Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Blueberry Pie Day

So Monday was National Blueberry Pie Day. Who knew there were so many food holidays? It inspired me to make blueberry pie cupcakes, although I wasn't able to actually make them until the next day.

I recently bought a new cookbook, Trophy Cupcakes & Parties, from Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle. Although I've never been to their bakery, I've been a fan for a while. Since they have a recipe in the book for blueberry pie cupcakes, I could try a new recipe while celebrating a food holiday. Two in one!

This is a multiple step recipe with many components. Pie crust, blueberry pie filling, vanilla cupcakes and vanilla frosting. Fortunately, I had leftover pie dough in the fridge, so I just rolled it out and baked it. I also had blueberries in the freezer, so I used those for the filling.

Their vanilla cupcake recipe is different, there's a lot more sugar in it than I'm used to. The texture of the cupcakes was a little unusual. It took longer for them to bake, they were pretty raw in the middle for a while. There's also a disk of baked pie crust at the bottom of each cupcake, before you pour in the batter.

The frosting recipe was even more unusual. 6 sticks of butter!!!! I didn't have that much butter so I halved the recipe and it was the perfect amount to frost 24 cupcakes.

Cupcakes baked, cored, filled and frosted! I of course turned to my taste-tester, Jason, to bite into the first one. The crust and filling were perfect. I'm still not pleased with the texture of the cupcake, and the frosting is super rich. It was so warm in my house that I had to chill them or the frosting would melt.

Overall, a fun challenge, but I think I'll stick to my tried and true vanilla cupcake recipe in the future.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Happy Pretzel Day!

Today is National Pretzel Day. Ever since I traveled to Munich for Oktoberfest, I've been obsessed with Bavarian soft pretzels. In Germany, they are huge and crusty and delicious! Perfect to soak up all the beer.

Me and Carrie with a pretzel the size of our heads!

I've had a hard time finding anything that even comes close to Bavarian pretzels in the US, so I've had to make my own. I was never pleased with my results, until I found this book: Pretzel Making at Home. 

I even got to meet the author and watch her shape pretzels at a book signing. I immediately ran home and tried to make my own. It turns out, to make super authentic pretzels with a brown crust, you need food grade lye. There's simply no other way to get the same results any other way. For those of us who cant find or don't want to use lye, the book offers a decent substitute: baked baking soda.

To make soft pretzels, after making the dough and shaping it, you boil the twists in the lye solution for a minute before baking them. That develops the crust.

You can top them with whatever you want, salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, herbs, cheese, cinnamon, whatever! I prefer savory pretzels. With spicy mustard. Or hot cheese sauce. Yummmmmm.

So anytime I have an uncontrollable desire for a Bavarian pretzel, I can either fly to Munich or make them myself at home. Either way, pretzels are a delicious anytime treat. Happy Pretzel Day!

John and Carrie devouring a pretzel after many beers

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pie Social and chocolates

Sunday was the 2nd annual Pie Social, a competition to benefit the San Francisco Community School. There's a band, pie tasting, and lots of auction items. The judges are all local experts from the food industry.

The Verdi Club ballroom

I entered last year and it was a lot of fun! Although I didn't win, I did make it into the top ten. So I figured I'd give it a try again this year. I baked my go-to favorite pie, Bourbon chocolate chip pecan, with an added twist: bacon! I used both cooked chopped bacon in the filling, as well as bacon fat instead of butter. It gives such a smoky, salty flavor that complements the sweet filling well. I also added a bit of maple syrup. Yum!

my pie: Bourbon Bacon Pecan
Pie tasting- over 30 varieties!

We arrived at the Verdi Club to enter in my pie, actually 2 pies, one for the judges and one for tasting. The event had a band, refreshments, auction items to bid on, and lots of pie! There was actually another entry just like mine. And I thought I was being so original!

The judges hard at work
Slicing up all those pies!

I'll be honest, since this is a fundraiser for a school, there were tons of kids running around like crazy. I wasn't such a fan of that, so we spent most of the time outside. I just wanted to know who won! So after a lot of waiting, I went to check on the results, and they had already announced the winners, and I wasn't one of them. Too bad! I think I'll stick to cupcake competitions in the future.

After it was over, we explored the neighborhood a bit. We found a cute chocolate shop and factory, Charles Chocolates. They offer tours and tastings during the week, but we just bought some chocolates to take home. And a meyer lemon pate de fruit that I ate right there in the shop.

They were all so cute and delicious! We got a honey bunny, a fleur de sel caramel, an espresso ganache, and a passion fruit heart, my favorite. We also bought a bag of hazelnut truffles to share with our friends. Super yummy! I love discovering new treats, and I'll definitely go back for the tour soon. So even though I didn't win the pie contest, I still went home with a prize.