back to basics: strawberry sauce

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I know it’s not strawberry season, but for some reason when I walked through Whole Foods this weekend and saw the cartons of strawberries, I couldn’t help but grab one right away.  It’s probably the fact that the weather has been so spectacular lately.  Today is March 1st, a time of the year when it is often still frigid and snowing, yet for the past couple weeks, the northeast has been blessed with beautiful sunny days in the 50s and up.  I even turned my A/C on in the car this weekend!  And walked outside with a long sleeve shirt on!  So when I saw those bright red strawberries, I immediately started thinking about what I could do with them.  I knew that I had to bake a cake during the weekend, so a lightbulb went off instantly – I would make a vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting and fresh strawberry filling.

I love being able to make a basic sauce like this strawberry sauce because the possibilities with it are endless.  And we all know how much I love a versatile ingredient.  Sure, I used this sauce as a cake filling.  But this sauce also works great as a filling in a cupcake, as a sauce to incorporate into (or top) your vanilla ice cream, or even as a filling in doughnuts!  Mmmmmm.  Now excuse me while I go wipe the drool off my face!

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you use it for in the comments below.

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Strawberry Sauce
(Makes 2 cups)

2 1/2 cups cubed fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch

In a small saucepan, combine the strawberries and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Add the cornstarch and continue to stir.  Let boil for 2 minutes and remove from heat.  The sauce will thicken and go from translucent to opaque.  Allow to cool completely before using.

– sauce on,
Sharon

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biscoff cupcakes

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Will you judge me if I say that I choose my airliner based on the snacks they hand out?  Because I do.  Delta Airlines all the way.  And it’s because of their amazing Biscoff cookies that they hand out on every flight.  If you’ve never had these cookies, get yourself on a Delta flight ASAP! Or, you could just buy them off Amazon.  That’s where I normally buy them in bulk.  They are buttery cookies with a gingersnap-like taste, yet still so unique and decadent.  When my Amazon delivery came in the mail, I knew I needed to repurpose them into cupcake form.

Biscoff cookies are all over this cupcake.  There is half a cookie on the bottom of every cupcake, biscoff spread filling (also highly recommended and available at most stores), and biscoff spread frosting.  You can even garnish each cupcake with another half a cookie.  Perfect for any and all occasions.

Biscoff Cupcakes
(Makes 12 cupcakes)
Adapted from The Baker Chick

For the cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp buttermilk
12 biscoff cookies, broken in half
1/2 cup biscoff spread

For the frosting:

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup biscoff spread
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat over to 350F.  Line cupcakes pans with liners and place a half a cookie into each one.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add the vanilla and beat again.  Add half the flour, then the 1/2 cup of buttermilk.  Add the remaining flour, then the 2 tbsp buttermilk.  Scrape down the bowl with a spatula to ensure all the batter is uniform.

Fill each liner about 3/4 full with the batter.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Let cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack.

Using a small knife or spoon, remove a small bit of each cupcake.  Fill each core with a teaspoon of biscoff spread.

For the frosting, mix together the butter and biscoff spread.  Working 1/2 cup at a time, add the powdered sugar.  If too thick, add a splash of milk.  If too thin, add more powdered sugar.  Pipe the frosting onto each cupcake.

cupcake on,
Sharon

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homemade marshmallows

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It’s been a frigid couple of weeks here in the northeast, so we’ve been staying cooped up in the house.  So with fantasy football over, a tired puppy, and a quiet evening, boredom officially sets in.  I’ve been wanting to try out homemade marshmallows for a long time.  And when K said, “let’s make s’mores!” a few days ago, I knew that was the kick I needed to go for it.

I was surprised at the ease of making these marshmallows.  The actual work is short and minimal.  The hardest part is waiting for the fluff to set and turn into actual marshmallows!  That fluff looked so good – I could have eaten the whole bowl right then and there!

Marshmallows
(Makes about 2 dozen)
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Vegetable oil, for brushing
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1.5 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/8 cup water
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup very cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Brush a 9×9-inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil.  Line with parchment paper, and brush the parchment paper with more vegetable oil.

In a medium saucepan, combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 3/8 cup water.  At high heat, bring to a boil and stir until all the sugar appears to dissolve.  Continue cooking without stirring until the temperature registers 238 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/2 cup cold water and gelatin.  Stir and let sit for 5 minutes.  Start mixing at low speed, and slowly add the syrup mixture to the gelatin mixture.  Every 3 minutes, slightly increase the speed.  After about 12 minutes, the mixture should be stiff.  Add in the vanilla and beat again.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Set aside, uncovered, until firm, about 4 hours (or overnight).

Cover a work surface with confectioners’ sugar.  Remove the marshmallows from the baking dish and onto the work surface.  With a sharp knife, cut the marshmallows into small squares.  Coat each marshmallow in more confectioners’ sugar.

– food on,
Sharon

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Almond Butter Cookies

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It’s no secret that I love sweets and desserts.  If I had my choice, it’d be a hot fudge brownie sundae, with extra brownies and chocolate ice cream any every day.  But, sometimes, I can appreciate sweets that are much more subtle – I was shocked at how satisfied these left me.  They are much simpler, the perfect pairing to a meal or with a cup of tea.

I made these for the first time this past holiday season for a few different gatherings and everyone was immediately a fan.  At our housewarming party, I sent a friend of mine home with a bag full, since he liked them so much, and hey, he was going to finish them all anyways!  He savored them for the next few days and was upset when they were gone.

I shape them into small crescents, but any way will do.  I’ve made them with brown sugar and really like the way it compliments the nuttyness of the cookies.

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Almond Butter Cookies
(makes about 15 cookies)

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar, for dusting

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat together the butter, sugar, and extracts.  Once combined, add the flours.  Stir together until a flaky dough is created.  Knead the mixture together with your hands until a dough is formed.  Break the dough into small pieces, approximately 2 tbs in size and shape into small crescents.  Place cookies on a buttered cookie sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes, until lightly browned.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

-sweet on,
Shirley

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