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. If you find that the nose and eyes have disappeared while baking use the toothpick once again to redefine them while the cookies are still warm.

And there you have it… Bunny Hug Cookies!

 

Hot Cross Buns

As Lent season comes to an end you may be seeing Hot Cross Buns available in the bakery section of your local supermarket or at your favorite bakery. They are synonymous with this time of the year due to their symbolism for the holiday.

I attempted to make them last year and while they smelled great while they were baking, the end result were buns that were hard and dry. And I instantly knew what the problem was, my yeast mixture was off. The recipe stated that when you added the yeast mixture to the flour mixture the dough should be shaggy. That never happened, but, I forged on hoping for a soft and tasty bun in the end. This time around though I got it all right. In my mind there’s an emoji of me jumping up and down with excitement.  See, I am not a fan of working with yeast. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I recently made bread three weekends in a row – Irish Soda Bread, Cranberry Walnut Bread and Jalapeno Cheddar Bread. Irish Soda Bread doesn’t require yeast so I am very comfortable baking it and the latter two while they do require yeast, both are no-knead breads. You combine all of the ingredients, form it into a dough and then place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 18 hours so it can rise – 100% foolproof.  And while these buns aren’t all that difficult to make, sans the yeast part, they do require two things from you, time and patience. Give yourself at least 3 to 3.5 hours to prep and bake them.

I started by making the yeast mixture. In a medium saucepan I combined water and milk and heated it on low heat until it reached a temperature of 100 F, making sure it didn’t go above 110 F. I used my candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature. Once it reached the right temperature I removed the saucepan from the heat and sprinkled yeast and a pinch each of sugar and flour over the surface. I left it undisturbed for about 30 minutes. I was waiting for the mixture to become foamy and begin to rise up the sides of the pan.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl I whisked together flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Once the ingredients were well combined I made a well in the middle.

Once the yeast mixture was ready I whisked in an egg yolk, melted butter and vanilla extract into it. Once all of these ingredients were well combined I poured them into the well I created in the flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon I mixed all of the ingredients together and a thick, shaggy and sticky dough formed. I stirred in raisins and then turned the dough onto a floured surface and kneaded it until it was soft and elastic and formed it into a ball.

I quickly washed the large bowl I had used to make the dough and then rubbed the inside with softened butter. I returned the dough to the bowl and began turning it to coat it with the butter from the bowl. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 90 minutes until it was doubled in size.

Just before I began forming the buns, I greased a baking pan with softened butter and preheated my oven to 200F. Once the dough was ready I removed it from the bowl and formed it into a 16 x 8 rectangle. I then divided the dough in half lengthwise, then in half crosswise and then divided each of the sections into three equal parts. To make the buns round, I tucked the edges in and then placed them into the prepared pan leaving a little space in between each. Next time I make these I will form the dough into balls by rolling it between my hands to get a better round shape. The tucking method resulted in buns that looked a little more square / rectangle. I then covered the pan with a piece of plastic wrap that I coated with softened butter. At this point, I turned off my oven and placed the covered pan in the oven so the buns could rise. Here’s a tip, when yeast recipe calls for something to be placed in a warm spot to rise, preheat your oven to 200 F, turn it off and then place the item in the oven. It’s the perfect environment for it to rise. I left the buns in the oven for about 40 minutes, they more than doubled their size. Once I removed them I preheated the oven to 375F and brushed the tops with a beaten egg before returning them to the oven for 25 minutes, until they were golden brown on top and puffy.

I let the buns cool completely in the pan. Once cooled, I made the traditional cross pattern on each bun with a confectioners’ sugar glaze.

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:

For the Buns:

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/4 oz. packages active dry yeast

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted (plus more at room temperature as needed per directions)

1 large egg yolk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup raisins

1 egg beaten, for brushing buns

 

For the Glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions:

In a medium saucepan combine the water and milk. Heat on low heat until it reaches a temperature or 100 F, not exceeding 110 F. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar and flour over the surface. Set aside without stirring until the mixture becomes foamy and begins to rise up the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and set aside.

When the yeast mixture is ready, whisk in the melted butter, egg yolk and vanilla extract.

Pour the yeast mixture into flour mixture and using a wooden spoon mix it to form a thick, shaggy and sticky dough. Stir in the raisins. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until it is soft and elastic, about 8 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball.

Brush the inside of a large bowl with softened butter. Put the dough into the bowl and turn it to coat it with the butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size, about 90 minutes.

Butter a 9 x 14 inch baking pan. Turn the dough out of the bowl and pat into a 16 x 8 inch rectangle. Divide the dough in half lengthwise and then again crosswise. Divide of each of these pieces into thirds and form the dough into rounds. Place in the prepared pan, leaving a little space between each. Cover the pan with a buttered plastic wrap and set the rolls to rise, they will double in size, in a warm place. About 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Remove the plastic wrap from the pan and brush the top of the buns with a beaten egg. Bake until golden brown on top and puffy, about 25 minutes. The internal temperature of the buns should be 190 F. Let the buns cool in the pan.

In a medium bowl combine the ingredients for the glaze and stir until smooth. Transfer the glaze to a piping bag or zip bag and make a small cut on the end or corner. Ice each of the buns with a cross.

Recipe from Food Network

Sprouting Carrot Cupcakes – Tutorial

With Easter right around the corner I decided to make some fun themed cupcakes to get in the spirit of the holiday. Today I am sharing with you these Sprouting Carrot Cupcakes and later this week I will be sharing with you Bunny Ear Coconut Cupcakes.

I began by baking a batch of chocolate cupcakes. While they cooled, I made the frosting. I made a basic buttercream frosting and then removed a third of it. In this third I stirred in melted unsweetened chocolate until it was fully incorporated. I tinted the remaining frosting orange and then transferred it to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip.

After the cupcakes were cool I used a paring knife to cut a small cone-shaped piece out of the center of each one. I crumbled these small pieces of cake into a small bowl and set it aside.

Next, I spread the chocolate frosting over the cupcakes leaving the holes open. I then patted the crumbled pieces of chocolate cake onto the frosting to resemble dirt.

To make the carrots I piped the orange tinted frosting into the holes and then mounded it a bit above the hole. And finally, I cut small pieces of green sour apple straws and placed them in the piped carrots.

And there you have it… Sprouting Carrot Cupcakes.

 

While I opted to make my cupcakes and frosting from scratch, you could easily go the time-saving route and use a box chocolate cake mix and store bought chocolate and vanilla frosting. If you opt for store bought frosting I would advise refrigerating the vanilla frosting after tinting it orange for about 10-15 minutes prior to piping the carrots. Store bought frosting tends to be on the softer side so decorating with it can be frustrating since it won’t take shape, refrigerating it helps to stiffen it.

 

Supplies:

12 chocolate cupcakes

1 cup chocolate frosting

1 1/2 cups vanilla frosting

Orange food coloring

Green sour apple straws

Piping Bag fitted with a round tip

 

 

Meyer Lemon Shaker Pie

A pie for Pi Day! To celebrate Pi Day this year I am bringing you a Meyer Lemon Shaker Pie. Meyer lemons are a tad sweeter than your traditional lemons. They are a cross between regular lemons and mandarins and tend to be smaller, rounder and smoother than traditional lemons. They also have a deep yellow / orange hue to them.

I began by thinly slicing the lemons, removing the pits.

I then combined the sliced lemons with sugar and salt and set it aside.

In a medium bowl I whisked together 4 large eggs with vanilla extract and then combined that with the lemons. I opted to use refrigerated store-bought pie dough. After letting it come to room temperature I rolled it out about and extra 1/2-inch and then pressed it into a pie dish that I greased with butter. I brushed the crust with a beaten egg yolk and then poured the lemon mixture into the crust.

Next, I rolled out the other half of my pie crust approximately an extra 1/2 inch and then placed it on top of my pie. I attempted to do a decorate crust my crimping the ends. I am not a great pie maker so I was happy with the way this crust looked when I was done. I did my best not to rush through it and I was very happy that I was able to cut slits in the pie that were four individual slits as opposed to four slits that I over sliced and turned into 2. It’s happened. I am telling you, baking pies knocks me off-kilter and I end up doing something wrong. Practice makes perfect though. My plan at this point was to freeze the pie for an hour prior to baking. But, I found out the hard way (when I went to go put the pie in the freezer) that my freezer wasn’t wide enough for me to get the dish in. UGH! So, I ended up refrigerating the pie overnight instead. On a side note, when it comes time for me to purchase a new refrigerator I will be going to the store with a bag of pie dishes and cookie sheets to make sure I get a freezer part that I will be able to fit things in. Not being able to get certain dishes and pans in my freezer can be maddening at times. I didn’t find it to be such an annoyance until I decided to freeze my cookie dough back in December and I was only able to fit one cookie sheet in there from the 10+ that I own. It definitely slowed down my flow of getting things done! Anyhoo…

After refrigerating the pie overnight I baked it the following morning… I was pleased with the golden brown color of the crust and that my decorative edge didn’t fall apart completely while the pie was baking.

I let the pie cool for a bit and then sliced into it… The filling was jammy as it’s supposed to be, but, I found it incredibly sweet. I tried taking a few bites, but, it was just too much for me. If I make this again I will definitely cut back on the amount of sugar I used per the directions (2 cups). While I was scooping the sugar out to combine with the lemons in the back of my mind I was already thinking “this is way too much sugar,” but since other recipes I saw called for that much I followed along.

While the recipe I followed didn’t call for the lemons and sugar to macerate for 24 hours, I found that many recipes called for this step in order to break down the rind and pith of the lemons to eliminate any bitterness.  If I were to make this recipe again I would definitely do that as well as cut back on some of the sugar. While the pie did have a nice taste to it and the bitterness from the rind and pith wasn’t strong, as I mentioned, the sweetness was just too much for me. So, here is what I would do. I would slice the lemons and combine them with the sugar (probably only a cup and a quarter to a cup and a half) and salt in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. The following day I would then continue with the recipe, whisking together the eggs and vanilla and then combining that with the lemons. And instead of freezing / refrigerating the pie before baking, I would omit this step and go ahead and bake the pie

Meyer Lemon Shaker Pie

Ingredients:

4 to 7 small to medium Meyer lemons

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 store-bought pie crust or homemade

 

To finish the pie:

1 large egg separated, white and yolk whisked separately

2 teaspoons sugar

 

Directions:

Thinly slice the lemons, removing any seeds. You will need 2 cups of sliced lemons. Combine the lemon slices with the sugar and salt and set aside to allow the lemon to macerate. Whisk the 4 eggs and vanilla extract together in a separate bowl.

Lightly grease a 9-inch pie dish. Roll out half of the dough to fit in the dish with a 1-inch overhang. Brush the dough with the beaten egg yolk.

Combine the sliced lemons and egg mixture and then spread into the prepared pie crust.

Roll out the other half of the dough. If using store bought dough, roll it out approximately a 1/2 inch more and then place on top of the dough in the pie dish. Trim off any excess dough and pinch the bottom and top crust together and crimp or seal the edges with your finger or fork.

Cut 4 slits on the top and brush with the beaten egg white and sprinkle the sugar on top. Chill in the freezer for 1 hour or in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Bake the pie on the lowest rack of the oven for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature of the oven to 375 F and move the pie to the center rack and bake for another 30 minutes. If the edges of the pie begin to brown too quickly, cover with a pie cover or strips of aluminum foil.

Let the pie cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and enjoying.

Recipe from The Kitchn

Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

With 2 bags of Meyer Lemons I have made my fair share of desserts. I made the scones I posted last week, a pie which I will be sharing with you on Pi Day (3/14) and these Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins I am sharing with you today. I was planning on making these muffins prior to the scones but I didn’t have any poppy seeds, well, guess what. I have way more than enough now. I honestly thought I would be able to purchase a small bag of them like I did for sesame seeds, but, at my usual supermarket poppy seeds are only available in containers like spices. So, because it was a better value I purchased the larger container. I guess I will be making a lemon poppy seed cake one of these days.

What was nice about these muffins is that they require only one large bowl to make the batter. I began by creaming together butter, eggs and sugar, then added in lemon juice and zest and finally the dry ingredients – baking powder, salt and poppy seeds. I opted to bake them in a 6 – cup muffin tin, but, you could bake them in a 12-cup cupcake tin instead. You will just need to keep an eye on them because the baking time will differ. These tasted good and were a nice treat for breakfast, but, next time I think I will bake them at 350 F instead. I found that baking them at 375 F allowed for the outside of the muffin to overbake a little while the inside finished baking.

Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons meyer lemon juice

1 teaspoon meyer lemon zest

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon poppy seed

*If you cannot find Meyer Lemons, you can use regular lemons

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 6-cup muffin tin with liners.

In a large bowl cream together the butter, eggs and sugar using a hand mixer or stand mixer on medium speed. Add in the lemon zest and juice and continue mixing until well combined. Add in the flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds and stir together until just combined, being careful not to over-mix.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin tin.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store left-over muffins in an air-tight container for 2 to 3 days.

Recipe from Miss in the Kitchen

Key Lime Pie Thumbprints

Thumbprint cookies… A versatile cookie that traditionally has a shortbread base and an indent in the center filled with jam, chocolate, dulce de leche, or for today’s cookie, a key lime chocolate filling. Don’t worry its white chocolate, not semi or milk chocolate. I definitely don’t think these cookies would be as appetizing if key lime juice was mixed in with either of those chocolates. Somehow I think the key lime flavor would be lost. Now, as a filling for a truffle I think it would be perfect. I may have had one or two of those before so I am speaking from experience.

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I have a friend who has all of a sudden fallen in love with Key Lime Pie. I’ve been making it for a few years now but all of a sudden when I made it last year it was like he was eating it for the first time. And when I asked some friends what cookies they wanted for Christmas last year (just over a month ago sounds so much better to say this early in the year) he suggested rugelach and a key lime pie. Which got me thinking of a key lime pie cookie since I wasn’t in the mood to make a pie (which I ultimately ended up making anyway.) So, I initially made the Key Lime Crinkles that were part of Cookie Palooza. While they were delicious, they lacked the key lime filling he enjoys so I knew I would have to try these thumbprints instead and I am happy to say that these were a hit with everyone who tried them. A cookie that will definitely be in my cookie rotation. Thanks to the graham cracker crumbs in the base of the cookie this is almost like enjoying a piece of key lime pie, but, in a bite size grab and go form. And while the key lime flavor is apparent in the filling I could imagine adding another tablespoon or so would kick it up even more.

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Key Lime Pie Thumbprints

  • Servings: 40 cookies
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Ingredients:

Cookies:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk

2 cups flour

1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (4 graham crackers)

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Filling:

1 cup white chocolate chips

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

3 tablespoons key lime juice

2 teaspoons lime zest (1 lime)

 

Directions:

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the butter and sugars in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until creamy.

Switch the mixer to low and add in the egg yolk and vanilla extract and continue mixing until well combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

In a separate bowl which together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, cornstarch and salt.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing until the ingredients are incorporated. Scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Scoop 2 teaspoons of the dough and roll into a smooth ball and place on the prepared cookie sheets about an inch apart. (Using a standard cookie scoop I scooped the dough and then divided the dough in half to get the 2 teaspoon amount)

Using the back of a rounded teaspoon gently press an indent in the center of each ball. I have tried using my thumb for this step, but, have found that a teaspoon produces a much better circular shape.

Chill the dough in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Freezing the dough prevents the cookie from spreading too much while baking giving you more room for your filling.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Bake the cookies for 10-11 minutes. Immediately after removing the cookie from the oven press the teaspoon into the indent once again to redefine it. Let the cookies cool completely on the sheets before filling them.

To make the filling… Combine the chocolate chips, condensed milk and key lime juice in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until the chocolate chips have melted and the ingredients are well combined. Stir in the lime zest and continue stirring until the mixture begins to boil. Reduce the heat to low and using a teaspoon spoon the filling into the cookies.

Allow the filling to cool and set before serving. When storing the cookies, keep in mind that the filling may remain a bit tacky. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Recipe from Sugar Spun Run