Monica Holland is a Round Rock food blogger and photographer who had been flying under my radar until I got her debut cookbook "Lick the Bowl Good: Classic Home-Style Desserts with a Twist" (Skyhorse Publishing, $16.95), which came out earlier this month.
Since 2007, Holland has been blogging hundreds of recipes on her website, LickTheBowlGood.blogspot.com, but for her first book, Holland developed (and photographed) 60 neat treats that are both homey and inventive, such as banana pudding cheesecake, pineapple coconut chess pie and browned butter toffee almond blondies. We ran this recipe in the paper yesterday, but I connected with Holland via email last week and asked her a few questions about her blog and book:
How has your blog evolved since it started? November 3rd will mark the 6th anniversary since I started blogging and I’ve come a long way. The quality of the recipes is the same, but the look of my blog and food photography has changed drastically. I went from taking pictures of food in the dark with the flash on to using natural lighting and colorful linens for a brighter, more appealing look.
How did the book deal come about? Do you think you might do more books? A publisher from Skyhorse Publishing is a longtime reader of my blog. She reached out to me last summer because she thought my recipes and photos would translate well into a cookbook. It didn’t take me long to realize what an amazing opportunity this was. After a few months and some sleepless nights, Lick The Bowl Good: Classic Home-Style Desserts With A Twist was born. I would love to write another cookbook. There is talk about creating a second book, but I don’t have any details on that at the moment.
I love the desserts with a twist concept: How would you describe your approach to baking? When selecting a recipe to make, either for the blog or just for my own consumption, I look for recipes with classic flavor combinations that contain an unusual ingredient or preparation. I also tend to lean towards recipes that are simple and uncomplicated, that highlight quality ingredients. For instance, I like to add freshly ground black pepper to pumpkin pie filling for a spicy kick and I make dreamy chocolate frosting in the food processor. My baking style also reflects my personality in many ways — traditional, yet a little different from the rest.
Berry Lemon Cupcakes
These berry lemon cupcakes caught my eye for that bright pinkish purple buttercream frosting that you could put on any cake. If buttercream isn’t your thing or you need a dessert that is easy to transport, you could serve these lemon cupcakes with a dusting of powdered sugar and no one would complain.
For berry puree:
12 oz. frozen mixed berries
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
For lemon cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
For the buttercream:
1/3 cup reduced and chilled berry puree (see below)
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
To make the berry puree, place frozen berries and sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook over medium-low heat until the berries cook down to a pulp and the mixture thickens. Continue to cook, stirring frequently until the berry mixture has reduced by half. This could take up to 30 minutes.
Place a metal sieve over a small mixing bowl. Pour the cooked and reduced fruit into the strainer and push the berries through. Discard the seeds. Pour berry puree into a measuring cup. You should have close to one-third cup puree. If you have much more than that, return the puree back to the saucepan and continue to cook down for a few more minutes, over medium heat. Cooking down the berries will result in a concentrated berry flavor without all the added water. Once you have one-third cup of berry puree, place in small bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator until well chilled.
For the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with 24 paper liners. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine then add the oil, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, lemon juice and zest. Divide batter evenly between the lined cups. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 5 minutes before carefully removing the cupcakes to a rack. Cool completely before frosting with berry buttercream.
To make the buttercream, in a large bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer over medium-high speed until light and creamy. Add the chilled berry puree and beat the mixture until combined. Gradually add the powdered sugar to the butter mixture and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Pour in the fresh lemon juice and beat once more until incorporated. Pipe or mound frosting over cooled cupcakes. Makes 24 cupcakes.
— From "Lick the Bowl Good: Classic Home-Style Desserts with a Twist" (Skyhorse Publishing, $16.95) by Monica Holland