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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Zombie Brain Cupcakes (Easy Halloween Cupcake #2)

Zombies. Rotten reanimated corpses stumbling hither and thither in search of brains and other various human body parts on which to feed. I love them for it. Zombie movies, zombie games, zombie merchandise, I devour them all with a ravenous hunger that rivals any denizen of the undead. Unlike the other usual suspects of Halloween, such as vampires, witches and mummies, who can simultaneously be bad while exuding both sex appeal and style (don’t think a mummy can be sexy? Then you haven’t seen Arnold Vosloo), zombies seem to exist for no other reason than to kill. They are remorseless, they are ruthlessly terrifying, they are…not at all appetizing. And, at least for those zombies of George A. Romero’s fertile imagination, they are actually quite gross. I don’t want to see that on a cupcake, although there are some who might. But, there are ways to create a zombie-themed confection without resorting to decomposition.

Vampire and Slayer Cupcakes (Easy Halloween Cupcake #1)

Like my previous Halloween post on Quick Creepy Treats, this post and the few following it are not actual recipes, but ideas and directions for assembly of some quick Halloween-themed treats, in this case, cupcakes. But not just any cupcakes…vampire cupcakes…and slayer cupcakes!

In other words, 

Welcome to the Hellmouth. Or my kitchen. Either way. Now, vampirism is a cumbersome and complex topic, full of history and pop culture references. For just a bite (get it?) of vampire lore concerning that most famous of all vamps, keep reading, or scroll down to the pics to get back to the Buffy baking!

Apple Cider Doughnuts (Oct '10 Daring Bakers Challenge)

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge (my first participation in a while) was extremely exciting for me: doughnuts! I've always wanted to try my hand at doughnut making, and I even have one of those baked doughnut pans although I've yet to use it. For this challenge, I decided to give it a try, and I decided to fry them, despite having never deep-fried anything in my entire life. This process was a definite learning experience, but a lot of fun, and the doughnuts were super-tasty.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pecan Pie Muffins

Mid-October begins the official pecan harvesting season, and they are ubiquitous in baking and cooking throughout Autumn. I adore pecan pie, it is one of my Fall baking staples, so I jumped at the chance to try Pecan Pie Muffins -- all the goodness of pecan pie in a muffin form. 

Pecans, or Carya illinoinensis, are native to North America. They're called after the Algonquin name for the nut, "pekkan" which literally means a nut that has to be cracked by a stone. These nuts were very popular in America from the colonial period onward, and had some notable fans early on. Thomas Jefferson used to grow them in his nut orchard at Monticello, and he made a gift of pecan trees to George Washington, who henceforth began to grow them at Mount Vernon. Although they were grown on a small scale sporadically in America, mass commercial cultivation had to wait nearly a century for a slave named Antoine of the Oak Alley plantation in Louisiana to develop a method for grafting and propagating pecan trees in 1846-1847. This cultivar was dubbed "The Centennial", and was the first commercial variety of pecans in the world. Two of the original pecan trees grafted by Antoine still stand today at the Oak Alley plantation, which is less remarkable when you realize that pecan trees can live to be over 300 years old!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pumpkin Blondies

Hands down, my favorite flavor of the Fall is pumpkin -- pies, bars, cakes, soups, you name it, I love it. My Autumn baking season, roughly from September until Thanksgiving, is positively dominated by pumpkin in all its many permutations, and this post is no exception. Last year, I modified a pumpkin cookie recipe with great  success, so this year I decided to try my hand at some pumpkin bars, which are more like blondies due to their moist, dense texture. I modified a basic recipe from Martha Stewart, changing around the proportion of pumpkin, as well as the amounts and kinds of sugar, spices, and some of the mix-ins. Like my cookies, I added butterscotch chips to these in lieu of the chocolate chips that the original recipe calls for, because the combination of pumpkin and butterscotch is just too darn good to pass up!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Quick and Dirty Creepy Treats: Easy Halloween Food Ideas

Now that October is here, I'll still be posting Autumn-themed stuff, obviously, but I also wanted to get started on some Halloween-themed posts. So, for the next 4 weeks, my posts will be Halloween-centric with some smatterings of Halloween history and lore thrown into each post.

For this post, I am dusting off some really old ideas and pics (I was notoriously bad about documenting my creations before I became a blogger) of quick and easy Halloween treats that come together in a snap but are super fun to do. These treats are collected from ones that I and my friend Lauren made years ago when our lab hosted our Department's Halloween Social. Everyone in my lab pitched in and made Fall and/or Halloween-themed desserts, and this post is dedicated to just a few of them, the "quick and dirty" treats, to borrow a phrase we use often in lab. They are not very sophisticated, but they are cute and easy, and would make a great starting point for brainstorming new Halloween treats. These are all great ideas especially if you want something to do with little kids, because they are all decorating-oriented and not oven-oriented. For this post, we have quick Witch Hats, Critters, Ghosts, and Dirt. Unfortunately, I made these a while ago, so I don't have pictures of intermediate steps, but the directions are straightforward so this shouldn't be a problem. To be honest, they are so simple that, in most cases, you can just figure out how to assemble them from the pictures!