Saturday, January 27, 2007

I'm In Love!

So it's been a good six months since I've posted anything on this site. Don't get me wrong, I've been extremely adventurous and busy in the kitchen. There is only one reason for my lack of posts; I had no decent camera of my own. I never felt comfortable asking Thomas' sister, or our roommate to use their camera every-time I whipped up something fabulous. But yesterday ladies and gentlemen, I purchased the new love in my life, a wonderful (and metal) Sony DSW-50. I would've loved to buy a Nikon D80 or something along those lines, but I am not a professional photographer, nor do I have the near grand it takes to plunk down on such an efficient machine. I think my adoration for this camera is already becoming a bit of a nuisance. Yesterday, while uploading pictures into iPhoto (and realizing the clarity and beauty of the shots I just took) I couldn't help but letting out a constant stream of oohs and aahs, and maybe even a few words of praise here and there. After a few minutes of this, my roommate suggested I be in Sony's ad campaigns. Perhaps it's bit of jealousy, and perhaps my constant appraisal is a bit annoying. But you have to give a girl credit, I haven't had a camera in nearly 2 years, and for a person who will take pictures of just about anything (obsessively), this is huge for me. I'm extremely happy. Not only do I get to explore photography and my talents more, but I get to cook and post pictures for all of you (okay nobody really) to see. This means I get to work on the three things I enjoy more than anything in life; cooking, photography, and writing. So now onto my newest baking adventure:
 Ghanian Cupcakes!

I "helped" my roommate make these last night for a potluck he was attending. For winter break our dear roommate, A, spent his entire holiday in Ghana. He applied for the class/trip last year, and got into the class this fall, the main goal was to go to Ghana over that three week period of winter break. He seemed to enjoy the trip very much, and brought back some very interesting treasures. Anyhow, "the ghana gang" (as he refers to them) were getting together for a potluck last night and A decided earlier in the week he wanted my help to make chocolate cupcakes with ghanian flags atop them. On friday night, I helped him whip together some marshmallow fondant (recipe follows). I decided not only would fondant be more fun to make the flags with, but it would probably also give these bite sized beauties a huge "wow" factor. Anyone can squirt some red, yellow and green onto the top of cupcake, but individual fondant flags? Now that's something! For a girl who has only used fondant once (and didn't dye it) this was also very exciting for me to consider doing. We ended up having a great time. The boys wanted to go out Friday night, but after a few beers and quick dinner at a local sushi joint we stayed in and made fondant instead, and I think A and I really had a pretty good time rolling out the flags and making devils instead.
We used Gail Engmans recipe for Brownie Cupcakes, this is from her book Cupcakes Galore that Thomas' sister bought me for my birthday. I've been cupcake obsessed for almost a year now. There's usually a new cupcake recipe on the table every weekend. The recipe in the book is accompanied by a recipe for "fudge" frosting, which we attempted on Friday night as well, but I ended up hating. I don't often use this word in conjunction with baking or cooking, but I hated this frosting recipe. It wasn't fudge like at all, it was had an awful texture, and the dark chocolate was simply too overpowering. I followed the directions to a T, and I tried to fix it by adding a few ingredients, and although I got it light and fluffy, nothing seemed to fix this mess of a frosting. So we ended up going with an easy cream cheese frosting (recipe follows). Which was nice, because the tray A used (one of my favorites) was both cream colored and chocolate colored, so it looked like we intentionally matched the cupcakes to the tray, although we didn't, it was a pretty nice minor detail that just made the whole thing "pop" even more.
I didn't get to try the cupcakes, so I couldn't tell you if I truly liked them. We made them miniature and I wanted there to be enough for his party. We all three ended up sharing one mini cupcake, so as you can imagine, there was barely enough cake for me to judge it's full flavor/texture. From what I tasted they weren't bad, maybe a little dry, and the dark chocolate really seemed to shine through. They had an dry/bitter combo going, which, for dark chocolate lovers is probably a good thing. For me I like sweet and creamy, so it's not really up my alley.
So enough of my rambling, here are the recipes we tried:

Marshmallow Fondant:

16 oz bag regular or miniature marshmallows
2 lb. bag confectioner's sugar 3 Tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla
Shortening to grease your bowl, hands, and work surface.
(red, yellow, green dye)

Grease your bowl well. Grease your work surface (counter space), where you plan to knead your fondant, well. 
Melt marshmallows, water and vanilla in double boiler, you could use the microwave, I guess. I never do.
Transfer marshmallow goo to bowl of a mixer with paddle attachment and add 1/2 of the powdered sugar, mix well.
Change to dough hook attachment and add the rest of the powdered sugar until well mixed.
Take dough out and knead well until smooth. About 15-25 minutes, depending on your "elbow grease". 
Wrap fondant in plastic wrap and let cool.
If you want to dye it, do it now, if you plan to dye it different colors break it up into separate balls, and dye. You may need to refrigerate after this, you will probably warm up the fondant by adding the color. From here in on, do what you will with it. Have fun. I did.

Gail Engmans "Brownie Cupcakes"


1 cup of AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 ounces of dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1/4 stick/ 6 Tablespoons softened unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts (I say this is optional, I didn't use them)

*I am not including the recipe for the frosting, it was such a disappointment, I figured it would be a waste of time.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
3. Place chocolate, butter, and sugar in a large bowl over simmering water. Heat just until melted, stirring occasionally. Do NOT cook. Remove from heat. (It doesn't say to let this mixture cool at this point, but I didn't want to add the eggs to the hot chocolate before allowing it too cool off a bit, but it's up to you, I only let it sit for a few minutes).
4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each mixture (I whisked it, very well).
5. Add vanilla.
6. Slowly add flour, mix until incorporated.
7. Fold in chopped walnuts at this point, if you've decided to use them.
8. Pour batter into cupcake liners, or miniature cupcake pans.
9. Bake. If you're baking a normal sized cupcake, it's between 20-25 minutes for these guys.
If you're baking miniatures, I baked them for about 12-17 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

4 ounces Philly cream cheese
1/4 stick butter, room temperature
1 1/2 - 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Beat butter vigorously with an electric mixer.
2. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.
3. Add the sifted powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth.


1. Frost cupcakes
2. Add any kind of fondant decoration you like.