peanut butter swirled chocolate cupcakes

i love cupcakes. what's not to love? small, little, bite sized, sugar coated, butter laden goodness. what's (almost) better than a peanut butter cup? chocolate and peanut butter swirled together in cupcake form. that's what.

what worked

  1. the peanut butter filling is amazing. heaven. just don't think you'll have a small taste of the peanut butter when they come out of the oven. the peanut butter is hot hot. and sticks to your fingers like crazy (i burned the tips of three.)
  2. wooden skewer worked well to swirl the peanut butter.

what didn't

  1. i don't know what it is with martha, but all her cupcakes seem to come out dry. i'm thinking if a little of the butter was replaced with veg oil in this, the chocolate wouldn't be so dry.
  2. next time, instead of layering chocolate, peanut butter, chocolate, peanut butter, i'm either going to start with peanut butter or just have one middle layer of the stuff. it all kinda came to the top half of the cupcake instead of swirling throughout.

peanut butter swirled chocolate cupcakes
from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

start to finish: ~1 hr 15 min, makes 12 cupcakes

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 ounces semisweet chocolate ( i used chocolate chips)
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

peanut butter filling:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar (as long as you whisk it, you don't have to sift it)
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
stir together all ingredients until smooth

  1. preheat your oven to 325 degrees. line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. melt chocolate and butter together over a double boiler. you could nuke it too, if you want, just make sure the chocolate doesn't burn.
  3. whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. whisk the sugar into the chocolate mixture. make sure it's slightly cooled and add the eggs (if the chocolate's too hot, they'll scramble). add vanilla. whisk until smooth.
  5. whisk the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture and make sure it's well incorporated.
  6. spoon ~1 tablespoon of the chocolate batter into each cup. follow it up with a little less than 1 tablespoon of the peanut butter mixture, another scoop of chocolate, and another of peanut butter. (like i said, i think next time i'll add the peanut butter first or only one peanut butter layer instead of two). the cups will be really full, but they shouldn't overflow when baking.
  7. swirl the top of the cupcakes with a wooden skewer, a fork, a knife, or any other pointy tool.
  8. bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before removing. if you try to remove them from the pan before they're cool, you'll burn your fingers on the peanut butter on top. it doesn't like to stay together with the chocolate cake, so not only will the cupcake stay in the pan, but the top will also crumble into a mess. either way, it's no good.
  10. they can be kept a couple days tightly sealed, but they're definitely best the day made.

mushroom stuffed shells

after my lasagna making last week, i was still in the mood for something similar today, but not quite identical. so mushroom stuffed shells it was. amazingly easy and i didn't even miss the meat.

what worked

  1. stuffing the shells with a tablespoon of the mushrooms, pinch of mozzarella, pinch of parm, and putting in the pan. when the pan was full of shells, i drizzled the bechamel into the shell opening of each.
  2. the bechamel was the perfect amount. perfect smooth, creamy, cheeziness.
what didn't
  1. surprisingly, i didn't have enough mushrooms to fill all ~20 shells. next time i'll go with a full two pounds. or reduce the shells by half or a third.

i love love love bechamel. what? you think it's weird to use it here? no way, it melts with the mozzarella and the parmesan and makes this creamy cheesy goodness. no reason for dry ricotta at all.

oh, you're intimidated by bechamel. super easy. the main thing to remember: always whisk. don't stop whisking. it doesn't have to be crazy fast, but keep the whisk moving. so the milk doesn't scorch or boil over. no one wants flecks of burnt milk in their sauce. and you can scale up or down the recipe as you need (the original scale i use is 2T butter, 4t flour, 1.5 cups milk).

(shortcut) mushroom stuffed shells

1.5 jars of whatever pasta sauce you like (i used tomato basil)
12oz box jumbo shells pasta
1 small onion, minced
24 ounces mushrooms, whatever kind you like, cut at least in quarters to fit in the shells
couple cloves of minced garlic (depending on how garlicky you want it, i used 4)
olive oil
bechamel sauce
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2T + 2t flour
2 1/2 cups milk (2% worked fine for me, use whole if you like, but skip skim)
salt & pepper
pinch of nutmeg

time start to finish: ~ 2hours, 6 hearty servings

  1. cook the shells according to the package directions. i turned on the water for the shells when i put the mushrooms in the pan. the shells were done about the same time as the mushrooms.
  2. saute the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat for a couple minutes until they start to soften.
  3. add the mushrooms. keep the heat medium-low. it'll take a good 20 minutes for the mushrooms to cook.
  4. when the mushrooms are to the consistency you like, add ~1/2 jar of pasta sauce. (i kept the mushroom sauce mixture on low on the stove while i made the bechamel and the shells boiled).
  5. make the bechamel. melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. add the flour and whisk about 3 minutes until the flour cooks (turns light brown. if you skip this step, the bechamel will taste like flour - no good!). whisk in the milk. make sure you continuously whisk, or the milk will scorch on the bottom of the pan. turn up the heat to medium-high. simmer for about three minutes, until it thickens, and whisk the whole time. once thickened, remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and a pinch (or two) of nutmeg.
  6. preheat your oven to 350F.
  7. drain the shells and rinse with cold water so you don't burn your hands.
  8. add a thin layer of pasta sauce to the bottom of a 9x13 pan. i used a glass pyrex dish.
  9. pop open a shell and hold it in your palm. add a tablespoon of mushroom filling and generous pinches of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. place seam side up in the pan.
  10. fill the rest of the shells. try not to squeeze the shells too close together.
  11. once full, drizzle the bechamel sauce over the seams of each shell, adding about a teaspoon to each.
  12. drizzle the remaining pasta sauce over the shells.
  13. cover with foil & bake for 30 minutes. uncover and bake another 15minutes. scoop and let sit on your plate for at least 5 minutes or risk your mouth full of hot cheesy lava.
2014.09.01 this was cooking mimi's pick for the secret recipe club!


short cut cinnamon roll cake

i needed something easy. not too many ingredients. simple but sinful. something to hit all the right sweet notes i had been craving for a week.

luckily, a southern grace had just posted this super simple, but sinfully delicious recipe for cinnamon roll cake.

what worked
  1. it took no time at all to put together. and tasted great.

what didn't
  1. i used a 9x9 glass pyrex pan and there was almost too much topping, it needed to be mixed in better. next time i'll try layering the cake batter and the topping - batter, topping, batter, topping - and then swirling it before it bakes. and i bet it would be good with a nice white cake mix too.


honey graham bread

with all the baking i've done in the last year or so, i've never attempted bread. sure, i've made pretzels, rolls, biscuits, and quick breads, but i'm talking about adding yeast, wait for it to double, etc, and end up with a great homemade loaf of bread.

and really, nothing beats a slice of warm, fresh baked bread with butter. especially on a sunday morning, with fresh coffee and a newspaper.

so i gave it a shot.

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