Saturday, March 31, 2007

tres leches

This cupcake was a lot of fun to make. It's not a traditional tres leches, because all the milk would be too sloppy for a cupcake. Rather, this is my cupcake-take on the flavors of a tres leches cake - a basic, white cupcake, with a blob of dulce de leche (or caramel) in the middle, frosted with whipped cream and topped with toasted coconuts. I have to give props to the Cupcake Bakeshop blog for the basic cupcake recipe and for the explanation of how to make dulce de leche. And I have to give props to my husband for suggesting that I toast the coconut.

This cupcake also marks my first paid cupcake gig. Thanks to Lisa at YCC for giving me and my pans a chance! And thanks to the folks at New Explorers High School for being such a wonderful test audience.

22-24 regular cupcakes / 375-350 degree oven

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat butter on high until soft.
Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
Add to mixer bowl. Add the milk and vanilla. Mix to combine.
Scoop into cupcake papers about half to two-thirds full.
Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Dulce de Leche
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Immerse closed can on its side in a pot of boiling water.
Leave on a simmer or light boil for 2 hours topping off with water as needed. Be careful not to let the water dry out.
Remove from heat and let cool thoroughly (do not open the can while it's still hot) before opening.
Condensed milk should be thick and a nice caramel color.

Whipped Cream Frosting
In a mixing bowl, add 1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 Tablespoon sugar. Beat until peaks form.

Toasted Coconut
Place shredded coconut on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven. Stir often, until the coconut is dry and mostly toasted light brown with some white shreds, about 2 to 4 minutes.

How to get the caramel blob into the middle of your cupcakes:

Use a small paring knife to cut a cone out of the top of the cupcake. Flip the top over and cut off the bottom of the cone.
Fill the cavity with a teaspoon of dulce de leche.
3. Replace the top of the cone.
4. Frost, then sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Here's something interesting that I learned on Wikipedia about the process by which the sweetened condensed milk becomes dulce de leche:
The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, usually requiring the addition of heat. Like caramelization, it is a form of non-enzymatic browning. The reactive carbonyl group of the sugar interacts with the nucleophilic amino group of the amino acid, and interesting but poorly characterized odor and flavor molecules result. This process accelerates in an alkaline environment because the amino groups do not neutralize. This reaction is the basis of the flavoring industry, since the type of amino acid determines the resulting flavor.
In the process, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created. These compounds in turn break down to form yet more new flavor compounds, and so on. Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavor compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction. It is these same compounds that flavor scientists have used over the years to create artificial flavors.
Although used since ancient times, the reaction is named after the chemist Louis-Camille Maillard who investigated it in the 1910s.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

heart of darkness

This is my favorite cupcake. It's fast and easy and vegan, but that's not why. It's chocolate, obviously, but it's not too heavy, perhaps because of the lack of butter, milk and eggs. I got the recipe from a Moosewood Restaurant cookbook, which actually cites a 1976 issue of "House and Garden" as the original source. It's a cake recipe, but works just as well to make about 12 to 16 cupcakes. Plain, it's a really light, subtle cake. With the chocolate glaze: delicious!

Six-Minute Chocolate Cake (or cupcakes)
Source: Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day

1-1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold water or brewed coffee
2 tsps pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375-degrees.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and sugar.
In a 2-cup measuring cup, measure and mix the oil, water (or coffee), and vanilla. Slowly and gently pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk.
When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls (and some bubbling) in the batter where the baking soda and vinegar are reacting.
Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter (the color becomes more consistent throughout), then spoon into waiting lined cupcake tins.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes--testing with a toothpick. Remove to a cooling rack and make glaze.

1/4 lb bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup hot water, milk or half-and-half
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a small ovenproof bowl in the oven for about 10 minutes.
Stir the hot liquid and the vanilla into the chocolate until smooth.
Spoon the glaze over the cooled cupcakes, though I find it easier to dip and twist the cooled cupcakes into the glaze.
Refrigerate the glazed cupcakes for about 30 minutes before serving.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

the vermonter

With cake, if you want to try it, then you have to keep it. You can't exactly knock on a neighbor's door and offer two thirds of a cake because you've already had a slice. With cupcakes, I can eat one, Chris can eat two, we can give some to our neighbor, Ben, and our super, Gerard. I can take some to school and maybe even pass a few off on Avideh. I'm going to make a batch a week until I figure this cupcake thing out. Until I've mastered the art of the cupcake.

This week I made maple cupcakes. My frosting didn't quite work, so I made a glaze instead. In the end, they look like naked cupcakes. But, if you've ever gone swimming in a stream in Vermont, then you know that for a cupcake called The Vermonter, naked actually makes sense.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

red velvet

Mmm... something fun to start. It's really a white cake with buttermilk to lend some depth and moisture, then add a paste of cocoa and food coloring. Usually just red, but I added a little yellow for pop. Finally, cream cheese frosting. We gave away as many as we could, to the neighbors and even the super. Still, we had all these delicious cupcakes around the house this weekend. Somehow Chris didn't seem to mind.
I'm thinking about adding some Doctor Pepper to the mix next time. Any thoughts?