Best Fudge Brownies Ever, Creation #10

Someone at work told me it was impossible to make fudge brownies taste as good as the Duncan Hines mix, especially at this altitude, so it was a challenge for me. I went in search of great recipe that would be better than Duncan Hines.

I found a recipe in Tartine, aka the greatest cookbook ever. These brownies are super easy to make.

Recipe adapted from Tartine.

Fudge Brownies:

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup (6 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate,coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp (4-1/2 oz) All-purpose flour /130 g
  • 5 Large eggs
  • 2 cups (14 oz) dark brown sugar,lightly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees,  butter a 9-x-13-inch pan.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. If the heat from the butter does not fully melt the chocolate, put the pan back over the heat for 10 seconds and stir until melted, set aside to cool.
  3. Sift the flour into a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment,beat on high speed until the mixture thickens and becomes pale in color and falls from the beater in a wide ribbon that folds back on itself and slowly dissolves on the surface, takes about 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, fold the cooled chocolate into the egg mixture.
  6. Add the flour and fold it in quickly but gently with the rubber spatula so that you don’t deflate the air that’s been incorporated into the eggs.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared dish and smooth the top with the spatula.
  8. Bake until the top looks slightly cracked and feels soft to the touch, about 25 minutes.
  9. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
  10. Using a sharp knife, cut into desired shape.
  11. Sift confectioner’s sugar over brownies and enjoy.

NOTE: You can’t use a cake tester to judge doneness for these brownies. Because the batter has a high percentage of chocolate, the tester comes out wet even if the brownies are done.

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Traditional Red Velvet, Creation #9

This Wednesday I will be back in Louisiana for the first time since November 2010 and I will be baking at sea level again (Yeah!). Every year for my mom and grandmother’s birthday, I make them red velvet cupcakes, and this year will be no different. My mother is an expert judge in red velvet cupcakes; therefore perfection is a must.

I have searched for the perfect red velvet cupcake, and it was a difficult task. While watching Cupcake War (I know I am obsessed), Florian Bellanger said a red velvet cupcake should be colored mostly from the cocoa powder, not just from food coloring. So, I found awesome cocoa powder, and pretty great recipe.

Recipe courtesy of the Food Network

Red Velvet Cupcakes:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with line regular-size cupcake  pans with 24 regular cupcake liners.
  2. In mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt.
  3. In another mixing bowl, stir together the eggs and oil.
  4. In a mixing cup, mix together the buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla extract and lightly whisk.
  5. Gradually add the dry ingredients and buttermilk mixture to the egg mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. We are trying to make a dark brown, red cupcake color, so add more cocoa powder, if the red is not deep enough.
  6. Then add the batter to the mini cupcake liners until they are 3/4-full and bake for 13 to 14 minutes, or until done. Alternately, fill the regular-size cupcake liners and bake 22 minutes, or until done. Let the cupcakes cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 Tablespoon orange juice
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine the cream cheese, butter,in a large mixing bowl and blend for 2 minutes.
  2. Add salt, vanilla, orange zest and juice, blend to combine.
  3. Add confectioner’s sugar, one cup at a time. Once all sugar is added mix for 2 minutes.

Assembly of Cupcakes:

  1. With desired pastry tip, fill pastry bag, save one cupcake without frosting.
  2. Pipe on cupcakes.
  3. Crumble saved cupcake and sprinkle over cupcakes. Enjoy!

Chocolate and Caramel Cupcakes, Creation # 8

Back to the basics, cupcake style! So, I know people poke fun at Ina Garten’s use of “good” ingredients, however, I never really noticed the difference until I used “good” cocoa powder then switching backing to Hershey definitely made a difference. By no means am I a chocolate snob, it was just something I noticed.

I may have added a little flavor by filling the cupcake with caramel sauce.

Recipe courtesy of Joy of Baking.

Chocolate Cupcake:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 cup boiling hot water
  • 1-1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F, line 16 muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. In a small bowl stir until smooth the boiling hot water and the cocoa powder. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Then in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. Then add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.
  5. Fill each muffin cup about two-thirds full with batter and bake for about 16-20 minutes or until risen, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. (Do not over bake or cupcakes will be dry.) Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing. You can either spread the frosting on the cupcakes with a small spatula or if piping, use a large Wilton 1M open star tip to make lovely swirls. These cupcakes are best the day they are made, but can be covered and stored for a few days.

Caramel Sauce:

See this post!

Chocolate Buttercream:

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) semi sweet chocolate, melted and cool
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate in heat safe bowl over warm water and let cool.
  2. Sift cocoa, confectioner’s sugar and salt together. 
  3. In a mixer fitted with paddle attachments, cream butter.
  4. Add cool melted chocolate, mix well to combine.
  5. Add vanilla, mix to combine.
  6. Gradually add sugar mixture to butter mixture and mix for about 3 minutes.
  7. Add heavy cream, mix to combine.

Assemble Cupcakes:

  1. Cut center out of cupcakes with apple corer or 1 inch circle cutter.
  2. Fill squeeze bottle with caramel sauce and fill centers of cupcakes.
  3. With desired tip or spatula, ice cupcakes.

ENJOY!

 

How To: Caramel Sauce

I have the perfect caramel sauce that I absolutely love. It is made through the dry sugar method, so no worrying about crystallizing sugar. Here is the step-by-step guide. Add less butter for a less thick caramel sauce. Caramel sauce can be used on ice cream, tops of cakes, fillings for cupcakes, added to buttercream, confections, etc.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Measure out all ingredients.

2. Heat sugar, stir occasionally, so sugar does not burn. Sugar will look crumbly before melting. Sugar should melt completely and be an amber color.

3. Add butter, stir until fully combined.

4. Turn heat off, then add heavy cream, stir until combined. If heavy cream is too cold, mixture will curdle, just heat for a minute or two.

5. Transfer to heat safe bowl, and add vanilla extracts and stir to combine.

6. Let cool, reheat as needed. Last up to a week in refrigerator.

Vanilla-Vanilla Cupcakes, Creation #7

I know I can be a little overzealous with flavors, so I have tried to dial it back a bit and just make the basics. What’s the most basic flavor: vanilla. I use vanilla bean paste, if don’t have any, get some, it is amazing!

Vanilla Cupcakes:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup  granulated white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups  all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 cupcake tins with liners.
  2. In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  5. Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 15-20 minutes or just until set and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. (Do not over bake or the cupcakes will be dry.) Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
  6. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with buttercream.

Italian buttercream (the finest of buttercreams)

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz (1 cup) sugar
  • 2 oz (1/4 cup) water
  • 4 oz (4 whites) egg whites
  • 10 oz (1-1/2 cups) butter
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and let boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid and cook the sugar to 220 degrees (high altitude), 240 degrees (sea level).
  2. While your syrup is boiling, whip the whites and sugar (1 oz) on medium speed of your stand mixer to soft peaks. This is a timing issue, so watch them carefully. If you overbeat your whites before your syrup reaches temperature, they’ll be grainy and dumb. Adjust the speed of the mixer up or down and try to get your whites to the perfect consistency at the same time your sugar reaches desired temperature.
  3. When the syrup is ready, with mixer on medium low, pour syrup in a thin stream down the inside of the mixing bowl. This will give the syrup a chance to cool off a bit as well as keeping the syrup from getting spun all over the sides of the mixer by the whisk attachment.
  4. Turn mixer to high and whip until whites are completely cool and hold firm peaks.
  5. Add the softened butter, a bit at a time making sure one addition is blended in before adding the next.
  6. Beat in vanilla.
  7. Pipe on cupcakes, decorate sprinkles if you want to get crazy!

Croissants, Creation #6

Croissants are pretty amazing when done well, I love a very flaky croissant, that just melts in my mouth. I have attempted making croissants at home twice, unsuccessfully. The first time, they were not flaky at all, just tasted like dinner rolls, it was depressing!

I decided to try the Tartine recipe, and it blew me away; it was easy, time-consuming, but easy enough. This croissant recipe really should be broken into a four schedule. I hope y’all give this recipe a try; it really is worth the effort.

I would recommend reading the recipe thoroughly before starting and make sure you have all equipment.

Recipe is courtesy of Tartine.

Day 1

Preferment:

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup non fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1-1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. In saucepan, warm the milk to 80 to 90 degrees.

  2. Pour the milk into a mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the milk, stir to dissolve the yeast with a wooden spoon, and then add the flour, mixing with the spoon until a smooth batter forms.

  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or place in a covered container and place in refrigerator overnight.

Day 2:

Dough

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1-3/4 cups whole milk
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter,melted

Directions:

  1. Measure out all the ingredients and have them ready.
  2. Transfer the preferment and then the yeast to bowl with stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
  3. Mix on low speed until the yeast is incorporated into the preferment batter, which will take a minute or two. Stop the mixer as needed and use a spatula to clean the bottom and sides of the bowl, folding the loosened part into the mixture to incorporate fully.
  4. When the mixture has come together into an even mass, increase the speed to medium, and mix for a couple of minutes. Gradually add half of the milk and continue to mix until the milk is fully incorporated.
  5. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour, sugar, salt,melted butter, and the rest of the milk, and mix until the mixture comes together in a loose dough, about 3 minutes.
  6. Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Turn the mixer again on low speed and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, a maximum of 4 minutes, do not over mix, if dough is too tough and milk 1 tablespoon at a time.
  8.  Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a cool place until the volume increases by half, about 1-1/2 hours.
  9. Lightly flour a work surface. Transfer the dough to the floured surface and press into a rectangle 2 inches thick.
  10. Wrap the rectangle in plastic wrap, or place in a plastic bag and seal closed. Place the dough in the refrigerator overnight.

Day 3:

Roll-in Butter

Ingredients:

  • 2-3/4 cups unsalted butter, cold, but flexible

Directions:

  1. About 1 hour before you start laminating, place the butter that you will be rolling in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pliable but not warm or soft, about 3 minutes.
  2. Remove the butter from the bowl, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to chill but not resolidify.

Laminating Process:

  1. First, lightly dust a cool work surface, and then remove the chilled dough and the butter from the refrigerator.
  2. Unwrap the dough and place it onthe floured surface.
  3. Rollout the dough into a rectangle 28 by 12 inches. With a long side of the rectangle facing you, and starting from the left side, spread and spot the butter over two-thirds of the length of the rectangle. Fold the uncovered third over the butter and then fold the left-hand third over the center, as if folding a business letter. The resulting rectangle is known as a plaque. With your fingers, push down along the seams on the top and the bottom to seal the butter in the plaque .
  4. Give the plaque a quarter turn so that the seams are to your right and left, rather than at the top and bottom.
  5. Again roll out the dough into a rectangle 28 by 12 inches, and fold again in the same manner.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap or slip into a plastic bag and place in the refrigerator for 1 -1/2 to hours to relax the gluten in the dough before you make the third fold, or “turn.”
  7. Clean the work surface, dust again with flour, and remove the dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap, place on the floured surface, and again rollout into a rectangle 28 by 12 inches. Fold into thirds in the· same manner. You should have a plaque of doughmeasurir.g about 9 by 12 inches, about the size of a quarter sheet pan, and 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick.
  8. Wrap in plastic wrap or slip into the plastic bag, place on a sheet pan, and immediately place in the freezer to chill for at least 1 hour. If you intend to make the croissants the next morning, leave the dough in the freezer until the evening and then transfer it to the refrigerator before bed. The next morning, the dough will be ready to roll out and form into croissants, proof, and bake, or you can leave the dough in the freezer· for up to 1 week, just transfer it to the refrigerator to thaw overnight before using.

Day 4:

Egg Wash:

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch salt

Continued croissant process:

  1. When you are ready to rollout the dough, dust the work surface again. Roll out the dough into a rectangle, 32 by 12 inches and 3/8 inch thick. Using a pizza wheel or pastry wheel , cut the dough into long triangles that measure 10 to 12 inches on each side and about 3-4 inches along the base.
  2. Line a half sheet pan (about 13 by 18 inches) with parchment paper. To shape each croissant, position a triangle with the base facing you. Cut small slit in center of base about 1 inch.
  3. Positioning your palms on the two outer points of the base, carefully roll the base toward the point.
  4. To finish, grab the point with one hand, stretching it slightly, and continue to roll, tucking the point underneath the rolled dough so that the croissant will stand tall when you place it on the sheet pan. If you have properly shaped the croissant, it will have 6 or 7 ridges.
  5. As you form the croissants, place them, well spaced, on the prepared half sheet pan. When all the croissants are on the pan, set the pan in a draft free area with relatively high humidity and let the pastries rise for 2 t0 3 hours. The ideal temperature is 75 degrees.  A bit cooler or warmer is all right, as long as the temperature is not warm enough to melt the layers of butter in the dough, which would yield greasy pastries. Cooler is preferable, and will increase the rising time and with it the flavor development. For example, the home oven (turned off).
  6. During this final rising, the croissants should at least double in size and look noticeably puffy. If when you press a croissant lightly with a fingertip, the indentation fills in slowly, the croissants are almost ready to bake. At this point, the croissants should still be slightly “firm” and holding their shape and neither spongy nor starting to slouch. If you have put the croissants into the oven to proof, remove them now.
  7. Set the oven to 425°F to pre-heat for 20 to 30 minutes.
  8. About 10 minutes before you are ready to bake the croissants, make the egg wash. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cream, and salt until you have a pale yellow mixture. Using a pastry brush, lightly and carefully brush the yolk mixture on the pastries.
  9. Let the wash dry slightly, about 10 minutes, before baking.
  10. Place the croissants into the oven, immediately turn down the oven temperature to 400°F, and leave the door shut.for the first 10 minutes. Then, working quickly, open the oven door, rotate the pan 180 degrees, and close the door. This rotation will help the pastries to bake evenly. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes longer, rotating the pan again during this time if the croissants do not appear to be baking evenly. The croissants should be done in 15 to 20 minutes total. They are ready when they are deep golden brown on the·top and bottom, crisp on the outside, and feel light when they are picked up, indicating that the interior is baked through.
  11. Remove the croissants from the oven and place them on a wire rack to cool. As they cool, their moist interiors will set up. They are best if eaten while they are still slightly warm. At room temperature, they are fine as well, or you can rewarm them in a 375°F oven for 6 to 8 minutes to recrisp them before serving. You can also store leftover croissants in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 day, and then afterward in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If you have stored them, recrisp them in the oven before serving.

Enjoy the croissants!

Blackberry and Pink Velvet Cupcakes, Creation #5

I have always loved red velvet cupcake, and while I was watching Cupcake Wars, someone made Blue Velvet, and I think that is awesome! I did not make blue velvet this time, I did make pink velvet, it was a color scheme thing! The red velvet cake recipe is not one I would use for a traditional red velvet cake, but all the components of this cupcake work really well together.

Any Color Velvet Cupcakes:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon of pink food color or few drops of red food color

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with 24 cupcake liners.
  2. Place the oil, buttermilk, eggs, vinegar, vanilla, and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder together and slowly add to the mixer on low speed. Scrape down the bowl thoroughly, as needed.
  4. Add the food coloring in a steady stream until desired shade is achieved; it should appear light pink. Beat for another 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl one last time and mix for 30 seconds by hand.
  5. With ice cream scooper, fill the cupcake liners two-thirds full with batter and bake until they form a semi-hard crust on top, about 25 minutes. Immediately remove the cupcakes from their pan and place on a cooling rack.

Blackberry Curd:

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts fresh blackberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Bring the blackberries and water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Turn down the heat to low and simmer until the blackberries are soft and separate easily, about 5 minutes.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a sieve and pass through using a spoon to help mash the blackberries. Discard the pulp and reserve the juice.
  3. Place the flour and sugar in a clean saucepan and slowly pour in the blackberry juice, reserving 2 tablespoons. Whisk constantly. When thoroughly combined, add the whole eggs and egg yolks, whisking and cooking until the mixture thickens.
  4. When the curd has formed, after about 7 minutes, remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator until fully chilled.

Blackberry Citrus Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 pound cream cheese
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons reserved blackberry juice, from curd filling
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 orange, zested and juiced
  • 5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 24 whole fresh blackberries, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Beat the cream cheese and butter together in the bowl of an electric stand mixer until pale and creamy (about 3 minutes).
  2. Add the blackberry juice, orange and lemon juice and lemon and orange zests, continue to beat until the color is even.
  3. Reduce the speed to low and slowly begin adding the confectioners’ sugar. Keep adding until the frosting has a medium-stiff consistency.
  4. Beat on high speed for a further 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Assemble the cupcakes:

  1. Remove the center of each cupcake using anything with a 1 inch diameter, I use a thermometer cover, thrifty I know, but you can use an apple corer.
  2. Fill the center with the blackberry curd until it is level with the top of the cake.
  3. Pipe the frosting on top using a desired pastry tip.
  4. Garnish with a whole fresh blackberry, if desired.

Enjoy!

Which Ingredient Should Feature My Next Cupcake?