Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cupcake Extravaganza

I don't often undertake multi-day projects. HOWEVER, my oldest niece graduated from Brigham Young University this week (the first of the next generation to finish college! Yay Megan!). Her father (my brother) asked if I would be willing to make a cake for the party in celebration of her graduation. Do I pass up such an opportunity? No! Do I have the tools and know-how to make a cake that will serve 40+? Again, no! So, I resorted to making cupcakes. A mountain of them. It was fun to do a project of this magnitude. Although, it made me wish for an industrial-sized kitchen. And a kitchen staff. And a dishwashing crew. And catering equipment. And a catering truck.

So, while searching for cupcake recipes, I ran across this picture:

in this book and decided I would shamelessly and blatantly steal the idea from the brilliant bakers who wrote this cookbook (which is quickly becoming my favorite). The original recipe is for "Almond Green Tea Cupcakes". However, I wasn't sure how many members of my family would be into the Green Tea flavor of the frosting. And, some of the kids are allergic to nuts.

So. This was my plan: bake a couple batches of Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes (thanks, Fannie Farmer, you always come through), bake a couple batches of Almond Cupcakes, make a batch of their Buttercream frosting without the Matcha powder, and finally, make a batch of their Milk Chocolate Frosting (part of the Milk Chocolate Malt Ball Cake recipe--yes, I'll be making that, never fear)--then--mix and match. Some almond cupcakes with buttercream frosting, some with chocolate, etc., you get the idea. Then top them with fortune cookies dipped in either semisweet or white chocolate.

If I had gotten the idea sooner, I would have ordered custom designed cookies with the fortune of my choosing inside. It would have said something like: "Congratulations Megan! A prosperous future awaits you!" But, I am not thinking very far ahead these days. So. I bought fortune cookies and printed out additional "fortunes" for the occasion to slip into the fold of the cookies once they're placed on the cupcakes.

Yes, thank you, sometimes I AM clever.

And here's how it went: First of all, sometimes I fill cupcake papers too full. So when I multiply a recipe that should make 24 by half again, I get 22 cupcakes instead of 36. Ah well. I made another batch of that one. The recipes in Baked, however, consistently prove to be outstanding. I get exactly the expected results, if not better. And, every recipe of theirs that I've used is incredibly delicious. Their Buttercream recipe, people, is pure genius. They have variations of it in different recipes (Cinnamon Buttercream for the Red Velvet Cake, Green Tea Buttercream for the Almond Cupcakes), but even without any other flavoring, it is incredible. Light and buttery and sweet and, yes, I dispensed some directly into my mouth from the frosting tube (after finishing the frosting, naturally), it's that good. I really want to try the Almond Cupcakes again with the Green Tea Buttercream. I imagine they're Zentastic.

Their Milk Chocolate Frosting is probably the richest "milk" chocolate anything I've ever tasted, and hence, very, very good. The combination of that on the Almond Cupcakes wasn't my favorite thing. The Almond Cupcakes are so light and subtle that they were sort of overpowered by the chocolate. But that's my bad. These smart guys probably would have told me not to go there had they been standing in my kitchen with me.

I have struggled for years with how to get the cupcake batter in the papers without it dripping all over the place (cake batter is generally a little on the runny side). But I came up with what I thought was a brilliant solution (you guys have probably already been doing this for years)--an ice cream scoop with release lever! I was able to get out just the right amount, scrape the bottom of the scoop along the edge of the bowl to avoid drips, and then release it right out into the cupcake paper. Brilliant!

And the cupcakes were a hit! Some of the kids even had two (and ate the cupcake, not just the frosting), which is always the sign of a good dessert. Even so, there were lots left over (which is a good thing--cupcakes for breakfast--why not?!).

And look how beautiful! Almost as good as the picture from the book.

TGIP Rating--Almond Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting--KEEPER (try with Green Tea Frosting)
--Almond Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting--NOT SO MUCH
--Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting--KEEPER
--Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting--KEEPER

Next up: It's mr.'s birthday next Saturday, so I'll be making a birthday cake of some kind. I'm guessing there will be chocolate involved. I have to consult with mr. on exactly what he wants. And I will happily bake it to celebrate the birth of my dear husband.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Midweek Kitchen Confessions 13 (how apropos): Sometimes I'm Bad at Math


Because sometimes when I read a recipe that should make 24 cupcakes, I think that multiplying it by half again will make 36 cupcakes. And it turns out it makes 22 cupcakes. Wha?

And also--I feel myself needing some better equipment for transporting baked goods. How does a person transport 5-6 dozen frosted cupcakes? No, I'm actually asking.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I've said it before and I'll say it again: if there comes a point in my life when I decide to embrace religion once more, the religion I embrace will be Judaism. Lots of reasons. The food being close to the top of the list. It's a far cry from Funeral Potatoes and Green Jello. Witness:

That, my friends, is REAL food. Of course, Challah is not NEW. Not by a long shot. But my first attempt at it does coincide with the first Shabbat following Passover this year. I think. The Jewish calendar...

There are tons of recipes on the internet for Challah. I used one that I found on both the Food Network site and Epicurious, so it seemed like a pretty good bet. This is the one I used. I won't copy it here, because it's quite long. But you can easily go to a printable version if you follow that link. And here are the highlights:

Flour added to yeast slurry

A "shaggy ball" of dough

Dough kneaded and ready to ferment

Dough braided and ready to proof

Egg wash and poppy seeds on proofed dough

Baked beauty

There aren't directions in this recipe for braiding the bread, but it's, you know, like braiding hair. If you want to do a more complicated braid (I've seen them with 5 and 6 strands), I'm sure you could find directions...whereelse...on the internet.

I don't know why, but I was surprised at how simple this was. And how easy the dough was to work with. Especially because many of the recipes I found recommend kneading the dough with either a food processor or Kitchenaid dough hook. I don't think all those tools are necessary, I did it all by hand. It didn't take much work at all to get it to a smooth and soft stage or to form it into strands and braid it after it fermented.'s delicious. Light, but not too airy. Eggy. Sweet. The kids even loved it. Wanted to know if I could make their lunchbox sandwiches with it from now on. I don't know about that. But will I be making French Toast with it tomorrow morning? Youbetcherarse I will.

TGIP Rating--Challah--KEEPER

Next up: I know I said there would be no new-fangled cupcakes this year. I lied. I'm making a mountain of them for my niece's college graduation party. And they're going to be delicious. And clever. Just you wait and see.

P.S. I could really get behind the whole "make challah every Friday and use the leftovers for French Toast Saturday morning" thing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

Holy cow. January was the last time I baked anything really serious on the chocolate. No wonder I was having a hankerin' for these cookies. And boyhowdy, did they hit the spot.

Martha comes through again. With this recipe. There's a lot of steps to the process, but it's all quite simple and the result is beautiful cookies that taste delicious.

Chewy on the inside, crisp on the outside. Sweet. And rich.

Seconda couldn't decide whether these wrapped chocolate logs looked more like chocolate sausages guessed it--poop. Once the dough is rolled in sugar, however, it's much more pleasing to the eye.

I don't have much else to say on this topic. I guess I need to pick something more difficult to bake next week.

Oh, I do have a question though: why is Dutch processed cocoa so hard to find? I visited no less than 5 grocery stores to find it. When I finally did find something close to it, it was actually a blend of regular cocoa and Dutched cocoa. What gives? Every recipe I could find for these kinds of cookies calls for it. Many other recipes I've encountered call for it. So, it's not a rare ingredient. Why do I have to look so hard for it? And do I really need it? Does regular cocoa behave in the same way?

Okay, so that was more than A question.

TGIP Rating--Chocolate Crackle Cookies--KEEPER--so good

Next up: Challah. Yeah you heard me. (When I said it at lunch today, Prima asked, "Like, holla at your boy?") No. Challah. Priestess, I know you have a family recipe you want to share with your shikse friend.

P.S. Happy Headless-Chocolate-Bunny Day!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dave's Bread Pudding, ETC.

My friend Dave. Is awesome. And the twin of my husband. Truly.

Dave does many things that amaze me.

Mainly this:

(My favorite moment from Rocky--listening to him sing this song made me weep every performance)

But he also makes up recipes OUT OF HIS HEAD! One of the things he likes to do is take food home from a restaurant and spend a few days trying to figure out what's in it so he can recreate it himself. Astonishing. People who can do that amaze me as much as people who can play piano by ear. I need notes. On a page. And recipes. Written down.

His recipe for Bread Pudding is still in his head. Prima took dictation as he guided me through it, so I have it written down now. But I'm one of only two people he's shared this closely guarded secret with. So, tough luck for you. You'll just have to hope I make it for you sometime.

Here's the thing about Bread Pudding: I've never really liked it. I thought I should make it for purposes of this blog because it really is "old-fashioned". And from what I had heard about Dave's Bread Pudding, it is definitely a new twist on the old. But I wasn't sure if I'd like it. I DID. It doesn't have raisins. Turns out that's kind of the killer for me. Raisins are fine, in general. But when they are swollen up, they just become old grapes. Not yummy. What this Bread Pudding does have is rum. Plenty of it. That's more than a fair trade in my mind. I'll take rum over raisins...every time.

I kind of screwed up the sauce--it curdled. But it still tasted delicious. I WILL definitely try this one again. And if you're lucky, you'll be around when I do.

TGIP Rating--Dave's Boozy Bread Pudding--KEEPER--and try again on the sauce. Wonder what this would be like with some toasted pecans. Hmmm.

And now for the ETC:

Prima had her first baking project this weekend. She checked out a cookbook for kids from the school library and saw something that she thought looked delicious: Oatmeal Squares. So she decided she wanted to make them--by herself. I had rehearsal all day Saturday, so mr. ended up helping her with it. Which is a good thing. There are certain events that I simply don't have the constitution for, first time stovetop cooking is one of them (driving lessons will undoubtedly be the other).

But the experiment was successful. She did pretty well. Nobody got injured. She even washed the dishes herself afterwards.

Seconda helped to decorate the squares with melted chocolate. And they were quite delicious.

Seconda also decided that she would write her own cookbook this weekend. Hilarious recipes accompanied by witty commentary. This is my favorite:

For those who are unaccustomed to 6-year old handwriting it says:

Make a pie and make it red then put a pineapple ring in the middle then put an orange inside it. Man is there smoke in here?!

My kids crack me up.

Next up: I think I'll do something relatively easy this week. It's a busy time and I also owe Kiernan a pie. The girls have a couple days off school, maybe I'll enlist their help to make Chocolate Crackle Cookies. No reason. Other than that I have a hankerin' for them.