Guinness Marshmallows

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Oh my gosh, it’s hard to believe that we’re almost half-way through March! I’m already making St. Paddy’s Day food and planning for Pi Day. To make time feel like it’s moving even faster, the clocks sprung forward an hour this weekend!

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But it’s finally starting to feel like Spring here in DC! The added hour of evening daylight is hard to get used to at first, but it definitely helps shake off the winter blues. Now, I LOVE Winter – the snow, the cold, the boots and chunky sweaters – but the beginning of Spring always feels so magical and hopeful.

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Pretty soon, it’s going to be time to start planting (we still have at least 1 more frost in DC) out in my little porch garden. But before the bounty of Spring, I’m still in Winter-baking mode, which means chocolate, citrus, and things I can bake without my usual trip to the Farmer’s Market to pick up fresh fruit.

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So last week, I busted out the candy-making equipment and my stash of Guinness. (I have to hide a few bottles or else they disappear when friends come over. 😛 ) And I whipped up a batch of Guinness Marshmallows, working off my original Homemade Marshmallow recipe from Alton Brown.

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These marshmallows use what [I think] is the perfect amount of Guinness: 8 ounces out of an 11-ounce bottle, leaving a little bit to sip while the syrup is cooking! 😉 The mallows are then coated with a bit of cocoa powder to bring out the malt in the Guinness. The marshmallows are cooked the same as vanilla mallows, but the heat needs to be reduced as the syrup cooks. So they’ll take a few more minutes to make because the bubbles in the Guinness can cause a catastrophic boil-over! (Trust me, I speak from experience…)

Click below for the recipe. If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments. And thanks for reading! Enjoy! 🙂

Download the recipe!

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Thin Mint Cheesecake

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It’s Girl Scout cookie time!! Which means I brought home a bag full of Samoas (Caramel Delights) and Thin Mints last week… I may have over-ordered on cookies, but I never felt like I had enough Samoas last year after my last box mysteriously disappeared. (I probably ate them and just forgot… Whoops!) But this year I’m prepared, and a few boxes will be going into the freezer for later. 🙂

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I’ve been wanting to make things out of Girl Scout cookies for a while, but other things always seemed to hit at the same time (Pancake Tuesday, St. Paddy’s Day, etc.). But this year, I’m making two things using my two favorite Girl Scout cookies! The first is this Thin Mint Cheesecake, which has a crust made from an entire box of Thin Mints, minus the 2 that I nibbled while I was baking. 😉

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Instead of making an entire chocolate-peppermint cheesecake, I decided to divide the batter. I didn’t want a heavy cheesecake, as cheesecake is already rich and dense. So about two-thirds of the batter was dyed light green and flavored with just peppermint. The rest of the cheesecake batter was amped up with melted chocolate and swirled  into the peppermint batter.

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And wow, this cheesecake is amazing! I brought it to a party on Friday night, and it was devoured. Thankfully, I cut two pieces from the cheesecake to take photos, and saved them for the boyfriend and I to enjoy later! And those were the perfect after-dinner treat last night! 🙂

Click below for the recipe. If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments. And thanks for reading! Enjoy! 🙂

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Hot Toddy Cupcakes

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Well, we had our first real bit of winter here in DC. While it had gotten pretty cold in December and early January, the snow just kept missing us! (Definitely the opposite of what happened to my friends and family in the Midwest, who’ve been pummeled with snow almost every week…) It was nice to finally get some snow here , even if it does shut the city down for days… 😉

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One of the great things that comes along with cold and snow is the Hot Toddy. It’s the perfect drink to warm up, relax a bit, and fight off a stuffy nose. For those not familiar, a Hot Toddy starts with Earl Grey tea (or English/Irish Breakfast tea, depending on your preference) sweetened with honey. A shot of whiskey and a squirt of lemon are added, along with a cinnamon stick and a star anise.

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While drinking a Hot Toddy, I decided that I wanted to make a cupcake version. And the challenged lied in how to infuse the Earl Grey tea into the cupcake and how to marry all the flavors together without being too muddled or overwhelming.

I started off my infusing butter with loose tea leaves to flavor the cupcake base. I kept the cake pretty simple: sweetened by both sugar and honey with a small amount of cinnamon and anise extract added. The buttercream icing is flavored with whiskey (I used honey whiskey for just a bit of honey flavor) and lemon extract.

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And the result was a Hot Toddy cupcake! The flavors come together perfectly, with a great tea flavor that’s not too strong or bitter. Because the cake is sweetened with honey, it’s also not overwhelmingly sweet. Click below for the recipe. If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments. And thanks for reading! Enjoy! 🙂

Download the recipe!

Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake

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I’ve been thinking about this cake for over 3 months, ever since Thanksgiving. I had a large bounty of apples that I’d picked up from the Farmer’s Market and was looking for desserts to make. And Thanksgiving seemed like the perfect opportunity because I can usually make a few different desserts!

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For the last few years, the boyfriend and I have been hosting a left-behind Thanksgiving dinner, but since we had plans with his family last year, we hosted a Secondsgiving over the following weekend. Usually, I take care of the turkey and the desserts, which are my two favourite parts. But last year, other friends who host a left-behind dinner bought over all their leftover dessert… So I didn’t need to bake anything!

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While I had mixed feelings about not being able to make all the desserts, it was a nice change of pace to be able to focus on savories and sides. But then I never got the chance to make the Caramel Apple Upside-down Cake! After 3 months, I finally found the right time!

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The cake starts with a layer of sliced apples coated in a quick caramel sauce. A fluffy cinnamon cake is baked on top of the apples, and the whole thing is inverted onto a serving platter. The caramel cooks the apples and creates a gooey layer on top of the cake, with a light caramel taste. To boost the caramel flavor, serve the cake with extra caramel sauce!

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One thing to note when baking this cake is to use extra-wide aluminum foil to cover the bottom of your springform pan, and place a large cookie sheet on the rack below the cake. Springform pans have a tendency to leak slightly, so you’ll want the pan there to catch any drippings! Otherwise, you’ll panic when smoke starts pouring out of your oven, like I did… 😛

Click below for the recipe. If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments. And thanks for reading! Enjoy! 🙂

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Banana-Blueberry Muffins

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It’s kind of serendipitous that I’m posting a banana recipe today. Yesterday, I submitted my recipe for Banana Blondies to Serious Eats’ “Share Your Sweets” weekly column. And since looking back on that recipe, I can’t get those Blondies out of my head! (Mostly because they would be so perfect right now to invoke the feeling of Spring and shake off this cold and dreary winter.)

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As I’d confessed in my Blondies post, I’m a banana hoarder. I love bananas, but there’s a small window in which I’ll eat them before they end up in the “banana wasteland”. Then I save them for baking. Because of my banana surplus, I’ve come up with a few really good recipes over last few years. And now I have one more to add to the list!

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I threw together these muffins on a whim last week, when I had a jar of mashed banana and a quart of blueberries in the fridge and a hankering for blueberry muffins. And they turned out okay… The flavor was there, but they were dense and chewy. So I went back to the recipe I scribbled out and tweaked a few things.

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And the result was a perfect muffin: not too sweet, fluffy but substantial, and loaded with blueberries. They’re also pretty low in fat (with only a small amount coming from sour cream) and egg-free. You can also make them dairy-free by using vegan sour cream (made with tofu) or soy yoghurt!

Click below for the recipe. If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments. And thanks for reading! Enjoy! 🙂

Download the recipe!

Homemade Gummies

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I had a few lofty goals for Valentine’s Day this year. First was a cheesecake experiment, which unfortunately failed. The cheesecake was tasty, but the presentation just didn’t work out. 😦 So I bumped up my Panna Cotta post to Tuesday, and I tried to come up with something new. Last minute, I decided to make some heart-shaped homemade gummies.

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I started grabbing the equipment and ingredients from my baking “office”, but then realized that I didn’t have nearly enough corn syrup. Since it’s snowing in DC and I didn’t have enough time to go to the grocery store, I starting flipping through cookbooks to come up with other options.

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Tada! The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook has a recipe for super-easy homemade gummies, using Jell-O! And what do I have in my baking cupboard, but a box of cherry Jell-O. All was not lost! And within 45 minutes, I had fresh, homemade sweet and sour cherry gummies.

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These gummies are perfect for a last-minute Valentine’s Day treat. Bring them to work, send them to school with the kiddos, or just nibble on a few yourself! You can make them with any flavor of Jell-O and as sweet or sour as you choose. The only ingredient that may be hard to get last-minute is the citric acid, but look for it in the canning section of your local super market or hardware store. (It may be labeled as Sour Salt or Lemon Salt!)

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Click below for the recipe. If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments. And thanks for reading! Enjoy! Happy Valentine’s Day! 🙂

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Port Wine Panna Cotta with Blood Orange Gelée

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Sometimes I come up with a recipe so good that I’m not sure if I want to share it. Since I may want to parlay all of this into an eventual cookbook, bakery, or restaurant, I’m frequently torn about publishing recipes I’ve developed. This is one of those times…

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Because this is what the boyfriend refers to as “the best dessert I’ve ever made”…

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This year, the boyfriend and I decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a really nice dinner out. I made reservations almost a month in advance at a new restaurant near our house that been getting a lot of hype and good reviews. With that, and our planned mini-vacation to Baltimore next weekend, we agreed on no gifts.

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But, since cake is my gift and I need to make something for the blog anyways, I wanted to come up with a fun dessert to surprise him! So I decided to try out my first panna cotta, one of the boyfriend’s favorite desserts.

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Panna cotta is really the perfect dessert. It’s inexpensive, can show off seasonal fruits, and holds very well in the refrigerator.  But what’s really great about this panna cotta is that it’s relatively easy to make, not too sweet (a big plus for him since I have a massive sweet tooth!), and comes out beautiful! It also used up the blood oranges sitting on top of my fridge. 😉

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I decided to make the panna cotta in a wine goblet, tilted while it set (see the picture above!), strictly for presentation purposes. If you have small tumblers, you can use those or custard cups or champagne flutes. Presentation is all up to you!

Click below for the recipe. If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments. And thanks for reading! Enjoy! 🙂

Download the recipe!