Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gingerbread Library

My husband, his co-workers and I entered a local gingerbread contest and built a small-scale version of the Harold Washington Library. We thought Chicago’s iconic Harold Washington Library was a prime example to be translated into an enchanting gingerbread creation.

Sweet details like mouthwatering candies-supplied by Chicago’s Farley and Sathers Candy Company; piped greenery in the window boxes and patina-frosted cookies shaped into gargoyles lend some realistic charm to the rooftop décor. The sidewalks are decorated with snow-white chocolate and are illuminated by Jujyfruit lanterns, but the warmest light emits from the caramelized-syrup windows, which make this sugar fantasy become a reality.

These details helped our team take first prize last Thursday evening! The event, held at Room & Board Chicago, benefited the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Spooktacular Cupcakes

Take a look at these little monsters! I made these for my office's Halloween party.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Banana Chai Cupcakes

I love banana cake, it's a nice alternative to a regular spice cake. Flavors of sweet and spicy finished with sour cream frosting make a great snack!

Y ~ squarebakery

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Better Butter Challenge

I recently bought a few types of butter I've never tried - European Style (Plugra), Irish (Kerrygold) and Icelandic (SMJOR) brands. Most have a higher fat content and less moisture, making richer and denser desserts. I will try these brands over the next couple of weeks in my candy, cookie and cake recipes. I’ll report back on my best butter recommendations.

Y~ squarebakery

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

Nothing beats a warm blueberry muffin straight from the oven. I made these muffins in a jif and only took 15 minutes to bake. Steel cut oatmeal yields a great texture, plus, juicy Michigan blueberries are present in each bite. Enjoy!

Y ~ squarebakery
What you'll need:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1 stick unsalted butter room temp
1 1/4 C sugar
2 eggs
1 tblsp vanilla
1/2 C milk
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C steel cut oatmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C blueberries

1 tblsp butter
1/4 flour
1/4 brown sugar
1/4 granulated sugar
3 tblsp steel cut oatmeal

Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla together on medium speed for a minute or so. Blend in milk and sifted dry ingredients. Fold in blueberries last. Scoop into prepared muffin pans lined with paper liners and sprinkle with topping mix. Bake for 14-16 minutes.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Double Chocolate Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day!

I made Martha Stewart's Surprise Cookies to share with my colleagues on Friday. The recipe is from her book: Martha Stewart's Cookies (page 195). These cookies have a dense, fudgy cookie base. In the middle you'll find a gooey marshmallow and on top - more chocolate; milk chocolate frosting. I sprinkled them with nonpareils and candy hearts. They were a hit!

Y ~ squarebakery

Honey Caramels

During the first bite flavors of orange blossom honey and Mexican vanilla rush to your tastebuds, followed by a hint of fleur de sel. Buttery caramels are one of my favorite candies and after many attempts and four different recipes, this one worked!

Experiment with flavor. Try different extracts, spices and nuts with this recipe. I think I will try cinnamon and lavender, or chopped pecans next time. I will most likely dip the caramels in chocolate. Enjoy!

Y ~ sqaurebakery

What you'll need:
1 C/2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 C orange blossom honey
1 tblsp olive oil
1 C light corn syrup
1 C light brown sugar
2 C heavy cream
1 tblsp Mexican vanilla
1 tblsp fleur de sel

Line bottom and sides of a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper and spray or brush with olive oil; set aside.

Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Add honey, light corn syrup, heavy cream, olive oil and sugar and combine, stirring frequently until mixture comes to a boil.

Continue boiling, stirring frequently, until mixture reaches 250 degrees on a candy thermometer, 40 to 50 minutes. Watching the candy the entire time so it will not burn. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and a pinch of fleur de sel; pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and let mixture cool completely overnight.

When they are ready to cut, pull caramels out of the pan, using the sides of the parchment as handles, onto a cutting board. Cut into squares and enjoy with a cup of hot tea.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes

When I began, I thought I was making German chocolate cake. Instead, when my cakes came out of the oven they were more chocolaty than I expected. (Not a bad thing at all.) It has been a while since I've baked a German chocolate cake. I did all the right things; I used Baker's German chocolate squares, cake flour and fresh buttermilk, like in Red Velvet cake. Buttermilk gives the batter a richness that enhances the cocoa and gives the cake a distinct flavor. What I didn't notice at the time was that my baking cocoa was extra dark, hence the excessive amount of chocolaty goodness. Again, not a bad thing.

Instead of finishing my cakes off with traditional caramel-coconut pecan frosting, I decided to go the fruity route and more chocolate, of course. The decoration on these cupcakes is designed like a crown. The peaks of milk chocolate frosting are like the crest that surrounds the jewel - a dollop of ruby-red raspberry jam. Enjoy!

Y ~ squarebakery

What you'll need:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2 sticks of unsalted butter
2 cups of granulated sugar
5 eggs
1 Tblsp vanilla
1 C buttermilk
6oz package Baker's German chocolate squares, melted and slightly cooled
2 C cake flour
1 C unsweetened cocoa - regular or dark cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Raspberry jam

Milk Chocolate Frosting
1 lb powdered sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 Tblsp vanilla
6oz of milk chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
1 Tblsp of milk

The cake.
Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla together and add melted, but slightly cooled chocolate in and mix on high speed.

Sift dry ingredients together and slowly blend into wet ingredients, adding buttermilk in after each addition of dry ingredients. Once combined, mix ingredients on high speed for another minute.

Scoop into prepared cupcake papers or pan and bake for 25 minutes.

The frosting.
Prepare milk chocolate frosting. Cream butter and vanilla together, slowly add in powdered sugar. Add melted chocolate and tablespoon of milk. Beat until smooth and creamy. Set aside until cupcakes have cooled.

Adorn the top of each cupcake with scoop of raspberry jam. Spoon frosting into a pastry bag and finish by surrounding the jam with swirls of chocolate peaks.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Champagne Dark Chocolate Truffles

I combined three flavors I love to savor; dark chocolate, orange and champagne. These dark chocolate confections look luxurious, but are so easy to make. Decorating them was a lot of fun, too! I used cocoa nibs, edible luster dust, melted white chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder to give these candies a little sparkle and panache.

What you’ll need:

¾ C of heavy whipping cream
1 lb or 1 bag and half of dark chocolate chips (60%+ cocoa content)
1 teaspoon vanilla (Mexican vanilla is my favorite kind)
1 pinch of fleur de sel
Zest from one medium-sized orange
3 Tablespoons of your favorite champagne or sparkling wine

Toppings and edible decorations
Chopped nuts
Chopped cocoa nibs
Edible luster dust
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Toasted coconut
Mini chocolate chips
White chocolate for melting and coating

Making the ganache...
In a double boiler, place heavy whipping cream over medium heat. Watch carefully, not to burn the cream. As the cream gets warmer, start adding chocolate chips into the bowl, about a cup at a time, stirring in between pours. The chips should start melting pretty quickly. Once they have started to melt into the cream, remove from heat. Keep stirring and add vanilla, salt, orange zest and champagne – stirring into a glossy ganache. The ganache should be smooth and shiny. Let bowl cool before covering and putting into the refrigerator. The ganache should set for 4 hours before forming into truffles. While it cools, set out your edible decorations – chopped nuts, luster dust, white chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder – or any topping you think would be tasty.

4 hours later…
Coat your hands with cocoa powder so the truffles do not stick to your hands. Then, uncover ganache and use a mini ice cream scooper to form 1” spheres. Roll truffles into your favorite toppings, place on a plate, refrigerate and let them set for about 5 minutes. The heat from your hands will melt them a little, but placing the truffles back into the refrigerator for a few minutes will do the trick.

Serve truffles with hot tea or a flute of champagne. You will impress your guests with these chocolate gems. Enjoy!

Y ~ squarebakery