Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Bark... and Another One Bites the Dust

It's one of the first lessons you learn in Elementary school, yet somehow life has a way of continuing to constantly remind you: Things don't always work out the way you want them to. Fact of life. Truth universally acknowledged.

It's never for lack of trying and it certainly isn't for lack of optimism (read: idealism). It just happens sometimes despite all our best efforts... You burn something to the bottom of the pan that doesn't come out for a week... You forget to add an ingredient and it ruins the whole batch... Something outside of the kitchen that affects your whole life happens or doesn't happen to make you question everything.

No matter how devastating (or minor), you can't let life get you down. All you have to do is roll with the punches, and when you get knocked down... get back up again. Cue old bad 90s song ;-)

This Halloween, a hurricane whipped through the northeast affecting others much more seriously than it affected me – I stayed home in my pjs for a day, calling in to conference calls and communicating with co-workers via Skype... Despite the extra time, I put off my Halloween baking thinking it would just work out in the end.

Halloween night suddenly arrived and I put my brilliant idea into action. And...

My attempt at Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Bark didn't quite work out the way I wanted it to. The Hershey pumpkin spice kisses melted really awkwardly in my microwave and resisted all attempts of salvation. The Wilton candy melts that I planned to melt into beautiful decorative spider webs and the words "Happy Halloween" responded just as awkwardly to the microwave's melting methods. Rather than melt into a silky consistency, it just sort of globbed into really hot somewhat moldable clay.

However, as Halloween is still my favorite holiday of the year, I refused to let a little thing like melt-resistant chocolate affect my day! I made light of the error, squashed the weird clay-like candy melts on top of the gross orange goo and drew some details on with edible marker (one of those decorative pens that is safe to eat when it's been drawn on food).

Happy Baking and more importantly, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Browned Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chai Frosting

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Over 20 years later, this famous quote from Ferris Bueller's Day Off still applies. A visit to my Alma Mater for the first time since I graduated reminded me that no matter how fast life seems to be moving, it is ALWAYS important to savor the moments and the people that can stop time. Browned Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chai Frosting are a pretty great treat to savor with your best friends... and that's just what I did with this batch!

Last weekend, in between cheering on the Wolverines for Homecoming and revisiting all of our favorite restaurants and bars, my friends and I made time to dance ridiculously, laugh our heads off and talk about absolutely everything that crossed our thoughts.

This weekend, a bar full of Boston's Michigan fans exploded in cheer at the end of the 4th quarter when Michigan scored the field goal that won us the game against Michigan State for the first time in 4 years! Much like I still can recall that moment of all-encompassing joy I felt last year when we beat Ohio State over Thanksgiving weekend, this is a moment of joy that will stay with me for years to come.

As the years pass, I won't remember the daily occurrences that took place between these two football Saturdays. The things I did at work, the dinners I made, even the desserts I baked would be forgotten (if not for this memory-keeping blog), but I will hold on to those time-stopping moments on either end.

And celebrate them with cupcakes whenever appropriate! ;-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Cookie Delight

Depending on who you ask, October represents a number of things. If you ask my dad, October is the month in which we celebrate his birthday... all month... with decorated hats. :)

For me, October is the month in which my favorite holiday takes place and my favorite flavor becomes widely available in fanatic abundance. Naturally, I am referring to Halloween and Pumpkin Spice.

This year, rumors are running high that Starbucks is running low on the infamous and coveted Pumpkin Spice syrup that flavors their Pumpkin Spice Lattes — Fall's most popular flavor. If the unthinkable happens and your local Starbucks runs out of this seasonal favorite (a result of horribly bad planning on their part), you'll have to be prepared to either suffer through withdrawal or make your own Pumpkin Spice Syrup!

To accompany your favorite flavored latte, Hershey makes (white) chocolate Pumpkin Spice Kisses! Each morsel is made up of creamy white chocolate surrounded by spiced chocolate to capture all the best spices of fall — nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves. They're fantastic! I scouted out every CVS, Walgreens and grocery store for weeks before I finally found and bought a couple of bags. They didn't last a week before I worked them into a batch of cookies!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Apple Cinnamon "Tree Hugger" Cupcakes

Often times, I borrow concepts or inspiration from other bloggers.

Often I borrow recipes to adapt or follow exactly (but more often, to adapt).

I look to other bloggers for photography tips, photo composition ideas, or decorating tricks.

I look to other bloggers for writing and design suggestions.

What I very rarely do is rip off ideas/names/recipes verbatim. I don't like taking things that aren't mine and I always look to tweak and Young-Idealistic-Baker-ify the recipes I post and names I assign to the final products I proudly share.

All things aside, when I stumbled upon an apple cinnamon cupcake recipe adapted from a more complex "Tree Hugger Apple" cupcake recipe, I couldn't resist borrowing (is it stealing?) the same name for these really similar adapted cupcakes.

After all, these particular cupcakes are the result of literal tree hugging as I climbed up an apple tree, hugging the trunk to reach the perfect apples.