Sunday, April 10, 2011

March Birthday Madness!

Towards the end of January I decided on my mission for the year and hopefully many years to come.  You may call it a New Year's resolution, but I'm not.  Mainly because 90% of New Year's resolutions fail within the first month (but 66% of statistics on this blog are made up on the spot) and I really want to follow through with this one.  I want to make birthday treats for my co-worker's birthdays throughout the year, but I also wanted everyone to have the opportunity to tell me what they want.  In the past I have always just made whatever random thing I felt like whipping up.  So I created a Google Calendar and added everyone's birthdays and allowed them to edit the details of the event.  I also thought this would be a good way for me to share the recipes after I make them because I always seem to get numerous requests!

March was a pretty busy birthday month around the office.  And when you throw St. Patrick's Day and my mom's birthday into the mix, my kitchen had dirty dishes in the sink pretty much every night.  I started out by going a little crazy chopping up a few peanut butter cups.  Forty of them to be exact.  Yep, just a few.  Okay maybe more like a mountain of them.

Chopped, mixed with creamy peanut butter and slathered on top of marshmallowy Rice Krispies resulted in this:
All that chopping was well worth it.  Yum.

Next up was something I had seen a while ago while browsing baking blogs and immediately bookmarked.  This time around I was chopping up caramels, but they didn't take me nearly as long as the peanut butter cups did.  I had already decided who I wanted to make this for and the week before his birthday we were actually teasing him about losing a jeans size because he was eating Special K crackers at lunch (and this is not a guy who needs to drop any sizes).  It was perfect.

Cream cheese brownies layered with caramels and *peanut butter* sandwich pretzels.
I think the only thing missing here is the kitchen sink.  Salty and sweet perfection.

St. Paddy's Day was coming up and the same day I made the brownies I had Guinness-Braised Beef Brisket going in the slow cooker.  So I started looking around to see what I could bake with Guinness.  Last year I made Guinness Ice Cream for our party at work which I absolutely loved.  CHOW had featured a Gingerbread with Guinness that I thought sounded pretty good but the first and only comment on the article was a link to a "better" recipe.  I decided to go with that one instead.

I was actually a little disappointed in this one. Not sure if I did something wrong, or if it just wasn't my thing. Too gingery for me.

Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread

And then St. Patrick's Day was upon us.  There was no question what I was going to make, the only question was if I had the energy to make it.  This was not going to be a small task, especially for a weeknight.  But after I took my first bite of cupcake and ganache, I'm so glad I went through with it. 
Guinness chocolate cupcakes.  Filled with whiskey chocolate ganache.  And topped with Bailey's buttercream frosting.  What does that give us?

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

The next two birthdays came up right in a row - one on Friday and the next on Saturday.  After all that work for the cupcakes I didn't know if I was up for going all out on two completely different desserts so I asked if they could agree on something.  They requested coffee cake and that got me pretty excited.  There's a ton of coffee cake recipes I'd been wanting to try.  Especially the one in my favorite new cookbook Baked.  Theirs contains chocolate which sounded yummy but I wanted to have some variety so I thought I'd do a fruity one too.  I'm glad I continued my search because it made me discover one of my new favorites.  And it's even a "light" recipe!!

Fruity won over the chocolaty IMO. On the left we have Cooking Light's

and on the right is the Baked dessert duo's

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl

I think the reason that I wasn't in love with the chocolate cinnamon swirl is because I kind of burnt the pecans that were in the crumble when I was toasting them.  Everyone else said they couldn't tell, but I definitely could.  I vow to give it another try with lightly toasted nuts.  Almost every recipe in this cookbook intrigues me, but as you may have noticed nothing interests me more than adding a splash of alcohol here and there.  I honestly don't know why, maybe I just like the idea of creating "grown up" desserts.  So off to the liquor store I went, having to ask where the bourbon was and how it was different than whiskey.  I only needed a few tablespoons, but $40 later I was ready to make two incredible looking pies.

For some reason last fall my little brother decided to start making homemade pies - including crusts from scratch.  This was one thing I hadn't tried to tackle yet.  He made it look time consuming and complicated and honestly pies have never really made me go MMmmmm...probably because they're usually filled with fruit.  But the guys from Baked really know how to make my heart flutter - booze and chocolate.  And they made the pie dough making process look really really easy, just dump everything into the food pro....pulse, pulse, pulse, pulse....and voila, scratch made pie dough!

Pretty much a big chocolate chip cookie with a pie crust.  Amazing.

Tuscaloosa Tollhouse Pie

Okay so *technically* this next pie was for my older brother whose birthday is in April BUT it was also for my mom whose birthday is March 20th and after making all these treats for co-workers and not anything for my own mom I felt terrible.  But I knew they both loved pie, so hopefully she was okay getting her birthday surprise a couple weeks late.

I was sad that the crimped edges kind of fell in while baking.  It had went into the freezer so perfectly the night before.  I guess I'll have to work on that.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Phew!  I'm exhausted just thinking about all those dirty dishes I had to wash.  But every single one of them was worth it and each one was a unique learning experience.  I can't wait to see what I'm whipping up this time next year!!