Sunday, December 23, 2012

White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

We're in the home stretch now.



Tomorrow is Christmas eve. Usually that means a flurry of preparations and gift wrapping for me, but this year is different. The cookies are baked. The presents are wrapped. I've already done a mini pre-Christmas of sorts with my family in Vancouver and today we flew to Calgary to spend the holiday with the boys family. It's a different sort of Christmas for sure...

No stockings hung by the chimney. No rambunctios little brothers bouncing off the walls. No Christmas morning video cameras. No turkey and cornbread stuffing and cranberry sauce. It's a first for me and I'm trying to be open to new things. Trying to see that the spirit of the holidays lies in all sorts of traditions. Becoming a part of a new family, or trying to anyway, can be a challenging thing. I know a lot of people must be going through that around the holidays. Compromises must be made on all sides, and I know for myself, I could probably stand to give a little more. So I'm working on smiling. On being gracious. And on appreciating these people I am so lucky to have in my life and loving them for who they are. 

And of course, there are still cookies. It can't be all that bad.  




So these cupcakes... they are scrumptious little things. And I had really really REALLY wanted this post to be up days ago but, well... Something got in the way. A casserole dish to be exact.   I'm not even sure how to explain this other than that... my clumsiness really knows no bounds. It is so ridiculous. But simply put, I've spent the last few days with one heck of a headache and a mild concussion. I'm a little bit grumpy and a lot ashamed. That is all.

I made these little treats for a coworker who is just the tiniest bit OBSESSED with the Starbucks white chocolate peppermint mocha, and who also happens to have a December Birthday. They were quite minty, so I've dialled back the peppermint extract in the recipe below - but if you really love mint feel free to up it to 1 1/2 teaspoons, or even to replace the vanilla with more mint.  The light coffee cake counteracts the sweetness of the frosting perfectly, they were a big hit around the office. 




Latte Cupcakes

Adapted from Annie's Eats.

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon instant coffee or espresso powder ( I used 2 packets Starbucks via)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup brewed coffee
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line a cupcake pan with paper liners. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and instant coffee. Set aside.

2. Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat them together on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well combined. Use a liquid measuring cup to combine the coffee, milk, and vanilla.

3. Keep the  mixer on low speed as you gradually add the remaining ingredients to the butter mixture. Alternate the dry ingredients with the liquid mixture, mixing well after each addition, until batter is well combined and no lumps remain.

4. Spoon evenly into muffin wells - an ice cream scoop is great for this! Bake the cupcakes 15-20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.


White Chocolate Peppermint Butter Cream Frosting 


Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
6 ounces good quality white chocolate, coarsly chopped
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
pinch salt
3 cups icing sugar, sifted

Directions

1. Set a small bowl over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water, add the chopped chocolate and stir gently until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. You can also melt chocolate in the microwave.

2. With an electric mixer on medium high speed, whip butter until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the melted chocolate to the butter and beat to combine.

3. Add the extracts and salt, mixing well. Carefully add in the sifted sugar, in 1 cup increments, mixing on low speed after each addition. Once all of the sugar has been added, increase the speed to medium high and beat until well combined. Transfer icing to a piping bag and top each cupcake with a generous swirl of frosting, and decorations of your choice. I used white chocolate peppermint M&M's.


Merry Christmas friends! Peace and love to you and all of your families.

XOXO



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies with White Chocolate Peppermint M&M's

I'm setting a personal record this year.


    
I am almost DONE with my holiday shopping. For real. This is a big deal people. HUGE. I am the biggest procrastinator ever. I usually find myself scrambling to find suitable gifts for friends and family members on December 23rd! Dragging my tired/ dazed self through the crowds at the mall to find something... anything! But this year I was inspired to take advantage of black Friday (week) sales, and by December 2nd I'd already checked off 90% of my list.

Sigh...

Don't you just LOVE checking things off of lists? Best feeling.


All that's left now is to find something for the boyfriend. And with everyone else out of the way, I think I can handle that. The real question is, where best to hide it? There has been a little battle going on between us each year over who can find the best gift-hiding spot in the apartment (as in, who can find what the other person got them before December 25th). I haven't won yet. Although, I did get one over on him last year via strategic wrapping. Want to confuse a loved one on Christmas morning (who doesn't)? Put a gift card in a big box, along with a few 3 pound dumbbells  and some newspaper. Wrap it all up. I know its an old trick, but the look on their face will be priceless. Hehee.


If you think this means I also saved boatloads of money by shopping the sales this holiday season, think again. No Sir. I took my shopping savings and got tickets to see ELF THE MUSICAL in Seattle next weekend!!!! You'll have to excuse me, but I am pretty much bursting with excitement. If I'm not in the Holiday spirit yet, I sure will be after that. And really, I just heart musicals of any kind.


I've also made a considerable dent in my baking to do list and people... listen. This is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I've ever tried. They are perfection. If you like your cookies fluffy and doughy, then you must make these RIGHT NOW. What are you waiting for? Go!

Now... if you like your cookies flat and crispy, with the chips rising up over a little puddle of "dough"... Well, I'm just not sure we can be friends anymore. So hopefully you will try these and see the light.  

For our friendship.



Got a work potluck or family gathering coming up? I'm sure you do. Make these. They're simple, yes. But they will disappear so fast.

Mix in whatever you please - whether that's chocolate chips and M&M's, toffee bits and pretzels, or pecans and dried cranberries. Anything goes. Whatever you do, just make sure you share ;)








Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from How Sweet It Is.

Makes about 36 Cookies.

Ingredients

2 Cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon salt
3/4 Cup or 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, very soft*
1 Cup golden brown sugar
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
1 Egg
1 Egg yolk
2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
1 Cup chocolate chips, M&M's, or mix-ins of your choosing

* A note about the butter. Mine was at room temperature and I softened it even more by cutting it into cubes and microwaving until it juuuust starts to melt. Then creaming it with the butter right away. Jess says to melt it all the way and set in the fridge/freezer to cool. I think either way will work as long as the butter isn't completely liquid or hot at all.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and whisk to combine. Gradually add the flour mixture - about a 1/2 cup at a time - until fully incorporated. Fold in the M&M's, chocolate chips, or whatever you choose. I used 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and 2/3 white chocolate peppermint M&M's!

3. Spoon cookie dough onto prepared pan, about 2 tablespoons dough per cookie. I used my new favourite kitchen utensil, my cookie scoop! Leave about 2 inches between cookies. You'll get about 12 per sheet, less if you make bigger cookies. Bake at 325 F for 12-15 minutes. Cookies will be puffed up and just starting to brown slightly around the edges. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack or plate.

Or burn your fingers/ mouth by cramming one into your face the instant you pull them out of the oven. I won't say I told you so.