Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day! -- In Which I Attend a Goat Roast

Thanks again to my friends at the Lisa Ekus Group, yesterday I was able to attend an awesome local food event and celebration: An Oaxacan style goat roast!

Looks like something out of a horror movie, right?
In collaboration with some other people in the local food world, the feast was put on for a contest called Big Feast from Food52 and Tasting Table. I'll post links to the articles when they're posted--I can't wait to read the coverage of this really great party. Basically the goat was buried with hot coals and roasted for hours, then we dug it up and dug in. It was great!

Tiny custard tart--probably my favorite dessert

Not only was it my first time tasting goat (I can't quite describe it, it's not like any meat I've ever eaten), but also I got to sample a bunch of locally produced food. I brought my friend and fellow foodie, John, and afterwards we couldn't stop talking about how fun it was--and how AWESOME the food was! It's amazing how full and nourished you feel after a good meal with such fresh ingredients. It really made me want to get more involved in the local food movement. There are so many benefits to eating locally, and the food just tastes SO much better.

Cracked corn

I also met some really cool people. Here are some pictures!

Uncovering the goat

Sauce/Soup/Corn and the goat is underneath

These were my first two plates. Out of four total.

John approves of the goat taco

Removing the goat from the box

Goat carving

Trying goat for the first time--yum!

Delicious local beer

The Lisa Ekus Group!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New, Happy Addictions -- Truffle Fries with Parmesan Cheese and Parsley

I think my pictures are getting better. Still not good enough for FoodGawker--my new short-term photography goal, hah--and with some new equipment I'm getting around that whole pesky I-only-cook-at-night-so-my-pictures-come-out-like-crap issue. So look! Pretty pictures! But the food photography side of blogging isn't JUST about the food, strangely enough, it's also about the picture as a whole. This is why I'm finding food styling is so important. And, this is what I tend to struggle with most. So I've now become obsessed with not only teaching myself basic food photography, but also food styling. Or, at least, acquiring as many props and such as humanely possible. This past month I have bought the following items:
  • 10 colorful plates, none of them matching
  • 5 bowls, again, none of them matching
  • 5 white plates of various sizes
  • 3 round place mats
  • 2 mason jars
  • 1 rubber rimmed jar
  • 6 ramekins (bright red, they're pretty!)
  • 3 pretty patterned cupcake liners
  • 1 springform pan (moreso because I found one for $5 and I've been wanting one)
  • 3 tripods of varying sizes (they came as a set on Amazon, one is too flimsy to use)
  • 1 light tent with 2 lights (they're kind of weak for how huge the tent is... I need to invest in stronger ones methinks)
  • 2 food styling/food photography books (From Plate to Pixel and Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots)
  • 1 food blogging book (Will Write For Food)

I still need (want):
  • Decorative forks, spoons, and knives
  • A few pretty serving platters
  • PLACE MATS. I cannot for the life of me find affordable, pretty place mats that I don't have to spend over $10 a set for. Ideally, I need to find single place mats that are under $2. I think tag sales will be my best bet...
  • Napkins. Same problem as above. Why are NAPKINS so dang pricey?
  • Pretty mugs/teacups
  • Props of other sorts--vases, fake fruit?, this is where I'm rusty, hah.

I also discovered that Marshall's and TJMaxx are DANGEROUS places. I'm grateful there is no HomeGoods nearby or my money would be ENTIRELY gone. They just have such PRETTY stuff. I went into both places looking for items for the bachlorette party I'm throwing on Saturday and I ended up leaving with my arms full of 1/4 bachlorette and 3/4 cooking stuff. And it's a tight money week for me too (student loans are the most epic of bitches). Oy! Also I had to stop myself from loading up my cart in the "Gourmet Foods" aisle too. Huge containers of olive oil under $10, agave nectar for $2, truffle salt for $8, Saffron for $7! And a whole variety of spices that I just wanted to take home with me.

Folks, I think my shopping problem has graduated from shoes to kitchen/dining room things--though there were no less than four pairs of shoes I had to reason myself out of buying too. This would be fine if I had my own apartment but I do not, so all of these lovely cooking items are living in a drawer in my closet.

But, as I've been saying, this blog is one of my favorite things. I'm loving how I can translate my growing love of food into the written word, and that I'm learning new things every day and teaching myself basic photography. I missed college because I hate feeling stagnant, I hate not learning and sitting still for too long. And if this blog never results in a memoir or cookbook or even enough ad revenue to make back a fraction of what all those various things cost--it's still worth it. I'm proud of the work I'm doing here and it gives me a way to share my passion with the world. At worst, I have a great place where I've documented a few years of my life and cooking adventures. And that sounds pretty dang good to me :)

Anyway. And now, for these fries.

They are absolutely fantastic. Thank the truffle oil, and the fact that red potatoes and fresh Parmesan cheese were just meant to be lovers.

In my experimenting in the kitchen I often find myself creating sadly soggy baked fries. I'm not sure what the magic combo was here that made these fries absolutely perfect--the correct balance of crispy outside, soft inside--but it further strengthens my notion that truffle oil is MAGICAL.

I made these with my truffle-enhanced burgers and they were a serious hit. In fact, since they finished before the burgers were ready I began munching on them and ended up devouring most of the batch and had to make a second mini one for pictures. THEY ARE THAT GOOD. You've been warned.

Truffle Fries with Parm and Parsley
  • 4 red potatoes, sliced to fry proportions
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1tsp truffle oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 tbs freshly grated parm cheese
  • sprinkle of salt, pepper, and parsley, to taste

-Mix all ingredients except potatoes in a large bowl. Add potatoes and toss to coat. Bake at 400 degrees for about a half hour, until crispy.

-Serve with these burgers for extra awesomeness

Monday, May 21, 2012

Interview with Julie Hasson of 150 Best Cupcake Recipes

You may remember my Cinco De Mayo post this year, featuring the fantastic Margarita Cupcakes from 150 Best Cupcake Recipes by Julie Hasson. I was so happy that my friends at the Lisa Ekus Group chose this book to send my way for review (I am a cupcake FIEND), and when Julie's publicist at Robert Rose mentioned that I could send along some interview questions for Julie I was absolutely thrilled! I love talking to people who have careers in food and food publishing. I got into the habit of doing informational interviews in college when I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my degree, and to this day I find them a valuable learning experience on how to form your own career path--by talking to those who have made a living with your own similar interests. As you probably know, I love writing, cooking, and writing about cooking, so it was really great to talk to Julie and hear her advice for us 20-something food bloggers with visions of cook books in their eyes.

Julie seems to have it all covered: she has her own food cart, has written a handful of cook books, and her blog is full of wonderful food photography and recipes. I was so excited to talk to her!

Here is a little bit of background on Julie, from her website:
"Julie Hasson has 20 years of experience in the food industry, including attending UCLA’s Culinary Arts/Professional Chef program, working at the famed Patina restaurant, and serving as a private chef for celebrities and high-profile clients. Julie opened the original Babycakes Bakery (a wholesale bakery that supplied Los Angeles restaurants and coffee houses with artisan baked goods), authored [many] cookbooks (Vegan Diner, The Complete Book Of Pies, 125 Best Cupcake Recipes, 125 Best Chocolate Chip Recipes, 125 Best Chocolate Recipes and 300 Best Chocolate Recipes), has contributed extensive articles and recipes to Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times, and Family Fun magazines, and is also the host of the popular Internet cooking show “Everyday Dish.” Julie has been featured in print, and on TV and radio, including The Cooking Channel, Better, Better Portland, Good Day Oregon, Martha Stewart Radio, Veg News Magazine, Vegetarian Times, as well as numerous radio and TV shows across the country. She was one of the hosts of the cooking show 15 & Done." (source)

First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions! I was thrilled to receive a copy of your new book, 150 Cupcake Recipes recently. I plan on baking my way through it over the summer--as you said in the intro, cupcakes really are the perfect dessert! I haven't interviewed someone since my college magazine writing course, so forgive me if I'm a little rusty, here we go!

As a young professional who is trying to figure out exactly what I want to do in life, I always find it interesting to ask people how they came upon their current career path. Could you tell me how you got into this career? What is your background in cooking?

I was actually an art major in college, and realized that I loved cooking so much that I wanted to be a chef. So I quickly switched career paths. UCLA had a culinary arts program at the time, and that is where I learned to cook professionally. My first job was in the pastry kitchen at a restaurant called Patina, in Los Angeles. That sort of cemented the whole dessert thing for me.

About a year later, my husband and I opened a wholesale bakery in L.A., called Babycakes, and made rustic desserts for local restaurants and coffee shops. The magazine and book writing came later.

That's awesome! I find it comforting to know that the major you choose in college doesn't have to dictate what you end up doing. What was your first cookbook? Can you share a little bit about the process of writing and publishing it?

My first book was 125 Best Chocolate Chip Recipes. I knew that I wanted to write a chocolate chip dessert book. I found an agent who believed in my idea, I wrote a proposal, and found a publisher. Once I got the publishing contract, I wrote the entire book in about 4 months. I had so many recipes swirling around my head, that the book just flowed out of me.

You have written a handful of books and articles about Vegan cooking. Are you Vegan? If so, do you find it difficult to develop recipes that are not Vegan? How do you go about testing recipes that you cannot eat yourself? 

I am vegan. It was definitely a process for me transitioning my writing and cooking career. I had written so many dessert books and articles, which although vegetarian, were far from being vegan. My recipes relied on the usual suspects of butter, cream, and eggs. I decided to become vegan while I was writing my pie book (The Complete Book Of Pies). It was tough trying to figure out how I was going to write and test recipes and be vegan. I decided that I would finish all of the recipes that relied on dairy, eggs and butter first, and then have the rest of the recipes be vegan. So there are actually over 100 vegan pie recipes in that book, all of which I’m very proud of. They are the recipes that I reach for whenever I make pie, which is pretty frequently.

You own your own food cart business, Native Bowl, with your husband. The cuisine is entirely comprised of rice bowls using native ingredients. What was the inspiration for this menu?

When we opened our food cart, we knew we wanted to serve fresh, healthy, flavorful food. We wanted to use as many local ingredients as possible, and serve something that was pretty unique. When my husband and I entertained at home, we would often do rice bowls with all kinds of bold flavored sauces and fresh, crisp seasonal vegetables. They were always very popular, so we decided to do something similar at our cart. We also wanted our food to be vegan.

"150 Best Cupcake Recipes" is now your second cupcake cookbook. How does it compare to your first cupcake book? Do you foresee another cupcake book in the future?

150 Best Cupcake Recipes is actually an updated version of 125 Best Cupcake Recipes, along with 25 new recipes. So the books are similar, but with some fun new additions. The new recipes are more in line with the way that I bake now. In fact, some of the new recipes in the book we serve at our cart.

I don’t know if I see another cupcake book in my future, although you never know. Maybe next time I’ll tackle Twinkies or some other style of mini cakes.

You've written many books focusing on dessert. What is your favorite dessert? Did you always have a sweet tooth?

I have always had a sweet tooth, and loved to bake. I started baking at a really young age. As a teenager my specialties were chocolate mousse, chocolate cake and chocolate chip cookies. I think I enjoyed making them even more than eating them.

It’s really hard to pick one favorite dessert, but if I have to pick just one I would say that it’s berry pie.

What is your advice for young professionals who are looking to break into the industry--be it restaurant ownership, cookbook writing, or recipe development?

Oh that’s a tough one. I would say that culinary school is a great place to start. Even if you already know how to cook, there is so much to learn about professional cooking. It also helps give you confidence when you go out into the field, because it’s a very competitive business. I think that I would also say that if money is your goal, you may want to rethink cooking for a living.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it!

From an interview about 150 Best Cupcake Recipes by Julie Hasson © 2011 Robert
Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Weird, Yet Tasty -- Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies

Apparently, bacon-as-dessert is the new cupcake. Weird, right? Yeah, I was highly skeptical too. My one taste of bacon-plus-confection was a bite of a maple bacon ice cream cone at the local county fair last summer. It was... okay... but I found myself wishing the bacon was crispier and less chewy, or preferably not even there at all. It was kind of a weird sensation to have chunks of chewy meat in your ice cream.

The former vegetarian in me was squeamish at the thought of a cookie in this same vein. But if it was trending so hard in the blogosphere, there had to be something to it, right? I looked back on all the times I scoffed at a fashion trend or two then ended up falling for them in the end. I remember my mom buying Ugg boots and how I laughed at how "ugly" they were... then one day when I had to shovel they were the closest boots to the door and I threw them on to trudge through the snow. Then I borrowed them for the day. Then the week. Then my mom was asking me where her Ugg boots went. Eventually I accepted that this toasty-warm, yet bulbous and somewhat cumbersome footwear was just ideal for the harsh New England winters. Soon I had my own pair.

Similar things have happened with jeggings, hair feathers, and neon accent pieces. All trends I was uneasy about, then found ways to incorporate them into my own style in a less jarring way. So, how are bacon cookies any different? I decided to take the plunge.

And, you know what? I'm glad I did. While these aren't necessarily the FIRST thing I'd opt for when having a chocolate chip cookie craving, they certainly hold their own in a bizarre way. I made sure the bacon was thoroughly crisped and crumbled before adding to the batter, and that the chip-to-bacon-bit ratio was at LEAST 2:1 and the added grease from the bacon ensured a perfectly chewy cookie.  What resulted was a delicious chocolate chip cookie with a hint of saltiness. This is the same reason why I devour chocolate dipped pretzels--salty and sweet were just made to be together.

When I brought these bad boys to work I assumed the "bacon" component would deter people from trying them. Nope, word soon spread from the office that I had some crazy awesome cookies at my desk, and people were coming over from across the building to try one. Even my parents, who at first seemed almost scared of the chocolate-meat-cookies ended up sampling a few and gushing over them. I think I'll call this a win.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Based on the NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® recipe on the back of the bag. Feel free to use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and just throw in the bacon with the chips)
(Again, I threw away the bag so I Googled the recipe and copied from here)

  •  2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Milk Chocolate Morsels
  • 7 pieces bacon, cooked to desired crispiness and crumbled (I baked mine at 400 degrees F until crispy, then drained on a paper towel while I prepared the cookie dough)

-Preheat oven to 375° F. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and bacon. Form balls into desired size and place on ungreased baking sheet.

-Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes then remove to wire racks or plate to cool completely.

-If desired, top with melted chocolate and a piece of cooked bacon for garnish.

Monday, May 14, 2012

"The Best Burger I've Ever Had!" -- A Love Letter to Truffle Oil

Truffle oil. One of those overrated, fancy-pants, over-priced mystery ingredients--right?
Yeah, that's what I thought too.

I didn't give this magic syrup much thought, it couldn't be as amazing as everyone said it was. Google searches showed that a tiny bottle of this stuff was more than I really wanted to spend. A stroll through the local supermarket yielded only a bottle of "truffle-flavored balsamic." Finally, I picked up a tiny bottle during a random Whole Foods run for $10. True, it wasn't legit truffle oil (the bottle says "made with truffle essence" or something), but I figured it would work enough to play around with.

And then it stayed in my cabinet for 6 months. I have this habit of saving things because I'm scared to use them up or ruin them. I think it stems from when I was little and I was eating beef stew with my Nana and I kept picking out the chunks of beef and asking for more soup--but just the beef please. My Nana told me that "next time, you should save the beef until the end, so that you can enjoy it for longer! Save the best for last!" To this day, I eat all the purple Skittles first and save the red ones until the end. This mentality carries over to other things--like jewelry. I keep my more expensive pieces under lock and key, afraid I'll lose or break them if I overuse them. Saving them for special occasions, so I can enjoy them longer.

The tiny, overpriced oil waited in my cupboard, victim to my "save the best for last" mentality and the fact that I couldn't figure out how to use it. Then, on a whim, I decided I wanted to make hamburger rolls with my baking friend. Obviously, we needed to make hamburgers to go inside said rolls, and I remembered the time I tried to re-create a burger from my favorite local burger joint. Why not try it with my newfound moist-burger trick AND actual truffle oil? It was a plan. And, of course, the burgers were topped with bacon, mushrooms, and cheddar, because those are the things dreams are made of. Burger dreams.

Homemade hamburger buns topped with poppy seeds

My friend's mom was baffled. She kept repeating "this is so good! These are the best burgers I've ever eaten! How are they so good??" And, even better news, these didn't give me stomach problems! Rejoice! I'm finding that food I make from scratch is usually okay, restaurant food is what's tricky. Makes sense I guess. 

It's all the truffle oil. Truffle oil, I will never doubt you again. You may smell funny, be overpriced, and the subject of many Top Chef Challenge criticisms ("you rely too heavily on the truffle oil!")--none of it matters. Your affect on food is fantastic. I can only imagine the utter mouthgasm that actual real truffles would provide. Jeesh!

Also made truffled baked french fries which were probably the best thing I've ever eaten. I can't wait to share that recipe with you folks, as well as the hamburger buns--which came out a little denser than expected but, as is true with homemade bagels, something about homemade bread just beats that bagged kind out of the water!

Truffled Burgers with Bacon, Mushroom, and Cheddar
  • 1 lb freshly ground beef
  • 1 slice white bread
  • 1 tbs milk
  • 2 tsp truffle oil
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to season
  • Handful of baby bella mushrooms
  • 8 Slices maple bacon, cooked (I baked them in the oven until desired crispiness, my new favorite way to cook bacon)
  • 4 Slices cheddar cheese (I only had shredded)

-In a large bowl, place the slice of bread and sprinkle milk onto it until soggy. Shred the bread with a fork, then incorporate the ground beef. Add one teaspoon of truffle oil and salt and pepper. Mix in well.

-Heat olive oil and remaining truffle oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When warm, add mushrooms and cook until soft. Remove mushrooms from skillet and set aside.

-Form the beef mixture into four patties and place in the same skillet. Adjust the heat (I turned it up) and cook burgers until desired done-ness. You can grill them if you'd like, but I wanted to cook it in the leftover oil for added flavor.

-When burgers are nearly done, top with cheese, bacon, and mushrooms and leave on heat until cheese is melty. Remove burgers from heat and place in buns--homemade is best! Also pairs quite well with fries baked in truffle oil (recipe to come!)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Baked Mac and Cheese -- A Mother's Day Tribute

My favorite meal of hers growing up--baked mac and cheese

"I always thought you'd be taller," my mom often says to me, looking down at my 5'4" stature from hers at 5'9". It's true, I can probably count on one hand the number of times people have told us we look "just like mother and daughter" and for a time in my childhood I was convinced my twin-like aunt was my actual mother, and that there was a family conspiracy protecting this crazy family secret. Not sure how I explained the photo albums of my first few days on Earth as an infant, but eventually I accepted that I was my mother's daughter, I had just inherited exclusively recessive genes or something--which also didn't quite make sense, considering my father was blonde haired and blue eyed and I am neither. I suppose I'm just a perfect blend of them both, mixed in such a way that I resemble neither. As I got older I was able to find other ways that my mother and I were alike--our slim figures, the shape of our feet, our large hands with tiny wrists.

College graduation, May 2010

However, though my mis-matched blue/green eyes are the opposite of her deep brown, and I've always longed for her straight hair and oval face as I fight to accentuate my missing cheekbones with rouge and flat iron my curls--I've gotten far more valuable things from my mother than coloring and height. My mother is an unbelievably strong woman. Her heart is as big as they get and she will fight to the bitter end for those she loves. She's overcome many obstacles in life and is a successful woman today despite it all. Even when things weren't perfect, she was determined to give my brother and me a happy childhood. And she did, tenfold.

After a play this past winter (no worries, my makeup isn't ALWAYS
so clownish), with my Nana on the right

I've inherited her spirit, her bravery, and her determination to do the right thing no matter what. When we butt heads, when we argue, it always leaves me bitter for a while, until I realize the reason why we do this is because we are both such strong-willed women and as stubborn and tenacious as they come. We disagree, but in the end our love for each other overcomes and we end up closer than ever.

Family camping trip, probably before my little brother was born.
Note the stuffed animal, I lost that at age 6. I still miss her.

I lost my Dad after only 19 short years with him, which opened my eyes to how little time we all have together in the end. It has made me hold tighter to my relationship with my mother, trying to make every year, every day, every minute count, even when our busy lives give us only moments.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
(the first recipe of my Mom's I ever re-created by myself)

  • 1 package macaroni elbows
  • 7 tbs butter
  • 3 tbs flour
  • 3 cups milk (percentage of your choice!)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • large dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs dijon mustard
  • 2 blocks cheese, cut into blocks -- this is up to you, but I like sharp cheddars
  • 1.5 sleeves Ritz crackers, crushed

-Prepare a box of macaroni according to the package

-Melt 4 tbs butter in a sauce pan and slowly add the flour, whisking constantly. Slowly add the milk, again whisking constantly.

-Add the garlic, cayenne, and mustard and stir to combine. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and temper into the sauce. Let the mixture simmer until thick, it should coat the back of a spoon.

-Once the sauce is thick, add most of the cheese, reserving a small amount for topping later. Stir until melted. Combine the cheese sauce with the prepared macaroni and pour into a greased baking dish.

-To make the topping: melt the remaining butter and toss with the crushed ritz. Pour crumbs over the top of the mac and cheese and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Mom and me at the Tower of London in fall 2007 when she visited me during my study abroad
*EDIT* Though I traditionally keep my online activity from family members, I let my mom read this post and she was very touched. Also, she pointed out to me that the stuffed animal in the camping picture was NOT Baby Kitty Pink (my absolute favorite stuffed animal as a child), like I originally thought, it is actually Baby Kitty Blue, her brother. Baby Kitty Blue I lost even earlier in his short life, when I was 4, after I left him on a ferry in Canada. Baby Kitty Pink I lost at age 6, when we were on vacation in Cape Cod and I left her in a hotel room drawer. Good eye, Mom!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Mini Donut Factory -- Sour Cream Donuts with Chocolate Ganache

For a short time in the winter of 2010, I worked at the local shopping mall at a small gift boutique. Since the job was only part-time, and I rarely worked a full 8 hour shift, I didn't get a full lunch/dinner break. However, a few hours into the shift I would be STARVING and need to use my tiny 15 minute break to rush to the nearest food vendor and stuff my face.

My options? Orange Julius, Auntie Annie's, or if the mall was especially dead I could book it to Target to get some delicious Pizza Hut breadsticks. However, just before Christmas a new option presented itself: The Mini Donut Factory. For just $3 you could get a bag of delicious, crisp on the outside soft on the inside, cinnamon-sugary deep fried perfection. My co-workers pointed out that these donuts were identical to the ones you find at county fairs, but somehow my beeline to the fried dough stand had made me overlook them all these years.

I still dream about these donuts. Sadly with my recent dietary restrictions, deep friend donuts are definitely a big risk. I realize that on my next mall trip these fears might go right out the window and I'll take the plunge and devour a bag and face the consequences, but in the meantime, I have another plan...

Naked donuts...

Recently I received an email from my Groupon account, reminding me that my $10 discount on a Groupon Goods purchase was expiring. Their usual offerings were usually of no interest to me, but I thought I'd browse just in case.

My new best friend

Oh goodness, I am glad I did! They were offering a The Original Donut Factory for only $15! With my discount, that means I only paid $5. Basically, this amazing little machine is just a waffle iron masquerading as a donut maker, but no matter. After mixing up a batter it only takes 5 minutes to have delightful, delicious little cake donuts. And because they're baked, instead of fried, you're saving a bunch of calories! AND I CAN EAT THEM!

You can tailor the recipe to suit your needs. I've come across low fat, gluten-free, sugar free, and muffin-like options and they all look fantastic. I think that if you baked them for half the time and then gave them a dip in the deep fryer they'd taste just like the mall ones. For my first whirl with this donut maker I did a batch of vanilla sour cream, a batch of chocolate, and a batch of strawberry. I then whipped up a quick chocolate ganache and dipped some of the donuts in, and even adorned some with sprinkles. They all came out delicious but my personal favorite were the vanilla, fresh out of the donut maker and still piping hot.

This delightful little machine will get much use, methinks.

I LOVE when tiny dog
helps in the kitchen

Sour Cream Donuts
(From Babycakes--a different donut maker brand)

  • 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

-Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In separate bowl whisk together remaining ingredients, except glaze or topping.  Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Using a mixer on medium speed, blend until smooth.

-Fill each cooking reservoir with about 2 tablespoons of batter, or until each well is about half full (the donuts fluff up a LOT). Bake about 4 to 5 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into donut comes out clean, and donuts are golden brown in color.

Takes some trial and error to figure out how much batter...

-Let cool, then top with desired toppings. I used a simple chocolate ganache and dipped some in sprinkles. You can also roll them in cinnamon sugar.

PS. I am hoping to interview Julie Hasson, author of 150 Best Cupcake Recipes sometime within the next week! So exciting! Until then, check out the Margarita Cupcakes I made from my review copy of the book :)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Julie Hasson's 150 Cupcake Recipe Recipes Review -- Cinco De Mayo Margarita Cupcakes

Margarita, hold the salt.

So, yet again my wonderful friends at the Lisa Ekus Group sent me a lovely cookbook to review via Robert Rose. Aren't they the sweetest? And they certainly sent me the SWEETEST book in their Spring 2012 lineup: Julie Hasson's 150 Best Cupcake Recipes!

Hugging my review copy of the book,
fantasizing about all the cupcakes I will make this summer with it...

I remember back when I was in college and first getting my foodie feet wet: cupcakes had just come onto the scene in a big way. The blogosphere suggested that the hype would be over soon, and another dessert trend would take its place. And through the years donuts have made a vallant effort, as have cakepops (check out this title, also represented by Lisa!), and even bacon has tried to encroach on trendy-dessert territory, but cupcakes have remained stubbornly in the spotlight--and rightly so! As Julie says in her introduction, "Cupcakes are the perfect dessert." and she's right! These perfectly contained little cakes leave much room for creativity, flavor, style, and improvisation. The possibilities are truly endless. "It doesn't matter if you're 4 or 40, cupcakes are delicious." Well said, Julie!

Sub-par lime slices, totally above-par cupcakes

Robert Rose books are wonderful. I remember a few lunch breaks during my internship with Lisa that I spent in the book closet, flipping through various titles. At first glance, these books seem more function than flash--only a handful of pictures are included, and most pages are basic black and white on plain paper. What's great about this though, is that the pages are perfect for penciling in tips and tricks. I know we all have hand-me-down cookbooks where a relative has scribbled in notes of their own after recipes, and I can imagine my tiny collection of Robert Rose books being passed down with my own chicken-scrawl penmanship scattered throughout.

I bought a sombrero for $1 JUST for this picture...

Tips and tricks are on every recipe, as well as suggestions for frosting and technique.These suggestions  are endlessly valuable. For example, this recipe requires lime oil, which is a bit hard to find. A tip off to the side assures the reader that lime zest is a proper substitute. Awesome! Plus there's a whole section in the beginning with suggestions for decorating, garnishes, and various mix-ins before you get to the cleverly categorized selection of recipes (Chocolate, Fruit, "Adults Only" aka COCKTAIL CUPCAKES, Kids Cupcakes, and Vegan to name a few). And with 150 recipes there is seriously every cupcake for every occasion you can think of!

At the cookout, posing with my new favorite shirt

Because of the holiday this past weekend I decided on the Margarita Cupcakes as my contribution to a cookout I was going to. Also, I am obsessed with cocktail-inspired cupcakes, I forsee this being the most well-used section of this book. And, as I am wont to do, I waited to make them until practically last minute. Imagine my surprise when I discovered we were out of flour! I had already gone on a wild goose chase to assemble the margarita liquids and spent far too much money (you gotta get the best when you make cupcakes, hence why I bought tiny bottles of Patron for this endeavor). Thankfully, my friends agreed to let me use their kitchen and flour--so long as I made a double batch to share. This was a fee I was happy to pay.

This is my friend's pet pig. His name is Oliver. He is fantastic.

The cupcakes were a clear hit at my friend's house, the Cinco De Mayo cookout I attended--which included a pet pig, SO COOL--and at play rehearsal today. I contemplated adding a lime curd in the center of the cupcakes, but decided to stick by Julie's recipe for my first attempt. I'm glad I did! The tequila syrup made the cupcakes deliciously moist and no extra stuff was needed. These are a great cupcake to bring to a picnic, the flavors just really scream summer to me.

Margarita Cupcakes
Excerpted from 150 Best Cupcake Recipes by Julie Hasson © 2012 Robert Rose Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
(Makes 12 cupcakes)

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbs triple sec
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp lime zest
  • 1/3 cup milk

For the syrup

  • 2 tbs light corn syrup
  • 2 tbs superfine sugar*
  • 1 tbs tequila
  • 1 tbs fresh lime juice

For the frosting

  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp of lime juice
  • 1 tsp of lime zest

-In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt

-In another small bowl, whisk together lime juice and triple sec

-In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, eggs, and lime zest until smooth. Alternatively whisk in flour mixture, milk, and triple sec/lime mixture. Beat until smooth.

-Scoop batter into prepared pan (extra points for pretty cupcake wrappers!). Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Let cook on a pan or rack for just 5 minutes.

-Whisk together syrup mixture. Using a skewer or toothpick, poke four to five holes in the top of each warm cupcake. Drizzle syrup over top of each cupcake. Let cool for ten minutes, then move to rack to cool completely.

-Beat together confectioner's sugar, butter, and salt with an electric mixer until creamy. Increase speed and add zest. Using a pastry bag** pipe icing onto cooled cupcakes.

*I didn't have superfine sugar and I didn't feel like pulling out the food processor to grind up regular granulated like the book helpfully suggested. So I warmed up the mixture in the microwave in ten second increments and stirred until sugar was dissolved. It worked fine!

**I forgot my pastry bag at home, so I used a ziplock bag with a hole cut in it. It made for kind of gloopy looking frosting, but it tasted delish so, success.