Peach Upside Down Cake

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As a baker, usually I make something for a specific purpose. Whether it’s a cake for someone’s birthday or brownies for a work potluck—most of my desserts have a predetermined destination before I set foot in the kitchen. Last Saturday was one of those rare occasions that I stepped into the kitchen and baked a cake on a whim. No special occasion necessary other than the fact that both Matt and I wanted a treat. It should be no surprise that this cake mysteriously disappeared from our kitchen over the course of the weekend.

You might remember my recipe last year for a Pineapple Upside Down Cake. This cake is one of my absolute favorite desserts for many reasons. Most importantly, you don’t have to worry about frosting or decorating this cake. All you have to do is invert the cake pan and voila, you have your finished product. I also love the versatility of the recipe. You can use virtually any combination of fruit that you’d like to incorporate. Last weekend I tweaked the recipe a little and swapped out the pineapple and cherries for peaches and raspberries. Upside down cakes are a classic American dessert and were very popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I say why not give this cake a bit of a revival in your kitchen?!

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Peach Upside Down Cake
Makes approximately 8 servings

Peach Topping Ingredients
1/4 cup butter (melted)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup canned peaches cut into slices
1/2 cup fresh raspberries

Cake Ingredients
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 1/8 cup full-fat buttermilk (room temperature)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit 20 minutes before baking the cake.

Spray a 9” round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray, and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Melt the butter and pour into the prepared cake pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar onto the melted butter. Top with peach and place raspberries between the peach pieces. Set aside, while working on your cake batter.

Onto a parchment paper, sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Once all of the egg yolks are incorporated, add the vanilla extract and mix in.

Alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, 1/3 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Start with 1/3 of the dry, mix well, and then add 1/3 of the buttermilk, and repeat two more times with remaining ingredients. Once everything is incorporated, beat well with a rubber spatula to make sure your batter is fully mixed and fluffy.

Pour batter into prepared pan with topping, and smooth with the spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Check the cake after 20 minutes. When it is done, the top of the cake should be golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed in the center. A cake tester should come out clean. It should have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan to a cooling rack. Let rest 5 minutes. Run a small knife or metal spatula around the sides of the pan and invert the cake onto a cooling rack or cardboard cake round. Serve warm or and room temperature.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Full fat buttermilk makes the best baked goods, but it’s hard to find a container smaller than a quart. So what should you do after you’re done with that buttermilk recipe but there’s still some left in the carton? Freeze it! Try freezing 1 tablespoon portions in ice cube trays. Once frozen, the cubes can be stored in a freezer bag and since they’re already measured, you can just pull out the number of tablespoon-cubes called for in a recipe. Freezing will cause the buttermilk to separate so just be sure to whisk it up before using in your recipe.

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Strawberry Birthday Cake

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I’m celebrating my birthday today, and everyone’s invited!

My favorite birthday tradition revolves around eating the most delicious strawberry cake you will ever taste. It’s a ritual I’ve had ever since I can remember. When I was younger, my mom always baked this cake for my birthday. I even remember her making it for my roommates and I when we were in college. It’s a recipe that’s been passed around between friends and family for years and has become one of my favorite cakes to bake… and eat.

This year was no different. I made my birthday cake last night and got to spend a few peaceful moments to myself in the kitchen. As I was baking, I started thinking about how 31 years of collecting knowledge is pretty cool. Tucking lessons away like lint collected in a  pocket. Saved tidbits from parents, friends and strangers. Things I’ve learned from wild successes and blunt failures. Afterwards, I was inspired to make a list of life lessons and truths that I’ve learned thus far. So without further ado, in no particular order, here are 31 things I have learned and know to be true on my birthday this year.

1. Surround yourself with people who love you and want you to be happy.
2. Remember to be true to yourself in all things you do.
3. Do things that are uncool. Later on, they usually end up becoming cool anyway.
4. Don’t take action when you’re angry. Take a moment to calm down and ask yourself if what you’re thinking of doing is really in your best interest.
5. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.
6. You don’t need to stuff your feet into shoes that hurt just because the shoes are gorgeous.
7. If I tell myself I can do something, I can usually do it.
8. If I convince myself I can’t do something, well then, it won’t get done.
9. Even though I might think I’m right, it doesn’t mean I always am.
10. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. I don’t have to agree with it, nor pretend I do. But their opinion belongs to them and it’s not up to me to judge.
11. A sore knee/shoulder/wrist doesn’t have to mean giving up exercise; it just means doing it differently.
12. No matter how many weights I lift, there is no way I will ever have Michelle Obama’s arms. In fact, I’ll probably injure myself instead.
13. It’s okay to wear earplugs when you’re at a concert/wedding/bar with ear-splitting music.
14. Saying no or “Sorry, I’m too busy” is okay.
15. It’s okay to ask someone to speak up or slow down if you can’t understand what they’re saying.
16. It’s okay to eat dessert first—and only.
17. It’s okay to take a nap in the middle of the day if you’re tired.
18. Don’t compare yourself or try to be someone else.
19. It’s easier to take a small action now instead of a big action “some day.”
20. Telling someone they’re wrong never leads to anything positive. Even if they’re wrong.
21. It’s OK if you don’t like something. Just don’t pretend that you do.
22. Stop watching so much TV.
23. Don’t listen to anybody who tells you “you’re missing out” by not going somewhere or doing something. You’re only missing out if you believe you’re missing out.
24. Do activities by yourself. Solo social activities (movies, dinner, concerts, travel) can be a lot of fun.
25. Stop texting or checking your phone when you’re with other people. It’s rude and it’s sad.
26. Drink more water.
27. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Compare yourself to you.
28. Friends really do come and go. Some come back. Some don’t. That’s OK.
29. You will make mistakes. So what?
30. It’s OK to feel sad.
31. It’s hard to accept your privilege in life. Doing so will make you more aware of the challenges and obstacles others face.

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Strawberry Birthday Cake
Serves approximately 12 people 

Cake Ingredients
1 box white cake mix
6 oz box strawberry jello
3 tablespoons flour
4 eggs
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup frozen strawberries (thawed and chopped)
1/2 cup water

Frosting Ingredients
16 oz box confectioners sugar
1/4 cup frozen strawberries (thawed and chopped)
1/2 cup butter

Directions
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9 inch round baking pans and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix wet ingredients together, including strawberries. Slowly stir wet ingredients in with the dry being careful not to over mix the batter. Pour batter into baking rounds and bake in the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in the pan and then invert onto a baking rack to cool completely before frosting.

For frosting, cream together butter and powdered sugar using an electric mixer. Make sure butter is at room temperature prior to mixing. At very end, slowly add room temperature strawberries and blend until well mixed.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Working with buttercream frosting can be tricky. If you’re frosting is “broken” the fat and liquid won’t emulsify, and you’ll be left with a bowl of fat globules that look like cottage cheese with soupy liquid in the bottom. The first potential issue is inconsistent temperature. Both your egg/sugar mixture and your butter must be at the same temperature. Another issue might be excess liquid. Unwanted liquid can result either from the addition of fruit or other moist flavorings. The best plan is to avoid a broken buttercream in the first place. You can do this by adding fruit and flavorings a little at a time. However, broken buttercream happens to even the best of us. Here’s how to get yourself back on track.

Step 1: Try mixing it a little longer and see if it comes together on its own.
Step 2: If it doesn’t come together with additional mixing, scoop out a cup of curdled mixture and microwave 5 to 10 seconds, until melted but not hot.
Step 3: Pour melted buttercream into the mixer while on medium speed and whip until combined. This works every time.

The Young Baker

Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins

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Seventeen degrees below zero. That is the temperature my iPhone read when Matt and I walked out the door yesterday. It’s the type of weather that makes you want to wear a massive jumper to work and put a pair of tights on under your pants. Even for a Minnesota girl, these temperatures are chilly enough to make me want to crawl back under the covers. Even our puppy went outside and did her business in record time. She then promptly looked up at me with eyes that said, “Carry me back inside… pleeease mommy!” Given the circumstances, I didn’t hesitate to pick her up and carry her back to the door.

One thing I love about the winter months is the fact you can use your stove as another heating source! Unlike the summer months when the absolute last thing you want to do is turn on the oven, it becomes an added bonus in the winter. This past weekend, I took advantage of the extra warmth provided by our stove and made a few batches of muffins. As you know, I’ve been on a muffin kick lately in the Sweet Precision kitchen. I love muffins because they’re so easy to whip up and there are infinite variations possible. This week I tried a mixture of oatmeal with applesauce to create a tasty and classic breakfast muffin. This recipe doesn’t have a lot of add-ins, which means that you can get creative by adding in fruit or nuts to spice things up a little bit!

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Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins

Servings: 12 • Size: 1 muffin • Calories: 113 • Fat: 1.0 g • Carbs: 23.0 g • Fiber: 2.0 g • Protein: 4.0 g • Sugar: 11.0 g • Sodium: 297.0 g

Ingredients
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1 egg

Directions
Place oats in a small bowl, pour in buttermilk. Let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.

In a large bowl, stir together whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and brown sugar. Stir in oat/buttermilk mixture, applesauce and egg; mix well. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
If your muffin cups are filled more than 3/4 full the muffins will have flat “flying saucer” tops. This is because enough room is needed for the muffin to expand before reaching the top of the cup!

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Valentine’s Rice Krispies Treats

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Winter has arrived in full force here in Ann Arbor. We received 15 inches of snow last week, and the forecast is still calling for more. It’s easy to be glum about the short days and bitter winds. Especially when Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, portending six more weeks of winter. However, there is so much to love about the season! Here are just a few of my favorite things about winter, which will hopefully have you embracing the next inch or two of snow that arrives in your driveway.

1. Tights and leggings
2. Cold, crisp air
3. Hot apple cider
4. Justifiable hibernation
5. Snow days and snow emergencies
6. Seeing your pets reaction to the snow
7. Winter sunrises
8. The first snow of the year
9. Fuzzy socks
10. Comfort food

Speaking of comfort food… a chilly winter day is all the motivation I need to do some serious baking. One of my favorite snacks growing up were the pre-packaged Rice Krispies that came in a little blue package. My mom and I used to buy them in bulk at Sams Club. While I don’t snack on them that often these days, I still enjoy one from the vending machine now and then. This week in the Sweet Precision kitchen, I decided to be a little creative and make some Valentine’s Day inspired Rice Krispies. All you need is a cookie cutter, red or pink candy melts, and some red sprinkles to take this every day dessert to the next level.

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Valentine’s Rice Krispies Treats
Makes approximately 24 treats

Ingredients
1/4 cup butter
4 cups miniature marshmallows
5 cups Rice Krispies cereal
red or pink candy melts

Directions
Melt margarine in large sauce pan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until melted and well-blended. Cook 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add cereal. Stir until well coated.

Using buttered spatula or waxed paper, press mixture evenly and firmly in buttered 13 x 9 inch pan. Cut the treats into heart shapes with a 2- 3-inch cookie cutter when cool.

Melt the candy melts according to the package directions. Transfer into a plastic bag with a corner cut off for piping. Decorate with sprinkles and let chocolate set before serving. Enjoy!

Heather’s Helpful Hints
When making your treats, don’t crank the heat on the stovetop too high. I get it, you want to get these quick-to-make treats set as soon as possible so you can dig in. High heat is the prime culprit for rock hard Rice Krispies. It will take a few more minutes of cook time, but melt the butter and marshmallows over low heat. You’ll be rewarded with delicious, soft and chewy treats!

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Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins

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It feels like the month of January has flown by in record time! Matt and I rung in 2015 with family in Minnesota. Since then we’ve slowly been getting back into our groove in Ann Arbor. After two weeks of vacation, coming back to work is always challenging. However, there’s always some comfort in settling back into a routine and what is familiar.

I decided not to make any resolutions in 2015 because I inevitably start to lose motivation by the time February rolls around. Instead I decided to dedicate myself to working out with a trainer doing semi-private lessons with one of my workout buddies. I usually really enjoy group fitness classes so I was a little skeptical of working out with just one other person. Although each session is challenging, I’ve found that I’m really enjoying myself! One of the hardest parts is waking up for our 6 am workouts once a week. Although I am a morning person, it’s hard to get myself out of bed that early. Once I’m awake, the bigger question then becomes what on earth do I eat so early in the morning?!

These oatmeal blueberry muffins are the perfect answer to that question. They are packed with healthy ingredients and even got a thumbs up from Matt in a taste test. I love popping one in the microwave for a quick and easy snack. Considering they only have 130 calories and 2 grams of fat, you can indulge without guilt. So give these muffins a try and enjoy!

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Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
Makes approximately12 muffins

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups quick oats
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons agave
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a muffin tin with liners and lightly spray with oil.

Place oats in a food processor or chopper and pulse a few times. Soak oats in milk for about 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl combine brown sugar, agave, apple sauce, vanilla, egg whites, oil and mix well.
In a third bowl combine whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and whisk to combine.

Combine oats and milk with sugar, applesauce mixture and mix well. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Fold in blueberries.

Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 22-24 minutes.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
When you bake with fresh or frozen blueberries, the color is affected by the level of acidity in the batter. If the batter has a bit too much baking soda, the blueberries turn green around the edges. You can balance the acidity by adding in a little extra vinegar (or buttermilk, or whatever acid that is called for in the recipe) to balance out the extra baking soda, or you could even use a touch less baking soda in the next recipe.

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Holiday Stove Top Potpourri Mix

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Happy Holidays to everyone!

This year Matt and I are finding ourselves fairly relaxed during the holiday season. Instead of traveling or hosting we are spending our first Christmas together with just the two of us! Our plans for the day are still TBD, but we’re looking forward to relaxing with each other.

The Sweet Precision kitchen has actually been bustling the past few weeks with the smells and sounds of holiday baking. Between baking cookies for several holiday parties and making candies for Christmas gifts, I’ve hardly had time to document everything to share with you! Instead of sharing another cake or cookie recipe, this post is all about stove top holiday potpourri. I love this recipe because it uses all natural ingredients to leave your home smelling wonderful for days.

I tried this recipe out for the first time two weekends ago when Matt and I traveled to the Gunflint Lodge with my parents for our annual holiday weekend. We started the potpourri boiling on Saturday and it left our cabin smelling fragrant until Monday when we left. I’m thinking about doing another batch on Christmas so we can enjoy it in our apartment!

Recipe for Holiday Stove Top Potpourri Mix
Makes one medium pot of potpourri

Ingredients
1 whole orange
1/2 cup cranberries
1 tablespoon whole cloves
3 sticks of cinnamon

Directions
Quarter the orange. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan. Fill pan with water. Place on the stove on the smallest burner, on the lowest setting. Refill water as needed.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
One batch of this potpourri can stay good for about 3-4 days. Don’t fret if the mix turns brown as you continue heating it on the stove. It will still smell delicious! Just make sure that you don’t allow the water to completely evaporate. A good rule of thumb is to add more water each time you turn on the stove.

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Sweet Potato Caramel Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

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I don’t typically consider myself a competitive person. I never played team sports growing up and I’m not a huge fan of board games. One thing that does get me in a competitive spirit is baking. Baking competitions send me into a frenzy of recipe planning and plotting to devise the most delectable prize worthy dessert.

Three weeks ago it was announced that we would have a fall baking competition at work. Since then, I did a lot of thinking about what makes the perfect fall dessert. I went back and forth thinking of different recipes that combine my favorite fall ingredients. Apples, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, squash… the list could go on forever. After a careful process of elimination I was able to hone in on one ingredient that I thought would be the key to my victory. Sweet Potatoes.

So let’s talk about these cupcakes a little bit. I actually adapted a spice cake recipe and swapped out the pumpkin for sweet potato. I’m a big fan of the complex flavor sweet potato adds when baking. I filled the cupcakes with caramel which creates a special surprise when someone takes their first bite. I topped the cupcakes with a basic seven minute frosting made from egg whites and sugar. As a final touch, I used my new kitchen torch to apply heat to the frosting and create a toasted marshmallow finish. The result is a decadent dessert with a truly unique combination of flavors. Flavors good enough to win TWO prizes in the baking competition for visual appeal and creativity. So what are you waiting for? Give these mini cupcakes a try before winter is officially here!

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Sweet Potato Caramel Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting
Makes approximately 24 mini cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 to 3 medium or 2 large)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (more to taste) ground ginger
Two pinches (more to taste) ground cloves
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
High quality store bought caramel

Frosting Ingredients
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
Roast sweet potatoes: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Prick potatoes all over with a fork. Rest on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning once or twice, until soft. Let cool completely. Can be kept in fridge for up to 3 days, if baked in advance.

Make cupcakes: Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place rack in middle of the oven. Fill a miniature muffin pan with foil liners. Peel cooled sweet potatoes and run flesh through a potato ricer, or mash until very smooth. (Do not blend in a blender or food processor.) Measure 1 1/2 packed cups (about 12 to 13 ounces) from sweet potato mash; you may have a little extra, which you should warm up with a pat of butter and sprinkle of sea salt and not share with anyone. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until just combined. Mix in sweet potato puree, then stir in dry ingredients just until they disappear. Spread batter in prepared muffin pan, and bake cupcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Let cupcakes rest in pan for 5 minutes on a cooling rack, then remove onto cooling rack, and let cool completely. You can speed this up, as I always do, in the fridge.

Fill cupcakes: Fit a pastry bag with a small to medium sized round tip. Fill pastry bag with high quality store bought caramel. Insert tip of pastry bag into center of cupcake and apply medium pressure to release approximately one teaspoon of caramel filling into cupcake.

Make frosting: Place egg whites, granulated sugar, a pinch of salt and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Whisk mixture for 3 minutes, until whites are warmed and sugar granules feels mostly dissolved. Remove bowl from top of saucepan, then, with an electric mixer, beat egg white mixture on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 to 7 minutes longer. Add vanilla and mix until combined.

Frost and decorate: If you’d like to make huge, marshmallow-like dollops, use a very large round piping tip or the corner snipped off a freezer bag. Pipe large dollops of frosting on each cupcake. Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the dollops so that they look (and smell!) like toasted marshmallows.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
This recipe calls for cream of tartar when whipping your egg whites. My secret is that this ingredient isn’t absolutely essential to the success of your frosting. Don’t fret if you don’t have any at home in your pantry. What cream of tartar does is help stabilize your egg whites and give them volume. It also helps with preventing crystallization of the sugar, making your frosting creamier. However, despite these benefits, the average person probably won’t be able to tell if you leave this secret ingredient out.

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Chewy Low Fat Banana Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

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I’ve returned from my one month blog hiatus! Matt and I had a wonderful wedding and honeymoon, and now it’s time to get back to reality… sigh. A quick recap would include the beautiful wedding ceremony in Gibraltar, the vibrant culture of Morocco, and our relaxing Mediterranean cruise. The highlights included delicious food, lots of sunshine and warm weather, and a chance to truly unplug for two entire weeks. Challenges included a six hour delayed flight in Casablanca causing us to miss the first day of our cruise and me being randomly chosen at the airport for a strip search… not fun. However, the highlights overshadowed the challenges and we had an amazing time together.

I’ve slowly been getting back to my baking and general life responsibilities. Truth be told, I’ve been putting off this post for awhile but didn’t want to go the entire month of October without connecting with everyone.

So, let’s talk about these cookies. Typically I’m not a fan of “healthy” baked goods. I figure if you’re going to splurge on a treat, just eat small amount of a delicious full-fat item. It was with some trepidation that I gave these cookies a try. Let me tell you that they are a winner! The ingredients are simple (I didn’t even have to make a trip to the grocery store) and they come together in a flash. In fact, if you don’t tell people that they are low-fat no one will know the difference. That’s exactly what I plan to do when I bring these cookies into work for my coworkers tomorrow.

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Chewy Low Fat Banana Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Makes approximately 30 cookies

Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unpacked brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup mashed ripe banana
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups quick oats
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°; line two baking sheets with parchment paper or use a silpat baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a large bowl, with a mixer, cream together the butter and the sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, followed by the mashed banana and vanilla extract. Working by hand, stir in the flour mixture and the oats until just combined and no streaks of flour remain; stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until cookies become light brown at the edges. Let cool on baking sheet for 3 or 4 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
I’ve discovered a wonderful baking gadget that I would recommend to any one that likes to bake cookies. A Silpat baking sheet is a mat that will turn your pan into a non-stick surface. You can use Silpat for any baking recipe that calls for parchment paper. Since nothing sticks to it, you save tons of time during the cleanup process. You can check it out on Amazon.

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100 Posts and Counting… Two Years in Reflection

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I made my first Sweet Precision post on October 4th, 2012, almost two years ago.

Looking back, Matt and I were just beginning what would be a one year long distance relationship with him moving to Ann Arbor. I was continuing to enjoy life in Washington DC, but found myself feeling alone in a city that we had once explored together. I needed something to funnel my newfound spare time into—a place where I could share my love of baking with others. It was out of this need that Sweet Precision was born.

Since then, it seems as though time has flown. Matt and I have gotten engaged, I’ve moved to Ann Arbor, Matt has completed two years of his PhD program, I’ve started a new job that is incredibly challenging and rewarding, and we’ve even welcomed a new puppy into our family. Somehow in the midst of all this I’ve managed to write 100 blog posts!

To celebrate my 100th post, I decided to share some of my favorite “moments” on Sweet Precision. Below, I’ve included pictures from some of my favorite recipes. It was such a fun exercise looking back over 100 different posts and seeing all the comments from my readers. One of the most rewarding aspects of blogging is keeping in touch with those that I care about. I’ve also enjoyed the many friends that I’ve made since I started my blog. Your thoughtful comments and “likes” are what make this all worth it!

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Can I share one more exciting piece of news with you? Next week Matt and I will be getting married in Gibraltar! I’ve been sharing some of our preparations with you, but it’s hard to believe that the big day is almost here.

All of this excitement brings me to my dilemma lately, which is that I haven’t been as attentive to my blog as I’d like. I chalk this up to the fact that we’ve been planning and getting ready for our travels. The bad news is that with the wedding I’ll have a few more weeks of inattentiveness on my blog. The good news is that I can’t wait to share the highlights with you when we return!

So thank you for being a part of my Sweet Precision “family” and sharing in the excitement of 100 posts and counting! You are what makes my blogging feel worthwhile and fulfilling.

Browned Butter Cranberry Lime Muffins

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When I’m writing a blog post, one of my favorite parts is sharing my baking tips with you in the “Heather’s Helpful Hints” section. Usually I share something I did wrong and try to save you the hassle of figuring it out yourself. Oftentimes, a recipe doesn’t go according to plan and I’m left trying to come up with a creative fix. This has led me to believe that the difference between a good baker and a great baker is that a great baker knows what to do when something unexpected happens in the kitchen.

I’ve been trying to come up with a creative way to catalogue all the tips and hints that I’ve shared over the past two years, which is still a work in progress. However, I thought it would be fun to do a little blog quiz for those of you that often read my posts. Below, I’ve listed six baking-related questions which are all related to a tip that I’ve given in the past. Test out your baking knowledge and then check the answers at the end of this post!

I’d also like to give two thumbs up to this cranberry muffin recipe from Joy the Baker. This was the first time that I’ve tried my hand at making browned butter, and it definitely takes a little bit of practice. However, the depth of flavor that it adds to the muffins is truly wonderful. Cranberries can be a challenge to find in the supermarket this time of year but I had luck finding them in the frozen fruits section.

1. What kind of flour will make your cake the crumbliest?
a) All-purpose flour
b) Cake flour
c) Pastry flour

2. Colorful silicone baking pans are both pretty and versatile. What kinds of temperatures can they handle?
a) 450 degrees Fahrenheit
b) 500 degrees Fahrenheit
c) 550 degrees Fahrenheit

3. What fruit puree is often used as a fat substitute in baking?
a) Applesauce
b) Banana puree
c) Pumpkin puree

4. True or False: Icing and frosting are the same thing.
a) True
b) False

5. Baking at high altitudes without adjusting the recipe can be tricky and cause cookies to dry out and cakes to fall in. What ingredient can you add to elevate your results?
a) Liquids
b) Fats
c) Sugar

6. About how much white flour can you swap out of the average recipe for the whole-wheat variety?
a) One quarter of the white flour can be substituted for whole-wheat flour
b) Half of the white flour can be substituted for whole-wheat flour
c) All of the white flour can be substituted for whole-wheat flour

cranberriesBrowned Butter Cranberry Lime Muffins
Recipe courtesy of Joy the Baker

Ingredients
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lime
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar for topping

Directions
Put a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pan with paper or foil liners

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Keep an eye on the butter. Melt and cook down the butter until little brown bits appear in the pan. The crackling will subside and butter will begin to brown fairly quickly after that. Keep a close eye. Remove from heat.

Whisk milk, egg, yolk, vanilla and lime zest until combined. Add the brown butter and whisk to combine.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl Add milk and butter mixture all at one and stir gently to combine. Gently but thoroughly fold in the cranberries.

Divide the batter among muffin cups and spread evenly.

Generously sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake until golden and crisp and a wooden pick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes then remove from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
It’s pretty easy to overcook browned butter and go from brown to burnt. If the butter starts to blacken, I suggest dumping it and starting over. This YouTube video has an excellent tutorial that will walk you through the process step by step.

brown-butter-800

Baking Knowledge Quiz Answers 
1. Cake flour has the most soft wheat and the least amount of hard wheat of the flours. The result is a lower gluten content. Gluten is the protein in flour that allows it to stretch. So, the less gluten, the more crumble.

2. Silicone baking pans can handle temperature up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. They can also go into the microwave and the dishwasher.

3. Applesauce contains a lot of pectin compared to other fruit purees. Pectin coats the air bubbles and prevents tunnels in your baked goods. But, applesauce is not quite as effective as the fatty shortening it’s replacing.

4. Frosting and icing are not the same. Icing dries hard and you can put a plethora of decorations on top of it, including more icing. Frosting is thicker and easier to mold. Frosting is the tastier of the two.

5. High altitudes can dry out baked goods, so try adding a few extra tablespoons of liquid to compensate. Fat and sugar can weaken the protein in the flour, causing what you’re baking to fall apart.

6. Add some protein, calcium and fiber to your bread by adding whole wheat flour in place of half of the white flour called for in the recipe.