Friday, September 12, 2014

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Working in a bakery has its perks, such as being able to eat all the imperfect treats, access really nice ingredients, and wear jeans and t-shirts everyday. But lately my body has been getting irritated with me. I have scoliosis, and while it hasn't ever acted up much in the past, spending all day on my feet, as well as bending over to lift large bags of flour and pulling things out of the oven makes my spine very upset.


No way I'm going to let my body limit my passions though. It just means I need to take better care of myself. More exercise to strengthen my spine. Better shoes (time for some ugly kitchen clogs...). And, if necessary, seeing a doctor. But I'm trying not to let myself be too concerned. 




Having days off to rest helps, even if I'm still baking at home! I've been making a decent amount of black bottom cupcakes recently. I'd never had them before, and they're crazy easy to make. No mixer required! Or frosting, since they've got a cheesecake center. Nom. The recipe I prefer is from a cookbook called Wintersweet, which I unfortunately returned to the library already, but David Leibovitz's recipe is pretty solid as well. 



Black Bottom Cupcakes 
from David Leibovitz
(Mine made like, 15 cupcakes. Dunno how you'd get 12 out of this)
 
For the filling
8 ounces regular or reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
 
For the cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup unflavored vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions 

Beat together the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in the chopped chocolate pieces. Put in the freezer for like an hour. 
Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F (175°C). Butter a 12-cup muffin tin, or line the tin with paper muffin cups. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, stirring until just smooth. Stir any longer and you will over mix the batter and end up with less-than-tender cupcakes. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spoon a few tablespoons of the filling into the center of each cupcake, dividing the filling evenly. This will fill the cups almost completely, which is fine. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown and the cupcakes feel springy when gently pressed. These moist treats will keep well unrefrigerated for 2 to 3 days if stored in an airtight container.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Daring Bakers! - Ensaimadas

Well, it's that time of year again, time to pack the car to bursting, lug refrigerators down seemingly endless hallways, buy boxes full of overpriced textbooks...oh wait, no it's not. It's quite possibly never going to be that time of year for me again. I'm not going back to school...I'm done. It doesn't really feel like summer is winding down for me because I don't have any of the experiences associated with end of summer happening right now. The transition from summer into fall just isn't that big of a deal anymore. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that. 



I think...I might like it. There's no impending sense of seriousness looming over me. I'm enjoying myself immensely. I even went to the state fair for the first time, since I didn't have to think about packing and driving. 

Saw this terrifying figure there. Ugh. 


We'll see if my feelings change in the fall and I get all weepy and nostalgic. Anyway, my challenge for this month was either chimney cakes, which I do desperately want to make but I was afraid of setting my house on fire, or ensaimadas, which I also wanted to make, and seemed like less of a risk. I'll get you someday, chimney cake! Ensaimadas, I've decided, are the perfect breads. Soft, buttery, flaky...mm. Douse 'em in powdered sugar or, if you're feeling the Filipino style, sprinkle with cheese. 



Ensaimadas

The August Daring Bakers' Challenge took us for a spin! Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen taught us to make rolled pastries inspired by Kurtoskalacs, a traditional Hungarian wedding pastry. These tasty yeasted delights gave us lots to celebrate!

2½ cups (10½ oz) (300 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) (7 gm) active dry yeast OR 2 teaspoon instant yeast OR 14 gm (½ oz) fresh yeast
1/2 cup (120 ml) warm water
1 large egg
½ teaspoon (3 gm) salt
¼ cup (60 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
7 tablespoons (110 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) butter, softened
Confectioners’ sugar/icing sugar/powdered sugar for dusting


If you are using active dry yeast, add ½ teaspoon sugar add to lukewarm water and set aside for 5 minutes until it becomes foamy. You can use the other yeast types directly with the flour
In a large bowl or bowl of kitchen aid mixer combine the sugar, egg and olive oil. Add flour, salt, and yeast. Knead for 6 minutes if using kitchen aid mixer or 10 minutes by hand, until you get a soft and pliable dough. Transfer the dough to a well greased bowl and covered with plastic wrap or covered with a cloth. Let rise for 2 hours or until the dough doubles in volume.


Punch down dough and shape it into four pieces. Lightly oil the work place and place a ball of dough, using a rolling pin roll out the ball into a long thin rectangle about 12x4 inch (30x10 cm) piece. Divide your butter to 4 pieces. Place a butter portion on the rolled out dough and spread it into a thin layer. Take pieces of dough between your fingers and try to gently stretch the dough to be even thinner and larger about 16x7 inches (40 x18 cm). Roll the dough into a long tube, then coil it like a snail shell. Make sure to keep the coil loose so that there is space in between the layers, this will help the dough to rise.
Repeat for the other three dough balls and butter portions.
Place the snails onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Slightly press the sides with your hand. Cover the baking sheet with a clean cloth and let rise for 1 hour.

During the end of second rising, pre-heat oven to 180⁰C/350⁰F/Gas mark 4
Bake ensaimadas for about 15-20 minutes. Watch them closely during the end of baking time. They should be golden brown in color.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mocha Crunch Oatmeal

There have been at least three times this month where I intended to post something and either a). was unsatisfied with how it turned out or b). got too distracted with something else. I apologize. Right now...I will keep on keepin' on. Move forward, right? 


It's a muggy, kind of yuck day out, but if I don't go outside, I can pretend it's cold out and perfect weather for a hot bowl of oatmeal and a crossword puzzle. Who am I kidding...that behavior is appropriate for all times of the year. Right? Regardless...that's what I did today. And it was great. 


If you've never had steel cut oats, they aren't terribly different from normal oats...they just have a heartier texture. These oats are dressed up with chocolate, espresso powder, and nuts to create a pleasing array of flavors and textures. Plus, they're super filling. Now, if you'll excuse me...I have to get back to my crossword. 



Mocha Crunch Oatmeal 
from the kitchn

3 cups water
1 cup steel-cut oats
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar or agave nectar
1/4 cup roasted mixed nuts (I used cashews, almonds, and pecans)
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
Milk or cream, to serve (or coconut milk! That'd be great)


Bring water to a boil. Stir in oats, espresso, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring back to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the oats reach your desired tenderness. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar or agave nectar.
Meanwhile, while the oatmeal is cooking, roughly chop the mixed nuts and chocolate chips. Mix them in a small serving bowl.
When the oatmeal is ready, serve hot with milk or cream on the side, and sprinkled liberally with the nut and chocolate topping.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bruschetta

Do you have any words in your life that you continue to pronounce wrong, despite knowing the correct way to say them? Bruschetta is one of those words for me. Think about it. Do you say it with a soft, sh sound? "Brushetta"? I do. But it's wrong. It's "brusketta!" I will probably keep saying it the other way, at least in the United States. If I venture to Italy, I will make an effort. 


Bruschetta is, at its most basic, grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with tomato and olive oil. Other common toppings include basil, fresh mozzarella, and prosciutto. I'm bizarre in that I will not eat a slice of tomato on a sandwich, but chopped up on grilled bread is perfectly delightful. Weird how shape can change an eating experience, isn't it? 


This was such a fresh and summery snack to have around, and a great way to use the stale loaf of bread that had been hanging around the kitchen and the gnarly heirloom tomato I had to have (it was very charming in its own mutant way!). 



Bruschetta

1 baguette or Italian loaf, cut into 1-inch slices
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped basil
Salt and black pepper
½ large garlic clove


1. Heat the oven to 450°F, or heat a charcoal or gas grill. Brush the bread slices on both sides with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Bake them on a baking sheet or grill them, turning once, until they’re golden brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, put the tomatoes, the basil, and the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.
3. When the bread has cooled enough to handle, rub the top of each slice with the cut side of the garlic half. Top the bread with the tomato mixture, and serve warm.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Daring Bakers! - Surprise Inside Cake

Life has pleasantly surprised me again. But I think the only reason why, is because I have opened myself up to the possibility of surprise. A month ago, I wasn't ready to be in this place. I felt uprooted and out of sorts and just craving comfort through familiarity. But I've finally settled down, settled in, thus permitting myself to experience the out of the ordinary. It's been wonderful. 

Nothing to see here, folks. 


Certain areas of my life are harder to give up some measure of control over than others, especially when I'm feeling insecure. I want to know I am being taken care of, and in a new situation, it can feel like the only person I can rely on is myself. It's something that's a constant work in progress, and has steadily been improving in recent months, but I still fall back into those tendencies sometimes, especially in unfamiliar scenarios. Recently though...I've allowed myself to let go and embrace the unexpected. And it's resulted in a very pleasant "crazy random happenstance", if you will. 

Man, this dinosaur sure loves desserts. 


To mirror the surprises of my life, and because, well, it was this month's Daring Baker's challenge. What a happy coincidence! I've been meaning to make a cake like this for a while, so I'm glad I had an excuse. I thought about making some sort of a design inside as the surprise, but it seemed too failure prone. That is typically the type of thing I am pretty terrible at doing. So I hollowed out a section of this devil's food cake, filled it with those tiny, delicious Cadbury eggs, and covered the whole thing in white chocolate buttercream and rainbow sprinkles to hide the ugly parts, haha. Hope you enjoy. Prepare to be surprised. 


  For the July Daring Baker’s Challenge, Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to bake a cake. But not just any cake; she asked us to add in a special surprise for our eyes as well as our taste buds! 
 
Surprise Inside Devil's Food Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream

2 cups all-purpose flour 
  1 teaspoon salt  
1 teaspoon baking powder  
2 teaspoons baking soda  
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder  
2 cups sugar  
1 cup vegetable oil  
1 cup hot coffee  
1 cup milk 
  2 large eggs  
1 teaspoon vanilla

 Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Add oil, coffee and milk and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat 2 more minutes. Expect batter to be thin. Pour into three 6 inch pans and bake 30-45 minutes (I know it's a big range) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting. To make your cake a surprise inside cake, cut a 3-4 inch round out of your center layer. After frosting the first layer, put the second ring over it, fill the cake cavity, and proceed as usual. 

White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting 

3 egg whites
4 ounces good quality white chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp


Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. Melt the white chocolate about halfway in a double boiler. Remove from heat , stir until smooth , and set aside to cool.


Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan. Set over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook without stirring, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage 238 degree F on a candy thermometer.


Immediately start beating the egg whites on medium low speed. Slowly add the syrup in a thin stream, taking care not to hit the beaters. Continue to whip until the mixture is body temperature and stuff meringue has formed.


Reduced the speed to low and add the butter 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time. When the butter is incorporated, beat on medium speed until the frosting appears to curdle. Continue to whip and it will suddenly come together. Add the white chocolate and mix well.