Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Laura's Surprise Strawberry Cupcakes....two months later

One of my favorite friends had a birthday back in January and so we all gathered for a little surprise birthday at Cuba Libra on Henderson in her honor. Side note: If you ever find yourself at Cuba Libra, I recommend the Dugeness Crab BLT Tacos and Mango margarita.

I thought it would be nice to make Laura some cupcakes, so I called her up and told her I would like to bake something for her since I had to work all weekend and was going to miss her birthday. (just fyi: DID NOT ruin the surprise. Even though I am sure some people would peg me as the type to spill the beans). Laura decided she wanted Strawberry cupcakes. Seriously? I haven't had a strawberry cupcake since the 2nd grade, but I would make it work. I scoured the web for some recipes (because I didn't want to use a box).

I found one recipe that used strawberry puree, strawberry gelatin and white cake box mix. I thought I could use it as a guideline to create my own from scratch strawberry cake. But I bought a box of cake mix and some extra frozen strawberries, just in case. In the end, the whole adventure turned out wonderfully.

Strawberry batter

Pretty in Pink

Strawberry Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream

My friend loved (I'm pretty sure) the cupcakes and I was very satisfied how they turned out. I decided on a vanilla buttercream for the frosting. I think if I do strawberry cupcakes again, I might try a different frosting. The strawberry cake is so sweet I think I need an icing that will downplay the sweetness. Perhaps cream cheese?


How do I get a birthday tiara?!

Make a wish

Let me admit that it has been too long since I made these cupcakes. Since I altered a recipe and I didn't write it down (iiiii-diot) I am going off my memory. I am pretty sure this will work out well...if it doesn't, ooops?

Here's the recipe:

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups sifted flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 3-ounce box strawberry gelatin
1 10-ounce package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons milk*

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl
Cream butter and sugar
Mix in vanilla
Add eggs gradually
Add flour and strawberry puree alternately, beginning and ending with flour
Add milk in as needed*

*Since there was the strawberry puree, I used this as the liquid ingredient. The batter was a little thick, so I added milk a tablespoon at a time. I also needed to be careful not to overmix. So I would just be careful if you do end up making this recipe.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Maybe I should've given up bread...

For Lent this year I gave up sweets. Pretty big sacrifice given I am in school for pastry. I do have a provision I can taste in class. And I have been really, really good about the tasting. But bread, bread is a different story. And I think this particular day was the first Tuesday after Ash Wednesday. We made four breads that week, one being brioche. I cannot say enough about how wonderfully delicious (and sinfully fattening) brioche is. We made up the bread in three ways: loafs, grand tetes and tetes. The tetes are usually baked in a fluted bowl, but we improvised and just used a round bowl for the big ones, and the fluted tartlet pans for the small ones.

Brioche Loaf

Brioche in a bowl...or how we baked our Grand Tetes

Brioche Grand Tetes -- finished product

Brioche Tetes...aka individual pieces of yummyness

The second bread we did was challah. My roommate really loves challah so I brought home two loves - one for her and one for work. (I like to bring my breads to work so I can share my breads with others since my family is so far away). The coolest thing about the challah was the braiding. I always feel so accomplished when I do something so neat. Practicals are this week, so we'll see how well I remember the six braided technique.

Six-braided Challah loaf

The next bread was an olive fougasse. This bread was pretty good, and had a really cool makeup. Surprisingly, I hate olives (especially black), but I don't mind black olives in bread. I liked it better than the olive bread we made earlierr in the semester.

Olive Fougasse

Finally, we made aloo paratha, which is an Indian bread stuffed with potatoes and spices. We topped it with a tasty cucumber yougurt, provided by J. Mac's husband. It's always a treat when he makes his cameos in class because it usually means we're getting something good to eat.

Aloo Paratha

with cucumber yougurt

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ice Creams and Plate Presentation

About three or four weeks were dedicated to ice cream and plate presentations. We started with the basics: chocolate and vanilla. We could have done coffee instead of chocolate, but when ever confronted with a variation our group always picks chocolate. To go with the ice cream we made almond tuiles, which is basically a very thin cookie that can be shaped right after being pulled from the oven. They taste similar to and ice cream cone. This was the week after the wonderful caramel sauce so we decided to do caramel again along with a raspberry coulis. There was an attempt at white chocolate, but it didn't really turn out for us.

Just playing around...

The first week we did the tuiles, we didn't form them soon enough after pulling them out of the oven, so as you can see they are all flat. The following week we learned from our mistakes and was able to give our cookies some shape.

Here are some of the other plate presentations with ice cream:

Kiwi coulis, white chocolate sauce &
Mango-Kiwi Philly Style Ice Cream

Strawberry-Kiwi Sorbet...or maybe Raspberry
I can't remember, but it was good!

Japonaise Meringue, Caramel Cage & Fresh fruit

Peach Napolean with Peach Ice Cream

Frozen Mousse

Poached Pear in Wine

Thursday, March 5, 2009

i heart bread

I can't say how much I just love Breads & Rolls. Bread is a long process - we make the doughs on Monday to ferment overnight and then bake off on Tuesday - and we are usually baking about 5 breads each week. The ice day we had at the beginning of the semester set us back so we've been playing catch up ever since so we could make all the breads on our syllabus. And all of the breads we've made in class have been a huge hit at work. This week was particulary awesome because we made English muffins and at the time I was eating English muffins every morning for breakfast. It's also fun to learn how to shape, like boules, batards and baguettes. Here's a look at our breads:

Whole Wheat Batard

Semolina Boule

Garlic and Cheese Drop Biscuits

Focaccia Bread

English Muffins

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

JELLO Puddings

Let me start by saying this was by far my least favorite week (if weeks were strictly decided by desserts). We made several different types of puddings and souffles. It is always fun to learn how to bake different types of deliciousness, but I am not going to lie, it's a little bit more fun when I enjoy what I eat taste.*

I will rank in order of yummyness:
  1. Savory Souffle (aka Cheese Souffle) who doesn't lurve baked eggs and cheese?!
  2. Caramel Sauce ok, technically NOT an individual dessert, but was perfect for dipping apple slices
  3. Steamed Blueberry Pudding I was totally surprised this was sooo good
  4. Chocolate Bread Pudding as a chocoholic, I was disappointed I didn't enjoy this more
  5. Chocolate Souffle see above note. Chocolate and eggs - not a winning combo
  6. Rice Pudding it wasn't horrible, but the texture was just weird

Savory Souffle

Souffle Anecdote: In the bakeshop we have several smaller size mixers (think KitchenAid size as opposed to the larger 12 quart mixers we use for most everything else) that we use a lot for whipping creams & egg whites. On this particular day, there were not enough whips (the whisk looking attachment) and instead of waiting for one to become available I decided to start whipping the egg whites by hand. Lemme tell you, it was certainly an arm work out, but I got the whites to stiff peaks and the souffles turned out great! I know it's not really a major feat, but in this day and age where we depend on electronics for everything I felt rather accomplished.

Rice Pudding

Individual Rice Pudding Portion

Caramel Sauce

Caramel Sauce Anecdote: This caramel sauce looked too good to use just for rice pudding (which as I mentioned was texturely unappealing). The Subway at school sells apple slices so me and another group member took a little field trip to Subway during class so we could enjoy a tasty snack. It was worth every penny.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Individual Bread Pudding Portion

Steamed Blueberry Pudding

Steamed Blueberry Pudding with Hard Sauce

I had never heard of steamed blueberry pudding, but this was really good. It's basically brown sugar, butter, bread crumbs, milk & blueberries (with small amounts of eggs, cinnamon and flour). We topped it with a hard sauce which is very similar to a buttercream frosting, but with a higher percentage of butter. The hard sauce melted on top of the blueberry pudding creating a really nice rich flavor.

Up Next: Ice Creams!! And lots of plate presentations....

*I would like to say I can just taste the items we bake in class, but that would be a flat out lie. I do have a sweet tooth, and recently it has been a little out of control so for Lent I gave up sweets (quelle horreur!). The provision is I can only TASTE in class.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

[Thinking of a clever title about bread]

Not that my blog title's are all that clever....

One of the great joys of this semester is coming home on Tuesday night with fresh baked bread*. For some reason it seems like such a great accomplishment to me to create a rye loaf or semolina boule. There really is an art to bread, and though it may not be my favorite thing to make, it is certainly a wonderful knowledge to have. My instructor[J. Mac]**, who teaches both my classes, is from Scotland and it's so much fun to listen to her Scottish accent all day. And she also provides us with a lot of instruction. Seriously, I just did a six braided Challah loaf today...but that will be for another post.

Grissini Bread Sticks (with parmesan & garlic)

Soft Rolls

Rye Loaves

Are you totally impressed?!

I am waaaay too lazy to make bread at home (there are 12 steps & fermentation takes so long) so it will really be sad once this semester comes to an end.

*It always goes so well with my Corner Bakery salad, which has become a Tuesday night staple after spending the entire day eating sweets and bread. And it seriously puts the CB ciabatta roll to shame

**J. Mac is just a nickname, but it has a nice ring to it. And she loves it!

Monday, February 23, 2009

I'm Back!....

...And hopefully with more frequent updates. I have been back in school for over a month and it has been full of fun desserts, delicious breads, and lots of learning. Unfortunately, I do not have as much free time this semester as I did last semester. I seriously have about twenty blog entries that I want to do, but just can't seem to dedicate the time necessary to upload pictures, type out recipes, etc. The saddest part of all: I haven't even been able to keep up with my favorite blogs.

Anyhow, onto the fun stuff. This semester I am taking two lab [baking] classes (as opposed to lecture classes): Advanced Pastry Shop and Breads & Rolls. Advanced Pastry is a great deal of fun. We've made some wonderful desserts: Creme Brulee, Chocolate Mousse, Bread Pudding & Ice Cream are just a few. The best part is the plate presentation. We make a lot of different fruit coulis, dessert sauces and cookies to create our plate presentations for our desserts. Here are some of the early desserts:

Creme Brulee

Bavarian Cream [back] & Chocolate Mousse [front]

The First Plate Presentation [Bavarian Cream]

Fruit Bavarian

Lemme just admit that I have a wicked sweet tooth. And I have a special place in my heart for chocolate. The day we did all of these desserts I made the rookie mistake of not eating before school. (Seriously, going to school hungry is by far the WORST thing a girl can do). Anyway, by the end of the day I had the worst stomach ache from all the sugar, but it was worth it because all of the above items were delish.

I am really going to try and catch up. I will be back soon with some words and pictures about bread.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dessert Party Recipes: Nut Cookies and Jam Tarts

Miracle of all miracles! A new post! I apologize for not posting at all recently, but I have been tres, tres busy. School started a couple weeks ago and between school and work I have had very little free time. And since school is back in session I really need to get this blog updated so I can share all my fun from the bakeshop. But for right now I am going to share some more Dessert Party recipes. The dessert party that was over a month ago. I feel like such a slacker.

Nut Cookie

Jam Tarts

I made both nut cookies and jam tarts during fundamentals last semester and they were both recipes I really wanted to try again at home. And I think they are perfect holiday cookies. I also got some graduated fluted round cookie cutters from Santa Claus that I was dying to use. Since both of these recipes are from school the ingredients are weighed, not measured.


7 oz. Butter
2 1/2 oz. Powdered sugar
1 oz. Brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon Sea salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
8 oz. Bread flour
6 oz. Ground nuts*


Preheat oven until 350 degrees
Cream butter and sugars
Mix in flour, salt vanilla and ground nuts
Mold cookies into desired shapes
Bake until golden brown
Dust cooled cookies with confectioners' sugar

*You can use whatever kind of nuts you prefer. I used pecans.
-- -- -- -- -- --

The Jam Tarts are a short dough cookie with a jam filled center. We used a Stawberry Sambuca Jam my mom got at a craft fair and Smuckers Red Raspberry Jam.


8 oz. Butter
4 oz. Sugar
3/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 Egg
3/4 teaspoon Vanilla extract
12 oz. Pastry flour*


Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cream butter and sugar
Add egg
Mix in flour, salt and vanilla
After mixing the dough it's best to refrigerate the dough so the dough is cold when you are ready to roll it out
Roll out dough to 1/8-in. thick and cut out dough with large, round cutters. Using a 1/2-in. cutter, cut out the centers of half the rounds
Bake until cookies are golden brown around the edges. It's best to put the tops and bottoms on separate cookie sheets to ensure even baking
Once baked, cool completely
Sandwich the tops and bottoms together with a small dab of jam, so the jam shows through the hole on top
Dust the tops with confectioners' sugar (don't worry if the sugar covers the jam in the center hole. The water in the jam will absorb the sugar)

*You can substitute all-purpose flour for pastry flour