After a friend shared a delicious-sounding recipe for dumplings, I decided to buy a dough press set. Since we have very little storage place in our kitchen, my tools supply is low. I try to avoid buying things like dough presses that won’t get much use, but my craving for hand pies and dumplings overtook me.  I’ll try to use it quite a bit before it makes a home in the garage; right now it is sitting annoyingly on my kitchen counter (taking up about a quarter of my work space!).

I really wanted to make my great aunt B.I.’s famous hand pies but don’t have her recipes, so settled with trying something of my own with apples I had on hand.

They ended up pretty good. I’m still going to search for a better recipe! Next time I will probably make them larger to improve the filling-to-pastry ratio; I think that will be nearly perfect. The inside is really delicious, and if I have a craving for apple pie I’ll likely go ahead and make these again.  Baked goods always taste better in miniature–especially if they eliminate having to wash dishes after each use!

I made two different rounds of hand pies. The fist time, I used one of Smitten Kitchen’s pastry suggestion but found it difficult to work with and not worth the wait. I was disappointed with how ugly that batch of pies came out and quickly threw together another round using a quick pie crust.

Apple filling
3 or 4 baking apples (Granny Smiths are a good choice)
½ cup sugar
1 Tbs flour
½ tsp cinnamon (heaping)
dash of nutmeg

Peel and chop apples into small pieces. Coat with dry ingredients and let sit in refrigerator until the pastry is prepared.

Pastry for Double-Crust Pie from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook
2 ½ cups AP flour
¾ tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening
8 to 10 Tbs cold water

1 egg yolk beaten with 2 Tbs water
Sugar for decoration

Preheat oven to 375°F. In a medium bowl stir together flour and salt. Cut in shortening until pieces are pea size (I always use my hands for this).

Sprinkle 1 Tbs of the water over part of the flour mixture; toss iwth a fork. Push moistened pastry to side of bowl. Repeat moistening flour mixture, using 1 Tbs of the water at a time, until flour mixture is moistened. Divide pastry in half; form halves into balls.

On lightly floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten one pastry ball. Roll it from center to edges. Cut circles the size you desire, using a dough set as your guide. If you are not using a dough press, cut the circles with a large cookie or biscuit cutter.

Lightly flour surface of dough press, then place a generous amount of apple filling into the center of the circles. With a bit of cold water, wet the circumference of the dough and press edges together, forming a semi-circle. If not using a dough press, make a decorative edge by pressing the dough together with a fork.

Brush pies with egg yolk mixture and sprinkle generously with sugar. Bake until the hand pies are golden brown, or about 20 minutes.

Smitten Kitchen has a photographic guide for those not using a dough press.

Next up: hand pies of varying fruits (I’m dreaming of blackberries once the price drops a bit) and Kara’s dumplings

Today I awoke to find an email from Joseph requesting I make this frosting at The Tasty Kitchen. Don’t ask me why he was reading The Pioneer Woman’s blog (one of my favorites!) first thing in the morning.

I couldn’t deny such a request and was curious for myself: what makes this frosting so superior? And, hello–has anyone noticed all the flour this recipe calls for?!

As I learned from the wonderful people at BakeBakeBake, this recipe has been around for quite a while! Many girls commented that they got the recipe from their grandmothers, and one even told me it originated during the depression and can be called “Poor Man’s Frosting” (which Google confirms).

Straight out of the bowl I wasn’t very impressed. Honestly, I immediately emailed Joseph whining that Ree had deceived me! It was much more buttery than I’d anticipated, and I couldn’t find anything to put it above any other icings.

But I decided to top my lonesome chocolate cupcakes anyway. As the frosting is too creamy to pipe, I spread it on with a knife.

And then cheered it up with nonpareils. I planned on waiting until Joseph got home from work to try, but that didn’t happen…

I was completely surprised when I bit into this cupcake–never have two flavors meshed together so well! The frosting complimented the chocolate absolutely perfectly.  I used my simple One Bowl Chocolate recipe, and this frosting really brought it up a level. This is what chocolate cake has been searching for for years.

I’m terribly sorry, frosting, for not having faith in you. I promise it won’t happen again.

That’s the Best Frosting I’ve Ever Had
Recipe from MissyDew at The Tasty Kitchen
1 cup Milk
5 Tablespoons Flour
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 cup Butter
1 cup Granulated Sugar (not Powdered Sugar!)

Bake your favorite chocolate cake and let it cool.

In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens (Note: it will be very, very thick!). Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. (If in a hurry, place the saucepan over ice in the sink for about 10 minutes or so until the mixture cools.) Stir in vanilla.

While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then add the cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat until it all combines and resembles whipped cream.

Spread over chocolate cake and enjoy. Enjoy, really–I promise you will.

Do yourself a favor and make this! It is one of the easiest frostings I’ve come across, and it can do wonders when topped with a simple (even a boxed mix) chocolate cake. You’ll thank me for it, I swear.

Alter the foundation however you’d like–I’m planning on trying it with coconut flakes soon! I also am not big on butter so added some powdered sugar while beating, until it tasted the way I wanted.

Edit, April 1010: Since I posted this, I also tried it with powdered sugar. And boy, it was GOOD!

Hostess cupcakes are no good. They’re cute and convenient, but I just can’t get past the taste. They were delicious as a kid, but either my tastebuds have matured or the development of increasingly cheaper product have hurt them. That seems to be the case with most of the treats I enjoyed as a child (I tried an Almond Joy the other day, and it was awful! That might be next on my list…). All that’s left to do is make your own!

Hostess’ treats never would have been the success they are without a surprise in the center. You can do that too!

We start out with a simple chocolate cake recipe–my favorite fluffy Hershey’s chocolate cake. It works perfectly with the ganache and filling.

Recipe adapted from Beantown Baker

Hershey’s Chocolate Cake
2 cups sugar
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Filling (Seven Minute Frosting):
2 large egg whites
½ cup sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
2 Tbs water
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

½ cup cream
8 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 Tbs unsalted butter, softened

Hershey’s Chocolate Cake:
Heat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

Line muffin cups with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Makes about 30 cupcakes (I made an assortment of large and miniature cupcakes)

While waiting for cupcakes to cool, combine filling ingredients with a pinch of salt in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and beat with a handheld electric mixer at high speed until frosting is thick and fluffy, 6 to 7 minutes. (Okay–I didn’t do this part at all. I just beat everything together at once until fluffy)

Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat until slightly cooled. Reserve 1/2 cup of the filling to use for piping the swirls on top of the cupcakes at the end.

Once cupcakes are completely cooled, use the cone method to fill with filling. Once filled, make the ganache.

In a small saucepan, heat cream until steaming. Remove from the heat, add chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes. Add the butter and stir until smooth. Transfer the frosting to a small bowl and dip the top of each cupcake to thoroughly coat.

Spoon the reserved filling into a pastry bag fitted with a very small plain tip (I just used a Ziplock bag with the tip of a corner cut off) and pipe swirls across the center of each cupcake. Refrigerate the cupcakes for 10 minutes to set the frosting.

Did you scratch your head when I mentioned “the cone method?” It’s easy.

Once cupcakes have cooled, cut a cone out of the top.

Then, place a dollop of filling into the cupcake. For a few of my cupcakes, I went ahead and scooped out some of the inside to make more room for filling.

Lastly, place the cone back in place. You can break off the end of the cone (and, of course, pop that directly into your mouth!) so it will sit in place.

I prefer them cold so store them in the refrigerator. I think this has something to do with how I always ate Hostess cupcakes–frozen with vanilla ice cream on top!  I know mine are not very pretty.  I am not very good at piping and was so tired yesterday that I didn’t take my time to work on them.

I recommend making these the day you plan to serve them! After a while, the cupcakes begin to soak up inside filling. Still tastes great, but not as fun!

I don’t know what’s come over Joseph, but he’s baking up a storm! I love smelling brownies in the oven without having to do any work, and it turns out he is great at baking.  He’s always been a phenomenal cook, but I usually take over the desserts. This is the second sweet he’s baked this week!

These are delicious. Hands-down the best brownies I’ve ever had. They are the perfect balance of cake and fudge, and the flakey top is perfect. I’m handing over the brownie-baking to Joseph from now on!

I get thirsty every time I eat one of these–keep a glass of milk on the side!

Bombshell Brownies from, slightly altered:

1 cup butter, melted
1 ½ cups white sugar
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 Tbs vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish.

Combine the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each, until thoroughly blended.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until blended. Stir in the chocolate morsels. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking dish.

Bake in preheated oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove, and cool pan on wire rack before cutting.

Leonardo is interested in everything in our house. But thankfully he didn’t want to eat these, only smell them–kitties can’t eat chocolate!

I learned from all the food blogs I follow that January 27th is Chocolate Cake Day. All my friends know how much I love chocolate cake; I can’t believe I missed it! When I told Joseph he decided we should make a cake a day late.

So, actually, Joseph made this cake! He tore through my trusty Better Homes and Garden Cookbook and decided on the One-Bowl Chocolate Cake. Very tasty and easy to make!
I wanted to make a chocolate frosting, but we ran out of cocoa powder so settled on the very sweet shortening-based Creamy White Frosting.

I know this cake is pretty ugly–a result of baking at midnight.

One-Bowl Chocolate Cake from Better Homes and Garden Cookbook

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking soda
1¼ tsp baking powder
1¼ tsp salt
1¾ cup milk
1/3 cup cooking oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9×1 ½-inch round cake pan or 8x8x2-inch baking pan; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer on low speed just until combined. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add egg; beat 2 minutes more. Spread into prepared pan.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool cake in a pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan; cool thoroughly before toping with frosting.

Creamy White Frosting from Better Homes and Garden Cookbook

1½ cup shortening
1¾ tsp vanilla
1¼ tsp almond extract
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbs milk

In a large mixing bowl beat shortening, vanilla, and almond extract with electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Slowly add about half of the powdered sugar, beating well. Gradually beat in the milk to reach spreading consistency.

This recipe will frost one 8 or 9-inch round pan or a 13x9x2-inch cake pan. Double recipe for a two-layer cake.

I love these two together–it tastes like a cake I would have had at my grandmother’s house growing up. Better Homes and Gardens is always good for that!