Valentine’s Day Sugar Cookies

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I went to Target this weekend, and they had so many cute Valentine’s themed baking items that my head almost exploded. I bought lots of stuff, including some heart-shaped cookie cutters. Sugar cookies it is!

Now, like all things I make, I want my baked goods to look professional. This, being my first attempt at professional looking sugar cookies, didn’t work out too well. They sure taste good. At least I have that.

Here are the ingredients I used. I took a shortcut and used premade sugar cookie dough.

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I cut out various heart shapes and added sprinkles!

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Little did I know that it helps the cookies to keep their shape if you chill them again after cutting, so I didn’t do this. They were pretty much misshapen blobs!

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So, I thought maybe if I baked the cookie IN the cutter.

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It kind of worked. Obviously, this is not how sugar cookies are supposed to look.

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Oh well. I started making the Royal Icing, and dyed it pink.

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These were what I came up with…not that impressive but still tasty!

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I also wanted to show the incredible MESS I made in my kitchen.

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Final products:

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Baked French Toast

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I absolutely love making sweet breakfast foods. For this Saturday morning, I decided on Baked French Toast from Martha Stewart, because I had some nice Challah bread that I needed to use up. I also skipped the raspberry sauce that is included in the recipe.

I prepared it the night before. It’s very simple; all you need is milk, sugar, eggs, salt and vanilla. Mix all of these ingredients in a baking dish.

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Then, put the bread slices in and let them soak for 15 minutes.

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Flip them over, and let them soak overnight.

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In the morning, I placed them on a baking sheet and baked away! They smelled amazing as they were cooking.

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I topped them with strawberries and maple syrup. So delicious! And very filling too.

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla French Buttercream

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I was lucky enough to be around a couple weeks ago to see the Martha Stewart cupcake show! She featured some of her own recipes, and also had the owners of Butter Lane in NYC come on the show and demonstrate how to make some of their delicious cupcakes. Being in Miami, I of course can’t go there and taste one myself, so I decided to make them! I actually used a different chocolate cupcake recipe from Martha’s website, because the Butter Lane one called for cake flour, which I didn’t have on hand today. So, I chose Martha’s Chocolate Cupcakes, which has pretty much the same ingredients, but with all-purpose flour. Here are the ingredients you need:

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3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

Sift the cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

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Next, it’s time to cream the butter and sugar.

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Now, add the eggs one at a time.

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And lastly, add half the flour/cocoa mixture, followed by the sour cream, and then the rest of the flour mixture.

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Divide the mixture into a single cupcake pan.

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And bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

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The easy part is over! Now it’s time for the frosting. This one I did steal from Butter Lane, their Vanilla French Buttercream. I cut this recipe in half since I only had 12 cupcakes. The first step was to melt the sugar into the egg whites over a saucepan of simmering water, while constantly whisking so that the eggs wouldn’t cook.

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Next, you have to beat the egg white mixture into oblivion…or until stiff peaks form.

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Add the cream of tartar and keep beating. Then, you have to add the wet ingredients. This is where it seemed that all my hard work was for naught. Once I started added the butter, the mixture became much more gooey and no longer was stiff.

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Finally, add the vanilla. This recipe calls for vanilla beans, but I obviously wasn’t going to spend the money on that, so I just used extra vanilla extract. You then have to chill the frosting.I went above and beyond the 15 minute chill time– I let it sit in the fridge for an hour. I was ready to frost my cupcakes!

I wanted to practice my decorating skills, so I broke out my pastry bag and tips. However, this frosting was not meant for piping. It slid right off the cupcake.

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I gave up on that and wielded a knife. Much better! Not only did these cupcakes look delicious, but they taste amazing. I was so excited, I had a cupcake photo-shoot. Please click on these for a larger image!

International Chocolate Festival

This past weekend, I attended the International Chocolate Festival at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, FL. I was very excited, and hoping to sample all kinds of chocolate treats.

The venue was really cool; it had beautiful plants and scenic views. However, I was a little disappointed in the festival itself. First off, there was a $20 charge to get in. From this, I thought that there would be a lot of free stuff from the vendors, as was common at other festivals/fairs I have been too. Unfortunately, you had to pay for everything! The only vendors that were willingly giving stuff away were Yelp.com (which obviously has nothing to do with chocolate) and Taylormade Cookies, which were delicious. Also, Bella Sera wines were giving away samples, but as it was 11 in the morning, I was not interested.

For anything else, you had to dig into your wallet, and it was not cheap. I got the “Taster’s Plate” ($12) in their House of Chocolate.

Sure, it was tasty, especially the Mayan Hot Chocolate. But I don’t think I would pay 12 bucks for it again. The other item I bought was a chocolate smoothie made with chocolate grown at Fairchild, for $3. It was truly delicious! It was perfect on a hot afternoon in Miami. Other than those two things, I was not willing to pony up.

To be fair, I should mention that they were doing several cooking demos, and book signings. However, I wasn’t about to spend the entire day at this place. If you did though, you would have probably learned a lot.

In the end, I would say it was probably a successful event. But I love my free stuff, and I left pretty much unsatisfied.

Dinner Rolls

Ever since I got my KitchenAid Mixer, I have been reading up on breads. I have made a few pizza crusts with success, so I decided to try something new: No-Knead Dinner Rolls from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. The rolls were supposed to be stuffed into a 9″x13″ pan, but because I only have to feed two people, I cut the recipe in half and just made balls of dough. The recipe was extremely easy, but did take some time so I would suggest planning which meal you want to serve these yummy rolls with. They came out great and had a slightly sweet taste, which I liked.

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Happy Birthday Allie!

My boyfriend Allie’s birthday is on the day after Christmas, and because our families live in different states, I never get to see him on his birthday. So, we always celebrate it in early January.

Unfortunately, he is not a huge fan of sweets, but he loves cheesecake. I had only made one cheesecake before, but I had a new springform pan and decided to try Chantal’s New York Cheesecake from All Recipes. It was easy enough to make, although I was surprised at how much cream cheese was called for. As always, I like to read the comments on any recipe before I try it. I noticed that this recipe had a lot of reader comments on preventing cracking. I didn’t have much time to make this cheesecake, so I didn’t try the water bath that was strongly suggested, and lo and behold, I got a huge crack in the the top.

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Of course, this didn’t change the taste, and it tasted wonderful! Truly delicious. I would certainly make it again, but next time I will try the water bath.

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Birthday Cake!

My brother Eddie gave me a cake turntable for Christmas, and I got to test it out for his girlfriend Nancy’s birthday! There was nothing too original in the recipe. The cake was Duncan Hines and so was the frosting, which I dyed green, but that wasn’t the point! I wanted to test my decorating skills and use the turntable. I love it!

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