Sunday, October 30, 2011

These Cupcakes Are So Good, It's Scaaaaaaary!

a) I'm thinking of changing the name of this blog to The Baking Sarah. Time to pull your weight, sisters.

b) Tomorrow is Halloween! I had a long-simmering plan to make these delicious cupcakes for Halloween, but with the special limited-edition Halloween Oreos with the orange cream filling. Unfortunately, last year I simply could not find said Oreos in Providence, and so I had to be content with making regular ones. I was very content, though - they were delicious! All the rich, satisfying creaminess of Oreo cheesecake, all in a convenient cupcake-size package. What could be better? Anyway, the plan continued to simmer in my mind, and when I saw the orange Oreos at my local supermarket here in the Greatest City on Earth, I nabbed them! (Never mind that Halloween was more than three weeks away - in my cabinet they sat until they were ready to meet their delicious, delicious fate.) I brought them in to work for a special Halloween edition of Baked Goods Fridays. I have to say, I feared that I was pushing the limits of what people in my office were willing to eat at 9 a.m. with these babies, but they came through, and all the cupcakes were gone by lunchtime!

There's one thing I must warn you about. I probably should have caught on to the fact that a recipe containing two pounds of cream cheese would make a LOT of cupcakes, but I naively believed Martha Stewart when she said it would make 30. Try 60. After I had filled all the Oreo-bottomed cups with batter, I still had half the batter left over, so I made 30 more without any Oreos at the bottom. They were still good, but the crunch of the Oreo (not to mention the special color) combined with the smoothness of the cheesecake is what makes this cupcake a winner. So next time I will halve the recipe. Or buy more Oreos!

You can find the recipe here. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fallen Souffle for Fall

I don't know if anyone here uses a blog reader (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) to bookmark stuff they want to make. Maybe some of the Baking Sisters' recipes are even on your blog reader, in which case, we're flattered. Anyway, I have no such thing, but I have a rather long-running blog reader in my head. Because it's in my head, a recipe has to really be something special in order to get on this most exclusive of lists. I saw this recipe from Tartelette when she first posted it - in December 2009 - and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since. This is partly thanks to the gorgeous photographs (all the photography on that site is gorgeous), but also because I thought it sounded like such a delicious, elegant recipe. Yet for some reason, I never found the time to make it. Then, one Tuesday evening, my mom came home from the CSA (something that white people do) with a bag full of tiny pears, and I vowed that I would finally take the time to make this recipe.

Honestly, I don't know why I didn't make it before - it really doesn't take much time at all, since you can poach the pears and make the batter basically simultaneously. It was very tasty, although different than I expected. The texture was much more substantial and cake-like than past souffles I've made, but I don't think I overcooked it. Also, as you can see from contrasting my photos with Tartelette's, the pears didn't collapse into the cake but rather baked inside it. Whatever, it didn't matter, it still tasted delicious. And seriously, if you didn't already, go to the original recipe page and look at the photos, they are stunning. No wonder I remembered this recipe for almost two years.

Poached Pear And Almond Fallen Souffle Cakes
From Tartelette

Makes 6

Note: you can core the pears from the bottom to about 1 inch from the top with an apple corer but these are so tiny that I just removed the stem button at the bottom. Everything else in the core baked to very soft texture and the seeds were easy to remove while eating (kind of like tails on baked shrimp).

For the poached pears:
6 mini d'Anjou pears, peeled (or other small pears like Forelles or Seckel)
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2-3 cloves
2-3 cardamom pods
1 stick cinnamon
5-6 allspice berries
1-2 star anise
1/2 lemon
4 cups (1 liter) water

For the cakes:
3 tablespoons (40gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (190ml) heavy cream
1 cup ground almonds (blanched or skin on - your preference)
1/4 cup (40gr) sorghum flour (or use 1/4 cup all purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder

Prepare the pears:
Place the pears, spices, lemon and water in tall saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower the heat and let them simmerfor 15-20 minutes or until the pears are just soft (poke with a toothpick to check).
Remove from the water using a slotted spoon and allow to cool on paper towel or baking rack.

Prepare the cakes:
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
Slightly butter or spray 6 ramekins and place them on a baking sheet. Set aside.
In the bowl if an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffly (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one a time and beat well in between each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla, heavy cream, almonds, flour and baking powder and beat until incorporated. Fill each ramekins about 1/3 full with the batter and place a poached pear in the center.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review: Cupcakes of DC

So two weeks ago I went to Washington, DC for the weekend to visit friends from Brown and Cambridge. It was marvelous to see them, but obviously the most important task any time one is in a new city is to check out the local cupcake scene. My friend Lara said she would take me to the famous Georgetown Cupcake, while my friend Rocio took me to Baked and Wired (so called because there's a coffee shop attached), which is also located in Georgetown. Here are my thoughts:

Baked and Wired ($3.50 each) got immediate points for its funky vibe and decor, which verged on the weird. Not that I think funky vibes and weird decor are automatically an asset; it's just that cupcake shops are usually so twee and precious that it was nice to step into one that didn't look like it was decorated by a six-year-old girl with a fetish for pink stuff. (Mind you, it's not really a cupcake shop but more of a general bakery, so maybe that explains it.) I had a hard time picking a flavor because they had a really wide and inventively-named selection, but eventually I went with Texas Sheet Cake, which is a chocolate-cinnamon cupcake with a chocolate-pecan praline frosting. It was large and very delicious! The cake was moist and more cinnamon-y than I had expected, but the kick of the spice was a good contrast with the maybe-a-touch-too-sweet frosting. (That didn't stop me from splitting half the cupcake with Rocio, who ate the cake while I ate the frosting. Then I had a stomach ache, but the good kind.)

Lara and I ordered from the famous Georgetown Cupcake ($2.75 each) so as to avoid the equally famous line. I highly recommend taking this route. Georgetown Cupcake definitely suffers from the whole pink-fetishist issue - why are so many cupcake shops specifically designed to make any male who walks into them feel gay? Straight guys can like cupcakes! - and the flavors aren't as original as the ones at Baked and Wired. With some trepidation, I ordered a red velvet and a peanut butter fudge (a Sunday special), knowing that neither was my favorite flavor.

I was anxious, with only the anxiety that cupcakes can inspire - what if it turned out to be a case of over-hype, as with Sprinkles in LA? Turns out I needn't have worried. These were some of the best cupcakes I've ever had! Although Baked and Wired was a very strong contender, these were even better; they might have even been better than my beloved Crumbs! For one thing, they were a perfect size; Lara and I cut both of them in half and shared them, and it was just right. The red velvet in particular might just make me into a red velvet convert - it was totally luscious, with the perfect frosting-to-cake ratio. And just look at this picture of the peanut butter fudge and tell me that it doesn't make you hungry.

So all in all, a very successful trip. I'll have to go back soon and try other cupcake places, like Hello Cupcake and the Red Velvet Cupcakery, which we passed on our way home (and where I can test my new opinion of red velvet!)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

BAKED Sunday Mornings: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

This week's choice for Baked Sunday Mornings, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, used one of the strangest methods I have ever encountered.  First, you essentially make oatmeal with boiling water and butter and then you fold it into a cake batter.  It may be strange, but it works because this is definitely one of my favorite recipes that we have made so far.  The cake had a nice chewy texture, the chocolate chips added a nice layer of flavor and the cream cheese frosting was divine.  It might be a little intense for a regular morning breakfast, but it makes a nice morning treat or a yummy dessert.

Today is the day after Yom Kippur, a fast day in the Jewish calendar.  It is a really busy time of year for me and not a great time to be baking but this was really easy to put together and made a good break fast last night.  I will be making this again.
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