Monday, June 30, 2008

Cupcakes, take two.

And by "take two," I mean take two and eat them. nom nom nom.

Several things in this post: I have some follow-up photos on the cupcakes from a couple weeks ago, showing you how I stuffed them. I also made marshmallows that night, and people marvel at homemade marshmallows, and usually for two reasons: they are delicious and make you want to never eat a Jet-Puff marshmallow again (although I still like those), and they are easy and incredibly fun to make.

We all saw the pretty cupcakey goodness from the last post. Note pink filling: again, this was Martha Stewart's Strawberry meringue buttercream filling, only with cherry instead of strawberry preserves. Also note: I made half the recipe, and ended up using it for nearly 70 cupcakes (two batches of the Wellesley Fudge Cake), with a bit left over (which I promptly devoured).
Ok, we start with baked and cooled cupcakes.
Next, we fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium or large-ish tip (I have a small selection, since my box of cake decorating goodness lives with my parents, so I just used the largest one I had) and fill it up with the filling.Now, insert the tip into the cupcake. You see I stick it fairly far in, so that the tip is almost buried- but not quite.
Squeeze. I'm not sure the volume of filling I inserted, but I went by trial and error. If the bottom of the cupcake bursts and you see filling, you've done too much. If it spills out at the top, simply scrape off the excess before frosting the cupcake.
That's all there is to it. There's another method that involves cutting a cone out of the top, putting a dollop of filling in, and replacing that cone, but I find this way pretty easy.

Ok, marshmallows.
I like Martha's recipe.
Ok, first combine 3 cups of sugar, 1.25cups light corn syrup, 3/4cup water and a dash of salt in a medium saucepan. Turn on the heat to high and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Get out your handy-dandy candy thermometer (this is important, and is the only reason I can make candy- forget the soft ball/hard ball tests in water, just get the thermometer). Now, once the sugar starts boiling, stop stirring, and let it get to 238 F.
While this is boiling (it takes 10-15 minutes or so, keep an eye on the thermometer), put 3/4cup cold water into the bowl of your stand mixer (you need the stand mixer for this) and sprinkle 4 envelops of unflavored gelatin over that, and let it soften for at least 5 minutes.Once the sugar's ready, pour it in a steady stream into the bowl, with the whisk attachment and on low speed. Wear oven mitts or something for this, the sugar's really hot (238 F!). (I couldn't get a picture of this- too hot). Now, mix. Slowly increase the speed to high. Mix for about 12 minutes.
After a minute or two:

After about 6 minutes:
After 12 minutes:
Now add in whatever flavoring and coloring you want (I did 4 drops of lime oil, a teaspoon of vanilla, and some green liquid food coloring), mix until it's combined (less than a minute), and pour into a greased, lined with parchment paper, and greased again 9x13 pan.
This is very gooey, and eating what's stuck to the bowl and whisk is lovely, but incredibly messy. Luckily, warm marshmallow goo is highly water-soluble, so easy to clean up.

Let this set overnight, then dust heavily with powdered sugar, cut into squares (or whatever) with a greased knife, and coat everything in powdered sugar- to prevent the marshmallows from sticking together. Bring to your next party, and wow all your friends.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cupcake frenzy!

A couple weeks ago (I know, this is very delayed- I have my reasons) a friend had a graduation bbq, and I decided to jump on some cupcake inspiration and make cupcakes. My inspiration was originally from, but had a nudge from someone on ravelry's knit n' bake group.

So, cupcakes. Yum!I used the Wellesley Fudge Cake recipe, an old (well, for the past 6 years) favorite of mine. For some reason, I only ever make this cake at the beach for my family birthday party, so when I had cupcakes everywhere, it smelled like the beach. Strange.

Anyway, the recipe: fairly easy. Melt 4 oz of unsweetened chocolate in 1/2cup of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and once it's all melted, add in 1/2 cup sugar and stir (still over heat) for 2 minutes more. Let cool.

Now, cream one stick (1/2cup) of butter with 1-1/4 cups sugar. Add 3 eggs, beating after each egg. Slowly mix in flour mixture (1-2/3cups flour, 1t baking soda, 1t salt), alternating with 3/4cup milk- I like to go flour-milk-flour-milk-flour. Finally, mix in 1t vanilla and the cooled chocolate mixture.

cake batter, anyone?

Fill muffin tins (with cupcake wrapper liners) about 2/3 full with batter, bake about 22 minutes at 350. Let cool overnight.

The next morning, I made Martha's Strawberry Meringue Frosting, substituting cherry preserves for strawberry. This is my first experience with an egg-based frosting, and ooooh boy I'm going to repeat it!! I've always shied away from these because I was led to believe you're eating raw egg (and the meringue powders used as substitute taste weird to me). Oh frabjous day, calloo callay, you cook the egg whites first!

Cherry frosting:
Put your Kitchenaid Stand Mixer bowl over a pot of simmering water. Put 4 egg whites and 1-1/4 cup sugar in the bowl. Whisk until the sugar dissolves, the egg whites are frothy, and it's warm (about 160 degrees, but I just did a finger test). Put the bowl back into the stand mixer, and beat on high until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Beat about 6 minutes more until it's lovely and fluffy.

Now add in 3 sticks of butter (room temp and cut into tablespoon pieces), a couple T at a time, with the mixer on medium-low speed, and then fold in 3/4 cup of preserves (I found that 1/2 cup, which was all I had, was sufficient).

Be sure to lick the bowl.

I took this frosting and loaded it into a pastry bag with the biggest tip I had (which was not big enough- you might consider pureeing the jelly if you have large chunks of fruit and plan to use it for filling cupcakes). I took a cupcake, inserting the tip into the cupcake, going about halfway to the base of the cupcake, and squeezed. Don't do too much, or your cupcake will start to burst at the bottom- you'll see this and know when to stop on the next one. Don't be afraid to mess up, because you get to eat the less-than-perfect ones. :)

Next, the fudge frosting. This is the frosting that goes with the Wellesley Fudge Cake. Melt 4oz of chocolate with 2T butter in a small saucepan (or double boiler, whatever). In your mixer bowl, combine 4cups powdered sugar, 1/2 cup milk, 1t vanilla and a dash of salt. Beat. Then add the chocolate. Beat some more. This won't get fluffy, but instead has more of a thick ganache consistency that worked really nicely on these cupcakes.

Top with drained and patted dry maraschino cherries. Then eat, but try not to eat too many, it's important to share.

btw, I'm making these again tonight- they're that good. I'll try to photograph stuffing the cupcakes and add those in later.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Wow: a link.

I saw this on a fun blog, Cupcakes Take The Cake.

Meatloaf Cupcakes.

(go look, then come back- I hesitate to post someone else's photo without asking)

I'm not a huge meatloaf fan. I'll eat it, I'll even make it (yay leftovers!), but not often. But those of you who know me at all know that I do not eat mashed potatoes. The one exception is if a friend D has done magic with them in an Indian dish (she can make them good, I need to learn her secret). But regular mashed potatoes? ugh. I hate potatoes.

However, I would be willing to cook with mashed potatoes if they went into entree cupakes. I'm kind of in awe of this idea. I also wonder if there is some other savory creamy-ish thing I could use instead of potato.... any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A sweet treat

Just a photo today. But what a photo it is...

Cupcakes from my visit to Magnolia Bakery in 2006 (if anyone's going to NYC, bring me back a Magnolia cupcake!!)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Saucepan Saturday

Boyfriend went to a bachelor party last night, so I jumped on the chance to do absolutely nothing. For me, this translates to: knit, cook and watch a movie.

I bought some new yarn at the LYS (Local Yarn Shop) that I finally checked out. I think it opened like a year and a half ago, and I heard an ad on the radio and got all excited that it opened late (really, what's with stores that close at 5? I understand the owners would like to go home and have dinner, but what working people can go shopping that early on a weekday?), but it took finding some people on ravelry to get me to go there. And go there I did... and I restrained myself fairly well, I bought yarns for two pairs of socks (both gifts, so no more discussion on those), and one ball of a super soft alpaca in a lovely mauve. So I cast on Nora Gaughan's Phyllo Yoked Pullover, from some book of hers that I picked up at the library. And then put it aside after 15 minutes to get back to work on another sock that has a deadline.

And I cooked. I recently came into a surplus of milk (boyfriend accidentally bought milk when he had an unopened half gallon in his fridge, and another friend bought milk to bake a cake, but doesn't use it otherwise, so I offered to take it off her hands) so I decided to make something with it. I made Martha Stewart's favorite rice pudding. It was good.

Rice pudding is extremely easy; I'd forgotten that. In a large saucepan, I combined 6 cups of milk (the recipe says whole milk, and people always make a fuss over how fatty and high-calorie that is, and moan about how to change that. Simple solution: use skim milk. Duh. It doesn't make a huge difference in how it turns out. Anyway, I used 2 cups of whole milk and 4 cups of 1%, because that's what I had in my milk "stash"), 3/4 cup of rinsed arborio rice, 1/2 cup of sugar, some cardamom (a teaspoon or so), 1-2T of vanilla, and 1t or so of rosewater. I brought it to a boil, then reduced to a simmer, cooked for 50 min, stirring every so often. Once it was nice and thick, I added the zest of one orange, and spooned a big helping into a bowl and devoured. I can't wait to eat my lunch today, because I brought rice pudding.

In other Saucepan Saturday adventures, I had fondue for dinner (I love me some dairy). I don't think I've talked about fondue yet, but it's a recent discovery for me. Last summer, while spending a couple days in Delaware, my parents and I ate at the Melting Pot. I think I'd had cheese fondue before, but maybe just once or twice, it being somewhat of an exotic appetizer. Due to my love it cheese, it was no surprise that I fell in love with fondue. And then one day, I decided to make some after seeing it on the food network. It's surprisingly easy.

I usually use a blend of ermentaler and gruyere cheeses that I can buy pre-grated at the grocery store, but last night I was low on that (it's another staple I always keep on hand- also very nice for tarts with cheese, quiche, and fancy pizzas. It's basically just delicious grated cheese.) so I added in some "pizza blend" cheese, which had four cheeses: mozzarella, provolone, probably parmasean, and one other. First I rubbed a saucepan with a cut garlic clove, added some white wine (3/4 cup of chardonnay, I usually prefer sauv blanc, but I had an open bottle of chard) and 1T or so of lemon juice (lime juice adds an interesting zestiness that's worth trying). I heated that, then slowly stirred in 1.5cups of grated cheese that had been tossed with 1T of corn starch (to thicken- the cornstarch also eliminates (or lessens) the problem of the cheese separating from the wine when the ratios are off). When the cheese is melted, remove from heat and stir in 1t nutmeg. Dip bread cubes, apple chunks and pear chunks (or if you're crazy like I am, slices of manchego and/or cheddar) and enjoy.

Enjoy I did. I was too stuffed to go to bed, between the fondue and the rice pudding.

I also baked cookies last night, but I photographed nothing, so I'll tell you about the cookies later. These are the ever elusive duck sauce cookies, and I'm also still perfecting the recipe, hence the delay.