Home Grown Irish Potatoes.

DSC_0162

Ok, so these “potatoes” are actually not grown. They’re not even actually potatoes. They just kinda look like them. Mini potato lookalikes, that taste nothing like their larger counterpart. Nope, there is really nothing potato-like about Irish Potatoes other than an odd bumpy oval-ish shape and a brown coloring (which on the Irish Potato, is cinnamon, not skin).

cinnamon skin.

cinnamon skin.

Irish Potatoes are actually very similar in ingredients and method of production to buttercream icing. Both involve creaming together butter and confectioner’s sugar, but Irish Potatoes also include a bit of cream cheese and some coconut. Two of my favorite things.

potato mixing.

potato or buttercream?

They are also a stiffer consistency then the buttercream icing you’d want to use on your cake. They need to be, so they can be rolled into the classic potato shape they’re named for.

rolled and ready.

rolled and ready.

As I mentioned before, once they’re shaped, they are rolled in a bowl of cinnamon, and completely coated.

cinnamon rolled.

cinnamon rolled.

Finally, they are put in the fridge to set (about an hour or so should do the trick).

potato chillin'.

potato chillin’.

As far as actual recipe goes, I used a traditional Irish Potato recipe that I’ve had floating around for a few years and have used in the past with much success. It went a little something like this:

Irish Potato Candy.

What you’ll need:

1/4 cup butter (softened)

4 oz cream cheese (about half a package)

1 tsp vanilla

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 1/2 cups coconut

cinnamon for coating

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar, and beat until fluffy and icing-like. Add the coconut, and beat until well-blended. Roll into walnut-sized potato-shaped ovals. Roll each in a small bowl of cinnamon, until completely covered. Chill for about an hour. Eat and enjoy!

 

The Great White Chocolate Debate.

white chocolate

Over the weekend, I took part in WHYY’s 5th Annual Chocolate Tasting. I love WHYY, and have since I was a wee lass, so I’m happy to do anything that promotes them and helps raise money to keep them doing what they’re doing. It’s good stuff, and good people. 

Anyway, this year, I made over 400 Oreo and cream cheese truffles to support the event. I use the term “I made” loosely, as my boyfriend stayed up until almost 1 AM on Valentine’s Day to help me get them all dipped in chocolate and ready to go. He’s a very dedicated and hard-working assistant, not to mention a fast learner. So yeah, I had help.

There were to be two varieties: plain Oreo with milk chocolate coating, and mint Oreo with white chocolate coating. They looked like so:

a team effort.

a team effort.

 

So needless to say, before we let them leave the house, we had to taste them. Being a white-chocolate lover since I received my very first Easter basket, I went for the white, whereas my BF went straight for the milk chocolate, claiming he’s not a fan of white chocolate. That got me thinking – white chocolate really is not for everyone. You never hear someone say “Yeah, white chocolate is just ok.” It’s either “Mmmm!! I LOVE white chocolate!” or “Eww! I HATE white chocolate!” usually accompanied by “It’s not even REAL Chocolate!” Yes, that’s true – white chocolate is basically chocolate with the chocolate removed, which therefore logically speaking would make it not chocolate.

white not-chocolates?

white not-chocolates?

I have a theory though. If we were to globally wage a campaign to change the name of white chocolate to something else – removing the “chocolate” from the name in the same fashion it’s been removed from the confection itself – i think more people would accept it and enjoy it. No, it does not taste like chocolate – and by giving it a name that would lead folks to believe it does can be deceiving, and frankly, turn people off before they even give it a real chance. I think a new name would solve this problem, and give white chocolate the love it rightfully deserves. Of course, I have no idea what that name should be…White Not-chocolate? But that still has “chocolate” in the name itself and also just sounds too negative. White Candy? That’s a little generic and no one will have a clue as to what they’re about to eat. White Cocoa Butter? That’s a little better…but the “cocoa” could still cause confusion. White Sugar Butter? That actually sounds kinda gross. I don’t know….any suggestions? 

Cookies and Cream (Cheese) Truffles.

oreo bites3

Yeah, I know – it’s been well over a month since I’ve posted anything…and it’s not like I haven’t been baking. If anything, I’ve been baking more than I have in a long time, what with the holidays and stuff. I just haven’t been writing about it. So, today, I just felt like writing again. So here I am.

I figured I’d ease my way back into blogging with a super easy and super delicious little treat that a friend mentioned to me in passing last month, saying that I should make it as one of my Christmas cookies this year, because it makes a lot of them and it’s easy and everybody loves them. Well, she was right about all of that.

Basically, you take a whole package of Oreos (or faux-reos, which is what I used because they taste the same and in some cases, even better), crumble them all up in a food processor, mix them with one package of cream cheese (but put a small amount of the crumbles aside for sprinkling on top later), and roll them into walnut-sized balls. Refrigerate them for a few hours. When they’re good and cold, take them out, and dip them into melted chocolate, I used unsweetened bakers chocolate. Some people may tell you to use semi-sweet – that’s your call. But truth be told, unsweetened was all I had in the house, so I had to use it. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned with how this was gonna play out. Anyway, as soon you dip them, sprinkle some of the crushed cookie bits on top, and let them sit for at least another hour.

oreo truffle shuffle.

oreo truffle shuffle.

So, after I let mine sit, I figured I’d better eat one. I was pleasantly surprised – the unsweetened chocolate actually complimented the sweetness of the cookie/cream cheese ball quite well. But I was still concerned. Maybe I just don’t like things as sweet as everyone else? I had so many of them though, I couldn’t just not share them. So I started slipping them into to cookie gift boxes and trays, and you know what happened next? Not only did everyone like them, but each time I gave someone a cookie assortment, they specifically asked me what that one was, and said how fabulous it was. Go figure.

I guess it’s true – what you have really is all you need – especially when it’s unsweetened chocolate.

 

Pumpkin Biscotti: A Matter of Personal Preference.

pumpkin biscotti 2

I was thinking about biscotti the other day and how I haven’t made it in at least two years – I was definitely still in pastry school the last time. I remembered that it wasn’t the hardest thing to make, but it also wasn’t the simplest. So, I whipped out my old test book, and searched for the recipe.

It was definitely something I could do, but this recipe was for almond biscotti. And I really wanted to try a more seasonal flavor. I’ve been on a pumpkin rampage, and I still am, so I thought I’d give the old internet a search, and see if I could find a pumpkin biscotti recipe that suited my needs. I quickly came across this one on simplyrecipes.com. It was from 2007, but in the world of baking, that really doesn’t matter – a good recipe is a good recipe, pretty much forever. So I went to work.

I followed the recipe pretty closely – except that I tried to cheat and not flour my hands when I went to knead the dough – HUGE mistake. This dough is über sticky – make sure you use plenty o’ flour. It makes rolling it into a large log that much easier.

biscotti log (sort of)

biscotti log (sort of)

The one thing about this recipe I did find momentarily confusing was that it says to roll it into a large log, but that the logs should be relatively flat. Well, in my mind, a log is round, not flat, so I didn’t quite understand at first what this was telling me to do. So, I thought back to the last time I made biscotti, and just did that, which was just make a long flat-ish dough strip (as you can see in the picture), and bake it the first time in that shape.

As biscotti means “twice baked” in Italian, you gotta bake this puppy twice. So, after it baked as a flat log, I removed it from the oven, turned the  heat down, waited for the log to cool slightly, then cut it into strips, and baked it again.

baking twice makes it extra nice.

baking twice makes it extra nice.

So, here’s where my personal preference came into play. I don’t like my biscotti super hard and stale-tasting. I like it crispy on the edges, but still a little soft in the middle. So, I baked it the second time just long enough to achieve my desired results, which was somewhere around 7-8 minutes.

crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.

crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.

Someone told me that although it tasted fantastic, it wasn’t biscotti because it wasn’t hard enough. Well, friends, that’s just not true. Biscotti can be as hard as you like it – the only requirement is that you bake it twice. You know, since that’s what it’s named for, and all. :)

Pumpkin Almond Chocolate Covered Cake Balls (or “How a Cheap Box Cake Became Something Totally Amazing”).

cake balls closeSo, the weekend after Halloween, I was browsing the cheap residual tricks and treats left on the shelves of the store, seeing if there was anything worth spending 92 cents on, when I came across a super discounted pumpkin box cake Yes, folks, a box cake. And guess what? That’s right, I bought it. It was the right price, and truth be told, box cakes do make pretty good cakes. Do I feel like I’m cheating when I make them? A little. But I told myself that this would be completely acceptable in this case, as long as I found something creative to do with it. And, by jove, I think I did.

I decided to bake the cake into two 8″ rounds. I froze one, and crumbled up the other one in a large mixing bowl. Remember that almond butter buttercream I made for the almond cupcakes? I still had about half of that left, so I threw that into the bowl, and rolled the mix into cake balls.

pumpkin + almond = TLF

pumpkin + almond = TLF

Next, I put them in the fridge for a bit, so they solidified a little and became “dippable.” (that might not be a word). Next, I dipped them in melted white chocolate.

the base coat.

the base coat.

I let them sit until the chocolate hardened. Then, I melted some dark chocolate, and drizzled it on top.

the finishing touch.

the finishing touch.

I let the dark chocolate harden as well, then put them back into the fridge for a bit more, to be 100% sure they were good to go. I then removed them, packed them up, and brought them to a party. They truly made the perfect party dessert – easy to transport and easy to eat without a mess! From box cake to beyond!

Recipe: Almond Butter Cupcakes with Almond Butter Buttercream.

almond butter cupcake

I am a super huge peanut butter fanatic. However, there is one thing better than peanut butter – almond butter. If you have never had almond butter, I suggest you run out right now and get yourself some (unless you’re allergic to nuts – then DO NOT DO THAT). But if you like peanut butter, and you like almonds, then you’ll love almond butter. And what’s the one thing that’s even better than almond butter? Dessert made with almond butter, of course!

I had purchased a jar of it recently, and was sitting around daydreaming about what to bake next, when images of said jar floated into my mind…and I decided to try baking almond butter cupcakes with almond butter buttercream. I started with a recipe for a regular cake made with brown sugar, and carefully adjusted the ingredients based on the addition of the almond butter. The batter looked (and tasted) pretty fab. So far, so good.

almond butter makes batter better.

almond butter makes batter better.

I baked the cupcakes, and while I waited for them to cool, I made almond butter buttercream to top them. If you’re gonna do it, you might as well go all out.

cooling time.

cooling time.

I just did a simple spiral top with a large round tip. They looked like so:

all almond, all the time.

all almond, all the time.

Because it was right before Halloween, I even used orange and black baking cups. I put them in a box, and sent them out into the world to be enjoyed (but kept three for myself and my boyfriend as he LOVES almonds even more than I).

what's in the box?!

what’s in the box?!

People went nuts over them. (See what I did there?). Anyway, here’s the recipe…Enjoy!

Almond Butter Cupcakes.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup flour

1/2 cup fat free milk

1/4 cup almond butter

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, egg, oil, and almond extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder, and add to the first bowl, along with the milk, and beat together until just combined. Add the almond butter, and beat until smooth. Line a muffin tin with paper liners, and fill each about halfway. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes about a dozen cupcakes.

Almond Butter Buttercream.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup almond butter

2 cups confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

4 tablespoons heavy cream

What you’ll do:

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and almond butter. Add the almond extract, and the sugar – one cup at a time, beating well between each cup. Add the heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time – you may want to add more or less than 4 tablespoons, depending on your desired consistency. I found 4 to be perfect.

Recipe: Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

pumpkin cookies

I hate when things go to waste. I had this partial can of pumpkin leftover from the pumpkin fudge I just made, and I really wanted to put it to good use. But I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to use it for. I wanted to make cookies, so I started looking up pumpkin cookie recipes, but nothing really tickled my fancy. So, I decided to make up my own pumpkin cookie recipe. I started with my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I added oatmeal and pumpkin.

orange you glad i added pumpkin to the batter?

orange you glad i added pumpkin to the batter?

I also used mini chocolate chips instead of the regular sized ones. I’d like to say this was a conscious decision, but in reality, the mini chips were all I had in the house, and I didn’t feel like running out last minute and picking up a bag of the bigger ones. Thankfully, it seemed to all turn out ok.

mini chips to the rescue.

mini chips to the rescue.

They turned out soft, chewy, and not at all flat. So, the experiment was a success, and the leftover pumpkin definitely did not go to waste. All is right in the kitchen. :)

happiness is a pumpkin cookie.

happiness is a pumpkin cookie.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

What you’ll need:

5 oz.   shortening

8 oz.   sugar

.25 oz.  salt

3 oz. (about 2)  eggs

.25 oz.  vanilla

12 oz.  flour

.25 oz.  baking soda

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup cinnamon flavored oatmeal (about 2 of the pouches)

6 oz. mini chocolate chips

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 375. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, sugar, and salt. Add the eggs and the vanilla, and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda, and slowly add it to the wet ingredients. Add the pumpkin and the oatmeal, and mix well. Fold in the mini chips. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and scoop dough into rounded tablespoon sized balls, at least an inch apart onto the sheet. Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until edges start to brown.

Oh, (Pumpkin) Fudge.

pumpkin fudge

I mean this both literally, and figuratively.

I made fudge the other day – pumpkin fudge, to be specific. I was excited – I found the recipe on allrecipes.com, and it sounded amazing and looked pretty easy, especially with my pastry school background. Well, one can never be too confident.

As I moved through the stages of the recipe, things seemed to be going fine – although each step took forever – I wondered if maybe I was doing something wrong – but I came to learn later that was actually the one thing I was doing right. The mixture finally reached 232 degrees, and I stirred in the spices. And here, is where I dropped the hubcap full of lug nuts –  instead of patiently waiting for the mixture to cool on its own to 110 (which seemed to be taking an ETERNITY, especially after already having waited and waited and waited for it to finally become hot enough), I decided to place the bowl over an ice bath. BIG MISTAKE. It sure did speed up the cooling process, but it made the end result more like pumpkin caramel than fudge.

soft and chewy pumpkin... caramel?

soft and chewy pumpkin… caramel?

So, in the end, it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. At the same time, it was still pretty good – good enough where I’d intentionally do this again to yield the same result. It tasted like concentrated pumpkin pie squares.

pumpkin pie bites.

pumpkin pie bites.

And seriously, who doesn’t love pumpkin pie? I’ll just have to keep the fact that it was supposed to be fudge a secret. ;)

Long Time, No Recipe: Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins (with cream cheese filling).

chocolate pumpkin muffins

I haven’t posted much recently. Honestly, I really just haven’t had much to say. So, I decided to wait until I did have something to say, and that something was also post-worthy. And finally, that day has come. Rejoice!

I’m probably the most happy about this, as I was getting a little worried I’d never have anything to say again. But patience is a virtue, and good things do come to those who wait (and bake). Being that Fall happened, I got the itch to make something pumpkin flavored. I was tired of the same old thing I make every year, and I started trying to come up with something new. Chocolate pumpkin! That sounded new and delicious, but of course, when I did a search, I found many recipes for this very thing. So turns out, this was only new to me. But that’s ok, I still wanted to give it a whirl. I found a recipe from Country Living for  Chocolate Pumpkin Cake/Cupcakes which sounded the most like what I had in mind. I went ahead and altered the recipe slightly, and began creating that wonderful chemical reaction known as batter. And boy, what a batter it was. I briefly considered not baking it at all. But I didn’t think I could really offer cups of chocolate pumpkin batter to anyone and they be as excited about it as I was. Plus, it really would be a giant mess to transport.

hey, batter, batter, batter...sa-wing batter!

hey, batter, batter, batter…sa-wing batter!

So, I decided to bake them. But the muffins alone just weren’t enough. I still wanted more. So, I decided to add a new twist to it – I added a cream cheese filling.

a cup of heaven.

a cup of heaven.

I baked them, and they really turned out pretty fantastic. My only complaint – I used a little too much filling (although some may say that’s downright inconceivable).

an overflow of awesome.

an overflow of awesome.

Anyway, here’s my take on these. Experiment, Eat, and Enjoy!

Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins.

what you’ll need:

2 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp flour

1 cup + 2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 1/4 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp nutmeg

3/4 cup milk + 1 tbsp white vinegar

1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar (packed)

1 1/2 cups sugar

5 eggs

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 375. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, mix together the milk + vinegar, pumpkin, and vanilla. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Slowly add the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients, one-third at a time, alternating between the two, until everything is mixed into one homogeneous batter.

Line muffin tins with paper liners, and drop two tablespoons of batter into each cup (you may need to spread it around so it fills the bottom of the cup up entirely). Drop in one tablespoon of cream cheese filling*, and then cover it with an additional tablespoon of batter. bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

*Cream Cheese Filling:

In a large bowl, mix together 2, 8 oz packages of cream cheese (softened), 3.5 oz of sugar, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla until smooth.

Symphony in Cinnamon Maple.

My friend’s birthday was the other day, and I wanted to make a cinnamon maple cake with maple buttercream, since he was a big fan of the last one I made. That one included banana and was in cupcake form, and this time I wanted to try it minus the banana, and as a small cake — 6″, to be exact. I also got to thinking that I really hadn’t done much in the realm of cake decorating over the past few months, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to bring something fancy to the table. I always wanted to try my hand at a rosette cake, so I went for it.

a white icing waltz.

a white icing waltz.

Not only did this cake wind up looking rather pretty, but it tasted pretty darn good, based on the feedback I received from those who dared to sample it, in all it’s rich, billowy, sweetness.

a maple concerto.

a maple concerto.

Something about this cake reminded me of music – classical music, to be exact. Possibly the way each rosette just flowed seamlessly into the next, like a melody or a symphony by Strauss. Maybe it was the way the cake and icing complimented each other so well, like an operatic soloist who sings with the music, yet creates a unique and beautiful melody in her/his own right. So yeah, this cake was kinda like that. :)