Sunday, January 29, 2012

Time to Make the Donuts

I've tried to make donuts on at least more than one occasion and they haven't turned out great. They're never quite soft enough. That could be because I bake them instead of frying them, or it could be because I'm just not meant to be a maker of donuts. But, just because I wasn't successful in my first few attempts doesn't mean that I've given up on trying.

For Christmas my mom got me a donut hole maker. I didn't ask for one, but every once in awhile she surprises me with a fun gift that wasn't on my Christmas list. I've been excited to use my new donut hole maker (you can check it out here) but just haven't had the time... until now.

The donut hole maker came with a couple recipes so I figured I would just start with the first one and work my way through. Like project cupcake, only with a lot less cupcakes. I think there are about 5 total recipes in the little booklet, but I'm not positive. I'd have to get up and walk to the kitchen to be sure and I just don't feel like doing that, so you'll have to take my word for it.

I prepared the donut maker as directed by wiping it down and spraying it with non-stick spray. I allowed it to preheat while I made the batter. The instructions said to pour in the batter, but that seemed to be a problem since the batter wasn't really pourable. It was quite thick and doughy, like the batter is when I've made certain kinds of breads. Since pouring wasn't an option I spooned the batter into the wells. I used a heaping teaspoon for the spooning. The booklet didn't provide much direction in regards to how much batter should be put into the wells, so I just did what I thought was right. They were almost filled, but not quite. I knew if I filled them too full the batter would seep out the sides while they baked, which did happen with 2 of the donuts. I thought that was pretty successful, especially for my first try.

The booklet said to "bake" the donut holes for 3-7 minutes and until golden brown. After 3 minutes they were golden brown but they were not cooked all the way through, so I popped them back in and let them bake for the full 7 minutes and they turned out perfectly. The recipe also said after the donuts were finished I could roll them in various kinds of toppings and to use my imagination. I was tired today so my imagination only pushed me as far as rolling some of them in confectioner's sugar like these...

and the others in cinnamon and sugar like these...

Maybe next time I'll try frosting and sprinkles or even a filling if I start to feel really crazy!

So far these donuts turned out much better than my past attempts, but I still had to taste them. They weren't great, but they weren't terrible either. For starters, they were larger than I would have liked. Like larger than a golf ball, and I think that's just too large for a donut hole. They should be little, like the size of a ping-pong ball. While the donut holes were still a little crispy they were definitely softer than before, but the consistency still isn't quite right for my preference. I like my donuts (and I almost never actually eat them, they're delicious, but not good for for someone who is shedding for a wedding like me) to be lighter and fluffier than the ones I made. But, I'm not giving up hope because there are still more recipes to try and at least one of them has to be good... I hope.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Triple-Citrus Cupcakes

The cupcakes are back! Hip, hip, hooray! Since it's been awhile since I've touched my cupcake cookbook or even cupcakes for that matter, I thought maybe I had been brilliant and was starting off the new year with the first cupcake in the next section of the cookbook. Turns out I am not so brilliant (shocker), and my memory is also not so good. However, it does seem appropriate that the third cupcake in the section is triple-citrus cupcakes. Triple, third, get it? Good.

The hardest (most annoying) part of this recipe was grating all the fruit to make the amount of zest needed for the recipe. Just to put it in perspective this meant grating 1 orange, 2 lemons and 2 limes. I had no idea how long this would take. I didn't calculate the amount of time it took to grate the orange. But, after grating the orange for what seemed like forever I was curious as to how long it had taken me. So, I busted out my stopwatch (not true, I just looked at the clock when I started and stopped) and kept track of the time. 12 minutes. It took me 12 minutes to grate 2 lemons and then it took me 12 minutes to grate 2 lemons. I can only assume it took me roughly 12 minutes to also grate the orange. By my math (and using a calculator) that is 36 minutes of grating. It didn't even take 36 minutes to bake these cupcakes. On the bright side, the grating did provide with a lovely citrus aroma for 36 minutes as well as an arm workout. Once the grating was over, it was all downhill from there, although adding the eggs took awhile. There were 9 of them after all. But even adding 9 eggs to the batter didn't require 36 minutes.

I filled the liners three-quarters full and tapped the pan on the counter as Martha instructed me to do. The cupcakes were baked for 20 total minutes with a turn halfway through the baking time. The cupcakes didn't really rise much while they were baking, but I didn't expect that they would. I'm 3 cupcakes into the glazed and dipped portion of the cookbook, and I have the feeling that the majority of these cupcakes will be flat. 2 out of the 3 cupcakes so far have had a pound-cake-like consistency which results in a flatter, dense cupcake as opposed to a lighter, rounded cupcake. I do prefer the look of a rounded cupcake, but what's most important is the taste of the cupcakes.

The citrus glaze was extremely easy, but it did require more grating (sigh). However, the grating was only necessary to garnish the cupcakes and it took a couple seconds for each cupcake. That's the kind of grating I can handle. I glazed and garnished each cupcake, and I didn't love how they looked. It was the lime-zest garnish. It just wasn't as flattering on my cupcakes as it was in Martha's picture. That's why she's the pro and why I only have a blog.

Taste test time! For being pound-cake like, the cupcakes were surprisingly light, and I liked the flavors of both the cupcake and the glaze. However, I did not like the consistency of having the zest in the cupcakes. I should have known. I'm a pulp-free orange juice kind of a gal for a reason. I don't like pulp. Maybe I thought this would be different because a cupcake is a solid food and not a liquid but that wasn't the case. Maybe the cupcake on deck will help me overcome my disappointment with this recipe. We'll just have to wait and see.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Oh, Baby!

Happy New Year! I know, I know... it's been awhile and I'm sorry. The last 3 weeks have been madness in my neck of the woods. We've traveled out of town every week since Christmas which hasn't left extra time for much. But now, I'm back. Get pumped.

Project Cupcake will be back very soon. In fact, there's a cupcake waiting in the wings. First however, in the spirit of the new year, new beginnings and all things new I thought what's newer than a baby? And, what do women have before they have a baby? Yep, that's right, a baby shower. And, what do women eat at a baby shower? Yep, right again, cake!
Please forgive the not-s0-great composition of this photo. It was taken quickly and on my phone with the intention of sending it to my friend who requested it and no one else. It was only after the cake was gone that I thought I should post it and wished I still had the cake to take prettier pictures. Hindsight. Always gets me.

On to the details. My friend asked me to make this cake for the baby shower of a co-worker of ours. I have made this particular cake for baby showers a couple of times before. Once for my future sister-in-law and another for the daughter of my boss from college. I'm not a professional anything when it comes to baking, but I feel particularly comfortable when I make this cake since I've done it before.

I made a double batch of my chocolate cake recipe and used 2 8-inch square pans to make the cakes. When all the baking was said and done I had 4 8-inch cakes. I layered them which gave me 2 layer cakes. After the cakes were leveled and layered I cut each layer cake into quarters so I had 8 blocks total. The shower wasn't going to be too big and I figured I wouldn't need more than 4 blocks total for the shower, but I always like to have back up just in case I need it. In this case I did because once a couple of the blocks were frosted they started to lean and didn't look as level. Instead of panicking I just made new blocks with my extra blocks. Like the Boy Scouts say (or at least I think they do)... always be prepared!

Although it wasn't particularly warm, I still put the frosted cakes in the freezer because they're easier to work with when they're firm. As per my normal routine, I made the fondant the day before while the cakes were baking. I made 3 batches because I always like to have extra just in case I need it. I had more than enough.

Since the mommy to be didn't want to know the gender of the baby I was asked to keep the colors neutral. I like the look of white blocks with pastel colors, so I kept the blocks white and incorporated light green and light yellow. I colored the fondant myself using green and yellow Wilton gel food coloring.

I printed out the letters from my computer, cut them out, put them on top of the fondant and traced around them with a knife giving me the shape of the letter in fondant form. For the shapes I used a star cookie cutter that I had on hand. For the edging of the blocks I just rolled out fondant and used a pizza cutter to cut out uniform strips that I placed around the edge of each block.

I didn't attend the baby shower myself, but I was told everyone loved it, and most importantly the mommy to be was very happy! Oh, I almost forgot... it's a boy!