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Coconut Date Balls

After the success of the Food For the Gods recipe, I have been constantly looking for other recipes that involve dates. Honestly, I have never been much for dates in the past. Most of my experience with dates was in the form of them being a main ingredient in Fruit Cakes. Ugh, the scourge of all holiday gifts or celebrations. Many people say that a Fruit Cake is a never ending gift, as it constantly gets re-gifted.

I have seen a few recipes for coconut date balls, but the recipe sourced here looked very easy as far as ingredients, and amount of time involved in preparing the balls. These are also a no-bake dessert, so that makes things great for summertime when you are really not looking forward to heating up the kitchen with an oven going.

The final piece that makes this a great recipe is the fact that I found a huge vat of pitted dates at Costco. Pitting the dried fruits is one of the most annoying aspects of cooking or baking with dates. To find pitted dates was great, and the price was great for about 4 pounds of dates.

Recipe Adapted From: Clearly Delicious

Ingredients:

* ½ cup butter (softened)
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 egg, beaten
* 1 cup dates (pitted)
* 2 cups Rice Krispies
* ½ cup nuts, chopped (i.e., Walnuts)
* ½ teaspoon vanilla
* dash of salt
* sugared shredded coconut, for rolling

Directions:

Combine first four ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Stir every few seconds while cooking for 5 minutes. Transfer date mixture to a large bowl. Add cereal, nuts, vanilla and salt and stir to combine. Let combined mixture sit for 30-45 minutes until it is cool enough to handle with your hands.

Prepare two pans for balls. First pan line with aluminum foil (this will hold the completed balls). The second pan will hold the coconut used to roll the balls in.

Take a teaspoon and scoop out a small portion of the mixture and roll in your hands to form a ball. Roll the ball in the coconut and then place on the aluminum foil lined pan. Repeat for the remaining mixture. Place pan with balls in the refrigerator to cool.

Makes between 18-24 balls.

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Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

So, after making the white velvet cupcakes last week, I wanted to make some other cupcakes this week. It turns out that one of the superstars of the ER was having a birthday this week, and she would be at work the day before her birthday (Hi V!)

I checked with my spy regarding the birthday celebrant’s tastes and confirmed that chocolate would be a good directioin to go in.

These cupcakes have three distinct textures and flavors. The cake is an adaptation of the Chocolate Ganache cupcake from Ina Garten. The filling is a white chocolate pastry cream, and the frosting is a chocolate butter cream. I used a much larger tip for the pastry bag to apply the frosting, and these cupcakes came out perfect.

Cupcake recipe adapted from – foodnetwork
Pastry Cream recipe source – allrecipes
Frosting recipe source – Wilton

Ingredients:

Cupcakes
¼ pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
16 fluid ounces chocolate syrup (recommended: Hershey’s)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

Pastry Cream
6 egg yolks
5 tablespoons white sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, halved
2 tablespoons butter
3 ounces white chocolate

Frosting
½ cup solid vegetable shortening
½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup cocoa or three 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares, melted
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
3-4 tablespoons milk

Directions:

Cupcakes
Line muffin pans with 12 paper liners. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Don’t overbeat, or the cupcakes will be tough.

Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don’t overbake! Let the cupcakes cool thoroughly in the pan.

Pastry Cream
In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow. Whisk in corn starch. Set aside.

In a stainless steel saucepan, bring milk and vanilla bean to a boil, remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Stir a small amount of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture. Return milk to heat and while constantly stirring with a wooden spoon, slowly add the egg mixture to milk. Mixture will thicken.

Allow to just come to a boil, remove from heat and stir in butter. Put mixture through a sieve into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (this keeps mixture from forming a skin over top). Cool slightly.

Stir in melted white chocolate, cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble.

Frosting
In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add cocoa and vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

To Assemble:
Cut a small whole in the center of the top of the cupcake. I used a paring knife to make the incision. You will want a whole about the size of a nickle. The hole should go roughly 2/3 of the way through the the cupcake, but not through the bottom.

Using a piping bag and a small circle tip apply pastry cream into create pocket of cupcake. The pastry cream should just come to the surface of the top of the cupcake.

Using another piping bag and a large star tip, apply butter cream frosting in a looping fashion starting on the outside, and overlapping slightly as you near the center. It should resemble the cupcakes in the picture above.

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Baby Blue Shower Cupcakes

So, one of my friends in the ER at Queen of the Valley recently poked me to bring goodies to them. It turns out that when I said I was bringing homemade donuts to the ER, they assumed it was for them at QVC. But, the donuts were destined to go to ICC where I was supporting a go-live for the providers there.

So, I started bringing baked goods to the staff in the ER, and one of the nurses there has a sister who used to work at QVC. This is the quote from her: “If my sister is in the QvC ED, can i have a slice? Haha Not fair that im not a CVHP employee anymore and i find out you’re an amazing baker!!” Hi EJ!

Well, she was planning on hosting a baby shower later in July and she inquired about ordering some cupcakes for the shower. I told her I would be happy to make some for her.

I searched a few recipes online for some recipes. The only request from her was that the baby was a boy, and to try to do something with the cupcakes in blue. Well, blue cupcakes are more challenging in my opinion, as the color may alter while it bakes in the oven. So, I decided to go with a white cupcake with a blue frosting.

The cupcake is a White Velvet Cupcake and the recipe is adapted from Paula Dean’s Red Velvet cupcake recipe. The frosting is adapted from this Food Network recipe.

Ingredients:

Cupcakes
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

Directions:

Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer.

Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled.

Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Frosting
In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

I used a piping bag with a small star tip to apply the frosting. In the future, I will probably look to use a larger star tip to apply more frosting to each cupcake.

Packaged for Baby Shower

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Momofuku Compost Cookies

After the overwhelming response the the Crack Pie earlier this week, I decided to go with the Compost Cookies. I had never heard of them before, but my sister mentioned them earlier this week, and my curiosity was raised once she mentioned the name.

The recipe is very similar to a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe. Of course the large difference is the inclusion of some type of savory item as the “compost”.

It was pretty funny when in my office earlier in the day and co-workers started asking my boss if there is really compost in the cookies.

Recipe Source – amateur gourmet

Ingredients:

1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsps Kosher salt
1 ½ cups your favorite baking ingredients (options: chocolate chips, Raisenettes, Rollos, Cocoa Krispies)
1 ½ cups your favorite snack foods (chips, pretzels, etc.)

I made two separate batches of these cookies. The first was with potato chips and raisenettes, the second was with chocolate chips and pretzels

Directions:

1. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars and corn syrup on medium high for two to three minutes until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Scrape down the sides with a spatula.

2. On a lower speed, add eggs and vanilla to incorporate. Increase mixing speed to medium-high and start a timer for 10 minutes. During this time the sugar granules will fully dissolve, the mixture will become an almost pale white color and your creamed mixture will double in size.

3. When time is up, on a lower speed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Mix 45 – 60 seconds just until your dough comes together and all remnants of dry ingredients have incorporated. Do not walk away from your mixer during this time or you will risk over mixing the dough. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

4. On the same low speed, add in the hodgepodge of your favorite baking ingredients and mix for 30 – 45 seconds until they evenly mix into the dough. Add in your favorite snack foods last, paddling again on low speed until they are just incorporated.

5. Using a 6 oz. ice cream scoop (I’m not sure how many ounces mine is, but it worked well), portion cookie dough onto a parchment lined sheetpan.

6. Wrap scooped cookie dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour or up to 1 week.

DO NOT BAKE your cookies from room temperature or they will not hold their shape.

7. Heat the oven to 400 F. Take the plastic off your cookies and bake 9 to 11 minutes. While in the oven, the cookies will puff, crackle and spread.

At 9 minutes, the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown towards the center. Leave the cookies in the oven for the additional minutes if these colors don’t match up and your cookies still seem pale and doughy on the surface.

8. Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan (good luck!) before transferring to a plate or an airtight container or tin for storage. At room temp, they’ll keep five days.

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Madeleines with Orange Blossom Water Glaze

One of my co-workers, Hi Heidi! recently purchased two important pantry items that are not that easy too find. The first was Rose Water (frequently used when making Baklava) and the second item was Orange Blossom Water. I have been looking for recipes over the past few weeks where I could incorporate the Orange Blossom Water into it. A few weeks ago I made a batch of Perfect Madeleines, and those were incredibly light and wonderful to eat.

This recipe is slightly different than the Perfect Madeleine recipe. It is slightly easier in prepartion of the dough as you can let the sugar/eggs/salt mixture whip with a stand mixer.

The part of this recipe that puts it over the top is the Orange Blossom Water Glaze. The madeleines would be great on their own without the glaze, but the glaze adds a final touch to the cakes that make them perfect.

Recipe Source – Hungry Oyster

Ingredients for the Madeleines:

3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teas. salt, rounded
1 ¼ cup flour
1 teas. baking powder (optional)
1 Tbs. finely grated orange zest
1 teas. orange flower water
9 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus additional melted butter for preparing the molds

Ingredients for the Glaze:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs. orange flower water
2 Tbs. orange juice

Directions:

1. Brush the indentations of a madeleine mold with melted butter. Dust with flour, tap off any excess, and place in the fridge or freezer for at least 30 minutes.
2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, whip the eggs, granulated sugar, and salt for 5 minutes until frothy and thickened. Remove the bowl from the stand, and rest on the counter on top of a wet dish towel to help steady the bowl.
3. Using a strainer, sift the flour and baking powder over the wet batter. Using a spatula, fold the flour mixture into the wet batter every so often.
4. Add the orange zest and the orange blossom water to the cooled batter, then dribble the butter into the batter, a few spoonfuls at a time, while simultaneously folding to incorporate the butter. Fold just until all the butter is incorporated.
5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The batter can be chilled up to 12 hours ahead of baking time.
6. To bake the madeleines, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
8. Plop enough batter in the center of each indentation to fill it 3/4’s of the way. Don’t spread it around, or else the humps will not rise.
10. Bake for 8-9 minutes or until the cakes just feel set. If you’re using the baking powder, this will take maybe 2 or three extra minutes for the cakes to just feel set.
11. While the cakes are in the oven, make the glaze. Using a whisk, combine the sugar, orange flower blossom and orange juice in a small bowl until all the sugar is dissolved.
12. Remove from the oven and tilt the madeleines out onto a cooling rack. As soon as they’re cool enough to handle, dip each cake in the glaze, turning them over to make sure both sides are coated and scrape off any excess with a dull knife. After dipping, rest each one back on the cooking rack, scalloped side up, until the cakes are cool and the glaze has firmed up.

Yields 24 madeleines. Store uncovered or in a container for up to three days. They’re best when eaten the day they are made.

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Momofuku Crack Pie

While watching The Cooking Channel recently, I saw an episode of Unique Sweets. This show is the best show to watch for inspiration of items to make and also of places to go when you visit places around the U.S.A.

This particular episode focused on pies, and I like eating pie but not really making them. Mostly this is due to the need to prepare a crust, and I am not all the great at making things like crusts. One particular bakery in this episode was Momofuku in New York City. This bakery had many different items which looked good to make and even better to eat. The item that really peaked my interest was Crack Pie. The name does not sound all that tempting, but when you hear about the pie, see how it is prepared, and taste it, you totally get where it’s name comes from.

The only item on the list of ingredients that I did not have in my pantry was powdered milk. But, that is not a big obstacle, as it can easily be bought at any local grocery store.

These pies came out great, and I look forward to sharing them with friends and co-workers.

Recipe Source – L.A. Times

Cookie for crust

2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3 ounces) flour
Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) softened butter
1/3 cup (2 ½ ounces) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons (1 ¼ ounces) sugar
1 egg
Scant 1 cup (3 ½ ounces) rolled oats

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy.

4. Whisk the egg into the butter mixture until fully incorporated.

5. With the mixer running, beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the oats until incorporated.

6. Spread the mixture onto a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake until golden brown and set, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to the touch on a rack. Crumble the cooled cookie to use in the crust.

Crust

Crumbled cookie for crust
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 ½ tablespoons (3/4 ounce) brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Combine the crumbled cookie, butter, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until evenly combined and blended (a little of the mixture clumped between your fingers should hold together). Divide the crust between 2 (10-inch) pie tins. Press the crust into each shell to form a thin, even layer along the bottom and sides of the tins. Set the prepared crusts aside while you prepare the filling.

Filling

1 ½ cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
3/4 cup plus a scant 3 tablespoons (7 ounces) light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon (3/4 ounce) milk powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
3/4 cup plus a scant 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 egg yolks
2 prepared crusts
Powdered sugar, garnish

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, salt and milk powder. Whisk in the melted butter, then whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla.

3. Gently whisk in the egg yolks, being careful not to add too much air.

4. Divide the filling evenly between the 2 prepared pie shells.

5. Bake the pies, one at a time, for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the filling is slightly jiggly and golden brown (similar to a pecan pie), about 10 minutes. Remove the pies and cool on a rack.

6. Refrigerate the cooled pies until well chilled. The pies are meant to be served cold, and the filling will be gooey. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

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Ube Macapuno Cupcakes

One of my favorite filipino desserts is Ube Macapuno Roll. This is a cake made with ube (filipino yam in a shredded or jam form) and also with macapuno (youn coconut which is generally shredded or cut into very small pieces). The cake is generally rolled with frosting in the middle. The frosting is made of butter, confectioner’s sugar and macapuno.

I have never really given much thought to making the roll version of the cake. However, I have seen a few recipes on different blogs in the past, so a cupcake variant seemed like a good way to go. The biggest challenge with these cakes is getting the shade of purple dark enough. The jam is a part of it, but another big part is the ube extract. In the future I might increase the extract slightly as that seems to have a larger effect on the shade of the batter.

Recipe adapted from –

Ingredients:

ube cupcakes: makes 14 cupcakes
½ cup macapuno
½ cup ube jam
½ cup milk
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
½ tsp McCormick ube flavoring

macapuno frosting:
½ cup butter, softened
8oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup Macapuno strings, chopped (Macapuno is jarred coconut found in Asian markets)
16 oz powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift flour, baking powder and salt, set aside

2. Place ube jam in a large bowl. Mix together with 1/2 cup milk, vanilla and ube flavoring. Gradually blend until smooth, set aside.

3. In a seperate bowl mixed butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until combined.

4. Add a portion of flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix on low speed until just combined, then add a portion of ube/milk mixture, continuing to alternate between the flour and the ube/milk until everything is combined. Stir in macapuno.

5. Place baking paper cups into muffin pans and spoon 1/4 cup batter into each cups.

6. Bake for 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until cake tester inserted into center comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from pans and let it cool on a wire rack.

7. While cupcakes are cooling on rack, prepare the frosting by beating the butter and cream cheese until creamy. Add the macapuno and mix to combine. Gradually add the powdered sugar and continue to mix until everything is combined.

7. Frost cupcakes with macapuno frosting.

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