Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cream Puff Swans at Culinary School

I've been quiet for a few weeks because a fairly miserable cold prevented me from baking — I thought it wouldn't be kind to pawn germ-filled treats off on my friends and co-workers.  I do have one treat up my sleeves to share soon, but first I want to let you know about my fantastic baking lesson today.

I've signed up for a four-course recreational baking series at Cambridge Culinary School and this morning was lesson 1: Pâte a Choux.

Pâte a Choux is the soft sticky dough that puffs up magically in the oven to create the base for both cream puffs and eclairs. From 9:30am through about 1pm, I learned how to create this dough, a phenomenal pastry cream filling, and the real kicker: Cream Puff Swans!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Eve Choco-tini Cupcakes

Chocolate Martini Cupcakes! Or, as I've been describing them: Choco-tini Cupcakes! sinfully spiked and delicious!

I've just got to say... if this is an indication of how the year 2013 turns out, it's off to a great start!

In preparation for New Year's Eve, I quickly found makeshift solutions to THREE different minor roadblocks to pull off these fabulous vodka-spiked chocolate cupcakes with enough time leftover to get showered and changed before my friend's party. 
  1. HOMEMADE Chocolate Vodka — obviously, this is the most exciting! Just melt chocolate in a double broiler, mix in vodka and strain out any large bits of chocolate. BAM – Chocolate Liqueur!
  2. Cake Flour — put 2 tablespoons of corn starch into a one-cup measuring cup and fill the rest with all-purpose flour... Then sift it up and good to go! (Why might this be important? Cake flour can yield a lighter, fluffier cake)
  3. Fine grain sugar — I have this organic vegan-friendly sugar that I would love more if only the individual grains were finer (sugar grain size affects how the sugar dissolves in the oven, which can affect the final product quite a bit). I ground up the sugar for about 30 seconds before adding it to the mix. Problem solved!
As 2013 kicks off, I get very excited about these types of makeshift solutions because they ultimately help solve the biggest problem I face in the kitchen: 

How can I create awesome, fancy and delicious treats on a budget? Specialty items get expensive and I love the idea of making these items myself!