Monday, February 14, 2011

C is for Cookie...and Cupcake

Kate will be two tomorrow! It's really hard to believe how fast the time has gone by. I showed her some pictures of cupcakes she could take to daycare for her birthday, and she shouted an enthusiastic "WOW!" to some chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes. This is a semi-homemade type of recipe - it starts from a devil's food boxed cake mix, and the cookie dough/cookies are from a Pillsbury refrigerator roll. A little ball of cookie dough is placed in the center of each cupcake before baking. The only alteration I made to the original recipe is omitting the espresso. I figured since the cupcakes would be eaten by a group of toddlers, the extra caffeine wasn't needed. Plus, we love our daycare provider and didn't want to plague her with six hyper kids! Decorations include mini chocolate chips and a chocolate chip cookie wedged in the vanilla buttercream frosting. I think they turned out really cute, and Kate is thrilled with them! Check out My Baking Addiction for the recipe.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

All You Need is Love...and Cupcakes

Red Velvet is perhaps my favorite cake. I love it with vanilla cream cheese frosting. The red color of the cake makes it a perfect confection for Valentine's Day. And I found some cute Valentine's Day cupcake liners and sprinkles at Target, which I think make these cupcakes particularly cute. I used the large, round tip (one of my new tips from Bake it Pretty) to pipe the frosting. The recipe is from My Baking Addiction. I can't yet comment on taste because I am saving them to take to work tomorrow, but they look like they will be moist. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It's Just the Tip

I've been on a cupake kick the last few days. We enjoyed a low key weekend in, and I baked a couple batches of cupcakes - chocolate chocolate chip with chocolate cream cheese frosting and a plain chocolate cupcake with the same frosting.

The inspiration for my other batch of cupcakes, lemon ones with a lemon cream cheese frosting, came from a co-worker. Every Tuesday, I bring baked goodies into work. Last week, one of my co-workers was quite upset that he didn't get a piece of cake, as our other gluttonous colleagues had eaten it all. To make it up to him, I promised a special treat this week. This particular co-worker loves lemon desserts, so I searched for a lemon cupcake. Not only did the recipe turn out deliciously, but I learned about cupcake decorating tips from the blog where I got the recipe. I never knew how bakers piped such beautiful frosting on cupcakes; my standard tips didn't do the trick. But these huge cupcake tips are fantastic! I ordered them from Bake It Pretty on Friday afternoon, and they came in Monday's mail.

The cupcake itself was one of the best I've ever made. The cake is a white cake infused with lemon, achieved by massaging lemon zest into the sugar before adding the butter, and some lemon extract. The cake was light and fluffy with a nice crumb. The frosting was also delicious - a basic cream cheese frosting with lemon juice added. I was sure to add enough confectioners sugar to make the frosting stiff enough to pipe with my new tips. I had some yellow decorating sugar on hand, so I did a sprinkling of that for a classic, understated look. I think it's my best work yet, aesthetically speaking! Can't wait to use the tips for my daughter's birthday cupcakes!

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
makes 24 cupcakes

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
lemon zest from two lemons
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cupcake tins by using liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray

To Make The Cake: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extracts, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Place the batter into the cupcake tins.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.
Cool on wire rack.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 (8) ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
2 lbs. confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
juice of one lemon

Using a mixer, blend the butter and cream cheese together until well combined. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar until fully incorporated. Finally mix in vanilla and lemon juice.

January Cookbook Club: A Better Burger?

I love a good burger, which can be pretty hard to find. I was excited to see that the Cookbook Club selection for January was a burger, especially since we tend not to have burgers all that much in the colder months. (Can I express how much I can't wait for all of the snow on and around the grill to melt and warmer weather to arrive?) I was also excited to see that this recipe came from a James Beard cookbook: Beard on Food. The recipe was simple, perhaps a little too simple for my taste, but it was certainly juicy. I have become a fan of Bobby Flay burgers, which often have an elaborate list of spices, fun sauces, and interesting cheeses. But, for a simple burger, this one was good. I think I would have preferred it on the grill than in a pan - it seemed to get a bit greasy cooked in a cast iron skillet. I will certainly try this recipe again when grilling season gets here, and I'll probably add some fresh herbs to the mix.

2 pounds of top-quality chopped round or chuck
2 tablespoons of grated onion (use a fine grater so you get just the juice and finely grated onion)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Black pepper
Olive oil
Buttered buns or English muffins

Spread out ground beef on a board and grate the onion into it. Mix in the cream and freshly ground black pepper. Form into patties (I like 6 to 8 ounce patties for an average setting).

Hamburger is best cooked in a heavy skillet with a combination of butter and oil, which prevents the butter from burning when you cook at high heat… gives a crustier, juicier hamburger than broiling. Cook your hamburger in a heavy skillet (use less fat for Teflon, but a little for flavor) over fairly high heat, giving it 4 to 5 minutes on each side, depending on how well done you like it.

Salt the creamy, oniony, peppery hamburger before serving it on a buttered bun or English muffin with sliced tomatoes and onions.