Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Egg-cellent Easter Bark

Easter candy is absolute TORTURE. As is Valentine's Day, Halloween, Christmas. But Easter has out done itself with the craziest assortment of candy out now.  I remember when my Easter basket used to just be filled with jellybeans and a chocolate bunny, nice and simple, but that's all that was on the market. 
Now every holiday when I take a stroll through CVS it pains me not to pick up every cool new chocolate they have.  In my head it's logical to "buy it and save it for when I really want a cheat day because they won't be around after Easter." Yeah, that's just dumb Stephanie. So as I entered paleo week 5, Sunday's trip was especially tough.  As me and my sister looked back and forth at each other negotiating how it would be okay of we split a Twix Egg, we finally snapped back to reality and got out of the aisle as fast as possible.
Every end cap was filled with awesome pastel and speckled M&M's in millions of flavors I can't even keep track. Dark Chocolate? Almond? Coconut? Even a Target exclusive, White Chocolate.  And get this.  As I googled all the different types {because of course now I'm curious} they make WHITE CHOCOLATE CARROT CAKE flavor I kid you not! Visual proof.  Although I have yet to spot them in stores, I could only imagine my life being safer without knowing what potential heaven these taste like.
Sorry I got a little overly excited when I saw this, but the thoughts of what I could bake with these were rushing through my head. 

Okay so now back to what I have to share with you today.  My coworkers have a thing for Cadbury Mini Eggs, which also happen to be an Easter exclusive. Now I could've baked them in cookies, or blondies, or used them in some conventional way that I do with all other candy, but I decided to swtich gears and make a simple, fun, festive bark!
Now doesn't that look like a party!?

Easter Bark
Dark Chocolate
Cadbury Mini Eggs
Pretzels
Easter Sprinkles
Pastel Candy Melts {optional}

Line a baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper.  Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in a microwave safe bowl, stirring in increments of 30 seconds to avoid burning.

Pour the chocolate onto the baking sheet and spread evenly about 1/4- 1/8 inch thick.
 
Add your chopped up Cadbury eggs, pretzels, sprinkles and any other toppings you'd like.  *Press them in slightly to make sure they are embedded {I didn't do this with the pretzels and had some fall out!}
Place in the refigerator for about 1 hour, or freezer to speed up the process. Break/ cut into desired pieces and serve!
Stay tuned for some more fun, Easter and Spring sweets :) 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Paleo "Snickerdoodles"

I said good-bye to the Domincan Republic and hello to the beautiful paradise of Newark, NJ,  just in time for the snow/ice storm earlier this week. Lucky me! But back to the work and baking grind we go :)

So I've somehow failed to mention that I am now half way through Week 4 of the Paleo Diet {also known as the Caveman Diet}.  As you know I've always been a bit of a health freak so it's not a huge leap, but I mean not licking the spoon when I'm done baking? Talk about torture! But I am absolutely loving how I feel and how it helps my new workout regimen of weight training and spin classes, so I'll sacrifice the taste tests for now.

And you are probably doubting that I managed to stay Paleo on an All-Inclusive get-a-way vacation, with endless French Fries (my weakness) at every meal.  But I actually did! With help from the wonderful omelet man making me this delicious breakfast every morning after my workout:
YUM, and of course there were plenty of vegetable, meats and salad options that I was able to steer clear from the temptations, thank goodness.  Although I must admit, I definitely broke it in the drink department.  But hey, it\ was vacation, meeting amazing new friends, and living the VIP cabana life..it would be just wrong to turn down the infamous Mamajuana shots and these delectable Tiki Tiki's.
But anyway, aside from making you jealous, I'm making myself jealous! So back to the reason we're all here: food.

I've decided to switch it up a bit today and try to make something I COULD eat if I ever need a little treat.  Now this recipe is Grain-free/ Egg-Free/Dairy-Free so for all of my gluten free and lactose intolerant followers out there, this is for you too!  As I'm still in transition to find new meal ideas {since I eat spaghetti squash for lunch every single day, no lie}, I have found a few awesome Paleo bloggers that you must check out! PaleoOMG, Civilizedcaveman, Againstallgrain, and where I found this post, UrbanPoser.

Now I'm usually not too modest when it comes to my baking, especially because I know I make a damn good Snickerdoodle {recipe posted in 2012}.  So when I was reading through various posts and recipe ideas, this one obviously caught my eye.  When Urban Poser described them as "Sweet, thin, crackled and chewy" there was no way I could resist.

Now baking Paleo requires different ingredients than you usually bake with, so be prepared to make a stop at your local health food market.
I've used coconut oil before in gluten-free baking, but I scoured the aisles up and down looking for a bottle containing liquid until I finally realized it doesn't actually look like your typical oil.  It comes in a jar and resembles more of a Crisco consistency {prior to melting}.
Now I'm not going to lie to you, her cookies look WAY better than mine.  And to be really honest, if you want a sweet treat this might not be the way to go, but it's definitely something different.  I can't quite put my finger on it exactly, but it's sort of an almondy-cinnamony-soft-crackery-not sure where I'm going with this but just try it and see for yourself!

Paleo "Snickerdoodles" {Grain-free/ Dairy-free/ Egg-free}
Adapted from Urban Poser

2 cups blanched, fine ground almond flour
Less than a 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
4 Tbs coconut oil, softened or melted {5 Tbs if you want a softer cookie}* see note
1/4 mild honey
1Tbs vanilla extract
Topping:
Ground cinnamon
2 Tbs raw coconut crystal, optional* see note

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, combine oil, honey and vanilla and stir until combined.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.

Combine the cinnamon and coconut crystals {if using them} in a small bowl.  Roll the dough into tablespoon sized balls and coat them in the topping.

Place on the baking tray, flatten slightly, and cook for 8-9 minutes.  Allow to cool on the tray before removing and placing on a cooling rack.

*Notes:
1) I used 5 tablespoons of the coconut oil and I believe that may be part of the reason why mine were slightly flatter.  I would recommend starting with the 4 tablespoons and adding more if you feel necessary.
2) I did not use the coconut crystals in topping, as I could not find any last minute.  This may help add a touch more sweetness to the "cookie".
ENJOY! :)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Come on, who doesn't love Elmo! How could you deny that cute furry little red face of his!
 I was so excited when a dear friend Nicole asked me to make Elmo themed cake pops for her sweet baby Kinlee's 1st birthday party. I knew these were going to be a blast to make!  First things first though, I needed a new work station.  As much as I love me some Matt Wertz Pandora and my glass of wine, the kitchen table was not going to suffice for this all day adventure.

So check out my new set up! It may not be the biggest workspace, but it's perfect for enjoying a nice Friday night SVU marathon with my glass of Pinot Noir (I decided to switch it up this weekend, but I still stand by my Malbec).
And yes that is my Stockings, Elves and Christmas Tree you see..don't judge.  I'm stuck in the Christmas spirit, and with all this crazy weather we've been having I bet you wish your tree was up when that snow's falling. 

Okay, I know it's going to have to come down.  Right after I return from the Dominican Republic next week. I don't think the tree will compliment my beautiful tan very well hehe. Yeah I'm trying to make you jealous, is it working?

Anyway back to the cake pops! I think I underestimated the concept of making 75 pops.  In my head it seemed like an easy task, as I usually make about 20-25.. How hard could it be? Hard, not so much. Time consuming, absolutely.
 
Mainly because I am a freakish perfectionist when it comes to this kind of stuff. You would think polka dots could just be scattered wherever the stick landed..normal right? Yeah too bad I'm far from normal. This is where the engineer in me came out and I strategically mapped out the placing of each dot so that they were perfectly even.  Someone please help me!

Materials:
Red White and Chocolate Candy Melts (I used Make 'n Mold brand)
Candy eyeballs 
Orange Jelly Beans
Red and White Sanding Sugar
Red non- perriels
Lollipop sticks
Treat Bags
Piping bag
Cookie Scoop
Now speaking from experience and doing some research, red chocolate can be rather temperamental to work with.  However, I was very satisfied with the Make 'n Mold brand and had no trouble.  *Make sure you heat it in 30 second intervals stirring in between, and if it's a little thick just add a touch of vegetable oil to thin it out in the process!
The faces were pretty simple: with half a candy melt mouth, jelly bean nose and candy eyes..voila!
Thank goodness I picked up this little gadget on my last trip to AC Moore.  I'm not sure how or why I survived without one of these before, but I'm so glad I never have to again.  It's something I've desperately needed, seeing as my pops used to range in size from a gigantic clementine to a grape depending on my grab that day.
 After you scoop them out onto a tray or pan, roll them tight into the cake balls (shown on top).  Place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes or so. 

Dip the sticks in chocolate, insert into the balls and let harden.  Then dip the pop and gently tap the stick on the edge of the bowl to remove excess chocolate.  Stand up to dry in either a cake pop stand or a piece of styrofoam. 

Elmo pops:
For the Elmo faces, do the first coat as normal and let it harden, then dipped the pop a second time.  As the chocolate is drying, use the end of an extra lollipop stick to pull the chocolate to create the look of fur. 

Allow that coat to dry and harden before adding on the mouth, nose and eyes using chocolate.

Swirls and Polka Dots:
Using a piping bag filled with melted chocolate, start the swirls at the top of the pop and work your way down (you may want to turn it on its side as you go around).  Stop after every 2 rows or so to add sanding sugar or the sprinkles of your choice before the chocolate hardens!

As for the polka dots, you can use the piping bag as well or just simply dip the end of a stick.  Add sprinkles after each dot before it dries, then move on.
Happy 1st Birthday Babygirl! :)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Car Bomb Cupcakes

Everyone's Irish on St. Patty's Day right?! I mean there's got to be a 5% in me somewhere. I am lucky to have gone to school in Hoboken, and continue to reside there, because St. Patty's Day is on a whole nother level.  The epic day once referred to as Parade Day {until the parade was canceled} is now known to some as Lepre-con, and happens on the first Saturday of March.
Festivities which once began with a 6am wake-up in college gets slightly pushed back as the years tack on, so 8am seemed reasonable for us old folks.  As usual I look for any excuse to plan a party, so I decided to have a breakfast gathering to bring all my friends together as per tradition.
As I'm sure you already know, I tend to go a little overboard when cooking and planning parties, but you can never have too much food!  The menu started off with your typical breakfast food- Green Eggs, Green Pancakes, Bagels, French Toast Bake, and obviously in our world- mimosas, beer, jello shots, and a gin bucket.  But since there's no such party without baked goods, I decided to make Car Bomb Cupcakes for obvious reasons.
Yes that's right, just like the favorite Irish drink- A shot of Bailey's Irish Cream and Irish Whiskey dropped into a pint of Guinness. And yes the cupcakes actually contain alcohol, so be careful  :) 

These cupcakes consist of a delicious chocolate Guinness cake, filled with a Jameson ganache and topped off with a deliciously rich Bailey's buttercream {and a sprinkle of crushed oreo never hurts!}
 Once the cupcakes are cool you can either cone out the center of the cupcakes with a knife, or a quick old trick I stick by is using the bottle of a piping tip.  Push, twist and remove. then fill with ganache and frost :)


Car Bomb Cupcakes
{Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen}

Cupcakes:
1 cup Guinness
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Fill cupcake pans with liners {makes 24 cupcakes}.

In a large sauce pan, bring the Guinness and butter to a simmer.  Add the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth.  Allow to cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl of an electric mixer, beat together eggs and sour cream.  Add the chocolate-Guinness mixture and mix until combined.  On low speed, add flour mixture and bet until blended.

Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 of the way.  Bake until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 16-18 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Jameson Ganache:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs. butter, room temperature
2 tsp Jameson {or any Irish whiskey}

Place chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl.  Heat the cream until simmering and pour over the chocolate.  Stir until smooth.  Add the butter and whiskey and continue to stir until well combined.

Let the ganache cool until pip able consistency.  Cup the centers out of the cupcakes {about 2/3 of the way deep}, either with a knife or a piping tip as shown above.  Fill the centers with the ganache.

Bailey's Buttercream:
1 cup butter
5 cups confectioners sugar
6-8 Tbs. Bailey's, depending on your taste

Cream butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add sugar on low until incorporated then increase to medium speed.  Add in Bailey's and beat until well combined.

Pipe icing onto cupcakes and serve! {add any additional toppings if you wish}
Enjoy Responsibly :) Happy St. Patty's Day!