Friday, October 30, 2009

Recipe Review: Jack o' Lantern Cupcakes

This recipe came from Crazy About Cupcakes. I love this book, their caramel apple cupcakes are are one of my favorite things ever. My only issue with the book is that the recipes rarely come out to 24 cupcakes. With the apple recipe I can usually get 18. With this recipe I got 24 but many of the cupcakes were only half filled once they had cooled.
The cupcakes are pumpkin flavored, with vanilla and chocolate frosting.
The directions were changed slightly into my own words.

Pumpkin Cupcakes:
1 stick of butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar (I only had light brown)
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Insert liners into cupcake pan.
With a mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar till fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Add the dry mix to the creamed mix, alternating with milk. Mix till integrated.
Add the pumpkin and vanilla, beat till smooth.
Fill the liners one half to three quarters full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pan.

Chocolate Frosting:
6 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
Black coloring gel
With a mixer on low to medium speed, cream together the butter and vanilla. In a separate bowl combine confectioners sugar, sugar, and cocoa. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mix till fully integrated. Slowly add the milk to the frosting till you've reached the desired consistency. You might not use all of the milk (I didn't). Beat in the mixer for 1 minute or until creamy. Add black coloring gel and mix till you reach desired color.

Vanilla Frosting:
3 cups confectioners sugar
1 stick of butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
Orange food coloring
With a mixer gradually add the sugar to the softened butter. Stir in the vanilla and milk, beat until smooth and spreadable. Add a little more milk or sugar as needed. Add orange food coloring.

Frost the cooled cupcakes with the orange frosting. From here the recipe instructs to "with a knife, rough out jack o lantern faces with black frosting. Clean up the edges with the toothpick". I tried this without much success. Instead I just used a toothpick, dipping it into the chocolate and 'tapping' it onto the cupcakes.

The cupcakes are pretty good, they have a mild pumpkin flavor. The frosting is very sweet, but its missing something that would make it more than just decent. The cake and frosting don't blend very well together though, and that was the thing I disliked the most.

Overall rating out of 5:

Recipe Review: Sweet Potato Pie

I had my first taste of sweet potato pie ever earlier this month, at Little Pie Company. Amazing. I can't wait to go back and give them a proper review. Their delicious mini pie inspired me to make my own.

I used the filling recipe from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick of cold butter cut up small
2-3 tablespoons of ice water

Half a stick of butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potato, well drained
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt

I used two fresh sweet potatoes, peeled, cut up small, boiled, drained, and then mashed.
I would also suggest using a full teaspoon of cinnamon, maybe even a teaspoon and a half, if you like a stronger cinnamon flavor.

I used a different but similar recipe for the crust. I also don't own a food processor or a pastry blender, but my regular blender seemed to work just fine (if your using a regular blender I would suggest cutting your butter into tablespoons)
The directions are adapted to my own own words and are slightly altered.

Place flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. With a pastry blender cut in the butter until pieces are pea sized. Sprinkle the ice water over the flour mix in tablespoons, tossing with a fork until the dough is moistened. Form dough into a ball. On a slightly floured surface, roll out the dough to fit a 9-inch pie plate. Bring dough to pie plate, poke holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork, and fold the edges under around the rim and crimp.

Cut a piece of fin foil big enough to cover your pie. Coat it with about half a tablespoon of butter. Place the tin foil over the pie and press the buttered area down. If you have pie weights place them on top of the foil. I used two measuring cups filled with raw rice (you can re-use the rice for this purpose in the future). Bake for 10 minutes, then take the pie crust out of the oven. Take off the weights and foil. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and put pie crust back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Take out and cool.

With a mixer, combine the butter, sugar, and brown sugar on a low speed until fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the sweet potatoes, the eggs, milk, and bourbon. Beat till well combined. Add the vanilla and spices, mix well. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 45-55 minutes, until filling is set or a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool pie for half an hour before serving.

The recipe does not mention how to store the pie. If your not serving it immediately or within the next few hours, I would put it in the fridge, covered (this is what I did). Before serving let it warm to room temperature (unless you like it cold as some folks do).

The verdict? Delicious! I could use a stronger flavor, maybe slightly more cinnamon and nutmeg, but otherwise the taste is excellent. The texture could use just a little work, though I'm almost positive this is my fault- I don't think my butter was softened enough. Don't skip the bourbon! The taste comes through and gives it the perfect bite.

Overall rating out of 5:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Free cupcakes this Friday at Kyotofu!

Kyotofu is giving out cupcakes this Friday, October 30th in celebration of their 3rd anniversary.

705 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY

Thanks to Cupcakes Take the Cake for posting this awesome news!

Their newsletter also says that they'll have dessert specials and half-priced drinks, and will be showing Japanese horror movies Halloween night, 5:30pm to 1:30pm.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Review: Pasticceria Bruno

Pasticceria Bruno
506 Laguardia Pl
New York, NY, US
(212) 982-5854

Items ordered: mango passion fruit mousse(?); tiramisu gelato; hazelnut gelato; chocolate gelato; cream puff; banana & chocolate petite four; hazelnut chocolate; opera cake; fig tart; one unknown pastry; marzipan; three cups of tea, double espresso, latte.

Cost: $55

From their business card: "Our mission is to set the Standards, improve each day, and deliver Excellence".

Me and four friends came running into Bruno's from the pouring rain earlier tonight (not too long after a disappointing experience at Nightmare haunted house). I had been here once before, with the same people actually, because one of my friends is a former pastry chef and she thinks very highly of this place. There were five of us (hence the shockingly high price), so it took us awhile to get settled at one of the tables. Then we ordered a whole bunch of stuff.

Hazelnut chocolate: Low key hazelnut flavor and high quality chocolate. I still felt like it was missing something though. 3/5

Cream Puff: This was the first cream puff I've ever had, so I'm not sure what its 'supposed' to taste like. The outside was extremely hard, I actually couldn't get my fork into it. I thought it was stale but my friend told me cream puffs are supposed to be hard on the outside. The cream on the inside was good and had a nice sweetness. 2/5

Banana & chocolate petit four (to the right of the picture): I'm not sure what kind of chocolate was on top, but it was over-powering and inedible. And the banana was basically impossible to taste, not a good balance at all. 0/5

Opera cake: Terrible. My chef friend had some and said it was excellent. Different strokes. I had three bites and left the rest :P 0/5

Hazelnut gelato: Tasted more like coffee, not my thing 1/5

Tiramisu gelato: Extremely delicious! Light but sweet flavor 5/5

Halloween marzipan: Sorry he's half eaten, he started out as a very cute pumpkin. The marzipan was fresh 5/5

My friend and her SO got a couple of very fancy looking pastries that I didn't try, and I'm guessing at the names at the moment. She had they were great.

Passion fruit mousse (I think)

Unknown, but the wrap was almond.

Overall rating out of 5:

Me and my friend have extremely different palates, and if you have a more sophisticated taste, you'll probably like this bakery. I still stand in line 20 minutes for Magnolia's red velvet cake ;)

Cupcakes blamed for gentrification

Original image can be found here.

Today Cupcakes Take the Cake posted this article about cupcakes. Its yet another one of those ‘anti’ cupcake articles. There are many examples:

Death to cupcakes; Let them eat cupcakes (which does note that fanaticism on either side is misplaced); Meme Roth on the Daily Show; Cupcake Backlash; Cupcake Nation: some statements here were kinda sad and creepy.

In the article posted by CTTC, "The Cupcake Revival", no names of the NY 'academics' conducting the gentrification study are given. No investment funds are identified specifically, no entrepreneurs pointed out. But it COULD be happening.

Investment funds that help to set up shops in poorer neighborhoods are not the fault of cupcakes. Its called corruption, and you can find it in the people all around you. We have some serious issues with over-development in this city that no one seems to give a shit about. This stunt isn’t about gentrification. This is about a bunch of college students who find studying cupcakes more interesting than dealing straight up with issues like poverty and abuses of zoning laws. It’s a cutesy little idea that will get them a lot of attention because they too, are part of the craze now.

I understand that cupcakes are wholesome, girly, things. And that Disneyfication robs our city of its character. But it’s a little too late to blame cupcakes (not to mention misguided). Go write an article about Bloomberg if you want to study the cause of over-development. And if your genuinely interested in slowing the process of gentrification, show it in your vote on November 3rd.

People are bitter and annoyed about there being so many cupcakes. And then compare our love of them to mental illness or government philosophy. So at the risk of sounding like a crazy cupcake sub-culture fanatic, my response now more than ever is a clear

Fuck off. Seriously.

Few things piss me off more than bullshit trying to pass itself off as news, science, or compassion. And I’m sure that is far more annoying than cupcakes are any day.

Anti-cupcake spin isn’t better than cupcake fanaticism. Someone who doesn’t care for cupcakes doesn’t have to do a thing except not buy one. But something causes people to label themselves as anti-cupcake, or call for a cupcake backlash. A movement to squash a movement. It would seem the only thing more pathetic than being a slave to cupcakes is being a slave to cupcake hatred. You don’t even get anything sweet out of it.

Cupcakes are a little bit of happiness in a shitty world. And were in a recession- why don’t you back off something that was nationally loved before it became a craze. More people are baking in their own kitchens- a wonderful thing. Baking lets people use their hands to make something- something many kids don’t do enough of. And it brings people together, since baking together is a fairly cheap family activity. Aren’t these the kind of things we need most right now? You don't need to conduct a study to find the answer.

Consider this rant a backlash to the backlash of anti-cupcake literature out there, although someone else beat me to it back in February. It’s a little snarkier than I meant it to be but I’m defending not only cupcakes, but baked goods of all kinds. If these people are willing to attack CAKE, how much farther will they go? I think for every attack made on cupcakes, we should buy a cupcake. The articles don’t come out often, but I like the idea of fueling the craze, even if its only in a small way (and yes, this one counts).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Review: Kyotofu

705 9 Ave
New York, NY 10019-7929
(212) 974-6012

Items ordered: mini pumpkin cupcake, mini chocolate souffle cupcake, mini green tea cupcake

Total: $6

Me and a couple of friends started off our mini cupcake crawl here. They have a whole restaurant, and our super friendly server assured us it was ok if we sat inside even if we only got dessert. We decided to sit at the bar anyway. They brought us glasses of water and menus. I ordered the 3 mini cupcakes (mainly because I could have sworn I saw a sign that said 3 for $3.75 give or take a quarter). One of my friends ordered the same thing, the other ordered the Cookie Jar.

At around the 15-20 minute mark I finally asked if it usually took this long to get cupcakes (we were all talking about how fresh this stuff better be), and she answered with, 'Its done!' Oh. OK, cool. Maybe I was just being impatient?

The presentation was impressive. The three mini cupcakes are laid out on a wooden tray, resting on top of a long leaf, with raspberries in a little dish on the side.

  • First up was the chocolate souffle. It was extremely fresh, probably the freshest cupcake I've ever had. There was no icing. The sweetness was middle of the road, and the chocolate flavor was very strong.

  • Next was the green tea. Just as fresh as the first one. Also no icing, and it wasn't sweet at all (which is usually a deal breaker for me). I didn't even finish the little bit that was there. I also wasn't too impressed with the flavor, but I'm not a huge fan of green tea. My two friends have much less of a sweet tooth than I do and they loved it.

  • The last one I tried was the pumpkin, 5/5 for freshness. The icing was nice, but it was extremely light in flavor, my mouth had the feeling a mint gives only without the mint flavor. I thought the cake was much better than the frosting, with a heavier pumpkin taste. It also wasn't 'too' sweet (a sentiment I never understood- I'm not sure there is such a thing as too sweet).

Overall rating out of 5:

I did try a bite of my friends cookie and noticed the freshness more than anything else. Also, it comes in a real jar! Very cute.

I'm not sure how it came to $6 for each of us, I guess I just mis-read the sign.

But we did get three mini mini cupcakes with the check!

Though they were far too bitter for any of us to finish :( Its beyond dark chocolate.

I definitely want to go again, and next time I'll try some full size cupcakes.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Stuffed Artisan Cannolis opens in Manhattan

According to their website the store opened Oct. 1st. What I love the most is the roll-over cannoli menu at the bottom. The Almond Love Joy and Apple Pie are on my list to try. And the Pistachio...and the French Toast ;) They have up to 30 varieties, including seasonal flavors (like candy corn).

The company started out as a street cart in Little Italy, and are now located at 176 Stanton St. I wish them the best of luck and can't wait to stop by!

SWEET at the NYC Wine & Food Festival

Somehow I missed this divine occurrence Oct. 10th (I was busy doing a mini-cupcake crawl anyways).

SWEET is a gathering of pastry chefs who showcase their unique creations, this site contains pure food porn documenting the event, complete with mini interviews and addresses of the chefs bakeries (absolutely worth checking out).

The layered fall-spice banana and chocolate opera cake from Rouge Tomate
looks delicious, though its probably too expensive for my blood.

Random sugar quote

“It was so intense, it felt like I was being violated.”- Alicia Silverstone at the New York City Wine & Food Festival, talking about a sugary dessert she attempted to feed her vegan self.

Dessert Truck gets a new home (without wheels)

Dessert Truck will be moving to 6 Clinton Street. According to their website we can look forward to some new additions to the menu as well!

In the Village Voice, Dessert Truck owner Jermone Chang said he had been thinking about going in this direction for awhile, but an issue with city permits caused him to shut down the business until a storefront location could be found.

"Original photo can be found here."

MaggieMoo's New Halloween Ice Cream Cupcakes

I love this cow.

You can check out all of Maggiemoo's ice cream cupcakes here. The Halloween cupcakes come decorated as a jack-o-lantern, mummy, Frankenstein, and an eyeball.

MaggieMoo's has a location in Bayside, Queens. 39-33 Bell Blvd, 11361

From their website, "MaggieMoo's Ice Cream and Treatery is a chain of independently owned and operated franchised stores that specialize in serving super-premium ice cream and desserts. In 1989, MaggieMoo's opened its first store in Kansas City, Kansas. The brand is known as the innovator of the world's first ice cream cupcake, and has consistently been awarded blue ribbons by the National Ice Cream Retailers Association."

Original photo can be found here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stella D'oro plant shuts its doors

I grew up eating Stella D'oro cookies, and we've all seen their packages at grocery stores. I had only found out their plant was located in the Bronx when I heard the news that they would be closing. Pretty crappy way of finding out something you used to love was local.

The recent closing is the result of on-going disputes between the union workers and Brynwood, the company who bought the bakery in 2006. They recently sold Stella D'oro to Lance, Inc, who plans to move production to Ohio.

Link to original article here.

Les Desirs Patisserie may be closing

NY1 reports that Les Desirs Patisserie, at 236 9 Ave in Chelsea may be closing. The owner, Jean Pauget, has a petition by the register filled with signatures of customers hoping to convince the co-op board to let him stay.

The original article can be found here.