Friday, June 27, 2014

Browned Butter Cupcakes

I didn't lie; I told you this year's theme was browned butter.

I have made browned butter cupcakes a few times this year, but my favorite iteration has to be the one with the rosemary infused maple syrup and toasted pecans. It was inspired by a very delicious ice cream I had at a lovely restaurant in Oakland. Vanilla ice cream studded with salty pecans and topped with this rosemary maple syrup drizzle. Outstanding combination of salty and sweet, and very rich. I thought it would work very well with a browned butter base, so turned it into cupcakes.

Browned Butter Cupcakes
Makes about 2 dozen

1 1/2 sticks butter, browned (instructions below)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350˚.

First off, toast a handful of raw pecans. Spray them very lightly with some oil and sprinkle with some kosher salt, roasting from anywhere between 200˚-300˚ for about 10 minutes or until you smell the nutty aroma. Don't burn them, so keep an eye, and toss them around halfway through if needed. Set aside to cool.

Then make a quick infusion of rosemary into maple syrup. I don't think I did a good job of measuring out how much syrup or rosemary I used here. Let's say 1/4-1/3 cup and a 4" piece of rosemary. I do recommend trimming the rosemary into small clusters first (versus sticking the whole stock in the syrup) so that you have small pieces to top each cupcake with. In a small pan, bring the syrup with rosemary in it to a boil, then remove from heat and let it steep until it's cooled off on its own. Oh, just in case it's not a given, you should only be using real maple syrup for this - not the fake stuff. 

Next is the batter, starting with browning butter. In a medium size sauce pan, melt butter slowly over a low heat. Keep a close eye on it and stir frequently. The butter will probably try to boil or sizzle, so don't let it do that. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. First it will foam up and be hard to see what's going on underneath the foaming. Then the foam will subside and you'll start to see little "bits" floating in the butter. That's the good stuff. Keep your eye on those bits and when they start getting to a caramel color and the aroma is nutty, remove from heat. This all takes between 5-10 minutes depending on how much butter you're browning, width of your pan, and how low your heat is.

Set that aside for a minute, and in a medium bowl whisk together your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt (and nuts if using in batter).

Mix brown sugar into the browned butter (in the sauce pan is fine), then quickly whisk in the eggs one at a time until combined. Add vanilla, then alternate adding the flour mixture with the milk (typically 1/3 flour, 1/2 milk, 1/3 flour, 1/2 milk, ending with remaining 1/3 of the flour). Try not to over mix.

Pour batter into prepared baking tins (1/4 per cupcake works great for me) and bake for 20 minutes.

While cupcakes bake, make frosting.

Rosemary Maple Buttercream
Side note: I have found that 1 stick of butter to ~2 cups of powdered sugar is just enough frosting for a dozen cupcakes. Consider it a good rule of thumb if you decide to start experimenting. Likewise, you can gauge how many cupcakes you'll get out of recipe (roughly) by following the formula that with every 1 cup or so of flour in a recipe you'll get about a dozen cupcakes. Give or take. Anyway...

2 sticks butter, softened (1 cup)
3-4 cups powdered sugar (depending on your sweet tooth and the consistency of the frosting you like - more sugar = stiffer and will form a kind of crust once it's set for a while - great for making shapes/flowers, less sugar = less stiff and creamier.)
2-3 tbs of infused maple syrup
dash of kosher salt
1-2 tsp milk as needed

Whip butter, adding powdered sugar until blended. Drizzle in syrup and dash of salt and beat until it gets fluffy. Add a little milk to smooth out the consistency. You're now ready to decorate.

Another side note: I didn't do it with this recipe, but if you're REALLY loving the browned butter flavor and want to make it really pop, you could make a little extra browned butter and scrape some of the nutty caramelized bits into the frosting at this point as well. I did make just browned butter cupcakes with browned butter frosting once and they were delicious, albeit extremely rich.

Pipe your frosting onto the cupcakes and top with a pecan or two and LIGHTLY drizzle with the remaining maple syrup. You don't want to put too much because it will just drip off the cupcake and make a sticky mess. Do try to include a little piece of rosemary that was infused in the syrup on the top of each cupcake though. And if your nuts didn't hold onto their salt while roasting, definitely make sure you sprinkle a little extra onto each cupcake. It makes all the difference.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Salted Beer Caramels


As good as it sounds. I imagine this is how the butter beer in Harry Potter actually tastes. Super creamy, a nice beer taste, and the salt really puts it over. Be generous so that each bit will have a little bit of salt on it. 

2 cups brown sugar
2 sticks butter
1 cup corn syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 bottle of Ale (I used Anchor Steam's Brown Ale)
Sea Salt

Line a 9x13 pan lined with parchment paper.
Melt butter and brown sugar together in medium saucepan over medium heat.
Slowly add beer, syrup then milk while stirring constantly.
Cook caramels to 240°F. Do not stop stirring once milk is added or caramels will scorch.
Once you reach 240°F, take mixture off of heat and stir in vanilla extract.
Pour mixture into pan.
Sprinkle sea salt on top of hot caramels. Let caramels set for a few hours until firm enough to cut.
Wrap in wax paper or caramel wraps. 

They will keep for a couple weeks at least. They would probably work well with something like Guinness or another kind of stout. St. Patrick's Day is coming!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Home Brew Chai Concentrate

Today is my 5th Blogiversary. Hard to believe it's been that long.

I have a pretty non-standard entry for such a celebration, but it's been brewing for a while, so no time like the present to post it.

I've been on a mission for well over a year now to perfect my own chai blend. I'm pretty addicted to the stuff, in lieu of coffee which I just can't seem to get into. Sacrilege in San Francisco, I know. Luckily I'm not alone in my love for chai and lots of shops around town offer some very wonderful options. But I can almost never just let it be that someone else makes a thing that I don't at least try to make myself.

I started out following what seems to be the ONE chai recipe floating around the internet. One of those phenomenons where it looks like everyone copied the same source, offering me no variation options. And it was all well and good, but I was not nearly satisfied. To me, the perfect chai is only a little sweet, and heavy on the spice. Not just spice-full, but I like it with a little bit of bite.

So after months of tweaking, I am finally satisfied with the chai I can't get enough of, and am no longer craving the blend I used to get at the shop down the street.

That being said, I think if you want to make your own chai, you should either start from where the rest of the internet started, or at least just use this recipe only as a guideline. This is also a bulk recipe, because I drink it daily, so I don't want to have to make it daily (another reason why the ONE recipe wouldn't cut it - heaven forbid I have to count the individual number of cloves in a recipe. No thank you). This also means I buy pounds of each of these spices at a time now.

6" ginger, give or take
6 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup cardamom pods (I used green)
1/4 cup whole cloves
1/8 cup peppercorns
1 tbs ground nutmeg
2 vanilla beans
12 cups water
1/3-1/2 cup black tea, looseleaf is fine (such as orange pekoe), or use 8-10 teabags
Sweetener to your taste, I prefer honey

Note: the "other" recipe calls for star anise and orange zest which I chose not to include. Star anise is not my favorite component of chai, and I've had some blends that just have too much of that flavor overall, which I really don't care for. The orange zest is also just not critical to my taste buds. Again, just a guideline - do what you think sounds best! I've upped the cardamom (doubled, in fact) and like to pack in a lot more ginger, which by the way, I thought was the key to making it spicy. But no, truth is that the amount of pepper you add seems to be what really puts it in the right spicy spot. I'm sure you could go over board, so be careful.

This makes about 8-10 regular size mason jars worth of concentrate, which should be mixed 1:1 with your milk of choice (soy, almond, whole, skim, whatever you want).

You'll need a large stock pot, a fine strainer, possibly a funnel or a spouted cup for pouring, and the jars to store it in when you're done. You can also properly can the mix, making it shelf stable, but I go through it so quickly I don't even bother. It should be refrigerated though. At least so I've been told. Again, I don't let it sit around long enough to really find out.

As with most things, after having followed the recipe the first time, I got lazy and started just eye balling how much of each spice I wanted. But, after having some friends over who wanted to learn to make their own chai, I realized that having some gauge of measurement would be more helpful than "one Kathy heaping handful," so you can thank them for inspiring me to figure out the rough measurements for you.

To start, clean off your ginger root and chop it roughly. Don't even bother peeling off the skin.

Then you can dump the rest of the spices (through to the vanilla beans) in the pot and add the water. Get it boiling and go ahead and leave it rolling for a good 20-30 minutes. Your house will smell amazing. The mix will reduce a bit, down by a cup or two. Just a fair warning that you're not getting 12 solid cups of chai concentrate out of this just because you put in 12 cups of water.

Turn off the heat and add the tea and let it steep about 5-10 minutes depending on how strong you like it. I defer on the lighter tea side myself.

Drain the mix over a fine meshed strainer into a large pot or bowl (if it has a handle and spout, great, you will be saving yourself a step). I used to try very hard to squeeze all the water out of the spice dregs, but realized it was returning more sediment than liquid, so now just let the strainer rest over the bowl for a few minutes to let gravity do its part.

You can choose to add your sweetener at this point. I prefer to just sweeten each cup as I drink it, so I have not figured out a proper measurement of honey or sugar to advise you on this step. Good luck.

After sweetening, or not, you should probably let it cool off a bit before jarring (unless you're canning, of course). When ready, you'll want to start pouring it into your containers, either directly or in batches with a ladle or liquid measuring cup. Just do whatever works for you and your set up.

There you have it. A sweet, spicy, warm cup of chai to get your morning started right. Cheers to the next 5 years!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Browned Butter Rice Krispy Treats with Nutella


Happy Nutella Day!

My contribution this year is going with the browned butter theme I established in my first post this year.

These were ridiculous. I am typically pretty good about not over-indulging in the goodies I make (caramel popcorn being the glaring exception), but I knew these had to leave the house almost as immediately as I finished them.

So, you obviously don't have to make your own marshmallows, but I have a ridiculous amount of gelatin leftover from holiday baking that I take every opportunity to use up, so prefer to make my own (and so long as you have a stand mixer, it's actually really easy). Also, I followed my dear Smitten Kitchen for the rest of the recipe. She never does me wrong. Another side note, I actually doubled the recipe. Making 2x the  marshmallow in one batch is fine, but I don't recommend trying to brown 2x the butter and mix in 2x the rice crispies into one pan. I just did it twice (so unlike me! I am notorious for preferring to make "one trip"

For the Marshmallow
In the bowl of a stand mixer:
1 ½ envelopes gelatin
¼ c cold water

In a Medium size pot:
1 c sugar
¼ c water
¼ corn syrup
dash salt

to add in later:
½ tsp vanilla

For the Krispies
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
10 oz of prepared marshmallow (it actually will make closer to 11.5 oz... I just used it all) or a bag of them
1/4 tsp kosher salt
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal (about half a 12 oz box) (I used brown rice crispies. Probably some delusion that I'd be adding a smidgen of healthiness to the recipe. I couldn't taste the difference, so go for it if you are as equally delusional as me.)

For marshmallow: In the bowl of a stand mixer (set with whisk attachment), pour in ¼ cup cold water and sprinkle with gelatin and let sit for at least 5 minutes while you prepare the syrup. Meanwhile, in a medium sized sauce pan, heat sugar, ¼ cup water, salt and corn syrup on medium heat stirring until dissolved. Once it starts boiling, stop stirring and bring it to 240˚. Turn stand mixer on low and carefully pour hot syrup down the side of the bowl. Once all syrup is in the bowl, turn speed all the way up and let it go for for 5-8 minutes until fluffy. Whisk in vanilla until incorporated. Set aside.

For krispies, first butter an 8 inch square cake pan or pyrex (for ease of removal, I actually line my pan with buttered aluminum foil or wax paper).

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Keep a close eye on it and stir frequently. The butter will probably try to boil or sizzle, so don't let it do that. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. First it will foam up and be hard to see what's going on underneath the foaming. Then the foam will subside and you'll start to see little "bits" floating in the butter. That's the good stuff. Keep your eye on those bits and when they start getting to a caramel color and the aroma is nutty, remove from heat. Don't get impatient for it to start browning; the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a minute (good advice from Deb).

Once off the heat, stir in the marshmallow goop (this will be VERY sticky and hard to work with, and you will not be able to scrape every bit out from the bowl of the stand mixer. I'm sorry, but you'll just have to tackle that after you're done making the treats). The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt the mallow mixture, but if it is not, turn the heat back on low until the marshmallows are smooth.

Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together. Quickly spread into prepared pan. Smooth out with a silicon spatula (I found that worked best).

I put it in the fridge and let it set for about an hour then went to town adding a schmear of Nutella across the top of it then let it cool again before cutting into squares. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

On New Year's Eve, we went to a friend's house and someone had brought salted browned butter rice crispy treats and my will power instantly crumbled. I know brown butter is amazing, but don't often think to use it. So, even though I'm not really into resolutions, I am now resolved that 2014 will be the year of brown butter.  
I will be making the rice crispy treats next, but first, since I had all the ingredients on hand, I made these chocolate chip cookies instead. Based on Alton Brown's "the Chewy" chocolate chip cookie recipe (which is solid), I modified it slightly (mostly based on the ingredients I had, so if you say, don't have molasses, just stick the original recipe) and browned the butter instead of just melting it, and added sea salt on top. 

2 sticks butter
12 oz flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 oz sugar
5 oz brown sugar
~1 oz molasses (about a tablespoon)
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz chocolate chips

(If you don't have a scale, brown eyed baker has included measuring cup equivalents for the ounces in her recipe.) 

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Keep a close eye on it and stir frequently. The butter will probably try to boil or sizzle, so don't let it do that. First it will foam up and be hard to see what's going on underneath the foaming. Then the foam will subside and you'll start to see little "bits" floating in the butter. That's the good stuff. Keep your eye on those bits and when they start getting to a caramel color and the aroma is nutty, remove from heat and pour into a stand mixer bowl (or large bowl, whatever you are using). 

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside. Add the sugar, brown sugar, and molasses to the butter, and beat with the paddle attachment until all is incorporated, about 2 minutes. 

Meanwhile, whisk together the whole eggs and vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed and slowly add the egg mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.

Gradually pour the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple times. Here's the part where you add the chocolate chips, but be warned, if your butter is still really hot, the batter will also still be hot and melt those chips. I actually realized this by doing it, so I'm giving you the advanced warning now. If you didn't let your brown butter chill enough, then I'd recommend taking a break at this point to let it come to room temperature. Or if you're impatient like I can sometimes be, go ahead and dump the chips in now, but don't stir more than is needed to just combine and then quickly throw the bowl in the fridge and chill for about an hour (something you should do even if you've waited for your butter to cool down first). 

When ready to go, preheat the oven to 375˚.

I used an ice cream scoop that gave me about 1-1/4 inch balls of dough (Alton says 1.5 ounces of dough) and I was able to get about 24-26 balls of dough. Place your scoops on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet with about 2-3 inches between each for spreading. Sprinkle each with just a dash of sea salt (you may have to press the salt into the dough, versus literally sprinkling it). Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven and how chewy and melty you like your chocolate chip cookies. I did the minimum 10, just when the edges were beginning to brown, but the top gave way a little when you touch it. They will fall, and they will be devoured after you've let them cool for maybe 5 minutes. Maybe. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Homemade Snickers Bars

Happy day after Halloween!

I'm so negligent. This will be my second post all year and it's officially November. I have so many things I could share, but I've landed on the urge to post this snickers bar recipe in honor of Halloween. I have a pretty serious soft spot for snickers. While I'm not your avid peanut butter + chocolate consumer, there is something satisfying about the combo, and sometimes it just gets me through the afternoon to snack on a few bite size snickers.

I'm constantly desiring to make things from "scratch" as much as possible, mostly for the challenge, but also partially to play the "then I know what all goes into it" card.

So what makes a snickers? Nougat with peanuts, chewy caramel, and chocolate coating. The recipes I found online for these snickers "bars" were following the same formula of creating the bars in these layers, though the one I replicated did incorporate peanut butter into the chocolate layer, making it too soft to count as a coating (hence the bar). My thoughts on the outcome are that these were very tasty (who is going to complain about chocolate, peanut butter and caramel though really?) but they were not quite snickers. Perhaps there is something special about the taste of partially hydrogenated soybean oil that homemade just can't compete with. Or perhaps I just need to experiment more.

I took the recipe from Brown Eyed Baker and added 2 extra homemade steps to it: homemade marshmallow fluff and caramel sauce.

Chocolate layers:
2 ½ cups chocolate chips
½ c creamy peanut butter

Make your own marshmallow fluff:
1 ½ envelopes gelatin
¼ c cold water
1 c sugar
¼ c water
¼ corn syrup
dash salt
½ tsp vanilla

Nougat layer:
4 tbs butter
1 c sugar
¼ c evaporated milk
1½ c marshmallow fluff
¼ c creamy peanut butter
1½ c salted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract

Caramel Sauce*:
½ c sugar
3 tbs butter
¼ cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt

1. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan. Line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper; set aside.

2. Make caramel sauce: *So, in this recipe I just made a pretty standard salted caramel sauce, kind of like what you'd pour over ice cream or decorate cupcakes with. It's a bit runny, and I think a caramel chew would be better served in this recipe. Nobody complained about the flavor, but leaving these bars out at room temperature led to a lot of caramel leakage. I've made chewy caramels before, so not sure why I didn't think through to make it for this recipe instead of the sauce. If you make these, I recommend this recipe. The major difference in making chews versus sauce is a) you use corn syrup and b) once you've incorporated your fat (butter and cream) you bring it back up to a soft ball temperature. If you like your caramel soft, then by all means follow these tried and true instructions for making caramel sauce (but add a dash of salt in at the end). Let it cool while you continue on to the other steps.

3. Make the Chocolate Layer: Melt together the chocolate chips and peanut butter in the microwave on until completely smooth and melted, stirring every 20-30 seconds (or do it over a double boiler). Pour about half of it into the prepared baking dish and smooth into an even layer. Refrigerate until cool and hard, about 30 minutes. Set aside the remaining chocolate for last step.

4. To make the fluff, in the bowl of a stand mixer (set with whisk attachment), pour in ¼ cup cold water and sprinkle with gelatin and let sit for at least 5 minutes while you prepare the syrup. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, heat sugar, remaining ¼ cup water, salt and corn syrup on medium heat stirring until dissolved. Once it starts boiling, stop stirring and bring it to 240˚. Turn stand mixer on low and carefully pour hot syrup down the side of the bowl. Once all syrup is in the bowl, turn speed all the way up and let it go for for 5-8 minutes until fluffy. Whisk in vanilla until incorporated and then set aside (or better yet, pour mixture into a lightly greased bowl so it's easier to get out when you're ready to use it in the next step).

5. Make the Nougat: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and evaporated milk, stirring until dissolved, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Milk on the bottom of the pan will start to brown slightly, so be sure to not let it get too dark. Remove the pan from heat and add the marshmallow fluff, peanut butter, and vanilla extract, stirring until completely smooth. Fold in the peanuts, then pour over the bottom chocolate layer. Refrigerate this layer until cool, about 30 minutes.

6. Once your nougat is set, pour the caramel sauce (or chewy caramel) over it and let it set about 30 minutes.

7. Once the caramel layer is cool, you'll put the final layer of chocolate peanut butter on and let it set up in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. If you chocolate mixture seized up in all this time between making it in step 3, just pop back in the microwave 10 seconds at a time, stirring between to get it back to a spreadable consistency.

Brown eyed baker says that the consistency is great at room temperature, but if your house is a little warm, the chocolate gets melty, so might have to store in the fridge. Since I used the runny caramel sauce, I've just been keeping them in the fridge until ready to serve.

Happy baking!

Some festive cupcakes I made for Halloween this year: Pumpkin cupcakes with a honey flavored cream cheese frosting decorated like candy corn. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Closing the Business

Well, it's been well over half a year since I posted anything on my baking blog. It's not that I haven't been baking anything since, but admittedly, after the baking boom of December Twenty Twelve, I was a little burnt out. Here's the last thing I posted on my company facebook page, the day after completing the Holiday Tin orders:
"A little ridiculous: 750 cookies, 775 truffles, 1200 marshmallows, 550 chocolate covered caramels, 8 lbs of almond roca, 31 lbs of peanut brittle, 650 pieces of fudge, plus some caramel popcorn, and a couple batches of mixed nuts. Done. Time for bed." 
This was not a solo operation, but my poor friend and I were severely understaffed, underslept, and she was sincerely underpaid for her efforts (a thousand thank you's again to Blair for all her help these past few years at the holidays).

There comes a point in a person's business venture where it becomes evident that you either need to scale back or ramp up. I reached that fork this past season, and have decided that my future is to continue to love to bake, but will be scaling it back to just baking for fun, friends and family again. Not to say that it hasn't been fun, but with changes in my life in the last 9 months or so, the time, effort, and logistics of pursuing a full-time job or company based on baking is not where I am going to be taking my career.

I will continue to post recipes, etc, and if anyone needs any advice, or maybe some cupcake liners (I have thousands), just let me know and I'll be happy to share.

Thanks to everyone who helped me get this business off the ground, and kept it going for the 4 and half years I poured myself into it. It really was fun, and was happy to have given it a shot.

Stay tuned. Hopefully I will get back into the swing of posting in time for the wonderful fall and winter treats that I love to make so much.