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Monday
Mar152010

Sweets for the Sweet: Samoa Cupcakes by Rainy Day Gal

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Rainy Day Gal (a.k.a. Jenny Miller), a fellow Seattle blogger with a major sweet tooth.

Right now Samoas are here. As are Thin Mints. And Tagalongs. And some weird new flavors that nobody wants. But I'll forgive them their dried-cranberries-in-a-cookie misstep just this once. I just can't resist those cute little gals in uniform in front of the grocery store. I'm their best customer, and especially so this year because I decided to take on a baking project involving my all time fave---the aforementioned Samoas. Crunchy cookie covered in chocolate, caramel and toasted coconut? What could be better? Making it into a cupcake, of course. You could do this with any of your favorite cookies, Girl Scout or non---see my suggestions at the end of this post. To match the flavors of the Samoa, I chose a basic vanilla cupcake and a frosting lightly flavored with coconut. I now accept that I am ready to begin. So I will.

First we need to get some coconut milk reducing to make it more concentrated. Pour a can into a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer over medium heat for about a half hour. Give it a stir once in a while. It will froth and get really big, but the liquid is really reducing in there. Meanwhile, grab the basics: flour, cake flour, sugar, baking powder, salt.

4 eggs. Hippie eggs. I wrote a song about them earlier but I felt it would be inappropriate to share with you. Unsalted butter. 2 sticks. Cubed.

One cup of whole milk. And I'm definitely not going to share my song about hippie milk with y'all.

Pure vanilla extract. Don't ever buy imitation vanilla flavoring, pretty please. I will come over and throw it out your window. And, most importantly? The cookies.

I used two boxes for 24 cupcakes. I accept that there are far too many calories in Samoas alone, let alone in a Samoa cupcake. Somewhere Jillian Michaels is doing push-ups in her magical trainer castle and plotting what she'll have in store for me tomorrow. Stick 'em in your food processor and pulse away. Not even close. Getting closer.... ...perfect.

Toss 'em in a shallow bowl and let's get ready to make our cupcake batter. Toss your dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Give it a quick spin on low to combine the powdery stuff. Throw in your butter... ...and mix just until those little buttery chunks are coated with flour. Crack your 4 hippie eggs into the milk and add one tablespoon of vanilla. Mix well. Add the milk/egg/vanilla mixture to the dry ingredients a third at a time, stopping before each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. One... two.... ...three. It's alright if it's a little lumpy. Those little chunks of butter will serve to keep the cupcakes moist.

Now here's my trick for filling cupcake liners. Grab a big freezer bag and anchor 3 inches of one of the bottom corners under something heavy. Your stand mixer works perfectly for this. Pour in the batter (I usually hook one edge of the bag onto the little metal thingie that the mixer attachments hook onto. Yes, that is it's proper name.). Seal the bag, hold at the corner and cut off the tip. This is for those of us ghetto-fabulous chefs who don't own pastry bags. Fill your liners about 1/3 full...

...and then sprinkle on a light layer of the crumbled cookies. Then squeeze more batter over the top so that the entire thing is about 3/4 full. Throw into a preheated 325F oven for 17-20 minutes.

By now your coconut milk should be about a quarter of what it once was. It's also creamy and thick---perfect! Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Ready to make frosting? Combine cream cheese, butter, vanilla, powdered sugar and reduced coconut milk in your mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Mix until light and creamy.

Once the cakes are done, set them on a rack to cool completely before frosting. I'm fairly certain my cupcake army is plotting to take over my home. Once they're cool enough, frost with about 1 tablespoon of frosting each. We're really using frosting in this case to serve as "glue" for the cookie crumbs---we don't want to overdo it. After frosting, give 'em a light dunk in the cookie crumbles. Perfect! I found one stray cookie in the box, so he gets the seat of honor (pictured top). Uh oh. Maybe he's commander of the army.

I think I've just done myself in. And, just because I feel like being sued for copyright infringement*, I stuck a purdy little Girl Scout logo on one of these beauties. *Rainy Day Gal has no affiliation with the Girl Scouts. She admires and respects the organization and hopes that they will not sue her, but instead send her boxes and boxes of cookies. 

Alright, let's get down to it: how did they taste? Pretty darn good. The cake was moist and a tad on the dense side, with a crunchy little layer of cookie halfway down. The frosting added to the flavor of the cake, but didn't overpower the taste of the cookies on top. I simply loved the texture: crunch is always good. These cakes are not for the faint of heart, however---they are incredibly rich. I would make two Girl Scouts share one. A chaser of milk is definitely in order. I now accept that this post has come to an end. But before you go here are some ideas I have for making cupcakes using other flavors of GS Cooks (that's my new nickname for them. Go with it.):

I hope you're enjoying Girl Scout cookie season as much as I am! Well, who am I kidding---I don't think anyone enjoys Girl Scout cookie season as much as I do. Have a totes fab wed, y'all. -RDG Samoa Cupcakes

  • One batch Vanilla Vanilla Cupcake batter
  • 2 boxes Samoas cookies, pulsed in a food processor until crumbly
  • One batch Slightly Coconut Frosting (see below)

Preheat oven to 325F. Fill cupcake liners 1/3 full of batter. Sprinkle a light layer of cookie crumbs on top of batter. Pour the remaining batter on top until liners are about 3/4 full. Bake for 17-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Once cool, spread one tablespoon of frosting on top and then lightly press frosted side of cupcake into cookie crumbs. Makes 24 cupcakes. Slightly Coconut Frosting

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Pour coconut milk into a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced by 75%. Let cool. Combine 4 tablespoons of the reduced coconut milk and remaining ingredients and beat until light and creamy. Refrigerate any unused frosting.

Monday
Mar152010

The Bomb: Filled Cupcakes a la Smitten Kitchen for Serious Eats

Here in Seattle, every March something extremely joyful happens: all of the cupcake shops debut their individual takes on boozy Irish-themed cupcakes.

However, for those of you not in Seattle (or someplace that embraces Irish-inspired cake flavors as readily), fear not, because I've found a recipe to share.

It's an adaptation of the now legendary version first found last year on Smitten Kitchen, with some small liberties taken. Amazingly, while the alcohol is very much present in these cakes, it somehow manages to not be overpowering, instead imparting sophisticated flavor to the frosting and filling and a decadent fudgy texture to the cake.

For the full writeup and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

 

 

Sunday
Mar142010

Poires from Paris: Bagatelle de Poires Pochees Recipe

Totally sweet: a recipe from an actual French person! Here's a guest post from the wonderful and talented Helene, whose work you can find over here.

Well, today you will be able to amazed every one by cooking: "une bagatelle de poires pochées" for 8. How to make it? Nothing easier... I'll show you right now.

First, you have to prepare your pears by dousing them in a delicious sugar and spice coating.

For 4 pears, mix into a big pan:

  • 1 liter of water
  • 500 g of sugar
  • 3 or 4 cinnamon stick
  • Some star anise
  • 4 g. of vanilla

Let the mixture heated and dip your peeled pears, drained and cut in 2 pieces.

Let it cook slowly...

Second, prepare the biscuit

This is a cheap and easy recipe for a biscuit very Frenchy and so good.... This is the basis of our fruits or chocolate charlotte cake. For our recipe we need to prepare it in 2 plain circles. But first of all... the recipe :

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 100 g of sugar
  • 100 g of flour

 Procedure

  1. Separate the white from the egg yolk. Mix the yolk and 80 g of sugar in a bowl: whisk strong enough to lather and bleach everything.  
  2. Beat the egg whites until stiff and mixed with the remaining 20g sugar. Whisk again to smooth everything.
  3. Mix it gently with the yolk. Stir very slowly so as not to « break » our preparation.
  4. Add in once the flour and mixed it still gently.
  5. The batter is ready ! take your pastry tip and bag...
  6. Make 2 regular spiral, the size of your dessert circles.
  7. Sprinkle with icing sugar or cocoa powder twice.
  8. And presto! : bake them, 15 min. à 180°C

And third, the mousseline cream!

We have to start with our pear mixture.

Once it cooled, we will have to mix it with butter cream.

Ingredients

  • 300 g of whole milk 
  • 1 egg
  • 40 g of sugar
  • 30 g of fecule de pomme de terre (I don't know the word for this)
  • 1/2 vanilla pod

Faire un pâtissière :

  1. Heat the milk with the vanilla until it bowled.
  2. In the mean time, whisk together egg, sugar, powdered cream with a little hot milk (to relax the mixture).
  3. Once the milk is boiling, mixed everything in the pan and thicken everything, whisking bluntly!
  4. Be careful not to burn the preparation
  5. Once ready, take the mixture away from the fire and put it down a plate to the freezer for 20 minutes to cool it completely.
  6. Meanwhile, get your 170g soft butter!    I mean  a soft butter (not melted)  and whip  it into cream . 
  7. When your mixture is cooled, mix butter whipped with it.

Your mousseline  is ready!

Fourth, assembly ...

  1. Your pears are drained and  cutted 
  2. Place your first biscuit in the bottom and wet it with syrup poached pears. 
  3. Put your cream into a first layer and place a pear slice on the side of your circle.
  4. Fill with half a pear cutted in small pieces! be generous and cover with cream mousseline.
  5. Cover it with your second wet biscuit !
  6. The circle is completed ...chill for at least 2 hours.
  7. Once cooled, here is a great cake nearly done!
  8. It is better to eat the next day, so the flavors will be stronger and better "soaked" !  

C'est formidable...

Finally,  some decorating suggestions!

In France, it is common to add a thin layer of almond paste and write the name of the cake  on it.  

But I prefer that you use your imagination. If you're afraid of spoiling, prefer simplicity! For example, use your last poached pears into slices and place it on your decor, or the spices from the syrup...or maybe you'd like to make them into little "cupcakes" ...the sky's the limit!

Thank you very much! I hope you love this "bagatelle" French pear cake !  

Sunday
Mar142010

Tartelets of the Table: Chocolate Tartelet Recipe from Alabama Studio Style

When I received a sample copy of Alabama Studio Style: More Projects, Recipes, & Stories Celebrating Sustainable Fashion & Living in the mail, I was initially perplexed--although it is beautiful, it seemed like it was a book of sewing and home projects.

But then I found it: the recipes. Scattered throughout the creative sewing and home projects are several delicious recipes--most notably this one, for chocolate tartelets. Filled with creamy chocolate that falls somewhere between custard and ganache, these are an extremely delicious dessert, and they've definitely made me curious about some of the other recipes in the book, including coconut cupcakes. And there is a DIY project for homemade cake plates...

Chocolate Tartelets

Adapted from Alabama Studio Style by Natalie Chanin

You'll need: one pie crust, separated into 12 3-inch tartlet servings (use your favorite recipe for a 9-inch pie)

Note: a similar full size pie recipe is on the Alabama Studio Style site!

For the filling:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

For the meringue

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Filling procedure

In the top of a double boiler, combine 1 cup sugar and the flour. Add buttermilk and simmer over boiling water for about 15 minutes, until thick. Remove from heat. Beat the egg yolks, and then add them to the milk mixture. In a separate bowl, mix cocoa with enough boiling water to form a paste, and then whisk this paste into the double boiler mixture. Return to heat and simmer over boiling water until thick. Remove from heat, and add butter and vanilla. Cool, then transfer to prebaked pastry tartlet shells.

Meringue topping procedure

While filling is cooling, preheat oven to 325, and prepare meringue as follows: in a medium sized bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until mixture stands in a peak. Beat in 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Gently fold in 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Spread on top of prepared tartlets and bake until lightly browned, about 5-10 minutes.

Sunday
Mar142010

Cake Byte: Portland's Pix Patisserie Now Shipping Macarons!

Pix Pâtisserie in Portland, Oregon is pretty much the cutest place ever, and I feel sorry for anyone who has never visited.

Happily, now you can get a taste of the action even if you don't live near Portland: they've just started to ship their macarons nationwide!

Per a recent press release, owner Cheryl Wakerhauser

gives a nod to the classic French macaron with some taste make-overs for many of the 30 rotating flavors. The macaron flavors at Pix are inspired by artisan ingredients and the highest quality products available such as locally distilled Trillium Absinthe, Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Fleur de Sel Caramel, and homemade peanut butter...and tempts the flavor palate with hints of sweet and savory from maple bacon to pumpkin spice, espresso, curry and Taylor Fladgate 10-year Tawny Port. And, there are always the French classics represented like cassis-violet, pistachio, and chocolate (only the Pix chocolate is triple chocolate dipped in 75% origin chocolate). For the real adventurer there is the Meka Leka Hi Meka Hiney Ho flavored with Trillium Absinthe and loaded with chocolate covered pop rocks.

Here's the full list of flavors:

  • Raspberry
  • Woodford Reserve Bourbon
  • Hazelnut
  • Passion Fruit
  • Espresso
  • Rose
  • Cheesecake
  • Taylor Fladgate 10-year Tawny Port
  • Pistachio
  • Chocolate Cinnamon
  • Curry
  • Spanish Almond and Sherry
  • Coconut Rum
  • Blueberry
  • Cassis Violet
  • Candy Cane (seasonal)
  • Spring Bank 10 Scotch Whisky
  • Fleur de Sel Caramel
  • Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil
  • Chocolate Chip
  • Pumpkin Spice
  • Chocolate Covered Cherry
  • Meka Leka Hi Meka Hiney Ho (Trillium Absinthe and Chocolate Covered Pop Rocks)
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly
  • Chestnut Whisky
  • Maple Bacon
  • Apple Pie
  • Sesame Matcha Tea
  • Lemon Basil
  • Triple Chocolate 

Like, whoa.

Want the 411? These macarons are available in a 14-piece Chartreuse Box or seven-piece gift tube online with USPS overnight delivery and a 4-day advanced order on their online store. For a catered selection of flavors available by the dozen, please contact info@pixpatisserie.com. Shipping costs are $30 for the first dozen and $5 for each additional dozen. 

Friday
Mar122010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Chocolate Facts for American Chocolate Week

Guess what? March 14 marks the start of American Chocolate Week. Like you needed a reason to eat chocolate, right? So, inspired by a list sent to me by Ask.com featuring 10 facts about chocolate, I've added to the list so that you've got a baker's dozen of sweet factoids about the dark and dreamy stuff:

Who invented chocolate? While Nestle and Johnny Depp would lobby for Willy Wonka, history awards the honors to the ancient Aztecs and Mayans of Mexico and Central America.

What is the bestselling chocolate bar? Snickers!

How is chocolate made? Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, which are roasted and then ground into a powder. The cocoa powder is then mixed with variations of sugar, milk and cream to make different types of chocolate.

What was CakeSpy's first word? If you believe my mom, the first word I ever uttered, aside from "ma" and "pa" was "chocolate".

Why can’t dogs eat chocolate? The long answer above has something to do with methylxanthines. The short answer involves diarrhea and your new shag carpet.

How can I melt chocolate evenly? Size does matter. Chop the chocolate into uniform pieces to ensure that all the pieces melt at the same speed in a glass bowl over boiling water (double boiler).

Why is fair trade chocolate good for the environment? Fair trade practices can vary in their environment benefits, but it does empower farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace.

How do I make chocolate mousse? Pretty easily actually - all you need is finely chopped bittersweet chocolate, unsalted butter, coffee, heavy cream, eggs and sugar.

Why is dark chocolate good for you? It is packed with flavoniods that keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels, reduce the risk of blood clots and slow down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries. 

Should you eat chocolate after working out? Per Wikipedia, A study from James Madison University, presented at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting, showed that post-exercise consumption of lowfat chocolate milk provides equal or possibly superior muscle recovery compared to a high-carbohydrate recovery beverage with the same amount of calories. 

Which came first, the cookie or the chocolate chip? Chocolate chip cookies were invented before the morsels. The cookies were invented in 1933 when Ruth Graves Wakefield of the Toll House Inn in the town of Whitman, Massachusetts added cut-up chunks of a semi-sweet Nestlé chocolate bar to a cookie recipe. The cookies were a huge success, and Wakefield reached an agreement with Nestlé to add her recipe to the chocolate bar's packaging in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate. Initially, Nestlé included a small chopping tool with the chocolate bars, but in 1939 they started selling the chocolate in chip (or "morsel") form. 

Who doesn't like chocolate? Jesse Breytenbach, who did a graphic novel on the subject. But we'll forgive her, because she's awfully clever.

Chocolate is deadly: In that famous shower scene in Psycho, it's not blood running down the drain--but chocolate syrup. Guess that was easier to get away with when filming in black and white!

Tuesday
Mar092010

Mac Attack: Sweet French Lessons for Beginners at Versailles

Let's face it: nobody wants to be the American in Paris who can't even take a stab at bonjour. But I know it can be hard to get motivated to learn a new language, so I've put together a sweet lesson of useful phrases, all taught by the sweetest of fluent speaking teachers--French macarons--in the sweetest of classrooms: the opulent Palace of Versailles.

Commençons! 

What to say when those freedom-loving French ladies bare all? You tell them to reign it in. Translation: "Be Modest!"

Even though you're in a foreign country, you should never feel like you can't speak your mind. Translation: "My apartment is nicer."

If you're enjoying yourself, by all means, let it be known! Translation: "I'm the king of the world!"

Because you never know when you'll brush shoulders with greatness...Translation: "Hello Descartes. What's up?"

Now, little macaron, that's just rude! This is a family site.

Be polite, but do let your desires be known. Translation: "I'm hungry!" and response "Where's the beef?"

Of course, you should be aware that sometimes different cultures have customs which we might not understand. Translation: "The horror!"

...and of course, because we are at Versailles, let's give a little shout-out to Marie Antoinette's famous declaration. Roughly translates to "Let them eat cake!"

See? You're practically fluent already. Learning French was never so much fun--or so délicieux.

Tuesday
Mar092010

Sweet Art: Brave for Illustration Friday

Be brave, little Cuppies! Really, he's just a big softie.

For Illustration Friday's theme this week: Brave.

Monday
Mar082010

Gimme More: Pisco-Infused Alfajores Recipe

C is for Cookie, but A is for Alfajor.

Say what?

If you've never heard of them, alfajores are definitely one to add to your alphabet of sweets: a delectable type of crumbly cookie commonly sandwiched with indulgent dulce de leche.

Though most commonly associated with South American countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Paraguay, Chile, Perú and the South of Brazil, these cookies actually take their roots in the Arab World: per Wikipedia, "the name alfajor is derived from Arabic الفاخر, which means "fancy" or "great" sweets. The archetypal alfajor entered Iberia during the period of al-Andalus."

Though this sweet treat has a long history, I took a more modern approach by making a Pisco-infused batch (with thanks to Gran Sierpe, who kindly donated some Pisco, a Peruvian brandy, with which to test out some recipes). The brandy adds a slightly sophisticated bite to the sweet cookies, compelling you to take bite after bite to try to figure out the source of the je ne sais quoi.

Want to make your own? Here's the recipe I used.

Alfajores

Adapted from About.com's South American Food

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Pisco (I used Gran Sierpe)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup dulce de leche, OR 1 cup vanilla buttercream, for filling
  • 1/2 cup toasted coconut, finely chopped (optional)

 

Procedure

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and mix briefly.
  3. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture, blending with your fingers until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and Pisco, and mix with your hands until the dough is homogeneous and smooth. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  5. For this step, either follow the original recipe by rolling out dough to 3/8" thickness, and cutting into 2 inch circles--OR, do as I did and roll the dough into a log and then slice cookies to your desired thickness (I liked fat ones, maybe 1/4 inch thick).  Place cookies on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Bake cookies for 10-15 minutes, until they are barely golden brown. Let cookies cook 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to rack to cool completely (they are quite fragile until they cool).
  7. To fill the cookies, spread one cookie with dulce de leche and top with second cookie (note: as I found out, buttercream works beautifully too--picture below). If desired, roll the edges in the coconut. Store in an airtight container.

Monday
Mar082010

Cake Byte: Sweet Avenue Bake Shop Offers Custom Cupcakes to Ship Nationwide

A frequent question posed chez CakeSpy is "how can I ship cupcakes?". Well, there is the option of shipping them in mason jars, but other than that I'd probably be better at advising you on how not to ship cupcakes.

Happily, NJ's Sweet Avenue Bake Shop is now offering some sweet shipping options for their award-winning vegan cupcakes. They do small quantities so it won't break the bank, and you have the option of a DIY cupcake kit wherein it comes with all of the necessary bits and bobs and you decorate your own; or, they also have a fun customized option, so that you can upload a picture for custom cakes and send them to someone you love (how 'bout sending a big picture of your face to mom?). Here's the 411 from Sweet Avenue Bake Shop:

DIY Cupcake Kit: $25 (shipping included)

The Decorate It Yourself Cupcake kit includes your choice of three cupcakes, three frostings, and your choice of 3 sprinkles. Do you want all chocolate? Red velvet and cream cheese? Peanut butter frosting with rainbow sprinkles? It's all fair game. We'll even include some frosting wands to get you started. These kits are great for kids, as a gift for a friend, or just as a way to try out our cupcakes if you can't make it to our New Jersey bake shop.

Image Printed Cupcakes$45 (shipping included)

Custom image printed cupcakes are now available! Send Sweet Avenue your favorite image and enjoy six personalize and delectable treats.
 
Don’t want your own image? Select from our assortment of pop culture edibles such as the popular Twilight Cupcakes featured on People.com! To inquire about image cupcakes, email info@sweetavenuebakeshop.com.
 
For more information or to order, visit sweetavenuebakeshop.com.

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