Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dissection of a bad cupcake

So what makes a cupcake "bad" you might ask. Well let me fill you in on a bad cupcake with my list of 3 sure ways to tell if a cupcake is truly "bad".
1. It can be used as a weapon.
Example: You see that woman who used to shamelessly flirt with your boyfriend/significant other, even though she knew he was taken, so you chuck the cupcake at her and it knocks her unconscious. Oops, now run like hell! ( joking :), or am I? )
2. The frosting can be used as a lube. Get your minds out of the gutter :)
Example: Your secret cookie stash cabinet has developed a noisy hinge. You could use the bad cucpake frosting to oil it up so your boyfriend/significant other doesn't catch you mid-cookie sneaking. Now try not to look like a deer in the headlights and start babbling about how you just found these cookies, and instead say, "Oh I was just coming to find you and see if you'd like a cookie."
3. You've tried this place's cupcakes not once, not twice, but 5 TIMES! to see if the cupcakes have changed from bad to good.
There is this great little restaurant with a cute little bakery by you. Now this bakery has tasty bread, to-die-for fruit tarts, and your all-time favorite sweet, pain au chocolat. But honestly, I'm convinced they couldn't make a decent cupcake if their life depended on it. And don't even get me started on the mountain of inedible frosting they use.
List aside, did I mention that the cupcakes are always so pretty and twice the size of a normal cupcake? You're thinking about #1 now and picturing a softball instead of a cupcake, aren't ya? I really really wish that their cupcakes would magically change to something delicious. Or at least something I wouldn't mind using up a daily amount of calories on.
Now for the unveiling of the place with the "bad" cupcakes. Drumroll please...
Originally from Chicago, they decided to build another Medici here in Normal. Now don't get me wrong, the restaurant is lovely and almost everything their bakery makes is good, except for those damn cupcakes. Who oh why can they not be good?! If I had remembered to take my camera with me, you could have seen how beautiful the cupcakes are, but alas I only had my phone camera to work with. So my apologies for the bad pictures of the bad cupcakes :(

And as for this bottom picture, no I did not eat the whole cupcake. I spread the cupcake love around and gave each of my co-workers a piece :) Aren't I so sweet and nice? (wink, wink)

Stay tuned for my next bakery adventure!

Daring Bakers and a have-it-your-way cheesecake!!

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Since I've never made cheesecake before, I was super excited to tackle this challenge. I immediately began thinking of flavor combinations. That's right, Jenny said we could do any flavor or crust, as long as we followed the base recipe. Yea!

I finally decided on a mint Oreo crust with the plain cheesecake, dotted with Andes mint pieces and topped with melted Andes mints and mint Oreos. Go ahead and start drooling, you have my permission :)

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

2 cups/180 crushed mint Oreos
1 stick/4 oz. butter, melted
2 tbsp./24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks cream cheese, 8 oz. each, room temperature
1 cup/210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup/8 oz. heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice (I left this out because of all the mint flavors)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp. liquer, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake (I left this out as well, but maybe next time I would add mint Bailey's)
1-2 cups Andes mint pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180c = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. ( I put the Andes mint pieces on top of the crust and poured the batter over it.) Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finishing cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.
Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.
Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

Stay tuned for my next baking adventure!
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Hoppy 1 Day After Easter!

I was so distracted by my very own Easter bunny, aka Sir Hops Alot, that I almost forgot to post these yummy cookie bars that I made for my co-workers. And yes, I did name my rabbit Sir Hops Alot. Go ahead, I'll give you a couple of minutes to have a good laugh...

Now back to these cookies or should I say cookie bars. I'd like to thank whomever thought to put sugar cookie dough into a cookie sheet and make these seriously wonderful treats. Lately over on Tastespotting I'd been seeing pictures of sugar cookie bars showing up. So I pulled out my recipes and found my sugar cookie dough. Since it looked like many people were spreading their dough onto a cookie sheet I did have to double the recipe, which I have already doubled at the bottom. So totally worth it!

Sugar Cookie Bars
1 cup of butter (I used unsalted) softened
1 1/2 cups of sugar
4 eggs
3 tsp. of vanilla
5 cups of flour
(plus a little extra to help keep your fingers from sticking as you press the dough into the pan)
1 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of baking soda
-Preheat oven to 375 F.
-In a large bowl, cream your butter and sugar together.
-Add each egg one at a time, mixing between each addition.
-Add vanilla, mix, and set aside.
-In a medium bowl combine your flour, salt, and baking soda. Make sure to give it a little whisk.
-Gradually add your dry mixture to your butter and sugar mixture until all the flour is incorporated.
-Grease your cookie sheet (13x18) and spread dough out onto it. Use your hands and a little bit of flour to pat it down evenly in the pan.
-Bake for about 12-15 minutes. (Mine took about 15 minutes.)
-Once they've cooled you can cut them into any shape and frost with whatever frosting you love. (I made a basic powdered sugar buttercream frosting and then sprinkled with large colored crystal sugar. Mmmm :) )

Stay tuned for my next baking adventure!

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pure Decadence

This is exactly the phrase that comes to mind as you take your first bite of Decadence's signature cheesecake. White chocolate, milk chocolate Heath toffee, caramel bits, oreo crust....oh sorry I went into a cheesecake trance. You would too if you could taste this cheesecake. This was hands down, one of the best cheesecakes I've ever tasted. Sorry Cheesecake Factory :(

Now cheesecake was not the only thing I had planned on trying. My sole purpose was to try their pain au chocolats from the day they opened. Because I can count on one hand the number of bakeries here in town that actually know what these are, let alone make them. While it may not have been a real Parisian chocolate croissant, it came sort of close.

It had the right amount of chocolate and it had a nice flaky outside. The only problem was that it was a bit heavy. I'm not sure what the French do to make their croissants light and airy, but it's a technique I've yet to taste on this side of the pond. That's not to say that I won't be going back for another Decadence pain au chocolat. I'll just be continuing my search for the perfect american version of these delicious chocolate bundles of heaven :)

In the meantime, if you find yourself in central Illinois craving a pain au chocolat, you should stop on over at Decadence. You may find me drooling in front of the cheesecake display.

Stay tuned for my next bakery adventure!