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Monday, April 28, 2008

Hound-Dog Heaven

Today, I found myself awake at 7:45 AM with no tests to study for and no real plans except work later on in the day. It was delightful. I woke up with a mission, and I think I accomplished it. I began by actually enjoying my coffee. Yes, thats right. Not sipping it in between copying notes or flipping flashcards, I savored my freshly ground vanilla caramel coffee with a biscotto [singular of biscotti :)] my professor had made and sent home with me following our Study Abroad Girls meeting on Saturday night. I checked my email, watched the Today show, & did some little things online I had been putting off for a few weeks (including checking my total student loan debt on Sallie Mae's website...eek). And then... I did everything. Well, almost.
Washed some laundry, folded it, vacuumed and cleaned the shelves in the refrigerator. I used the left over ground beef from last night's dinner to make little itty bitty meat balls for use in two dinners over the next few days. This is all by about 11:30. Then, I began to bake.

I wanted to make something different that might really catch people's eye, and sell. So I found my inspiration in Elvis. I decided on Hound-Dog Heaven Cupcakes. Cute, right? Banana Cupcakes with a Peanut Butter Filling, Topped with Chocolate Buttercream, White Chocolate Shavings and Mini-Marshmallows... true King style.

For my cupcakes, I based mine off of this recipe, but I only had 1 ripe frozen banana, so halved it using my favorite online conversion tool I always talk about. I only used this recipe for the cake, I didn't use this frosting. My halved recipe went something like this...

Banana Cupcakes
1 cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour (not Self Rising)
1/2 teaspoon bakingsoda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 whole banana
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons + 1 1/4 teaspoons sugar
1 lg egg

Preheat to 350. Grease cupcake tins with non-stick flour spray.
Combine flour, baking powder & baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk or sift.
In a different bowl, mix banana, vanilla and buttermilk, or do this in a food processor like I did to make it go a lot faster, and come out a lot smoother.
In an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter together until blended.
Add egg, and blend.
Add dry mixture to this alternately with the wet mixture in 3 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
Divide among 9 cupcake tins.
Bake approximately 17 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with only a few crumbs on it.
Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove cakes from pans and place on racks to cool completely.


Then, as I did a few recipes ago, I cut a cone out of the top of the cupcakes, once it cooled:
Reserve the cone.

For my peanut butter filling, I used this recipe (but only the filling recipe obviously, not the cupcake or frosting recipe on this site). Once again, I scaled down this recipe, as I was only making 9 cupcakes and I could not even fit a lot of filling into each cupcake. I scaled it down to 1/3, like this...

Peanut Butter Filling for Cupcakes
1/3 C Peanut Butter (the recipe calls for creamy, but I used crunchy to snazz it up a little)
1 Tablespoon butter, soft
~ 3.5 tablespoons of confectioners sugar

Beat peanut butter and butter together until creamy (I cheated... and microwaved the peanut butter on 30% power for 30 seconds first to make it a little easier)
Sift confectioners sugar into the bowl and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Spoon the frosting into the hole created in the top of the cupcake:

Then, trim the bottom pointy portion of the cone a bit, to make it easier to fit back on top. Place the trimmed cone back on top and press down:
Voila! They're like Franken-cupcakes with little stitches. This gets covered up with frosting...

For my frosting, I went to my trusty Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. Since Daniel isn't a fan of chocolate, I had never made a chocolate frosting (besides a chocolate cream cheese frosting, but I didn't want a refrigeration-needed frosting for these). I scaled this down as well, because the book said it made enough for 24 cupcakes. Mine went as follows...

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1 stick butter, soft
1 Tsp Milk
3 ounces semisweet chocolate (except I only had unsweetened, so I did 3 oz unsweet + 3 tablespoon sugar)
1/2 tsp vanilla
5/8 c sifted confectioner’s sugar

In top of double boiler, melt the chocolate and sugar together until no clumps remain, and its totally smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool while you prepare the rest (approx 5 – 10 min).
In medium sized bowl, beat butter for 3 minutes, until very very creamy.
Add the milk and beat until smooth.
Add the cooled melted chocolate and beat well. Add vanilla and beat for 3 more minutes.
Gradually add the sugar and beat until it’s a desired consistency. I beat it on super high with a hand mixer for a while to get it nice and fluffy.
This made enough for 9 nicely decorated cupcakes.


I garnshied with a few white chocolate shavings & mini marshmallows...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Abstract Expressionist Cupcakes?

You may ask yourself... what do Jackson Pollock & Cupcakes with Strawberry Jam frosting have in common? They're both splattery, a messy process, and ultimately end in disaster.

This weekend, me and Daniel created a work of art for our dining room. We used a little bit of left over paint from our house, and Dan's sister's, and got a few other shades to create our own Jackson Pollock-esque painting.
Since my brain was in an abstract expressionist mode, my cupcakes wound up with the same treatment.

But let me start over and tell the story of these cupcakes...if you want to call them that...

Tonight is a little get together at my professor's house with all the girls going on the Italy study abroad trip. I wanted to make something special, so I decided to make little cupcakes, which I normally don't do... because I figured, its all girls, and small cupcakes are easier and less messy to eat. Also, I wanted to do something a little different with the frosting.
I realized that I don't have a mini-cupcake pan. I foolishly decided to try anyway, and just laid out the mini-liners on a baking sheet and filled them up...

Overall, not a good decision. Some of them came out OK enough to use, but some others... well...
Precisely. A little leaky leakage.

So I took the bad ones, like the one above, and kept them for another project I intend to try soon.

Then, I began on the frosting. I found this Strawberry Meringue Frosting recipe on Martha Stewart's website, and couldn't resist. I food processed the strawberry jam, I whisked egg whites and sugar over simmering water.. but something was wrong. I'm really not sure what went awry, but it looked NOTHING like the picture Martha has on her website of this frosting. While hers looked fluffy, mine was liquidy, gooey, and... I learned through attempting it... NOT able to be piped in the LEAST bit. I tried adding meringue powder to thicken it up, put it in the frig, but nothing worked. I was going to throw it out, but I decided to just spoon it on top like a thick glaze.


My Action-Painting brain thought these looked a little Blah, so I took some dark chocolate ganache and splattered it over the tops of the cupcakes.



Me and Daniel sampled, of course, and it tasted... interesting. VERY Strawberry Jam-y. And not really like a cupcake. Since the frosting is so wet, it throws the taste off a little bit and tastes kinda like you're eating pudding. Though the girls at the party really all did enjoy them. Oh well. I spose I'll stick with my original recipes, or continue searching for a better strawberry recipe.

With a dollop of vanilla buttercream to pretty it up a little.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

If ice cream is scooped but no one is there to eat it, does it still taste good?

Having just taken my Theory & Criticism of the Visual Arts final, my brain being immersed in deconstruction, psychology, philosophy, psychoanalysis, etc for days, I thought this was an appropriate philospohical dessert quote to begin my post. Two finals down, one to go. Whew! I baked these babies a few days ago, but have been studying hard-core since then and have not found time to blog. Finally, I get a small lull until my next exam on Thursday.

Friday was Daniel's birthday, and he requested his favorite cinnamon buns. So, I obliged.

big log of cinnamon bun



Unfortunately, I assembled the buns and was going to bake them when I realized I had no cream cheese for the frosting. Since the frosting needs to go on when the buns are still warm, I waited to bake them. Over the next 3 hours, they actually puffed! The first time yeast worked in my cinnamon buns!! But since I waited SO long, they puffed up a this...


When I finally got the cream cheese, I stuck the buns in the over while I prepared the frosting. Since the buns puffed up more than usual, there was a significant decrease in baking time, which put me in quite a frenzy to get the frosting done... and in the process, I made it wrong. Rather than use a 3 ounce package of cream cheese that the recipe calls for, I used a full 8 oz package. Oops! The icing was still good, but much more cream-cheese-danishy than usual. So our buns had quite a different texture because of the super-puffage (much lighter and flakier), tasted kinda like a danish with the icing, and were slightly toastier than usual. They were good, but not our usual Amazing.



1 C lukewarm milk
2 lg eggs, room temp
1/3 c unsalted butter, cut up
4 1/2 all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1/2 C sugar
2 1/2 tsp insant yeast

1/3 C unsalted butter, soft
1 C brown sugar, packed
3 Tblspn ground cinnamon

So, if you're looking for a really good cheese-danish filling, do this:
8 oz package cream cheese, soft
1/4 c unsalted butter, soft
1.5 C confections sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
Otherwise, for cinnamon buns, stick with 3 ounces of cream cheese. :)

Combine all dough ingredients in lg bowl, stirring until it becomes cohesive. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled work surface & knead for ~8 minutes (or do it for 4 - 7 min on medium speed in a food mixer with the dough hook if you have one). Place dough in lightly oiled bowl & turn to grease all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise 60 minutes.

Then, transfer dough to lightly grease surface and roll into a roughly 16 x 20 inch rectangle. Spread the butter on the dough. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle it evenly over the dough. Roll it up into a log, and slice it by tying a piece of thread around it - pulling tight to make a cut all the way through. You should end up with at least 12 slices. Place buns in lightly greased 9x13, cover, & let rise 30 minutes [NOT 3 HOURS :)]
Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

For icing beat cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla, and spread on the buns while still warm.

Also on Daniel's birthday, an order for pink and green cupcakes were due for another birthday. I used my favorite vanilla cupcake & frosting recipes.




I made 12 for the birthday girl, and had 2 left over. With the left-overs, I decided to do something special for Dan's birthday (not that 16 cinnamon buns for one person isn't enough). Forgive the millions of pictures in this post, but the lighting was really good when I was taking them. :)


First, I cut a cone shape out of the top of the cupcake, and retained the cone.

I had a little bit of dark chocolate ganache left over, so I took some chunks and plopped it in the hole I made.

Next, I took about 1 tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter, and microwaved it for a second so it was soft and melty. Then I mixed in about a tablespoon of sugar and a little bit of heavy cream, and stirred it all up.

I plopped this warmish mixture on top of my cold ganache, filling up the rest of the cavity.

Cut off a little bit of the pointy bottom part of the cone, and replace. Frost as usual.

Delicious little reese's crunchy peanut butter-chocolate ganache filling!

And then.... there is this....
This picture brings me to my next point. So many birthdays, so little time! Recently was Sadie our baby shih-tzu's first birthday!! No, the cupcake was not for her...thus the sad look on her face. But she was not completely left out!

Sadie's grandparents got her a cake! Its a little cake shih-tzu!!!!

We tried, but she just wouldn't blow out the candle. Sadie shared her birthday celebration with her cousin Chance who had his 1st birthday recently, too.

She did a good job of opening her gifts.

Good times, good times. So that is all for now, but with finals over soon, I'm sure there will be more baking soon to come.

Monday, April 14, 2008

New Baking Gadget

Though I did not bake this, it is baking related... and I want one!!
Is this not the greatest invention for lazy bakers?

Doughins? Muffnuts?

I really wanted to make baked doughnuts, so I searched and searched for a recipe. I generally like to stick with recipes either from a book I own, or a website that has people rate the recipes so I can see what potential they have. All of the ones I found either had no ratings, or were not baked but fried. I found this recipe for "French Breakfast Puffs" on and though its not called a doughnut, the common consensus on the reviews/ratings section was that it tasted like a baked cake doughnut. Most people seemed to be pleased with it, so I decided to give it a try.

1/3 c. Shortening
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1.5 c. all purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 Tablespoons butter, melted (but I only used 3 and had much left over!!)

In a mixing bowl, beat shortening, 1/2 c of the sugar, and the egg until smooth.
In another bowl, combine flour, nutmeg, baking powder and salt. Add this to the sugar mixture alternately with milk.
Fill greased muffin tins 2/3 full and bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clear. I made mine in little star shaped tins, and some in muffin tins, but since mine were smaller, I only baked them 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then remove from pan.
In the meantime, combine cinnamon and the other half cup of sugar. Melt the butter. Their recipe says to roll the warm puffs in butter, then in cinnamon sugar, but I took a pastry brush and brushed the tops with butter, then rolled them in the cinnamon sugar. I didn't like the idea of submerging them in melted butter.

Even though I didn't drown them in butter, they were very good. A little on the dry side, but very good (Dan ate 5 of them). The cinnamon sugar topping is essential. Next time, I would maybe add a thin glaze to the top.

Yey, first time using the star tin!! My chubby little star shaped puffs.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

So, the comprehensive exam is over, what a huge relief. I think it went really well, but I'll wait to see my grade before I get too happy. Next up on the school list is my Tabla practical and written final on Tuesday...yes thats right, the tabla. From there, it doesn't really slow down until the end of the following week - finals week. But with the comprehensive exam over and done with, at least I can relax a teeny bit.

Anyway! Back to baking... I made these little Lemon Cream Cheese cookies for Easter (Wow, I guess I had been studying for quite a while...). I did change it up a wee little bit from the original... I used my favorite conversion tool to halve it, and then halve it again. I wanted first to make only a half batch because I didn't think that many people would be attending. Then, I halved it again because I wanted to make some with Lemon, and then to leave out the lemon flavor in the other batch for people who don't care for that in their cookies. For the Non-Lemon ones, all I did was omit the zest and juice, and add an eensy bit (I think I did 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon) of Vanilla Extract and a wee bit of heavy cream to make up for some of the liquid I wasn't adding in lemon juice.

Also, instead of Martha's ginormous (and ugly?) bow shape, I wanted to make some bite size, so I stuck the dough in a bag, put on a piping tip, and made small little shapes - they were only a little larger in diameter than a quarter.

They were baked on parchment paper, and topped off with a sprinkling of confectioner's sugar when they were almost cooled. They were pretty simple to do, and had a subtle flavor, but everyone loved them. They were pretty much all gone by the end of the night. The lemon ones had a more delicate flavor and a lighter melt in your mouth texture, but they were both very very good. Would definitely make again!

Shortly after Easter, the girls I am going with on the Italy study-abroad trip this May-June had a Get-To-Know-Each-Other Dinner. Being me, I offered to bring dessert. As I didn't have a lot of time, but wanted to make something real good, I made something I saw Giada do on FoodNetwork. Now...I'm not proud of this...but...I used store bought sugar cookie dough. Listen! I was studying for exams, preparing for presentations, writing papers, COME ON, its a totally valid excuse. Plus, I did give it a bit of flair.
With one third of the package, I made these.

1/4 Teaspoon balls of ganache... this part was a little tough. Make sure it is very chilled before you attempt to do this, and do not expect them to come out of the teaspoon easily. They still baked up just fine for me though.

Ganache ballies wrapped in a little snake of sugar cookie dough, rolled in granulated sugar.

To have a little variation, I also took some of the pre-made dough and rolled it in cinnamon sugar...

And rolled some in green sugar, topped with one red heart to get in with the Italy theme a little bit...

The Giada black and white cookies were really good. The cookie part got thin and crispy, with a crunch from the sugar, and with the ganache center it was a nice combination. I thought briefly about taking some and rolling them in cinnamon sugar instead of regular sugar, but I ran out and was too rushed to mix more. If I were to make them again, I might try that - the dark chocolate and cinnamon might be a good mix...and I also might try it with home made sugar cookie dough.

Hopefully I'll get to some more baking soon! I'll end with a picture that perfectly represents my fusion of baking and art... :)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Blog Lull

No, I have not abandoned baking and blogging. Unfortunately, for the time being, though...they are both on a slight hiatus. The end of the semester is nearing, and that has meant lots of work in the past few weeks... presentations, papers, more assignments, tests. WHEW. What is worse is that next week is the all encompassing Comprehensive art history exam, covering everything from Ancient to Judy Chicago in 1975. In other words... I won't be posting until next week. I'm afraid I don't think I'll find enough time between flipping through 400 flash cards to bake any goodies. I did, however, bake two batches of cookies before all this began, and that'll be the first thing to go up.

But for now, I will leave you with this article...
While my brain aches from staying-up-late/waking-up-early to study and do school work, with the usual cookie craving...I thought to myself... WHY DIDN'T I think of this!?!?


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