Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wrapping Up Winter Holidays

 I am loving this spring. I am definitely feeling the world coming alive again! We actually had a couple of inches of snow yesterday morning and I almost ran outside with my camera to take pictures. I posted so many pictures last summer, but I never got any up of the seasonal changes. If you got our Christmas card though, you got the idea: snow, snow, and more snow! Anyway, it's been lovely, but it's time for longer days and warmer weather. And that reminds me, we still have one more recipe to finish out the 12 Days of Christmas! It's classic Abby, I know. And to complete the belated holiday observance, I'm posting Valentine's pictures as well. We should just go ahead and change the title of my blog to "Better Late Than Never." Words to live by, those are.

These are the candy heart Valentine's frames that my kiddos worked super hard on for their grandmothers. I think we spent four days crafting before we sent everything out! They also made cards for everyone.

Grandpa and Uncle Rick got a card that looked more or less like the one above. It's a little candy heart dude. Cute huh?

These were the "lovebirds" they made for Aunt Katie and Uncle Caleb. We almost put a caption like "Owl always love you" or "Happy Owlentines Day" or "whoo loves you?" You get the idea. In the end, the kids just hand wrote a message without a cheesy pun. So, while they looked like owls to me, I think K&C just saw birds. What do y'all think?

The little bags on the front of this were labeled "hugs," "kisses," and "Valentine wishes."

This one was really creative on Amabel's part. How she thought to make hearts with all the tiny pipe cleaner scraps she found in the craft box, I don't know. But it turned out cute, no?

Each grandmother also got a set of magnetic frames for her fridge.

I was so proud of how hard they worked! Didn't they do such a cute job?! Of course there are aunts and uncles on my side of the family, and cousins too! Cousins got goodie bags with candy and some smaller crafts. We dig the Snoopy theme around here for most holidays.

And I took care of the aunts, seeing as how they are my sisters, with a heart shaped souffle dish filled with some of these:

I was quite proud of how my Valentine's cupcakes turned out, and quite delighted with how delicious they were. And that, my friends, brings us to recipe number 12. You too can make these little cuties at home. I used my mini muffin pan for fun, but you could certainly make these as regular cupcakes. If you do make them in miniature, check them a little early. This originally comes to us from that culinary publication which must not be named. There is supposed to be a ganache filling, but that seemed rather ambitious for the first try so I left it out. I'm sure the filling is delightful, but these are good, and easy, without it.

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/3 c. Dutch processed cocoa powder
3/4 c. hot coffee
3/4 c. bread flour
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
6T vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 recipe Creamy Chocolate Frosting (follows)

- adjust oven rack to middle position and heat the oven to 350. line a muffin pan with liners. place the chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. pour the hot coffee over the mixture and whisk until smooth. refrigerate until completely cool, about 20 minutes. whisk the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.
- whisk the oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into the cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth. add the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
- divide the batter evenly among the muffin pan cups. bake until the cupcakes are set and just firm to the touch, 17-19 minutes. cool the cupcakes in the muffin pan on a wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. lift cupcakes out of pan and cool directly on wire racks for about 1 hour, until room temperature, before icing.

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

1/3 c. sugar
2 large egg whites
pinch of salt
12T unsalted butter, softened and cut into 12 pieces
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp. vanilla

- combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer, then place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. heat the mixture, whisking gently but constantly, until slightly thickened and foamy and it registers 150 on an instant read thermometer, 2 to 3 minutes **if you don't have an instant read thermometer (I don't either),go by time and texture. don't leave it on too long like I did, or you'll end up starting an egg white omelette! yuck! i got it right the second time, so just give it a try and you can always try again if you mess it up the first time- you'll only have lost 3 minutes and 2 eggs.
- using the whisk attachment, beat the mixture on medium speed in a standing mixer until it reaches the consistency of shaving cream and is slightly cooled, 1 to 2 minutes. add the butter, 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. (the frosting may look curdled after half of the butter has been added; it will smooth with additional butter.) once all the butter is added, add the cooled melted chocolate and the vanilla and mix until combined. increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds, scraping the beater and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Alright, so we're done with winter! Hurray! We can cross Christmas and Valentine's off our list- for at least 8 months, right?! Next on the list, wash the coats, hats, and mittens, and put snow boots and all the clean winter wear in a box for our next destination. With weather still in the 30s though, I reckon that chore will have to wait. You never know if we'll have another day like these:

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