Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jaffa Cupcakes

Aren't these the cutest little clementine oranges you've ever seen? They're not the real thing though. The real oranges are in the bowl in the background. These little cuties are made from marzipan! They were pretty easy and very fun to make. I decided to make these to top some cupcakes I was creating for my little brother's birthday.

He LOVES the English Jaffa Cakes which are these chocolatey-orangey (McVitie's terms) biscuits. We can find them in the U.S. now and I'm always buying him a box for his birthday or Christmas. We visited a cupcake shop together recently and he commented that nobody makes a chocolate-orange combination. So, I vowed to him that I would...and here it is! I made chocolate cupcakes with a homemade orange buttercream and topped them with my homemade marzipan crafted into tiny little clementine oranges.

Overall, they turned out quite good, but I did have a few hiccups (I mean learning experiences) along the way.
First of all, I think I filled my cupcake papers just a little too much. So, while they rose nicely and baked perfectly, they were a little too full and some of them stuck to the cupcake tin a little. They don't even look that full, but it's best to keep them only 1/2-2/3 full.

I also tried using these new cupcake papers called "If You Care." They are unbleached, which I thought was good and while I was trying to be a good environmentally conscious baker, they didn't work out so well. While they boast "better non-stick performance" that apparently not only meant they wouldn't stick to the pan, but also that the cake wouldn't stick to the paper. The cupcakes that I baked in these papers, were coming away from the paper and looked awful. I was lucky that I baked half of them in just plain white (yes, probably bleached) cupcake papers, but they turned out better (the one on the right).

Ok, so that's my venting about the cupcakes out of the way. Now onto the fun part - the little marzipan clementines.
I started with my smallest packet of frozen marzipan that I made from scratch earlier in the year. I thawed it in the refrigerator overnight and then let it come to room temperature the next day. As I did previously when I made the marzipan tulips, I reconstituted the marzipan using a little light corn syrup and it came together and was ready to mold in no time.
The first step was to make it orange, so I used an actual clementine orange as my subject and used AmeriColor Electric Orange (163) that was cut into the marzipan before I kneaded it. After having green and pink hands for a few days after coloring fondant for my birthday cake, I decided to wear some gloves to knead the orange color into the marzipan.

I was pretty happy with this nice bright orange color and molded it into a log first.

I cut the log into eight somewhat equal pieces.

Then, I cut each of the eight pieces in two and this was the size I used for rolling them into 16 little oranges.

One tip that I almost forgot about (and had to re-roll a few) was to place them on plastic wrap after molding them as it's pretty sticky.

I love this idea that I read about. To give the oranges their stem, I used whole cloves with the bloom from the middle removed.

Then they were rolled over my ceramic spice grater for the "dimpled" effect. However, I find that marzipan (especially homemade) has a little texture to it anyway from the ground almonds.

Here they are, my heaping bowl full of marzipan oranges. Now onto decorating the cupcakes...

I ended up making my own recipe for the orange buttercream. It ended up having a nice light orange flavor, but not too overpowering (see recipe below).
I piped on the frosting as I thought it would look nicer with the orange zest in it. While I definitely need to work on my piping skills (and am trying desperately to get into that course in culinary school), this was a little more difficult to pipe because it had a looser consistency with the orange juice I added in. Perhaps, I should have added a bit more powdered sugar to hold it together more, but it worked out just fine. I chilled the cupcakes overnight and it held together nicely. I just let them come to room temperature before I placed the marzipan oranges on top and served them.

While I learned a few things along the way, I was quite happy with my Jaffa cupcakes. My brother was too, but admitted that he felt I had gone through way too much trouble for him to just inhale it in less than a minute.
Recipe for Orange Buttercream:
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 teaspoons fresh grated orange peel
4-6 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add in the powdered sugar a little at a time and beat on low (so it doesn't fly everywhere). Beat in the vanilla and orange peel. Add the orange juice a few tablespoons at a time for taste and consistency. Note: I used a little over 6 tablespoons and it had a nice flavor, but the consistency was a little loose.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fun with Fondant

This is my first time even working with fondant and since I'm crazy, I also decided I needed to make the fondant from scratch as well. I had been talking to my friend in pastry school about all the blogs writing about different types of flavored fondants - mostly marshmallow and white chocolate. I researched recipes for white chocolate fondant and it's basically making a melted white chocolate add-in for plain rolled fondant. Instead of just buying rolled fondant, I thought I'd try to do it all from scratch and make that too. Yes, it took longer, but it wasn't necessarily difficult.
Fondant is basically a whole lot of powdered sugar that is pulled together and made pliable with gelatin, water, corn syrup and glycerin. Doesn't sound that tasty, right? That's why I wanted to try to make the white chocolate fondant. All the recipes I looked through indicated this as being very difficult to make and it wasn't easy, but I read through lots of tips and it didn't turn out too bad for my first try. I found a Food Network page with some great tips on working with fondant that I'll definitely refer to in the future.
For the rolled fondant, I used a recipe in my James Peterson "Baking" book as all the recipes I've tried from his book turn out great and it had a really handy step-by-step photo guide.
I first added the water to the gelatin and allowed it to "bloom." Then, it was dissolved over simmering water before adding in the corn syrup and glycerin. This mixture was kneaded into the 7+ cups of powdered sugar. It seemed VERY sticky at first, but I kneaded it in with even more powdered sugar and got it to come together nicely. This was wrapped in plastic, a damp towel and more plastic to let it rest.

Now for the white chocolate....

I used a recipe that I found on Martha Stewart Weddings. It called for using cocoa butter, which I didn't have on hand, so I used a little shortening to mix in with the white chocolate instead and it worked out just fine.
White chocolate was melted down with a little shortening and then stirred in with light corn syrup. That was poured into plastic wrap to stand a room temperature overnight. I kneaded the white chocolate mixture and then kneaded it in with the plain rolled fondant using some corn starch as it was sticky. It came together so nicely though and I ended up with a smooth and silken round of delicious white chocolate fondant.
It rested all day and I was able to roll it out very easy (again with a dusting of corn starch).
Now I got the cake ready. I made a small vanilla cake with two layers. To go with the white chocolate fondant, I made a white chocolate buttercream (see below for recipe) for in between the layers and the fondant to adhere to on the outside of the cake. It was a little tricky to roll out and I had to redo it a few times as part of it was a little thin when I tried to drape it on the cake. I used more corn starch to smooth the fondant on the cake over the buttercream and trimmed the bottom edge.

While I had accomplished covering the cake with fondant, I did want to decorate it in some way. This cake is for my birthday, so I went with a few fun colors and split the leftover fondant to knead in some pink and green gel food coloring. I realized that I just have "electric" Americolor, so it turned out more bright that I had wanted, so I'll have to get some more muted colors to keep in stock as well. I just went simple and got my circle cutters out and went with dots for the cake. It was pretty easy to roll out and cut and I continued to use lots of corn starch to keep it from sticking to the counter. Throughout the decorating process, I was getting quite hungry and I sustained myself by sampling the white chocolate fondant.

I made a simple royal icing to use as the "glue" for the fondant circles to stick to the cake and stick on top of each other. It wasn't perfect, but I cut a ribbon of fondant as the bottom just didn't look finished enough.
I was so happy with the way my cake turned out and the experience of working with fondant. It is time consuming, but won't deter me from doing it again. In fact, I have some extra plain rolled fondant leftover and some extra pink and green white chocolate fondant. So, I'll have to come up with some ideas of how to use that soon.
I even had pink and green candles to put in my cake and Audrey helped me blow out the candles.

"Happy Birthday to me!" I know it's not normal to make your own birthday cake, but those who know me know that I'm a bit of a control freak and in this case I was able to create the flavor and look of my cake (even if I was made fun of for doing it). Plus, I was able to conquer making fondant.

Recipe for White Chocolate Buttercream
6 oz. white chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup unsalted butter, cut in pieces (cold)
1 cup powdered sugar
Microwave the white chocolate with the whipping cream in a bowl on high for about 1 1/2 minutes, stirring half way through, until almost completely melted. Stir until completely melted. Cool to room temperature.
Beat butter and sugar gradually into cooled white chocolate mixture on high speed until light and fluffy.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nutella Filled Donuts

I LOVE Nutella. I've always looked at it as a breakfast treat and especially like it paired with Nutella on toast with sliced banana and Nutella and banana crepes. When I saw a post on the Tartelette blog with a recipe for donuts filled with Nutella I knew I had to try them. I had a lot of family visiting this past weekend, so while we enjoyed yogurt parfaits with the lemon curd I made last week, I attempted to make these donuts.
Nutella is quite thick, so I stirred it up in a dish before putting it in the piping bag. I also prepped everything - a plate to put the donuts after they were fried (which I lined with paper towel), a piping bag with Nutella and a sifter with powdered sugar to sprinkle on the fresh donuts.

The batter was delicious made with whole milk ricotta. I found it difficult to keep the temperature steady to fry the donuts, so the first few batches seemed to fry to quickly on the outside before completely cooking the inside. But, I got it down after a while and ended up with pretty golden donuts that were filled with Nutella and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and oozing with warm Nutella....then washed down with a strong cup of coffee.

Lemon Curd Layer Cake

I went a little crazy this past week with all kinds of baking projects, but it was such fun. My husband was traveling and I used nap times and evening to try out some new things. I was originally intending for this cake to be my birthday cake. However, I really wanted to try using fondant and fondant just didn't sound good on a lemon cake with lemon curd, so I made this cake in addition and we enjoyed it the day after my birthday when we visited family at the lake.
I wanted to make lemon curd anyway and found this recipe for a lemon cake with lemon curd layers and a lemon swiss meringue buttercream frosting in the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. It sounds like lemon overload, but it was a great combination. I don't have very many nice photos of this, unfortunately, as I forgot my nice camera and we were away from home. But, it was a lovely cake and I wanted to record making this.
The cake itself was a very nice texture and it wasn't too lemony at all. The cake was moistened by including creme fraiche that was mixed with the lemon zest and lemon juice.

It was meant to be a four layer cake, but I was short on time, so I chose not to cut the layers and just did two layers. However, I think it would be worth it to trim the layers the next time I would make this as the additional lemon curd layers would make the cake even more moist and flavorful.
The swiss meringue buttercream was nice and smooth, but didn't seem to refrigerate and keep that well for the next day. I did beat it to soften it for frosting the cake, but it didn't seem to come together as nicely as a traditional buttercream. I had some extra lemon curd and used it to roughly pipe on the outside of the cake.

Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches

I wanted to make some fun and easy to make ahead treats for this past weekend when I had family visiting, so I made a few different kinds of ice cream sandwiches. I've made plenty of cookies and I always try to make homemade ice cream, but this is the first time I've combined the two to make ice cream cookie sandwiches.

I tried a new recipe for a chocolate sugar cookie that I found on one of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen. I made homemade vanilla bean ice cream to make sandwiches with the chocolate cookies. While I thought the cookies were great out of the oven, I don't know if I cared for them as much when they were cold and frozen as ice cream sandwiches, but they were still yummy. It might have been because the other one I made was just so much better. I made my traditional oatmeal cookies and paired them with homemade cinnamon ice cream. This was the perfect combination and by far the favorite of the two. The cookies just have more texture and the ice cream was more creamy and flavorful with the cinnamon.

I baked the cookies a day in advance, let them cool and then stored them in air tight containers to keep them fresh. I made my ice creams in advance as well and let them harden more in the freezer. When I was ready to put together the ice cream sandwiches, I took the ice creams out of the freezer for about 10-15 minutes to let the ice cream soften so you could spread it. The vanilla ice cream I made was not a custard based ice cream though and it softened too much where it squished out of the cookies a bit when we wrapped them.

After we made the sandwiches, we wrapped them individually in aluminum foil and put them in the freezer to harden. It's nice that they can be made in advance and you can just pop them out of the freezer when you're ready for a treat. There are so many fun combinations you can try with different cookies and ice creams. The other thing I did not do that would be yummy is to roll the edges of the ice cream sandwich in nuts, chopped candy or mini chips before freezing them. You could also make chocolate fudge or caramel dipping sauce for even more indulgence.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Puff Pastry to Palmiers

What ended up as this gorgeous heart shaped cookie glistening with sugar did not start out so pretty. In fact, it started out as a mound of lifeless looking dough that I hoped to turn into puff pastry over the course of a few days to then transform into these rolled heart shaped cookies known as "Palmiers."

It seems as if I'd try to make these pretty little heart shaped cookies for Valentine's day, but the true reason for me making these this month is for my Nan's birthday. Palmiers are her favorite pastry and something I always remember her choosing for a treat. In fact, when I lived with her during college in England, I had several trips to France and would always return home with a bag of Palmiers from one of the French patisseries. They are usually made quite large there, but I wanted to start out small and I love the petite version of these delicate cookies.

You can make these using puff pastry sheets purchased from a grocery store, but I wanted to try to start from complete scratch and actually make my own puff pastry. I used the puff pastry guide in my James Peterson "Baking" cookbook and proved quite helpful.

Here is the mound of dough that I started out with which is sans butter at this point. You scored the top of the dough and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, the scored pieces from the top were folded out and then rolled out. I kneaded the butter into a nice square shape in plastic wrap.

The square of butter was placed in the middle and the dough folds were wrapped around the butter like a little package.
The dough was rolled out to evenly distribute the butter and then folded over a few times before refrigerating again so the butter could solidify more before continue to roll.
The dough was rolled and turned seven times with chilling in between before rolling out the final product of puff pastry. I was hoping I had folded it enough and the butter was even throughout, but I wasn't too sure at this point.
To make the palmier cookies, I rolled out the final dough in granulated sugar and measured it to get a rectangle of at least 9 x 14.
The sugar was so glittery on the ivory dough and I was happy to see all the layers in the dough.

I always thought these cookies were individually shaped into hearts so whoever came up with this method for making these is a genius. The dough was folded in twice with generous sprinklings of sugar in between. Then it was rolled together and placed on its side.

There is the heart shape we're looking for!
The cookies were sliced about 1/4" thick from this log of folded puff pastry and placed on a parchment lined baking sheet.
They baked very nicely and turned out a pretty golden brown with the shiny melted sugar in between the layers of pastry. I was happy that they baked so well as I wasn't sure if my smooshed looking slices would turn into pretty golden hearts like the book.

I hope Nan would be proud of these. I called her on her birthday to let her know I was making them especially for her and I have a cellophane bag of palmier cookies ready to be packaged and sent to Victoria road for her to enjoy.