Chocolate Cheesecake Stuffed Cupcakes with Ganache

I did some super secret daring baking this weekend, but I can’t do the big reveal until later in the month. I’m not too disappointed, though, because I have a stack of past baking endeavors just waiting for their internet debut. Like Chocolate Cheesecake Stuffed Cupcakes, for example.

These cupcakes — which are also floating around the internet as Black Bottom Cupcakes — remind me of the chocolate cake cookies Mike and I used to buy from the local grocery store and scarf down shamelessly. They had a cream cheese filling and when you heated them for a few seconds in the microwave, they were exquisite. In fact, I was secretly excited when Mike started eating less sugar, because that meant more cheesecake cookies for me! Oh sure, I would offer him some — but what a relief when he refused! Mike’s sugar abstinence aside, I knew I had to make these Chocolate Cheesecake Stuffed Cupcakes when I saw them. They were pure genius: moist chocolate cake AND creamy cheesecake combined in one cute cupcake! I was sure that even Mike with all his willpower wouldn’t be able to resist. I eagerly awaited the perfect occasion to make a batch.

I have a confession we may as well get out of the way: I’m a bit hokey. I like Scrabble. Mike and I are watching our way through Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I collect Nancy Drew books even though I’m over 10 years old. I own and love those turtle plates above. And I adore theme dinners! You know, you pick a theme ingredient or idea and create dishes to match. I finally got my chance to make the cupcakes as part of one of these very dinners. The theme was “stuffed,” so we dined on my semi-homemade Taco Stuffed Crescent Rolls (one of Mike’s favorites), a pan of hearty stuffed portobello mushrooms, and last but not least, the Chocolate Cheesecake Stuffed Cupcakes.


“Stuffed” Dinner — after which we were stuffed!

Never content to leave delicious enough alone, I decided to make a smooth ganache to drizzle over each cupcake, adding some goo factor. What’s chocolate without some gooeyness? It turned out to be an exceptional addition to an already exceptional cupcake.


Some ganache for good measure.

In addition to being delightful, these cupcakes are also extremely simple to whip up. It’s one of those great recipes where the taste far outweighs the effort. I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know what you think.

Chocolate Cheesecake Stuffed Cupcakes with Ganache


Recipe By:

JoyofBaking.com (cupcakes)
JoyofBaking.com (ganache)

Yields: 12 cupcakes

Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients:
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Cupcake Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour
1 cup (210 grams) light brown sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240 ml) water
1/3 cup (80 ml) unflavored vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Ganache Ingredients (optional):
8 ounces (227 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
1 tablespoons cognac or brandy (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners, or generously butter or spray each cup with a non stick vegetable spray.

Cream Cheese Filling: In your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until creamy and smooth. Set aside while you make the Chocolate Cupcake batter.

Chocolate Cupcakes: In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl mix the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until nice and smooth. Evenly divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups (resist the urge to overfill — remember that the cream cheese filling needs some space too). Spoon a few tablespoons of the cream cheese filling into the center of each cupcake.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the cream cheese filling is a little brown and the cupcakes feel springy to the touch (a toothpick inserted into the chocolate part of the cupcake will come out clean). Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Ganache: Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth. If desired, add the liqueur. Makes enough ganache to cover a 9 inch (23 cm) cake or torte.

These cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.


Ready to bake!



Enjoy!

Mango Raspberry Rosecakes

I’ve had a very important objective for awhile now. I think there comes a time in every baker’s life when they realize that they need perfect basics. I love to make new things, sweet things, and even the occasional odd thing, but you really need delicious bases on which to build. That’s why I’ve been determinedly scouring the internet for recipes, reviews, wives’ tales, photos, comparisons — you get the idea — for (drum roll, please) the PERFECT WHITE CAKE. Not a dry styrofoam white cake. Not a brick of white cakeness. I wanted a moist, tightly crumbed, perfectly dense white cake. It was my great fortune to find this very thorough white cake comparison on The Way the Cookie Crumbles during my search. I baked the author’s adaptation of Cooks Illustrated’s Classic White Cake, and I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot. I have a new perfect white cake base!

White cake does not a cupcake make, however, if you’ve got a hankering for experimenting and a reputation to uphold. For that reason, I decided to try a few new things along with my white cake: first, a sultry mango curd filling (the beautiful thing about filling a white cake with a curd is that white cakes typically use only egg whites, while curds use egg yolks — what a perfect pair). Second, buttercream roses.

My first brush with a mango occurred at an intimate table with friends in the curried, rosy air of Jaipur. I wish I meant the Indian city, but actually, I mean the small restaurant situated in an unassuming, bustling Charlotte strip mall. A group of college friends and I drove 45 minutes one night to South Boulevard for the delicious buffet. Mike and I were regulars, so the waiter already knew to bring me a diet coke. On this visit, though, at my friend’s suggestion, I also asked for a mango lassi — a cool, sweet mango yogurt drink. Perhaps they should rename it ambrosia and nectar, the fabled food of Greek gods, because it was definitely divine. Since that fateful meeting, I’ve had delicious mango pudding at another Indian restaurant and a refreshing frozen mango sorbet from the Indian grocery down the street. Mangoes make me think of sitar music, bright orange marigolds, and a beautiful love scene in the rain under an umbrella of flowers (if you haven’t seen Monsoon Wedding, you should!)


Monsoon Wedding: Dubey and his love in the rain under a marigold umbrella.

In short, I love mangoes. When I saw Smitten Kitchen’s version of mango curd, I immediately knew that I had to stuff it in a cupcake. Why is my reaction to beautiful things sticking them into baked goods? That’s probably a question for another day.

As for the buttercream roses, they answered my need for something pretty and simple on top of my cupcakes. I came across the beauties on Smitten Kitchen again, if it’s any indication of how much time I spent perusing her blog this week. I’d never tried to make an icing rose, but after watching millions (no, really, ask Mike how many I forced him to watch with me) of videos on the topic, I thought I’d give it a try. I whipped up a raspberry buttercream, bought a flower nail and some rose tips, and went to work. While my frosting was an imperfect consistency and it proved harder than it looked, I think the technique was a success. I can’t wait to try again with different frostings! I hope you’ll try it (and keep trying . . . and keep trying) if you haven’t already. If you want a great tutorial, I like this one and this one.

All of these delicious components — the perfect white cake, the tangy mango curd, and the raspberry buttercream — came together to form these Mango Raspberry Rosecakes.




Peekaboo! My mango curd is smiling.

The moist white cake envelopes the exotic and bright flavor of the mango and, topped with tart raspberry, forms a sweet, summery treat. The only thing I wonder, both because of my frosting rose difficulties and because the buttercream almost overpowered the mango, is if a raspberry cream cheese frosting might be a better choice. I’ll leave that up to you to decide. Either way, I know you’re going to enjoy these amazing flavors. Feel free to deconstruct these treats and use the perfect white cake base with other fillings and frostings, and the mango curd in other cakes (or even as a delicious spread for shortcake, shortbread cookies, or toast).

Mango Raspberry Rosecakes


Recipe By:

The Way the Cookie Crumbles (white cake, adapted to cupcakes)
Smitten Kitchen (mango curd)
-Me (buttercream frosting)

Yields: 25-26 cupcakes, 1-1.5 cups of mango curd filling

Perfect White Cupcake Ingredients:
2¼ cups cake flour (9 ounces)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites (¾ cup), at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 inch vanilla bean seeds)
1½ cups + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (11.35 ounces)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1½ sticks), softened but still cool

Mango Curd Ingredients:
1 15-ounce ripe mango, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar (depending on your preference for tart vs. sweet)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Raspberry Buttercream Ingredients:
(double this if you’re planning on attempting roses)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (white)
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
1/2 teaspoon imitation butter flavoring
1/2 teaspoon raspberry extract
2-6 tablespoons sweet milk, depending on consistency
Food coloring as desired

Extra supplies needed to create buttercream roses:
Flower nail
Rose tips #104 (I used two, to create two-toned roses)
Offset spatula
Patience

Make mango curd: This can be made a day in advance and refrigerated. Puree mango, sugar, lime juice and salt in processor, scraping down sides of work bowl occasionally. Add yolks; puree 15 seconds longer. Strain through sieve set over large metal bowl, pressing on solids with back of spatula to release as much puree as possible. Discard solids in sieve.

Set metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water); whisk puree until thickened and thermometer registers 170°F., about 10 minutes. Remove from over water. Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time. Cover with plastic wrap (directly on the curd to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate for several hours (or overnight). Note: I’m freezing my excess according to Fine Cooking’s instructions for lemon curd, that is, up to two months.

Make the perfect white cupcakes: Set oven rack in middle position. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cupcake pans with nonstick cooking spray or line with cupcake papers.

Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.

Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.

Add all but ½ cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1½ minutes. Add remaining ½ cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.

Divide batter evenly in cupcake pans and smooth tops of cupcakes. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15-16 minutes.

Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Transfer to wire rack for cooling completely, about 1½ hours. To fill with mango curd, core the middle of the cupcake using something like the cone method (not easy with such a moist cake, but no worries — your frosting will cover any mess you make). Pipe or spoon in as much mango curd as you can fit. Replace your cupcake “cone” and frost.

Make raspberry buttercream: Cream all ingredients (except milk) together. Add milk slowly as needed to produce desired consistency. If you’re planning on making roses, you want a thick, stiff frosting (but still smooth). For the roses, frost cupcakes lightly with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. Then create the roses on the flower nail and transfer to the top of the cupcake (use this tutorial or this one). Otherwise, frost as desired.

Process Photos:


Mango curd finished.




Perfect white cakes fresh from the oven.




Stuffed with mango curd and ready for frosting.




First frosting layer finished.




Roses added.




Enjoy!


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Milan Cookies

Saying that I love to try new recipes and techniques is an understatement. Even when I’m making a tried and true dessert that I’ve made repeatedly, I always have a crazy urge to try a new decorating technique or another twist. It was a wonderful decision, therefore, to join The Daring Bakers.

Each month, one of the Daring Bakers is responsible for hosting a challenge that they issue to all of the others. Bakers complete the challenge and everyone posts their results on the 27th of the month. This is my first month in the group, and I can already tell I’m going to love it.

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network (to see my Mallows, go to this post).

First and foremost, I think the Daring Bakers will encourage me to try recipes I might not otherwise consider. These Milan Cookies, for example, aren’t something I would have decided to try on my own, but they are delicious and sophisticated. I can picture them being served at tea; they’re so prim in their little paper bowls! The cookie filling is a thick ganache with a hint of orange zest that complements the slightly citrus flavor of the cookie itself. Everyone who tried these loved them!

Just a hint: I had some lemon curd frozen from my Lemon Burst Fairycakes, so I spread it on a cookie and gave it a taste. It was heavenly! You could even sandwich some lemon curd between two cookies and dip them in ganache! Clearly, these cookies have inspired me.


Milan Cookie with lemon curd filling in the place of ganache.

This recipe is from Gale Gand and Food Network, but of course, I tweaked some things. Changes to the recipe are marked in italics below. I hope you enjoy these cookies, and be sure to send me a photo and/or leave me a comment if you make them! I’d love to see your results!

Milan Cookies


Recipe By: Gale Gand (slightly tweaked — changes in italics)
Yields: about 50 sandwich cookies

Ingredients:
12 tablespoons butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon extract
1 1/2 cups flour
Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling ingredients:
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 orange, zested

Directions:

Cream the butter with a paddle attachment then mix in the sugar. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe thick 2-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan (note: it’s easier to pipe onto parchment if you “glue” it to the pan using some nonstick cooking spray), spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.

Cookie Filling: In a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl. Whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools). Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

NOTES on storage from Audax Artifex: Let cookies cool completely before storing them, or the residual heat will produce steam that will soften the cookies and accelerate spoilage. Separate layers of cookie with wax paper or foil.

In a dry climate, keep unfilled cookies crisp by storing them in a loosely covered container, such as a cookie jar without a snug lid. In a damp, humid climate, store in a tightly covered container.

Also keeping the unfilled cookies in an air tight container with a muslin bag of salt or bicarbonate of soda – this will absorb the dampness keeping your cookies crisp.

All of that said, I will tell you, my cookies got soft. We actually enjoyed them that way, so don’t fret if yours aren’t as crisp on day 2. Many of the Daring Bakers also tried fun combinations — chocolate Milan cookies with chocolate mint ganache, plain Milan cookies with no citrus, etc. So do some experimenting!

Process Photos:


Baking in the oven.



Cooling off (here you can see that a few were quite
wonky! To reduce the number of crooked cookies,
quickly and confidently pipe a thick, straight line.)



Mixing cookie filling.



The sandwich construction station!



LOTS of cookies!






Enjoy!

Visit the Daring Bakers (temporary) Blogroll to see more of these treats from amazing bakers!

Since I mentioned challenges, what’s the most challenging recipe you’ve tried?

Mallows

As I mentioned in my previous post, the July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. While the Milan cookies were delicious and dainty, the Mallows were scrumptious and indulgent. They were two very different types of cookies, but I learned from each recipe and enjoyed the variety! If I had to choose a favorite, though — and you know I do — it would be these Mallows.


Four types of Mallows (from back): Almond Mallows, Hazelnut Mallows, Cinnamon Mallows, and Plain Mallows

Mallows are chocolate-covered, marshmallow-topped cookies. The wonderful thing about these Mallows (besides the amazing flavor) is how versatile they are. Homemade marshmallows are very easily flavored and customized, so I was able to make four Mallow “flavors” with hardly any more trouble than just making one. I chose Almond, Hazelnut, and Cinnamon Mallows in addition to the plain.


Almond Mallows

Almond Mallows have an almond sliver between the cookie and marshmallow, and another atop the cookie. In addition, their marshmallows are flavored with vanilla, almond, and butter flavorings. The marshmallow is as rich as a buttercream frosting, and so tasty! I bet this version would also be delicious with some creamy almond butter piped on under the marshmallow.


Hazelnut Mallows

Hazelnut Mallows (my favorite!) have Nutella piped on under plain marshmallow, and are topped with toasted hazelnuts.


Cinnamon Mallows

Cinnamon Mallows have cinnamon and nutmeg flavored marshmallow, and a light dusting of cinnamon and cocoa powder on top.

Enjoy experimenting with flavors! Different sorts of nuts, spices, and extracts are all tools for tweaking your mallows. Some Daring Bakers piped a bit of jam or nut butter below their marshmallows for an added surprise. Use food coloring to denote different flavors of marshmallow. There’s a lot of room for creativity here.


All four types of Mallows again (from left): Cinnamon Mallows, Almond Mallows, Plain Mallows, and Hazelnut Mallows

Gale Gand’s original recipe seemed to need some tweaking, since Daring Bakers typically ended up with — I kid you not — hundreds of cookies, and only enough marshmallows to cover around 50. I’ve adjusted the recipe below to hopefully yield the correct amounts! Also, Gand’s original recipe called for melting semisweet chocolate and vegetable oil to make your coating. After reading that about half of the Daring Bakers’ were having trouble with their chocolate not setting — especially those who live in warm or humid climates — I decided not to take a chance with it. Instead, I used my beloved CandiQuik dipping chocolate, which dries in literally minutes! You can probably find this at Lowes Food or SuperTarget. A friend of mine over at Barbara Bakes uses Ghiradelli dipping chocolate, which is another option.

Enjoy playing with your Mallows! My family and friends loved these cookies, and I hope yours will too.

Mallow Cookies


Recipe By: Gale Gand (tweaked quite a bit!)
Yields: about 80 small (bite-sized) Mallows

Cookie Ingredients:
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
1.5/8 teaspoon baking soda (this is an odd measurement — eyeball it as best you can!)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1.5 eggs, whisked together (to get half an egg, crack it into a separate cup and lightly beat it; then discard 1.5 tablespoons and add the rest to the recipe)
Dipping chocolate (I used 2 bags of chocolate CandiQuik)

Homemade Marshmallow Ingredients:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
2 egg whites , room temperature
Flavoring (either Plain, Almond, or Cinnamon)

-Plain = 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
-Almond = 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/8 teaspoon almond extract, 1/8 teaspoon imitation butter flavoring, and 4 drops of yellow food coloring (optional).
-Cinnamon = 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch nutmeg

Directions:

Begin by making cookies:
1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough (see my tips for rolling out dough, below).
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 8 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

While cookies are cooling, make your marshmallows:
1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer (though soft ball stage can be eyeballed with a simple cold water test, I love having a candy thermometer around. Mine even has a line marked “soft-ball stage”).
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the flavoring of your choice and continue whipping until stiff (it will take around 15 minutes, so I hope you took your vitamins this morning!). Note: You can also separate the marshmallow into multiple bowls and make multiple flavors, but if you do, reduce the amounts of the ingredients so they don’t overpower the smaller volume they’re flavoring.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Now to finish the cooled cookies:
1. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat and cover with a cooling rack — this will be your drying rack!
3. Melt dipping chocolate according to package instructions. I like to set my bowl of chocolate in a larger bowl of hot water to keep it melted while I work. Just be careful not to let the water touch the chocolate, or it will seize and you won’t be able to work with it.
3. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot dipping chocolate (see my video demonstration below!).
4. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Now’s the time to add toppings if you wish, while the coating is wet. For a chocolate squiggle, let coating dry and use a ziplock of CandiQuik with the corner cut off to drizzle over cookies.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (unless you’re in a very hot environment and notice melting, in which case, store in fridge).

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Julie’s tips for rolling, gathered from various internet sources, my mother, and some lovely friends during a moment of panic:

  • Work with small batches (about 1/3 of the dough) at a time, while keeping the rest chilling in the refrigerator.
  • You can coat your workspace in equal parts confectioners’ sugar and flour if you’re worried about using too much flour (which can cause dough to get dry/tough).
  • Roll dough immediately from the refrigerator, turning it often and redusting lightly with flour mixture to prevent sticking.
  • If you don’t have a cool metal counter or marble slab (which I don’t), set some frozen vegetables out on your counter for a bit before you roll to cool it off. Then dry your workspace and roll. You can also refrigerate or freeze your rolling pin for a few minutes.
  • Have a sheet pan in the freezer. If you sense your dough is getting sticky/warm, put a sheet of wax paper on the dough and press the frozen sheet pan on top to cool it down quickly.

The One Minute Dipping Demonstration!
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvyI3i4nYLY&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0x2b405b&color2=0x6b8ab6&border=1]

Process Photos!


Ready to roll!




Fresh from the oven and not so pretty.




Getting organized to make my four types of Mallows (and not confuse them!)




Is it soft-ball stage yet? (notice my faithful Coke Zero in the background!)




Piping Nutella filling onto my Hazelnut Mallows. The more you can fit, the better!




For Almond Mallows, I used a bit of the almond marshmallow mixture to “glue” an almond sliver on the cookie before piping my marshmallow.




Marshmallows of all flavors piped on.




Dipping — see video above for a demonstration!




Finished!




Mmm! Have one of each!

Visit the Daring Bakers (temporary) Blogroll to see more of these treats from amazing bakers!

Baking to Freeze: Introduction!

New babies are such a joyous occasion, but the stress of getting used to a new, totally dependent little person in your life is sure to be a bit overwhelming. I’m so excited for my friend, A., who is expecting her new little one any day now (I’m sure it’s a girl, though we don’t actually know yet). She’s already so organized and has been nesting for months, but I wanted to do something to help her through the first busy days. What better than to do something I love (baking!) to support her as she adds to her family? I decided to make and freeze some dinners (and dessert, of course) for her to pop in the oven after Baby comes.

I’ve always loved the idea of giving friends gifts of food. Beyond merely supplying a need, personal, handmade gifts of food also supply warmth and affection. Sitting down to a hot meal is always satisfying and pleasant, and even moreso when it also represents the bond of friendship. It’s an intimate way to share a tiny piece of the load your friends are carrying. It’s lovely to be able to do something to help, and I hope the food turned out lovely for her.

The first step of creating A.’s meals was scouring the internet for which dishes would freeze well, thawing and baking instructions, and packaging tips. After all that searching around, I thought it might be nice to create a “one-stop” post on Willow Bird Baking about creating frozen meals. Hopefully this will be helpful for those of you with expectant friends, new neighbors, or even friends going through times of grief. Using this post, you ought to be able to bake one (or both) of two freezer-friendly casseroles and a batch of frozen cookie dough, print labels/thawing instructions, and get tips on preparing products for the freezer.

Now, onto the food! I chose two lasagnas for my freezing escapade. One is a Mexican Lasagna, which folks joke is neither Mexican, nor a lasagna! It’s very easy to throw together. The other is a Classic Italian Lasagna, which is Italian and is lasagna, and is much more time consuming. It’s a labor of love. Which casserole you choose really depends on your goal: if you want a quick and easy recipe, choose the former, but if you enjoy making more complex recipes, choose the latter (or both). I personally hadn’t made a “real lasagna” before, so I wanted to give it a shot! Finally, I chose to make some cookie dough for a dessert, since it freezes very well. Martha Stewart’s Chunky Peanut, Chocolate, and Cinnamon Cookies sounded hearty and delicious. Because of the large quantities of food, I decided to keep half and give half. That way the baking does double duty, and A.’s freezer doesn’t get overbooked!


LOTS of food!

Click on the recipe below that you’re interested in baking (or baking to freeze!) to find the recipe, printable labels, and thawing instructions:

Recipe #1: Mexican Lasagna

Recipe #2: Classic Italian Lasagna

Recipe #3: Chunky Peanut Chocolate Cinnamon Cookies

Finally, here are some great tips for freezing casseroles, to which I would add the following:

  • Consider packaging: disposable baking dishes are a kindness, since they won’t need to be returned. Make sure all of the dishes you’re preparing will fit in the freezer when packaged and wrapped!
  • Label your meals: In addition to the name of the dish, include instructions on thawing/baking, a “date packaged” and “good until” date, and the recipes (this will allow friends to calculate nutrition information, peruse ingredients, and even make the dish again, if they wish). I’ve included PDF labels for each of the dishes below, so feel free to download and print them. The labels can be cut out and glued on 4×6 index cards to make them sturdier.
  • Wrap food better than you think you need to. Double layers of plastic wrap, pack things in ziplock bags, etc.

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