Monday, August 23, 2010

Grasshopper Cupcakes

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These are grasshopper cupcakes.  No, they don't have grasshoppers in them (um, gross).  They are a combination of mint and chocolate.  These cuppies have a cream cheese base with some condensed milk sweetness mixed in to make them extra rich.

I purchased the cupcake liners from Williams-Sonoma, but a similar product is available here.

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Grasshopper Cupcakes - Makes approximately one dozen cupcakes - Adapted from Brooke McLay
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 T flour
  • 17 chocolate sandwich cookies (ie: Oreos)
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • green food coloring (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Line cupcake pan with paper liners and place a cookie at the bottom of each liner.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine cream cheese, condensed milk, egg, peppermint, vanilla, and flour.  Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined.
  3. If you want your cuppies to be green, add in some green food coloring (I did not do this).
  4. Stir in chocolate chips with a spatula.
  5. Divide the batter among the paper liners.  These cupcakes will not rise all that much.
  6. Take the remaining 5 cookies and crush them into large pieces in a plastic bag.  Sprinkle the cookie pieces among the top of the batter.
  7. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. 
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow the cupcakes to cool compelteley.
These cupcakes are so sweet that they don't need frosting.  But do you know what they do need?  Pokemon picks.
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I found the picks at Baker's Nook, but they are actually cheaper here.

pikachu i choose you!

I'm not going to lie. My team this month does spend some time talking about who is the cutest Pokemon (the winner thus far is Pichu). It's reason #147 that I love pediatrics.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate

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Do you like chocolate?  Then do I have a cupcake for you!  

These are chocolate cupcakes with a surprised dollop of chocolate ganache inside topped with a swirl of chocolate buttercream.  Chocolate chocolate chocolate, or choco^3.

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These cupcakes have a lot of steps, but it's really not that difficult.  The most difficult part for me was trying to figure out how to make a cup of hot coffee (I don't drink it and I definitely don't know how to brew it).  As always with chocolate cupcakes, it makes a difference if you use good quality chocolate.  I received the recipe as a photocopied page from an unknown cookbook.

First, the ganache!

Chocolate Ganache
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl.  
  2. Heat in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds until the mixture is warm.
  3. Whisk until smooth.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator until cool, but no longer than 30 minutes 

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Chocolaty Cupcakes - Makes 12
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broke into small pieces
  • 1/2 cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons oil (vegetable or canola)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F and line cupcake pan with paper liners
  2. Add the chocolate and cocoa into a medium sized bowl.  Pour the hot coffee over the chocolate and whisk until smooth.  Place in the fridge to allow it to cool completely (about 20 minutes).
  3. In a separate bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.  Whisk together and set aside.
  4. Take the now cool chocolate-cocoa-coffee mixture and whisk in the oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients and mix well with an electric mixer on medium speed (or increase your arm strength by continuing with the whisk).
  5. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake paper liners.  Spoon a heaping teaspoon of ganache oonto the center of each cupcake (it will sink into the center as it bakes). 
  6. Bake for about 17-19 minutes, or until the top of the cupcake springs back when you press on it.
  7. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan and then transfer to a wire rack and allow them to cool completely.
Mmmm... your kitchen will most likely smell like delicious chocolate now.  Onto the frosting!

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Chocolate Buttercream - Makes approximately 2 1/4 cups
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablepsoons) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate and 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled together
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  1. Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer (or a medium sized metal bowl) and place over a bowl of simmering water to create a double-boiler.
  2. Whisk the mixture constantly until the mixture becomes thicker and foamy, about 2-3 minutes.  If you want to be very precise, you can use a candy thermometer and whisk until the temperature is 150 degrees, but that's really just another thing to clean!
  3. Beat the mixture on medium speed until it becomes foamy like shaving cream and has cooled a little bit (or about 1-2 minutes).
  4. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time (it may look a little curdled, but it will become smooth as you keep mixing).
  5. After you have added all of the butter, add the cooled chocolate mixer and mix until well combined. 
  6. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy. 
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These cupcakes were described as "divine."  If you need a chocolate treat, give these a try!

They are approved by Dr. Maya:

Monday, August 9, 2010

My first gluten-free cupcakes

Gluten-free cupcakes
Yep. Forgot to photograph these until I was at work. iPhone photos it is.

One of the evening nurses in the ICU has celiac disease, which means that she cannot have foods with gluten.  I thought that it would be nice to make her some gluten-free cupcakes.  It seemed so easy when I told her that I would make some cupcakes that she would enjoy.  I didn't realize that there are SO many flour substitutes to choose from.  Quinoa flour.  Brown rice flour.  Almond flour.  Coconut four. 

I decided to stick with a recipe that just used corn starch, potato starch, and guar gum as the substitute for flour.  It seemed weird to me that one could use corn starch and potato starch could combine to make a substance that would be similar to flour, but according to Bob's Red Mill, they are commonly used in gluten-free baking.  The guar gum is: "a white flour-like substance made from an East Indian seed."  It's used as a binder so that the corn and potato starches stick together.

Cupcake at work

These cupcakes have anise extract in them.  A whole tablespoon worth.  I didn't mess with it because I didn't know what kind of flavor the starches and guar gum would impart on the cupcake.  Heck, maybe they taste gross and needed the strong licorice flavor to hide it.  The cupcakes have a strong anise taste, which isn't bad.  But I would either not use an entire tablespoon, or just use some vanilla.

Anise Gluten-free Cupcakes - Adapted from Kate Speach - Makes 12 cupcakes
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup corn starch
  • 2/3 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp guar gum
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon anise extract
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line cupcake pan with paper liners.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, add 2/3 cup sugar, corn starch, and potato starch.  Whisk together.
  3. Add the baking soda, guar gum, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together.
  4. Add the egg and beat with an electric mixer on medium-low speed. 
  5. Add the milk and beat on medium-low speed.
  6. Add the anise extract and milk.  Beat on medium speed until well combined, but do not over mix.
  7. Add the oil and the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and beat until ingredients are just combined.  The batter will be more viscous than glutenous cake batter.
  8. Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cupcake liners.
  9. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean
  10. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then transfer to cool completely on a cooling rack.
My only complaint with these cuppies is that they sort of look like popovers after they bake.  The tops are not smooth, so just take some extra care to smooth the top before you put them in the oven.  Several people on my team said that they didn't think that they would have known that they weren't regular glutenous cupcakes except for the fact that I had warned them first.


I just topped these with some vanilla buttercream and sprinkles.  I really piled the frosting on to sweeten the anise flavor.  It was totally worth the effort of gathering the ingredients and trying somethign very new in order to see the nurse enjoy a cupcake!

Do you know of any good gluten-free cake recipes?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blueberry Bliss

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I have done my fair share of fruit picking.  I have been cherry picking, raspberry picking, strawberry picking, and even apple picking (which isn't really as fun as it sounds).  Something was missing... blueberries!

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Not quite ripe for the picking

I went blueberry picking with Ilinca and Omari over the weekend.  I just sort of wandered around, half eating, half picking blueberries.  Ok, mostly eating and singing songs that I learned at camp to myself.  Ilinca and Omari seemed to at least have a method to their madness.  Look how many blueberries Ilinca captured:

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These blueberry babies needed a home.  And I decided that their home was going to be a blueberry cupcake.  I'm back on service again in the hospital (intensive care unit this time... which is.... intense) so I made them for my team.

bowl of blueberries

First, you need to make the blueberry puree...

Blueberry Puree
  • 2 1/2 cups blueberries, washed
  1. Put the blueberries into a saucepan.  Heat until boiling.  Yes, the blueberries boil.  They will start turning dark bluish purple and start releasing juice into the pan which will bubble.
  2. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  You want to end up with a nice saucepan of blueberry goo.
  3. Place blueberries in a food processor and pulse until completely blended.
  4. Ta da! Blueberry puree!
Ok, onto the good stuff!

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Blueberry Cupcakes - Adapted from Trophy Cupcakes - Makes 24
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2  cup + 1 tablespoon blueberry puree (see above)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • optional: extra blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners
  2. On low-medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar.  
  3. Add the egg one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  4. In a small bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix together with a whisk.
  5. In a separate bowl, add the milk, blueberry puree, and vanilla.
  6. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture.  Mix on medium speed until well combined, but no need to over-mix!
  7. If desired, you can stir in some blueberries into the batter for extra blueberry goodness.
  8. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full of batter.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
  9. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan and then allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.
The color of the cupcake batter is amazing!  The following photograph doesn't really do it justice.

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I ate one hot out of the oven and it was de-lish-ous.  Luckily, I still had some puree to use up in the frosting so I didn't eat the entire batch of cupcakes then and there.  You can top them with a blueberry swiss meringue buttercream, or use the blueberry buttercream recipe below.  You just add blueberry puree to a regular vanilla buttercream until you get a taste that you like.   No matter how much puree you add, you will get some variation of a beautiful magenta color.  No need for food coloring with this frosting!

swirl close-up
Bright Blueberry Buttercream
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 3-5 tablespoons blueberry puree
  1. On low-medium speed, cream the butter until pale and fluffy.  
  2. Add the confectioners sugar 1/2 cup at a time to the butter.  Mix on medium speed until well combined, taking the time to mix on high speed every once and a while to increase the fluffiness factor.
  3. Add the vanilla and mix well.
  4. Add the milk and mix well.
  5. Add the blueberry puree one tablespoon at a time to taste.  I wanted a more tart frosting, so I added 5 tablespoons. 
These cupcakes have a great flavor that really doesn't require any fancy frosting work.  You can just spread the frosting on with an offset spatula or a knife and top with a blueberry.

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Or, load that frosting on with a wilton 1m tip :)

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Ahh... blueberries.  They might just be the quintessential fruit of summer.  Well, that or watermelon.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Camp fun: Cupcake decorating

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently came back from working at a camp for children with bleeding disorders run by the Hemophilia Foundation of Michigan.  The first week had kids ages 6-10 and the second week was ages 11-13.  For the second week, counselors were able to devise of an activity that the campers could do every day that would help them develop a skill.  I had a cupcake decorating class!  

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Josh and me at the activity fair

I had a total of 8 campers, half boys and half girls. We made beach themed cupcakes (like the ones I made here), owls, dirt cups, sunflowers, grills, and had some free decorate time.

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The first day Karl, the head of the kitchen, asked if my cupcake class would decorate 96 mini-cupcakes so that the entire camp could have them for the evening snack.

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I said that it was no problem, but it was a little stressful showing kids how to pipe frosting with zip-lock bags and then asking them to decorate 96 mini-cupcakes in less than 45 minutes.

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I loved how different all of the cupcakes were!  One of my campers made the monster cupcake in the picture above.  So creative!  I think that the kids really liked that their friends got to eat the cupcakes that they decorated, too.  The counselors liked that there were so many extra cupcakes....

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Stevens, Brad, and Harvey chow down in the kitchen


Here are a couple of the owls people made:

owl

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I have to give a big THANK YOU to all of my co-counselors at camp that helped me set up and keep kids on task during the class.  It was so much fun, and it makes me want to do a cupcake decorating session with my friends at home!

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