Friday, April 30, 2010

Spring Cupcakes

I had found these pretty tulip inspired baking cups recently and thought I'd make some spring cupcakes to adorn with my pretty marzipan tulips and also try practicing some piping with some of the new pastry tips I found.
I used my favorite vanilla cake recipe from Billy's Bakery in New York. It's light and fluffy with a great vanilla taste. I made this same recipe for the vanilla cupcakes we had for Audrey's birthday party last year. It's very easy to make with mixing dry ingredients together and adding the wet ingredients to mix in the kitchenaid. It's makes such a glossy and smooth batter.
The recipe makes around 30 cupcakes and I filled all my tulips papers (it came in a pack of only 24) and also made an extra tray of 6 with some pretty pale pink papers. I considered these the test batch! When you put the batter in the tulip papers, the petals folded in a bit and looked so pretty!

Here they are out of the oven. They rose nicely and the only thing that annoyed me was you can see where the paper soaked in some oil from the batter, but the tips are dry. They also came out of the pans nice and held their own.

I made my favorite vanilla buttercream frosting and found it easy to not only put the pastry bag in a cup to fill it, but I folded the edge of the bag over the side of the glass so it wasn't as messy.

With the tulip papers, they probably weren't the best cupcakes to practice piping, but I was up for the challenge. I used a very large star tip and put a nice big swirl of light purple buttercream on top of each one. For the ones that I put the marzipan tulips in, I just spread some of the frosting on top so the tulip would stand out.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Marzipan in Bloom

I first tried to make marzipan last month around St. Patrick's day. After some difficulty and several hours, I ended up with marzipan, managed to color it and ended up with some cute marzipan shamrocks. I had made such a huge batch of marzipan, that I tried freezing it (wrapped in both plastic wrap and foil). I was ready to try molding marzipan again and wanted to be a bit more creative. To go with the season, I wanted to make some marzipan tulips and had seen these in my new marzipan book. Easy, right? Well, since I already had the marzipan made, it wasn't too bad.

I read in another baking book on how you can reconstitute dried marzipan. And, while the marzipan froze quite well, it was a bit dry after it thawed. I used a little bit of corn syrup and kneaded it quite a bit until it was nice and moist and mailable. I started by coloring it the color I wanted my tulips to be and just went with a bright yellow. After the color was kneaded through, I started with a small tube shape.

The tube was cut with a sharp paring knife into equal pieces for each of the tulip flowers.
Then, you molded each piece into a nice smooth cone shape.
Then, I took a pair of sharp kitchen scissors to cut slits in the tip of the cone to make the petals. The book had the petals pointed in, but I molded mine out just a touch.
Here are all my tulips! Once I had accomplished this piece of it, I read on to see how I could do the leaves and stem to finish them off. I used another piece of marzipan to color green, made the cones again and only cut one larger slit to make two leaves.

For the stem, the book suggested using spaghetti noodles (a 3 inch section) to color with food coloring to match the stem. I thought this was ingenious, but was actually out of spaghetti, which I couldn't believe. So, I found some small lollipop sticks, cut them in half and colored them green with a pastry brush. It worked great!

I was so proud of my marzipan tulips and proudly displayed them on top of my spring tulip cupcakes (see next post). I have more marzipan in the freezer and fun plans for things to make coming up!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

I've been making banana oatmeal muffins for about a decade now and it's a great way to use ripe bananas. Many people make banana bread, but these are hearty muffins that are a welcome departure from the traditional banana bread. I'll often freeze my ripe bananas in the peel and then thaw them to use in this recipe.

It's a very simple recipe and I don't even break out the kitchenaid to mix up the batter. You mix together your dry ingredients, including flour, sugar and oats. This time I used 1/2 regular flour and 1/2 whole wheat flour. You mix in the wet ingredients, including the mashed banana, milk and a little vegetable. oil.

I've noticed many bakeries using just the plain parchment squares for muffin papers. I used my roll of parchment paper and cut it into 5 inch squares to use. A good tip I read was to use a cup to mold them into the muffin tin.

I filled them with the batter about 2/3 full using my small ice cream/cookie scoop and tried not to get any batter on the edges of the parchment. They baked very nicely and the parchment made them look more rustic and homemade.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Trip to Yesteryear

Near where I grew up is the little town of Blanchard, Michigan. You'd never imagine such a quaint place to be in the middle of nowhere, but Loafer's Glory is a little gem that I love to visit when I visit my mum. They are closed through the winter months, so we recently went for our first visit of the year. It has a nice country charm to it and while I don't care as much now for country style decorating, it is still fun to look around. They have several shops with anything from candles, to table linens and books. I love going there around Christmastime and in November they always have a live Nativity scene that really sets the mood for the season.
They have a collection of different shops and the Wildflower Tea Room is in the middle. It has more of a luncheon menu without the traditional tea room items, but we always love to eat there. I'll always remember our visits to have lunch there when my Nan was visiting from England and the broccoli cheese soup was always her favorite. In fact, we sat at the table that we last recall sitting with Nan. Audrey and I had a nice lunch with mum and she even shared her hot fudge sundae with Audrey. I had my favorite dessert, their buttermilk pie.
They have fantastic homemade bread that is made in the Sun Flour Bakery and mum and I both ordered a loaf to go.

The Ole's ice cream shop is so charming and I love the old fashioned stools.

A trip to visit my mum always seems like a trip to "yesteryear." Old memories, looking through the room I grew up in, a trip to the Amish farms for eggs or vegetables and a visit for lunch at Loafer's Glory, the "village of yesteryear." I'm already looking forward to my next visit. I think we'll sit on the stools in Ole's and order a big sundae.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Baby Cakes in Raleigh

On my recent visit to see a friend in Raleigh, North Carolina, she was sweet enough to take me to a few pastry hot spots in town to try some baby cakes with my baby cakes. Audrey has definitely caught on to the concept of "treats" and definitely knows how to say "cupcake." On our girls' day out, we went to The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery near downtown Raleigh. It was a very nice place and quite the after dinner dessert hot spot. They had a very classy bakery and eating area. I loved the marble counters (which are just like what I plan to have put in our kitchen) and gorgeous displays. Cupcake bakeries are quite the trend and I always like to check them out.

The cupcakes were mouth watering and gorgeous. I could have tried one of each, but had to hold back. My friend's daughter just wanted a pink cupcake and Audrey would have taken any of them. I think she would have wanted to try the cookie monster cupcake they had, but the strawberry cupcake sounded better to me. I also got a coconut cupcake to try later. They were all piped exactly the same with a tube tip and different adornments to match their flavor, like a little carrot for the carrot cake cupcakes.

Here is our "Pretty in Pink" cupcake that was fresh strawberry cake with strawberry buttercream.

As you can see, Audrey LOVED it! She took the fork and kept going for the frosting.

Another day, we went to the Hereghty Heavenly Delicious Patisserie. We shared an amazing quiche for lunch with a side salad and perused the pastry selection for something to have for dessert. It was definitely more of a European bakery with lots of different cake and torte selections, puddings, custards and some traditional bakery items, like croissants.

They also had a tray of all different french macarons and of course I was interested in trying these after having made them recently myself. They had a nice flavor, but were much smaller than the ones I made and I think they need to be larger since they are so airy and light.

We ended up sharing a chocolate almond Vienna cake that was very dense and rich, but had a great taste. Thanks again to my best girlfriend for a great visit and taking me to check out these bakeries.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Birthday Souffle

When I recently visited a friend for her birthday, I wanted to make her a special treat. I simply asked her what her favorite flavor is. She mentioned caramel and I recalled a recent Martha Stewart show where they made caramel souffle that looked amazing. So, we went to pick up the ingredients and one kids nap time and part of an evening later, we had gorgeous and perfectly risen caramel souffle's to celebrate her birthday.

The first step was to coat the souffle dishes with butter and turbinado sugar. We used the raw Maui sugar that you can get at any grocery store. It's so pretty and we hadn't even put the souffle in the dishes yet!

For the souffle batter you had to first make the actual caramel. I have not done this before and I was a little scared to cook sugar with nothing else in a hot pan, but it indeed cooked down and I just folded it in after it started to brown until it was all dissolved.
After the sugar was completely dissolved and caramelized, we added heavy cream and whole milk and ended up with this creamy caramel sauce. It smelled SO good!
Then, you mixed the egg yolks and sugar together and added a little flour and cornstarch until it was thicker. This was added to the hot caramel sauce to temper it slowly and then completely incorporated.
The caramel sauce and egg yolk mixture was cooked on the stove top again until it was nice and thick like the consistency of homemade pudding.
We left the cooked caramel "pudding" and the egg whites out to get to room temperature and took a dinner break. When we returned to making our dessert, we whipped the egg whites and added more sugar to make a meringue to create the airiness in the souffle. This is where I knew it would be tricky like the macarons I made last week as I didn't want to over mix the batter. I folded all the meringue into the caramel "pudding" and tried to make sure it was a smooth as possible without over beating. In fact, I probably could have mixed it in a little more.

The souffle dishes were filled almost to the top and we put them in the microwave for a few seconds as recommended to set the top of the batter so it would rise better.
I put the light on in the oven several times and we were SO excited to see they were rising!
We just had the caramel souffles on their own which was fantastic, but we were going to whip the remaining heavy whipping cream to have on the side. Martha's guest made caramel ice cream to have on the side, which would be interesting to try. We enjoyed some sweet Moscato wine that evening though and switched to some cold milk to have with our souffle as they were quite rich.
And, while a hot souffle isn't particularly easy to hold a candle, we put one in for the birthday girl.