Wednesday, April 30, 2008

One Down

We had our first final of the semester today. To relieve stress after, I decided to make some cookies. I had seen a recipe for buttermilk cookies with lemon on Orangette, and decided to give those a try, mostly because they used only ingredients I already had in my fridge. They also let me take advantage of the buttermilk and lemons I had left over from my last posting.

The cookies turned out delicious. They were nice and cakey, with a light lemony taste that just begs out for a cup of milk or tea. The recipe is simple enough that I didn’t bother to take pictures of the process.

For the cookies:
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. (3 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Mix the flour, lemon zest, baking soda and salt in a bowl

Cream the butter in a mixer, once the butter is creamy, add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy

Add the egg and beat till combined, then add the vanilla and beat briefly until mixed

Alternate adding the flour and the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour

Measure out the dough by level tablespoons separated by 1.5 inches onto a parchment lined baking sheets. Bake the cookies for around 11 minutes, until they are golden and fluffy.

For the glaze:
¾ cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1 ½ Tbsp. well-shaken buttermilk
¼ tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. Make sure there are no lumps.

Spoon the glaze onto the cookies. Over at Orangette they said the glaze would make more than enough, but I found it came up just short.

Makes 30 (Over at Orangette she said the recipe makes 40, but I don’t know how that’s possible).

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Animus Cupcake

It’s time for a cupcake battle; gateau a gateau. This began a few weeks ago when a friend of mine made a delicious lemon cake. It was so good that I decided to make a cupcake version. On her advisement, I decided to fill the cupcakes with raspberry whipped cream. However, in the interim, between deciding to make them and making them, I stumbled onto another recipe from Bon Appétit for lemon-raspberry cupcakes. Rather trying to choose which cupcake to make, I decided to make them both and have a cupcake battle to determine which was better. I’ve been hearing a lot about meyer-lemons lately, so I decided to use them to make both cakes.

Beth’s Cupcakes

I cut the recipe in half when I made these cupcakes, mostly because I didn’t want too many left over. I’ve posted the full recipe here. A half recipe made 11, so presumably the full recipe makes 22.

Lemon Cake
2 1/2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large whole eggs, at room temperature
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup whole milk

1. To make the lemon cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place liners in cupcake pans.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir together the dry ingredients with a whisk. Set aside.

3. In an electric stand mixer, using the paddle attachment or beaters, beat the butter on medium speed for about 30 seconds, or until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, increase the speed to medium-high, and continue to beat until the mixture is light, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

4. Add the whole eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. Reduce the speed to low and gradually beat in he lemon juice (the batter will appear curdled at this point smooth out after you add the dry ingredients). Beat in the dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for another 10 seconds. Scope the batter into the cupcake pans

This is what something curdled looks like

5. Bake the cakes for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean.

Lemon Frosting:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1. To make the lemon frosting, in the large bowl of the electric mixer, using the paddle attachment or beaters, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar on low speed. Add the cream, lemon juice, vanilla, and lemon zest. Increase the speed to medium-high, and beat for about 3 minutes, or until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Raspberry Whipped Cream
I didn’t really use a particular recipe for this, just estimated until it tasted right. However, I’ll do my best to approximate it here

1 ½ cups heavy cream, chilled
¼ cup sugar
Several tablespoons ground, fresh raspberries (or, use seedless raspberry jam)

1. In a standing mixer with the whisk attachment whip the heavy cream to stiff pe aks with the sugar

2. Grind the raspberries in a food processor, strain out the seeds

3. Beat the raspberry juice into the whipped cream

4. If your whipped cream curdles (mine did), put the mixture in the fridge or freezer to cool, then whip it back up in the mixer with a little more heavy cream. Assembly 1. Use a small, serrated knife to cut a circle into the tops of the cupcakes. Pull the cone of cake out and reserve

2. Fill the hole up with raspberry whipped cream

3. Cut the bottom off the cone, and place the top back into the cupcake

4. Frost the cupcake, top with a raspberry.

Bon Appétit for lemon-raspberry cupcakes

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, divided
4 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel, divided

2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
12 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam

Fresh raspberries (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

1. Using electric mixer, beat butter, 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, and 3 teaspoons lemon peel in large bowl until blended, beat until fluffy and pale yellow.

2. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition.

3. Beat in half of flour. Add buttermilk and 2 tablespoons lemon juice; beat to blend. Beat in remaining flour. After you add the lemon juice, the batter may look curdled, but this will go away once the remaining flour is added.

4. Drop 1 rounded tablespoonful batter into each muffin liner. Spoon 1 teaspoon raspberry jam over. Cover with remaining batter, dividing equally.

5. Bake cupcakes until tester inserted halfway into centers comes out clean, about 23 minutes. Cool cupcakes in pan on rack.

For Frosting

whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon peel in small bowl. Spoon half of icing over 6 cupcakes. Whisk 1 tablespoon raspberry jam into remaining icing. Spoon over remaining cupcakes. Let stand until icing sets, about 30 minutes. Garnish with raspberries.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Brass Ring

I was surfing epicurious earlier this week, and I came upon this cake: almond praline cake with mascarpone frosting and chocolate bark. It looks delicious. But, there are two major problems. A) I've never actually made a standing cake before, but that can be easily remedied. B) according to the reviews, the ingredients cost upwards of $60. This is a bit out of my income bracket (my current income being set at a comfortable zero). In order to finance this cake, I'm considering adding ad content to this website. To make any money, it would actually require people to click on the adds. So I figured I would take a poll, are people interested in having this cake, and would they be willing to log on to click on random ads to fund it? Post comments and let me know what you think!

Just to clarify, given that most of my readers are currently people in Charlottesville, I would be making this cake to serve to all of you.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Go for a roll

I got bored again today, so I decided to tackle something challenging. This violates my normal rule of refusing to bake without a good reason, but I figured I could take my finished product over to my friends at school who are studying. I decided to attempt this delicious looking Chocolate-Mocha cake that had been posted at tartlette. I have generally avoided things posted there, because they tend to be way out of my league, but I figured I would never learn unless I tried. Additionally, I had never tried a roll cake before, and thought this might be an interesting project.

Unfortunately, my experiment with a rolled cake did not go well. I’m not sure where exactly the problem was, but when I rolled the cake, it got lots and lots of gashes in it. It might have been that I over-baked the cake a little, or maybe it was my baking powder, which is on the old side. Whatever the problem was, the result was a rolled cake with lots of gashes in it revealing the gooey frosting core. Fortunately, these were in part hidden by the chocolate glaze that went on top (I seem to be hiding lots of my mistakes by pilling other, reliable things on top of them, see my previous post). Ultimately, the cake didn’t look very good, but was absolutely delicious.

I think before I make a roll cake again, I will consult some more experienced friends and see what they recommend. In retrospect the wise thing to do would have been to cut the sheet cake in half, and just made a regular layer cake. Oh well. Also, if I were going to serve this to people right away, I would just scoop it into bowls, mix it up, poured the chocolate over it and called it a trifle, no one would know the difference, and it would be just as good. If you want to see what this thing would look like if it turned out right, head over to tartlette.

For the cake:

1 stick butter
2 tsp instant coffee
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup chocolate
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tb cocoa powder

In a large saucepan set over low heat, stir together the butter, instant coffee, water, chocolate and sugar until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool 10 minutes.

Whisk in the egg, flour, baking powder and cocoa powder until incorporated. It should look something like this:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, lightly coat with cooking spray. Pour the chocolate cake batter in the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes at 375F. Do not overbake or it will crack when you roll it. Check after 12-15 minutes, if it springs back when you touch it, it's done.

Remove from the heat, cover with a towel and let cool a few minutes.

Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and unmold on the kitchen counter. Peel the bottom parchment layer that is now your top, roll the cake without filling with the parchment paper from the long side to give it some form and elasticity for when you fill it with the buttercream. Let cool completely. Sadly my cake split pretty bad when I rolled it. Also, make sure it cools completely, or the buttercream will melt as you put it on, causing it to slop out.

Mocha Buttercream:

6 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
4 sticks of butter (don't roll your eyes, you won't feel it:)) Butter should be soft but nor mushy (65F)
1 Tb vanilla bean paste
2 Tb instant coffee dissolved in 1 Tb hot water

In a stand mixer or with a hand held one, whip the egg yolks for a minute.

Boil water and sugar until the temperature reaches 238F on a candy thermometer.

Slowly pour the hot sugar syrup over the egg yolks on a steady stream, continue beating the yolks until pale in color and cooled.

Beat in the softened butter until the buttercream is smooth and together. Add the vanilla bean paste and the coffee, beat a few extra seconds until incorporated.

For the ganache:

1 bag milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy cream

Bring the cream to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Pour over the chocolate. Let stand a couple of minutes and then stir carefully until it is incorporated and smooth.

To assemble:

Unroll the cake from the parchment paper, fill with the buttercream (you won't use it all). Reroll the cake, and set it wire rack set over a piece of parchment paper. Cover with the ganache and douse with chocolate sprinkles. Refrigerate to set. Here's what mine ended up looking like, like I said not pretty.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Cover something in enough whipped cream and no one will know the difference

It’s a Friday night, so what am I doing, the expected thing for a young man on a Friday night of course: cooking. As all of us head into finals, people are sadly pulling into their studying shells, leaving nothing to do on Friday nights. However, a friend of mine is having a brunch tomorrow morning, which gives me an excuse to cook tonight.

Not long ago (but before this blog began) I made a large number of crème brulees for a dinner. The crème brulees were good, but left me with a lot of extra egg whites. Combining the ready availability of already separated egg whites with my desire not to have to do extra work (read: laziness), I decided that I ought to make pavlova’s for my friend’s brunch. Pavlova’s aren’t really a breakfast food, but brunch is really just an excuse to eat dessert for breakfast, so I wasn’t deterred.

In looking at recipes, I selected this one from epicurious for pavlovas with mixed berries. I chose it mostly because it called for 13 egg whites, and I already had 10, which I didn’t want to try to divide. The recipe wasn’t particularly challenging, but the meringues didn’t turn out particularly good. Pavlovas get their unique texture from cornstarch and vinegar. Unfortunately, I added too much vinegar (spilled a little while measuring over the bowl, oops). The result was that while the texture was ok, they tasted too vinegary. I also spread the meringues a little too thinly at points. Fortunately, the next part of the recipe is to cover the pavlovas in whipped cream and berries. Rather than plain whipped cream, I decided to make a honey-vanilla whipped cream. Piled with enough whipped cream and berries the vinegar fades into the background, and the pavlovas become not half bad. Overall I wouldn’t make them again, but they were at least edible.

Also, this recipe also calls for whipping up egg-whites. This time I got some pictures so that I can demonstrate what I mean.

UPDATE: I served these to my friends this morning, and with the berries and whipped cream on top they were really good. I think the vinegar taste faded a little over night. I also think the whipped cream by itself really stood out, and I'm going to look for ways to use it in the future.

For Meringues

13 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups superfine granulated sugar (castor sugar)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. line several cookie sheets with parchment paper or sil-pats .Separate the eggs. Once the eggs have been separated put the bowl over a simmering pot of water until the eggs are just barely warm to the touch:

Once the eggs are warm, attach the bowl to your standing mixer, or get your hand mixer. Add the salt and beat the eggs into a foam. I found that without sugar, the whites would get foamy, and form stiff peaks very fast. When the eggs got to that point I added the first 2 cups of superfine. After that I kept beating the eggs at high speed. With the sugar added the eggs quickly took on the glossy sheen I’m used to with whipped egg-whites. Continue beating the eggs until they reach stiff peaks.

This is what foamy, stiff egg whites look like on the end of a finger before sugar is added

Once the egg whites reach stiff peaks, mix the last half cup of superfine sugar with the cornstarch. Beat the cornstarch into the egg-whites. Follow by beating the vinegar into the eggs (make sure not too add too much).

Once the mixture is fully combined. Begin measuring out quantities of Meringue, between a quarter and a half of a cup, and mounding it up, and creating a little well in the middle. Bake the meringues for about an hour and 15 minutes. They should be a brownish color on the outside.

here are the Meringues after they have been baked:

For Honey-Vanilla whipped cream

2 cups heavy cream – chilled
3/4 of a cup of honey
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla paste

Whip up the cream at medium speed in a mixer. Once the cream reaches stiff peaks, add the honey and vanilla and beat until combined


I used a mix of frozen berries for the topping, since that was cheaper than fresh. To get the berries ready I thawed them, then mixed them with a little sugar. Since the vinegar already gave the meringues a bit of an acidy taste, I decided to skip on the lime juice. Once the fruit is mixed together. Take a meringue, pile some whipped on top or in the little well if there is one. Then put some fruit on top.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tiramisu Cupcakes

Several months ago, in fact last semester, a friend of mine decided to host an Italian food themed dinner. I volunteered to make dessert, and in accordance with my newfound habit, decided to make tiramisu cupcakes. A Google search revealed pretty wide variety of recipes. But I ended up settling on one from a miscellaneous flikr post. Unfortunately I haven’t made this recipe since getting my new camera, so there aren’t any photos of the process of making them. However, I did take a picture of the completed cupcakes when I first made them. The picture’s nothing to write home about, but you’ll just have to trust me that the taste of these cupcakes is.

Since making these cupcakes months ago, people haven’t stopped asking me to make them again. I finally did last week for a potluck, where they were devoured as soon as they came out. I wish I could claim credit for the recipe, but I really only made a few minor adjustments. Making this recipe was also my first experience in whipping up egg-whites. Figuring out what a stiff peak is if you’ve never done it before can be a bit of a mystery, but it’s manageable. I think the secret to this recipe is in the frosting. The Marsala wine really gives it a little extra something; I used sweet wine, though the recipe didn’t specify.

Recipe makes ~30 cupcakes (29 last time I made a batch)

For the cake:

6 eggs, separated
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar, divided
3 tablespoon water, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sifted, all-purpose flour

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

1. Separate the eggs. I’m told the eggs separate better when they’re cold, and whip up better when they are at room temperature, however, I do the whole thing when the eggs are cold, and the eggs always whip up just fine.

2. Put the egg-whites and the cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl. Whip the egg-whites at highest speed until they are foamy. Begin adding a ½ cup of sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, until all the sugar is incorporated and the egg-whites have reached soft peaks. Rub a bit of the meringue between your fingers to make sure the sugar is fully dissolved.

3. In a small mixing bowl beat the egg yolks at high speed until they are thick and lemony colored. Should take between 3-5 minutes.

4. Gradually beat in remaining ½ cup sugar, vanilla, water and salt.

4. With a sifter gradually sift flour over the egg-white mixture (I never sift, I just sprinkle gently, mostly because I don’t own a sifter). Add the beaten yolk mixture, and gradually fold the flour and yolks into the whites.

5. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full, and bake in the pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes (I usually bake them for 12). The cupcakes will rise a lot in the oven, and then fall as soon as you take them out. As far as I can tell this is normal.

For Mocha Syrup

½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2/3 cup water
5 teaspoons instant espresso powder 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (this is my own addition)

1. Combine everything in a heavy pot over high heat; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally

2. Remove from heat and let cool. The mixture should have thickened into a syrup.

3. Poke holes in the tops of the cupcakes with a fork. Put a spoonful of the syrup on top of each cupcake, and let it permeate the cake through the holes.

For the Mascarpone Frosting

3 c mascarpone
1 1/3 c confectioner’s sugar
1/3 c marsala wine
3/4 c heavy cream, chilled

I’ve increased the amount of sugar and wine in the frosting, because I didn’t think it was strong enough as posted on flikr. You should adjust to your own tastes

1. In a mixer at medium speed, beat together the mascarpone cheese, sugar, and marsala wine.

2. Add the cream and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute

3. Frost the cupcakes, then top with a sprinkling of cocoa powder or shaved chocolate.

Inaugural Post

If I’m starting a food blog, I figure I should start by telling my theoretical readers a little bit about myself, at least when it comes to cooking. Here are the basics:

I’m currently a law student at the University of Virginia. As a student it sometimes means that I cut corners with regard to ingredients. I use quality stuff when I can, but it’s not exactly an ideal world.

Butter, butter, and only butter. I was raised in the same style as my mother, and for us margarine simply won’t do. Baking and cooking with butter just makes things taste better. It does sometimes mean more fat, and so maybe it means baking a little less (or just making sure to feed whatever you make to other people), but it’s worth it when it comes to flavor. I have no problem replacing heavy cream with half and half, or higher fat milk with lower fat milk, or cutting the amount of butter down in a recipe, but I’ll never replace it. Along a similar line, no cake mixes, not now, not ever. The same goes for canned frosting, it tastes good, but I just prefer to make my own.

Despite the title (and the first post) this blog is not devoted exclusively to cupcakes. Mostly I liked the name.