Any Holiday Cupcakes

I originally made these cupcakes for St. Patty’s day and planned on publishing this article in March. However, everyone loved them so much I wanted to make them again. I few minor changes and this recipe can adapt to any holiday. The base recipe is very “Irish” but just change the color of the sprinkles and you can bring them almost anywhere! These cupcakes are perfectly moist and light enough to save room for plenty of holiday cocktails.

Ingredients

Cupcakes:

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, plus more for dusting finished cupcakes
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch fine salt
  • 1 bottle stout beer room temperature (recommended: Guinness)
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream

Frosting

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Baily’s Irish Cream

How to Make Them

The cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (for mini cupcakes preheat at 325 degrees F)
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt
  3. In large mixing bowl, combine the stout, melted butter, and vanilla (if the stout isn’t room temperature stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds)
  4. Beat in eggs, 1 at time
  5. Mix in sour cream until thoroughly combined (some lumps okay)
  6. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture.
  7. Lightly grease 24 muffin tins or line with cupcake wrappers (or about 60 mini cupcakes)
  8. Divide the batter equally between muffin tins, filling each 3/4 full. Bake for about 12 minutes and then rotate the pans. Bake another 12 to 13 minutes until risen, nicely domed, and set in the middle but still soft and tender (bake mini cupcakes for 6 minutes and rotate pans for another 6)
  9. Cool slightly and turn out of cupcake tin

The frosting:

  1. Put all ingredients in a bowl and whip with a hand mixer until the whipped cream has stiff peaks  (when you stop mixing and lift the beaters straight up there are two peaks left in the bowl)
  2. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting
  3. Garnish with holiday appropriate sprinkles!

Helpful Hints

  1. I recommend making the mini cupcakes over the normal sized ones. They’re a nice little treat and you won’t feel as guilty. Plus they are just cute!
  2. The color from the sprinkles will leach out into the frosting making them look moldy (perfect for Halloween)! To prevent this add the sprinkles just before serving.

Cupcake recipe courtesy of FoodNetwork.com and frosting recipes courtesy of cupcakeproject.com.

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Strawberry Cupcake Bites

I’ve started making mini cupcakes recently (smaller = fewer calories), and I love them! These light little bites are perfect for large parties, kids and are great now that strawberries are in season.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes: (makes 34 regular or about 70 mini cupcakes)

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large whole eggs plus 1 egg white
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh strawberries (about 20)

For the frosting:

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons of ultrafine granulated sugar
  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh strawberries (about 20)

How to Make Them

The cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°C (325°C for mini cupcakes). Line muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. Sift together both flours, baking powder and salt.
  3. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add whole eggs one at a time, beating until each one is incorporated.
  5. Add the egg white and beat until incorporated.
  6. Reduce mixing speed to low and add the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk and beating until well combined.
  7. Fold in chopped strawberries by hand.
  8. Divide batter into cupcake tin filling three-quarters full (fill just below the top for mini cupcakes).
  9. Bake rotating half way until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes (about 9 minutes for mini cupcakes).
  10. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

The frosting:

  1. While the cupcakes are cooling, add heavy whipping cream and sugar to a bowl and whip with a hand mixer until the whipped cream has stiff peaks (when you stop mixing and lift the beaters straight up there are two peaks left in the bowl).
  2. Stir in the chopped strawberries by hand.
  3. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
  4. Store in the refrigerator but allow them to come to room temperature for about 2 hours before serving.

Helpful Hints

  • I recommend making the mini cupcakes (hence the “bites” title) because they are a nice little treat without all the guilt.
  • 70 mini cupcakes sounds like a lot but these are so light and fluffy your guests will have two or three.

Cupcake recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes page 146.

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Apple Crisp for Two

I love apple crisp but I can never convince myself that I need a whole pan of it. This recipe will make three mini apple crisps so you can enjoy with out going over board.

Ingredients

  • 2 Granny Smith Apples – peeled and cored
  • 1 sweeter apple (like pink lady or fuji) – peeled and cored
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon flour

For the topping:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 teaspoons butter

How to Make Them

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Slice apples into uniform pieces
  3. Mix together the sugar, cinnamon and flour
  4. Pour mixture over cut apples and toss to coat
  5. Let sit for 10 minutes
  6. Put apple mixture into 4 inch ramekins – don’t worry about over filling
  7. Mix together the sugar and flour
  8. Cut in butter until it is about the size of peas
  9. Add butter mixture to the top of each ramekin (you might have to pat it down a little)
  10. Place ramekins on a baking sheet and cook for 35 minutes or until apples are tender and the top is golden brown.
  11. Cool slightly and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Helpful Hints

  • Apples always shrink when they are cooked so over fill the ramekin when preparing the dish.
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Banana Crumb Muffins

I can never eat bananas fast enough so it is good to have some recipes on hand for when they are too ripe to eat. These muffins are easy to make and really tasty (when not made with a cup of salt – oops!).

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter

How to Make Them

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease 10 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com.

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Flaky Pie Crust

The holidays are a great time to break out your pie making skills. Don’t worry – making pie crust is really easy. Most people find it really intimidating so this is a great way to impress your friends and family!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups cold shortening
  • 6 tablespoons ice cold water
  • 1 pound of uncooked beans
  • 1 egg yolk

How to Make it

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Measure flour into a bowl and mix in the salt
  3. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or a fork until the dough resembles giant peas
  4. Sprinkle with water a tablespoon at time and mix gently after every addition
  5. Gather dough into a ball and divide into half
  6. Put one half in the fridge for the top crust
  7. Roll the other half out evenly on a well floured surface (about 1/4 inch thick)
  8. Lay into pie plate and poke with fork
  9. Fill with uncooked beans in a piece of foil (this will keep the pie for puffing up)
  10. Bake this way for 5 minutes
  11. Remove beans and foil and bake for an additional 7 minutes
  12. Add your filling
  13. Roll out the other half of the pie crust and cover filling
  14. Seal the edges and cut off any excess dough around the edge
  15. Poke holes in the top of the crust
  16. Mix egg yolk in a small bowl
  17. Brush egg yolk on top of crust (this will make it brown and shinny)
  18. Bake pie according to your filling instructions -to prevent the crust from burning keep a close eye on it and cover the edge with foil when it looks golden brown
  19. When the pie is done, turn off the oven but let it cool in the oven for about 30 minutes – this will allow the pie to set

Helpful Hints

  • I know it will be hard but pie is best eaten on the next day. This will give it time to come together and the filling won’t run out as soon as you cut into it.
  • The crust is the most important part of the pie. The key to keeping it flaky is to keep the dough as cold as possible. Limit the amount of time you handle it and if something comes up pop it in the fridge. I like to use a bottle of cold wine to roll out the dough to keep it extra cold.
  • You will have extra dough from the edge of the crust (or a lot if you made pumpkin pie) so gather it up and roll it out. Spread butter and cinnamon and sugar over the surface and roll it up. Cut the roll into 1 inch pieces and cook at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes. This is my favorite holiday treat!
  • Don’t worry if your pie filling leaks through your bottom crust – it will still taste great!
  • Traveling this holiday season and want to bring your famous home made pie? No problem – the TSA will allow you to bring a pie through the security check point. I highly recommend purchasing a pie carrier and make sure your pie plate fits in it before baking (yes, I am talking from experience).
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Fresh Peach Drop Cookies

Peach season is coming to an end and in case you are getting tired of pies and cobblers (okay so that is a stretch but lets keep our options open) try this recipe for peach cookies. They have a great sweet-tart flavor and cakey texture that everyone will love.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large ripe peaches peeled, pitted and chipped into 1/4-inch pieces (1 3/4 cups)
  • 1/3 cup peach or apricot jam
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

How to make them

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.
  3. Use an electric mixer to mix the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Reduce speed to low and add the egg and vanilla.
  5. Add the flour mixture and mix until well combined.
  6. Add the diced peaches and jam.
  7. Mix until well combined.
  8. Drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a silpat.
  9. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on each cookie.
  10. Bake cookies until golden brown, 11-13 minutes.
  11. Let cool on baking sheet and then transfer to wire cooling racks.

Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart’s Cookies (pg 217)

Helpful Hints

  1. To keep cookies fresh longer, put a piece of bread in the storage container with your cookies. I know it sounds weird but it will keep your cookies from getting hard and going stale.
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Quick Chocolate Chip Cookies

There has always been a debate about the details of “the best” chocolate chip cookie. Some people like crispy cookies, others like soft and chewy. I love cookies no matter their content, texture or size. I have tried a couple of good chocolate chip cookie recipes (even the recipe voted the best by NY Times – 24 hour chill time in the fridge – I can’t plan that far ahead of time) and I smashed them together to come up with this recipe. Give it a try and let me know what you think. (Psst…the sea salt is key!)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 lb butter (room temp)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg (room temp)
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • Sea Salt (optional) – I like La Baleine Coarse Sea Salt

How to make them

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Cream the butter and both sugars in a bowl
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until incorporated
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the baking soda, salt and flour.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir under well combined
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips
  7. Drop in tablespoon sized balls onto a baking sheet covered with a silicon mat (or lightly grease the baking sheet)
  8. Sprinkle 5-6 grains of sea salt onto each cookie for some added flavor
  9. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes

Helpful Hints

  • If your butter isn’t at room temp put it in the microwave for 10 second intervals until it is soft to the touch (usually takes about 20 seconds)
  • If your egg is not at room temp place it in a bowl of warm water until you are ready for it
  • It is best to remove the cookies right before they are done. They will cook a little more while they cool on the baking sheet. This will also make sure the center is ooey-gooey.
  • If you are making multiple batches try to use two baking sheets. It is best if the baking sheet is cool before you add your next batch of cookies.
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10 Minute Rice Crispy Treats

I always keep a stash of marshmallows and rice cereal in my cabinet just in case of dessert emergencies. Everyone loves rice crispy treats. They are quick, easy and so much better than the prepackaged ones at the supermarket. At 135 calories per serving, I guarantee that your friends and family will ask you to make these again and again.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 16oz package of marshmallows
  • 6 cups of rice cereal

How to make them

  1. Spray a 9×11 inch pan with cooking spray. Measure the 6 cups of rice cereal and set aside in a bowl.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pot, stirring constantly on medium heat.
  3. Add the marshmallows and stir until completely melted (no lumps). It’s okay if it gets a little brown (time will vary depending on how big your pot is and how many marshmallows you have).
  4. Turn off heat, add the rice cereal, and stir until coated thoroughly.
  5. Immediately pour into the 9×11 inch pan and spread evenly. Let cool.
  6. While cooling, I insist you eat the left over goodies out of the pot and off the spoon.
  7. Cut with a knife and serve. It should make about 12 servings.

Helpful Hints:

  • As soon as you are done eating the left overs, get that pot soaking with soap and warm water in the sink! You will thank yourself later.
  • If you want less marshmallow, use a 10oz bag instead of the 16oz bag.
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