May Foodie Penpals Reveal Day

500x211xFPP-post.jpg.pagespeed.ic.KYaFXoYVom

I love getting packages in the mail. I also love food.

This is why I’m so excited to share with you one of my new favorite activities—it’s called Foodie Penpals. I learned about this from my friend Hannah over at Gypsy Roller’s Veggie Kitchen. When you sign up to participate in Foodie Penpals you get paired up with two people. You are responsible for sending a package of “foodie” items to one person, and you receive a package from the other person. Then on the last day of the month you publish a blog post about all the wonderful things you received from your penpal.

This month I was paired up with Bob, a blog reader. He emailed me in the beginning of the month to ask about my likes and dislikes and whether or not I would prefer homemade treats. I told him any type of food is fair game, and that I’d LOVE homemade goodies! I received my box around the 20th of the month and was so excited when I opened the box and found so many delicious, fun foodie treats!

IMG_2427

For those that are interested in more information on Foodie Penpals, keep reading below!

On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!

The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!

Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.

So what are you waiting for? Head on over to the Lean Grean Bean and get signed up!

xblogbadgeSTAMP.jpg.pagespeed.ic.S_muhYHZmS

Italian Cream Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling and Lemon Buttercream

IMG_2314 (2)

Today is a special Sweet Precision post for two exciting reasons. The first reason that I can’t stop thinking or talking about is that I am now engaged! Matt surprised me by coming to DC this week from Ann Arbor and proposing to me! When I heard the knocking outside my door on Tuesday night I was trying to ignore the intrusion assuming it was just another solicitor. But when the knocking continued, I finally opened the door to find Matt there with his suitcase in hand. He came into my apartment and proposed on the spot—I was completely shocked and elated! So the remainder of this week has been a whirlwind, but in an amazingly good way.

Oh right, was there was a second exciting component to this post? Today is our work baking competition and I’m revealing the Italian cream cupcakes that I’ll be entering. I created this recipe by combining ideas that I got from some of my favorite baking blogs. This is the second time I’ve made these cupcakes and with a few tweaks that I made, I think they’re just about perfect. Much like my triple salted caramel cupcakes, these little beauties are a labor of love. Make sure you’ve set aside a few hours in the kitchen to make these. I promise that the finished product is worth the work though!

As a post baking contest update, the cupcakes beat out some tough competition to take first place!! 

Italian Cream Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling and Lemon Buttercream

IMG_2330

Italian Cream Cake Batter
5 large eggs, separated at room temperature
2 cups superfine granulated white sugar (sometimes called baker’s sugar)
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon sea salt
zest of 1 medium lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups cake flour

Preheat the oven to 325˚. Line two muffin tins with 24 paper liners.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and then gradually add 1/2 cup of sugar to the egg white until it thickens up and looks like meringue. Put aside.

Cream the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, butter, shortening, salt and lemon zest with a mixer until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides, and add the vanilla extract. Mix and add an egg yolk at a time (stopping periodically to scrape down the sides) until the mixture is yellow, thick and well blended.

Stir the buttermilk and the baking soda together and add 1/3 of it to the butter mixture. Mix and then add 1 cup of the flour and mix again. Repeat with the buttermilk and then the flour, ending on the buttermilk.

Using a large spatula gently fold in the egg whites. Divide the batter and spoon into the paper liners. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for at least 10 minutes before removing.

Lemon Curd Filling
2 large eggs
7 large egg yolks
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter

Add the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, zest and lemon juice in a double boiler and cook over low heat until the mixture thickens up – around 10 minutes, all the while whisking it. Once the mixture starts to thicken, turn the heat up to medium and cook until it thickens and “tracks” when you pull the whisk through it. Add the butter and strain, discarding the solids. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate for at least an hour before using. You can store it in the fridge for a couple of days.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter softened
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 cups (approx. 1 lb.) confectioner’s sugar sifted
Additional lemon juice or milk (optional)

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add lemon juice and zest; beat well. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, if icing is dry, add additional juice or milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep icing covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Re-whip before using.

Candied Lemon Wedges

IMG_2311
1 large lemon
1 cup sugar

Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, cut lemon into 12 paper-thin slices; discard seeds and ends of rind. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat, and add lemon slices; stir until softened, about 1 minute. Drain, and immediately plunge slices into ice-water bath. Drain.

Bring sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium skillet, swirling to dissolve sugar. When liquid is clear and bubbling, reduce heat to medium-low. Add lemon slices, arranging them in one layer with tongs. Simmer (do not let boil) until rinds are translucent, about 1 hour. As water boils, set a wire cooling rack over a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. With a set of tongs, remove slices from syrup, allowing excess sugar to drop off, and set on a wire rack to dry. This may take up to 48 hours.

Assembly Instructions
Take the cooled cupcake and cut a 1/2″ wide and 1″ deep cone in middle of the cupcake with a paring knife. Remove the cone, spoon the lemon curd into the cupcake, and replace the top of the cone on the cupcake (you’ll have to cut a little off so it fits back in). Take the lemon buttercream frosting and pipe onto the top of the cupcake. Garnish with candied lemon wedge.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
This recipe is originally designed for a wedding cake. It’s important to note that when you make wedding cakes you want flat level cakes to stack. This recipe results in a flat cake without a lot of dome. However, when making cupcakes, people seem to like more domed tops, which you won’t get with this one. The advantage of a flat topped cupcake is you get to put more frosting on top! However if you are one of those people who wants a domed cupcake top, increase the temperature of the oven to 375˚ for the first 15 minutes and then drop the temperature back to 325˚ for 10 minutes and then test for doneness.

IMG_2331

Strawberry Banana Oat Smoothie

IMG_2360

It’s truly a rare occasion when this happens, but this weekend I found myself NOT craving anything sweet (insert shocked gasp). I blame this partially on my experimenting in the kitchen last week trying to come up with the perfect dessert for my baking competition at work. You can only “test” so many cupcakes in a batch… go figure. Needless to say, I found myself wanting something more on the healthy side when I woke up on Sunday morning.

Typically my breakfast staple is a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar and a banana. But on the weekends I like to mix it up to keep things exciting. Using my oatmeal and banana combo as inspiration, I added in some strawberries, soy milk, and flavorings to make a nutritious and flavor packed breakfast. It would even make a great afternoon snack! So enjoy this reprieve from the cookies, cupcakes, bread, and cake—but don’t worry I’ll be posting my cupcake recipe for the dessert competition next week!

Strawberry Banana Oat Smoothie Recipe

IMG_2365

Ingredients
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 banana, frozen and cut into chunks
14 frozen strawberries
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar

Directions
In a blender, combine soy milk, oats, banana and strawberries. Add vanilla and sugar if desired. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Why frozen strawberries and bananas you ask? If you use frozen fruit in a smoothie, it will stay colder and be thicker than if your fruit was warm. Large fruits (like bananas or melons) should be chopped into pieces before freezing. Spread the pieces on a plate or baking sheet while in the freezer. That way they won’t freeze into one big lump. Once frozen, then you can store them together in a freezer bag or container.

IMG_2353

Triple Salted Caramel Cupcakes

IMG_2276

I dedicated an afternoon last weekend to working on these little cupcakes. It was a labor of love one might say. I like recipes that have several steps that you need to coordinate in order for the finished product to come together. These cupcakes definitely fit the bill. Be sure you set aside a few hours if you want to make these little morsels!

This recipe was my first attempt at making caramel. In fact, to make this recipe you actually end up making caramel three times. Considering that one of my batches didn’t work out and I had to try again a fourth time—I consider myself somewhat of a caramel expert. During this process I gained a new appreciation for quality cookware that has an even cooking temperature. For my first attempt I used a Calphalon pot which is definitely quality cookware, but I had some trouble regulating the heat which resulted in my burnt caramel. For my second attempt, I used my All-Clad pot and there was a noticeable difference in the evenness of the temperature. It’s the first time when I’ve noticed a difference in this quality cookware. When you’re making pasta you might not notice the difference in a quality pan, but in certain circumstances, they definitely do make a difference. (Yes dad, you were right…and thank you for the All-Clad pan—it has now been used for more than pasta and rice.)

Triple Salted Caramel Cupcakes Recipe
Originally from Sprinkle Bakes

IMG_2297

Cupcake Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Salted Caramel Filling Ingredients
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons salted butter cubed
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting Ingredients
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick salted butter
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Candied Salted Caramel Rounds Ingredients
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup water
2-4 tablespoons of large-crystal sugar

Directions
For detailed instructions, see the original recipe at Sprinkle Bakes.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
If you’ve never made caramel before let me offer a few tips. Use the heaviest gauge metal pot you have. Inexpensive or thin cookware heats unevenly, so drag out the most solid pot you’ve got. If you burn caramel, there’s not much you can do but toss it. It’s impossible to hide the taste of something burnt—so don’t even think about it. The best thing to do is to add more water to the pan and let it simmer, which will release the caramel and make the pan easier to clean. Not that this has ever happened to me… ;) 

IMG_2302

Rosemary Lemon Amish Friendship Bread

IMG_2261

This month my Amish Friendship Bread baking challenge took a new twist. I purchased some mini bundt bans at the store over the weekend, and wanted to put them to use right away. I figured if you can make Amish Friendship Bread in loaf pans and muffin tins—why not use a mini bundt pan?

Now that spring is in the air and it appears warmer weather is around to stay, it’s time to experiment with fresh springtime flavors. I decided to use a recipe that has hints of lemon and rosemary—two flavors that make me think of warmer weather. Typically you might think of these two flavors paired together for a savory dish such as chicken. I decided to pair them together in this bread recipe for a unique twist. The frosting drizzled over the top is the final touch that pulls everything together at the end.

If you’re interested in other Amish Friendship Bread recipes that I’ve tried this year, feel free to check out my Traditional Cinnamon Bread and Chocolate Cherry Almond Bread. Three recipes down and nine more to come… stay tuned!

Rosemary Lemon Amish Friendship Bread Recipe 

IMG_2247

Bread Ingredients
1 cup Amish Friendship Bread Starter
3 eggs
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 small box lemon instant pudding

Lemon Glaze Ingredients
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Dash of lemon extract

Directions
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, add ingredients as listed. Grease mini bundt pans and dust with flour. Pour the batter evenly into mini bundt pans until slightly less than 3/4 full. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until the bread loosens evenly from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Mix ingredients for lemon glaze and drizzle over the top once cooled. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary or lemon rind.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
This recipe yields a lovely and wonderfully moist bread. I used lemon pudding but if you’re not a fan of lemon, I’d recommend using 1 box vanilla pudding and eliminating the vanilla extract.

IMG_2239