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Thursday
Feb042010

Beet It: Beet Mash Chocolate Cupcakes with Beet Frosting Recipe

Photo credit: Bobby Marro Photography

Let's face it: beets are probably not going to be the first food you think of as an aphrodisiac. But maybe they should be--as the kind folks at Del Monte were more than happy to share with me, they are rich in boron, which is thought to "get the love juices flowing" (well, doesn't that beet all?)--and per Wikipedia,

Since Roman times, beetroot juice has been considered an aphrodisiac. The juice is a rich source of boron, which plays an important role in the production of human sex hormones. Field Marshal Montgomery is reputed to have exhorted his troops to 'take favours in the beetroot fields', a euphemism for visiting prostitutes.

Who knew, right?

But even sweeter than the love that these jewel-toned nuggets of natural goodness inspire are these delicious cupcakes--a recipe shared with me by Del Monte from Dave Lieberman:

Beet Mash Chocolate Cupcakes with Beet Frosting

Recipe care of Dave Lieberman, campaign spokesperson for the Del Monte “Value without Sacrifice,” Chef and Author of The 10 Things You Need To Eat

- Makes 12-15 cupcakes -

Ingredients For the cupcakes

  • One 14.5 oz. can sliced Beets, drained (Dave suggests Del Monte)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup sweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the Frosting

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • Approx. ½ a can of sliced beets, drained (once again, you guessed it, Del Monte is suggested)
  • 1 pound confectioners sugar

Procedure

  1. For Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a small bowl, mash the drained can of beets finely with a potato masher and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter, granulated sugar, oil, eggs, and water. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet. Fold in the mashed beets and mix well.
  4. Pour the batter into greased cupcake tins. Bake about 15-20 minutes, until set but moist. (Or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean)
  5. Make the Icing: Mash the ½ can of beets finely with a potato masher. Melt 1 stick of butter in a saucepan and add mashed beets. Simmer on very low heat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cream the second stick of butter with a mixer in a bowl. Mix in the melted butter and beet mixture until fully incorporated. Gradually beat in the confectioners sugar.
  6. Frost the cooled cakes liberally with beet frosting.
Thursday
Feb042010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Katy Gunderson of The Yellow Bowl Bakery, Indiana

Pop quiz: you're in Lafayette, Indiana. Where do you get a sweet fix?

Answer: The Yellow Bowl Bakery, the source in the area for cakes, cupcakes, bars, brownies and cookies. One glance at their menu--which ranges from the expected cake flavors to some that might warrant a double take (Un-Cola Cake or  Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, anyone?) will probably convince you of their intense awesomeness, but if not, here's an interview to fill you in on the sweetness behind the cakes, and an insider's view to a day in the life of the bakers, including not only their sweet stories, but some of the sweet causes that keep them energized:

CakeSpy: How did you decide on the name The Yellow Bowl?

The Yellow Bowl / Katy Gunderson: When more people started to hear about my cakes and I began to make them for people outside of my friends and family I decided I needed a name. I was still in the experimental phase with the recipes that I was using. So I was baking nonstop in my tiny little kitchen. I was trying desperately to come up with a name that spoke to the way I feel about baking. One rainy afternoon I was making a fresh batch of blueberry muffins when it hit me. I was just starting to gently stir the wet and dry ingredients together in my only bowl, the big Pyrex yellow bowl that had belonged to my mom and to my grandmother before her. Voila! The Yellow Bowl Bakery was born, out of a rainy day and blueberry muffins.

CS: Katy, you mention that your entry into the world of baking was at home, with your mom and grandma. Tell me about one of the sweets you have fond memories of baking.

YB: When I think of my mom’s cooking I am snapped back to waking up on Saturday morning to my mom’s fresh blueberry pancakes. Pancakes made with love, real maple syrup, and blueberries picked from my Grammy’s blueberry bushes. My mom is a self proclaimed foodie so as long as I can remember I have been cooking with my mom. She made everything we ate as a kid, bread, granola, applesauce, even our mayonnaise! My mom taught me how to crack an egg, measure flour, and follow a recipe, all of these things I might add took place in that yellow bowl. My Grammy taught me how to toast a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (amazing by the way if you have never tried it) how to bake cookies and brownies. During the brownie and cookie process I also learned about salmonella and that a good way to freak her out was to eat raw batter or cookie dough. I’m not going to lie sometime I did it on purpose just to see if she was paying attention. My mom and my Grammy never stifled my creative spirit. In fact I remember one rainy day I decided I was going to make peanut butter with Grammy antique nut grinder. I succeeded in making a huge mess but she let me try it anyway. My favorite thing to make was Christmas cookies because that was when the three of us all baked together. Three generations of women making cookies in that yellow Pyrex bowl.

CS: Molly, you are formally trained in pastry arts. Do you feel as if your formal education has changed the way you look at home baking?

YB: Truthfully my views of home baking have not changed drastically since I attended culinary school. I always used baking at home to test out different recipes, techniques, and flavor combinations on my family and friends. I do have a much greater respect for all home bakers because they do what I do but usually without a lot of the equipment I have readily available.

CS: Working at a bakery, how exactly is it that you are not obese? I've seen pictures. You're both quite svelte.

YB: If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that! Coming from a foodie background I came to have a very special relationship with food. I love to cook, not just bake my boy friend Mark and I rarely eat out. We can often be found coming up with new and fun things for dinner in his kitchen, he is going to kill me for this but he does one heck of an Emeril Lagassee impression so I think I also burn a lot of calories laughing when he is cooking. That being said it’s not all laughing that keeps me fit, I love to work out. I can be found at the gym every morning at 5:30 AM before I go into work. Molly is still in college and she walks to class a lot also when you spend all that time around sweets we get to craving salads quite often. Who would have ever thought I would have a craving for broccoli!

CS: If all of your cupcake flavors had to duke it out in a dark alley, which one do you think would be the last cake standing?

YB: We have a flavor that is called the “Irish Car Bomb”. It is named after a drink that is very popular at a local pub called Nine Irish Brothers. The cup cake created quite a stir when I first opened some people were a little turned off by the name. I don’t know if nine Irish Brothers has ever had any issue with the drink but I guess for some the name was a little too hard core for a cupcake. The cake packs quite a punch with a special beer in the chocolate cake and our Baileys flavored butter cream it will knock your socks off. So I’m guessing it could knock the frosting off our other cakes!

CS: I'm intrigued by this "un-cola" cupcake flavor I see on your menu. Can you tell me more?

YB: The “un-cola” was born of an over abundance of soda that we had in the store one week. We were trying out new cupcake flavors and Dr. Pepper, and Root Beer Float have become big sellers during the summer. We had bombarded everyone with chocolate for a week and decided we needed a break. We made cupcakes with a lemon lime soda, and used a large piping tip to make bubbles of butter cream in lemon lime flavors. I had remembered 7-up being called the un-cola, thus the “un-cola” cupcake was born.

CS: Riddle me this: say you're stranded on a desert island, and you've got to decide on one item from your menu to take with you. What's it gonna be?

YB Katy: Hands down I would take our Margarita cupcake. If I was going to be “trapped” on a desert island what better cupcake to have!

YB Molly: If I could bring only one cupcake I would bring our Sweet Potato cupcake. The rich spicy flavor would bring me back to an Indiana fall day, where even if I was on some beach I could pretend it was a little cooler. The cupcake is topped with marshmallow and caramel sauce and this cupcake would definitely lift my sprits if I was deserted on an island.

CS: In addition to baking sweets for your retail shop and community, you're also giving back through the Cooking with the Wounded program. Can you tell me more about the program--what you're doing and who it benefits?

YB: I was contacted by a woman who wanted to send desserts to her brother and sister in law in Iraq about six months ago. I tried to find a way to do this but with the distance and security I could not figure a way that we could keep the desserts safe. A few months after I had to side line the project I found an article in our local paper about a man named Blake Powers who was traveling to Germany to cook a steak dinner for the troops at Landstuhl. On a whim I contacted him and he was in my bakery the next day. The marriage of Cooking with the Wounded and The Yellow Bowl Bakery or Bakers without Borders, as we have been lovingly nicknamed, was solidified on a trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in DC. Here the bakery made southern style desserts to complement a BBQ prepared by Military blogger “Concrete Bob”. We fed over 200 wounded Military men, women, and their families at Mologne House. Blake has been kind enough to adopt me as a permanent part of the program. The ultimate goal for the program is to help those leaving military service, most especially the wounded, who are interested in a career in the food and beverage industry get the knowledge and training they need. It is also hoped that teams of chefs can be sent to Afghanistan, Iraq, and other locations to cook for the troops there. More information on the program can be found here and on the Yellow Bowl site.

CS: What's next for The Yellow Bowl?

YB: I would love to say that I have a plan for what I would like to see happen with the bakery in the next year but sometimes I get the feeling that the bakery is much bigger than just me. It has come to mean so much to so many different people not just in Lafayette but around the world so I think a better question would be what does The Yellow Bowl Bakery have next for me. I can honestly say that I can’t wait to find out!

The Yellow Bowl Bakery is located at 918 Main Street, Lafayette, IN,  (765) 588-6212; online at theyellowbowl.com.

Thursday
Feb042010

Cake Byte: Semla Available at Seattle's Svedala Bakery

Semla from Svedala

What a happy note to receive in the mail today from CakeSpy buddy Ann, who wrote to say

I just leaned that semlor (which is the plural of semla, I'm told) are available now from Svedala Bakery (yay!).  You have to order them, and they don't ship the semlor because they wouldn't last (what with the whipped cream and all).

My friends and I are plotting our new annual tradition of stuffing ourselves with as many semlor as possible while they're available, so this is good news.

Indeed Ann is right, this is good news. In case you missed the feature on the sweet Swedish specialty last year, basically this is like heaven on a plate, a cardomom-spiced yeast-raised wheat bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream. Per Sweden.se,

 

The plump, cream-filled buns traditionally eaten on Tuesdays begin appearing in shops as early as January 1. Fat Tuesday would be more aptly named fat January, February and March.

And if you're in Seattle, they're available through Svedala Bakery! They no longer have a retail storefront, but you can special-order semla for pickup by calling 206.890.9774 or visiting their website, svedalabakery.com.

Wednesday
Feb032010

Holy Guacamole: Chocolate Avocado Cake With Avocado Buttercream Recipe

Yes, you heard me. Chocolate avocado cake. With avocado buttercream. Trust me, I too had my doubts about this vaguely healthy-sounding, bright green-topped confection. But after reading Joy The Baker, who raved "It actually worked! It was honest-to-goodness delicious!" I felt that it was worth a try. 

Plus, with the Super Bowl—only the biggest avocado consumption day of the year—just around the corner, chances are you might have an extra avocado or two lying around. Why not make use of it by making a sweet treat full of good fat?

For the full entry, plus more pictures and the recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Tuesday
Feb022010

Peanutty Buddies: The Famous Salted Peanut Crisps of 1950-55

So, I wasn't actually alive in 1950, but if I had been, I can tell you what cookie I would have been eating: the Salted Peanut Crisp. According to my favorite source for all things cookie, the Betty Crocker's Cooky Book , this cookie was in high demand mid-century. As the recipe introduction notes,

Cookies Please the Younger Set -- The baby boom, begun following World War II, continues in the new decade. With "kids" in the house, cookies disappear like magic and "moms" need quick and easy cookies like this one.

Now, perhaps it's not so unexpected that recipes containing peanuts in general were rising in popularity during this time--during the war, when meat shortages were common, peanuts and peanut butter became a much valued source of inexpensive protein. Of course, after becoming hooked on its deliciousness, peanut butter sandwiches were to become an enduring staple in lunches everywhere, and the cookies and confections containing the rich, flavorful stuff were here to stay.

And to that point, as is further noted in the recipe intro,

One of our home testers wrote, "My 12-year old son carried them out by the handful." "Only modesty prevents me from calling them perfect plus," said another tester.

And you know what? Over 50 years later, I concur. Of course, I made a couple small alterations in the recipe to better suit them for modern times--first, where the original calls for 2 cups of salted peanuts, I did about 1 cup salted peanuts and 1 cup peanut butter; this gave them a nice density and chewiness. Second, instead of dropping the dough on the cookie sheet by teaspoonfuls, I went ahead and used an ice cream scoop--so instead of 6 dozen small cookies, I got about 2 dozen jumbo cookies, some of which I stuffed with mini peanut butter cups inside the dough for an even more decadent outcome. And it turns out that bigger and more decadent is even better: these cookies managed to turn at least one peanut butter cookie hater into a believer, and I hear that they even derailed an Atkins Diet follower. Yes!

Here's the recipe:

Salted Peanut Butter Crisps 

(Note: Though they are officially "Salted Peanut Crisps", since I added peanut butter too I have taken liberties)

Adapted from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book  

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup salted peanuts
  • 1 cup peanut butter 

(Note: original recipe calls for 2 cups salted peanuts and no peanut butter; feel free to play with the ratios)

Procedure

  1. Grease or line a baking sheet with parchment; put to the side.
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees F (original recipe calls for 375 but I found a longer bake at the lower temperature worked better, possibly because I made my cookies bigger).
  3. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla thoroughly.
  4. Sift flour and blend with soda and salt; stir in with wet ingredients. Mix in peanuts and peanut butter.
  5. Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, scoop the dough and release onto your prepared baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between cookies. If desired, place a mini peanut butter cup in the center of the dough while it is still in the scoop, shaping the dough around it so that the dough fully covers the candy before releasing it on to the baking sheet. 
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges (if you make your cookies smaller, it may be more like 8-10 minutes).
Monday
Feb012010

Soup's On: Tomato Soup Cake Recipe from Baker's Cakes, Durham NC

Per Danielle of Baker's Cakes, "here's our family's cake recipe! I'm pretty sure this recipe originated during times when certain ingredients were in limited supply, much like the popular chocolate "crazy cake." Today, I guess it's vegan! This is essentially an interesting spice cake."

Nana Murphy's Tomato Soup Cake

(Makes 9" square pan)

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 can's worth of water
  1. Preheat oven to 35 degrees; grease a 9x9-inch baking pan (circle or square).
  2. Sift the dry ingredients, except for the baking soda.
  3. Mix 1 teaspoon baking soda into 1 can of tomato soup- stir vigorously then add to the dry ingredients.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons oil and 1 can of water and mix well.
  5. Stir in 1 cup of raisins and 1 cup of chopped pecans.
  6. Bake 35-45min in preheated oven, lightly greased pan, at 350 degrees.
  7. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Danielle's Note: I like to make a White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting: Melt 1 bag (12oz) of white chocolate chips and beat into 1 package (8oz) room temp. cream cheese.

Monday
Feb012010

Snack Attack: Salty and Sweet Super Bowl Brownies for Serious Eats

Super Bowl Sunday is one action-packed afternoon. There's so much going on: commercials, performances, deliciously salty snack foods, and I hear a rumor that sports are involved too.

But with all of this sensory overload, what sweet treat could possibly compete for your attention?

How about brownies so packed full of sweet and salty flavor they practically tackle your taste buds? Starting with a basic brownie recipe, I made these ones extreme by packing them chock-full of gooey caramel and dark chocolate, roasted peanuts, and salty pretzels. The sweet plays offense, pummeling your taste buds with a rich, chocolate-filled flavor, with salty bringing up the defense, with a crunch and savoriness from the peanuts and pretzels. Yes indeed, when sweet and salty team up, everyone wins.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Monday
Feb012010

Ganache and Yum: Trophy Cupcakes Debuts Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes for February

MEMORANDUM

Date: February 1, 2010

Attn: Seattle Sweet Tooths

Re: The new Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake at Trophy Cupcakes

Seattle sugar fiends, it has recently come to CakeSpy's attention that today marks the debut of the flavor of the month for February at all Trophy Cupcakes locations, the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake. Composed of Valrhona chocolate cake filled with raspberry buttercream, the top is then dipped in a rich chocolate ganache. Now, I don't know if you realize this, but this basically means that you get two doses of frosting.

You probably did not need to be told this, but double frosting basically equals double happiness.

Conclusion? This decadent dose of deliciousness will undoubtedly make you want to sing, dance, and fall in love. Now that's the taste of true love. Happy February.

The Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake is available at Trophy Cupcakes all month long; for locations and more information, visit trophycupcakes.com.

Sunday
Jan312010

Sweet Freedom: Wheat, Egg, and Dairy-Free Figaro Bar Cookie Recipe

If pressed to name the basic building blocks of a delicious baked good, most people would probably include flour, eggs, butter, and sugar.

But not Ricki Heller, author of Sweet Freedom, a book comprised of "dessert recipes you'll love without wheat, eggs, dairy or refined sugar".

Dude. Really?

I was willing to take that challenge.

I decided to start out with familiar territory. One of the best vegan baked goods I can think of is the Vegan Oat Bar from Seattle's Caffe Ladro--a gooey, fruit-filled bar cookie which isn't just "good...for a vegan baked good" ('cos we all know there are some of those), it's just good, period. I saw echoes of the oat bar in the recipe for "Figaros", a fig bar with a dense cookie crust and crumb topping, and so I decided to try that one first.

I took some small liberties with the recipe: lacking figs I tried it out using frozen organic raspberries instead; right before baking, on whim, I melted about 1/2 cup of peanut butter and drizzled it on top of the cookie base before putting the crumbs on top. I also played around with the flour ratios--where the initial recipe called for spelt and barley flour, I subsituted the barley flour with part oat and part coconut flour (you know, for fun).

The result? Goodness, were they good. Dense, chewy and decadent, these bars didn't taste like dull suffering for health's sake at all. The natural sweetness of the berries really shone, and the bars were excellent for breakfast the following morning.

Of course, sweet freedom isn't without its cost--for my pantry, which was not equipped with the various flours, agave nectar and sunflower seeds, the recipe did throw me back about $20 (of course, I did have leftovers which could be used in the future). However, if you're looking for a slightly more virtuous baked good that won't leave you feeling at a loss, these are a great bet. And I already know what I will be trying next from the book--the "Dark and Decadent Chocolate Pate"--which features--of all things--avocado along with dark chocolate, which judging by the book's pictures yield a rich, thick slab of yum.

The book can be purchased here, and for more of Ricki's writing and adventure, check out her site, Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

Figaros

Makes 12-16 squares

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 3 tbsp agave nectar, light or dark
  • 1 tablespoon grapefruit zest
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 10 ounces frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, melted

(Note: the original recipe does not call for the frozen raspberries or peanut butter--if you want to use the original, use 10 1/4 ounces soft dried figs, cut in half with hard stems removed instead)

Cookie Base and Topping:

  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar, light or dark
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup oat flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup whole spelt flour (I used light spelt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground flax seeds

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9 inch square pan with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
  2. Make the filling: in a small, heavy-bottomed pot, comine the juice, agave nectar, zest and figs. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 more minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the cookie base and topping. IN a small bowl, whisk together oil, 1/3 cup agave nectar, and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder and soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the flax and stir to combine.
  5. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir until you have a soft dough. Pat about 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan (it will be fairly thin). Spread the fig mixture over the base, then crumble the rest of the cookie mixture over the top of the filling.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, rotating pan about halfway through, until edges are golden. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. Makes 12-16 squares. These freeze well.
Sunday
Jan312010

Somebunny Loves You: Sweet Love for El Conejo Bars by Woodside Bakehouse

There is a rose in Spanish Harlem, but who cares when there's a Bakehouse in Woodside?

And it's there in Queens--at Woodside Bakehouse, a wholesale and custom-order operation--that magical el conejo bars are created by baker Sarah Peltier, who has worked in pastry at various NY restaurants but is currently making the bars as a second job.

What's an el conejo?

Literally translated, it means "the rabbit" -- but don't worry, no bunnies are harmed in the making of this version.  In Woodside Bakehouse's world, el conejo bars are a dense, chewy granola confection that is completely vegan.

And addictive--it's slowly but surely winning over New Yorkers. Peltier started selling them last summer at a friend's taco shop in Rockaway, and has since placed them in Rice restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and can also be found at the monthly Greenpoint Food Market (the next one is coming up on February 13, as you can see by the totally sweet flyer), where in addition to el conejo bars, there are occasionally other vegan sweets, such as packaged Valentine Cowboy Sugar Cookies.

For more information, visit the Woodside Bakehouse site; you can also find more information about the upcoming Greenpoint Food Market here.

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