Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chocolate Fudge Cake Pops

This is the recipe from my first dessert post.
This recipe is a HUGE hit. Everyone always asks for the recipe!
Here it is finally!

Chocolate Fudge Cake Pops

24 oz (3 cups) packed brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
3 eggs
11.5 oz (2 2/3 cups) flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup + 2 Tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder

Chocolate Fudge Buttercream Frosting:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly cold
¼ cup shortening
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
8 oz (2 cups) powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk
3/4 cup hot fudge topping
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 pinch salt

Guittard Chocolate wafers for dipping (or another type of chocolate/vanilla wafer)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray Pam on three 9 inch cake pans (or whatever other size you have). Size of pan does not matter but will change cooking time.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the brown sugar and oil. Turn the mixer to a low speed and mix in the eggs. Let the sugar, oil, and eggs mix while sifting together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Set this mixture aside.

In another small bowl, mix the vanilla into the milk and set this aside as well. Bring the water to a boil in the microwave and pour over the cocoa and whisk it until it is smooth. To the egg mixture, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk mixture beginning and ending with flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed. With the mixture at a low speed add the cocoa. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and pour this mixture into the prepared cake pans filling about half way up the pan. Bake the cake for approximately 25-30 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Allow cake to cool to the touch and dump into a very large bowl and break apart a bit to cool the rest of the way while you make your frosting. When completely cool, crumble cake into small crumbs.

To make the Chocolate Fudge Buttercream Frosting, beat together the butter and shortening until smooth. Sift the cocoa with the powdered sugar and add to the creamed mixture. Mix together and add the milk. Add the hot fudge topping and the vanilla extract. Blend until smoothy and deliciously creamy!

Add a few spoonfuls of frosting to the crumbs and mix with your hands (easiest) or a large spoon. Mix until completely uniform but try not to smash it into a paste. We are going for a heterogeneous cake/frosting ‘suspension’ not a homogenous cake paste. Add just enough frosting so the mixture holds together in a small ball. Adding too much frosting will destroy the integrity of the cake and will cause it to go mushy.

Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop out 1 inch balls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Once done, roll all the balls until they are smooth and round. Insert a 4 inch stick into the center of the ball straight down until you just meet resistance. Complete for all the balls. You can do cake balls without the sticks but sticks make it so much easier to dip when it comes time.

Cover these with plastic wrap and stick in the freezer or fridge until they are firm and cold.

Dump a bunch of chocolate wafers into a tall microwave-safe glass or bowl. I used blue vanilla wafers for the picture above. Melt according to package directions or by microwaving for 30 seconds at a time until the chocolate is uniformly melted. Stir as needed to prevent scorching.

Prepare a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper to set the dipped cake pops on.

Take a few cake pops out of the fridge at a time when you are dipping. If you take them all out at once the last ones you dip may be warm and fall off the stick. If you put your cake pops in the freezer, allow them to warm up a little bit before dipping or your chocolate coating may crack. If you are fast enough (the two-handed/ double-dip approach) you can take all or most of the pops out at once and go to town.

Dip the cake pops straight into the chocolate until it covers it completely plus a little of the stick to seal it. Let the excess chocolate drip off the cake pop until it stops dripping then place it on the prepared parchment paper. Alternate option: You can also stick it upright in a Styrofoam block. If you want to decorate them with sprinkles or something that needs to stick to the chocolate, do that now.

Let them dry completely. If you want to decorate them with chocolate drizzle then choose a color (contrasting or the same color) and put a handful of the wafers in a Ziploc baggie. I used almond bark for the picture above. Melt in the microwave or according to the package instructions.
Warning: Be careful not to get the chocolate too hot or it will melt through the plastic and burn you!
When melted, close the top and squeeze all the chocolate into a corner and twist the top above like you are making a piping bag. Without holding any pressure to the bag, snip off a tiny piece of the corner to the size you want your drizzle to be. Be conservative and try it out on a plate if needed. You can clip more but you can’t clip less (you can start over with another baggie if needed).
Take a cake pop and squeeze the bag moving your hand back and forth down the cake pop. You can leave it just on a single side or you can repeat for all sides. Wallah! Cake Pop Extraordinaire!

By Popular Demand.....Recipes

I have gotten so many requests for recipes that I have finally decided to start posting the recipes along with my experiences and tips on making them. I have had so much fun and learned a ton just by experimenting with different recipes and reading book after book (and post after post) of how-tos so I will share as many tips as I can manage to stuff into my posts. If I can do these recipes (someone starting with absolutely zero cooking and baking knowledge)....you can too. I will give references when appropriate so you can go read about certain topics more in depth if you are so inclined (as I am usually).
So be warned....my posts will be longer. Feel free to just window shop and look at the pictures. :) That's always a fun option too.
Here is the caveat. I am only going to post the recipes that I would actually make again. I find no point in posting the ones that did not turn out right or could use more than a smidge of improvement. These happen all the time.

Soap Box: Please, please, please invest in a scale if you want to get consistent results from these recipes and want them to turn out well, especially with macarons. Weighing is much more accurate than relying on volumes and the best part is that you won't have to messy up a bunch of bowls and measuring devices! I would also recommend an oven thermometer because my oven is posessed. So whether you think yours is posessed or you just bought a brand new one, go get an oven thermometer. You would be surprised how inaccurate and inconsistant my (or your) oven is. Done.

There are so many different recipes for macarons (and other desserts) out there and so many differing opinions that there is never going to be a universally accepted recipe as "The Best" so have fun trying some different recipes and pick your favorite!

That said, let's have at it.
Below I am going to list the links to my updated posts that will now include the recipes. This may take a little bit of time to type up but eventually I will get them posted. Enjoy.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cinco De Mayo Flan

For Cinco De Mayo (I know, I'm a little late posting this), I thought I would whip up a batch of flan for my mother and father-in-law who both went on their missions to Argentina. My father-in-law mentioned in passing one day that it was really hard to find good flan here so I made a mental note and decided to try to find a good recipe that I could make for them and see if they approved. They did! It looked like it turned out perfectly because it was so pretty...but did it taste good?! I was relieved when they said it was good. Flan seems like a recipe that can go bad....really bad. I never tried it. It's a texture issue. Blaghh. Someday I will try it.

Delicioso Flan
1 cup sugar
6 large eggs
1 (14 ounce) cans condensed milk
1 (12 ounce) cans evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ounce cream cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Select 2 oven safe containers, one that can easily fit inside the other.
The large one will be used for a water bath and the smaller one will actually house the flan.
Fill the larger container a little less than half way with water and place in the cold oven to heat up while you prepare the caramel and the custard.
In a large pan, using a wooden spoon caramelize the sugar until it turns a light golden brown.
While still hot, transfer the melted sugar to the smaller container, swirling it around until the entire bottom is covered then set aside.
In a blender add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
Open up the oven where you have placed the water bath and then place the small pan with the caramel inside the large water bath pan.
Pour the custard into the pan being careful not to splash it.
Bake for 45 (30- 45) minutes until the top is golden brown and the center passes a toothpick test. (Feels thick like cheesecake)
Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Invert onto a large square serving dish with lip (or else the caramel will run all over!). Enjoy.

Jessica's Yellow Birthday Cake Pops in Snowbird

This last weekend I got to go up to Snowbird for a family gathering at my grandma's timeshare at the Iron Blossom. It happened to be Jessica's birthday recently so I made some cake pops to celebrate! They are psychadelic. Don't spin them too fast or they will give you a seizure.  

Yellow Cake Pops with Blue Vanilla Coating and Pink Nonpareils

Print Yellow Cake Recipe
I like to used store bought Pillsbury buttercream for the frosting in these pops.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Radelicious. ~ Strawberry Vanilla French Macaron with Fresh Raspberry inside

Sometimes when you improvise you create unexpectedly delicious treats!....at least that is what I learned while making a recent batch of treats for an art gallery exhibit.
Things didn't go quite according to plan while trying to make some powdered strawberry and vanilla bean macarons. I may have accidentally 'overheated' and destroyed the strawberries' flavor while drying them in the oven as well as slightly overcooking the macaron itself so the macarons did not really taste very strawberry-y, only when you got a little chunk (tasty!). So, I was going to make my delicious strawberry buttercream to put inside instead of the vanilla buttercream, but somehow after whipping it all up and taste testing it didn't taste like strawberries at all....I am still baffled. It must have been my strawberries. I kept adding more strawberry puree just hoping it would come together but then it broke.....along with my spirits. So at this point I was getting a bit frustrated and went digging in the back of my mind (...and the back of my fridge) for a replacement. So I bagged the strawberry flavored filling and went for a bolder flavor. Raspberry! I ended up using a vanilla buttercream ring around a fresh raspberry. Magnifique! It was heaven.
Fruit + Macaron = Bliss. I seriously couldn't believe how tasty it was.

Powdered Strawberry Vanilla Raspberry Macaron!

I also made yellow cake pops and since this was for an art exhibit, why not do something fun and crazy?!
Bright blue is a good color for crazy as well as pinky turned purpley swirls. Art Deco. Check. They turned out even better than expected after a few experiments. Sweet!
I made rich dark chocolate brownies as well but awesome here forgot to take pictures. They looked rad and delicious. Radelicious.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Salted Caramel Macarons

The famous (or should I say infamous?) Salted Caramel Macarons!
What little beauties. I love how contrasting yet complimentary these sweet and salty gems are. The perfect treat!

Here is the recipe that I used for the macarons shown above:

Basic Almond Macaron Shell (interchange with your favorite almond macaron recipe)
120 g almond flour
200 g powdered sugar
100 g egg whites (preferably aged 3-4 days and at room temperature for 12 hours or more)
35 g granulated sugar
Food coloring gel or powder

You do not need to preheat your oven yet (FYI). Start by lining 2 or 3 thick aluminum baking sheets with parchment paper. Place your macaron template underneath the parchment paper. If you do not have a macaron template, I would strongly encourage you to make your own or find one on the internet. The circles should be around 1 1/3 to 1 ½ inches wide.
Set up your large piping bag with a plain round tip such as Wilton #12. You can prop the bag up in a tall glass and cuff it over the edges if you need help when filling it.
Weigh out all your ingredients and prepare according to the directions below.
Combine your almond meal and powdered sugar and stir until distributed evenly. Sift together into a large bowl. Towards the end of the sifting process there will probably be a small amount of larger nut chunks that cannot pass through the sifter. Just dump those into your sifted mixture.
Weigh out your egg whites into your large stainless steel mixing bowl. Add a big pinch of cream of tartar. Weigh out the granulated sugar.
Beat the eggs on a medium speed. You may use either a hand mixer or a stand mixer with the balloon whisk attachment. Either way works as long as you use the appropriate technique. Beat until the egg whites get pretty foamy and then start sprinkling in your sugar. Once all the sugar is in, scrape down the side of the bowl once and increase the mixer to the highest setting. We want to achieve a stiff, glossy peak. Right before you are going to reach stiff peaks I would add your food coloring gel if you want any (I did not use any).
Once you reach stiff peaks, stop the machine and walk away. Resist the urge to give it an extra 30 seconds ‘for good measure’.
Sift 1/3 of your almond mixture over your egg whites. Using a large clean silicone spatula, fold 3-5 times. Sift another 1/3 and fold 3-5 times. Sift the last 1/3 over your egg whites and fold until mixture is smooth and not streaky. This is an important part. Overmixing your batter is very bad for macarons (hard to pipe, thin and crispy, won’t always look like macarons) so go slowly and pay attention. You want your batter to be dense and smooth but not super chunky and thick. You also don’t want it to be runny so there is a happy medium you need to achieve. To test, lift up your spatula with some batter on it and let it drop into the bowl. Once the batter is dense but drips slowly from the spatula you are probably done.
Transfer your batter into the piping bag with your tip in place. Pipe 1 1/3 inch rounds onto your sheet pan by placing the tip just above the surface and squeezing the top of the bag straight down until you have filled the circle. Once the circle is filled, pull up slightly and sweep the tail to the side in a circular motion.
The piped rounds will spread a little so give them space. When you are done, remove your templates. Please don’t cook them.
Rap the pan firmly on the counter straight up and down 3-4 times (pinch the parchment to the pan so it doesn’t slide).
Preheat your conventional oven to 300 degrees.
Allow your rounds to rest until it forms a slight skin and is no longer tacky, about 30 minutes, depending on your climate. They are ready to bake when you can touch them lightly and no residue comes off on your finger.
Stack your piped pan on top of another pan. Ideally you would bake one sheet at a time for the optimal heating experience, but you can place your pans on the closest racks to each other and rotate the trays half way through baking if baking multiple trays. Don’t skip the rotating part or your bottom tray will look like a bunch of mini volcanos. Bake for 12-18 minutes until the top of the macaron are crisp and when touched on the side it gently wiggles but does not slide off the bottom of the macaron. When the macarons are done they should not be crispy all the way through. They should have a crisp shell with a chewy interior (it may looks a little moist right out of the oven) without any air pockets or hollows.
Let them cool on the sheet pans completely. Match up pairs of macarons with the same size. Place a dime size amount of filling in the center of the macaron and top with the other cookie. The filling should not be squishing out the side when you press together.
If you can resist, place your macarons in an airtight container and let them rest in the fridge for 24-48 hours at least and even up to a week. This is called “maturing” the macaron and gives the cookie an awesomely delicious flavor infused chewy inner texture.

For storage, always keep in an airtight container or the shells will get hard and gross. The fridge is the best place to keep them really fresh. Take them out about 30 minutes to an hour before you want to eat them.
If you are having a hard time with top shells sliding off their base because of the slick filling, place them on their side and they will be happy. Enjoy.

Salted Caramel Cream Filling:
250g Fresh Cream
350g Granulated (castor) Sugar
10g Fleur de Sel
350g Butter

Cut your butter into small cubes. Weigh your sugar into a medium saucepan.
Weigh your cream into a small saucepan and bring to boil, remove from heat as soon as it starts to boil. Cook your sugar over medium heat stirring occasionally to ensure that it caramelizes evenly and does not burn. If sugar crystals have stuck to the side of the pan, wash them down with a pastry brush dipped in water as soon as possible. When the sugar reaches a dark brown/ reddish color remove it from the heat and slowly pour in the hot cream while continuing to stir. Be careful because this can produce lots of steam and steam can burn!
Let the caramel cool to around 45°C and then add the butter a few pieces at a time whilst mixing the caramel. Stir in a small amount of the fleur de sel and add to taste. You should use most of it.
Pour the caramel into a shallow container and allow to cool on the counter overnight or in the fridge. Beat the caramel mixture vigorously until light, shiny and smooth. You made need to place it over a small amount of heat to loosen it up and allow it to become really smooth.
This does not keep well so try to use it immediately. Come on….it’s caramel.. You can find a use for it. J

I do have a different recipe for a Fleur de Sel Caramel Filling that is not a cream. Just caramel. Mmmmmm…

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Oh, Macaron!

Alas, the gods did not smile on me in the beginning of my epic. My macaron adventures have been both exciting and tragic, a tale of great joy and despair, however, I do believe my days of frustration and hopelessness are over. I have begun to understand how my technique influences the final product and I celebrate with great joy. With every batch I get all the wiser. Oh, macaron, finally you are mine.
Pistachio Macarons

Pistachio and Almond Macarons

Stay tuned for my salted caramel macarons....coming up next!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Is it Fate?... Should I Visit the Oracle Now?

I am beginning to think that I have chosen the wrong profession...
Yesterday was "my" day to do with as I pleased and what did I chose to partake in......macarons.
I spent pretty much the entire day making batch after batch of macarons. Purple, Yellow, Green... Pink.
If I didn't have to work today do you know where I would be?...."a grindin' the almonds" is the correct answer.
I drool over the to-die-for dessert stands I see on other's blogs.
I find myself day-dreaming about the copper bowls and food photography books piling up in my amazon wish-list.
When is the next holiday? Cinco de Mayo? Never celebrated it before... I should probably whip up some flan for the in-laws.
The thought of enrolling in pastry/dessert school has actually crossed my mind but that is pretty unrealistic plus think of all the fun I can have in my very own kitchen at my own leisure during the time I would be in class. I like the "trial and error" method. Well...it's more like the "trial, error, scream then research" method.
I really enjoy the science behind dessert making: dessertology? sucrology? It makes sweet sense and consistency out of flour voo doo.
I have truely loved what I call "the blog phenomenon" that has allowed extremeley talented chefs to share their experiences and recipes with blossoming home bakers like myself through the simple click of the mouse. Some of the blogs I often find myself returning to include Tartelette, Kitchen Musings, and My Sweet and Saucy.
They inspire me to create and think outside of the box.... or carton or bag.

My current love is with the French Macaron.
Tricksy little devils they are.
I love their elegance and simplicity not to mention the fact that they are french and everything french is fancy and exotic. :) (Too bad I can't remember my french from many years ago.)
You can expect to see a few posts regarding macarons very soon. (When I get back from vacay!)
J'aime macarons.

Monday, May 2, 2011

First Communion Butterfly Dessert Bar

Nicholas' First Communion was yesterday! After mass, there was a huge party at the Cottonwood Club of course so Erica and I had the opportunity of doing the dessert bar for it. It was a lot of fun to make the desserts as well as watch everyone eat them! Erica made the cookies and rice krispie pops and I made the cupcakes and cake pops! Teamwork is so nice! Enjoy.
I made the butterflies out of chocolate

Butterfly Dessert Bar

Lemon Drops, Snickerdoodles and Rice Krispie Pops

Yellow Buttercream Butterfly Cake Pops

Spice Cake with Buttercream Frosting and Chocolate Crosses

Red Vines, Chocolate Chips Cookies and Gumballs
The Dessertologists: Sara (me) and Erica

The Rice Krispie Pops were Dipped in Chocolate and Vanilla


Golf Ball Cake Bites

For my dad's birthday (March 29th) I thought I would make him a delicious surprise so I made some golf ball cake bites! They are made with yellow cake and buttercream frosting and dipped in vanilla. They are sitting atop a bed of green coconut as the grass! Mmmmm. They were delicious and cute. Enjoy.