Friday, February 25, 2011

Sprinkles' Strawberry Cupcakes w/ Strawberry Frosting.....

There are many places that I day dream about visiting, sadly it is the not the historical monuments or incredible shopping I dream about......its the food. I am a self proclaimed foodie who grew up in a house where food was good and always made from scratch. We traveled a lot and tried some amazing food and I feel like that is where I developed my love for all things delicious. I still think about the Patisserie in the little quaint downtown of St. Cloud, France in which we lived. You could get every beautiful french pastry you could have dreamed of there and the care in which was put into each baked good was exquisite. Since then I love little quaint bakeries. There are so many bakeries that I want to visit someday. To name a few Magnolia Bakery in NYC, Miette in San Francisco, Georgetown Cupcake in DC and Baked in Brooklyn...and many many more.

So to add to my dream bakeries to visit is Sprinkles Cupcakes in Beverly Hills, California. I remember hearing about them for the first time from my mom. She told me how good they were and that people order them from all over the world. It is rumored that they were one of the very first Cupcake bakeries.

On Oprah's official website she featured Candace Nelson, the owner and founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes, showing how to make their famous Strawberry Cupcakes. I was instantly intrigued and had recently told Thad that in my food daydreams I envision a strawberry cupcake with strawberry icing, since whenever spring starts to creep up I want to bake with berries and a strawberry cupcake sounded so light, fresh and spring-y. So all the stars aligned and it was just meant to be that I came across this recipe, plus felt pretty cool having the recipe for a Sprinkles Cupcake.

Sprinkles Cupcakes' Strawberry Cupcake
2/3 cup fresh or frozen whole strawberries (thawed if frozen)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour , sifted
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 cup whole milk , room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter , room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg , room temperature
2 large egg whites , room temperature

Start off by preheating the oven to 350°. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.

Place strawberries in a small food processor; process until pureed. You should have about 1/3 cup of puree. Add a few more strawberries if necessary, or save any extra puree for frosting; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In another small bowl, mix together the milk, vanilla and strawberry puree; set aside.

In the bowl of an stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.

Turning the mixer to low, slowly add half the flour mixture, mixing until just blended. Add the milk mixture, also mixing until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended. You want to be sure to not over mix because if you mix it too much it will be a dry, harder cupcake. So be sure to not over mix.

Using an ice cream scooper or a spoon, evenly divide batter among prepared muffin cups (they should be about 2/3 full). Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes (my cupcakes took 15 minutes due to a fast oven, but be sure to watch them closely). Once done baking, transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

Sprinkles Cupcakes' Strawberry Frosting
1/2 cup frozen whole strawberries, thawed
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
Pinch coarse salt
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Place strawberries in the bowl of a small food processor; process until pureed. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add confectioners' sugar; beat until well combined. Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons strawberry puree (save any remaining strawberry puree for another use); mix until just blended. Do not over mix, or frosting will incorporate too much air. Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream.

These cupcakes were a treat. They were moist, light and the flavor was subtle but just enough to give you a little taste of strawberry. A spring time recipe that I will be making again soon. Until we meet in person Sprinkles Cupcakes, these will have to do.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Yummiest Chocolate Cupcake Ever..........

We all know that cupcakes are all the craze right now. There are cupcake shops popping up all over the place and something so classic as a cupcake has become the newest coolest baked good. I think that everyone needs in their recipe arsenal a good chocolate cupcake recipe and a good vanilla cupcake recipe. I have been looking for both for some time now and my chocolate cupcakes I just stumbled upon.

I am not sure if you remember when I had my first official catering job. It was for Thad's work and they wanted me to make alabama cupcakes (here is the link). For the chocolate cupcakes I made Surprised Filled Cupcakes. For this cupcake there is a cream cheese filling that goes in them and they are very good. When I was making these cupcakes for the catering job, I ran out of the filling and had some chocolate batter left over and so I made some plain chcoclate cupcakes with the extra batter. Thad had one of the plain chocolate cupcakes and raved about how moist and good they were. I had a taste and agreed. And in that moment, our favorite chocolate cupcake was discovered.

This recipe does not have eggs in it so it is a denser more moist cupcake. It is the perfect consistency for a perfect chocolate cupcake and a must make.

Chocolate Cupcake
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups water

Start off by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees. Get out a 12 cup cupcake pan and place 12 cupcake liners in the pan and set aside.

In a stand mixer combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt; mix. Then add the next 4 liquid ingredients....vinegar, vanilla, oil and water, mixing until barely combined. Once all ingredients are added, mix at medium speed for 2 minutes.

Once completely mixed, I like to use an ice cream scooper to dish my batter into the cupcake pan to make a uniform cupcakes. I Fill the cupcakes about three-fourths full. Place cupcakes in the oven, letting them bake for about 13-20 minutes. Mine are usually perfect at 15 minutes.

Once removed from the oven, place on cooling rack and let cool completely. These cupcakes can stand alone in taste without frosting but if you want to dress them up, you can top them off with a delish chocolate frosting. Click here for chocolate frosting recipe

These cupcakes are always a crowd pleaser and oh so good.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Heavenly Hash Fudge

I love Valentines Day. Really, I have always loved V-day. I loved V-day when I was a kid and got to make Valentines for everyone in my class or those Valentines when I felt everyone in the world had a Valentine but me...even then, I still loved the holiday.

Since I do love Valentines, I have been making my favorite sweets and trying to experiment with others. Living in France I loved Mousse au Chocolat and so I found a recipe and made it. The mousse was good but not great and not worth sharing. And of course the plan was to make my the beloved Bradford Sugar Cookies for friends and although the weekend got away from me, still hope to do so this evening. Along with my pre-Valentines day baking I came across this recipe for Heavenly Hash Fudge. I am a sucker for anything fudgie.

David Gaus, a Pastry chef shares this recipe as his favorite Valentines Day treat. He says that growing up in New Orleans "the candy box of choice was Elmer’s Heavenly Hash. The local department stores – Maison Blanche and Krauss’ – were piled high with them during the season, in all their gleaming cellophane glory. Coming out of a sweet-deprived Lent, it really did seem like a little slice of heaven".

You would think that David, a pastry chef, would choose as a his fav Valentine's Day dessert something other than fudge but he says "there’s still nothing more appealing to me than a perfect morsel of fudge, preferably studded with pecans, thanks to my Southern bias. The smooth, soft chocolate with the crunch of a fresh roasted nut is an ideally balanced texture. The richness is decadent. I’m talking about Heavenly Hash."

With that said, after making it I too was taken by it. It was rich, smooth and those toasted pecans and soft marshmallows put it over the top. Warning: It is rich, so too much will result in a tummy ache (this may or may not be due to personal experience).

Heavenly Hash Fudge
1 cup sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3⁄4 pound semisweet chocolate (preferably 58%–61% cacao), finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 1⁄2 cups toasted pecan pieces
1 1⁄2 cups mini marshmallows

Lightly coat an 8-inch-square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place a 10-inch-square piece of parchment paper in the baking dish, coat with nonstick cooking spray, and set the dish aside.

Bring the sugar, evaporated milk, and corn syrup to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the syrup reaches 220°F (it will have a foam of finely textured bubbles on top like the foam on a beer), about 8 minutes.

Turn off the heat and whisk in the chocolate, vanilla, and salt until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Let it cool for 3 minutes (you shouldn't’t feel any heat if you touch a dab to the bottom of your lip) and then stir in the pecans and marshmallows until combined.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread it into a somewhat even layer using a rubber spatula (it’s okay if it’s a little bumpy and rustic). Tap the pan on your work surface a couple of times to compact, and then cover flush with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hour or overnight. David says in his recipe to let it sit for 1 hour or over night but my fudge took several hours to set and was even better the next day.

Place a deep bowl or pitcher of hot water next to your work surface. Invert the chocolate onto a cutting board and carefully remove the parchment paper. Dip a chef’s knife or pizza wheel into the hot water and cut the bar into 2-inch squares (I cut my pieces into 1 inch squares because of its richness). Place the heavenly hash in paper candy cups, wrap in decorative foil, or arrange on a serving platter and refrigerate. Let the candies sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving.

*Note: It you are not a bittersweet fan, I would use a semi-sweet or milk chocolate for this recipe which I think would taste divine too.

These are the perfect chocolaty Valentines Day treat and so easy to make!

Happy Valentines Day!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dorie's Classic Banana Bundt Cake......

Boy do I have a great recipe for you. Who doesn't have their bananas go bad? I have this thing deep in my subconscious about bananas. Somehow I feel like if I buy bananas and apples that I am healthy. The apples always go fast but for some reason at our house, the bananas always end up sitting there, turning browner and browner by the day.

So the other day I realized that I had 2 ripened bananas and 3 bananas in the freezer and was looking through one of my fav cookbooks by Dorie Greenspan "Baking, from my home to yours", and came across her Classic Banana Bundt Cake. At the top of each recipe Dorie talks a little about each recipe and either tells where she got it from or why she loves it. I trust Dorie, like I trust getting recipes from my own mother. They are both superb cooks and have a keen sense for what tastes good. Dorie explains that she was given this particular recipe from Ellen Einstein who along with her husband owns "Sweet Sixteenth Bakery" in Nashville. Dorrie describes this bundt cake as "dense, ,moist and extremely banana-y-the tangy sour cream accentuates the flavor of the banana".

So I decided to make this recipe, it looked simple enough and plus my poor little brown bananas needed to be put to good use. I was expecting this recipe to be good due to it coming from Dorie but little did I know how good it was going to be. When my Banana Bundt Cake was all done, I of course made Thad sample a piece and to my surprise, he was dying over it. Upon further inspection (which means my own personal taste test), I realized that this simple little Banana Bundt Cake was fantastic. It was so moist and the perfect amount of sweetness. I knew when I added a cup of sour cream that it was going to be moist. So not only was I pleasantly surprised by how yummy this was but marked it in my cookbook to make sure I make this again soon.

Classic Banana Bundt Cake
3 cups all-purpose flower
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
About 4 very ripe bananas, mashed (you should have 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Start off by preheating the oven to 350 degrees F. Then generously butter a 9- to 10-inch (12 cup) Bundt pan.(If you've got a silicone Bundt pan, there's no need to butter it.) Make sure not to place the pan on a cookie sheet, you want the oven's heat to circulate through the Bundt's inner tube.

In a medium size bowl whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.

Then working with a stand mixer (or hand mixer, either works just fine) fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and creamy. At medium speed add the sugar until pale and fluffy. Next add the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the mashed bananas. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients (don't be disturbed when the batter curdles), add the sour cream and then the rest of the flour mixture. Scrape the batter into the pan, rap the pan on the counter to de-bubble the batter and smooth the top.

Place the Bundt cake into the oven, baking at 65-75 minutes (my cake took 55 minutes so about 50 minutes in, start checking it), or until a butter knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Also Dorie says to check the cake after 30 minutes, and if it is browning too much, cover it loosely with tin foil. Once done, place the bundt cake on a rack and let it set and cool for 10 minutes. Then turn Bundt cake onto the cooling rack, unmolding the cake. Let cool to room temperature.

*Note: If you can, wrap the cake in plastic wrap well and allow to sit on counter over night. It is better the next day.

This Classic Banana Bundt Cake is perfect for dessert, brunch, a shower or just cause you are feeling like a moist banana-y Bundt Cake and be sure to top it off with a tall glass of milk.

Bon Appetit!

Adapted from: "Baking, from my home to yours", Dorie Greenspan