Saturday, September 17, 2011

30 Before 30: Making Madeleines

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I'm not exactly sure how this obsession started. I've been aware of madeleines for quite some time. However, I think the first time I tried them was... from Target. No, no, you heard me right. With the bullseye and the dog. I know. It's weird. I mean... TARGET??? My typical Target was remodeled as their "P-Fresh" concept, which includes the fuller grocery section. One day, I noticed a little Archer Farms package of madeleines. Six little spongey shell-shaped confections squished in a plastic container. For some reason I just couldn't resist. I knew they wouldn't be the epitome of French pastry and they probably wouldn't be the ideal way to introduce myself to these little things but... I don't know. I had to do it. In my cart they went, and in my belly they were later. A few seconds in the microwave, a dip in some milk, et voila. It was a little bit magical. Ever since, I was determined to try making them myself.

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Knowing I would need the special pan, I had it on my Amazon wish list just for future reference. However, Martha Stewart must've read my mind (doesn't she always???) because madeleines were featured in the September issue. That was all the motivation I needed. I ordered the pan and once I had enough free time, I whipped up my first batch of batter.

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They were actually pretty easy. There's a lot of folding involved while you're mixing the batter, so you need some patience. You also have to plan ahead, as the batter needs to chillax in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Once you make the recipe, you'll understand why it needs the standing time. Between the six eggs and the two sticks of melted butter, there's a lot of fat and grease that needs to be absorbed in the dry ingredients. I made the batter Saturday night, wrapped the bowl in plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge until Sunday morning for some weekend morning delights.

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From Martha Stewart, Sept 2011 Issue

2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
6 large eggs, room temp
1 c granulated sugar
2 tbsp packed brown sugar (Martha says light, I used dark)
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted, plus more for buttering the pan (softened)
1 tbsp + 1 tsp honey
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1. Whisk together dry ingredients—flour, baking powder, and salt—in medium bowl.
2. With an electric mixer on high speed, whisk together the eggs and sugars until pale and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Should be at the "ribbon" stage. For more info on this, check out the issue. The magazine has two pages of helpful tips that I'm sure I can't legally copy into this post. So just take my word for it. Check it out.
3. Sift in flour mixture in 2-3 additions, folding in after each addition. You have to fold the batter as opposed to stirring it to keep it the right consistency.
4. Fold in the melted butter, then honey & vanilla.
5. Refrigerate batter for at least 2 hours, and up to 2 days (covered, of course).
6. Preheat oven to 350°. Let batter stand at room temp for 10 minutes.
7. With a pastry brush, generously coat the pan with softened butter.
8. Scoop the batter into a pastry bag or plastic bag w/ the corner snipped (about a 1/2" opening). This is such an easy way to transfer the batter to the madeleine pan. Fill the molds 3/4 full. Trust me, they'll puff up.
9. Bake on the middle rack for 8-11 minutes, or until a pale golden.
10. Immediately shake the madeleines out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Wash the mold and repeat until all the batter is gone.
11. When cooled, sift with confectionary sugar, or top with a tasty glaze.

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Martha recipes crack me up b/c half the time I yield way more than the recipe says. The magazine says I should have 32 madeleines in the end. However, I ended up with 46. If you squeeze the piping bag right, you could probably get 48 for an even four dozen. Since I had so many, I jazzed a few up with different glazes! On the left, the standard madeleine sprinkled with confectionary sugar. Then, strawberry rose glaze. Next, salted maple vanilla bean glaze (a concoction using the surplus maple vanilla bean frosting used on bacon cupcakes for the wedding) topped with roasted pecans (a request from George), and then a straight-forward lemon glaze with lime zest (hey, I had them left from the wedding this weekend).

Strawberry Rose Glaze
2 tbsp strawberry puree
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp rose water
2-3 tbsp confectionary sugar
dash of heavy cream, if you have it

Combine all ingredients in a small wide bowl, mixing until uniform. Heat in the microwave for a few seconds to help, if need be (like 8-10 seconds). Dip madeleines in glaze when finished.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Food Crush: Crown Maple Syrup

I reserve the right to occasionally veer from my typical posts about baking to talk a little more about random designy stuff. Though I promise to keep it food-related, whether it's a new brand, package design, or retail space. That being said, I have to geek out design-style on you today. Having just made Maple Vanilla Bean frosting to accompany bacon cupcakes, I have maple on the brain. This came up in today's Tasting Table newsletter: Crown Maple Syrup. I'm sorry, but is this not the most beautiful maple syrup you've ever seen? I love the maple leaf/crown icon, and that sleek bottle?? It's so chic it looks more like a high-end whiskey than a syrup (For the record, I am totally okay with that). Crown Maple Syrup is from Dutchess County, New York, located in the Hudson River Valley. The identity was designed by Studio MPLS in Minneapolis. There are three varieties: light amber, medium amber, and dark amber which you can buy through their online store. I'd love to try all three varieties, but I think for my purposes I'd be favoring the dark! Could you imagine this in a cocktail? Oh yeah, now we're talking.

All packaging images from The Dieline.
After going to Studio MPLS's site, I noticed their most recent blog post features the creative process of branding Crown Maple Syrup. Below is just a touch of that. Such beautiful work.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11 & New York

It's hard to believe that 10 years ago, the tragedy of 9/11 struck America. It was two days before I started college. I remember waking up, seeing the Today Show on tv when my mom told me what was going on. I sat on the couch wondering what the heck was happening b/c...seriously??? People would really do that?? It was two days before I was supposed to pack up all my stuff and move into the dorms to start my freshman year at the University of Cincinnati. It was all so very very weird.

Being from Dayton, we were all freaked out about Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. It might not be that well-known in the regular world, but WPAFB is pretty high in importance in the military world. Was something going to happen to us too? There was a moment after 5pm when I was at the dinner table w/ my parents and this crazy sonic boom occurred outside. We all looked at each other and my dad went out the front door to see if he could see something going on (along w/ the rest of the neighbors). It must've just been some jets or something at Wright-Patt. In the end Dayton was left safe and untouched.

Six years ago I was an intern in NYC. I was working for Interbrand's New York office for my 6th and final quarter of co-op as a design student at UC. I lived just two or three blocks south of Ground Zero in downtown Manhattan in the Financial District. Then, it was still a bunch of construction and blockades, but it was still a big deal. It's just absolutely unbelieveable. To think that you wake up one morning and the towers are there, then later that day, they're just… gone. Everyone and everything just gone.
Ground Zero, as I remember it. This is not my own photo, rather I found it here.
From the rooftop of our apartment building. If you look really really hard, you can see the Statue of Liberty in the break in the middle. It looks like it's sticking up from the top of a building. They eventually started construction that surely covered up the view.
Battery Park City, October 2005. I still have a crush on this place. It was walking distance from our apt.
New York is a lot of things for a lot of people. It was in New York that quarter I decided subway systems are preferable to cars but for running errands, I missed having keys to a vehicle. It was then I decided I loved my boyfriend (go ahead—awwwwww) and I finally learned to like beer (I know, big steps). It was that quarter I went to the NYC Halloween Parade—experienced its absolute massiveness—which is still probably one of my favorite experiences ever. I was ALMOST there during the city's mass transit strike—I missed it by like 2 days (Yay, but it would've been a cool experience). And it was that quarter when I stood in line at The Magnolia Bakery in the West Village. I finally ate their cupcakes and thought "...Well hell, I could do this." And here we are today on my cupcake blog.

NYC Halloween Parade 2005, Parade of ETs
George & me at Peculiar Pub in the West Village, October 2005
ING New York City Marathon, November 2005
Central Park, December 2005
It's a hell of a place. The kind where if anyone touches it, you want to hunt them down personally just so you can punch them in their jerk of a face and say "KEEP YOUR @#$%!*# HANDS OFF MY M_F_ING CITY!" Sometimes I miss New York. A lot.

Here's to remembering 9/11. We will never forget. And here's for New York. I love you always.
Milton Glaser's classic I Heart NY poster, after September 11, 2001.

Monday, September 05, 2011

30 Before 30 Recipes: Iced Thai Coffee

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Sayonara, summer. This Labor Day weekend was a whirlwind of weather, and nothing short of typical for Ohio. One day it's 100 degrees and sunny. The next it's 65 degrees with rain and clouds. It hardly gives a blogger any time to talk about fun summer sips before the weather turns over! I recently made Iced Thai Coffee, one of the items on my recipe to-do list. I've been wanting to try either Thai or Vietnamese Iced Coffee, as both types intrigued me. The use of sweetened condensed milk or the addition of cardamom, in a delicious iced coffee beverage? Um, hello, yes.

After some Googling, I decided to use this recipe from Steamy Kitchen as my go-to. I went the Thai route technically, though I did alter it a bit to try to combine both varieties. I believe Vietnamese Iced Coffee uses the sweetened condensed milk. While I didn't use SCM, I used brown sugar instead of the typical granulated sugar to create a similar flavor. Want the recipe? YES! Of course you do! Here we go.

Iced Thai Coffee
Based off of recipe from Steamy Kitchen, altered slightly

4 cups double-strength brewed coffee (I used a French press for this)

2 cups half-and-half or cream

2 tbsp brown sugar (I used dark, like always)

3 cardamom pods (or 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom)
1/4 tsp cinnamon (b/c I just couldn't resist)

1/4 tsp almond extract


First, crack open those cardamom pods to release the flavor and aroma within. You can use a mortar and pestle, or you can (safely, please) crack them using a chef's knife. Have you ever seen them crush a clove of garlic on Food Network using the side of the knife? (But again, PLEASE DO IT CAREFULLY!)

Then, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, brown sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer, then let steep for 15-20 minutes. Remove the cardamom pods and add the almond extract.

Fill 4 tall glasses with ice, then divide the cream mixture amongst the glasses. Then top off with the super strong coffee. Grab yourself a straw, and enjoy!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Here comes the bride…

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It's wedding day for a fabulous cupcake-lovin' lady and her man. Here's a quick peek at what's to come. So far, it's the biggest wedding order I've had—a whopping 14 dozen! These are vanilla cupcakes with key lime frosting, sprinkled with homemade graham cracker crumbs and topped with a real live key lime. These are my personal fave. Luckily, key limes are in season and in store! I'll be heading to Columbus' Park of Roses shortly with the rest. Fingers crossed!
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