Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Monkey Bread Muffins

Difficult: Nope
Time consuming: not actively - about a half hour to prep (depending on how fast you work), about 30-45 minutes to let the dough rise, then 15 minutes to bake.

Happy spring break fellow teachers, school employees, and/or students!  One of the nicest things about working in a school, besides all my awesome kiddos and fantastic colleagues, is all the breaks we get.   My parents live 4 hours away, so it's really great to get time around the holidays and over the summer to visit them.  Although I'll admit, this spring break definitely felt more like a winter break here in Cincinnati - I think it snowed at least 3 days and has been way to cold to do any real gardening.  You would think that with all this time off, I would've baked something really awesome.  But no.  I did make brownies, which I can't stop eating.  And pinned a bunch of new recipes to try.  Also, I did a ton of cleaning.  I remember when spring break meant going to Boca Raton with my sorority sisters.  Now I'm thrilled to have time to sleep in, deep clean my home, and catch up on episodes of Dance Moms.

Lucky for you, all this free time means another recipe for you! For March's special ed team meeting, I decided to make monkey bread. But I wanted the portions to be more single serving, so I turned to muffins.  I may have let my dough rise a little too much, so they weren't nearly as gooey as they could've been, but they were still doughy and cinnamony and all around delicious.

6 little dough balls in a greased muffin tin, one jumped out and bumped his shin...haha I crack myself up.  Maybe I spend too much time with preschoolers...

I'll admit that I did use prepared frozen dinner rolls instead of making the bread from scratch. I swear I had every intention of being completely home made, but then my car went in for service the day before our meeting and there was no way I'd be able to make bread from scratch. I realize biscuit dough was an option, but all the pictures I saw of monkey bread made with biscuit dough didn't look as good as those made with yeast breads. So I welcomed the help from the frozen food section of Krogers.

I loved that these were individual servings. Anything in mini form is just so cute. It also allowed for an awesome ratio of slightly caramelized sugar outside bits to ridiculously soft inside bites. The cinnamon adds wonderful flavor, and you can add more or less to taste. The glaze drizzled over the top really just knocks all the sweet goodness of the bread onto another level.  Other blogs have also suggested using a cream cheese glaze or just sweetened condensed milk over top.  If anyone tries those, I'd love to hear how they turn out!

The recipe
Yields 24 muffins


Monkey Bread
24 Rhodes dinner rolls, or generic equivalent; *thawed but still cold
1 stick butter, melted (possibly more)
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1 1/2 - 2 cups brown sugar
6-8 teaspoons cinnamon

2 cups powered sugar
2-4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Spray 24 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray.  Set aside.

2.  Combine butter and corn syrup in a bowl, set aside. In a medium sized bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon, set aside.  (I ended up using 1 3/4 cup brown sugar and 7 teaspoons of cinnamon; you may need more or less - just make sure to use 1 teaspoon of cinnamon per 1/4 cup of sugar)

3.  Cut each dinner roll into 6 pieces.  Dip pieces of roll into butter (about 6-10 at a time), then transfer to sugar mixture.  Toss to coat.  Put 6 pieces of dough per muffin cup.  Repeat until all the dough has been buttered and sugared.

4.  Spray plastic wrap with nonstick spray and cover each muffin tin.  Let sit in a warm part of your kitchen until the dough has doubled in size.  Try not to let it rise more than double - they'll still turn out but they won't be as soft and doughy nor will the pieces stick to each other the best they could.  While they are rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

5.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, rotating pans at around 10 minutes if oven doesn't heat evenly.

6.  Remove from oven, let rest in pan for at least 10 minutes (do not cool completely in pan), then turn out onto a cooling rack.

7.  Prepare glaze by whisking all ingredients together.  Add more milk if you want it thinner, more sugar if you want it thicker.  Pour into a zip top bag, snip off the corner, then drizzle over the monkey bread.

*An easy way to thaw dough: move rolls from freezer to fridge for 8-12 hours before baking.  Or follow the directions on the package.

Recipe From Muffin Top Mommy

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cookies and Cream Frosting

Difficulty: Easy
Time Consuming: Less than 10 minutes

**Some house keeping things: by some, I mean 1: I added a "Pin It" button to most of my posts (I'm still working my way backwards to get them all set up).  I haven't tried using it, so if you like the recipe, try using my "Pin It" button for Pinterest and let me know if it works (or didn't).  Thaaaaaanks :)

This is the last week for my church's Lenten Fish Fry, and I wasn't planning on baking anything.  See, my husband wasn't going to volunteer since he had to coach a high school rugby game right after school and couldn't take the treat up to church.  And I workout right after school on the other side of town and wouldn't be able to get them there either.  Then rugby got switched, so Kenny decided to volunteer.  I felt like I couldn't send him empty handed, so I thought I'd whip up a batch of brownies.  Brownies turned into cookies and cream brownies, which of course needed a ganache topping (thanks, Bakerella!).  Suddenly, "whipping up" a batch of brownies became a 2 hour project.  But ooooooh baby are they to die for.

I used my favorite brownie recipe which takes less than an hour from start to finish.  I modified the recipe by using only 1 1/2 sticks of butter instead of two, which I think makes for a fudgier brownie.  Then I topped them with this incredible cookies and cream frosting I found online.  Finally, I finished them over by smothering them with ganache.  To make them prettier, you can whisk together a few tablespoons of powdered sugar with a few teaspoons of milk (add a splash of vanilla if you want), drizzle lines over the ganache, then swirl together with a toothpick like I did.  I popped them into the fridge for a few hours to let everything set up, cut them into 28 bars (7 rows by 4 rows), and plated them for the fish fry.

They turn out so rich - the fudgy brownie is the perfect base for the creamy cookie frosting, and the ganache really sends the whole dessert over the top.

I was able to frost around 1/2" of frosting over a 13x9 inch pan; I'm not sure how many cupcakes you could frost with it, but I imagine 12 if you pipe large swirls, 24 if you spread it smooth with a knife moderately.  If anyone tries, please feel free to comment and let me know :)

The recipe:

1 stick of butter, room temperature
1 stick of vegetable shortening (1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 - 3 cups of powdered sugar
4 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream, milk, or half 'n' half
12 Oreos, crushed finely


1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together the shortening and butter until smooth.  Add vanilla extract and mix in.

2.  Stop the mixer and add 1 cup of powdered sugar, and mix until combined.  Slow mixer down, add 2 tablespoons of cream.  Stop mixer, add 1 cup of sugar, mix on medium to combine.  Slow mixer down, add remaining 2 tablespoons of cream.  Stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup of powered sugar, mix on medium to combine.

3.  Taste the frosting - if it is sweet enough, then mix on medium-high for about 3 minutes, until the frosting becomes fluffy.  If you want it sweeter, add another 1/2 cup of frosting, slowly mix to combine, then crank up the speed until fluffy.

4.  Fold in crushed Oreo's and frost your treat!

Cookies and cream frosting adapted from the Dollhouse Bake Shoppe

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Difficult: Not terribly
Time Consuming: It has 3 components, which I made over 2 days, but nothing was individually too timely.

I don't know what exactly has me in a citrus-y, fruity dessert kick, but I can't say I'm complaining.  A few weeks ago, it was lemon raspberry sugar cookies.  This week it's these lemon meringue cupcakes.  This particular batch of cupcakes found their way to our church's fish fry and from what I hear, were gobbled up pretty quickly.

The base of this dessert is a sweet and citrusy lemon cupcake.  The batter came together beautifully and very effortlessly in my stand mixer.  The aroma from the lemon was intoxicating and it took every ounce of strength not to lick the bowl.

I filled the cupcakes with lemon curd I made the day before.  It's from the book Baking: Illustrated by the folks at America's Test Kitchen, so you know it has to be good.  And aside from tempering the eggs, which would be easier with a third arm, the tangy and sweet filling came together easily and quickly.  Although I have seen recipes for 10 minute microwave lemon curd, so if anyone has tried those, I'd love to hear how they turned out.

The cupcakes are topped with a 7 minute frosting.  I don't know why it's called that, because mine definitely took more than 7 minutes to prepare.  I was able to prep my cupcakes for assembly and do some dishes while it was whipping away in the mixer.  But nonetheless, the meringue-like frosting is the perfect sweet and creamy compliment to all the bright lemony flavors bursting from the cupcake.  And if you've got a kitchen torch, it torches great, giving it that finished look of a meringue pie.  This can probably be accomplished in broiler, but you'd have to watch it like a hawk so it doesn't burn.

The recipe for the frosting made way too much for me, but that probably has more to do with how I frosted the cupcakes than the recipe itself.  I added a few tablespoons of cocoa powder (about 2 tablespoons to just under half the frosting) and a handful (or two, or three) of chocolate chips and mixed until combined.  Then I baked at 350 degrees for 18 minutes, and let cool in the oven for 1 hour and ended up with meringue cookies.  They aren't the exact same, but it was better than wasting all that sugar.  For a better meringue cookie recipe, check out Bakerella.

The Recipe
yields 26 cupcakes


Lemon Cupcake
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups white sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
3 tablespoons of lemon zest (from about 3-4 small lemons)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of buttermilk (or measure 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into a 1 cup glass measuring cup, then top to the 1 cup line with milk, mix, and let sit for 5 minutes)

2 cups of prepared lemon curd (1 recipe's worth)

 1 1/2 cups white sugar, + 2 tablespoons white sugar
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
6 large egg whites (eggs separate better from yolks when cool, but whip better for meringue at room temperature)


Make the Cake
1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line cupcake pan with paper liners, set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing in between each addition.  Add the lemon zest and vanilla and mix.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl as needed.

3.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the stand mixer and mix.  Then add the lemon juice add 1/2 the buttermilk, mix.  Then add the second 1/3 of the flour mixture, mix.  Then the second 1/2 of the buttermilk, mix.  End by mixing in the final 1/3 of flour mixture until just combined.

4.  Divide the batter between the muffin cups, filling each around 2/3 of the way full.  Be careful not to over fill.  Bake for 22-25 minutes, until the tops of the cake spring back lightly when touched and a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs (or completely clean).  Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the Frosting
5.  Make sure you have a working, accurate candy thermometer.  Test this out by boiling water and checking the temperature.  Water boils at 212 degrees, so take note of your temperature and make adjustments in the coming steps as necessary (e.g., if it boils at 202 degrees, then subtract 10 from the temperature)

6.  Combine water, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and corn syrup in a small saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  With the heat around medium, cook until the sugar reaches 230 degrees on a candy thermometer.

7.  While the sugar is cooking, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks in a stand mixer.  With the mixer running on low, slowly add the 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Mix to combine.

8.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low.  When the cooked sugar reaches 230 degrees (aka softball stage), slowly (and carefully!) pour the syrup in a steady stream down the side of the bowl.  When all of the syrup has been added, increase the mixer speed to high and whisk.  Whisk until you have stiff (but not dry) peaks, and the frosting is cool (check by touching the bottom of the mixing bowl).  [Mine cooled, but was never "cool," it got to "just slightly warm" when I got tired of it mixing].

Assemble the Cupcakes
9.  Core the cupcakes.  Set aside the tops if you want to plop them back in after you fill.  Add 1-2 teaspoons of lemon curd to the cupcakes (and top with cupcake cores if you want).

10.  Pipe the meringue frosting on the cupcakes.  I used a large Wilton star tip.  Torch the top of the cupcakes with a butane kitchen torch.

Eat and enjoy!!

Mostly from Martha Stewart.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Lemon Curd

Difficult: only the part where you temper the eggs
Time consuming: No, you can make this in less than 20 minutes, but it won't be ready to eat until it chills in the fridge

We had a snow day! In March! Granted it was barely 1" or so of snow, but apparently the roads were pretty bad Wednesday morning. Snow day for me means lemon curd for you!  I also managed to reorganize the bathroom closet, go to the bank, and watch my husband do taxes (which was just oh so exhilarating).

zested lemon

lemon juice
post zesting and juicing, still pretty
 I've never made lemon curd, but had a particular project in mind for it (you'll have to come back tomorrow to see that tasty surprise), and it was pretty easy to do. The lemon curd I made came from the book Baking: Illustrated and is by the chefs on America's Test Kitchen, so of course it had to be good. The spread was so tangy and bright with lemony flavor, but sweet enough to eat by the warm spoonful.  And after I filled my cupcakes implemented it in my designated treat, I may have literally licked the bowl clean.  No shame, it's that good.

Lemon curd is great eaten from the bowl, but you can also schmear it on toast, pour over a block of cream cheese and serve with crackers, spread on a scone, add to a tart shell with some raspberries for a fancy schmancy lookin' dessert, top a pavlova, add it to plain yogurt, fill crepes, spread on blueberry muffins, and by this point in time lick the bowl and make more because you've used it all already.  Anyone out there have other suggested uses for lemon curd?

And don't forget to stop back and see how I used this batch of lemon curd!
The recipe
yields around 2 cups

Zest from 3-4 lemons (about 2 tablespoon)
4 eggs plus 2 egg yolk
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice (from 6 small lemons)
4 tablespoons butter, cubed, cold
2 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt


1. Zest the lemon into a small, nonreactive bowl. Whisk the eggs together with the zest. Slowly add the sugar and whisk to fully combine.

2. Heat the lemon juice in a small nonreactive saucepan until simmering but not boiling. While whisking continuously, slowly add the lemon juice to the eggs in a slow but steady stream (a third hand or a husband/best friend/other kitchen helper is extremely helpful).

3.  Add the mixture back to the saucepan and heat over medium low until the mixture registered 160-170 degrees on a digital or candy thermometer, about 3 minutes. The spatula should leave a small trail across the bottom of the pan that fills in on itself a little quickly, but not too fast.

4.  Immediately remove from heat, stir in butter until melted, then stir to add cream, vanilla, and salt.

5.  Strain the mixture through a very fine wire mesh sieve. Press plastic wrap to the surface of the lemon curd, and refrigerate until you are ready to use.

Recipe slightly adapted from Baking: Illustrated.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

Difficult: Not really
Time consuming: A bit, there are 3 components to these tasty treats

Let's get one thing straight: cookie dough is amazing.  I could eat it straight from the bowl; all day, every day.  But then my pants wouldn't fit, and that'd be bad.  Also the whole don't-eat-raw-eggs thing.  For real, don't eat raw eggs.  I used to reside in the camp of "I never get sick from eating batter/dough/etc," until I got sick (not from this recipe).  It's totally not worth it so don't eat raw eggs.

Luckily for you, and for me, these cookie dough cupcakes are completely safe to eat and taste exactly like cookie dough.

I slightly adjusted the cake recipe to include browned butter which brings out a slight nuttiness.  You don't have to brown the butter, but I really liked the nuance of flavor it added.  However, after I browned the butter (and maybe turned my back from it for only a second), I noticed some browned bits and I didn't want them speckling the cupcake, so I strained it through a coffee filter.  I also adjusted the bake time and temperature - starting the oven at 350 degrees and then reducing it to 325 as soon as the cupcakes went in.  Then I baked them for 20 minutes.

Like most cupcakes I make, this was a two day process. I made the cupcakes and cookie dough first. On the second day I made the frosting, assembled the cupcakes, and garnished so they were pretty.

These cupcakes went with my husband to the church fish fry where he volunteers on Friday's during Lent.  I work out with my trainer on Friday afternoons but am happy to spend my afternoons/evenings on Thursdays whipping up tasty treats for the bake sale there.
Ha ha ha :)

The recipe
Yields 24 standard sized cupcakes and 10 mini cupcakes.

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (semi- or bittersweet) - optional - I might leave these out next time I make them since they sank to the bottom of the cake anyways.

Cookie dough filling
4 tablespoons (half of a stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons. light brown sugar, packed
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
7 oz. sweetened condensed milk (half of a can)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 1/3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Garnish (optional, but pretty)
Tiny chocolate chip cookies
Mini chocolate chips


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 24 standard size muffin cups with liners and set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

2.  Optional: brown 1 stick of butter in a saucepan - put butter in saucepan set to medium, stir frequently until the butter takes on a dark browned color.  If you accidentally end up with some browned bits,  strain through a coffee filter.  Set into the fridge to cool a little while you continue to work.

3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter (2 sticks unless you've chosen not to brown a stick, then it's all 3) with the brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs 1 at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition.

4.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and mix until combined.  Then add half of the milk, mix.  Then add the second 1/3 of the flour mixture, mix.  Then the second half of the milk, mix.  Then the remaining 1/3 flour mixture, mix.  At this point, all the milk and flour should be mixed in.  If using chocolate chips, fold them in now.

5.  Fill cupcake tins about 2/3 of the way full.  After I filled 24, I still had enough batter for 10 mini cupcakes.  Put cupcake in the oven, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees, and bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops spring back slightly when pressed.  Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Make the cookie dough filling
6.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine brown sugar and butter.  Add flour, milk, and vanilla, and mix until well combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

Make the frosting
7.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until mixed.  Add salt and powdered sugar and mix on low.  Add flour (1/2-2/3 cup, this really makes it taste like cookie dough - I was hesitant to include this but it was awesome).  Then milk and vanilla.  Whip on high speed for a few minutes until the mixture becomes fluffier.

8.  Cut a hole into the cupcakes using a cupcake plunger or the cone method.  Set holes/tops aside.

9.  Roll cookie dough into 24 equal sized balls.  Split the dough in half, then split each half in half.  Split each piece into 6 equal parts and roll into balls.  Ta-da, you know have 24 even sized dough balls.  Put one dough ball into each cupcake.  Cut the bottom of the cone/cupcake hole off, and place the top back into the cupcake.  Check out Baking Bites for a better description on how to do this, complete with pictures.

10.  Put the frosting in a piping bag fit with whatever tip you'd like to use.  Top the cupcakes, then garnish with mini chocolate chips and a mini chocolate chip cookie.

Basically, there are two camps for cookie dough filled cupcakes.  The first is what I've done: make a cake, core and fill with dough, then frost.  The second has you make the cookie dough a day ahead of time and freeze cookie dough balls overnight, then add the frozen dough balls to the cupcake batter and bake until the cakes are done.  The problem with this is that you run the risk of baking the cookie dough in the cupcake.  Also it requires more time since you have do make the dough ahead of time.  If anyone has had success with the latter method, let me know how you did it and how it worked out for you! :)

Slightly adapted from Annie's Eats.