Archive for May, 2011

Violette alongside her vanilla ice cream cone cupcakes with tie dye frosting

My mom always made ice cream cone cupcakes.  They were a summertime favorite and always a top choice for birthday parties at school.  We recently revisited this fun twist on a classic cupcake to celebrate my niece Violette’s 6th birthday.

Ice cream cone cupcakes are no different than regular cupcakes, except that you pour the batter into ice cream cones instead of cupcake wrappers.  You can place the filled cupcake cones in a muffin tin for baking.  Here is a great guide to preparing and baking these cakes.

My mom likes to use any cake mix or frosting that’s handy.  Homemade batters work well too.  See below for my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe, which is a great birthday treat with your favorite frosting.  If you want to make a tie dye frosting like Violette’s birthday cupcakes, check out this guide.

Birthday Cupcakes

Adapted from Magnolia Bakery
Makes 24 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.  Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla.  With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.

Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full.  Bakes for 20-22 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Fluffy Chocolate Frosting
Adapted from Hershey’s
Makes about 4 cups frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups cocoa
5 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Melt butter.  Stir in cocoa.  Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.  Add small amount additional milk, if needed.  Stir in vanilla.


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Lucy's whey, chelsea market

A few weekends ago I explored Chelsea Market and was able to experience the last day of the James Beard Foundation Pop up Shop.  I haven’t been to Chelsea Market in a while and was amazed by how quickly the space can change.

When I arrived I was famished, and with so many options, it was difficult to choose where to spend my lunch calories.  The fresh fish market was tempting, and the sushi looked amazing, but nothing could compare to the local cheese smorgasbord I encountered at Lucy’s Whey.

Three simple, tasty grilled cheese sandwiches were on display.  I chose the Prairie Breeze cheddar sandwich, with local pickles and sea salt butter.  It was the perfect treat.  Pressed hot and flat by an on-site panini grill, my sandwich was oozing cheesey goodness by the time I dug into it while enjoying the view from the Highline.

My lunch

I would definitely recommend a stop at this adorable artisan cheese shop.  In addition to whey, they also have some fun sweet treats, like beer & pretzel caramels.

Sweet treats at lucy's whey

Happy shopping!

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Macaron love

Almond macarons with chocolate ganache filling and a cup of mango tea

I can’t remember the first time I had a macaron, but I do remember when I fell in love with them.  It’s hard not to in Paris, where there is a charming patisserie on every corner filled with buttery, decadent pastries and macarons for miles. When I traveled to Paris in the winter of 2010 with my mother and sister Jocelin I made it a personal quest to explore the sweet side of Paris (side note: so excited for Ladurée to come to NYC!).

I have always wanted to make macarons at home, but was intimidated by countless mishap stories from friends that attempted to make this temperamental dessert.  My macaron outlook brightened when I recently saw a step-by-step guide featuring Joanne Chang in Fine Cooking magazine.  I decided it was finally time to tackle this dessert.  Plus, I was really missing Paris…

Overall, macarons are not hard to make.  They are actually very easy to make.  There are no special or difficult techniques required.  The ingredients are very basic.  If you set aside some time for this project and pay attention to what you’re doing, you will be successful every time.  My friend Mary, The Culinary Librarian, also has a lot of great tips for making macarons.

Below is a basic Almond Macaron recipe with Chocolate Ganache filling.  Once you have this recipe down, you can get creative with different flavors and have some fun.  If you’re confused about how to carry out a particular step of the recipe, Fine Cooking has great step-by-step videos that are easy to follow.

So don’t be scared, channel your inner Julia Child (or Joanne Chang in this case) and go for it!

French Macarons
Adapted from Joanne Chang’s recipe
Yields 20-30 sandwich cookies (depending on size of cookie)

1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsps confectioners’ sugar
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tbsps almond flour (the finer the grade, the smoother the texture of the cookie)
4 large egg whites, separated in advance, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Line three flat baking sheets with parchment or nonstick baking liners.  Use a round shape, such as a small cookie cutter or round spoon, to trace circles with a pencil on the parchment paper, approximately 2 inches apart.  This will guide you later, when you pipe the cookies on the trays.  Flip the parchment paper over (pencil side down) and set aside.

Making a macaron piping guide

Using a sieve, sift the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour into a large bowl and set aside. In a clean stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a large bowl and a hand mixer), whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy and the wires of the beaters leave a trail, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add 1 tbsp of the granulated sugar and continue to whip for another 30 to 45 seconds. Repeat three times with the remaining granulated sugar. Once all of the sugar is mixed in, continue whipping the whites until they turn glossy and stiff (when you lift the beaters from the bowl, the whites should hold a straight peak that doesn’t curl at the tip), 4 to 8 minutes more.

Whipped egg whites

With a large rubber spatula, fold in half of the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once most of it has been incorporated, fold in the remaining mixture until just combined.

Using a piping bag fitted with a round tip, pipe the batter onto the prepared sheets in rounds, using the pattern you stenciled on the parchment paper.  As you pipe, hold the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet and flick the tip of the bag as you finish each cookie to minimize the peaks. Rap the sheet against the counter several times to flatten the mounds and pop any large air bubbles. Let the trays of cookies rest until the meringues no longer feel tacky,approximately 20 to 30 minutes.  Do not rush this process.  Meanwhile, position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.

Macarons resting, waiting for the oven

You can put two cookie sheets in the oven at a time, but I prefer to bake them one at a time.  Put one of the cookie sheets in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 300°F (it’s ok to let the other sheet(s) sit at room temperature).  Bake, rotating the sheets and swapping their positions after 8 minutes, until the meringues are very pale golden, 15 to 20 minutes total.  Do not overbake!  My cookies were a large tablespoon and baked perfectly for 19 minutes.  Watch them carefully toward the end, as they will brown quickly.

Cool completely on the baking sheets on racks. Meanwhile, return the oven temperature to 325°F and then bake the second and third sheets as above.  When cooled completely, remove the meringues from the parchment and pair them by size.
Chocolate Ganache Filling
Recipe adapted from Joanne Chang
Yields 1 1/4 cups
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat, swirling the pan a few times, until bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan but the cream is not yet boiling, about 4 minutes.  Remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and let sit for 30 seconds.  Slowly whisk the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

Hot cream and chocolate

Let cool to room temperature before piping onto the meringues.  The ganache may be made up to 1 week ahead. Refrigerate in an airtight container and bring to room temperature before using.Using a piping bag with the same tip used to pipe the cookies, pipe 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons of the filling onto half of the cookies—you want to use just enough filling that it spreads to the edge when topped but doesn’t squish out much when bitten. Top the filled halves with their partners.
The cookies are best the day they’re made, but you can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day or in the freezer for up to two weeks.

For variations on these recipes, click here.

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Laduree macarons

No more stock piling macarons carefully in your carry on, or buying as many cartons as you can fit when you sadly walk past the last kiosk at Charles de Gaulle.  Finally, those moist, crunchy, cakey bites of Parisian heaven will be at your doorstep, well, very nearly…  

In July, the United States will be added to a long list of countries that are already home to their very own Ladurée shops, including England, Japan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.  I can’t think of a better neighborhood than the Upper East Side to welcome Maison Ladurée, except maybe the Journal Square section of Jersey City…

Me dancing around outside of Maison Ladurée in Paris

Check out Eater for more information about this exciting new sweet spot, or browse Ladurée’s adorable website.

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Sassy sweet treats cookies

Nothing’s better than spending a sunny spring day outside.  This weekend, my sister Jocelin and I headed to the Hoboken Arts & Music Festival, a terrific annual event that showcases local artists, music, crafts and food.  After a filling brunch at The Brass Rail, we took to the streets in search of sweet spots.

Jocelina enjoying a cookie

First we found Sassy Sweet Treats, a very cute and friendly table filled with cookies, brownies and the only two remaining chocolate whoopie pies.  They currently only sell their sweets online, however, also participate in many area farmer’s markets (including the Von Vorst Farmer’s Market in Jersey City as of June) and hope to open a store one day.  We took home toffee oatmeal (my favorite!) and dark chocolate chunk cookies.

Next up was a return visit to Sweet, one of very few cupcake shops in Jersey City.  This shop offers approximately 10 different varieties in regular and mini sizes. 

Sweet, in Hoboken

I love the very pretty frosting swirls on these cupcakes (which were unfortunately very disturbed by the time I arrived home with them…do not judge them based only on this photo!).  I tried the fluffer nutter (vanilla cake topped with peanut butter frosting and fluff), a basic vanilla cupcake (vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream) and a chocolate peanut butter cupcake (chocolate cake with peanut butter icing).  The peanut butter icing was definitely the favorite (I know, not very surprising for us peanut butter lovers!).

Three mini cupcakes from sweet

Along our way we also spotted a new German Bakery on Washington Blvd.  Neither of us are big fans of the name, but their doughnuts did look pretty tasty.  I’ll have to take a trip their next…

Old German bakery

 Just another day scoping out the sweet scene!

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