Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Okay, I lied.

I didn't get you any update a couple weeks ago. But I'm here now! Finally. I've been wrapped up in graduation stuff, finals, etc. I've also had little sleep. But, I've brought cupcakes. So that's good. :)

These are actually my entry to Cupcake Hero this month.

Well. This past year was the first year my high school had its Culinary Arts class. Since we had planned on making it into a restaurant, we needed a name. So we had a contest. Whomever's name was picked for the restaurant won a free dinner for two. They got to plan the meal, everything. Within reason, of course. Well. The French teacher won. She asked for cake with "real buttercream frosting." Crap.

Buttercream had always been my enemy. Actually. I just had never attempted it. It seemed scary. Whipped egg whites. Cooking sugar without cooking it too far. Preventing crystallization. Not letting the butter melt and it all turning into a soupy, melted disaster. Ack. I have an active imagination. But I knew I had to do it. I plan on making wedding cakes for a living. I have to do it sometime. But I could get out of it! She continued on, "But anything chocolate is fine." That could work. Or, I decided, I could combine the two. Chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream. Genius. And better yet. Chocolate cupcakes. Because the theme ingredient for Cupcake Hero is cocoa powder. So I did it.

The buttercream was amazing. I loved it so much, I made it again a week later. Double-batch. >.> It's now sitting in my freezer. I plan on baking some kind of cake this weekend since all my family is out for my graduation.

Chocolate Buttercream

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I used chips.)
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) salted butter
6 tablespoons water
3/4 cup sugar
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Chop the butter into about 1/2-inch cubes. You want to let it soften, but not too much. I just chopped it, put it in the fridge, then took it out when I was whipping the egg whites with the sugar syrup.

In a small saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 245 °F.

While syrup is boiling, beat the whites until foamy, then beat in the cream of tartar in your mixer using the whisk attachment. Beat the whites until they just hold stiff peaks and beat in hot syrup in a stream (try to avoid pouring onto beaters and side of bowl). (I tried to get it in time, but I wound up stiffening my egg whites before the sugar syrup was hot enough. I just turned it off, then turned it back on when the sugar syrup was about 240°F.) Beat mixture at medium speed until completely cool, about 10 minutes. (At this point I took the butter out. It was still a little firm. It worked fine.) Change out your whisk for your paddle attachment. Beat in butter, 1 piece at a time, beating until mixture is thickened and smooth. (I've been told that the buttercream may start to look curdled at some point. When I made the single batch, it didn't happen. When I made the double batch, it happened. I'm guessing the difference in volume. Don't worry. As soon as all the butter was in, it was thick again.) Beat in the cocoa powder and melted chocolate, beating until smooth.

You can make the buttercream ahead of time, just make sure you bring it to room temperature first. Apparently some people beat it in their mixer once it's to temperature. I just handmixed it with a rubber spatula. It worked fine. And I didn't have to get out my mixer.
(Adapted from Epicurious.)

Chocolate Cake (actually adapted from a recipe I found on Laurie's blog.)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (I made this at school. If it was at home, I would have used salted butter and cut the salt down to 1/4 tsp or so.)
2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 cup really hot water. Or just hot water.

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line two muffin pans with liners. (Which I didn't do. >.> That's what Pam for Baking is for!)

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until well mixed, trying to get some sort of volume (it will lighten a bit in colour... and it took me a while to get it to do that. I think part of it had to do with such a small batch in an industrial-size mixer). Add eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla and oil. Add 1/2 the sour cream and then 1/2 the dry ingredients to the butter mixture until well blended.

Add the remaining sour cream and dry ingredients to the batter. Stir in water.

Fill cups about 2/3 full with batter. Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely before frosting.

In the end, the chocolate buttercream didn't kick my ass. It liked me. And I liked it. And I found out the "real buttercream" she asked for was a butter and powdered sugar one. Last I knew, that was mock buttercream.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Yay! Buttercream!

So. It took a lot longer. But that's only because some water people came. Trying to sell us stuff. They wanted to do a "quick demo." Two hours later, I could finally do stuff in my kitchen.

So with this being my first ever buttercream, I am quite happy. It was very light. It had a good chocolate taste, but wasn't overpowering. (For me.) I'm weird. I like dark chocolate, but too much and I sneeze. Yeah.

I wanted to just eat it all right then. But there's the whole fact that it's for cupcakes I have to make at school. So, yeah. But I am taking a pound of butter home with me. So make up for the butter I had to use. Mmmm. It's so good. I need to make a double batch if I want to do a cake. Because I use a lot of frosting.

Tomorrow I will post pictures of the cupcakes complete with frosting and give the recipes. That is, if I don't eat the frosting beforehand.


So I'm going to do it. I'm really going to do it. I'm going to make a buttercream. And not just any buttercream. A chocolate buttercream. We'll see if I'm alive after this or if it kicks my ass like the German chocolate cake frosting did. (Even though I saved it.) Which reminds me that I should probably put that up here. So yeah. Buttercream. I'm going to start in about... ten minutes. Or whenever my mother gets here with the chocolate. Which leads me onto my tangent! :)

So. I was supposed to get chocolate today from some teacher on campus because Georgi, the whore that he is, didn't buy the chocolate for me. We only have industrial size mixers at school and, while I adore them, they are simply too big to whip three measly egg whites with. So I planned to make it at home (and it just happens to use cocoa powder, which is Cupcake Hero's theme ingredient this month).

Well, Georgi told me to go get it while I was videotaping Landon and wasn't really paying attention. I walked with Landon to his class and then left to go back to Culinary Arts because I completely forgot about the chocolate. On my way, however, I saw Adam. Which brings me to my -next- tangent.

Adam is this boy at school who I've seen all year, but never actually talked to. Then he cut his hair and shaved off his beard and I didn't recognize him for a bit. He wasn't bad-looking before. But... he is -cute- without the beard. I was very much pleased. Still. I am too painfully shy to just walk up to him and start talking to him. Then my best friend agreed to go with me to prom, then asked someone else. That left me dateless to my senior prom. I thought about asking Adam. Two problems. I didn't know his name at the time, and I had never spoken to him before.

So prom came on Saturday and I went to it. While I was sitting there with a few of my friends, I saw Adam walk in. He talked to someone and came and sat at my table. Oh, my God, he looks good in a suit. I have some pictures of him.. but I think it would be too creepy if he goes strolling through the internet and finds pictures of himself on my blog. So I won't post them. But he did look good.

After a while (read as: at the end of prom) they played a couple slow songs. The first one came on and I got up my nerve, looked up, and asked Adam if he wanted to dance.


Ouch. So I just turned around and didn't say anything. Another slow song came on right after. So I asked him why he didn't want to dance. Because I'm naturally curious like that. You tell me to do something or give me some sort of negative reasoning, I need to have an explanation.

"I don't dance."

Okay. I don't, either. But it's a slow song. You hold my waist and go in a circle.

So after a few more comments from the both of us (he had never danced before) I asked him, "Pleeeeeeease?"


And so we danced. :) I was happy. And he walked out with me when it ended and hung out with me. ("Fortunately my mother isn't here on time.") He made me giddy.

So. When I saw him I decided to go talk to him. Even though he clearly is very socially awkward. And so am I. So it makes me want to talk to him. His English class had to go do the "Fitness Gram" thing. Mile run. Fun. My friend Kelsey is in his class, so the three of us walked down together. They did their running. I took pictures. Then we went back up to their class. And we looked at pictures from prom. Though it took some encouraging to get Adam to come sit near me.

Which explains perfectly why I don't have chocolate. I just couldn't tell you the short version. That, and nobody is reading this anyway. So I can ramble all I want.

Now I just have to await my mother.