Tuesday, September 15, 2009

MSC: Zucchini Spice Cupcakes

Ok so I have to admit, I was not super keen on the idea of zucchini cupcakes. I am not first in line when someone breaks out the zucchini bread nor do I like how sneakily familiar it looks to my old standby favorite, banana bread. Grated veggies don't have much room in my sweet palate. Esp in cupcake form, I tend to think that veggie cupcakes are almost like muffins but with frosting as an extra perk.

However, when I looked at the recipe, I saw that the 'spice' part was actually kind of like a pumpkin cupcake, which is one of my favorite things. Hey I never said I was consistent. So I thought I could play up the spice and lessen the zucchini, just in case.

I liked that Martha's recipe didn't have some amazingly ridiculous amt of sugar in it, veggie cupcake recipes tend to do this so that you don't know you are eating anything resembling an originally healthy vegetable, and it makes it more palatable for sweet tooths like myself. I didn't like that this recipe had no milk or liquid in it. What kind of cupcake doesn't have a liquid? The zucchini did add moisture but I added about 1/3c of milk and the result was a perfectly moist muffin. Not too dense.

I ommitted the nuts because our built-in pantry is open to the rest of the house and the moths just love my nuts. Even the sealed, as in haven't even been opened bags. So I had to toss them all just about a week ago and have not restocked. But when I do they are going in a diff area of the kitchen, something with doors. I hate moths.

Am I a muffin?????

In leiu of the nuts I added choco chips to some of them, just to see what kind of flavor that added. I also halfded (between half and a third) the recipe and got 8 huge cupcakes. Since I am traveling tomorrow, I took them to work today and let the masses over-consume. The feedback was that the cupcakes were really good, extremely moist and a good texture. Because I went nuts on the spice, people liked that you couldn't taste the zucchini and it was more like a spice cake. That works for me!

Or a luscious cupcake???? Identity crisis.

Thanks to my sweet baking buddy for some fresh Anderson Valley zucchini hand-delivered to the house so that I could bake these babies. XOXO LUVYA. And check out the other Martha Stewart Cupcake Club blog bakers at the new site. And if you don't have the book, buy it at Amazon. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

MSC Cupcake Club: Fleur Del Sel Chocolate Cupcakes

My baking pal Betty at Eat My Cupcake decided to launch the Martha Stewart Cupcake Club...where we all bake out of Martha's new cupcake book. Of course I signed up, who doesn't need another club that they have to feel guilty about not participating regularly in??? But since it's Betty, I will try to be (mostly) on time with my baking and posting...even though lately I feel like my camera has gone the way of the dinosaur. Do these things have shelf lives where after a certain # of pics or years the photos just start looking CRAPPY? That's what it feels like anyway. I do want a new camera, but it's on the LIST. So for now, I'll deal.

Onto the cupcake. Having perused some of the recipes in the book and watching Martha make a few on her show it seemed like most of her cupcakes had one thing in common. Making everything more difficult than it REALLY needed to be. Either the cake was multiple steps, or you had to make some crazy filling that required carmelization, or the frosting required melting and then cooling and then beating.

So when I saw that Betty chose The Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcake as her first choice, I thought holy crap I love Fleur Del Sel chocolate cupcakes...and then I thought holy crap this better not be 500 steps.

I was pleased to see that the cupcake seemed to be MS's one-bowl chocolate cake recipe, which I have used before with moderate success, but it's not my favorite. It is easy which I love, but this time I added a bit more oil and cocoa to give it more of that dark chocolate kick that last time I felt was lacking. This time I got a MUCH better result than in the past. I halved the recipe and made 10 big cupcakes...in my experience with 'filled' cupcakes is that minis don't really get you the filling bang for your buck that most people tend to want with a filled cupcake.

The cucpakes rose nice and high in the oven, my favorite when chocolate cupcakes dome. The caramel I saved til the next day when I had a bit more baking time on my hand... it went as expected, but can you believe I never made caramel from scratch before?? It was quite fun. And ummm I halved the recipe and I have a TON of leftover caramel. As in about 6 ounces. I am pondering what to do with it.

I let it cool for a bit so it would not absorb into the cupcake, filled them, and topped them with the fleur del sel and then piped some swirls with the dark chocolate frosting, and a few more sprinkles of salt. BTW...*discard* the tops? I don't think so! With any cone I always put at least the top back on, it makes for a neater look when you cut them.

Tasting each element as I went along was interesting. The cupcakes were moist and very chocolatey and of course the caramel works soooo well with the salt. I ate half today and my husband ate half..we both loved them, but I think that these would be wonderful without the caramel even.

I would add more cream to the caramel, as I did this time. It gave it a richer more velvety taste than the small amt the recipe called for. That gave it more of an intense flavor. The frosting was too thin the way the recipe called for it, so I added more conf sugar but then it curdled thanks to the extra sugar. It worked out in the end, but next time I won't add addt'l sugar after the chocolate but before. Also I only used 2/3 of the butter, 2 sticks for 1/2 a recipe? Yikes! I'd rather more chocolate taste than butter.

Not off to a bad start MS...!! Just don't make me bake any angel food cupcakes please. Check out the rest of the MSC baking lovelies listed here on Betty's blog. And buy the book at Amazon. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

S'mores Cupcakes...Revitalized!!

So a few months ago one of my good friends asked me to make her s'mores cupcakes for her birthday. I made an experimental version a few posts below...but I wasn't impressed. Well they tasted like amazing chocolate marshmallow cupcakes, but nothing like s'mores.

I noodled on it for a while, but just didn't have the time to try again before the big day. Which turned out to be a 95 degree day, and did I mention our new house doesn't have A/C? Yes, turning on the oven was a decision of madness, but I perservered.

I went with a graham cracker cupcake (2cups of graham crackers!) studded with chocolate chips, because I wanted the s'mores experience in every bite. Fluffy boiled icing was the frosting of choice, birthday girl loves it. LOVES IT, and doesn't care a whit that it is the world's most sticky substance ever known in a kitchen. Well not totally, but close.

So I whipped up a huge batch of fluffy boiled icing. I coned out the cupcakes and filled them with the frosting. Then I topped them with the frosting and a slice of Hershey's and graham cracker.

S'mores in every bite. These things were CRAZY. Absolutely everyone loved them, and birthday girl was in heaven. Sure the house was 88 degrees when I was done and didn't cool down til 10pm, but it was worth it. They looked pretty too.

Fluffy Boiled Icing
From GigiCakes.blogspot.com
3 tablespoons of meringue powder
1/2 cup of cold water
2 cups of sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup of water

Beat meringue powder and cold water until stiff, about 4 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Bring to boil and cool slightly.With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the syrup mixture to the meringue.
Then beat on high for 4 minutes, until stiff and glossy.
Store at room temperature.
It's super fun to pipe as well and will develop an outer shell, and can be left out overnight with no issues.

Sugar B Bakes from Martha Stewart Cupcakes

One of my favorite bloggers and one of my very good real life friends, Miss Betty, just got the Martha Stewart Cupcakes book. To help her committment to baking from the book, she decided to scout around for other crazy blogging bakers like herself, to bake with her in another one of those amazing 'community baking groups' that permeate the web. I belong(ed) to a few myself but I obviously cannot commit to much lately, life is too busy. But cupcakes...I could probably get behind. Especially ones with such amazing images to accompany them.

It's baking from the book, potentially monthly or weekly (MONTHLY ya'll!). Check out her post here and if you are interested, leave her a comment or send her an email. Cupcake away!

PS...I know I have been MIA, but I have been sporadically baking. My latest thing was a s'mores cupcake to beat ALL s'mores cupcakes. I'll post about it next before something distracts me and I wander away from the computer yet again.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rainbows, Chocolate Marshmallow & THANKS.

First off, I'd like to say a big buttery THANKS to the crazy 24 followers of this blog. I have not been as loyal to updating the Spatula as I would like to be, schedule of life just doesn't quite allow it. But I will be better than I have been previously, since you guys deserve to see all the stuff that comes out of my kitchen, even if I can't make a big post accompanying the images.

I went back to my 'roots' this week, ala cupcakes! I had a request for rainbow cupcakes, and honestly I have never been crazy about these things from images I have seen online since it seems like most peeps use cake mix and then the frosting is all haphazard and crazy with rainbow sprinkles. So when a friend asked me to do them for a birthday, I thought REALLY? Are you sure? Yes well..I did it. And ummm, if I do say so myself they came out SUPER CUTE.

How do you make them? It's pretty easy. Take your favorite vanilla or butter cupcake recipe. Separate it into 3-4 small bowls, try to make them even because if you don't..as I found out, you are left a lot of batter for 2 colors only and then your 'rainbow' looks more like tie-dye. Spoon a bit of each batter into the cupcake liner. I guess some people do it right on top of each other, but I did it kind of side and top on each other and it came out cute. Not quite perfect, but I liked the look.

The other experiment that I spent a few hours on this week turned out to be Chocolate Marshmallow Cupcakes. Well to be honest with you, I started out trying to make S'mores Cupcakes since one of my pals has requested it for her bday and I want them to be PERFECT. I have seen a lot of S'mores recipes on the blogs. But I didn't want to do the typical graham crust, choco cake with marshmallow topping.

Taste wise they came out amazing...but sorry it wasn't S'mores. They need WAY more graham cracker. So back to the drawing board. However, they were somewhat inspired by Sprinkles Chocolate Marshmallow cuppie...which I had last week while we celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary in Scottsdale, AZ, so it's not a total failure because those were bomb tasting. I definitely plan to make these beauties again and again.

Use your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe for these, I used the famous Epicurious 'most downloaded recipe' Chocolate Layer Cake. I filled them with marshmallow cream which is simply a bag of marshmallows, 1/4c milk, and 1/4c heavy cream heated up until it is all melty and warm. Let it cool up to 30 min and thicken, then cut out the tops of the cupcakes and spoon it in. Next time I will top them with marshmallow 7 minute frosting as well as have the cream inside, most people said it still needed more marshmallow, the chocolate was pretty intense. I dipped them in ganache for the tops, just using dark chocolate and heavy cream with some corn syrup. Still wondering about how to get the graham going in correctly.

While I noodle over how to make the base cupcakes turn into S'mores, I had to make actual S'mores for my hub and me on Friday night, yanno just to make sure I know what I'm trying to achieve. BTW, they were sinfully good, almost better than any gourmet dessert I have had. What's THAT about???

Friday, May 8, 2009

Puff Pastry Chocolate Croissants.

So here's the jist. I love croissants and took the class I wrote about here. But I didn't love the dough and outcome all that much. Too doughy, too bready, too thick. Still tasty, but I thought it could be much flakier.

I discovered according to the King Arthur Baking Cookbook that there were two ways to make croissants. With yeast and without. The former is what we made in the class...but the latter was intriguing.

I used the recipe in the book and set out to experiment. I am sure my buttering, folding, and turning methods were not totally spot on...it WAS my first time doing this all on my own. Who knows if I was making letters or orgami with my folds. But I kind of figured that as long as the butter got in, the dough and butter stayed cold, and I folded, turned, and chilled 5-6 times that it would pretty much be ok.

Erueka. I was right! I was worried that because this recipe had no yeast in it, these would turn out to be small croissants with not much lift. Surprise..the idea of keeping them cold in the fridge until baking straight into the hot oven, is so that the fat of the butter in the pockets of the dough can create steam and explode into the flaky layers we all love so much in croissants and other pastries.

The croissants rose nicely in the oven. So far I love this recipe. No worrying about rising time and puffs like crazy? I made most of them with chocolate, but I did try basting some with almond extract since I did not have time to get almond paste. And of course, I had to attempt Nutella..which was amazing.

Overall, this was a winning recipe BUT next time I will add sugar to the recipe. There was none in this recipe at all and while the fillings are sweet, they don't quite compensate for the lack of sugar in the dough. Also I'd put bit more salt.

The funny thing is that this is one of the only books/recipes that talks about making croissants with puff pastry non-yeasted dough. Pretty much every other recipe I found uses yeasted dough. Which leads me to believe that there must be some great flaketastic recipe that uses yeasted that is going to be fluffy and not bready like the ones we made in class.

Anyone got some yeasted flakealicious recipes that they want to push my way? I am on a mission now!! I want to make this recipe again with some mods, but then I want to try a few yeasted recipe for comparison's sake. Fatty buttery goodness, here I come!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Love in a Roll... Croissant Class.

Who doesn't love croissants? I love them in an unhealthy way. As in the last few times I have gone to Paris for work, I end up consuming about 2-3 per day while I am there. I would probably eat more but it's limited purely by the amount of time I have outside of meetings to search down and eat croissants.

Paris croissants are all seemingly incredibly flakey..so that when you bite into one, you immediately have a shower of buttery goodness down your front. No time for embarassment. Must eat more croissants.

So when my baking pal, Betty ala Miss EatMyCupcake, said let's take a class at Sur La Table, we both said Croissants. Having visited Paris just a week before the class, I had the memory of those flaketastic buttery morsels fresh on my tongue.

I love taking classes at Sur La Table. They have a huge kitchen, a fabulous setup, lots of great volunteers surrounding a usually pretty knowledgeable teacher. Cheese n' crackers, fresh water, bathroom breaks. LOVE IT. It makes the $80 you pay for the class for 2.5 hours seem more than worth it.

This class was no different than past classes in how much fun I had and how much I learned. We were taught how to make, butter, roll, turn, chill, cut, fill, and bake the croissants. The one thing that I did not love about this class was the croissant recipe. The instructor noted that there were hundreds out there and that they are all different. What she chose WAS a good beginner recipe. And it tasted fine, esp when filled.

BUT what we made and ate were not the crazy flakey croissants of my most recent memory. A bit more bready, and thick...thesee did not inspire a shower of buttery crumbs but rather the idea that you could easily slather some jam on them, and eat an extremely filling carb-laden breakfast with just one. However, the class itself was great...and I left there thinking about all the ways that I could make a better croissant. I couldn't let it lie...read on!! Next post.