Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Seriously Amazing Black Bottom Cupcakes

If you like black bottom cupcakes, or the combination of chocolate and cheesecake, you have to try these cupcakes.  I like black bottom cupcakes, but I haven't had them in a while.  We had a bunch of cream cheese sitting in the fridge and I had seen these on cookie madness, so I decided to try these out.

Anna, the author of cookie madness, spent a few days making different recipes to come up with the ultimate black bottom cupcake recipe and I am glad she did.  She is a genius!  And so sweet.  When I commented on her blog that I liked the cupcakes, she took the time to visit our blog and write me a nice email back.  

Anyway, back to the greatness of these cupcakes.  They are really simple to make, even though they involve two different kinds of batter.  You just scoop some of the cream cheese into the chocolate cake and stick them in the oven.  There was some left over cream cheese batter, so I decided to do an experiment.  I crushed up some graham crackers and put them in the bottom of the cupcake tins and then baked three mini cheesecakes.  They were quite good too, and a nice way to use up the leftover batter.

These freeze really well and defrost quickly (I had to put them in the freezer to keep from eating them all at once).  A delicious treat!

You can find the recipe here.  I skipped the chocolate chips, but they were still yummy.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cupcakes for a 21-Year-Old

Oh hey there. Remember me? I used to write blog posts here.

Yes, it's been a while. But to be fair, I've just gotten back from a six-week trip across Europe. It was supposed to be a five-week trip, but plumes of volcanic ash will not be denied. And I came back to Cambridge for a week in the middle, but it was Passover and so no baking was happening.

I went to many interesting and wonderful places and saw many interesting and wonderful sights, but for me this trip was all about the FOOD. After three months of English "cuisine" I was desperate for some good food, and I got it, both barrels. I ate schwarma in Jerusalem, crepes in Paris, tapas in Madrid, gnocchi in Bologna and the famous laugencroissant in Berlin. (Well, sort of: Rebecca sent me this before I left and I spent my whole week in Berlin looking for a laugencroissant. While I finally found one at the train station on my last day, I don't think it was actually a laugencroissant, since it had no salt or pretzel taste and seemed to be just a croissant. Disappointing.)

My main food pilgrimage, though, was to the French patisserie Pierre Herme, where are made the world's most famous macarons. I had heard them built up enormously by various sources and had to try them for myself. Yes, they cost a ridiculous amount of money for little cookies, but it was a 21st birthday indulgence!

Let me tell you: despite the considerable build-up they had received, they did not disappoint, even a little bit. They were heavenly! I got one chocolate, one caramel, one chocolate passionfruit and, on the recommendation of my hostess, one balsamic vinegar! I'm so glad I did - the balsamic vinegar was definitely my favorite.

I was even exposed to a little ethnic flavor in the old Jewish ghetto of Venice:

Venetian hamantaschen. The Italian name translates to "ears of Haman."

All in all, this trip was one of the best things I've ever done. But I am so glad to be home: back with my friends, my stuff and, of course, my oven! The first thing I did when I got home was look up a recipe to make, because I knew Rebecca and Rachel were going to kick me off the blog if I didn't update soon. I went with one that I've been wanting to make for a very long time but have never had the wherewithal to make in the U.S. with its stupid drinking age. Yes, that's right: beer cupcakes.

Now, I don't actually like beer. And I realize that alcohol gets cooked out of baked goods. I have known this since my friend Molly ate some rum-containing dessert when we were 17 and staggered around saying, "I think I'm drunk," until someone explained to her that the alcohol got cooked out. Then she magically sobered up. BUT ANYWAY. The liquor-purchasing age here in the UK is 18, so I've actually been okay for a while. But I thought, wouldn't it be appropriate for my first baking adventure as a 21-year-old to involve beer?

As I said, I've been wanting to make this recipe, from Dozen Flours, basically since I saw it. It looked, in a world, sumptuous. But so many of my housemates were still stranded across Europe as of Friday that I didn't want to make the whole enormous cake; I didn't think it would get eaten in time. So I halved the recipe and made cupcakes. But it must truly be a "mega" cake, because even after halving the recipe I still had 30 cupcakes on my hands.

At first, I found the cupcakes to be...well, not disappointing, but not entirely appointing either. (That's a thing people say, right?) It was sort of dry and nondescript, and the bottom of the cupcake stuck to its wrapper. I didn't have time to make the frosting because the Sabbath was coming so I let them sit overnight. And when I ate one the next day (with frosting), it tasted so much better! On Dozen Flours Julia said the cake tastes best after 48 hours, so I'm going to have one after lunch today - should be magnificent!

I've copied the recipe from Dozen Flours, which is for cake. If you want to make it into cupcakes, bake them for around 20 minutes.

Chocolate Stout Mega Cake

2 cups stout* such as Guinness (pour the beer slowly and don't include the foam in your measurement)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)

4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups full-fat sour cream, at room temperature

2 cups whipping cream
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
(if your ganache doesn't set, you may need several (1-6 cups) of powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides or 2 10 or 12-inch cake pans. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add about 1/2 cup of the stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and mix very slowly to temper it (this will help you to avoid scrambling the eggs) and beat just to combine. Repeat the process another three times (for a total of 2 cups) and then add the remainder of the stout-chocolate mixture.

Add the flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed - scrape the bowl a few times to look for hidden flour pockets but be careful not to over mix! Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely. Cover and store for a minimum of 24 hours before frosting.

For icing:
Bring cream to a very low simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about 2 hours.

Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake. If you're only making two layers, use 1 cup between the layers and spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.

Decorate any way you'd like or just leave it plain. Keep covered and store in the fridge or the counter.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Happy Birthday to Husband

Friday was my husband's birthday.  As readers of this blog know, he is not a chocolate person.  Not even a little.  So when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, I knew what he wasn't going to say.  He is a big lover of all things lemon and berry, but he left it up to me to figure out exactly what it would look like.

I have made Dorie's French Yogurt cake a number of times and I thought it would make a good base for the birthday cake.  It is super simple to make and has a nice, but not overpowering lemon flavor.  To make the lemon flavor really pop, I decided to make one of my favorite recipes -- Dorie's Most Extraordinary Lemon Cream.  Now, there are those out there in blog land who claim that this lemon cream has too much butter.  There is a lot -- I will agree with that -- but it is AMAZING.  I would not eat it every day (if you did, you would have a serious heart problem), but for a special treat, it is really delicious.  

I made half the recipe for the lemon cream, which turned out to be not quite enough to cover the whole cake, but it came out with a nice rustic look.  I sliced the cake into three layers and put a layer of lemon cream and a layer of sliced raspberries between each one.  I then decorated the top with whole raspberries, which looked nice but made it difficult to cut.

This cake got rave reviews.  You can make all the parts a day in advance, but I would assemble it a couple of hours before serving.  You should make this for the non-chocolate eater in your life!

You can find the recipe for French Yogurt Cake here (I didn't do the glaze)

You can find the recipe for Lemon Cream here (I halved it)

All you need is a pint of fresh raspberries (or strawberries or blueberries) and you are ready to go.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

MSC: Regular Sized Cream-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

If you read this blog, you know we have a fondness for hostess cupcakes and trying to recreate them.  This month for Martha Stewart Cupcake Club, Jess from Cookbook Habit chose Jumbo Cream-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes, from page 133 of the book, and you can be sure I was excited to try them.  They helped me to continue my quest for the perfect hostess substitute.

Now, in many ways, I made this cupcake quite different from the one in the book.  First, I don't have a jumbo muffin pan, so I used a regular sized one.  I got 19 cupcakes (although I filled some of them too full, so I should have gotten more) and I baked them for 20 minutes.  They were a little dry, so I think 18 minutes would have been better.  However, the color is awesome.  The ones in the book are really light colored, but I used a very dark cocoa power and I love the color of the cupcakes.

Then, I didn't have any Marshmallow Fluff, which is the only kosher brand of Marshmallow Cream.  I just could not justify buying that huge container for such a small amount, so I used the recipe that Sarah used when she recreated hostess, minus the orange food coloring.  It was delicious and I did not miss the marshmallow flavor at all.  I also did not hollow out the bottoms, as Martha suggests, and instead just shoved a piping bag into the top of the cupcake.  I should have followed her directions though, because the filling to cake ratio was not right.  I wanted more filling, especially since the cupcakes were a bit dry.  I really enjoyed making the squiggles on these, and I think they came out pretty nicely.  I am loving my new piping bag.

Finally, Martha does not put any frosting on hers.  That was not an option for me.  First, I really like frosting.  Second, my cupcakes fell big time in the middle,  and I needed something to cover up their ugliness.  I used the chocolate ganache glaze I had left over from making the s'mores cupcakes and it worked really well.  It did not get too hard and I thought it added a nice flavor to the cupcakes.  I would definitely recommend a chocolate glaze on these.  It also adds to the moistness of them.

Overall, I really enjoyed these cupcakes.  I would like to try them again and bake them less, in order to increase the moisture, but I thought they had a really nice flavor.  I think I am getting closer to my hostess goal.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Get Your Antioxidants: Dessert Style

I have a few theories about why I was the sister who was originally left off of the blog. The first is that my sisters like to gang up on me. The second is that I was not living with them at the time that the blog was conceived. The third is that, unlike Rebecca and Sarah, I do get a little squeamish about recipes that call for endless amounts of butter. And the fourth is that I lack much of their fancy equipment and patience for baking things that require endless steps.

So while the truth may never be known, this green tea and applesauce cake from Kosher by Design Lightens Up that I made is an excellent rebuttal to those who would say that baking has to be complicated, and that things have to be bad for you to taste good. This cake is more of a spice cake than anything else, and I really love the flavors of ginger and cinnamon that flavor the lightness of the cake. Susie Fishbein writes about the benefits of the antioxidants in green tea, but mostly, I would recommend this cake because it's delicious.

I've made this cake three times now, and this time I finally got it right. It's really easy to make-- the challenge is just making sure that you bake it for just the right amount of time. Otherwise, it ends up either a little dry, or kind of raw in the middle. I haven't tried this yet, but my hunch is that it would also make some really delicious muffins.

Green Tea-Applesauce Cake
From Kosher-by-Design Lightens Up, by Susie Fishbein
1/3 cup coarsly chopped raw, blanched almonds
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons almond or vanilla soy milk
1 green tea bag
1 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Icing (optional):
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1-2 teaspoons remaining brewed tea
Make the topping by combining the almonds, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside.
Spray a 9-inch round springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 325.
In a small saucepot, heat soy milk over medium heat just until bubbles start to form around the edge of the pot. Remove from the heat and add the tea bag. Let steep for 3-4 minutes; stir to make sure it steeps, and then remove the bag.
In a small bowl, combine the applesauce, oil, honey and egg. Set aside.
Sift together the flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves. Add the applesauce mix and 1/2 cup of the brewed tea. Stir just until combined. Pour in the prepared pan and sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
Make the icing: In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and 1-2 teaspoons of the remaining brewed tea. Stir until the lumps are gone and it is of good drizzling consistency. With a small spoon, drizzle the icing in a zigzag pattern over the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Now that that's over...Brrr-ownies

Now that Passover is over, I am so happy to be back to baking with flour and other yummy ingredients.  I ran into one glitch, which is that my mixer is still in its Passover location -- on top of the closet -- and it is too heavy for me to take down alone (husband is away).  I knew the baking had to be something that I could make without a mixer and these brownies fit the bill.

I have made these once before, with chopped peppermint patties and the patties kind of dissolved into the batter.  This time, I used York Peppermint Pattie Premiere Baking Pieces (I found them in the chocolate chip asile) which worked much better since they did not dissolve.  I think it had something to do with all the mint being surrounded by chocolate, which helps it keep its shape in the brownie.

These were good, but I thought that the mint flavor kind of overwhelmed the chocolate flavor.  I would like a little more balance, but for those who love mint, these are for you.  They are very frosty!  Don't be alarmed if they come out kind of flat.  That is just what they look like.

Recipe after the jump.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Ethnic Flavor: Passover Dessert Roundup Part II

Ebony and Ivory from Kosher By Design (and Passover by Design)

Do you ever make a dessert that looks so fancy that people oooh and ahhh over it, but you feel secretly smug because it didn't take very long and it wasn't very hard?  This is one of those desserts.  I have mande it many, many times and it always comes out great.  The only tiny tweak that I would make is that the coffee flavor seemed to be stronger this time than other times I have made it.  It might be the kosher for Passover coffee, so just be careful if you don't like coffee.  Usually the coffee just enhances the flavor of the chocolate.   The best Passover chocolate I have found is Alprose Swiss baking chocolate.  If you can't find it near where you are, I ordered it from Oh Nuts!  They are a great website and I highly recommend them.  This dessert was a total hit with everyone at the table.  It is also wonderful because it requires no fake Passover ingredients.  Everything is already kosher for Passover!

Mama Penny's Lace Cookies

The first Passover my husband and I spent together, he asked me to make lace cookies (as though everyone knows what those are).  It turns out they are a combination of matzah farfel, sugar, eggs, margarine, almonds and a little bit of luck.  They are a little bit like florentines, but because they are for Passover, they are very, very thin and sticky.  The recipe comes from my mother-in-law, by way of a friend of hers.  

They are good cookies on their own, but this year I made them even better by adding a twist.  I sandwiched two cookies together with chocolate (I used leftover dark and white from the cake) and they were delicious.  My husband thinks I ruined them, since he doesn't like chocolate, but we had some of both so there was something for everyone.

A silicon mat is a MUST here, otherwise your cookies will stick like crazy.  Seriously.  We have made them without one, and they often end up a in a crumbled (but delicious) mess.

Recipes for the cake and the cookies are after the jump.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ethnic Flavor: Passover Roundup (Part I)

So, I thought I was going to be all ahead of the game and make and post about all my Passover desserts before the first seder.  However, the oven gods were conspired against me, and our oven died on Saturday night.  Luckily, we have a very generous neighbor who allowed us to kasher her extra oven for Passover, but by then we were many hours behind.  These desserts just made it under the wire.  However, there are still five more days of the holiday, which is more than enough time to try some of these desserts.  Without further ado, I present the Passover dessert roundup, Part I.

Mixed Berry Crisp from Couldn't Be Parve

This is one delicious dessert.  And it is so easy!  All you do is mix together a few pounds of fruit (Shoshana uses strawberries and rhubarb, we used a combination of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries) with a few other things, top with a basic crumble topping and cook.  Yum!  Everyone at the seder loved it and the leftovers have been just as good.  It would be delicious with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if you are having a dairy meal (or don't keep kosher).  You can find the recipe here.  Even if you think you are not a cook or a baker, you can make this...and you should!  Brooke is going to try making it with apples.  Perhaps she will leave a comment letting us know how it turned out.

Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake from Baking and Books

This cake was good, but I think I overcooked it, and so it would have been a lot better if that had not happened (remember I was working with an unfamiliar oven).  It was very light, which was nice after the seder, unlike flourless chocolate cakes which tend to be heavy.  It puffed up nicely in the oven and fell when I took it out, but after a dusting of powdered sugar, it was very pretty.  The orange flavor from the zest (I skipped the alcohol) was very subtle the first day, and intensified as the days went on.  I liked the combination of flavors, but if you don't like orange and chocolate, this cake might not be for you after the first day.  You can find the recipe here.

Success Cake from My Most Favorite Dessert Company Cookbook

I think this needs to be renamed -- failure cake.  The meringue part went fine, and then it came to the buttercream.  I don't know if it is because of the differences between Passover and regular margarine (the recipe was written to be non-dairy) but the frosting would not come together.  It looked disgusting -- like cottage cheese that had been on the counter too long.  I tried three times and it had the same problem each time.  I don't know if it was the margarine or the fact that the recipe called for sugar syrup to be heated to 240 degrees, which seemed too hot in my experience, but it was a total failure.  In the end, I just cut up the large pieces of meringue into smaller cookies, which didn't look pretty but tasted good.  I am posting the recipe just for the meringues, since the frosting was so terrible.  I have made other things from this book and they have been fine, so I think it was just Passover or something.

Success Cake Meringues
2 1/4 cups ground almonds
1 tablespoon potato starch
6 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 200 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine almonds and potato starch.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixture fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy.  Increase the speed to high and gradually add the sugar, beating until the meringue is glossy and holds peaks.

With a rubber spatula, fold in ground almonds and potato starch, gently but throughly.

Pipe onto cookie sheet in desired shape.

Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes and allow them to cook on the baking sheets.
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