In the Kitchen: Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cupcakes

Every so often I get the urge to bake. Usually it happens when there’s rain on the horizon but considering it’ll be in the 80s for the next week or so, that doesn’t seem to explain this latest baking craving. I’ve been adding new dessert recipes to my Pinterest board but just haven’t had a chance to buckle down into the kitchen to bake anything – I’m still trying to figure out when to make cookie dough for the freezer! I have a fairly ambitious baking wishlist:

  1. Chocolate chip cookie dough
  2. Peanut butter cookie dough
  3. Sugar cookie dough (maybe?)
  4. Mini cherry tart cookies
  5. Apple cider doughnuts
  6. Challah bread

I knew something was up because, seriously? Challah bread? I’ve always shied away from breads because I am kind of intimidated by yeast. It can’t be too warm or too cold (like Goldilocks, this yeast). But there’s something about it that’s so enticing.

Anywho, I finally managed to make some time in the kitchen while my nieces and nephew were visiting to try out a recipe I’ve been hoping to try since I first found it: Cinnamon Toast Crunch cupcakes. I originally saved this recipe because Cinnamon Toast Crunch is the mister’s favorite cereal and I thought this would be a great dessert to make for him. Dessert and breakfast all in one? Sign me up!

Of course, time passed and I still hadn’t made it but the stars aligned and on the hottest day we’ve had so far this year, I cranked up the oven and made some cupcakes. I never said decision making was my strongest virtue.

The original recipe called for boxed cake mix and while I have no qualms with using box mixes, I wanted to avoid going to the store (which was silly because I ended up going to the store anyway) so I used a vanilla cake recipe and added cinnamon for the cinnamon cake base and followed the recipe for the Cinnamon Toast Crunch cream cheese frosting.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch cupcakes

 

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cupcakes
Adapted from Your Cup of Cake

Cinnamon Cake Base
(based from Sweetapolita’s Fluffy Vanilla Cake)

5 large egg whites (150 g), at room temperature
1 whole egg
1 cup whole milk (237 ml), at room temperature
2-1/4 teaspoons (12 ml) pure vanilla extract
3 cups (345 g) cake flour, sifted
2 cups (400 g) sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (17 g) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (5 g) salt
12 tablespoons (170 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 24 even pieces
1 1/2 teaspons cinnamon (this is added to make it a cinnamon cake)

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup Cinnamon Toast Crunch powder – (Crush the cereal in a bag and then sift out 2/3 cup)

For the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease, line with parchment, and flour two round 8-inch pans.
  2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, whole egg, 1/4 cup of milk, and the vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients together on low speed (I use the “stir” setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter one piece at a time, about every 10 seconds, ensuring it’s cold (you can keep some in refrigerator while you’re adding pieces). Continue to mix on low until the mixture is a fine crumbly texture. Add milk, and mix on low speed for 5 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg mixture in 3 separate batches, mixing until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. (You want to ensure that the batter is homogenous.) Fold once or twice to ensure the batter at bottom of bowl is incorporated.
  5. Scoop batter into cupcake tins, filling about 2/3 full.
  6. Bake for 13-15 minutes, rotating the pans after 10 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with a few crumbs when inserted into the center

For the frosting:

  1. Beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add Cinnamon Toast Crunch powder. Add vanilla and powdered sugar. Adjust the consistency using milk if it is too thick.
  2. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and top with cinnamon sugar and Cinnamon Toast Crunch squares.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch cupcakes

In the Kitchen: Baked Donuts

I have been talking about making donuts for many moons now, so much so that I had looked into buying a doughnut pan. Naturally, I never got around to getting one even though I kept talking about these magical doughnuts I somehow was going to make. Not one to let a silly logistical matter like owning necessary baking equipment deter me, I kept my eye out for any baked doughnut recipe I came across, ignoring the vast majority that utilized yeast. I have this unfounded fear of working with yeast. Unfounded because I have never worked with it yet I’m terrified of doing so. I also have several recipes for challah bread. All of which uses yeast. Yeah, that’s some fuzzy math right there.

Lindsey was so kind enough to gift me my very own doughnut pan for Christmas. I was so excited! So much so that I immediately started tearing through the Internets looking for a good non-yeast baked doughnut recipe. I found a few but never got around to making them. Figures.

But on Thursday night I was hit was a strange and overwhelming desire: I wanted to watch The Office while eating a baked doughnut and hot chocolate. I’m still not sure where that came from but I couldn’t shake it. It had become my duty to make these doughnuts; never mind that I still had a good four hours before The Office aired. Time schmime. I am not a prisoner to time.

I halved the recipe to get six doughnuts since it was only me and there was no way I would be able to get in touch with my inner Homer Simpson. The only changes I made was to use my vanilla bean paste instead of regular vanilla extract because I’m slightly obsessed with vanilla bean paste.

Baking was quick and easy. I didn’t know that only the part that was actually in the pan would get browned. Maybe that’s not true and my oven was just being stupid but it didn’t really matter. It bakes evenly so if you’re so inclined, you can just flip the donuts over like I did.

These doughnuts had a cakey texture that was delicious. Now, they’re not light and fluffy as your conventional deep-fried doughnut but who said that was the only way doughnuts should be? There are a great healthful alternative to the deep fried version. They also kept pretty well too. Granted, they only lasted a couple days but they were delicious those couple of days!

Vanilla bean baked doughnuts
via Naturally Ella

makes 12 doughnuts

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla [I used my beloved vanilla bean paste]
4 eggs
6 tablespoons butter melted
1/4 cup milk

Icing

2 cups powdered sugar may need more to reach consistency
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla [and more vanilla bean paste]

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 375˚and spray a doughnut pan.

2) In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients and set aside.  In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and butter until mixture is slightly frothy.  Stir into dry ingredients until ingredients are just combined (do not over mix.)

3) Scoop batter into plastic or piping bag.  Cut a medium size tip (if using the plastic bag) and squeeze batter into doughnut pan, filling each doughnut almost to the top (leave about 1/8″.)

4) Bake for 7-9 minutes until doughnut springs back.  Remove from pan and let cool.  Once doughnuts are cool, prepare icing.  Icing should be not be too runny but should be stiff enough to hold to doughnut.  Dip one side of the doughnut in the icing and return to cooling rack.

Who knew love could be so tasty?

So do you remember when I teased you with that bottle of vanilla bean paste but didn’t tell you what I had planned for it? Well I finally made my secret treats and they were fabulous!

I was initially inspired by this recipe I found on Tastespotting. Then, a day or so later, I came across this and thought, THIS IS IT! I just loved the look of the frosted cookie and thought the x and o would stand out a lot better on that background. Plus, I was completely in love with the idea of a vanilla sugar cookie and extremely obsessed with getting a bottle of that amazing vanilla bean paste.

And that is why I went on a mad dash to track down a bottle of this stuff. After figuring it would be cheaper to just trek to the store to pick it up [after accounting for shipping and wait times], I went off to Williams-Sonoma to pick up a bottle, only to find it was closed for inventory! I was sad, dejected, upset because I was convinced I’d have to make yet another trip the next day to buy it but then I stumbled upon Sur La Table just around the block, who saved the day and my gifts.

I used Bridget’s recipe and decorated it like I saw in Meaghan’s original blog post for my Valentine’s gifts this year to the bf, my sisters, and my nieces and nephew. I was super excited to make these and now I’m super excited to make them again. And in case you were wondering, this dough freezes really well. I made one batch and baked up a dozen or so for the bf, cut the rest out, and then froze them until I needed to bake another batch right before Valentine’s Day. It did take longer to bake them straight out the freezer but the frozen baked cookies tasted just as delicious as the fresh baked ones so don’t hesitate to make and freeze for a later day!

This is seriously all the ingredients you need for this. No, really. I looked over the recipe a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything.

This is why I am so in love with vanilla bean paste: you see those little black flecks? That is the vanilla bean. Get a bottle of this stuff; it’s a lot more cost effective than buying vanilla beans. Sure I spent $11 for a 4 oz bottle but compare that to almost $3 for 2 beans at Cost Plus – where I would have used probably one whole bean for this recipe. See, math CAN be fun.

The finished cookie, fresh out the oven. I’m also a huge fan of parchment paper now because I no longer have to sacrifice a cookie to the cookie pan. If you’re still on the fence about buying a silpat [or don’t know what one is], definitely use parchment paper whenever possible.

This was my first attempt at lining and flooding with royal icing. I love how easy it was and am already thinking of other ways I can decorate cookies. This has really opened up the possibilities! And see! More vanilla bean flecks! And the final product? Delicious AND cute. And utterly addictive. Just ask Lindsey, who nearly finished a dozen in less than a day.

Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies
via Bridget at Bake at 350

3 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c sugar
2 sticks butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (Bridget’s original recipe calls for 1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract and 1/2 pure almond extract)

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and extracts and mix.

Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom.

Roll onto a floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Royal Icing*
via Meaghan at The Decorated Cookie

4 tblsp meringue powder
1/2 cup water
6-7 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup Crisco

Whip the meringue powder and water on high speed for a looooong time, several minutes, until it’s fluffy and peaks form.

Gradually add the rest of the ingredients to desired consistency.

Store at room temperature in a sealed container for up to a month.

*I halved the royal icing recipe and that was enough for roughly 5 dozen of these cookies with leftovers.

A little jar of mystery…

Have you seen this before? This wonderful little thing called vanilla bean paste? It’s a much more cost effective way of incorporating the look of the expensive vanilla bean into practically everything.

Anywho, I bought a jar today with plans of using it in a little recipe that I’ll be revealing at a later day and time. Sorry for the tease but it is a matter of national importance. But I can’t wait to bust this out and try my hand at some vanilla bean buttercream frosting, oooh! or even vanilla bean cupcakes!

So yes, I have a plan for this and I’ll let you know just how it goes. Soon my friends. Soon.

In the Kitchen: Orange-Glazed Salmon

And it returns! It’s been almost a full year my last weekend foray into the kitchen but since I put this back on my list of new year’s resolutions, I’m hoping to get more in the groove of cooking. I’m pretty much on the clock in terms of living at home and I’m going to have to cook for myself and the bf and eventually our kids. I might as well get more comfortable in the kitchen where I can still ask my mom for help if I need it. I did make a couple other dishes before this but nothing really to write home about. Okay, so there could potentially be a story. I’ll work on it.

Anywho, we had some salmon that my mom was going to cook so I decided to find a recipe and make it myself. I’m not sure what made me look for an orange glazed recipe but I suddenly wanted some. I found this recipe through the wonders of Google and it’s delicious. I’d definitely make it again. Not only is it super easy but you can essentially use this marinade for other meats. Mmm, meat.

Asian Crispy Orange-Glazed Salmon
via Tastebook

2/3 cup orange juice
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp lite soy sauce
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 (1″ piece) fresh ginger grated
4 (4-6 ounce) salmon fillets
2 tbs olive oil
salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper
2 tbs honey

1) Stir together orange juice, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, crushed red pepper flakes, and ginger in a bowl.

2) Drizzle 1 tbs olive oil into a baking pan. Add salmon and turn to coat.

3) Pour liquid mixture over salmon and let marinade for 30 minutes or more.

4) Remove salmon from dish and reserve marinade. Season salmon with salt and pepper.

5)  Heat a large nonstick skillet over Medium High heat and add remaining 1 tbsp olive oil. Cook salmon 3-4 minutes per side and remove from pan.

6) Pour reserved marinade into skillet and add honey. Heat for 3 minutes or until syrupy. Serve over salmon.

In the Kitchen: Cinnamon Rolls

cinnamon rolls

It’s another baking edition! Go grab yourself a glass of milk. I’ll wait.

Okay, just kidding. So I had been fiending to try my hand at making cinnamon rolls for sometime. Then while I was visiting the bf, his sister busted out one of those Pillsbury cinnamon rolls tube thingys and while it was tasty [it was the Cinnabon inspired one] it tasted more like a biscuit than a roll. Maybe it was the whole coming from the tube thing.

Oh, my point. I had bookmarked a couple promising recipes but was disheartened by the time it took to make them, considering that the recipes incorporated yeast meaning I’d have to let it rest and raise before baking which means it takes all freaking day to make some cinnamon rolls and I was not having that.

But then while perusing Tastespotting [oh how I LOVE that site] I stumbled upon a recipe for cinnamon rolls that didn’t require any rising time. Perfect!

So with my last weekend before classes start again, I finally got myself into the kitchen and baked to my hearts content.

I used two separate recipes, one for the rolls and one for the frosting.

Cinnamon Rolls
via gas.tron.o.my

makes 8 rolls

For filling:
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

For dough:
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk [if you don’t have buttermilk, like I didn’t, just measure out a cup and then add a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice and let it sit for 5 minutes]
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1) Heat the oven to 425°F. Generously coat both a 9-inch nonstick round cake pan and a wire cooling rack with nonstick cooking spray.

2) For the filling, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and melted butter together in a medium bowl until the mixture resembles wet sand. Set aside.

3) For the dough, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter together. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until absorbed (the dough will look shaggy), about 30 seconds.

4) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 1 minute.

5) Pat the dough with your hands into a 12 by 9-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle the dough evenly with the brown sugar filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Press the filling firmly into the dough.

6) Using a bench scraper or metal spatula, loosen the dough from the work surface. Starting at a long side, roll the dough, pressing lightly, to form a tight log. Pinch the seam to seal. Roll the log seam-side down and cut it evenly into 8 pieces. Turn the pieces over on their flat sides, and with your hand, slightly flatten each piece of dough to seal the open edges and keep the filling in place.

7) Place one roll in the center of the prepared pan and then place the remaining 7 rolls around the perimeter of the pan. Brush the rolls with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bake until the edges are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Hint: Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper before you flip the rolls onto the wire rack. It’ll save you TONS of cleaning time. Trust me now, thank me later.

Vanilla Cream Cheese frosting
via picky cook

4 oz room temp cream cheese
1 c powdered sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter room temp
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 vanilla bean – seeds scraped out

I made a couple changes. I don’t have vanilla beans so I just doubled the amount of vanilla extract. I also wasn’t sure what half a stick of butter was so I just used the entire stick since mine are the smaller half sticks. Now that I think about it, it probably meant half of that stick. This is why I need exact measurements. Ha. Oh, and the other change I made was added in some lemon zest. Not sure how much…just eyeballed it. Oh, and you’ll only need about half of this frosting for the rolls.

Combine ingredients in mixer until smooth. Spread over the top of warm rolls.

The recipe says to bake for 20 to 25 minutes. I baked mine for 22 minutes and they came out pretty baked. Since I like my rolls to be a bit softer, I’d probably bake it for about 20 minutes or so the next time I make these. Oh and I only got 7 rolls but that’s because I suck at spacing without a ruler.

And in case you’re wondering, I ate 2 within 10 minutes of frosting.

Weekend Dinner #6: Roasted Chile-Lime Chicken

roasted chile-lime chicken closeup

My return to the kitchen had me meeting with an old foe: the roasting/fryer chicken. You know the whole chicken where you have to clean it out? Yeah, that one. I’ve tried to do it once before and eventually girl’d out and had my mom take care of it for me. This time she offered from the get go but I wanted to do it so I just had her stand nearby to supervise.

I tried. I really did. I was doing well until I realized that the bird was still a little frozen on the inside and that would require me to dig my nails into it to loosen the little bits and pieces and the thought of having chicken organs underneath my nails grossed me out. That and the water was ice cold since, you know, it was frozen.

But I switched on and off with my mom and eventually got the whole bird cleaned out. Ugh. Maybe next time I’ll just skip the whole bird and just use chicken pieces. That seems a whole lot easier.

Anywho, it took longer than the recipe said to roast all the way through but it was delicious. I got a little fancy and made garlic-parmesan smashed potatoes [no need for a recipe…just some potatoes, a teaspoon for minced garlic, some shredded parmesan and milk to the appropriate consistency] and roasted asparagus with a balsalmic browned butter sauce.

Yeah I got even fancier. But even that is ridiculously easy to make: two tablespoons butter melted until it turns a golden brown [and there you have browned butter. Seriously]. Then you take it off the stove and add two teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and some salt and pepper to taste. It’s slightly sweet but good.

complete chicken dinner

Roasted Chile-Lime Chicken
by Aida Mollenkamp

1 (5 pound) chicken
5 medium serrano chiles, seeded and finely chopped [I used two serrano and two jalapeno peppers]
5 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
5 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1) Heat oven to 400 degrees F and arrange a rack in the middle. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Remove necks and any innards from the cavities and discard.

2) To spatchcock, use a sharp pair of poultry shears or kitchen scissors to cut along the backbone; remove and discard. Place chicken, breast-side up, and press down to flatten it to it is lying completely flat.

3) Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and mix until evenly combined. Season and adjust flavor as desired. Loosen the skin from the breast and legs of the chicken and, using your clean hands, spread 1/2 of the mixture underneath. Rub the remaining mixture all over the outside of the chicken. Set aside while oven heats up, at least 20 minutes.

4) Lay chicken in a roasting pan or baking dish fitted with a rack and roast until cooked an instant read thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165 degrees F, about 50 to 60 minutes; let sit at least 10 minutes before carving. Quick note: the recipe says 50 – 60 minutes but its usually taken me longer than 60 minutes to reach 165 degrees so I highly suggest relying on temperature to determine doneness. It doesn’t have to be at 165 on the dot since the internal temp will continue to rise a little bit while it’s resting.

We had some leftovers which I used to make a killer chicken with spaghetti. And instead of using a marinara sauce, which would have been way too heavy with the flavors of the chicken, I made a lemon garlic olive oil sauce. No recipe here either, besides tossing in about a ½ cup of olive oil [which should have been a ¼ cup], one clove of minced garlic [we use a lot of garlic so my mom minces everything up, freezes and cuts into cubes that are roughly a teaspoon of garlic]. Delicious.

But I’m definitely making this again. In fact, I want to make it again since I figured this would be a great dish to make the next time the bf tells me he told his mom we’d cook for her next time I’m visiting.

Ace up the sleeve!