Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow caps of a different variety

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Usually, "snow caps" in the candy world refer to chocolate non-pareils. Tonight in my kitchen, that it not the case! Tonight, I have a snowy field of marshmallow caps on my kitchen table. Earl grey-flavored marshmallows to be exact.
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I used a recipe from Emeril Lagasse for lemon marshmallows. I'm on a constant search for the perfect mallow recipe so this year I'm giving this one a try. I've tried one from Gourmet magazine that used egg whites--didn't like it. They were oddly moist & squishy--not in a good way. I think I've tried Alton Brown's recipe. It was fine, but not enough to stop my search. And this year, it's Emeril's turn.

I've been dying to make earl grey marshmallows. I am in LOOOOVE with the scent and flavor of earl grey tea. I am intoxicated by the earl grey tea lattes (formerly known as a London Fog latte) at Starbucks. Why not infuse a big sugary blob of marshmallow with this alluring flavor?

I started by making 1 1/4 c of VERY strong earl grey tea. 1 1/4 c water, 5 tea bags. Intense. The recipe technically only uses 1 c of water total, but it doesn't hurt to have a little extra in there due to evaporation during heating and the liquid soaked up by the tea bags. I did not use any lemon juice or zest like the recipe said. Funny thing though, I trusted this recipe b/c of the lemon factor. I was nervous that the acidity of the tea might mess with the coming-together chemistry of the marshmallows (gelatin, hot sugary liquid, acid...who knows). With lemon prominently featured, however, I stopped worrying. Where Emeril says to add in lemon zest at the end, I added 1 tsp vanilla extract instead. In a perfect world where I have access to fancy ingredients, I would add some sort of bergamot extract. BUT I live in Ohio. Vanilla it is! Other than replacing plain water w/ tea & zest w/ vanilla, I followed the recipe exactly.

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I just piped them onto a confectionery sugar-covered sheet of parchment about an hour ago and they will sit out for the rest of the night. Tomorrow they will (hopefully) be slightly dried-out little blobs of sweet heaven to melt in hot cocoa or simply sink my teeth into. Also, they make great Christmas gifts. Who makes their own marshmallows?!?!? Not many people. And even if you're not a mallow fan...well, you'll probably like the homemade kind. They're not your average Jet-Puffed variety from Kraft! OOOOH. Take a round gingerbread wafer, place a small piece of chocolate on top & a marshmallow cap, microwave for a few seconds, and you have yourself a very dandy s'more. I think I just talked myself into making gingerbread cookies. UGH, the culinary adventures never end!!! Until next time...

RECIPE SOURCE: Adapted from Lemon Marshmallows
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup VERY strong earl grey tea
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup VERY strong earl grey tea, cold
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
For the how-to, check out the link. (It's a long one so I'd rather not copy/paste!)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pistachio & Eggnog

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So, first of all, is "eggnog" one word or two? Egg nog? Or Eggnog? Does it matter? Do you care? Anyway. The latest cupcake creation is my Pistachio Eggnog (yeah, I'm going w/ 1 word) cupcake. It. Was. Good. I don't really like eggnog. My mom LOOOOOVES eggnog. Also, it's worth noting that my mom loves eggnog, drinks eggnog during the holiday season a lot, and cannot drink alcohol due to certain medication so it's not just for fun & booze. Oh no. It's a real LOVE of the stuff. You would think this would somehow be hereditary and I too would hit the nog-bottle on occasion. But do I? No. I can handle it. I don't mind it. But I don't LOVE it. I don't search it out, for sure. For booze? Well, that might be another story ;-) but otherwise, no. Not on my list.

I did, however, feel strongly about eggnog frosting. How could that be BAD?!?! My vanilla malt frosting is a winner and a half, and this is in similar vain. I struggled with the pairing--what cake do I match it with? Vanilla is fine, but it's just so sweet and strong that I don't like pairing it with certain frostings. This is like wine & food, people. It's serious business! Chocolate could be a good contrast and it's not super sweet, so it would be good. But it wouldn't enhance any eggnog flavor really. I considered brown sugar cake. I actually came very close to making brown sugar cake. But no. In my heart, in my big, fat, cupcake-filled heart, I was feeling "Pistachio!!!! Specifically, Pistachio + Cardamom!!!" (I can't take full credit for the genius pairing of pistachio & cardamom—I was inspired by Duff from Ace of Cakes.)

Here's why. First, I love pistachio flavored stuff. No scientific thinking there. 2. Pistachio can be exotic. Pistachio & cardamom has a very Eastern Europe/Middle Eastern kind of feel. Eggnog is flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg. While the roots of eggnog seem to be English or Middle European, nutmeg also pairs well w/ pistachio, cardamom, and other flavors/desserts of Eastern European inspiration. It'd be a wonderful pairing of flavors instead of a mish-mash of sugar piles. See, like I said—it's serious business.
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So here we are, pistachio-cardamom cupcakes topped with eggnog frosting & graced with a light sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg. And those cupcake wrappers—aren't they just ADORABLE? They're from Bake It Pretty. One of my friends bought them for me as a gift. She's very supportive of my cupcake business and she sent me a care-package of several different cupcake wrappers in the following CUUUUUTE designs:
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I know, can you even handle the cuteness?? I couldn't. I've been saving them to use for the perfect moment when they'll be fully appreciated. What better time than Christmas to break out some red & green polka dotted wrappers, am I right?

So that's my story. Pistachio. Cardamom. Eggnog. Nutmeg. It's delicious. They were well-received at work and I fully-approve of my own work (I am my harshest critic usually) so they're a seasonal winner. Want some? Let me know. They're only available for as long as eggnog season lasts. ;-)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Tart

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Hey, looky there! What's that? It's a big chocolately ball of goodness, that's what it is. Here we have what I call a Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Tart. I saw the original picture of it on Tastespotting, and that led me to the recipe here. The recipe calls it a "Chocolate Truffle Dessert," which also works. But I was making mine for a party where I would not be able to explain to people what it is. Therefore, the more straight-forward the better. Chocolate? Peanut butter? Brownie? Check, check, & check. Serve me up a piece of that, s'il vous plait!

This is a multi-layered gob of deliciousness. Layer 1 = brownie. Layer 2 = chocolate ganache (don't get scared, it's just chocolate, cream & butter melted together). Layer 3 = peanut butter sauce (homemade). Layer 4 = chocolate whipped cream (yes, homemade). Layer 5 = chocolate garnish/flourishes. The edges are Pepperidge Farm Pirouette cookies. Layer 3, the peanut butter layer, is my personal addition to the recipe. For the most part, I followed the recipe closely (which is RARE for me), but I wanted to do something to make it my own. Plus...I love me some chocolate, but that's a helluva lotta chocolate if you know what I'm sayin. The peanut butter sauce adds a little something extra to help balance that all out. The great thing about this is that while it's rich, it's not overly sweet. You won't feel the enamel on your teeth start to fade away. Also, since it's rich, you don't need to eat a lot, meaning it may be small but it serves many!!! This was made in an 8" springform pan.

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So I made this little guy for my work Christmas party. My goal was to make something nice & quasi-fancy, but not kill myself over it. This is perfect for that. You know why? That brownie layer? Yeah, that's a box mix. (I know, GASP!) Normally, I'm very anti-box mix, but the problem is a lot of people can't tell the difference. Box mixes can produce decent stuff. ESPECIALLY when it comes to brownies. Cake is one thing. But brownies? Brownies, in my opinion, are HARDER to make from scratch b/c the box mixes have done such a good job of getting that perfect mix of fudgey-chewy-moist-melty texture with a chewy edge and a delicate flakey top... it's just hard to duplicate. And the time difference between a box mix vs scratch... well, you can guess. Box mix is faster...much faster.

Next time, if I DO have the time, I'll probably do the brownie layer from scratch. Then I can really kick it up a notch and go wild! But for now, especially w/ all the crazines of the holidays, a box mix will work just fine. :-)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Current project...

Buy it, use it, print it, tape it... (to the tune of Daft Punk "Technologic")
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As some of you may or may not know, I have another side business. I'm a graphic designer in my real everyday life and my other business (aside from my full-time job) is as a paper goods designer--Sweet Bippy Papers. My best sellers are the recipe cards, hands down. So anyway, here at the Sugarlush kitchen/Sweet Bippy Papers factory (otherwise known as my apartment), I'm busy working on some Christmas wrapping tags. My plan is to post them in my Etsy shop as a printable PDF. I might also post them as real, physical, pre-cut tags with adhesive. I'm not quite sure yet. But what I DO know, is that I hope to have these puppies up in my shop by Friday. That'd be ideal. There are also two more designs (a green & a blue), but that'll just have to be surprise for when they're posted! ;-)

*UPDATE: They're now available! Check them out here.
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