Now. Fresh Raspberry and Lemony Cream Tart

I’m in the midst of chaos.

But in reality, I only perceive it as chaos. It’s a wonderfully blessed life I have, and I’m letting myself perceive said chaos and losing sight of what is ahead. I need to focus on simplicity; I need to slow down. I must quit worrying about the future and appreciate today.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

I’m currently packing. The answer to the question I had a few weeks ago “how does one pack for five months?” still eludes me. And now I’m down to four nights left, with a mess of things surrounding a few suitcases. And I’m stressing out majorly.

But why? Why stress when the things that I pack do not matter. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, if I just go at it with a different perspective – that it will be okay if I miss something, if I have wrinkly clothes, or if I look completely disheveled in the airport.

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

What really matters is taking time to appreciate how blessed I am, and being grateful to the One who has blessed me. I have this opportunity to travel to Hawaii and live with dear friends for five months while taking a few online classes and spending precious time with my friends and godson. I feel spoiled. And all I’ve been doing is stress about just how I’m going to pack for it.

Today as I was throwing clothes into a suitcase and worrying about running out of time, I realized that rather than hurrying to finish, I need to slow down. I need to live this moment too, instead of only looking ahead.

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

So, I’m going to soak up these few days I have left in Illinois. I’m going to spend my time with those dear to me and I’m going to drink coffee and I’m going to read. I’m going to pack, yes, but I’m going to be more relaxed about it. Because why stress? Why, when it hides everything good in the days to come. While my countdown will continue because of the tremendous excitement I have for Hawaii, I won’t only see it as a countdown of days till I get out of here, but as how many days I have to enjoy here, in Illinois.

With this in mind, I DO have time to write here, and I DO have time to wander around town doing nothing, and I DO have time to sit in a coffee shop and read, and I DO still have time to spare. Because even if I end up throwing the remaining things I think I need in a bag at midnight the night before I leave, it will all be okay. And this trip will still be good. And a blessed life will go on.  I’m thankful for that, and everything else in my life – the things in the past and in the future and right now, this very second.

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

Let’s all take time to appreciate and live in this very moment.

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

To complement this reflection I offer a no fuss tart. Simple. Beautiful. Fresh.

Fresh Raspberry and Lemon Cream Cheese Tart

1 prebaked piecrust in tart pan (Recipe for pie crust that I used at bottom of this post)

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup sugar

Juice and Zest of 1 large lemon (or about 2 Tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon zest)

½ cup heavy whipping cream, cold

2 cups fresh raspberries

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until softened and a bit fluffy. Add vanilla, lemon juice and zest to mixture and stir until combined.

Add heavy cream to a separate bowl. The colder the cream, the easier it will whip. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer (or a regular whisk), whip the cream until peaks form.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until combined. Spread into chilled tart crust and top with fresh raspberries. Garnish with lemon zest. Best if served chilled and on the same day it’s prepared.

Pie Crust:

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (3/4 cup), cold and cut into small pieces

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup ice water

Combine salt and flour in a medium size bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or fork, until mixture is crumbly. Gradually add ice water until mixture forms into a dough ball. Divide in two, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour. Roll out 1 ball into a circle large enough to fit a standard size tart pan. Place in pan and cut around edges so there is no excess dough. Prick the bottom several times with a fork and bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes, or slightly browned. Remove from oven and allow it to cool completely before filling. This will make two tart shells.

Love, B

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Because of my momma . . . Flourless Chocolate Cake

Because of my momma…

 Flourless Chocolate Cake from Arts and Tarts

I am the person I am today because of my momma.

Because of her, I see the world the way I do.

I write this blog and create the content because my mom allowed me in the kitchen. She taught me to share. She encouraged me to be me.

I am shy, just like my momma.

I have ten fingers and ten toes, a mind and a soul, because my momma carried me.

I have a curved spine, from my momma’s genes.

 Flourless Chocolate Cake from Arts and Tarts

I trust, and I care, and I love, because my momma has done so for me.

Because of my momma, I talk in silly voices to my dog.

I stand on two feet and walk forward everyday, because my mom inspires me so.

I have hot coffee in a mug between my intertwined fingers every morning, because my momma spoils me.

 Flourless Chocolate Cake from Arts and Tarts

I see lovely flowers all around, because my mom gardens so beautifully.

She shows me how to care by caring so passionately and selflessly for everyone around her.

Because of my mom, I am completely and utterly blessed.

 Flourless Chocolate Cake from Arts and Tarts

I made this cake because of my mommy.

I love her, because she is my perfect and beautiful momma.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

 Flourless Chocolate Cake from Arts and Tarts

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze and Berry Coulis

Cake:

½ cup water

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup granulated sugar

18 (1 oz) squares bittersweet bakers chocolate

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

6 large eggs

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease one 10 inch round spring form pan (or any similar sized pan, I used a heart shaped insert for my springform pan. Baking times may vary though).

In a small saucepan, combine water, salt, and sugar (and optional espresso powder); Stir over medium heat until completely dissolved. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Once melted, pour into the bowl of an electric mixer.

Cut the butter into pieces and slowly add to the chocolate, beating on medium speed. Beat in the hot sugar-water. Slowly beat in eggs, one at a time, until all ingredients are completely combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 300 degrees F for 45-55 minutes. The center will still be slightly jiggly. (Make sure internal temp is 140 degrees F). Chill for several hours, or overnight, to allow cake to cool completely before removing from pan. To remove, gently cut around edges and remove springform ring.

Chocolate Glaze:

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or 6 (1 oz) squares semisweet bakers chocolate

¼ cup butter

3 Tablespoons Berry Coulis (Optional)

Combine chocolate and butter and melt over double boiler. Stir in Berry Coulis once melted. Allow to cool for ten to fifteen minutes, then pour over chilled cake.

Berry Coulis:

2 cups frozen or fresh berries (any variety)

2 Tablespoons Sugar

Juice of half a lemon

Combine all in a small saucepan and cook until berries are soft and have released their juices. Remove from heat and mash the berries well, or process in a food processor. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and discard solids. Mix in 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Use to add to Chocolate Glaze and/or serve drizzled over cake.

 Flourless Chocolate Cake from Arts and Tarts

Lavender Lemon Cookies and a Literacy Narrative

“Narrative provides a way to speak things otherwise unspeakable, to give voice to that which would otherwise go unheard” –Lynn Briggs and Meg Woolbright

Lavender Lemon Cookies

Writing for Identity

A literacy narrative I wrote for class and felt was significant enough to share.

Lavender Lemon Cookies

I’m six and a quarter years old. My favorite color is purple and I want to be mommy and daddy’s perfect little girl. I cry when I don’t draw the picture exactly how I want it to be. I rip it up and throw it. But it’s okay, because I can go swing in my backyard – Up, down, up down; kicking in, out, in out; soaring through the air, closing my eyes. I am anything I want to be. It’s quiet, I’m alone, and everything is perfect.

Dude, I’m nine. I want to be a sport star, but I’m terrible at hand-eye coordination, and I think I’m disappointing the soccer coach who happens to be my dad. But, I can get good grades – that comes easy to me. Quietly listening in class, I wish to be the bubbly girl next to me who the other students flock to, the girl who always has something to say.

I am the same age as my sister; well, at least for this month until she turns thirteen. I want to be her. She’s only eleven months older than me, so why does she get to be so much cooler? It’s stupid and not fair.  She can play soccer, sing in musicals, and make so many friends. My teacher’s tell me I’m smart, but I just want to be accepted by the twenty-seven people my age that I know.

I’m like fifteen. I want to be pretty. My best friend knows how to fix her blonde hair and make up her face. She has a boyfriend. I want to make people laugh the way she does. I wish I could just quit being so damn shy, why don’t I know what to say?

I’m finally eighteen. I want to be an artist. I want to be the stereotypical art student – the one who does the unexpected, dresses in awesome but unintentional style with beanies and wisps of hair every which way (yet, still looking put together), makes crazy unexpected artworks, and goes to art galleries to chat about avant-garde art with other artists. I change my style accordingly.

Now, my age doesn’t really matter. I don’t want. I am. I don’t need to have some alter ego to compete with the real me. I have an identity. The reality of my entire life has been, and is, the shy girl. I participate in conversation most often by sitting back and listening, contributing through nods, slight smiles, and soft chuckles. I’m conservative and modest; traditional.

Lavender Lemon Cookies

I didn’t realize this until I created a blog. In a class I was taking, Creative Strategies, one of the major projects of the semester was to create a new self – an alter ego, or our “better half”. The assignment was rather vague and obscure with no right or wrong answer. It wasn’t necessarily supposed to be an alter ego, but someone we would be, without any limitations, if we could. Our future self, perhaps. Most of the project was up to us, if we wanted a new name, a new direction, anything. However, we did have to create a profile on a social network to display our new self and provide an artist’s statement, so I chose to create a blog for my character.

Creating this person was hard for me, even though my entire life I had been creating ideal personalities for myself in my imagination. I wanted her to be perfect, to be the artist I desired to be but wasn’t. I began to create a character that portrayed the “artist” I had been trying to emanate.  The more I worked through all the parts of the assignment though; I began to realize the only person I truly wanted to be was myself. That meant combining the conservative and shy “me” that I had tried to hide with the conflicting artist “me.” I worked through the rest of the project, and finally when the presentation came, I used words on the blog to explain that “I did not know the answer” to the assignment. This was extreme for me, because I had always been the student who gave my teachers what they wanted, because I was supposed to, and this answer to my professor’s assignment was definitely not what she wanted. But through my voice on the blog, I could explain, simply put, that I didn’t quite know how to define the real me yet, that there was a battle between my identities going on in need of compromise, and whoever she turned into was who I wanted to be. I fulfilled all the requirements of the assignment, albeit unconventionally, and I still made it my own.

Lavender Lemon Cookies

This blog helped me define an identity for myself that intertwined each aspect of my character; I realized I didn’t need to choose just one thing to identify myself. I felt free to explore my identity. At the same time, I found that through written word I could define myself, explain myself, and have the voice I had so desperately been searching for in order to conquer my shy “self.” My shy speaking voice had somehow become bold – even loud – in written form, on my blog with an audience.

The concept of audience became very important to me. Throughout my development from child to adult, I was desperately seeking to be someone else because I thought I needed an audience. I wanted to be noticed and heard, and the only way I knew how to do that was to somehow get over my shyness so I wished to be someone else, someone less shy. With a blog though, the world was my audience. Anyone who typed in a few search terms could come across my blog and read the words I voiced. I suddenly had a place to put words that I couldn’t find a way to utter aloud, but could write. And these words were being read! This was exhilarating; I felt terrified but so excited at the same time. Here, I found that when my shyness creeps up and takes away the words I want to speak, I could voice them through writing. Blogging was the perfect way to develop this voice because I could write it, formulate my words, be confident, and know that I had an audience.

Lavender Lemon Cookies

This blog was a new step in defining myself, and led to my current blog here, Arts and Tarts, which has become a place where I can and will continue to tell stories, share my baking experiences and recipes, and explore my photography. It’s a place where I can be the different aspects of my identity all at once, where I can mesh the shy with the unconventional, where my conflicting “selfs” can coincide. Because of this, it’s a place where I can completely be and voice myself.

Blogging has given me a voice. It’s an outlet to explore my identity, and continue the journey of defining who I am. Each blog post I write adds a new ingredient or instruction to the recipe that makes me, me.

And here is the newest ingredient,

Lavender Lemon Cookies

Lavender Lemon Cookies

Lavender Sugar Cookie:

1 cup sugar

4 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter

½ cup sour cream

½ cup oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ – 1 Tablespoon dried lavender buds*

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Cream butter and sugars together, add eggs and beat. Add sour cream, oil, and vanilla until combined. Slowly mix in flour, until all combined. Add in lavender buds. Chill dough at least an hour, then use a rolling pin to roll dough out to ¼ inch thick. Cut with cookies cutters. (I cut small 2 inch diameter circles, resulting in a billion tiny cookies). Bake at 350 degrees F for 6-9 minutes, or until just barely browned on edges and top is not longer shiny.  Cool on wire racks.

*Amount of buds depends on preferred taste. Be cautious though, as too much may taste soapy

Lemon Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

2 Tablespoons water

Zest of lemon

Whisk all together. For stronger lemon flavor, replace water with more lemon juice. When cookies have cooled, drizzle or pour over tops and let set out for glaze to dry. Store in airtight container.

 

Always with love,

B

A Side of Blueberry Pie : Blueberry Hand Pies

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My dear friend Candace.

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I haven’t dedicated a blog post to you yet, because well, I just cant quite get the words right. I want this post to be perfect – a good story along with a beautiful and delicious pictures and recipe. And to be frank, I just can’t figure it out. Because no matter how long I think about it, I just cant compare you to a food. Weird, right? Or, is it just weird that I’m trying to find a comparison between you and a pastry or cookie or something. That, my friend, could be my problem.

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You see, the criteria were set too high this time. I needed to find something that was beautiful, but not just in appearance. The flavor had to be beautiful as well, to fit your character and personality. Something that was sophisticated and classy, but also silly and fun. Something strong. Something personal and emotional. Something that doesn’t need to be paired with a cup of coffee, but could be complimented with one. Ya know what I mean?

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And well, I just couldn’t come up with anything, so I decided to write about you to you, and that it was about time I do. So this, my friend, is your letter, with a side of blueberry pie.

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Candace, you’re not just an ordinary friend to me. You changed my life. And I don’t mean to sound all gooey, gushy sweet like an under baked cookie on you, because that can seem totes fake (and  actually make you sick). However, I’m not making this stuff up. When we became friends in sophomore year weight training, the most unlikely of places, I never expected that just a few years later I would be a bridesmaid in your wedding and your child’s godmother.You are the best and closest friend I have ever had, and I know that even though 928 miles separate us, you’re closer to me than ever. I can’t wait until those roles of bridesmaid and godmother are reversed.

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Blueberry Hand Pies

Flaky Butter Pie Crust:

1 cup very cold, unsalted butter

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3-5 Tablespoons ice water

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar and salt together. Cut butter in small cubes and scatter over the flour mixture, coating them with flour. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients, turning the bowl and cutting again repetitively until the mixture resembles floury crumbs. Slowly add the 3 Tablespoons of the ice water and mix just until dough holds together. If necessary, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time,  until the dough comes together. It will still be a bit crumbly.

Divide dough in two parts, press both together until it forms a ball, then form into round disks, about 1 inch thick. Wrap completely in plastic wrap and chill at least two hours.

When almost ready to assemble, make filling.

Blueberry Filling:

3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

¼ cup sugar

1 ½ Tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Pinch of nutmeg (optional)

In a bowl, combine all ingredients and gently mix, carful not to crush the blueberries. Use right away.

Assembly:

Pie crust dough

Blueberry Filling

Extra flour for dusting

1 egg, lightly beaten

Optional sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly flour a clean work surface. Unwrap chilled pie dough and place on floured work surface; flour top of dough lightly. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out until about 1/8 to 1/6 inch thick. Using a sharp knife, pastry wheel, or biscuit or cookie cutter, cut the dough into desired shapes, creating as many cutouts as possible. I used a biscuit cutter to create a top and bottom crust (Some other options are squares, hearts, or a circle and folding in half to create the top and bottom crust resulting in a semicircle). Gather dough scraps, reform into a ball, and repeat the process until all the dough is cut into the desired shapes.

To make pies with  a separate top and bottom piece, add 1 teaspoon to 3 Tablespoons of filling (depending on size) to half of your pie crust cutouts (so, just the bottom pieces). Make sure to leave a ¼ inch border of crust uncovered by filling. Moisten the outer ¼ inch edge of the top and bottom crust with beaten egg, and place the top on the bottom, so the egg edges are together (the egg acts sort of like a glue). Press together to form a seal, and use a fork to crimp the edges.

Arrange pies on baking sheets, spaced about 1 inch apart. Brush with remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Bake pies until the crust is golden, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size of pies. Remove and cool on baking rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Slightly adapted from Handheld Pies

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Peanut Butter (Chocolate Chip) Cookies (Gluten Free!)

The simplest cookies ever.

Peanut Butter Cookie from Arts and Tarts

Because sometimes life gets very hectic.

Peanut Butter Cookie from Arts and Tarts

And baking is a good de-stresser.

Peanut Butter Cookie from Arts and Tarts

Oh, and the result – You get to eat the delicious cookies. That helps with the stressful days of life too.

Peanut Butter Cookie from Arts and Tarts

And again, we’ll pretend these are healthy. Because you’re going to eat them all very fast (which is also why I recommend you make a double batch, you know, so you can share).

Peanut Butter Cookie from Arts and Tarts

Peanut Butter Cookies (Gluten Free)

1 cup peanut butter

¾ cup brown sugar

1 egg

½ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all ingredients. Scoop onto parchment lined cookie sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart. Fork ‘em in a crisscross fashion for aesthetics. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Variation – add a ton of mini chocolate chips. Skip the forking; the chips are pleasing enough.

Also, you may as well double the recipe, you’re going to need a few extra.

 

A short and sweet recipe for any day of the week:)

Love, B

Pita Bread and Hummus

My very first job was an interesting one, to say the least. It was in a small American/Lebanese restaurant that primarily sold gyros. I worked there for two of my high school years, and it was a very unique job, one that I’ve realized I’ll never quite experience again.

When I began working there, I already knew the owner, a friendly man who loved to talk with his customers; He was a very chatty man. And when you got him going, he would get so hooked on whatever story he was telling that he became oblivious to everything else.

He was also a pretty fun boss – my coworkers and I would always be joking around with him (because he was so easy to fool) and he never minded. This, we took advantage of…

One evening, as I was filling up mustard bottles in the back while another employee was washing dishes, our boss came to the back and started chatting with us. He was taking a break and happened to be enjoying an ice cream cone (as he had quite the sweet tooth). While we continued working, he talked and talked, going on and on about some crazy customer or the like, without notice to any of his surroundings. As he was speaking, I walked closer and stood there, nodding my head along to the story as I began squeezing the mustard bottle I was holding onto the top of his ice cream.

He didn’t notice.

He bit into the ice cream.

He made a face.

The face he made that moment he licked the mustard was probably the best thing I experienced the entire time I worked there. It was absolutely hysterical – a combination of surprise, confusion, a “did I just imagine that,” thought, followed by “what the heck was that??” thought, ending with wide eyes and a pucker face. He looked at me, and all he could say was, “my ice cream” as I grinned and held up the mustard bottle.

And that was not the only time we messed with his food. I recall a salty salad and a peppered sandwich as well.

Along with giving me my first job (one I even considered fun occasionally), this restaurant was place I discovered the wonders of pita bread (and feta cheese and kalamata olives). Every time I ate a sandwich there, I would make it with pita bread. Fluffy, bubbly, grilled pita.

Since then, I’ve learned that pita is actually quite simple to make homemade (albeit, sort of a long process). And more delicious, of course. This bread even poofs up and gets pockets in the middle, perfect for stuffing full with veggies and hummus and other delicious stuffs.

Oh yeah, and homemade hummus is super easy and quick to whip up. I make a batch about every week; it’s just that delicious. You should make some!

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

Makes about 8 pitas, easily doubles for 16

3 cups whole-wheat flour (all purpose works too)

1¼ cup warm water (about 110-115 degrees F)

2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (or one ¼ oz packet)

1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

1 Tablespoon honey or sugar

Begin by proofing the yeast – dissolve the yeast in ½ cup of the warm water and the tablespoon of honey. Wait about ten minutes until it’s nice and foamy.

Combine the rest of the water, flour, salt, and olive oil in a large bowl. Once the yeast is foamy, mix it in with the flour mixture. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour isn’t forming into the ball, add a bit extra water. Once a ball is formed, place on a work surface covered in flour and begin to knead the dough – press the dough down firmly, fold it in half toward yourself, turn it 90 degrees, and repeat. Once you get the hang of it, it will all be a swift motion. Do this for about ten minutes, until the dough becomes smooth, stretchy and elastic. (You could also do this in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment on low for ten minutes.)

When you’re finished kneading, place the dough ball in a lightly oiled large bowl, rolling it around a bit so the dough has a thin coat of oil all over. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Once doubled, punch the dough down to deflate and divide into 8 balls. Let rest again for 10-20 minutes (they will rise more). While they are resting, place a baking stone in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. If you don’t have a baking stone, a cookie sheet will work too.

After the dough balls have rested, roll each one out to ¼ inch thick disks. Now, this may seem monotonous, but let the disks rest once again for ten minutes. I tried skipping this step for a few and they didn’t form the big pockets in the middle that we’re aiming for. After they’ve had a nice ten minute nap, place the a few pitas on the hot baking surface, being careful not to burn yourself, and bake for 3 to 6 minutes. They should get nice and puffy in the oven. Remove from oven with kitchen tongs or a fork and cool on a wire rack or kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining dough disks.

Notes: The purpose in kneading for so long is so the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the flour starts to “glutenize”. (I may have made up that word?) The dough will start to become elastic, which is necessary for it to rise properly because the yeast mixes with the other ingredients and releases gases, which stretch the (elastic) dough and form air pockets, giving the bread a lovely texture. So knead away!

Serve with hummus and veggies, make a wrap, or any of your favorite sandwich ingredients!

We also made our own chicken gyros for dinner – pita, grilled chicken, homemade tzatziki, tomatoes, sautéed onions, kalamata olives, and feta cheese! It was delicious.

Hummus

1-2 cloves fresh garlic

1 15oz can fresh chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

¼ cup tahini

2 Tablespoons water

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

¼ teaspoon salt

Dash of cayenne pepper

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all in a food processor, pulse until desired texture.

Notes:

-If it’s too thick, add extra water or olive oil.

-Add more or less salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper to taste.

-I’ve tried being lazy and used a magic bullet. Trust me when I say food processor, I had to switch and just ended up with even more dirty dishes.

-This is a recipe I have memorized and just guess the quantity of ingredients I pour in whenever I’m making it. To write this recipe though, I did use these exact measurements as I was putting the ingredients in. I just wanted to let you know that the proportions do not need to be exactly these – if you like more of an olive oil taste, add more, if you want less garlic, only put one clove in, etc.

-Try experimenting with different flavor combinations. I personally love the simplicity of this by itself, but variations such as olive, roasted red pepper, or cilantro are really good as well.

-I garnished mine with toasted pine nuts, fresh parsley, and a drizzle of olive oil. Perfect.

Pita recipe slightly adapted from The Fresh Loaf

Molly Cupcakes – Rich Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

I have a dear friend named Molly. Molly turned 20 in August, so I made her cupcakes.

“Chocolate!” she said.

So I made chocolate. Super, delectable, melt in your mouth chocolate. You see my friends, Molly is very much worth it.

I couldn’t just make a simple chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream (although, that would be wonderful too). You see, Molly has this crazy personality, so simple definitely would not work.

Instead, we start with a suuuuper incredibly moist chocolate cake. And then we fill the center with coffee flavored ganache for a nice little surprise when you take that first bite. After it’s filled, this Molly cupcake gets a huge dollop of whipped chocolate ganache. More ganache, that’s right. (Do you know what ganache is? Pronounced gah-NAHSH, this simple yet perfect thing is made from chocolate and cream, and can be used for glaze, frosting, filling, or eaten by the spoonful. It’s rich and smooth and velvety.) After the ganache, chocolate shavings are a must. Then, green (Molly’s color) pearl sprinkles and cute toothpick signs complete Molly cupcakes.

It’s impossible to put Molly’s character into words. I want to say spunky and peculiar, lovely, animated, and curious, to say the least. There will never be a dull moment with this girl around. And did I mention that she is oh so incredibly talented? She is.

Molly Cupcakes

Rich Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes 18

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

¾ cup cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup strong, hot black coffee

1 cup milk (I used 2%, but whole works perfectly too)

1 teaspoon white vinegar

½ cup vegetable oil

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake tin with cupcake liners.

In bowl of electric mixer, combine all dry ingredients. Add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until very well incorporated, about 2 minutes on medium speed. The batter is supposed to be very thin.

Pour the batter into prepared cupcake tins until 2/3 full. Bake cupcakes for 15-17 minutes or until toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs (moist is what we’re going for, so no clean toothpicks!) Let cupcakes cool for about 5-10 minutes in the pans, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Chocolate Ganache

For the filling and the whipped ganache frosting

½ cup sweetened condensed milk

1 ¼ cup heavy cream

11 ounces unsweetened chocolate

8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 10-16 cubes

1 cup sugar

Chop the chocolate into pea sized pieces. Combine chocolate and butter in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

Combine sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Once mixture boils, immediately pour over chocolate and butter mixture. Let sit for five whole minutes, then whisk well until incorporated (It might take a bit of whisking before it’s completely incorporated).

Set aside 1 cup of the ganache for the filling. The remaining ganache will be for the whipped frosting and needs to be cooled completely. When it has cooled (and is much thicker) the ganache is ready to be whipped. Transfer the ganache to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk or paddle attachment. Whip on medium until light brown and fluffy (5-10 minutes). Use immediately to spread or pipe onto the cooled cupcakes. The ganache will firm up more once spread or piped.

Filling:

Mix about 1 cup of prepared ganache with 1 tablespoon strong black coffee. If you want a stronger coffee taste, add very fine instant coffee powder or espresso powder to taste. If no coffee flavor is desired, omit coffee and just use ganache as is for filling.

Assembly:

When cupcakes are completely cooled, fill the centers with some of the ganache. There are a few techniques out there for filling cupcakes, and Annie’s Eats has a good tutorial with photos for three different methods you should check out here. For my cupcakes, I chose to use a pastry bag fitted with a round tip. To do this, insert the tip into the cupcake and squeeze to pipe in a small amount of the ganache.

When the cupcakes are filled, use a pastry bag to pipe the whipped ganache onto the cupcakes (I used a round Wilton 2A tip). Alternatively, spread a big dollop of the whipped ganache on with a spatula. Either way tastes perfectly divine.

Top with chocolate shavings and sprinkles, if desired. Cute little toothpick signs are another fun option!

Love, B

P.S. Molly enjoyed her cupcakes, here’s Instagram proof. . .

Chocolate Cupcakes slightly adapted from Sweetapolita.

Ganache adapted from this post.