Friday, December 25, 2009

Spice Up Your Life

Listening to: "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby

Ok, I have a confession to make. If you've known me for any time at all, you probably know this already, but I just feel the need to put this out in the open. Ready? Brace yourself...

I. Hate. Oranges.

Phew, glad to get that one out in the open. But seriously. I think they're annoying to peel, they don't taste good half of the time, and they're gross with chocolate. Hence, I hate them. Don't get me wrong, I like versions of oranges like clementines, or on occasion even a glass of orange juice. But the fruit themselves? I'll pass, thank you.

So you'll imagine my shock when I saw a recipe for orange chai cupcakes and actually wanted to try it. But I need to clarify, while I hate oranges, my love for chai runs strong. It's like Christmas in a cup! How can you hate that? So, instead of including orange juice, I modified it for my taste. And it was a success! Extreme success. My whole family approves, so I know yours will too!

But just a warning, this frosting is good. REAL good. You may find yourself eating it out of the piping bag...but you know what? It's the holiday season. Treat yourself, you deserve it.

Chai Cupcakes with Spiced Swiss Buttercream
makes about 24 mini cupcakes and 8 normal cupcakes (I ran out of mini pans, ok?)
Really, REALLY adapted from this recipe

Cupcake Ingredients:
  • 2.5 cups sifted flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed firmly
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 chai tea bag
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray cupcake pans of choice with baking spray or pop in some cupcake liners.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and set it aside.
Using the water, brew your tea. Whatever method you choose should work fine. I boiled the water in a small saucepan then added the tea bag. Leave the bag in for about 3-5ish minutes, it all depends on how strong you want it! Remove the tea bag and put aside to come to room temperature.
Combine oil, sugars, eggs, and vanilla extract with a mixer. Mix at medium to high speed for 5 minutes, making sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl often.
If you don't have buttermilk, on hand (let's be real, who does?) there's plenty of substitutions. I put 1.5 teaspoons of white vinegar in a 1/2 cup measuring cup, then filled it with milk. Put that in a separate bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes and you're good to go! Combine the cooled tea and buttermilk (or substitute) in a separate bowl.
Add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk/tea mixture to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until fully incorporated and the batter is smooth.

Distribute into your cupcake pans of choice, baking about 12-15 minutes for the mini ones and 20ish minutes for the bigger ones (sorry, I didn't really watch the timer!). They'll become a nice golden brown and you should be able to insert a toothpick and pull it out clean. Let them cool completely before frosting.

Frosting Ingredients
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1.5 sticks of salted butter, cut into 12 pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Put the egg whites and sugar into a glass bowl that fits snugly in the top of a saucepan, but doesn't completely fit inside. Boil water in the saucepan, making sure that when the bowl sits on top it doesn't touch the water. Stir the egg whites and sugar over the water until the sugar dissolves. Then, remove from heat and beat the mixture until it becomes white and doubles in size. Add the vanilla and spices on a low speed, then add the butter one piece at a time, mixing well after each addition. It might look curdled and gross, but don't fret! It will come together, I promise. After all the butter is added, continue beating for about 5-10 minutes until everything comes together and becomes fluffy and pretty. Put in a pastry bag (or freezer bag, in my case) and pipe away! Then, eat the rest with a spoon and have no regrets.

Happy Holidays, all!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Homemade Hot Chocolate...mmm!

Listening to: "Baby, It's Cold Outside" by Leon Redbone & Zooey Deschanel

Ok, ok...I know the music's a little cliche for this time of year, but it just seems right! Judge.

Speaking of might feel like doing just that after this recipe...but you have to trust me. It's good. Realllll good.

So I was just sittin' in my apartment thinking about how much I wanted chocolate [as usual] and how I wanted a tasty drink, something of the Starbucks variety...THEN I remembered that I'm broke, and it doesn't make sense to go to Starbucks for a hot chocolate.

So I did what I always do...consult Pioneer Woman. Duh. I remembered seeing this recipe and thought, why not?

Instead of saving the chocolate goodness for later like she does, I just dove straight in. I'm a risk-taker, what can I say. And it. Was. Perfection. Really rich, but so great.

Make this for your next wintry day, and you won't be disappointed.

Homemade Hot Chocolate
(adapted from Pioneer Woman)

Makes enough for one if you like really rich hot chocolate. It could make two if you're a weirdy.

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (just trust me)
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate (I just used Hershey's chocolate chips, but you can use the nice stuff if you so desire and just chop it up)

Heat cream in a sauce pan until it bubbles a little bit but isn't completely boiling. Remove it from heat and stir in the chocolate. Here's where you can get creative! Add some mint extract for a nice little peppermint treat, a little bit of vanilla extract to add a little somethin' somethin', or a dash of cinnamon to spice stuff up. Whatever frosts your cake, sweetheart.

Whisk the chocolate and cream together for a while. You want to make sure that they don't separate later. I'm all about unity.

Then, heat up some milk in a mug. The chocolate mixture is pretty rich, so just kind of guesstimate how much you'll want to add to your milk. Stir in your chocolate mixture and ta-da! Homemade chocolate milk. Finish with whipped cream, marshmallows, or whatever you want.

See? Not hard at all. And DEFINITELY not as expensive as Starbucks. Just lookin' out for you.