Tag Archives: Baking

Exotic Cupcakes Win Hearts in Brooklyn

Monday night I participated in the pro division of the Brooklyn Kitchen Third Annual Cupcake Cookoff. Although I did not take home the title, it was more than worth the week long preparation that went into my three entries to meet such cool people and feel the thrill of competition running through my veins for the first time since, I dunno, my JV basketball tournament in 10th grade.

Originally, I planned to make cupcakes that could compete in the exotic flavor category. But two days before the competition I found out that as a pro, I was not eligible for any of the themed categories. I would be competing against 5 other pros in a “may the best man win” battle. I went ahead with my exotic themed cupcakes, which may have been a mistake, since the cupcakes that won–while super yummy–were more traditional.

A crowd favorite, all 3 batches of my Sweet Potato Cupcake with Chai Buttercream, Chocolate Rum Drizzle and Pistachio disappeared halfway through the competition...the first of any of the 5 pro competitors!

A crowd favorite, all 3 batches of my Sweet Potato Cupcake with Chai Buttercream, Chocolate Rum Drizzle and Pistachio disappeared halfway through the competition...the first of any of the 5 pro competitors!

My idea for the Sweet Potato Cupcake with Chai Frosting came to me days before the competition. It popped into my head while I was in the shower.

My friend Sara had just come back from India, and the first thing I had grilled her about was chai tea. She told me that the best chai in India is sold by chaiwallas (tea peddlers) on trains. They get on the train when it pulls into the station, sell the tea they just brewed, and get off before the train departs. Continue reading

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Guava Pie

guava_pie

Kristen provided the inspiration for this tropical winter dessert, which I made at her dinner party on Sunday. She wanted something that featured guava and cashews. All the other ingredients were just things she and Billy had laying around the kitchen…like Meyer lemon syrup!

This pie was so good that I wanted to share the recipe.

Basically, it is a cheesecake. But when I picture cheesecake, I picture something twice this size. So, I just called it a pie. But if you want to make an 8″ cheesecake, just double the filling ingredients.

Kristen and Anita’s Guava Cheese Pie with Cashew Crust

for the crust:
1 c. unsalted cashews
1 sleeve plain graham crackers, broken up
½ c. light brown sugar
1 tbp. ground cinnamon, plus one more if you really like it
1 tsp. each ground ginger, nutmeg, and cloves
1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter

for the filling:
½ c. canned guava paste, cut into small chunks
1 package cream cheese (we used Neufchâtel) at room temperature
¾ c. greek yogurt
2 eggs
1 c. Meyer lemon syrup, or ½ c. sugar simmered with juice of 2 lemons until syrupy
¼ c. flour
¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a food processor, pulse together all crust ingredients, except butter, until fine crumbs form. Transfer to a small bowl. Melt the butter and add ¾ of it to the bowl. Use your hands or a spoon to get it fully incorporated. Add more butter as necessary until the mixture holds a shape when squeezed in your hand.

Pour half of the crumbs into a pie plate and smash evenly on the bottom of the pan and up the sides to form a ¼” thick crust. Add extra crumbs as necessary to fill spaces.

Place in the oven and bake for about 8 minutes, until edges begin to color. Remove and allow to cool. Extra crumbs can be kept in a sealed container in the freezer for another use.

In a medium bowl, whip together the cream cheese, yogurt, eggs, lemon syrup, flour and salt with a rubber scraper or wooden spoon. Reserve.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the guava paste with a splash of water. Keep stirring until smooth, and add another splash of water, if necessary, to keep it from sticking.

Pour half of the cheese mixture into the crust. Drop a few spoonfuls of guava on top, and drag a toothpick through the blobs to spread them out a little, being careful not to puncture the crust below. Repeat with the remaining cream cheese and guava.

Place the pie plate in an oven-safe casserole dish or tray that has enough water to come half way up the sides of the pie plate. Bake 20 minutes, then rotate and bake another 20 minutes. Check to see if the pie is set (it’s okay if it still jiggles slightly just in the center) and if not, return to oven for 10 more minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Slice and serve with black Colombian coffee.

Feed the Models!

cakes

All the diet-conscious baking I have been dabbling into paid off this week when a friend asked me to bake some goodies for her friend–the Director of a well known modeling agency–to share with his office.

For this, I wanted to focus on fresh ingredients that would bring a lot of flavor without a lot of fat. From left to right, they were: coconut layer cake with guava filling and tofu cream cheese frosting; lemon layer cake with homemade lemon-yuzu curd filling and shiso leaf; and almond spice layer cake with mango mousse filling. I also made a box of my signature vegan banana carob brownies.

Here are some guidelines for giving your own favorite recipes a healthy makeover:

• Use pureed fresh fruit to replace some of the sugar in a recipe and add flavor.

• You can also substitute 1 ¼ cup brown rice syrup for every cup of sugar in the recipe. It is a natural alternative to sugar and is less sweet. It also metabolizes more slowly so that you don’t get the spike—and subsequent crash—in energy that comes from regular sugar. Agave syrup works the same way, but is slightly more expensive.

• Decrease or omit butter in a recipe by adding other ingredients to give moisture and richness, like fruit puree, ground nuts or seeds, or small amounts of canola or olive oil.

• Nuts, when ground fine in a food processor, can also be used as a substitute for flour to make gluten-free cakes. Almonds and hazelnuts both make delicious cakes when used in conjunction with brown rice flour, which you can make at home by grinding the rice in a food processor or blender until it becomes a fine powder. Use a ratio of 1:2 for lighter cakes, and 1:1 for denser, richer cakes.

• For vegan cakes, you can substitute vegetable oil for butter and coconut milk for milk. Since coconut milk has its own fat, you can also decrease the amount of oil added to the recipe ¼ of a cup for every cup of coconut milk added.

• Look for products that have minimal or no preservatives and additives. Also, stick to ingredients that are the least processed, like unbleached flour or sea salt.

• Tofu adds body (and protein) to frosting when substituted for butter. Here’s a simple and really yummy recipe for chocolate tofu frosting. But keep in mind the following, which I learned the hard way: confectioner’s sugar has the OPPOSITE effect on tofu than it does on butter. Instead of thickening, it will create a runny, gooey mess. Use a small amount of agave syrup instead.

• To thicken mousse without egg yolks or gelatin, you can use agar flakes, which are odorless and flavorless–even though they are derived from seaweed. For every leaf of gelatin called for, substitute ¾ tablespoon agar flakes (I know, random, but it works). Next time I think I’ll try to grind the flakes to a powder for a smoother consistency.

Stay tuned for my vegan brownie recipe!

Make Your Own English Muffins

image courtesy of KingArthurFlour.com

Someone from my new favorite baking blog, at the King Arthur Flour test kitchen, posted this recipe for home made breakfast sandwiches. They look too good to pass up! Click the picture for the recipe, and let me know if you try.

Strawberry Cream Puffs

strawberry-cream-puffs1

For Valentines or the winter blues, nothing goes better with Champagne! Continue reading

…One More Pink Post

raspberry-frosting

Fresh Raspberry Buttercream Frosting


I know, I know. Raspberries are about as in-season as thong sandals right now, but my midwinter baking repertoire was in need of some uppers, and I wanted something that would sell fast. And that they did. One lonely cupcake made it to the weekend. Lesson learned: make happy food in January.

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners sugar (almost 1 whole box)
1 cup fresh raspberries, plus more for garnish
½ tsp lemon zest

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a wooden spoon and large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Lower the bowl and add confectioner’s sugar. Slowly raise the bowl back up with the mixer on lowest setting so the confectioner’s sugar does not spill out. The butter will look chunky and dry. Don’t worry, the liquid from the raspberries will smooth it back out. *

Add a handful of raspberries and the lemon zest, and mix briefly until raspberries are broken-up (but drupelets are still visible) and the frosting is thick, pink and creamy. Take care not to over mix (over-mixed frosting will be greasy and grainy). Add more raspberries, as necessary, to get smooth consistency. To be safe, stop the mixer a few seconds after adding raspberries and finish folding by hand.

Frost your cupcakes or cake, or refrigerate frosting in tightly sealed container until ready to use. Bring to room temperature before spreading.

*Don’t go crazy: too many raspberries = too much liquid = runny frosting + Pepto-Bismol color.

Making Brown Butter: Step by Step

brown-butter

Step1: Melt the (unsalted) butter.

Step2: Lots of tiny bubbles will start to appear.

Step 3: The top will get foamy.

Step 4: The foam will change color.

Step 5: At about 300 degrees Ferenheit, the butter is brown.

Step 6: Strain it into a pourable cup and discard solids. Here, it looks like a beautiful, buttery Guinness beer, doesn’t it?

Step 7: Enjoy brown butter in your favorite recipes, like Brown Sugar Brown Butter Hazelnut Pound Cake.

As you can see, there is not much to making it. If you have ever burned something in the kitchen, you can make brown butter. Today was the first time I tried it (on purpose, anyway) and I liked the result.

The taste it gave to the above cake was toffee-like, which makes sense. I looked up toffee and it is essentially sugar and butter boiled together until hard candy forms.

The taste also reminded me of pancakes with syrup. My grandmother used to fry our pancakes in butter, and I did too, up until a few years ago. I guess we were using brown butter without knowing it had a title. Kinda like hearing your neighbor greet your mailman by name and you never even thought to ask or even get him a Christmas card. Embarassing.

So, maybe it’s just the 4:34 am in me talking, but I think butter is like a fern. A fern can fertilize itself (reproductively). Butter can caramelize itself.

Conclusion: Score 1 for Butter. (Sorry, Veganism).