About Aneesa S.

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lemon cupcakes with strawberry centers [coconut & lime]

Despite the chilly rain that’s been assaulting Chicago for a week now, it is indeed spring, and my cravings are showing it. Sweet, juicy berries, tangy citrus, froyo piled high with every topping in the store–this is all I want anymore.

I’m finding myself thinking of last summer’s recipes, so today I have a throwback for you guys. One of my favorites that I made last spring and summer. Multiple times. Because they were that good.

These are lemon cupcakes with full strawberry centers, courtesy of Coconut & Lime.

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Mmmmm. Love those juicy strawberries.

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I followed the recipe exactly, going with the suggestion of cream cheese frosting with added lemon juice and zest. My favorite part about these is that nobody expects an entire strawberry inside the cupcake. It’s a pleasant, juicy surprise that contrasts nicely against the texture of this dense cake. You don’t need big strawberries, but make sure they’re nice and ripe, so you really get the full berry sweetness to complement all the lemon in these.

The photos are not quite up to my usual standards, so forgive me for that, please. They’re a bit old. But just last week I bought some of the biggest, reddest strawberries I’ve ever had, so I’m hoping that as soon as this rain clears up, there will be a lot more of those berries–and some of these cupcakes–anew in my life.

Enjoy the weekend! 🙂

oreo cupcakes [foodess]

Several technical difficulties later, I’m back with a new post! Sorry for the delay, guys.

For those who know me/are friends with me on facebook, you saw some photos of these about a week ago. My older brother was coming home for the weekend, and he had asked me to bake something for him to bring back. Of course, being my brother, he gave me no specifics other than “something sweet”, so I had far too many options on my hands. After some intense grilling–and a very helpful suggestion from his friend–I finally got him to settle on the best possible cookie to bake with: Oreos.

I have so many Oreo/cookies and cream recipes bookmarked that it’s actually alarming.

I knew instantly that I wanted a really moist chocolate cake, over a full Oreo base and with cookies and cream frosting piled high on top. I dug through my bookmarks and found this moist chocolate cake recipe from foodess and this white chocolate whipped cream one from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. Don’t get me wrong–the cream cheese frosting from foodess looks absolutely heavenly, but I wanted something lighter.

This turned into an…interesting endeavor. One of my favorite tricks for really moist cupcakes is adding 1 cup of sour cream and 3-4 ounces of instant dry pudding mix to a boxed cake mix (which I first tried with this recipe). I wanted to avoid the extra fat of sour cream, and opted instead for Greek yogurt. It was a risk, but with the yogurt and a couple of other tweaks, I ended up with light, chocolatey cupcakes that were soft and moist on the inside and still had a crispness around the edges.
The frosting…well. Let’s just say that I have yet to master homemade whipped cream. I’m still not sure why this happened, but one minute, I was mixing glorious peaks of rich white chocolate whipped cream, and the next, I had dollops of white chocolate butter surrounded by liquid. (If someone wants to explain that separation to me, I’ll be eternally grateful!) Once I figured out that I had butter on my hands, I decided to turn the whole mess into a regular buttercream with Oreo crumbs folded in, and thankfully, that worked out well. I suppose the whipped cream will have to wait. 🙁

All in all, I was pretty pleased with the results.

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Man, I wish I had just one of these left.

Adjustments I made to the recipe:
+ Place one full Oreo cookie at the bottom of each baking cup
+ 1.5 cups of sugar, instead of 2
+ 1 cup of honey flavored Greek yogurt, instead of buttermilk
+ Add 2 tablespoons of instant chocolate pudding mix to the dry ingredients
+ Add 2 tablespoons of hot water in addition to the 1 cup of coffee

The resulting batter was thin, but not runny.

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I tried to fill the baking cups about 2/3 of the way, then popped the trays into the oven for 23 minutes. I let the cupcakes cool overnight (yay, late-night baking!) and frosting them the next morning with the Oreo buttercream.

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Hello, handsome.

There’s just something about the black and white contrast of cookies and cream.

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My favorite part, though, was definitely the surprise cookie at the bottom. The Oreos stayed crunchy through baking, and they held up the cupcakes perfectly.

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My brother was pretty happy, too. 😉

And that was my end-of-break baking adventure! A couple mishaps, many fingers crossed, and finally, some delicious cupcakes to share with my family.

Enjoy what’s left of the weekend! See you guys next Friday 🙂

basic banana bread

I promised you guys an original recipe, and here it is: my foolproof, go-to, absolute favorite banana bread recipe. Moist, fluffy, just-sweet-enough banana bread that can be enjoyed alone, fresh out of the oven with a scoop of ice cream, or as a base for chocolate chips, walnuts, Nutella swirls, maybe a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg–it’s up to you! Go crazy!

The Food Network Kitchens’ version of this banana bread was the first recipe I ever followed where I had to make anything from scratch–actual flour, salt, butter, baking soda, etc. Since then, I’ve experimented and made my own alterations to it. To this day, it’s one of my favorite recipes ever and without a doubt the one I make most often.

I think my favorite part about this recipe is its resilience. In the dozens of times I’ve made it, I’ve abused it to no end, rushing through and skipping steps, switching out raw and brown sugar for the granulated white I usually use, doubling the salt, using anywhere from 3 to 6 bananas in varying degrees of ripeness, overbaking, underbaking–you name it, and I’ve probably done it. Somehow, though, the bread still comes out delicious. Like today! I don’t know where my head was, but I somehow used the 1/3 cup instead of the 1/4 cup the whole time, and didn’t realize it until the end–meaning excess flour and sugar. Oops. Good thing I went with 4.5 bananas instead of 4! Bananas are good at masking these things. 😉

But enough chit-chat! On to the baking!

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Nothing fancy in these ingredients. Just make sure your bananas are nice and ripe! The ones in this photo aren’t as spotted as the ones I normally use. I’m talking borderline rotten here.

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Please tell me I’m not the only one who peels their bananas from the short end?

This recipe is simple enough that if you make it a couple times, you’ll have it memorized and down to 15 minutes of prep, max. Then just pop it in the oven and let the smell of warm banana bread blanket your house! 🙂

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——

Banana Bread
Adapted from Food Network Kitchens
Makes 1 8×8 loaf or 1 9x5x3 loaf

Ingredients
1.25 cups whole wheat flour (all-purpose works, too)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened (salted or unsalted)
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-5 medium ripe bananas, mashed

Instructions

+Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 8×8 pan. (Pam baking spray is your best friend here!)
+Sift flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.
+In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. The more patience you have here, the lighter your bread will be.
+Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add mashed bananas and mix. Your batter will look curdled here; don’t worry about it! That’s normal. Make sure you scrape down the sides and bottom as you mix because the butter will tend to stubbornly stick to the bowl.
+Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. You can do this with just a spatula to avoid over-mixing. Your batter should be lumpy and sticky–thicker than cake batter, but not as thick as actual dough. This is where, if you want, you would fold in about a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, walnut pieces, etc.
+Pour batter into pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the edges of the bread are dark brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
+Cool completely before slicing and serving. (Seriously, let it cool. I know it smells great, but this stuff will burn you badly if you’re impatient.)
+Cover or wrap in plastic to store. This bread will keep for up to a week, but it will never taste as good as the day it’s baked. (More importantly, where are you that homemade banana bread lasts an entire week?!)

Notes
I tend to skimp on the sugar. If you’re using really ripe bananas, they’ll bring more than enough sweetness to cover for the missing sugar.

If you make this, let me know what you think! Enjoy 🙂