Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jeni's Flowers and Banana Muffins

For Jeni's 26th birthday I made her favorite Red Velvet Cupcakes. I honestly have no idea how she's not so totally sick of it by now. I had some red fondant left over from little Max's Elmo cake so I thought it would be a nice touch to have something on top of the cupcakes this time around.
These are plastic stamps I bought at Joann. This is a cheap and creative way to add a little flair to your fondant. It creates perfect patterns and very easy to do.
You roll out the fondant pretty thin by using cornstarch and a rolling pin. Then you press the stamp in making sure not to move around as you press down. Make sure the stamp and the fondant has a thin layer of cornstarch on it. Otherwise, it will stick and it WILL be messy.

Proceed with the rest of the fondant.

Take your cutter, a flower in my case, and start cutting out your shapes.
But make sure to press as hard as you can and then wiggle the cutter around so that there are no little "feet".

Left one is pretty clean. The right has "feet" and does not look nice.

There will be some cornstarch left on the flowers. So I used a small paint brush to dust it off.

I wasn't satisfied with leaving it like this so I added some extra bling.

This is called Luster Dust. It comes in various colors and shades. These are used primarily to color sugar flowers. When you add some of this to alcohol (pure extracts are generally used, I use lemon or almond because it's clear) it acts as a kind of paint. After the flowers are dried, you paint with this and the alcohol evaporates and the shimmery color remains.

The ratio of luster dust to alcohol is always tricky. Too much liquid then the color doesn't go on very well. Not enough liquid then it becomes like a paste. It takes a few tries before figuring out the right balance. My tip is just to start off small. A few drops of extract to 1/8 teaspoon luster dust. Just keep adding until you get the results you want.

* * *

Banana Muffins.

The best banana muffin I've come across thus far are Emeril Lagasse's Banana Muffin Recipe.
It's super easy and pretty yummy. It's originally baked in a loaf pan but I made muffins so that it would bake faster. The recipe yields about 20 muffins.

I added chocolate chips to about 1/2 the batter.

For the icing on top, all it is is powered sugar and water. There's no exact recipe for this either. I just start of with a little water (seriously, maybe a few tablespoons) then slowly keep adding powered sugar until it gets pretty thick. The more water, the thinner and runny the icing. Sounds obvious but it took be a while before I could get it to the consistency I wanted.

For the chocolate icing, I just added some cocoa powder. But you could do chocolate ganache as well. I just didn't have heavy cream.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fun.. and Frustrating Times with My New Camera

For work, Kelly (the owner of Chef Innovations who is contracting me as his admin assistant) and I had some additional vegetables we had to take pictures of for this company called Harvest Sensations.

I just got my camera this past weekend and to say that it's much more difficult to use than a simple point and shoot is a gross understatement. But.. some of the results have been pleasing.

Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas with Red Bell Peppers

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Caramelized Butternut Squash

Sauteed Asparagus in Pesto with Grated Parmesan

Sesame Snow Peas

I think my favorite is the Butternut Squash. In terms of taste AND looks!

We were doing these at Kelly's home yesterday and in between I was continuing to test my camera. Kelly and his wife are HUGE Halloween people. Their house is decked out in decorations.

This witch is a 2D figure that I thought was cool.

This I remember seeing last year at his home. I thought it was the funniest thing!
Totally Wizard of Oz!

Monday, September 21, 2009


Peanut Butter Banana & Chocolate Pie. Or tart. Whatever you want to call it.

Last week I made Grace a Devil's Food Cake with Peanut Butter Mousse.

It was.. ok. The cake was a Dorie Greenspan recipe from her, Baking: From my home to yours cookbook. Don't get me wrong, it was super rich and fudge-like, but I think I was expecting something different. The mousse was a chocolate mousse recipe I adapted by replacing melted chocolate with melted peanut butter. Didn't work as well as I was hoping. But it got a good response overall... minus one grumpus who may have been too preoccupied with his new phone and transferring all his contacts.

Haha no, I kid. I welcome any and all critique. The birthday girl loved it so I guess that's all that matters.

This Peanut Butter Mousse-like Tart was a creation largely out of the need to use up some of the ingredients left over from the Chocolate Cake I had made. I had a bunch of Chocolate Ganache and the Peanut Butter that I didn't use all of.

We also have all this Graham Crackers that my mom bought a while ago that keeps sitting in our kitchen. So... Graham Cracker Crust... with... a Peanut Mousse.. and Chocolate Ganache! The Banana was an homage to all of the PB&J with Banana sandwiches I had in Arizona.

Graham Cracker Crust
(from Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From my home to yours)

Yields ONE 9" round pan. I used 6 tart shells I had and had a lot left over.

1 3/4 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs (grind in a food processor)
3 Tablespoons Sugar
Pinch of Salt
1/2 Stick (2oz) Melted Unsalted Butter

Combine all in a bowl and mix with hands making sure all the melted butter is incorporated into the dry crumbs.

Press into baking recepticle FIRMLY. Otherwise it will fall apart when you try to unmold it.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

It's already golden brown, you say? Well, bake it until it gets MORE brown.

Let cool completely before building the tart.

Chocolate Ganache
(standard ratio)

Yield about 2 cups.

8 oz Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Heavy Cream

Combine in a microwave safe bowl and heat in 30 second intervals making sure to stir inbetween.

Sweet Bananas
(I guess... my recipe?)

Yield about 1 1/2 cups

2 oz Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
2 Large, Firm Bananas

In a small pot combine the sugar and butter and heat on medium high until it boils.
In the meantime, cut the bananas into 1/4" cubes.
Once the sugar and butter start boiling add the bananas and cook for about 5 minutes.

Let cool thoroughly.

Peanut Butter Mousse
(an adapted Pastry Cream recipe from Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From my home to yours)

Yields 2 cups. I think I really only needed about 1/2 this recipe.

2 cups Whole Milk
6 Large Egg Yolks
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Corn Starch
1 1/2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
3 1/2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Cut into bits

5 oz Peanut Butter

1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream, Whipped to stiff peaks

Heat milk in a medium pot.

In a medium stainless steel bowl put the egg yolks in.

In a separate bowl combine the sugar and cornstarch. With your hands mix together until there are no lumps in the cornstarch and the mixture is homogenized. With a whisk, slowly pour in the sugar and cornstarch mixture into the yolks. This will ensure that there are no lumps in your yolk mixture.

Right before the milk is about to boil take it off the heat and slowly whisk into the yolk mixture. TRICK: Make a ring with a wet towel and place the bowl on top of it so it doesn't move around when you do this.

Place the mixture back into the pot and on medium continue to whisk. Once it starts to thicken whisk vigorously for about 1-2 minutes.

Take off the heat and transfer to another bowl. At this time slowly whisk in the butter. Then add about 5 oz of Peanut Butter. Add less or more depending on how strong of a peanut butter taste you want. Place bowl in an uce bath (another larger bowl with ice and some water in it) and continue to whisk until it cools completely.

In a standing mixer with a whisk attchment whip the 1 1/2 cups of Heavy Cream until stiff peaks. Fold into the peanut butter pastry cream in thirds.


Without unmolding the Crust spread enough Ganache so that it covers the bottom.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons of Banana on top of the Ganache.

Spoon enough Peanut Butter Mousse to fill the tart.

Take the Ganache and heat it up in the microwave for maybe about 15-20 seconds so that it becomes nice and fluid again. Then take a spoon and drizzle over the tops.

Let it set up in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. If you're too impatient and don't care about the mess.. go ahead.. enjoy!

I'd like to quote the best reaction that I had to this creation of mine:
"Oh Nads, why do you love me so much..?"
(Translation: it was SO good that it showed how much I love the ladies I made these for)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Coconut Cupcakes?!

I never thought I'd like coconut cupcakes.. but by golly I do.

Ever since I topped the carrot cupcakes with toasted coconuts I've been pondering what else I could do with these sweet and crunchy flakes. I had so many toasted coconuts after making all those cupcakes for Max's birthday so I needed to use them up and quick.

So.. why not coconut cupcakes?

The only other coconut cake I've had was at the restaurant I used to work at and it was dry as hell and not very yummy. I dug around my library of cookbooks and came upon a coconut cupcake recipe. While thinking of clever ways to use the coconuts I thought of a brilliant idea to ground them and mix them into the cake batter! But.. when I opened up the Martha Stewart's Cupcake cookbook... they had already thought of it.

So much for MY brilliant idea.

I adapted the recipe slightly by adding twice the amount of coconuts. They didn't toast theirs but I did. Also, instead of 1 whole egg and 1 egg white, I used one whole egg and an egg yolk. Yolks bring more moisture to the cake and with the doubling of the coconut flakes, I knew it would need as much moisture as it was going to get.

4 1/2 oz AP Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Toasted Coconuts, Ground Fine

3 oz Unsalted Butter, Room temp.
5 1/2 oz Sugar

1 each Whole Egg
1 each Egg Yolk
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1/2 cup Coconut Milk

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk in the ground toasted coconuts and set aside.

In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Make sure to scrape down the sides. Add the vanilla.

In 2 batches, alternate by adding 1/2 the flour then 1/2 the coconut milk, making sure to scrape down the sides after each addition. Finish with the remaining halves.

Fill the cupcake liner about half way. Bake at a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the tops bounce back after pressing down lightly.

Makes about 12 cupcakes.

I took these baby's to small group. It was our last session for this quarter. I don't know what I'll do with all of my experiments for the next 2 weeks that we're on break from small group..

Saturday, September 5, 2009

His Name is Max

No wonder people squeeze your cheeks when you're little. How can you look at cheeks like those and not want to pinch them?

Max had his first birthday party today and I was honored enough to make some cakes. Red velvet was requested but I decided to add one of my new favorites, carrot cake, on there.

I gotta say... I REALLY HATE coconuts but I think they're growing on me. Toasted coconuts that I like to put on these carrot cupcakes gives it an extra crunch and sweetness that make them irresistible to me.

This cupcake tower I had made for Kaitlyn's dol came in handy again for today. I also made a small 6" Elmo cake but there's co close up of that on purpose. A hot mess...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is my most favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. It's in Sherry Yard's cookbook called Dessert by the Yard.

I've made many a chocolate chip cookies in the past years but this is by far the best recipe I've come across. Maybe it's the amount of sugar... or the delicious bittersweet chocolate.. I don't know exactly what but it's delicious.

1 1/2 cups AP Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda

4 ounces (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, Room Temp.

1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt

1 Large Egg

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

12 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate (she uses blocks of chocolate so you can either buy chocolate bars and break it up to give it a more rustic look or just get chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 sheet pans with parchment paper or silpat.

Sift flour and baking soda together and set aside.

In a bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment cream the butter until lemony yellow, about 2 minutes. Add both sugars and salt and cream for about 1 minute. Make sure to scrape down the sides.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat on low for about 15 seconds or until egg is fully incorporated.

On low, add flour mixture. Beat slowly until all of the flour is incorporated. Add chocolate and fold in.

Scoop spoonfuls onto the sheet pan with about 2 inches of space between. Bake for about 12-15 minutes rotating half way until light brown.

Warm chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven reminds me of one of my favorite movies. There's a scene in Stranger Than Fiction where Harold Crick, the IRS agent, is forced to eat a freshly made chocolate chip cookie by a baker that he's auditing.

"I figured if I was going to make the world a better place,
I would do it with cookies."

Amen to that.