Cherry chocolate chip cupcakes

cupcakes with frosting

We celebrated Mr. Wonderful’s birthday over the weekend, so naturally I wanted to whip up something special to put a candle in. And since that man loves a good chocolate-cherry combo, I knew these cupcakes from One Sweet Mess would be perfect.

Since it’s January, I fully expected to use frozen cherries with this recipe, but lo and behold, our local market had fresh ones right up front. Yes, I realize it’s not cherry season. I didn’t ask questions. Hold your fire.

I like to start by separating wet and dry ingredients because I’m Type A like that. Just go with it. Here’s what you need:

Wet ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temp
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (full fat)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
    (I almost left this out because I didn’t have any. Don’t do that! It really makes that cherry flavor pop.)

Dry ingredients: 

  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (about 16) pitted cherries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Buttercream:

  • 1 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 2 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • Paste from 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, line a 12-cup muffin tin with cute, bow tie cupcake liners that your husband won’t notice, but you’ll be pleased with yourself, so do it anyway.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar until combined – followed by the eggs one at a time. Add the sour cream, vanilla extract and almond extract. I actually pulled out my hand mixer for this part of the job because my whisk makes life harder than it should be.

Now add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Again, the hand mixer worked beautifully here. About 30 seconds to a minute on low should take care of it. Use a rubber spatula to fold in a heaping, half-cup of chopped cherries followed by an equally generous amount of mini chocolate chips. Mix gently.

Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 of the way full. (An ice cream or cookie scoop makes it easy to transfer the batter.) Then, pop these in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. My gas oven took the full 25, but if you’re not sure, do the toothpick test at 20. Once done, allow the cupcakes to cool in the tin for a couple minutes before transferring elsewhere to cool completely.

Now, for the vanilla buttercream:  

If you’ve got a stand mixer, I applaud you. This frosting is perfect for it. I, however, do not, so my hand mixer was happy to oblige once again.

Cream that butter until light and fluffy.  This only took me about 30 seconds on low. Gradually add the powdered sugar to the bowl, stopping the mixer if necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl with your rubber spatula. Once all the sugar has been added, turn the speed up and beat it all together for a full minute.

Now add every bit of the lovely dark paste from that vanilla bean to your mixture. It won’t look like much, but it goes a long way. Drizzle in the heavy cream and whip it good one last time. Again, for about a minute.

Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag – or frost your cupcakes with a butter knife. Whatever creams your cake. Finally, give it a lil swirly and top with a fresh cherry.

Makes about 15 small cupcakes.

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Easy gingersnap cookies

gingersnaps
Friendsgiving celebrations usually call for a potluck. And when you’re the one who gets assigned the dessert, you don’t mess around. That’s why I pulled together a small batch of these ginger zingers to serve with my husband’s ridiculously good pumpkin ice cream for a recent shindig with friends.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups  flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 7 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Combine your flour, ginger, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Then, in a larger bowl, combine 3/4 cup sugar, butter, and brown sugar and beat with a mixer at low speed until well blended. Add the honey, vanilla, and egg to your sugar mixture and continue to beat. Now you’re gonna add that initial flour mixture, beating it all together. It will be granular, but well blended. Cover your dough with some plastic warp and freeze for at least half an hour.

Pour your remaining 1/4 cup of sugar onto a small plate and set aside. Lightly coat your hands in cooking spray and go ahead and shape that dough into 1-inch balls. You should end up with about 24-30 gumball-sized balls of dough. Then you’ll roll each ball around in your plate of sugar and place each one a few inches inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake these babies at 350° for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cool, serve and enjoy with ice cream. If you’re into that.

Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins

muffins

I recently came across these good morning muffins on The Lemon Bowl, a blog written by a recipe developer with a focus on seasonality. And with berries in full seasonal swing, baking seemed like good timing.

Not to mention, I recently acquired a silicone muffin pan as a wedding gift and figured I could christen it with these babies. Less clean-up? Sign me up.

This recipe is my slightly adapted version of The Lemon Bowl’s strawberry oatmeal yogurt muffins. Not a bad little breakfast, y’all. Especially when you un-healthy them with just a little pat o’ butter.ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup old fashioned oats
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup plain low fat yogurt (I used Greek vanilla yogurt)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil – slightly cooled (I used olive, not pictured)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, quartered

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray your muffin pan with cooking spray. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, egg, oil and vanilla. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Next, fold your strawberries into the batter. Using a spoon or ice-cream scoop, divide the batter evenly among 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

So berry good.

Place-and-bake cinnamon roll hearts

cinnamon roll

I got a little carried away with heart-shaped fare this weekend. We started our Saturday with these love-themed cinnamon rolls. No fuss. I just picked up a can of pre-made dough at the grocery store, rolled each pre-cut section into a heart and then baked as directed on 400 for about 10 minutes. Our Valentwins added some frosting and red sprinkles, and I served them alongside some fresh strawberries. Easy, festive and amusing.

Here’s an excerpt from our always-entertaining table conversations:

Me: “I thought we could make some heart-shaped pizzas again this year for dinner. You know, to celebrate Valentine’s Day.”

A.C.: “Isn’t Presidents Day coming up? Why don’t we make pizzas shaped like Abraham Lincoln?”

Clever, but way outside my realm of creativity, child. We stuck with the original plan: Heart-shaped flat bread, a few simple toppings and voila. Have a look. This gal even hand-cut the pepperonis into tiny hearts, y’all. Who am I?

heart pizza 2

heart pizza

Almond biscotti

IMG_0793

Almond biscotti
AbruzzoCibus.com

  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Stick unsalted butter (4 oz.), melted
  • 3Tbsp Marsala or other sweet wine
  • 2 tsp sambuca*
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract*
  • 1 Cup whole almonds with skins, lightly toasted, cooled and coarsely chopped if you like
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 ¾ Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½  tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt

*These flavorings can be interchanged with brandy, grappa or limoncello, based on your preference.

Stir together sugar, butter and flavorings in a large bowl. Then stir in the almonds and the eggs. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt until just combined. Chill dough, covered, for 30 min.

Preheat oven to 350° with rack in middle.

Using moistened hands, halve dough and form 2 (16 X 2-inch) loaves on a large baking sheet fitted with parchment paper. Or, form 3 smaller loaves for smaller biscotti.

Bake until pale golden, 20 – 25 min. Transfer loaves to a rack and cool for 15 min.

Cut loaves into ¾ inch slices using a serrated knife.

Arrange biscotti, with a cut side down, on the baking sheet with parchment paper, again, and bake until golden,

20 – 25 min. turning once, or less time if you prefer biscotti to be less crunchy. Transfer to rack to cool completely before storing.

Note: Keep in an airtight container at room temperature.  Biscotti will improve in flavor after 2 days.

Tiramisu

tiramisuTiramisu
AbruzzoCibus.com

The name means “pick me up,” and it does, indeed. There are many different versions of this popular dessert, but this is the true peasant version.

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 Tbsp sweet Marsala
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 250 grams (approx. 10 oz.) mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup strong coffee or espresso, cold and slightly sugared
  • 12  lady fingers, broken into thirds
  • 2 oz. combination of dark or milk chocolate, grated and dark cocoa

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together with an electric mixer until pale and thick. Slowly beat in the marsala and the water. Add the mascarpone, and beat until the mixture is thick and smooth. Next, drop three lady finger pieces in the bottom of each of  wine glass or other bowl shaped serving piece. Drizzle 1/3 to 1/2 of the coffee mixture over the lady fingers. Then, spoon in 1/3 to 1/2 of the mascarpone, and sprinkle with  the  chocolate mixture.

Repeat with one or two more layers (depending on the size of the glass) with the remaining ladyfingers, coffee, mascarpone, and chocolate. Cover and chill for 2 hours before serving.

Makes 4 to 6 servings, depending on the size of the glass.