Friday, September 17, 2010

Chocolate Butterflies...


Chocolate is really quite simple, yet its also very easy to mess up! talk about contradictions!  You need to temper chocolate so that it sets properly.  In my experience candy melts dont get that glossy look unless its been in a mold, even when tempered correctly.

(taken from Ghirardelli's website, and my preferred choice in chocolates for baking and coating)
Tempering is a method of heating and cooling chocolate in order to use it for coating or dipping.
Proper tempering gives chocolate a smooth and glossy finish. Tempered chocolate will have a crisp snap and won’t melt on your fingers as easily as improperly tempered chocolate.
Properly tempered chocolate is also great for molding candies because the candies will release out of the molds more easily and still retain a glossy finish.
Tempering Methods
Tempering can be accomplished in several different ways, including the following simple methods:
Method 1
Grate or chop the desired amount of chocolate. Place two-thirds of the chocolate in the top pan of a double boiler. Heat over hot, not boiling, water, stirring constantly, until chocolate reaches 110°–115°F.
Place the top pan of the double boiler on a towel. Cool to 95°–100°F. Add the remaining chocolate to the top pan, stirring until melted. The chocolate is now ready to be used for molding candies, coating, or dipping.
Method 2
Starting with a pound of broken chocolate, melt two-thirds of the chocolate over indirect heat, such as in the top pan of a double boiler. Melt just until the chocolate is liquid and smooth (at 110°–115°F). When it is smooth, add the remaining one-third of broken chocolate and heat again until the entire chocolate becomes smooth.
Pour the chocolate onto a marble or laminate surface. Using a spatula, scrape and stir the chocolate across the surface to smooth and cool it. When the chocolate cools to 80°–82°F, return it to the top pan of the double boiler. Place over hot, not boiling, water.
Heat and stir constantly, until it reaches 87°–91°F. Remove the top pan of the double boiler. The chocolate is now ready to be used for molding candies, coating, or dipping.
Tips for Tempering
  • Do not heat above 130°F since chocolate, especially milk chocolate, is very sensitive to heat and will scorch or seize easily.
  • Be sure no liquid gets into the chocolate. This will cause clumping or seizing
Now that you have your chocolate tempered,  make two large dots with two smaller dots directly below the larger ones with a wiltons size 2 round tip and then take your tip and insert it into the dots and "draw" two wings. Mine looked like this...
pipe extra detail and bodies if you wish. I was pressed for time so I just added a few white dots but skipped the bodies and just put the butterflies into the frosting at a V to simulate that the butterfly was in flight.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes



Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

(from Cooks Illustrated, “American Classics 2009”)
(makes 12 cupcakes; do not double recipe…make two separate batches if you need more)

Ingredients
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz-by weight) Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup (3 3/4 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup (4 oz) sour cream


Directions
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan (1/2 cup capacity) with baking-cup liners.
  2. Combine butter, chocolate and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and fully combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to touch.
  3. Whisk flour, baking soda and baking powder in small bowl to combine
  4. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined; then sift in remaining flour mixture and whisk batter until it is homogeneous and thick.
  5. Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until toothpick inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.
  6. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.
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Review: I was sort of hesitant at first to put the whole 1/2 cup of cocoa powder into the mix because of how bitter bakers chocolate can be, so I tasted it after adding it to the eggs (yes I know I could get salmonella, but how else are you going to know if the batter needs some more sugar before you bake it?).  The batter was DELICIOUS; not really a word I throw out there often when it comes to baked goods, I could have licked my utensils clean after I was done!  This recipe doesn't rise much and bakes flat which is great for decorating.  The one down point I do have is that it did take longer to bake than the recipe stated (22 minutes vs the 20 max it states) but it could be due to my elevation and humidity level.  All in all its a great recipe that I'm sure I'll repeat.



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White Chocolate Cupcakes


White Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients
8 ounces good quality white chocolate, chopped
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
½ cup lowfat yogurt
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 wells of a muffin pan with papers and set aside. 
  2. Put the white chocolate into double boiler or a heat-proof bowl set over barely simmering water (not touching the water). 
  3. Heat until the chocolate is melted and smooth 
  4. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch. 
  5. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set it aside. Whisk the milk, yogurt, and vanilla into a medium bowl and set it aside. 
  6. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add half of the flour mixture, all of the milk mixture, and the remaining flour mixture, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the melted white chocolate. Mix on low speed to combine. 
  7. Divide the batter between the cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans after 12 minutes; the edges will be lightly golden and a toothpick should come out with a few crumbs attached. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes and let them sit on the rack until they are completely cooled.

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Review:  My batter looked a lot like a loose cookie dough, I could actually spoon it into the cupcake tins and scrape it off the spoon, not like most cake/cupcake recipes I've tried in the past. The batter didnt rise much so you have to fill the cupcake tin pretty full to get a cupcake that is as high or higher than the cupcake liner. The fact that it raises pretty flat is great for cupcake decorating though, so Im happy to see that.

I tasted one (ok two) cupcakes right out of the oven and Im not quite sure what to think about them.  While I taste the white chocolate it is a very light hint of it, and my husband (who I shared the first one with for his opinion) found it sort of bland.  I will be holding off my final judgment until after they've fully cooled.  I do think that they are yummy enough to still eat, but Im unsure if I'd make it again.

I've heard that the quality of the white chocolate increases the white chocolate taste, and I used Ghirardelli classic white chocolate chips, which I generally use for my white chocolate mousses with no issues, so you could try them or try another brand of white chocolate.




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Strawberry and Blueberry Swiss Buttercreams (two recipies)

My youngest daughter passed away at 6 months, 1 day of age from SIDS on August 20, 2010. Afterward I had some very helpful neighbors who brought my family and me dinner those first few days following her death. I thought that it would be a nice thank you to them was to make them cupcakes. What kind of cupcakes would she have chosen? Pink and purple ones of course! So I went on a quest for Strawberry and Blueberry buttercreams.

This is my first time doing a swiss meringue buttercream... so we will see how it works out! The buttercreams are a variation of Martha Stewarts (basic) Swiss Meringue Buttercream, Sprinkles Strawberry Buttercream and Trophy Cupcakes Blueberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream.


Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Ingredients
4 egg whites
3 sticks of unsalted butter, cut into 1Tbsp pieces, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3/4 cup strawberries, fresh (you wont use the whole amount, between 3T to 1/2c puree depending on preference)

Directions
  1. Place strawberries in the bowl of a small food processor; process until pureed. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve if thinner consistency is desired; set aside.
  2. Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water and that steam doesn't get out, a double boiler works best for this). Whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth (you wont feel the sugar granules).
  3. Transfer bowl to mixer stand, making sure that you dont get any of the condensation from the bottom bowl into the egg whites. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks (be careful not to over whip and dry out your egg whites), about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don't worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add vanilla, and beat just until combined.
  5. Add strawberry puree and salt and beat just until combined. Switch to the paddle attachment,and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes until the strawberries are completely incorporated and all the air pockets are gone. 



Blueberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Ingredients
5 egg whites
1-1⁄4 cups sugar
2 cups room temperature unsalted butter (4 sticks), cut into 1 Tbsp pieces
1⁄4 cup + 2 tablespoons of blueberry puree
Pinch of salt

Directions
  1. Place blueberries in the bowl of a small food processor; process until pureed. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve if thinner consistency is desired; set aside.
  2. Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water and that steam doesn't get out, a double boiler works best for this). Whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth (you wont feel the sugar granules).
  3. Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks (be careful not to over whip and dry out your egg whites), about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don't worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating.
  5. Add blueberry puree and salt and beat just until combined. Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes, until the blueberries are completely incorporated and all the air pockets are gone. 

Note: to make the buttercreams less "buttery" take out one stick butter and one egg white

Please note:
If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.

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Review:  the buttercreams were very good, and pretty simple too when it comes down to it, you just have to be willing to whip and whip, and then when you feel there's no end in sight.. whip some more... Each time after I added the butter I felt that the frosting was NEVER going to thicken to a pipe-able constancy, and just about when I was going to give up, BOOM! it thickened into yummy frosting-ness.
Oddly enough when I did the blueberry buttercream, when I put the blueberry puree (that I ran through a sieve) and set it aside it gelled! I was seriously surprised that it did that, I sort of had to break it up with my spatula before I could put it into the frosting.  Also my frosting didnt turn out nearly as purple as the picture, but Im not complaining.

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