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Monday, July 27, 2009

baking vs. dating? and the perfect chocolate cupcake

Making cakes from scratch seems like a daunting task for many, even me at times.  Over the past few years I've tested out a lot of recipes that claimed to be "the one" and usually I feel like they are a waste of time and disappointing.  Writing this I am starting to see the similarities of baking and dating...

That would have the makings for the best blog ever.

But back to the cake, I'm lucky because I do have in my possession the best chocolate cake recipe.  It is the perfect in every way.  I use it for every occasion where chocolate cake is necessary.  

Lately, every cake I've made has been a white or yellow cake usually by request of whoever I'm making it for.  Today seemed like a good day for chocolate cake but I wasn't really wanting a cake to sit around so I decided to use the perfect chocolate cake recipe to become the perfect chocolate cupcake recipe.  
Beatty's Chocolate "Cup"cakes
~from The Barefoot Contessa at Home

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake tins with foil wrappers.  

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.  In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.  With the mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  

Divide the batter into the cupcake pans (1 standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount).  Bake in the middle of the oven for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, remove from pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.   

And the frosting...

6 oz.  good semisweet chocolate
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 egg yolk, room temperature
1 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

Place the chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In a bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes.  Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioner's sugar, then beat medium speed until smooth and creamy.  Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water.  On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended.  Don't whip!  Spread immediately on the cooled cake. 

So much for waking up early to go to Pilates this morning,  I ate a cupcake as soon as I got home!  So if anyone loves chocolate (and doesn't count calories) please come get a cupcake.

Now for future reference, does anyone have the perfect white or yellow cake recipe???

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Happy Wedding Day Kelsey!

For children and grandmothers everywhere I'm going to spare you with a detailed shot of my latest cake.  And instead, I was just going to leave you with a picture of my dear friend and college roommate Kelsey cutting the cake to kick start her bachelorette party.  However, when I went to load the bachelorette party pics something horrible happened with my camera and not all of the photos would load and the only way I could fix it was to delete all of the pictures on my camera.  A few were spared but not the one I was hoping to share.  So maybe it's for the best and you'll just have to use your imaginations!!!

But for old times sake, I found this really old (and by old I mean nearly 4 years) photo of us out in Boone right before we started out junior year at Appalachian.  We weren't even 21 as you can tell by the sharpie maker marks on our hands.  I have no idea where the hat came from!  

And here is one of my favorite college memories, the infamous tubing down the New River trip senior year.  Shown here is the complete Wednesday Night Dinner alum.

Lovely memories!!!

But back to the wedding:
Of course I had to get some cake photos, the flowers on the cake and throughout the entire wedding were so bright and pretty.

And finally Rachel and I snagged Kelsey off the dance floor for a photo.  I miss our little Appalachian Wednesday night dinner group, we're such adults now!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mini-Cherry Cheesecakes

What could be better than cherry cheesecake?  Perhaps mini-cherry cheesecakes, everything is always cuter in cupcake form.  My grandmother went to her high school reunion on Saturday and requested that I make some type of little dessert for her to take for everyone.  

The recipe I used is a condensed form of my usual go to cheesecake recipe from Barefoot Contessa.  After trying to look up other "mini-cheesecake" recipes I just decided to modify slightly what was already good.  A few years ago I probably would have just skipped the lemon zest in the recipe but I'm sort of obsessed with lemon zest in recipes and it make the cheesecake taste much fresher and not so heavy. 

Mini-Cherry Cheesecakes
Makes 18 cheesecakes

1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (about 10 crackers)
3/4 stick of butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar

Two 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
zest from one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 can of cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place paper liners in cupcake tins.  

Add the melted butter to the graham crackers and sugar and mix together.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into each cupcake liner.  Using your fingers, press the crust down until it's fully covering the bottom and is flat.  Place in oven for 3 minutes then sit on a rack to cool.

For the cheesecake, mix together cream cheese and sugar.  Add the eggs and mix until it is well blended together.  Add lemon zest and vanilla and stir just until it is combined.  Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full and bake for 20 minutes or until edges are golden.

After you take them out of the oven the middle will sink a little bit and makes a perfect little cup for the filling.  These would be great with blueberry pie filling as well.  I wanted to make some with raspberries, strawberries, and chocolate but time got away from me.  Before delivering them to my grandmother I did test out one and although it was still a little warm it was very good.  I hope that they turned out well once they sat in the fridge for a while.  

Monday, July 13, 2009

Update: No more peaches :(


Saturday afternoon, after dropping off the luau cake, I went to my grandmother's for a corn party.  If you've never been to one then you are missing out, at least in my opinion.  My family is big time into corn.  Both my mom and dad's side of the family have always had beautifully planted rows of corn since forever.  Because of this, corn is pretty much my favorite food and by far my favorite vegetable.  I have lots of really good summertime memories that revolve around corn.  

Saturday's corn party consisted of 488 ears of freshly picked corn.  We sat in the shade of the carport of my grandparent's house and shucked, silked, boiled, cut, and put up corn.  Even my cousin Amy, who is going into the 3rd grade, is a skilled worker by now.   Of course, I went into this knowing that this occasion would be very bittersweet without my grandfather.  He was the very definition of a gardener and knew exactly how many ears of corn was in his garden from day to day.  My dad, who always helped out with the garden but never had one himself, planted corn in one of the fields across from our house this year.  It's funny how things happen I guess.  But we shared lots of stories about my grandfather and laughed and it was a good day for all of us.  

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Luau Birthday Cake

Sarah, daughter of a friend who used to work with me at Koontz, had a full out well decorated Luau 10th Birthday! When I dropped the cake off by the pool she was decked out in a grass skirt and everything!

For the bottom I was going for a sort of tiki-hut look after seeing some cakes on The seashells and starfish were made using candy melts and a Wilton candy mold. The sand is brown sugar and graham crackers (and very tasty!).

I hope Sarah enjoys it for her Luau party :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Day 3: On the search for the best peach cobbler

And perhaps I found it?!?

Over the years I've tried out a few peach cobbler recipes but haven't really loved any of them.  Mainly this is because I have such high expectations after having my grandmother's wonderful, perfectly crusted peach cobbler around all this time.  

So the recipes I have tried have failed to live up to hers.  Paula Deen's I had really high hopes for.  As a Southern lady I just knew hers would be perfect.  But the crust was like a thick cake on top, way overpowering.  So today I set out on google to find a good recipe and instead of looking at the ingredients I just google image searched "the best peach cobbler" and looked through the results.  Not too cakey, a little crisp, gooey, .... 

After some not so impressive photos and some really random photos of things not even related to peaches or cobblers I came upon the winning photo and recipe that can be found here on this blog.  It's good to discover recipes on other food blogs, I mean that is the whole reason of creating one right?

It looked a lot like my grandmother's so I decided to search no further.  Very easy to make.  I forgot the cinnamon, which I was sure was a necessity, but after tasting it I didn't notice.  Soooo good.  

And I actually had a real occasion to make this dessert for and a new taste tester!  I'm pretty sure he enjoyed it.  

So, I'm sort of impressed that I found so much to write about on a simple peach cobbler but I think this will be my official peach cobbler recipe from now on.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Day 2: Grilled Peaches with Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Okay, I thought of this all by myself.  No Ina, no Martha.  

I've never actually had a grilled peach.  So I broke out my George Foreman grill that I got for Christmas but still hadn't used.  There was little prep: cut the peach in half, remove the pit, and put it on the heated grill.  Pretty simple.  

As it was grilling, I raided my fridge hoping and praying I had some heavy cream that wasn't expired.  To my surprise I found that I had one that hadn't even been opened yet and didn't expire until the end of this month.  Excitedly, I poured some in a bowl and started up my electric mixer.  I whipped and whipped and whipped.  Then after seeing no results stuck in my finger and tasted it...

...I definitely was whipping buttermilk.  

But it gets better.  On another shelf I found some fresh heavy cream.  I added about 1/4 cup of sugar and maybe 1/4 tablespoon of cinnamon (a good sprinkle).

By this time my peaches were ready and all I had to do was add a dallop (I love that word) of the whipped cream.  

My overall impression,  grilled peaches are okay.  Maybe it was my George Foreman grill, but they sort of had a weird taste that I wasn't expecting.  But the whipped cream was amazing!!!!  The cinnamon added the perfect warmth to the already sweet cream.  So even if I wasn't the biggest grilled peach fan I will definitely keep this whipped cream recipe in mind for my next peach creation.  And how good would that be on apple crisp or pie????

Monday, July 6, 2009

Peach related photos

After putting the crumbles in the oven, I left the kitchen since it is always the hottest part of my apartment.  Awhile later I went to sneak a peak in the oven and found the cutest arrangement on my kitchen table.  Isabelle loves laying there.  I've tried to train her but the sun comes in really good in the early afternoon and she looks so cute I gave up.  This results in me cleaning the table everyday but after cute photos like this I think it's worth it.  

Day 1: Peach & Blueberry Crumbles

Ina's Barefoot Contessa at Home was the first place I went looking for more peach recipes.  Luckily I looked in the right place first :)  

I cut the fruit recipe in half since I wasn't willing to give up that many peaches on my first recipe.  This still filled up 5 small ramekins.  I kept the crumble recipe the same and used all of it.  What can I say? I like my peaches extra crumbly.  I baked two of them and have the rest stored in the fridge for now.   Tonight I'll probably bake them up and share them with some of my neighbors.  

If only I had some vanilla ice cream right about Ina would say, "How gorgeous is that!!!"

Peach & Blueberry Crumbles
~Ina Garten from Barefoot Contessa at Home

For the Fruit
2 lbs firm, ripe peaches
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup fresh blueberries

For the Crumble
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until their skins peel off easily.  Place them immediately in cold water.  Peel the peaches, slice them into thick wedges, and place them in a large bowl.  Add the lemon zest, juice, sugar and flour.  Toss well.  Gently mix in the blueberries.  Allow for the mixture to sit for 5 minutes.  Spoon the mixture into ramekins or custard cups.  

For the topping, combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas.  Rub the mixture with your fingertips until it is in big crumbles, then sprinkle evenly over fruit.  Place the ramekins on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops are browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  

A Peachy Keen Challenge

I have to admit that I'm partial to fruit desserts.  Over the weekend my dad went to Asheville and I jokingly told him to buy me something from one of the many wonderful farmer's markets.

On Sunday afternoon I was very happy that he had actually listened to me and bought home a huge basket of South Carolina yellow peaches.  I love fruit desserts but peach fruit desserts are on an entire different level for me.  Last summer I made a few desserts with peaches (summer fruit crisp  and peach and raspberry crisp) but having this many peaches I think that I need to try out a few more.  

So here is where the challenge comes into play: 

First up: