July 23, 2014

Cocoa Pebbles Grilled Bananas

I have a confession to make: I don't own a normal people grill. I would have no where to put it if I did. (I have a balcony, but the HOA says only an electric grill can go there, and I don't grill enough to really worry about it) I do own a George Foreman grill, however. That's right, the lean, mean, fat-busting machine. (It's a cheapo one, though, so I'm a little leery of trying to cook meat on it-- mostly I use it as a panini press)

Bananas made on a George Foreman grill are still grilled bananas, right? Even if the marshmallows didn't get toasty?
I don't know about where you are, but here in NJ, it's been hot. And not just hot, but muggy and humid. Turning the oven on is not recommended. These bananas, stuffed with peanut butter chips, Cocoa Pebbles, and mini marshmallows, are a great warm weather dessert, especially if you've already got the grill going for dinner. Something magical happens to bananas when they start to cook-- I mean, you know how much I love bananas in my baked goods-- then the peanut butter chips get all melty, and you know peanut butter and banana is a rockin' combo. But what else goes with peanut butter and banana? That's right, chocolate. That's where the Cocoa Pebbles come in, giving it a sweet, chocolatey crunch. And if that's not enough, the whole thing is topped with gooey marshmallows, and if you have a normal person grill, they'll get all toasty too.

I was going to tell you how filling these were, and that you can probably eat them instead of a meal, because I was a little uncomfortably full after eating one for dessert. But that wasn't the banana's fault, I soon realized. I forget I'm not supposed to eat blue things, and when you use multicolored marshmallows, there are bound to be a few blue ones. (This weirdo blue food coloring intolerance of mine is very inconvenient, mostly because I don't eat blue things that often, so I forget about it) But I will still back you if you want to make these for breakfast. It's fruit and cereal, right? Totally okay for breakfast.
Cocoa Pebbles Grilled Bananas

4 large bananas
1/4 cup Cocoa Pebbles Cereal
1/4 cup Peanut Butter Chips
1/3 cup miniature marshmallows

Cut each banana lengthwise about 1/2 inch deep, leaving 1/2 inch uncut at both ends.  Gently pull each banana open, forming a pocket.  Fill each pocket with Cocoa Pebbles cereal, peanut butter chips and marshmallows, evenly divided among the four bananas.  

Wrap each banana in foil and grill over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until marshmallows are melted. 

Serves 4. One banana per serving.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Photo courtesy of Post
*Disclaimer: I was provided with free samples of Post Cocoa Pebbles so I could feature this recipe. I receive no other compensation for this post. All opinions remain, as always, my own*

July 16, 2014

Black and White Mini Cupcakes

Did you guys know my momma is part of a local digital photography club?

Of course you didn't. Because I never told you, and you don't know my momma.

Anyway, they had a showcase this past weekend, and they provided free food in order to lure people in. They were supposed to bring finger foods, so my mom volunteered to bring mini cupcakes. And guess who actually did the baking of the cupcakes?
It shouldn't be that hard to guess, since this is a baking blog, and the cupcakes are pictured above.

I suggested the idea of black and white cupcakes (since it was a photography showcase. Black and white cupcakes, like black and white photography, get it?), and my mom loved the idea, so I went with a dark chocolate cake (with a couple drops of black food coloring- the cake is dark enough you don't need much) and a vanilla frosting. I sprinkled them with some black nonpareils I had chilling out in my massive collection of sprinkles, et voila, black and white mini cupcakes!

Except, I think I kind of went too high concept with the idea of black and white cupcakes. Nobody really got it. My mom made a point of telling people they were black and white cupcakes and got no reaction. My dad said there was a guy talking about black and white photography, and he started eating a cupcake, and he didn't make the connection. *le sigh* I mean, it's a photography club. They should be creative types, right? I thought they'd get it. (And there were still most of them left after I got there an hour into the showcase. I am not used to this. Of course, I sent her off with almost 4 dozen, so there is that.)
Anyway, on to the technical parts: the cake is sooper yumtastic. I got the recipe off of Hershey's Kitchens, I just added a little instant coffee to really bring out that chocolate flavor, and I used vanilla bean paste instead of extract because... I'm not completely sure where that ended up, (hashtag movingproblems) and it kind of tasted like the cookie part of an Oreo. Except it wasn't a cookie, it was cake. The vanilla frosting is also reminiscent of Oreo filling, and it's seriously good.

Now, the batter is really easy to bring together (I didn't even need my mixer, just a bowl and a whisk), but it's also really liquidy. So if the cupcakes overflow, it's kind of a disaster. Normally with mini cupcakes, I use one cookie scoop (about 1 tablespoon) of batter, and that's fine. For these, one tablespoon was way too much, and they overflowed and baked onto the tin and it wouldn't come out of the tin and I was just left with cupcake carnage. So if you use this to make mini cupcakes, use only 2 teaspoons of batter per cupcake.

But I wouldn't really suggest using it to make mini cupcakes, because it makes a buttload. Seriously. I think I got about 8 dozen, but I lost count around 5 dozen, and I got fed up towards the end (because I only have one mini cupcake tin that only holds 12 cupcakes) and just used the rest of the batter to make a mini cake. So, not really the best batter for making mini cupcakes. But a layer cake or regular cupcakes? Or jumbo cupcakes? Oh yeah, this cake is awesome.
Totally and completely unrelated: what should one do with a buttload of leftover mini cupcakes (sans frosting)? Asking for a friend...

Black and White Mini Cupcakes
Yield: Approximately 8 dozen mini cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
2 cups sugar
1¾ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder
1½ tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. instant coffee
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
A few drops black food coloring
1 cup boiling water

For the frosting:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup solid white vegetable shortening (Crisco)
3½ cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
Pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the first 7 ingredients, until well mixed. Add the milk, eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla, and mix until well integrated (some lumps are fine). Add the food coloring and mix until the color is even (repeat if necessary to achieve the desired shade). Add the boiling water and mix until smooth (the batter will be very thin).

Line a mini muffin tin with liners (foil works best, but paper is fine), and fill with maximum 2 teaspoons of batter (do not overfill). Bake for 13-15 minutes, until the tops spring back when gently pressed. Allow to cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

For the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl with electric beaters, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla bean paste and salt. Gradually increase the speed to high, and whip until light and fluffy.

Cake recipe adapted from Hershey's Kitchens. Frosting recipe by Kim
And a quarter for scale...