Election Cookies for The American President

When I was eight years old I wanted to be president, the first woman president. Being young and lacking worldly judgement it never occurred to me that my declaration of a life dream could cause laughter. But, laughs, in fact, I heard. It was at a slumber party for a classmate that I learned a pretty valuable life lesson. While hosting a gaggle of girls naturally the theme for the party was a beauty pageant. Each “contestant” decorated her own sash and competed in such events as swim wear (cannon balls) and talent (lip syncing to Paula Abdul). Then came the interview segment. The pageant host (birthday girl’s father) interrogated the contestants with gripping questions like “what’s your favorite flavor of Kool-aid” or “which New Kid On the Block would you marry?” My turn came and I strutted my way to the host. He complemented me on my hot pink feathered boa and plastic Barbie heels. Then he asked me the question. The question that would give rise to my sophisticated answer and provoke the laughter stuck in my memory forever. “Amy, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I confidently answered, “I want to be the first woman President.” Then came the snickers from the “judges” (beer guzzling fathers). “Don’t you mean First Lady?”, one of them chuckled to me. I remember this moment very clearly. It could be considered the moment I grew up. It was the moment I realized not all adults are right. And somehow I knew that things may be a little different for me than for, say, my older brother. I promised myself then and there that I would never cave to anyone else’s misconceptions and I would always stand firmly in my beliefs, especially in myself. I’m also proud to say that my father was in no way associated with these “gentlemen”. He would never have laughed at me. He would never have belittled me. He would always give me encouragement. I’ll also be forever grateful that I was raised by a strong woman who taught me that sometimes the popular way might not always be the right way. If I didn’t have the love and support of my wonderful parents I might not have had the capacity to understand those men were wrong. Granted, I’m not going to be the first woman President. I’ve got other plans now. But, that doesn’t mean another girl can’t have her dream come to fruition. In fact, I just voted for our 2012 election and there were more women on my ballot than men. Maybe a woman president will happen soon.

🙂

The American President is one of those movies that is always played on TBS or TNT and every time it’s on I have to watch it. I’m looking at you too Shawshank Redemption. Do you too  find there are fictional characters that you really wish you could vote for in real life? Hey, Leslie Knope, why aren’t you running for my state representative? President Andrew Shephard is also a name I’d like to see on the ballot. Maybe it’s the dialogue crafted by the words-man Aaron Sorkin. Or maybe it’s the strong character  expressed through the gravely voice and the steely eyes of Michael Douglas. Whatever it is, I feel connected to this man personally. I root for him. I want him to lead me. Why can’t this be real life? Well, because real life isn’t directed by Rob Reiner. But, wouldn’t it be awesome if it was? Until then…

Let’s bake a movie…

Sugar Cookies with Vanilla Frosting

Do you want to know the secret to why everyone seems to love my sugar cookies? It’s very simple really. Almond extract. Be sure to add the almond extract. Don’t have any in your cabinet? Get some. The flavor, the smell are so rich and yummy. These cookies bake to perfection. Crispy on the outside but soft and smooth on the inside. And smothering them in frosting certainly only increases the value. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 egg, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1 can of white/vanilla store bought frosting (it works best with technique below)
Red, blue, green food coloring

DIRECTIONS

1) In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth (about 2 mins). Add the egg and mix until well incorporated, scraping down the sides. Blend in the almond extract, vanilla, and salt. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the flour in two parts. Mix until just combined and a dough forms. Dived dough in half, wrap each in cellophane. and flatten into a disc. Chill dough until firm (30 mins to 1 hour).

2) Preheat oven to 375. On a well floured work surface, roll out one section at a time to 1/4 inch thickness. Lightly flour cookie cutter and cut out as many cookies as you can and place on a cookie sheet. Ball up and then flatten out remaining dough and repeat until all dough is used. Repeat with other section of dough, If the dough gets too soft while you’re working with it simply pop it back in the freezer to chill for a bit. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes. Watch carefully to see that they don’t brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely on wire rack.

3) To frost the cookies, scoop a third of the frosting into a small bowl. Melt in the microwave for 30 seconds. The frosting should become soupy and no longer thick and clumpy. Carefully dip the top of the cookie into the melted frosting. Hold over bowl for a couple of seconds to allow extra drippings to fall back in the bowl. Place cookie on wax paper and allow frosting to cool and harden. Add either  food coloring to melted frosting until desired color is reached. Sometimes reheating the frosting will enhance the color. Repeat the dipping  I process. If you would like to add sprinkles be sure to do so before the frosting cools and hardens.

Source: Cookies adapted from Annie’s Eats


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


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


Blueberry Pie Cupcakes for Stand By Me

There aren’t many questions I can answer for certain. One of the major questions plaguing me right now is “what are you doing with your life?” Huh, what? Um, I’m 31, married, living in Manhattan, and I spoil a 23 lb French bulldog named Omar. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Uhhhh… “Next year?” Oh, um, maybe, yeah, we’ll see…”When are you going to have a baby?” Say what now? But the one question I can answer with the most conviction is “What is your favorite movie?” Stand By Me!!!

A small film made in 1986 had a big impact on me. I was only 5 when the movie hit theaters, but I was around 8 when I got to see it on HBO. I don’t know if your family was the same, but mine recorded almost every movie that premiered on HBO Saturday nights from 1985 – 1991. Now, I just wrote the word “recorded”. For those of you born after 1999 (gulp) I mean that we used to put a VHS cassette into a VCR and press the record–ok never mind I can already feel you rolling your eyes. My family had dozens of VHS tapes containing 3 movies on each, but the one with Stand By Me almost wore out. Subsequently, I purchased the VHS, and then eventually the laser disc, and finally the DVD.

Obviously, the movie made a great impression on me. It’s hard for me to think of another coming of age movie that balances the jovial awkwardness of adolescence with the disheartening dawning of adulthood. As I re-watch the movie over the years each time something new touches me. I’m sure when I was 8 it was the thrill of watching an R rated movie with tons of vomit and cursing. When I reached 12, the age of the characters, I could understand with more clarity the insecurities of Gordie, the innocence of Vern, the joke covering of Teddy, and the peacekeeper of Chris. The scene that stood out to me at a time in my life when having raging acne and the wrong name brand jeans could mean endless ridicule was the “milk money” scene. “I wish I could go some place where no one knows me.” Yes, Chris, I do too. Learning that sometimes adults will let you down may be a valuable lesson but no less heartbreaking to a child. As an adult, I can barely bring myself to watch the last scene with Chris as we hear Richard Dreyfuss narrate his ultimate fate and the visual of River Phoenix fades away. It reminds me of the friends I’ve lost, the dreams I’ve had that never were. And of course, it reminds me of such a beautiful talent in River that was lost to all of us.

If you haven’t seen this movie, then you probably don’t know me or I would’ve made you watch it by now. Please do yourself a favor. Growing up in the ‘80’s in Sugar Land, TX, I may not have had the exact same problems as Gordie and the gang. But I sure was captivated to watch them cross train trestles, pinky swear, and vainly insult each other’s mothers. And I would also like to thank Stephen King (author of the novella) for making me permanently scared of junk yards with only 3 words, “Chopper, sic balls.” (Even though there were no junk yards in Sugar Land and I, being a girl, have no balls.)

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

Ok, so now let’s bake a movie…

Blueberry Pie Cupcakes

White cake filled with blueberry pie filling and topped with Swiss meringue butter cream with fresh blueberries.

I may have set the bar a little high for my very first blog post. These cupcakes are probably the best thing I’ve ever baked. Ever. And normally a statement like that is reserved for something with cream cheese icing. (As a baker I’ve noticed people tend to flip out over said icing.)

For those of you who have seen the movie the blueberry pie is an obvious reference. If you haven’t, just click on the “vomit” link above. Or don’t. Then you might not want to eat these cupcakes. ; ) The pez is a shout out to Vern – “If I could only have one food for the rest of my life? That’s easy. Pez. Cherry flavored Pez. No question about it.”

I must admit these cupcakes took a little bit longer to make than normal, only due to the addition of the blueberry pie filling. But you could easily make the pie filling the night before or even simpler, buy premade filling. I would highly recommend making the filling, because it’s super tasty with a nice hint of cinnamon. The cake is a rich and moist white cake with a wonderful note of almond that stands up to the blueberry filling. The Swiss meringue butter cream on top is so creamy that it’s almost like biting into a cloud, a velvety delicious cloud. The addition of the pureed blueberries gives it another nuance of flavor. My frosting ended up being a little tangy because the blueberries are now out of season. But, it was a nice union to the sweet filling. Please try to make these before the fresh blueberries disappear completely from the produce aisle.

INGREDIENTS

For the cupcakes:
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature, divided
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. almond extract
2¾ cups cake flour, sifted
1½ cups sugar
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the filling:
14 oz. frozen blueberries (do not thaw)
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of 1 small lemon
½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest

For the frosting
8 oz. fresh blueberries, rinsed
4 large egg whites
1¼ cups sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

Directions

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

  1. For the cupcakes, in a small bowl whisk together the egg whites, ¼ cup of the whole milk, vanilla and almond extracts.  Sift cake flour into the bowl of electric mixer. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt to the cake flour and stir on low to combine for 30 seconds.  Continue with the mixer on low speed and add in the butter. Mix until the mixture resembles wet sand, then add in the remaining ¾ cup of milk. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 90 seconds more.  Add the egg white mixture in three additions with the mixture on low speed. Beat for 20 seconds after each addition, scraping down the sides when necessary. Divide the batter between 2 cupcake pans lined with paper liners. Fill each two-thirds of the way, making sure not go over. Place pans in preheated oven and bake for about 18 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through and remove when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Leave cupcakes in the pan to cool for about 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  2. For the filling, combine the frozen blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon stick, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a medium-large saucepan.  Stir to blend. The mixture will be clumpy and not seem like a liquid, but as the frozen blueberries begin to defrost and release moisture the juices will thicken. Continue to cook over medium-high heat until the mixture begins to boil, about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Once the mixture reaches a boil, continue boiling for 2 minutes more, stirring constantly.  Allow the mixture to cool completely before filling the cupcakes. I transferred the filling to a medium bowl and placed in the fridge to speed up the cooling process. You can make the filling the day before and store in a closed container in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before filling cupcakes.
  3. To fill the cupcakes, use a small paring knife or a fancy cupcake hole cutter to cut a small cone out of the center of the cupcake. (I discarded the bite size pieces. And by “discard” I mean I presented them on a small plate to my husband.) Spoon a tablespoon of the blueberry pie filling into each hole.
  4. For the frosting, 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. This should take about 8-10 minutes.  Add the softened butter 2 tablespoons at a time with the mixer speed on medium. Wait until each addition has been incorporated before adding more.  If the frosting isn’t thick and smooth after butter additions continue to whip on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes or longer, until smooth. Puree blueberries in food processor or blender until completely smooth.  Add puree to frosting and mix with flat beater on medium speed until completely incorporated.
  5. To decorate add frosting to a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe big swirls on top of cupcakes covering the pie filling.
  6. Take a big ol’ bite. Enjoy!!!

Source: Cupcakes adapted from  Annie’s Eats; blueberry pie filling adapted from Annie’s Eats; Frosting via Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes