Friday, April 10, 2015

Margarita Cake Balls

I should have known I would get sick as soon as spring break started. This is our first break since December and, between then and now, I have been going, going, going like a hamster stuck on its wheel. The bright side is that at least it is during break and I don't have to drag myself to school while I am feeling miserable or having to sub plans (sub plans are worse than taking a day off, in my opinion). The down side is that it is spring break and I haven't been able to do much in the first part. I'm finally over the sickness but I have a weekend left to be as productive as I can.

One of those productive things was to send my sister a birthday package. Today is her birthday and since I didn't drive home this time around, I wanted to surprise her with something at work. I had sent her mason jar cupcakes one birthday and I didn't want to do that again. For some reason, my brain went to something with alcohol. I think it's because I knew she was doing a happy hour celebration after work and I couldn't be there so why not send the booze her way? Well, say hello to Margarita Cake Balls - just about the perfect thing for me to make!

Margarita Cake Balls

I don't think it really turned out all that boozy but it's still really good. I'm sending it to her work anyway so I shouldn't get her too drunk, ha! I took the easy way out and chose the recipe that used a cake mix (oops), but it was just a lot easier for lazy old me on spring break, especially on a recipe that is pretty labor intensive anyway. It took me a whole day to complete this. Of course, I took some breaks in between when things needed to be chilled and such, but with the cake baking, cooling, crumbling, chilling, frosting making, mixing, rolling, chilling, chocolate melting, dipping, chilling, chocolate melting, more dipping, a whole day was needed.

Margarita Cake Balls

Margarita Cake Balls

Margarita Cake Balls

My dipping skills increased with this recipe but this is the fourth time I've made cake balls in the last 6 years so it still needs work. It's a lot of fun making these actually and very versatile as you can change the flavors of the cake and the frosting and even coat it in real chocolate instead of candy melts. Have fun with it!

Margarita Cake Balls
From Butterlust

For the cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
3 eggs
1/2 cup tequila + 2 tsp, separated
1/3 cup lime juice
1 tbsp lime zest + 1 tsp, separated

For the frosting (I needed to double the recipe)
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp lime juice
1 tbsp tequila

For decoration
2 packages white candy coating (sometimes called almond bark)
1 package green candy coating or oil-based green food coloring
Large sugar crystals
Salt

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 9x13 pan.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, oil, water 1/2 cup tequila, lime juice, and 1 tsp zest and mix on medium-high speed for 2 minutes or until batter becomes fluffy. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let cool for at least 15 minutes, then brush the top of the cake with 2 tsp tequila & sprinkle 1 tsp zest over the top. Let cake cool completely, up to overnight.

Just before assembly, use a fork or your hands to break up the cake into fine crumbs, removing any large crusty pieces from the cake's edges.

To make the frosting, combine cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar in half cup increments and blend until there are no lumps. Add the lime juice and tequila and blend until combined.

To assemble, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Thoroughly mix 1/2 of your frosting into the crumbled cake mixture. Test your “dough” to see if it is sticky enough to form a ball without crumbling. Add more icing if needed, until consistency is almost that of a thick cookie dough (no dry cake balls!).

Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (you could also do this the night before) – it will make it easier to roll into balls. Using your hands, roll chilled cake mixture into 1 inch balls. Place on lined baking sheet.

When done, place baking sheet in freezer and let cake balls chill for 30 minutes. This step is optional, but it helps the cake balls keep their shape and prevents crumbs from getting in the candy bark and thus, causing lumpy coating.

While cake balls are chilling, microwave a package of white candy bark in a small bowl, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted. If desired, add oil-based food coloring (it must be oil-based! water-based will cause your candy coating to seize up) OR before microwaving the white candy, toss in a handful of green ones in the same bowl to achieve your desired shade of margarita green. [I ended up using at least 4 packages of white candy melts to double coat all of my cake balls.]

Place a cake ball into the bowl of melted candy coating and use a spoon to cover with coating. Lift the cake ball out of the coating with a fork and tap against the rim of the bowl to remove excess. Use a toothpick to gently push the cake ball back on to a parchment or foil cookie sheet (or onto your counter, lined with parchment paper). Make sure you push the cake ball from the bottom so you don’t smudge your coating.

While the coating is still wet, give your cake ball a healthy sprinkling of decorating sugar and a tiny pinch of salt, if desired.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Key Lime Pie

Last month, to celebrate Pi Day and St. Patrick's Day, I decided to combine the two holidays together and make a green pie. I thought of Key Lime Pie first and even though I didn't add food coloring to make the pie green, it was still good so it's okay. I had never had Key Lime Pie before but I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe and she has very reliable recipes. I'm still not sure what the difference between a regular lime and a key lime is except that key limes are more difficult to juice but are cute and small. You can use regular limes instead but since I had access to key limes and the recipe is named after those specific limes, I ditched the regular ones. I loved the graham cracker crust and I made sure to put a huge dollop of whipped cream on each slice :)

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie
From Smitten Kitchen

For the crust
1 1/2 cups (155 grams) finely ground graham cracker crumbs (from about 10 crackers)
3 tablespoons (40 grams) granulated sugar
2 pinches sea salt
7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest
3 large egg yolks (though extra-large would do you no harm here)
1 14-ounce (396-gram) can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup (155 ml) fresh lime juice (from about 1 dozen tiny key limes or 4 persian/regular limes)

For the topping
3/4 cup (175 ml) heavy whipping cream
1 to 2 tablespoons powdered or granulated sugar, to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).

Combine graham crumbs, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and stir until mixed. Add butter and stir until crumbs are evenly coated. Press crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a standard 9-inch pie dish. I like to use the outer edge of a heavy measuring cup to press in neat, firm sides but nobody will be the wiser if you just use your fingertips. Bake crust until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Set on cooling rack while you prepare filling. Leave oven on.

Zest limes into the bottom of a medium bowl until you have 1 1/2 tablespoons. Beat zest and egg yolks with an electric mixer until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Add sweetened condensed milk and beat until thickened again, about 3 minutes more. Squeeze zested limes until you have 2/3 cups juice. Whisk into yolk mixture until combined.

Pour into graham crust and bake pie for another 10 minutes, until set but not browned on top at all. Let pie cool completely before adding topping.

In a medium bowl, beat cream and sugar until soft peaks are formed. Spread over top of chilled pie. Ideally, pie should be chilled at least another 2 to 3 hours with the cream on top so that it can fully set before you take a slice, but whether that happens is between you and your pie. Key lime pie keeps in fridge for a week.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Homemade Lemonade

I've been ready for spring the first time it hit -32819302 degrees over here. The cold temperatures was too much even for my little car battery! It's okay now but that was the first time I've had that happen to me and it was a little stressful. Nothing like a sudden car service to break the bank. Even though it's cold outside, I'm drinking homemade ice cold lemonade. It's putting me in spring mode because I am so ready for it!

Homemade pink lemonade

I even was a little adventurous and made myself pink lemonade! I googled the other day how it was even made and apparently it's either cranberry juice or food coloring. I'm not a fan of cranberry juice and I have an excess supply of food coloring for some reason so I just squeezed a tiny bit in my glass and mixed it around. It really looks like store bought and tastes better!

Hey over-21's, try putting gin in your lemonade with some mint leaves. So good.

Homemade Lemonade
From Real Simple

1/2 cup sugar
Water
1 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 5 lemons)

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool.

In a pitcher, combine the syrup with the lemon juice and 2 1/2 to 3 cups water. Serve over ice.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cut Out Sugar Cookies with Icing

Theatre has taken over my life, but I don't mind it one bit. The theatre department at my school is working on You're A Good Man Charlie Brown, the first musical production that this school has put on in about a decade. With the show dates coming up at the end of March, there have been rehearsals four or five times a week. I've been at almost every rehearsal to help with the music as accompanist and as moral support for the director ;). Despite some rehearsals running late which result in my coming home basically at bed time since my commute is about an hour, I enjoy it. I've always thought that taking part in theatre in college was the best decision I ever made because it really opened me up and made me a better person. I look forward to going to rehearsals because it's become a stress reliever for me! I laugh so much and I get to play piano, one of my favorite hobbies. I wish I could that every day.

We had rehearsal this past Saturday on Valentine's Day and I wanted to bake something for the cast and crew. I thought about making Charlie Brown themed cookies and then I found a t-shirt shaped cookie cutter on Etsy! I immediately bought one and knew I had to make yellow t-shirt cookies with black zigzags. The recipe I used from Sally's Baking Addiction really hold up their shape and do not expand at all.

Charlie Brown themed sugar cookies

I only got to frost half the cookies this way because I ran out of frosting and time due to poor time management on my part but it actually ended up being enough for the whole cast and crew since it's a small group anyway. This would be a great activity to do with your friends or with your kids if you have different cookie cutters and are stuck inside thanks to the several snowstorms we have had this week alone! It was nice to have a week off from school and get a second winter vacation but I'm starting to get cabin fever now. I hope everyone has been staying warm! I shared both the sugar cookie and icing recipes below.

Sugar Cut Out Cookies
From Sally's Baking Addiction

3/4 cup butter, slightly softened to room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamed and smooth - about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 or 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat on high until fully combine, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl. Turn the mixer down to low and add about half of the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until just combined. If the dough still seems too soft, you can add 1 tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment to about 1/4″ thickness. Stack the pieces (with paper) onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. Chilling is mandatory. If chilling for more than a couple hours, cover the top dough piece with a single piece of parchment paper.

Once chilled, preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. The amount of batches will depend on how large/small you cut your cookies. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a cookie cutter, cut in shapes. Transfer the cut cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used. Bake for 8-11 minutes, until very lightly colored on top and around the edges. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time.

Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing. Make the icing and decorate the cooled cookies however you'd like. I find they stay soft for about 5 days at room temperature.

FREEZING: unfrosted cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Frosted cookies do not freeze well at all. You can freeze the unbaked cookie dough before rolling for up to 3 months. Then allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Then allow to come to room temperature for about 1 hour. Then roll and continue with the recipe as directed.

Sugar Cookie Icing
Adapted from Allrecipes

1 cup confectioner's sugar
3 to 4 tsp milk
1/4 tsp almond (or vanilla) extract
1 tbsp light corn syrup

I found it best to use the mixer for this recipe instead of just a spatula and my hand. In a small bowl, stir together confectioner's sugar and milk until smooth. Stir in almond extract and corn syrup until glossy and smooth. Add food coloring and stir well. You can dip the cookies or use OXO Good Grips 8 Piece Baker's Silicone Decorating Bottle Kit! I got my set from the Food Blogger's Cookie Exchange last year and it does work really great and is super easy to clean in the dishwasher! That's what helped me make the zigzag lines on Charlie Brown's t-shirts.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tiramisu

Despite having made Tiramisu Cake a bunch of times, I've never had real Tiramisu until now. I can't believe it took me this long.

Tiramisu

I took a risk and went for the recipe that uses raw eggs. That is how authentic Tiramisu is made so if I'm going to make it, I'm going to make it right. My body's used to that anyway. I've been eating homemade ice cream recently that I made with raw eggs as well and I love super runny sunny side up eggs. Everything about this dessert is so fluffy, it's like you're eating a cloud with the perfect amount of sweetness. My ladyfingers did not turn soggy at all and soaked up the perfect amount of coffee. I halved this recipe to fit into a 9-by-9 pan and it still turned out great.

Tiramisu

The only change I made in this recipe is substituting Marsala with rum. I didn't have Marsala on hand and some other recipes I had Googled used rum or brandy or Kahlua instead. I liked the idea of rum so I went with that. I went picture crazy for this post. It was a nice day with lots of sun and I had time. It felt nice to relax for once. This is the best dessert to relax with.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu
From Kitchen Joy Blog

6 egg yolks, at room temperature
4 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups (16-ounces) mascarpone
36-48 Savoiardi ladyfingers
1 1/2 cups Italian coffee made in Moka pot, cooled
2 tablespoons Marsala
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate, shaved

Brew coffee and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar until pale, doubled in volume, and "ribbons" remain for a few seconds when spoon is lifted from the mixture, about 3-4 minutes.

Tiramisu

Whisk in marscarpone a little bit at a time. In another large bowl, beat egg whites and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Tiramisu

Fold egg whites into mascarpone mixture.

Tiramisu

Add 2 tablespoons Marsala to the coffee. Dip Savoiardi ladyfingers quickly into the coffee and arrange in a layer in the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan. Do not "soak" the ladyfingers in the coffee or your Tiramisu will turn out soggy.

Tiramisu

Spread half of the mascarpone mixture on top of the ladyfingers. Top with another layer of dipped ladyfingers. Spread remaining mascarpone mixture evenly on top of ladyfingers. Refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving. (Overnight works well too.) This allows the filling to set and the ladyfingers to soften and absorb the coffee. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and chocolate shavings immediately before serving.

Tiramisu