Friday, September 30, 2011

Lemon Scones

Last night I had the opportunity to do two things I absolutely adore: spending time with my sweet sister, Christina, and baking lemon scones. Lemon scones are kind of my "thing"-- there's just something delightful about a recipe that is so simple and satisfying.  The scones I remember from my youth were so dense they could have doubled as door stops, but these are light and fluffy with a fresh lemon flavor!

 The recipe below is one that I created as a hybrid of 3 different recipes when making a huge quantity of scones for Christina's baby shower about a year and a half ago. Last night, we got together to make six (yes, SIX) batches of lemon scones for her sister-in-law Carolyn's bridal shower. We had a great time, and got the six batches done in record time (especially considering that there was plenty of chatting and some wine sipping involved)!

 This is a ridiculously easy recipe that takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, including baking. And best of all, you probably already have most of the ingredients in your kitchen!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Triple Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

Dear readers, I must confess something to you. Before I embarked on this most recent baking adventure, I took ten deep breathes, meditated for five minutes, prayed to the baking gods, and chanted a little bit. And I'm (mostly) not kidding. I first tried this recipe almost a year ago and nearly ended up having an anxiety attack. You see, I'm not someone who deals well with failure, particularly in the baking arena. I was preparing these cupcakes in a mad rush for a dinner party (mistake #1) and for some reason I found everything about the recipe, particularly the frosting, nerve wracking. The cupcakes actually turned out fine- and were even met with high praise by my parents (but they're my PARENTS, the incredibly sweet loving folks who used to proudly display my disastrous finger paintings on the refrigerator!) Bottom line, they had texture issues- the frosting was a wee bit lumpy and the cake was a little dry, and worst of all, the cupcakes were, in my mind, tinged with anxiety and mediocrity.

Fast forward one year, and here I was, ready to take on the mighty triple chocolate ganache cupcake monster once again. After the proper preparations (prayer, chanting, offerings to the baking gods), I started on the cupcakes, this time ensuring I had plenty to time (no dinner party) and the right baking music (the Fleetwood Mac station on Pandora). To make along story short, they turned out much better this time, and I'm finally recovering from the cupcake trauma of 2010. This time the only hitch was having to remake the Italian meringue buttercream frosting-- after accidentally buying and using salted butter, the frosting was way too salty. Even that though, has a positive side. I thought the original recipe I was using had an excessive amount of butter, even for buttercream frosting. In an effort not to have to make another run to the store, I found an alternate recipe that was quite a bit easier and used less butter.

The official verdict is that these cupcakes rock, according to people who aren't obligated to love me or my baking and who certainly don't give out false compliments. Amazingly chocolatey, great texture, delicious frosting-- I dare say the best chocolate cupcake I've ever had (and I've had my share, believe me!). They're a bit of effort, but completely worth it for an outcome that is leaps and bounds above your average run-of-the-mill chocolate cupcake. So, go ahead, lay an offering of frankincense, gold, and myrrh at the foot of your Kitchen Aid stand mixer, turn on your favorite baking music, and get started. It's SO worth it!