Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins

I always like to start the weekend off with a nice breakfast. There’s something quite satisfying about having a leisurely breakfast, in which you can really appreciate the food. This weekend I made banana mocha chocolate chip muffins, and they were wonderful.

I got the recipe from The Cheese Board: Collective Works, which is an amazing cookbook featuring recipes from The Cheese Board–a much-loved pizzeria, bakery, and cheese shop in Berkeley, California. While I haven’t visited the physical store, I have recreated many of their famous baked goods at home with the help of this cookbook. I highly recommend it for those who like to bake and love the smell of fresh bread!

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins The Cheese Board Collective Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins and The Cheese Board: Collective Works Cookbook

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins  Image

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins Close-Up

Now let’s talk about these muffins. They’re similar to a really moist, delicious banana bread–with the added bonus of chocolate and coffee! While the coffee flavor isn’t prominent, it does help accentuate the chocolate.

When making these muffins, you should use ripe bananas, as for banana bread. You should also use strong coffee (I used espresso, for example); this will noticeably intensify the chocolate. Also, start brewing your coffee before you get to baking–it needs to cool before use, and you don’t want it holding you up!

I hope you enjoy baking these banana chocolate chip muffins as much as I did! If you’re looking for other breakfast ideas, check out this hearty protein-heavy breakfast or this elegant bagel spread.

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Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins Recipe

Serves Makes 12 muffins
Meal type Breakfast
Region American
From book Slightly adapted from The Cheese Board: Collective Works
These banana mocha chocolate chip muffins are similar to a really moist, delicious banana bread--with the added bonus of chocolate and coffee!

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee (cooled)
  • 1 cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon and leveled)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Generously butter or spray the top and cups of a 12-cup muffin pan.
Step 2
In a medium bowl, combine the egg, egg yolk, bananas, vanilla extract, coffee and sour cream. Whisk until blended.
Step 3
Sift the flour, baking soda, and baking powder together into the bowl of a standing mixer or large bowl.
Step 4
If using a stand mixer, add the salt and sugar to the dry ingredients and mix with the paddle attachment on low speed until combined. Add the butter and cut it in on low speed for about 4 minutes, or until it is the size of small peas. Mix in the chocolate chips. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients. With a few rotations of the paddle, gently combine, taking care not to overmix the batter.
Step 5
If making by hand, add the salt and sugar to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Add the butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter or 2 dinner knives until it is the size of small peas. Mix in the chocolate chips. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients. With a few strokes of the spoon, gently combine, taking care not to overmix the batter.
Step 6
With an ice cream scoop or large soup spoon, fill the prepared muffin cups until the batter just peaks over the top of the pan. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown, firm, and springy. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Unmold the muffins onto a wire rack to cool.

Wazazu Restaurant – Las Vegas, NV

Wazazu Restaurant Las Vegas, NV

Wazazu Restaurant – Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas attracts top culinary talent from around the world and hosts show-stopping restaurants with sinfully delicious food, global flavors, and creative flair. Dining out in Vegas can be a surreal experience. From elaborate décor to unforgettable dishes, the city has a no-holds-barred policy when it comes to entertainment and food. There’s really no place quite like it!

Wazazu Crystal Dragon

A 27-Foot Crystal Dragon inside Wazazu Restaurant

Wazazu restaurant is located at Encore on the Vegas Strip. The décor is bold and impressive. Gold and red dominate the entrance, which is accented with dark wood, large golden pears, and red lanterns. The open interior features white tufted furniture and a 27-foot-long crystal dragon that curves along the back wall. The shimmering dragon is comprised of over 90,000 Swarovski crystals and is a true treasure to behold! When it comes to glitz and glamour, Wazazu doesn’t disappoint.

But how’s the food?

Cha Siu Bao (Steamed Barbecued Pork Buns)

Cha Siu Bao (Steamed Barbecued Pork Buns)

For me, the most important aspect of any restaurant—beside cleanliness and food sanitation—is obviously the food. I’d choose a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with superb food over a gorgeous restaurant with mediocre food. But with Wazazu you get the best of both worlds—an opulent atmosphere and great food!

Wazazu is a Pan-Asian restaurant offering Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Korean dishes. Their menu is quite extensive and they offer a large variety of foods, from sushi to dim sum. We started off with Thai iced tea, followed by cha siu bao. The barbequed pork buns had a soft, pillowy exterior with a sweet and savory pork filling, as they should. These didn’t last long!

Wazazu Drunken Noodles with Beef

 Drunken Noodles with Beef

After hearing that the drunken noodles at Wazazu were featured on the Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate With Chopsticks” episode, I knew that I had to try them. We opted for the beef drunken noodles, but they also offer chicken, shrimp, and vegan. While they weren’t the best thing I ever ate with chopsticks, they were pretty darn good. The noodles really absorb the spicy-sweet sauce well, and the Thai basil provides a subtle anise flavor.

Salt and Pepper Prawns

Salt-and-Pepper Prawns

Ever since going to Raku (my absolute favorite Vegas restaurant so far), Corey and I have been on the lookout for crispy fried shrimp—ones that are barely battered but very crispy and served whole, with the skin on. We have yet to find similar ones in the time since; the closest we’ve come to those surprisingly delightful shrimp is this recipe for salt-and-pepper shrimp.

So we ordered the salt-and-pepper prawns at Wazazu still hoping to for crispy shrimp. Alas, these shrimp did not compare to those at Raku. If you’re looking for amazing crispy shrimp, head to Raku instead.

Overall, we enjoyed dining here and would like to explore some of their other menu items in the future. Wazazu is a fun dining destination on the Las Vegas Strip, boasting a swank atmosphere and delectable Pan-Asian cuisine. If you’re in Vegas, check out Wazazu.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in Las Vegas? Let me know in the comments.

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Japanese Sweet-Simmered Vegetables

Japanese Sweet-Simmered Vegetables with Steamed Rice

Japanese Sweet-Simmered Vegetables with Steamed Rice

I’ve been cooking a lot of Japanese food lately, inspired by our recent trip to Mitsuwa marketplace. I love shopping there because I always discover something new and it allows me to expand my culinary repertoire. Plus, it’s home to one of the tastiest ramen bars in Chicago.

Groceries from Our Recent Trip to Mitsuwa Marketplace

Groceries from Our Recent Trip to Mitsuwa Marketplace

Last week, I created this refreshing sashimi salad featuring fresh ingredients from the sea. This week, I focused on a very different style of Japanese cooking, what I consider Japanese comfort food. Japanese sweet-simmered vegetables is a hearty, filling dish and the delicious sweet-and-salty broth is perfect during the cold winter months. When paired with steamed rice, you have a perfectly satisfying meal.

A Note on the Ingredients

Dried Shiitake MushroomsDried Shiitake Mushrooms

Dried Shiitake Mushrooms:  Shiitake mushrooms that have been dehydrated. They need to be rehydrated before cooking. Shiitake mushrooms have large caps and long, thin stems. The stems are typically not consumed as they’re tough. Shiitake mushrooms have a slightly sweet, earthy taste.

Dry Shiitake Mushrooms Rehydrating in Bowl of Water How to Rehydrate Dried Shiitake Mushrooms: Place mushrooms in a bowl of water. Weight them down with a plate (I used a glass pie plate) to keep them submerged. Let them soak for 40-to-60 minutes, then flip the mushrooms over and soak for an additional 40-to-60 minutes.

Dry Shiitake Mushrooms Rehydrating in Bowl of Water

Burdock Root, Devil’s Tongue Jelly, and Lotus RootClockwise Top Right: Burdock Root, Devil’s Tongue Jelly, and Lotus Root

Devil’s Tongue Jelly (Konnyaku): Is a gelatinous mixture made from the devil’s tongue plant. It’s often sold in rectangular blocks. It’s gray with black flecks.  It’s prized in Japan for having very few calories, almost none; the majority of devil’s tongue jelly is made up of water. However, the texture makes you feel full. Devil’s tongue jelly has virtually no taste on its own, but will absorb whatever flavors it is cooked in.

Canned Bamboo Shoots

Canned Bamboo Shoots

A Close Up of the Canned Bamboo Shoots, Quartered

A Close Up of the Canned Bamboo Shoots, Quartered

Bamboo Shoots: Are made from the new shoots of bamboo. They are tender and have a delicate flavor. The easily absorb the flavors they are cooked in. They have a great texture due to their ribbed interior.

Lotus Root, Burdock Root, Carrots, Bamboo shoots, and Devil’s Tongue Jelly

Clockwise from top left: Lotus Root, Burdock Root, Carrots, Bamboo shoots, and Devil’s Tongue Jelly

Lotus Root: is the root of a lotus plant. The exterior is tannish brown. When the skin is removed, the vegetable is pale white. There are holes throughout the length of the interior of the lotus root. These holes give the vegetable a pretty pattern when sliced. The vegetable is crunchy and fibrous. The taste is very similar to a water chestnut.

Carrots

Chopped Burdock Root

Chopped Burdock Root

Burdock Root (Gobo): is a root vegetable that is long and slender with brown skin. It can grow up to 3 feet in length. It can be used to make tea, stir fried, or boiled. It has a bitter taste when raw. A lot of the flavor is in the skin, so don’t discard it; just make sure to scrub before using, as it can be quite dirty.

Sugar

Mirin: is a sweet cooking wine commonly used in Japanese cuisine.

Dried Bonito Flakes

Dried Bonito Flakes

Dried Kelp (kombu)Dried Kelp (kombu)

Dashi: a stock made from bonito flakes (made from dried, smoked Slipjack tuna) and dried kombu. It is an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine and is the base for many soups, simmered dishes, and ramen.  If you’ve ever had Miso soup, you’ve had dashi.

How to make Kombu-Bonito Dashi:

Ingredients:

  • 5 inch kombu
  • 2 cups shaved bonito flakes
  • 6 cups water
  1. Wipe kombu with a damp towel (do not remove the flavorful white powder; only remove the sand).
  2. In a Dutch oven, add the water and the kombu. Raise heat to high. When tiny bubbles form remove the kombu. You want to remove the kombu just before it reaches a boil, otherwise it will release an odor.

    Bonito Flakes Steeping in Kombu WaterBonito Flakes Steeping in Kombu Water

  3. When boiling, add bonito flakes. Remove from heat and let the bonito flakes sink, steep for 2 minutes.Draining the Dashi Using a Fine Mesh Cheesecloth

    Draining the Dashi Using a Fine Mesh Cheesecloth

  4. Strain the stock through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve. Gently press liquid through. Do not squeeze the cheesecloth as the dashi will become cloudy if you do.

Soy Sauce or Reduced-Sodium Soy Sauce

Snow Peas (optional)

You can buy these ingredients in Asian grocery stores, and some of them can be found in your local grocery store in the ethnic food aisle. The vegetables will be sold in the refrigerated section; all the other ingredients will be located with dried goods.

The Vegetables Simmering in a Sweet-Dashi Broth

The Vegetables Simmering in a Sweet-Dashi Broth

This Japanese sweet-simmered vegetable dish is sweet, hearty, and packed full of nutrients. It’s a great introductory dish to Asian vegetables and Japanese cooking techniques. It’s worth making the trip to an Asian grocery store or Japanese market!

Japanese Sweet-Simmered Vegetables

Japanese Sweet-Simmered Vegetables with Steamed Rice

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Kombu-Bonito Dashi

Serves yields 6 cups
Region Japanese
From book Slightly Adapted from Authentic Japanese Cuisine for Beginners
Kombu-bonito dashi is a stock made from bonito flakes (made from dried, smoked Slipjack tuna) and dried kelp (kombu). It is an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine and is the base for many soups, simmered dishes, and ramen. If you ever had Miso soup, you’ve had dashi.

Ingredients

  • 5 inch kombu
  • 2 cups shaved bonito flakes
  • 6 cups water

Note

You can buy the ingredients to make dashi in Asian grocery stores. The ingredients will be located in the dried goods section.

Directions

Step 1
Dried Kelp (kombu)
Wipe kombu with a damp towel (do not remove the flavorful white powder; only remove the sand).
Step 2
In a Dutch oven, add the water and the kombu. Raise heat to high. When tiny bubbles form, remove the kombu. You want to remove the kombu just before it reaches a boil, otherwise it will release an odor.
Step 3
Bonito Flakes Steeping in Kombu Water
When boiling, add bonito flakes. Remove from heat and let the bonito flakes sink; steep for 2 minutes.
Step 4
Draining the Dashi Using a Fine Mesh Cheesecloth
Strain the stock through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve. Gently press liquid through. Do not squeeze the cheesecloth, as the dashi will become cloudy if you do.

Japanese Sweet-Simmered Vegetables

Serves 5
Meal type Main Dish, Soup
Misc Serve Hot
Region Japanese
From book Adapted from Authentic Japanese Cuisine for Beginners
Japanese sweet-simmered vegetables is a hearty, filling dish and the delicious sweet-and-salty broth is perfect during the cold winter months. When paired with steamed rice, you have a perfectly satisfying meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 devil's tongue jelly (konnyaku) (cut into 10 squares)
  • 1 carrot (chopped)
  • 1 burdock root (cut into two inch pieces, skin on)
  • 10 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 can bamboo shoots (quartered)
  • 1 piece lotus root (peeled and sliced into 1/3 inch half circles)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup mirin
  • 5 cups dashi
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (or reduced sodium soy sauce)

Optional

  • 15 snow peas, steamed (for garnish)

Note

* You can buy these ingredients in Asian grocery stores, and some of them can be found in your local grocery store in the ethnic food aisle. The vegetables will be sold in the refrigerated section; all the other ingredients will be located with dried goods.

* The shiitake mushrooms need to rehydrated. Please note that this takes 80 to 120 minutes.

Directions

Rehydrating the dried shiitake mushrooms
Step 1
Dry Shiitake Mushrooms Rehydrating in Bowl of Water
Place mushrooms in a bowl of water. Weight them down with a plate (I used a glass pie plate) to keep them submerged. Let them soak for 40- to-60 minutes, then flip them over and soak for an additional 40-to-60 minutes. Drain. Remove the shiitake stems and set aside.
Step 2
Place the devil's tongue jelly into a Dutch oven and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, cook for 5 minutes. Rinse in cold water.
Step 3
In a large Dutch oven, add the burdock root first; followed by the devil's tongue jelly, shiitake mushrooms, carrot, lotus root, and bamboo shoots last. This order is important as the heavy pieces are placed on the bottom; the flavor enhancers are in the middle, and the delicate ingredients are on the top.
Step 4
Add the sugar and mirin (the sugar softens the ingredients; the mirin prevents the vegetables from disintegrating), then dashi to cover. Bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that forms on the surface. Cover loosely with a lid or with wet rice paper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
Step 5
The Vegetables Simmering in a Sweet-Dashi Broth
Add the soy sauce and simmer 10-15 minutes more.
Step 6
Dish into individual bowls and garnish with the snow peas, if using. Serve with steamed rice for a full meal.

Sashimi, Seaweed, and Cucumber Salad with Ponzu sauce

Tuna and Salmon Sashimi, Seaweed, and Cucumber Salad with Ponzu Sauce

Tuna and Salmon Sashimi, Seaweed, and Cucumber Salad with Ponzu Sauce

It’s a new year and for a lot of people that means a clean, healthy beginning, because of this I wanted to feature a dish that is simple, fresh, healthy, and most importantly, delicious. This sashimi, seaweed, and cucumber salad is all of these things and appetizing to boot.

My mind always drifts to Japanese cuisine when I think of using fresh ingredients in a pure and simple way. Jiro Ono, renowned sushi chef and owner of the three-star Michelin restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, says in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, “Ultimate simplicity equals purity,” and I believe this can be seen throughout Japanese cuisine.

I kept this idea of “simplicity equals purity” when creating this dish. The sashimi, seaweed, and cucumber salad showcases the natural flavors of the ingredients, resulting in a refreshing salad. Sliced cucumbers comprise the base of the salad, which is topped with seaweed salad, flying fish roe (tobiko) and tuna and salmon sashimi cubes. The salad is finished with ponzu–a citrusy, tangy-sweet sauce.

Cutting a Cucumber with a Paderno Spiralizer

I used a spiral vegetable slicer to cut the cucumbers (my new Christmas kitchen gadget), but you can also julienne or slice the cucumbers by hand.

Fresh Salmon and Tuna with Shun Knife

 Fresh Salmon and Tuna with Shun Knife

It’s important when buying the ingredients for the dish to make sure they are fresh; this is especially true for the fish and seafood because they will be consumed raw. If you’re in Chicago, the Mitsuwa Marketplace has a wide assortment of fresh seafood. Otherwise, tell your fishmonger that you are looking to buy fish to consume raw and ask for their recommendation. For more advice about buying raw fish, read this article here.

I chose to top my salad with tuna and salmon sashimi, but you can use whatever fish or seafood combination you desire. You can also use imitation crab, if you prefer a cooked option.

Tuna and Salmon Sashimi Salad with Choya Japanese Plum Wine (Umeshu)

Tuna and Salmon Sashimi Salad with Choya Japanese Plum Wine (Umeshu)

This sashimi, seaweed, and cucumber salad goes great with Choya Japanese plum wine—a slightly sweet, but not overpowering wine made with ume fruit.

Sashimi, Cucumber, and Seaweed Salad with Ponzu Sauce and Green Tea

I hope you enjoy this healthy and flavorful salad as much as I do! If you experiment with different seafood or ingredient combinations, feel free to send pictures or let me know in the comments.

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Sashimi, Seaweed, and Cucumber Salad with Ponzu sauce

Serves 4
Region Japanese
By author Rosanna
Try this simple, fresh, healthy, and most importantly, delicious sashimi, seaweed, and cucumber salad with ponzu sauce. It's refreshing and easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 1 large English cucumber (peeled)
  • 6 Ounces fresh fish (I used tuna and salmon sashimi)
  • 3 Ounces seaweed salad
  • 1 Ounce flying fish roe (tobiko)
  • 1 cup ponzu

Note

* It’s important when buying the ingredients for the dish to make sure they are fresh; this is especially true for the fish and seafood because they will be consumed raw. Tell your fishmonger that you are looking to buy fish to consume raw and ask for their recommendation.

* I chose to top my salad with tuna and salmon sashimi, but you can use whatever fish or seafood combination you desire. You can also use imitation crab, if you prefer a cooked option.

Directions

Step 1
Slice or julienne the cucumber into thin pieces. Divide evenly into 4 serving dishes. Top each bowl with seaweed salad, flying fish roe, and fish. Add 1/4 cup ponzu to each plate. Serve.

A Danish Christmas Eve

Roast Pork with Crackling and Brown Potatoes

Roast Pork with Crackling (Flæskesteg) and Brown Potatoes (Brunede Kartofler)

This year Corey and I experienced a traditional Danish Christmas Eve. It was a special occasion, full of merriment and cheer, and we enjoyed hearing about Danish myths and traditions and participating in the festivities.

Nisse Folklore

Nisse in Barn with Animals and Gifts

Nisse in Barn with Animals and Gifts

One noticeable decorative difference was the numerous Nisse—gnome-like spirits who dwell in barns, helping the farm on which they live. But they can be mischievous too: if they feel mistreated or don’t get what they want, they may cause trouble.

Nissen and the Christmas Pudding

Nissen and the Christmas Pudding (Risengrød)

The poster above depicts a scene from nisse folklore. On Christmas Eve, a bowl of risengrød (rice pudding with milk, butter, sugar, and cinnamon) is left out to appease the nisse, much as Americans leave out Christmas cookies for Santa. However, if this offering is not made or if the butter is forgotten, the nisse make their displeasure known (in one tale, a nissen kills a cow as retribution).

Risengrød remains an important Danish dish and is typically eaten on Christmas Eve. It’s one of the few peasant traditions kept alive and celebrated today.

Modern-Day Nisse

Modern-Day Nisse

Nisse imagery has changed over the years, as a result both of commercialization and changing mythology. Nisse have now begun to resemble Santa Claus, and stories tell of them coming through the front door on Christmas Eve, delivering presents to children.

The Food and the Feasting

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is the delicious food! Whatever the country or culture, holiday meals are usually some of the best of the year, and this Danish Christmas Eve celebration was no exception!

Table Setting with Danish Flags and Advent Candle

Table Setting with Danish Flags and Advent Candle

Our Beautiful Table with a 5 Tiered Candle Holder

Our Beautiful Table with a 5 Tiered Candle Holder

Danish Christmas Eve Menu

Roast Pork with Crackling (Flæskesteg)

Brown Potatoes (Brunede Kartofler)

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage (Rødkål)

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Waldorf Salad (nontraditional)

Rice Pudding with Almonds (Risalamande) and Cherry Sauce (Kirsebærsauce)

Marzipan “Pig”

Roast Pork with Crackling and Brown Potatoes

Roast Pork with Crackling (Flæskesteg) and Brown Potatoes (Brunede Kartofler)

A traditional Danish Christmas Eve dinner features roast pork with crackling, brown potatoes, red cabbage, and rice pudding with almonds and a cherry sauce. The brown potatoes are boiled and then sautéed with melted butter and sugar, which results in sweet, caramelized potatoes that pair perfectly with the roast pork. The pork skin is crispy and full of flavor; the meat is delicious and moist.

A message on how to prepare roast pork with crackling from our gracious host Ken:

Ken“I order a fresh [uncooked] ham with the skin left on.  I score the skin so that it forms crisp rectangles as the roasting proceeds and rub on some salt. There are a number of recipes online for roasting a fresh ham.  I just put the ham into the oven at 325F or so and roast it for about 25 minutes per pound.  Eventually, I stick a thermometer into the roast to see how it’s coming along.  I shoot for a temperature of 160F.  To have the roast ready about a half hour before I plan to serve it, I increase or decrease the temperature to speed up or slow down the roasting as necessary.  It was done too early this year, so I kept it warm in a 200F oven.  My experience over the years is that it takes a long time to do a ten-to-fifteen pound roast, but that it always turns out okay no matter what I’ve done.”

Mashed Potatoes, Waldorf Salad, and Red Cabbage

Mashed Potatoes, Waldorf Salad, and Red Cabbage

One of my favorite dishes was the red cabbage—it was sweet, tangy, and utterly irresistible!

Rice Pudding with Almonds and Cherry Sauce

Rice Pudding with Almonds and Cherry Sauce

Den Gamle Fabrik Cherry Sauce

Den Gamle Fabrik Cherry Sauce

This is an excellent kind of cherry sauce to use when making your own Danish Christmas pudding. You can find it for sale here.

Danish Christmas Pudding (Risalamande                  

This is always a fun and eagerly awaited part of the meal. This dessert—which is delicious in its own right—also features a game. After chopped almonds and cream are added to the rice pudding (risengrød), 1 whole almond is placed into the pot, then mixed well and served, topped with cherry sauce (Kirsebærsauce). Whoever finds the whole almond in their bowl wins a marzipan pig (see below)! This is a type of soft candy that you can buy in blocks, then sculpt into whatever shape you wish. Though one person wins the marzipan pig, it is shared with all—the winner, however, gets first “cut.”

Handcrafted Marzipan Pig

Handcrafted Marzipan Pig

The Christmas Tree Decorated with Danish Flags and Real Candles

The Christmas Tree Decorated with Danish Flags and Real Candles

In a throwback to pre-electric times, traditional Danish Christmas trees are adorned with real candles, which are lit after the Christmas Eve dinner (if you decide to observe this tradition, be very careful affixing and lighting them and never leave the tree unattended while they are burning). This ceremony sometimes involves singing and dancing around the tree as well. Finally, everyone exchanges presents.

Corey and I were so happy to be included in this wonderful Danish Christmas Eve celebration, and we look forward to it in years to come!

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Flavorful Journeys Best of 2014 – By Popularity

I love New Year’s Day.  It’s a chance to reflect on the past year and celebrate experiences to come. In that spirit, here are the 10 most popular posts on Flavorful Journeys from 2014:

Homemade Italian Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs

1. Homemade Italian Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs

You can’t go wrong with spaghetti and meatballs, especially when everything—from the pasta to the sauce—is made from scratch! This dish takes some time to make, but it’s totally worth it!

Chocolate Truffle Tart Slice

2. Chocolate Truffle Tart

This chocolate truffle tart was my first recipe post of 2014. I wanted to bake something that would set the mood for the year, and this indulgent treat proved the perfect choice!

white truffle oil mac n cheese

3. White Truffle Oil Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is a classic comfort food, but when you add truffle oil, cream, and Parmesan and fontina cheese, you get a memorable epicurean experience.  Sprinkled fresh rosemary makes the luxuriant flavors pop! If you try one new mac and cheese in 2015, make it my truffle mac and cheese.

Spicy Pork and Mustard Green Soup

4. Spicy Pork and Mustard Green Soup

This spicy pork and green mustard soup holds a very special place in my heart. Not only is it a delicious mainstay for surviving the cold Chicago winter, but this post made it onto Bon Appétit’s website! Check out the article here.

Butterfly Cupcake

5. Butterfly Cupcakes

A friend and I had lots of fun making these gorgeous butterfly cupcakes. My favorite parts are the chocolate wings and antenna. Some cupcake decorations sacrifice tastes for looks, but not these cupcakes!

Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

6. Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

Halloween is when my morbid side comes out—I love creating creepy treats. Sugar glass dipped in vivid “blood” accents these glass cupcakes, which combine my favorite dessert flavors (chocolate and raspberry). These might reappear (minus the glass) come Valentine’s Day.

Crock Pot Cuban Black Beans and Rice

7. Crock Pot Cuban Black Beans and Rice

This Cuban black beans and rice recipe is a household favorite! It’s fast, easy, and so tasty. Plus, it’s a crock pot meal, so you can make it in the morning and have dinner waiting after work!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts

8. Mother’s Day Brunch Menu Bon Appétit 2014

This Mother’s Day brunch features strawberry-rhubarb salad with mint and hazelnuts, smoked trout salad, a lox platter with capers, radish, cucumber, and red onion slices, and bagels with horseradish-dill schmear. You’re sure to please by making this for your mother (or anyone, for that matter).

DrunkSkull Bloody Mary

9. DrunkSkull Bloody Mary + A Giveaway

I wasn’t a huge fan of bloody marys until I read A Deep and Gorgeous Thirst, by Hosho McCreesh. It’s an example of a unique genre called “drunk poetry,” and it mentioned bloody marys so often that I had to have one—the author was kind enough to share this recipe. These bloody marys are spicy and refreshing, just as they should be.

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi-Bokkeumbap)

10. Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi-Bokkeumbap)

I went on a Korean kick this year, and I’m glad that my readers enjoyed it as much as I did! This kimchi fried rice makes a great weeknight dinner.

 

Thanks for following my cooking adventures this year; I hope you’re looking forward to what 2015 will bring as much as I am! Happy New Year!

If you have a favorite that didn’t make the list, comment about it below.

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Boiled Peanuts | A Classic Southern Snack

Green Peanuts used to Make Boiled Peanuts

Green Peanuts Used to Make Boiled Peanuts

Boiled peanuts remind me of my childhood and are forever linked in my mind with the beach. One of my favorite childhood treats was riding with my father to Pensacola Beach in “Old Blue”—a Chevy pickup—while listening to rock ‘n’ roll and eating boiled peanuts from a roadside stand. They were always sold piping hot, but that never stopped us from scarfing them down.

I think that there’s something inherently satisfying about boiled peanuts. Maybe it’s their association with my childhood. Maybe they remind me of the South. But it’s probably due in large part to their delicious taste! They’re salty, juicy, tender, and delicious. What’s not to love?

Boiled peanuts are definitely regional, much like sweet tea, so if you’re not from the South, you might be wondering what a boiled peanut is. It’s a raw peanut that has been cooked in brine for several hours until soft and tender. They’re eaten as a snack and are oftentimes sold along rural highways and at events. My family always serves them at our annual reunion.

Eating boiled peanuts with my grandfather

Eating Boiled Peanuts with My Grandfather at the Beach

To understand how to make boiled peanuts, you must first understand the different types of peanuts.

Peanut Breakdown:

  • Roasted peanuts – Raw peanuts that have been baked in the oven until dry and crunchy. These are the peanuts that most people are probably familiar with. Roasted peanuts are often served as a snack, with or without the shell. They can also be made into peanut butter. Roasted peanuts CANNOT, however, be used to make boiled peanuts.
  • Green raw peanuts – Freshly harvested peanuts that contain 35 to 50 percent moisture content. Green peanuts are perishable and must be refrigerated upon receipt. Like most fresh produce, you want to use them fairly quickly for optimal flavor and freshness. These are the best type of peanuts to use for making boiled peanuts. However, they are usually only available between August and October.
  • Dry raw peanuts – Peanuts that have been dried to a 10 percent moisture content to facilitate storage and shipping. These can also be used to make boiled peanuts, but they take longer to cook because they aren’t as moist.

Where to Buy Peanuts for Boiling

When living in North Florida, Corey and I used to buy green peanuts from the grocery store in the fall (you could also look at farmers’ markets). Every fall, we’d eagerly wait the arrival of fresh green peanuts. Fall doesn’t officially begin for us until we’ve made a pot of boiled peanuts.

Hardy's Boiling Peanuts Half Bushel

Hardy Farms Boiling Peanuts, Half Bushel

Now that we live in Chicago, we’ve started ordering green peanuts online from Hardy Farms—a peanut farm in Georgia. We typically order a half bushel of green jumbo peanuts ($28.00 + $10.39 shipping; note that this is quite a large quantity of peanuts—they also offer smaller sizes). It’s a happy day when the delivery man shows up with our bag of peanuts.

Hardy's Green Peanuts Recipe

Hardy’s Boiled Peanuts Recipe (Though I Have My Own – See Below)

If it’s no longer peanut season (August – October), you will need to buy dry raw peanuts. You can buy them at some grocery stores or online here.

Lastly, if you want to eat boiled peanuts but don’t want to cook them yourself, you can buy them in cans at grocery stores, at roadside stands in certain parts of the country, or online. Note: I haven’t tried the canned variety, so I’m not sure how they compare to the real McCoy. If you have, let me know in the comments.

How to Make Boiled Peanuts

Boiled peanuts are easy to make and only require 3 ingredients: green or raw peanuts, water, and salt. Since water plays such a prominent role in making boiled peanuts, I recommend using filtered water for a better taste.

  1. Sort through the peanuts and remove any with cracked shells, discoloration, or molding. Rinse the remaining peanuts thoroughly to remove any dirt.
  2. Place the peanuts in a large stockpot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the peanuts by at least 2 inches (the peanuts will float; you can press down on them gently to judge the water level). Allow the peanuts to soak for 30 minutes.
  3. Add salt to the pot; the amount to add varies according to individual taste. I typically use about 1 cup of salt for every gallon of water. When the peanuts are almost finished, taste one and see if you need to add more salt. Do not do this when you first start cooking the boiled peanuts, as it takes time for the salt water to saturate the peanuts.
  4. Boil the peanuts, covered, adding more water as needed. Again, how long you boil them depends on personal preference and the type of peanut used (as well as the size – jumbo or regular). For green peanuts, you can start tasting for doneness after 2 hours, though I like to boil them for at least 4 or 5. For dry raw peanuts, the cook time is much longer. I would begin tasting for doneness after 8 hours. Once the desired level of tenderness is reached, turn off the heat.
  5. You can then drain the peanuts and eat them or store them in the fridge or freezer (boiled peanuts freeze well). You can also allow the boiled peanuts to continue soaking in the brine to increase the flavor (and saltiness).

Now that you know about boiled peanuts, it’s time to get boiling and enjoy this classic Southern snack! Boiled peanuts pair well with sweet tea or a cold Coke. Enjoy!

I used this source when researching peanut types: Green Peanuts versus Dried Peanuts

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Pepero South Korean Snack – Pepero Day

Pepero South Korean Snack

Pepero—a popular South Korean Snack manufactured by Lotte Confectionary

I thought it would be fun to do a snack series on Flavorful Journeys, where I feature different snacks from around the world and discuss their history and cultural significance. After all, who doesn’t like snacks, right? In today’s busy world, we don’t always have time to sit down and eat three meals a day; sometimes snacks play a critical role in tiding us over until our next meal and getting us through a long, hectic day.

This past week, I visited the Korean spa and stopped by H-Mart (a large Asian grocery store specializing in Korean food) on the way home. I didn’t have any set ingredients to buy; instead I just wondered the aisles picking up some of my usual items and any foods that sounded interesting: Japanese seaweed salad, Korean stir-fried black beans, shrimp crackers, Calpico (a Japanese non-carbonated soft drink), a couple different varieties of ramen noodles, kimchi, Korean bbq, and a box of Peperos.

Little did I know that I was choosing a snack that has its own holiday in South Korea and coincidently enough I was buying it on the actual day of the holiday, November 11th or 11/11 (I’ll discuss this holiday more, right after I describe peperos).

Nude Pepero South Korean Snack

Nude Pepero (two sticks are broken in half to show the interior)

What are Peperos?

Peperos are long thin cookie-like sticks that are covered in chocolate or in this case filled with chocolate. There are many different varieties of Peperos including:

  • regular (chocolate-covered Pepero)
  • nude (chocolate-filled Pepero)
  • almond and chocolate (chocolate-covered Pepero with almond pieces)
  • peanut and chocolate (chocolate-covered Pepero with roasted peanuts)
  • white cookie (white chocolate-covered Pepero with cookie pieces)
  • strawberry (strawberry-flavored–chocolate-covered Pepero)
  • melon (melon-flavored–chocolate-covered Pepero)
  • and more

Peperos remind me of Pepperidge Farms’ chocolate Pirouettes, except Peperos are much thinner and the exterior shill is harder and denser, more like a cookie than a wafer. The filling is similar, chocolate, creamy, and smooth.

So What is Pepero Day All About?

Pepero Day is a holiday similar to Valentine’s Day where friends, co-workers, and significant others give each other Pepero sticks. Kyeong-Jin  in the video below provides insight into Pepero Day:

Pepero Day has also influenced Korean pop culture, inspired a Pepero kissing game, and in a very popular holiday among the youth. Check out this cute video of the Pepero Song by Megan Lee–a Korean-American artist and singer. It’s a sweet, romantic song about Pepero Day.

Are you curious about how the Pepero kissing game works?

Two people play the game; they each put one end of the Pepero in their mouths and then slowly bite their way towards the center. The goal is to get as close to the other persons lips without their lips actually touching. The couple with the shortest remaining piece of Pepero wins (if playing against other teams) or the individual who doesn’t break the kiss first wins. Sometimes this game results in a kiss, accidently or purposely, hence the name Pepero kissing game.

Here’s a video of Exo—a South Korean-Chinese K-Pop Band—playing the Pepero kissing game at the China Love Big Concert.

Okay, you can see that learning about Peperos and Pepero Day made me go on a bit of a YouTube watching frenzy! I hope  you enjoyed these videos.

Where to buy  Peperos:

If you’re in the Chicago area, you can buy them at H-Mart in Niles. If you’re not in Chicago, you can purchase Peperos at H-Mart online or on Amazon.

Corey and I shared a packet of Peperos and I sure wished I’d bought more than one packet! They were gone wicked fast. Next time, I’ll know to buy more.

I hope you enjoyed this post on the popular South Korean snack Pepero! If you have tried Pepero before, let me know which flavor is your favorite!

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Urban Farm Fermentory, Portland, Maine

Urban Farm Fermentory TaproomUrban Farm Fermentory Taproom

While traveling in Portland, Maine, with Corey and his family, I visited Urban Farm Fermentory, which is a brewery that specializes in kombucha and cider. You may be wondering what kombucha is exactly. If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have known either.

Sign in Office of Urban Fermentory Farm Describing the Kombucha ProcessUrban Farm Fermentory’s Description of the Kombucha Process

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea made with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). Once the kombucha has finished fermenting, this SCOBY is removed, then the kombucha is strained—though some is sold unfiltered—and bottled. Kombucha can be flavored when bottled by adding chopped fruit, fruit juice, flowers, herbs, or a combination thereof.

The next step after bottling is carbonation. This can be achieved through a second fermentation process, which occurs when bottles of kombucha are left at room temperature for 1 to 3 days.  Once the desired carbonation level is reached, the kombucha is strained, rebottled, and refrigerated. Cooling slows down the rate of fermentation. Kombucha can also be carbonated through forced carbonation.

Kombucha is slightly alcoholic, usually containing 0.5 to 3 percent alcohol, which in 2010 induced government regulation and caused Whole Foods to pull kombucha from their shelves due to the lack of proper labeling.

So now that you know the basics of kombucha, let’s get back to Urban Farm Fermentory.

Kombucha and Cider Offerings at Urban Farm Fermentory Taproom Kombucha and Cider Offerings at Urban Farm Fermentory Taproom

We visited Urban Farm Fermentory with a Groupon that included a cider and kombucha tasting, a brewery tour, and a 32-ounce growler of your pick. I highly recommend getting this Groupon if it’s still available, as it allows you to explore many different kombucha flavors and gives you a look into the kombucha-making process.

Urban Farm Fermentory tries to source all its ingredients locally. This not only makes their kombucha very fresh but also means that their flavors and offerings vary seasonally.

Urban Farm Fermentory Kombucha Flavors on Tap:

  • Original
  • Cucumber
  • Rose Petal
  • Cascade & Amarillo Hopped
  • Honey Chamomile
  • Sweet Basil
  • Blueberry
  • Ginger

Urban Farm Fermentory Cider Flavors:

  • Pink Peppercorn and Basil
  • Dry Cidah
  • Sour Cidah (dry cidah and aged kombucha blend)
  • Cyser Apple Honey Wine (mead)
  • Cascade Hops

The cucumber kombucha was my favorite. It was cool and refreshing, slightly tart and bubbly. It was like drinking from a garden in summertime. I also really enjoyed the honey chamomile kombucha—deliciously smooth, sweet, and calming, with very little tartness. The ginger kombucha was also very tasty. It was an interesting take on ginger tea; similar to ginger beer (not ginger ale), but not as sweet and carbonated.

The bartender let us to taste our favorite flavors again and make our own blends. Ginger and blueberry went together nicely, as did sweet basil and cucumber.

Urban Farm Fermentory’s kombucha contains 1.5% alcohol (though their ciders are much stronger). I like that they don’t sacrifice quality to meet government regulations but choose instead to have their product labeled as alcohol. A quote from their website: “Our potent, probiotic Kombucha (fermented tea), with its 1.5% ABV and tart, acidic bite, is one of the few true examples of the form left after the infamous kombucha crackdown of 2010.”

Kombucha is a refreshing, ostensibly healthy drink. Some people drink it as a hangover cure, while others tout its health benefits. If you want to learn more about kombucha, check out this article.

Urban Farm Fermentory Brewery Tour

The tour guide was friendly and casual. He showed us some of the equipment and fielded our questions. The brewery isn’t very big (10,000 ft2), so it was a short (but interesting) tour.

Cider Press at Urban Farm Fermentory Brewery Tour Cider Press at Urban Farm Fermentory Brewery

Syphon Filler Machine for bottling Kombucha and Cider Syphon Filler Machine for Bottling Kombucha and Cider

Urban Farm Fermentory KegsUrban Farm Fermentory Kegs

We weren’t allowed to photograph the kombucha tanks due to proprietary knowledge. So if you want to see that, you’ll just have to visit!

Urban Farm Fermentory ArtworkStaff Murals at Urban Farm Fermentory

There are also a number of wall murals (reminiscent of street art) in Urban Farm Fermentory. Our tour guide said that the young people who work here want to make the space visually exciting and fun. Almost every room in the brewery has one or more murals, most of which were created by the employees or their friends.

Info about Visiting Urban Farm Fermentory:

Address:
200 Anderson St
Portland, ME 04101

Phone: (207) 773-8331

Hours: 12 PM – 7 PM, Tuesday – Saturday

Website: http://www.urbanfarmfermentory.com/

Cost:

Prices at Urban Farm FermentoryPrices at Urban Farm Fermentory

Note: Unfortunately, Urban Farm Fermentory doesn’t currently ship its kombucha or cider to individuals outside of Maine (though they do have distributorships in various northeastern cities).

If you’re curious about kombucha and happen to be in or near Portland, Maine, check out Urban Farm Fermentory. It’s a great introduction to kombucha and they’re always brewing up delicious new flavors.

If you’ve made SCOBY or kombucha before, please share your experience. Also, if you’re looking for other things to do in Maine, Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier is worth a visit!

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Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I love its spookiness, as this allows me to embrace morbid concepts in fun ways. For example, these chocolate raspberry cupcakes play on hyelophobia, or fear of glass. The sugar glass–its jagged edges covered in red food coloring–looks very much like broken shards of glass smeared with blood. The buttercream icing with red swirls further plays on this theme.

Chocolate Raspberry Glass Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing

Glass Cupcakes Topped with Buttercream Red Swirl

These chocolate-raspberry glass cupcakes are as tasty as they are ghastly. The chocolate cupcake base is filled with homemade raspberry curd. Rich, decadent chocolate goes well with the sweetly tart raspberry curd. I chose raspberry curd because I think raspberry and chocolate are the best dessert combination ever, but also because it goes well with the “glass” and “blood” cupcake theme. When you bite into this cupcake, you see red raspberry filling–it’s a nice gory touch. But you could also try lemon curd or another fruit-flavored curd.

Chocolate Raspberry Glass Cupcake

Chocolate-Raspberry, Curd-Filled Glass Cupcakes

If you don’t have time to make these cupcakes from scratch, you can always buy cupcakes and just make the sugar glass; they will still look absolutely wicked. The sugar glass is made by boiling sugar and water until it reaches the “soft-crack stage” (270° F). You really need a candy thermometer for this to work, preferably a digital one. As soon as 270° F is reached, pour the sugar syrup onto a lightly greased cookie pan. Shake the pan from side to side to spread out the syrup. Then allow the sugar glass to harden–which will take 30 minutes to 1 hour–before breaking it into shards.

Glass Shards

Freshly Broken Shards of Sugar Glass

Chocolate Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

You can enhance the goriness by covering the sugar glass’s edges with Wilton’s no-taste red icing color using a toothpick. I also spread the icing color in vertical lines in a pastry bag before filling the bag with the buttercream icing. This is what gives the buttercream icing its red swirl.

If you’re looking for another creepy Halloween desert, check out these blood-splattered cookies. Also, if you have any Halloween recipes or craft ideas, please share–I’m always looking for new ideas.

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Raspberry Curd

Serves About 3 cups
Meal type Condiment
Website adapted from Java Cupcake
A sweetly-tart raspberry curd made with real raspberries. Perfect with scones or as a filling in cupcakes. This raspberry curd recipe is easy and delicious

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 Cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 6 egg yolks (lightly beaten)
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Note

Do not let the curd rise above 170°F as this could cause the eggs to scramble.

Directions

Step 1
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the sugar, raspberries, egg yolks, and salt. Heat until the sugar has dissolved and the raspberries have broken down. Stirring constantly.
Step 2
Cook at a low simmer for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. The curd is done when a candy thermometer registers 170°F.
Step 3
Stir in the lemon juice. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve set over a large bowl. Try to press out as much of the juice as you can from the pulp and seeds.
Step 4
Cover the curd and place in the refrigerator. Allow to chill for at least 4 hours before using. The refrigerated curd will keep 2-4 weeks.

Chocolate Raspberry Curd Filled Cupcakes

Serves 24 cupcakes
Meal type Dessert
Website slightly adapted from Java Cupcake
These chocolate cupcakes are filled with homemade raspberry curd. The rich, decadent chocolate goes well with the sweetly-tart raspberry curd.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 2/3 cups sour cream
  • Raspberry curd homemade or store bought (see recipe on blog)

Directions

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with paper cases.
Step 2
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once melted, whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add the heavy cream, brewed coffee and vanilla extract. Heat until just barely simmering. Remove from heat and allow to cool as you prep the other ingredients.
Step 3
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Step 4
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream and eggs.
Step 5
Slowly pour the slightly cooled chocolate mixture into the sour cream and egg mixture; whisk until smooth. NOTE: Make sure to slowly add the chocolate mixture to the sour cream and egg mixture to prevent the eggs from cooking. Do not add it all at once.
Step 6
Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Add the chocolate mixture to the flour in three parts, whisking after each addition until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is incorporated. Whisk batter until smooth, about 20 strokes.
Step 7
Fill the cupcake cases three-quarters full. Bake 17-19 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave to cool for a few minutes before turning them out on to a wire rack.
Step 8
Core the center of each cupcake using a paring knife or an apple corer. Using a spoon, fill each cupcake with raspberry curd.

Vanilla Buttercream Icing with Red Swirls

Serves yields icing for 2 dozen cupcakes
Website Adapted from Java Cupcake
This vanilla buttercream icing with red swirls is perfect for festive occasions, such as Valentine's Day and Halloween. The icing is smooth and creamy.

Ingredients

  • 2 Sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 4 Tablespoons cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 2 Pounds powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Optional

  • Wilton no-taste red icing (for red swirls)
  • cupcakes

Directions

Icing
Step 1
Using a stand mixer or electric beater, beat butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Add 1/4-1/2 cup cream and beat on high for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. Mix in the pinch of salt.
Assembly
Step 2
Using a toothpick, add the Wilton no-taste red icing color in vertical stripes up the insides of a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip. Add the buttercream to a pastry bag. Pipe frosting onto each cupcake.

Sugar Glass

Serves Makes enough for 2 dozen cupcakes
Meal type Dessert
Website adapted from Juniper Cakery
Sugar glass is a cool decorative technique. The sugar glass is made by boiling sugar and water until it reaches the soft-crack stage (270° F).

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons water
  • candy thermometer
  • small saucepan
  • cake release spray
  • rimmed cookie tray or baking sheet

Directions

Step 1
In a saucepan add the sugar and water together and set on the highest heat.
Step 2
Prepare a rimmed cookie sheet by spritzing lightly with cake release.
Step 3
Stir the sugar mixture occasionally and leave to bubble until the sugar mixture reduces and reaches around 132 degrees C or 270 degrees F. You should start to smell a faint burnt caramel scent. The mix may also begin to turn a slight champagne gold color.
Step 4
Remove the pan from the heat. Quickly pour your sugar mixture onto the rimmed cookie sheet. Quickly spread the mixture to the edges by tilting the sheet. Don’t worry if the mixture doesn’t reach the edges; sometimes the cake release spray will stop it from spreading too much. Leave to cool and harden (this takes between 30 minutes to 1 hour).
Step 5
Don’t leave your ‘glass’ for too long, however. Sugar glass is hygroscopic, which means that it quite readily absorbs moisture from it’s surrounding atmosphere. As soon as the mix has cooled and hardened, quickly smash it in the required jagged shards before it loses that lovely brittle and hard quality!
Cupcake Assembly
Step 6
Place a glass shard or shards on top of the red swirl buttercream icing for each cupcake.