Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tres Leches Cupcakes

No, your eyes are not deceiving you, these pictures are not the best, that's what I get for not being patient and taking them when the lighting wasn't so good. There's only so much Photoshop and my Photoshop skills can do.

Tres leches... that means 3 milks for all of you non-Spanish speaking readers. For the first time in awhile I finally had a recipe where I didn't have to search for an ingredient I didn't have! It was nice for a change. Scavenger hunting for ingredients isn't always fun. My streak of reading through the entire recipe before starting to bake is still alive (the same cannot be said for the Patriots 15-game win streak against the Bills... go Bills!), even for a recipe as easy as these tres leches cupcakes (the link provided is for tres leches cake, that's all Martha had on her website).

I'm particularly proud that before I started baking I did all the prep work. I started melting the butter and while the butter was melting I separated the eggs that I had left out during the day so they were at room temperature. While the butter was cooling I used my beloved stand mixer to whisk the egg whites until they formed soft peaks and then whisked in the egg yolks and sugar. Once the butter had melted and cooled I folded that into the batter and then folded in the flour. At that point the cupcakes were ready to be baked. The recipe said to fill the liners halfway, and while I tried to do that, I think I filled them a little too full since after all the baking was said and done I got 5 less cupcakes than the recipe said I was supposed to. Oops. It could also be that I ate some of the batter... it happens.

I baked the cupcakes for 24 minutes with a turn halfway through the total baking time. The recipe said 25 minutes, but as I've stated before, my timer only works in whole minutes so I always go less because you can't un-bake something. While the cupcakes were baking I whisked together the tres leches so it would be ready to brush on the cupcakes when they were done. As soon as the cupcakes were baked to golden-brown perfection I took them out of the oven and immediately poked them with a skewer, make that toothpick. Because Martha told me to, I kept the cupcakes in the tins and brushed on the mixture. I gave each cupcake 10 brushes and then placed the cupcakes in the fridge for 30 minutes so the cupcakes could absorb the mixture. In hindsight I wish I had stopped at 10 coats per cupcake, but I'll get to that in a minute.

After the first batch of cupcakes had set for 30 minutes I took them out of the tins and baked the second, very small batch. When that batch was done I repeated the brushing process. Now that each cupcake had been given 10 coats of the tres leches mixture I continued brushing the cupcakes until the mixture was gone because that's what Martha said to do. I stopped after each cupcake had been given 20 coats because I didn't want the cupcakes to become soggy. They were already extremely heavy, and I also figured that since I didn't get 20 total cupcakes, I should account some of the mixture that I had left for that cupcakes that I didn't have.

These cupcakes were to be topped with whipped cream, which I have made several times up to this point with these rhubarb cupcakes and these blueberries-and-cream cupcakes. It is very easy to make and I like using a Ziploc bag to pipe the whipped cream on top so I did that again this time. I also garnished the tops with cinnamon (tigers love pepper, hate cinnamon... name that movie!). While taking the pictures for these cupcakes (which I'm unhappy with as previously mentioned) I gave them a taste test and they were too soggy for my liking. I wish I had stopped at 10 coats each. Even though that wouldn't have used all of the milk mixture I feel like they would have been more enjoyable. They tasted fine, I just wasn't happy with the consistency. Perhaps they would have been better if I had eaten one immediately after taking it out of the fridge. But, I wanted to bring the cupcake to room temperature for photographing purposes and Martha also said to serve them that way. Maybe she doesn't know everything (still love you Martha!).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mocha Cupcakes

We already covered how I feel about coffee when I made these tiramisu cupcakes. I suppose however, that there is a difference between coffee and espresso, but I couldn't tell you what that is and I don't feel like doing my typical Google research to find out. I'm just going to plead ignorance and move ahead to baking mocha cupcakes (the recipe on was not the same one from the book... sorry!). First order of business, get all the ingredients. The 2 most glaring items that I didn't have in my pantry, and I thought might require some looking into were espresso powder for the cupcakes themselves, and coffee extract for the frosting (which search I will detail later).

I assumed I would be able to get espresso powder in the grocery store and I was right. See, assuming doesn't always make an ass out of you and me like they say. Anyway, there were a few different kinds of espresso powder at the store and I had no idea which one I should purchase. Bobby had come with me on this particular shopping trip so I consulted with him and after some discussion I did what I always do, opt for the cheapest one. I'm saving for a wedding you know! And, I'm also frugal (sounds better than cheap). In reality, I'm not going to spend $12 for a canister of espresso powder that I'll probably never use again when I can spend $3 on one. I feel a lot less guilty about wasting $3 than $12 because as I already mentioned, I'm saving for a wedding!

For 2 weeks now I have read through the entire recipe before I started baking. Kudos to me! See, I'm learning. I also remembered to leave out the eggs before I went to work this morning so they would be at room temperature. I didn't however remember to leave out the sour cream so it would also be at room temperature. There are only so many things I can remember after waking up at 4:50am, and to leave out sour cream just isn't one of them.

First thing I did was brew the espresso in my "espresso machine" or what regular people like myself call a coffee maker. This may or may not be the correct way to make espresso, I truthfully have no idea, but I can tell you I most certainly was not going to be buying an "espresso machine" for these cupcakes. I don't drink espresso and I have more than enough kitchen appliances already. While my espresso was brewing I started working on the rest of the recipe giving the espresso some time to cool, though Martha never did say it was necessary. After mixing all the ingredients together I had to add the espresso-espresso powder mixture to the rest of the batter. I was thinking that the espresso powder should dissolve into the espresso, but it didn't, and I poured it into the batter. Mixing the espresso-espresso powder mixture into the batter made quite a mess. There was some minor batter spray that spread across the kitchen, as well as my white tank top. I have at least 3 aprons. You'd think I'd wear one of them... you'd think wrong. I was worried the batter was going to be too watery, but after a good dose of mixing it was okay. I baked the cupcakes for 22 minutes, turning them once halfway through the baking time.

After I had taken a break from baking the cupcakes I started working on the coffee version of the seven-minute frosting that was to accompany them. I have made this frosting before with these coconut cupcakes but I didn't like it with the coconut extract... way too coconutty for me. I was worried that I would have the same opinion of this frosting as well. But, before I could even worry about how the frosting would taste, I had to find the coffee extract to make it. I had a suspicion that Stop and Shop wouldn't have coffee extract. They do have several different extracts that I didn't expect them to have, but sadly, coffee was not one of them. I figured this would happen and was prepared to search online and order myself some coffee extract, which is precisely what I did. I did a simple Google search for coffee extract and picked the website that had the cheapest one. Of course I also Googled myself a coupon code so I could save a couple bucks. Just call me Miss Frugal!

Bobby and I went away for a couple days (to look at wedding venues) and when we got back my coffee extract was happily waiting for me on the front porch. The fact that we were away and doing fun things like looking at wedding venues made the wait that much easier. I digress. So, with the coffee extract in hand and after some rest from baking earlier in the day I could start and finish the coffee seven-minute frosting. Like last time, making this frosting was a bit of a process and yielded way more frosting than needed for the amount of cupcakes I got from the recipe (22). But, the most surprising thing of all was that I didn't hate it, even with the coffee extract. I thought for sure this was going to be a repeat of the coconut seven-minute frosting, but it wasn't. Meaning, I could actually eat the cupcakes once they were frosted. Hooray for me, not hooray for my waistline.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Zucchini-Spice Cupcakes

My earliest memory of zucchini is from my very early childhood when I used to go to my babysitters, and for lunch one day we had to eat raw zucchini. Of course, we were given other, more delicious food during that meal, but all I remember is the zucchini and how I wanted to gag when I had to eat it. Lovely visual I provided for you. Needless to say from that point on, I have had no interest in eating zucchini... raw, cooked or otherwise. About a year ago I tried zucchini bread for the first time, hesitantly of course, and I have to say, it was very good. So, when it came time to make zucchini-spice cupcakes I figured they had a chance of being tasty.

I was not expecting it to be so difficult to find zucchini. I figured it'd be right there next to the cucumbers or squash and that would be that. I was wrong... kind of. I made several passes through the produce department trying to find zucchini with no luck. There were several kinds of cucumbers, there was yellow squash and green squash, but no zucchini. Stop and Shop failed me... not the first time. The other grocery store in town, Price Chopper is less than 5 minutes down the road so I decided to make a stop there to see if they'd have any zucchini. I figured at the very least I could get a loaf of bread that they sell, that I really like and haven't had in awhile because I don't normally shop there anymore (Stop and Shop is closer). Again, I stalked the produce department with no luck. Nothing was labeled zucchini, but I was becoming suspicious of the "green squash" that looked an awful lot like zucchini. Then I thought maybe the freezer section would have frozen zucchini, and while not ideal, could still work. No luck.

It was then I decided I would give the produce department one last try, but before I did I was going to use my trusty iPhone and do a little Google research to see if there was another name for zucchini that may be living in the produce department. I didn't find that much that I didn't already know. So, as a last-ditch effort I mustered up all my courage and decided to just ask an employee of the store. I honed in on a nice young gentleman and asked him if the store had any zucchini because I wasn't having any luck finding it. He said yes (wahoo!) and led me to the zucchini a.k.a. green squash. I still wasn't completely convinced that this was the right thing, but I wasn't going to drive 20 minutes to Whole Foods and I wanted to make the cupcakes today. I grabbed 2 "zucchini" and headed to the checkout line.

This is the most efficient I have been with a recipe to date. I read through all the ingredients and the steps to make sure I had all the prep work done before I got started so I knew what I was in for. First, I grated the zucchini using my food processor. The recipe calls for 3 cups of grated zucchini and I came up just shy of 3 cups. I didn't care. I wasn't making another trip to the store. If I was a little short, I was a little short. Once the zucchini was grated I started preheating the oven so I could toast the walnuts. I figured by the time the oven was warmed up and the walnuts toasted I would be ready to fold the walnuts into the batter... and I was! Go me.

While I was pouring the batter from the mixing bowl into a large measuring cup (if the batter is more liquidy I like to pour it into the cupcake pan from my large glass measuring cup, it's less of a mess) I spotted some larger chunks of not-so-grated zucchini and pulled them out. I didn't want someone to bite into a cupcake and get a chunk of zucchini. I know these are zucchini cupcakes, but they're not supposed to be chunky zucchini cupcakes.

I baked the cupcakes for 20 minutes, rotating them halfway through the total baking time and they came out perfect. Naturally I gave one taste test soon after it came out of the oven and they were good. It turns out green squash and zucchini are the same thing, or at the very least they can be interchanged. I'm still not really sure. All I know is the cupcakes turned out to be delicious. The only thing I would change if I ever make them again is the walnuts. I would choose to omit them the second time around. They're not terrible, I just know I would enjoy the cupcake more without them. The cream cheese frosting I have made before to accompany these carrot cupcakes and while it is delicious, it still didn't help to mask the taste of the walnuts.

Recently I've started sharing the cupcakes I've been making with our neighbors (in addition to co-workers) because I figure it's a nice neighborly thing to do and you never know when you might need a favor. Plus, these particular neighbors are very good to us. I had taken them a few cupcakes for their family, and a couple days later the wife, Diane, came over with 2 huge zucchinis in her hands and asked if I'd like them to cook or bake with since I had just made the zucchini cupcakes. I said sure, thanked her and told her I'd make her some zucchini bread in the not-too-distant future. In my head I was thinking where were these bad boys 2 days ago when I was driving all over town looking for zucchini! Only in my world do things like this happen. But now, if I ever need it, I've got a whole freezer-sized Ziploc bag full of grated zucchini waiting for me in the freezer.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Blueberries-and-Cream Cupcakes

I'm finding myself caught in the same conundrum (I spelled that right on the first try!) I was when I made the banana pecan cupcakes. Though the fruit in this case is a blueberry as opposed to a banana, the question remains the same... when does a muffin become a cupcake? I'm still going to maintain what I said before, that it's the frosting that turns a simple muffin into a cupcake. But, in the instance of these blueberries-and-cream cupcakes (no link on they were much more cakey than your average muffin. This could mean it's more than just the frosting that transforms a muffin into a cupcake. Jury's still out.

I still haven't learned to read through an entire recipe before I start baking, but in this case, it didn't matter. This was a fairly simple recipe, nothing too tricky involved. I was surprised though, that I didn't have to toss the blueberries in flour before folding them into the batter (like I did with these chocolate chip cupcakes) to help them "float" in the batter so they wouldn't all sink to the bottom. But, I didn't. Turns out blueberries are less dense than chocolate chips, who knew?

Like I said, nothing too tricky about these cupcakes, the batter was done relatively quickly and ready for the oven. I filled the liners about three-quarters full and for the most part was happy with the size of the cupcakes when they came out of the oven. Only a few were a little larger that I normally like, and they were all flat. Not the rounded beauties that I strive for. Martha said to bake these cupcakes for 25 total minutes with a turn halfway through the total baking time. Since my oven timer only works in whole minutes I baked in 12-minute intervals and the cupcakes came out perfectly, with a lovely golden hue.

While the cupcakes were baking I made the whipped cream that was to accompany them. Normally I wait a little while to give myself a baking break before making the cupcake's topping, but since whipped cream is very easy I found the energy to get everything done at once. It took less than 5 minutes (thank you stand mixer with whisk attachment) and it was done. I put the whipped cream in the fridge to keep cool while the cupcakes continued baking, and then cooled.

The last time I made whipped cream was for these rhubarb cupcakes and for those cupcakes I piped the whipped cream onto the cupcakes directly from the Ziploc bag I stored it in. Since I liked how those cupcakes turned out so much I did the same thing with these cupcakes. Unfortunately my piping this time around wasn't as good as the last time. I think I cut the hole in the bag a little too big this time. The cupcakes looked fine nonetheless, just not as good as the rhubarb cupcakes. Like the rhubarb cupcakes these cupcakes also got a little garnish, naturally blueberries would make the most sense and that's precisely what the garnish was. I had a good amount of blueberries left over, turns out my eyes are not very good measuring cups, so I liberally gave each cupcake 4 berries. I thought 5 might be a little overkill. The garnish on top definitely gave these cupcakes a little something extra, but my favorite part of these cupcakes was the blueberries that you can see through the cupcake liner. Like a pretty little secret.