Archive | February, 2010

So, how IS that cleanse going?

13 Feb

Well, I am sort of embarrassed and very relieved to say that the cleanse is over.  I gave up after 5 days…….While doing the cleanse I did feel good except for the time I was crying in my boss’s office for no discernible reason, and the other time that I got mad at my mom for having to go home after cleaning my house and landscaping my yard for two weeks.  Yes, besides those odd emotional outbursts, the cleanse was good and I feel that I should attempt it again.  The real problem was that I hadn’t planned ahead enough and I would come home from work STARVING only to see a nice baguette with fine cheese staring me in the face.  It didn’t help that my daughter’s birthday was fast approaching, and I was busy baking.    

Since the end of the cleanse, I have found the perfect recipe for vanilla cupcakes.  These cupcakes are not  light and airy, but rather dense, moist and very rich in flavor.  The cake combined with the buttercream is a perfect treat. 

100 Mini Vanilla Cupcakes

 

The most perfect Moist Vanilla Cupcakes Ever! 

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated 

1 1/2 cups  unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 oz) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into sections
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin/cupcake tin with paper or foil liners.
2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add butter, sour cream, egg, and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain. At this point, the batter will be fairly thick. 
3. Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin using  ice cream scoop . Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 to 24 minutes for regular sized cupcakes Or about 15 minutes for the mini-cupcakes. Transfer to wire rack; cool cupcakes to room temperature, about 45 minutes. 

I frosted my cupcakes with the regular Wilton Buttercream recipe.  The first day, I used regular food coloring for the frosting—going for hot pink and lavender cupcakes for daughter’s birthday.  I just couldn’t get the colors right.  For the second attempt, I bought the Wilton icing gels (the concentrated colors) and it worked SO much better.  It was amazing how little color was needed to make the nicest brightest colored buttercream.  

 

My friend and master cake decorator, Mary Ellen, made the little red chocolate hearts and was responsible for the pretty dusting as well.

Cleanse Kick-off

3 Feb

What a way to kick of a no-sugar cleanse than to gorge on sugar.  My mom is here so, as a treat to her, I decided to make homemade oreos.  This recipe was found on numerous other blogs but I pulled it off of the smitten kitchen blog (my new favorite).  I modified the recipe slighty —and used only a cup of sugar for the cookie and I added 1 Tablespoon of Marshmallow Fluff to the filling.  Other than that, I followed the recipe to the ‘T’.  I wasn’t really that impressed though—my cookie just wasn’t crisp enough to be Oreo-like, —the filling, my least favorite part of the Oreo, did taste surprisingly similar to the real thing.  In my opinion these cookies were more like a a chocolate Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie (without the oatmeal), does that make sense?  Both my mom and husband thought the same. (Which gives me a bit of inspiration—-homemade Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie’s–anyone have any success with those?)   Don’t get me wrong……everyone in my house loved the Oreos and gobbled them up.  I, just didn’t love them. 

The recipe is here. 

 Sunday night, after hours of landscaping and power washing, I had some free time to peruse the cooking blogoshphere and what did I find?  A new post from Smitten Kitchen on the best cocoa brownies. These brownies are labeled as the best cocoa brownies, which got me to thinking that there must be other kinds of brownies out there–possibly those that use rich bittersweet chocolate bars —that I need to expereiment with.    I have only made brownies with cocoa and have felt that they were perfectly delicious—but maybe I need to branch out.    Anyway, these brownies were one of the easiest things I have made and tasted great, even better than my previous brownie.   I didn’t have any fancy cocoa, just the basic Nestle cocoa powder—but it worked.  The brownies were a very dark color and moist and chewy with a thin crunchy layer at the top.  I did have a problem cutting them into pretty squares and they ended up as mis-shapen polygons…..but we didn’t have a problem eating them. 

I only hope someone eats the rest of them soon, as this cleanse will be all the more difficult if I come home to a plate of those brownies sitting on the counter.  So, kids, if you are reading this,…..please eat the rest of those brownies for breakfast and take some more for lunch. 

If you are not starting a no-sugar cleanse tomorrow, I suggest you make these brownies right away.  They are perfect.

Best Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen after being Adapted from Alice Mendrich’s Bittersweet

Makes  25 small brownies

1 1/4 sticks of  unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons  unsweetened cocoa powder (I just used Nestle cocoa powder–nothing fancy at all)

1/4 teaspoon salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt, as I used)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional) (I skipped the nuts but they would have been great!)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and microwave on low for about four minutes—-checking occasionally to make sure the butter is melting.  Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.  

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me at least 10 minutes longer to get them set. Let cool completely on a rack. (This may have been why I couldn’t cut nice brownies….I never seem to be able to wait until things cool down.)

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. (Yay! No messy pans to clean!) 

Cut into  25 semi-squares and then proceed to eat seven of them.

Get A Card—Have you all seen this?

2 Feb

Somehow, I stumbled upon this website and I just think this is a great idea……I love these bars, and I love this new marketing campaign.  I haven’t acutally seen it in action but I would be so excited to be the reciever of a Kind Card or even a giver…..(Maybe even more so the giver–but I imagine in certain situations it would require a lot of explanation. 

Old Lady: “Thanks for helping me across the street.,

Me:  Your welcome, and here is a Kind Card.,

Old Lady: A What?,

Me: A Kind Card, you go online and check out all the other nice things people have expereinced, and you know, pay-it-forward?,

Old Lady:  Online? Pay-it Forward?  Do you need some money, honey? Is this a sales pitch? I don’t want to buy anything….

Me: No, its a fruit and nut bar, and you have this card and you go on the internet, and you try to do nice things and then you….oh, nevermind………

  Anyway, I am going to print me up one of these cards and have it on hand to do a “random act of kindness”—maybe you should to?  Check out:  Get A Card | kinded.com.

Have you already been hit with a Kind Card?  I’m curious about that too.