Seriously Sticky

As I mentioned in my first Festivus post, I wanted to make something savory to go alongside the eggnog cupcakes I made for our party. I decided to check out Brown Eyed Baker’s blog, since my friend and baking aficionado, Serial Baker, often uses bits and pieces of BEB’s yummy recipes in her creations. So, after wanting to make pretty much everything I stumbled upon, I settled on the Italian Gougeres, mainly because I was able to find all of the ingredients at my local italian market.

I’d be lying if I said the thought of making my very own dough wasn’t intimidating. Sure, I consider myself to be somewhat of a foodie, and I like to make different things, but as someone who’s still basically a novice in the kitchen, things like homemade dough, make me nervous. I decided to go with it anyway, and let me tell you, it wasn’t easy! Because I know nothing about dough, specifically pasta dough, I had no idea what consistency I was going for.

I made two batches, and the second was definitely much better than the first. Due to my lack of a rolling pin, I didn’t get nearly as many as I probably should have out of the dough I made. They also weren’t very pretty – they were more like big balls of dough with cheese baked in, due to my lack of skills. Thankfully, though, our friends aren’t deterred (too much) by the look of food, and the people that did try it, liked it! I definitely think I would have done a way better job if I had known what pasta dough is supposed to feel like. It was definitely sticky and messy, and I wound up adding quite a bit of flour to keep it all together, and not on my fingers.

The romano cheese added a nice bite, and because it isn’t really a melty cheese, it was nice to have it baked into the dough, instead of being more like a mozzarella stick or fried ravioli (not that there’s anything wrong with those!).

So, whether or not you have any dough making experience, if you’re looking for some cheesey bread, I suggest these Italian Gougeres. And if for nothing else, you really should just head over to Brown Eyed Baker and ogle all the delicious things there… I want them all.

Italian Gougeres via Brown Eyed Baker
– Makes about 25 –

Ingredients for Dough:
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup flour, plus more if needed (dough should be soft and elastic)

Ingredients for filling:
2 eggs, beaten
12 ounces (¾ pound) grated Romano
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat, or spray with a non-stick baking spray.
2. Prepare the dough as you would a typical pasta dough, with a mound of flour with a well in the center. Into the middle break the eggs, add the water and oil, and mix together with a fork until combined and then begin incorporating the flour a little at a time. Once the dough comes together as a shaggy mass, knead it by hand until you have a soft, smooth, elastic dough. Add more flour or water, a small bit at a time, until that consistency is reached. Cover and set aside.
3. To make the filling, combine the eggs with the Romano cheese and black pepper in a medium bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.
4. Roll out the pasta dough to about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thickness. Place 1 tablespoon of the filling two inches apart across half of the rolled-out dough. When finished, fold the unused half the dough over the filling. Press around each mound of filling to release air and cut into squares with a knife or pasta roller. If using a knife, seal the edges with a fork. Place pigu on the baking sheet.
5. With a fork, beat together the egg and water and brush the tops of the pigu with the egg wash.
6. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

A Festivus for the rest of us!

On Saturday, my fiancé and I hosted our second annual (he’s been throwing one for years) Festivus party! If you’re unfamiliar with the origins of Festivus, Google it, and hopefully a clip of the Seinfeld episode is on YouTube. I grew up watching Seinfeld with my parents, and they to this day watch the re-runs after work while preparing dinner. Most people I’ve come across either love or hate Seinfield, but both my family and my fiancé’s family are fans.

Last year was unfortunately kind of a flop, as the first snow storm of the year rolled in, and we wound up only having two guests! This year, with no reports of potential snow, I knew I needed to make sure we had enough goodies. The party was more than just a Festivus celebration, it was also the first time most of our friends were seeing our new place! Needless to say, the pressure was on.

I always make some type of cupcakes. This time, instead of making full sized, I realized they would likely go faster if I made mini’s instead. I like to make them seasonal, or at the very least boozy. While I left out the booze this time, you could definitely add it in if you want, since I made eggnog cupcakes, courtesy of Southern Living! Based on the recipe I used, I wound up with 60 mini cupcakes. Plenty for all of the party-goers, and enough to bring into work on Monday as well. In addition to the cupcakes, I wanted to make something savory. I had a bunch of recipes to choose from, but wound up settling on Brown Eyed Baker’s Italian Gougeres, coming in a later post.

But back to the cupcakes – the cake was perfectly moist and just the right amount of eggnog. I actually tasted eggnog for the very first time after I mixed it into the batter. There was some leftover, so I decided to take a swig. I guess it’s a good thing I liked it, since I was already committed to 60 mini cupcakes with it. The frosting, though, was a bit runny. Even though it had cream cheese, butter, and confectioner’s sugar, I couldn’t get it thick enough to allow me to really do any decorating (I added A LOT of extra sugar). It wound up almost drying on the cakes though with a nice sheen, so they looked okay. But I would have liked to do something a little more snazzy!

I definitely think you could add some dark rum to the cake and/or frosting mixture to give it that boozy kick that I’m such a fan of. Nothing quite like a festive drink in cupcake form!

Eggnog Cupcakes via Southern Living
– makes 60 mini cupcakes, or about 24 regular cupcakes –

Cake Ingredients:
1 (16oz.) package pound cake mix
1 1/4 cups eggnog
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cake Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Beat all ingredients together at low speed with an electric mixer until blended. Increase speed to medium, and beat 2 minutes. Pour into lined cupcake pan, filling about 3/4 .
2. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack, about 10-15 minutes.

Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (3-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar
1/4 cup eggnog
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting Directions:
1. Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until creamy.
2. Gradually add powdered sugar alternately with eggnog, beginning and ending with sugar and beating at low speed. Add freshly grated nutmeg and vanilla extract; beat until smooth.
3. Spread over cupcakes.

Homemade Oven Fried Onion Rings

As soon as I saw this recipe on Baking Serendipity, I sent it over to my fiancé and we knew it needed to be recreated as soon as possible. I figured enjoying them with some Shipyard Pumpkin Head and watching the VMA’s on Sunday would be perfect. I got my fiancé in the kitchen to not only take pictures but also help me which was a nice treat!

The recipe calls for kettle cooked chips, so I grabbed a bag of Wegman’s jalapeno flavored chips for some extra kick, since you know, it’s never enough. Aside from having to crush up the saltines and chips, the recipe was pretty easy. I even somehow managed to get through slicing an entire yellow onion without crying!

They were super crunchy and actually really filling. While they aren’t the best for you, baking them in the oven in some olive oil is much better than deep frying them, and a nice homemade alternative! So make these next time you’re craving some bar food but would prefer to sip some beer in your sweatpants on your couch!

Oven Fried Onion Rings
recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

1 yellow onion
1/2 cup all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
dash chili powder
hearty pinch of ground black pepper
30 saltine crackers, crushed
3 cups kettle-cooked potato chips, crushed
extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Crush saltine crackers and kettle-cooked potato chips. Mix in a shallow bowl.
3. In a separate, shallow bowl. Combine egg and milk. Whisk in 1/4 cup flour and chili powder and black pepper. Place remaining 1/4 cup flour in a third shallow bowl.
4. Slice onion into 1/2″ slices. Separate the rings and discard any of the very small pieces.
5. At this point your oven should be preheated. Drizzle two baking sheets liberally with extra virgin olive oil and bake for about 8 minutes, or until just before the oil is smoking.
6. While the baking sheets are in the oven, dip onion in flour, then liquid, coating it well, and finally the crushed chips and crackers. Set aside. Repeat with each piece of onion.
7. Remove baking sheets from the oven and tip to coat evenly with oil. Place onions on baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees, flipping halfway. Serve immediately.

Reese’s Chocolatey Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Sometimes you need a relaxing weekend where you don’t do much. That’s exactly what my fiancé and I did this past weekend. Saturday included sleeping in, a solid 6 mile run in the middle of the day (outside, without sweating to death, mind you!), some more delicious pizza, and cupcakes!

I hadn’t made cupcakes since our wedding party BBQ (a whopping two weeks ago), so I figured it was time to make another batch. I found this recipe on Something Shiny’s blog, which was linked to by Cupcakes Take the Cake. I’ve always wanted to make a stuffed cupcake, but have been wary since I don’t have the right tools. This was the next best thing – shove a mini Reese’s peanut butter cup inside a yummy chocolate cake – sold! Considering I love chocolate and peanut butter, this was a no brainer – I knew I had to make them.

The recipe also has a pretty awesome chocolate magic shell, but I tried to keep it basic. And considering I still haven’t replaced my pastry bag, the frosting was less than stellar. So if you want to see really awesome and delicious looking pictures of these cupcakes, I suggest looking at Something Shiny’s. While mine aren’t the most visually appealing cupcakes I’ve ever made, they sure did taste great!

Per the usual I didn’t have all of the ingredients necessary when I first started getting ready to make the cupcakes. So, I had to put the perishables back in the fridge, and run out to the store to pick up some more cocoa powder and sour cream. Mind you, this was after just literally walking in the door from a three mile walk. Oh well, turns out I walked about 4 miles that day – no biggie! I also love hitting up this particular Stop & Shop for items here and there, because they seem to be the only grocery store around me that has Amy’s Organic Breakfast Burritos! Every other store I’ve been to offers some of their other variations, but not the breakfast one. So I’ll be enjoying one of those later this week.

Back to the cupcakes. The recipe was super easy, and the batter was light and fluffy so I knew it was going to be decadent. I popped the little Reese’s cups into the center of the cupcakes, and into the oven they went! After a mere 15 minutes they were done baking and ready to cool. We waited a few hours before enjoying them with the peanut butter frosting (which calls for a creamy variation, but I went chunky). The recipe only made 12, which was perfect for my fiancé and I; we’ve enjoyed one every night after dinner, and they’re keeping well in an air-tight container in the fridge (cupcake and frosting are separate).

Now that I’m a little more comfortable with putting things into the middle of my cupcakes, I’m probably going to experiment a bit. It’ll probably stay pretty basic, but I might come up with a super sweet combination – we’ll see!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes (With Reese’s PB Cup Center)
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
– Makes approx 12 –

8 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (I used Ghiradelli)
1/2 cup (1.5 oz) Dutch processed cocoa (or regular if that’s what you’ve got handy)
3/4 cup (3.75 oz) All-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup (5.25 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (4 oz) sour cream (you could use reduced fat, but really…why bother)
12-15 mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line tin with cupcake liners.
2. Combine butter, chopped chocolate and cocoa in a small bowl. Microwave 30 seconds then stir. Microwave at 15 second intervals until smooth. Don’t overheat! Alternately, you can get fancy and use a double boiler, or a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water.
3. Cool until barely warm.
4. In small bowl, combine flour, soda and powder.
5. In a medium-ish bowl, beat the eggs then whisk in the sugar and salt. Add the cooled chocolate mix, beating until smooth and well combined. Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. Whisk until fully combined. Add sour cream, mixing well, then add remaining flour mixture, whisking till flour is fully incorporated and batter is thick.
6. Scoop batter into lined tins using you preferred method—spoon, ice cream scoop, measuring cup. Place a mini Reese’s cup in the center of each cake. Press into the batter until nearly level with the top.
7. Bake 15-20 minutes (15 was enough for me).
8. Cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then move to a wire rack to cool thoroughly before frosting.

Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting
Adapted from
Easily covers 18 cupcakes

1 cup creamy peanut butter (like I said, I used chunky)
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 – 2/3 cup whipping cream (heavy cream) adjust as necessary – add more if it looks like it needs it. Go wild.

1. Beat peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar until thoroughly combined. Add cream and beat until light and fluffy. Give it a few minutes to get nice and pale and lovely. Lick the beaters. No, really. Do it. It’ll make you feel like a kid again.
2. Spread onto cooled cupcakes or pipe with your preferred decorating tip.