Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes and a Delicious Baking Blunder

These simple vanilla cupcakes are beautiful, aren't they? They're delicious too.

So I was making these cupcakes for a graduation party and I made a few extras to take to a dinner party the following day. But the kids were about to arrive home from school and I didn't want them to be tempted by the beautiful cupcakes - not yet anyway - because they needed to last until the next day and they'd beg and plead for just one cupcake - you know how it goes - I just wasn't up for it. So I quickly hid the cupcakes in the cold oven. A genius idea - they'd never see them in there.

A few hours later, I'm getting ready to make pizza for dinner. I preheated the oven, forgetting that my beautiful cupcakes were still inside. Maybe it wasn't a genius hiding spot after all. After several minutes, I smelled the cupcakes cooking in the oven and realized my mistake. Aaargh! I couldn't believe I had done that - again! Fortunately, I realized it before the cupcakes had burned.

But then we took a fork to the cupcakes and realized that I may have created the most delicious dessert ever! The cake was warm and the Swiss Meringue Buttercream had melted into the cake, rendering it gooey and sweet and buttery. I likened it to a warm Krispy Kreme donut, or a vanilla version of molten chocolate cake, but so much better! They were all gone before the pizza even came out of the oven. Never before have I made such a delicious baking blunder! You should try it!

On Friday, I'll be showing you two cupcake towers you can make at home to display your decorated cupcakes!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

I just love the way these red velvet cupcakes turned out. I used a Wilton 21 tip to pipe the cream cheese icing into little swirls - 5 or 6 swirls around the edge and then one in the middle. The cupcake papers are made by Reynolds and are sold in our local grocery store. They are high-quality papers which don't become translucent after being baked and they cling nicely to the cupcakes. They're beautiful too. I highly recommend them.

On Friday, I'll be showing you two cupcake towers you can make at home to display your cupcakes!

Red Velvet Cake from the Baked Cookbook

Cream Cheese Frosting
from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
Makes 4 cups

1 pound (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

With a stand mixer on medium-high speed, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hot Air Balloon Pops

I made these little gems for a three-year-old's birthday party - a three-year-old who loves balloons. I wrapped them individually, tied them with curling ribbon, and they were handed out as favors for the young guests.

Here's how to make them...

First, make the brownie balls as instructed here, chill them thoroughly and gather your supplies:

lollipop sticks, I use 6" sticks
small-sized tootsie rolls
yellow, blue and red candy melts
styrofoam block for holding the pops while drying
2-cup glass liquid measuring cup for melting candy melts

I molded a small piece of tootsie roll to build up the bottom of the brownie balls. I wanted a shape that was tapered at the bottom. I could have shaped the brownies in the balloon shape, but I chose to make the round balls (it's quicker) and then add the tootsie roll bottom. I used a pointed-end skewer to make a hole in the tootsie roll after I shaped it, and also to make a hole in one end of the brownie ball. Then line up the holes you make in the tootsie roll and brownie ball, dip the lollipop stick in some melted yellow candy melts, and insert the lollipop stick. Set this aside to dry as shown below.

After the stick has had time to set, dip the entire shape into the yellow candy melts, gently tap and twirl the balloon on the side of the bowl of candy melts to remove the excess coating and then set the stick in the styrofoam to dry while you work on the others.

After the yellow has dried, dip the balloon into the blue melted candy in the same manner only partway, so that the blue covers the top two-thirds of the balloon. When the blue is dry, dip the tip of the balloon in the red so that it covers only the top one-third of the balloon and allow that to dry.

Now you can make the basket and strings, all from a tootsie roll. You'll need one tootsie roll for every two balloons.

To make the basket and strings:
1. Unwrap the tootsie roll and cut it in half lengthwise with a small sharp knife. The knife will get sticky, so you may have to wash it or wipe it off between cuts.
2. Cut a small portion, lengthwise from one end of the half tootsie roll.
3. Take the larger piece and carefully wrap it around the stick a little bit below the balloon, and without changing it's shape too much, pinch the ends together. In the picture this is shown without the stick, but you'll want to do this right on your sticks with the finished balloons on them.
4. Cut the remaining small piece of tootsie roll in half and roll each of those pieces into a tiny snake. Each of the snakes can then be cut in half to make 4 strings.
5. Dip the very end of each string into the melted yellow candy and attach that end to the bottom of the balloon. The other end of the string can be molded right to the basket. With some gentle pushing, the bottom of the tootsie roll string should stick to the tootsie roll basket.
6. Using the small knife, make cross-hatch marks in the basket.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rhubarb-Lovers' Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I've kind of gotten off of pie baking recently. My neighbors who order from me mostly want cakes and brownie pops and cookies. Occasionally a tart, but hardly ever and good ole pie.

This lack of pie-baking has raised the eyebrows of a certain husband of mine. You see, he loves pie. He can take or leave just about anything else I bake. Clearly missing the pies, he "places his order" for a pie and hopes I'll have time to fulfill it.

In timely fashion, Martha Stewart wrote about this Strawberry Rhubarb Pie recipe in a recent issue of her magazine.

I call this pie Rhubarb-Lover's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie because the ratio of rhubarb to strawberries is 6:1 - the perfect ratio in my opinion. It tastes like rhubarb with a hint of strawberry, not like those other recipes out there that have a 1:1 ratio, where the filling is like strawberry jam (too sweet) and the rhubarb taste is all but lost.

If you like rhubarb, I urge you to try this recipe. In fact, make it a day ahead and let the pie sit in the fridge overnight after it cools. You might just find your husband repeating these words each time he eats a slice: This pie is delicious!

Other rhubarb recipes you might like:

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
adapted from Martha Stewart

For The Filling
1 3/4 pounds rhubarb, cut into 3/4-inch-thick pieces (6 cups)
6 ounces strawberries, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, plus 1 tablespoon orange juice
Coarse salt

For The Crust
2 disks Pate Brisee
All-purpose flour, for surface
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. To make the filling, mix together rhubarb and strawberries in a large bowl. In a separate medium bowl, combine the granulated sugar, cornstarch, zest and juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the rhubarb mixture and gently fold over the berries until well coated with the sugar mixture.

Make the crust: Roll out 1 disk pate brisee to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Pour in filling; dot top with butter. Refrigerate while making top crust.

Roll remaining disk pate brisee to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.

Trim bottom and top crusts to a 1-inch overhang using kitchen shears, and press together to seal around edges. Fold edges under, and crimp as desired. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Brush crust with egg wash, and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Bake pie on middle rack, with a foil-lined baking sheet on bottom rack to catch juices, until vigorously bubbling in center and bottom crust is golden, about 1 1/2 hours. (Loosely tent with foil after 1 hour if crust is browning too quickly.) Transfer pie to a wire rack, and let cool for at least 2 hours (preferably longer) before serving. We like to eat ours chilled. Pie keeps for a week in the refrigerator.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

I saw this recipe on the Saveur website, and in about 10 minutes, I found myself making cinnamon rolls...again. I can't resist them.

And I can't seem to make the same recipe each time I make them either. But they're all so good, and this one is no exception.

Cinnamon rolls fall into the "enriched dough" category of bread doughs. That means that in addition to flour, water, salt and yeast, there may also be things like butter, milk, eggs and sugar in the dough. This dough takes it a step further and incorporates cream cheese into the final dough, much as you would incorporate a butter block into a croissant or puff pastry dough, by folding the dough around the cream cheese creating many layers of cream cheese within the dough itself.

The result is a rich, flavorful, and tender cinnamon roll with easy and delicious icing. This recipe ranks up there with the very best. I bet Dad would love these for Father's Day!

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls
from Saveur

Makes 8 Large Rolls

For the dough:
1 1⁄4-oz. package active dry yeast
1⁄2 tsp. plus 1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup milk, at room temperature
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 3⁄4 cups flour, sifted, plus
more for kneading
3⁄4 tsp. fine salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room
temperature, plus more for the pan

For the filling:
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup dark brown sugar
1⁄4 cup finely chopped pecans
1⁄4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1⁄4 cup raisins
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp. fine salt
1⁄8 tsp. ground cloves
2 tbsp. maple syrup
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the icing:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1⁄4 cup buttermilk

1. Make the dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a hook, combine yeast, 1⁄2 tsp. of the sugar, and 1⁄4 cup water heated to 115°. Stir to combine and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add remaining sugar, milk, light brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat on low speed until thoroughly combined, 1 minute. Turn mixer off and add the flour and salt. Mix on medium speed until the dough just comes together. Turn mixer speed to high and knead dough for 4 minutes. Add the butter and continue kneading until dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 6 minutes. Remove bowl from the mixer, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place. Let the dough rise for 1 1⁄2–2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

2. Meanwhile, make the filling: Combine the sugar, dark brown sugar, pecans, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon, salt, and cloves in a large bowl; stir to combine. Stir in the maple syrup. Set filling aside.

3. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a heavily floured surface. Gently knead the dough until it's no longer sticky, adding more flour as necessary, about 1 minute. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10" x 10" square. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese with a rubber spatula until it's smooth and spreadable. Spread the cream cheese evenly over the dough square; then fold square into thirds as you would fold a letter to fit it into an envelope. Take the open ends of the resulting rectangle and fold into thirds again, to make a smaller dough square. Invert the dough so that the seam is face down and, using the rolling pin, gently roll into a 10" x 20" rectangle.

4. Turn the dough so that the short sides are parallel to you. Brush the top of the dough with half of the melted butter. Drizzle the reserved filling over the dough, leaving a 1" border at the edge farthest away from you. Lightly press the filling into the dough. Using your hands, lift up the bottom edge of the dough and roll it forward into a tight cylinder. Place dough cylinder, seam side down, on a cutting board and, using a thin, sharp knife, trim off the ends; cut cylinder crosswise into 8 equal-size slices. Nestle the slices, cut sides up and evenly spaced from one another, into a buttered 9" x 13" light-colored metal baking pan. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to let rise for 2 hours. (Alternatively, the rolls may be refrigerated overnight.)

5. Heat oven to 375°. Uncover the rolls. (If refrigerated, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.) Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the rolls comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

6. Make the icing: While the rolls are baking, whisk together the sugar and buttermilk in a small bowl until smooth.

7. Transfer the pan of cinnamon rolls to a cooling rack; brush with remaining melted butter. Let cool for 5 minutes. Dip the tines of a fork into the icing and drizzle all over the rolls. Serve immediately.


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