Monday, September 27, 2010

September 2010 Daring Baker Challenge - Fun with Sugar Cookies!

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

Thank you Peggy for such an amazing challenge. Am I the only one that was a bit intimidated with all the just gorgeous cookies?

Ok, wow, am I ever blown away by all the creativity in the Daring Baker group! And, more than a little intimidated. You see, I don't have the patience or the artistic talent for some of the beautiful sugar cookies and decorations I saw. I'm much better at creating recipes, making things taste good, and figuring out how to do things than I am at decorating cookies without the cheats of cute little cut outs and sprinkles. And, after chipping a tooth on some royal icing gone wrong a long time ago, I hate the stuff..

Butttt, this gave me the perfect opportunity to do something for my AWESOME niece, Amanda. The optional part of the challenge was to do "what September means to me". Well, September means my birthday, and the beginning of fall. After a not so perfect cupcake I made on my birthday, I really wasn't feeling my birthday any more. Sure, the cupcakes tasted fantastic, but they required a risky frosting fix, and prying those little buggers out of the pan when they didn't want to come out. They tasted amazing though.

My niece Amanda loves to race. She normally races quarter midget carts, and this September saw her last *ever* race. So, I had to memorialize her career in the famed purple 37x by making her some sugar cookies. No, she's not done racing, she's simply outgrown the quarter midgets and is moving on to a different thing to race.

Since I'm experimenting with the best way to photograph my food (and I need another light), I also decided to experiment with the cookies. Amanda is currently infatuated with the colors orange and green, so that was what I started with. I really like dying the cookie dough in colors and then decorating from there, so that's where I started.

I remembered when I was in school, one of the teachers had us decorate cookies with a mixture of egg yolks and food coloring. While that was fun, I remember thinking "eww eggs", and it not tasting the best, so I did some research and discovered you can do the same with corn starch and water! Just think - do it yourself food paint with cornstarch! I was hooked. And, it's amazingly easy - just a little cornstarch and a little water in a small bowl, then color it with your favorite coloring. Adjust the cornstarch or water to get the right texture, and you have paint to use before you bake your cookies.

I also did a little experimenting with luster dust. Although it was new to me, I'm sure everyone knows this - you can wet your paint brush and paint the luster dust on with that wet paint brush. That's to make everything sparkly. So now I have painted, sparkly cookies!

The end result of both, I was ok with. I did notice the paint cracked a bit in the oven. I suspect my paint was a bit too thick, and I will continue to work with it so I can use these techniques for some Christmas cookies.

I did want to tell you a bit about the cookie dough - it's great! I will definitely use it again. It's not sticky, not too sweet, and you can use your detailed cookie cutters, and this recipe keeps all the detail when you bake the cookies. The only thing you have to be careful of is when you bake them, they get dark very quickly, so you should really watch them when they are close to done. This is true of all cookies though, so don't get caught in text land and let some of your cookies over brown like I might have done...

Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4" Cookies

200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean

• Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during
baking, losing their shape.

• Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
Tip: I don’t have a stand mixer so I find it easier to switch to dough hooks at this stage to avoid
flour flying everywhere.

• Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
• Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
• Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an
hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and
then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.

• Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
• Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
• Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.
Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
• Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
• Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
• Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in
some cookies being baked before others are done.

Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
• Leave to cool on cooling racks.
• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated
cookies can last up to a month.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hummingbird Cupcakes

Yes, I realize that picture is awful. The good one was a victim of the great compact flash meltdown of 2010.

On to cheerier things...hummingbird cupcakes! I'm sure some of you have never heard of these. I found this recipe in my mom's old recipe box, and did some looking online. The recipe appears to have a southern background, and the cupcakes are intensely sweet. Which makes them perfect for cream cheese frosting.

No one knows why these are called hummingbird cake/cupcakes. I suspect it's because the cake is very sweet.

Let's talk a little about textures. This cupcake has a very different texture. It's the combination of crushed pineapple and chopped pecans. These cupcakes are perfect if you want something a little different. I do have a tip, though. I recommend you put your crushed pineapple in a food processor for a few quick pulses to make it a little more smooth. You want some of the texture, but you do want the pieces a little smaller than whats in the can.

Although you can't see it from the picture, there are 2 layers of frosting on these cupcakes - one is mixed with chopped pecans, the other is not. I liked the cake the most when the sides of the cake had chopped pecans pressed into it, so I tried to imitate that. I really enjoy the results, these cupcakes really hit the spot. I chose to color the frosting pink simply because I was in a pink sort of mood.

This recipe makes a TON of cupcakes, so be prepared. I made 48 mini's and around 30 regular size.

Hummingbird cupcakes
Adapted from: Mom and Joy of Baking

1 cup crushed pineapple with juice, whirred in the food processor for 5-10 seconds
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup toasted and chopped pecans
2 t. vanilla
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
3 cups flour
3 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 c. vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare your cupcake pans by lining them, or greasing and flouring them.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the oil and mix until very well combined. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, incorporating each cup until fully incorporated.

Place in prepared cupcake pans and bake the regular size cupcakes for 15-22 minutes, and the smaller cupcakes 10-15 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool. Frost with cream cheese frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese
1 T. cream
1/2 c. butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 c. toasted chopped pecans.

Whip cream cheese and butter until well combined. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Add cream a little at a time until just the right consistency. Divide the frosting in 1/2, and place the chopped pecans in 1/2 of the frosting mixture.

To frost, lightly frost with the pecan frosting, then top with the plain frosting. Sprinkle with decorative sugar.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chili with Sweet Corn Dumplings

It's fall! Football season, school buses, turning leaves, and changing weather. Even though we didn't have much of a summer here in the Pacific Northwest, we can still celebrate fall.

I have been craving chili lately. Which is really odd for me, I usually don't eat chili more than once or twice a year. And, while I love different kinds of herbs and spices, I generally don't like spicy hot foods. While some of you love Sricha so much you can put it on everything, I can taste a drop in a cup of homemade vinaigrette. So 1 teaspoon would, quite literally, feel like my mouth was on fire.

However, good chili doesn't have to be hot and spicy. Yes, it has to have its share of spices, but they don't have to light your mouth on fire. When I lived in Southern California, I participated in the Conejo Valley Chili Cookoff for 3 years. I entered the competition chili (which can not contain beans, and must contain beef), which I had no chance of winning. I also entered the People's Choice Chili, which must contain beans. For that, I always made a turkey and a vegetarian chili. So I've had quite a lot of practice with my chili.

Now, my chili will never be of the caliber to even place in that contest, I'm very happy with this recipe. I've changed it, tweaked it, and added a bunch of things, but I learned a lot during my cook-off days. The recipe I'm sharing can contain beef, chicken, or turkey. If you want to bump up the spices, you can also add veggie crumbles and/or lentils if you want vegetarian chili.

I will tell you - this chili does have meat. I was planning on making a lentil chili (yes, I was going to feed my carnivorous brother a meatless chili), but when I mentioned chili, my Mom wanted some as well, and I knew I couldn't get away with serving her a meatless chili. I believe her response was - well, I'll just brown some ground beef and sprinkle it on top...sigh... I couldn't let that happen to my chili!

I wanted to work a little on a corn-based accompaniment to the chili. I love the taste of corn bread, but I'm just not a fan of the texture. During my vegan years, one of the things I just craved was the corn pudding served with most of the entrees at El Torito. I worked quite a bit on that recipe, and found one that I just loved that contained masa instead of corn meal. The result is perfect to serve with your chili.

Don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients, this chili comes together fairly quickly once the beans are cooked! If you have never cooked beans from dry, I encourage you to try - you will save a lot of money. Just soak the beans overnight in a lot of water. In the morning, drain the water, and place the beans and more water in a sauce pan. Heat until boiling, then simmer until just tender, about 1-2 hours. Drain excess water, and they are ready.

Chili, serves 4 to 6

1/2 lb small kidney beans, soaked overnight and cooked until tender (you can substitute 2 cans of kidney beans, drained)
1 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 t. oil
1 15 oz. can tomato puree
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 c. water
1 t. paprika
1 t. garlic powder
2/3 t. smoked paprika
2 t. ancho chili powder
2 t. cumin
1 t. pepper
1 1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. cayenne (or to taste)
1 T. brown sugar
1 t. worcestershire sauce
1 t. apple cider vinegar

Heat a large soup pot on medium to medium high heat. Crumble ground beef into pot, and cook until browned. Remove from pot. Check to see how much fat is remaining in the pot. Add enough oil to make 2 t. of oil total in your pot, and add onions. Cook approximately 5 minutes, until translucent. Add paprika, smoked paprika, ancho powder, and cumin. Toast 1-2 minutes until you can smell the cumin. Add tomato paste, and cook an additional 2 minutes.

Add water and scrape any bits remaining on the bottom of the pot off. Add ground beef, tomato puree, diced tomatoes, beans, brown sugar, salt, pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder. Reduce heat to low to medium and simmer 2 hours. Add worcestershire sauce and vinegar and let cook an additional 15-20 minutes. Taste. Add additional salt, pepper, and/or cayenne to taste. Serve warm.

Sweet Corn Dumplings

1/2 c. butter, melted
3/4 c. masa
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 can cream style corn
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. milk

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8x8 inch pan.

Combine all ingredients until a smooth consistency. Pour into 8x8 pan. Place the 8x8 pan in a 13x9x2 pan and fill the 13x9x2 pan with an inch of water. Place in oven and bake 45 minutes until golden brown on the top. Serve warm.

Monday, September 13, 2010

September 2010 Daring Cooks Challenge - Food Preserving

I must admit, I had mixed feelings about this challenge. I have been happily preserving foods throughout the summer, first with a quartet of jams, and testing all my berry butters. While I am still very excited to share my experiences, I didn't want too many more, since I was experiencing burnout...

So I kind of cheated. I finished my berry butter experiment, and made some yummy oven roasted tomatoes to freeze for later tomato sauce. I hope this counts, but I had run out of canning jars, and really didn't want to buy any more.

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Thank you John for such a "daring" challenge. I am happy that you got some people to try preserving foods for the very first time. And, I enjoyed reading the debates about what is vs. what is not considered safe in each country.

All that being said, I strongly encourage you to dip your foot into the water of Home Food Preservation. It's very fun. I do suggest you check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation, though, if you plan on starting to can.

There was a lot of discussion over what's safe, what's healthy, etc. And, I'm not really going to address that except to say - do what you feel comfortable with. Some people feel the precautions are over cautious, some feel the opposite. If you decide to do any home preserving, I strongly encourage you to know the facts, and make your own decisions and choices. You can check out this site for more information.

Phew...all that over with! Now, back to the fruit and berry butters. Originally, I wanted to make fruit and/or berry butters, but with a lower amount of sugar, if possible. While I realize this possibly makes them not shelf stable (and that's one of the reasons why I chose to freeze them), I wanted to create something my diabetic mom could possibly enjoy. Let me tell you the results of my experiments below. Keep in mind that I used about 4-5 cups of mashed fruits for each experiment, unless otherwise noted.

Apricot - Apricot butter is really is. It required the most sugar - I added over 1 1/2 cup sugar, along with about 1 t. lemon juice to make this work. While this is much less than most recipes required, I was a bit disappointed it took that much.

Blueberry - I ended up adding about 2/3 c. sugar and 2 t. lemon juice. As I mentioned previously, the blueberries had a ton of seeds, so if you make blueberry butter, I strongly recommend you strain at least 1/2 of your blueberries before you begin.

Pear - Pear butter was the sweetest of the ones I did. I used about 1/4 c. brown sugar and 2 t. lemon juice total.

Pumpkin - ok, I admit, I cheated with the pumpkin and started with canned pumpkin. I simply couldn't find sugar pumpkins anywhere. For pumpkin, it's mostly about the spices anyway. I added 1/2 c. brown sugar, 2 t. lemon, 1 t. cinnamon, 1/2 t. nutmeg, 1/4 t. cardamom, and 1/4 t. salt. This is really good. It's like a pumpkin pie spread.

Raspberry - I strained about 1/2 the raspberries because I didn't want too many seeds. Still, raspberries required quite a bit of sugar - almost 1 cup. And, I added 2 t. lemon juice to this.

Plum - This really was an experiment, and I'm happy with it. It wasn't too sweet, or too sour. I used about 2/3 c. sugar.

Now, what am I going to do with all of these? Well, I'm going to use some of them for Christmas Cookies, and I'm planning on using some of them to flavor butter cream frosting, or somewhere I want the flavor of the fruit without a lot of moisture. The rest, we shall see.

I also wanted to include the roast tomatoes. Yes, I spelled it incorrectly on the package, but this is a *great* way to preserve food for the winter. If you can get some cheap tomatoes, this is one way to enjoy them for a while. I seeded most of mine, sprinkled them with olive oil, a little sugar, and a little salt, and roasted until they were about 1/2 the size as when I started. Then I let them cool, put them in a ziploc freezer bag, dated them, and tossed them in the freezer.

They will be a great addition to a tomato sauce in the dead of winter when just canned tomatoes won't do. I also can't wait to puree some of these to put on a sandwich or two!

Now I'm off to celebrate my birthday!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Raspberry Fig Tart

You know, I consider myself to be a fairly decent cook. Sometimes even good. However, sometimes, there are just some recipes that I can't conquer. That used to be the ultimate grilled cheese, but I think I finally figured that one out. Yea, go figure. I can spend HOURS on croissants and danishes, yet it wasn't 3 years ago that I couldn't make a grilled cheese without burning the sucker...

There are also some recipes that really make me feel dumb. This is one of them. When I first saw this recipe in my Baking with Julia cookbook (the well used one, not the signed one), I thought eww...that's a way to ruin a good fig. But, the recipe grew on me. I first made it because I wanted to try the unusual pastry.

Imagine it - Sesame-Almond Dough. It's really quite delicious. You can use it in many things, including just rolling it out and making bar cookies with it. What really stands out in this recipe, however, is the filling. It's amazing. Who knew that raspberries would be the perfect foil for sweet figs...well, I didn't. That's why I felt a little bit dumb when I first tried it. More like What was I thinking - of course it's delicious!

This recipe is not for the feint of heart - while the dough tastes amazing, it will turn your hair gray. It likes to fall apart, and sticks to EVERYTHING...but it is very much worth it. Keep it very very cold, and don't pulverize the almonds too much, and you are good to go.

Sesame-Almond Dough
From: Baking with Julia

2 eggs, room temperature
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. blanched almonds, toasted and cooled
1/2 c. sesame seeds, toasted and cooled
1/2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. finely chopped lemon zest
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes

Whisk the eggs together with the vanilla extract until blended; set aside until needed.

Put the almonds, sesame seeds, and 1 T. sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until the almonds are very finely chopped, but stop before they turn pasty. Turn the mixture into a mixer bowl. Add remaining sugar, the flour, cinnamon, salt, and zest. Mix on low speed for a few seconds, just to combine.

Keeping the mixer on low, add the butter and mix the mixture until it resembles fine crumbs. Add the egg mixture, mixing only until the dough is uniformly moistened and forms large chunks. Turn the mixture out onto a work surface. Separate into 2 disks - one 2/3 of the dough, the other 1/3 of the dough. Roll 2/3 of the dough out into a large circle, and gently place in a 9" fluted tart pan. With the remaining dough, roll into a circle and cut into strips for lattice or cut with cookie cutters for a decorative top.

You can also make 4 mini tarts with this dough.

Raspberry-Fig filling

3/4 lb. fresh figs, quartered
3/4 lb. fresh raspberries
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 T. flour
1/2 t. lemon zest
1 T. butter
2 t. lemon juice

Put half the fruit in a medium saucepan. Add the sugars, flour, lemon zest, and butter and stir to mix. Bring the mixture to a soft boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Turn the mixture into a bowl and stir in the uncooked fruit. Taste a spoonful, paying attention to the liquid and add lemon juice as needed. Cool the filling to room temperature.

Pour the cooled filling into the prepared tart pan and brush the edges with an egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 T. cold water). Decorate the top how you want.

Chill the tart for about 30 minutes before baking. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Fig cookies

Have you ever had a craving? One that makes you think you are crazy? Some combination of flavors you are sure will taste good, because it does in your head, but you've never tried the combination before?

That's where these cookies came from. I had about 1/2 bag Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips in my freezer. As I was munching a few one day (that's why there was only 1/2 a bag...), I decided I wanted to put them with figs...and cardamom...and cookies.

The result? These cookies...these cookies! They are so good! I've made them twice now - first as an experiment, and the second time for Amanda's first day of school (I wonder if any of them made it to school.).

They taste so good! The dark chocolate is perfect with chopped dried figs. There's just enough bitterness in dark chocolate to compliment the sweet and chewy fig. The cardamom highlights all the flavors without being overpowering.

I adapted this recipe from the Oatmeal barrel. I prefer the "old fashioned" oats. If you have quick oats, you can use those, and your recipe will be a little bit different, but still delicious! You can also leave out the cardamom out if you wish, the cinnamon and nutmeg make these delicious on their own!

Finally, when you cut your figs in small pieces, be sure to cut the stem off the top. While most of them are OK, some of them contain hard parts that aren't nice in cookies. And, I always toast any nuts before I add them to baked goods. They just taste better that way.

Dark Chocolate Fig Cardamom Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
2/3 c. figs, cut into small cubes and sprinkled with 1/2 t. cardamom
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t salt
3 cups oats
1 cup dark chocolate chips
2/3 c. chopped walnuts, toasted and cooled

Heat oven to 350. Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well.

Add flour, soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix until combined. Add remaining ingredients and mix until well incorporated. Drop by tablespoons (or larger) onto cookie sheet (I use parchment paper, but mostly so my cleanup is less). Bake 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown. Cool slightly on cookie sheet, and then remove to wire rack.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Scallion Pancakes

I love these. They are so simple, yet so tasty. And, they go with so many things! Here, I ate them with some Chinese Barbecue Pork and ginger jam (recipe coming for the jam!). My mom prefers to eat them dipped in a little sweet soy with scallions. They are also good with terriyaki salmon or chicken. They are just great - a little nutty from the sesame oil, a little bite of onion, and just enough salt and pepper.

I would like to tell you I made these this weekend. But, I didn't. You wouldn't get such a nice picture if I had. I made them on the last sunny day we have seen last week. I've been experimenting with taking pictures, and trying to find a good balance between light and where I live. Not an easy task! It's really not easy to take pictures of food without good natural light. And, since there are so few days here without rain...yea, you get the picture.

I love the color of cedar. I'm not that much of a wood decor type of person - except when it comes to Oregon Ash, Cedar, and Cherrywood. Yes, I know they are vastly different...but I love them. This year, we got my mom a picnic table for her birthday. I convinced my youngest brother to make it. He used some cedar he had left over from when he built his house. The table is just gorgeous. I'm sure you can tell that from the picture!

Yes, I did sit out at the picnic table and snack on Scallion pancakes with Barbecue pork. It was a perfect dinner on a late summer night. I really encourage you to give this recipe a try - you won't be disappointed!

These are SO easy to make. I've enclosed a pdf of how to make them for one simple reason - it's sort of hard to explain how to roll them the way I do. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I thought I would show you how I do it.

Scallion Pancakes

2 cups flour
1-1 1/2 cup very hot water
1-2 T. toasted Sesame Oil
2-3 scallions, chopped
1-2 t. salt
1-2 t. pepper
Oil for frying

In a mixing bowl, combine flour and 2/3 c. water. Stir quickly, and add enough water for the mixture to form a cohesive ball. The dough should not be sticky, or too floury. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Divide dough into 4 equal parts. Roll one part into a large circle. Sprinkle with sesame oil, scallions, salt, and pepper.

Roll the dough up cinnamon roll style. Once you have rolled the dough up, gently twist it as shown in the picture. The best way to do this is to place one hand on each end of the dough, and move one hand toward you, and the other away.

Begin rolling the dough onto itself, like a snail shape. When you are finished, tuck the end under the rest of the dough.

Lightly flatten the dough, and then continue rolling the dough out, until the dough is 1/4 “ thick. Cut into 8 wedges (I use a pizza cutter for this).

Heat a fry pan on medium high heat. Add 1 T. oil, and fry each of your pancake wedges. Serve warm with a soy sauce or ginger jam.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

S'more Cupcakes

As the final 3 day weekend of the summer approaches, we all realize that fall is coming! School is starting (or already has for most of you), summer is ending, and it's time for one more barbecue before we prepare for winter.

However, if you are in a part of the country like me, where the forecast is for rain, and you are ALSO under a burn ban, you realize one final summer barbecue may be out of your reach.

Never fear, as far as dessert goes, I've got you covered. S'more cupcakes are my answer.

I wanted to recreate the flavors and most of the textures of s'mores in a slightly unique ways. I realize it's a stretch calling this a cupcake, but it has been judged a 5 star hit by my family. It has the crunch of graham crackers, a fudgey, chocolatey brownie middle, and a home made marshmallow topping. All enclosed in a cupcake liner.

I discovered a few things when working with this recipe. First, and most importantly, cupcake liners are pretty flammable. Don't panic, just have a damp towel close by to take care of it. I used a fudgy brownie recipe, and added about 1/2 c. chopped chocolate bar. Milk Chocolate chips work great for the flavor.

It's important for this recipe to use cupcake liners! The marshmallow frosting needs something to form to, so the cupcake liner works very well. And, I know it's difficult, but resist the urge to fill them to the top with that delicious brownie layer!

I want to encourage you to try this recipe. If you feel intimidated by making marshmallows, you can easily slice a marshmallow in 1/2 and toast it with the same result. Or buy little ones to use. I think putting the mini marshmallows on top would be very cute. I actually did that in an earlier version of the cupcake, but thought (incorrectly), that I could pipe a cute marshmallow swirl on my cupcakes. Since I liked the flavor of the marshmallow, I was willing to accept the fact that my cute little swirl wasn't going to happen with these.

As with my post on danishes, I've included a pdf version you can download and print here. Enjoy, and have a great Labor Day!

S'more Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes and 12 mini cupcakes (approx.)

For the Graham Cracker layer:

1 cup graham crackers
¼ c. sugar
¼ t. cinnamon
1/3 c. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Mixture should be a little wet. For the cupcakes, place about 1 T. in the bottom of cupcake liners. For the mini cupcakes, place about 1 t. in the bottom of the liners. Press firmly in liners. Bake 5 minutes for the mini’s, and 7-8 minutes for the cupcakes. Let cool while you make the brownie mixture

Brownies (adapted from Fine cooking)

5 T. softened butter
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 ½ oz. bittersweet chocolate
½ c. sugar
Pinch salt
½ t. espresso powder
1 egg, at room temperature
1/3 c. all purpose flour
½ c. milk chocolate chips (or one milk chocolate bar, cut in pieces the size of a chocolate chip)

In a double boiler (or the microwave), melt the butter and chocolates together until just melted. Cool slightly. Whisk in the sugar, salt, vanilla, espresso powder, flour, and egg. Fold in chocolate chips. Place on top of slightly cooled graham cracker layer, having the brownie layer go up no more than 2/3 the way in your cupcake liner.

Bake in the preheated oven 13-18 minutes for the mini cupcakes, and 20-25 minutes for the regular cupcakes. Use a toothpick to see if your brownies are done. Set wire rack to cool before beginning frosting

Marshmallow frosting (adapted from Alton Brown Marshmallow recipe)

1 package unflavored gelatin
1/3 c. cold water
½ c. sugar
1/3 c. corn syrup
¼ t. salt
½ t. vanilla

In the bottom of your mixing bowl, place ½ of the water. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let set. Combine remaining water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium high heat until a vigorous boil (240 degrees on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat.

Turn the mixer on low, and slowly add the hot sugar syrup. Be careful to pour down the side of the bowl and not on the beaters (it could splash back on you if you pour on the beaters). Increase the speed to high and mix for 10-15 minutes until mixture is cool (a little warmer than room temperature) and white and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix one more minute.

While your marshmallows are mixing, prepare a piping bag and a rubber spatula to work with the mixture. I lightly sprayed the inside of a piping bag with cooking spray, as well as the spatula. It’s easiest to pipe with a plain tip and not try for a pattern, it won’t set into a pattern. It’s also easiest to place your piping bag inside a tall glass to fill (one of those HUGE 32 oz glass fits my piping bag almost perfectly).

As soon as you are finished beating your marshmallow mixture, quickly fill your piping bag with your marshmallow and pipe on the top of your cupcakes. Fill to the top, and don’t overfill (the marshmallow will ooze over the sides). Let cool and set.

Just before serving, place under a broiler to brown the top, or brown the top with a blow torch. Serve with the marshmallow warmed.