Posts Tagged 'Martha Stewart Living'

Homemade Peeps for Easter

Let me start by saying that as I was cutting and sugaring my homemade Peeps, I was thinking of angles for this post.  The thing that kept consistently coming to mind is that this project is solely for people with entirely too much time on their hands who like to make messes.  Grumble, grumble, moan, moan.  Then, I tasted one and realized that the mess and effort was worth it.  The Easter Bunny can keep his Peeps!

I spotted this project in the April 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living.  Though I’m not big on Peeps (Reese’s peanut butter eggs are the best!), I am big on homemade marshmallows, so I had to give them a try.  If you like super fresh, fluffy, gooey marshmallow and crunchy sanding sugar, this one’s for you.

Marshmallow Easter Critters
Yield varies based on cookie cutters used

Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
2 envelopes (1/4 ounce each) gelatin (1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons)
2/3 cup cold water, plus 1/2 cup room-temperature water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Fine colored sanding sugar, for sprinkling and rolling

Coat a 9 1/2-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, and dust with confectioners’ sugar, tapping out excess. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in the bowl of a mixer. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften.

Meanwhile, heat granulated sugar and room-temperature water in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush. Cook until syrup reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stir syrup into softened gelatin, and keep stirring for a few minutes to cool. Whisk on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, 8 to 10 minutes. Whisk in vanilla. Spread mixture into baking sheet using an offset spatula; sprinkle with sanding sugar. Let stand for 1 hour to set.

Cut out marshmallows using your favorite Easter cookie cutters (wipe cutters clean between each cut), and roll cut sides in sanding sugar to coat.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, April 2011

My notes:

  • To account for altitude, I cooked my sugar syrup to 228 degrees instead of 238 degrees.  My marshmallow was pretty soft, though…  We were jokingly calling the treats “Jeeps” (as in a cross between Jigglers and Peeps).  I enjoyed the texture, but I might take the syrup up to 232 or 234 next time to see how the marshmallow changes.  All you sea level people have it so easy. 😉
  • I needed the full 10 minutes to get my marshmallow to soft peaks.
  • If you want your treats to be thoroughly coated in the sanding sugar, make sure you cover the top quickly and well when you initially spread the marshmallow onto the baking sheet.  The sugar is only going to adhere to sticky surfaces, and the exposed marshmallow begins to set within a minute or two.
  • I dipped my cookie cutter in confectioners’ sugar between cuts so I didn’t have to wipe it off for every single treat.  I probably wiped it after every third or fourth cut.
  • I really wanted to use Wilton’s mini Easter cookie cutters for this project, but I couldn’t track down a set.  Instead, I used my smallest Easter-themed cookie cutter, which was a 2-inch-by-3-inch baby chick.  I was able to get 26 treats out of the sheet of marshmallow with quite a few scraps.

Homemade Peeps

Peep Interior

Recipe link: Marshmallow Easter Critters

Sweet “Potatoes”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!  Is it just me, or does it seem like it’s continuously been St. Patrick’s Day since last Saturday?  I suppose having it fall on a Thursday maximizes the pre-celebration.

I was thumbing through the March 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living the other day when I found this year’s St. Patrick’s Day project: Sweet “Potatoes” (since potatoes are oh so Irish!).  I’ve done Guinness bread and Guinness ice cream, and so many others have done some variation of Guinness cupcakes.  The “potatoes” are balls of cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and chopped walnuts rolled in cinnamon to emulate the look of real potatoes.  Fun and unusual, right?

Apparently, the unusual overrides the fun, at least initially.

The “potatoes” were already made when Dr. O came home yesterday evening, so he hadn’t seen what went into them.  I asked him if they looked like potatoes (so desperately wanting him to say “yes!”), and he said they didn’t.  I found out about 20 minutes later that he thought they really were potatoes that didn’t look like the kind of potatoes he was used to seeing.  Consequently, you should have seen his face when I asked him to take a bite.  He took the tiniest nibble off of an edge and wasn’t sure what to think…  Since he thought they really were potatoes in some form, he was expecting a savory bite; he was also completely caught off guard by the white cream cheese and butter interior.  Ha! Once he realized that the “potatoes” were sweet candies, he enjoyed them a heck of a lot more.  Perhaps that’s the lesson here: If you want to confuse/surprise adults or make something that kids will think is cool, this is the project for you.  I don’t see these flying off of a serving tray if people don’t know what they are, though.

For those of you with kids and/or a sense of humor, here’s the recipe:

Sweet “Potatoes”
Makes 40

4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
4 tablespoons softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
2 cups walnuts (toasted, cooled, and finely chopped)
Ground cinnamon

Beat butter and cream cheese with vanilla and salt until pale and fluffy. Mix in sugar and walnuts until smooth. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Roll dough (1 tablespoon each) between your hands. Shape into “potatoes.” Roll in cinnamon; brush off excess with a pastry brush. To create “eyes,” stick in walnut pieces. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Sweet Potatoes

The candies are definitely on the sweet side (to be expected since the bulk of the dough is made of powdered sugar), but the cream cheese and walnuts sure do make them tasty.  I think the cinnamon plays nicely with the walnuts, too.  They won’t knock your socks off, but they’re certainly a fun holiday project.

TIPS:  In order to make the candies look most potato-like, I found that brushing the cinnamon on with a pastry brush worked better than rolling them in the cinnamon. Grocery store potatoes have that uneven layer of soil on them, and rolling the candies coated them a bit too evenly.

Recipe link: Sweet “Potatoes”

Sour Cherry Crumb Cakes

It’s a Sweet and Saucy baking bonanza!  I swear, between the Daring Bakers’ Challenge on Thursday, a family dinner party on Friday, and dessert duty for Dr. O’s chamber group’s summer party on Saturday, I don’t know if I’ve ever baked so much in three days.

Today’s recipe was a fortuitous airport discovery.  I don’t normally read Martha Stewart Living (except for the holiday projects in the fall – love them!), but I picked up the July issue when our flight from San Diego was delayed earlier this summer.  It was packed full of fantastic summer recipes, but the recipe for Sour Cherry Crumb Cakes looked extra delicious.  I actually made these a couple of weeks ago for my Denver family and they were a big hit, so I figured they’d be perfect for the chamber party.

To start, I buttered my 9 x 9-inch square Wilton baking pan, dusted it with flour, tapped out the excess, and set the pan aside.

For the topping, I stirred together 4 tablespoons of unsalted melted butter, 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, 1/4 cup of packed light-brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon until the mixture was crumbly.  I set this aside as well.

To make the cakes, I whisked together 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  In the bowl of my stand mixer (though a regular hand mixer will work just as well), I creamed 1 stick of room-temperature butter with 3/4 cup of granulated sugar until it was pale yellow and fluffy.  Next, I beat in 2 room-temperature eggs (one at a time) and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  I turned my mixer down to the lowest speed and added the flour mixture and 1/4 cup of buttermilk in alternating batches (1/3 of flour mixture, 1/8 cup of buttermilk, 1/3 of flour mixture, 1/8 cup of buttermilk, 1/3 of flour mixture) until everything was just combined.

The recipe said to pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, but mine was too thick (and I was worried, let me tell you).  I spooned the batter into the dish and carefully smoothed it with an offset spatula.

For the cherries, the recipe said you could use either 1 pound (2 1/2 cups) of fresh pitted sour cherries or the same quantity of frozen (thawed) sweet cherries.  I’ve only seen Bing and Rainier cherries here in Denver (both sweet), so I decided to go with frozen sweet.  I had thawed them according to package directions before starting the recipe, so at this point, I just dotted the batter with them.  (Based on the quantity of cherries and the size of the pan, “dotting” ended up meaning covering almost the entire surface of the batter.)

To finish, I sprinkled the cherries with the reserved crumb topping and baked the dish for 1 hour at 350F.  (They should be golden and a cake tester should come out clean.)  I let the cake cool completely and cut it into 16 individual cakes to serve.

Sour Cherry Crumb Cakes

The results were so incredibly delicious!

The cake is super moist, the topping is a bit crunchy, and the bars just taste so *buttery* despite the fact that there’s less than a tablespoon of butter per serving.  They’re the perfect summer dessert.  I especially love that I didn’t have to make any adjustments for altitude and still ended up with what I consider to be ideal results…  I think the acidity of the buttermilk might have helped out a bit in that department.

Anyway, this one has achieved “permanent rotation” status.  I can’t wait for the next batch!

TIPS:  I think you can get away with using just about any type of fruit you’d like with these cakes.  I used 1 pound of frozen (thawed) mixed berries for my second chamber batch, and the results were delicious.  Peaches would be really tasty as well.

Recipe link: Sour Cherry Crumb Cakes

Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

Despite all of the moving chaos still present in my life, I’ve decided that today is the day I take a giant step back towards normalcy.  I cooked my own breakfast (no more Starbucks and cold cereal!), I’m hitting the gym, and I’m firing up this blog.  I haven’t started cooking full-on meals again just yet (thank you, Christopher, for green enchie leftovers) , but I have a few good stories to share from the past couple of weeks.  Let’s start with one of those now…

I’m a macaroni and cheese FIEND.  I’m too well-behaved (from a nutritional standpoint, at least) to eat it all the time, but it’s truly one of my favorite foods.  I even have a cookbook that is dedicated entirely to macaroni and cheese (thank you, Colleen!).

Several weeks ago, my friend Christopher had friends over for a meatloaf dinner with macaroni and cheese on the side.  He said the macaroni and cheese recipe – Perfect Macaroni and Cheese from the February 1999 issue of Martha Stewart Living – was to die for, so I picked up the ingredients.  This was about the time that moving chaos really started to set in, though, so I was struggling to stick with my scheduled menus.  In a comical turn of events, we actually ended up at my place one Sunday finishing up a baking project that we had started at Christopher’s place.  Dinnertime rolled around and I had the Perfect Macaroni and Cheese ingredients (and little else) in the refrigerator, so we decided to make it together while the cakes we had been baking were cooling.

The original recipe serves 12 people, so I had purchased ingredients for a half recipe.  First, we buttered a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish and set it aside.  Next, we took 3 slices of white bread, removed the crusts, and tore them into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch pieces.  We placed the bread in a small bowl, poured 1 tablespoon of melted butter over the top, tossed the mixture, and set it aside as well.

To make the cheese sauce, we started by heating 2 3/4 cups of milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  While the milk heated, we made the roux that would become the sauce’s thickening agent.  In a high-sided skillet, we melted 3 tablespoons of butter, added 1/4 cup of flour when the butter began to bubble, and cooked the mixture (stirring constantly) for 1 minute.

Whisking constantly, we slowly poured the hot milk into the flour mixture.  The next line of the recipe says, “Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.”  It probably should have said “continue cooking, and cooking, and cooking, and cooking…”  The process of thickening this sauce really did take forever.  It’s a good thing I had Christopher there to cheer me on as I whisked, because I would have stopped long before the sauce had reached an optimal thickness.

When the sauce was nice and thick, we removed it from the heat and added 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/8 teaspoon of grated nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon of ground black pepper, 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1 1/2 cups of grated sharp white cheddar, and 3/4 cup of grated Gruyere.  We stirred the sauce until it was well blended and set it aside.

Cooking the macaroni was the last step before we could assemble the casserole.  In a large saucepan of boiling water, we cooked 8 ounces of elbow macaroni until the outside of the pasta was cooked and the inside was underdone.  (Normally, this would be about 2 – 3 fewer minutes than the package instructions; at this altitude, it’s more like the exact recommended cooking time or 1 fewer minute.)  When the pasta was adequately cooked, we rinsed it under cold water, drained it well, and stirred it into the reserved cheese sauce.

Finally, we poured the noodles and cheese sauce into our prepared casserole dish.  We sprinkled the mixture with 3/4 cup of shredded sharp white cheddar and 1/4 cup of shredded Gruyere, scattered the buttered breadcrumbs on top, and baked the casserole at 375F until it was browned on top (about 30 minutes).  We let the dish cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes and served it with rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and green beans from the freezer.  There’s nothing wrong with dressing up a gorgeous dish with a few convenience items in a tight situation, eh? 🙂

Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

This macaroni and cheese was *really* delicious.  Truly.  It was creamy, nicely textured, and the breadcrumbs on top were killer.  I couldn’t count it as “perfect,” though, because I’ve been ridiculously spoiled by the macaroni and cheese at The Porch in Dallas, which I consider to be the standard by which all other macaroni and cheese should be judged.  There was something in the flavor profile of the cheeses I used that didn’t quite do it for me, but like anything, a dish is only as good as the ingredients you put into it.  Next time, I think I’m going to try the Pecorino-Romano variation given in the original recipe to see if that yields a flavor that is closer to what I want.  I’ll definitely give this one another shot, though.

TIPS:  I failed to plan ahead in the milk department, so I only had 1% milk on hand when it was time to make the roux.  For maximum creaminess, I should have used whole milk (and will next time).

Also, be sure to plan on grating your own sharp white cheddar and Gruyere, unless you have access to a (probably gourmet) grocery store that sells them pre-shredded.

Recipe link: Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

Marshmallow Bones

Drumroll, please…  I actually made marshmallows from scratch!  And I’m (obviously) so excited about it!

I picked up the October 2008 issue of Martha Stewart Living a few weeks ago because I wanted so badly to make batches and batches of Halloween treats.  There were so many cute ideas and I even collected a few ingredients, but I’m still in “move mode” and the month really got away from me.  This week, I realized it was now or never (or maybe 2009).  I kind of have a “thing” for marshmallows (I’ll eat the big ones straight from the bag as a treat), so I thought it would be fun to try the Marshmallow Bones recipe from the magazine.

To start, I lined 2 baking sheets with wax paper.  Next, I combined 1/2 cup of cold water and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract in the bowl of my stand mixer.  I sprinkled 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) of unflavored gelatin over the top and let it stand until it was softened (5 minutes).

Meanwhile, I brought 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup, and 1/4 cup of cold water to a boil in a small saucepan.  I attached a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and cooked the mixture until it was about 235F.  As soon as it hit that temperature, I removed it from the heat.

Using the whisk attachment of my stand mixer, I whisked the gelatin mixture on high for 30 seconds.  With the machine running, I poured the hot sugar mixture down the side of the bowl in a slow, steady stream.  I continued whisking the mixture on high until it was very fluffy and almost stiff (9 minutes).  I transferred the mixture from the mixing bowl to a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip.

In a continuous motion, I piped a small figure 8, then a straight 5-inch line, then another small figure 8 onto the baking sheets to form the bones.  Getting a consistent shape was definitely the hardest part!  I also left quite a few “tips” after I piped the bones, so I used a small paintbrush to smooth them out.  I let the bones stand, uncovered, for 8 hours.

When they were sufficiently dry, I generously sifted powdered sugar over the tops, turned them to coat, and brushed off the excess.  (“Turned them to coat” sounds easy, but I actually used a small, offset spatula dipped in powdered sugar to help pry them off.  They didn’t resist *too* much and they held their shape quite well in the process, but it’s not like they slid effortlessly off of the wax paper.)

(Oopsie on the upside-down plate!)

Oh, my.  If you love marshmallows, this is the recipe for you.  They have a classic marshmallow taste – nothing unusual there – but the texture is just amazing.  They’re so incredibly fresh.  I’ll admit the recipe is a bit of work and you do need some special equipment (I wouldn’t want to give this a whirl without a stand mixer and a candy thermometer), but I think it’s worth it.  Plus, the marshmallows keep for 2 weeks in an airtight container, so you can continue to enjoy the fruits of your labor for days and days.

Now that I have a good basic recipe, I’d like to shake things up with different shapes and maybe some toasted coconut or chocolate ganache.  The possibilities are endless!

TIPS: The marshmallow mixture becomes harder to work with as it cools, so it’s a good idea to use a large pastry bag to get as much mixture as possible in the bag.  If you have to keep stopping to load a smaller pastry bag, you’ll lose precious time.

Recipe link: Marshmallow Bones

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