CARAMEL POPCORN CUPCAKES

I think cupcakes with mountain-high frosting is glorious. However, the sight of those beauties always alarms my guys who scrape off most of the frosting and leave a beautiful mess on their plates (seems I’m the only one who eats cupcakes for the frosting). So I thought: how about mountain-high caramel popcorn cupcakes? The verdict: no caramel corn left on their plates!

Caramel Popcorn Cupcakes 2   Caramel Popcorn Cupcakes

CUPCAKES:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated white sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

FROSTING:

12 Kraft individually wrapped caramels, wrappers removed (buy 1-14 oz bag and use balance for caramel corn below)

6 tbsp butter

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/4 cup half-and-half

CARAMEL POPCORN:

8 cups popcorn (I used 1 bag of microwave kettle corn)

38 (or so) Kraft individually-wrapped caramels, wrappers removed

2 tbsp water

1) CUPCAKES: Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2) In large bowl, using electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes; add eggs, vanilla, and milk and beat until combined; beat in baking powder and salt; on low speed, gradually add flour and beat until just combined

3) Divide batter between 12 liners in muffin pan; bake 20-24 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean; remove from oven and set aside to cool

4) FROSTING: While cupcakes are baking, prepare double boiler on stove by pouring 1 cup of water in bottom of double boiler and bringing to a boil over medium-high heat; to top pan of double boiler, add 12 caramels and butter; stir often until just melted (7-8 minutes)

5) Gradually stir in confectioner’s sugar and half-and-half; when mixture is combined and smooth, remove from heat and let cool on counter 10 minutes; refrigerate 1 hour or more

6) Stir frosting to a smooth consistency and frost cupcakes; refrigerate

7) CARAMEL CORN: Pop popcorn, discard unpopped kernels (don’t want to chip a tooth); set popcorn aside

8) In large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add caramels and 2 tbsp water; stirring constantly, melt into a smooth caramel sauce; remove from heat and immediately pour popcorn into sauce; with plastic spoon, gently stir popcorn until well coated; remove cupcakes from refrigerator; lightly wet hands and, working quickly (and carefully if your skillet is hot), scoop a small handful of caramel-coated popcorn, pat into ball shape, and gently push down into frosting on cupcake; repeat with remaining cupcakes

9) Serve immediately or refrigerate for later (if your guys will let you)

Makes: 12 cupcakes

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 05/25/12.

CHOCOLATE-COVERED STRAWBERRY KABOBS

This idea came to me via Pinterest. However, rather than use pound cake, I opted for Angel Food Cake. and why settle for white chocolate when you can have semi-sweet chocolate? Or both? In the words of Junior Too, “This is definitely one for your blog.” Yep.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Kabobs

1 lb small to medium-sized strawberries, stems removed

1/3 store-bought angel food cake, cut into 1″ pieces

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1/4 cup white chocolate morsels

6 bamboo skewers

Optional dips: whipped cream or thinned preserves (3/4 cup strawberry preserves mixed with 1/4 cup water)

1) Alternately thread strawberries and angel food cake onto bamboo skewers (should make about 6 kabobs)

2) Arrange kabobs on parchment paper 1/2″ apart

3) Place semi-sweet chocolate in small microwave-safe bowl; microwave until melted (I microwaved 30 seconds, stirred, and microwaved an additional 20 seconds); working quickly, spoon melted chocolate in small zip top bag, snip bottom corner, and pipe zigzags over each kabob

4) Repeat step #3 with white chocolate

5) Refrigerate 20 minutes (to set chocolate) and serve with or without dip

Makes: About 6 large kabobs

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 05/07/12.

LEMON MERINGUE CUPCAKES

Senior looooves lemon meringue pie, as does Junior. And Junior too is coming along nicely, thank you. When the baking itch needed a scratch this afternoon, I decided to give my guys a form of lemon meringue pie that would fit into my pink-and-black zebra-striped cupcake liners. Pretty, hmm? Ah, but what about the taste? Divinely tart!

         Lemon Meringue Cupcakes  Lemon Meringue Cupcakes 2        Lemon Meringue Cupcakes 3

LEMON FILLING:

3 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)

3/4 cup granulated white sugar

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

3 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp lemon zest, loosely packed

1/2 cup water

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

CUPCAKES:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

3 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

MERINGUE:

3 reserved egg whites

pinch of salt

1/4 cup sugar

1) LEMON FILLING: In small saucepan over low heat, whisk egg yolks, sugar, flour, and salt; whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest, water, and melted butter; increase heat to medium and, whisking constantly, cook until lemon filling is smooth and thick, about 7 minutes; remove from heat and set aside

2) Preheat oven to 375 degrees

3) CUPCAKES: In medium bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, lemon juice, baking powder, and salt; beat in flour until just combined

4) Divide cupcake batter between 12 cupcake liners in a muffin pan; bake 20 minutes until cupcake centers are firm; remove cupcakes from oven and cool 5-8 minutes (do not turn off oven)

5) Meanwhile, make meringue: beat reserved egg whites with salt until mixture begins to stiffen; add sugar and beat until meringue is stiff and forms pretty peaks (don’t overdo it)

6) With a sharp knife, remove center of each cupcake (about 1″ in diameter), leaving a layer of cupcake beneath cut out; discard cupcake core (or treat the weary baker to a tart little snack); fill cupcake centers with lemon filling

7) Divide dollops of meringue between cupcakes, spreading out to edges and gently tapping with back of spoon to form peaks; return cupcakes to oven and bake additional 5-6 minutes until meringue peaks are golden brown; remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes; refrigerate an hour or more before serving

Makes: 12 absolutely delicious cupcakes

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 05/12/12.

BROWN BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Our family leans heavily toward oatmeal-raisin cookies. However, I do mix things up by baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies from time to time. This recipe soars above others due to the browned butter that gives the cookies a distinctive caramel bite. To increase the pleasure of that experience, I went light on the chocolate chips (though you can always add more). “Heavenly,” says Junior Too (he who has been known to wrinkle his nose at chocolate).

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup salted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1-1/4 cup granulated white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp baking soda

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees; lightly oil cookie sheet (I used butter wrappers)

2) In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, melt 1/2 cup salted butter, stirring often; when foam starts to disperse and butter is a light brown color, remove from heat; pour into large heat-safe mixing bowl and stir 1/2 cup unsalted butter into browned butter; when unsalted butter melts, stir in both sugars and vanilla until just combined

3) In small bowl, lightly beat eggs; stir beaten eggs into butter-sugar mixture, followed by sea salt and baking soda; gradually stir in flour (don’t overmix); stir chocolate chips into cookie dough

4) Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet, 2-3 inches apart; bake in oven 9-10 minutes until lightly golden; remove from oven, let cool 1-2 minutes, and transfer to a wire rack; enjoy with a nice glass of milk

Makes: about 3 dozen

OATMEAL MARSHMALLOW COCONUT RAISIN COOKIES

These oatmeal raisin cookies are SO good–chewy and crisp in all the right ways. As for the marshmallows, I quickly learned the error of mixing them into the batter before baking. Though they’re a wonderful addition, some of the cookies were difficult to remove from the cookie sheet due to the tenacity of melted marshmallows. The fix: after dropping spoonfuls of batter onto cookie sheet, push 2-3 marshmallows into tops of cookies. Ta da!

Oatmeal Marshmallow-Coconut Raisin Cookie

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup granulated white sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground allspice

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

2-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking)

3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup raisins

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups (approximately) mini marshmallows

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2) In large bowl with electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes; beat in eggs and vanilla; beat in cinnamon, allspice, cloves, sea salt, and baking soda

3) Using a wooden spoon, stir in oats, coconut, and raisins; stir in flour until just combined

4) Drop batter by tablespoonfuls onto non-stick cookie sheet; press 2-3 marshmallows into top of each cookie (not too near the edges); bake 10-12 minutes until tops are lightly golden; remove from oven, let sit 5 minutes, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool completely (or treat yourself to a nice warm cookie–my guys certainly did)

Makes: about 3 dozen

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 05/28/12.

BANANAS FOSTER AND POMEGRANATE BITES

After the enthusiastic reception of my “Caramelized Onion, Pear, and Pomegranate Bites” post, I decided to concoct a dessert version of that tasty dish. Who doesn’t love bananas foster, hmm? And, yes, pomegranate seeds made another much-appreciated appearance 🙂

Bananas Foster and Pomegranate Bites2

 

Bananas Foster and Pomegranate Bites

1-8 oz pkg Pillsbury Crescent Seamless Dough Sheet

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

3 firm but ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ rounds

1/4 cup pecans

1 cup pomegranate seeds (optional, but oh-so-pretty and real tasty)

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees; lightly oil a baking sheet (I used a rectangular pizza stone and dusted with cornmeal)

2) Unroll crescent sheet and place on baking sheet/pizza stone; set aside

3) In large skillet over medium heat, melt butter; stir in sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon; when mixture begins to bubble, stir in pecans and cook 1-2 minutes; remove from heat and stir in bananas

4) Spoon banana mixture over crescent sheet and bake in oven 10-12 minutes until crust puffs and turns lightly golden; remove from heat, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, let sit 5 minutes; using a pizza cutter, cut into 6-8 squares and serve with or without vanilla ice cream

Servings: 6-8

LEMON-BERRY SORBET CAKE NESTLED IN A GINGERSNAP CRUST AND FESTOONED WITH CHOCOLATE RIBBONS

Yes, I’m revisiting our favorite Lemon-Berry Sorbet Cake. How can I not when there are holiday gatherings around every corner and celebrations to be celebrated? This time, though, I changed things up–but just a bit since it’s hard to improve on near perfect 🙂

2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (put cookies in large zip top bag, pound a bit, and “crumb” with a rolling pin)

3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

2 pints lemon sorbet, softened (divided)

1 pint raspberry sorbet, softened

2-1/2 cups frozen mixed berries (or fresh)

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate mini-morsels

1) Combine cookies crumbs and melted butter, stir well and press into bottom of 10″ springform pan; freeze 10-15 minutes until firm

2) Spread 1 pint softened lemon sorbet over crumb crust; freeze 20 minutes

3) Spread 1 pint softened raspberry sorbet over lemon sorbet; freeze 20 minutes

4) Spread 1 pint softened lemon sorbet over raspberry sorbet; scatter berries across top and gently press into sorbet

5) Melt chocolate morsels (I microwave 30-45 seconds, spoon into sandwich bag, and snip a small hole in bottom corner); squeeze several thin “ribbons” of melted chocolate over berries; cut larger hole in sandwich bag and squeeze several thick “ribbons” over berries; return sorbet cake to freezer for a minimum of one hour (preferably 2 or more)

6) To serve, remove sorbet cake from springform pan; allow to sit 5-10 minutes; slice and serve immediately

Servings: 8-12 (of course, you might be kidding yourself)

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 06/13/12