Vanilla Cupcakes and Gluten-free Red Velvet

Since Ella and I are on a cupcake kick, we decided to try a few more recipes. We made vanilla cupcakes for most of the family, and then decide to tackle a gluten-free red velvet cupcake for my dad (he has Celiac’s Disease). We topped both with a Nutella chocolate buttercream.

The vanilla cupcake was delicious; moist, fluffy and perfect.
The gluten-free red velvet cupcake was surprisingly good. Like my dad always says, you can’t expect it to taste exactly like it’s gluten filled counterpart. And if you expect it to taste the same, you will be disappointed. The texture was pretty amazing (something that can be difficult with gluten-free baking) and the cupcake was moist. It had a bit of a different flavor (less sweet), so Ella and I decided to fill it with Nutella! Yum! Evan actually preferred this cupcake and kept asking for another one of grandpa’s red cupcakes.

My mom tells me that the Nutella chocolate buttercream was delicious, I’m not a fan of buttercream. Never have been, never will be. It’s just too sweet for me. I prefer a whipped cream frosting or a meringue frosting.

Ultimate vanilla cupcakes: Cupcake Project (I did not have a vanilla bean)
Gluten-free red velvet cupcake: Cupcake Project (I didn’t have beet powder, so I used red food coloring)
Nutella buttercream frosting: My Baking Addiction

Mudslide Cupcakes

There are no words to describe the deliciousness of these cupcakes. If those words exist, I can’t find them. They are that good. Baileys and Kahlua together are an outstanding combination (in my opinion, of course).

Ella and I watch A LOT of baking shows, but most recently we became hooked on Cupcake Wars. As such, we decided we needed to conduct some experiments. This cupcake was our first and it was largely a success. I say largely because I did bake them for probably 2-3 minutes too long. If I would have pulled them sooner, they would be perfect. Click here to view the recipe from one of my favorite cupcake websites. We also decided to fill the cupcakes with chocolate ganache, because, why not?

Artisan Bread

I have been loving my Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook, and have been baking bread like crazy. It is so easy and so delicious! The master recipe yields a beautiful, crispy crust.
Artisan Bread
This is also the master recipe, but I added sesame seeds and roasted sunflower seeds to the top prior to baking. I cannot even describe the heavenly smell in our home when this bread is baking!
Artisan Bread
I also made some soft, sandwich bread the other day for those silly kids that don’t appreciate the perfectly crispy crust. I added two sticks of butter and increased the flour. Then, after the initial rise, I put the dough into loaf pans. To keep the crust soft, I didn’t add water to the oven (steam results in crispiness) and I baked at 350 for a longer time (the master recipe bakes at 450). The kids loved it! I used it the other day to make grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato bisque and it was wonderful.

Homemade Marshmallows

For some reason, I recently decided that I NEEDED to make homemade marshmallows. This is especially interesting, because, I don’t really care for marshmallows. I like them in hot chocolate, or with s’mores, but they are not something I seek out on a regular basis. The kids, however, LOVE them.

Homemade Marshmallows
After researching many recipes, and reading many reviews, I landed on this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It’s not a difficult recipe, just a bit involved. With the exception of unflavored gelatin, you probably already have everything you need to make them. I recommend a good, non-electric (think mercury) candy thermometer, maybe like this one. In my opinion, electric thermometers are not reliable. And you need a stand mixer.

I made a single batch, but coated them three ways: cocoa, cinnamon/sugar and powdered sugar (default). I think I prefer the cinnamon/sugar, followed by cocoa. For my next batch, I think I will add some strawberry puree for a soft, pink, strawberry version. I’ve also seen people dip them in chocolate and coat them with sprinkles, check out this post.

In true Heather fashion, I am running an experiment on how long they keep… I have some in an airtight container on the counter, some in the fridge and a few in the freezer. I want to see how far in advance I can make them for a gathering or event. I will let you know the results. I can see wrapping them in cute containers with ribbon as a gift.

Anyway, they are delicious and the texture is perfect. Much better than store-bought marshmallows. I can’t imagine how heavenly they will be in hot chocolate.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Imagine that… I made more cookies. I’m teaching two workshops later this week (Lightroom on 3/17 and Photoshop on 3/18) and I cannot have people in my home without cookies! I mean, if you came to my house, and I didn’t have cookies, wouldn’t you experience cognitive dissonance? I would never want that to happen.

One thing is painfully clear: the only technique I have really mastered is marbling. Ella and I have been practicing other techniques, but I’m still struggling. I have some photos of experimental cookies that I will post soon.

St. Patrick's Day Sugar Cookies

I took this to illustrate the thickness of the cookies. I use rolling pin spacers because I am no good at estimating thickness. Plus, it’s important to me that all cookies are identical. I use the largest spacers that I have, but I think I would like them even a little thicker. Of course this reduces your yield, which typically means you will want to double the batch, but it ensures the cookies remain fresh and are sturdy for decorating.

St. Patrick's Day Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookie Recipe
Royal Icing Recipe

PS. In case you missed it, please read this post regarding my obsession with sugar cookies. And remember this: you cannot put Heather in a box.