Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I'll Take S'More Cupcakes, Please

S'mores make my heart dance, my tastebuds smile, and my hideously off-key voice sing. They're truly the edible essence of summer.

I'll be honest: marshmallows on their own don't do much for me. I don't like them jumbo or miniature, bunny-shaped or Halloween-themed, or even melted with my Rice Krispies.

But when those pillowy clouds of sugar are sandwiched between two sweet honey grahams and some milk chocolatey Hershey's goodness...Whew! Hellooooo, Marshmallow...

For Memorial Day weekend, I was eager to bring a summer-theme dessert to share at the family picnic. Although last year's blue ribbon winning S'More Bar Cookies were hard to beat, I was looking for something new to celebrate the arrival of summer.

Enter S'More Cupcakes.

I'll take s'more of those scrumptious cupcakes, please.

They're messy, they're gooey, and the tops are drizzled with more chocolate. Did I mention the rich chocolate buttercream?

Enough said. Let's get baking.

S'More Cupcakes

Nothing says summer like roasted marshmallows. When a bonfire isn't handy though, and you forgot to sharpen your marshmallow-roasting sticks, make these cupcakes for the potluck picnic instead.

Cupcake Ingredients:
  • Your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, for 12 cupcakes (I used this fabulous recipe)
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs, divided
  • Mini marshmallows (about 6 per cupcake)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp. milk
Chocolate Frosting Ingredients:
  • 10 TBSP butter, softened
  • 2 TBSP shortening
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 - 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 - 5 TBSP milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
1) Prepare chocolate cupcake batter (for 12 cupcakes). Stir in 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs and 1/2 cup mini milk chocolate chips. Bake cupcakes as directed and cool completely.

2) To prepare frosting: Cream butter and shortening together until light and fluffy. Beat in cocoa powder until well-blended. Beat in powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments, adding a little milk after each sugar addition. Add vanilla extract and mix frosting until thoroughly combined (add more sugar or milk to reach desired consistency).

3) To prepare chocolate drizzle: Melt semi-sweet chocolate chips and 2 tsp. milk together in the microwave (or over a double-boiler).

4) To assemble: Spoon frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe frosting high onto cupcakes. Place about 5 - 6 mini marshmallows around the cupcake. Drizzle with semi-sweet chocolate drizzle and sprinkle with crushed graham cracker crumbs.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Homemade Oreos in the House

These little sandwich cookies will blow your Oreo-loving mind.


The cream filling is indistinguishable from the stuff you'll find in their prepackaged counterparts. The chocolatey cookies will remind you of a softer version of their crispy, store-bought twins.

And don't even get me started on their cute, bite-size nature. Bite size = more cookies per serving.

Friends, let's just say these Oreo taste-alike treats are pretty darn delicious. Adam even went so far as to say they're the best cookies that have come out of the Hungry Spoon kitchen.

Really? The man's mother is practically a professional baker. How can I compete with that?

Apparently I just did :)

In addition to their fabulous tasty-factor, these cookies have so much potential for creativity. The cream filling can be dyed to color-coordinate with a party theme. Try adding mint extract and sneaking an Andes mint into the cream filling of each cookie sandwich. Or, add more filling, and roll the edges of each cookie in sprinkles.

Infinite possibilities!

One caveat to keep in mind: The dough is sticky and can be hard to manage! Keep the dough you're not working with in the refrigerator. The next time I make them (tonight?), I may actually experiment with freezing the dough.

Ultimately, just remember the moral of today's story: Once you go homemade Oreo, you may never go back.

Homemade Oreos

These classic little cookies will take you straight back to your childhood--be sure to enjoy with a tall glass of milk. And remember: the dough is very sticky. You may want to freeze it prior to using.

Cookie Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 - 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 - 2/3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
Cream Filling Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 - 1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 - 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1) Cream the shortening and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and milk and beat until well-combined. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate dough for at least 4 hours (or, try freezing it? I'm going to experiment with this step).

2) Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut another piece of parchment paper about the size of the cookie sheet you will be using. Divide the dough into 4 large chunks. Place 3 chunks back in the refrigerator, and place the remaining dough piece on the parchment paper. Cover dough with another piece of parchment paper, and use a rolling pin (on top of the parchment) to roll the dough into a disc about 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick.

3) Use a 1 - 1/2 inch cookie cutter (or, I used the rim of a shot glass!) to cut the cookies. Use a thin spatula (or careful hands) to place cookies on another piece of parchment paper. Be careful! Again, the dough is sticky and can be tricky to work with :)

4) Bake for 10 - 12 minutes. Allow to cool briefly on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining dough.

5) To prepare the filling, cream the shortening and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, and mix the powdered sugar in slowly. Filling should be thick and pliable.

6) To prepare your sandwich cookies, spread the filling on the bottom of one cookie, and top with another cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Meatless Muffaletta

During my trip to New Orleans this winter, I learned about a fabulous sandwich known as the "Muffaletta."

Shortly after learning about this so-called fabulous sandwich, I discovered that it would be nearly impossible for me to find a marvelously meatless version. Whereas most classic sammies have a vegetarian sister sandwich (Beanball Subs, anyone?), the Muffaletta boasts salami, pepperoni, capicola, and ham as its star ingredients.

With a filling that dangerously meaty, I quickly learned that a meatless muffaletta would look more like a grilled cheese.

But wait! The other hallmark of a Muffaletta is seasoned, marinated olive salad. I can make this work, right?

I am a lover of all-things-sandwich, and I refuse to be defeated by this New Orleans sammie that claims to have no meat-free counterparts. I will make this work.

Adam and I created a Meatless Muffaletta tonight, inspired by the pages of this month's Vegetarian Times. Our sandwiches feature a homemade Spinach-Garlic Hummus slathered on fresh bread, and topped with marinated Artichoke-Olive-Roasted Red Pepper salad.

Holy Moly.

I may have to re-vist New Orleans....and show that meat-happy Muff who's boss.

Meatless Muffaletta

Good news! If you're looking for a vegan Muffaletta, this sandwich is for you. Just omit the cheese and you won't even miss it. Also, If you're feeling industrious, make the Artichoke-Olive-Red Pepper salad from scratch (I wasn't feeling so industrious tonight...hence the pre-made salad).

Hummus Ingredients:
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 - 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 2 TBSP olive oil (or more, to taste)
  • 1 cup (packed) chopped spinach leaves
Sandwich Ingredients:
  • Homemade bread or sandwich buns
  • Hummus
  • Marinated Artichoke-Olive-Roasted Red Pepper salad (I cheated and purchased pre-made at the store!)
  • Optional--Swiss cheese for topping (I went without; my cheese-head hubby loaded it on)
1) To prepare the hummus, blend chickpeas in a food processor until thoroughly processed. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Add more olive oil, as needed to reach your desired consistency.

2) To assemble sandwich: Toast bread or bun. Slather with hummus, top with marinated salad.