Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A recipe and a giveaway!

I shared my new, favorite recipe for Root Beer Float cupcakes yesterday on Birthday Girl. Now I wanted to share with one lucky reader some essentials to making them: 5 18" striper pastry bags (for making the perfect double swirl), 5 outer pastry bags, and a bottle of yummy root beer extract. Simply leave a comment here and I will choose a winner on Sunday, July 3rd. If you share this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter, leave a comment for an additional entry. The winner will be contacted via email. Open to US residents only.
We have a winner - #3 - Magpie! I'll send you an email - congratulations!

Here's the recipe again in case you missed it!
I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and tweaked it a bit, adding more butter, root beer extract and simplifying the method. I thought that root beer extract would be easier to come by but after searching all my local grocery stores, I finally found it at a homebrew/wine making store. There’s a much better selection online and I think I would try this one from Cooks next time.
For the frosting, I wanted to duplicate the vanilla ice cream, but also wanted to make sure that the overall flavor screamed root beer. I settled on making vanilla & root beer variations of my favorite Swiss meringue buttercream recipe and swirled them together. There are a couple of methods to achieve this effect – using 2 bags in one (see a great tutorial here or you can use these very handy striper bags. Whichever technique you use, it is a little tricky to get the frosting to come out evenly, so plan on taking your time and practicing a few swirls before applying to your cupcakes. Making sure your frosting is on the softer side will make the process much easier. Happy swirling!
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar
½ dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp root beer extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
2 cups root beer (I used Jones and I would recommend using a similar, natural soda)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and pale.
3. Add in the eggs one at a time and mix until combined
4. Sift together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda together
5. Stir together root beer & root beer extract
6. Alternately add dry ingredients and root beer to mixing bowl, scraping down after each addition. Start and end with dry ingredients
7. Fill paper-lined muffin tins with batter 2/3 full.
8. Bake at 350° for 20-22 minutes
Root Beer & Vanilla Bean buttercream
1 lb unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
8 egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tsp root beer extract (or more to taste)

1. Combine the sugar & egg whites in mixer bowl and whisk together over simmering water until hot to the touch and all of the sugar has melted and is no longer grainy
2. Transfer bowl to mixer stand and whip on high until fluffy & cool – about 10 minutes
3. With the mixer on low, add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time until incorporated. Add in vanilla. Whip until smooth (it may look curdled, but just continue to mix & it will be fine!).
4. Remove ½ of the frosting and add root beer extract to the remaining frosting.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cookie bribes

Sometimes when I'm at work and need help lugging bags of flour, hulling multiple flats of strawberries or I have made a particularly huge mess, I find that the promise of a sweet treat goes a long way in preserving employee relations. Today I knew I was going to need a lot of favors, so I had to come up with something special.

I started with this recipe and made a few tweaks like adding peanut butter chips and honey roasted peanuts. After the first batch was baked, I tried a light sprinkling of Maldon sea salt on top of the cookie and yowza - a delicious and bribe-worthy cookie!

Double Chocolate Peanut Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 oz butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup ea chocolate chips and peanut butter chips
1 cup chopped honey roasted peanuts
Sea salt of sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda. In mixing bowl, cream together butter and both sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time until incorporated. Add in vanilla. Gradually stir flour mixture into butter mixture and mix until combined. Stir chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and honey roasted peanuts. Scoop onto a parchment covered cookie sheet and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Bake approximately 12 minutes. Cool on a baking rack.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Vanilla Perfection

Head on over to Birthday Girl to check out my first post as a contributor - my quest for the perfect vanilla cupcake and frosting!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tea Party in the Garden

The ritual of having tea has been important to me since I was a little girl. Many of my childhood afternoons were spent sitting around my grandmother’s dining room table, sipping milky tea and eating her delicious homemade treats. When she passed away many years ago, I was lucky enough to inherit some of her bone china tea cups which I cherish. Though I am still a daily tea drinker, I rarely have the occasion to break out all of my fancy things. With warm Spring weather (though unpredictable - we had to reschedule once due to rain) and an abundance flowers in our garden, it was the perfect excuse to have a tea party. I kept it small with 5 moms and their children and it was truly delightful afternoon of sipping tea and enjoying goodies. Many thanks to Becca of the fabulous Birthday Girl blog who designed the invites & menus, crafted the cute faux fire and helped out with the styling and Sherry Heck for taking all of the beautiful photos.

Tea sandwiches: curried chicken, egg salad, cucumber, caramelized onion & goat cheese, and peanut butter & jam
Sweets: Scones with homemade jam & lemon curd, almond raspberry petit fours, lemon bars, strawberry mini cupcakes, white chocolate cupcakes, raspberry tartlets, meringues, vanilla bean shortbread cookies and mini donuts.

Regardless of the occasion, I love giving party favors. For the ladies, I created a crepe paper party crackers filled with a handcrafted rose ring and a mini Lollia hand cream. For the kiddos, I had a hard time narrowing it down, so they got three - a handmade heart glitter wand, a sparrow ribbon necklace and a small candy bag.

I tried to use mostly things that I already owned for this party, but I did splurge on a few new things...

Vintage tea pots (I was surprisingly lacking!): Home 101, Berkeley
Paper straws, pink milk glass cake stand, glassine bags: Shop Sweet Lulu
Flower fabric for tablecloths: Sew, Mama, Sew!
Drink dispenser: HomeGoods

Many thanks again to Sherry and Becca for all of their help!
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