Chocolate Eclairs - Daring Bakers August Challenge

The end of another month means it's time to reveal the Daring Bakers Challenge. For August it was Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé and what a delicious choice this was! The hosts for this month were Tony and MeetaK and what fun I had with this.

Sure, I've made this before but never using Pierre's recipe (which can be found on either Tony or Meeta's blog) so this was a change. The basic elements are the pate-a-choux (puff pastry), the cream filling and the chocolate on top. Sounds easy, huh? :)

Having made pate-a-choux a few times before, I thought this would be a rather easy task. Although, yes, I had learned a few things from my previous experiences it didn't stop me from having problems this time around! LOL! The first thing is to make the pate-a-choux dough and get it to the proper consistency... you want this beautiful "V" shape coming off your paddle attachment... when you've got that, you know you're on the right track :)

Pipe out the dough approximately 4-5" long... and bake at the correct temp for the correct time and you're supposed to have beautiful puffed pastry. I say "supposed to" because if they're not really all the way done on the **inside** they'll deflate as they cool... just as my first batch did here (with the exception of the one that actually came out fine... eh, go figure)
(pay no attention to the oddly shaped ones on the right side... we-won't-even-go-there! LOL)

Now, if you bake them thoroughly, they don't deflate as they cool... as you can see with this batch here. These I actually baked on Sil-Pat and not parchment... and I thought I'd cooked them waaaaaaay too long because of how brown they got. But you can see they didn't deflate. So... lesson here is to actually cook them longer than you think since just because the outside looks done, the innards might not be. In addition to the éclair shapes, I also piped a bunch of cream puff shapes too. Hey, same dough, same filling, same process... same fantaaaaaabulous taste!

Speaking of the filling... I made a few different kinds of filling... vanilla pastry cream... chocolate pastry cream (adding chocolate to the vanilla pastry cream)... and diplomat cream (which is a bit lighter than pastry cream but not as light as whipped cream)

For some reason I forgot to take a photograph of the chocolate pastry cream. Totally slipped my mind. But you know I made it and you know I used it, otherwise how else would I have this gorgeous baby right here

To fill, you can either slice in half or just stick the pastry bag tip right into the end of the eclair and squeeze it in. The innards of the baked pate-a-choux is relatively hollow. Then give it a dousing of the chocolate glaze and voilá you've just made chocolate éclairs!

Please drop by and visit the other daring bakers and see how they did with this month's challenge as well.

Have a delicious day!
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Mini Brioche

I took a chance with this. While I've heard of Brioche, I don't recall that I've ever eaten it. But I have some free time this weekend (yay for 3-day holiday weekends!!!) and I thought I'd give it a try. Turns out it makes a nice lunchtime sammie!!!

When I lived in Alexandria, Virginia, there was a wonderful bakery we'd go to on the weekends. They had marvelous breads and their smells wafting thru the air were out of this world. Just walking by across the street, the delicious scents simply drew you in. Irresistible, they were. For such a compact area, it was a large bakery that specialized in breads and people would wait in a line down the block on Saturday mornings. We'd usually stop by on our walk back from the nearby Farmer's Market. How could we not when the aromas of freshly baked bread did the ol "come hither" on us ;-) I'm sure they made brioche. I mean, they seemingly made every kind of bread imaginable... and everything I tried was out of this world. I don't recall that I tried their brioche. In fact, I don't know that I ever heard of it before 2008. But I must have. I mean, it's bread... and I love bread!

Earlier this week I came across this post on Once Upon A Plate. After finding the mini brioche tins at Bed, Bath & Beyond a few days ago, I started the dough last night. It's not a difficult process... just lots of wait time. You start it one day by mixing up water, yeast, sugar, eggs and flour... let it rest in the chiller overnight... bring it to room temperature the next morning... add the butter... divide the dough into the tins... let it rise for a couple of hours and then bake it. Twenty minutes in the oven is all it takes for these mini brioche to come out lookin all fabulous... seeeeeee!

The recipe for the brioche is from Ina Garten can be found here on the Food Network site. It says it's available for a "limited time only" - not sure what that's about - but it's also available on the Once Upon A Plate blog :)

Have a delicious day!
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Napoleon Cupcakes (From a Butter Cake That's TDF)

If you are a fan of cookbooks and haven't checked out the list of what's on my shelf (located in the right-hand sidebar) you might want to take a peek. I love cookbooks and this year have added more than I think previously ever even looked at! LOL! One of my latest additions is Baking At Home With The Culinary Institute of America... and slowly but surely it's becoming absolutely one of my favorites.

I was at Barnes & Noble one evening and had already picked up two or three other cooking/baking books when this one caught my eye. It's "coffee-table book" size and has gorgeous photos (oooooh ya know how good food photos just get me all drooly! LOL). A couple of the really nice things are the fact that it's a great mix of instructional/technique-based and recipes... and ... it lays flat when you open it (a really great feature for when you're laying it on a work surface or standing it up in a book holder)

In the book there's this beautiful photo of a finished cake. It's simple. It's elegant. It's stunning. I had to make it. Had to. But I'm not all into making full sized layer cakes, especially when it comes to an untested recipe... my preference is cupcakes. So the recipe for the Yellow Butter Cake was halved and the result was without a doubt the most amazing "plain" cake I've ever tasted. Ever. Ever in my whole life. And I'm not some teeny-bopper here. And I've consumed vast quantities MORE than my fair share of cake over the years! LOL. So believing this Yellow Butter Cake is the best "plain" cake I've ever tasted is saying a lot. A whole lot! It was so good that I consumed half a dozen cupcakes without frosting! Okay okay... they were 5 mini cupcakes and 1 regular sized so please don't think I ate six big ol honkin cupcakes! LOL But... I COULD HAVE! hahahah

After proclaiming these cupcakes to be "amazingly perfect" I thought they should be the cornerstone of something special.... hmmmm.... but what? Well, In checking out Tastespotting the other day someone had posted Napoleon Cupcakes and they looked so pretty. Among my favorite pastries/desserts is the classic Napoleon. Decadent amounts of delicious pastry cream between layers of delicate phyllo topped with a vanilla glaze and those cute little chocolate designs. It's my idea of a heavenly food product! I just knew my "amazingly perfect yellow butter cake" cupcakes would be perfect for this! I'd previously made the pastry cream from this fantastic CIA book and knew it was a definite winner that would complement the butter cake nicely. For "frosting" I used some melted (and thinned) vanilla coating that I use for making peppermint bark. And the cute little lines are just some melted chocolate :) The cake and pastry cream are made ahead of time and cooled before "assembly" takes place.

Really, you can use any recipe you like for pastry cream - tons are available to you. Heck, use vanilla pudding if ya like!! You can also use any cake recipe you like for the cupcakes. Have a favorite poured fondant or vanilla coating? Go for it. I'm sharing this recipe for the cake because I personally find it to be a knockout that I think everyone should have in their baking repertoire. After the cupcakes are baked and cooled... and the pastry cream is made and chilled... just load a pastry bag fitted with your choice of tip and poke it into the cupcake and fill it with the cream. If you fill the cupcake with an excessive amount of cream, it will start to back up out of the top of the cupcake... uhm... not that this happened to me or anything ;-) After your vanilla glaze is melted and at the consistency you wish, just take ahold of the cupcake and dip it in upside down. Let some of it drip off into the bowl before turning it right side up... otherwise it will just dribble down the sides of your cupcake wrapper. Once the top is "set" (and I stuck them in the freezer so they'd set more quickly... I'm impatient! LOL) take your melted chocolate and pipe three lines of it on each cupcake... drag a toothpick thru a total of three times. The first time in one direction, next in the opposite direction, and the third one in the same direction as the first one. That creates the signature "napoleon brackets" :)

Yellow Butter Cake
Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America
makes two 8" layers

3 ½ c cake flour
2 c sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 c (2 sticks) butter, unsalted, diced, at room temperature
1 c whole or low-fat milk (divided use)
4 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat two 8” cake pans lightly with cooking spray

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and ½ cup of the milk. Mix on medium speed until smooth, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

In a separate bowl, blend the eggs, egg whites, the remaining ½ cup milk and the vanilla extract. Add to the batter in 3 additions, mixing for 2 minutes on medium speed after each addition. Scrape down the bowl between additions.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Bake until the layers spring back when touched lightly in the center, 35-40 minutes.

Remove the layers from the oven and cool completely in their pans on wire racks. Release the sides and bottom of the layers from the pans with a narrow metal spatula or a table knife before unmolding and finishing with fillings and icings.

Okay so if Napoleon Cupcakes don't float your boat, at least make the cake. Really. It's the best "plain" cake I've ever had. It's a holiday weekend so that means you've got plenty of extra time on your hands. Go ahead... make the butter cake. You'll be glad you did.

Have a delicious day :)
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Chocolate Banded Ice Cream Torte - TwD

If it's Tuesday, I'm baking with Dorie. And this week I squelched my inner rebel and actually baked the recipe pretty much exactly as written. Okay, except for the part where it called for store-bought ice cream and instead I made my own. But that's just a teensy-bit rebellious, right? ;-)

This week Tuesday with Dorie was hosted by Amy of Food, Family and Fun and Dorie's picture in the book is remarkably impressive. The basic idea is layers of ganache and layers of ice cream. Reading thru the recipe, I thought this had to be among the easiest I'd come across. I suppose I should've known better because even though it sounded quick and easy, well, let's just say for me this was not. I take that back... it's not that it wasn't quick and easy, because actually it wasn't difficult. But getting the layers perfectly straight and looking like the picture in Dorie's book? That part was darn near impossible... and I really tried! hahahaha

Since an ice-cream dessert isn't exactly one that can be taken to work and shared with colleagues, I made one-half of the recipe. This amount filled two 4" springform pans.

Overall, the dessert tastes great and I'm glad I made it. I used the ice cream recipe found here (omitting the graham cracker crust pieces) but if I were to make it again I'd whip up a batch of coffee ice cream since DH would love that combination :) Another "lesson learned" is the consistency of the ice cream must make all the difference in the world when it comes to making straight layers. If I were to make this again, I'd be sure the ice cream was at the very "soft"-side of soft-serve ice cream.... to the point of being pourable. I just can't figure how else to get the layers as straight at pictured in Dorie's book. One thing I really disliked about this dessert in general is how quickly it started melting. That made it really difficult to cut, plate and photograph... but did make for an interesting picture ;-)

The full recipe can be found here on hostess Amy's site... and check out the other TwD bakers and their interpretation of the Chocolate Banded Ice Cream Torte.

Have a delicious day :)
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Nigella's Damp Lemon -&- Almond Cake

I've never tried any of Nigella Lawson's recipes... and I'm not quite sure why. But I've seen a few pictures of this cake... and Lord knows I love lemon desserts... so I thought I'd give this particular recipe a try.

Nigella's Damp Lemon -&- Almond Cake

1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1/3 cup cake and pastry flour
1 1/3 cups ground almonds
1 tsp almond extract
zest and juice of two lemons

Preheat the oven to 350F; line the bottom of one 8" (or four 4") springform pan with parchment paper (I didn't use parchment, I just lightly sprayed the 4" springform pans with baking spray)

Cream together the butter and the sugar until almost white. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a quarter of the flour after each addition. When all the eggs and flour have been incorporated, gently stir in the ground almonds, then the almond extract, lemon zest and juice. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, checking after 50 minutes - you may have to cover the cake loosely with foil after 30 minutes so the top won’t burn. (I made these in 4" springform pans and total baking time was 35-40 minutes)
The cake is ready when the top is firm and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake. Don’t overbake the cake or it won’t be damp.
Remove the cake from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes in the pan; then turn out onto a wire rack and leave till cool.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

For me, this just didn't hit the spot. Not enough lemon flavor... and I guess I didn't grind my almonds finely enough because the texture was just too nutty for me. But... on the other hand, my DH dislikes lemon, loves almond and he really liked this cake. Not sure that I'd make it again since there are so many other lemon cakes which really turn me on. If I were to try it again, I'd dramatically increase the lemon... and grind those almonds to powder - LOL!

Have a delicious day :)
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Chiffon Tea Cakes w Rose Buttercream

Recently I was browsing thru Sur la Table and came across Rose extract. Intriguing. On our honeymoon we frequented a nice champagne bar that served Rose Champagne. Not rosé champagne... but rose. Pretty much just a nice champagne poured over a pink rose petal... and a bit of rose syrup added in. The rose was delicate but distinct and to this day, DH remembers it well. So when I came across the small bottle of rose extract, I figured I had to buy it and see what I could come up with. Hmmm... could I find the right balance? Just the right item to showcase this wonderful extract. I mean, too much of it and it's like eating grandma's hand-soap... blecccch! But just the right amount? Ohhhh so lovely. DH's daughter absent-mindedly grabbed one of these chiffon tea-cakes w/rose buttercream icing and asked "what kind of frosting is this - I think it's the best ever". Coming from a mood-swingy 15 year old, that's quite a statement! LOL

The chiffon cake part is simply my boyfriend's recipe for Chiffon Cupcakes which I baked in a square shape using this pan here

which I used for these lovelies, too. The method for making chiffon cake calls for separated eggs... the yolks blended in the batter and the whites whipped to stiff peaks then gently folded in. This makes for a very light cake with a distinct crumb.

In his recipe, my boyfriend (uhm... that's Alton Brown, btw) mentions baking these cakes in ovenproof coffee mugs. Cute idea... but our coffee mugs are functional (read: unattractive). Instead I reached into the china cabinet and pulled out these cute little tea-cups from a china set I've had since I stashed it away in my closet as a googly-eyed teenager dreaming of marrying prince charming (which I did btw... I married the nerdy-boy who lived across the street growing up... he's my prince charming... a total hack just like my boyfriend Alton Brown... yup... I have a thing for the nerdy-boys! LOL).

Were my tea-cups "ovenproof"? Heck I had no idea I just threw caution to the wind, loaded them with batter and baked 'em in the oven. Came out pretty good too :)

For the rose buttercream icing, I wanted something silky smooth... something creamy... something unforgettably dreamy. While the base recipe is not available online this fantastic gem of a frosting recipe came from my boyfriend's episode "Honey I Shrunk The Cake" which can be viewed here on YouTube (I tried imbedding a launchable link to it... didn't work so the clickable link is the best I can do... hey... come on... no hating... cut a girl some slack... I tried... I did! I did!). Quite arguably it's among the top two buttercream icing recipes I've ever tried. Fantastically good.  And with the addition of the rose extract, it beautifully complements the chiffon tea-cakes. (btw, click here for my #1 hands-down favorite buttercream icing)

Rose Buttercream Icing
Adapted from Alton Brown's Buttercream

6 oz butter (at room temperature)
2 oz shortening (at room temperature)
1 egg (room temperature)
16oz confectioner's sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp rose extract

Using a hand mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) on high speed, combine butter & shortening until well blended.
Mix in the egg until well combined - about 2 minutes.
With the mixer on low begin to add the sugar in small amounts ensuring each addition is well blended before adding the next.
After the sugar is fully incorporated, add the vanilla and rose extracts.
Blend well on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Have a delicious day :)
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Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Tonight, I couldn't wait to get in the kitchen. It's been uber-stressful at work and I've been coming home exhausted... falling asleep on the sofa by 7pm most nights. Although I've been wanting to bake, I just haven't had the energy to bake. But today at work I vowed to change that tonight. I pulled out one of my most trusted cookbooks, found a lovely-sounding recipe for Shortbread cookies... then added a touch of culinary lavender. Delish!

One of my favorite cookbooks is Joy of Cooking. It's not full of beautiful, high-impact, gorgeous, glossy color photos... it's over 1,100 pages of recipes, techniques, conversions, equivalences and instruction. I have the 75th anniversary version and I'm going to start baking at least one recipe each week from it. If you don't have this book, it's one I highly recommend (along with the other cook/bake books on the right sidebar of this page).

Lavender Shortbread Cookies
(adapted from Joy of Cooking)

3/4c butter - softened
1/4c powdered sugar
1/4c granulated sugar
1 1/2c all-purpose flour
1/4t culinary lavender

Preheat oven to 300F
Using a mortar -&- pestle, crush the lavender almost to powder - set aside
In a large bowl, combine the butter and both sugars.
Add in the flour and combine until well blended.
Add the crushed lavender and combine well.
Press the dough, evenly into an ungreased 8" square baking pan.
Using a fork, deeply pierce the dough all over
Bake until lightly browned, darker at the edges... approximately 50-55 minutes.
Remove from oven and cut into squares immediately.
Cool in pan or remove to wire rack.

If you prefer, the lavender can be omitted. Either way, this is a simple and delicious cookie.
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Mega-Chocolate-Overload Cake

If you love cake... especially chocolate cake and truly think there's no such thing as too much chocolate well keep reading cuz I have a cake for you...

It all started with DS having a birthday this past week. Being a serious chocolate lover he requested a chocolate cake. That's all he cared about... that it was chocolate. But not just a regular chocolate cake. Oh no. He asked if I'd please make his cake and only use chocolate because that is his favorite.

I came up with an idea: a chocolate cake with chocolate pudding between the layers, chocolate buttercream frosting on the top layer, then bathed in chocolate ganache and decorated in more chocolate buttercream. Wow - that's mega-chocolate-overload in my book... but he LOVED IT and everyone else raved about it too. My mother raved. My mother-in-law raved. Friends, neighbors, my hair dresser and both presidential candidates all raved about this cake. Okay, so I'm fibbing about the presidential candidates but I betcha if they tasted it they would! I even got one comment that this cake would be a sure-fired cure for PMS ;-)

Honestly - the concept just came to me and it was a snap to carry out.

The chocolate cake? I used the recipe on the back of the Hershey's Cocoa Powder box.
The chocolate pudding? I used a milk chocolate version of Dorie's chocolate pudding which has been posted here
The chocolate buttercream? I used a milk chocolate version of the chocolate buttercream I posted about here
The chocolate ganache? I used the recipe posted here

Bake it. Slice it. Fill it. Frost it. Bathe it. Decorate it. See there... not very hard at all :) You can do it - I know you can. I've given you the recipes... and the techniques are straight forward and found throughout my blog. Go for it. Who knows, the presidential candidates might rave about your cake too =)

Have a delicious day!

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Focaccia Bread - the quick and easy way

I think I've mentioned a time or ten that bread is a big hit in our household... pretty much any kind of bread. I came across this recipe a while back... and tried to make it a couple of weekends ago but ran short on time. Friday afternoon I came home and started it before anything else. From thought to table in under 2 hrs? This is my kind of bread!

You mix just five ingredients in a bowl for 60 seconds and turn it out into a prepared baking pan. Let it rise for about an hour then dimple it with your knuckles, drizzle on some olive oil, sprinkle on the seasonings and bake it.

After about 30-40 minutes you've got a nicely baked pan of focaccia... and a fantastic smelling house :) Let it cool for a few minutes in the baking pan then turn out onto a wire rack. Either serve warm or cool to room temperature.... it'll taste delicious either way.

For the full recipe so that you can see for yourself just how easy this bread is, click here. It's m'mmm sooooo good!!

Have a delicious day :)
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French Lemon Cream Tart

Some things are worth the time it takes to make them... artisan bread... Alton Brown's Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, the perfect party cake... and The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart. Hey, I'm not kidding - that's what Dorie calls it and with that kind of name well ya just know I had to make it!
I've only had Dorie's book, Baking From My Home To Yours, for a couple of months now and two recipes just lured me in... time and time again. The first was The Perfect Party Cake which I've made several times and several ways - an absolute winner in my book! The second was The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart. If you've been reading my blog for a while (like longer than today! LOL) you already know I love lemon desserts. They are my #1 absolute favorite. Have all the chocolate desserts you want... just save the lemon for me and we'll both be happy :)

As I'm writing this post, I'm savoring a slice of this marvelous tart. It's smooth... it's silky... it has a fabulous shortbread crust... and I've topped it with some freshly whipped rose-flavored cream. Yeah... pretty darn fantastic to me.

Making the crust takes a little bit of time... and making the lemon cream takes a little bit of time... and then you have to chill the cream for 4hrs or overnight {insert sound of screetching tires here}... WHAT? WAIT FOUR HOURS? Beyond a shadow of a doubt that is THEE hardest part of this whole recipe. But after you survive that wait (and yeah, you will survive it! LOL) you assemble this beauty... and then wait again while it sets up in the chiller. And finally... finally... you get to taste that first bit. Wowza... this is soooooooo good! If you love lemon, you gotta make this. Really, you gotta. I won't lie to ya... there's enough butter in this dessert that eating a single slice I think you can actually feel your arteries clogging up. Well, not really, I guess that wouldn't be the case if you ate a normal-sized slice. Me? Being the lemon-dessert-afficianado that I am, I had a gigantaur-sized slice. I can't help it... it's sooooooo good! All that butter in the filling is what transforms it from lemon-curd into lemon cream and makes this The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart (as opposed to A Really Good Lemon Tart).

In assembling the tart, I noticed that my filling wasn't as tall as Dorie's picture in the book so I thought next time I'd make 50% more of the filling. Then I checked the recipe again and it calls for a 9" tart pan... d'oh! Mine is 11" so no wonder the filling wasn't as tall. But never fear... the filling was just as good. Is it really The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart? Hmmm... considering it's the only french lemon cream tart I've ever had, I have nothing to compare it to. But I trust Dorie and if she says it's The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart, then I believe it :)

Buy her book... and make this tart. You'll be glad you did :)

Have a delicious day!
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Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream (TwD... sorta?)

If it's Tuesday, then I'm baking with Dorie. But... this week, a funny thing happened on the way to TwD...
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie host was Dolores of Chronicles of Culinary Curiosity who selected the Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream recipe. I love ice cream... and I love making ice cream at home. Since getting my Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker attachment for my stand mixer a couple of months ago I've made several different kinds. Vanilla Custard, Mint Chocolate Chip, Strawberry, Bubble Gum, Coffee, Orange Pineapple and even a Lemon Sorbet. So let there be no question as to my love of making home-made ice cream :) I wanted to make the blueberry sour cream ice cream... really, I did. But for a variety of reasons it just wasn't going to happen.

First problem... I didn't have blueberries. Trying to be supportive of this week's TwD recipe, I considered using a different berry since I had a bunch of strawberries from another recipe I just made. I seriously toyed with the idea of strawberry sour-cream ice cream. Then came the second problem... I didn't have sour-cream. Not only didn't I have it... I don't like it... no one in our family likes it and that was a much bigger issue. I thought about just omitting the sour-cream but wasn't sure how that would work out.

While perusing the net I found a variation on blueberry ice cream... blueberry cheesecake ice cream. Oh do I love cheesecake ice cream.... ohhh-boyyy do I :) :) But I didn't have fresh blueberries... only strawberries... so in the final analysis that's how this week I ended up making strawberry cheesecake ice cream. Hey, it's TwD... sorta ;-)

The recipe I used can be found here and I only made about 1/4th of the recipe since I didn't want too much of this on hand. Some things are just way too tempting. The result was most excellent and I will definitely make this again!!! It's smooth and creamy like egg-based custard but without all the time and hassle. My good friend and best-baking-buddy Jamie did her own version of this recipe which you can check out on her blog here. Guess you could say we're both just a couple of TwD "rebels" this week ;-)

Check out the results of the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew... they made some great looking Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream!

Have a delicious day :)
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Coconut Pineapple Cupcakes

Ever since I went to Hawaii in March, I've been on a serious pineapple & coconut kick. DH has always always ALWAYS loved pineapple while I've thought it to be "fine". But something happened on vacation and I been eating pineapple like it was goin-out-of-style. Since that time we've consumed no less than 3 whole pineapples each week. I've found lots of ways to incorporate pineapple in some way in our meals and in my baking... and this coconut cupcake with pineapple cream cheese frosting is simply out of this world!

Recently, my baking buddy Jamie over at My Baking Addiction posted what she believed to be the best cupcakes she'd ever tasted. Well, that's quite a statement coming from another baker... so of course I had to try these out for myself. She made certain adjustments and then I made certain adjustments but the basic recipe is Ina Garten's coconut cupcakes. I used no almond extract at all... just coconut extract in the cake batter and fresh pineapple juice (along with freshly cut pineapple pieces) in the icing. The fresh fruit definitely impacts the "set" on the icing... even though it's still pretty thick, that comes from the fruit chunks, it's certainly not for piping. But that's okay, not every icing needs to be piped :) This one would be fantastic as a layer cake filling - in fact I'll probably try that at some point!

I sent Jamie an email earlier today telling her just how addictive these cupcakes are. They're fantastic... just fantastic. And personally I think it was all in the pineapple ;-)

Have a delicious day!

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Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

M'mmmm don't these look good? Yes indeed they do! Not only do they look good, they taste phenomenal and make your whole house smell incredible while they're baking. What a crazy week this has been. I've baked so many different things and I'm totally behind in sharing them... but I'd like to begin correcting that right this instant :) Not many of you know this but Alton Brown is my boyfriend. Yes yes, I know, I'm married. And married women are not supposed to have boyfriends. But Alton Brown is spayshul... I watch his show Good Eats on the Food Network and just go positively mushy over him. He's entertaining, he's funny, he's got some great recipes... and he's smart as can be.

If you've never seen his show, Good Eats, I highly recommend it. I've learned so much about the "why" behind food and recipes that I can almost, kinda sorta, maybe, perhaps, sometimes come close to sounding like I know a thing or two when I'm having a food- or cooking-related conversation. And I have my boyfriend to thank for that :) I've bought two of Alton's books as well... they're both on the right hand sidebar of my blog. He's not drop-dead gorgeous... but he's got a little geeky-nerd-boy thing goin on that appeals to me. Hey, what can I say... I graduated from engineering school and during all those years of study I was surrounded by the geeky-nerd-boys. Certainly not all of them do it for me (ever caught an episode of Big Bang Theory on CBS? LOL!!!) but the ones with personality and a great sense of humor usually catch my attention... and that, folks, pretty much describes my boyfriend Alton ;-)

The recipe can be found here and while I won't lie and tell you they're quick and easy, I will tell you the results are pretty much worth it... if you've got the time. You'll use up a few bowls and make a bit of a mess in the kitchen... but your friends and family will love you for it -uhm... that is unless you devour them all yourself! LOL. If you're thinking about serving these for tomorrow morning's breakfast... get started now. My boyfriend Alton named these OVERNIGHT Cinnamon Rolls for a reason!!!

Have a delicious day :)
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