Friday, May 20, 2011

Balsamic Strawberry Cupcakes

Last weekend, I walked down to Bi-Rite creamery, a local ice cream shop, and tried their new flavor, balsamic strawberry ice cream. It was super yummy! Tart and sweet, with fresh strawberries. So I was inspired to create the same flavor in a cupcake.

I walked up a huge hill to the grocery store to get some fresh, local strawberries. so yum! I already had a great strawberry cupcake recipe, so I simply modified it slightly. I first macerated the strawberries in balsamic vinegar and a bit of sugar, until they were super juicy. Then I pureed them as usual and added them to the recipe. The effect was subtle, but I could definitely taste the balsamic. I also used the balsamic strawberries to make the frosting.

To kick it up, I made a balsamic syrup by boiling balsamic vinegar with some honey until it reduced and got thick. After cooling, I drizzled it over the tops of the cupcakes. Fancy!

They tasted great, sweet and tangy. I was afraid the concentrated syrup would be too much, but it was great. I even have some leftover, which might get paired with some Grana Padano cheese tonight :)

PS- this was the second time baking in my new kitchen, and the oven takes some getting used to. The first batch was almost all burned on the bottom. Not sure if it was the temperature or the ingredients, but this time I baked at a lower temp and added a cookie sheet to block some of the bottom heat. Worked great! No burned bottoms here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cake Pops and Sprinkles

After donating the 800 cake pops a few months ago, I got a few calls to make more, but this time, I got paid!

These pops were for a last minute event, so I had less than 48 hours to get these together. The order was for 200 pops though, so it didn't quite take as long.

While prepping to make the pops, I set out my big tub of nonpareil sprinkles so I could easily access it when I needed. Well, a swift jab of the elbow and the sprinkles went flying!

It was so pretty I had to take a picture :) Fortunately, I was able to save most of them, but I was finding little colored balls on the floor for a while after that.

Anyways, finished the cake pops on time and delivered them. It gets easier and easier every time I do them, and I usually learn new tips and techniques too with more practice. Fun!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A non-cupcake challenge: eclairs!

My new favorite show is Martha Bakes, where the great MS bakes 3 different things all using one base recipe. After watching her show on choux pastry, I was so inspired I made it the very next day.

Choux pastry is a cooked dough that when baked, puffs up hollow inside so you can fill it with yummy things. It sounds terribly complicated but was truly easy to do.

I made both eclairs and cream puffs, the only difference being the shape. They were filled with a vanilla pastry cream and dipped in an espresso glaze. Yum! Everything was easy to make and assemble, although a bit time consuming.

After making the dough on the stovetop, I transferred it to a piping bag and piped out long strips and round circles, for eclairs and puffs.

When they came out of the oven all puffy and golden, I literally squealed with delight! It's always uncertain when baking something for the first time, and I couldn't believe they came out perfect the first time. I opened one up to see if they were indeed hollow, and they were! So I naturally had to eat the one I cut into :)
They were filled with vanilla pastry cream, which was then lightened with whipped cream, to make a truly heavenly filling. It was quite easy to fill them, just poke the tip of the piping bag in, and there you go! They're already hollow anyways.

After filling, the tops were dipped in a decadent espresso glaze. The glaze was just powdered sugar, milk and espresso powder. Yum! It smelled amazing.

Once complete, the pastries looked all professional and pretty! I still almost can't believe that I made them. It seems that they should be in the case of a French bakery in Paris, not in my kitchen :)

Now, for the taste: they were delicious! I hardly ever eat what I bake, but I could not resist. Soft and light, creamy and airy. How can something so decadent still be so light?

I had leftover pastry cream and glaze, so the next day I made another batch of pastry and used it all up. They were gobbled up quickly! Thanks Martha for inspiring me to try something new!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Belated Easter cupcakes

It's been quite a month! Found out we were moving to San Francisco, started packing, visited my parents for Easter, lost my kitty Felicia to kidney failure :( , and moved to the West Coast! Needless to say there hasn't been much time for baking (or blogging).

But now we're almost all unpacked, our new place is coming together, and I'm getting back on track.

As I said, I went to visit my parents in Charlotte, NC for Easter and my mom's birthday, since they were only a few days apart. They live in a huuuuuuge house, it's really more like a chateau. Very swank! So I had to try out the kitchen, since it's probably bigger than my entire apartment.

My cousin, his partner, and their adorable daughters were visiting as well. So for Easter, my 4 year old cousin Valentina wanted to make and decorate cupcakes. I baked the cupcakes and made the frosting, and we decorated them together. I decided on lemon cupcakes, since it was Spring, and everyone likes lemon. Also, the acidity cuts the sweetness a bit, and I know my parents aren't fans of sweets. Wonder where I got it from?
After the cupcakes were cooled, I tinted the frosting green so it would look like grass. We had pretty Easter cupcake papers and toppers, so all Vale and I had to do was pipe the frosting, add sprinkles, and insert topper. Very easy, and fun!

Valentina helped me direct the piping bag with the grass tip to pipe the green frosting all over the cupcakes. Then she added the sprinkles and toppers. It was so cute how decisive she was about which sprinkles and which toppers to put where. Everything was in her favorite colors, pink and purple. She is truly a little princess.

After we were finished, we put all the cupcakes on a lovely display stand, and covered them up. They had to be a surprise! After a lovely Easter dinner, we unveiled the cupcakes and everyone enjoyed them. She was a great little helper and has a great career as a decorator in the future :)