Monday, May 4, 2009

The Perfect Summer Cupcake: Entry for the 2nd Annual Ice Cream Cupcake Roundup

The real reason my interest in this blog surged over this past weekend was the 2nd Annual Ice Cream Cupcake Roundup: a joint project between Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious that I had to enter. I love ice cream. I bake a lot of cupcakes. Perfect match! I've never entered a baking contest before, but if I'm honest with myself, it's only fitting that these two blogs initiate me. I first found Cupcake Project a year ago--during this contest--when I was looking for some cupcake recipe ideas. I quickly got sucked into the whirlwind that is food blogging, and was obviously attracted to Scoopalicious, being the avid ice cream lover that I am. And so, without further ado...

The Perfect Summer Cupcake: a strawberry cupcake with a ring of white balsamic buttercream, finished with strawberry-basil swirl ice cream.

This cupcake IS summer for me. One of my favorite drinks all summer long is a strawberry martini I make, with strawberry infused vodka, and a basil simple syrup. That drink was my inspirations for this cupcake. The fresh strawberries in the cupcake create a "sunken" center in the cupcake, a perfect bowl for a scoop of ice cream. In addition to the fresh tastes of the strawberries and basil, I wanted some tang to balance the sweetness. I love pretty much anything sweet and balsamic-y, but this frosting came out better than I hoped. It was a bit of a risk, but I replaced some of the cream in my favorite buttercream recipe with a small amount of white balsamic vinegar. I chose to use the vinegar straight, and not make it a glaze first; this was definitely the right choice, because the tart fruitiness prevents the frosting from being too sweet. As a side note, if you've never tried white balsamic, I highly suggest you give it a shot. It's fruitier than dark balsamic, and is, for my money, fantastic on any salad involving goat cheese.

This cupcake idea was the perfect excuse to try out my idea for swirling together strawberry and basil ice creams. I had never made either (nor had I ever swirled together two flavors), but I will definitely make it again! I was a little uncertain about making the basil ice cream, but I loved a fresh mint ice cream I made several months ago, and I'm a bigger fan of basil than I am of mint. I can see some room for improvement on my strawberry ice cream, mainly in consistency. It's harder than I like, especially next to the perfect smooth texture of the basil ice cream, but that can be fixed with a little more creme de cassis, and perhaps cooking down the strawberries to get out some of the water that turns to ice when frozen. The creme de cassis will be my first adjustment, though. I only used about two tablespoons, and, when it doubt, "add more booze" is a good mantra in my ice cream making.

The cupcake has received high accolades from its tasters, with the most prominent compliment being that the frosting was, "the best frosting [I've] ever made." Not bad, for my first attempt at a contest! Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cheddar Garlic Biscuits

This morning, as I made a a baked french toast (using up stale cinnamon rolls!), I realized I was craving a more savory baked good. So, I turned to my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book for a basic biscuit recipe. I altered it quite a bit, because I wanted a cheddar garlic biscuit, I didn't have buttermilk, and I didn't want to feed a crowd.

The original recipe is the Biscuits Supreme, but this recipe includes my alterations, and my process. I'm a pretty simplistic baker, and take quite a few short cuts, so the instructions are probably briefer than those offered in the book.

1 1/2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of sugar
pinch of salt
3/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp garlic powder
6 tbl cold butter, cut in chunks.
1 c cheddar cheese, finely grated
1/4 c milk
1/4 c heavy cream, plus more as needed

1. Preheat oven to 350. In bowl of food processor, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, cream of tartar, and garlic powder. Pulse to combine.
2. Add chunks of butter, pulsing 5-8 times until butter is worked in, and the size of small peas. Don't over-pulse.
3. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and stir in cheese. Add milk and cream, stirring just to combine. Dough should be slightly damp, and look like it would drop off of a spoon, but hold its shape. If you need more liquid, use a little extra cream.
4. Using an ice cream scoop, drop the cookies 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. I used a BIG size 12 ice cream scoop for super biscuits, and got nine.
5. Bake for 15-18 minutes, depending on your oven and the size of your biscuits. Mine ended up about 4" in diameter.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Ice Cream Post

When it comes to sweets, my own personal obsession is with the creamy and the frozen. I love ice cream more than any other food on earth. I live in Ohio, where winter temperatures are consistently below freezing, and yet you can find me on any January night snuggled on the couch, decked out in sweatpants and three blankets, with a bowl of ice cream in my hand. It's a little sick, really. Although I haven't been posting here since I starting turning out so many treats, I always intended to, so there are plenty of pictures!

Over the last six months, my interest in churning my own ice cream--and inventing my own flavors--has become a pretty serious hobby. The obsession began with when Scoopalicious posted this recipe for Milk Chocolate Guinness Ice Cream. I fell in love with David Lebovitz, and haven't looked back.

Berry Merlot Sorbet: a sweet, sultry sorbet that was quick and easy, but I could never get enough of. I pushed the limits of physics with the sheer amount of wine, but it was worth the slight melty texture.

Lemon Sherbet: tangy and smooth, I was a little concerned that the lemon juice would curdle the milk and cream combination, and it looked pretty ugly before I froze it. However, once frozen, the liquid emulsified, and I was pleased with the results. I used some left over raspberries to make a bright, rich sauce to complement the tartness of the sherbet.

Next, I tackled one of my own favorites from a local ice cream shop, Salty Caramel: I bought fleur de sel just for this occasion (though I have found many, many other uses for it!). This is the richest, sweetest, saltiest, and most addictive of all flavors I've made. I can't get enough.

And, finally, Rocky Road: I mostly made this flavor because I was intrigued by making the tiny homemade marshmallows in David Lebovitz's Perfect Scoop. The ice cream ended up becoming a favorite, perfectly combining chocolate ice cream (which I never liked before making it myself!), especially with the chewy little marshmallows and toasted almonds.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Really, I Bake

Wow, I started this blog in December after becoming so addicted to other food blogs. I kept thinking that I make enough fun things to share them on the web, right? It's true--I've even been taking pictures--but it's hard to take the time to post everything. I'll try to be more dedicated. To that end, I'll share some pictures I took a while ago, for cupcakes I did for a baby shower.

These are Chocolate cupcakes, filled with a white chocolate cream cheese and topped with fresh raspberry buttercream.

Two Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes 2

Two Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

This cupcake is a fresh strawberry cupcake, filled with lightly sweetened whipped cream, and topped with vanilla bean frosting.

Strawberry Cupcake