Thursday, August 21, 2008

Birthday cupcakes

Lemon cupcake with raspberry frosting

It was my lovely coworker's birthday yesterday and since I consider edible gifts to be the best kind there is, I decided to make her some cupcakes. As a sidebar, I just want to point out how eeeevil sites like Tastespotting are--pages upon pages of delicious looking that you start off looking for a chocolate cupcake recipe and the next thing you know, you're making a shopping list that includes a leg of lamb, cucumbers, candied shiso, and couscous. So much food, so little time.

Anyway! Before I get too distracted again, after considering the approximately 8trillion chocolate cupcake recipes that I have, I suddenly decided I wasn't in the mood for chocolate. And yes, I know, these weren't for me, but I felt like something fruity would be more seasonally appropriate. Okay, and I figured I would get to eat any misshapen or ugly ones.

These are actually quite simple to make--the cake has a nice quantity of zest in it and then a lemon syrup is poured over the top. It's pretty tasty on its own, but I didn't think it was festive enough, so I whipped up a quick cream cheese based frosting and folded in some crushed raspberries. Yay, pink! The problem I always have with frosting is that by the time you add up enough confectioner's sugar to get the right, pipeable consistency, the frosting is way too sweet for my tastes. Hence, the runny frosting. Fortunately, what they lack in beauty, they make up for in tart deliciousness.

Birthday cupcakes

I won't print the recipe for the lemon syrup cake since I just used this one from Williams Sonoma; just bake it as 12 cupcakes instead of in a loaf pan. It's best to put the lemon syrup on while they're still warm because it seems to soak up better. Once they have cooled completely, proceed with the frosting, plop on a raspberry, and enjoy!

Raspberry cream cheese icing
1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick butter, softened
2 C confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 C raspberries

Mash the raspberries thoroughly with a fork and set aside. Beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and well combined. Add the lemon juice and 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar and beat. Gradually add the remaining cup of sugar until you have achieved whatever stiffness you want--if you want something you can pipe, you will actually probably need close to 3 cups total. I stopped at 2. Stir the mashed raspberries in and marvel at the beautiful pink you have now produced. Makes enough frosting for about 20 cupcakes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Radio silence


Work is going to keep me really busy for the next few days, so, no time to bake or eat anything more interesting than perhaps a new flavor of ramen at lunch (sigh) there probably won't be any new posts until next week at the earliest.

The good news is I am headed back to Ithaca for the weekend for some relaxation, hiking, and of course a trip to Shortstop, the best deli EVER. Hopefully some of my favorite restaurants from my college days are still there!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Cherry Friands

Cherry Friands

It has been a pretty hot summer so far in NYC and so my cooking frequency has fallen drastically, and my baking has been non-existent. Turning the oven on just makes the apartment unbearably hot, and well, although I love baking.....I also love not passing out or having heatstroke!

Anyway, the point of all that was that I was absolutely itching to finally make something and last weekend when I went home, I made a batch of lemon curd to use up some of the fiftygazillion lemons my brother had zested (for his limoncello, which I'm sure I'll need to uh, quality check). Of course, THAT left me with 6 egg I made friands.

Cherry ones, to be exact! Friands are also known as financiers and are delicious, buttery cakes. I do not have friand tins so I used a mini-muffin pan. This was also my first experience making brown butter and I had stupidly bought salted butter (confusingly labeled sweet cream butter) instead of unsalted so when I tasted the solids, I almost died of salt poisoning. Fortunately those get strained out. I also want to take a moment to say that I took REALLY AWFUL photos of my friands--I can't figure out why, but I guess you'll have to take my word that they were tasty.

Cubee Totoro and his Cherry Friand

Cubee Totoro and I both approve. Aside from browning the butter, this recipe is very straightforward and honestly if you were feeling lazy, you could just melt the butter rather than browning it. Now I just have to wait for the weather to cool off before I can risk turning the oven on again!

Cherry Friands
adapted from The Joy of Baking

2/3 C brown butter
1/2 C all purpose flour
1 C almond meal, toasted (I used 1/2 almond and 1/2 hazelnut)
1 1/2 C powdered sugar, sifted
1/8 tsp salt
6 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
cherries, pitted and cut into halves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use a tablespoon or two of your browned butter to grease mini muffin tins (this recipe makes 24). Combine the dry ingredients and whisk. These are traditionally made with all almonds but I only had half a cup of almond meal on hand so I made up the rest with toasted ground hazelnuts. Beat the egg whites lightly and stir into the nut mixture along with the cooled brown butter and vanilla. Fill tins about 3/4 full. Bake for 3-4 minutes; remove the tins and place a cherry half on each friand (this is optional but pretty AND tasty). Bake for a further 4 minutes or until browned. You're supposed to cool these on a rack but I ate a few of them hot because I like the crusty parts the best. It's all up to your willpower, but these are best when they are fresh.