Headless Horseman Cupcakes for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

“You can’t reason with a headless man.”

Happy Halloween! It’s 1989 and your 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Merritt is wiping clean the transparency filled with math equations and pushes the overhead projector out of the way. That creaking noise coming down the hall can only mean one thing. It’s video day! The TV cart is being wheeled into your classroom with the trusty VCR on the rack below. Best. Day. Ever. And since it’s October 31st there is only one movie to be played – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Bing Crosby’s sweet baritone voice will soon be filling your ears. That unlikely ladies’ man, Ichabod Crane, will be dancing (and mostly eating) before your eyes. Happy Halloween indeed.

We watched this classic Disney cartoon practically every October in elementary school. I had not watched the short movie in (I don’t want to do the math) some years. Upon my most recent viewing I was a little taken a back by all the alcohol consumption. I shouldn’t have been surprised though. Remember Dumbo? Or Gaston? Old Disney movies are filled with substance abuse. Thanks to mancouch.com I was able to find statistics like “out of 24 G-rated Disney films” there were 275 alcohol related instances. Not sure what that means, but that’s your information to live with now. The cartoon is actually more funny than scary, so at least Disney got that right. Despite the ominous ending, you’re laughing the whole time the Headless Horseman is after poor, lankly Ichabod Crane. I cannot say the same for Tim Burton’s version. While Johnny Depp is often humorous there were many moments of that film I watched through my fingers. Not sure why? Please refer to this post.

After living in New York City for several years, I felt silly to discover on an Amtrak train ride to Albany that I lived so close to the real life Sleepy Hollow. It’s a quiet, secluded location just outside Manhattan. There once existed a real man named Ichabod Crane. Except he wasn’t a superstitious school teacher, but a military Colonel. The history is actually pretty fascinating and is documented well here.

If you’d like to reminisce to a time when the sound of approaching horse hooves sent chills up your spine then look no further.

Let’s bake a movie…

Headless Horseman Pumpkin-Spiced Latte Cupcakes with Caramel Butter Cream

These cupcakes probably look more delicious than menacing, which I guess is never a bad thing when it comes to desserts. Thanks to my husband who ground up our fall flavored coffee beans the cake has a wonderfully abundant flavor of sweet pumpkin spices and a hint of acidic coffee. A happy marriage will be in your mouth. The luxuriously smooth caramel flavored butter cream on top makes you think you’re actually biting into that famous seasonal latte. That is, of course, if you can get past the ghoulish (yet tangy) eyes of the Headless Horseman.

INGREDIENTS

For the cupcakes:
2 2/3 cups flour
3 tbsp. espresso powder (I used Pumpkin-spiced but any flavor will do)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. Salt
15 oz. can of pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs, room temperature
Special tool: silicon mini bunt cups or pan

For the frosting:
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

4 large egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Caramel sauce, smooth and from a squeeze bottle

Decorating:

1 yellow Starburst

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

1) For the cake, using a whisk sift together flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add pumpkin, brown sugar, granulated sugar and oil. Blend together on medium. Add eggs one at a time, beating until each are incorporated. Switch blender to low and add dry ingredients in two additions, mixing until just incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides, if necessary. Spray bunt cups liberally with non-stick cooking spray. Fill bunt cups no more than 2/3 of the way with batter. Bake in the over for 20-22 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in bunt cups for 10 minutes on wire rack. Then remove cupcakes to cool completely on rack.

2) For the frosting, cream butter with mixer until light and fluffy (about 2 mins). Set aside. Place a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the bowl is not touching the water. Whisk the egg whites and sugar in the bowl frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  You should feel no grains of sugar when you rub mixture between your thumb and finger. In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg mixture on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Allow the bowl to become cool to the touch (about 10 mins). Reduce speed to medium-low and begin to add creamed butter 2 tbsp at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, slowly add the caramel sauce in a long and steady stream. Add enough caramel to your level of taste. Careful not to add too much, it will flavor the butter cream quickly. Separate the frosting evenly into two small bowls. In one bowl add several drops of yellow food coloring till the desired yellow is achieved. In the second bowl add 5 drops of yellow for every 1 drop of red until desired orange is achieved. Transfer frosting to two different piping bags fitted with different sized star tips.

3) To assemble, slice the bottoms of two cupcakes to make a flat surface to balance one on top of the other. Place one cupcake top side down and place the other cupcake on top so that both smooth sides are touching. Pipe yellow and orange “flames” on top of the assembled cupcake. Heat unwrapped yellow Starburst in the oven for 5 seconds till softened. Flatten Starburst with fingers and cut out eyes, nose and teeth with a small pairing knife. Apply the eyes, nose and teeth to the side of the cupcake using a tiny bit of frosting as glue.

Source: Cupcakes from Annie’s Eats; frosting from Martha Stewart

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Red Velvet Armadillo cake for Steel Magnolias

I can literally give you the exact date of the happiest day of my life (so far). Answer: September 26th, 2009. On that blistering hot day in Spicewood, Texas I married my best friend and baked goods taste tester. Our vows included not only promises of loyalty and undying love, but also references to The Lord of the Rings and Battlestar Galactica. There was even an assurance on my behalf to never ever again throw away the discarded tops of Oreo cookies in the trash. The future would now forever hold a new receptacle for such “waste”, my hubby’s tummy.

But, perhaps the most memorable moment of our whole nuptials was the cutting of the groom’s cake. Now, if you live in or are from the southern half of this country then there is no explanation needed for the sentence prior to this one. But, as I’ve learned from living in Yankee country the past decade, not everyone partakes in this fun wedding tradition. Typically, the groom has his own cake made in his honor, since more likely than not everything else in the wedding was selected in honor of the blushing bride. The groom’s cake is most often something silly or an ode to his favorite sports team or alma mater. For our wedding, we had an armadillo. Why an armadillo, you ask? Simple. One of my husband’s favorite movies is Steel Magnolias. Steel Magnolias, really? Yes really. Quit asking so many rhetorical questions. He was raised by an awesome lady who never restricted his viewing solely because a movie may or may not be classified as a chick flick. And my husband is the better man for it.

“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

There are scenes from certain movies that I only have to think about and then I’ll start crying.  My Girl, when she’s crying at the funeral because Thomas J’s not wearing his glasses. “He can’t see without his glasses.” The very end of Pan’s Labyrinth left me sitting in the theatre unable to move. But don’t even get me started on the first 10 minutes of Up. Seriously, I’m starting to cry right now. Steel Magnolias has a painfully beautiful moment as well. As heartbreaking as it is I can’t bring myself to turn away from the brilliant performance by Sally Field fighting through unbearable grief. I’m pretty sure her delivery of the monologue in the cemetery garden made me want to become an actress. The movie is filled with lovely moments and also lots of laughs. And also lots of memorable quotes: “Pink is my signature color”, “If you don’t have anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me”, “You are too twisted for color TV!”

Steel Magnolias also has another special place in my heart. It was the first play I was ever in. I played the part of Annelle, in case you’re curious, my senior year in high school. The experience actually taught me a lot. Two days before the day of the show (y’all) the director was forced to cut the first 10 pages of the script due to time constraints. Those lost pages happened to contain the bulk of my lines and the back story of my character. But the director, being the creative and awesome person she is (thanks Kristen), gave me the freedom to do whatever improv I wanted in that first scene to attempt to convey, without dialogue, how awkward and out of place my character was in a strange environment. I distracted myself by “accidentally” dropping props and even eating a piece of candy to only then spit it out and stuff it in the couch cushion. All this hopefully conveyed my character’s sense of not belonging and discomfort in her skin, an important development later in the story. It actually was a great first lesson for my writing. Sometimes you learn more about a character by what she does and not by what she says.

Let’s bake a movie…

Red Velvet Armadillo Mini Cakes

Mini red velvet cakes decorated with gray-tinted cream cheese frosting.

Baking has been compared to preparing a science experiment. I believe this to be a fairly accurate comparison. The measurements need to be exact. It’s not like cooking where you can throw in a dash here and a pinch there. Baking is precise. So you can understand why I gasped (startling my husband) when I realized I had accidentally doubled two ingredients.  I was attempting to halve the recipe, but forgot to divide the measurements for the last two ingredients. Said ingredients were the cocoa and food coloring. I was worried I had thrown off the consistency. To my amazement, the mistake ended up making the cake super moist, the chocolate flavor pop more, and left the cake a really really vibrant red. It was ideal for a road kill armadillo. Crisis averted. And there ain’t nothing like the pairing of cream cheese frosting with red velvet cake. To this day our friends still talk about the armadillo groom’s cake at our wedding. It was the first taste of red velvet for many of them. So if you haven’t been familiarized with this southern treat then do yourself a favor and get to baking the recipe below.

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:
1 ½ cups plus 1 ½ tbsp. cake flour (not self-rising)
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 extra large egg, room temperature
6 tbsp. red food coloring
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
¾ tsp. vanilla extract
¾ tsp. salt
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
¾ tsp. cider vinegar
¾ tsp. baking soda
Special tool: silicon mini bunt cups or pan

For the frosting:
16 ounces cream cheese, cut into small pieces
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
5 cups confectioner sugar, sifted
Food coloring, package of red, blue, yellow, and green

Decorating:
Black piping gel
Silver sugar sprinkles
Birthday candles

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350° F

1)  For the cake, in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until well blended. In a small bowl, whisk together red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla extract and add to the creamed butter and sugar. Beat well until all combined.  Stir the salt and buttermilk together in a measuring cup or small bowl. Add the sifted cake flour alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the cake flour. Mix until just incorporated, careful not to over beat. In another small bowl, combine the cider vinegar and baking soda and immediately add to the batter. Mix well, scrapping down the sides, until the batter is smooth. Spray mini bundt cups very well with non-stick cooking spray. Divide batter among the cups filling no more than 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through. When a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean remove from the oven and leave to cool in the cups for at least 30 mins. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

2) For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed until smooth (about 3 minutes). Note: I find it best to work with cream cheese right out of the fridge and not room temperature. It may take a bit longer to mix with the butter (at room temperature) but it’ll eventually be smooth and easier to work with than if it were softer. Add the vanilla and beat until fully incorporated. Add the sugar 1 cup at a time until the desired consistency and taste is met. To thicken the frosting more you can cover and refrigerate, but for no longer than 3 hours.

3) To decorate, add 4 drops of blue food coloring and 2 drops of red, yellow, and green to the frosting. Stir until colors blend together. Continue to add the same ratio of colors to the frosting until a nice gray color is achieved. Scoop frosting into a piping bag fitted with a petal tip. Pipe strips of frosting starting at the top center of the mini cake and down. Continue piping around the whole cake. Create 3 sections on each side of the cake with the black piping gel. You can use the frosting strip as a guideline. I had two strips in each section. Fill the sections with silver sugar sprinkles. Using an unfrosted cake, slice a 1 inch segment for the head. Lay flat in front of frosted cake. Slice a slightly smaller segment and place on top of first segment. Spread gray frosting over head connecting to the body. For the tail, cut small segments on the birthday candle, making sure not to cut all the way through. Bend the tail in a curve and insert the wick end into the body. Pipe eyes with the black gel and ears with the gray frosting using the same petal tip.

4) Shove in face. The frosting is sooooo yummy!

“Nothing like a good piece of ass.”

Source: Cupcakes and frosting adapted from Magnolia Bakery


Big Kahuna Burger Cookies for Pulp Fiction

“Mm mm! This is a tasty burger”

My favorite characteristic of Quentin Tarantino’s writing is his concentration on detail. The dialogue of his characters may seem at times trivial and unnecessary to the plot, but it’s all laid out with thoughtful purpose. He can create a scene wrought with tension and suspense while having the characters only discuss a cheeseburger. A tasty burger, that is. Mr. Tarantino has taught me a lot about character development. Sometimes it’s not about what’s being said, but maybe why it’s being said or what’s not being said at all. His craft of laying the tone is precise every time. Whether you like the tone or not is a matter of opinion, but you definitely feel it.

Pulp Fiction won several awards the year it premiered, but ultimately lost the Best Picture Oscar to a chocolate running fool in love with Jenny. Actually, that year was a pretty tough category and still contested by movie buffs to this day. But another year is more bitterly recalled in my apartment. Sigh. Let’s just not get into it for everyone’s sake.

Pulp Fiction is a story dripping with violence but is also about redemption. All of the story lines contain surprises and take you on unexpected journeys, including the screenplay format. It’s always fun to see how Mr. Tarantino will weave his characters together. And Pulp Fiction may be his best.

And maybe his tastiest (sorry)!

Let’s bake a movie…

Big Kahuna Burger Cookies

Vanilla cake cookie “buns” stacked with chocolate brownie “patties”, Starburst “cheese”, and strawberry jam “ketchup”

The most classic scene from the movie begins with a bite of a burger and ends with “divine intervention”. I can’t tell you if a miracle stopped those bullets, but I can say that this is a tasty burger cookie. There is so much texture and flavor flowing over your tongue and into your belly. Each component would be delicious on its own but squished together as a sandwich equals taste buds/mind blown.

Before I created the burger, I went to the internets to see if anything similar had been created by others. I saw several fun examples, but I was pretty disappointed to see that they all used prepackaged foods. I knew I could make this less semi-homemade and more delicious. I wanted a cookie for the bun that would be just as fluffy as the real thing. I immediately thought of a MoonPie. Yum! But, what kind of cookie could look like meat? Doesn’t sound all that appealing, but brownies sort of crackle on top and resemble cooked ground beef (please don’t think about this while eating). Brownie cookie! And then the cheese and ketchup trick I had previously learned from the creative people at Hello Cupcake. Done. Burger cookie.

INGREDIENTS

For the “Pattie”:
2 2/3 cups (16 oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

For the “Bun”:
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ cup milk, room temperature

For the “Cheese”:
12 orange or lemon Starbursts

For the “Ketchup”:
Very red Strawberry or raspberry jam

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

1) For the “patties”, place a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir the butter and chopped bittersweet chocolate in the bowl until completely melted and smooth. Sift the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl. Set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together the sugar and eggs until combined. Add the vanilla. Slowly pour the melted chocolate into the egg mixture and stir till combined. Incorporate the dry ingredients by carefully folding them into the batter. Once all the flour is incorporated stir in the mini chocolate chips. Using a small cookie scoop or a spoon place 1 ½ tbsp of dough onto baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating trays halfway through. When cookies are firm on the outside remove from the oven and leave on sheets to cool completely.

2) For the “buns”, increase over to 375° F. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy (2 minutes). Add eggs one at a time until each are completely incorporated. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat each addition until just incorporated. Transfer half the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a wide round tip. To create the bottom bun, pipe batter in a flat circle large enough to support the brownie patty onto a baking sheet. For the top bun, use a small cookie scooper to scoop 2 tbsp. of batter onto baking sheet. To smooth the tops of the cookies dip a spoon in water and run the back along the “bun” eliminating the creases and lumps. Bake for 8-10 minutes (watching carefully so as not to brown the buns). Transfer to a wire rake to cool completely. Repeat with any leftover batter.

3) For the “cheese”, unwrap Starburst candy. Heat in the microwave for 5 seconds, until just softened but not melted. Flatten candy with either a rolling pin or the back of a spoon. I found it easiest to work with one candy at a time.

4) For the “ketchup”, strain the jam through a fine mesh strainer, using a spatula to work it through and collect in a small bowl.

5) Assembly: Drop a small dab of jam ketchup onto the center of a flat bun and then place the brownie patty directly over. Lay flattened Starburst on top of patty and a larger dollop of jam ketchup. Top with the round bun.

Source: Brownie Patties from Brown Eyed Baker; Buns adapted by Annie’s Eats


Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes with “Slimer Curd” for Ghostbusters

If someone asks you if Ghostbusters is an awesome movie, you say YES!

So I went to the internets to check what year Ghostbusters came out. Answer: 1984. Turns out several movies that shaped my childhood, and will most likely make appearances in future posts, premiered the very same year. It’s a pretty esteemed crowd containing the likes of The NeverEnding Story, The Temple of Doom, The Karate Kid, and The Terminator (how Ghostbusters managed to avoid the ever present 1984 “The” is a mystery). Ghostbusters rose to the marshmallow cream of the crop to be the highest grossing comedy of all time, until an 8-year-old Edvard Munch wannabe claimed the prize.

For this post I probably could’ve gotten away with simply listing a bunch of quotes:

– “Back off man. I’m a scientist”
– “Get her!”
– “It’s right here Ray. It’s looking at me.”
– “Don’t look at the trap.” “I looked at the trap Ray.”
– “Dropping off or picking up?”
– “The walls in the 53rd Precinct are bleeding.”
– “Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria!”
– “Ok. So, she’s a dog.”
– “What did you do Ray?”
– “Cross the streams…”
– “We came. We saw. We kicked its ass!”

Actually, one of those quotes was referenced during my wedding ceremony (thanks Bro!). Have fun trying to guess which one.

Now, I’m pretty terrified of ghosts. Just ask my husband. Paranormal Activity is never again allowed to be played in this apartment. Ever. Never ever. It took two weeks of watching America’s Next Top Model episodes every night at 3am to get over that film. For reals. But, Ghostbusters never made me pull the covers over my ears.  Yes, I have an irrational fear that ghosts want to whisper  in my ear while I sleep. And the covers will stop that? Don’t ask. But, as a kid I would sip on my Ectocooler juice box and laugh at Venkman getting slimed. Come to think, Bill Murray might’ve been my first crush. Well, human crush. Am I the only one who thought the Fox from Disney’s Robin Hood was, well, a fox? Oh really? Is that so? Ok, I’lljustbeoverherebye.

Living in New York City for nearly a decade now I really enjoy watching movies from my childhood set in Manhattan. It’s pretty fun to see how much it’s changed and how it really hasn’t changed. And Ghostbusters doesn’t disappoint. It’s still a little weird to think that I now live 6 blocks from where Mr. Stay Puft first bobbled his giant marshmallow head onto the screen. And from Dana’s apartment window is the image of the building where I had my first corporate job (side note: same building is also featured in Superman and Zoolander and where Chandler Bing was a transponster). I’ve even visited the real firehouse. In fact, if you visit me I’ll take you on a Ghostbusters Tour (tips accepted). But, before the tour can begin…

Let’s bake a movie…

Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes  with “Slimer Curd”

Now maybe you’re thinking I should’ve baked a really really big Twinkie. If you are, then you’re probably right. Dang it. Wish I would’ve thought of that sooner. But, it’s ok because as my coworkers pointed out (thanks y’all!) these cupcakes are pretty tasty. The cake is moist and full of lovely vanilla flavor. The tiny little vanilla bean flecks are a delightful detail. The frosting simply melts in your mouth with all its toasted marshmallowy gooeyness.  With those two components alone the cupcake is pure and wonderful, but then, of course, it gets slimed. The “Slimer Curd” is a tangy sweet duo that brings the treat to a whole new level. I currently have a bowl filled with the bright green curd in the fridge that I fully intend to spread on English muffins,  waffles, and who am I kidding, eat right out of the bowl.

INGREDIENTS

For the cupcakes:
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting:
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the curd:
3 large eggs
¾ cups sugar
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
4 tbsp. (2 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
Green and yellow food coloring, optional

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

1) For the cupcakes,  whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream the butter with the seeds on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute. Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.  Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer. Divide the batter between cupcake pans preparedwith paper liners. Fill about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

2) For the frosting, place a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the bowl constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer egg mixture to the bowl of  electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk starting on low speed and gradually increase to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Scoop frosting into a piping bag fitted with your tip of preference. You could also fill a freezer bag and cut the tip. Pipe big swirls of frosting on top of cupcakes.

3) For the curd, whisk together the eggs and sugar in a sauce pan until well blended.  Add the lime juice.  Place the pan over medium-low heat.  Whisk constantly, until the mixture is warmed through.  Be careful not to heat the mixture too quickly to avoid curdling the eggs.  Whisk in the butter a little bit at a time, stirring in each addition until completely incorporated before adding more.  Continue to cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens and a spoon or spatula leaves a path when drawn through it. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.  Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. When cooled add green and yellow food coloring to create the Slimer effect. Drizzle over cupcakes.

Source: Cupcakes from Annie’s Eats; frosting from Martha Stewart; curd adapted from Annie Eats