Monday, February 14, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

When I got Ina Garten's latest cookbook, "How easy is that?" the first recipe that grabbed my attention was her Red Velvet Cupcakes.  This weekend was the right time to make them because I had the perfect decorations - dark chocolate hearts!  We have a chocolatier who visits our office building at holidays and when I saw these hearts last week, I knew I had to get them for the cupcakes.

The cupcakes not only look good, but they taste great too - this recipe is definitely a keeper!


2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1 tbsp liquid red food colouring (or enough red gel paste until the colour is right!)
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted, softened butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 extra large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tins with paper liners. Ina states the recipe will yield 15 large cupcakes, but I got 16 out of the batter, without having to scrape out the bowl.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Now normally I cop out and just whisk all the dry ingredients together, but when using cocoa powder I do use a sifter.  Cocoa powder always seems to have lumps so it's essential to sift it before mixing.  In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, food colouring, vinegar and vanilla with a whisk to make sure the food colour is blended well.  For anyone wondering, "butter"milk is not fattening - it only has a 1% fat content.

In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed for 1 minute until light.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat until combined.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and wet alternately in three parts (dry, wet, dry) and mix until well combined.  Scrape the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is mixed.

Scoop the batter into the muffin cups using a 2-1/4 inch sized ice cream scoop.  Bake for 25 minutes.  My oven is quite hot, so they only needed 22 minutes, so the baking time should be adjusted.

I did not make frosting from scratch, but used a can of cream cheese frosting and didn't get any complaints!  Added the chocolate hearts and they were another tasty tribute to St. Valentine. :)

Sweet Vanilla Hearts

I made another variation yesterday of the "One Dough, 30 Cookies" recipe from the Martha Stewart Holiday 2010 magazine, this time using the most basic vanilla flavoured dough.  I also wanted to use my new set of heart cookie cutters to help celebrate Valentine's Day today.

They were very easy to prepare and decorate and everyone seemed to enjoy this crispy, not-to-sweet vanilla cookies today.  Aren't they cute?


3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks softened, unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tsps vanilla extract

Prep before baking:

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Beat butter and sugar in large mixer bowl on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture.  Beat until combined.

Shape dough into two discs, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 45 mins-1 hour until chilled.  Allow dough to "warm up" slightly for 15 minutes before rolling out onto lightly floured parchment paper.  I placed the paper right into the baking sheets, since the dough goes *back* into the fridge to chill a second time before cutting out shapes.

Remove from fridge after 30 minutes and cut desired shapes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  The quantity of cookies will depend on the size of cookie cutters used.  The great thing about this dough is that it doesn't expand when baking - the cookies hold their shape beautifully and my batch yielded 4 dozen cookies.

To decorate with sugar, brush lightly with water and sprinkle with coloured sugar.  Bake 6-8 minutes, remove and rotate baking sheets and bake for an addition 6-8 minutes, totalling no more than 15 minutes at most.  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lemon Drop Thumbprints

Now that I've got a new camera and have figured out how to upload photos, it's high time for me to post this recipe.  I really wanted to make these cookies before Christmas, but ran out of time and energy so the ingredients had to wait.  It turns out that this is one of the easiest cookies I've ever made and the taste testers just loved them!

The recipe is from Martha Stewart's Holiday 2010 issue and there recipe was featured in "One Dough, 30 Cookies" - infinite variations from a basic dough.  I knew I wanted to make thumbprint cookies, which are usually rolled in nuts and filled with jam, but I wanted a change after baking so much with chocolate for Christmas this year.  I made the citrus dough variation and filled the "thumbprints" with lemon curd, hence Lemon Drops!  They really didn't look like fried eggs, but like little lemon suns. :)


3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks softened unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup lemon curd for filling - I used E.D. Smith's brand, rather than making it from scratch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk together flour and salt in bowl and set aside.  Beat together softened butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.  Beat in egg, lemon zest and juice and reduce speed to low.  Scrape bowl to ensure all the lemon zest is fully incorporated.  On low speed, add flour mixture and beat until combined.

I used my trusty 1-1/2 tbsp scoop to measure out the dough which gave me a 4-1/2 dozen yield.  If you use a smaller scoop, you'll get a higher cookie yield.  After scooping, roll dough into balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Instead of using my thumb, I used the back of my 1/2 tsp measuring spoon, which has a flat bottom, to indent my cookies.  Then refrigerate your cookies for 30 minutes, so that the dough is very firm before baking.

Bake chilled cookies for 7 minutes, then remove from oven and re-press the "thumbprints" since the cookies rise slightly during baking.  You want a deeper indent for your filling.  Bake another 8 minutes (depending on your oven temp.) until firm.  Allow to cool completely on racks.

If you've ever tried to "spoon" lemon curd, you know it's very difficult to do neatly, let alone into a 1/2" indent on a cookie!  I used a small zippered sandwich bag, added the lemon curd, snipped off a tiny opening on one corner and voila! I had an improvised piping bag without a lot of lemony mess.  I only used 1 cup for all the cookies, since it took just a tiny swirl to fill them all.  The "swirl" settled into a big dot and they looked like little suns when they were done.

They're a wonderful, light two-bite cookie that I've already been asked again to make for a bridal shower this spring...of course I said yes. :)