S’More pudding, please!

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BSMbanner_baked-150Pudding – specifically, homemade pudding – is really one of those somewhat humble desserts that has rightfully earned its place in the dessert canon.  It’s right up there with roast chicken and mashed potatoes as true comfort food.  Aside from canned (shudder) pudding from school cafeterias or the powdery mixture put out by Jello and dumped into warm milk to thicken, I don’t think too many people go to any kind of trouble to attempt it.  Perhaps it is a texture thing for some people.  I love the silky smooth feel of pudding on my palate (I really tried to phrase that without sounding faintly dirty, but it still reads rather funny, I must say), but it may turn others off.  Regardless, if you are a pudding fan, the enlightening news is that it isn’t all that difficult to make.  With some practice, you too can master the art of homemade pudding – though you may have to suffer some over-cooked, grainy textures and/or burnt saucepan bottoms along the way!  Have patience.  The pay-off is worth it.

IMG_3786Baked’s S’More’s-Style Chocolate Whiskey Pudding takes the traditional campfire treat to all new heights altogether.  It’s sexy, ultra-sophisticated, and very adult.  While some kids may not turn their noses up at it, this is definitely one for Mom and Dad to savor first and foremost (it contains booze, after all).

There are several different assembly components to this luxe, chocolately dessert, but surprisingly, I didn’t find this recipe as bowl- and utensil-intensive as some pudding recipes can be.  A lot of pudding recipes require passing the cooked pudding through a sieve after cooking for an ultra-silky texture, removing any bits of cooked egg yolk or lumpy cornstarch.  This is sage advice when making a pudding, but with this recipe, this step wasn’t really necessary and isn’t advised in the instructions.  I’ve personally gotten into the *somewhat perfectionist, I know* habit of pinching the stringy white chalazae strands from my egg yolks prior to adding them to desserts such as brownies, cheesecakes, or puddings where a smooth texture is really key.  It’s picky, I know, but it’s one little step that further ensures a decent final result.

For the first s’more flavor component – the graham – you’ll grind up a few whole graham crackers in the food processor to coarse crumbs, along with some room temperature butter, cinnamon, and sugar.  This mixture is baked off to lightly-browned, crunchy crumb clusters on a small sheet pan in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.  I enjoyed the touch of cinnamon, as it pairs rather nicely with the whiskey in the finished pudding.

The chocolate pudding mixture combines sugar, cornstarch, a couple tablespoons dark cocoa powder (you can go for regular cocoa here, I’m sure, but the dark cocoa really provides that wonderful bittersweet flavor), instant espresso powder (to bump up the chocolate even more), salt, and 3 large egg yolks in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Whisked together, these ingredients form a slightly dry, grainy texture akin to wet sand, but once you gently whisk in whole milk and heavy whipping cream, no worries – it all starts to incorporate and smooth out.  A fellow BSM blogger mentioned in her blog that it resembles dark hot chocolate to begin with, and it does.  Cook this over medium heat until it starts to bubble and thicken up – and believe me, you will want to, and need to, keep whisking to keep the pudding from developing hot spots and scorching to the bottom.  Be diligent, keeping a watchful eye, and don’t walk away from the pot.  I usually use a combination of whisk and silicone spatula to scrape up the pudding from the bottom as it cooks.

Once the cooked pudding is removed from the heat, even more delicious bittersweet chocolate – 8 ounces, to be exact – is melted in to make the mixture even more decadent.  As this recipe is truly focused on chocolate, use the best chocolate you can reasonably afford.  Don’t break the bank, but do what you can, as it makes all the difference.  I recently started investing in pound-sized chunks of Callebaut bittersweet chocolate from Whole Foods.  While the extra money shelled out was a tough thing for me to swallow initially, the results truly are worth it.  I tossed some Ghirardelli bittersweet baking chips into this pudding and they were terrific, but I can only imagine how fantastic the Callebaut might have tasted in this.  Typically, I would argue that anything “s’mores” really only deserves milk chocolate – and not dark or bittersweet.  (Did you ever try s’mores with Hershey’s Special Dark bars?  Yuck.)  When it comes to chocolate, I go dark/bittersweet most all the time.  With s’mores, I make an exception: only Hershey’s milk chocolate will really do.  It’s a nostalgic taste that seems only essential.  I had to stash these thoughts to the side with this pudding, however, and I’m glad I did.  This pudding screams for sultry, smoky dark chocolate (though I wouldn’t be averse to experimenting with milk chocolate in this recipe sometime).

I should mention that – oh yes – butter and whiskey are also folded into the warm pudding at this point for an extra hit of fabulous flavor.  Chocolate and whiskey are truly a seductive pairing – as I discovered with the luxurious Simple Chocolate Whiskey Tart a while back.  I’ve developed more of a taste for whiskey in recent years, and – at Baked’s recommendation – I usually bake with (and yes, make cocktails with) Knob Creek Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey, which I used in this pudding.  I love its smoky and somewhat sharp flavor.  I know bourbon whiskey is not for everyone.  Instead, I would suggest a good Irish whiskey like Jameson or Concannon. I’ll be honest; I get a little concerned about adding alcohol to warm, cooked mixtures right off the stove, as I worry the boozy flavor will immediately evaporate once it hits even a slight heat.  I tasted the pudding after adding the whiskey, and felt it was a bit too subtle, so I added an extra tablespoon of whiskey (for a total of 3!).  My initial concerns may have proved unnecessary.  While this pudding chills in the fridge, the whiskey flavor deepens – so my puddings were exceptionally boozy.  I liked them that way, though, so absolutely no regrets here!

IMG_3784I decided to assemble my puddings in some small, wide-mouthed Kerr mason jars I had handy, for a rustic look.  I love Baked’s suggestion to serve the puddings in an assortment of vintage-style containers.  You will need six dishes or containers, and do your very best to layer and distribute evenly.  First, a layer of chocolate pudding is laid in the bottom of the dish, topped with a strata of crunchy graham crumbs.  A final dollop of chocolate pudding tops the graham layer, and with a small piece of plastic wrap pressed firmly onto the tops of each pudding to prevent a skin formation, these gems are placed in the fridge to cool down and muddle flavors for while.  I put mine in the fridge overnight, which worked well.  With the crispness of the graham layer, you won’t want to keep these around too long, or the crumbs might absorb the moisture from the pudding and turn soggy… but trust me, these are so delicious, they won’t last long.

IMG_3791The glorious finishing touch to the s’mores pudding is a homemade toasted marshmallow creme swirl spiked with a whisper more of whiskey.  What would something “s’mores” be without the requisite torched marshmallow, right?  Don’t be daunted by making your own marshmallow creme; you may be surprised how easy it is.  Remember those egg yolks you used in the pudding?  I hope you saved 2 of your egg whites; you’ll whisk these with sugar, water, corn syrup and whiskey in a mixing bowl set over some simmering water (to safely “cook” the egg whites a touch).  Once this mixture is warmed up nice and hot and the sugar feels dissolved, you’ll transfer the bowl to your mixer with the whisk attachment and whip it up to a fluffy cloud of stiff, satiny meringue.  Remove your puddings from the fridge, and top each with a healthy slathering of this gooey, dreamy meringue.  For the final pièce de résistance, get out your handy kitchen torch and toast that marshmallow topping off.  I like burnt marshmallows in my s’mores myself, so I made sure there were some good burnt spots on a couple of these!

Now, I realize that I started out this blog saying this pudding is simple… yet my writing became quite lengthy in describing the process of making this recipe.  I do advise you give this recipe a whirl, however, if anything about it even remotely intrigues you.  It is fabulous in every sense of the word.  As you dip your spoon down into the cup, you first hit the sweet, toasty marshmallow, followed by the deep, dark chocolate tinged with smoky whiskey, then the spicy, crunchy graham cracker crumbs… on my.  Sinful.  Try your best to IMG_3798get all three textures in one bite.  You owe it to yourself.  This is easily a romantic dessert, where one serving of pudding can be shared by two, snuggled under a blanket by a cozy fire… or even in front of the TV.  Jake and I each polished off our own individual serving immediately after I assembled these, but with stomachs full of decadent pudding, we decided that one serving could easily be shared or savored over time, as they’re pretty rich.  I would argue that the sugary marshmallow topping might be a little much, and next time, I may not pile as much on each serving – but this is really a minor gripe.  There wasn’t much about this treat we didn’t like.  I’m thrilled that it was our final recipe to go out of Baked Elements on, as it was a wonderful finale-type recipe that I’ve only come to expect from the Baked guys.  So incredibly good.

Follow this link to make your own pudding:

S’Mores-Style Chocolate Whiskey Pudding with Whiskey Marshmallow Topping

…and please be kind and visit the blogs of my fantastic fellow bakers by checking out the “Leave Your Links” page for this particular recipe as well.  It’s always interesting to see how the other bakers fared, and let me tell you – this is a pretty talented group of folks working on these recipes together.  I’m privileged to be among their company, and so happy to have made some new friendships with many of them, especially after meeting a few of them only recently in NYC.

Now that we’ve completed Baked Elements, here’s a little wrap-up of my personal favorites among those I made… along with some of my least favorites.

THE WINNERS: Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones, Lemon Shaker Pie, Antique Caramel Cake, Triple Rum Black Pepper Cake, Simple Chocolate Whiskey Tart with Whiskey Whipped Cream, Whiskey Peach Upside-Down Cake, S’Mores-Style Chocolate Whiskey Pudding, Toasted Pumpkin Seed Brittle, Chocolate-Chunk Pumpkin Bread Pudding, Pumpkin Harvest Dunking Cookies, Devil Dogs with Malted Buttercream Filling, Malted Milk Chocolate Pots de Crème, Spicy Brownies, Brown Butter Snickerdoodles, Orange Almond Ricotta Cheesecake, Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes, Chewy Chocolate Mint Cookies with Chocolate Chunks, Honey Banana Poppy Seed Bread

LEAST FAVORITES (because “Losers” just sounds too mean): Good Morning Sunshine Bars, Bale Bars (these were just inedible to me), Lemon Pistachio Cornmeal Muffins, Alfajores, Brooksters, Chocolate Banana Tart

The Elements chapter with the most personal favorites: BOOZE (go figure!)

Of course, these are not all of the recipes I made out of Elements, just the ones that stood out to me the strongest either way!  So far, out of all Baked’s books, Baked Explorations still stands out as my favorite (their second book), with their first, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, not too far behind.  I find that I bake most frequently out of these two.  I particularly appreciated Baked Elements, however, for how it spotlighted Matt and Renato’s favorite ingredients in their own separate ingredient chapters.  I loved that we shared so many common favorites – in particular: booze, citrus, caramel, cinnamon, cheese, CHOCOLATE (of course), and pumpkin – but I was also challenged to try some recipes with ingredients I typically do not like – nuts, malt, bananas (though I still didn’t really appreciate that bananas chapter too much).  I also have a little bit of a soft spot for this book, as it was just published when I first met Matt and Renato in person in Woodstock, IL.  I’m looking forward to diving into Baked Occasions next.  I may not be contributing and/or following along with Baked Sunday Mornings with as much frequency, but since we are heading back into an every-two-weeks baking and blogging schedule, it may prove more manageable.  Along the way, I will let you know which recipes I was lucky enough to test, and you may just get a glimpse of some photos from my initial testings!

Until next time, good friends… Happy Baking (as always)!  Now, go and make these puddings!

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Roll out the pumpkin… again

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BSMbanner_baked-150Is it just me, or does the pumpkin gluttony seem destined for an earlier overkill this year?  I’m a self-professed pumpkin fanatic.  I could eat anything pumpkin year round, not strictly relegating it to the fall months.  I’m in love with it as a baking ingredient.  However, it seems 2014 has definitely been the year of “pushing the pumpkin”.  It began around August and is reaching its zenith, a full month well ahead of Thanksgiving.  I will even admit that I’ve gotten a touch tired of it.  Still, as I sit here drinking my third cup of coffee today (at 3 pm) on a Sunday afternoon, breathing in the intoxicating aroma emanating from a cake pan full of Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, I can’t help but remain drawn in by the spell wrought by this fragrant and delicious autumnal squash.

This recipe from Baked Elements was undoubtedly one I was intrigued to dive into when I first perused the book, but I’ve held off until it was assigned through Baked Sunday Mornings this week.  I love a good cinnamon roll, but ashamedly admit that I’ve usually caved in to buying those Pillsbury “Poppin’ Fresh Dough” cans that magically pop open at the seam with the slightest press of a spoon.  The pre-made, ready-to-bake-off glob of dough contained therein also typically contains a sickly sweet can of faux cream cheese glaze to slather on top of the finished rolls.  Let’s face it, yeast kinda scares me.  While it’s true that there is something therapeutic about putting your heart and soul into a well made loaf of bread or a beautiful pan of dinner rolls, I tend to avoid it and stick to my pies, tarts, cakes, etc.  I leave a lot of the homemade bread baking to my boyfriend, Jake.  He’s got more of a knack for it – and definitely more patience for it.

IMG_3769These Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls beautifully paid off with a little persistence, a lot of coffee, and a good measure of patience… for yes, I needed to make the recipe two times.  I really try to overcome my perfectionist tendencies, but it’s not always easy.  Well – wait a minute – for yours truly, it’s never easy (Jake is an exceptionally strong man to live with and deal with me).  And when it comes to turning out delicious baked goods, I’m simply not content to make do with “well, they taste wonderful”.  I want them to look pretty too.  And photograph beautifully.  I really don’t deal in outside appearances in my everyday life, but I suppose I expect quite a bit when it comes to the baked goods I make for my loved ones.

The dough for these rolls comes together pretty easily in a mixer – incorporating bread flour, butter, brown and granulated sugars, yeast (for that rise you’ll eventually desire), pumpkin, whole milk, egg, and most importantly – those wonderful warming spices that meld so harmoniously with pumpkin: cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.  The initial trouble comes with this dough.  Be mindful from the start that it is an exceptionally soft and sticky dough.  I had to chuckle at Baked’s tip to “remove the dough from the [mixing] bowl, carefully form it into a large ball, smooth the top with your hands, and place it in a clean, lightly greased bowl”.  Uh-huh.  Right.  I simply dumped the whole lot of dough into the greased bowl, using a spatula to scrape it out from the mixing bowl.  There was no way that dough was going to form into a nice, smooth ball in my hands.  No sir.  Cover the ball of dough with plastic wrap and let it sit while you make the delicious filling of melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon (even more – these are cinnamon rolls, after all), nutmeg, cloves, and salt.

Not ashamed to post... this was my first pathetic batch.  Yikes.

Not ashamed to post… this was my first pathetic batch. Yikes.

When it’s time to roll out your dough, here’s what I learned after my initial first (hideous) batch:  first, flour your board or counter like crazy.  I mean, excuse my language here – but flour the shit out of it.  If you do not, this troublesome pumpkin dough is going to glue itself to the surface.  Turn the dough out onto the counter (again, that spatula will comein handy – it will plaster itself to your hands; this dough is a monster, I tell ya), and flour the top of it.  Again, go for a liberal sprinkling of flour here, as you don’t want it sticking like the dickens to your rolling pin.  Another thing I discovered was that it did me no favors to roll it out to the dimensions (10″ x 20″ rectangle) the Baked guys instruct you to.  It will be way too thin, and your rolls will collapse.  Just roll it out to a good-sized rectangle, and not too thin.  Bear in mind that you will want to cut the rolls out, when the entire thing is rolled up, into 1.5-2″ inch pieces, numbering about 10 total.  Eyeball it as best you can.  Butter the rolled out-dough with melted butter, then, with your hands, spread out the filling and press it into the dough gently with your palms. Roll the whole lot up into a tight ball, turning from the longest side of the rectangle.  As I rolled, I used a dry pastry brush to brush off all of the excess flour from underneath the dough.  When the dough is completely rolled, cut the log with a sharp knife into 10 rolls and place them in a 10″ cake pan lined with buttered and floured parchment.

You’ll definitely wIMG_3755ant to let your rolls rise a little more in the pan before baking them off (Baked suggests for about 45 minutes).  I didn’t notice a tremendous change in size – you may, depending on the strength of your yeast and/or temperature of your kitchen.  It’s chillier here today in Wisconsin, and we’ve held off turning on the heat, so that may be why I didn’t get a ton of rise.  I also used active dry yeast and not the instant yeast designated in the recipe, which I’m sure had a lot to do with my rolls being denser.  Plus, I did not activate my yeast by proofing it in warmed milk… d’oh!  (Remember, I did mention I don’t do yeast recipes all that often; it’s painfully obvious from this faux pas.)  Still, my rolls puffed up beautifully while baking in the 350-degree oven.  While the rolls were baking – and man, it smelled wonderful in the kitchen while they were – I whipped up the glaze, which consists of cream cheese, a bit of buttermilk, and sifted confectioners’ sugar.  Let this beat up well in your mixer using the paddle attachment, as it is prone to lumps from the cream cheese, even if you’ve softened it.  It’s a delicious glaze, with the perfect amount of tang from the cream cheese and buttermilk to complement the spicy pumpkin rolls.  Be aware, though, that it makes a goodly amount.  If you want to dousIMG_3762e your cinnamon rolls with it (Southern-style, as Jake calls it), go ahead and make that full batch the recipe calls for.  I drizzled the tops of my rolls using a whisk dipped in the glaze, and truthfully, having done that, I realized I could have easily halved the glaze recipe.  Still, it may be nice to have a little dish of extra glaze on the side when serving these, for extra dipping!

As you can tell from the photos, I had terrific results with my second batch of these.  The first batch was horrendous, and I very nearly threw in the towel.  I’m glad I woke up this morning, took a deep breath, and gave these a second try.  They’re delicious on their own, nicely warm, but absolutely wonderful with a cup of coffee or glass of milk.  The buttery cinnamon filling is decadent with the soft pumpkin roll encasing it, and the glossy glaze is a fantastic crowning touch.  One final note:  though that luscious gooey-ness that results from the cinnamon filling migrating to the bottom of the pan while baking is quite enticing with any cinnamon roll, I found it a good idea to bake these about 5 minutes longer than suggested.  My first batch – which, granted, was a mess to begin with – came out with roll bottoms that seemed soggy and under-baked.  For my second go-round, I let the rolls bake in the oven slightly longer.  While they’re still a touch gooey on the bottom – again, not an altogether bad thing – they hold up nicely, come out of the pan cleanly, and don’t taste too doughy.  The bread was nicely baked, but still moist and flavorful, not dry – with that enticing ribbon of cinnamon in the center. The caramelized, buttery clumps of cinnamon and brown sugar at the bottom remind me of the fabulous cinnamon rolls I used to enjoy at a restaurant I worked in during my college years, back home in upstate New York – Kellogg’s Pan-Tree Inn on Canandaigua Lake.  When a recipe can turn me nostalgic like that, it’s a winner.

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All of this being said, I will probably hold off on making these again anytime soon.  They’re good, yes – and this pumpkin fanatic was ecstatic at the thought of incorporating pumpkin into a cinnamon roll – but I personally felt they were not as “simple to put together” as the recipe makes claim in the book.  Be prepared to throw a little bit of elbow grease, and a ton of flour, into these.  If you decide to give them a try, the pay-off is worth it, so roll these out (excuse the pun) for a special get-together with your friends.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Hard to believe that next week, our Baked Sunday Mornings group closes up baking from Baked Elements!  Wasn’t it just yesterday we were all a-buzz with excitement from just getting that book?  Time has surely flown, and we’ve had a lot of fun.  The great news is – we have another new Baked book to bake from – Baked Occasions – beginning November 9th!  I’m still not positive I will be baking along as frequently, but who knows.  Given my past track record, you know by now that I can’t stay away for too long…

Okay.  No more pumpkin recipes for a while.  Promise.

Happy Baking!

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Hello Cupcake!

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BSMbanner_baked-150First things first… and I won’t sugar-coat it: I don’t like, or ‘do’, cupcakes.  I find them ridiculously cutesy, overly trendy, and just a touch passé.  (I know, *gasp*.)   I’ve heard in recent months that they’re kinda going out of style, thanks to cronuts, doughnuts, whoopie pies, mini pies, and the like… and frankly, I say “good riddance”.  If I’m going to bake a cake, I want to put all of my effort into a triple-decker layer cake with luscious, buttery frosting.  Or better yet, a PIE – or pastry of any kind.  No disrespect meant to those bakers who love making cupcakes – or even have a business in them.  It’s just a preference of mine.

I suppose it doesn’t help that a baking job of mine a couple years ago had me responsible for making a majority of the jumbo cupcakes the restaurant was – and still is – overly famous for (and their recipe is darn good, I will say).  I just got tired of them.  I was the day baker – and the day bakers were responsible for churning out the cupcakes, while the night bakers dabbled in the pies and cakes I would have preferred to create.  I wanted the day schedule, so I guess I couldn’t rightly complain to my kind boss that I was baking something I really didn’t like all too much.  Still, when I finally had to leave the job, I recall writing many a Facebook status update in which I rejoiced that I didn’t have to make the darn things any more!

But – enough of my cupcake grouchiness.  Looking at these photos, I suppose I can’t help but feel a slight smile encroach upon my face.

IMG_3729All of this being confessed, if I were pressed to make a chocolate cupcake, chances are I would willingly fall back on Baked’s Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes, this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings assignment.  They’re tender and light with a moist crumb – a little subtle on the chocolate flavor because they do not include salt in the ingredients, but not as bland as the Chocolate Cheesecake Muffins I posted about a couple weeks ago.  Best of all is that they are amazingly simple.  They’re a workhorse recipe for any baker – from amateur to professional.  They really don’t take a great amount of effort, and they’re just a darn good cupcake to make, whether you’re a cupcake naysayer like yours truly or not.

Dark chocolate and dark cocoa powder are first mixed with boiling hot water;  this is gradually added along with the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda) to a creamed base mixture of mayonnaise, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  I always find those chocolate cake recipes which start with cocoa mixed with boiling water or hot coffee to be the most magical.  I’m not sure what the alchemy is exactly, but chances are pretty good you will end up with a moist, dense cake – especially if the fat is an oil of some kind.  This recipe does not contain butter as the primary fat – the mayonnaise does that, providing a nice, delicate richness and softness to the cake.  If you’re not a mayo fan, don’t let this recipe detract you, as you do not taste it in the finished product.  I strongly suggest using Hellmann’s mayonnaise – not only in this recipe, but any recipe calling for mayo.  I’m a bit snobbish when it comes to mayo; I just think Hellmann’s holds up and tastes the best. I know plenty of folks who find mayonnaise a little gross; I love it.  I slather it on sandwiches, and yes – it’s good in baked goods.  (You would be more likely to see me eating a spoonful of mayo than that icky mud called Nutella!)IMG_3743

For the frosting crowning these cupcakes, I made the standard chocolate buttercream accompanying this recipe, which is slightly different from Baked’s other buttercream recipes in that it doesn’t begin with a cooked milk and flour mixture.  Instead, you’re just dealing with butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and melted chocolate.  Pretty simple, and pleasantly rich enough without being too rich.  The frosting suits these cupcakes nicely.

I decided to finally test out another frosting recipe which caught my eye a couple years ago – Jill O’Connor’s Caramel-Butterscotch Buttercream from her book, Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey.  She tops her own Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes with this delectable frosting, and as I am a huge caramel and butterscotch fan, I knew that I finally needed to attempt this frosting as I prepped Baked’s cupcakes.  The recipe takes a little bit of effort – it involves making a caramel sauce, cooking/whisking whole eggs with dark brown sugar in a mixing bowl over simmering water, then whipping them up nice and foamy (almost like a meringue) as you slowly add in chunks of soft but cold butter.  Finally, you add a touch of vanilla, salt, and bourbon, and finish by folding in a bit of the cooled caramel sauce.  You definitely work for this frosting, but let me tell you:  it is AMAZING.  I’m seriously not a huge frosting fan, but I could eat this frosting with a spoon out of the mixing bowl.  It’s just that good.  I halved the recipe from the book; a full recipe makes 5 cups frosting and uses 6 sticks of butter and a half dozen eggs!  Crazy, right?  Honestly, though… if you like caramel and butterscotch, you really owe it to yourself to make this frosting as soon as you get a chance to.  Seriously.  So good.  And on these cupcakes, it was divine.  The cupcakes themselves do not contain any salt to bump the chocolate flavor too much, but topped with a swirled crown of this buttercream, the entire flavor profile is really kicked up a notch.  It’s buttery, a little salty, ever-so-slightly kissed by that bit of bourbon (which you need for that ‘butterscotch’ component), and rounded out with the warm caramel notes… dangerously yummy.

By the way, I yielded about 32 cupcakes with this recipe; the recipe states that you should yield about 2 dozen.  Rejoice!  You have some extras to snack on or share!  I took a bunch to the theatre where I am in a current production of Geoffrey Nauffts’ play, Next Fall (running through October 25th at Soulstice Theatre; for tickets and details, visit the Theatrical Tendencies website!  Shameless self-promotion there…) The cast loved them – especially the cupcakes with the caramel-butterscotch buttercream.  Not too surprised.

IMG_3730If you are “meh” on cupcakes like I typically am, chances are you may be won over by these treats.  Or, if you are just looking for a simple, but delicious cupcake recipe to whip up for your parties or family gatherings, these are worth filing away in your recipes. Make your own – and read on for my fellow BSM bakers’ results with these – by following this link:

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes

… and if you’re intrigued by the intricate Caramel-Butterscotch Buttercream recipe, here’s a link with the recipe, courtesy of Leite’s Culinara (with Jill O’Connor’s own Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcake recipe):

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes with Caramel-Butterscotch Buttercream

Lastly – New York City was fantastic!  Matt and Renato were charming – as always – and it was so nice to catch up with them.  It was especially wonderful to meet some of the Baked testers who made the trip (quite a few of them Baked Sunday Mornings bakers).  It was a blast getting to know one another.  Delightful people, all of them – fantastic new friends!  The new Baked TriBeCa space is going to be amazing (they’re still finishing up on construction; nonetheless, the party was still held – yummy treats, great conversation, photos, music, burlesque dancers and all)!  Check out a few of my photos below.  And while you’re at it, you may want to head on over to Amazon and order your copy of Baked Occasions.  After all, you know one of the “Badass Recipe Testers”!

Happy Baking!

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Now THAT’s a great pumpkin cookie, Charlie Brown!

The following blog was written 2 years ago, believe it or not.  These cookies were the very first recipe I made out of Baked Elements, and obviously, I simply couldn’t wait another 2 years until they were scheduled to bake and blog about them!  I re-read what I had written and saved in my drafts, and decided to totally keep the blog as is.  It’s certainly proof that my writing has become a bit sluggish over time!  I adore these cookies – and without further ado, I present a 2-year-old blog post extolling their many virtues… and why it was the very first recipe I baked out of Baked Elements.  I’ve kept some of the original pictures as well, but also tossed in a couple new ones, because yes, I may have written about them long ago, but I couldn’t resist baking up a new batch this week.  Enjoy:

BSMbanner_baked-150I confess that when I pulled my first batch of Pumpkin Harvest Dunking Cookies from Baked Elements out of the oven, I snarfed down probably 4 of them after the first delectable bite.

Being a huge fan of pumpkin, the pumpkin chapter of Baked Elements is naturally the first chapter I turned to, and this recipe, tucked away at the end of the chapter, caught my immediate attention.  With the exception of biscotti (which I typically find too dry), I gravitate toward cookies that you can eat with/dunk into a cup of coffee. The intermingling tastes of strong, nutty coffee and buttery, spicy goodness is so nostalgic for me, as I was practically raised by a family that drank coffee religiously and had coffee klatches in which we savored wonderful treats with good coffee.  When I read in the book that Renato created a pumpkin cookie that could be dunked into coffee – with some semisweet chocolate and chewy, yummy dried cranberries tossed into the mix – well, I was so there from the get-go.

It’s a fairly easy recipe to put together.  The dough itself is a pumpkin cookie dough fragrant with warm fall spices and studded with oatmeal – topped off with the inclusion of chocolate chips and cranberries.  I suppose you could toss some kind of nut in there, but why spoil a good thing?  (Aside from almonds and pecans, you will discover I have a pretty big aversion to nuts – most kinds.  They just turn me off and have no place in good desserts.)  The hardest part is waiting for the dough to chill 4 hours before you bake these little treasures off.  In several of Matt and Renato’s recipes, I’ve noticed they suggest chilling the dough after it’s mixed all together – often for a few hours or even overnight.  This allows the dough to relax for a while – think of it as all of the ingredients partyin’ and chillin’ together for a little bit before things ‘get hot in here’!  It makes perfect sense and often leads to a better cookie which holds its shape.  I have a nemesis in chocolate chip cookies – I have NEVER made a good one – but the one time I finally did have minor success, it was with making Baked’s Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe – and that recipe suggested an overnight shindig in the fridge for the cookie dough.  Soooo… don’t skip this crucial step with these babies.  Chill your dough.  Yes, 4 hours.  The cookies, when scooped uniformly with a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop, held their shape and puffed up nicely.

The beauty of pumpkin as a main ingredient in a cookie, or even a bar cookie, is its ability to keep the cookie moist.  These cookies are no exception to the rule.  Matt prefaces the recipe by suggesting that you may want to over-bake these cookies a IMG_3596touch, in order to have a nice golden, slightly crunchy exterior which complements the pillowy, soft, and chewy interior.  And by all means, dunk them in a nice “hot coffee bath”… they’re even more heavenly and happy.  I made these in the later evening hours, and had to make a pot of coffee (decaf, of course) to test them out.  Trust me, it’s a flavor experience you don’t want to miss.

This is a keeper recipe.  Make this one to take your fall holiday or football parties, folks.  They make a fairly good-sized batch (the recipe says 36; I got 48, which is good, because I probably ate a dozen myself right away) and will be a bona fide hit among pumpkin aficionados.

For the recipe, visit:

Pumpkin Harvest Dunking Cookies

Brew up some coffee, and enjoy this delicious start to your fall!

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I’m off to NYC to see the Baked guys and their new location in TriBeCa! I’ll be sure and take plenty of pictures to share!