Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes

I recently won a Spice Islands spice set courtesy of I Heart Cuppycakes! that included pure vanilla extract. Since I've been on the hunt for that perfect vanilla cupcake, I thought it was perfect timing to test my new spices and a new recipe. This has become my new go-to vanilla cupcake recipe, but I'm still not 100% sold on it. (Anyone want to suggest a recipe?) While the flavor was good, these cupcakes were a tad dry.

Vanilla Cupcakes
Source: Melissa Bakes

1 stick butter (room temperature)
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake tin with 12 cupcake liners.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
In another bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract.
Turn mixer to low and alternately add flour mixture and milk in three additions, ending with flour.
Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake for 18 - 20 minutes.
Cool completely on a wire rack and top with your favorite icing.

Vanilla Buttercream
1 stick butter (room temperature)
2 - 3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 - 2 tablespoons water

Cream the butter. Add vanilla and water. Beat well. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time until desired consistency is reached and beat well.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pistachio Cake

This month's What's Baking theme is try something new for the new year using an ingredient, recipe, or technique that's new to you. After I received a cake order for a pistachio cake, I knew it fit the bill. I never baked with pistachios before. I've eaten pounds of them, but never had them in a cake. I imagined a sweet and salty cake with perfect amount of crunch. I set out to find the perfect recipe. My aunt told me to use the tried and true pistachio cake recipe using pistachio pudding, but I had my eye on a recipe from my Martha Stewart Cupcakes book. I converted the recipe from cupcakes to a cake and hoped for the best. What I got was a flat, dense, sickly sweet cake. I'm not sure what happened. Maybe the recipe is best left as cupcakes.

I scrapped that recipe and went back to my aunt for help. This time I got two beautiful light and fluffy pistachio cakes that rose beautifully. I topped them with vanilla buttercream and stuffed more chopped pistachios between the layers per the client's request. Then I iced the whole cake with more vanilla buttercream and topped it with some drop flowers in the requested colors. The client said it was "the best cake (he and his wife) ever had." I was thrilled. The worst part of making this cake was shelling all the pistachios.

Center of cake
Pistachio Cake

1 box white cake (or you can use your favorite white cake recipe)

1 box pistachio pudding
3 eggs
1 cup water
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a cake pan.

Blend together all ingredients, except pistachios, on medium speed for two minutes.
Fold in chopped pistachios.
Pour into cake pan and bake for 30 - 35 minutes.
Let cool and top with your favorite icing.

Vanilla Buttercream
2 sticks butter (room temperature)
4 - 5 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 - 2 tablespoons water

Cream the butter. Add vanilla and water. Beat well. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time until desired consistency is reached and beat well.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Last Pastry Class

This is the very last treat we made in pastry class: petit fours. After all the complaints I had heard about making these, I wasn't really looking forward to making a fussy little cake. I'm proud to say I had a lot of fun making these, plus it was the first time I got to work with fondant. Now I've made tons of cakes, but I always topped them with buttercream. I've heard people say how much they didn't like the taste of fondant, but I have to say this wasn't too bad. A little sweet, but not bad. It wasn't too bad to work with, either, and I'm looking forward to making my first fondant covered cake soon.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pastry Class Round-Up

This cannoli was as cute as it was delicious. It was filled with a sweet ricotta
filling spiked with amaretto, chocolate chips, and pistachios.
The ends were then dipped in chocolate and pistachios.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pastry Class Round-Up

Here is an assortment of pastries we made with puff pastry dough, which is similar
to blitz pastry dough. Puff pastry dough has more butter rolled in and folded into it than
blitz pastry dough, creating a more tender and higher-rising dough. 

I'm particularly proud of this pastry called a psalm. It's filled with sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts.
My professor called it "very professional looking."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pastry Class Round-Up

Here's a cherry and blueberry pinwheel I made with blitz puff pastry dough. Blitz pastry dough has tons of butter folded and rolled into it that creates multiple layers that puff up when baked.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pastry Class Round-Up

Since I've finally finished my first pastry class at culinary school, I've decided to share a few of the items I've made over the course of the semester for the next few days on my blog. It was a lot of fun and a lot of work. I'm looking forward to starting cake class in the next two weeks. Stay tuned.

Here is the blueberry lattice pie I made in my first class. Look at how awful it is.
I've since gotten much better at making beautiful pies. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

M&M Cookies and (another) New Year's Resolution

Yes, these were made for Christmas. Yes, Christmas has come and gone. I know I've been ignoring my blog lately (shame on me!) and I have no excuses now that the holidays are over and I'm on break from school. Can I use work as an excuse? I usually make the same resolutions every New Year: Eat healthier and exercise more. This year is no different, but I'm also adding another one: Stop being such a procrastinator. I'm great at wasting time when I should be doing other things. So I am vowing to get off my butt and stop being lazy.  

Back to the cookies. I never eat candy. I'd rather a piece of cake, a cupcake, or a cookie any day over a piece of candy. Although when I go to the movies (which is rare), I always eat M&Ms. I like that they are crunchy. That's why I like these cookies. They are soft with crunchy chocolate candies baked inside. What's not to love?

M&M Cookies
Source: Delish

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 and 1/3 cup M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

In another bowl, beat together butter, brown sugar, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well. 

Add flour mixture to butter mixture in installments and beat until well blended. Stir in M&Ms. 

Roll into one-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheet and cool completely on wire rack.