Chocolate Henna

September 27, 2009

Well, I haven’t posted in forever. I’m sure the legions of absolutely no one have been extremely upset. I have the normal amount of lame excuses (work, travel, etc.), but the truth is I was getting very frustrated taking photos of my food. Or, that I can’t seem to take any good ones, due to lack of patience, expertise, any sort of artistic talent…the list stretches on.

Well, I decided to try try again, because I was rather pleased with the way these cupcakes turned out.

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I baked these for a wedding. I actually made five different kinds of cupcakes (Carrot, Margarita, Chocolate, Mascarpone, Hummingbird), but these were my favorites.

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The cupcake is a chocolate cake recipe from my girl, Ina Garten. I then iced the top with a royal icing recipe out of my Martha Stewart Cupcake’s cookbook. Then I took the left over royal icing, added about a container and a half of Wilton’s red gel food coloring, and let it sit for a while so the color would deepen. Using my very smallest frosting tip, I spent the next hour piping designs on 24 cupcakes. It was very nerve-wracking work, but also deeply satisfying once they were done.

Medallion

Cupcake Carnage

August 2, 2009

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So, this is how my Saturday went: First, I made these great Cream Cheese cupcakes. Then I topped them with a Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Then a group of raging Zombies came in, and the subsequent carnage ended up on my cupcakes.

Okay, the last part is obviously not true, but it’s the first thing that runs through my mind every time I look at these cupcakes. Which are actually quite delicious, if I can toot my own horn (and believe me, I will).

These cupcakes are actually a work in progress. They are put of a group of cupcakes I am making for an upcoming wedding. The colors for the wedding are very bold, vibrant colors that I am trying to represent in cupcake form. So far so good, except for one: Fuchsia.

There have been two failed previous attempts. The first time out I tried to dye the frosting the appropriate color. Major failage! The result was yucky, gross frosting and pink stained hands (I know, next time I’ll wear rubber gloves). I decided my next approach would be to try and find a darker pink color that was natural. I tried a cream cheese frosting mixed with Blackberry jam. I ended up with quite yummy frosting that also happened to be quite mauve. They would have looked perfect in my grandmother’s bathroom.

Which leads me here: Giada de Laurentiis’ (love her) Mascarpone Cupcakes with Berry Glaze. Ideally, these cupcakes will eventually have a small sugar cookie stuck in the top, so I knew that I needed to have some kind of frosting along with the berry glaze. I opted for a Swiss Meringue Buttercream, thinking that a regular buttercream made with powdered sugar, along with the sugary berry glaze would be a tad too much. I then poured the berry glaze on top, hoping for it to coat the piped buttercream in lovely drips. Well, as you can see it didn’t turn out quite that way.

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But all in all, I am still happy with the result, just because it is something I can work with. I plan to get the glaze a little more fuchsia-colored by using all strawberries, and I am going to use a different tip when I pipe the buttercream on, so there will be no little crevices for the glaze to settle in.

Will I get it right? Will you come back and check? Any advice from all you smart bakers out there?

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f.y.i. This cupcake recipe is so amazingly good. It used a Hy-Vee box mix (holla Midwest!) and substituted cream cheese for the Marscapone (savings alert). They were similar to angel food cake, only a little more dense. I highly recommend.

Zucchini Bread

July 30, 2009

So, a co-worker gave me some lovely zucchini yesterday. I meant to take a photo, but honestly, this lovely green vegetable did not stay whole and intact for very long. Within 12 hours, it had been sliced for a stir-fry, chopped for a salad, and food-processed for this bread.

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This recipe is from my absolute favorite baking cookbook, Baking Illustrated. This lovely tome was a birthday present last year (thanks Mary!), and has been my go-to baking guide since then. It comes from the wonderful people at Cook’s Illustrated who have never steered me wrong. If you like to bake and get it right the first time (and who doesn’t?), then buy this book!

I have never made Zucchini bread before, so I had no real preconceived notions of how it should turn out. The bread was light and moist, and it had an excellent crust that reminded me of Irish Soda bread (another excellent recipe for this resides in the same cookbook).

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What is your go-to cookbook?

Marsh-mellows

July 22, 2009

I’m sorry for the title, but I couldn’t help myself. Let’s be honest, that’s the way we all write it anyway, before the spell checker catches it and forces us to change it to the very strange and unnatural looking mallow.

As it’s been a somewhat busy and stressful week with little time for baking, I took some time after I got home from work last night (9:15 PM!), to make these marshmallows.

Marsh best

The recipe comes courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa, and can be found in her Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook. For those who know me (and I would guess that most people who are sweet enough to read my blog probably do), they know that I loooovve Ina Garten. I have rarely had a recipe of hers do me wrong, and any mishaps could probably be attributed to the chef (me), not the source.

These marshmallows are actually really easy, and I love the reactions when you bring them in (“You can make marshmallows?”). Sometimes I follow BC’s recipe to add some toasted coconut to the outside, but this time I decided to leave them plain and unadulterated. I highly recommend this recipe, but a candy thermometer is a must!

So next time you feel tense, mellow out with some nice marshmallows. See how I brought it full circle there? I’m so smooth.

Stinky Old Bananas

July 18, 2009

Don’t you love ‘em?  The pair I used to make these banana cupcakes were so ripe they even smelled a little boozy.  I wish I had taken a before photo, but I think we’ve all seen a black banana or two in our lifetimes.

I did take a photo of the resulting yumminess, though:

Plate

I baked up some Banana cupcakes, topped with a light cream cheese frosting. I found this recipe at No Special Effects, a slight variation on a recipe from Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts. I followed the recipe almost exactly, except I substituted light brown sugar for dark brown sugar (daring, I know), and also omitted the pecans.

I’m not a huge fan of cream cheese frosting (I do have an almost lethal addiction to buttercream frosting, though), but this recipe has a rather small amount in proportion to the butter, so I thought it had just the right amount of tanginess.

Because I have a tendency to bake several kinds of cupcakes for one event, I like to put something on top that makes the flavor somewhat distinguishable; thus, the banana chip. And I love to eat banana chips, so bonus all around.

I am planning on giving these to a friend who is recently engaged, so I purchased this cupcake box to stick them in. Super easy, pretty, yet inexpensive, and I don’t have to do any additional wrapping.

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I only wish I had more occasions to bake for!

Pandering to the Masses

July 16, 2009

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This morning I baked up some Chocolate Salted-Caramel Cupcakes from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes. And truthfully, I didn’t really enjoy it. Mainly this is because I’m not a huge fan of chocolate baked goods. If given the choice, I will always go for the vanilla or fruit flavor. Now, I don’t mind a bar of chocolate every once in a while, but it is not my treat of choice.

I seem to be in a minority.

When ever I bake for someone who wants a variety of cupcakes, I make around the same number of each kind. Chocolate is always the first to go. Recognizing this, I have started doubling the number of chocolate cupcakes that I made, and have begun a search for a recipe that I can rely on. Thus, the cupcakes above.

In titling this blog, I was afraid that the word “Pandering” might seem to harsh, like I was making a judgment call about all those chocolate lovers out there. So, I did a quick google for the definition of pander, and this was one of the definitions I came up with:

pan⋅der
–noun Also, pan⋅der⋅er.
A person who caters to or profits from the weaknesses or vices of others.

Mmmm, I think I like this term after all.

Side note: I prepared these cupcakes over a 3 day period, baking the cupcakes first, scooping out the middles to fill later, and then sticking them in the fridge. Curiously, a few went missing in the meantime. When questioned, my husband’s best excuse was that he thought they were “defective”, so he was really doing me a favor by eating them. Yep, definitely a lot of chocolate lovers out there for me to pander to.

To New Beginnings…

July 14, 2009

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So here it is, my first blog, first food photo, so I do apologize for the poor quality and very amateur nature of both.  But, if you’ll bear with me, I will promise to improve.  Or, try to improve.  Well, at the very least, I will blog about trying to improve.

This blog will ideally serve a double purpose for me.  One, it will give me a chance to get off the bench and try to join the legions of fabulous food blogs that I go to Tastespotting to droll over.  Two, it will let me show off the goodies I am baking so potential clients (I’m crossing all my toes and fingers on this one) can get an idea of what I do.

Like I wrote above, I would be grateful if you would come back and visit every once and a while, and give me the chance to impress you.  I’d appreciate a little time though.  Maybe more than a little.  I’ll let you be the judge.

Best Wishes,

Kaiti

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