Friday, September 28, 2012

FROSTED: Holy Cannoli...Italian Style Pastry Inspirations

As I am in the process of planning my fiance and I's wedding, I have come across tons of cultural traditions that are seen at many ceremonies and receptions.  I am of German and Irish decent and my fiance is of Italian, German, and Irish decent. While looking at some of the Italian traditions (to honor his family), I kept coming across pictures of HUGE Italian weddings and gatherings with dishes of a variety of different pastas and breads....and of course Cannolis!

Seeing images of these creamy, pastry filled desserts made me wish that I had a little Italian bakery down the street where I could buy a dozen of these to enjoy. But in Knoxville, Tennessee a good cannoli is hard to find. So I did some research and I came across these delightful cannoli inspired dessert recipes that taste like those traditional ricotta filled confections that we love...but with an American twist.

Try a nibble of these desserts...and enjoy your family and friend's Italian culture with every bite.

Cannoli Dip
(Recipe by One Lovely Life)

  • 1 (15oz) package of whole milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup of plain yogurt or sour cream
  • 1/3 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/3 cup of mini chocolate chips

1.  In a small bowl, beat together ricotta, yogurt, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Fold in chocolate chips, reserving a few to sprinkle on top. Variations: stir in 1/2 teaspoon of orange zest, or fold in a few chopped pistachios with or instead of miniature chocolate chips.

 (Image from Dainty Chef)

Mini Cannoli Cream Cups
(Courtesy of Cooking With Sugar)

Cup Ingredients:
(Makes approximately 16 mini cups)
  •  Flour for dusting surface
  • 1 pack of refrigerated pie crusts
  • 3 tablespoons of coarse natural sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Filling Ingredients:
(Makes around 16 mini cups)
  • 1 (15oz) container of whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting finished cups
  • 2 Tablespoons of white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  In a large bowl with an electric mixer combine all ingredients for the filling except the chocolate chips and mix well until creamy. Place the filling in a 1-gallon plastic storage bag and chill while you make the cups. Filling may seem thin but will firm up slightly when it’s refrigerated.

2.  Heat oven to 425°F. Unroll the pie crusts onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkle the top of each crust with the natural sugar and the cinnamon. Lightly roll over it with a rolling pin so that sugar and cinnamon are pressed into the dough.

3.  With a 2 1/2-3 inch round biscuit cutter or cookie cutter, cut out circles and lightly press them inside an ungreased mini muffin or mini cupcake pan to create a pastry cup.

4.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until cups are golden. Remove from oven and allow cups to cool. Once cups are cool they can be removed from tin and filled. Remove filling from refrigerator, cut one of the bottom corners off the bag and pipe a little less than a tablespoon of filling into the cooled cannoli cups.

 5.  Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips, dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Tips: Cups should be filled shortly before they are eaten so the don’t get soggy. If you wish to make them ahead of time, you can make the cups and the cream and keep them separate. Once you are ready to eat, you can fill, decorate and serve.

Cannoli Ice Cream Sandwiches
(Recipe by Cherry Tea Cakes)

Ricotta Ingredients:
  • 2 quarts of whole milk
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
Cookie Ingredients:
  • 1 cup of all purpose-flour (plus additional for dusting)
  • 3 Tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg, separated
Ice Cream Ingredients:
  •  3/4 cup of whole milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup of cream cheese, softened
  • 6 Tablespoons of confectioner sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Add the butter and blend in with your fingertips until combined. Add the yolk and stir until a dough forms.

2.  Turn out dough unto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. Roll out between two sheets of wax paper, cut into rounds, and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes. Allow to cool.

3.  While the cookies are cooling, make the filling. Stir together the ricotta, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Allow to chill for a half an hour.

4.  Place filling into a piping bag and pipe onto inverted cookies, placing a second cookie on top to form a sandwich. Place cookies on a lined baking sheet in the freezer for one hour. If desired, you can melt chocolate and dip on half of the frozen cookie in and refreeze.

 Cannoli Cupcakes
(Courtesy of  Sugar Crafter)

 Dry Ingredients:
(Makes around 24 cupcakes)
  • 2 1/2 cups of flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 3/4 cups of sugar
Wet Ingredients:
(Makes about 24 cupcakes) 
  • 1/2 cup of butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon of Marsala wine
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of orange zest
  • 2 Tablespoon of powdered sugar
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips 
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup of shortening
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 6 cups of powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons of milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped 

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and line two muffin pans with cupcake wrappers. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.

2.  In a different, larger bowl, mix together the butter, eggs, vanilla, Marsala wine, and milk. Add in the ricotta cheese, orange zest, and powdered sugar. Mix in the dry ingredients, and then stir in the chocolate chips.

3.  Pour the batter into cupcake liners. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the muffin pans to a cooling rack.

4.  While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. Cream the butter and shortening together, and then add in the vanilla extract. Gradually add in the powdered sugar. Mix in the milk, and then mix in the vanilla from the vanilla bean.

5.  Frost the cupcakes once they have cooled completely, and top with additional chocolate chips if desired.

Cannoli Cake
(Recipe from Dainty Chef)

Cake Ingredients:
  •  1 box French vanilla cake mix or your favorite homemade recipe
Filling Ingredients:
  • 1 carton (16 oz.) of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon of rum extract
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 oz. of semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 2 cartons (8 oz. each) of Mascarpone cheese
  • 3/4 cup of confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup of whole milk
  • 2 teaspoon of almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Decorating Ingredients:
  • 1 cup of sliced almonds
  • 2 Tablespoons of mini semisweet chocolate chips

1.  Grease and flour 2 9-inch round baking pans. Prepare and bake cake mix according to the package directions.

2.  While the cakes are baking, prepare the filling. In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, 10x sugar, cinnamon, and extracts. Stir until combined, fold in the chopped chocolate. In another bowl, cream together Mascarpone cheese, sugar, milk, and extracts until smooth. Cover and refrigerate both until frosting reaches a spreading consistency and cakes are completely cooled.

3.  When cakes are done baking, allow them to cool for ten minutes in the pans, transfer to a wire rack & cool completely. Once cooled, place one cake layer on a serving plate, spread 1 cup of filling over it evenly. Top with the second cake layer and top with remaining filling leaving a 1 inch edge around the cake. Frost sides and edges of the cake with frosting reserving some for decorative purposes.

4.  Press the almonds into the side of the cake; pipe swirls of remaining frosting and sprinkle chocolate chips over top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

What a scrumptious way to celebrate your Italian heritage and enjoy some delicious desserts at the same time!

These cannoli inspired treats would make a mouth-watering addition to any bridal shower to honor the bride and groom's Italian culture, an amazing dessert for the buffet at your yearly family reunion, or as a perfect ending to any pasta and prosciutto-served dinner party.

So put away that passport and leave your bags at don't have to be from a country that is shaped like a boot to create and enjoy tasty sweets! Just get our your bowls and measuring cups and whip up some of these tasty cannoli inspired desserts...that will make your guests think you got this recipe from your Italian grandmother's old cookbook! Have a wonderful weekend!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Sparkly, Vintage Dream of a Baby Shower . . .

 I love glitter.  I love sparkles.  But MOST of all, I love glitter & sparkles when the decorations are done right...not in that shiny, 1980s majorette/baton twirler costume way, but that ever-so-lustrous, vintage-chic style.  Well I don't know what I am rambling on about.  Just see this beautiful baby shower via Grey Likes Baby below, and you'll get the idea . . .

Please look closely at the detail of that gorgeous table top...beautiful, brushed gold sequins with a lovely cascade of pale tulle underneath . . .

And how about that gorgeous rug?

Loving that pretty, blush glassware . . .

And what a statement that cake topper makes, not to mention the perfectly place silver table linens . . .

Linens: La Tevola
Glassware: Casa de Perrin
Photography: t & h photography

Sigh.  Now that is just plain dreamy!!  Hope your week is wrapping up is almost Friday!!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wedding Wednesday: Illustrated Menus!

You know me, I am always looking for ways to add a bit of 'oomph' to the little details, and when you are seating a group of loved ones on your big day after your heartfelt 'I do's', it seems everyone is always ravenous!

So how do you break the ice with a round of guests who don't know each other and get them talking?  Well, bring up the delicious food that is coming their way with a fun menu card, that's how!  I love color and a bit of whimsy of course, but you can also keep things elegant with classy graphics & calligraphy font too!

Take a look at this array of examples, there is sure to be something here to get those gears a-turning . . .

Whimsical fun . . .

(menu by Merry Maps

(image from  Regina Volpi Baerwalde

(image from Meg Perotti

A 'Where the Wild Things Are' inspired shoot . . .

(above two photos courtesy of By Ksenia)

Beautiful & beachy . . .

(courtesy of One Plus One Design

 (courtesy of Yellow Owl Workshop)

(from The Knot)

One for the littles . . .

How about a little fun?

(from Oh Lovely Day

 (via Thayer Allyson Gowdy )

And I saved my favorite for last; this menu card can let your server know which options your guests have picked for dinner . . . brilliant!!

(via Heidi Ryder Photography)

What a great way to keep the theme & colors of your wedding carried right on through to your meal time!  Go ahead and get creative . . . this is the part of your big day where the REAL party starts, after all! Photobucket

Monday, September 24, 2012

Going Batty for Balls of Yarn!

There is something so particularly warm and cozy about skeins of yarn this time of year . . . just eyeing a bunch of cozy colors and dreaming up all of the possibilities of chunky sweaters and socks that you could turn them into is a divine act in & of itself.

And add in the thought of a lazy afternoon spent curled up with your favorite book by the fireplace, sipping a warm cup of coffee or tea, and you start to see the appeal even more.  So today I am sending a bit of yarn ball inspiration your way, to take a look and let your imagination run wild.

Perfect for fall 'woodland' decorating with color options that are truly endless, you could have all sorts of fun on a budget hanging & sticking these little balls of fun all over the house.  And you know that mod 'circle' type deal really puts a smile on my face.  Scroll on down and imagine the possibilities  . . .

(courtesy of Mae's Boutique Crochet)

(courtesy of Recycled Crafts) wreath

(via Indulgy) color gorg

And boy have I got a fun little tutorial headed your way in the next few days, so don't will see where all of this is heading:)  Hope your week is off to a great start!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

FROSTED: An Apple A Day....Makes The Party Guests Stay!

This time of year I get so excited for all of my favorite Fall food goodies like Pumpkin Pie, Candy Corn, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and Apple Cider. These festive treats are just some of the reasons why I look forward to this season all year long.

Some of my favorite memories as a kid were going with my family to our local apple orchard during their annual apple festival and picking bushels of bright red delicious apples; watching the workers stir huge pots full of apple butter and buying caramel apples the size of softballs from their market. Now that I have moved away, I cannot attend the yearly orchard festival, but I still crave a sweet gooey fresh caramel apple covered in a mixture of nuts, chocolates, or candies.

A few weeks ago Misty also shared with us how to make Homemade Caramel Apples...which made my stomach beg me even more for a Red Delicious covered in creamy caramel. So, to satisfy my craving for candy coated fruit, this week I have decided to share some of my favorite caramel apple dessert recipes with you. These treats will not only excite your Fall seasonal palette, but will also replace those memories of classic old fashioned caramel apples with new appealing caramel apple inspired confections. Pick a few of these for your next Fall gathering:

Apple Cider Caramel Cookies
(Courtesy of Six Sister Stuff)

  • 1 cup of unsalted butter, nearly melted
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 (7.4 ounce) box of Alpine Spiced Apple Cider Instant Original Drink Mix *Not sugar free*
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 (14 ounce) bag of Caramels

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2.  In a stand mixer, cream together butter, sugar, salt, and all 10 packets of apple cider mix until smooth and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract, then mix in the baking soda and baking powder. Add the flour and mix until just combined.

3.  With a standard cookie scoop, scoop the dough scrapping off the excess as you go up the bowl. Flatten the dough slightly in your hand and place a caramel in the center. Work the dough around the caramel sealing well. Place the cookies two inches apart on the sheets.

4.  Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. After baking, carefully slide the parchment with the cookies onto the counter. Let cool until they are no longer soft but still slightly warm. Twist gently to remove, and cool the rest of the way upside down on the parchment or on a cooling rack. If cookies get too cool before you twist them off, freeze the whole sheet for a few minutes and they’ll come right off. 

Caramel Apple Jello Shots
(Recipe from That's So Michelle)

(Makes approximately 40 shots)
  •  10 small granny smith apples
  • 1 envelope of knox gelatin
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk
  • 2 drops of yellow food coloring
  • 1 envelope of Land o Lakes caramel hot chocolate
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of butterscotch schnapps
  • lemon juice 

1.  Half and hollow out apples cutting them from the stem down. I used a melon baller to hollow the apples and it worked well. After hollowing them squeeze some lemon juice on top to reduce browning.

2.  Mix your 1/2 cup water with your envelope of hot chocolate in a medium sized sauce pan. Whisk it to make sure all the chocolate is combined. Add the 1/2 cup of coconut milk, whisk again.

3. Sprinkle your gelatin on top and let it sit a few minutes. Turn on low/medium heat and mix the gelatin until all is combined.

4. Add 1/4 cup sugar and simmer slightly until sugar is combined. Add your food coloring until you get the caramel color desired. I used two drops. Let mixture cool to warm. Pour in your 1/2 cup of butterscotch schnapps.  

5.  With your apples arranged so they fit tightly and secure on a cookie sheet, pour your caramel jello mixture into your apples. Refrigerate overnight.  

6.  Cut halves in quarters and those quarters in half again. Serve immediately. (The lemon juice can only prevent the browning for so long). Trim off the sides of the apples that have browned too much!

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

(Makes about 20-24 cupcakes) 
  • 1 (18.25-ounce) package spice cake mix
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup peeled, cored, and chopped Granny Smith apple (about 1 large apple)
  • 35 caramels
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk or heavy cream (or regular milk)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 24 wooden craft sticks


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake mix, eggs, sour cream, milk, and vegetable oil until incorporated (about 30 seconds). Scrape sides of bowl and then beat on med-high speed for 3 minutes. Stir in chopped apple.

2.  Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin pans, filling two-thirds full. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

3.  Meanwhile, combine caramels and milk in a medium saucepan over very low heat; stir 4 minutes or until smooth. It's very important to keep the heat very low because if the caramel gets too hot it will become really hard when cooled.

4.  Spread caramel mixture over cupcakes being careful to not touch the caramel to the paper liners or it will stick to the liners; immediately sprinkle with pecans, pressing in slightly. Insert a wooden stick into center of each cupcake. Store covered in an airtight container. It's best to serve the cupcakes the same day that you add the caramel topping. Caramel will soften if kept at room temperature for too long so store in the refrigerator until ready to serve then let come to room temperature to let caramel soften up a bit. 

Caramel Apple Donuts
(Courtesy of Shutter Bean)

(Picture from Healthful Pursuit

(Yields around 12 large donuts or 24 small donuts)
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 medium apples, peeled & shredded
  • 1 1/2 cup chewy caramel candies
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk 

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray donut pans with cooking spray & set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth. Whisk in oil and vanilla. Stir into the flour mixture until just combined; stir in the apples.

3.  Spoon the batter into the prepared donut pans until almost full. Baked until golden and a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out dry. It takes about 15-20 minutes. (Mind ended up taking 18)

4.  In a small, microwaveable bowl, combine the caramel and milk. Microwave for 1 minute at medium power. then stir; repeat in 30 second intervals until melted and smooth. If making small donuts, dip them directly into the caramel. For larger donuts, spoon caramel topping on top.

Minature Apple Pie Puffs with Caramel Sauce
(Via Snixy Kitchen)

Pie Ingredients:
(Make approximately 25-30)
  • 2 boxes of Betty Crocker’s just-add-water pie crust dough (or four homemade pie crust dough)
  • 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 3-4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into ¼-inch pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 3 Tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons of flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
Caramel Sauce Ingredients:
(Makes around 2 cups)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • ¼ cup of water
  • ½ cup of heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter
  • Dash of salt

Pie Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 425ºF. Melt butter in large pan over medium heat. Add apples, sugar, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and lemon juice. Cook, stirring, until apples are softened to your preference, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in flour. Cool.

2.  Roll out pie crust and use cookie cutter or cup to cut 2-inch circles. Brush egg on inside edge of  3/4 of the circumference of the circle. Lay another circle on top and press the edges together where egg is to seal, leaving an 1-inch opening at the top to fill.

3.  Place a tablespoon (more or less) of apple filling into the pocket, and press pocket closed. Crimp edges with your fingers. Lay on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush tops of pie puffs with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Drizzle with warm caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce Directions:

1.  Measure out cream, butter, and salt and keep them handy. In a 2-quart saucepan, add water and sugar, making sure that sugar is not stuck to the side. Turn heat to medium high, and insert candy thermometer.

2.  As sugar starts to melt, stir to make sure sugar distributes evenly. Stop stirring and continue cooking. Watch CAREFULLY. As soon as the mixture begins to turn color, it will change very fast. Just as the candy thermometer reaches about 320ºF and the caramel is an amber color, remove from heat and pour in cream all at once (Stand back as it will react and sizzle quite a bit). If the caramel gets too dark before you remove it from the heat, it’ll taste burned and bitter.

3.  Add butter and salt. When the sizzling calms down, return to medium low heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Pour into a cup or bowl and let cool a bit before drizzling with caramel sauce.

What a super cute and unique way to incorporate the traditional caramel apple flavor with a modern twist. Show off these fabulous Fall goodies at your next harvest-inspired bridal shower, pumpkin carving competition with friends and family, or "little pumpkin" baby shower.

So the next time you're craving a sweet and salty taste of a crispy caramel apple but don't have a local orchard nearby, just step into your kitchen, pick a few of these treats, and start your own caramel apple tradition with the ones you love. Have a wonderful weekend!