Sunday, May 16, 2010

Everyone Loves Cupcakes

One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes. Makes about 22.

Most cupcake recipes yield dry, flat cupcakes that overflow their cups and get stuck on the pan. I learned early on that even though every recipe says fill each liner two-thirds full, bakers at high altitude should aim for half instead. I also prep my muffin pans with more liners that the recipe calls for because sea level recipes usually require a but more flour, and the batter expands higher and faster.

The following recipe is now my go-to for chocolate cupcakes. With some help on cake adjustments from Pie in the Sky by Susan G. Purdy, I got Martha's sea level recipe to produce lovely, dark, moist, full, and round topped cupcakes. Third time’s a charm! This is what worked:

1 & ½ cups PLUS 2 TBS all purpose flour
¾ unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa flour
1 & ½ cups MINUS 2 TBS sugar
1 & ¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
2 large eggs
¼ cups PLUS 2 TBS buttermilk
3 TBS vegetable oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¾ cup warm water
large bowl
muffin pans
paper muffin cup liners
standing or hand held mixer

1. Line 2 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners (always more that the recipe calls for because of adjustments described above).
2. Turn oven on to 375 degrees.
3. In large bowl whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until thoroughly blended.
4. Add eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and water.
5. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Don’t worry about the thin consistency, you’ve done nothing wrong!
6. Fill lined tins ½ to 2/3 full of batter. I use an almost full ¼ plastic cup measure for easy scooping and consistency.
7. Place both pans in oven, turn down to 360 degrees and bake for 8 minutes.
8. Rotate pans 180 degrees and move the top pan to the bottom rack, and the bottom pan to the top rack.
9. Bake for 8 more minutes or until cake tester (or toothpick)inserted into center cupcake comes out clean, without any crumbs.
10. Cool full pans on wire rack for 8 minutes.
11. Turn out cupcakes onto racks to cool completely.
12. Frost and serve ASAP or store in airtight container immediately.

So far my favorite frosting of ALL TIME is Martha’s “Fluffy White Frosting.” But for the occasion of Lily’s birthday, I topped these with Martha’s Dark Chocolate Frosting. It tastes like a melted candy bar but I haven’t perfected its consistency yet. I must be doing something wrong because it has not really turned out on tries one and two. In my opinion it is much too thin and definitely cannot be used for piping, as the recipe suggests, even after adding extra powdered sugar. Oh well, the third time HAS been a charm with the cookies and cupcakes, so maybe next time !

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Start With Something Easy

Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Save energy! Preheating an oven for an hour or more is not necessary. “When European and American cooking tools and classic recipes were developed, wood- or coal-fired home ovens were slow to come up to temperature and ovens were unevenly heated until the cook had time to spread the embers and wait for heat to disperse from all sides: hence, preheating made sense to our ancestors and early cookbook authors (” Figure out how long your oven takes and time its turn on appropriately. if you have a relatively new model, it shouldn't take long. Also consider turning it off near the end of bake time. My digital thermostat makes it easy to monitor the exact temperature and come to find out, is more accurate and efficient. And don’t open the oven to peek, that’s what the window is for ;)

2 and ¼ cups unbleached all purpose flour
Just under ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
12 TBS (1 and ½ sticks) grade AA unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1 to 1 and 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks and or chips (I use 1 plus a few extra)
Baking sheets
Quilon free, unbleached parchment paper
Hand held or standing mixer
Wire cooling racks

1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
3. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
4. In a large bowl, beat the melted butter and sugars together with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth (1-2 minutes).
5. Next beat in egg, egg yolk, and vanilla on medium until combined (about 30 seconds), scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.
6. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add 1/3 of the flour mixture until just combined.
7. Increase mixer speed to medium and add another 1/3 of the flour mixture.
8. Add remaining flour mixture and chocolate chunks. Use wooden spoon to finish mixing dough if your mixer sounds like it's working really hard. It may feel stiff but this is needed to help the cookies keep shape and thickness at altitude!
9. Roll dough into 2 TBS balls (see cookie spoon pic below), making sure chocolate is well incorporated and dough isn’t cracking. If it is just keep molding and rolling between your warm hands for a few more seconds.
10. Place dough balls on baking sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart.
11. Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, for 8 minutes and then rotate sheet and bake for an additional 8 minutes.
12. Remove from oven (even if they haven’t browned at all) and let cool on pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
13. Serve or store in air tight container immediately. Cookies baked at altitude dry out QUICKLY!
14. Eww I hate odd numbers so let's make up step #14. Eat with cold milk!

I use this handy dandy cookie spoon I got at Bed Bath and Beyond for scooping. It has a flexible bottom for easy dough removal. To create 2 TBS balls for this recipe, I aim for "rounded" spoonfulls. That means more than level but less than "heaping."

Taking pictures of baked goods is hard. Taking pictures of baked goods at night is harder. I think I'll have to develop my photography skills along with this blog...