Sunday, July 24, 2011

Carlo's Bakery

I took a trip to visit Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken with my mom in late June. As we spotted the bakery we noticed a small, monitored line outside and we were pleasently surprised. We then walked to the end of the line and realized that the short line was actually the front of a very long line that ended down the block across the street. We waited in line for about an hour, the whole time I was thinking how dumb it was to wait so long. A bakery is a bakery right? WRONG. These were honestly the best italian pastries I have ever eaten. I highly recommend going and I will no doubt be back.

We ordered a raspberry shortcake cookie, red velvet cupcakes, a carrot cake cupcake, a napoleon, lobster tails, and cream puffs. My favorites were the lobster tail and the raspberry shortcake cookie. In fact my mouth is watering just thinking about them.

Aside from the bakery, I have fallen completely in love with Hoboken. All the young people, fun shops, great restaurants, its close proximity to NYC, and seemingly great night life make it hard to beat. I'm plannaing on returning as soon as I can!
The line across the street from the bakery

In other news, I'm currently studying in Australia! Although I do have a kitchen, I do not have an oven. Therefore, this blog will be on hold until I come home in November. But I promise to make great stuff when I get back!

Happy baking until then!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July everyone! I made this cake for my family's 4th of July BBQ on Friday and it seemed like a big hit! Its not everyday that you see an American Flag inside a cake ;) Unfortunately, I was so eager to serve it that I didn't get a ton of good pictures of the end product, but these will do!

This cake seems like it would be complicated, but with the right tools it was totally easy to make. My sister showed me the recipe from Glorious Treats.

You need..
- 2 white cake mixes
- 2 round 8 inch cake pans
- one 4-5 inch round cookie cutter (mine was 4.5 and it was perfect)
- A cake leveler (seriously the most useful thing I have ever bought. It's about $4 from Michaels and I will use it on every cake I ever make from here on out. Also, this cake is almost impossible without it)
- blue and red food coloring

 Start off by dying the first cake mix red. I used the classic supermarket food coloring for the "red" but it turned out pink. Next time I'll definitely use Wilton's more heavy duty food coloring.

One of my biggest helpful hints when making any cake is to cut cloth strips, soak them in ice water, and wrap the wet strips around the outside of the cake pan before baking. Secure the strips with a safety pin. This technique changes the heat patterns in the cake in the oven, so the cake comes out as level as it can naturally be. It saves you decorating disasters and it works every time!

Pop this in the oven and follow the baking instructions. Make sure you test the cakes with a toothpick before pulling them out of the oven! A toothpick that is inserted in the middle of a cake and comes out with crumbs signals an underdone cake which will crumble under the many layers of this cake.

Next make the second cake mix. This time, leave half of the mix white and dye the other half blue. I suggest pouring the batter into a measuring cup to be exact. Half of my batter ended up being a little over 2 cups. This time I used the Wilton food coloring and it made all the difference.

When the cakes are FULLY cooled, use the cake leveler to touch up any peaked or slanted tops. Do not level the blue cake; leave it untouched until the very end.

Then use the leveler to cut the two red cakes and the white cake in half horizontally. Keep the blue cake whole!

You will find it easiest to move these thin layers around with a spatula. The fish spatula we have in our house was perfect.

Next, use the 4 inch cookie cutter to cut a hole in one red layer and one white layer. Keep the inner circle and discard the outside donut. Also discard one layer of red cake. I know wasting cake is so sad, but it can be devoured by onlookers or experimented with!

Hungry onlooker

Sam's experimental baby cake
Now it's time to play with your blue cake; use the cookie cutter to cut a hole in the center of the full blue cake. Carefully remove the hole and discard - keep the donut shaped cake. Next, layer the white circle, then the red circle into the hole in the blue cake. Frost layers between the white and red circle. Now its time to level it.

Now start layering the cake on your final surface. Layer red, white, red, blue while lightly frosting between each layer. Then frost and you're done!

I tried to make candy stars to decorate the cake but they turned out to be more of a hassle than they were worth. I crushed Jolly Ranchers and Life Savers, positioned them in a red white and blue pattern on a baking sheet with parchment paper and stuck them in the oven at 350 for 3 minutes. I put potato nails on each side of the candy to keep it from flowing outward but I think they were pretty unnecessary.

Then I used star cookie cutters dipped in canola oil to cut star shapes. I attempted many methods, none of which were very successful so I do not recommend it. The best method was waiting about 30 seconds after pulling the candy out of the oven, then quickly pressing the cutters in and out of the melted candy, leaving star imprints in the candy. Then when the candy was completely cooled, I broke off the candy around the imprint to leave me with the star. The whole process was very frustrating and disappointing.

Have a happy 4th of July and enjoy your fireworks!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ham and Mushroom Muffins

I decided to take a break from sweet cupcakes and made these yummy ham and mushroom muffins for breakfast this morning. Unfortunately, they were a little bland and only mediocre. But the recipe can definitely be altered for a flavorful masterpiece! The recipe is from my Hummingbird Bakery cookbook.

The recipe calls for you to..
Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Melt 3 1/2 tablespoons butter into a saucepan over medium heat.
1/2 small onion, finely chopped and
1 cup button mushrooms (couldn't find them so I used regular mushrooms, sliced)
Sea salt
Black pepper

Put in a large bowl..
2 3/4 all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Mix in a separate bowl..
1 cup whole milk
1 egg (I used two for more moisture in the muffins)

While mixing, slowly pour in the flour mixture. Then use a wooden spoon to stir in the mushrooms, onions, and 2 1/2 oz. smoked ham finely chopped (I used regular deli ham but I recommend using the smoked ham to give the muffins more flavor).

Spoon into cases and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Like every Hummingbird recipe, I couldn't believe the thickness of the batter. Those foreigners are crazy, but I guess the English like their dense biscuits. From experience with the Hummingbird recipes, I decided to add an extra egg to add more moisture to the batter and make the muffin rise more than their usual recipes allow. The extra egg worked out well, but next time I would try adding more milk instead to see what a difference it made.

Hummingbird Bakery must be plotting to destroy the hand mixers of all competing bakers' because although they recommended it for the batter, smoke was literally coming out of mine before I added an extra egg. Even then, I  spooned the batter into a standing mixer to give the poor guy a break.

Finally, I think chopped basil or sauteed shallots would add a lot to these muffins and I'll definitely try to throw one or the other into the batter next time I make them. Until then, experiment on your own!

So to conclude my tips for this recipe..
DO NOT use a hand held mixer - a standing mixer will be much less hazardous to your kitchen appliances
DO use smoked ham, not just simple honey ham deli meat
DO add an extra egg or an extra 1/3 of a cup of milk
Test out throwing in some chopped basil or sauteed shallots

Have a happy breakfast!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pretty in Purple

Happy birthday Aunt Sharee and cousin Zachary! This post is very late, but these cupcakes were decorated for their birthdays about a month ago.

The flowers are made from Wilton's royal icing recipe. The royal icing dries like cement so it's perfect for decorations. It is edible but it looks better than it tastes. I don't usually eat the flowers I make, but other people do! Maybe it's just to please me haha.

I made the flowers the day before because they have to dry completely before decorating or else they'll break. Also because I would be running around like a crazy person trying to get everything done the day of. The flowers last days so you could really make them a week in advance if you wanted to. They were made using piping bags and different piping tips.

I iced the daisies first, using white and yellow icing. I used a Wilton flower template for guidance and placed them on a curved plastic board for a realistic shape. All of the flowers were piped onto wax paper to assure easy removal when time to decorate.

The secret to a flat yellow center of a daisy is to gently push the yellow icing down with your finger after 5 minutes of drying. Its then dry enough to not stick to your finger and gets rid of the spiked yellow center.

I used purple and yellow icing to pipe the violets. Again, I used the Wilton template for guidance and the curved board for the realistic effect. I swear these violets gave me carpal tunnel. But it was worth it!

I used the Hummingbird Bakery cream cheese frosting recipe.
Using and electric mixer, beat together..
2 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
Then add 4 oz. cold cream cheese.

Beat for at least 5 minutes, until the frosting is light and fluffy, but do not overbeat or else it will become crumbly.

I dyed the cream cheese frosting lavendar with Wilton's food coloring, which is the best of the best. I iced the cupcakes up with a large round piping tip. I wish the frosting had been a little more firm; it would have made the icing process much easier. Next time I'll pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes before icing.

I hope you like them!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Black Bottom Cupcakes

These black bottom cupcakes definitely rank somewhere in my top 3 favorite cakes. The recipe is from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, which was given to me by my lovely sister Sam.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Start by mixing..
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Separately combine..
1/4 sunflower oil - who knows where these pro bakers are getting this "sunflower oil". I am confident that it
                             does not exist. I used safflower oil from Stop and Shop
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients while the electric mixer is running. Increase the speed of the mixer as the mixture thickens.

When I made this batter I honestly thought I had done something wrong. The batter is as thick as dough and almost broke my hand held mixer! I reread the recipe about 10 times trying to find my mistake, but I couldn't figure out what was wrong, so the chocolate dough was there to stay. Turns out that I didn't do anything wrong, the batter is just crazy thick. When following the recipe I recommend adding a little more oil to make the cake a little more moist, and I also recommend using a standing mixer so your hand held mixer is not destroyed.

Make the cheesecake filling by beating together..
4 1/2 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

Do this in a standing mixer on medium-slow speed until the filling is smooth and fluffy.
Stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips, but do not overmix! Otherwise the cream cheese will start to crumble.

Spoon the chocolate batter into the liners and spoon 1 tablespoon of filling on top. Bake for 20 minutes.

Cream cheese frosting can be used on top of these cupcakes if you have a sweet tooth, otherwise, the filling does the trick. Serving with chocolate milk adds a perfect finishing touch.
I cannot say with certitude that this is not part of my body.. okay enough Weiner jokes. To put ALL raging rumors to rest, and to please my sister, this is my father's wiskery mouth not mine.

Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Raspberry Cottage Cheese Cupcakes

Hello all!

Sorry it's been so long since my last post! School has been absorbing all of my time and energy. But I'm finally done, and ready for summertime. And these raspberry cottage cheese cupcakes were the perfect, refreshing treat to kick off the vaca.

I personally love cottage cheese, but I know many people dont. But do not let this deter you from these cupcakes! The cottage cheese just ensures that the batter isn't too sweet - for those who have been keeping up with the blog, you know that an overly sweet cupcake is my biggest turnoff. The raspberry gives the cakes a perfect sweet and sour balance and keeps the cupcake moist and refreshing. This recipe is from The Cupake Calendar.

Start by stirring together..
2 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
a pinch of salt.

In a separate bowl, beat together..
2 lightly beaten eggs
4 tbsp. sunflower oil (which is seriously impossible to find. Use any light, tasteless oil - I used safflower oil)
1 1/4 cups low-fat milk
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese

Add the flour mixture and stir until nearly combined, then carefully fold in 2 cups of fresh raspberries. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners almost to the brim! These cupcakes do not rise.

Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

The cupcakes can be iced with cream cheese frosting if being served for dessert, or left plain if being served as a snack. Either way they were delicious! And left me with lots of leftover raspberries, YUM. You will definitely be seeing more from The Cupcake Calendar as the summer progresses.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Koi Fish

These koi fish are definitely one of my favorite creations. They're so cute and weird looking. And not to mention easy to make! And when their creepy stares become too much to handle, eating them is a great solution.

Start out with two circus peanuts. Cut a small chunk out of the top of one full peanut and set to the side. Then take the other peanut and cut in half "hot dog style". Then cut both halves on a diagonal. Next, arrange the peanut pieces on top of a blue frosted cupcake.

Next, use icing to secure orange peanut butter M&Ms onto the face of the koi fish, then secure the eyes by placing an orange Froot Loop mouth underneath the peanut butter M&Ms. Finally, place brown mini M&Ms onto the orange peanut butter M&Ms for the pupils. I liked letting the vanilla icing show underneath the brown mini M&Ms; I thought it made the fishes more odd looking.

How easy! I really enjoyed making these. The only downfall to these cupcakes is that I really don't like circus peanuts. But they were easy to pick off when it was time to eat!