Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Is it a Cupcake or is it a Smore?

A few weeks back, I was home in bed tending to an illness and feeling quite sorry for myself. Just when I thought I would never be able to get myself out of watching every reality show (I have Bravo to thank for that guilty pleasure), I channel surfed my way to Martha Stewart' show. It was my lucky day...Martha was kicking off Cupcake Week!!!

One of the recipes that caught my eye was this Chocolate Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow, and as soon as I had the opportunity, I had to try this recipe myself. This recipe comes courtesy from Trophy Cucpakes, gorgeous bakeshop based in Seattle, WA.
How can you go wrong with a rich chocolate cupcake with a graham cracker base topped with a light marshmallow fluff Next time, I will go easy on the graham crust base, but otherwise a very pleasing recipe.

Chocolate Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow
courtesy of Jennifer Shea, owner of Trophy Cupcakes

Makes 2 dozen

For the Cupcakes:
2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 squares)
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners; set aside. Sift 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix ingredients together on low speed. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl and continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add boiling water and stir to combine; set cake batter aside. Place graham cracker crumbs, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and melted butter in a large bowl; stir until well combined. Place 1 tablespoon graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Use the bottom of a small glass to pack crumbs into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Reserve remaining graham cracker mixture for topping. Place 2 teaspoons chocolate in each muffin cup. Transfer muffin tins to oven and bake until the edges of the graham cracker mixture is golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and fill each muffin cup three-quarters full with cake batter. Sprinkle each with remaining chocolate and graham cracker mixture. Return to oven and bake, rotating pans halfway through baking, until tops are firm and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer muffin tins to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely.

For the Frosting:
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.
Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use immediately.

Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain round or French tip (such as Ateco #867 or Ateco #809). Pipe frosting in a spiral motion on each cupcake. Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet. Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the frosting, taking care not to burn the cupcake liners. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container, up to 2 days.

Big Bill's Carrot Cake (TWD)

So many fantastic desserts to create...did I need to try another carrot cake recipe??? Everyone (including myself) claims to have a great carrot cake recipe, but I thought I would give it a go as Dorie has not let me down. Thank you to Amanda from Slow Like Honey for the selection for TWD.

The recipe was straightforward and easy to assemble. I was a bit skeptical about adding coconut and raisins (I like my carrot cakes really simple and straightforward) and limiting the spice to just cinnamon (my other recipe uses cinnamon, cloves and cardamom) . As the cupcakes came out of the oven, I thought hmmmm...a bit light in color (darn it, should I have added more spice?).

The final verdict? The finished product was quite delicious, flavorful and moist! My personal preference is for a less ingredients (coconut, nuts, raisins) and more spice, but this is a nice variation that I will put into my baking rotation.

Bill’s Big Carrot Cake
Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan


For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs

For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
½ cup shredded coconut (optional)
Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional)

Getting ready:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.
To make the cake:
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.
The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.
To make the frosting:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.
If you’d like coconut in the filling, scoop about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this position.
To assemble the cake:Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top- and the sides- of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft.
Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart (TWD)

As I perused the TWD completed recipe section, listed were many recipes that I really wanted to attempt. This is one time that I don't mind playing a little catch up with the group!

This luscious lemon cream tart recipe really caught my eye. The lemon cream did take a little effort to pull together (it took much longer than I thought to get the lemon cream up to temperature), but boy was it worth it!

Pierre Herme's Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart
from Baking From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan
makes 8 servings

1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 tablespoons; 10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1 fully-baked 9-inch tart shell

Making The Tart
Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
1. Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.
2. Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.
3. As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.
4. Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.
5. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.

Serving: The tart should be served cold, because it is a particular pleasure to have the cold cream melt in your mouth.

Storing: While you can make the lemon cream ahead (it will keep in the frige for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months), once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Welcome to my blog! Since I was a little girl, I have always had a passion for baking...this all must started with the Easy Bake Oven I got for my 8th birthday :)... thanks mom & dad!

I welcome you all to share in my baking adventures. I have always experienced tremendous satisfaction from creating beautiful and tasty things in my kitchen, sharing these creations with friends & family, and seeing the content smiles that my baked goods bring to those around me.

I was inspired to start this blog when I stumbled upon the Tuesdays with Dorie site. It is wonderful to see such a enthusiastic community of passionate bakers (like me!) and I think it's fantastic to have a forum to share our passion for baking.

I'm really excited about work my way thru Dorie Greenspan's terrific baking book, which had been previous gathering dust on my bookshelf.

Enough's time to get to the business at hand...BAKING!
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