Hamburgers

Did I fool anyone?  These are actually hamburger cupcakes!!  They are probably the most exciting thing I have made in a long time too!  They were ridiculously easy to make as well, and you’ll see why below.  With summer drawing to a close, I knew Labor Day would probably be my last chance to make these this year, since it pretty much wraps up the picnic season.  I’m so glad I went for it and that T could take them into work to be enjoyed. 🙂

There’s really no recipe here as everything was store-bought/mixes.  Sure, you could make each item from scratch but after a very busy weekend, I just didn’t go that route this time.  This is what you need:

1 white cake mix, prepared as 24 cupcakes {I went with french vanilla flavored}

1 box of brownies

1 can of frosting, divided

gel/paste food colors – yellow {mustard}, green {lettuce}, red {ketchup}

biscuit cutter {I used a 2″ square}

3 pastry bags and 3 couplers

two #3 tips for the ketchup and mustard

one leaf tip for the lettuce {#66 or #352}

sesame seeds

toothpicks

Make and bake the cupcakes as directed in greased muffin cups {or you can use paper liners, but they’ll have to be removed before assembly}.  When cupcakes are still warm from baking, sprinkle each with sesame seeds.  Cool completely, then slice in half to create buns.

Make and bake the brownies.  Cool completely.  Then cut with biscuit cutter into square {or round} patties, making sure the patties are the right size for the buns.

Divide the can of frosting into 3 bowls.  Color with yellow, red, and green or as desired.

Prepare 3 pastry bags, couplers, and tips and fill each with the prepared frosting.

Decorate on the brownie “meat” to create ketchup, mustard and lettuce.

I only put lettuce on the corners, but you can add as much as you would like.  Then top with the upper half of the cupcake and you are done!

Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes

Wow!  I now know why there has been so much hype over Swiss meringue buttercream.  It is dreamy and smooth and so, so good!  I really don’t know how I’ll be able to go back to my old buttercream!

I have to give myself a pat on the back for making this recipe.  It was a lot more labor than I’m used to putting into cupcakes, especially on one of the hottest days of the year, but it was so worth it.  So worth it!

Due to a work function at the hellhole, I had to make all 3 parts of this recipe about 48+ hours before assembling the final product.  I left the lemon curd and buttercream in the fridge and left the cupcakes in an airtight container at room temp until I could put it all together.

As my luck goes, of course there was a casualty.  Well as instructed, I brought the buttercream to room temperature {or so I thought?} and then mixed it using my stand mixer to fluff it up again.  And it totally curdled and separated into a runny mess.  I ended up starting over with a new batch which was not really how I wanted to spend my Friday night, but that’s okay.

So, I would recommend making it and using it immediately.  Also, I used unsalted butter in the first batch and salted in the second and I could definitely tell a difference.  I thought the batch using unsalted butter was much better.  I didn’t have as many strawberries as were called for to make my second batch, so that was disappointing too.

Now, even though this was a time consuming project, no step was difficult.  At times I questioned the vagueness of certain directions, but I went with my gut and everything turned out great.  Erin also made some great suggestions, so I’ve included some combined tips throughout the instructions below that may make things more clear or clear as mud…

Strawberry Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes

Source:  Milk and Honey and Martha Stewart

Makes 24 cupcakes {I got 27 cupcakes}

First, make the filling:

LEMON CURD

  • 8 large egg yolks
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
  1. Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a heavy-bottom saucepan; whisk to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (be sure to scrape the sides of the pan), until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8 to 10 minutes, and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat. Add salt and butter, one piece at a time, stirring until smooth. {I had to move the saucepan back to very low heat to finish adding the butter, it just wasn’t melting for me off the heat.} Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Next, make the cake:

LEMON BUTTERMILK CUPCAKES

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • Finely grated zest of 3 lemons (about 3 tablespoons), plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in zest and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.
  4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full (or less, I had issues with 2 or 3 being too full and running over while baking}. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. {My were still pretty light colored, but center was done so don’t just go by color.} Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Make the frosting and assemble:

STRAWBERRY SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries (8 ounces), rinsed, hulled, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature {I recommend unsalted butter}
  1. Puree strawberries in a food processor. Combine egg whites and sugar in the heatproof bowl of a standing electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water.  {I may have messed up here, I just used a large shallow stainless steel frying pan, but realized later that it was supposed to be more of a double boiler set up.  So I guess I should have used a deeper pan for the simmering water?  My way seemed to work out though.} Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved.  The mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips.
  2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, mix until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. {I don’t think I truly got to stiff peaks, but went ahead anyway because it was glossy and fluffy.} Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.
  3. With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula and switch to the paddle attachment; continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Add strawberries and beat until combined. Stir with a flexible spatula until the frosting is smooth.*  {Taste the frosting at this point and you will think you went to heaven!!!}
  4. Using a small paring knife, cut a small cone shaped portion out of the middle of each cupcake. Reserve the cones. Spoon about a 1/2 teaspoon of the lemon filling into each cake. Top with reserved cone and press it down slightly into place.
  5. Pipe or spread the frosting on top of each filled cupcake. Garnish with a strawberry and a lemon wedge. Serve immediately. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator but bring to room temp before serving again.

*The frosting can be made ahead of time. Just transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes. {I don’t recommend this, but left in for anyone who wants to take the chance.}

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars

I had a pretty intense craving for these bars out of nowhere one day and luckily I had some time on my hands to make them.  And it really was good that I had extra time on my hands because I couldn’t find a freaking recipe for them anywhere!  How is it possible that I’ve never made them before, therefore blogging them and therefore knowing where to find my recipe?!  So, over the next hour I searched through about 10 cookbooks before finding a recipe.

They really hit the spot and reminded me of the school cafeteria too.  Weird.

Aside:  What is with all of my flashbacks to childhood?  Today I was thinking about the movies I watched all the time as a kid like Top Gun, Rags to Riches, and Grease!  I need to get copies of them so I can watch them soon.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter rice Krispie Bars

Source:  a hometown cookbook

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 cup Karo syrup

1-1/4 cup peanut butter {I used half smooth and half chunky}

2 tsp vanilla extract

6 cups rice krispies

1 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup butterscotch chips

Directions:

Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and set aside.

Heat the syrup and sugar on the stove until melted.  Add the peanut butter and vanilla, mixing well.  Then add the cereal.  Press into the prepared pan.

Melt the chips together and spread over the top.  Allow to set up, then cut into bars.

Strawberry Hand Pies

I have wanted to make hand pies for about 2 years now and never got around to it until now!  I’ve seen the little hand-held pies all over the blogs that I read, so I finally took the plunge.

Because it seems I have to adapt every recipe I make for one reason or another, I adapted this recipe by not using the pastry dough listed below.  I had to do this for a couple of reasons.  For one I was a little short on time, and I already had some of my go-to pastry dough in the freezer.  And two, I thought I was going to share them with my brother-in-law who can’t have milk.  My standard pastry dough does not contain milk and the one shown below does.  But as it turned out, I didn’t share these with him after all. 😉

Just for comparison, I do want to make them again using the recommended dough recipe listed below.

Strawberry Hand Pies

Source:  adapted from Beantown Baker, filling recipe originally from Smitten Kitchen

Pastry Dough
9-1/2 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 2 cups
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
2-1/2 ounces shortening, approximately 6 tablespoons
3/4 cup milk

Egg Wash

1 egg mixed with 1 to 2 teaspoons water

Filling
2 pounds of strawberries (~4 cups, chopped)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Make the Filling
Hull and cut strawberries into small pieces.  Mix them with the flour, sugar and pinch of salt, and add vanilla.

Make the Pastry Dough
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Pulse for a few seconds and then pour into a large mixing bowl.

Add the shortening and knead it into the flour with your hands until it is crumbly.

Add the milk all at once and mix in with a spatula until it begins to come together.

Lightly flour your hands and the countertop and turn the dough out onto the countertop. Knead the dough ball, folding over 10 to 20 times.

Using a rolling pin roll the dough to 1/3 to 1/2-inch thickness, then cut into rounds using a 2 1/4-inch ring. Roll each round as thinly as possible or to 5 to 6 inches in diameter.

Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling onto the dough, brush the edges of half of the dough lightly with the egg wash, fold over and seal the edges together with the tines of a fork, dipping it into flour as needed.  Gently press down to flatten and evenly distribute the filling and snip or cut 3 slits in the top of the pie.

Brush a little bit of egg wash on the outside of the pie and sprinkle with coarse decorating sugar.

To bake pies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place finished pies onto an ungreased cookie sheet {I used parchment paper} and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Blueberry Crumble Bars

Yum!  I made this dessert for the fourth of July and it was fabulous. The crust had a buttery shortbread type of texture so it really melted in your mouth.  The blueberry filling was just the right amount of sweet and tart.

I only made one change and that was adding the zest of the lemon to the filling.  I figured I was using a lemon for the juice anyway, so I might as well use the whole thing.

Blueberry Crumble Bars

source:  sugarcrafter

For the filling:

  • 3 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon

For the dough:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

First, measure out three cups of blueberries.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×9″ baking dish. Crush the blueberries and then pour them into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mix together the sugars, cornstarch, and ginger. Stir the sugar mixture, zest, and lemon juice into the blueberries.

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla.

In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients half at a time until crumbly.

Press 2/3 of the dough into the pan, reserving the remaining third. Bake the crust about 10 minutes or until very lightly browned.

Pour the blueberry filling onto the hot crust, and then dot the remaining dough over the top.

Bake about 25 minutes or until top is golden.  Cool before serving.

Chewy Brownies

I can’t believe I have been blogging this long and have never posted a brownie recipe!  How is that possible?! We are such big fans of brownies!  Thick and cakey or dense and fudgy, it doesn’t matter to us.  We like them all.  These happen to be thin and chewy and very chocolaty!   Tim was such a fan of them because of their strong dark chocolate favor.  I loved the little bits of melted chocolate from the chopped bittersweet chocolate that got stirred in the batter at the end. 🙂

Chewy Brownies

{Source: Cook’s Illustrated, March & April 2010 issue as seen at Brown Eyed Baker)

Yield: 24 brownies

1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder {I used Hershey’s special dark chocolate cocoa}
1½ teaspoons instant espresso (optional, but I strongly recommend it)
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2½ cups sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into ½-inch pieces

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving about a one-inch overhang on all sides. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk cocoa, espresso powder, and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.

3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.

4. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan.  Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I grew up eating rhubarb in many types of desserts and sauces.  And of course it was a favorite on the pie menu at the restaurant I worked at for numerous years.  So, I’m very familiar with it and have always loved eating it, but have been a little afraid to cook or bake with it myself.  I really don’t know why, I guess I thought it would be difficult to clean or something.  But really it is similar to celery, you just rinse it off and slice it.  So once I conquered that fear, I made my first strawberry rhubarb pie!

The only problem I had was major run over as it was baking.  Next time I’ll take a few precautions to be sure I don’t have those problems again.  I’ll put a baking sheet under it to catch drips, not overfill it, and use a traditional top crust instead of the decorative one which may have allowed the juices to easily run over.

Tim loved it of course and he’s already asking me to make another one soon!  The man has loved every pie he’s ever met! 🙂

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

{Source:  adapted from Betty Crocker’s Bridal Edition Cookbook}

pastry dough for double crust pie

2 to 2-1/3 cups sugar*

2/3 cups AP flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp grated orange zest – optional

3 cups rhubarb chopped into 1/2″ pieces

3 cups sliced strawberries

1 tablespoon butter

Make the pastry (or have it made ahead and placed in the fridge or freezer}.  Roll it out and place the bottom layer in the pie pan.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix sugar, flour, salt, and zest in a large bowl.  Stir in the rhubarb and strawberries.  Pour into the pastry lined pan.

Cut the tablespoon of butter into small pieces and dot over the filling.  Cover with top layer of pastry dough.  Make cuts for venting.  Seal and flute the edges.  Cover edges with foil to prevent over browning. Place on a large baking sheet {to catch run over}.

Bake about 55 minutes or until crust is golden and filling bubbles.  Remove the foil about 10-15 minutes before the end of the baking time.

Cool at least 2 hours.

*If you are using rhubarb that was picked early in the season, the lower amount of sugar will probably be enough.  More mature rhubarb is more tart and needs more sugar added.

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