Sunday, November 27, 2011

Soft Pretzels

Soft pretzels have been on my to-do list for months. After this month's What's Baking theme was announced: Savory Treats, I knew right away it was time. I don't know why I waited so long since these were really easy to make and only required four ingredients. The worst part was kneading the dough. After the dough is shaped into pretzels, they are boiled and baked. These were yummy (especially with cheese), but best eaten the day they are made.

Soft Pretzels
Source: Pastry Arts Class

For Dough:
1/2 oz. fresh yeast
1 and 1/2 oz. brown sugar
12 oz. warm water (85 degrees)
1 pound and 7 oz. all-purpose flour

For Boiling Mixture:
2 pounds water
3/4 oz. baking soda

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
Bring water and baking soda (for boiling mixture) to a boil in a large pan.
Dissolve yeast and brown sugar in the water in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add flour and mix on high until blended.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 - 10 minutes)
Divide the dough into 12 even pieces.
Roll into a rope and shape as desired.
Drop pretzels into boiling water and boil until they rise (about 1 minute).
Drain pretzels and place on a greased baking sheet.
Sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake at 475 degrees for 8 minutes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes

Coconut is one of my favorite flavors. I know coconut gets a bad rap, and many people don't like it, but they don't know what they're missing. I was asked to make special birthday cupcakes for my coworker, so I decided to make my go-to vegan chocolate cupcakes topped with coconut buttercream since she also loves coconut. I can't even begin to describe how awesome these tasted. The bittersweet chocolate topped with the sweet and creamy coconut buttercream was divine. These were perfection.

Coconut Buttercream

2 sticks butter, room temperature
5 - 6 cups powdered sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 - 4 tablespoons water

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

Edible Images Part 2

To go along with the Monster High cake, I made two dozen vanilla and chocolate cupcakes with edible rice paper images. These images were so much easier to work with because they didn't have a backing. All you have to do is cut them out and stick them on top of the cupcakes. Very easy and tasty! No complaints; just an observation: Since the paper quickly dissolves, I'd wait until right before you need the cupcakes to stick the images on top of them. If you look closely, you can see the sprinkles bleeding through the paper and some of the images beginning to smear. I decorated the cupcakes about three hours before I needed them, so next time I'd wait until about a half-hour or so beforehand to decorate them. All in all, the edible rice paper images were a success, the edible cake image with the backing, not so much. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Edible Images Part 1

This cake almost broke my spirit. A girl I went to school with contacted me for a cake and cupcakes. She asked if I ever worked with edible images and provided me with 24 edible images for cupcakes and one for a 9 X 13 cake. I never worked with edible images, but I figured it couldn't be that hard. The directions seemed easy enough: "Peel image from plastic backing and apply to cake."

Three hours later, I ended up with a headache, and a torn image. I did everything I could to free the image from the plastic backing. I Googled for help. I even watched YouTube videos. It looked so easy, yet my image was not coming off the backing. I again placed it in the freezer and it finally came free. Well most it! (The logo tore, of course!) All I had to do was apply it to the cake. Easy, right? Nope! I dampened the icing (that had since dried while I was fighting the image) and placed it on top. I smoothed the sides and guess what, it wouldn't stick! I peeled it back off and applied a bit more water and still nothing—well it did start to bleed.

At this point, I was ready to throw the cake in the garbage and start again. It was near midnight, though, and I was exhausted. Plus I still had to decorate two dozen cupcakes with more edible images. (I'll recant this story in another post later this week.) So I placed the image down as best I could and decorated around it. I hated this cake and it still makes me sick to look at it. The moral of the story: Never again will I use an edible cake image. (The customer loved it and was not mad at all, but it still broke my spirit a little bit.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes

I love the flavors that fall brings. Like many others, pumpkin is one of the fall flavors that I adore. I have been meaning to make pumpkin cupcakes for some time now, but I never got the chance. I was looking through recipes and was stuck between two. I visited The Way the Cookie Crumbles and low and behold, there was a pumpkin cupcake comparison. I decided to go with the recommended recipe from David Leite. I baked these for a friend of ours who recently celebrated her birthday. She is going through a rough time right now and she was in need of a pick-me up. She was surprised and loved them! These cupcakes had a light, moist crumb and a mild pumpkin spice flavor that was perfectly complemented by the tangy cream cheese icing.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Source: Adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles

1 stick butter (room temperature)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 and 1/4 cups canned pure pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake tin with 18 cupcake liners.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy for about 5 minutes.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl and set aside. Add the vanilla to the milk and set aside.

Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture and mix on medium speed, scraping down the sides after each addition.

Turn the mixer on low and alternatively add the flour mixture and milk, ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth.

Fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 full and rap the filled pans to release air bubbles.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes. Cool cupcakes completely on wire racks.