Cookie Madness 2014

We are HORRIBLE bloggers. Not only have we not posted new recipes in three months (I KNOW), but we almost let March Madness go by without a pool. Almost, but not quite! So here it is. Get going, though, because tournament play begins March 20th, and this pool will close on that date at 1am (so, really, get your picks in by March 19th).

For a reminder, here’s the deal:

Enter our March Madness bracket (recap for the uninformed: March Madness is a tournament of college basketball teams, mmmmkay?) If you win the pool, we will bake you something yummy and portable based on your personal preferences. You will get two different selections of baked goods: Alison will have baked one and Jess will have baked the other. Then YOU choose which one of us has won your heart and stomach. Then that person will have home bragging rights for the year.

Seriously, potential winner of this bracket, you have the interpersonal dynamics of our marriage resting in your future hands. Don’t f*ck it up.

Anyway, here’s how you enter:

1) Like us on facebook! (We’re greedy)

2) we will post our bracket location and password on facebook.

3) Log in and fill out your tournament bracket by March 19.

4) Watch some basketball, drink some beer, eat some pizza (try our recipes: here, here, here, and here). Check your bracket once in a while to see where you rank.

5) Win! (Or hope to).

But what if I don’t follow basketball???
Don’t fret. You can pick based on colors, names, or out of a hat and you might have the same luck as those of us who watch. But if you want more systematic guidance, here are some helpful guides to picking a bracket on slate, espn, and bleacher report.

What kind of baked goods would you be willing to make?
Anything that can be shipped. So no pies or other delicate products. But don’t worry–there are a ton of other options.

And finally, as you are counting down the days until the tournament begins, peruse some related links:

Sarah won both the men’s and women’s contests last year (we went for gender equality, but we just can’t follow through with that this year–sorry, women’s basketball). Her preferences were posted here. Since she won twice, she kindly handed one “win” to Claudia. Alison won the contest over Sarah’s heart with her mint madness cookies and I won Claudia’s undying love (or something) with these peanut monsters. The year before, Amy chose Jess’s almond and tar heel cookies.

A match made in heaven: Fajita pizza

Once again, we have lagged on the posting front. Not on the cooking or baking front, and certainly not–heaven forbid–on the eating front. Just the actual taking pictures, writing down ingredients, putting everything into (semi-)coherent sentences, and posting front. This is what happens when you have two lazy bloggers.IMG_1109

Also, take pity on us: the holiday season is fast approaching, which means some long days and nights of kitchen work ahead. We’re tapering for the marathon, as it were.

In any case, please accept our humblest apologies, AND a twofer post: fajita pizza involves not just a pizza recipe, but also one of our lovely guacamole recipes. There is something wonderfully iconoclastic about adding guacamole to pizza, don’t you think?IMG_1123
Warm pizza + cool guac = perfection. Continue reading

Mocha cheesecake cupcakes with chocolate ganache

So I have a confession to make about these cupcakes. I made them, initially, for Sarah as a part of our NCAA basketball tournament-inspired cookie throwdown. I wanted to make inside-out cupcakes, inspired by Liz Lemon/Tina Fey’s cupcake sandwich. I figured that real cupcakes would be too messy, but put the frosting inside the cupcake, and, blamo! Instant shippable treat.

Well, this is not true. I neglected to think about the consistency of the cakey part of the cupcake and the longevity of cupcakes more generally. So I made this awesome batch of cupcakes and then immediately realized, “Shit! I can’t ship these.”

So we ate them ourselves, with an assist from our friend Heather. It was tough, you guys, but we managed.

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(Also, the inside frosting thing didn’t quite work, which explains the ganache. More on that below.)

Cupcakes are tough little suckers. I tried out about half a dozen recipes a few years ago, and none of them came out quite the way I wanted them to. At one point, I brought a relatively successful batch to a party, only to find that two other people also came bearing cupcakes that were better looking and not any worse tasting than mine–yet theirs came straight from a box. That’s the problem with cupcakes. There are decent box mixes out there, and it’s not always worth the extra time to make them from scratch.

However, I just can’t deal with being outsmarted by the lowly cupcake. So I tried again. And these actually worked! They were delicious. Granted, the recipe I chose for the cheesecake portion of the cupcake was way, way too liquid-y to hold it’s shape within the cupcake. Swirled with the chocolate batter, though, it added a delightful cheesecake flavor to the rich chocolate base. Not too shabby.

Ingredients

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp brewed espresso
1 egg
2 tbsp flour
pinch of salt
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, divided
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  2. Beat the cream cheese and sugar together with a mixer until light. Add egg and mix well. Add espresso, flour, and salt and mix. Set aside.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. Using a double boiler, melt the 3 oz of chocolate. Set aside.
  5. Beat butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and mix thoroughly by hand. Mix in vanilla and melted chocolate and continue mixing.
  6. Stir in half of the buttermilk, then half of the dry ingredients, then the remaining buttermilk, and then the remaining dry ingredients.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, then fold into batter in thirds. Do not over mix! (You should still see some faint wisps of egg white in the batter).
  8. Add the chocolate batter to the cupcake liners and top with cheesecake batter, then swirl the batters. Alternatively, you can fill the liner with a smaller amount of chocolate batter, then cheesecake batter, and then chocolate batter again. Both versions work well. The batter should fill at least 3/4 of the cupcake liners.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes, then cool.
  10. Make ganache: place finely chopped bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl. On the stovetop, bring heavy cream to a boil. Add to chocolate and stir until melted. Set aside to cool.
  11. Frost cupcakes with ganache and serve!