Saturday, January 12, 2019

Lemon Cupcakes with Fresh Blueberry Buttercream

Lemon and blueberries go together like peanut butter and chocolate except, instead of being all heavy and decadent, they are light and fresh and airy. Make them during the dreary winter weather for a reminder of all things summer. Or, you know, make them whenever because they are ridiculously delicious and easy to whip up. The color of the blueberry buttercream is so beautiful. Put them on a plate of cupcakes and they will get everyone's attention. 

All you need is a few simple ingredients and about an hour and you could have these little beauties on your table!

Lemon Cupcakes with Fresh Blueberry Buttercream

3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
zest of one lemon
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp lemon extract
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup lemon juice

3 cups blueberries
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups butter, softened
pinch salt
5 - 6 cups icing sugar
3 Tbsp milk


Prepare cupcakes - Preheat oven to 350. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners and set aside. 
Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, beat together butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Whisk in lemon extract and eggs until well combined.

Alternately beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with the sour cream until just combined. Do not over mix. Lastly, fold in the lemon juice.  
Scoop batter into the 24 lined muffin cups. 

I put a blueberry into the center of each cupcake but this is totally optional!!! 
Bake in preheated oven until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, about 20 - 25 minutes. 
NOTE - these rise VERY well so do not fill the cup more than about halfway. As you can see mine were filled a little too much! (They were fine but just overflowed a little so don't look as neat and tidy!)

Remove from pan to wire rack to cool completely. 
Prepare buttercream - Combine blueberries and lemon juice in a pot over medium heat. Cook and stir for about 10 minutes - until thickened. 
Press this through a sieve to remove any skins and seeds. Let cool completely. 

In a mixing bowl, beat butter until creamy. Beat in 1/3 of a cup of the blueberry puree (reserve the rest for decorating). NOTE - make sure puree is completely cool or it will melt the buttercream. Don't worry if it looks weird, it will come together when the icing sugar is added.
Add in the salt and icing sugar, a little at a time, until fully incorporated. Beat in milk to make it a spreading/piping consistency. Beat for two minutes on high to make sure it is smooth. (If you find it too runny, add a bit of icing sugar... too firm, add a tablespoon or so of milk.) 
Pipe or spread onto cooled lemon cupcakes. 

You can pipe the buttercream around the outside of the cupcake and then fill with a teaspoon of the puree...

Or you can pipe the buttercream in a swirl and top with a blueberry and a little drizzle of the puree. Or you can just spread the icing on.... whatever you prefer! The recipe makes enough icing to put a swirl on 24 normal sized cupcakes and 12 mini cupcakes. Which, as it happens, is how many cupcakes the cake recipe makes. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Caramel Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

Can we just make cupcakes a thing again? Please?
I looooove cupcakes. Making them, decorating them, eating them.... love them. I'm not sure when they started to lose popularity but it's just wrong. I mean... it's cake you can hold in your hand, what's not perfect about that? Let's bring the cupcake back to its top-of-the-dessert-chain place; where it deserves to be. #cupcakesarethebest
These caramel cupcakes take about 5 minutes to make, 20 minutes to bake, and then the frosting takes about 5 minutes. Nothing complicated. Great for those just starting in the kitchen or for those who have had a lot of practice and just want something easy. There is no down side to cupcakes. 

Caramel Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp caramel extract
1 cup buttermilk

2 cups butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
4  - 5 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp caramel extract
2 - 3 Tbsp milk 

caramel candies

Prepare cupcakes - Preheat oven to 350. Place paper cupcake liners in 24 muffin cups. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. 
In a larger bowl, beat butter until creamy. Beat in the sugars until smooth, scraping bowls as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and the caramel extract. 
Alternately beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with the buttermilk. 
Scoop into the 24 lined muffin cups. Bake at 350 until toothpicks inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 20 - 25 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely. 

Prepare buttercream - In a large bowl, beat butter until smooth. Beat in the brown sugar, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Slowly beat in the icing sugar until fully incorporated. Beat in the caramel extract and as much milk as needed to make the frosting a spreading/piping consistency. Pipe onto the cupcakes as desired. There is enough frosting to pipe a full swirl on each cake - you will have extra if you only spread some on top with a knife. 

Cupcakes are just too fancy schmancy to fall to the bottom of the dessert pile. 
Look how pretty they are. 

In the box are our Lemon Cupcakes with Blueberry Buttercream (Recipe coming soon!), Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting (Cake recipe HERE), and Caramel Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream. 
These go like crazy at bake sales, FYI. Aaaaaaand they make lovely gifts for friends and neighbors! 
NOTE - This recipe makes 24 - 28 cupcakes. I made 24 regular sized and then 12 mini cupcakes from one batch. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Whole Roast Chicken in the Instant Pot

Initially I was skeptical that I would use my Instant Pot. I was worried it would be another kitchen tool that got put on the shelf and was rarely used. I am glad to report that that hasn't happened. 
I love the ease of using the Instant Pot. Throw everything in, cook, only one pot to clean up. Like the slow cooker, but faster. (In fact, the Instant Pot has a slow cooker setting as well!)
This whole roast chicken was done in just under an hour and was wonderfully moist and flavorful. The skin doesn't get crispy as it would in the oven but that was the only thing different than a "usual" roast chicken. 

Whole Roast Chicken in the Instant Pot

 3.5 to 4 lb chicken
half an onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 lemon, quartered
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp thyme
dash of cayenne pepper
1 cup chicken broth 

Stuff the chicken with the onion, garlic, and lemon.
In a small bowl mix together the spices. Sprinkle the spices over the bottom of the chicken, turn chicken over, and sprinkle on top of the chicken as well. 
Pour the chicken broth into the bottom of the Instant Pot. Place the metal rack that comes with the pot on the bottom. Set the chicken, breast side up, on top.

Close lid and cook on high for 30 minutes. (It is recommended 6 minutes per lb of chicken but I found my chicken needed a bit more time to be fully cooked.) Do a slow release for 20 minutes after the initial 30 minute cook time. 
Check with a thermometer to ensure your chicken is cooked through. If not, you can place the lid back on and cook for a few minutes longer. 

Let sit on a cutting board for a few minutes to rest, and then carve. 

Serve with your favorite sides. 

Remember it does take about 10 or so minutes for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure so add that to your cooking time as well. I think from start to finish this took just under an hour. 
You don't have to add chicken broth, you can use water if you prefer. I think the chicken broth adds more flavor though. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Olive Stuffed Cheddar Crackers

I'm going to start off by saying I am NOT a fan of olives. Sue is. Anything pickled is right up Sue's alley. Me? Not so much. I decided to try these olive stuffed cheddar crackers because we have a similar recipe (Click HERE - Easy Cheddar Crackers) that is one of my all time favorite snacks to make so I figured the addition of olives would be interesting. 
Mom brought these to a potluck at her church and they were a hit. These are best the day they are made as they have a lovely crispness about them. The next day they will still be delicious but they are definitely not as crispy. 

Olive Stuffed Cheddar Crackers

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp paprika
generous pinch of cayenne pepper
2 cups shredded aged cheddar
1/2 cup butter, cold
1 egg
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

pimento stuffed olives, regular size

Prepare dough - Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, set aside. 
In a blender or food processor, briefly pulse flour, paprika, and cayenne. 
Add in the shredded cheese and cold butter. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Dump into a mixing bowl. 
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, water, and Worcestershire. Add to the cheese mixture and use your hands to form stiff dough. It will be quite crumbly but stick together if you press it in your hand. 

Drain olives and place on paper towel to dry.

Using a small cookie scoop (about 2 tsp), scoop some of the dough into the palm of your hand and flatten with your thumb. Place an olive in the center.

Press the dough together around the olive firmly. Place on the prepared cookie sheet. 

Chill dough for at least 30 minutes. 
After dough has chilled - Preheat oven to 350. Bake the crackers at 350 until golden brown - about 25 or so minutes. 

Remove to wire rack to cool. 

Serve warm or room temperature.

Crispy, crunchy balls of cheese with a delightful surprise inside!

I'm thinking I would love to try this with a teeny piece of pepperoni inside, instead of olives. 

Perfect little one or two bite treats. Perfect for appetizers, after school snacks, potlucks, office parties, the holidays, pretty much any time!

Like I mentioned above, these are best the day they are made if you are looking for a crispy cracker bite. A day or two later they are still delicious but not nearly as crispy. 
We also have a bacon cheddar version of this cracker - (HERE) - which is egg-less for something a little different. 
This recipe is great if you find there isn't too much in your fridge/pantry but need to whip something up. Butter, cheese, and eggs and you are good to go. Nice. 
FYI - Using a small cookie scoop, I got 39 crackers.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Turtle Donuts (Big Batch)

I started out simply looking for a chocolate yeast dough to work with. I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do but knew it would involve chocolate. I asked for some advice on Facebook and a friend suggested I try to make Turtle donuts. I'm sure you've heard of turtles, right? Those dreamy caramel and pecan bites drenched in chocolate? 
If you haven't, welcome to earth, you must be new here. 
Turtles are one of my favorite chocolates. Chewy and melty and crunchy. What's not to love?
Turning them into a donut was a little trickier than I thought. There is NOT a lot of chocolate based yeast doughs out there. I ended up making my own through some trial and error and was pretty happy with the end result. The caramel glaze is nice and sticky, and the crunchy pecans add just the right finishing touch. 

Turtle Donuts (Big Batch)

2 Tbsp active dry yeast
4 tsp + 1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup hot water
4 cups warm milk
2 eggs
1 Tbsp oil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp instant coffee granules
1 cup baking cocoa powder
8 - 10 cups of flour

Caramel Glaze
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup icing sugar

3 - 4 cups chopped pecans

Oil for frying (about 1 litre)

Prepare dough - In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast with 4 tsp sugar and the 1/2 cup hot water. Set aside for 5 minutes so yeast can active. 
After yeast is foamy, add in the warm milk, eggs, oil, salt, 1 cup sugar, coffee granules, cocoa powder, and about 6 cups of flour. Stir well. Slowly add in more flour until stiff dough forms. 
Place on floured work surface and knead for 3 minutes. Place dough into a large, oiled bowl. Cover and place somewhere warm to rise for an hour. 

After an hour or so your dough should be doubled.

Place parchment paper on 2 large cookie sheets and set aside. 
Roll out dough on a floured surface to about 1/2 - 3/4 inch thick. 

Cut with biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter. Then use a smaller round cutter to cut out the center. Place the donuts on the prepared cookie sheets. Re-roll the scraps for more donuts. (If you don't have a large work surface, cut the dough in half and work with half at a time.) NOTE - place the donuts at least an inch apart so they have room to rise. If they are too close they will stick together! 

Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise another hour. (You should get about 3 dozen - 3 inch donuts plus that many donut holes.) 
When risen, heat oil to 350 degrees. This takes about 10 - 15 minutes so you can start heating it when dough has been rising for about 45 minutes. 
When oil reaches desired temperature, gently place about 3 - 4 donuts into the oil at a time. Cook for 1 minute on each side.

Remove from oil using a slotted spoon and set on paper towel or wire racks with paper towel underneath to drain off any excess oil. Continue until all donuts have been fried. 

Allow donuts to cool to room temp.
Prepare caramel glaze - Put butter, brown sugar, cream, and salt in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, cool 5 minutes, then whisk in the icing sugar. 
Place the glaze in a shallow bowl and place the chopped pecans in another shallow bowl.

Dip a donut in the caramel glaze and gently shake off any excess. 
Then dip the donut into the pecans. Place on wire racks to let any excess caramel drip off. 

Caramel, chocolate, and pecans. I'm in love.

The chocolate yeast dough would be a great base for a lot of donuts. I'm thinking black forest donuts or chocolate covered strawberry donuts for a start. 
Oh yeah, don't forget all those wonderful donut holes as well!

I dipped them in the glaze but had run out of pecans to roll them in. They were pretty tasty just like this... just not turtle-y. 
What is your favorite chocolate dessert that your would turn into a donut flavor, if you could? 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Ukrainian Studinetz (Jellied Pork Hocks)

Our Ukrainian Christmas this year included this tradition Ukrainian delicacy. Jellied pork hocks are not exactly the most visually appealing dish BUT they are very tasty. You're probably not going to get the picky eaters to try this. Just saying. 
Here's the thing though - IF they try it.... they will probably like it. The flavor is delicious. Garlic and pork, what's not to love? Sue made this recipe and had to change it a bit as we didn't have access to some of the ingredients. You can go HERE - Food Geeks, for the original recipe. 

Ukrainian Studinetz (Jellied Pork Hocks)
Adapted from Food Geeks

4 large, fresh pork hocks
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 a red onion
3 stalks celery, diced
2 bay leaves
onion powder
salt & pepper
4 cups chicken broth
water to cover
2 pkgs unflavored gelatin

For serving
dish of vinegar
dish of finely diced onion

Place pork hocks in a large pot

Add in the garlic, onion, celery, bay leaves, and spices. 

Pour in the chicken broth and enough water to cover the pork hocks completely (to about 1/2 inch above). Bring to a boil and let simmer for 3 - 4 hours, until meat is falling off the bone. 
Remove the meat from the pot and let cool. Once cooled, cut the meat and skin into small, chunky pieces and place in a good sized bowl - meat should cover the entire bottom of the bowl. 
Strain the liquid through a cheesecloth into a bowl. Discard the vegetables. 
Sprinkle the gelatin over the warm liquid and gently stir in. 
Ladle the broth over the chopped meat in the bowl to fill the bowl. 

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to let gel form. 

In the morning, you can gently scrape the solidified fat from the top, if desired. 
Dunk the bottom of the bowl in warm water to help release the studinetz. Run a spatula around the edge to loosen it and then flip bowl onto a serving platter.

Serve with rye bread (or your favorite crackers) and a dish of vinegar and onions.

If your jelly is thick enough you can slice the jellied pork hocks for sandwiches. If it is not thick enough, it still works great as an appie with bread or crackers. 

We had mixed reviews at Christmas dinner. It is definitely one of those dishes that gets a conversation started. If you are a visual eater and are usually scared off by not-so-pretty looking food, I would say do your best to give it a try anyway! The flavor won't disappoint. 
It is a strange texture though. No getting around that. 
My verdict? I liked it. Sue's verdict? She couldn't get past the texture and only tried a minuscule piece of the meat with the jelly scraped off. But, she said the flavor was good. 

We're sharing over at Carole's Chatter. Be sure to pop over and say hi.