Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Georgetown Cupcake is the "icing on top" of Newbury St.!

If I told you I waited two and half hours for a cupcake, you likely wouldn’t be surprised. I mean, really, if you haven’t checked out my logo above, give it a good once-over now. I like love cupcakes and it’s not really a secret.

However, if I told you that hundreds of people formed a line that wrapped around the block on Newbury St. in Boston last Saturday for a cupcake, you might be a little less inclined to believe me. 

Source: Georgetown Cupcake
Well, believe this! Georgetown Cupcake, the smash cupcake phenomenon that started in 2008 with a gourmet cupcake bakery near the nation’s capital and quickly spawned a smash-hit TV show called “DC Cupcakes” on TLC, a memoir/cookbook titled "The Cupcake Diaries," and several more outlets in Bethesda, SoHo, and now Boston (a Los Angeles location is slated to open in the Fall), led hundreds of cupcake-crazy fans to line up outside their doors on 83 Newbury St. last Saturday to experience the renowned sweet treats and claim their complimentary cupcake in celebration of the grand opening.

If you know me at all, or follow this blog, you’re aware that I’m kind of a cupcake connoisseur. I’ve visited the best bakeries all over New England and certainly have my favorites, but there is something totally unique about Georgetown Cupcake that leads me to move them straight to the top of my list.

Maybe it was the store’s bright, gleaming, signature pink interior humming with lively music and adorned with lustrous silver trays, on which a tantalizing array of perfectly-frosted gourmet cupcakes were stacked. The flavor selection was abounding, each option besting the next. My favorites were Georgetown Cupcake's signature cupcake, classic red velvet with a vanilla cream cheese frosting topped with a red fondant heart, and the Salted Caramel, a caramel cupcake with a salted caramel-infused buttercream frosting topped with a caramel drizzle. I couldn’t stop myself from purchasing a full half dozen to share with family and friends, which also included the Chocolate Ganache, PB Fudge, Mint Cookies and Cream and Coconut flavors. 

Source: Georgetown Cupcake

Each cupcake is sizable and moist. As I bit into mine, it was a lot like what I would imagine pure cupcake nirvana feeling like – the blissful buttercream, with its decadent, but not overly sweet flavors was truly the “icing on top” of a perfectly baked cupcake. Even the packaging is beautiful and well thought out. Each trademark-pink box is cleverly designed so that the cupcakes will remain secure and intact in perfect pods.

All of these lovely little details would have made the wait well worth it, but then came the masterminds and visionaries behind the cupcake empire. Sisters Katherine Kallinas and Sophie Kallinas LaMontagne are cupcake rock stars. But, even with their sky-rocketing success, the duo is amazingly humble. As I approached the register to order my much-anticipated treats, I spotted Sophie and Katherine packaging up orders behind the counter and mingling with customers. “Sophie!” I called out, barely able to contain my excitement. She whipped around and smiled at me, welcoming me to the store and offering to sign my menu. “Katherine!” she called out, as she motioned her sister over to sign my menu, as well. “Thank you so much for coming,” they both gushed. Instantly likeable and thoroughly genuine, the sisters chatted with me about how excited they were to be opening in Boston and posed for a picture. They even complimented my bright pink shorts I wore especially for the occasion! It felt like I’d known them forever.

While cupcakes may be the trendy dessert of the moment, top-notch customer service and a top-of-the-line product certainly are not. Something tells me Georgetown Cupcake is here to stay… even if I’m solely supporting them myself! :)


Monday, June 11, 2012

Oatmeal Butterscotch Caramel Cookies

Is it just me, or is there something about caramel sauce that brings you back to being a kid again? One of my favorite parts of elementary school was the annual ice cream socials. I guess I've always been a bit of a sweet fiend, because I can remember lining up to heap each topping onto my perfect palate of ice cream, and I specifically remember never skimping on the caramel sauce!

Maybe it was the wonderfully reminiscent flavors of my fellow blogger, Picky Palate's new recipe that caught my eye, but when I heard "oatmeal," "butterscotch," "caramel," and "cookie" all used in the same recipe, I knew there was no looking back! And, of course, these cookies did not disappoint. If for no other reason, I highly recommend popping a batch of these babies into your oven just for the mere aromatic benefits. Your house will smell like pure butterscotch and caramel heaven! And of course, you only need to try a bite (or maybe two, or three, or... you get the picture) to experience this heaven for yourself. The cookies are soft and packed with sweet and perfectly fabulous flavor. Check out the recipe below and hurry to go whip up a batch for yourself!

Oatmeal Butterscotch Caramel Cookies 

2 sticks (1 cup/16 tablespoons) softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup prepared caramel sauce
2 cups all purpose Gold Medal Flour
1 cup quick oats
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 bag butterscotch chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line a large baking sheet with a silpat liner or parchment paper.
2. In stand or electric mixer, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy, a good 2-3 minutes. Slowly add in eggs, vanilla and caramel sauce.
3. Place flour, oatmeal, salt and baking soda into a large bowl, mixing to combine. Slowly add to wet ingredients along with butterscotch chips. Mix until just combined then scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet with a medium cookie scoop. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until edges just start to turn golden brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Serve and enjoy! (Makes 3 dozen cookies).

Happy Baking! :)


Grilled Pizza with Herb Goat Cheese and Veggies

Grilling is one of summer's true pleasures, but truth be told, there are only so many burgers one can eat. Enter.. grilled pizza!

Just like long, lazy summer nights, grilled pizza is low maintenance and immensely enjoyable! I think it's even more simple and flavorful than oven-made pizza! Don't worry, the dough won’t fall down between the grill grates, and I happen to think the lovely smokiness of the grill mimics the flavors imparted by a wood-fired oven. For excellent pizza, you want hot cooking temperatures, in the 500°F range, and while nobody wants to crank their oven that high in the summer, grills definitely get that hot. 

Grilled pizza works as a great appetizer or main dish for outdoor summer parties where you're looking to beat the "burger blah" that's sure to descend on your palate sometime between May and September. Your imagination is the limit when it comes to toppings. Some popular favorites are mozzarella, chopped rosemary, olives, sun dried tomatoes, pepperoni, eggplant, chicken, mixed veggies, etc. 

For my grilled pizza this week, I decided to pick up a package of my favorite herb goat cheese and top it with diced, leftover grilled veggies from another weekend barbeque. See, grilled pizza can be great for leftovers, too! If I haven't convinced you to try it yet, check out the simple 5-step recipe below!

A batch of your favorite pizza dough -- my favorite is Trader Joe's Whole Wheat dough!
Corn meal
Olive oil
A hot grill (gas or charcoal) with an indirect heat area off to one side.
Olive oil spray for the grill grate
Grill utensils i.e. tongs, etc.
All of your toppings, ready to go 

1. Roll/stretch out your pizza dough on a surface covered in corn meal. Don’t be too concerned with the shape or regularity of thickness; it’s supposed to be rustic! Paint each side of the dough with about a teaspoon of olive oil. 
2. Once the grill is hot (you should be able to hold your hand over it for no more than 2 seconds), spray it with the olive oil spray.
3. Pick up the disc of dough, give it a final bit of stretching if needed, and then lay it on the grill. Let cook for about 2 minutes.
4. With tongs, check to see how the bottom is doing; you are looking for a nice golden brown color with maybe a bit of char here and there.  Spin the crust if you need to for even cooking.  The top will puff and bubble up -- this is a good sign!
5. When golden-browness is achieved, take the pizza dough off the grill and put it on your prep surface,  browned part facing up. Apply your toppings of choice, keeping a “less is more” philosophy to avoid sogginess, and return to the cooler part of the grill. It is helpful to have a pizza peel, cookie sheet or large spatula for sliding it back onto the hot grill. Shut the lid, and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the bottom is browned and the toppings are hot/bubbly.  Let rest a few minutes, slice, (pour yourself a nice glass of wine) and enjoy!


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Happy Birthday Chelsea's Choice!

Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to youuu!
Happy Birthdayyy, dear blooooog!
Happy Birthday, to youuu!!!
In honor of Chelsea's Choice's 1st Birthday coming up this week (Thursday, June 14, to be exact!), as well as in celebration of my brother's graduation, this weekend called for an extra special dessert! I started by settling on the idea of a fancy cake. What's a big celebration without a swanky cake to top it all off, anyways, right?! Since strawberry season is finally upon us, the idea of a strawberry shortcake seemed like the obvious, most scrumptious choice. 
After being inspired by this Food Network Diner-Style Strawberry Shortcake recipe, I decided on a four-layered alternating white and yellow cake with whipped cream cheese frosting and fresh strawberries and blueberries. Sounds complicated, right? Well, good news! It absolutely is not and is sure to impress everyone at your next summer gathering! So, listen up for some helpful how-to's! 
There's just something about the delicious decadence of cream cheese that seriously enhances the sweet, tangy flavors of fresh and seasonal fruit, so although strawberry shortcake is typically made with traditional whipped cream, I decided to whip up (no pun intended!) some homemade whipped cream cheese frosting, instead. After baking and torting one white and one yellow cake (hint: to save time, I baked the cakes two days in advance and stored them in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap to seal in the moisture!), I spread the frosting in between each cake layer and topped with thinly sliced strawberries for an additional burst of berry-goodness. Finish by frosting the entire exterior of the cake and decorate with thinly sliced strawberries and blueberries! Don't be afraid to be creative with this -- it's time to let your inner culinary artist juices flow! 
The cake was a huge hit amongst family and friends this weekend and I think it was the perfect way to celebrate one whole delightfully delicious year of blogging! Here's to another fabulous year of Chelsea's Choice!
Happy Baking! :)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lady Souffladies' Swirled Summer Berry Soufflé

Just the name of this recipe evokes visions of warm and endless sunny days and seasonally bright berry blossoms. Sounds like heaven, right? Well, that's exactly how this recipe tastes! This decadent-tasting soufflé is unexpectedly light with its marshmallowy meringue swirled with sweet raspberries and blackberries. The pistachio garnish gives a lovely punch of color and an unexpected but welcomed crunch-factor! Made with fresh and simplistic ingredients, this recipe is as refreshing as it is surprisingly healthy! Don't you love when such delicious dishes aren't so bad for you?!

This weekend, I rounded up two of my best girlfriends, Cassidy and Elise, and enlisted their help as my sous chefs for a top secret project that I'm super excited about! I promise to tell you more as soon as I can, but for now, I can share that our "team name" is the "Lady Souffladies" -- get it?! We had the best time whipping up this deliciously dynamic and flavorful treat and hope that our skills in the kitchen will really "win people over!"

I'd love for you to bake up a batch of this special seasonal recipe for your friends and family and let me know what you think in the comments section! I'll bet they'll love the fantastically light, tangy and tart flavors just as much as we did!

Lady Souffladies' Swirled Summer Berry Soufflé (recipe from Food & Wine)

2 cups raspberries
1 cup blackberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch (you may add a bit more) mixed with 1 tablespoon water
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup chopped unsalted pistachios

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a medium saucepan, combine the raspberries and blackberries with the granulated sugar, water, vanilla and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring often. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold very soft peaks. Gradually beat in the superfine sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, and continue beating until glossy peaks form, about 3 minutes longer. Gently swirl in 3/4 cup of the berry mixture, leaving streaks in the beaten whites.

Spoon the remaining berry mixture into six 1/2-cup ramekins. Top with the soufflé mixture, mounding it slightly. Sprinkle with the pistachios. Bake the soufflés for 6 minutes, or until golden on top. Serve.

Happy Baking! :)


Fast Food Baking

I don't know about you, but this looks like one "happy meal" to me! There's nothing quite like sweet sliders made with cupcake buns, brownie burgers, frosting condiments and sugar cookie fries, especially to kick off the summer season! 
Aside from the deliciously decadent flavor and super cute presentation, the best part about this fast food baking project is how easy it is! All you need is a box of brownie, cake and sugar cookie mixes, a few cans of frosting and some food coloring to whip up these fun treats that are sure to impress everyone at your next summer barbeque! 
Start by whipping up your brownies as you normally would -- you'll cut out small circles from the pan to create mini "burger patties" later, after the brownies cool. 
Next, throw a batch of cupcakes in the oven using yellow cake mix. Make sure to use clear or yellow paper cupcake liners to avoid browned sides, making your "buns" look even more realistic! 
Then, whip up your sugar cookie dough, roll it out and cut it into thin strips, resembling french fries. Sprinkle some sugar (like salt!) on top and bake the strips according to your sugar cookie dough instructions. The strips will spread as they bake, so to make them look even more like "skinny" fries (rather than steak fries), cut each fry down the center as soon as they come out of the oven. Sprinkle a bit more sugar on top, and ta-dah! You've got sugar cookie fries. 

To assemble, halve each cupcake and place your circle brownie cut-outs in between the cupcake buns. You'll have some leftover scraps from the brownies... I trust you'll find some way to make good use of them ;). Divide your canned frosting into three bowls and color each bowl with red (ketchup), green (lettuce) and yellow (mustard) food coloring. Pipe the frosting on the outside rim of the brownie patties so that the colors will show outside of the bun. Place the top of the bun on and press gently. And voila... you have fast food cupcakes! 
Don't you think these would be just perfect for summer cookouts? Memorial Day and Fourth of July desserts will never be the same. 
Happy Baking! :)
Many thanks to Bakerella for providing the inspiration for this fabulously fun recipe! 
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