Monday, February 28, 2011

UN-BAKED: 5 Layer Greek Dip

A few weeks ago when I made these cupcakes for the baby shower, I also made this little greek hummus dip. Since my friend Holly took some beautiful shots of it, I thought I'd share!

I love this because it is SO easy, it incorporates some fresh veggies, and it has hummus--how could you go wrong, really??


Layer one on top of the other

-Hothouse Cucumbers
-De-seeded Chopped Tomatoes
-Chopped Kalamata Olives
-Feta Cheese (Optional. I prefer it without!)

Serve with Warmed Pita Bread, Pita Chips, or (my favorite!) TJs Baked Lentil Chips.

BAKED: Sunday Afternoon Cake

I was planning on making the Salt and Pepper cookies a few weeks early since I'll be out of town that weekend, but I found at the last minute that I didn't have all the required ingredients. We were having dinner at our friend's house, though, so I checked out BAKED to see what else they might have! Since it WAS Sunday Afternoon, we decided this was the perfect fit.

I followed the recipe as written, using all organic and/or Trader Joes ingredients.

The frosting was a first for me, and I L.O.V.E.D. it! It was nice and pudding-ee, and still light and fluffy. The, I've had better! It was a little dense for me, and possibly too...hearty for my taste. BUT, our guests loved it, and it was very moist, which is always a positive!

Credit goes to Holly Badurek, who took the LOVELY photos of the cake. Thanks so much Holly!!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

BAKED Sunday Mornings: Devil's Food Cupcakes with Angel Frosting

I've been dying for a chance to use these pretty cupcake wrappers, and was excited with the black and white theme of the cupcakes to make extra good use of the b&w damask!
For this recipe, I used TJ's Cocoa Powder and Chocolate disks, and subsituted TJs hot cocoa for the coffee (I'm not a coffee drinker!) in the recipe. It was exciting using my candy thermometer for this project, and I felt a little fancy bringing the syrup to "soft ball" stage and cooking the eggs as I whipped the frosting. I also broke out my birthday present from some of my girlfriends--a complete cake decorating kit! Despite a few desperate phone calls for instruction, it was virtually snag-free!
These little devils brought out my evil side, because the "angel" frosting was not my favorite party of this treat. I think I'd rather stick to buttercream with some almond extract, and I would go so far as to say these couldn't have been too chocolaty with a chocolate buttercream, either. Don't get me wrong, the devil's food had a deep, rich, and intense chocolate flavor, I just REALLY like Chocolate. The way they were felt a little too...hostess cupcake with twinkie filling for me.

Our neighbors had some last minute guests that stopped by, and since I had 24 cupcakes with very few eaters, we tossed some their way and the cute little girls giggled and oo-ed over the pink pearl toppers. It turned out that we had some spur-of-the-moment special guests, and the sister in attendance had her 12th birthday last weekend so we busted out the candles and made it a special birthday celebration just for her! We served the cupcakes with TJs Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, which was a perfect compliment to the moist cake.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

BAKED Makeup Recipe: Sweet n' Salty Brownies

Since I started BAKED explorations later than the blogging group, I have wanted to have a few "Makeup" sessions, and what a better weekend to do it than Valentines day, where I could try out my new brownie cutter on BAKED's famous Sweet N' Salty Brownies!

I was SUPER impressed with how easy it was to make these. It was the first time I've ever made homemade brownies (and the second time I've ever made brownies, period!). For how much I love a good brownie, I have always been nervous about them for some reason. Well, worry no more, because they're surprisingly simple, and De-Licious!

I followed the recipe exactly, and was ecstatic about the results. The fleur de sol caramel is baked into the brownies, and then I drizzled some over the finished product as well. The fleur de sol sprinkled on the top was just enough, and we found ourselves devouring them on valentines day!
Since I have restrictions on my sugar intake during the week, we shared our good fortune with some friends and neighbors. I usually feel the need to add a caveat to any dish I make, but these came with my whole-hearted recommendation and no-reserves stamp of approval!

Happy Lover's day!

Monday, February 14, 2011

BAKED Sunday Mornings: "Red" Velvet Whoopie Pies

To be honest, I haven't ever been a fan of Red Velvet anything. Why? Because I kind of hate Red 40. And by kind of, I mean, I avoid eating Red M&Ms, Skittles, and ANY sort of Red drink. In fact, the only thing I consciously eat that contains Red 40 are Swedish Fishies, and every time I'm eating them, I think to myself about how I am going to contact the company and see if I can buy an entire batch that does not contain Red 40. (Do you think they'd do it?) But I digress.

So, when the Whoopie Pie came up, I cringed at the thought. All week I was planning on buying India Tree Natural Red food dye, but didn't order from Amazon in time, and the local stores didn't have any. So...I almost just passed on this one. But then, as I was reading the description of Red Velvet in the recipe book, I learned that the original Red Velvet didn't have obscene amounts of Red food dye, but rather was named for the reaction of the Cocoa to the acidic or alkaline ingredients in the cake, casting a reddish hue on the cake. It was only after it was named that people decided to "Boost" the red with artificial color. Ahhhh, at last, a solution!!

I made the pies, sans Red 40, and added some freeze dried strawberry powder (Freeze Dried Strawberries that I threw in the food processor) to the Cream Cheese Frosting for a little "Valentines-ey" feel. Seth and I ate them last night for the end of our "Valentines Day-Before party" and they were delicious! I liked the cake texture of the pies, and appreciated a healthy dose of frosting between the layers--because we all know the cake-to-frosting ratio should get as close to 1:1 as possible, right? Right.

As an added touch after I took the pictures, I placed diced strawberries all around the edges in the frosting for a festive and tasty touch! I wish I would have taken pictures of that, they were adorable!

Recipe Link

Strawberry Cupcakes

So...since I'm trying to improve this whole cooking/blogging/photo-taking skillset, I decided to post other baked goodies as well as Baked Explorations!
Some friends were throwing a shower for a girl in our ward, and when something came up for one of the girls I was excited to throw my hat in the ring and take a stab at these cupcakes! After calling my go-to baking expert, Elizabeth, and getting some good ideas to get started, I was ready to go!

For the first batch, I started with a basic Strawberry cupcake recipe, but it called for Strawberry extract, which I wasn't so sure about. Elizabeth recommended I try freeze dried strawberries in the batter, and I went ahead and added diced strawberries for good measure. The batter seemed a little thick, so I added some buttermilk (a substitution from another recipe) and went to town baking them. They tasted delicious but they didn't look amazing--the strawberries browned, as typical, and they sunk in places they shouldn't have.

Not completely satisfied, so I made a second batch, following the original recipe almost exactly, but still adding in powdered freeze dried strawberries in for the color. The recipe LOOKED beautiful, but it was dry dry dry and not nearly as tasty as the other.

I almost went for a third batch, but felt an over-kill coming on, so I made the delicious strawberry cream cheese/buttercream frosting and frosted away, ending with a homemade cupcake wrapper and Holly's beautiful cupcake toppers. For the frosting I also used freeze dried powdered strawberries, and it made a pretty pink color without any food dyes (yay!) Topped with some diced strawberries, they didn't look too bad!

Overall, I was a little embarrassed when people were eating them at the party. I mean, they weren't gourmet by any means, and perhaps my pride was in the way a little, feeling like I could have done better. BUT, it was a good experience to bake, and next time it'll only be better!

*As always, I WELCOME any ideas/thoughts/critique of photos! The first (amazing) photo is courtesy of Holly Badurek, and I love it!) I think the background in the second photo is a little to "spicy" for this one...I'll mute them down in the future!