Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pistachio Muffins

Happy Belated St. Patty's Day! I wanted to have this post up yesterday, but I have school all day on Wednesdays and wasn't able to even make these muffins until last night. So I have them today, albeit a little late. I wanted to make something green for St. Patty's Day, and I've been meaning to make some homemade pistachio muffins, so it worked out perfectly. The inspiration for these muffins came from the jumbo muffins they sell at one of my local grocery stores. All of them are absolutely delicious, but my favorite is the pistachio! Of course, whenever I come across something great, I always like trying to recreate it at home. So I went in search for a recipe on Allrecipes...and lo and behold, yet AGAIN, all of the recipes I came across were the same! I can't imagine why they let people submit the same recipe over and over again and yet put them under a different name as if there's something different about the recipe. I wanted a recipe that used pistachio pudding mix in the batter, and all of the recipes did...except they also all used cake mix, something I didn't have on hand and I didn't feel like using. I wanted a from scratch recipe.

So instead I thought that if I could just find any muffin recipe that used pudding mix in it, no matter the flavor, I could change it to accommodate the pistachio pudding instead. And by a happy chance, my google search led me to one of my favorite blogs, Cookie Madness. The recipe was for lemon poppy seed muffins, so I changed it just slightly and ended up with a wonderful pistachio muffin recipe. I was afraid that my muffins might come out tough being as I kept stirring the batter, adding a little bit of almond extract at a time, to taste, but surprisingly, the muffins came out wonderfully soft and fluffy and were still just as great today as they were yesterday, most likely thanks to the pudding mix. I was also a little apprehensive being as the recipe called for the muffins to be baked at 425 degrees F and I thought that might be too high as I've never seen a muffin recipe that went above 375 degrees. When I peeked at the muffins throughout the baking, they seemed to be browning fast. But all was totally fine and they came out with a wonderfully high-raised, crunchy muffin top, and soft insides, just like a great muffin should.

Pistachio Muffins (adapted from Cookie Madness)
Anna, the author of Cookie Madness, stated this recipe makes 10 muffins, but I made half the recipe and got 6 with a tiny bit of batter left over, so assume this recipe will make 10-12.

  • 1 (3.4 oz) box instant pistachio pudding mix (This is almost exactly 1/2 cup...if you'd like to make the half recipe like I did, measure out 1/4 cup of pudding mix)
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour (I accidentally just used all-purpose, and they were still great!)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon almond extract (I like a strong almond extract flavor, so I ended up using more than maybe someone usually would. You can just add a little bit and then taste the batter to see if you want more)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • couple drops green food coloring, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together pudding mix, flour, both sugars, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, almond extract, oil, and food coloring. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined.
  4. Divide the batter between the muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven for 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then remove to wire rack to cool completely.
I think it's funny that pistachio flavored things are actually predominantly almond flavored. Pretty much anything pistachio I try, I always get the wonderful taste of almond extract. I often wonder if you could discern an actual pistachio flavor if you were to leave out the almond extract?

I totally forgot that I had these green-colored sugar crystals until I started taking these pictures. If I had remembered, I so would have sprinkled them on top of the muffins before baking to make things even more festive looking. Colored sugar is my favorite type of sprinkles, even more than jimmies or nonpareils. If you have any green sprinkles or even pistachio nuts, feel free to sprinkle those on top of the muffins before baking to give them a prettier finish.

Even though it's passed St. Patrick's Day, give these muffins a try. I promise they won't disappoint!

Friday, March 12, 2010


I baked these up about two days ago, but am just now getting around to blogging about them. Oh, but happy news...I finally got up to the store...and got some dulce de leche! Yahoo! Expect those duos up here in a day or two. But anyways, back to the current cookies at hand. I was really craving snickerdoodles, and I already had a recipe that I had tried before, but this time decided I wanted something a bit different. Most snickerdoodles are fairly thin and while they are chewy, they become crispy soon after. And so I decided to go on a search for a thick and chewy one. But as I was searching, I again experienced a phenomenon that seems to be happening a lot to me lately...basically all the recipes I came across were the same! I began to wonder if there actually was a different recipe for snickerdoodles out there. So I turned to google and after a bit of searching, I came across this recipe; finally something different. It looked promising, and so I tried it...and it was great!

Okay, so my cookies really weren't any thicker than the other snickerdoodle recipe I've tried, but I think that has something to do with the fact that I use butter and not shortening. Shortening usually helps cookies keep their shape more since it doesn't melt as easily as butter does. But in all honesty, I've never used shortening in my life and don't really know what it's like, so I just stick with butter (which is kind of funny, because the blogger that I got the recipe from talked mostly about her reasoning for using shortening and told a funny story about using it over butter). But at any rate, I was just happy to find a different recipe and the cookies are so wonderfully chewy that I could care less about their thickness. They were still awesomely chewy before I refrigerated the dough, and even more so after I refrigerated it. I definitely think this will be my go-to snickerdoodle recipe from now on.

Snickerdoodles (from Gild the Lily)
Makes a little more than 2 dozen.

  • 1 cup shortening (I used butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cream shortening (or butter) and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add a teaspoon of vanilla. Beat in egg and egg yolks one at a time and mix until thoroughly combined.
  2. Add salt and then add the cornstarch. Beat in the baking soda and then the flour a little bit at a time and mix until combined.
  3. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl. Roll the dough into balls and roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Place on an ungreased cookie and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until crackly and set. (I baked my unrefrigerated dough for about 8 and my refrigerated dough for about 10-11.) Store in an airtight container. Add a piece of bread to keep them soft, if you wish.
Ha ha! My spatula broke while I was making sure the dough was thoroughly mixed. That's okay though, I have two others. Also, while you're waiting for your cookies to bake up, you could clean some dishes, or...

You could sneak in a picture of your cat. I had to sneak a picture of my cat into this post in particular because I often call her my "snickerdoodle"...or "snackerdoodle." Why? I have no idea. I have a bunch of crazy nicknames for my cat, all of which sound nothing at all like her actual name, which is Pinky. (Hey, my brother named her, alright? It was when we were young too, so don't blame me.) At any rate, try these cookies, because they are delicious!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Nope, still no Dulce de Leche Duos yet. (Still haven't gotten my butt up to the store to buy the frackin' stuff!) But, luckily, this recipe is worthy of just as much enthusiasm. It's delicious! The cupcake recipe is one I've used before. It's the same one I used for my yellow cupcakes and is my stand by yellow cupcake recipe. The only difference this time was that I used regular vanilla extract instead of vanilla butter & nut flavoring, and this is the first time I've done so. I was afraid that the flavoring might overpower the lovely taste of the vanilla beans in the frosting, and certainly didn't want that!

So now that I've mentioned it, on to the frosting. is amazing. I was afraid at first that it might be too plain tasting, but I've learned that I should never doubt the awesome powers of a vanilla bean. If you've never used vanilla beans before, I really recommend you try them. I know, they can be pretty expensive, but I happen to know that you can buy them SUPER cheap off of eBay (and they're great quality too) if that's your thing or you can even buy them cheaper at Costco. That's where I got my last bunch of vanilla beans. They're certainly worth the investment because their flavor is out of this world. It's intensely vanilla, so much more flavor than just using extract, and they really shined in the buttercream. Plus, of course, I always love the look of those little specks of vanilla bean seeds. I left the image above a little larger this time, so make sure to click to get the full size and see all those lovely seeds!

Anyways, back to the actual frosting. It's a Swiss meringue buttercream and, again, if you haven't tried this buttercream, you really need to. Forget the things you've heard about it (if you have heard anything), and give it a go. I really have Cassie from How to Eat a Cupcake to thank from turning me on to this buttercream, and it's her standards for butter that I use. She uses only 1/4 cup of butter per egg white, and I find that to be the perfect amount. Almost all other recipes I've seen use way more than that, and I can only imagine why people think the frosting tastes like a stick of butter...because it probably does! 1/4 cup per egg white makes the perfect butteriness, I think. This frosting is creamy, not too sweet, and has wonderful flavor. It can seem a little intimidating and is a little time consuming, but it's really not so hard after all and is so worth it. So definitely try it!

For the cupcake recipe, go to my other post here. Again, the only thing I did differently this time was to use regular vanilla extract instead of vanilla butter & nut.

Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream (From my own mind. :] )
Makes enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes (plus probably have a little left over).


  • 3 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons/1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 vanilla bean (about a 4 to 4 1/2 inch piece), split and seeds scraped
  1. Fill a large pot with about an inch of water. Place on stove and bring water to a simmer. Place egg whites, sugar, and salt in a large, heatproof bowl and place the bowl over the pot of simmering water (make sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl).
  2. Whisk egg white mixture constantly until a candy thermometer reads 160 degrees F or until the mixture feels hot to the touch and no longer grainy when rubbed between your fingers, about 5 minutes.
  3. Put the egg mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whisk on medium high speed until the meringue comes to room temperature, about 5 to 7 minutes. (Feel the bowl in order to tell if it's come to room temperature or not...if the bowl no longer feels warm at all, you're good to go.)
  4. Switch to the paddle attachment, and on low speed, add the butter one tablespoon at a time. Don't be alarmed if the mixture seems liquidy at first. Increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture is thick and creamy, about 6 to 10 minutes. Also don't be alarmed if your buttercream appears to have curdled at some point. Just keep beating, and it will come back together. (I have pictures of what it looks like curdled here, under step three in the buttercream directions.)
  5. Once mixture has become thick and creamy, reduce speed to low and add extract and vanilla bean seeds and mix until combined and also to remove any air pockets. Use to frost cupcakes and enjoy! :)
I finally remembered to do a different kind of pattern when piping! Oh, but I did finally get the 1M tip I've been wanting, but of course, I didn't get a large coupler which is needed for the 1M tip...but that's okay, I want to get some disposable piping bags too (as I actually always just use a ziploc bag). But for now, I think my #32 tip still does a pretty good job.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Double Chocolate Muffins

Chocolate muffins seem to be infamous for being so hard to make homemade, being as most recipes tend to be on the dry side, not chocolate-y enough, or too much like a cupcake than a muffin. But, amazingly, this is only the second time I've made chocolate muffins from scratch...and I've found a wonderfully light and fluffy, chocolate-y, and non-cupcake like recipe!! This morning I decided that I wanted muffins for breakfast, but at first I wasn't quite sure what to make. I thought about maybe a spice muffin, or plain vanilla; just something simple being as I didn't have anything special like blueberries, or banana, or pumpkin, etc. But I got to thinking about a chocolate muffin, and possibly one with chocolate chips in it. Like I said before, I've tried making chocolate muffins from scratch once before with not so great results. They certainly weren't very chocolate-y and were dry even after I had added more milk than was called for. I also knew of the difficulty of finding a good chocolate muffin recipe, so I had my work cut out for me.

Finally, my searching brought me to this recipe on Allrecipes. Of course, there were a lot of mixed reviews. Some people thought the muffins were great as is, but there were a lot of people saying things like not very moist, not very chocolate-y, and too sweet. And so like my last post on the banana oatmeal cookies, I decided to take the recipe anyway and just make my own changes to it...and once again ended up with a wonderful recipe! I actually even left out the instant coffee granules I meant to put in to make it a bit more chocolate-y, but it was still a great muffin. I'm really happy that my altered recipes are coming out great here recently, because to me, that says that my baking skills are progressing. I'd eventually like to try my hand at coming up with my own recipes completely, because that seems about the ultimate test. But for now, I'll stick with my tried and true recipes/altered recipes. Now try these muffins!

Double Chocolate Muffins (adapted from Allrecipes)
This time I'm actually going to post my altered recipe instead of the original with my changes in green. I scaled down the recipe considerably since I didn't want a lot of muffins. This recipe makes 5. If you'd like to make the full recipe (about 18-20 muffins), you can double the amounts twice or times them by 4. If you'd like to see the original recipe, I linked it above.

  • 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour (What I actually did was fluff up the flour and then measured a scant 1/2 cup. It's probably about equal to a sifted 1/2 cup, so I put it as such to try and give a more accurate measuring. I wish I had a scale to tell you an exact measuring, but unfortunately, I don't.)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • (Like I said, I forgot to put it in, but I think it would make the muffins even better...about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules.)
  • 1/4 cup plus two generous tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon egg (In order to measure this, crack an egg into a bowl, beat it lightly, and then measure out 1 tablespoon. If you don't want to waste the rest of the egg, you can use it to make scrambled eggs or store it in covered in the fridge for later use.)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffins cups or line with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, both sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and coffee granules. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, oil, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix just until combined.
  3. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly on top of the muffins.
  4. Bake muffins for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering. Cool in the pan slightly and then remove to cooling racks. Makes 5. These muffins are great warm or at room temperature.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

In all honesty, this wasn't a cookie I was planning on making at all. In fact, I had the plan to make the Dulce de Leche Duos from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours that I've been DYING to make. The only problem was that I was running low on flour and didn't have any dulce de leche. A couple of times I almost made a trip to the grocery store, but since I needed a couple of hygienic necessities from Wal-Mart, I thought I would go ahead and get them there. But much to my dismay, it turned out my Wal-Mart doesn't carry dulce de leche and I just didn't feel like making a trip to the grocery store too. But, I plan on going to Costco tomorrow and so I decided to put off my trip to the grocery, which is luckily right across the street from there, until then. So now, being as I was in need of a sugar fix, I turned to a different cookie to tie me over.

I thought about making a chocolate chip cookie recipe that I've been wanting to try, but decided I wanted something different. I picked up some nutmeg and cloves, two spices that I've miraculously never used, from Wal-Mart so I thought about a spice cookie. I turned to my trusty recipe website Allrecipes and ran a search. But that lead to me looking at a banana spice cookie recipe, and then that in turn lead to looking at a banana oatmeal cookie recipe! I decided that that was what I wanted, and so took a look around at the different recipes. Turns out, nearly all of them are the same. In fact, I even looked at a Martha Stewart banana oatmeal cookie recipe, and that one was nearly the same too, ha ha! The reviewers informed me this was a cakey cookie, which I almost never make, so I thought it would be good to try. I was a little wary because the recipe had really mixed reviews, some saying the cookie was dry, some saying that it was bland, etc., but since I've never tried a cookie like this, I thought I would go with it and add a few things to make sure the cookie was full of flavor. A couple substitutions and some add-ins did the trick, and the resulting cookie was DELICIOUS! I think they may even have better flavor than my favorite banana bread! But expect to see those Dulce de Leche Duos on here soon, because as soon as I get my hands on some dulce de leche, I'm definitely making them!

Banana Oatmeal Cookies (adapted from Allrecipes)
As always, my changes and additions are in green. I really encourage you to make these changes. Recipe says it yields about 3 1/2 dozen, but again, if you make yours bigger like me, you'll probably only get about 2 dozen.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I added an extra tiny careful with nutmeg, it can be a bit strong)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I added an extra shake or two)
  • 3/4 cup shortening (I used butter)
  • 1 cup white sugar (I used 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup white)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup mashed, ripe bananas
  • 1 3/4 cups rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I omitted)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars; beat until light and fluffy. Add egg, banana, vanilla, and honey and mix until well incorporated. Add oats and mix until combined. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.
  3. Drop cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I ran out, and so used aluminum foil sprayed with a little non-stick cooking spray to be safe. I definitely think they would have stuck if I hadn't). Bake for 9-12 minutes or until edges begin to brown. (The original recipe called for 15 minutes!! Mine were done at 9! Though I might suggest turning the oven down to 375.) Cool on sheet slightly then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in a closed container.
I made a couple of cookies right after I made the dough and then the rest after I'd refrigerated the rest of the dough. These are the juxtaposed refrigerated dough cookie (left) and nonrefrigerated dough cookie (right). This is a cakey cookie, so the refrigeration actually doesn't make a load of difference besides it being thicker and puffier, but I thought maybe it was a little more moist. If you decide to refrigerate your dough, I'd advise turning the oven down to 350, as mine started to burn around the edges before the cookie was done! Definitely try this cookie, though. It's great!!