Sunday, April 29, 2012

cinnamon sugar croissants

In my opinion, the only thing better than fresh, flaky buttery croissants are cinnamon sugar croissants. You all know about my obsession cinnamon, and these croissants are my favorite pastry in the universe -- and that sure is saying something if you know anything about my obsession with pastries! This is a variation on my classic croissant recipe (which you can find here). This recipe produces perfect croissants with a pillowy interior and a crisp, shattering crust. To take these already luxurious pastries to an amazing, cinnamon-sprinkled level, I added a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar before I rolled them into crescents, and another sprinkling on top after the second egg wash, right before popping them in the oven to bake. I know making croissants can be intimidating at first, but the result is so rewarding. My mom commented that the rich, buttery aroma accompanied by the intensified fragrance of cinnamon sugar was the best way to wake up early on the Saturday morning that I made these, and to this day these is one of my family's all time favorite breakfast treats. I hope you enjoy my favorite breakfast pastry as much as I do!
With love,

Follow my Step-by-step croissant recipe,
  • Add a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar before rolling into crescents
  • Add another generous sprinkling of cinnamon sugar before popping into the oven after the second egg wash
Pillowy interior with cinnamon sugar rolled right into the pastry!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

oreo cheesecake cookies

 The Cheesecake Factory's menu is like a mini-novel, and sometimes it can be overwhelming to choose from their seemingly never-ending list of cheesecakes. Although I will sometimes venture out and try out new flavors, I always seem to go back to the Oreo cheesecake. You just can't go wrong with it. The simple combination of crunchy Oreo cookies against the sweet, cream cheese goodness is unbeatable. Alas, cheesecake is a time-consuming and not very portable dessert, i.e. not good for bake sales or sharing. But what if I told you you could create this decadent treat in the form of a cookie. Enticed yet? These soft, chewy cookies taste just like cheesecake and are rolled in Oreo crumbs. A cookie rolled in cookies. What's not to love?
With love, Erica
Fresh from the oven.

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup Oreo cookie crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and well-combined.
3. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and mix until the ingredients are well-combined. Add the flour and mix on low until the flour is incorporated. Stir in the mini chocolate chips with a rubber spatula.
4. Place the Oreo cookie crumbs in a small bowl. Scoop the cookies into about 1½ to 2″ balls and then roll in the cookie crumbs. Place the cookie balls on the baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the tops are slightly puffed.
5. Cool on the pan for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

(Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

cookies n' creme cupcakes

Milk's favorite cookie, in cupcake form. These cupcakes are the best chocolate cupcake recipe I've ever made, with a whole oreo cookie baked into the bottom, all topped off with a swirl of buttercream frosting that tastes just like my favorite cookies n' creme ice cream. The frosting was so delicious (my go-to buttercream recipe with cookie crumbs in it), I did  could have eaten half of it with a spoon! Plus, the oreo surprise in the bottom is so much fun (because who doesn't love oreos?). The cookie stays firm and crunchy, which makes it interesting to eat against the soft, moist cake, but it gives the whole thing a really lovely crunch.
With love,

Isn't that cool? An oreo surprise baked into the bottom!
Cookies N' Creme Cupcakes
 Makes 15 cupcakes.

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup hot, strong-brewed coffee
3/4 cup bread flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
15 Oreo halves, with cream filling attached

Oreo Buttercream

1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup I Can't Belive It's Not Butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons milk or heavy cream
4 cups powdered sugar
16 Oreos, finely crushed (I used my food processor)

  • Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. Twist Oreos in half and set aside the extra cookies for later. Place the side with cream filling in the bottom of each cupcake liner, cream-side facing up.
  • Place chocolate and cocoa in a medium bowl and pour the hot coffee over the mixture. Whisk until smooth and transfer to the refrigerator to cool completely, 20-30 minutes.
  • Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl; set aside. 
  • Whisk oil, eggs, vanilla, and vinegar into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until batter is smooth.
  • Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake until cupcakes are set and firm to the touch, 17-20 minutes. Allow to cool in pans 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. 
  • For the frosting, cream butter, vanilla and milk. Slowly add in powdered sugar until creamy and fluffy. Mix in crushed oreos until well combined. Frost cupcakes! (I garnished mine with fun sized mini oreos!)
Adapted from BakerGirl 

    Friday, April 20, 2012

    cinnamon bun muffins (in half an hour!)

    You all know about my slightly insane love for cinnamon. Nothing beats a warm, buttery cinnamon bun for breakfast -- but since the recipe usually calls for a yeasted dough, they take overnight planning to make, which a little too much hassle for all of us busy people with a weekday cinnamon craving! These muffins are big, buttery, and full of fragrant, ground cinnamon, the perfect substitute for traditional yeasted buns. When they take only a half an hour from start to finish, why not treat your family to a cinnamon-filled weekday breakfast sometimes? Oh, and nothing beats how delicious your kitchen will smell with these heavenly muffins baking in the oven.
    With love,

    Cinnamon Roll Muffins
    Makes 12


    1 cup buttermilk
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    1 egg
    3 cups flour

    5 tbsp butter, softened
    1 cup brown sugar
    1 1/4 tsp cinnamon

    1 cup powdered sugar
    2-3 tbsp milk
    1/4 tsp vanilla

    1. Preheat oven to 375F
    2. In a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar, baking soda, salt, vanilla and egg. Add the buttermilk, then the flour. Stir until thoroughly combined.
    3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for two minutes. Roll the dough into a 12-inch by 24-inch rectangle. 
    4. Spread with butter, then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture.
    5. Roll the dough into a log beginning with the wide side. Stretch the log slightly as you roll to keep it tightly rolled. 
    6. Cut the log into 12 even pieces
    7. Place the rolls swirly side up in a greased muffin pan
    8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the muffins to cool for about 5 minutes, then remove them from pans to a cooling rack. Combine ingredients for glaze and drizzle over the top

    japanese strawberry shortcake

    Japanese strawberry shortcake is nothing like the strawberry shortcake you may have sampled in America (sweet biscuits topped with strawberries and whipped cream). Although I love the American version (which I will hopefully write about sometime soon!), Japanese strawberry shortcake will always hold a place in my heart. It is a moist, light, airy, not overly sweet sponge cake topped with layers of billowy sweet whipped cream frosting and filled with succulent, red strawberries. In Japan these cakes are most popular around Christmastime due to their holiday coloring; however, with all of the ripe, beautiful strawberries that springtime gives us, I think spring is the perfect time to make this light, succulent dessert.
    With love,
    Inside the cake

    You can be fancy and frost it like this...

    Or go for the rustic look and frost it like this -- anything goes!
     Adapted from La Fuji Mama
    4 large eggs, white and yolks separated
    4.2 ounces (120 grams, 9.5 tablespoons) granulated sugar, sifted once
    3 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    4.2 ounces (120 grams, 14 tablespoons) cake flour, sifted 3 times
    1.2 ounces (22 grams, 2.3 tablespoons) butter, melted
    Whipped cream frosting:
    1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
    4 teaspoons cold water
    1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
    1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    For the simple syrup:
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    1/4 cup water
    8 – 10 ounces fresh strawberries

    Sponge Cake
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch circular cake pan and lightly dust with flour.
    2. Add the sugar to the egg whites, and beat the egg whites until they are stiff and glossy.
    3. Add the egg yolks to the egg white mixture, and gently whisk until the yolks are incorporated.
    4. Add the milk, vanilla extract, and flour (in that order) to the batter and gently fold them into the batter with a spatula.  Fold in the melted butter until it is well combined.
    5. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan, and get rid of any air bubbles in the batter by dropping the pan on a counter once or twice.  Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes.  The cake is done when it is golden brown and springs back when pressed lightly.  Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack. Run a blade around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake, and remove.
    To make the Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting:
    1. Put the cold water in a small saucepan.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of the water and let stand for 5 minutes (do not stir).  Place the saucepan over low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon just until the gelatin dissolves.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and cool to room temperature.
    2.In a mixing bowl, combine the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla and beat until slightly thickened.  Then, while beating slowly, gradually pour the gelatin into the whipped cream mixture.  Then whip the mixture at high speed until stiff.
    To make the Simple Syrup:
    1. In a medium saucepan combine the sugar and water.  Bring the water to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
    Assembling the Cake
    1. Reserve 6 to 1o strawberries for decorating the cake.  Slice the remaining strawberries into thin slices (about 4 slices per strawberry).
    2. Slice the sponge cake horizontally into 2 layers.
    3. Place one sponge layer cut-side up on a cake board or serving plate and lightly crush the surface with the simple syrup.  Spread a thin layer of whipped cream over the cake layer and arrange the strawberry slices over the surface.  Spread an additional layer of whipped cream over the strawberries.  Brush the cut-side of the second layer with the simple syrup and place it over the first layer.  Frost the sides and top of the cake with the remaining whipped cream.  Decorate as desired and garnish with the reserved strawberries.

    Sunday, April 15, 2012

    butter croissants

    Rich, warm and buttery fresh from the oven
    A luxurious, weekend breakfast
    I have to be honest, the task of making my own croissants from scratch was intimidating at first; however, once I got immersed in the challenge, not only was it fun, but the process was much more fool-proof than I expected. Plus, the finished product was so worth it -- I've never experienced anything quite like pulling these flaky, light pastries out of a warm oven, with their luxurious buttery aroma wafting around my kitchen. And they tasted that much better knowing that I made them with my own hands. These croissants were magically delicious. They had a soft, delicate, pillowy interior with a crisp, buttery, outer layer that shattered upon being bitten into. So have no fear, I will walk you through step-by-step and on making these melt-in-your mouth croissants at home.
    With love,

    Adapted from Best of Fine Cooking: Breads
    For the dough:
    4 cups all purpose flour (plus more for rolling)
    1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cold water
    1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons milk (I ran out of milk, so I used almond milk)
    1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
    1 tablespoon + 1 scant teaspoon instant yeast
    2 1/4 teaspoon salt
    Butter Layer:
    1 1/4 cups cold, unsalted butter
    Egg wash:
    1 egg
    Day 1
    1. Combine all of the dough ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. 
    2. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes, and medium speed for an additional 3 minutes. 
    3. Place the dough on a lightly floured plate, wrap well in plastic, and refrigerate overnight
    Day 2
    1.   Cut the cold butter lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick slabs (about 3 slabs per stick) and arrange the pieces on a sheet of parchment paper to form a 6x6 inch square. 
    2. Top with another sheet of parchment and pound the butter with even strokes with a rolling pin. 
    3. As the pieces begin to stick together, use more force and roll it into a 7.5x7.5 inch square.
    4. Trim the edges off and pound them into the center of the square.
    5. Refrigerate while you roll out the dough.
    6. Unwrap the dough and lay it on a lightly floured surface. 
    7. Roll it into a 10.5 inch square.
    8. Take the butter square out of the fridge and unwrap and place it on the dough so that the points of the butter square are centered along the sides of the dough square. 
    9. Fold the flaps of dough over the butter and press the edges together to completely seal the butter inside the dough.
    10. Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough, and roll it into an 8x24 inch rectangle, focusing on lengthening rather than widening. 
    11. Pick up one short end of the dough and fold it over the dough, leaving one third of the dough exposed, and roll it over once more (fold the dough into thirds)
    12. Freeze for 20 minutes. 
    13. Repeat the rolling and folding process (steps 10-12) 2 more times.
    14. Cover the dough and refrigerate overnight.
    Day 3
    1. Unwrap and lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough.
    2. Roll the dough into a long and narrow strip (8x44 inches) *hang in there! its a great arm workout!
    3. After you have finished rolling, check to make sure that there is enough excess dough on both ends to allow you to trim the ends straight and allow for the remaining strip of dough to be 40 inches long.
    4. Lay a tape measure lengthwise along your dough. On one side, mark the dough in 5 inch intervals. On the other side, mark the dough at 2.5 inch intervals. Make diagonal cuts by positioning a ruler at the top corner and the first bottom mark (2.5" side). With a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough diagonally along these lines to form 15 triangles.
    5. Shape the croissants by making a 1/2 inch notch in the center of the short side of each triangle (this gives them a crescent shape). Hold the dough and gently elongate it without squeezing or compressing. Lay the croissant on the counter with the notched side closest to you and roll the dough away from you toward the pointed end. Flare your hands outward as you roll to make the "legs" longer. 
    6. Bend the two "legs" toward each other in a crescent shape and place on a baking sheet (I recommend around 5-7 croissants per sheet).
    7. Brush the croissants with egg wash (place leftover egg wash in the fridge to use later)
    8. Proof the croissants for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (Or proof them overnight in the fridge, and let them come to room temperature for about an hour before baking in the morning)
    9. Brush them once more with egg wash.
    10. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
    11. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway, until they have a nice golden brown color and darkened edges. 
    12. Cool and enjoy!

    Saturday, April 14, 2012

    lemon blueberry muffins (low fat with greek yogurt!)

    Is there anything more perfect to welcome spring than the refreshing taste of plump blueberries and fragrant lemon zest? I showcased these big, juicy blueberries, in a moist, rich, tart lemon-y muffin.
    I love putting Greek yogurt in my muffin recipes because it gives richness, tang, and moisture to the crumb without being heavy (it is important to use Greek yogurt because it really helps the muffins retain their moisture). In addition to giving the muffins an addition depth of tang and richness, Greek yogurt makes them lower in fat, so they won't weigh you down during all of your fun, springtime activities. I shared these with some friends at school, and they all couldn't believe that they were healthy!
    I love to enjoy one of these sweet little muffins alongside my lunchtime salad instead of a slice of bread. Delicious.
    With love,
     Lemon Blueberry Muffins (with Greek Yogurt)
    Inspired by Bits of Taste
    Dry Ingredients:
    2 cups all purpose flour
    1/2 tsp of salt
    1 tbsp baking powder
    3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons caster sugar
    1 6 oz. container blueberries

    Wet ingredients:
    2 eggs
    3/4 cup vegetable oil
    1 7oz container Greek yogurt (I used Fage 0%)
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    Juice of 1 small lemon
    grated zest of 1 small lemon

    1. Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
    2. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Stir in blueberries and mix well.
    3. Whisk together the eggs, oil, yogurt, vanilla extract, lemon juice and zest in a mixing bowl.
    4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well. Spoon into 12 muffin cups until about 95% full. Place some blueberries on the top to have nice, blueberry filled muffin tops.
    5. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden brown on the top.
    6. Test with a skewer, if the skewer comes out clean, the muffins are done! Remove and cool on the rack.
    7. Best served warm, or you can save them for a day or two in an airtight container or freeze them.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    pane zebra

    Such a luxurious breakfast!
     I love croissants as much as anyone, but they take so long to make! This is a little recipe that I made up called "Pane Zebra," or Zebra Brioche. It is super simple and easy to make, and looks so elegant and fancy! All of those thin, delicate little strips of chocolate really add something special to these sweet, fluffy breakfast rolls, which is why I named them Pane Zebra. These rolls have a base of Cuban Pane Suave, a delicious sweet roll from the island of Cuba, which can be made super easily in the bread machine. I filled it with a cocoa block and rolled it out multiple times to get the striped chocolate effect. Your morning will certainly be brightened by these little stripes of chocolate.
    With love, Erica

    An assortment of rolls and croissants
    Look at those zebra stripes!

    Bread Machine Pan Suave
    Adapted from Cuban Pan Suave
    • 2 packages active dry yeast
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 cup warm water (100-110 degrees F)
    • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
    • 2 large eggs, beaten
    • 2 teaspoons salt, plus a little more for egg glaze
    • 4 to 5 cups bread or all-purpose flour
    • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (I used poppy seeds)
    • 1 tablespoon melted butter

    Cocoa Block :
    Adapted from Last but not Furno
    1 egg  white (keep the yolk for an egg wash later)
    1/4 cup all purpose flour  
    1/4 cup sugar  
    1/2 cup (4 fl oz) milk  
    1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
    1 tablespoon butter 
    • Add the ingredients for the pan suave in the order directed by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle. 
    • Prepare the Cocoa Block: In a bowl put the egg white with the sugar and flour and stir to obtain a smooth and creamy consistency . Pour the milk in a saucepan and bring to boil, add the cocoa and stir quickly. Add the egg white mixture and stir and cook until thick. 
    • Quickly add the butter and stir. Let cool at room temperature.  
    • Put the cocoa mixture between two sheets of plastic film and press to form a square (you can use a rolling pin) and then put it into the fridge. 
    • Once the dough cycle is done,  deflate the dough and roll it out in a rectangle on a floured surface. Place the cocoa block into the center and fold into Thirds, starting with the top third then fold the bottom third of the rectangle up over the dough. Rotate it 90 degree (That I know the narrow end faces you, keeping the seam on your right) and roll out again (1-2-3-4). Fold the dough I know That the two short edges meet in the center and then fold the dough in half, like a book. Rotate it 90 degrees (you have four layers and the the seam is on your right). Roll out the dough again (5-6-7-8). (See Diagram) 
    •  Cut the dough into 1/2in strips and roll to form the rolls or cut into triangles and shape into croissants (9-10). 
    • Put Them on a baking sheet and the rise for about 1 hour.
    • Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until golden brown

    Saturday, April 7, 2012

    funfetti cupcakes for two

    After making my chocolate cupcakes for two, I was inspired to make another mini batch of cupcakes. This time, I was in the mood for Funfetti cupcakes. I love sprinkles in my birthday cake -- they make a boring (but delicious) vanilla cake a million times more fun! Because life is so much more fun in color :)
    I decided to go all out and topped mine with a fun hodgepodge of sprinkles (hey, this is funfetti right?!) -- which included little pink dinosaurs, mini race cars, and a bunch of other loud, sparkly sprinkles. Looks like a party to me!
    With love, Erica

    Adapted From Chocolate and Carrots
    • 1 tablespoon canola oil
    • 1 tablespoon skim milk
    • 1 egg white
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 4 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 tablespoon sprinkles
    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    2. Beat the canola oil, egg, milk, vanilla extract, and sugar together.
    3. Add in the flour and baking powder.
    4. Add in the sprinkles. Don’t over stir.
    5. Pour into two prepared muffin liners in a muffin pan.
    6. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
     Vanilla Buttercream Frosting for Two
    Adapted from Sweet Peony
    1/4 cup (1/2) stick unsalted butter, softened
    1-1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
    2-3 teaspoons water
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
    In a medium bowl, beat butter and 1 cup of powdered sugar together using a hand mixer.  When combined and fluffy, add 2 teaspoons water and the vanilla and mix until combined.  If the frosting is too stiff, add more water.  If the frosting is too runny, add more powdered sugar. Frost your cupcakes, and top with fun sprinkles!

    Monday, April 2, 2012

    chocolate cupcakes for two

    Ever find yourself in the mood for a cupcake? A nice, rich, moist, chocolate cupcake? But you don't have the time/ingredients/need for an entire batch of 12? I found myself in one of those moods, and I wanted a quick, no-mess, recipe that would give me two cupcakes, one for me, and one to share. And here it is! I topped these luscious chocolate-y cupcakes with a chocolate buttercream that had just a hint of coffee -- because I believe there are few better flavor combinations than coffee and chocolate.  I love the idea of making cupcakes in batches of two, as extra cupcakes are not the easiest thing to pop in my bag and share with friends (especially with all of that pretty icing!). So relax, and enjoy a batch of cupcakes just for you and someone special, and for once don't worry about what you'll do with the extras.
     With love, Erica

    Adapted from Manhattan Craft Room

    Chocolate Cupcakes for Two
    3 tablespoons flour
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder
    1/8 teaspoon baking soda
    pinch salt
    2 tablespoons cold water
    1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    1/16 teaspoon vanilla
    1 tablespoon chocolate chips (optional)

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a small bowl. In a second small bowl or spouted measuring cup, combine the wet ingredients. Add the dry to the wet and stir till combined, whisking well. Add the chocolate chips (who doesn't love extra chocolate?!). Bake for 18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool before frosting.

    Mocha Buttercream Frosting
    *you may have a little bit of frosting leftover, as I like my cupcakes with a lot of icing!
    • 1-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 3 tablespoons dry milk
    • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
    In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar, cocoa, and coffee. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.