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Friday
Oct032014

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Candy corn Boston cream pie!Being thin doesn't feel as good as dessert tastes, and other wisdom.

No idea what the blog post says, but look at this cake. JUST LOOK AT IT.

Dominique Ansel (AKA Cronut Creator) to open a bakery in Tokyo.

Gastropod: an awesome new podcast! The first episode focuses on the history of the fork.

Baby Ruth Vs. Babe Ruth: what's the connection?

HOORAY! Microwave lemon fudge.

Muffins 101. My kind of education.

Using colors to convey motion in your artwork. A wonderful essay by me.

Canning just got easier. Really.

Pumpkin cupcakes with maple frosting. Not that there's anything wrong with cream cheese frosting, but I like this different option.

Keep your cakes from falling in the center! A valuable article.

I was really honored that the James Beard Foundation featured my writeup on "what is pumpkin pie spice?".

"Baking With My Homies" hip-hop inspired cookie cutters.

Book of the week: 175 Best Mini Pie Recipes: Sweet to Savory by Julie Hession. Because seriously, how many moments in life aren't made better with mini pies??

Friday
Oct032014

Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Bacon Tartlets

CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. I will focus on sweets! You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events). 

I must have been tired when I read the description of this recipe by Lenore Klass of Koloa, Hawaii, which goes like this: "Bacon lovers! Serve it up with pastry, chocolate and peanut butter for wild raves."

Why? Because my big takeaways were these: 1. Omigod, she lives in a town called Koala!! I want to live in Koala! and, 2. People still go to raves?

I had visions of Koalas with glo-necklaces, raving out and eating these tarts. Now, as it turns out, I was wrong. Nonetheless, I've made my decision, and just having that vision in my head makes an already magical on its own recipe...even more magical. Good luck at the Bake-Off!

Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Bacon Tartlets

  • Prep Time: 25 Min
  • Total Time: 50 Min
  • Makes: 12 tartlets

Ingredients

  • 1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, softened as directed on box
  • 4 slices packaged precooked bacon (from 2.52-oz package)
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup chocolate fudge creamy ready-to-spread frosting

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Spray 12 regular-size muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Unroll pie crust on work surface. Using 2 1/2-inch fluted round cookie cutter, cut 12 rounds from pie crust. Press 1 round in bottom and 1/4 inch up side of each muffin cup. Prick bottom of each cup 3 times with fork. Bake 8 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Remove cups from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 10 minutes.
  3. Place bacon on cookie sheet. Bake 3 to 4 minutes or until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Cool 5 minutes; finely chop.
  4. In small bowl, beat peanut butter, sugar, butter and cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed about 2 minutes or until smooth. Spoon 1 tablespoon chocolate frosting into each cup; spread over bottom and up side of each cup. Spoon or pipe, using 1/2-inch open star tip, about 1 tablespoon peanut butter mixture into each cup; sprinkle with bacon. Store covered in refrigerator.
Friday
Oct032014

Art Skills: Digitally Removing Paper Backgrounds from Your Art

Ever tried removing the paper background from an image in Photoshop, so that you could make a colored background? It can be tricky, but it's not difficult. Here are some tips and tricks for how to do it. Check out the full tutorial on Craftsy!

Friday
Oct032014

Using Watercolor Dyes: A Mini-Guide

Have you ever heard of concentrated watercolors or watercolor dyes? They're vibrant, lovely watercolor inks which can add beautiful color to your artwork. I use them to make the frosting on my (painted) cupcakes bright and colorful. If you love watercolor, they're worth checking out; here's a guide for how to use them in your art

Thursday
Oct022014

Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Chocolate Doughnut Poppers

CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. I will focus on sweets! You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events). 

Forget about popping your collar: instead, pop some chocolate doughnut poppers into your hungry mouth!

This clever recipe comes from Megan Beimer of Alexandria, Virginia, and is described thusly: "Baked doughnuts, not fried, have an ooey, gooey chocolate center to discover. A sweet glaze ups the irresistible."

They must be virtuous if they're baked (health food!) but then again...they're glazed and gooey chocolate. All systems go, in the best way possible.

Chocolate Doughnut Poppers

  • Prep Time: 20 Min
  • Total Time: 40 Min
  • Makes: 9 doughnut poppers

Ingredients

  • 1 can Pillsbury Crescent Recipe Creations refrigerated seamless dough sheet
  • 5 tablespoons chocolate hazelnut spread
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons milk
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped nuts

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly sprinkle work surface with all purpose flour. Unroll dough on work surface; press to form 12x9-inch rectangle. With pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut into 3 rows by 3 rows to make 9 rectangles.
  2. Spoon rounded teaspoonful hazelnut spread onto center of each rectangle. Brush edges of rectangles with melted butter. Bring dough up around filling to cover completely; pinch edges together to seal; shape into ball. Place seam side down, 2 inches apart, on ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix powdered sugar and milk with whisk until smooth and thin enough to glaze. Dip top of each doughnut popper into glaze; place on  parchment paper. Let stand about 1 minute or until glaze is set. Place nuts in small bowl. Dip each popper into glaze again, then into nuts. Serve warm.
Wednesday
Oct012014

Biscuit S'more Shortcakes = S'morescakes?

How on earth. How on earth. How on EARTH have 33 years passed in my life before I did this?

I am talking, of course, about taking your favorite recipe for strawberry shortcake, saying "screw you, health food!" to the strawberries and whipped cream part, and swapping it out for the makings of s'mores. 

Naturally, it will be a biscuit version of a shortcake because "short" means (I am paraphrasing) "buttery" and therefore, angel food cake has no part in an honest shortcake. 

S'mores between biscuits. It's a glorious moment to be alive!

Oh my god. If you haven't tried it, please promise you will do it right now? I'll wait while you assemble your ingredients. 

S'morescakes

  • Biscuits
  • Hershey's chocolate (can be plain, or be a rebel like me and use the kind with almonds)
  • Marshmallows

(the quantity of latter two ingredients can be tailored to your taste)

 Procedure

  1. Start by baking up some biscuits. Can I suggest this recipe, which only employs three ingredients? Yes, I thought so. Homemade biscuits
  2. Once the biscuits have cooled so they are warm-hot, rather than hot-hot, remove from the pan. Split the biscuit you want to make a s'more with in half, so that you have top and bottom. Biscuits
  3. Now, break a jumbo marshmallow in half. Place on half on top of the bottom of the biscuit. Place as many squares as you like on the bottom half. Place the remaining marshmallow bit (btw, homemade would be awesome, but store bought will do; this can also be done with minis) on top of that Once melted, this will help everything adhere. Place the top of the biscuit over it.
  4. S'mores biscuits
  5. If the residual heat doesn't do the trick in terms of making things melty, help out matters by placing your sweet stack in the microwave for just a short time, like 10 seconds. The marshmallow might puff and make the top fall to the side; it's ok. I know you can put the top back on once it's out of the microwave.
  6. S'mores biscuits
  7. Enjoy. Marvel at how on earth this has never happened in your life before. 
  8. Repeat as desired. 
  9. S'mores biscuits

Psst! If you liked this, you might also enjoy these tasty vittles:

Doughnut strawberry shortcakeS'moreos!

 

S'more pop-tart s'moresS'more brownies

What's your favorite non-graham cracker way to sandwich s'mores? 

Wednesday
Oct012014

Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Bacon-Peanut Butter Chocolate Fries

CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events). 

Are you ready to make your dessert a dunking delight? Carolyn Nace of Ocala, Florida has created a sweet and salty treat just for you. It's got basically all of the food groups: pastry, bacon, peanut butter, and chocolate. Oh, and a little caramel dipping sauce for good measure. This would be a nice recipe to make for Dad on Father's Day...or to snack on and kid yourself that it's a balanced breakfast any other day. 

Good luck at the Bake-Off, Carolyn!

Bacon-Peanut Butter Chocolate Fries

  • Prep Time: 25 Min
  • Total Time: 50 Min
  • Makes: 18 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 box Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust, softened as directed on box
  • 1 cup Jif Whips Whipped Peanut Butter & Chocolate Flavored Spread
  • 5 slices bacon, crisply cooked, crumbled
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup honey-roasted peanuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup caramel topping

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Unroll pie crusts on work surface. Spread peanut butter chocolate spread over 1 pie crust to within 1/8 inch of edge; sprinkle with bacon. Top with remaining pie crust; press lightly into filling.
  3. In small bowl, beat egg and 2 teaspoons water until blended. In another small bowl, mix peanuts and 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt. Brush egg mixture evenly over pie crust; sprinkle with peanut mixture. With pizza cutter or knife, cut 18 rows by 4 rows. Carefully place fries 1 inch apart on cookie sheets.
  4. Bake 14 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Meanwhile, in small microwavable bowl, microwave caramel topping uncovered on High 30 to 50 seconds or until warm. Serve with fries.
Wednesday
Oct012014

Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Lemon-Blueberry Muffins

CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. I will focus on sweets! You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events). 

These are muffins, yes...but since they have frosting, I can permit them on this site.

This clever cakey muffin comes from Lise Ode of Cumming, Georgia, who is apparently a morning carbohydrate maven. Why would I say that? Because she also had a recipe in last year's Bake-Off, which is worth checking out: German Chocolate Doughnuts.

Lemon-Blueberry Muffins

  • Prep Time: 25 Min
  • Total Time: 1 Hr 25 Min
  • Makes: 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 container Pillsbury™ Gluten Free refrigerated pie and pastry dough
  • 2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Let dough stand at room temperature 10 minutes to soften. Place baking cups in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups.
  2. In small bowl, place 36 blueberries; set aside. In large bowl, break up pastry dough. Add eggs, 3/4 cup of the sugar, the baking powder and lemon extract. Mix with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed about 30 seconds or until well blended. Gently stir in remaining blueberries. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups (cups will be full).
  3. Bake 22 to 29 minutes or until light golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool about 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, beat cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup sugar with electric mixer on medium speed 30 to 60 seconds or until smooth. Spread or pipe cream cheese mixture onto muffins. Top each muffin with 3 blueberries. Store covered in refrigerator.
Tuesday
Sep302014

What is Allspice?

Have you ever wondered what, exactly, allspice is? Well, I found myself wondering recently, and I thought I would pass on my newfound wisdom on the ways of allspice. Enjoy!

What is Allspice?

Photo: Pixabay

Botanically speaking, this spice is known as Pimenta officinalis, and it comes from the Jamaican Pepper Tree. While it is said to be native to south and central America, it was most famously shared with the world after its discovery in Jamaica in the West Indies: this is where Columbus discovered the stuff. Per the Farmers Almanac, a physician on the ship declared the tree had the "finest smell of cloves" he had ever encountered.

Allspice comes from the dried berry of the pimento tree, a tropical tree which can range in size from 20-40 feet, which is related to the myrtle and features thick, elliptical-shaped leaves. In the spring and summer, the tree produces white blooms, which are followed by the pea-sized berries in the fall. These berries are dried and ground to produce the allspice we know. 

What about the name? 

As I discovered on About Food,

Allspice comes by its name for a very good reason. The berries have a combined flavor of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves with a hint of juniper and peppercorn. Some enterprising spice companies sell a mixture of spices as allspice, so be sure and check the ingredients on the label to be sure you are getting the real thing. Allspice is often called pimento, not to be confused with the capsicum pepper pimiento, which is a vegetable, not a spice.

How to use it

  • Since it tastes like a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, it is a frequent component of baked goods, especially in the fall. It is notably part of pumpkin pie spice. 
  • It can be used in Jamaican (savory) cookery. Known as Jamaican pepper, it is part of jerk spice mixes. 
  • In Polish cooking, it is called kubaba and adds a certain je ne sais quoi to pot roasts and stuffings. 

8 tasty recipes featuring allspice

I think these ones sound like winners, don't you?

Substituting allspice in recipes

If you don't have allspice on hand, this spice substitution guide suggests cinnamon; cassia; dash of nutmeg or mace; or dash of cloves. Or, follow the example of The Humbled Homemaker and mix equal parts cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Interesting facts

  • Once upon a time, flowers were given as symbolic gestures. Bright yellow allspice buds were seen as a symbol of compassion. (find more flower symbolism here)
  • Allspice is a curative, and is considered a remedy for health issues as wide ranging as muscle aches, indigestion, and fever. 
  • Allspice was named due to its scent, which is a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Pimento was given its name by Spanish and Portuguese explorers, who thought the dried berries looked like peppercorns, and called them “pimenta”, or pepper. (source)

How do you use allspice in your baking or cooking?

Tuesday
Sep302014

Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Chewy Chocolate Chip-Almond Bars


CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. I will focus on sweets! You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events). 

I wouldn't be surprised if your response to these bars is like mine: absolute delight. There's no part of the recipe that doesn't completely please me, from the sweetened condensed milk gooeyness to the decadent chocolate chip base and the almonds all over the batter and flecked on top which give it a distinct Almond Joy tone.
This clever recipe is courtesy of Rachel Ruiz of Hurlburt Field, Florida. Good luck at the Bake-Off!

Chewy Chocolate Chip-Almond Bars

  • Prep Time: 15 Min
  • Total Time: 2 Hr 25 Min
  • Makes: 12 bars

Ingredients

  • 1 package Pillsbury Ready to Bake! refrigerated chocolate chip cookies
  • 2 oz marzipan, diced (1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup crunchy almond butter
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 9-inch square pan with non-stick spray.
  2. In large bowl, break up cookie dough. Add marzipan and almond extract. Beat with electric mixer on high speed about 2 minutes or until well blended. Press dough evenly in bottom of pan.
  3. In small bowl, mix condensed milk and almond butter until smooth; pour over dough in pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips and almonds evenly over condensed milk mixture.
  4. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until edges are golden brown and center still jiggles slightly. Cool completely in pan on cooling rack, about 1 1/2 hours. Cut into 4 rows by 3 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.
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