Monday, March 31, 2014

Meringue Mushrooms for April Fools' Day!

Today I'm forgoing Macaron Monday in favor of Meringue Mushroom Monday. I get a huge kick out of faux foods and always look forward to creating something fun this time of year for April Fools' Day.  

These cute little meringue mushrooms are easy to make and are a fun addition to any dessert plate. Meringue mushrooms may not be the most original idea for April Fools' as lots of other bloggers have created their own. However, ever since I saw them years ago I've been wanting to make them myself. Now I can take them off the list.

After I finished taking pictures for this post,  my husband (who was greatly amused by these) grabbed a few and headed outside with the camera. That's where the opening and closing shots on this post came from.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Whole Wheat Avocado Banana Sunflower Seed Muffins

Letting perfectly good food rot and having to throw it away always gives me a guilt trip. Before we went the Bahamas last week there were some bananas dying a very painful death in a bowl on my shelf. As any baker knows, this is when bananas are at their most tasty time for baking. So one morning, shortly before we left, I got up extra early to rid my apartment of them by recycling them into a recipe I've always wanted to try.

Luckily, there is never any shortage of ripe avocados at our place. I seriously buy five or six at a time all in varying stages of ripeness. These green globes represent the angels and devils of my daily diet. Every day I can choose to use one in a healthy smoothie or I can opt to make some kick ass guac and bust out the chips. Guess which one wins out most? Hmmm.

So armed with smelly bananas and squishy avocado, I combined flavors and whipped up these lovely muffins. Several were jammed in my carry on luggage to enjoy each morning before boarding the dive boat. One of these sustained me through two dives almost until 2pm each day. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pistachio White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Dr. B rarely asks me for baked goods. The man has no sweet tooth. Sometimes I catch him stealing broken cookies off the cooling racks, but rarely.

These came out of his request for cookies for an office meeting. I thought two different cookie flavors would be enough for 30 people. After hauling out all my leftover bits and pieces in my kitchen cabinets, this became the first idea.

I didn't want to stray too much into crazy flavor land so I stayed with a chocolate chip cookie base and just switched up the add ins, using an over looked package of raw pistachio meats and some of the umpteen white chocolate chips that seem to be breeding in the pantry.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Macaron Monday: Salt & Pepper French Macarons

This French macaron flavor was a complete accident.  Although in the end a happy one, I had, for a split second, thought I had ruined a batch of macarons.

What happened was this: during the whipping of the egg whites phase of making French macarons, like always, I added a few pinches of cream of tarter and salt to the whites to stabilize them.

After adding the cream of tarter I reached for the salt shaker, sprinkled some in and yes, I realized immediately afterwards I had picked up the pepper shaker and used that instead of the salt. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rose Cream Puff Swans

This was my attempt to serve an elegant dessert on Oscar night. I've been wanting to make these babies forever and finally had the time and appropriate occasion as an excuse. I actually didn't take many photographs but it turns out, even after a week or so in the fridge, some leftover ones didn't disintegrate in the fridge. I was able to take some snaps and post them.

What prompted this was I recently (re)saw these swans beautifully executed by Barbara Bakes and became re-obsessed with making them. Her instructions are excellent.

When I visited  my beloved Dallmayr in Munich last fall, I picked up several delicious treasures and squirreled them away in my pantry for special occasions. These candied rose petals were among the chosen. Since I also had some leftover Romanian rose jam left over in my fridge (a gift from a fellow UN spouse), I put them together to make this rose flavored version of cream puff swans. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Glitter Hearts, Moon and Stars Cookies

"Men should take their knowledge from the Sun, the Moon and the Stars." 
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Recently the Upper Delaware GLBT, of which I am a board member, hosted a fundraising brunch to bring the local community together with a very talented local psychic.

Unfortunately, I had overbooked my baking commitments and spent the entire weekend in the kitchen. One of my commitments was agreeing to bake some scones, cookies, and muffins to donate to the brunch which was sold out and a huge success. I wasn't able to attend the brunch so I did the drop-off and ran back to my mixer and oven.

Along with the platters of other goodies, I made these decorated sugar cookies and decided to post them because I was really pleased with the result and they were so dang easy to make.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Macaron Monday: Green Macarons with Chocolate Irish Cream Buttercream for St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  To celebrate here on Macaron Monday, I turned French macarons green as a a nod to the Irish. No flavor. Just green.

I saved the taste bomb for the chocolate Irish Cream filling. Using leftover vanilla buttercream as a base, I added some homemade chocolate syrup and Irish Cream liqueur to make it fancy pants and Irish themed. 

To be honest, these came out a bit wonky in shape and a fair amount of them cracked. I chalk those problems up to using very watery green food coloring for the shells instead of powdered or paste. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wintergreen Paddys for St. Patrick's Day

One American treat my husband has long been a fan of is the York Peppermint Pattie. I used to bring bags of them back from the States for him when we lived in Germany and always intended to make them at home so he wouldn't have to wait for my international travel schedule to enjoy them. 

So of course now that we live in the States and he has unlimited pp access is when I decide to finally try my hand at creating them at home.

Dr. B is a purist, so he probably won't care much for this wintergreen version. He was forbidden to taste them until photos were taken so the verdict is pending. 

To make these holiday appropriate, I shamrock shaped them, then sprinkled the tops with green sugar crystals. I couldn't resist switching up the flavor and color and changing the name to "Paddy" for St. Patrick's day.

These have the texture of peppermint patties but the aftertaste of wintergreen lifesavers which were always my favorite. So I like them. 

I admit you have to like wintergreen to fancy these but the best part is, in addition to not being  as difficult to make as I thought, they also provide a great creative opportunity for future batches to experiment with different flavor and color versions.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lime Vanilla Green Carnation Cupcakes for St. Patrick's Day

It's that time of the year again to start churning out the green goods for St. Paddy's Day. I'm not Irish but for me this up coming holiday is a good excuse for creative inspiration.

Recently, it seems like fake green carnations have been popping up everywhere in craft and dollar stores. They are hard to ignore and they inspired this cupcake design for St. Patrick's Day.

I haven't made an elaborate cupcake in awhile. This was a great opportunity to get back on the cupcake train.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Rocking the Red Pump Today with Peony French Macarons

I should actually say I am rocking a shade of red. I think the color is perfect to represent peonies but maybe these should be a deeper screaming red for this occasion. 

I, along with countless other bloggers, are turning their blogs red (in my case, a baked good) for National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The Red Pump Project® is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. They empower, educate, and motivate action by boldly driving conversation online and offline around HIV prevention and issues related to sexual and reproductive health. They use the Red Pump as a symbol of empowerment to represent the strength and courage of women affected by HIV/AIDS. The sobering stats are at the end of this post.

Awhile back I mentioned I bought some powdered flavors to use in French Macarons. I posted the Jasmine flavored macs but said I would wait until spring to experiment with the other flavors. Spring is nowhere in sight here in the northeast of the USA but I was in the mood to bust out those flavors and make this batch of denial French Macarons.

It's hard to describe this flavor. It definitely is floral but surprisingly pleasing. I used boring vanilla buttercream to fill them because the shell flavor was so strong and distinct I didn't want to mess with it. 

A very unique French Macaron. Definitely a celebration of spring.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Lavender White Chocolate Chip Scones

Raise your hand if you're in the Northeast and are sick of winter and the endless snowstorms.  I got just the thing for you today.  These lovely sweet scones are perfect for the weekend and taste of spring.

Hope floats.

I found some dried lavender while rummaging through my cabinet this morning and finally after these long months felt the need to step away from warm caramel flavors and make something with flowers.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Flax Seed Date Oatmeal Cookies

There comes a time when I'm snowbound and stir crazy (make that mixer crazy) when I have no no choice but to cave and make soft chewy comforting oatmeal cookies for absolutely no reason except for my own enjoyment. I know what will happen beforehand. I will eat way too much batter, get buzzed on sugar and then crash. But I didn't care. The itch needed to be scratched.

The only question remaining this past weekend is what I would add to the cookies. To alleviate my guilt a bit, I added flax seeds and dates instead of something more decadent like chocolate chips and candied ginger. Both of the latter were giving me the come hither look from the pantry but I stayed strong.

The result was a partially guilt free cookie. The flax seeds added crunch as well as nutrition and the soft Medjool date pieces were just as sweet as chocolate chips.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Macaron Monday: Caramel Macchiato French Macarons with Salted Caramel Filling

Sometimes I think I dream in caramel. Caramel favor, caramel colors. I can never get enough. Prefer it over chocolate any day.

When I am in a coffee mood, it's caramel syrup I turn to to give java that extra oomph. Kraft wrapped caramel squares were my favorite halloween treat as a kid. I would seriously horde them and then make caramel apples. 

Consequently, any item in the market that has the word "caramel" in that catches my eye usually finds its way into my shopping cart. This caramel macchiato powder was no exception. When I purchased it, I knew it was destined for something greater than just mixing with hot water.