Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies

EASTER SUGAR COOKIES

I love ALL things vanilla! It’s my most favorite flavor and smell and when made right, nothing beats a good vanilla sugar cookie. This recipe comes from an amazing cookbook that I picked up a few months back entitled, Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques by Shauna Sever. If you love vanilla this is one cookbook you’ll want to add to your collection. It’s filled with delicious recipes for cookies, cakes, puddings and even candy!

I followed this recipe as is however, instead of just using pure vanilla extract I also used vanilla paste because I really wanted to bring out and highlight the vanilla flavor of this cookie. I used two teaspoons of vanilla paste and one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract in the cookie dough. I did have to restrain myself from throwing the whole bottle in! The combination of vanilla paste and extract really made for an exceptionally flavored cookie! I highly recommend investing in a bottle of vanilla paste if you haven’t already done so. It is a little pricey nowadays but in desserts that are very vanilla forward such as these cookies, it’s really worth using.

While most cookies are incredible when they come right out of the oven, I have found that these cookies actually improve in flavor as they cool and “age“. As they cool the vanilla notes really pop and the texture becomes that perfect combination of sandy, chewy and crispy. I thought that the next day, they were even better and more perfect. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 cup vanilla sugar*
  • colored sanding sugar

*If you do not have vanilla sugar, plain granulated sugar is also fine to use.*

Instructions

Position racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. Preheat to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt. In another small bowl, whisk together the oil and egg.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, confectioners sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale in color, about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually beat in the oil/egg mixture until smooth. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed until smooth. The dough will be soft.

Roll dough into balls, about 1 tbs in size and place them about 2″ apart on the baking sheets. Pour the vanilla sugar onto a plate and dip a flat bottom glass into the sugar to coat, press into each ball to flatten to about 1/4″ thickness. Re-sugar the glass after every cookie. Sprinkle the cookies with colored sanding sugar.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are pale golden and just beginning to lightly brown at the edges. Rotate the cookies sheets from top to bottom and from front to back about halfway through baking. Allow cookies to cool on the pan for about 2 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

**Tip** – Make vanilla sugar by taking used, scraped vanilla beans and submerging them in granulated sugar. Store in a tightly sealed container and within a few weeks you will have vanilla sugar which is perfect to use in all baking applications.

Toasted Marshmallow S’mores Cake

Toasted Marshmallow Cake

If you love S’mores than this is your cake! It’s a rich dark chocolate cake filled with crushed graham crackers and marshmallow meringue frosting and then covered in even more marshmallow meringue frosting and browned until nice and toasty. It was OUT OF THIS WORLD! I made this for my son’s 5th birthday the other day and it was a huge hit! My birthday boy and all of the guests loved it and the best part? It might look fancy but it is super easy to make.

I started with the recipe for my Dark Chocolate Cake which is both easy and foolproof.  The Marshmallow Meringue Frosting was taken from the cookbook,Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence: Irresistibly Sweet, Salty, Gooey, Sticky, Fluffy, Creamy, Crunchy Treats which you can pick up on Amazon if interested. The frosting is also super easy to make but make sure your cakes are cooled and ready to go as you should frost them right after making the frosting. The frosting will be glossy and fluffy like melted marshmallows and although it will be sticky, it will go on the cake nicely as long as you move quickly. After toasting, it will take on a nice, slightly dry outer coating which is simply delicious.

You can toast the marshmallow meringue frosting one of two ways, either in the oven or with a basic kitchen torch. I happen to have a kitchen torch however, as luck would have it I was out of butane the day I made this. So I did what any good cook does when faced with a challenge in the kitchen, I improvised! First I toasted the cake in the oven at 375ºF for about 4 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on the cake as it can toast quickly and you don’t want it to burn. Then, using an Aim n’ Flame®, I toasted the outside edges. It took longer than using a kitchen torch and it didn’t toast quite as evenly but it still gave me the desired result and the frosting came out browned and toasty.

Finish off the cake by spreading a little extra marshmallow frosting on top and covering with crushed graham crackers and broken up Hershey® bar pieces. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 large egg
  • 1 cup (8 oz) brewed coffee, cold
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp white vinegar

For the marshmallow meringue frosting

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs light corn syrup
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • large pinch of Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the assembled cake

  • 1 sleeve of graham cracker, crushed
  • 1 large Hershey® bar, broken into pieces

Instructions

For the cake – Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour two 9″ round baking pans. Place a round of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan for even easier release.

Combine all of the dry ingredients and mix well. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add all of the wet ingredients. Mix until smooth, batter will be very thin. Bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs.

Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes then loosen the cake from the pan and turn out onto the wire rack. Cool completely.

For the marshmallow frosting – In a large heat-proof bowl, whisk together the egg whites, corn syrup, sugar and salt. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Whisk the mixture as it heats and cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high-speed until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract and mix until just incorporated. Frost cake immediately.

To assemble the cake – Cover the bottom layer of cake with a thick coating of the marshmallow meringue frosting. Cover with half of the crushed graham crackers. Place the second layer on top and completely frost the cake. To toast the frosting, either place the cake in a 375ºF oven for 4 minutes OR use a kitchen torch. Once the frosting is toasted and dry to the touch, add some more of the marshmallow meringue frosting on top and cover with the remaining crushed graham crackers and broken pieces of Hershey® bar.

Traditional Italian Easter Bread

easter breadn

Easter bread has been a tradition in my Italian family since before I was even born. When I was a child, my Dad would always make the breads right before the holiday and on Easter we’d enjoy it for breakfast slathered in sweet butter. It was my most favorite thing about Easter since it was the only time this bread was made in my family.

There are many variations of Easter bread out there and the one that I make today for my own family is slightly different from the one that I grew up with. The one I had as a child had a drier more crumbly texture that is very similar to a scone. This recipe, which is all that I have used for years, has a very soft and fluffy texture similar to a brioche or Challah bread. Both are delicious, it’s really just a matter of textural preference.

This is a very easy, non-fussy recipe to make. Just make sure to allow your dough to rise in a warm area that is free of drafts. I really love the “PROOF” function on my oven, if your oven has it as well I highly recommend that you take advantage of it. Also, when you warm the milk and butter be sure it doesn’t get too hot, you want to avoid scalding the milk. In addition, if you add piping hot liquid to yeast you will kill it thus resulting in bread that doesn’t rise properly, if at all. Keep your liquid mixture between 100-115ºF which will ensure enough warmth for the yeast to activate without killing it.

Please note, while the colored eggs are safe to eat once the bread comes out of the oven they will not be edible if you store the bread out on the counter. Discard the eggs if you leave your bread out or alternatively, remove the eggs after baking and refrigerate. I always store my Easter bread on the counter to keep it soft and fresh, as we eat each loaf I discard the eggs. The eggs are fine to leave in the bread on the counter, just don’t eat them if left out.

Ingredients

  • 1 package Rapid Rise yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water
  • 6 colored eggs
  • nonpariel sprinkles

Instructions

In a small saucepan, warm the milk and butter together until the butter melts and the mixture is between 110-115ºF.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the yeast, salt, eggs, vanilla and sugar. Add the warm (not hot) milk/butter mixture. Add about half of the flour and using the dough hool attachment, beat until smooth. Slowly add the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. If the dough is still sticky, add a little extra flour and it becomes stiff.

Knead the dough smooth either using the dough hook or by hand on a floured board. Place in a lightly greased glass bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until it is doubled in size, about an hour.

Punch the dough down and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece to form a 1″ thick rope that is about 14″ long. Taking the two pieces, twist to make a braid, pinch the ends together and form into a circle. Place the formed dough on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Cover and place in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.

Brush each bread with the beaten egg wash (egg/water mixture). Lightly sprinkle the bread with the nonpariel sprinkles. In the middle of each bread ring gently place a colored egg.

Bake at 350ºF until golden in color, about 20 minutes. Cool on a rack.

**Tip – You don’t have to hard boil the eggs prior to coloring them however, I find they don’t cook all the way through during the baking process if they are raw. I prefer to hard boil them for a few minutes before coloring so that they are thoroughly cooked after baking.**

 

Kitchen Must Have – Pampered Chef Emoji Pancake Molds and Stencils

pancake mold

(Photo compliments of Pampered Chef®)

You guys!! These molds are SO super cute and they are absolutely PERFECT for getting in the kitchen and cooking with your kids. They will love getting to mix up their own batter to make some delicious pancakes in adorable emoji shapes. If there is one thing my kids LOVE, it’s emojis. They cannot get enough of them so this cute little set is right up their alley! It was a great addition to my kitchen and my kids have so much fun making and eating them! Whip up a batch of  Steve’s “Special Pancakes” and double it so you have some to freeze for later. There is nothing better than homemade emoji pancakes on demand!

Love them?? Want a set for yourself?? Just click HERE to order for only $15!! You can’t beat that deal. Pair it with the Pampered Chef Pancake Shaker Bottle (only $19.50) for easier pouring and cleanup. Enjoy!!

 

Guinness Beef Stew

gus bf stew

There is nothing better on a cold winter (or spring!!) day than a hot, hearty bowl of stew and this version is OUT OF THIS WORLD! This stew has such a rich, well-developed flavor that I promise you, once you try this version you might never make it your old way again! I thought that red wine made my stew perfection but using the Guinness was even better, having it both cook with the stew and as a finishing touch at the end added two layers of flavor that was so delicious.

I came across this recipe in a new cookbook that I just bought which is put out by the Cook’s Country TV show entitled, The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook: 10th Anniversary Edition , and it’s an AMAZING cookbook. There are so many incredible recipes from soups to breakfasts to desserts. Everything is clearly explained and well thought out, it’s definitely worth adding to your cookbook collection!

The original recipe calls for the use of chicken broth but I much prefer the richness of stock instead, I think it adds a much better flavor to the finished stew. What is interesting about this recipe is that they eliminate the step of searing and browning the meat before cooking. By cooking the stew uncovered in the oven it allows the meat to take on a flavorful browning and as the liquid in the stew reduces down the overall flavor becomes even more rich and concentrated. Great time-saving technique!

Lastly, I love to cook stews in my large enameled cast iron Dutch oven, it’s a great size at 6 qts and it retains heat well and cooks so beautifully. You can spend hundreds on a Dutch oven pot, especially ones made by Le Creuset®, Staub®, etc., but Lodge® puts out a really excellent product that costs pennies compared to other brands. I picked up this Lodge® Dutch oven on Amazon for only $45!! That’s a crazy deal! If you’re interested in getting one for yourself, just click here to order. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 (3.5 – 4lb) boneless beef chuck-eye roast, pulled at seams and trimmed into 1.5″ pieces OR good quality pre-cut stew meat
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped finely
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock (I prefer Kitchen Basics brand)
  • 1 1/4 cups Guinness Draught
  • 1 1/2 tbs packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 lb carrots, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 tbs minced fresh parsley

Instructions

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 325ºF. Season the beef with Kosher salt and pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions and 1/4 tsp Kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 8-10 minutes.

Add tomato paste and garlic and cook until rust-colored and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in chicken stock, 3/4 cup of Guinness, sugar and thyme, scrape up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in beef and return to a simmer. Transfer to oven and cook, uncovered, for 90 minutes. Stir halfway through cooking.

Stir in the potatoes and carrots and continue cooking until the beef and vegetables are tender, about an hour. Stir halfway through cooking. Remove from oven and stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of Guinness and parsley. Adjust seasonings and serve hot.

**Tip – This stew goes really well with a warm loaf of my delicious Beer Bread .**

 

“How-To” Baking – Working With Food Dyes

easter-eggs-3165478_1920

Food dye is a great way to bring a little color into your baking. Used in the right amounts it can add visual interest and a bright “pop” into otherwise bland colored foods. Food dyes come in a few different forms: natural coloring, powdered coloring, gel or paste coloring, liquid coloring or liquid gel coloring.

  • Natural Coloring – These colorants are usually plant based therefore, they are a healthier option as they contain no artificial ingredients. The color comes from foods such as blueberries, beets, pomegranate juice, etc. Take note, natural colorants do not produce rich, vibrant colors. They generally have a more dull, light appearance which falls short in baked goods.
  • Powdered Coloring – Typically this colorant is found online or in specialty cooking stores. The number of colors available can be somewhat limiting so a good amount of color mixing is required. Take note, using too much powdered coloring to tint baked goods can result it them having a drier consistency. Use powdered colorants sparingly.
  • Gel or Paste Coloring – These colorants have a thicker consistency thanks to the use of corn syrup or glycerine in the ingredients. They are readily available in stores and because they are so concentrated, they produce very vibrant colors. They are a great option for cookie dough, icings and cake batters.
  • Liquid Coloring – These colorants are readily available in all supermarkets and generally come in tiny bottles. Because they are so watery they can thin out batters and icings so they are generally NOT recommended for use in baking. These are best used for coloring eggs.
  • Liquid Gel Coloring – These colorants are a cross between liquid food dyes and gel/paste food dyes. The consistency isn’t quite as thick as in a gel paste but it’s better than the liquid dyes. These are usually found in a squeeze tube or flip-cap bottles and are a great option to use in baking.

When working with food dyes, it’s important to start small when adding the color. Building the color up over time allows for more control, it’s much easier to darken a color than to take color away and lighten it. When tinting batters, icings, fondant etc. it’s important to note that the color will develop and deepen over time. Refrain from adding more and more dye to achieve the desired color. Instead, allow the batter, icing, fondant etc. to sit for 15-20 minutes so that the color has time to deepen on its own. If necessary, adjust the coloring after that waiting period.

When mixing colors, try to do it in natural light which will provide a more accurate view of the colors. Artificial lighting can give an “off” appearance to the colors so if possible, set up your workspace near a window. Lastly, to achieve the best results when tinting it is essential to use the right ingredients/materials. For example, French Buttercream isn’t ideal for coloring as it is yellowish in color. That yellowish hue will mar the vibrancy of the colors that are mixed with it. However, a great choice for tinting is batters and icings that are pure white such as Swiss or Italian Buttercream .

QUICK COLOR MIXES

Purple – Mix equal amounts of red and blue together

Pink – Add a small amount of red

Orange – Mix red and yellow together

Green – Mix equal amounts of blue and yellow together

Brown – Mix equal amounts red, blue and yellow together

 

Classic Marinara Sauce

Marinara Saucen

I’ve been making homemade sauce for twenty years now and I generally stick to what I know and don’t really follow any recipes however, when I came across this recipe for Classic Marinara Sauce in one of my new cookbooks I had to give it a try. The original recipe is from The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook  by America’s Test Kitchen which is an excellent cookbook if you’re looking for heart healthy cooking ideas plus some new and interesting ways to prepare your vegetables, pastas and meats.

What I really liked about this recipe was the way they had you concentrate down the tomatoes by cooking them until they were brown and sticking to the pan. This step, combined with the red wine, allowed the sauce to develop a really nice, rich, complex flavor that was simply perfect! I used a Merlot in this recipe but feel free to use whatever red wine that you have on hand, any wine is better than no wine! Because the sauce is somewhat thick and chunky adding a little of the pasta water to the finished meal really helped to give it the perfect consistency. It made just the right amount of sauce for one and half pounds of pasta however, if you like a more heavily sauced pasta, I’d stick with a pound. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 (28 oz) cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
  • 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp minced fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 tbs chopped fresh basil
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • pinch of granulated sugar

Instructions

Drain the tomatoes in a fine-mesh strainer that is set over a large bowl. Using hands, open the tomatoes and remove the fibrous core, discard. Let the tomatoes drain for about 5 minutes. Reserve 3/4 cup of the tomatoes separately. Reserve 2 1/2 cups of the drained tomato juice, discard the rest.

Heat 2 tbs of olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium, heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the remaining drained tomatoes (keep the 3/4 cup of tomatoes set aside) and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid has been evaporated and the tomatoes begin to brown and stick to the pan, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Stir in the red wine and cook until thick and syrupy, about 1 minute. Stir in the reserved tomato juice, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the reserved uncooked tomatoes to the sauce and transfer to a food processor (or use a handheld immersion blender) and pulse 8-9 times or until slightly chunky. Return the sauce to the skillet and add in the basil, remaining 1 tbs of olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

When tossing with the pasta, add some of the pasta cooking water as needed to adjust the consistency of the sauce.

Sugar Cookie Strawberry Cake

strawberry cake

This is a fresh and flavorful cake that is perfect for birthday parties or spring/summer holidays such as Easter. The original recipe is from a fabulous book entitled, Cakes by Melissa: Life Is What You Bake It by Melissa Ben-Ishay, which is filled with great recipes for cakes, frostings, fillings, and toppings! I decided to combine this strawberry cake with her scrumptious recipe for sugar cookie dough which is perfect for nibbling since it contains no eggs. I could eat this sugar cookie dough ALL DAY LONG! The recipe makes a lot of sugar cookie dough, more than you need for this recipe, so you can either halve the recipe or tightly wrap the leftovers and freeze for later use.

The wonderful thing about this cake is that you don’t have to make it strawberry flavored, the recipe calls for a homemade fruit puree for the flavoring so you can feel free to play around and experiment with whatever fruit you like best! Try mixed berries, pineapple, peaches, or even mango! The possibilities for this cake are seemingly endless. For the frosting, I used a swiss buttercream since it tints well and isn’t overly sweet.

One last note, before making your cake be sure to bring all of the refrigerated ingredients to room temperature. Cold ingredients don’t blend as well and subsequently won’t form a proper emulsion. It’s tempting to overlook this step but please don’t as it’s really quite necessary in order to create a fluffy, light baked good. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 3/4 cups strawberry puree*
  • sanding sugar, for decoration

For the sugar cookie dough

  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease two 9″ round baking pans or line the pans with parchment paper and butter the paper.

With a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter for 1 minute on high-speed, then scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the vanilla extract then add the eggs one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl midway through.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and sea salt. In another bowl, stir together the milk and the strawberry puree.

With the mixer on low-speed, add half of the flour mixture. When it’s mostly incorporated add half of the milk mixture. Add the remainder of the dry and wet ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Stop mixing as soon as you have a smooth batter.

Divide the batter equally between the two pans and bake until the middle of the cake feels springy when you gently press with your finger, about 35-40 minutes.

While the cakes are baking, make the buttercream frosting and sugar cookie dough. To make the sugar cookie dough, using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the butter on high for about a minute. Add the vanilla and whip to just incorporate. Add the sugar and whip for another minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour and salt and whip just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl one last time.

Allow the cakes to completely cool on wire racks before icing and decorating. Frost the layer cake then break off small pieces of the sugar cookie dough and assemble them around the outside edge of the cake. Sprinkle lightly with sanding sugar. Extra sugar cookie dough can be wrapped tightly and stored in the refrigerator for use in other recipes.

*To make the strawberry puree – Clean and hull 3 1/2 cups (a little more than a pint) of fresh strawberries. Puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor, adding a little granulated sugar if the berries are a bit too tart.

Boogaloo Wonderland Sandwich

Boogaloo Sandwichn

“What in the heck is a Boogaloo Wonderland Sandwich?”. That was EXACTLY my reaction when I came across this recipe in the current months issue of, Cook’s Country Magazine . (April/May 2018) It is basically a Sloppy Joe sandwich but with a bit of a different flavor profile. It is more sweet and zesty instead of just savory like traditional Sloppy Joe sandwiches are. Evidently, this is a popular sandwich in the Detroit area, I was intrigued to try something so regional so I decided to give it a go! Shockingly, my daughter, who is the the most picky eater in the world, loved it! She ate it with no complaint and she didn’t try to pick anything out of it which is always a plus! When Emerson eats something, I know the recipe is a keeper!

I adhered to the recipe for the most part, making only a slight adjustment with the chili powder. I felt that 3/4 tsp of hot chili powder would be a touch too hot for kids so I cut that down to just under a 1/2 tsp which was the right call. The finished meal had just enough to heat to be noticeable but not overwhelming. Also, I was a little short on beef so I used 1 lb of ground beef and 1/4 lb of ground pork. The cooked meat turned out very tender and delicious so I recommend trying the combination if you have both on hand. Lastly, I didn’t have any Italian sub rolls in the house so I decided to use English Muffins instead which worked out fine, they were nice and sturdy and held all of the meat well.

Just a little footnote, in the future I think I might adjust my seasonings to make it a touch less sweet. I think the combination of brown sugar and apple cider vinegar in the amounts called for added a little too much sweetness for my palate but that’s just preference. Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your liking. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 3 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 3/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 3/4 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

For the sandwiches

  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 lbs 85% lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 (6 inch) Italian sub rolls or English muffins, toasted
  • 8 slices of American cheese

Instructions

For the sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

For the sandwiches, adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat to 350ºF. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the beef, onion, pepper and salt and cook, breaking up the pieces with a spoon, until the liquid has evaporated and the meat begins to sizzle, about 10 minutes.

Add 1 cup of the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Place rolls on a rimmed baking sheet. Coat the bottoms of the bread with the remaining sauce. Evenly divide the meat mixture among the bottom of the rolls and top with 2 slices of American cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and the rolls are warmed through, about 5 minutes. Cover each sandwich with the top of a bun and serve.

“How-To” Baking – Buttercream Frosting 101

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Buttercream frosting is made from a combination of butter and sugar whipped together to create a light, airy and delicious finishing touch for cupcakes and cakes. All but the American version add eggs to the base and instead of powdered sugar, use granulated sugar instead. There are six different types of buttercream frostings: Italian, Swiss, German, French, American and Pudding-Style. American buttercream tends to be the most sweet as it relies heavily on the use of powdered sugar. The other variations of buttercream tend to be a little lighter and less sweet. (Click below on each variety of buttercream for the recipe)

When making buttercream, there are a few general guidelines to be aware of to ensure a delicious finished product every time!

  • Use room temperature ingredients. Cold butter and eggs will make it difficult to incorporate the ingredients into a smooth, silky buttercream. Butter should be just soft enough to break off pieces easily but it shouldn’t look melted and greasy.
  • Separation during mixing is common. Buttercream can sometimes look a little curdled and messy at certain points, to solve this problem simply continue to vigorously whip the ingredients together.
  • Buttercream can be flavored and tinted. Choose pure extracts for the most flavorful result. Tinting works best with a buttercream that is whiter in color.
  • Buttercream can be made ahead of time. Stored in an air tight container, buttercream will keep for up to a week in the fridge. To bring buttercream back to its smooth, spreadable consistency first bring it to room temperature. Then, in a slightly warmed bowl, mix the buttercream using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer and whip until it becomes nice and smooth.

TYPES OF BUTTERCREAM

AMERICAN BUTTERCREAM – This is thick, dense frosting that is very sweet and rich. It’s very easy to make, simply cream together butter and powdered sugar until smooth and silky. Vanilla extract is added for flavoring.

This is a good choice when not a lot of frosting is called for. Due to its sweetness, it might be unappealing in large quantities.

SWISS BUTTERCREAM – This uses a Swiss meringue as its base. Egg whites and sugar are heated over a pot of barely simmering water until the mixture reaches a temperature of 160ºF, this is the point at which the eggs will be considered safe for consumption and no longer raw. The egg white mixture is slightly cooled and then whipped until it develops “stiff peaks“. Room temperature butter is then added and the buttercream is whipped until it becomes smooth and silky.

This is the perfect choice for layer cakes and especially for frosting that needs to be tinted. Its bright white color means it will take nicely to the addition of coloring.

ITALIAN BUTTERCREAM – This is similar to Swiss buttercream only it uses an Italian meringue as its base. Sugar and water are cooked together until it reaches a temperature of 240ºF. It is then carefully added to egg whites that have been whipped to form “soft peaks“. The hot syrup will cook the eggs enough so they are no longer considered to be raw. The combined mixture is whipped until “stiff peaks” form. Room temperature butter is then added and the mixture is whipped until smooth and silky.

This is a great choice when making layer cakes, it’s perfect for both the filling and the outside. It also has a beautiful, glossy appearance thanks to the meringue base.

FRENCH BUTTERCREAM – This is made in a similar fashion as the Italian buttercream only it uses both egg whites and egg yolks for its base, this is know in the pastry world as a pâte à bombe. Because this buttercream contains egg yolks, it has a much richer flavor, color and texture. A mixture of sugar and water is cooked to a temperature of 240ºF. It is then poured into the egg mixture while the mixer is running. Once the mixture is fully cooled, room temperature butter is added and the buttercream is whipped until it becomes smooth and silky.

This is a great choice for making layer cakes. Because of it’s slightly yellowish hue, it is not the best choice for tinting.

GERMAN BUTTERCREAM – This is made using a pastry cream as its base. Cooled pastry cream is whipped, room temperature butter is added and the mixture is whipped together until smooth and silky. To improve the texture, occasionally a small amount of powdered sugar is added.

This is a great buttercream to use for in-between the layers of cakes or to fill cupcakes.

PUDDING-STYLE – This starts with a thickened dairy base that is similar to pudding. The cooled pudding base is whipped with room temperature butter until it is light and smooth.

This is a good buttercream to use for making different flavored fillings for cakes and cupcakes. Good choices for flavorings are chocolate, caramel and butterscotch.