Sunday, January 3, 2010

The holidays are just a good excuse to bake delicious things (Recipe Review)

E and I ordered a new comforter to go with the new sheets he got for Christmas, and even though it wasn't scheduled to arrive for another week or so, it came yesterday afternoon, which sent me running to the laundromat to wash everything and set up our new grown up bed! Just about everything we have is a hand-me-down from someone or other, and the comforter is sort of our first step towards our adult living space, whenever that happens. We had some lovely visitors last night into this morning, and once they left I got back into our wonderfully made-over bed and have not left yet. Thank you, laptops!

It's also incredibly frigid here, today. We took a walk to the bagel shop this morning with our guests, and it was 19° with a biting wind. Needless to say, it's another reason to stay in bed allllll day. What better time to review some recipes for some sweet things I've made over the last few weeks?

Red Velvet Cake Balls
Once you get over telling everyone that you're bringing your balls to the party, you can feast on these delicious morsels. These came out surprisingly good for how intimidating they look when they're finished (everyone was shocked that I had made these). I did half in dark chocolate and half in white, and drizzled the contrasting color chocolate on each. They came out great, but the dark chocolate ones were my favorite, probably because the chocolate was thicker and there was therefore a higher chocolate:cake ratio. Also, since red velvet cake is still sort of a Southern Thing, I can never find the boxed mix in stores, so I had to make a red velvet cake, which leads me to...

Grandmother Paula's Red Velvet Cake
Whenever I need to make something sweet, I usually trust Paula Deen, queen of things-bad-to-eat. I've made a few other recipes for red velvet cake and have always come up sort of puzzled over all the fuss about it. It always was kind of dry and frustrating -- it was okay, but after a piece of red velvet cake i just wanted some chocolate cake. After making this recipe with E's help, though, I get it. Red velvet cake is sweet without being overly so, with juuuust a hint of chocolate. It's dense but light, and this recipe made a superbly moist cake. I will definitely be making this again as a cake/cupcakes, but if I decide to make the aforementioned cake balls again, I'll probably look for a dryer recipe (or just a box, GD it). When you mix the cake with the frosting for the cake balls, I found this recipe to be too moist, and it created a sort of mushy texture overall. I think I'm the only person who felt this way, so it might just have been me. Overall, it's a great recipe for red velvet cake.

I am pretty sure I'd never really had blondies before making this recipe the other night to satisfy a holiday-enhanced sweet tooth. I've seen them and I think I've tasted them, but never really appreciated them. They definitely have a different taste/texture than brownies, but they are delicious. I used light brown sugar for this recipe since I didn't have dark brown on hand, and they came out great. I also threw in about 1/2-3/4 of a cup of mini marshmallows I had in the cupboard, which added an extra touch of sweetness to the finished product. They were surprisingly easy to whip up and the smaller portion made with this recipe meant we weren't gorging on sweets for a week, which is always good.

Banana Cupcakes with Honey Cinnamon Frosting
I mentioned previously that we were lucky enough to receive a standing mixer from E's mom for Christmas this year, for which we are very appreciative and excited! I was dying to make something with it, but our pantry is a little empty due to holiday traveling, so I decided to make these banana cupcakes since they didn't require any fancy baking supplies. I also learned a little trick, since we had bananas that were ripe for eating but not for mashing up and baking with. It's pretty well-known that you can put bananas in a brown paper bag and quicken their ripening in a day or two, but I did some googling and discovered that you can lay your bananas on a cookie sheet and put them in an oven at 300° F. Just keep an eye on them and take them out when the skin is mostly brown. They'll be much softer and should be fine for mashing up for whatever recipe you need them for! The cupcakes are dense and sweet, and if you leave them unfrosted you can take them for breakfast if you'd like. Mine didn't rise much in the oven, so next time I'll fill the muffin cups a little more than she recommends.

I didn't make her frosting due to a lack of confectioner's sugar (it's cold and the store is 2 whole blocks away), and instead improvised a cream cheese frosting with neufchatel cheese, adding some honey, maple syrup and cinnamon to complement the banana cupcakes. Unfortunately, when I halved the recipe I forgot to halve the butter, so the frosting is waaay too buttery and kind of gross. I sprinkled a bit of cinnamon and sugar on top to cut the butter taste, but it's still not great. Human error can ruin the best recipes!

E and I have been doing some serious nesting. Between getting a ton of housewares for Christmas, getting new bedding, and finally hanging some stuff up around the apartment, it is definitely feeling more and more like our home. We have decided to renew our lease for at least another year, so over our spring breaks we're probably going to do some painting. I'm thinking an accent wall in the bedroom, a fresh coat of paint in the bathroom, and a new color for the living room/kitchen/dining area. We'll see what happens. In the meantime, we need to find something amazing to hang on the wall over our bed to compliment the new bedding!

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