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Finished!

With those three posts, I am finished with my Senior Project. I have over 16 hours worth of baking under my belt. Despite the fact that I’m done with my project, I would still like to continue blogging. They posts will become even more sporadic than they already are, but I think I will be more inspired since I’m not pressured to get hours done.

I am planning on making cupcakes for some shelters in-town. They will be Easter-themed. I want to take some of those Sour-Punch straws and put them on the top so they look like handles. And then I’ m going to take small candies such as jelly beans and chocolate eggs and arrange them on top of the cupcakes so that they look like little Easter baskets. I’m really excited to execute these!

I’ve learned how much goes into baking with this project. It’s really helped me appreciate the complexity of it as well as everything that it takes to complete and successful baked good.

I want to thank everyone who has supported me throughout this journey.

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This was probably my favorite part of my entire project. Part of that stemmed from the fact that I knew that I was doing something good for my community. 

A lot of people aren’t familiar with the Hospice Movement, so I will explain it to you a little bit. The Hospice Movement has been evolving ever since the 11th century, but the first modern Hospice Home was created in the 1940’s by Dr. Dame Cicely Saunders. The entire premise of Hospice is to give palliative care to the terminally ill. So essentially, the people who work for Hospice are there to help alleviate and prevent some of the suffering from the patients by making them as comfortable as possible. Not only do Hospitals have Hospice wings, there are Hospice Homes, and there are also services that allow the terminally ill to pass away in their own homes. It sounds really morbid, but what they are doing is a really great thing.

I have personal experience with Hospice because it was a service that my family utilized during the passing of my Father. The workers are there not only for the patient, but for the family as well. Without Hospice, a lot of families would have an even harder time dealing with the loss of their loved one.

Earlier this year, I was talking to Mrs. Burr about my Senior Project. She suggested working at the Hospice Home, and I entertained the idea for quite a while. Eventually, I decided that it wasn’t the best route for me. I told her, however, that I would still love to do something with the Hospice Home.

When I came up with the idea for doing a baking blog, I told Mrs. Burr what I would like to bake something for the Hospice Home if at all possible. She contacted her friend, Janet Herman, who was a volunteer at the Woltz Hospice Home in Dobson, not to far from the school. 

Janet said that she would allow me to come into the home and bake in the kitchen there. Due to policies, I couldn’t bake things at my house to bring in.

I measured all of my ingredients out before I went in there. This helped me get things done a lot quicker, and I also didn’t have to bring entire bags of flour and sugar all the way to Dobson.

Another policy of the Hospice Home is that you have to wrap everything up after you bake them. So we took the cookies and individually wrapped them after we were done.

I went there on Wednesday of this week, and made 2 batches of sugar cookies and one batch of brownies for the family waiting room. As I was baking, families were drifting in and out, commenting on how good everything smelled. One thing that Janet mentioned to me was how it was comforting to the patients to smell the smell of homemade baked goods.

Janet was one of the greatest people that I’ve met. She was so funny, and she had no qualms with telling people her opinion. Most of the time, it takes me a while to get used to new people, but Janet seemed really familiar even though I knew that I had never met her.

I am extremely thankful for this experience, and I plan on going back to do some more things with the home. I mentioned to Janet that I would like for Student Council to make some Easter-treats or crafts for the Hospice Home. We are currently in the process of coming up with ideas, but I think that a lot of people can benefit from seeing the good that the Hospice Home does.

 

Time Spent ~ 3.5 hours.

The only scones that I have ever had are the scones from the Knight’s Grill. They are the best scones in the entire world. I think a more accurate name would be Cookie-Muffin Triangles. 

The outside is crunchy like a cookie and the inside is fluffy like a muffin. I’m contemplating living in the Knight’s Grill and eating nothing but scones and french fries. That sounds like the life for me.

So I went in to make this recipe with the preconceived notion that these scones were going to be exactly the same. Much to my dismay, they were not.

They weren’t bad by any means, but they weren’t what I was expecting either.

I did enjoy them. They were more dense than I was expecting, and I anticipate that they would make good dinner biscuits. My Mentor, Heather, has given me a recipe for Ham and Cheese scones. Seeing as I have access to veggie ham, I am really excited to make them.

I found a recipe for scones that uses Jiffy Muffin Mix. And then you add some other things into it to make the dough thicker. I think that may have been what I was looking for more so than these were.

I feel like I’m hitting a low spot right now. Spring Break makes me so incredibly lazy, and there is so much school work to be done. After next week is over, I feel like things will be all gravy.

Strawberry Scones

Makes 12

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour.
  • 2 tbsp. sugar.
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder.
  • 1/4 tsp. salt.
  • 1/2 (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks.
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries.
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten.
  • 1/2 cup of half-and half.
  • Extra Half-and-half.
  • Extra Sugar.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Using a pastry blender (or two knives), cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Gently toss in strawberries.
  5. Make a well in the middle of mixture; set aside.
  6. In a medium bowl, stir together eggs and half-and-half.
  7. Add egg mixture to flour mixture all at once and stir well until moistened.
  8. Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface.
  9. Knead dough by folding and gently pressing it 5-7 times, turning dough after each fold.
  10. Transfer to a lightly floured parchment-lined baking sheet.
  11. Pat or lightly roll dough into a 3/4 inch thick circle, cut wedges, and pull slightly apart.
  12. Brush each wedge with additional half-and-half and sprinkle with sugar.
  13. Bake for about 16 minutes or until golden.
  14. Serve warm, and refrigerate any leftovers; reheat for 15 seconds in microwave.

Time Spent: 30 minutes prepping, 16 minutes cooking, 5 minutes cooling, 20 minutes blogging ~ 1 hour and 10 minutes.

The long awaited day has come. The day when I have to face my fear and dive right in. The day when I have to get over my fear and just do it. Okay, this is becoming too dramatic even for my tastes.

I haven’t stated this, but I’m deathly afraid of shortening. There is just something about that white goop that just really scares me. I don’t know why, but it just does.

In order to make this buttercream that I’ve been hearing all about, I knew that I had to use shortening. As soon as I saw shortening on the list of ingredients required, a little piece of me died. Another little piece had decided right then and there that I was not going to make buttercream.

Despite all of the little voices in my head telling me not to do it, I knew that I needed to grow up and just do it.

The biggest part of this recipe, for me, was making the buttercream. I’ve made yellow cupcakes before and tasted even more. But I’ve never made nor tasted buttercream.

Maybe it was the way I made it, or maybe it was just the icing, but it sure didn’t live up to my expectations. In my head, I was anticipating something better than just plain chocolate.

It was chocolatey, but it tasted like almost pure confectioner’s sugar. Everyone else had a positive reaction to the icing, but my Mom and I were just not satisfied with the results. Maybe I will try just plain buttercream instead of chocolate. Maybe? I don’t know at this point.

The cupcakes, however, we’re delicious. They were rich and fluffy. I can always count on Martha Stewart to help me through anything. And I don’t care what anyone says, Martha is and always will be my hero.

I still get into arguments on Queen Martha’s behalf to this very day. Some people just do not know when to let things go. If you ever want to ruffle my feathers, don’t ask me about my political affiliation or tell me that that music I listen to  is terrible, tell me that Martha is a bad person.

I will always defend Queen Martha. Always and forever. Maybe I should consider getting that as a tattoo someday?

Oh, I forgot to mention that I filled the cupcakes with more chocolate buttercream.

It was really bad because I tried to use a round-tip for the icing, but it ended up looking like poop. Needless to say, my Mom and I ate those two cupcakes. Not that we were complaining or anything.

When I was finally done icing the cupcakes, I was up to my eyeballs in buttercream. It was all over my arms, the counter, and pans, and anything else in my general vicinity. It looked like World War III was fought in my kitchen using buttercream.

Yellow Cupcakes

Makes 12

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour.
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose baking powder.
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  • 1/2 cup  milk.
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature.
  • 3/4 cup sugar.
  • 2 large eggs.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a standard cupcake pan (12 cups) with paper liners.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, mix milk and vanilla; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes).
  5. Add eggs into butter-sugar mixture one at a time and beat well after each addition.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients (Step 2), followed by the milk-vanilla mixture (step 3), and then the remaining dry ingredients. Mix well, but do not overmix.
  7. Divide the batter evenly among prepared muffin cups.
  8. Bake cupcakes until a toothpick can be inserted into the center of the cupcake and come out clean (20-25 minutes).
  9. Cool the cupcakes in the tin (5-10 minutes), remove and cool completely on a rack before frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Makes 3 cups

  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening.
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened.
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  • 4 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar.
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk.

Directions:

  1. In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer.
  2. Add cocoa and vanilla. The gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition on medium speed.
  3. Scrape sides and bottom of bowel often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry.
  4. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.
  5. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing in bowl in refrigerator when not in use.
  6. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored for 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

Time Spent: 30 minutes prepping cupcakes, 25 minutes cooking, 35 minutes cooling, 30 minutes prepping icing, 30 minutes making icing, 20 minutes icing/filling cupcakes, 20 minutes for blogging ~ 3 hours spent.

 

You are so beautiful to me. Can't you see?

I’m back on a cupcake kick. I really do have an obsession with cupcakes that is incurable. There is no help for me, and I have accepted that fate. Not that it took a lot of effort for me to accept it. I really didn’t have a problem with it in the first place.

I figure that I should stop baking other things and just bake cupcakes. I’ll make them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s probably a savory cupcake that I could make. Is it even considered a cupcake if it isn’t sweet? Wouldn’t is simply be a savory muffin? I feel like I should know these things, but I don’t. To be quite honest, it doesn’t make one bit of difference to me.

One thing that I’ve always loved baking is my brownie cupcakes. I made my first batch for my friend Ashley’s birthday. However, those were mini-cupcakes and had a peanut butter cup on the inside. Those were quite the hit. Since then, I have expanded my brownie cupcakes, and also made them quite larger. They were actually what my Mom requested for her 50th birthday. She’s going to kill me once she sees that I announced how old she was on the Internet. Whoops. If I never blog again, just know that I love you.

Maybe these rants are pointless. Goodness. I really need to stop, but blogs are the ULTIMATE place to be self-centered. It wouldn’t be a blog if you didn’t talk about yourself, right? Well, that’s what I’m going to tell myself.

For now.

Back to the brownies. I started with a brownie batter. Some people will probably want to use a box batter, which is perfectly acceptable. I’ve tried using those before, and they turn out very nicely as well. They also make the perfect amount of batter for 12 cupcakes.

My Mom is secretly a hand model.

When the cupcakes finally cooled, I simply melted about 1 cup of white chocolate chips in the microwave, filled up my Dessert Decorator (see below), and used the filling tip to insert said white chocolate into the cupcakes. I wish I would have added a little bit more to the center, but I will work on that next time (because there will certainly be a next time).

Isn't she beautiful?

I just got the Wilton Dessert Decorator Plus yesterday. Normally, I would say that this is a cop-out, but it is the best thing that I’ve ever bought. Parchment bags and other decorating bags give me a lot of trouble. A lot of that probably has to do with my lack of technique and training. And patience. Definitely patience. My Mom and I went to look at some of the cake decorating supplies they had yesterday, and we looked at this minuscule section for almost an hour. We pondered the pros and cons of this decorator vs. decorating bags. The decorating bags had a longer list of cons than pros. The decorator had a longer list of pros than cons. It was only like $12, and I felt like I had won the lottery.

But my life only got better once I actually used it. It was a really close call. I thought that I was going to start crying tears of joy. I settled for a yelp. My Mom thought I was being attacked, but she wanted to wait until she was done doing whatever she was doing. Once she came out, she was like, “I assumed nothing was wrong because I didn’t hear any screams following the first one.” Cute.

The icing came out so nicely. I really do have bad luck with decorating bags. This was a great purchase for me because I can start with these, and work my way up to the decorating bags. Decorating bags seem to be more versatile due to the large range of tips, but I want to work on that later.

I used to star tip for these, and I got a really nice swirl on the icing. I was going to use the round tip and go for more of a dollop, but I was feeling adventurous, and it paid off. I do, however, plan on using the round tip for my Easter-themed cupcakes that I’m planning on doing.

White Chocolate-Filled Brownie Cupcakes

Makes 12

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter.
  • 11 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped.
  • 3 large eggs.
  • 1 cup sugar.
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour.
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa.
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda.
  • Nonstick cooking spray.
  • 1 cup of white chocolate chips (depends on how much filling you want).
  • Chocolate icing (I used a pre-made kind because I’m feeling lazy).
  • Filling tip and star tip.

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-count muffin tin with cupcake liners, and spray generously with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and 8 ounces of chocolate. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat, and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Add flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Stir in the melted chocolate until combined. Stir in remaining 3 ounces of chocolate.
  4. Using a 2-ounce ice cream scoop, fill cupcake liners 3/4 full with batter. Bake until a firm crust forms on the cupcakes, about 20-25 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan, and continue to cool on a wire rack (about 30 minutes).
  5. Melt white chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler, and insert into decorator (I guess this would be difficult with decorating bags). Add on the filling tip. Poke a hole into the middle of the cupcakes, and insert the white chocolate.
  6. Add a star-tip to the decorator/decorating bag and insert the chocolate icing into the decorator/decorating bag. Ice the cupcakes generously.

Time Spent: 60 minutes spent shopping for supplies, 30 minutes prepping, 25 minutes cooking, 45 minutes cooling, 25 minutes spent icing/filling 30 minutes for blogging ~ 3.5 hours spent.

Dang, I really need to work on speeding things up a little bit.

If there is one thing I love in this world, it is mint-flavored anything. Mint cookies, mint cake, mint candies, mint drinks. I’m legitimately obsessed with mint. I’m sure there is a Mint-Lovers Anonymous, and I’m sure that I need to join it. However, in my mint-bliss, I ignore the fact that I do  have a problem. 

But these cookies were amazing. I was having a craving for something minty, something simple, and something relatively quick. I sat and stared at my oven until these were done cooking.

I really enjoyed making these because I was completely alone in my house, it was raining, and I was singing Arcade Fire at the top of my lungs. It was the best part of the whole adventure, actually.

It’s times like these that make me remember why it’s probably a good thing that I’m not left by myself for long periods of time. I like listening to my music at an earsplitting volume, and I also neglect my homework. Maybe I’m not that great at multi-tasking. Just maybe. Well, I can multi-task, but I just can’t scream and do homework at the same time. For the most part, I just end up writing down lyrics for answers.  There are countless papers that have had Sufjan Stevens lyrics inserted into them. Good thing I proofread.

But I digress. These cookies were wonderful. I have a thing for chewy cookies, so I was very impressed with these. If a cookie isn’t chewy, I’m not interested. If you have ever purchased a cookie that has a dent in the middle, it’s probably my fault. I’m that person who goes around, poking the middle of cookies, and seeing if they’re soft. It’s a terrible habit, but I have no desire to purchase a cookie that feels like a brick.

A lot of mint products have an overwhelming mint taste, but these (for me) were the perfect balance. Not too much. Not too little. It was absolute bliss.

Have I ever mentioned that my counter is always COVERED in flour after I’m done? It always looks like the flour fairy went nuts. I try my best to be neat and organized, but it never works out that way. Everything ends up being unorganized and messy. Needless to say, my OCD always goes absolutely bonkers when I’m done. If I wasn’t getting some sweet goodness afterwards, I wouldn’t put myself through this torture.

But I’m pretty sure that these cookies were worth the pain that they caused. Maybe I should just stop being so anal about it. Maybe that would get rid of all of my problems. But where’s the fun in that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mint-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Make 2 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour.
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.
  • 1/2 (or 1 stick) of unsalted butter.
  • 1 cup of sugar.
  • 1 large egg, beaten.
  • 2 tablespoons of milk.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
  • 1/4 teaspoon of mint extract.
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips.
  • 1 cup of mint chips (I used Andes)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
  3. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add in egg, milk, and vanilla with butter and sugar.
  5. Add in the flour, salt, and baking powder mixture.
  6. Add in mint extract, chocolate chips, and mint chips; stir until well blended (I suggest using your hands for this).
  7. Form cookie rounds (I never measure this, but I made them rather large).
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes and wait for it to cool.

Time Spent: 30 minute for prep, 10 minutes for cooking, 30 minutes for cooling, 1 hour for blogging~1.7 hours.

I’m really slow, you guys. My prep takes much longer than it should, but I’m working on it.

This week has been lacking in many things: sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, and chocolate. Considering the massive amounts of homework that I have, I can really only fix the lack of chocolate.

In order to satisfy my intense longing,  I decided that I was going to make some cupcakes. My favorite thing to bake, by far, is cupcakes. I honestly cannot think of anything that is better than a mini-cake topped with copious amounts of icing. It sounds like a little piece of Heaven, if you ask me.

Originally, I was a little skeptical about making dark chocolate cupcakes. Not because I don’t like dark chocolate, but more because other people don’t like dark chocolate (it’s weird, I know). However, my Mom and I both adore it.

But when I tasted these moist, delicious cupcakes, all doubts were erased. The dark chocolate wasn’t overly powerful, and it added a nice zing to the cupcakes.

The batter alone was enough to send me into a sugar-craze. Of course, I’ve learned to not really trust batters. More often that not, they’re really misleading. Sure, it tastes great when you put the batter in your mouth. But something about baking the batter (sometimes) makes it extremely unappetizing.

Maybe that’s just been my experience. It’s not like I’m admitting to experimenting in the kitchen. Not me. Never.

Now that I think about it, that’s only really true for actual food. Needless to say, cheese doesn’t always taste  good on everything.

Despite what I like to tell myself.

Either way, I think that this was the perfect recipe to start me off on my  baking extravaganza. There’s nothing better than having a cake that doesn’t fall. Not that my attempt at making a mint-chocolate cake failed or anything. I’m definitely not bitter. And I’m definitely not upset.

Who am I kidding? I’m still upset about that cake, and I made it like two months ago. I’m obsessed with everything chocolate and everything mint. Of course my attempt to combine the two would end in bitter disappointment.

But I digress.

These cupcakes were delicious, moist, and crumbly. My three favorite adjectives when it comes to cupcakes. Oh, and chocolate. I cannot forget chocolate.

The best part about actually starting my blog is knowing that I finally finished my paper to accompany it. Two tedious hours spent in front of the computer only to come out with a paper with bad wording and choppy sentences. My effort makes up for it, right?

I think my favorite part of the cupcake (as well as other people’s favorite) was the white chocolate ganache.  This was my first time ever tasting (or making) ganache. Despite the fact that I have nothing to base it on, I’m  still fairly impressed. Mind you, it took like 1 hour to boil, I still enjoyed it. (I eventually kicked it up to medium). Maybe that was a mistake, but I don’t know. And I certainly don’t care.

I definitely see ganache in my future. Ganache in tubs. Ganache in buckets. Ganache in truckloads.

Maybe I’ve found my new obsession. Just maybe.

I find myself proofreading this post as I make it. At this point, I’m half-asleep, but somehow trudging through this post. The only thing keeping   me alive at this point is the promise of a Mexican casserole with some pico de gallo. Nothing like a little spice to keep you going.

I think my next recipe is going to involve mint. I definitely need to get back on my mint-kick. I have a bottle of peppermint extract and a bag of Andes peppermint chips calling my name. “Savannah, we need for you to add us into a delicious cake and douse us in chocolate. Please. We beg of you!” Being the caring and loving person that I am, I must agree to their requests. What kind of baker would I be if I didn’t?

I found this recipe on How Sweet It Is. I have this site bookmarked, and I am obsessed with it. Right after I check Facebook, Twitter, and NPR in the morning, I always check this site.

This recipe originally had candied bacon on top, but I left it out. I know that some of my friends (Ashley) would have enjoyed the bacon a lot. However, I decided that after my one year Veggiversary, I was going to continue with my goal.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Ganache

Makes 12 cupcakes

Found here

Ingredients for Cupcakes:

  • 1 and 1/8th cups all purpose flour.
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa power (I used Hershey’s).
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar.
  • 1 egg.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  • 1/2 cup milk.
  • 1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon heavy cream.
  • 1/2 cup of butter, melted (I used unsalted).
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream (I used all natural).

Directions for Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the egg and brown sugar until there are no lumps remaining.
  3. Add in milk, cream, butter (cooled so it doesn’t cook your egg), and vanilla and mix until combined.
  4. Stir in the sour cream.
  5. Sift the dry ingredients together (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt).
  6. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until the batter is smooth.
  7. Add batter to muffin tins.
  8. Bake for 15-18 minutes (depending on your oven) and let cool before frosting.

Ingredients for White Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream.
  • 6 oz. of white chocolate chips (I used Nestle.)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter (unsalted).

Directions for Ganache:

  1. Heat a saucepan on low heat and add heavy cream (or do like I did and wait an hour for it to boil to no avail and end up cranking it up to medium. Or not.).
  2. Wait for cream to come to a boil and remove immediately.
  3. Add chocolate chips to a separate bowl and pour the cream over them.
  4. Stir in the butter.
  5. Once combined, put a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes (I waited for 30 because I’m impatient).
  6. Frost the cupcakes and refrigerate them for 15-20 minutes so the ganache has time to set (or just eat them immediately).

Time Spent: 30 minutes for prep, 18 minutes for cupcakes, 1.5 hours for ganache, 30 for ganache cooling, 30 for cupcake cooling~ 3 hours. I know that’s a really long time for cupcakes, but I’m not very speedy due to my lack of…speed.