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Sometimes I like to make cupcakes in miniature. I find they are the perfect size for parties or when you are serving a variety of desserts. These Mini Vanilla Cupcakes are wonderfully sweet and buttery and are frosted with a swirl of creamy smooth Confectioners Frosting. And the kids will love it if you dust the tops with candy sprinkles or chocolate jimmies.

The important thing when making miniature cupcakes is not to over bake them as you want them to be soft, fluffy, and moist. Over baking causes them to be hard and dry tasting. So bake them only until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Always check to see if they are done a few minutes before the end of the stated baking time as everyone's oven works a little differently. And always cool your cupcakes completely before frosting.

For these Vanilla Cupcakes we are using a Confectioners Frosting (Buttercream Frosting) which is made with confectioners sugar (also known as icing or powdered sugar) along with butter, vanilla extract, and cream (milk). It is easy to make and has a wonderfully light and fluffy texture with a sweet and buttery flavor. While I did not color the frosting, you can if you like. Now, you could just cover the cupcakes with a thin layer of frosting using a knife or offset spatula, which is perfect for the kids. But when you want something fancier, bring out the piping bag fitted with a plain or decorative tip.

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Article and Demonstration by Stephanie Jaworski

Photo and Videography by Rick Jaworski

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Butter Tarts have that perfect ratio of pastry to filling. That is because they are traditionally made as individual tarts. Butter Tarts are not to be eaten daintily with a fork, but should be picked up and eaten in a few delicious bites. I like them warm from the oven, at room temperature, or even cold from the fridge.

Canadians definitely have their own opinions as to what makes the perfect Butter Tart. Over the years I have had many discussions on what is the best pastry to use for the crust. Should the filling be firm or runny. And should the filling contain raisins or walnuts, or even both.

For me, I like a Butter Tart with a crisp and crumbly pastry that is made with butter. And I like a filling that is soft but not runny, which means no corn syrup is added. I waiver on whether I prefer raisins or walnuts and sometimes I simply use both. As far as the raisins, I like the dark Thompson variety. If nuts are used, Canadians like walnuts but Americans may want to use pecans to emulate the pecan pie. These little gems are baked in a fairly hot oven until the crusts have nicely browned and the filling has set. Read more: https://www.joyofbaking.com/ButterTarts.html#ixzz5o02BN8SP Follow us: @joyofbaking on Twitter | joyofbaking on Facebook

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Reach for this Chocolate Cookie when the next chocolate craving hits. This rich and buttery tasting Chocolate Cookie is adapted from Regan Daley's 'In the Sweet Kitchen' and combines the subtle flavor of Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder with lots of chocolate chips. While perfect with a tall glass of cold milk, its soft texture makes it the perfect cookie for filling with ice cream for homemade ice cream sandwiches.

Once you have made the chocolate cookie dough, if you do not want to bake the cookies right away, you can freeze them. To freeze, place the formed cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, and put in the freezer until the cookies are frozen. Remove the baking sheet from the freezer, place the frozen cookies in a freezer bag, and return to the freezer. When you want to bake off the cookies, simply place the frozen cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, preheat the oven, and then bake. You may have to add a few minutes to the baking time.

If you are not familiar with Dutch-Processed or Alkalized Unsweetened Cocoa Powder it is cocoa that has been treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids. Because it is neutral and does not react with baking soda, it is used in recipes calling for baking powder, unless there are other acidic ingredients in sufficient quantities used. Dutch Processed cocoa powder has a reddish-brown color, mild flavor, and is easy to dissolve in liquids. Its delicate flavor makes it ideal in baked goods like European cakes and pastries where its subtle flavor complements other ingredients. Droste, Valrhona, and Pernigotti are some popular brands.

Click here for the video and recipe.

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Article and Demonstration by Stephanie Jaworski

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Reach for this Chocolate Cookie when the next chocolate craving hits. This rich and buttery tasting Chocolate Cookie is adapted from Regan Daley's 'In the Sweet Kitchen' and combines the subtle flavor of Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder with lots of chocolate chips. While perfect with a tall glass of cold milk, its soft texture makes it the perfect cookie for filling with ice cream for homemade ice cream sandwiches.

Once you have made the chocolate cookie dough, if you do not want to bake the cookies right away, you can freeze them. To freeze, place the formed cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, and put in the freezer until the cookies are frozen. Remove the baking sheet from the freezer, place the frozen cookies in a freezer bag, and return to the freezer. When you want to bake off the cookies, simply place the frozen cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, preheat the oven, and then bake. You may have to add a few minutes to the baking time.

If you are not familiar with Dutch-Processed or Alkalized Unsweetened Cocoa Powder it is cocoa that has been treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids. Because it is neutral and does not react with baking soda, it is used in recipes calling for baking powder, unless there are other acidic ingredients in sufficient quantities used. Dutch Processed cocoa powder has a reddish-brown color, mild flavor, and is easy to dissolve in liquids. Its delicate flavor makes it ideal in baked goods like European cakes and pastries where its subtle flavor complements other ingredients. Droste, Valrhona, and Pernigotti are some popular brands.

Click here for the video and recipe.

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Article and Demonstration by Stephanie Jaworski

Photo and Videography by Rick Jaworski

© 2019 iFood Media LLC

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Date Squares are also called Date Slices or even Matrimonial Bars. They consist of two buttery layers of an oatmeal shortbread crust that are sandwiched together with pureed dried dates scented with vanilla. Growing up, Date Squares were a regular part of my mother's baking. Yet once I got married I somehow forgot all about them. It wasn't until I was browsing through Rose Carrarini's inspiring book "Breakfast Lunch Tea" that I discovered this delicious square once again. I just love their wonderfully sweet yet earthy flavor. Absolutely perfect with a hot cup of tea.

You make this No Bake Icebox Cake by layering Chocolate Wafer Cookies with whipped cream, and then chilling it until firm. This type of dessert became very popular when Nabisco started printing a recipe on the back of the box of their Famous Chocolate Wafers. Their recipe calls for spreading the chocolate wafers with whipped cream, stacking them into a log shape, and then covering the log with more whipped cream. For this recipe we are actually making a round cake and we are using Homemade Chocolate Wafer Cookies. Once assembled, the cake needs to be chilled in the refrigerator overnight, so the cream has time to be absorbed into the crisp and crunchy Chocolate Wafers, giving them a dense, almost cake-like texture that can be easily sliced.

For this recipe we are alternating five layers of Homemade Chocolate Wafers with five layers of whipped cream. I love Homemade Chocolate Wafers. They have a wonderfully crisp and crunchy texture and a deep chocolate flavor. And they're eggless. The chocolate flavor comes from unsweetened cocoa powder, and you can use either Dutch processed or natural unsweetened cocoa powder.

For the delicious Cream Filling, we are combining heavy whipping cream with mascarpone cheese, pure vanilla extract, and sugar. Mascarpone Cheese is wonderfully thick, buttery-rich, delicately sweet, and velvety smooth. It adds a depth of flavor and texture to this Cream Filling. Mascarpone Cheese is normally sold in plastic 8-ounce (225 gram) tubs. You can usually find it in specialty food stores and in the deli section of your local grocery store. But if you cannot find Mascarpone a good substitute would be an equal amount of regular cream cheese.

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Article and Demonstration by Stephanie Jaworski

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Date Squares are also called Date Slices or even Matrimonial Bars. They consist of two buttery layers of an oatmeal shortbread crust that are sandwiched together with pureed dried dates scented with vanilla. Growing up, Date Squares were a regular part of my mother's baking. Yet once I got married I somehow forgot all about them. It wasn't until I was browsing through Rose Carrarini's inspiring book "Breakfast Lunch Tea" that I discovered this delicious square once again. I just love their wonderfully sweet yet earthy flavor. Absolutely perfect with a hot cup of tea.

As their name implies, the main component of Date Squares is dates. Dates are the fruit of the palm tree, that grow in large bunches, with each date measuring up to 2 inches (5 cm) in length. They have a high sugar content and are also a good source of protein plus Vitamins A & B. For this recipe we are using dried pitted dates and I usually buy the ones that are packed in plastic containers. You can often find them in the produce section of your grocery store.

To make the date filling, the dates are first cooked in water to soften their tough outer skin. We then add a little vanilla extract (could also add a little orange or lemon zest) and let them cool before pureeing in a food processor or blender until fairly smooth (a few lumps are okay). After that is done, we need to make the oatmeal crust which, again, is easily done in the food processor. This is really an oatmeal "shortbread" crust. It has a fairly high butter content and there is no egg. For this recipe I like to use old-fashioned rolled oats rather than quick-cooking as I prefer their thicker texture and flavor. Also, make sure that your butter is cold and cut it into small cubes. Pulse the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture just begins to come together. Then the layering of the ingredients begins. First, two thirds of the oatmeal crust is pressed onto the bottom of our pan. The date puree is then spread over the crust and then the rest of the dough is crumbled over the dates. Gently press down to compact the top crust. The squares are baked until golden brown. The longer they bake the more crisp and chewy they will become. To make it easier to cut these squares, it is best to chill them first. Date Squares will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.

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Coconut Macaroons are all about the sweet flavor of dried coconut, and the contrast of a crispy exterior to a soft and chewy interior. These delicious cookies can be eaten warm from the oven, at room temperature, or even cold. Excellent plain, but for the chocolate lover you will definitely want to take the extra step and dip the bottoms of the cookies in melted chocolate.

There are a lot of recipes for Coconut Macaroons, and I have some of my favorites on the site. While they are all bursting with dried coconut, they differ in both technique and ingredients. This recipe starts by warming egg whites with granulated white sugar until nice and creamy, just like a Swiss Meringue. This step stabilizes the whites and gives the Macaroons a crisp outer crust. Then vanilla extract is folded in, along with a little cake flour and lots of dried coconut. Although not often used in Coconut Macaroons, adding flour gives these cookies a wonderful dense texture and a dome-like shape. For the dried coconut I prefer to use unsweetened, either shredded or flaked. However, you can use sweetened dried coconut which is made by combining coconut with powdered sugar. Just keep in mind that if you use sweetened dried coconut the Macaroons will taste sweeter. Now, this batter does need to the chilled until firm and this will take a few hours, or you can chill the batter overnight. Coconut Macaroons store very well. In fact, sometimes I think I like them better after a day or two, when their flavor and outside crust has softened, yet they are still wonderfully moist and chewy.

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These Lemon Cheesecakes have three layers. Each individual cheesecake starts with a Graham Cracker Crust. Next, is a creamy smooth and dense cheesecake filling. The topping is a deliciously tangy sweet lemon curd. I especially like how the tanginess of the lemon curd offsets the richness of the cheesecake filling.

The most important thing to remember when making the cheesecake filling is to have all the ingredients at room temperature. Beat the cream cheese until it is creamy and smooth (no lumps) and then add the sugar. Make sure you scrape down the bowl often to remove any lumps and beat the cheesecake batter at medium low speed. This will reduce the amount of air incorporated into the batter which will result in a wonderfully dense cheesecake. These cheesecakes are baked in muffin cups and for easy removal, line the muffin cups with paper liners. The cheesecakes are baked in a slow oven to prevent cracking and are fully baked when the filling is set but still a little wet and wobbly in the center. Let cool to room temperature before covering and placing in the refrigerator until firm (several hours or preferably overnight). Then cover with the Lemon Curd.

Lemon Curd is a thick, soft and velvety cream that has a wonderful tart yet sweet citrus flavor. You can buy Lemon Curd or you can make your own. Lemon Curd is similar to a lemon filling or custard in that it is cooked on the stove yet it does not contain a thickener such as cornstarch. We cook the curd in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water (a double boiler). This method does take a little longer, but it helps prevent the eggs from curdling. Once the lemon curd has become nice and thick (176 degrees F - 74 degrees C), remove from the heat and strain to remove any lumps that may have formed. Then stir in the butter and lemon zest. Cover immediately with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. You will find that the lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Lemon Curd can be refrigerated for up to a week and it can be frozen.

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This is a recipe for an eggless Chocolate Cake with a Chocolate Ganache Frosting. It is a single layer cake with a rich chocolate flavor and a moist and tender crumb. A delicious snacking cake. The kids will love it with a tall glass of cold milk while the adults might prefer it with a hot cup of coffee or tea.

What makes this Chocolate Cake unique is that it is a "mix-in-the-pan" type of cake. Which means you can just mix all the ingredients together, right in the cake pan. A little unusual which is probably why other names for this cake are a "Wacky" or a "Crazy" Cake. However, while in theory I like the thought of no dirty dishes, I will say that, practically speaking, I find it much easier to mix the ingredients together in a separate bowl, rather than in the square baking pan. There are a couple of things about this recipe that are worth mentioning. First, as I said above, it does not contain eggs. Second, this cake uses unsweetened cocoa powder (can use either natural unsweetened or Dutch processed) which gives the cake a deep chocolate flavor. Third, we also add a little lemon juice (or vinegar) to the batter. Now, if you use natural unsweetened cocoa powder there will be a reaction between the unsweetened cocoa powder and the lemon juice which gives the baked cake a distinctly red tinge (reminiscent of a Red Velvet Cake). And lastly, while I have used melted butter, you could substitute with corn, canola, safflower, or even a vegetable oil.

Once the cake has been baked and cooled, I like to frost it with Chocolate Ganache. But this is not absolutely necessary. If you like you can just dust the top of the cake with a little powdered sugar or cocoa powder and serve it on its own or with whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. Now, Chocolate Ganache is a rich and smooth mixture of semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate and heavy whipping cream. While it is often poured over a cake for a smooth and shiny glaze, for this recipe we are letting it cool until it becomes a thick and spreadable frosting.

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Hot Cross Buns are a seasonal yeast bread traditionally served on Good Friday. These enriched buns are spiced with ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, and are studded with raisins (or currants) and candied mixed peel. What makes them instantly recognizable is that the tops of the buns are marked with a 'cross' which symbolically represents the Cross of Christ and the Crucifixion. After baking, I like to add a little sweetness to the Hot Cross Buns. Now you can do this by brushing the warm buns with a sugar syrup (boiled mixture of equal parts sugar and water), strained apricot preserves, golden syrup, or even honey. But what I like to do is to pipe a cross on the buns with a sweet sugar glaze made by mixing confectioners sugar (powdered or icing sugar) with a little milk. Hot cross buns can be eaten plain or buttered. Also very good when split in half, toasted, and served with butter and a slice of sharp cheddar cheese.

There are many stories as to when the first Hot Cross Buns were made, and the story I like is related to the Anglo Saxons. It comes from Alan Davidson's "The Oxford Companion to Food". He tells us they were first made in honor of their goddess of Spring, Eostre, from whom the name Easter is derived. Today they are traditionally served at Easter and there is a superstition that Hot Cross Buns baked on Good Friday never became moldy and it is good luck to save one bun until the next year's buns are made.

A few notes on ingredients. If using active dry yeast you will need to activate it before adding it to the batter. Do this by warming the milk until lukewarm (about 100 degrees F or 38 degrees C). Stir in the yeast and set aside for about 10 minutes or until the yeast is foamy and then add it to the batter along with the egg and butter. You can adjust the amounts and types of ground spices to suit your own personal taste. If you are unfamiliar with ground allspice, it has a spicy, almost woody, flavor has the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper all rolled into one. While I have added brown sugar to the dough for sweetness you can use white sugar. Sometimes it can be difficult to find candied mixed peel so just substitute with more currants or raisins, or use dried cranberries and/or cherries.

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