Sunday, March 30, 2008

Jelly Roll Cupcake

A cupcake experiment - The Jelly Roll Cupcake. I bought a #230 tip that I found in the cake decorating aisle at Michaels. You use it to fill the center of a cupcake. This could be dangerous! I wanted to try something other than the typical chocolate or vanilla center so I asked Jim and Joe for their ideal cupcake. Jim is quite excited for a "pumpkin roll" cupcake that I plan on making tomorrow. Joe requested jelly roll, and here is what I came up with. I used a butter recipe yellow cake mix for the base, filled with strawberry jam, and topped with a buttercream and strawberry frosting.

This recipe was not a perfect venture.
Slight misstep #1 - I had planned on making the cake from scratch using an angel cake recipe, but forgot to buy cake flour. I keep a lot of cake mixes on hand for my class (its just easier to use a mix since this decorating class is for practice) and had a butter recipe mix. I don't know if I overbeat the mix or if it was that I use real butter and not margarine, but the batter was quite thick. I had to scoop and smooth it into the cupcake papers. This made the cupcake more of sponge like cake, which was wonderful.
Slight misstep #2 - Strawberry Jam. I would probably use jam again, because of the taste, but it is a little messy and difficult. Jam contains pieces of fruit which can clog the tip. It's not a huge issue, but it is a bit of a pain. You probably use jelly and not have the clogging issue, but I just don't like jelly, and if I don't like, it won't use it.

Jelly Roll Cupcake
24 cupcakes
Butter Recipe Yellow Cake Mix (follow directions and beat til thick)
Strawberry Jam
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
Pinch of coarse salt
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
About ten fresh strawberries

Make the cupcakes according to box, using real butter and mixing until thick.
Once cooled, using a decorating bag and tip #230, fill each cupcake center with strawberry jam. Hold the bag so that the tip is straight up and down. Insert deep into the cupcake, and apply pressure to fill the cupcake.
Beat the butter until creamed.
Add salt, turn down mixer to low speed and add confectioners sugar slowly until well combined.
Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons of the pureed strawberries. Mix until just blended. Frosting should be dense and creamy.
I used a #16 tip to pipe to frosting on the cupcakes.

Wheat bread and rolls

I started experimenting with breads about a month ago. I have a Kitchen Aid mixer that I love and had never used the dough hook on it. I thought it would be fun to give baking with the rising, proofing, etc. a whirl. So, I bought a sleeve of yeast packets and some bread flour, and began the journey.

My first shot was cinnamon rolls, and they were AMAZING. Jim said they were as good as Cinnabon (he is an honest critic of my culinary experiments). I don't have a picture but I will post the recipe later.

Next was a rosemary round. It was suppose to be just like the bread you get at Macaroni Grill. It wasn't. It was about 1/2 inch tall and looked more like a bread pancake than the nice crusty loaf from the restaurant. Plus, it was a little doughy in the middle - cooked through, but dough like. Judy said she loved and ate more than a polite, trying to be nice helping, so I think she may have really liked it. I didn't. I am pretty sure my water was too hot and I killed the yeast. Therefore, I will probably try to make it again someday.

Joe bought me the Joy of Cooking for my birthday (yeah!), and I started reading the bread section. They highly recommend an instant read thermometer to check the temp of your liquid before adding yeast. You can also test the internal temp of bread to check if its done (thanks Nik!)

This weekend, I made rolls and wheat bread. Both successes!

I actually made the rolls last weekend for Easter dinner. They were a hit. I personally think they are more of a sandwich roll than a true dinner roll, but Jim and Joe really liked them so I made them again Friday to go with the salad we were having for dinner. The method for these rolls is a little different than most breads, but it works well.

Wheat Bread:
The recipe is from the King Arthur Wheat Flour bag. It turned out well. It is more dense than bread you buy at the grocery, and I am very excited to have my sandwich on this yummy bread for lunch tomorrow

The recipe makes 16 rolls, but if you made 12 instead they would be a nice size for sandwiches.
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 pkgs active dry yeast (1/4oz packages)
  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup margarine, melted
  1. In medium saucepan over medium heat, warm milk, sugar and salt. Remove from heat and add in eggs and yeast.
  2. Measure flour into large bowl. Make a large well in the flour and pour milk mixture into it. Do not stir. Cover (with lid if you have one). Let sit for 20 - 30 minutes
  3. Pour melted margin into flour mixture and mix well. Add more flour if too sticky***(see below) Cover, and let rise 20 - 30 minutes.
  4. Shape the dough into rolls, and place on a baking sheet. Let rise 20 - 30 minutes.
  5. Bake rolls in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes.

***I added a little more than 1/4 cup flour to mixture. It was still a little sticky, but I placed a little butter on my hands when I shaped the dough. It made a nice crust and buttery flavor.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cake Decorating

Recently I started taking a cake decorating class at the local Michaels. It is offered through Wilton and I have had a lot of fun so far. The only part that hasn't been fun is the discovery of how icing is made (at least for this course). It is shortening and powdered sugar. Plus a few teaspoons of fake clear vanilla. Don't get me wrong, a little bit is great. But Crisco and powdered sugar.....on top of cake. Yikes! Oh well, it still looks pretty.
Here are the results are the first three weeks.
Rainbow - Class 1
We learned how to use piping gel to transfer an image to the cake and then fill it in.
Cupcakes - Class 2
Please note that the clowns were part of the weekly project. I find them odd and a little creepy, and would never present someone I liked even a little with a cupcake with a clown on top of it. The one in the middle is not deformed - he is suppose to be laying down with his head on his hands. You know the typical class of 95 senior picture pose.
Flower Cake - Class 3
This is the grand finale of course 1 (there are three). I think I did pretty well on this one. I made the cake as a layer cake. I made chocolate cake and used Oreo pudding as the center between the two layers. It was very good once you scraped off about 2/3 of the frosting.

I have been thinking of making a "family tree" cake for my family reunion in July. By July, I will have all three course completed. Just Al and Kate and their kids though. The entire family would require more cakes than I care to think about and I think I would clog an artery just buying that amount of Crisco for the frosting. Plus - I would be piping curly hair til then end of time.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A few things you should know

1 - I am not a professional. Aside from a one day pasta class I took at a specialty market in Westlake, advice from Tony the butcher in Palm Beach Gardens, and the current cake decorating class, I have no real training. I do read cookbooks, watch Food Network, and subscribe to several cooking magazines (its a bit of an obsession). I learn a lot from these resources and test a lot in the kitchen. That being said, the stuff here isn't fool-proof. Its just what does and doesn't work for me.

2 - Its not perfect. That is a lesson I continue to work on. I am truly my own worst critic. Not everything works, some stuff is better than others, some stuff just isn't good at all. I will write about it all. I am learning to embrace the messes and try new things. I use to get really down on myself, until I realized, this is what I am doing for fun. If it doesn't work, throw it away, and move on (taking notes on what went wrong). The worst that could happen is you wasted a little time on a recipe and don't have much to show for it except a "loaf" of bread that looks that a pancake.

3 - It won't always look like the picture. First off, Food Photography is a career. People are paid to cast the right light, and have the perfect backdrop before a picture is taken for a cookbook or magazine. Sometimes the food looks as pretty and perfect as the cookbook, sometimes it doesn't, and while presentation is big - especially in restaurants, I am at home. I prefer to present the food at a nicely set table on pretty platters. As pointed out in #2, I try not to stress over it. If it looks pretty to me, then I am fine with it. Jim's mom put it best when I was talking about how my stuff never looks like the Martha Stewart pictures that "It would if you had a staff of 100 people putting it all together for you."