Monthly Archives: December 2012

Merry Christmas and junk


Extreme closeup of a Christmas light. My little stab at artistic photography.


Hello!  Merry Christmas to all of you (2 people that read the craft posts. You know who you are.)  We had a lovely time hanging out with Bake and her husband and child.  We might have even gotten a few…ahem…photos to share with you.  Just so you can see what we really look like as adults.  More on that at a later date.

Right now, as cliched as it is, I’m working through some post-holiday blues.  My husband is set to deploy this coming summer sometime to the Middle East (yes, I’m being vague on purpose) so all holiday I kept thinking about what I’d like to do differently next year, then I’d remember that he won’t be here next year  and it would make me sad for a tiny minute then I’d shake it off and tell myself “Be Present in the Now” or “Don’t borrow troubles”  or “Don’t think about it. Eat some more chocolate”.  Hard to do right now (the not thinking about it part anyway. The Eat Chocolate I got down).  The last time he deployed we only had one child and I was 30 pounds lighter, now we have three and I’m …well, you get the picture.  Sigh…Just feeling sorry for myself which is absolutely ridiculous since I have a life many women would Envy. So, (dusts hands off) that is that.  We will speak of it no more and I will be back to crafting things that (like my milkshake) will bring all the “boys” to the yard, and by “boys” I mean all the spammers that try to get their links on our comment pages.  See yous later.

Chocolate Cupcake Mania!


So if any if you are fact checking this blog you might recall that I said I would be baking cookies for Christmas this year. Well, I changed my mind (I do that often) and made cupcakes instead…a lot of cupcakes.

By some Christmas miracle we were able to fit all the baked goods, presents, wine and our 11 month old in the car and we are headed home – a 4 hour drive south. This time last year we went out to dinner, just the two of us, and celebrated our last Christmas as a duo. While I was sad to not be with family (8 months pregnant and travel restricted), thinking back on it now I realize how nice, relaxing and stress free that evening was. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super excited about baby’s first Christmas but a teensy part of me would like to be sipping on a cocktail at Capital Grille – just the two of us.

I’ll be posting the recipes for these cupcakes soon but wanted to share a quick photo collage of goodness.

Top left: Espresso chocolate cupcakes with Kahlua mousse filing
Top right: Fun fact, this is actually the leftover chocolate mousse in an edible chocolate cupcake liner – another gluten free option! Cute, right?
Bottom left: Flourless chocolate cupcakes with whipped chocolate ganache frosting
Bottom right: Chocolate Irish Cream cupcakes

Anyway, Happy Holidays, safe travels and enjoy your time with family and friends, as stressful as it may be

Oh yeah, I did whip up a batch of sugar cookies for the non-chocolate lovers. Yes, they do exist.


Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes

Flourless choc cupcake (3)

Ok, this is going to sound crazy but I’m going to share it with you anyway.  I periodically check to see if my son is developing telepathic abilities by thinking his name “loudly” to see if he will look my way.  So far, nothing to report, but the experiment continues.  A mother has to be aware of these kinds of things…right?

If you’re interested in knowing my innermost thoughts,  I’m usually thinking “Chocolaaaate”.  And that should read exactly like a zombie saying “braaaiiinnss”.  This decadent flourless chocolate cupcake with whipped chocolate ganache frosting makes my brain very happy but I actually made it with someone else in mind.  A certain special sister in law who sadly doesn’t get to partake in most holiday baked goods because she is gluten intolerant.  I’ve always been a bit intimidated by gluten free baking because it goes against everything I know as a baker.  All the regular rules don’t seem to apply.  But I just couldn’t let her go without this year.  In the name of Father Christmas, I had to try…

I will say this recipe required a bit of a learning curve.  The old trick of determining if a cake is done with a toothpick, doesn’t really work with flourless varieties so the first pan I made was severely underbaked – like chocolate soup in the middle.   Luckily I only made six; I only bake off a few when first attempting a new recipe so I can get the cooking time down and make adjustments if necessary.  Also these cakes will sink in the middle and they’re supposed to, but that’s the beauty of cupcakes – you can just cover it with frosting!  In this case, it’s a whipped chocolate ganache frosting which sounds fancy schmancy but it’s pretty easy.  There is a right and wrong way to do it though and I was lucky enough to experience both.  One way creates luscious chocolate mousse like frosting and one way makes gritty, dense chocolate butter (not pretty).

I also decided at last minute to make a raspberry Grand Marnier sauce because a little bit of tartness really complements these sweet, dense cakes well.  I have no idea if said sister in law likes raspberry so I’m going to take it on the side in a squeeze bottle – easy enough!

Flourless choc cupcake (6)

The cupcakes:
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 large eggs (or 7 medium eggs)
1 cup cocoa
2 tsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

The frosting:
8 ounces heavy cream
8 ounces high quality semi sweet chocolate chips
1-2 tbsp Kahlua or other liquor (optional)

The raspberry sauce:
12 ounces frozen raspberries, thawed
2-3 tbsp sugar to taste
1-2 tbsp Grand Marnier

Preheat oven to 350 and line cupcake pan with paper liners.  You can also grease and flour the pan if you prefer.

In a large bowl, melt chocolate and butter in microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Whisk in sugar, salt and espresso powder until well combined.  Mixture will look grainy, sugar will not fully dissolve until baked.

Whisk in eggs one at a time.

Add vanilla.

Sift in cocoa powder and whisk until smooth.

Pour mixture into cupcake liners filling 3/4 full.  These do not rise (they may rise while baking but will fall when cooled) like regular cupcakes so you don’t have to worry as much about overfilling.  I usually transfer batter to a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into cups but you can spoon it in or use a cookie scoop.

Bake for 17-20 minutes.  Cakes will begin to crack on top and just barely jiggle in the middle.  In my oven, 19 minutes is about right but you will have to experiment a bit.

Allow to cool in pan.  Centers will sink as they cool.

For the frosting:
Place all chocolate chips in large bowl.
Heat the cream in a microwaveable container until it boils – about 2-3 minutes.
Pour the cream over the chocolate chips and  let it sit for 1-2 minutes.
Whisk the mixture until it is glossy and smooth.
Add in Kahlua.

Joe Pastry’s method of whipping ganache worked perfectly so that is what I’ll be sharing with you.  I first tried a recipe from a certain popular TV personality who was jailed for insider trading (hint: rhymes with Shmartha Shtewart) and it was awful.  I urge you to go with this one.

After making your ganache, place the entire bowl into a large ice bath.
Allow mixture to cool until it reaches pudding consistency – about 10 minutes.  You want it just to set, not to form chocolate clay.
Whip the ganache for about a minute until dreamy mousse forms.  Don’t over whip.

At this point, it will be perfectly pipable and I used a 1M tip to swirl it on.  I also grated a bit of chocolate on top for some textural fun.

For the raspberry sauce:
Grind raspberries in food processor until smooth.
With a large spoon, strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve and discard seeds.
Add in sugar and Grand Marnier to taste.  I also added some Chambord Raspberry Liquor because I had it on hand.

You can put the mixture in a squeeze bottle and drizzle over top of the cupcake or on the plate…or directly into your mouth.

Flourless choc cupcake (4)

Bottom line, these cupcakes are not just “good for gluten-free” they are damn delicious.  Period.  Your gluten intolerants and gluten supporters alike will revel in the chocolate majesty of these tasty treats.

A little preview…

Hello, hello!  I asked my long suffering husband for only one little thing this Christmas.  I didn’t want expensive jewelry (over rated) or a new car (mine is all payed off and that is awesome) or new clothes (waiting to lose that baby weight. Ha!). No, all I wanted was a snow globe.

Now, lest you think I’m too easily pleased and completely undemanding, I did have one little condition.  He had to make it himself.

All the ones I see in the stores are LAME.  There is nothing I appreciate more than having something one of a kind and handmade.  I gave him a few ideas from these beautiful ones I had seen online.



Created by: Walter Martin and Paloma Munoz


Gorgeous, aren’t they?  I love how mysterious they are and how they tell little stories.  Snow globes in general have always fascinated me.  I think it’s the writer in me that loves the thought of a tiny world separate from our own that we can only glimpse through swirling snow.  We get to fill in the details and make up the stories.

These are especially awesome to me because I confess I trend towards the macabre.  I love Edward Gorey and Edgar Allen Poe (Note: Those are E names. All three of my children have E names.  Coincidence?)  I hear you asking (that is your voice in my head, right?)  why if you love these so much did you not simply purchase one of these.  Well… I’m pretty sure they don’t sell them. Just photographs of them. And even if they did, I’m guessing they’d be waaaay out of our price range. Thus I get a handmade, one of a kind, Aaron original!

So the direction I gave him was to make it something like these.  Something a little dark, a little mysterious.  He didn’t even bat an eyelash he just set to work and has been working steadily on it ever since (have I mentioned he’s a soldier?)  A little bit ago he ordered some miniatures from Great Britain (return addy on the package was 227 Tweed Crescent, not even kidding.)   He was bursting to show me what he was working on so I happen to know what he’s making me and I’m more pleased than I can say that he came up with the exact idea all on his own.   So here is a little teaser picture of the master piece my devoted husband is making me.






Get to Know the Real Madeleine


A quick perusal of the Internet might leave you with the impression that Madeleines are a bit snobby.  I will admit that they have quite the lineage with some sources dating them back to 18th Century French Royalty.  Since I am a classically trained pastry chef that has spent the last five years working in patisseries across France (don’t believe everything you read on the Internet) I am qualified to tell you that contrary to what some people would have you believe, you do not have to be in France or from France to achieve culinary greatness with this recipe.  There is nothing intimidating about sweet little Madeleine… Anyway, I’m pretty sure that if its sold at Starbucks then it’s officially Americanized.

I am not down with pretentious pastry and these cookies are anything but.  Flour, sugar, butter and eggs – it doesn’t get much simpler.  The only requirement is a special Madeleine pan but the result is worth it.  They are more ‘cookie next door’ than Princesse but there is no denying they have an elegance about them.  Not too sweet and just the right amount of lemony loveliness, these cookies are class all the way.  And if you are into the snooty, I can assure you that they are just as delicious while sipping tea with your pinky up.

The cookie:
1/2 cup butter melted and cooled plus additional for greasing pan
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest – I added a little more cause I love me some lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup confectioners sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

The glaze:
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Brush some of the melted butter over the Madeleine molds with a pastry brush.  Dust with flour and shake off excess.

Sift together flour and baking powder, set aside.

Beat lemon zest, eggs and vanilla on high for five minutes.

Slowly add in sugar, beating on high for an additional 5-7 minutes until thick and smooth.

Gradually fold in the flour mixture by fourths.  Fold in the cooled butter until fully combined.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip with the prepared batter.  Fill the Madeleine molds 3/4 full.  You will have to eyeball this – do not spread the batter into the mold because this can affect the shape of the cookie.  The batter will spread and fill the mold as it bakes.

photo(5)Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly brown and cake springs back when touched.

While cookies are baking, prepare the glaze by whisking together lemon juice, water and confectioners sugar until smooth.  Feel free to experiment with taste and texture: more sugar for a thicker glaze, more lemon if desired etc.

Remove the cookies from the pan after cooling 1-2 minutes and immediately dip both sides in the glaze and place onto wire rack to cool.


I actually think these cookies were even better the next morning after the glaze had soaked in a bit so feel free to eat them for dinner and breakfast…I did!

A little bit of handmade cheer

Hiya!  I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of these little ornaments around the interwebs but I thought I’d post this one anyway.  This little gem is for our dear friends in far away Germany.

They are deployed there for a 2 or 3 year jaunt. I can’t have too much sympathy for them though, they are planning on spending Christmas in Paris.


Paris, France at Christmas time.

Now that I think about it, I kinda hate them a little.  Okay, A lot.

Anyway, I decided to do my duty and send them a gift (although they don’t really deserve one).  I wanted it to be something small and easy to store and ship back home when they pack up in a few years, also something handmade because Duh, I’m a crafter.  So this is what I came up with.





The inspiration for this was  Swedish/German/Norwegian/Insert Ungodly Cold Part of Europe Here  embroideries I’ve seen.  The letter is of course their last initial.

I feel like it turned out okay. It just took FOREVER to stitch.

I cut the basic shape out of felt and then used lots of different stitches to make the flowers and vines.  I machine stitched the back piece to it and added a bit of rick rack so it can be hung and that was it.


This is the rest of their present.  The female part of the duo loves Soft Lips like I do so I had to include some of the holiday packs and they both like to read on their devices, thus the gift card.

I’m pretty sure that they don’t know about this blog so it shouldn’t be a spoiler for them.  Now I just have to get it mailed out….  always the hardest part somehow.




Coconut Macaroon Wreaths

   Macaroon 1

This may come as a surprise, but if you dislike coconut then this cookie isn’t going to be your cup of tea.  But, I didn’t make these for you; I made these for me.  As selfish as that may sound.  My heart holds a special place for coconut desserts, but sadly I usually have to pass on them.  The husband is not a huge fan and when splitting desserts, coconut treats usually don’t stand a chance.  Seriously, I’m psycho for coconut…or maybe I should say cuckoo for coconut.  Either way, when given the opportunity to be alone with a bag of sweetened coconut flakes, dangerous things happen.

There are just so many things that I love about these little darlings:  These cookies are mad easy,  (in fact, the hardest part of this recipe for me was separating the egg white but that’s just because I’m embarrassingly bad at cracking eggs), they are petite and festive due to the adorable wreath shape, and they keep well!  I was also able to break out my mini doughnut pan (generously donated to me by Sister Craft) and I’m a happy girl anytime I can find another use for a specialty pan.  The almond extract gives this cookie an amaretto-y flavor – yet another dimension of delicious goodness that you don’t want to miss!  Also, as much as I love coconut, it just isn’t the same without it’s partner in pastry – chocolate.  So don’t skip the chocolate dippy/drizzle bit.

Macaroon 3

The cookie:

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

3 ½ cups sweetened, flaked coconut

1 large egg white

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon almond extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

Preheat oven to 325.

Butter and flour your mini-doughnut pan(s) and set aside.  You can also just scoop this out on to a baking sheet but this is way more fun.

In a large bowl, combine condensed milk, flavorings, egg white and salt.  Blend in coconut until fully coated.

Press mixture into doughnut pan, filling to just under the top.

Bake for 16-20 minutes or until lightly golden, rotating once halfway through bake time.

Allow cookies to cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Using a knife, cut around each cookie and pop them out.

In a double boiler, melt chocolate.  Dip cookies in the melted chocolate and place onto baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Drizzle chocolate over the tops of the cookies using a piping bag or even just a spoon.  Allow to fully set in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes then promptly devour!

Macaroon 4

A tale of two scarves…

Hello my peeps.  I woke up with an awful sinus cold so this post is a bit late.

The boy child told me a few weeks ago that he wanted a Wild Kratts scarf.  “They don’t wear scarves” I said to him.  “So?” he replies.   Well, hell.  Guess I’m making a Wild Kratts scarf…. I decided to knit the first one, forgetting in a fit of seeming madness that I’m a less-than-skilled-knitter.  I think I cast on about 24 stitches and did the knit one row, purl the next row till I had the length I wanted.  I did some color changes and doubled up strands on parts of it but that’s about it. It was a very simple pattern.  The problem with my knitting is that it always curls up.  Yes, I know you can block knitting if you use wool or a natural fiber.  These are acrylic so that wouldn’t help here.





See how it rolls on the sides?  Blah. While fusing the felt paw print cut outs I also managed to get fusible web on it in a place it shouldn’t be so there’s that too.   Being dissatisfied with the crappiness of this project I had to remake it.

Wild Kratts Scarf take two!

I took some lovely warm grey fleece and cut it to a good length and width for a little neck and then cut out more felt paw prints. I decided to do both colors for this one and instead of fusing them I sewed them on.  Slapped the pieces right sides together and stitched them down, leaving a gap for turning.  Trimmed the seams and clipped the corners and then turned the piece right side out.  I stitched around the edges so I could close the gap and to make it stay together better.  I have to say the fleece one turned out a bit more like I wanted it to.  I’m going to give him both so he can pick which one he likes better.




Now I just have to wait till he opens it on Christmas and promptly throws it over for the Legos in his present pile. Oy.

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

PB cookie - header 2

I experienced total baking failure last night.  The plan was chocolate sandwich cookies with a delicious, creamy peanut butter filling.  The result was a sad little nothing cookie that tasted like imitation cardboard.  I am going to blame it on the recipe, but I won’t put the source on blast (not my style).  Ever the optimist, I thought “I know, let’s cover it in melted chocolate!  Chocolate fixes everything”.  Of course, my chocolate seized.  I’ve successfully melted chocolate countless times and it seized.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, it means instead of silky, smooth, beautiful melted chocolate you get globby, disgusting, el barfo chocolate.  No bueno.  The one silver lining was the peanut butter filling, it was pretty tasty and I wasn’t about to waste it.  Presenting: the peanut butter sandwich cookie!  This cookie has just the right amount of crunch necessary for a proper sandwich cookie and is salty sweet heaven.   With coffee, it truly is inspirational.  In fact, I’m now thinking that this cookie wasn’t such a good idea because I’ve already inhaled three this morning.  How is it fair that the time of year that you’re photographed the most is also the time you put on five pounds – the magic of the Holidays.  Nevertheless, this will definitely be making an appearance in my Christmas Cookie Tin.

The cookie:  PB cookie - group
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 and line baking tray with parchment paper.
Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.  Cream together peanut butter, butter, and sugars until fluffy  dreamy peanut butter clouds are formed.   Add in the egg and vanilla and beat to combine.  Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients, blending until thoroughly combined.  Separate dough into two parts and refrigerate at least 30 minutes .  Once chilled, working with one half at a time, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick and cut out desired shapes.  The dough does break apart easily so no man-handling!  Score the tops of the cookies with a floured fork, creating a criss-cross pattern.  Is this necessary?  No, I guess not but is it really a peanut butter cookie without it?  The answer is no.  Place cookies in freezer for 5-10 minutes to set.  Bake for 16-19 minutes and allow to cool on wire rack.

The filling:PB cookie - filling
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugared
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Beat butter and peanut butter until smooth.  Blend in remaining ingredients until fully incorporated.  Taste it.  If it’s delicious then it’s ready.

Once cookies have cooled, pipe peanut butter frosting onto flat side of cookie.  You can also just spread it on with a knife or offset spatula but I actually think piping it is easier and creates a fun border.  Sandwich cookies together and you’re done!  And, for the love of God, don’t be like me and share these with someone!

PB cookie - plateAdapted from BrownEyedBaker

Adipose to Spare…

Hello!  A quickie post today. Just a picture or two.  If I write about the pictures the post turns into a novella (seriously, I’ve tried to write this twice and it happened both times)  So here they are…..






The little guy is not a marshmallow or a snowman. He happens to be an Adipose.  I made him out of Sculpey and baked him.  And If you don’t know what the blue one is I’m afraid I can’t be your friend anymore.  See you!


p.s.  A sneak peak at my Christmas present from the husband