Thursday, December 31, 2009

happy new year's eve!

Happy New Year's Eve! In honor of the holiday, and a friend's party tonight, I made chocolate chip cupcakes with dark chocolate icing. They turned out nicely, especially the icing! My taste taster (also known as my husband) said the icing is my best yet. I'm more partial to vanilla icing, but the chocolate is pretty tasty! The cupcakes are also good alone without the icing, they remind me of chocolate chip muffins that my mom made for me when I was younger.

The recipe is from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook.

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
3 1/4 cups plus 1 T sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 T pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 T milk
1/2 cup plus 6 T (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 3/4 cups sugar
5 large egg whites, room temp
2 cups (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together 3 1/4 cups cake flour, the baking powder, and salt. Stir the vanilla into the milk to combine.
2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter until smooth. Adding the sugar in a steady stream, beat until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk mixture, and beating ntil just combined after each.
3. In another bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form (do not overmix). Fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten. Gently fold in the remaining whites until just combined. Toss chocolate chips with remaining tablespoon cake flour, and gently fold into batter.
4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean and the tops are springy to the touch, about 22 minutes (due to my super oven, I baked each batch for 18 minutes). Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Out of the oven ...

Dark Chocolate Frosting
* I halved this recipe because I didn't have enough semisweet chocolate, and the recipe turned out just fine... and it was the perfect amount to frost 24+ cupcakes.
The ingredient amounts listed below are for the full recipe.

1/2 cup plus 1 T unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1 T boiling water
2 1/4 cups (4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Combine cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, powdered sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture. If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days, or frozen up to 1 month, in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again.

Tips from the baker ...
The recipe called for "best-quality semi-sweet chocolate," but I used good ole' Nestle Toll House chocolate rather than spend more more on one of the high-end brands like Giradelli. The frosting tastes great, so I don't think it made much of a difference. Also, when you're making the cocoa mixture, add the boiling water to the cocoa. Don't add the cocoa to the boiling water over the stove... bad idea! Trust me, tried it and the chocolate burned, so I had to start that part over. Also, if you use a Kitchenaid stand mixer, you MUST buy a beater blade! I received one from my in-laws for Christmas and it's fabulous! Its "wing system" design virtually eliminates hand-scraping and batter build-up on the blade. It makes baking a little easier and less time consuming.

You can find the beater blade at Crate&Barrel.

And, chocolate chip cupcakes ...

I hope everyone has a fun and safe New Year's Eve!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

cupcake wars

Last Sunday, December 27 I watched a show called "Cupcake Wars" on the Food Network. The show was a cupcake competition between four cupcake makers to have their treats presented at the 2009 Alma Awards. I loved the show - it was fun to see the way the bakers presented their cupcakes, as well as the fun flavor combinations they came up with. If you get a chance, be sure to watch the show when it airs again on January 2 at 4:00pm ET/PT. The Food Network doesn't have much information on their web site regarding the show, so I'm not sure if this is a series or not. I'm hoping that it is...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

festive treats fit for a holiday party

Merry Christmas, everyone! I know that I'm a day late, but it was a busy holiday! And, considering all the snow we got over the last few days, it still feels like Christmas! In fact, it's snowing again...

Last weekend we hosted a Holiday Party, so leading up to the party I was in the kitchen, busy making cupcakes, sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies and white chocolate party mix, along with all the salty snacks I made. Since I had lots to do in a limited amount of time, I used the same Perfect Cake-Mix Cupcake recipe that I wrote about in my last entry. This time I used a white cake mix rather than devil's food and changed up the decorating. The design on the cupcakes are holly leaves with berries. I used jelly belly sour cherries for the berries and spearmint gummies for the leaves. Spearmint wasn't the ideal flavor, but it was the only candy shaped like a leaf that I found.

For the Holly Berry Cupcakes I used the same frosting recipe that I used for the Christmas Cupcakes and the Thanksgiving Cupcakes. For the Christmas Cupcakes I used peppermint flavoring in the recipe (rather than almond), and for the Holly Berry Cupcakes I used the almond flavoring. You can also use creme bouquet flavoring rather than almond.

Buttercream Frosting Recipe:
2 lb bag of powdered sugar, sift for decorating
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, not margarine, room temperature
1/2 cup hi-ratio or icing shortening - not Crisco
1/2 cup milk (minus 2 Tbsp in the summer)
1 teaspoon clear vanilla
1/4 teaspoon creme bouquet or almond flavoring
1/8 teaspoon salt
*Cocoa for chocolate

Cream butter and shortening together until fluffy, with mixer on low, add the milk (-2 Tbsp), 1/2 the bag of sugar slowly, the flavorings and the salt. Mix until creamy, slowly add the remaining sugar. If the icing is too stiff, add remaining milk. In the summer leave out the extra 2 Tbsp.

Scrape the sides of the bowl. Turn mixer on high and beat for 6-10 min. until icing has doubled in volume. Keep covered while working. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks or freeze for 6 months. Thaw to room temperature and re-whip.

To make Chocolate Buttercream, make the regular buttercream as above. Add cocoa (start with 1/2-3/4 cup or more) and milk (1 Tbsp at a time) to thin. Add a pinch o salt to help bring out the flavor. This icing will thicken as it sits. It should be made ahead and rewhipped to the right consistency. More cocoa to make darker and richer and milk to keep from being too thick.

You can't find hi-ratio/icing shortening at a typical grocery store. I bought my shortening at The Baker's Rack in downtown Lenexa, KS, which is where this icing recipe came from. The reason for using hi-ratio/icing shortening rather than Crisco is because Crisco is heavy and is made for frying, so it will be greasy on the tongue. Hi-ratio/icing shortening is digestible and made for eating, and will whip up fluffy.

Buttercream Frosting in the making...

One thing to note is that this recipe makes a LOT of frosting... more than enough to frost two dozen cupcakes. It would likely be the perfect amount to frost a cake with. The next time I make this frosting, I'm going to try cutting the recipe in half... I'll let you know how that goes.

Just for fun, here are a few shots of my sugar cookies:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

christmas cupcakes

My dad hosted a holiday party for his work team and some of his agency associates last Thursday, so I offered to help at the party, and make some special Christmas cupcakes for the occasion. My mom made tons of delicious food and baked goodies for the party, so my contribution paled in comparison, but the party gave me an excuse to bake mid-week and try a new decorating technique! Even though fall classes are officially over (YAY!), I didn't have a ton of time Wednesday night, so I decided to use a perfect cake-mix cupcake recipe from Hello, Cupcake!

Hello, Cupcake! cookbook

The recipe uses devil's food cake mix, substitutes buttermilk for water, four eggs instead of three and vegetable oil. The buttermilk cuts the sweetness and gives the cupcake the homemade flavor, and the extra egg improves the structure of the cupcake. According to the cookbook, cupcakes made from this variation on store-bought mixes cook up evenly without sinkholes or soft spots in the middle, and you get a nice firm surface that doesn't pull apart when you start frosting. The book recommends that you find a cake mix that doesn't contain pudding in the mix. I wasn't able to find a devil's food mix without pudding, so I went ahead and bought the Pillsbury mix with pudding and thought it tasted great and found it to be very moist. I did notice that the tops of the cupcakes pulled a bit when I frosted them, but if your careful its not much of an issue.

1 box (18.25 ounces) cake mix (French vanilla, devil's food, or yellow)
1 cup buttermilk (in place of the water called for on the box)
Vegetable oil (the amount on the box)
4 large eggs (in place of the number called for on the box)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
2. Follow the box instructions, putting all the ingredients in a large bowl and using the buttermilk in place of the water specified (the box will call for more water than the amount of buttermilk that you are using), using the amount of vegetable oil that iscalled for (typically, white or yellow cakes call for 1/3 cup; the chocolate cakes usually call for 1/2 cup), and adding the eggs. Beat with an electric mixer until moistened, about 30 seconds Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, 2 minutes longer.
3. Fill the paper liners two-thirds full. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the baking pans, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool completely.

The final result...

I decorated the cupcakes with buttercream icing that I flavored with peppermint extract and bits of chocolate peppermint candy canes. I'll post the recipe for the frosting in my next post. I need to head out to do some Christmas shopping!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

chocolate malted cupcakes

Chocolate - the perfect stress reliever and a great treat for a cold day. My last two days of classes are quickly approaching (Monday and Tuesday), so this weekend I've been wrapping up a final project. Between that and Christmas shopping, I decided to take a break and try a recipe I spotted in Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook. The recipe, chocolate malted cupcakes, jumped out at me because I absolutely LOVE chocolate malts. Especially chocolate malts from Winsteads. Hoping the cupcakes would taste like one of my favorite treats, I decided to give them a try!

I'm partial to vanilla and golden cake cupcakes, but the chocolate malted cupcakes are delicious! As soon as a finished the icing, I iced one for my husband to try, and he loved it! He gave it a ringing endorsement, which he doesn't do for all my baked treats. For instance, he claimed that the last batch of cupcakes I made (Thanksgiving) were on the dry side. I bought Whoppers candies to put on top of each cupcake, so he was also excited about the fun candy addition to the cupcake.

Right out of the oven:

Chocolate Malted Cupcakes
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups malted milk powder
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large ggs, room temperature
1 cup sour creem, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa, both sugars, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk and malted milk powder until powder is dissolved.
2. With and electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat flour mixture, milk mixture, and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add sour cream and vanilla, and beat until just combined.
3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each halfway. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cupcakes can be stored up to 3 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight container
4. To finish, frost cupcakes. Refrigerate up to 3 days in airtight containers; bring to room temp.

The finished product!

Chocolate Malted Icing
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup dutch process cocoa
1/4 up malted milk powder
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 Tablespoons milk

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and the malted milk powder. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until smooth.

In the recipe, Martha recommended frosting the cupcakes with Fluffy Vanilla Frosting. To me, chocolate with chocolate sounded better, so I found a recipe for chocolate malted icing online. After searching online, I also found most chocolate malted cupcake recipes recommended icing with chocolate malted icing. But, the choice is up to you! I decorated the cupcakes with Whoppers candies as I mentioned above. Also, the recipe calls for Dutch process cocoa powder. I was unable to find this at Hen House, so I ended up going to Dean & Deluca for it. It was a little pricey at Dean & Deluca, so I'm going to do a search online to see if it's something I can order, or if there is another store in town that carries it. I even checked Russell Stover's in Fairway and they recommended World Market, so I may have to go there next time. If anyone has seen Dutch process cocoa powder in their grocery store, let me know!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

the day before thanksgiving

The day before Thanksgiving is usually a day I take off work. I love spending the day at home - baking and listening to Christmas music. If I get the chance, I'll even put up a few Christmas decorations (didn't happen this year). This morning I got up bright and early and kicked off the morning with some coffee and GMA. After my coffee I started in on my first baking project... cupcakes! Tuesday night I had measured and set out all the ingredients (dry on the counter, wet in the fridge), so this morning my baking process was quick and easy. As I mentioned in my post from last Sunday, the recipe I used was Magnolia Bakery's vanilla cupcake. One thing I've learned from making this recipe a few times is: do not bake the cupcakes for as long as the recipe calls for. It could be my super powered oven, but I baked the first batch for 16 minutes, and the two subsequent batches for 15. You have to watch these cupcakes like a hawk because if you overbake them, they taste super dry.

• 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 cups sugar
• 4 large eggs, at room temperature
• 1 cup milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.
3. In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
5. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Today I tried a new frosting recipe instead of the Magnolia vanilla buttercream frosting recipe that I've used before. The frosting turned out fabulous! I absolutely love it - it will be a repeat, and it wasn't too hard, which is a plus. For now, I'm keeping the recipe a secret! Here's a picture of the delicious frosting before I added any food coloring:

And, here's the final product...

Obviously, my camera's not the best... I couldn't get a very good shot of the leaf cupcake. It's a leaf cupcake, but it kind of looks like an "Oh Canada" cupcake.

I also made a pumpkin pie with cinnamon streusel topping today, along with a sweet potato casserole (not pictured).

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow! Remember, eat lots and don't worry about your waist line! ;)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

i love cupcakes

As most of my family and friends know, I have a love for sweets... candy, cookies, anything chocolate, cake, ice cream, the list goes on. But, in the last few years, I've developed an undying love for cupcakes. I've always thought cupcakes were fabulous - they're the perfect amount of cake with a generous amount of frosting! It wasn't until I visited Magnolia Bakery in NYC a few years ago on a work trip that I truly fell in love with cupcakes and realized how wonderful these little cakes are. I stood in line for close to an hour waiting for my chance to enter the tiny bakery and order a box full of jumbo cupcakes. Since I had waited so long, you better believe I filled an entire box (even though I was traveling alone). I bought one of Magnolia's famous vanilla cupcakes, a chocolate, red velvet and a strawberry cupcake. As I walked down the street away from the bakery, I tore the wrapper off the vanilla cupcake and took a large bite. Oh my goodness... it was heaven in my mouth. Sugary sweet goodness, I savored every bite as I walked back to who knows where, getting lost in NYC because of my obsession with the Magnolia cupcake.

In the last couple of years I've noticed a "cupcake frenzy," so it appears others are taking notice. To my delight there are now cupcake stores open in Kansas City! Two that I've visited are Cupcake ala Mode near the Country Club Plaza,, and Babycakes, in the River Market downtown. Both offer delicious cupcakes... although the experience isn't like that of Magnolia in NYC. I do love the Raspberry Lemonade cupcake at ala Mode though!

Because of my love for cupcakes, I've decided to do a little show and tell with my sweets, specifically cupcakes. I love to bake and I've found that it's a great creative outlet, as well as a wonderful way to relieve some stress! Lately my life has been consumed with work and grad school, so if I have any extra time for myself, it's good for me to do something that's hands on and creative, as well as stress relieving.

So, here I go. My first project will be Thanksgiving cupcakes. In honor of my story about Magnolia Bakery and my NYC adventure, I'm going to make Magnolia Vanilla Cupcakes for Thanksgiving. I plan on making the cupcakes on Wednesday, so watch for a posting on Thursday! Until then, have a great week!