Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bad Day White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Bars

Yesterday was not my day.  Between being poked and prodded by multiple doctors as part of the mandatory physical exam I needed to pass to get a job and the blood tests required for college health records, and oh yah the speeding ticket I got trying to go between one appointment and another, it was a rough day. 

So I did what any teen girl would do.  I ate.  These bars specifically...

They made me feel better.  Until I realized a large amount of the pan was gone. 
Oh well, it was worth it. 

These bars come from a new cookbook I got as a birthday present from my friends called Perfectly Light Deserts.  It's the first recipe I've made from it, and it was amazing.  Really, two thumbs up. 
The whole tag line of the book is that every (normal sized) serving of each recipe is less than 300 calories, and honestly, that was enough to sell me on it. 

This recipe started out as Cranberry Oatmeal Bars, but I had to make some changes.  Like getting rid of the pecans, because really, why ruin a bar with those.  So I took out those and did what any rational person would do, I added chocolate (well white chocolate, but that totally still counts).  Truly one of the best choices I've made.

Cranberries and a touch of white chocolate... good

Cranberries and oatmeal with generous amounts of white chocolate...
Sitting down with individually cut bars and not caring about lighting because they
just look and taste so good... best.

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Bars
24 servings (2 inch squares)
(My variations made in blue)

3 cups rolled oats (regular oatmeal)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup (about 4 ounces) pecan pieces, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed (I did about 1/2 cup and a Tbsp because of the added sweetness of the white chocolate chips)
1 large egg
1 cup unsweetened applesauce  (It has got to be unsweetened)
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
6 oz of white chocolate chips
1/4 cup milk (I used 2%)
9x13 inch pan lined with tin foil

 Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
In a double broiler, place 3 oz of white chocolate chips,stirring occasionally until melted.  As they begin to melt, add 1 Tbsp of milk at a time until the mixture becomes liquid enough to drizzle without clumps (I used about 1/4 cup)  Take off eat, and set to the side. 
 Stir the oats, flour cranberries, remaining chocolate chips and baking soda together in a bowl.
 In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar with a large rubber spatula. Beat in the egg, then the applesauce, cinnamon, and ginger.
 Stir in the dry ingredients and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top  (I forgot to smooth, oops).
 Bake the bars for about 25 minutes, or until they are firm when pressed with a fingertip.
 Cool in the pan on a rack.
Once cooled, take the melted white chocolate mixture (you might need to reheat it), and drizzle over the bars (I use a wooden spoon moving it quickly from side to side).  Let it cool and harden. 
Remove from pan by lifting the foil out. 
Cut into 2-inch bars. 

Each bar is under 200 calories (so it's totally okay if you eat the entire pan)

Credit to Perfectly Light Desserts by Nick Malgieri and David Joachim.
Go buy the book, it is amazing. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Control Freak Carrot Cake

I am not a control freak, I am a planner.  It's just what I do, I plan. 
However, I am not an OCD organizer either, I just like to have an idea of what I'm getting into...
or digging into...

I felt the need to make this distinction, because today is my 18th birthday and I made my own cake. 
This is the first time I've done that, as usually my tradition is to have a red velvet cake from Portos (so good!), but this year I decided I wanted Carrot Cake instead.  I looked at Porto's Bakery carrot cake and their version had a deal breaker for me... nuts.  I can't stand walnuts, peanuts, or pecans, unless they are in butter form.  So as I was about to resign to getting the usual red velvet cake, I came across Cooking Light Magazine's June 2011 issue in which they took the usually caloric carrot cake and revised it to be much lighter in calories, and let me tell you, those calories will not be missed.
If you like dense carrot cakes that are perfectly moist without being soggy, then this is the cake.  Otherwise, I've got other recipes for you that are differently good (and also without nuts!).  The spices are well balanced, being light without dissappearing and obvious without becoming overpowering.
I apologize to my extended family, but I may have found a recipe to replace Grandma's.  Seriously, that good.

Carrot Cake (from Cooking Light)

10 1/10 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated carrot  (I used 2 1/2 because I like the texture with more carrots!)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk (I have never felt the need to buy buttermilk, so I just replaced this with 1/2 cup 2% milk and 1/2 tsp white vinegar mixed in)
Cooking spray

7 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted (ew, no).
Raw batter

 Baked Batter


1. Preheat oven to 350°.   (When I bake cakes I always do it at 325, my high school cooking teacher advised us to do that once, and it has never failed to produce evenly cooked and perfectly bronzed cakes... seriously, try it).
2. To prepare cake, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. If you simply scoop it, you could end up with way to much flour).  Combine flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add 2 (and a 1/2) cups grated carrot, tossing to combine.
3. Place granulated sugar, brown sugar, and 6 tablespoons butter in another large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Spread batter into a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. I'll admit, I committed a huge baking faux pas here, I used the wrong type of pan.  Usually, I would say never do that, but you know what?  It was my birthday, and I'm a firm believer that sheet cakes are not special enough for birthdays.  Sorry.  Bake at 325° for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake completely on a wire rack.
4. To prepare frosting, place softened cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at medium speed until combined (don't overbeat). Spread frosting evenly over top of cake. Sprinkle evenly with toasted pecans. (*blech*)

Cuts perfectly...

and tastes so good.  Really, I had three slices.  My birthday wish was that the calories wouldn't count. 

Between the cake and finishing high school classes forever, this was the best birthday yet, for which I am so thankful to my family, Andie, Mama Evans, May, Kels, Pess, Nicole, Chels, Kari, and Lauren O for!  You think you have sweet friends? They don't even touch mine.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

I should truly be ashamed...

This is my first official baking blog post and it involves a box mix!  I'm not a fan of box mixes, I find the process of baking to calming and fun to take the quick route. 

But the word quick doesn't really apply to this recipe.  Of everything I have ever made, Cake Pops have to be one of the most labor intensive.  Luckily I chose to make these during a movie night (Never Let Me Go *tear*) with two of my friends Katie and Kelsey so that made things easier.  Unluckily, we thought we should make two different types.  Don't do that.  If it's your first time just make one box.  Trust me. 

For our flavors, Katie, Kels and I probably had to much fun inventing different combinations and somehow we ended up deciding to make Red Velvet Cake Pops with Cream Cheese Frosting dipped in Semisweet chocolate, and White Vanilla Cake Pops with Strawberry Frosting dipped in Semisweet chocolate with Circus Animal Cookies Crumbs on top.  Yah, don't get me started on Strawberry Frosting from a can, we chose it for childhood nonstalgia sake. 

We made some errors:
1)  Read all the directions before starting.
2) No really, read them all. 
3) From this reading you should realize you need popsicle sticks.  Recommended but not required, we used skewers.  They worked, but dipping was difficult.
4) Patience. Have a lot of it.
5) Snitching some food at every stage.  Way to full to enjoy the final product. 

Recommended noncooking related materials:
1) A movie (For baking time, first cooling time, and second cooling time)
2) TV show season on tivo or dvd (For dipping time, cooling time, and decorating time)
3) Contacts (so you can see the tv screen from the kitchen if your like me and your eyesight isn't stellar)
4) Friends
5) Something to talk about

Overall, so worth the end product and seeing people's faces when they try them. 

1 box cake mix
1 can of frosting (but please if you do cream cheese, make it from scratch, for my sanity: 8 ounces cream cheese softened, 2 cups confectioner's sugar, 4 tablespoons butter, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla; mix butter and cream cheese frosting, then add vanilla, then confectioners sugar a 1/2 cup at a time)
16 oz of your choice of chocolate, white chocolate, butterscotch, peanutbutter, or anyother type of baking chips

-Bake the cake according to the directions on the box and after removing it from the oven to allow it to cool.
-Place the cake in a large mixing bowl and begin to crumble it (using your hands is easiest).  Once all the largest pieces are broken up, add the can of frosting in four parts, mixing as you go until everything is completely combined.  Yes, the mix should look gross, and yes it does still taste shamefully good.
-Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or until firm)
- Cover a baking sheet (or two to be safe) with parchment paper. Remove the cake mixture from the fridge and roll it into a smooth ball (mine were the size of golf balls). Take a lollipop stick and place into the end of each ball, pointing upward, and place back down on the sheet, continuing process until all cake mix is used. 

-Place in the freezer until hard or until patience runs out, we lasted fourty-five minutes and it worked fine. 
-Place chocolate (or etc.) chips in the double broiler, stirring until completely melted.  Remove cake pops from freezer, and dip each individually into chocolate.  I hadn't melted enough chocolate to completely submerge each ball so I spooned chocolate over uncovered spots if needed.  Allow chocolate to drip of slightly so you don't get random strange shapes, though they do look pretty cool even if you don't.
-Place each ball back onto the covered sheet, sprinkling any desired toppings on top. 
*warning: let cool until almost completely hardened before adding the clear sprinkles like the ones we added, otherwise they lose their color and look less than adorable. 

Leave them be to allow chocolate to harden. 

Then feel free to indulge and enjoy.  Which you will. Trust me. 

Yes, I am aware of my lack in camera skills. I'm working on it. 


It's about time...

So, I've had this blog set up for a while, occassionally opening it to play with colors and headers (I'm not the most artistically inclined if you can't tell), and I've just never posted on it.  Not that I haven't baked at all, far from it actually, I just have this problem where once I start I can't stop baking to pick up a camera and take some pictures... but no more of that.  I've got this.  Or at least I really hope I do.  

So without further ado, welcome to Please Cupcake.  My name is Lauren, I'm a highschool senior (but only for five more days!), I'm seventeen years old (for three more days!), and I love to bake.  I'm accident prone and I'm not very detail oriented, which makes for some interesting kitchen adventures, but good or bad results aside, baking is something I love.   And I hope it stays that way. 

Let the adventure begin ...