Thursday, January 7, 2010

2 great recipes and 1 mediocre baker

So yesterday was my cousin's birthday party and I had offered her whatever cupcake she would like. She chose S'mores, which I was excited about because I hadn't made them in quite a while. The recipe is pretty simple, it's a graham cupcake with milk chocolate chips mixed in, and marshmallow fluff for frosting. The key though is that, once you put a dollop of marshmallow on top, you put them in the oven under the broiler for a minute and toast the marshmallow tops.

The result was incredibly yummy! So here's the recipe (which is adapted from Vanilla Garlic).
Graham Cupcakes
Makes 12-14 cupcakes / 350 F oven

What You’ll Need...
1/2 cup of butter, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup of milk
1 cup of self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1 bag of milk chocolate chips
What You’ll Do...

1) Beat the butter for about 30 seconds until well creamed. Add the sugar and mix for 3 minutes using a paddle attachment until light and fluffy.
2) Add the eggs, one at a time, being sure to beat for 30 seconds for each egg.
3) Place graham crackers in a food processor or in a plastic bag and beat the crud out of them until it's been ground into small crumbs and powder.
4) Sift together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda and powder, and salt. Add about 1/4 of the mixture to the butter mixture, then add some of the milk. Continue to add the ingrdients in adry-wet-dry method, ending with the dry. Continue to mix until just combined, then fold in the chocolate chips.
5) Scoop into cupcake papers and bake for 15-18 minutes in a 350 F oven or until a cake tester comes out clean

Like I mentioned, once the cupcakes cool, put a bit of marshmallow fluff on top. There's no need to pipe it on or to try to be neat or pretty with it cause it's just gonna melt anyway. Then set your oven to broil and put them back in for a couple minutes. Keep a close eye on them cause, once they start to brown, they move quick!

The cuz loved her cupcakes and, since I have an order due on Friday for another birthday party, I headed home and started on another cupcake recipe. This birthday girl wants Pink Lemonade (which is and old go-to recipe) and she also wanted Mocha, which I've never made but always wanted to try.

I made the cupcakes, which came from How to Eat a Cupcake, and they were perfect! They were big and full and even had these perfectly domed top. You seriously couldn't come up with a prettier cupcake.
Mocha Cupcakes
Makes 12-16 (book says 12, I got 16)

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. In a measuring cup, combine the milk and brewed coffee. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 additions, beating on low speed until just combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about ½ to ¾ full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 16-20 minutes (book says 22-24 minutes, mine were done at 16). Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Once the cupcakes were done and cooled, I was so excited by how well they turned out that I wanted to make the frosting and get them finished. I decided to go ahead and make the frosting that How to Eat a Cupcake had made for them, which is unusual cause I have a handful of frostings that I really like and I tend to just modify those instead of trying new ones.

She used a Coffee Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Now I've only made Swiss Meringue Buttercream once, but it was awesome. I've always heard that it's a tricky frosting, but, in my hands, it went from tricky to mind-boggling (none of which is the fault of the actual recipe).
Coffee Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Makes enough to frost 16 cupcakes

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 tbsp hot water
1 1/2 tsp instant coffee

Put sugar, egg whites and salt into the top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees). Pour heated egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 7 minutes total. Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low, add butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, stir 1 1/2 tsp instant coffee into 1 tbsp hot water until dissolved, then put it in the refrigerator or freezer until it comes down to room temperature. Reduce mixer speed to low and add coffee mixture. Continue beating 1 minute to reduce air bubbles.

My first problem was that I generally use powdered egg whites, especially in recipes where you're using a liquid (like coffee) to add flavor. So I had to get the equivalent of 6 egg whites, which was 1/4 c of powdered egg whites and 3/4 c of liquid (I used slightly watered down coffee). It made sense to me that, if the eggs were supposed to dissolve in the liquid, then the warmer the better, so my coffee was still hot and I added lukewarm water to it, and then I added the eggs. You cook this mixture, with a bunch of sugar, in a double boiler until the sugar dissolves, then move it to the mixer and beat the crap out of it. So that's what I did.

What I didn't know is that, if you mix powdered eggs with hot water, they turn into what feels like little bits of plastic. So I completed the recipe (after you beat it, you add butter) and tried it. It tasted incredible (like sweet, milky coffee), but with little bits of plastic.

I obviously couldn't have that so I decided that the issue was how I mixed the egg whites and liquid (I had mixed them in the double boiler with the sugar) and that could be remedied by simply mixing the powder and coffee separately and then adding to the sugar. But, no, the hot coffee still turned the whites to plastic.

Then I looked on the internet and figured out what the real problem was. So I cooled my coffee to room temp and added the whites and, just to be sure, poured the mixture through a sieve as I was adding it to the sugar. And it worked perfectly.

I cooked the eggs and sugar, put them in the mixer and whipped them like mad, then added the butter and mixed just a bit longer. Then I put it in the fridge for a bit, then beat just a little more. Then I tried to pipe it.

And yes, tried is the key word. It appears that my butter wasn't soft enough when I added it (and I didn't beat it long enough either) so there were all these little bits of butter. It didn't hurt the flavor, but the frosting wasn't as smooth as it should have been. And, once I did get some of them all frosted, the buttercream began to separate and a milky looking substance dripped down the sides of the cupcakes within 15 minutes or so.

At that point, I got frustrated and went to bed. But I know that, as much as I hate failing, it is just a reminder that I am still a novice baker. I've only been making cupcakes for less than a year and I still have a lot to learn and try. So tonight I'll head home and try again. Hopefully I'll have a better report tomorrow.

No comments: