Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Treat Tins Now Available

It's that time of year again! This year we're doing things a little differently, too, as I've collaborated with my friend Rebecca Fouquette who is starting her own baking business, From Pie to Infinity. She makes some amazing treats, and has opened up the ordering to allow for shipping, so we're hoping to be very busy in the next 3 weeks.

Without further ado, check out our fancy order website to view these options:

Holiday Cookie Combo Tin
- Pignola Cookies
- Caramel Filled Chocolate Cookies
- Peppermint Pinwheels
- Molasses Chews
- Vanilla Bean Shortbread
- Butterscotch Biscotti

Fruity Cookie Combo Tin
- Raspberry Linzers
- Fig Swirls
- Angel Whispers

Brittle & Toffee Tin
- Almond Roca Toffee
- Pumpkin Seed and Cocoa Nib Brittle
- Butter Pecan Bark
- Thai Cashew Brittle

Holiday Candy Combo Tin
- Butterscotch Chews
- Coconut Rum Marshmallows
- Chocolate Cherry Fudge
- Eggnog Fudge

Caramel Popcorn Tin
- made with fleur de sel

Spiced Nuts Tin
- Chili Lime Cashews
- Honey Chipotle Almonds

A lot of these items are also available a la carte.
To order, you can email me at or go to the From Pie to Infinity website to place an online order (this is where you should go if you want to have the items shipped).
Please place orders by Dec 7, and choose to have them available on either December 12 or December 19 (both Rebecca and I work full time jobs still, so can only do our mass baking on the weekends).

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season, and maybe decide to share some of these tasty treats with your loved ones, too!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Salted Caramel Macarons

So my friend Carol and I have had 2 macaron bake dates in the last month or so. We both have been experimenting with them on our own, and were getting pretty confident that we had them mastered. So we decided to put our baking caps on and work together on a couple flavors. 

Well nothing did work out quite right that first evening. Every batch we made was gooey, and stuck to the bottom of our pans. Even our fillings were failing that night. We were both really sad after that, thinking we might have to revert back to the unscientific macaron wives' tales to have success. After a few days, Carol figured out that it was actually her oven that was off by about 50˚.  What a relief! Maybe we weren't failures after all! 

But we had to be sure, so we set up another bake date to try again. We definitely did better that time, after Carol got a thermometer for in her oven to make sure it was at the right setting. We made chocolate macarons sprinkled with smoked sea salt and filled with salted caramel buttercream. Those came out great. We also made chai spiced ones, but apparently the addition of the chai powder to the macaron shells was a bad combo, as they did not rise or bake well (we suspect the non dairy creamer in the powder might have been the culprit, as just adding the spices of chai would have probably been fine). 

What's even better is that Carol posted the recipe online already, so all I need to do is link to it! Wee. She took an awesome photo too. As well, we tried to simply whip the caramel so it had more body and could stand alone as the macaron filling, but it was still too thin, so decided to do buttercream instead. Can't go wrong with macarons with buttercream, really. Looked pretty when we were whipping the caramel though. 

As well, she found a site that actually detailed more scientific reasoning for all of the wacky wives' tale rumors we'd been reading up on, so were relieved that some of the tricks actually had good reasons behind them. If you're into macaron baking, I recommend checking it out just so you know the why's of how to do things. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Scharffen Berger Bakery Crawl

Last Friday, I had the fun privilege of being invited on a Scharffen Berger Bakery Crawl in San Francisco. A very fun event where 30+ unsuspecting members of the media (hey that's me!) hitched a ride on a trolly bus and drove to 4 lovely bake shops to sample wares that featured Scharffen Berger chocolates within them. The company is launching another, newer adaptation of their chocolate adventure contest; this year the idea is to elevate a classic recipe. 

Meeting point was at the Scharffen Berger Ferry Building shop where we were picked up by the trolly bus. It was a gorgeous October afternoon, and none other than the beginning of Fleet week, so the Blue Angels were doing a couple practice fly overs when we started. *awesome*

Our first stop was Anthony's Cookies where we sampled a double chocolate chunk cookie with walnuts. It was pretty much a perfect cookie: gooey inside and chewy/crispy outside. The nuts were a great add in with the chocolate and the flavors were well balanced. It was at this moment though that I had my first experience of being a member of the foodie paparazzi. I think everyone around me was more interested in taking a picture of the product than tasting it (not to say that they didn't get devoured in the end). Also of note: the cookie was still fabulous 2 days later when I got around to eating the rest of the "take home" sample. Delicious. 

After spending a little time chatting with Anthony himself and interrogating him about what his Twitter handle was, we packed back into the trolly and headed for Citizen Cake

I had been there myself a couple years back, but it has since moved, expanded, and transformed into what feels like an old fashioned ice cream parlor. Very cute interior, and the desserts in the cases looked impeccable. But we were there to try a sundae, hand made especially by Elizabeth Falkner, owner and celebrity chef/baker herself. Running with the idea of elevating a classic, she created an egg free chocolate gelato that she froze on the spot with liquid nitrogen (that she keeps a tank of right by the cash register!) and was an epic crowd pleaser to watch her make (more food paparazzi on that one). 

Apparently, liquid nitrogen was a Victorian era method for making ice cream, so while it sounds all spacey, scientific, and futuristic, she's actually harking back to ye old days when making this dessert. The final sundae was a dollop of gelato, a dollop of home made marshmallow cream (using xantham gum instead of gelatin - gotta remember that one), and fudge, nibs, and chocolate curls. It was very tasty. I enjoyed the marshmallow cream a lot, and while the chocolate gelato was good, I felt it could have been richer (it melted into a very low viscosity pool as I was eating my sample), which made me think it was unnecessarily low in fat. But the chocolate flavor was very good, and since this tour is all about chocolate, that is what I will take away from it.  

Jumping back in the trolly we swung over into Ghirardelli Square to sample a special Kara's cupcake flavor. She designed a "candy bar" cupcake featuring a chocolate cupcake, a dollop of caramel in the center, peanut butter ganache frosting and a sprinkling of sea salt. Yeah, it was pretty good. Very rich, as peanut butter often does for dessert. Sadly, I don't think I ended up getting a good sample of the caramel in the half a cupcake I tasted, which was disappointing, as I was looking forward to it.

By this time, we were running a bit late, so we headed back to the Ferry building for another quick stop at Miette to try a triple chocolate cream cake, but had to get it to go to make it to our final engagement, a baking demo by Yigit Pura. I did sample the Miette cake the next day when my stomach was mostly recovered from the sugar overload of Friday night, and it was quite delectable. Very moist, rich, creamy and chocolatey, with a lovely ganache topping. No complaints.

Moving on quickly to the baking demo though, our host Yigit was very charming and filled in his baking tips with funny anecdotes such as making chocolate and cream get along (2 unlikely couples: fat and water) by adding a little invert sugar, kind of like giving you and your in-laws a few gin martinis to get everyone relaxed. Silly and memorable. He also said not to whisk ganache, which I am definitely guilty of doing, so glad I took home a few good pieces of advice in addition to all the chocolate desserts.

He created a dessert using his go-to chocolate cake with chai tea spices added in, filled with a dulce de leche filling, and topped with ganache and a little pretty gold leafing. Initially I thought the cake was dry, but after further inspection (yeah, I ate the whole thing), I feel like it was just really dense, and I was already really parched from eating so much chocolate already. The spices were pretty good, but it's not my favorite combo for a chocolate dessert. It was well done though, so if that's up your alley, you would enjoy it. 

To culminate the evening, we did get more swag, like an apron (chocolate stains won't show on that!), a lovely (huge) whisk (you can never have too many whisks, right?), and of course, chocolate. This is on top of the take home samples, and tasting squares they fed us in between bakery stops, of course. 
I may have made myself a little sick on chocolate desserts for dinner, but the whole experience was completely worth it. It was also very fun to meet with other foodies, bloggers, journalists, and chocoholics.  

If their intention was to get me pumped about the contest, they definitely succeeded. I am looking forward to "elevating" a classic of my own, and left feeling inspired by what the other bakers had created. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Filling

This is a bit more like an end of summer post, since we're phasing out the summer squash in favor of warm winter squash, but the flavors are very similar once you throw in the cinnamon, so I don't mind letting this one summer recipe sneak into my fall repertoire. Besides, the fall is the time of year I feel most nostalgic about being a kid, and zucchini bread was one of those things my mom knew how to make fairly well. No offense to my dear mother, but there aren't too many things she cooked or baked that I have fond memories of.

Also of note, I threw in a few ingredient substitutes when I made this batch, and while I don't think they're necessary, I figured it'd be good to share what "worked" if you were out of an ingredient, for example.

Zucchini Bread

  • 1-1/2 C Sugar
  • 1/3 C Brown Sugar
  • 3/4 C oil (I used sour cream, or you could use yogurt)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 C flour (I did half whole wheat)
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 C grated zucchini (I actually had about 2 cups of zucchini, which may have been too much, as the loaves sank a lot after baking, so maybe were "too" moist)
Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease pans (2 loaf or muffin tins).
Mix all dry ingredients in large bowl and whisk.
Mix all wet ingredients in a medium bowl, minus the zucchini.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in wet, and mix until moist (don't over mix). Fold in zucchini.
Pour into pans.

Cream Cheese filling

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla 
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs cornstarch

Beat with electric mixer cream cheese and sugar until incorporated. Add in vanilla and egg until incorporated. Then add in cornstarch and mix until combined.
Scoop spoonfuls onto the bread batter and swirl with your spoon until a little dispersed.

Bake the loaves for 55 minutes, and check with a toothpick if they're done. Add 5 minutes to baking time until cooked through. For muffins, should take about 20-30 minutes depending on how full you fill the cups.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Raspberry Buttercream

This post is just a quick frosting suggestion that can dress up a variety of cupcakes: Raspberry. I put this on top of a chocolate cupcake the other day, and I think they were a delightful match.

Raspberry Buttercream:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup frozen raspberries, thawed (or fresh!)

Beat butter until fluffed. Add powdered sugar and beat together until crumbly. Scrape sides of the bowl and add vanilla. Mix until incorporated and fluffy. Toss in the raspberries and mix until incorporated (scrape the bowl again). Initially, the moisture in the raspberries will make it look like the butter is separating, but once you've blended it all together it should come together nicely.

Delightfully tart and tasty!

Probably would have made a better Valentine's Day Post, huh?

Friday, September 9, 2011

What not to do

Do not mix butter and mascarpone cheese! 

The result is a disgusting, curdled, separated mess. What was I thinking??
This post is serving as a warning beacon to all, and a reminder to myself if I ever get that hair brained idea ever again.

Mascarpone + cream cheese = Delicious!
Cream cheese + butter = Amazing!
Mascarpone + butter = RUN AWAY!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spumoni Cupcakes

I love spumoni. I remember the first time I had it was when I was probably 7 and visiting family in Portland, Oregon. I mostly remember only odd tid-bits about that trip such as my cousin ordering a salad with honey mustard dressing which was also foreign and fascinating to this young girl who only knew about ranch. But I digress. It wasn't actually spumoni like the way it's supposed to be a slice from a terrine mold with the 3 flavors of ice cream and whip cream in between the layers - it was just a scoop with all 3 delectable flavors: chocolate, pistachio and cherry pineapple. It's like the ultimate reincarnation of Neapolitan.

But, it was years again before I ever saw Spumoni as an option, and it happened to be Dreyers (East Coast translation: Edy's) ice cream that brought it back to me years later. I'm sure that die-hard spumoni lovers out there would be remised to know that I actually adore the terribly fake, Americanized knock-off version of this Italian delight that Dreyers produces. I think they must somehow enhance or overly sweeten the pistachio flavor, because I've had some really REAL pistachio flavored gelatos in my day that were not as endearing to my palette. Knowing that I really love the flavor of the enhanced (chemically produced?) version of pistachio ice cream, I was a little worried about trying to make my own homemade variation of that flavor. I probably could have just bought pistachio extract, but that's just not readily available, and since I tend to bake on a whim, I didn't have time to wait around for an online order. The world we live in, I swear; such inconveniences.

So, I did some reading up on how to make pistachio flavor really stand out, and found Browneyedbaker to have a useful suggestion to steep the pistachios in hot milk, a trick she used to infuse her pistachio ice cream. I think it worked out pretty well, as the pistachio flavor in both my cupcake and frosting hit the spot.

Alas, I went through the process of making these cupcakes in my typical willy-nilly fashion of kind of making it up as I went, so in some cases only have approximate quantities. I'm sure it'll be fine...

Pistachio Cupackes
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup pistachios (roasted, unsalted), divided
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- a few drops of green food coloring (optional)
Heat the milk up to almost boiling and soak 1/2 cup pistachios in it until the milk returns to room temperature. Strain out pistachios (reserve) and use only 3/4 cup for cupcakes. (Remaining 1/4 cup and nuts will be used for frosting). Add food coloring to milk if using (don't over do the green, just looks good with a little extra color).

Line cupcake tins (will make about 24-30 cupcakes).

Whisk together pistachios, flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.
Beat butter and sugar together until smooth. Add egg and scrape sides of the bowl, mixing until incorporated and fluffy. Alternating with the flour and milk mixture, slowly mix together, scraping bowl as needed, until incorporated. Batter will be pretty thick. (If desired, you can toss in a handful of the pre-soaked pistachios into the batter if you like the extra texture). Spoon a heaping table spoon of batter into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Make next batter:

Cherry Pineapple Cupcakes
These would probably be delicious all on their own (actually, so would the pistachio).
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup Maraschino cherries and crushed pineapple, well drained
- dash of red food coloring (optional)
Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside.
Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg, and scraping down sides of the bowl as needed, mix until light and fluffy again. Alternating with flour mixture and milk, gradually add each until incorporated. Toss in the cherry/pineapple mix and stir until incorporated. The cherries will probably do a little bit of coloring to the batter on their own, but I helped it along a little with a dash of red food color. This batter will also be pretty thick. Spoon 1 heaping table spoon of it on top of each pistachio layer. Make chocolate:

Chocolate Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350˚
- 1 cup flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup milk

Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside.
Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add cocoa powder and whip until incorporated. Add vanilla and egg, and beat until fluffy and creamy looking. Heat water and milk together until almost boiling (I just head in the microwave for 45 - 60 seconds until it steams a bit).  Alternating with flour mixture, gradually add milk and flour until mix is incorporated. This batter will be a bit runnier, so if using a stand mixer and the liquid is getting out of control, whisk together by hand. Try not to over mix. Spoon batter over the tops of the other batters in the cupcake tins until 3/4 full.
Bake cupcakes for 20 minutes and then cool completely. For the record, the chocolate layer didn't rise as perfectly as it should have. I believe I had 2 tbs too much butter, but since this was exactly what I did, I felt it was best to give it to you as I made it. It was tasty, and you cover the top with plenty of frosting, so the less than perfect dome tops weren't a big bother to me. If you want perfection, I say try with just 6 tbs of butter instead of a whole stick and see if that does the trick.

Now it's time to make the frosting.

Pistachio Buttercream
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- reserved pistachio flavored milk and soaked nuts

Beat butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat until incorporated with butter, and creamy, scraping bowl. With beaters running, slowly add milk until frosting gets light and fluffy. Probably only need a couple teaspoons to do the trick. Add in a few nuts and continue to beat until incorporated. Frost 1/3 of each cupcake with the pistachio frosting.

Cherry Pineapple Buttercream
Same idea here
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup maraschino cherry and pineapple, well drained (even patted dry with paper towel if you're up for it)
Beat butter until creamy, adding powdered sugar until fluffy, scraping sides of the bowl as needed. Add in the cherry pineapple mix and beat until well incorporated. Could toss in a bit of food coloring here too, but I think the cherries do a pretty good job of coloring on their own. Frost the middle 1/3 of each cupcake.

Chocolate Buttercream
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tbs cocoa powder
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2-3 tsp milk

Beat butter until creamy, adding powdered sugar until fluffy, scraping sides of the bowl as needed. Add in the cocoa powder until incorporated. Add vanilla, and then milk and beat until light and fluffy. You can add more cocoa powder if you like a darker brown color.  Frost the last 1/3 of each cupcake. 

Whew! Quite an operation for just "one" cupcake, but totally worth it. I loved them.

Now do the dishes @_@

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Watermelon Cupcakes

Summer is sort of coming to a close, so I'm a little tardy in posting this recipe. But if you really like watermelon, you might want to bookmark it for when watermelon is back at its peek in season. I personally am not head over heels for watermelon myself, but the idea of a watermelon cupcake seemed like a fun challenge. I used fresh fruit that I pureed and made into a pastry cream filling, and topped the cupcake with a light meringue frostings, one that wouldn't over power the flavor of the filling.

Watermelon Cream
Patience was the death of me on this recipe. You have to let the gelatin mixture set up for a couple hours, but can't leave it all night because you need to whip in the cream at the point where the mixture is just turning gelatinous. I thought I had screwed it up the first time, so made 2 batches of watermelon gel, one of which over set, making watermelon jello. I'm sure it was delicious, but as I mentioned before, I'm not THAT crazy about watermelon, so it didn't appeal to me so much. 
- 2 1/4 cups, divided, seeded, watermelon, pureed
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped

Combine gelatin and 1/4 cup watermelon puree; set aside. 
Bring remaining 2 cups puree to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat; add gelatin mixture, and stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in sugar and lemon juice, and chill mixture until consistency of unbeaten egg white (2 hours or so, check on it though).
Fold whipped cream into chilled watermelon mixture. Keep chilled until ready to use. 

White Cupcake
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup milk

Preheat to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins (makes 18-24). 
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. 
With mixer or in stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternating with the milk mixture until all mixed together. 
Pour the batter into prepared tins. Bake 20 minutes, then cool completely. Hollow out each cupcake making room for filling, and then pipe filling into each. 

Italian Meringue Frosting
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 egg whites
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- green food coloring
Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy; add salt, and beat until stiff peaks form. Let sit while you cook syrup:
Cook first sugar, corn syrup and water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, and boil until a candy thermometer registers 248° (about 5 minutes).
With mixer running, gradually whisk hot syrup into egg whites, whisking until stiff peaks form and frosting is of spreading consistency.
I added a couple drops of green food coloring to the whole batch and put half the frosting in a pastry bag, then added a few drops more to the remaining frosting and filled another bag with the remaining frosting. 

Once cupcakes are filled, pipe a stripe of the darker green frosting across the tops of the cupcakes, then go back with the lighter frosting to make the alternating stripes, similar to how a watermelon has stripes. I felt like the look of the cupcakes was only so-so, as the frosting was a little aerated, so had a really bubbly texture, versus a watermelon that is rather firm. But, everyone who tried them liked them! I usually don't refrigerate cupcakes, but since these had the gelatin filling, I didn't want to change them melting. Apparently the side effect was that the filling had a delightful chill, perfectly capturing the summer refreshment of watermelon. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I think it's safe to say I go through a LOT of vanilla extract with all the baking I do. About a year ago I decided to look into making my own extract. After perusing a few sites, I found that it was actually ridiculously easy to do, and could be mildly cost effective, too; just takes time.

Someone actually went through the bother of calculating the cost difference, but basically I was spending $5 for each bottle of Bourbon Extract at Trader Joe's which only took me 1-2 months to polish off. Making it yourself doesn't save you a ton of money in the long run, but at least I have 1 liter batches to work with at any given time.* And you can say you make your own extract. I think it's worth the 6 months wait time just to say that.

So, basically, get a bottle of vodka (I've tried 3 different brands so far, not sure if the price/quality of the vodka has a huge effect on the flavor, but I try not to get the cheapest stuff, just in case) and remove about 1/4 of liquid from the bottle first. What you do with that, I won't question. Next, take about 10-12 vanilla beans, split lengthwise, and plop them into the vodka jar. Seal the jar, then give it a good shake, label the bottle with the date, and let it set somewhere safe for about 6 months. Be sure to give it a good shake every couple of weeks. Sediment will collect at the bottom, which you can strain out when you get to it, or just leave it.

The other fun part about making your own extract is that you can play with the different varieties of vanilla. I've bought and blended Tajitian, Madagascar, Bourbon, & Mexican varieties so far. I am fairly clueless about what makes them different though. I've been baking with a blend of Tajitian, Mexican and Madagacar beans and think it tastes as lovely as anything, but would fail a deciphering taste-test for sure. Might be worthwhile to make separate batches of each some time just to taste test.

The other beauty of this plan is that you can make however much you want. A recipe from Simply Recipes gives you a 1 cup option. As much as it is technically science, I don't think you could really screw it up however you decided to mix it up. Just don't add simple syrup. You just don't need it, and I think it detracts from the extract if you do add it.

* If you're curious about my calculations, I spend approximately $20 on a bottle of vodka, plus about $10 on the vanilla beans (including the cost of shipping). So, $30 that is then split into approximately (8) 4 oz. batches makes them about $3.75.)

Also, I bought the beans at

Thursday, July 21, 2011

French Macarons

I don't really know enough about French or language to know who is right and who is wrong about how to spell macarons, I just know that these don't have coconut in them, so think it's safer to drop the second "o" and not call them "macaroons." I follow David Lebovitz's lead on this one, anyhow.

What I do know is that these are delicious, and I am still figuring out how to make them. This is the first time I've posted my efforts, as nothing before has seemed either good enough or reproducible enough to post about. But this is the 2nd time I've made this and they've worked out, so I think I'm getting the hang of it.

See, I don't have a kitchen scale, and so many of these French macaron recipes only give you weight measurements (well, cuz they're more accurate, can't blame them for that), but I don't have a scale. So, after many a failed attempt, I finally found a measuring cup based recipe that I had decent results with, minding that I didn't use the pre-ground almond flour they sell at Trader Joe's, and instead, grind the almonds up myself with my food processor, then sift out the largest chunks. While adding another step, and another round of dishes, this seems to have done the trick.

Now, I have to say, they are still not perfect. I expect a certain amount of airy nothingness in the middle of my macaron, and a perfect foot (the sort of crumbly looking side of the cookie), which still isn't consistent across all cookies in even the same batch. I think these ones came out just a little too gooey/sticky in the middle, even though I think the tops domed quite perfectly. So many variables!

I will muse for a second on how ridiculous some of the wives tales that surround making macarons have become. Yes, these are some tricky pastries, but I feel like some bakers swear by witch craft and superstitions to get their macarons just right. "Fold in almond flour no more than 20 strokes!" or "leave out on parchment paper 2 hours before baking" and "dance around the smallest one in a counter-clockwise direction 6 times for best results." Ok, I exaggerate. But for any bakers out there who have also tried to master these beauties, and try and get them perfect, mind you, there has got to be some science to it that could make them universally approachable. Then again, maybe they're just meant to be fickle.

If you like macarons, and have a kitchen scale, I highly recommend checking out my friend Risa's blog, Baked Perfection, as she is always coming up with some special new macaron flavor combo. They all look very delicious!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Creamy Grapefruit Bars

I guess I'm on a citrus kick. I happen to love grapefruit, but hardly ever eat it or see anyone baking with it. Totally under represented. I love lemon bars, and have a great Martha Stewart recipe I have followed with impeccable success, so decided to experiment. I wasn't sure if the 1:1 replacement of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice for lemon juice would be the right flavor balance, but in the end, it worked perfectly. Reviews here at the office, where I often subject my office mates to my creations, has been very positive. I even had someone say they're the best thing they've ever tried of the things I've made. Woot. 
My opinion is that they are quite tasty, and do actually taste grapefruity, which is awesome. They aren't nearly as tart as lemon bars though, so seem to be a bit sweeter. 

Creamy Grapefruit Squares
adapted from Everyday Food Creamy Lemon Squares recipe 
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup fresh grapefruit juice (1-2 grapefruit)
  • 1-2 tsp grapefruit zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides.

Make crust: Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Add flour, and mix on low just until combined. Press dough into the bottom and up sides of pan; prick all over with a fork. Bake until lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

Make filling: In a large bowl, whisk together yolks, condensed milk, grapefruit juice, and zest until smooth. Pour over hot crust in pan; return to oven, and bake until filling is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

Refrigerate until filling is firm, about 2 hours or up to 3 days. Using overhang, lift cake onto a work surface and cut into squares.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Orange 'n' Cream Cupcakes

With summer officially here, I am definitely feeling nostalgic for the summer flavors I enjoyed as a kid. I'm sure most American kids can recall the wonderous taste of an orange creamsicle pop or Orange Julius drink. There's something delightfully tart, creamy, and sweet about it that embodies the taste of lazy summers.

Making that flavor into a cupcakes was a no brainer. This flavor has been one of my top sellers since I started offering it back in 2009. I was surprised to find that I had never blogged about it before, so figured it was about time I did. And speaking of blogging, I was very delighted to receive an email last week regarding my blog. Apparently, people are reading, and someone decided I qualified for the "Top 50 Cutest Cupcake Blogs." Thanks! You can find the complete list here. While I am very honored to make anyone's "top" list, I will say, if there is a top 50 list... exactly how many cupcake blogs are out there? Yikes. In any case, I definitely enjoy making new and different flavors, and am glad you enjoy reading the recipes I've come up with, so thanks for checking it out.
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Orange 'n' Cream Cupcakes
I use a yogurt cake base for this cupcake as it is extremely moist and delicious and has served me well for this recipe. Easily replace orange with lemon, grapefruit, ugli fruit, or any other citrus you want. Sadly, I found the base for this recipe so long ago, I don't even remember its source. Blogger fail.

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350˚.
Line cupcake tins. Makes approximately 18.

In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, & salt.
In medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, zest, vanilla, and oil.
Gently blend the wet into the dry mix, until incorporated. Do not over mix.
Fill cupcake lines 3/4 way full and bake for 20 minutes. Cool.

Orange 'n' Cream Frosting

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/4 butter, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

In stand mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until incorporated. Gradually add in powdered sugar, scraping down sides of bowl to fully incorporate. Add zest and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Pipe half the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes. I make a swirled pattern on top, leaving space for another round of "orange" swirl. Add a little bit of food coloring to the remaining frosting, making it orange. Pipe the remaining frosting onto the cupcakes, completing the swirls.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Banana Caramel Cake in Phyllo Cups

In January this year, I was challenged to make a cupcake combining the 3 flavors of banana, caramel and phyllo dough. Certainly not a bad combo of flavors to be coerced into working with. The reason for the delay being the challenger of this flavor combo is not someone I see often, so am only now getting the opportunity to accept the request.

On another side note of importance, I have succumbed to the pressures of the many food bloggers out there, all with their pretty food pictures, and finally invested in a DSLR. And if the absolute joy in I felt in taking this evening's pictures is evidence, I think it may have been a good decision. If you're keeping tabs, it is a Canon Rebel T2i. I'd take a picture of it, but that would not only be tricky, requiring mirrors or something, but also a little "chicken or the egg" for me.

Anyway, back to cupcakes. Aside from them looking rather dashing, I wasn't wrong about the flavor combo being delectable. I tried a new banana cupcake batter this time (which, oh by the way has rum in it - yum), and whipped up some homemade caramel sauce for the occasion. Which if I haven't mentioned before, is pretty freaking easy and completely delicious, so why would you ever bother buying it?

Caramel Sauce
I've tried many variations of this before, and think I've landed on my favorite. Taken mostly from Simply Recipes (frankly, you might as well check out her instructions because she goes into way more detail and includes safety tips - I just leave you to your own devices!):

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tbs butter, but into pieces
  • 1/2 cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

First off, do have all your ingredients ready to go before you start. In a heavy 2-3 quart pot, melt sugar over low to medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Once sugar has melted, it will be begin to darken into an amber color. This is where you get to choose how rich you want your sauce. Be careful to not let it burn though. Once it reaches the optimal caramel color, removed from heat and add in butter. It will foam up a bit. Whisk until smoother, then add in cream. This will really bubble up, and seize. Just work through it and keep whisking until it comes together. Let cool for a bit, then transfer to a glass jar or container to continue cooling.

Phyllo Cups
Melt 1/2 cup of butter in a small dish. Unroll one log of phyllo dough, placing one sheet upon a work surface (cutting board or cookie sheet will do), and brushing it all over with some of the melted butter. Add another sheet on top, and repeat the process so that you have about 5-6 layers of phyllo. Cut dough into squares that are roughly 2-3 inches wider than the cavities of a muffin tin. Or bigger, or smaller, or wider, or longer - whatever you think will look good. mold each square patch of phyllo into the cavities of every other hole of the muffin tin. Mine was overlapping a bit, so I didn't want to have issues with the phyllo getting stuck in cake batter or something like that, so just kept the spacing between them to be safe. I did have to repeat with another batch of 6 sheets of phyllo, but didn't end up using the entire log of dough.

Once the tins are prepped (I made 3 tins based on the amount of batter and layout mentioned above), make cupcake batter.

Banana Cupcakes
Stolen almost completely from Baking Obsession
2 cups flour

¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups banana puree (about 3 large bananas)
½ cup sour cream (I forgot to buy some, so used milk with a 1/2 tsp of white vinegar mixed in)
2 tbsp dark rum
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350˚

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, soda, powder and salt and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream (or milk), rum and vanilla and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until smooth. Add in both sugars and beat until creamy, scraping down sides of the bowl at least once. Add eggs one at a time until incorporated.

In batches, mix in 1/3 flour mixture, then 1/2 liquid, flour, then liquid then flour until incorporated. Fold in banana puree.

Using a 1/4 cup measure, fill phyllo cups with dough and bake for 20 minutes. Phyllo should get nice a crispy in that time. Rotate pans halfway through if one side is getting browner than the other.

Let cupcakes cool while you make the frosting.

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Can't have Banana cupcakes without some kind of cream cheese frosting.

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tbs caramel sauce

Beat butter until creamy, then add in cream cheese and beat together, scraping down sides of the bowl at least once. Gradually add powdered sugar until mix gets thick and creamy, scraping down sides of the bowl still. Beat in caramel until smooth. Texture will probably be on the softer side, but isn't exactly runny. If you want a firmer frosting, reduce cream cheese quantity and bump up the butter a bit.

Top cupcakes with frosting, then swirl in caramel sauce on top. I attempted to fill a cupcake with caramel too, but it seemed like a bit too much. Maybe I was wrong and it would be insanely delicious. Give it a shot. Surely you could garnish these cupcakes with slices of ripe banana as well. I was too in love with the swirly pattern to let it be obstructed by anything.

I hope I win the challenge!