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Croissants

Ready to Proof

Each year, as I write down my list of resolutions for the upcoming months, I section off a portion of the items to tackle in a “Food” category. They typically range from specific projects, to broad scope themes such a portion control, to monthly challenges and a general overall reminder to not be afraid to try new things. As days pass, I return to this list and make notes of tasks I’ve accomplished, or at least those I’ve worked on – the later is something I highly recommend. It can be a bit dispiriting to look back at the list at the end of the year and see nothing completed, but if there’s a note that says “hey, I tried” it’s not nearly as depressing. At least that’s what I tell myself every time I see the “let’s get in shape this year” bullet point.

One of the food challenges that has been on my New Year’s Food Resolutions list for longer than I care to admit (okay, fine, since you asked, I think we’re on the third year) has been a baked good with its own recognizable shape – Croissants.

After watching the much beloved Julia Child work her magic on The French Chef via Twitch with her croissant recipe, I realized the process may not be as challenging as I had built it up in my mind to be. With an arsenal of cookbooks in my kitchen, I decided upon using Sarabeth Levine’s recipe as my guide. Croissants are a bit time consuming, but what I found the most challenging during the entire process was making sure I had my timing down in terms of what day I would make the dough for what day I wanted to bake the goodies off. Ultimately, timing was on my side, and these were the perfect Easter morning delicacy! Given that this was my first time trying my hand at croissants, I may adjust my baking time on my next go-round — the finished product was a bit too browned for my liking, although that might also be due to their rather diminutive size. Still, another checked item off the ol’ resolutions list and another success from Levine!

Baked Croissant

Croissants
Adapted from Sarabeth Levine’s Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours

Croissant Dough
Makes 2 batches of croissants

Détrempe
2 ¼ teaspoons dry active yeast
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups whole milk
1 ¾ cups bread flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour, sifted
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Beurrage
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into tablespoons
2 tablespoons bread flour

*Make the dough at least two days before using

  1. To make the détrempe, sprinkle the yeast over ¼ cup warm milk (105° to 115°F) in a small bowl. Let stand until the yeast softens and begins to bloom, about five minutes. Whisk well to dissolve. Pour into the mixer bowl of a stand mixer, then add the sugar. Add the remaining 1 cup cold milk.
  2. Mix the bread and pastry flours together. Add 2 cups of the flour mixture and the salt to the bowl of the stand mixer with the yeast and milk mixture. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed, adding enough of the remaining flour mixture to make a soft, sticky dough. Do not overmix. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, knead a few times to smooth the surface, and shape into a ball.
  3. Dust a half-sheet pan with flour. Place the dough on the pan and cut an X about 1-inch deep in the top of the ball to mark it into quadrants. Sprinkle with flour on top and refrigerate.
  4. Immediately make the Beurrage. In a clean mixer bowl with clean paddle attachment, add the butter and beat on medium speed until the butter is almost smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and continue beating until the mixture is smooth, cool, and malleable, about 30 seconds more. Transfer the butter to a lightly floured surface and press any remaining lumps out with the heel of your hand, and shape the butter into a 4-inch square. Place the beurrage on the half-sheet pan next to the détrempe and refrigerate all together for about 15 minutes.
  5. Flour the work surface again. Place the dough on the work surface with the end of the X at approximately 2, 4, 7, and 10 o’clock positions. [For a visual on the dough making process, I highly recommend looking into Sarabeth’s cookbook, as she has fantastic step-by-step photos and I neglected to take any.] You will notice four quadrants of dough between the crosses of the X at the north, south, east, and west positions. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using the heel of your hand, flatten and stretch each quadrant out about 2 ½ inches to make a cloverleaf shape with an area in the center that is thicker than the “leaves”. Use a tapered rolling pin to roll each “cloverleaf” into a flap about 6-inches long and 5-inches wide, leaving a raised square in the center. Using the side of the rolling pin, press the sides of the raised area to demark the square.
  6. Place the butter in the center, on top of the dough square. Gently stretch and pull the north-facing flap of dough down to cover the top and sides of the butter square, brushing away excess flour. Now stretch and pull the south-facing flap of dough up to cover the top and sides of the butter square. Turn the dough so that the open ends now face north and south. Repeat folding and stretching the now north- and south-facing flaps of dough to completely cover the butter, making a butter-filled packet of dough about 6-inches square.
  7. Dust the work surface with flour. Turn the dough so the four folded over flaps face down, with the open seam facing you. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using a large, heavy rolling pin held at a slight angle, lightly pound the top of the dough to widen it slightly and help distribute the butter inside the dough. Roll the dough into a 17-by-9-inch rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, like you would fold a letter, brushing away excess flour. This is called a single turn. Roll the rectangle lightly to barely compress the layers. Transfer to a half-sheet pan and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  8. Lightly flour the work surface again. Place the dough on the work surface with the long open seam of dough facing you. Dust the dough with flour. Roll the dough out into a 17-by-9-inch rectangle. Fold the right side of the dough 2 inches to the left. Fold the left side of the dough over to meet the right side. Fold the dough in half vertically from left to right. This is a double turn, also known as a book turn. Roll the rectangle lightly to barely compress the layers. Transfer to a half-sheet pan and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  9. Repeat rolling and folding the dough into a final single turn (see step 7 for a reminder). With the long seam facing you, cut the dough in half vertically. Wrap each piece of dough tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap again. Freeze for at least 24 hours or up to 4 days.
  10. The night before using the dough, transfer the frozen dough to the refrigerator and let thaw overnight, about 8 hours. Once defrosted it will begin to rise, so make sure to roll it out immediately.

Egg Wash

Croissants
Unbleached all-purpose flour, for rolling the dough
½ recipe Croissant Dough, thawed overnight or for 8 hours in the refrigerator
1 large egg, well beaten
You will also need: two large kitchen bags, two tall glasses, and very hot water

  1. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Dust the work surface well with flour. Place the dough on the work surface with the open seam of the dough facing you. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using a large, heaving rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 16-by-12-inch rectangle. Don’t press the dough too hard; let the weight of the rolling pin do much of the work. If you change the position of the dough while rolling, it is important to keep track of which side contains the seam.
  2. Turn the dough with the seam facing you. (If you’ve lost track, look carefully as the sides of the dough – you should be able to discern it, even though it is faint.) Using a pizza wheel and a yardstick, neatly trim the rough edges. Cut the dough in half lengthwise to make two 16-by-6-inch rectangles. Fold each rectangle into thirds, place on a half-sheet pan, and refrigerate uncovered for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator. On the lightly floured work surface, unfold the dough strip and gently roll, allowing the weight of the rolling pin to smooth the creases created by folding the dough. Using a pizza wheel, starting at the top left corner of the strip, cut down to make a half-triangle with a 2-inch base; set aside. Measure 3 ½-inches from the top left corner of the strip and make a notch with the wheel at this point. Cut down diagonally from the notch to meet the bottom left edge of the dough strip to make another triangle with a 3 ½-inch base. Continue cutting, alternating diagonal cuts, to cut out 6 triangles. The last cut will also yield a half-triangle with a 2-inch wide base.
  4. Place a triangle with a 3 ½-inch base on the work surface with the base of the triangle facing you. Stretch the bottom slightly so it is about 5-inches wide. Pick up the triangle. With one hand, hold the dough triangle at the bottom and stretch it with your other hand until it is about 7-inches long. Return the triangle to the work surface. Starting at the bottom, roll up the triangle, and finish with the tip underneath the croissant. Place on one of the prepared half-sheet pans. Curve the croissant by bringing the two ends closer to each other, crossing the two ends over each other and pressing together if needed. Repeat rolling the remaining dough triangles, placing them on the half-sheet pan with decent space between them. Overlap the two 2-inch base half-triangles at their long sides and press the seam together. Roll up as described for the large triangle and add to the half-sheet pan. Alternatively , gently stretch the 2-inch base half-triangles into modified triangles, with a large base and small tip, and roll as described for smaller, slightly odd croissants.
  5. Repeat cutting and rolling croissants with the second half of the dough. Once all croissants have been cut, shaped, and set on the two half-sheet pans, choose a warm place in the kitchen for proofing. Slip each pan into a tall “kitchen-sized” plastic bag. Place a tall glass of very hot water near the center of each pan. Wave the opening of each bag to trap air and inflate it like a balloon to create “head room,” being sure that the plastic does not touch the delicate dough. Twist each bag closed. Let stand until the croissants look puffy but not doubled, 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  6. Meanwhile, position the racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Remove the glasses from the bags, then the pans. Lightly brush the croissants with the beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway. Reduce the heat to 350°F and continue baking until the croissants are crisp and golden brown, about 10-15 minutes longer, rotating the pans halfway through. Serve warm or cool to room temperature, if you’re able to resist the flaky goodness.

Flaky Goodness.jpg

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Make A Wish…

It’s birthday time again!

This past weekend the family celebrated Smidget’s birthday. For the special occasion, I wanted to make something tasty and different for dessert. We had some apricots that needed to be eaten up, and since they are Smidget’s favorite, I figured it would be great to have a cake that used the fresh flavor of the apricots. Remember that time I made the plum cake that was a Dorie Greenspan recipe? Well, that’s just what I did again, but this time with apricots!

Dorie does say in her cookbook that other stone fruits can be used instead and even gives some directions on her favorite combinations of fruits and spices. Since the plum cake was such a success, I decided to barely mess with the perfection of Dorie’s recipe. One of my favorite parts about the cake was the subtle hint of spice that came from the cardamom. Dorie recommends using cinnamon with the apricots, but I knew it was all about the cardamom.

Needless to say, it was delicious. The cake was moist and sweet, with that hint of spice thrown in. The apricots that delicately dimpled the top were sweet, juicy, and just a tad tart in the best possible way that apricots are. Instead of just leaving the cake un-topped like I had previously, I took some of the mascarpone cheese we had (anybody else tempted by the cheese’s recent appearance on the shelves at warehouse stores?) and whipped it together with a hint of honey for sweetness, creating a delectable and not-too-sweet frosting.

The birthday went well, Smidget seemed to really enjoy the day and her present load. I’m actually listening to one of her presents right now…SMASH soundtrack, anyone? But it was the cake that really ended the whole day on a high note. Plus, with the fresh fruit and cheese and honey topping, it was actually a rather healthy cake! At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Dimply Apricot Cake with Mascarpone ‘Frosting’

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of one orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 fresh, ripe apricots, halved and pitted

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the pan with flour, tap out the excess, and put the pan on a baking sheet.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom together.
3. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer in a large bowl), beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, orange zest, and vanilla. The batter will look very light and smooth, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer to low-speed and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
4. Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the apricots cut side up in the batter, jiggling the apricots a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the apricots and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes – during which time the apricots’ juice will return to the fruit – then run the knife around the sides of the pan and un-mold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

Recipe adapted from: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours

 

Mascarpone ‘Frosting’

6 oz. Mascarpone cheese
1 Tbsp. honey
Splash (about 1 tsp.) of whipping cream

1. Whisk together the Mascarpone cheese and honey, adding a splash of whipping cream to smooth and loosen the cheese. Whisk until thoroughly combined and reached desired consistency and flavor.

Happy Pi(e) Day!!

Just popping in to say a quick Happy Pi(e) Day!! Celebrate with this amazing Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie! Just look at those meringue peaks…listen, they’re calling out to you…

Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie

Crust:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Filling:
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2/3 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
4 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest

Meringue:
3 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar

Directions:
Crust – Blend flour, sugar, and Meyer lemon zest in processor. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Drizzle 2 tablespoons ice water over and stir with fork until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfulls if mixture is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 20 minutes.

*Dough can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Roll out dough disk on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Gently roll up dough onto rolling pin and unroll into a 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Press into dish. Fold dough overhang under, even with edge of pie dish. Crimp dough edges decoratively. Freeze crust until firm, about 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line frozen crust with nonstick aluminum foil. Fill foil with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until crust is set, about 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Continue baking crust until golden, about 10 minutes longer. Remove crust from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Let crust cool on rack while preparing filling.

Filling – Whisk sugar and cornstarch in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Gradually whisk in Meyer lemon juice. Whisk in egg yolks 1 at a time. Stir in Meyer lemon zest. Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens and boils, about 10 minutes. Spoon warm filling into crust; smooth top.

Meringue – Using electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt in large bowl until very soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, continue beating until mixture is stiff and glossy. Using silicone spatula, spread meringue over warm filling, covering to crust edges and creating peaks and swirls. Bake until meringue is pale golden, about 15 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack and serve.

Recipe adapted from: bon appétit Desserts cookbook

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

My dad celebrated his 59th birthday last week, complete with a delicious vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting (sorry to all, but I won’t be sharing that recipe. It’s a secret!) And now, a bit about my dad:

Years ago he added a new part to his morning ritual (my dad is both a simple and complex man, but he’s always one to stick to his rituals with only a dash of spontaneity when needed)* which consisted of going on walks to get some more exercise. On his first trip out he could barely walk a mile without being winded and tired. Long had he strayed from his high school and college days on the football field and at the ice rink and while he kept the strength, it took a bit to get back into the swing of things. He also used to walk, from what I can remember, every morning – out the door around 5am and on the sidewalks surveying the neighborhoods and, in the winters, the local school ice rinks with a report back on their condition for skating. These days, thanks to his work schedule, he is only able to walk on weekends but how far he goes greatly makes up for that loss. A typical weekend walk is now up to 10 miles and sometimes he goes even further.

Yet, walking is not the only or even the favorite way he continues to get exercise. As mentioned, my dad played hockey when he was young. It was a sport he grew to love from his father and one that he eventually passed down to me. A few years ago Smidget found that a group of guys at the bank she worked for had formed a team and dad signed up. He has been playing ever since, even though Smidget left the bank years ago. They compete against other teams to try to win the championship (which they did this past year!) in the winter and scrimmage against each other every Thursday night in the summer.

Check out my Dad on the ice!

This means on Thursday nights he doesn’t like to eat too much so he’s not too full to skate, but he doesn’t want to eat anything heavy either so he doesn’t feel weighed down. Hence – Thursday has become our family’s Pasta Night. A bit of a carbo load, plus just really tasty food. Recently I have been trying to mix up Pasta Night a bit so it isn’t the same ol’ pasta and red sauce over and over again. Once we used the parsley we got from the farm share we belong to for pesto, as the farm had recommended to. Then, I decided to try something completely different from our family’s usual: Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese.

It was a success! Not only did it taste great, but dad said he even felt better playing that night after dinner. The hot sauce was just enough to be spicy, but not too much and the cheese really pulled the dish together (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk).

Buffalo- Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
Prep: 35 minutes         Total: 1 hour 15 minutes         Makes: 6-8 servings

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
Kosher salt
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup hot sauce (preferably Frank’s)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 ½ cups half and half
1 pound yellow sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 ½ cups)
8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meawhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and garlic and cook 2 minutes, then add ½ cup hot sauce and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 more minute.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and mustard with a wooden spoon until smooth. Whisk in the half and half, then add the remaining ¼ cup hot sauce and stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, then whisk in the sour cream until smooth.
  4. Spread half of the macaroni in the prepared baking dish, then top with the chicken mixture and the remaining macaroni. Pour the cheese sauce evenly on top.
  5. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted. Stir in the panko, blue cheese and parsley. Sprinkle over the macaroni and bake until bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Adapted from Food Network Magazine, April 2010 issue

*Yeah, figure that out! 😛

When Life Hands You Lemons…

I don’t know about you, but usually the advice I get from the rest of that phrase varies between things like “make lemonade”, “throw them back”, or “find someone else who life handed vodka and have a party. Still, no matter what amount of seriousness or humor is thrown in, I still find I can’t stand that phrase.

So why have it as the title for this post? Because I have run out of ideas. Plus today’s recipe has lemons in it.

My best friend and I met up yesterday and over lunch we got to talking about our work. She is a writer/editor who was doing amazing work at the school where she too recently graduated from. We got to talking about writing groups, and how we need to form one along with how to actually go about it, what sort of people, what sort of writing, etc. I thought back to what had been going on in my work-shopping classes at school. We all tended to use the same technique in those classes, which I like to refer to as the ‘Compliment Sandwich’. This occurs when someone is giving their opinion on someone’s work and says “I liked this…..There were some issues in this part….But I really enjoyed this other part here”. Basically it goes Compliment – Constructive Criticism – Compliment. Although this may not get every issue with a piece out in the open right away, it does allow the writer to feel encouraged to continue working on the piece.

That brings us to today’s topic: Motivation and Encouragement.

We all need it in our lives, from friends, from family, from co-workers, from classmates, about our work, our relationships, our choices, our hair color. Outside encouragement helps spur our own motivation and it is something we should remember when people are asking for our advice, our help. If someone comes to you in a time of need, tell them the truth and give them what they need to hear, but don’t discourage them either. Instead, push them to keep going while giving them pointers along the way. It’s a difficult thing to do and I am in no way an example of how to do it but from three years of the ‘Compliment Sandwich’ and the lack of it, I have learned how it can affect people for the better.

For our last class of Poetry Workshop (I am not a poet by any means either, but it is good to expand your horizons. Plus they didn’t offer Advanced Fiction Workshop) we had a little celebration of what we had achieved over the past semester. We celebrated how far each of us had come, how those of us who didn’t write poetry gave it our best effort, how those of us who were seasoned poets learned new techniques, and how we had given each other the criticism that was necessary while also encouraging each other to keep working on every individual piece.

What would a celebration be without cupcakes?! Vanilla Lemon Curd filled cupcakes with Strawberry Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting, to be exact. That’s my ending to the key phrase, “When life hands you lemons….bake with them.”

Vanilla Cupcakes (These are the best ones I have ever made, recipe is certainly a keeper!):

3 eggs
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tray with paper liners. Then, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
In another bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until pale. Takes about 5 minutes.
Add in the flour mixture and mix well.
Place the butter and milk in a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a boil.
Then pour the mixture into the batter and beat well. Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
Scoop the batter into the muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

For the Lemon Curd:

I had a lack of time and used store bought which was a huge mistake! Make your own! Use the recipe I used for lime curd here, but use lemon instead.

To fill: with a paring knife or apple corer, take out the middle section of each cupcake. If curd is a consistency that you can use it in a pastry bag, scoop it into a bag and fill the cupcakes that way. If not, just use a spoon to spoon the filling in. If able, replace the topping of the center of the cupcake. Frost when done.

For the Strawberry Frosting:

Typical cream cheese frosting with some fresh strawberries added in. To make the frosting lighter add some whipped cream to it and it will fluff up wonderfully.

Cupcake recipe adapted from: http://shewhobakes.blogspot.com/2010/02/boston-cream-pie-cupcakes.html

Joyeux Anniversaire!

This past week happened to be the Birthday Week of dearest Smidget!

As part of her array of gifts, she was given a classic dessert for her birthday cake as made by Kiwi. Now, I’m not gonna give you the recipe for one simple reason: you should already have it.

Yell and scream all you want. Cry and kick, just please don’t hit the knees, but I’m sure if you go to your cookbook collection you will find that you have the necessary book to make this cake. And if you don’t, get it. Now.

Which classic culinary catalogue did this cake come from? Why, only one of the greatest cookbooks in the world! The one I was able to give to myself as a birthday present! The one that changed the way American women cooked! That’s right: Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking!

See? Ya have it, don’t cha?

The cake is Reine de Saba avec Glaçage au Chocola, or for those non-French speakers like me, Chocolate and Almond Cake with Chocolate Icing. I will admit, I used the recipe for the cake, but then made up my own Chocolate Buttercream because I wasn’t energized enough to make Julia’s version. Plus I was getting ready to go to the amazing Sullivan’s Steakhouse with my parents for birthday dinner. Best steak ever. 14 oz, dry aged, New York Strip. With a Roasted Red Pepper Truffle butter. I died.

But I had to come back to life for this:

In case you are thinking to yourself “Scruffs (cause, of course, you call yourself Scruffs), I daresay, I do believe I recognize that delectable delicacy” why then you’d be right! If you recall from that delightful movie Julie and Julia, at one point towards the end both of the ladies are making cakes. They show Julia frosting one and then go back to see what’s going on with Julie. Well, Julie brings out the cake to her husband, begins to slice it, and while she gets her cake server he takes his fork and just digs right in. They end up smearing it all over each other.

This is that cake.  Although that did not happen. Proof, you cry? Here. But if I don’t show up tomorrow morning, you’ll know why. Aka, Smidget will have killed me. And I don’t have a cake to come back to life for this time.

So there you have it. A great cake, for a great Smidget!

And it tasted pretty darn good too!

Also, among the other gifts Smidget got was a small canning pot. Ya know, to can things in. So that should be happening soon, which I believe will prompt this conversation in our house:

One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila, Floor!

While still back in New York for graduation, my dad mentioned to me that we have a bag of powdered sugar here at home that has a hole in it. He said this with a slight smile and mischievous look in his eye as he followed with “we probably should use it up”.

I told him not to worry, that I had a plan up my sleeve, and boy did I. My family has celebrated with margaritas since, well, at least since I was in college if not before. Finally this summer I was able to join my parents in enjoying the celebration outside home when I turned 21. But so far, nothing beats a homemade margarita done by dad. Then again, there are always more to try! If you have a favorite margarita place, let me know!

Upon arriving back at home for a much-needed (and after four years of studying – well deserved) break, I checked out a recipe I had found on FoodGawker for, you guessed it, margarita cupcakes.

We usually use Jose Cuervo for the margaritas, but last summer our bottle ran dry with a batch in the blender, so we decided it was time to break out the big guns. My parents had a bottle of Patron stashed away in the food pantry, so we brought it out of hiding.

Since these cupcakes were in part celebration of graduation, I decided why not use the good stuff? Feel free to use any other kind of tequila if you don’t have an insanely expensive bottle of stuff stashed away that, as I can recall, was given to you as a gift. Be warned, though, that after the first bite of one Smidget’s reaction was “I’m drunk already!” (she was only kinda kidding, the tequila comes through for sure, but not that strongly).

Margarita Cupcakes
Yield: 12 cupcakes
Prep Time: 25 minutes | Bake Time: 25 minutes

For the Cupcakes:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
Zest and juice of 1½ limes
2 tablespoons tequila
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk

To Brush the Cupcakes:
1 to 2 tablespoons tequila

For the Tequila-Lime Frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2¾ cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons tequila
Pinch of coarse salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
3. In an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugar together until pale, light, and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
4. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the lime zest, lime juice, vanilla extract and tequila. Mix until combined. (The mixture may start to look curdled at this point, but don’t worry, it will all come back together, power on!)
6. Reduce the mixer speed low. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches. Mix only until just incorporated, using a rubber spatula to give it one last mix by hand.
7. Divide the batter between the muffin cups. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until just slightly golden and a skewer shows only moist crumbs attached, rotating the pan at the halfway point.
8. Allow cupcakes to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, and then remove to a cooling rack. Brush the tops of the cupcakes with the 1 to 2 tablespoons of tequila. Set the cupcakes aside to cool completely before frosting them.
9. To make the frosting, whip the butter on medium-high speed of an electric mixer using the whisk attachment for 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low, and gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing and scraping the sides of the bowl until all is incorporated. Give it a mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Add the lemon juice, tequila and salt mix on medium-high speed until incorporated and fluffy. If the frosting appears a bit too soft, add some additional sugar, one spoonful at a time until desired consistency is reached. Frost cupcakes and garnish, if desired, with lime zest, and an additional sprinkling of salt.
*Note: If you would prefer to not use liquor in these cupcakes, you can absolutely omit it from both the cupcakes and the frosting with no problem. If you do omit it, I would add 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract to the frosting
(Recipe adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride) Taken from Brown Eyed Baker

Sidenote: I had a bit of an issue with frosting these guys, hence the large glob of frosting. I couldn’t find the disposable frosting bags and the nice one I found wasn’t cut right for the tip I tried to use. So I tried to MacGyver a plastic bag, but the tip itself was too small, so I just ended up pulling it out. This resulted in a large corner of the bag being cut off, so I just frosted them as I could. Still tasty!