Monday, March 24, 2014

Boring Technical Things

I made some adjustments to the layout and look of the blog.  I like the more minimal look and I hope you do too.  Let me know if you find any bugs.  Thanks!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Black Bottom Cupcakes

I seem to have a real problem with the concept of en mise.  For those of you not familiar, en mise is the French cooking term for "everything in place."  Basically, it means, get all your crap out on the counter before you start your project so that you aren't swearing into your bowl of cupcake batter because you are out of cocoa powder.  Yeah.  That happened.  Like three times this past weekend.

Luckily, I don't live in the middle of nowhere and was able to trot off to the grocery store and solve my problems.  Also luckily I hadn't added the wet ingredients to my batter yet.  

These cupcakes are delicious on their own, a chocolaty cupcake topped with creamy cheesecake batter.  But, because I believe frosting-less cupcakes are probably one of the seven deadly sins, I topped them with some chocolate buttercream.  Also, they were kinda ugly naked.  Probably someone could make them look all nice and flat and not cracked, but I am not that guy (see: how to fix an ugly cake).

Black Bottom Cupcakes

makes about 19 cupcake (annoying, I know)
adapted from Cooking With The DeKalb WHFM

Cake Batter

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (I use Hershey's)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup oil (I used peanut, you want a neutral oil)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (I used apple cider, but white vinegar will work too)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, mix together water, oil, vanilla, and vinegar.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir to combine.  The batter will be fairly thin.

Cheesecake Batter

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

Beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.  Add in sugar, beat to combine.  Add in egg and beat until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Line your cupcake pan with cupcake papers.  If you don't want to use cupcake papers, grease your cupcake pan really well.  Spoon cake batter into the cupcake papers until they are about 1/2 full.  Add 1 heaping teaspoon cream cheese mixture on top of cake batter.  You may have more of one kind of batter.  I ended up baking 4 plain chocolate cupcakes because I ran out of cheesecake batter.  They were also tasty.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool and frost if desired.

Note: I burned the daylights out of the pan I placed on the top rack so I would advise not to use the top rack.  Place your rack on the second to the lowest setting in your oven.

Fudge Buttercream

  • 2 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 1-2 pound bag powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6-7 tablespoons milk or water to thin
Beat butter until smooth and fluffy.  Add in vanilla and beat to combine.  Slowly add in cocoa powder and powdered sugar.  Add in milk or water 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.  I use a fairly stiff consistency when I am going to use a piping bag.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Review: Tazo Green Tea Concentrate*

When time and ingredients allow, my first preference is to make my own chai concentrate.  It's cheaper and frequently easier.  But when life and work get busy, I fall back on buying the concentrate in the store.  Typically my steady Eddie is Tazo's Chai tea concentrate.  I like the balance of spice to sweetness just a little more than the Oregon chai.

Lately when I have gone to pick up my standby, there have been other concentrate choices.  Chocolate chai, which I tried first and is pretty gross.  Pumpkin spice chai in the fall, which I have not had the courage to try because of the chocolate chai incident.  Then a couple weeks ago, I saw green tea concentrate.  It had been some time since trying the chocolate chai, so I decided I was up for broadening my horizons.  I was glad I did.

The way these concentrates work is you just pour some amount into your mug, top it off with milk (I usually do a ration of 1/2 and 1/2 but my sister prefers less concentrate, more milk) and microwave until hot or add a few ice cubes to drink it cold.  Easy.  Makes my morning routine just a tad bit quicker and feels like something special.

The green tea concentrate tastes a lot like sweetened matcha tea.  It's light and summery.  The milk adds creaminess.  It is softer and more subtle in flavor than the chai and also has a little less caffeine for those of us watching our caffeine intake.  Overall, it's a nice alternative to the chai.

*Tazo has no clue who I am.  I bought the concentrate with my own money and this review is all my own opinion.  This is just a new product I found in the grocery store that I thought my readers might enjoy.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Citrus Water

I don't know about you, but this winter is starting to bog me down.  I typically love the winter, nature getting all dressed up in her white coat.  But this winter has been long and bitter.  After 2 head colds, the flu, and countless hours shoveling snow, I am ready for some spring.  But looking at the forecast, I don't think that is going to be anytime soon.

Enter: citrus water.  Sounds silly I know, but cutting up a few oranges and tossing them in a pitcher of water makes it feel a little like summer.  And in the winter, you can find all kinds of citrus to try.  From blood oranges and Meyer lemons to pomelos, and of course the old stand-by naval oranges and grapefruit.

Citrus Water

  • 1-2 citrus fruit
  • pitcher of water
Cut up fruit.  Use a combination or just one kind, the choice is yours.  Toss into pitcher of water.  Store in fridge.  Enjoy and daydream about grilling out.

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