Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cupcakes for your campfire

Okay, okay, I realize that s'mores cupcakes have been done a million times before, but honestly, who can resist?

There are plenty of recipes on the web to be had, but I selected this one since Martha Stewart has yet to fail me. I had also been looking for another reason to bust out my culinary torch (which I'm getting pretty good at using, thanks for asking).

Mmmm...toasted meringuey goodness tops off a rich, chocolate cake.

This is my last post for the month of May - we're off to Boston/Cape Cod for a little R&R (and maybe some cannoli sampling). I hear that Modern Pastry Shop has some of the best cannolis this side of the pond.

Chocolate Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow
Adapted from Martha Stewart

For cupcake: 
  • 2-1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 squares)
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

For frosting:
  • 8 large egg whites
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 

Make cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners; set aside.
Sift 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix ingredients together on low speed.

In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl and continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add boiling water and stir to combine; set cake batter aside.

Place graham cracker crumbs, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and melted butter in a large bowl; stir until well combined.

Place 1 tablespoon graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Use the bottom of a small glass to pack crumbs into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Reserve remaining graham cracker mixture for topping.

Place 2 teaspoons chocolate in each muffin cup. Transfer muffin tins to oven and bake until the edges of the graham cracker mixture is golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and fill each muffin cup three-quarters full with cake batter. Sprinkle each with remaining chocolate and graham cracker mixture. Return to oven and bake, rotating pans halfway through baking, until tops are firm and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer muffin tins to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely.

Make frosting:
Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.

Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined.

Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain round or French tip (such as Ateco #867 or Ateco #809). Pipe frosting in a spiral motion on each cupcake. Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet. Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the frosting, taking care not to burn the cupcake liners. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container, up to 2 days.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Taking the new culinary torch for a test drive

Feast your eyes on the newest addition to my kitchen gadget collection.

Yep, I finally purchased a culinary torch and today I took it for a test drive on a little creme brulee. Now as much as I would enjoy eating creme brulee daily for the rest of the week, I decided to make a batch just large enough for two. The recipe that I found was for a lemon version, but I also infused some fresh rosemary into it because we all know that citrus and herbs are a match made in heaven.

A special thanks to my friend Scott, for use of his food styling props and talent!

Lemon Rosemary Crème Brûlée for Two
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar*
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of the sugar, rosemary and the lemon zest.

In a small saucepan heat the cream over medium heat until warm. Do not allow cream to boil. Whisk in the sugar-zest-herb mixture, remove the pan from the heat and allow mixture to cool. Transfer to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour to allow the lemon and rosemary flavors to infuse into the cream.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

In a saucepan, reheat the cream mixture until warm, making sure the mixture does not boil. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks lightly and then drizzle in the warm cream, whisking to combine. Strain the cream mixture into (2) 6-ounce, shallow ramekins and place in a small baking dish. Add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake the custards in the middle of the oven until just set, 35 to 40 minutes. Carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath and let cool on wire racks. Chill, uncovered, at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

Remove ramekins from refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes before proceeding. Sprinkle the 1-1/2 teaspoons of sugar evenly over each of the custards. Using a culinary torch, caramelize the sugar by holding it so that the flame just touches the surface. Start at the center and spiral out toward the edges of the ramekins. If the sugar begins to burn, pull the torch away and blow on the sugar to extinguish the flame. Serve immediately.

Caramelizing the sugar evenly takes a bit of practice (I had a few too many charred areas).

*Update: after a little research I've found that many resources suggest using turbinado sugar for the sugar crust instead of granulated. I've modified the recipe to reflect this update.

If you do not own a culinary torch, don't fret - a modest broiler will also do the trick.

Preheat the broiler and remove the ramekins from the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes before proceeding. Sprinkle the 1-1/2 teaspoons of sugar evenly over each of the custards. Transfer the custards to a baking sheet and broil about 1-inch from the heat, until the sugar is caramelized, 1 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Ma

My mother would have celebrated her 60th birthday today. It has been nearly two years since she passed away after a brief battle with cancer.

How I miss her adorable laugh...and what I wouldn't give to receive one of her warm hugs (I think those were her specialty).

My fondest memories of my mother took place in the kitchen. She was an avid cook and baker, and introduced me and my sister to both at an early age. Although she's no longer here, she continues to inspire me every day.

Today, I celebrate you ma. Happy Birthday.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Vegan! Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Well, we have another May birthday on our hands, and it just so happens that the birthday boy is a vegan...d'oh!

Now, kudos to anyone who has ever made a delicious vegan pastry. The few that I have tasted were either lacking in the flavor department or had texture that wasn't quite right. Baking is an exact science, and it can be challenging to find suitable replacements for animal products that most recipes require.

So, instead of trying to "veganize" an existing recipe, I took the less ambitious route of finding a vegan recipe that I knew would be successful. It's from a book written by the hosts of the vegan cooking show, Post Punk Kitchen and it's called, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.

This vegan recipe book gets overwhelmingly awesome reviews, and with good reason - these cupcakes were marvelous! The only issue I had with this recipe was that the cupcakes stuck to the liners (the book suggests that you spray the cupcake liners which I neglected to do). ;(  I topped the cupcakes with some candied orange slices (recipe below).

Vegan! Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World

For the cupcakes:
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 4 Earl Grey teabags or 2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup plain soy yogurt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
For frosting:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted vegan butter (I used the Earth Balance brand)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
Make the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 375º and line tin with cupcake liners. In a small saucepan, heat soy milk until almost boiling, add tea bags and citrus zest, cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes.When ready to use, stir teabags and thoroughly squeeze to ensure as much tea is dissolved in milk as possible.

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, yogurt, sugar, vanilla and tea mixture until all yogurt lumps disappear. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into wet ingredients. Mix until large lumps disappear; some small lumps are okay. Fill tins full and bake about 20 minutes until a sharp knife inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool. Makes 1 dozen.

Make the frosting:

Cream the butter until smooth, gradually beat in the powdered sugar until the mixture is very fluffy. Zest the lemon over the bowl into the frosting, add the lemon juice and stir until smooth. Spread or pipe the frosting on cooled cupcakes.

Candied Orange Slices
Adapted from Food and Wine - Grace Parisi
  • 1-1/2 cups water 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1 navel orange, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
In a medium skillet, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Add the orange slices and cook over moderate heat, turning them occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a thin syrup and the orange slices are translucent, about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer until the syrup is thick and the slices are tender but still intact, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer the orange slices to a rack to cool. Reserve the syrup for another use.

The candied orange slices can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cupcake month kick-off

Several people I know are celebrating birthdays in May, and I have already been thinking about what I would be making for each of them.

In a word, cupcakes...looks like I'll be cranking out several varieties this month.

Tonight I'm headed to a party and was searching for the perfect dessert to bring along. One of my blog followers recently suggested that I make tiramisu and I was happy to oblige. I found this recipe for tiramisu cupcakes, which I thought was a nice take on the classic Italian cake.

The cupcake version is ideal since it's individually portioned, and the presentation is more appealing than using a sheet or loaf pan. My insatiable need for more housewares forced me into purchasing one of those cupcake carriers (they are great, BTW), so now these bad boys are even more portable.

Tiramisu Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart

For the cupcakes:
  • 1-1/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 3 large whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
For the coffee-marsala syrup:
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly brewed very strong coffee (or espresso)
  • 1 ounce marsala wine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
For the mascarpone frosting:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
Make the coffee-marsala syrup:
Stir together coffee, marsala, and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Let cool.

Make the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Heat milk and vanilla-bean pod and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat just until bubbles appear around the edge. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter until melted, and let stand 15 minutes. Strain milk mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, and discard vanilla-bean pod.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk together whole eggs, yolks, and sugar. Set mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk by hand until sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm, about 6 minutes. Remove bowl from heat. With an electric mixer on high speed, whisk until mixture is fluffy, pale yellow, and thick enough to hold a ribbon on the surface for several seconds when whisk is lifted.

Gently but thoroughly fold flour mixture into the egg mixture in three batches; stir 1/2 cup batter into the strained milk mixture to thicken, then fold milk mixture into the remaining batter until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until centers are completely set and edges are light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. 

Make the mascarpone frosting:
With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk heavy cream until stiff peaks form (be careful not to overbeat, or cream will be grainy). In another bowl, whisk together mascarpone and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Gently fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture until completely incorporated.

To finish, pierce tops of cupcakes with fork and brush evenly with coffee-marsala syrup; repeat until all syrup has been used. Allow cupcakes to absorb liquid 30 minutes. Dollop frosting onto cupcakes; refrigerate up to overnight in airtight containers. Dust generously with cocoa powder just before serving.