Chocolate Chip Cookie Bottomed Vanilla Cupcakes

It’s Monday.  I think that calls for cupcakes, don’t you?

While we’re at it, let’s make cookies too.  There’s nothing like a good sugar rush to make us forget the daily grind.  What?  You don’t want to bust out all the different pans it’ll take to make cookies and cupcakes?  Well I can’t blame you.

So let’s combine them into one fantastic dessert.  You heard me, chocolate chip cookie bottomed vanilla cupcakes.  It’s quite a mouthful, hah.

I made these for Luke’s brother’s birthday, and when I was deciding whether to make them or not, I was worried they might be too much.  Would the layers be distinct?  How would the textures of cookie and cupcake fit together?

All my worries about these cupcakes melted away as I took my first bite.  The cookie layer was firmer than the cupcake layer, and my taste buds could definitely discern the chocolate chip cookie from the vanilla cupcake.  My expectations for these cupcakes were easily surpassed.   I can’t wait to try this concept again swapping out different cookie doughs and cupcakes flavors.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bottomed Cupcakes

Adapted from How Sweet Eats

Makes 20 or so cupcakes

For the cookie layer:

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

¾ cup brown sugar, loosely packed

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

3/4 cup chocolate chips

For the cupcake layer:

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1 ½ cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup milk

For the vanilla buttercream frosting:

 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

2 ½ cups powdered sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp milk

First make the cookie dough.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.

Beat butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Line two muffin tin with liners and give each a quick spritz of non-stick spray. Using a spoon also sprayed with non-stick spray, press about 1-2 tablespoons of cookie dough into the bottom of each liner.

Next, make the cupcakes.  Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.

Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add half of the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined, then add the milk. Once mixed, add remaining dry ingredients. Using a large spoon, drop the batter on top of cookie dough mixture. Fill the liners until about 2/3 of the way up.  Bake cupcakes for 15-18 minutes, or until they spring back when touched.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Finally make the frosting.  Cream the butter in a large bowl until completely smooth and creamy.  Add in powdered sugar slowly and mix carefully to combine.  Add vanilla, then beat for 2-3 minutes, scraping down sides and bottom of the bowl. If frosting is too thick, add milk 1 tsp at a time until desired consistency is reached.  If it’s too thin, add sugar gradually until it thickens.  Frost the cupcakes as desired and top with chocolate sprinkles.

 

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Peaches n’ Cream Cupcakes & A Move

Well, it was a process, but we made it.  Sorry for my absence from this blog, but moving was quite tiring.  The movers came in at 8am Saturday morning, and left the new house at noon.  My dad came up that day to bring me some goodies and help us move things around, install air conditioners, etc.  Then we went out to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant that I wanted to try.  I’m always looking to seek out authentic restaurants that either disregard the Chinese American food staples, or combine the authentic with the American.  I had scallion pancakes, steamed dumplings and tea smoked duck with steamed buns.  Amazing.  I can’t wait until I have an iPhone and can take pictures of restaurant food.  Ugh.

Anyway, before I continue, I wanted to share some pics of the new house with you all.  Check out this kitchen.  There’s so much space, and I love it.  I’m incredibly excited to start baking, and figuring out the best place for taking food photos.

Check out that pot rack and sweet storage table the previous owners left us.

And there’s an island.

Did I mention the gas stove?

Dining room into the living room where Luke is relaxing

Also, we think we have successfully converted Izzy into a true-r version of a house bunny.  When we first moved in, we had to keep her in her pen in different parts of the house.

First on the porch…

Then in the dining room…

But now, we have the dining and living rooms sectioned off via baby gates, and Izzy has access to the foyer and kitchen.  I have a kitchen buddy!  And she’s adorable!!!

OMG House bunny!!

Relaxing in the foyer.

I think that’s enough about the new house for now, and I know you’re all pardoning my excitement.  I am pretty excited about these cupcakes though.

I made a pledge to myself back at the apartment to make more cupcakes.  They’re just so great and I don’t make enough of them.  I opened a 29oz can of peaches to make these pancakes, so I had to find other ways to use them.

And so, when I saw these cupcakes, well, it was a done deal.

A light vanilla cupcake with peach pieces baked inside, covered with vanilla buttercream and milk crumbs.  Yeah, it has summer written all over it.  I’d love to make these again with fresh peaches, and if any of you try, please let me know how it goes.

Now excuse me, I have a kitchen to cover in flour and sugar!

Peaches n’ Cream Cupcakes

Adapted from Hummingbird on High

Makes 12 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup sugar

1 ½ tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup whole milk

1 egg, at room temperature

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

8 oz fresh (or canned) peaches, sliced

For the vanilla buttercream frosting:

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

5 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 Tbsp whole milk

¼ tsp vanilla extract

For the milk crumb topping:

(makes more than you’ll need, feel free to halve)

¾ cup milk powder

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp sugar

½ tsp salt

4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3 oz white chocolate, melted

Preheat oven 325 F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners; set aside. Put flour, sugar, baking powder, butter, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and beat on slow speed with a hand mixer until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.  You could also use a wooden spoon or your fingers.  Your choice.  Gradually pour in half of the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.

Whisk egg, vanilla, and remaining milk together in a separate small bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated.

Scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the batter is smooth, but do not overmix.

Divide the sliced peaches between the lined muffin cups so that the base of each is covered. Spoon the cupcake batter on top until two-thirds full and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until light golden and the cake bounces back when touched. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Next, make the frosting.  Beat together the powdered sugar and butter in a large bowl until the mixture comes together.  Combine the milk and vanilla in a separate bowl. Then, add the milk-vanilla mixture to the powdered sugar-butter mixture a couple of teaspoons at a time, stirring carefully.  Once all the milk has been incorporated, continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes.  Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, frost as desired.

Lastly, make the milk crumb topping.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.  Divide your milk powder into two portions — one ½ cup portion, and one ¼ cup portion.  Combine the first ½ cup portion of milk powder with the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together until combined.  Add the melted butter and toss, using a rubber spatula, until the mixture starts to come together and form small clusters.

Spread the clusters on a parchment or Silpat-lined cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. The crumbs should be sandy at that point, and your kitchen should smell like buttery heaven. Cool the crumbs completely.

Crumble any milk crumb clusters that are larger than 1/2 inch in diameter, and put the crumbs in a medium bowl. Add the second ¼ cup portion of milk crumbs and whisk together until it is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

Pour the 3 oz melted white chocolate over the crumbs and toss until your clusters are enrobed. Continue tossing every 5 minutes until the white chocolate hardens and the clusters are no longer sticky. The crumbs will keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for up to 1 month.  Top the frosted cupcakes with milk crumbs and enjoy!


Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

I have always been interested by Boston cream pie, as it is actually a cake.  Yet it’s called a pie.  According to Wikipedia, the dessert was first made in a hotel in Boston in 1896 by an Armenian-French chef.

And it was made the “official dessert” of Massachusetts in 1996.  I did not know that states could have an official dessert.  Massachusetts cheats a bit though.  We have a state dessert and a state cookie.  Which is chocolate chip by the way.  Missouri’s state dessert is the ice cream cone.  Ok, I need to get off Wikipedia now.  But not before I tell you that both Ohio and Oklahoma have multiple “state meals”…how does that work?  Oh and, the state “snack food” of Utah is jell-o, ok I’m done, I swear.

Sooo, back to Boston cream cake, I mean pie.  I remember the first time I attempted to make a full sized one with my friend Diego.  We used a cookbook with British measurements (by weight, not volume) without a kitchen scale in his mom’s kitchen.  His mom and I did all the work, and the cake-pie came out…well…edible.

My next attempt was last year for my stepfather’s birthday.  Much more success was achieved, and everyone was pleased. Which brings me to these cupcakes, made for my stepdad’s b-day again.  I guess he really likes Boston cream cake-pie.  I’ll have to think of another iteration for next year.  I’m thinking whoopie pies are a good way to go.

But for this year I made cupcakes.  Tasty vanilla cupcakes filled with pastry cream and topped with ganache.  Perfect for those of you who like your Boston cream pie-cake handheld and adorable.

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

Adapted from She Who Bakes

Makes 12-14 cupcakes

For the pastry cream:

2 large egg yolks

¼ cup sugar

2 Tbsp plus ½ tsp cornstarch

¼ tsp salt

1 cup 2% or whole milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the cupcakes:

3 large eggs

 1 cup sugar

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

½ cup milk

For the ganache:

6 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

First make the pastry cream. Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl until smooth.  Meanwhile, heat the sugar, cornstarch, salt and milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Once the thickened mixture starts to bubble, remove the saucepan from heat.  Pour 1/3 of the thickened mixture into the yolks and whisk until smooth.  Return the yolk mixture back to the saucepan and place it back over heat. Add in the vanilla extract and stir it for another 4 mins.  Pour the cream into a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming.  Chill for at least 4 hours.

For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tray with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until pale, about 5 minutes.  Add in the flour mixture and stir to combine.  Place the butter and milk in a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a boil.  Once it comes to a boil, pour the mixture into the batter and beat well. Finally, mix in the vanilla extract. Scoop the batter into muffin cups about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 15 mins, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let it cool.

Once the pastry cream has chilled, remove it from the fridge and beat it until it’s smooth. Set it aside while you make the ganache.

Put the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan.  Once it boils, pour it over the chocolate. Let it stand for 3 mins, then whisk until smooth.  Set aside to let it cool.

For the assembly: using a paring knife, cut out a cone the top of the cupcakes and set them aside.  Fill the holes with pastry cream.  Cut the bottoms off the cones so only the top remains, and place the tops over the pastry cream, pressing down.  Using a spoon or an offset spatula, spread about a tablespoon of the chocolate ganache over the tops of the cupcakes.  Let the ganache set for 15 mins (putting the cupcakes in the fridge will expedite the process) and serve!


Cookies & Cream Ice Cream

I received major kitchen-related good news this week.  As I announced last week, Luke and I are in the process of purchasing our first house.   So exciting!  It’s an adorable three bedroom, with a charming backyard and a great kitchen.  Duh.

We had it inspected over last weekend, and it passed with flying colors.  The only questions remaining were about certain furnishings in the house, especially in the kitchen.

The gas stove is staying, as is the nice stainless steel fridge.  But I wanted to know about the other pieces that make the kitchen awesome, namely the great island with wooden countertop, the overhead pot rack, and a long table with a shelf underneath for storage.  It turns out, the current owners are leaving all of them behind!!  Yes!!!! Score!!!!  Goallllllll!!!! (sorry, Luke was watching soccer yesterday).  It feels like Christmas has come super early this year.

As you can tell, I’m thrilled.  My current kitchen has one tiny strip of counter and limited cabinet space, so branching out into a bigger kitchen has always been a dream of mine.

Where else will I have space to put all my small appliances, like my ice cream maker.  I love that thing so much.  If you don’t have one, I highly recommend picking one up; they aren’t that expensive and making homemade ice cream feels so sophisticated.

Even if you’re making something as simple as cookies & cream ice cream.  It’s automatically better because you hand chopped and folded in those Oreos.  Don’t like/have Oreos?  Fold in whatever you want!  You can be the master of your ice cream destiny.

Cookies & Cream Ice Cream

Adapted from The Sweets Life

Makes about 1 ½ quarts

1 cup whole milk (you can use 2% too)

2 cups heavy cream, divided

4 egg yolks

½  cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

15 Oreos, roughly chopped

Put one cup of the cream in a large heatproof bowl.  In a medium saucepan, bring milk, other cup of cream and sugar to just under a boil (bubbles will begin to form around the edges).

Meanwhile, whisk up the egg yolks. Slowly add the milk to the egg mixture while whisking continuously until well combined.

Pour the liquid back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula for 3-4 minutes until slightly thickened. Pour the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl containing the cream. Stir in the vanilla, and let the mixture cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 6 hours.

Pour the liquid into the ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. When ice cream is finished, fold in chopped Oreos. Freeze ice cream 3-4 additional hours in a plastic container until hardened.


Vanilla Bean Pudding

One cannot live on chives alone.  So let’s make pudding.  It’s a perfectly rational conclusion, obviously.

So…my track record with homemade pudding in the past hasn’t been so great.  During the fall, I got super stoked to make caramel pumpkin pots de crème, I mean wouldn’t you?  And they never set.  It was definitely a delicious soup, but pudding it was not.

I put making pudding on the back burner for a while, hoping to forget about my failure.  I while I never forgot, I found the courage to try again, this time with much more success.

Thanks to my incredible foresight of bulk ordering vanilla beans before graduating with my leftover college meal plan, I have a tiny cache of the black gold, and thus, this pudding was born.

Man, nothing tops homemade vanilla pudding.  Except whipped cream.  Get it?  Cuz you top pudding with whipped cream, yeah, ok I’ll stop now.

Vanilla Bean Pudding

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 6 individual servings

2 2/3 cups whole milk, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean (or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract)
1 egg

Bring 2 cups of the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. While it is heating, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt and vanilla bean seeds, and pod if using, in the bottom of a medium, heatproof bowl.  If using extract, do not add it yet. Gradually whisk in the remaining 2/3 cup whole milk, a little at a time so lumps do not form, then whisk in the egg. Once milk is boiling, very gradually add it to the cornstarch mixture in the bowl, whisking the whole time.

Return the mixture back to the saucepan, stirring constantly with a silicon spatula or wooden spoon. Once it comes to a simmer, cook it for one minute longer (which will cook the cornstarch and egg fully). Stir in vanilla extract, if you’re using it and divide pudding among 6 dishes. Chill in refrigerator until fully set, about 2 hours.

Press a piece of plastic wrap against the top of the pudding before you chill it if you don’t like pudding skin.


Black & White Cookies

Another traveling tradition I had while growing up was a yearly summer visit to New York City.  From age 6-15 my mom and I and a classmate and her mom took the train from New Haven, CT into the city every year to see a Broadway show and explore the city a little.

I have a lot of good memories from those trips, from the various New York locales we ate at, to getting my headband pulled down to my nose during a performance of Cats, to playing “guess which train seat I’m in” on the nearly empty night train back to CT.

But one of my fondest memories is of those enormous black and white cookies in Zaro’s Bakery in Grand Central Station.  Every time we passed its display cases on our way out to 42nd Street, I would catch a glimpse of those massive cookies, their cakey softness and perfectly even frosting calling out to me.

Of course when I make them at home, I make a more modest sized cookie, but my taste buds can hardly tell the difference.  I’m so glad I can make them at home, as New York is a lot farther away now, and I can make them anytime I want.  Still, if I do end up in New York City in the future, I’m sure I’ll end up buying a cookie anyway.  After all, tradition is tradition.

Black & White Cookies

Adapted from Ready for Dessert

Makes about 22 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons whole or low fat milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

grated zest of ½ lemon

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs

For the Icings:

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

2 teaspoons plus 2 teaspoons light corn syrup

½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons water, or more if needed

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease or line 2 baking sheets.

In a small bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and cake flours, baking powder, and salt.  In another small bowl, mix together the milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and lemon zest.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until completely smooth.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk mixture, then stir in the remaining flour mixture and beat until the batter is smooth.

Drop 2 tablespoons in mounds spaced 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.  Bake, rotating the baking sheets midway, until the cookies are just set in the centers, about 15 minutes.  Let cool completely on baking sheets.

 

To make the icings, in a medium bowl, whisk together the 2 cups powdered sugar with 2 teaspoons corn syrup, the lemon juice, the 1 teaspoon vanilla and water until smooth.

Transfer half of the mixture to a small bowl and whisk in the cocoa and remaining 2 teaspoons corn syrup to make the “black” icing. Add up to two teaspoons more water if needed, to make the icing spreadable; it should not be too thin, so begin by adding one teaspoon and add another teaspoon only if needed.  Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons powdered sugar into the white icing.  (I needed to add a bit more to get mine to the right consistency.)  The two icings should have the same consistency, thick, but spreadable.

With a small icing spatula or butter knife, spread white icing over half of the flat bottom side of each cookie.  Spread black icing over the other half.  Let the icing set for a few minutes before serving.

Store cookies in an airtight container in a single layer to avoid marring the frosting.


The Best Vanilla Ice Cream

Get ready for gratuitous rabbit shot (s) Wednesday!  Ok…maybe that won’t be a thing, but hey, don’t think about it, just look at this cute bunny.

Why are we divided into people who crave the dark sinfulness of chocolate, and those who prefer the light, clean taste of vanilla?  I was definitely one of those kids that liked the middle option on the soft serve machine of swirling the two together, which is ironic now given how dichotomous I am in most aspects of my personality.

Usually, I’m all about the black vs. white, the passionate, undying interest vs, the nonchalant passing glance of apathy.  But I guess when it comes to food, it’s all just undying interest, so I’m into everything.

You can see that I mixed in my failed attempt at cookie dough fudge.  It worked great in the ice cream!

I love vanilla ice cream…but I also love chocolate ice cream.  And mint chocolate chip…and cookie dough, and many many other flavors.  Still, nothing beats the elegant simplicity of vanilla, and this is the king of vanilla ice creams.

I love David Lebovitz’s cookbook Ready for Dessert.  I’d highly recommend picking it up if you have the means.  Or you can wait until I post about every recipe since I’m dying to make them all.  Your choice.

Vanilla Ice Cream

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert

1 cup whole milk

pinch of salt

¾ cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

2 cups heavy cream

5 large egg yolks

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, salt and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the saucepan, then drop in the pod.  Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep for 30 minutes.

Pour the cream into a medium bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.  Reheat the milk mixture until it’s warm.  In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warm milk mixture, whisking constantly as you pour.  Pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan with a heatproof spatula, until the custard is thick enough to coat the spatula.   Pour the custard through the mesh strainer into the heavy cream.  Rinse the vanilla pod and return it to the custard to continue steeping; stir in the vanilla extract.

Let the custard come to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 8 hours.  Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the chilled custard in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.