Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm a Barbie Girl, In a Barbie World

(above) Barbie Cupcakes - white cupcakes with butter frosting.

I believe that this is the sort of cupcake that make cupcake bakeries famous; in fact, I know it. Vanilla cupcakes with pink buttercream frosting (nicknamed the "Barbie Cake") were actually the first type of cupcake that Magnolia Bakery ever sold. The best memories I have of barbies is my sister ripping the heads off her barbie dolls.

I tried a new recipe and made white cupcakes with butter frosting that I tinted pink. The cupcakes (which technically aren't even white because they contain egg yolks) are honestly, really really good. The cake has a texture that I can only really describe as fluffy and has a good, sweet buttery flavor to it. If you are going to try one vanilla cupcake recipe from my blog, I'd recommend this one. The frosting, by the way, is wonderful as well. I usually ignore recipes for buttercream frosting and just dump enough icing sugar until the frosting seems right. Don't do that. Follow this recipe and you will get a lovely, light and creamy frosting that unlike many buttercreams, isn't overwhelmingly sweet.

(above) Evenly fill the cups with batter.

(above) These cupcakes were done after around 13-14 minutes.

(above) The cupcakes, frosted and sprinkled!

(above) Sweet, cute and pretty. It's pretty clear why these cupcakes are named after barbie.

White Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
Recipe from Joy of Baking
1 3/4 cups (175 grams) sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted
butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white
sugar, divided
2 large
eggs, separated
1 teaspoon pure
vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and lightly butter or line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. In a mixing bowl sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add 3/4 cup (150 grams) of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.Beat in the vanilla extract. Then,with the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
  3. In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, (or with a hand mixer) beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula gently fold a little of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining whites until combined. Do not over mix the batter or it will deflate.
  4. Evenly fill the 12 muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Butter Frosting

Recipe from Joy of Baking

2 cups (230 grams) confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-3tablespoons milk or light cream


  1. In an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. Add the vanilla extract.
  2. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Tint the frosting with desired food color.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chocolate Lava Cake

(above) Chocolate Lava Cake
In need of a chocolate fix? Well, this will pretty much do it. Today I tried Alton Brown's "Chocolate Lava Muffins". The recipe is incredibly simple and the ingredients equally so. The only really difficult thing you have to watch out for is the baking time. Do it just right, and you will get a chocolate cake with an ooey-gooey chocolate filling. Do it wrong and overbake it, and you'll end up with a delicious brownie. I ended up slightly overbaking it. I did get a bit of gooey filling (so I can tell you just how delicious it is!) but not as much as I would have liked. Do me a favor and bake it for less than 10 minutes. You really won't want to miss out on the gooey chocolate filling that gives chocolate lava cake its name. If you're up for it, sift some powered sugar over the cake and serve on a plate drizzled with chocolate sauce.
(above) Use lots of semi-sweet chocolate...

(above) ...and melt it down with some butter...

(above) ...until it all melts together.

(above) A bit of sugar, flour and salt. Thats all the dry ingredients. Seriously.

(above) I've heard that some people have problems getting these cakes out of the pan so I buttered the cups generously and then dusted them with cocoa powder.

(above) I used half a recipe that made 6 cakes. Look at my new 12-cup cupcake tin! Pretty.

(above) All baked up! Although possibly a little overdone.

(above) The cakes.
Chocolate Lava Muffins
Recipe from Alton Brown
Makes 12 cakes
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 stick butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
Butter, to coat muffin tin
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place a small metal bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. Melt the chocolate and butter in the bowl. Stir in vanilla.
    In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour and salt. Sift these into the chocolate and mix well with electric hand mixer. Add eggs one at time, fully incorporating each egg before adding the next. Beat at high until batter is creamy and lightens in color, approximately 4 minutes. Chill mixture.
  3. Coat the top and each cup of the muffin tin with butter. Dust with the cocoa powder and shake out excess. Spoon mixture into pan using a 4-ounce scoop or ladle. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes. Outsides should be cake-like and centers should be gooey

Thursday, July 8, 2010

An Apple A Day

(above) Applesauce.

It's my birthday and I'm not baking a cake. Surprised? I am. But I have a valid reason! I'm going on vacation in two days and there is no way I or my family can finish an entire cake in that period of time. So, the birthday-cake-baking will have to be delayed. On that note, since I'm going to be away, I won't be blogging for a week or two. However, despite the lack of cake, I still have a birthday dinner which involves honey-glazed ham. To accompany the ham, I made apple sauce. For many of us, I am sure, applesauce was probably the first food we ever ate. Baby food aside, applesauce has many uses whether it be in baking or as an accompaniment to a savory dish. However, feel free to season the applesauce with cinnamon or nutmeg and eat it right out of the bowl. It makes a great breakfast and goes well mixed in oatmeal or eaten with yogurt.
Site note: This is my 25th post on this blog! How about that? Now I have two things to celebrate today!

(above) Wash and dry apples.

(above) Peel apples and spritz with lime or lemon juice to keep the apples from browning.

(above) Dice the apples into chunks (mine were around 0.75 inch squares in size).

(above) Heat a pot filled up with enough water to cover the apples. Once the water is boiling, pour in the apple chunks and let them cook for around 10 minutes or until tender.

(above) Drain the apples and let them cool until they are warm in temperature. Pour them into a blender and blend until smooth. Add sugar and lemon juice to taste.
(above) Applesauce

Monday, July 5, 2010

Peanut Butter - A Runner's Food

(above) Oatmeal Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

I've spent a good part of my summer running a few miles every couple of days. There is something really nice about running that a lot of people just don't really get. I can see why people hate it, I really can. The biggest reason most people running is that it hurts like hell. I agree wholeheartedly, but to me, that is kind of the reason why I love it so much. Running pushes you to be stronger both mentally and physically; it forces you to go outside your comfort zone to achieve a new level of personal fitness and mental strength. You may be wondering why I am talking so much about running and how in the world it connects to this post. Easy: 1. I am a cross country runner and therefore live and breathe running and 2. peanut butter is an awesome food for runners. Peanut butter gives you the protein and energy necessary for an athlete in training. These cookies have one full cup of peanut butter crammed into them. Eh, maybe just this once we can get away with calling these a health food (when we all know its really... not). Delicious nonetheless.
I've heard that these cookies are comparable to Nutter Butters or Girl Scout Do-si-do cookies. I honestly wouldn't know since I haven't tried either of those. All I know is that these cookies are really really good. The crispiness of the cookie and chewiness of the oatmeal, along with the creamy peanut butter filling gives an explosion of textures and flavors that scream heaven. Are they as good as a runner's high? Unlikely. The only thing that could make these cookies better? Dunking them in chocolate. But then again, chocolate makes everything better.

(above) I baked 12 cookies per tray.

(above) I noticed that a 9 minute baking time will give you crisp cookies while 8 minutes produce chewier cookies.

(above) Peanut butter and butter are key ingredients to the cream filling. I think this is my favorite photo out of this post. Is it weird that I enjoy staring at a photo of peanut butter?
(above) I distributed the cream filling with a makeshift piping bag (a plastic baggie with a corner snipped off). I actually went back and added a bit more filling to the cookies you see above before I sandwiched them together. Be sure to pair up the cookies as best as you can according to shape and size.

(above) The cookies - paired, creamed and sandwiched.

(above) The cookies with their peanut butter cream filling.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
Original recipe from Allrecipes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup quick cooking oats
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

  1. In a large bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter or margarine, 1/2 cup peanut butter, white sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Add egg and beat well.
  2. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add these dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Stir. Add oatmeal and stir.
  3. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto greased baking sheet, and press each mound down with a fork to form 1/4 inch thick cookies. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 10 minutes, or until cookies are a light brown.
  4. To Make Filling: Cream 3 tablespoons butter or margarine with the confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, and the cream. Spread filling onto half of the cooled cookies, then top with the other half to form sandwiches.

Notes: I used milk instead of the cream and reduced the amount to around a tablespoon plus a little more.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

California Girls, We're Unforgettable...

(above) California Rolls

I have been converted. After trying three of his recipes (all of which have passed with flying colors) I can now officially say that I am an Alton Brown fan. I made these California rolls using Alton Brown's recipe for sushi rice and California rolls. Crabmeat, cucumber and avocado surrounded by seaweed, seasoned rice and toasted sesame seeds make a pleasantly refreshing (and not to mention delicious) summer lunch. Rolling the rolls was a bit of a tricky process, but I figured out that they key to making the best rolls is actually to use as little rice as possible (just enough to cover the seaweed). A rice overload will not only make it difficult to roll up the sushi but create less room for the oh-so-very-important fillings. There were a couple of ingredients that I had to go out of my way to buy such as the Japanese rice, rice vinegar, seaweed and crab meat. That being said, I think that it is worth it to double the recipe as getting all the ingredients together can be kind of a pain. However, I must note that once you get the hang of it, making the rolls can be a pretty fast process. It's mainly the extra-ingredient shopping that can get a bit tedious. Nonetheless, these rolls are delicious and definitely much more economical if you ever have a craving for sushi.
Oh, on a side note, did you get the title reference? It was pretty obvious. You know, the Katy Perry song that has been playing on the radio repeatedly all summer? California Gurls? California rolls? Sorry for the corny pun, but I just had to do it.

(above) Sushi rice at room temperature.

(above) I toasted white sesame seeds on an non-stick frying pan.

(above) Preparation is key to making California rolls, so be sure to prepare the crab sticks, cucumber and avocado ahead of time. A squeeze of lime will prevent the avocado from browning.

(above) Serve with soy sauce.

(above) California Rolls

California Rolls
Recipe from Alton Brown
Makes 24 pieces
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces
4 sheets nori (seaweed)
1/2 batch sushi rice, recipe follows
1/3 cup sesame seeds, toasted
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into matchstick-size pieces
4 crabsticks, torn into pieces
  1. Squeeze the lemon juice over the avocado to prevent browning.
  2. Cover a bamboo rolling mat with plastic wrap. Cut nori sheets in half crosswise. Lay 1 sheet of nori, shiny side down, on the plastic covered mat. Wet your fingers with water and spread about 1/2 cup of the rice evenly onto the nori. Sprinkle the rice with sesame seeds. Turn the sheet of nori over so that the rice side is down. Place 1/8 of the cucumber, avocado and crab sticks in the center of the sheet. Grab the edge of the mat closest to you, keeping the fillings in place with your fingers, and roll it into a tight cylinder, using the mat to shape the cylinder. Pull away the mat and set aside. Cover with a damp cloth. Repeat until all of the rice has been used.
  3. Cut each roll into 6 pieces.
Sushi Rice
Recipe from Alton Brown
2 cups sushi or short grain rice
2 cups water, plus extra for rinsing rice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
  1. Place the rice into a mixing bowl and cover with cool water. Swirl the rice in the water, pour off and repeat 2 to 3 times or until the water is clear.
  2. Place the rice and 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
  3. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl and heat in the microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer the rice into a large wooden or glass mixing bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature before using to make sushi or sashimi.
Notes: I used a rice cooker to cook the rice. I also followed the directions printed on my bag of rice and used 1.3 cups of water for every cup of rice. I did not have kosher salt, so I used one teaspoon of table salt.