Monday, October 24, 2011

Make your own.....Chocolate Syrup!!!

Okay! If you're a chocolate person, this is gonna rock your world. It is exactly like the "restaurant stuff", and is not even comparable to the Hershey's syrup, oddly enough. It's great for chocolate milk, desserts, and coffee.

The ingredients for this are crazy simple....the only thing you may have to run and get is some unsweetened cocoa powder. I use Hershey's, but you can use some fancier stuff if you have it (i.e. dutch process or whatever). I like Hershey's, it tastes great, is versatile, and you can get a monster thing of it at Sam's. :)

The only other thing you need is sugar, water, and vanilla. Pretty sure everyone has those! I'll give the amounts at the end.

Step 1:

Combine the sugar and water on the stove and bring to low boil over medium high heat, very much like making the simple syrup we made for the Pumpkin Spice Syrup.

Step 2:

add the cocoa power and salt and whisk to combine....let it boil for about another minute while whisking. (If you let it boil too long it will be more of a sundae sauce consistency and not squeezable out of a bottle).

*WARNING* It. Smells. Amazing.

Step 3:

Take it off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Let it cool for about 5-10 minutes on the stove.

Run it through a fine mesh sieve, just like before, to catch any sugar crystals.

You can see that the first batch I made only made a small amount. This, clearly, is not enough for me, so I made another batch right away with double the amount.

After we used what we wanted that night, this was all that was left for my bottle. So I made that other batch and it filled the bottle up. Be sure to let it cool before you put it in your plastic bottle if that's what you are using! It may seem thin at first but will thicken as it cools. I totally made this on the back burner while I was making dinner one takes NO TIME at all!! It keeps in the fridge really well and squeezes right out. If you have any issues with it, you can just let it sit out for a few minutes.

This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown's chocolate sauce recipe from Food Network. These amounts can be doubled or tripled.

To make 3/4 cup:

1/3 c water

2/3c sugar

1/3 c cocoa

1/4 t vanilla extract

pinch of salt

All are welcome to share and pin this post please just link back here! Thanks!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

(apologies for the terrible picture quality. I'm thinking even my camera was salivating over these)

Peanut Butter cup mini chocolate cupcakes!

Wait until you see what's inside....

Can we just get a moment of silence?

These are from one of my food network mag's from a while ago. There was a whole section on cupcakes imitating candy bars. These were made for some birthdays at my husband's work...he did a secret poll to see which of the candy bars was the favorite (among nestle crunch, butterfinger, snickers, almond joy, etc) and Reese's was the winner by a landslide!

These are chocolate cupcakes with a peanut butter topping made from peanut butter chips and milk chocolate candy shell. They taste exactly like the real thing. Can I getta AMEN?!?!
The sad part is, my husband doesn't even like Reeses cups....and I still married him!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Glamour Girl 7th Birthday Cake

This was for a little girl having her party at one of those salons for young girls...something I know nothing about so I had to do a little homework! They have different themes they can choose sock hop, princess, and "glamour girl" like this one. The girls dress up and get their hair in "up do's" and then have a little fashion show on a runway. Fun!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Reptile Ruckus Cake Walk Cake

Now that we have a child in "big boy school", aka Kindergarten, we are being introduced to school fairs and festivals (again). Tonight my son, who's school mascot is the "Lizards" is having their fall festival. They are having a "cake walk", and asked for donations of baked goods. So I figured I'd make a cake! This is smaller, 6inches round.

The main dilemma I had was deciding on what type of lizard to use. They use 3 different kinds that I've seen so far! The one on the logo looks, to me, like a friendly version of the dinosaur from Jurassic Park that flares out his neck thingy. The car stickers I've seen have gecko shapes on them. And they have horned lizards in tanks in the school! How am I supposed to know what to use??? Haha. Quite the dilemma.

And of course, I don't have cookie cutters for ANY of those types of animals. Nor could I get my hands on one in time.

I was all set to start hand cutting out some geckos, and I thought I'd look through my cutters one more time just to see if one magically appeared. This one is the only lizard type I have, from a set of Australian animals my mother in law sent me. It too, looks like the afore mentioned dino, with quite the scary face! I think it is actually supposed to be a bearded dragon. So, I wound up rolling out the fondant thinner than usual and using the cutter for the general shape, then used my gum paste tools to carve in a much friendlier face. I've said many times, I'm not an artist, so I think he looks a little weird, but not too too bad!

The pic below on the far right is the actual official mascot that's on the school logo.

I wound up making 3 of these and placing them around the sides of the cake. On the bottom is a border from one of my new fondant molds I haven't had a chance to try out yet.

EDF Apple-Pear Butter in the Crockpot

This is something I've been wanting to make since last year, but finally now have the motivation to do it. Most people have probably heard of "apple butter", but really there's a whole slew of fruits you can make "butters" out of. It's not really like actual butter, it's more like a really thick applesauce consistency. And very sweet!
As I'm going through the jars of jam I made, I am planning on making batches of this over the winter. First up? Apple-pear butter. This is from Martha's Everyday Food from Dec 2010. The recipe is on her website.

2.5 pounds each apples and pears. Each peeled, cored, and cut up. You bet I used my food processor for this!

Fast forward 20 minutes to this.....apples on the bottom, pears on the top, some dark brown sugar, and a cinnamon stick.

Stir it all up and cook in the crock pot for 4 hours.

After 4 hours, it looks like this: YUM already.
Take out the cinnamon stick and blend it up in food processor and return it to crock pot. Now it looks a little more like applesauce.

It will darken and brown in color as it cooks, uncovered this time, for 4 more hours. Having this on your counter top uncovered all day and not sampling it frequently is pretty much impossible.

This batch filled up 3 pint jars (16oz ball jars). I have one in the fridge and 2 in the freezer. I believe it keeps for a couple months in the freezer. You can use it on sandwiches or toast or ice cream or whatever! It's basically like really sweet and thick applesauce. It's really great on an English muffin with some actual butter.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

iCarly cake!

This was for one of my neighbors. I was really happy with the way it came out, especially for a non-fondant covered cake. (Well, the deco's are fondant, but, you know) I am getting much better at getting a smooth frosting coat! It takes alot of practice!

Also, for the record, I watched two whole episodes of iCarly for homework on this cake. It reminded me of my Saved by the Bell days!

For those other "grown ups" who don't know....iCarly is on Nickelodian, and it's basically about a couple young (9-10th grade?) girls who film a web tv show in their loft. I think they live with the older brother? A little confused on that. :) They have a remote that controls applause and laughter sounds that one of the girls always holds, that's what is on top of this cake. Did I get it right?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Paul Frank Monkey Cake

I am definitely deep into my "busy" season! This was for a combo father-daughter birthday. It was also a surprise for the daughter, which I didn't realize until her mom came to pick it up! I love surprises (and surprise cakes). I wish I could set up a hidden camera to see them! The daughter likes the Paul Frank monkey, and the dad is a drummer, so I put little drumsticks and music notes around the side for him.

Here's a better view of the "front" with his name on it too!

Friday, September 30, 2011

PW Lasagna

This is yet another recipe that suffers from "MQS". I decided early on to divide it into 2 lasagnas, partly because I started with slightly more beef than the recipe calls for, and partly to make the portions smaller and more calorie-conscious (for lasagna, really). I've made lasagna many times before, I've never really used a recipe. But I'll give hers a go!

Here she is, my trusty smallish stockpot. How many times have I been in this situation? LOL! I used a ton of ground beef AND sausage (new to lasagna for me). And then 2 HUGE cans of tomatoes. And paste. Who wants to bet how much of this will wind up on the stovetop when I'm stirring it together?

Not too shabby. Now it has to cook for a while.

Here we go, got everything all set out for assembly. Meat/tomato mixture, lasagna noodles, egg/cheese mixture, and shredded cheese. No, I didn't shred my own this time. Forgive me, PW. With 2's going straight into the freezer.

Here they are assembled.

And the one I baked. Mmmmmm, meaty!

I meant to get a pic of it cut up so you could see the layers, but I completely forgot. Oops! This was really good, even with all the meat in it. Nice!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Make your own....Pumpkin Spice Syrup!!

Okay. Yall.
This is gonna change your life :)

Anyone addicted to Pumpkin Spice Latte's? (those of us who are refer to them as PSL's. we're hip like that.)

Who's addicted to paying $4.50 for a small PSL? Not me!

Often times if I get a little free time it is usually spent perusing the internets for recipes. I love me some Google! On a whim I googled "Pumpkin spice syrup recipes". I only came across a couple, and they seemed endlessly complicated. So many ingredients! Tiny bit of this, tiny bit of that. I thought, surely there's an easier way! Also, turns out, the PSL syrup uses pumpkin "flavoring", not actual pumpkin. And they don't sell it, so no chance for direct comparison. I figured, I could get pretty close to the real thing, no?

Here we go: This only requires 4 ingredients: Water, sugar, canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix), and pumpkin pie spice. Well, maybe that's 3, some people don't really count water as an ingredient. Most of yall probably have you some canned pumpkin laying around by now, right?

Start with making a simple syrup. (All that is, is, equal parts of water and sugar boiled into a syrup.) For this recipe, I combined 1 1/2 cups water and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk it together as it warms up and completely dissolves. It will become clear.

Time to add the rest: 1/4 cup canned pumpkin and 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.
Whisk it into the syrup and bring it juuuust to a boil, still over medium heat. You just want little bubbles, not a huge rolling boil. Let it boil for a minute or so, then turn off the heat and leave it be. Let it cool down a little. (Taste testing at this point is completely acceptable.)

The next few pics give you a couple options what to do next. You need to strain it, to get the solids and granules out. I didn't have any cheesecloth on me at the time, so I just used a fine-mesh sieve. It left some "stuff" in there, but it didn't really bother me.

Here you can see what got left behind.

Into the bottle and into the fridge she went. So far, tasting pretty dang outstanding.

The next morning, you can see how it separated a little. I just gave it a quick shake and used it in my coffee. I added about 1 ounce (2 Tablespoons) and a splash of half/half. (or you can use milk). No extra sugar needed unless you take your coffee extra sweet! I feel like it dissolved nicely.

Here's a better view of what didn't fit in my bottle.

Through the day, though, I started wondering if it would keep longer if I got ALL the (pumpkin) solids out of it. Worth a shot right? So I grabbed some cheesecloth while I was out. I consider this step OPTIONAL. If a little bit of the stuff in there doesn't bother you, or you just can't wait until you have a chance to pick up some cheesecloth, then just use a sieve. Also, if you do do this step, do it right away. I imagine warmish syrup will filter through a looooooot sooner than cold syrup.

I grabbed the bottle out of the fridge and poured it through here.

It is a painstakingly long process. I suggest leaving the kitchen and finding something else to do or you will go bonkers.

If you notice it's not dripping anymore, grab a spatula and gently scrape the bottom to move the solids to the sides. Here's what's left when it's done: a brown, albeit good smelling, mass of goop.

The result: much prettier amber colored pumpkin spice syrup.

I've used it too ways so far...adding some to my regular coffee, and making a latte...since I don't use espresso at home, I just made my coffee double strength (cut the water in half) and add that much amount of heated milk to the coffee and syrup. I do have a handy dandy milk frother to froth it up after adding all that, and it was FAB-U-LOUS!!!! Just add slowly until you figure out how much you can't un-add it!

I imagine this would be good on pancakes as well. It looks like I'll be making a batch a week at this point! The whole process of making the syrup (minus the straining) took no time at all....I threw it on the stove while I was making dinner. If you did that, and had it strained before you go to bed, you can wake up to a PSL in the am!

(Note: I am all about sharing the love.....feel free to send this to anyone or post anywhere you like....please just link back here!)

Which syrup should we try to make at home next????

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Cupcakes for the husbands work...These are chocolate cupcakes with caramel filling and vanilla buttercream with a salted caramel drizzle. Actually, the drizzle is caramel and they have sea salt sprinkled on top. If you've never had anything that falls into the "salted caramel" category, go find some now. Run, don't walk!

Here they are after the toppers I made.....these are sayings they have at work I gather.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Root Beer Float Cupcakes!

Since today is the official "First Day of Fall", and therefore summer is officially over (booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo) I wanted to get these I made earlier in the summer up here to remind us all just how awesome summer is. Root Beer Float Cupcakes!

Root Beer/Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla cream filling and Triple-Vanilla Buttercream frosting.

These were really good, despite not being able to taste the root beer in the cupcake much!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

14th Birthday Pink Zebra Cake

Remember my neighbor that I made this cake for last year? Well, they moved a few months ago, far far away :( BUT, they were in town for her daughter to see Taylor Swift for her birthday, and she asked me to make her a surprise cake for her 14th! YAY! I love surprises! This was a 4 layer vanilla cake with 2 layers of vanilla buttercream and raspberry filling in the middle. Apparently it was a hit!! I even have 2 more orders for more girly cakes ***yay*** that came out of it....and they want the same filling. I guess I have a new top seller! I admit, it is pretty darn good.

I also just have to say...I LOVE the look of multiple shades of the same color. It's modern without being deco, and very pleasing to the eye I think!