Mojito Cupcakes

I know, I know – it’s been far to long since I’ve posted, but don’t fret, I’m still alive! It’s just been a crazy few weeks…

In the last few months I’ve returned to the United States after more than 7 months abroad, I moved to a new apartment in the awesome Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn and I started my senior year of colleges. It’s been quite the adventure these last 2 months settling into a new place, a new routine, a new life. So in the spirit of this new life, I am working on a new banner with my roommate and I am planning on posting a lot more in the future!! I promise! In fact, I already have many posts a brewin’ in my head, especially as the leaves turn and my favorite ingredient – PUMPKIN! – is starting to hit the shelves!

So to start things off, here are some cupcakes that I made a few weeks ago.

It was my friends 21st birthday, and in the spirit of all things alcoholic, I made some mojito cupcakes! I think I’m going to start adding alcohol to everything I made now as the addition of rum made these super tasty. Now all my roommates and I are big fans of mojito’s. So much so that when we walk into a party, we bring everything that is needed to make them – rum, limes, mint and sugar! We are walking bar. The cupcakes and the frosting both had copious amounts of rum and lime and I added some crushed mint to the frosting to give it the classic mojito taste.

MOJITO CUPCAKES

(Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)

INGREDIENTS:

Cupcakes:

  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup mint leaves, bruised
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • Zest and juice of 1½ limes
  • 2 tablespoons white rum
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting:

  • 1½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons white rum
  • Bunch of crushed mint

DIRECTIONS:

1) Combine the buttermilk and the ½ cup mint leaves in a small saucepan over medium heat. Warm until just starting to steam (do not simmer), then remove from the heat and cover. Let steep for 15 to 30 minutes. Once finished, strain the milk into a bowl using a fine mesh sieve. The milk may appear curdled or clumpy, but don’t worry, it will come back together. Press on any milk solids and mint leaves to extract all the liquid possible. Give the milk a quick stir to smooth it out and set aside.

2) While the mint is steeping in the milk, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners; set aside.

3) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

4) In an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugar together until pale, light, and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

5) Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the eggs one at at time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

6)  Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the lime zest, lime juice, vanilla extract and rum. Mix until combined. (The mixture may start to look curdled at this point, but don’t worry, it will all come back together, power on!)

7) Reduce the mixer speed low. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches. Mix only until just incorporated, using a rubber spatula to give it one last mix by hand.

8) Divide the batter between the muffin cups. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until just slightly golden and a skewer shows only moist crumbs attached, rotating the pan at the halfway point.

10) Allow cupcakes to cool for 5 to 10 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack. B

11) To make the frosting, whip the butter on medium-high speed of an electric mixer using the whisk attachment for 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing and scraping the sides of the bowl until all is incorporated. Give it a mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds.

12) Add the lime juice, rum and mint and mix on medium-high speed until incorporated and fluffy. If the frosting appears a bit too soft, add some additional sugar, one spoonful at a time until desired consistency is reached.

13) Frost cupcakes and garnish with a lime wedge and sprig of fresh mint.

Perfect Summer Lemonade

New York City in the summer just screams heat! The other day, I was sitting in my bed with sweat beads just falling down my head like nobodies business and I wasn’t even doing anything! The humidity never helps, but luckily NYC doesn’t often get to humid, just incredibly hot hot hot. I have been given the clear by my doctor to go into a pool now, so you know where I’ll be for the next three months. I’m thinking that summer 2011 is going to be another one for the record books, but it’s only the beginning of June, so who knows!

I’ve been trying so hard to drink more water in this heat. I’ve been starting to run again, so that motviates me even more to drink, as I often get some pretty bad headaches if I exercise while dehydrated. But when I want to kick back and enjoy the summer days, there is no better way to do that than with a nice tall glass of fresh lemonade. If you’re used to buying lemonade from the supermarket, stop now. Making your own lemonade can be a little bit tedious, but it’s so worth it. You can make it as sweet or as sour as you like and nothing quite beats fresh squeezed lemons!

When I make lemonade, I just throw together a simple sugar syrup – adding in some basil or mint for a nice herby surprise – throw that in with some fresh lemon juice (and lime if you’d like), a bottle of seltzer, and voila – fresh lemonade! The most difficult part about this whole ordeal is squeezing the lemons, but don’t skimp on store bought stuff. That extra teaspoon of sweat from all your work gives the lemonade that extra boost 😉 You don’t need to add seltzer, nice cold water will work too. I always make mine as a mixture of lemons and limes, but picking one citrus of the other will work perfectly as well. Drop some fresh mint and sliced lemons into your final product for garnish and you are sure to have a crowd pleaser.

FRESH LEMONADE

(Recipe by Me)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups lemon/lime juice (15 or so lemons and limes, depending on size)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • fresh bunch of basil or mint
  • 2-4 cups cold water of seltzer
DIRECTIONS:
1) To make simple syrup, combine water, sugar, and basil or mint (or both) in a sauce pan. Simmer until sugar has dissolved – about 4 to 5 minutes. Allow mixture to cool. Discard herbs.
2) In a large glass measuring cup, squeeze lemons, until you have approximately two cups of juice.
3) In a large pitcher filled with ice, combine lemon juice, simple syrup and water or seltzer.
4) Add some fresh mint and sliced lemons to garnish and serve.

August Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Baked Alaska

What a month this has been! I finally moved into my amazing new apartment and at long last, all the roommates are together. There are four of us in a great two bedroom in the most perfect location in all of New York. It’s easy to get to work and I’m anticipating that it will be easy to get to classes once they start next week. I can’t believe that school starts in just a little over a week. In some ways, this summer has flown by, but at the same time it seems like ages ago that we were moving out of our dorm last May.

With all the moving, IKEA trips (which there were many), setting up of furniture, beating the heat and the rain, there has been little time for baking. Our kitchen hasn’t been completely set up until just the other day as we were missing a lot of kitchen gear that our final roommate was bringing down with her. I love our stove – it’s a brand new gas stove. At the same time, that means we have a gas oven, which I am not the greatest fan of, but it seems to work better than other gas ones I have worked with. So, as we finally put the finishing touches on the kitchen the other day, with the addition of a garbage can, microwave, and a few more pots and pans, I realized it was time for this months challenge!

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alasa or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I decided to go with the Baked Alaska because the prospect of glazing a bunch of teeny petit fours seemed like too much of a hassle. That being said, the Baked Alaska wasn’t a walk in the park either. I started the process at the begining of the week, making the pound cake and the ice cream. I strayed away from the originial recipe and made a mint ice cream, as I had just found some peppermint extract in my basket of spices and baking items. Having made ice cream for last months challenge, I was prepared for the task of making ice cream with out an ice cream maker, but this was much more complicated. The addition of the eggs meant you had to heat and cool the milk and cream more often and the eggs gave the ice cream a much more custardy flavor. I added some green food coloring so no one would forget it was mint.

The task of browning the meringue without a blowtorch was daunting because I was certain that my ice cream would melt in the broiler. But, WE ACTUALLY HAVE A BLOWTORCH! One of my roommates had one in a creme brulee set and we went and bought some butane fuel, and voila, we had a funtioning blowtorch. Now that I know we have one, I’m going to try to use it for everything that I make 😉

Overall, this was a fun challenge. The pound cake was probably my favorite part – I love burnt butter. The moral of the last two challenges is that I think I really need a an ice cream maker because making it without is much harder and it never turns out quite as good as it would with a machine.

Chocolate Chocolate Mint Cookies

So I have begun the long and tedious process of figuring what is going to come up to New York with me in the fall and what shall not. My dad and I are going to drive up, so I have some freedom of what I can put in the car, but my dorm room is probably going to be pretty small, so I have to take that into consideration. I’m planning on getting a dorm that is apartment style which means I shall have kitchen. WOOT WOOT!! I already know who my roommate is going to be. She is AMAZING!! Not only does she like to bake, but she speaks French, has lived all over the world and basically seems like one of the most awesome people ever. I can’t wait until I actually get to meet her in person. 
Anyway, back to packing and not packing. So since I’m hopefully getting a dorm with a kitchen, I have to bring all my cook books, which over the past fews years has grown exponentially. Most are baking books, but I have collected a few others so that if I ever feel the need to cook myself an actual meal, I can do that as well 😉 So not only do I have cook books, I also have a binder where I collect recipes that I print or cut out from the newspaper and from said book is where I found this lovely recipe. It has not title, no author, no anything – just a page of ingredients and some instructions. I was little skeptical because if I do use a recipe from online, I usually like to look at the reviews, but no reviews needed for these because they were INCREDIBLE!! Chocolatey goodness with a strong hint of mint – some people might find the mint overwhelming, but I loved it. Even my dad and step-mom liked them too. This has made me realize that I need to be a bit more adventurous in my baking and not always follow a trail that has already been followed, but to start my own paths and back thinks that I have no idea how they turn out. 
Ingredients:
  • 3.5 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour (I used cake flour because I’m out of AP)
  • 1/2 dutch cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (As I read the recipe again now, I realize that I used baking powder and it still turned out fine. Whoops!)
  • 1 1/2 cup Andes Mint Chips
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  2. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add chocolate and whisk until combined. Add vanilla and set aside to cool. 
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. 
  4. In a mixer bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Mix until light and fluffy – 3 minutes. 
  5. Decrease speed to low and add melted chocolate mixture. 
  6. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. 
  7. Fold in Mint Chips
  8. Let batter sit in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up a bit. 
  9. Drop 1 1/2 tbs portions onto a baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-13 minutes. The cookies will be slightly under-baked, but will the centers nice and gooey. 
  10. Remove cookie sheets and transfer parchment paper to cooling rack to cool completely. 

Chocolate Andes Chip Cookies

So today is supposed to be the club fair at my school, but due to the ominous look outside, I’m thinking that it might be postponed until next week. Well, Marissa and I had planned on attracting loads of people to our knittig table with the lure of cookies, so we made some delicious cookies yesterday. Marissa loves mint, as do I, so instead of making just plain chocolate chip cookies, and the Andes cookies recipe (which I was not very enjoyable last time I made it) we made a mix. We just used the basic Tollhouse cookie recipe but used one cup chocolate chips and one cup Andes chip. The mint in the Andes chips gave essense of mint to the entire batter and I must say are so good!!! Sadly, I don’t think we’ll be able to lure any new knitters with them today, but I’m sure we can find plenty of others to enjoy them.

INGREDIENTS

*2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
*1 teaspoon baking soda ( I used 2 tsps of baking powder because we were out of soda)
*1 teaspoon salt
*1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
*3/4 cup granulated sugar
*3/4 cup packed brown sugar
*1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*2 large eggs
*1 cup chocoalte chips
*1 cup Andes chips

1. PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.

3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

5. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 40 cookies, depending on size!