Sunday, March 21, 2010

bake-A-Long #13 - Peanut Butter Ingot (cupcakes)

I love peanut butter, so I was excited about these guys, which consist of ground toasted almonds, powdered sugar, browned clarified butter, flour, egg whites, and peanut butter. These were supposed to be baked in a special pan, but I used a cupcake pan as a substitute.

The almonds were toasted, butter was browned.

The batter came together simply.

The verdict: I was slightly disappointed in the flavor. I felt the flavor was a little flat, like it was missing something. Salt maybe? The texture was nice. They were heavy little cakes but moist and not too dense. If I made these again I think I would try putting some salt in the batter and maybe filling them with something. Any suggestions?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bake-A-Long #12 - Orange Sour Cream Cake

So, I didn't exactly follow the directions this week. First, I omitted the poppy seeds and second, I used orange zest/juice instead of lemon (that's what I had in my fridge).
It turned out great.

The pictures are lacking this week. As you can see, the cake stuck slightly, but I don't think anyone cares what the cake looks like when it is as tender and moist as this one was.
I was afraid that substituting the the lemon juice in the syrup for an orange syrup might make it too sweet. But the sweetness level turned out fine.
This will go on the bake again list and I do intend to follow the directions next time and give the lemon and poppy seeds a try.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bake-A-Long #11 - Yellow Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Egg White Buttercream

This week was free choice week for the Heavenly Cake Bakers group. That means we could bake whatever Heavenly Cake recipe we wanted that had already been baked but we missed out on. I chose the yellow butter cupcakes with chocolate egg white buttercream. I actually baked these guys a few weeks ago to bring to "Game Night" at a friends house. They were a hit.

I used Greek style yogurt in the batter. I love this stuff. It is the creamiest, richest yogurt out there. I buy the full fat version, but it is available in reduced fat as well. If you haven't tried it, do it. I use the plain, unsweetened kind and add honey or preserves to sweeten it when I want to eat it plain, and use it to cook with as well. I actually read in Cook's Illustrated the other day that to use it as a replacement for regular yogurt in recipes, use 2/3 of the Greek yogurt and 1/3 part milk to account for the additional fat and lower water content in the Greek versus traditional yogurt. They said that in their tests, when a 1:1 substitution was used, their cakes came out drier. I will try this next time, but I did not have a problem with dryness in this cupcake recipe. The texture was great. Plenty moist.

I didn't take any pictures of the buttercream making process. I was too busy fretting over it. This was only the second or third time that I have made a real buttercream. I get nervous every time because I actually threw away my first buttercream attempt a few years ago because I didn't think it would ever come together. I then learned that if I would have just kept on mixing, it probably would have been fine. So, that's my advice for making buttercream: keep mixing. It may look like a curdled mess, but most likely it will come together. That's what this chocolate buttercream did as well, it looked horrible and then magically it emulsifies into a beautiful tasty frosting. Everyone loved the flavor as well.

These cupcakes + chocolate buttercream will be made again. I made 12 regular sized and 6-8 minis (I cannot remember exactly how many I yielded). The minis went fast. As soon as someone ate one, they wanted another. I think this is my favorite yellow cake recipe so far.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bake-A-Long #10 - True Orange Genoise (Attempt)

OK. I'll start out by telling you that this cake was a flop. The curd and ganache turned out great, but I think I win the award for shortest genoise (more about that later).

For the curd, I used the poor neglected Florida sour orange. You can find these trees growing wild in various places around the state. They are pretty much good trees turned sour. The fruit made a wonderful curd and my mother-in-law also makes an awesome sour orange pie with them (think key lime pie but with sour oranges).

Now for the cake. The batter started out fine. My eggs whipped up nicely. I mixed them for the minimum 5 minutes but they appeared quadrupled in volume. The batter really started to fall when I put in the butter/egg mixture. I knew once I put it in the pan something wasn't right. But, I thought maybe I'd get lucky and it would rise more in the oven.

No such luck.

Well, I wasn't going to attempt to cut a 1/2 inch cake in half. So, I had this grand idea of slicing it down the middle to make it look like an orange slice once finished. Ha.
Unfrosted it looked more like a grilled cheese.

I syruped it up, frosted and "decorated" with curd. Not my most beautiful cake ever.

Despite the fact that this was the densest, chewiest cake I have ever made, it still was not bad. If I do attempt to make it again, I might stay away from the genoise and make a butter cake instead.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bake-A-Long #9: Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

Internal monologue inside my head today:
"Hmm, make cupcakes or go buy more ramekins. Cupcakes or ramekins. I intended to buy more ramekins earlier this week because I need more anyways. But I didn't and it's now time to bake. Do I want to go to the store? No. Cupcakes it is then. I'm not sure how it's gonna work out, but I'm doing it."

A conversation between Matt and I pre baking:
Me: "I'm making mini pineapple upside down cakes today"
Matt: "What! I don't like fruit and cake"
Me: "Well too bad, don't eat it then"

Conversation between Matt and I post baking:
Matt: "Let me try a bite of your cupcake"
Me: "Hold on, let me take a picture first"
Matt (after eating two bites): "This is pretty good"
Matt (an hour and two cupcakes later): "These are really good"
Me: :P (that's me sticking my tongue out at him to say don't complain next time until after you taste what I've made and even if it wasn't good you're lucky you have a wife that bakes for you).

Disclaimer - Although you may not be able to tell from the above conversations, we are both adults.

OK. Now to the cake details. To make the caramel sauce, the sugar, pineapple juice, and butter were cooked until the mixture was a medium brown color. I didn't bother with the thermometer this time because the thermocouple does not reach into such a small amount of liquid. Going by color appearance alone seemed to work for me. This was poured into the cupcake liners.

The problem with making this cake into cupcakes is that you cannot fit a whole pineapple slice into each cavity. Therefore, I had to cut each slice into pieces, which is fine, but it just doesn't look as nice when complete.

The batter was then poured over the top and baked for about 20 minutes. I yielded 9 cupcakes. I then had to make the decision of whether or not to unmold them or leave them in the liner. So I did both. I removed some from the liners and left the rest in.

So, the verdict is: these did not make the prettiest cupcakes, but they were much enjoyed anyways. I ate 1, Matt ate 2, Dad ate 2 and took 3 home with him and we have 1 left unspoken for. I don't think it will last that way too much longer.

Current internal monologue inside my head:
"I'm really excited to make the chocolate orange cake next week!"

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bake-A-Long #8: Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake

We are currently renovating one of the outdated bathrooms in our 1913 built house. We are very fortunate to have the help of Matt's family, primarily his uncle, cousin, dad, and brother. Since I'm not very good with tools, my "job" has been to make breakfast and lunch for the crew. I most definitely have the better end of this little deal.

Bathroom pre gutting.

Partially gutted bathroom.

Look at the great job they are doing!

Given the crazy cold weather here this week (we live in central Florida and we supposably had snow early Saturday morning), coffee + this chocolate streusel coffee cake sounded like a perfect Sunday morning breakfast for everyone.

Overall, this cake was simple to mix up and bake (even with frozen feet).
The chocolate filling, which consisted of cocoa powder, brown sugar, and cinnamon, was sprinkled in the middle of the batter and then the top layer of batter was poured in. I didn't read all the way through beforehand and sprinkled the filling all the way to the edges of the pan, whereas I was supposed to keep in the center .
The recipe called for a 6 cup bundt pan and cupcakes but I used a 6 cup loaf pan.

I decided to throw some bittersweet chocolate chips on the top before baking.

The directions say the cake is done when the edges start to pull away from the sides. My cake, however, rose over the edges of the pan so I had trouble deciding when it was done baking (As I was previewing this post, I realized my error. I didn't make any cupcakes, and therefore had too much batter in the pan. I'm gonna blame my lack of following the directions this morning on the cold). I put a toothpick in after 43 minutes and it came out slightly wet but not doughy, so I took it out.

After a few minutes of cooling, the cake sunk slightly in the middle, which told me that it wasn't completely done, but I went ahead and cut into it while it was still warm.

The first few pieces were perfect: moist, melt in your mouth texture. But, as we got to the center of the loaf, the cake was slightly doughy. This however, did not stop anyone from eating it. Between 4 of us, the cake was 3/4 of the way eaten in one sitting. This is one I will for sure make again, but maybe I need to invest in a 6 cup bundt pan.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Homemade Limoncello

Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur made from liquor, lemon zest, sugar and water.
Up until now, I had never tried limoncello, but since reading about how easy it is to make, I've been wanting to try for a few years now. So, I stopped procrastinating and made a double batch to give away as Christmas gifts this year.
This liqueur is quite simple to make and was well worth the zesting/peeling of 16 lemons.

16 lemons
1.5 liters of vodka
1.5 liters of sugar syrup (see below note)
lemon leaves (optional)

Purchase a 1.75 liter bottle of good vodka. Reserve (or drink) .25 liters.
Zest the lemons, making sure not to get any of the white peel, which will impart bitterness. Matt used the zester and I used a knife to shave off the peel (his way was more efficient, but hey, we only have 1 zester). Put the zest into the 1.5 liters of vodka, seal, and store in a dark place for at least 1 week.

After 1 week, make your sugar syrup. Heat the sugar and water until all sugar has dissolved and the mixture is clear. We used a 1:1 mixture of sugar, water, but next time I think I would do only 25% sugar. The total volume of sugar syrup should add up to 1.5 liters.
Mix this in with your lemony vodka and strain.
Pour into bottles and store refrigerated.

If you desire to tuck a few lemon leaves into the bottle (we used some from our tree out back), blanch first by dunking into boiling water for 10 seconds and then running cold water over the leaves to stop the cooking process.

It was nice to have a homemade gift to give away to friends at the Holidays. The liqueur turned out quite tasty as well. Although strong and sweet, it is drinkable straight. You can also mix with club soda and mint for a refreshing "lemonade". On New Year's Eve, Matt mixed some with ginger ale. The flavor was great (kinda like a lemon head), but entirely too sweet. That is why next time I think we'll cut back on the sugar. We would also like to try again soon with oranges and grapefruit since they are season.