Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bloggers Bake for Hope

Mmm dough starter. Actually this should be very delicous. I made this cake years ago from a recipe from a friend of my mother's. She passed away from cancer and I thought this would be an appropriate donation for this fundraiser. What is different is that I'm making my own starter. It's a 10 day process that takes natually produced yeasts from the air.

For those of you lucky enough to have the winning bid, you'll receive:
8" Pineapple Friendship Cake
Cream cheese frosting
1 portion of starter
Instructions & recipe.
Sale goes live on May 4th. To place a bid, on and after May 4th, follow this link.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Bistrot paul bert pepper steak - french fridays w/dorie

First let me say that I don't love steak like I used to before I had my daughter. Second, the steak I got for this was a sirloin, since that was the only steak at the market. Third, my brandy selection was limited. I don't think this was a well thought out dinner. As usual, I was rushing and hadn't the time to stop for fillet. I couldn't believe they didn't have it at the place I stopped, purposely, since they normally have such beautiful meat, especially for being a fish market.

This was the best way to cook a steak. It really came out perfectly, browned and crisp on the outside, red on the inside. My daughter, a meat lover, couldn't get enough, even the pieces with the peppercorns!

I served it along side the braised fingerling potatoes in AMFF and streamed spinach. The potatoes were delicious!

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Mustard batons - french fridays w/ dorie

Oh, what a nice, simple recipe to have for a party. Or anytime, I suppose. I made this Sunday morning since we had gotten back from vacation and it was too late for me to have this done by Friday. I used store bought pastry and, after reading a few of the other FFWD bloggers, may try homemade next time. Someone mentioned that they had something flavored with fig, and I thought that sounded like a nice filling, so I poached some chopped, dried figs, mashed to make a paste, then mixed with a little of the mustard. That was a nice flavor but I wasn't sure how rich it would be, so I made those smaller than the plain mustard. The frozen pastry took much longer than 40 minutes to thaw though.

Brought these to in-laws for Easter Sunday and they were a hit. So much so, that MIL asked if I could leave the leftovers!
mis en place (sp?)

Pastry spread with mustard


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cupcake Camp Boston 2011 - the review, where to begin... Shara and I drove to Somerville on a very rainy Wednesday to participate as amateur bakers. As mentioned in a post from 4/12, I have been working on my 5 spice apple cupcakes with spiced caramel buttercream and I feel rather proud of how they turned out. The cupcake is 1/2 white AP, 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour and the frosting has much less sugar and butter than other recipes. The frosting is light and fluffy and to me, has a hint of coconut, but from where, I have no idea. We got to the armory, got out of our wet jackets, hugged my niece Liz, and started setting up our "display".

The area we were put in was really dark, or at least dim. It didn't really matter because people were walking around the whole room. And that's what we did before the public was allowed in. Good thing too because once they were, it was a mob scene. We heard that last year the vendors had tons of cupcakes left over but apparently everyone learned and there was nothing left by the time we left at around 8:30 pm. People were going around with containers and cake boxes, filling them up and then going off and eating all at one time. Others, like us, went and just took from here and there. We ended up sharing lots, but in the end, I don't think I ate more than 3? cupcakes. Several people had minis and others cut their cakes in 1/2 or 1/4. I took several home and just finished them tonight. So now I feel able to critique a few.

We started with an amateur banana foster cupcake. Banana cakes stuffed with caramelized bananas. They were quite good, but a little heavy. The baker was so nice and I wish he had business cards, as I'm sure he did as well.
The next stop was Treat Cupcake Bar. This turned out to be right up there with the tastiest. Liz made a good choice by asking for the mini-reeses pieces for the frosting mix-in. Either the frosting was peanut butter (which I'm reading now they don't have), or the pieces were extremely fresh because these were really peanuty. The cake was good too.

Shara had her eye on the "south of the border" cupcake and finally got to try it. They said there was only a little bit of tequila in it. I think she really wanted the cute margarita cupcake pick on the top.

It amazed me that I am seeing pictures other people took of the event, and I swear I didn't see 1/2 of what was there. As I was walking around, I tried a piece of a cardamom chocolate cake and bite of an Oreo. Both were good. The Oreo tasted like an Oreo, so how could that be bad?

I have to be honest, I can't remember if it was Sweet or Babycakes I had at home. I think these were some of the best that I tried. I had the chocolate chocolate and vanilla vanilla. I guess I'll just have to go to each and figure out this mystery!

Biba's Baked Goods - I had to take a few of these for my vegan co-worker to try. She was very grateful and liked the chocolate one the best. She had a nice surprise when she found it filled with a creamy filling. I couldn't remember if she liked coconut or not (not), but she did like the carrot cake cupcake.

We Make Cupcakes - Roasted Banana with Honey Cinnamon Frosting, Pumpkin with Cream Cheese
These were both good, fairly light and flavorful. Not too sweet, which I consider a good thing.

Others we tried at home; 
- maple bacon - it was ok. Alan couldn't taste the bacon at all, Shara liked the frosting, and I thought the cake was too heavy but could taste a lot of the bacon.
JannaBee banana nut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and honey brittle dust. This was good, but the banana was very mild. Shara enjoyed the sugar bee on the top. Very cute.
- Chocolate lychee brownie w/ rosewater scented buttercream - I really don't like the smell of roses, and to eat it was quite a negative experience.
- Almond Mocha Cupcake - I enjoyed talking to the baker of these cupcakes. We had a nice conversation about the merits of different types of buttercreams. I like the cake, but actually found the buttercream to be a little too buttery for me.
Party Favors from Brookline had some really good tasting cupcakes. I don't know why I was surprised. Maybe because they've been around for so long and the cakes looked very traditional? The lemon coconut was wonderful. I think there was a bit of lemon curd in between the frosting and cake. It really made the flavor stand out. The other one we tried was the chocolate chocolate mousse. It was excellent. Very chocolatey but not very sweet.

All in all, it was a great experience. We were spoiled being there before the crowds came in, but I thought people were generally respectful. I kept thinking that this is the most decadent activity I've participated in for quite a while (Hedonism would be pretty close), but it seemed like something everyone needs once in a while. What I liked about the whole event was the attendees got to have fun looking at and trying tons of beautiful, fun, delicious, cupcakes and the vendors were able to promote their products and it's a wonderful feeling when a person eats something you made and you get a positive response. I also felt happy that I was participating in a community event for a good cause. And these are cupcakes. Who isn't happy when they eat a cupcake? We had a ball! 

Read more at:
Delicious dishings
Shortcakes scraps
Tales from a kitchen misfit

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cupcake camp

Just heard someone say my cupcakes were amazing and they were coming b back to take one home!
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

vanilla eclairs - French Fridays w/ Dorie

I actually had egg yolks left over from buttercream I made this past weekend. These tasted great, but my pastry got soggy. I don't think I cooked it long enough. When I was a kid, I used to make these often and I remember cooking them for much longer and at a lower temp, but the taste of these was so much better. I could really smell and taste the egg. 
formed choux, waiting to be baked

Hot out of the oven they looked perfect!

It was so hard to choose what to fill them with. Vanilla was the assignment, but Dorie had several variations in Around My French Table. After consulting the family, we all agreed to have the coffee flavored pastry cream and top the eclairs with chocolate. Another surprise was how thick the cream came out.

Coffee pastry cream
It worked out well and tasted very good though. I guess if I had really measured everything it may have come out a little different. I had 4 yolks leftover and almost no milk left. So I was trying to do the math in my head to make about 3/4 of the original recipe and somehow the amount of sugar reduced in my brain to 1/2. I fixed it, but am curious if it was supposed to be thinner and creamier. I didn't really have my heart in these because of getting ready for cupcake camp. Too much of a rush and we're going away next week so I didn't want to wait to make these last minute. Hey, they were well appreciated and quite a treat for a weeknight dessert!

Coffee Eclairs w/ Blackberries

Cupcake Camp

Today I finished the cupcakes we're going to be bringing to cupcake camp. I don't have any pictures of these yet, but here is one from a prior batch.
I think I'm finally satisfied with the flavorings for these. I roast apples with 5 spice powder and add them to a cupcake made with 1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat flour. These aren't further flavored, other than vanilla. For the topping, I make a caramel Italian Meringue Buttercream, but rather than add the caramel to the sweetened buttercream, I caramelize the syrup, then add some water to get it pourable enough to add to the egg whites. At that point it's closer to marshmallow fluff. Then I add the butter. I was hoping I wouldn't need hardly any butter, but I ended up putting in 2 sticks to get it thick enough. The flavorings of the frosting are ginger and cinnamon. Strangely it ends up having a bit of a coconut flavor.

Friday, April 08, 2011

garlicky crumb-coated broccoli - French Fridays w/ Dorie

Ok, recovering from last week's mix-up. Hopefully this won't be too confusing because I'm going to try to do both dishes in one.

The broccoli was wonderful. I do love broccoli anyway, so having a fairly new way to cook it is always welcome. How can you go wrong with garlic, lemon, breadcrumbs, and butter? I used whole wheat crumbs, and less butter, but it worked great. The broccoli I cooked in a microwave steamer. Everyone enjoyed it and I'm going to be bringing it to a dinner tomorrow night.

The quinoa, fruit and nut salad was also great. As I mentioned in last week's post, I used dried sour cherries, dried mango, pistachios, almonds, and prunes. The dressing was walnut oil, orange juice, cilantro, and fresh ginger. I couldn't bring myself to try it with the yogurt. I should have, and will make it again so I can see. I should always trust Dorie, so I'm sure it only enhanced the dish. Unfortunately, I was the only one in the family who really liked it and I'm sure it's because I used the Trader Joe's Harvest grain blend. They didn't like that blend the first time I made it so I shouldn't be surprised they didn't like it this time either. So that meant that I ate the whole thing for lunches.

Friday, April 01, 2011


I was just going to post my French Fridays link to the fabulous garlicky broccoli with breadcrumbs and found that I'm on the wrong week!

Will I ever be able to trust my memory? I guess not ( -:  It was supposed to be quinoa, fruit & nut salad. I just went to the market tonight without knowing this but it sounds like I'll be ok, other than the herbs. Like many of Dorie's recipes, this allows for a lot of flexibility.

I think I'll use the Trader Joe's grain blend I have, since it has Israeli couscous, along with red and green orzo, split dried garbanzo beans, and red quinoa. For the fruit, I think a good combo will be raisins, dried mango (if my daughter will part with it), and dried cherries. Wow, can you believe I actually have those on hand. What a coincidence! And for the nuts, I did happen to buy another bag of pistachios because Alan loved the leftovers from the beggar's pasta so much he requested I get more. I also have almonds. Maybe so this doesn't taste just like the pasta, I'll leave out the raisins and replace with prunes. Yes, that's what I'll do. I think I'd like to put some orange juice in the dressing and cut down on the oil a bit. Since I don't have mint, I'll use cilantro, as others have done. Since I don't have any plain yogurt, I may just steal the top off a fruited one. That sounds good to me!
grain blend + dried mango, dried cherries, prunes + pistachios & almonds + orange juice, walnut oil, fresh ginger, cilantro
Really, how bad could it be? I'll let you all know tomorrow...

So I have something new to add, here's the buttercream I made today. Real Italian Buttercream, made with a sugar syrup that I let caramelize, which was great because it cut down the butter by a whole stick. I also flavored this with dried ginger, cinnamon & salt.
Tomorrow I'll be roasting the apples to go into the cupcakes. I'm working on perfecting a recipe to bring to the cupcake camp in Boston - 5 spice apple cupcakes w/ spiced caramel buttercream.