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Pinterest is my latest obsession, and the inspiration behind this cake. That website has so many amazing and creative ideas!  Like this sweet garland I made yesterday:

 

So pretty, and so simple! I cut strips of paper about an inch wide, folded them in half, then curled each end around a knitting needle to form the heart shape. Then I used a needle to string some thread through the middle of the bottom of each heart, and double-sided tape to stick the tops together, pinching the thread in between. The bottom hearts are made by taking a heart-shaped hole punch to Behr paint chip. The paint chip was a free sample and the paper was leftover from making our wedding invitations, so this cute decoration cost me nothing! Sweet! And that’s why I love pinterest.

Anyway, I was hunting around Pinterest for party ideas when I came across an image of a pink bundt cake, and it linked to a recipe for a pink lemonade bundt cake. Yum yum! But when I went back later to check out the recipe in more detail, I realized it involved cake mix – something I prefer to avoid. Not only do I not dig the texture of box mix cakes, I can’t get past the chemically aftertaste that box mixes have. So I was disappointed that I didn’t have a recipe for a pink lemonade bundt after all.

But I could not get the idea of a pink bundt cake out of my head. It just seemed so cute and fun and girly.

I needed a pink bundt cake!

So I went to Martha, of course, looking for the perfect lemony pound cake to turn pink, and of course she didn’t let me down. This recipe comes from her Fresh Flavor Fast cookbook, although that recipe uses two loaf pans instead of a bundt. So I whipped it up, and added a healthy dose of pink gel food coloring (and maybe went a teensy bit overboard) – and I had me a pink lemon poundcake. And I’m calling it a pink lemonade poundcake, even though there isn’t actually any lemonade per se involved in making the cake, because hey. Pink lemonade is just lemons and sugar and pink food coloring anyway, and this cake has all that. Without any nasty chemicals!

This cake is deliciously fresh and very lemony and bright. It’s a great cake for winter – the flavor just perks you up and brings sunshine into your cold, grey day. And of course, the food dye is completely optional after all, it would be a yellow cake without it. But a pink bundt cake would be great for Valentine’s Day. And I think it would be the cutest for a bridal shower or a baby shower for a baby girl. A bundt cake like this has a kind of classy, old fashioned feel to it that could be really charming at an afternoon tea-style shower.

Why am I thinking about baby and bridal showers, anyway? BLAME PINTEREST. So many cute ideas. I can’t help it.

Pink Lemonade Pound Cake

Adapted from Everyday Food Fresh Flavor Fast

Prep: 30 minutes Total time: 3 hours (with cooling)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pans

3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for pan

3/4 cup buttermilk

Finely grated zest of two lemons

1 cup lemon juice (from 5 to 6 lemons)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups sugar

5 large eggs, room temperature

Pink food dye gel (I used Wilton icing colors in Rose)

Lemon glaze (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a flour a 10 cup bundt pan.

2. Combine buttermilk, lemon juice, and zest. In a bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

3. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Scrape down bowl as needed.

4. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with buttermilk and beginning and ending with flour. Add just a touch of food dye gel (a tiny bit goes a long way!) and beat until just combined.

5. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 – 60 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in pan, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

6. Transfer cake to a plate or cake stand and pour the glaze over the cake. Let set, about 30 minutes.

Lemon glaze

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Pink food dye gel

Mix together sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. Add more sugar or lemon juice as necessary to make glaze thick yet pourable. Stir in a tiny bit of food dye gel to get the desired shade of pink.

 

 

I’m a bit obsessed with all things pumpkin right now, so I saw these pumpkin pancakes in my Google reader yesterday, I decided right away that this was what we’d be having for breakfast today. And we did. And they were fantastic! They’re spicy and wholesome and the apple-cinnamon-maple compote really takes them over the top. They taste like a plate of autumn. I actually forgot that they were 100% whole wheat at first, you really don’t notice it – they’re just as light and fluffy as you could ask for.

Whole Grain Pumpkin Pancakes

Adapted slightly from Honey and Jam, who adapted it from 101 cookbooks
2 cups white whole wheat flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice*
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 large eggs

2 tablespoons butter, melted
butter, to serve (and for pan)
Heat oven to 200 degrees. Set a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet and put in the oven.
To make the pancakes, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, spice and salt in a large bowl. In a second bowl, beat the eggs. Add the buttermilk, pumpkin, and melted butter, and stir to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently stir together. Don’t over mix – a few lumps are fine. The batter will be very thick.
Heat your griddle – it’s ready when a drop of water sizzles and dances when dropped onto it – and grease it with butter. Using a quarter cup measure as a scoop, pour the batter onto the griddle. Cook pancakes until the edges begin to dry out and air bubbles start to break out onto the surface – then flip and cook a couple minutes more on the other side. Place finished pancakes on the wire rack in the warm oven, then repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with Apple Maple Compote

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Apple Cinnamon Maple Compote

1 apple for every 2 people
Butter
Cinnamon
Maple syrup
Slice up your apple(s) (I only used one for the two of us). Heat an appropriately-sized skillet, depending on the amount of apples you’ll be cooking, then melt a generous pat of butter in it. Cook the apples, sprinkling both sides with cinnamon and stirring, until the apples are soft. Pour enough maple syrup over the apples until they’re just covered. Bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes, then turn down to low and keep warm until the pancakes are ready.

My lovely mother-in-law and brother-in-law were here for a week-long visit last week. I made an awesome chicken dinner for them on the night of their arrival – a recipe I’ll have to post despite the fact that I didn’t manage to get a single picture of it, because it’s that good. And for dessert, I made this cake. I had never made this recipe before but since it comes from Nicole at Baking Bites, I knew it would be great.

And it was! It was everything a pound cake should be – dense, but not heavy. Substantial, I guess. The ideal texture for a cake in my opinion. And simple, but not boring. The ideal foil for slices of fresh strawberries. And the bright lemony flavor was perfect for spring, and played beautifully against the strawberries. The glaze added the perfect zing of extra lemon flavor. It was perfect, and everyone loved it.I’ll definitely be making this one again – hopefully soon!

Note: I didn’t let my cake cool all the way before applying the glaze, which is why a lot of it slid off. Don’t be like me! Be patient and let the cake cool completely (not that having the cake standing in a glaze puddle is a bad thing, actually).

Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 tbsp lemon zest
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in lemon zest, then beat in the eggs one at a time until well-combined.
  4. In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine vanilla, buttermilk and vegetable oil. Working in two or three additions, alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture to the butter mixture, ending with a final addition of dry ingredients. Stir only until no streaks of flour remain. Pour into prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a wire rack before topping with lemon glaze (recipe below).

Serves 16

Lemon Glaze
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Today is the second annual gathering of cupcake lovers and bakers known as Cupcake Camp Boston. I went last year and it was amazing – the venue seemed to be overflowing with cupcakes of every size and description. Professional bakeries brought boxes and boxes of their fancy, elegant cupcakes and amateur bakers like myself brought their homemade creations and everyone shares. It was so much fun and James and I got to taste so many delicious cakes! So I was very excited when I heard that Cupcake Camp was happening again.

This year, I decided to make chocolate salted caramel cupcakes. I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s box of sea salt caramels that comes out at Christmastime. Those candies are incredibly addicting, the way the salt accents the sweetness of the caramel while exploding the flavor. I knew that those candies in cupcake form would knock my socks off.

But making homemade caramel was a bit intimidating – I never made any sort of homemade candy before. I was afraid of ruining the caramel, and on the first couple of tries, I did. First, I made a Martha Stewart salted caramel recipe from her Cupcakes book and it turned out grainy. It was the texture of the insides of Sugar Babies, if you remember those. And I even though I followed the recipe exactly, the caramel was very pale and didn’t have much of a caramel flavor – I under-cooked it.  Martha’s recipe took three cups of sugar, and I was pretty discouraged to try that recipe again because that is an awful lot of sugar to waste!

Then I tried this caramel recipe from Kate at Grin and Bake It, which uses only a quarter cup of sugar per batch and is therefore much better suited for trial and error, and my first batch of that burned. Making caramel involves a lot of standing around and watching sugar and water boil, and it’s only at the very end that the color goes from clear to pale yellow to darker and darker amber. I let it go to far – once it starts turning amber, it goes very quickly – and it burned. Blech. But then I made it again, and – success! Perfect, flavorful, rich caramel. And now I’ve made several batches without failures. I think it’s like riding a bike – tricky at first, but once you figure it out, you’ve got it.

Here’s how I do it:

First, I stir together sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. I stir it for maybe 20-30 seconds, until all of the sugar is dissolved and the solution is pretty clear – but it will still appear cloudy. Then, set the time and let it boil away without stirring.

As it boils, the bubbles will go from big and loose to smaller and more densely packed as the solution gets thick and syrupy. It will still be all white/clear.

Finally, as you’re approaching the end of your cooking time, it will almost imperceptibly start turning yellow at the edges. Watch carefully now, because once this starts, it’ll go from pale yellow to dark reddish-brown-burnt in under a minute.

Almost there…

Once the sugar is dark amber, even slightly reddish right at the edges, it’s done. (But I think once it gets very red, it’s burned.) It may smoke a bit and that’s okay. Take it off the heat and slowly stir in the cream.

Start with just a splash of the cream. It will foam up like crazy but just keep stirring, and slowly pour in the rest of the cream. I found that if I dumped the cream in too quickly, if formed a crazy lump of caramel in the middle of the liquid. But I frantically kept stirring and eventually it resolved into a smooth sauce again.

It will keep boiling up until you finish adding all of the cream, just keep stirring and eventually it’ll calm down.

And then you’ll have caramel! At this point, I add some sea salt, but if you wanted plain caramel, you can just leave it as-is.

Now, back to the cupcakes! These babies are amazing. The chocolate cake is dense and rich and tender. The addition of hot coffee in the batter really deepens the chocolate flavor. The frosting is deliciously caramel-y without being overwhelming. The bit of pure salted caramel in the middle is gooey and luscious and packs a big caramel flavor punch. These may be the most delicious cupcakes I’ve ever made!

Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

From Grin and Bake It

Makes approx. 2 dozen cupcake

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

3/4 cups cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk, shaken (I use powdered)

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup freshly brewed caramel-flavored hot coffee

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in tin. Combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in mixer and mix until combined .
  2. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda together. Whisk in the salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the wet.
  3. Add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Batter will be very runny. Pour the batter into cupcake liners, fill a little less than 2/3 full.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.

Salted Caramel

Adapted from Grin and Bake It

1/4 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons water

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (or more or less, to your taste)

Briefly stir together sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Set timer for 5 minutes. Allow mixture to boil without stirring until it turns dark amber in color. It may take up to 6 or 7 minutes to get to the right color, but I had a batch burn because I was waiting for 6 minutes exactly. Don’t wait for the timer – pull it off the heat when it is dark yellow and the edges are just started to look reddish.

Slowly add the cream, starting with just a splash, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Stir in the fleur de sel and set aside until cool.

This recipe easily doubles. Make one double batch for the buttercream, and one single batch for filling the cupcakes.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

Adapted from Grin and Bake It

The original recipe from Grin and Bake It calls for salted butter and does not use fleur de sel in the caramel. I’m sure that’s good too, but I wanted to be able to adjust the saltiness to my liking, and have salted caramel for filling the cupcakes. That’s why I used fleur de sel in the caramel and then use unsalted butter in the frosting.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 cups powdered sugar

2 batches of the salted caramel

Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed and add powdered sugar. Mix until well combined. Turn off the mixer, and slowly add caramel. Beat frosting on low to combine, and then increase to mediium-high and beat until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes.

Refrigerate if not using immediately. If you refrigerate the frosting, be sure to whip it up with your mixer before spreading. To frost cupcakes with the swirl (Wilton 1M tip), double the recipe.

To assemble:

Carefully cut a small cone out of the middle of each cupcake. Fill with about a half teaspoon of the salted caramel. Sprinkle with a bit of fleur de sel before replacing the cap. (You may have to remove the bottom of the cone to get the cap to fit.)

Frost with the salted caramel buttercream. Sprinkle with a bit more fleur de sel, if desired, or chocolate jimmies, or drizzle with a bit of extra salted caramel.

Enjoy!!


I’m trying to add more whole grains into our diet. James and I generally eat well, we eat a lot of whole foods and keep processed foods to a minimum. But I realized recently that while we get about our recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and definitely get enough dairy (we’re big milk drinkers), we weren’t coming close to the daily recommended amount of whole grain. So we’ve switched from regular “whole grain” cold cereal to Bob’s Red Mill whole grain hot cereals, which consist of ground up whole grains… and that’s it. No white flour, no sugar, no preservatives. I’m trying to have more whole grains as sides at dinner, like brown rice and quinoa.  Now that I’m not working, I’m baking 100% whole wheat bread from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day, which we use for sandwiches rather than store-bought bread.

And I’m sneaking whole wheat flour into more and more of our baked goods. I recently found white whole wheat flour in our grocery store and I’m in love. It has a more subtle flavor that regular whole wheat, and you really can’t detect it when you sub out half of the AP flour in a recipe for white whole wheat. So when I made these pancakes this morning, I used 1 cup white whole wheat and 1 cup AP flour, and they came out light and fluffy and delicious and James was surprised when I told him they were half whole wheat.

This weekend is the New Hampshire maple producers open house weekend, so James and I drove up yesterday to visit two sugar houses to see how they make maple syrup and to sample maple products. We first stopped at the Maple Butternut Farm in New Boston, and then we went to the Grant Family Pond View Maples in Weare.

Both are family-run operations – I suspect most if not all of the sugar houses in NH are family owned and operated. We drank little shots of pure maple syrup at both houses, and at the second one we also had maple hot dogs (cooked in maple water), maple chili, maple popcorn, and maple cotton candy. Yum yum!!

It was awesome to taste all that maple-y goodness and really interesting to meet the people to make the syrup and learn about how they do it. Of course we came home with a fair amount of maple products: A pint of maple syrup from each of the sugar houses, maple cream, maple butter, and maple sugar.

So of course this morning I had  a big craving for pancakes! These babies hit the spot. Light and fluffy with a nice tang of buttermilk, and heartier than normal pancakes thanks to the whole wheat. Delicious! Especially topped with super yummy New Hampshire maple syrup.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Family Baking Book

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup white whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups buttermilk

3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

1 large egg

extra unsalted butter for the pan

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet and set on the oven rack.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a 4-cup measuring cup, measure out buttermilk and then add melted butter and egg (you can use a medium bowl for this, but using a 4 cup measure saves you from having to wash an extra bowl while giving you room to whisk). Whisk wet ingredients together and add them to the dry. Gently fold the wet and dry ingredients together until just incorporated, with a few lumps remaining. Do not over mix. The batter will be very thick.
  3. Heat a skillet or griddle pan over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Test with a few drops of water sprinkled on the surface – the pan is ready when the water immediately dances across the surface. Brush the pan with some butter. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop the batter onto the skillet and cook until large bubbles begin to appear, about 2 minutes.
  4. Flip the pancakes and continue to cook until golden brown, about 1 1/2  minutes. Transfer pancakes to wire rack in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing the pan with butter as needed. Serve with maple syrup!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I wasn’t planning on making anything special for today, since my husband’s birthday was the day before yesterday so we have plenty of cake and dinner leftovers. But then I remembered my friend K sent me this recipe last year and I still hadn’t tried it and I love Irish soda bread but hardly ever have it. Plus, this recipe comes from K’s Northern Irish friend’s mother. An authentic, straight-from-Ireland recipe? Sold!

This is a quick bread, so it came together… quickly. Whisk together dry ingredients, add raisins, mix together wet ingredients, add those to the dry, plop it in a loaf pan, scoot it into the oven, and you’re done. Most Irish soda breads I’ve seen are round, not loaf-shaped, but I’m sure you could make this in a round cake pan, you’d probably just have to adjust the baking time.

This is a delicious bread! Soft, almost spongy in texture (in a good way!), moist and slightly sweet. I imagine there are about as many Irish soda bread recipes out there as there are Irish families. I’m used to a drier, more crumbly kind of soda bread. I like both kinds, actually. The recipe calls for 3 cups of all-purpose flour but I used 2 cups AP and 1 cup of white whole wheat flour – I don’t think you can detect that there’s whole wheat in it.

Irish Soda Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 cups AP and 1 cup white whole wheat)

2/3 cup of sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 ¼ cups golden raisins (half a box) or regular raisins if you prefer

2 large eggs

2 cups of buttermilk (not too fresh, it gets better as it approaches the expiration date)

2 tablespoons of butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a large loaf pan (mine is about 10 x 5 and fit perfectly).
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Add the raisins and mix well. Combine the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter in a small bowl – mix well with the whisk.
  3. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until just moistened. DO NOT OVERMIX – it will not taste as good and lose its texture.
  4. Dump into prepared pan and bake for about an hour. (Mine took 55 minutes.) Test for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from pan and cool on rack.

Serve warm or cold with some good butter.

 

My brother gave me Baked Explorations this past Christmas. What a gorgeous book! The photos are luscious. There are a lot of great-looking recipes in there. When my brother came for a visit recently, I was happy to have an excuse to make something out of the book for him.

Whoopie pies are all the rage lately in the food blogosphere, but I never made them because every recipe I come across makes a ton! This recipe from Baked Explorations claims to yield 10 to 12 large or 15 to 17 small pies, but I feel like it made much more than that. Happily, though, the whoopie pies freeze well. However, I won’t be making these again unless it’s for a big party – there was an overwhelming amount of dessert in the house for just three people that weekend. (Also, I don’t repeat recipes that much.)

I like that this recipe uses butter and canola oil rather than shortening, which I’ve heard is more traditional. I had never made swiss buttercream before but it was really rather easy and I really liked the results. They pies are very chocolatey and very slightly salty, which I enjoyed against the buttercream. But the buttercream isn’t bracingly sweet either. There’s a good balance of not-too-sweet and very slightly salty going on here. I did have a problem with the pies being so tender and moist that they fused to whatever surface I was storing them on (including each other), so that the bottoms always ripped off a bit whenever I moved them. But that just meant more tastes for me because I couldn’t let that little bit of chocolatey goodness go to waste. 🙂

Chocolate Whoopie Pies

Adapted slightly from Baked Explorations

Yield: A whole lot of whoopie pies

For the whoopie pies:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (I used one packet of Starbucks Via)

1/2 cup hot coffee

2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup canola oil

1 large egg, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken (I used powdered buttermilk)

For the Swiss meringue buttercream:

3 large egg whites

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cool but not cold, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To make the pies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and espresso powder. Add the hot coffee and 1/2 cup hot water and whisk until both powders are completely dissolved.

In a medium bowl, stir the brown sugar and oil together. Add this to the cocoa mixture and whisk until combined. Add the egg, vanilla, and buttermilk and whisk until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Make sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as you fold.

Use a small cookie scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake pans one at a time for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. Let the cookies cool completely on the pans.

To make the Swiss meringue:

In a medium metal bowl, whisk egg whites and sugar together. Set the bowl over a pan but do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and the color is a milky white, about 2-3 minutes. I gently whisked it during the heating process, it seems odd that the recipe doesn’t explicitly tell you whether to whisk it or not, but it seems that if you want it to heat evenly and for the sugar to dissolve quickly, whisking would be desirable.

Transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high (start slowly at first) until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the cubed butter; beat on medium-high speed (start slowly at first) until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. If the butter mixture looks like it is breaking, don’t worry, it will eventually come together (mine did, I couldn’t help but worry a bit, but sure enough it came together perfectly in the end).

Add the salt and vanilla and beat for 5 seconds to combine.

To assemble the whoopie pies:

Turn half of the cooled cookies over so that the flat side faces up. Use your cookie scoop or a tablespoon to drop a large dollop of buttercream onto the cookie and spread with a knife. (The original recipe says to put a dollop in the center of a cookie and then press another cookie onto it to spread the filling out – I didn’t think that worked too well.) Top with a second cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.

The whoopie pies will keep for up to 3 days (I definitely noticed a staleness creeping in when we got to day 3 1/2), on a parchment-lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Bring the pies up to room temperature before serving.

Well, I disappeared there for a little bit, didn’t I? I haven’t posted for a week because my brother had a last minute business trip to the Boston area and was able to come visit for the weekend, so all last week I was getting ready for him and I neglected my little blog a bit. So I’m making it up with one of my favorite breakfast recipes – America’s Test Kitchen’s buttermilk Belgian waffles.

These are delicious, delicious waffles. I made these last weekend for me and my husband, and then I made them again this past Saturday for my brother, because they’re so good. They’re light and fluffy thanks to the whipped egg whites that you fold in, and they have a wonderful buttery flavor with the tang of buttermilk.

This recipe is another reason why I love to keep powdered buttermilk in my fridge all the time – I love being able to whip these up at a moment’s notice. The recipe is a bit involved and dirties three bowls, but they still come together fairly quickly and believe me, they are well worth it. These are a million times better than the Belgian waffles you’d get at IHOP.

Buttermilk waffles

From America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Makes: 6 to 8 waffles (depending on size of waffle iron)

Start to finish: 25 minutes

Try topping the waffles with fresh fruit or ice cream. As you make the waffles, place them on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, cover them with a kitchen towel, and place the baking sheet in a 200-degree oven. When the final waffle is in the iron, remove the towel and allow the waffles to crisp for a few minutes.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons fine-ground cornmeal (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 large eggs, separated

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 ¾ cups buttermilk

Pinch cream of tartar

  1. Heat waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, cornmeal (if using), salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, butter, and then the buttermilk. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Make  well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour the buttermilk mixture into the well, and whisk very gently until the buttermilk mixture is just incorporated (a few lumps should remain). Toward the end of the mixing, fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.
  3. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, spread the appropriate amount of batter onto the waffle iron and cook until golden brown, about 3 ½ minutes. Repeat with remaining batter, serving the waffles immediately or holding them in a 200-degree oven until all are cooked.

 

VARIATION

Honey-bran waffles

Replace ½ cup of the flour with ½ cu wheat bran and whisk ¼ cup honey (or maple syrup) into the buttermilk mixture in step 2.

My husband loves these biscuits, and I love them because they’re easy to make. No needing to delicately work cold butter into the flour, no rolling and folding and rolling the dough, no fussing with cutting out perfectly round biscuits. While I’m sure biscuits made the good old fashioned way are amazing, these are extremely tasty, buttery and tender biscuits that are a cinch to put together. Go ahead and throw out your box of Bisquick – you won’t need it any more!

The recipe calls for buttermilk, which I rarely have on hand, but I substitute powdered buttermilk. I always have that in my fridge so I can whip up these biscuits or vanilla buttermilk cupcakes or whatever else needs buttermilk on a moment’s notice. The kind I use is in a canister and you can find it in the baking isle at the grocery store. America’s Test Kitchen did a taste test on buttermilk vs. powdered buttermilk vs. regular milk soured with vinegar, and while fresh buttermilk came out on top, the powdered version was a close second. Regular milk soured with vinegar, while it will work in a pinch, didn’t have the same flavor profile and the taste testers through it tasted flat.

Don’t forget to brush the biscuits with melted butter after they’re done baking – that’s the best part! 😀

Simple Drop Biscuits

From America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Makes 12

2 Cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk, chilled

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus extra for brushing

  1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees. LIne a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, stir the chilled buttermilk ad melted butter together until the butter forms small clumps. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just incorporated and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Using a greased 1/4 cup measure scoop out and drop mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until the tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
  4. Brush the baked biscuits with extra melted butter, transfer to a wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Serve warm.