Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Wacky Cupcakes #OXOgoodcookies

The Cookies for Kids' Cancer campaign sponsored by OXO is one of my favorite feel-good things every year. Bloggers who participate get a few free products from OXO, but the money goes to charity. How awesome is that?

Maybe you've heard of Wacky Cake. I have a vague memory of bringing home a copy of the recipe and making it at home, which must have been a huge event since my mom never baked anything.

The major selling point that must have convinced my mom to let me make the cake was that it didn't require eggs, a mixing bowl, or a blender. The recipe was mixed by hand and baked in the same pan.

The problem with that recipe was that it was hard to mix the ingredients evenly in a cake pan, without scraping off the butter or shortening that was greasing the pan.

I've seen a lot of wacky cake recipes since then, but I hadn't given it much thought until I ran into yet another recipe in a community cookbook. And then I thought ... hmmm ... I wonder if this would work as cupcakes.

While I was thinking, I also decided to cut the recipe in half, and I made a few other little adjustments as well. Because, what the heck. Might as well have some fun, right?

Wacky cake is normally left unfrosted - maybe just dusted with powdered sugar. But I decided the cupcakes needed frosting, so I made a simple chocolate ganache and used the cool decorating tool that OXO provided to swirl the ganache on top of the cupcakes.

So pretty! So easy! Not messy!

They also sent me a really nice 12-cup muffin pan - looks pretty with a gold-colored finish, right? And they sent silicone baking cups as well. The muffin cups are pure genius, since they have little "ears" on two sides that makes it really easy to get the cupcakes out of the pan.

Wacky Cupcakes
Adapted from Favorite Recipes from Quilters by Louise Stoltzfus

See the "ears" on the muffin cups? Really handy!
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ounces vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup cold water

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place cupcake liners in 12 wells of a muffin pan.

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat with a hand mixer at high speed until well blended, about two or three minutes.

Divide the batter evenly between the cups - they should be about 3/4 full.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 18-20 minutes, or until the top of the cupcakes spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven and remove transfer the cupcakes to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting. Here's where those little ears on the cupcake cups really came in handy!

When the cupcakes are fully cooled, frost as desired. Or, if you want to stay true to the original wacky recipe, just dust them with a little powdered sugar.

About the frosting:

For my frosting, I used a basic ganache with 6 ounces of cream, heated to boiling, poured over 6 ounces of semisweet chocolate, broken into chunks.

At this point, you have a ganache that you can pour onto a cake to make a smooth layer of chocolate. But that's not what I wanted.

After the mixture was completely smooth and starting to cool off a bit, I started beating it with my hand mixer until it was thick and fluffy and the color had lightened a bit.

I piped the frosting on the cupcakes. YUM.

NOTE: after seeing someone else post a vegan chocolate dessert recipe, I realized that the cake part of this recipe is vegan. Not that it's trying to be, it just is. It was thought to have been first developed during WWII, when dairy and eggs were rationed. That's why it uses oil. And it works really, really well.

The frosting I made included dairy, so that's not vegan, but that's easy to swap for something else, like a faux-buttercream made with either vegetable oil or a non-dairy butter substitute. Or ganache made using a non-dairy cream (although I've never tried that). Or whatever vegan frosting or icing you like.

OXO sent along some info about the products they sent. Here's what they had to say:

Muffin Pan
The Non-Stick Pro Muffin Pan features a unique micro-textured pattern that ensures even baking and adds structural rigidity. It's made with a ceramic-reinforced, two-layer, commercial-grade coating that provides ultimate non-stick release and is scratch-, stain-, corrosion- and abrasion-resistant.

Baking Cups
The BPA-free Baking Cups have handy tabs to help remove them from muffin tins without making a thumbprint, and the inside of each Cup is smooth and non-stick to release your treat easily. With a fill line, your cupcakes will be consistent every time.

Baker's Decorating Tool
Our easy-to-use, easy-to-fill Tool is designed to give you complete control while decorating. The unique trigger provides a smooth stream of icing for clean lines, and the comfortable handles ensure a steady grip and protect icing from warm hands.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chunky Peach Jam with Brown Sugar and Rum #canbassador

Where did summer go? One second, it was spring, and now there's a hint of fall in the air.

What's also in the air *sniff sniff* is the scent of peaches. Mostly because the nice folks at Northwest Cherry Growers and Washington State Stone fruit Growers sent me a giant box of peaches and nectarines.

When I was a kid, I loved peaches and nectarines, but I didn't realize they were different fruits that you could buy. I thought that nectarines were peaches that had been cleaned better. So when my mom would hand me a peach, I'd give it back to her and ask her to wash it better. And again. And again.

Yeah, I was a weird kid.

I still love both peaches and nectarines, so I was giddy happy to have a whole box of them to cook with, eat out of hand, add to yogurt, and make some jam. And maybe I'll work them into some other recipes, too. Peach ice cream is pretty darned good.

So anyway, as soon as the box arrive, I picked through it and sorted out fruit that had gotten bumped and bruised in shipping so they wouldn't go bad, and used those to make jam right away. Since I didn't have a jam recipe that I was itching to make, I browsed through the Northwest Cherries site to see what they suggested. I found one credited to Recipezaar (now renamed Food.com) that looked interesting, since it included brown sugar and rum. So I made that one.

Oh, sure, I didn't make it exactly like this recipe. I have a new appliance here that I'm testing (currently code-named "Al") that I used to make the jam. I had to adjust the recipe to fit the appliance, so I tweaked for that. But, since I'm not ready to uncover that appliance yet, I can't really give you the adjusted recipe (and seriously, if you don't have that appliance, you probably don't want the adjusted recipe,)

So, here's the recipe I used. The brown sugar adds some richness that you don't get from white sugar, and the rum adds its own flavor - but it doesn't taste boozy, so this is perfectly fine for your breakfast toast.

It's a little bit chunky, but if you wanted a smooth jam, it would be easy to give it a quick blend with a stick blender before or after cooking.

Here's how it happened:

Chunky Peach Jam with Brown Sugar and Rum
Recipe from Northwest Cherry Growers, courtesy of recipezaar.com
Makes about 3 pints

Memphis salad plate courtesy of Zak! Designs.
6 cups peaches, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 4 lbs)
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
6 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup dark Jamaican rum
2 cups granulated sugar

In a large bowl, combine peaches with the brown sugar, lemon juice and about half of the rum, stirring to mix. Cover and let stand at room temperature six hours or overnight.

Wash jars and lids in hot, soapy water. Sterilize jars for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath, then leave in hot water until ready to fill. Prepare lids according to manufacturer's directions. (Note: if you making this for immediate use, you can skip the canning and refrigerate the jam. If you want to store it at room temperature or save for later use, then follow the canning instructions.)

Pour the fruit mixture into a large saucepan or dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Cover the pan, reduce heat, and cook the mixture until the peach chunks begin to look translucent, 15 to 20 minutes; stir occasionally to prevent sticking. If the jam becomes too thick and threatens to scorch before the fruit is done, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water.

Add the granulated sugar, increase heat to medium-high and cook rapidly, stirring almost constantly, until a spoonful placed on a chilled saucer and refrigerated for a few minutes wrinkles instead of runs when the saucer is tilted. (Take jam off the heat while doing this. If using a candy thermometer, this should happen at about 220 degrees.)

Add remaining rum and stir the jam (it will boil up when you add the rum) for 2 minutes over the heat.

Ladle boiling-hot jam into hot, prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Top with lids and process for 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath. Cool jars completely on a dish towel before labeling and storing.

Thanks to Northwest Cherry Growers and Washington State Stone Fruit Growers for sponsoring this post!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Fired Up Green Beans

Oh dear. I got a sample of an easy fermenter kit and decided to make the recipe they sent me. It sounded like a great idea, but ...


I went to a couple of different stores, and fresh green beans were nowhere to be found. Bummer. But then I realized that I had frozen green beans. Would it work?

The lid made a lot of sense and I loved that I didn't have to do anything except screw the lid on. Nothing else to think about, unlike other fermenting methods I've used. I really liked the glass weights, since they had a grooved top that made them really easy to insert into the jars and take them out.

After two weeks, I was really curious about the beans. there was a slight whiff of dill even before I opened the jar that was enticing. It reminded me of pickles that I like. Mmmm.

The brine had good flavor, but the beans were a big nope. They were too soft to be pleasant to eat (although the flavor was good when I nibbled a tiny bit). Not a problem with the recipe, though. I really shouldn't have started with those frozen beans. I'm going to be looking for beans in the stores and farmers market, and I'll give this a try again.

If you're curious about the recipe, here it is. Use fresh beans, okay?

Fired Up Green Beans
Recipe courtesy of Nourished Essentials

1 pound green beans, topped, tailed and trimmed to fit inside the jar
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs of dill
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
4 cups of water
2 tablespoons sea salt (I used kosher. Canning salt would also be a good idea. Table salt generally isn't used for pickles)

In a saucepan, heat water. Add salt and stir till dissolved. Cool to room temperature.

Place garlic cloves, dill and chili flakes in the bottom of a pre-sterilized, quart-sized wide mouth mason glass jar. Next, add the green beans.

Carefully pour the cooled brine over the green bean mix until completely covered, leaving 1 1/2 inches of head space. (I used one of the Easy Weights to hold the beans under the liquid.)

Cover the jar with the Easy Fermenter Lid.

Store in a cool, dark place (room temperature 60-70°F is preferred,) for 1 to 2 weeks.

Once jar has been opened, move to cold storage. The flavor will continue to develop with time.

I got the easy fermenter kit from the company at no cost to me to do a review. I decided to post the recipe, as well, since it's a keeper.