Monday, October 22, 2007

Pies & Giant Cupcakes

I went through startling amounts of butter, flour and sugar this weekend, all with stellar results. My last couple of cake projects didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, so I think I was due some good cake karma.

Project #1 - Giant Hostess Cupcake recipe from Baking Bites

Thank you Baking Bites, I love everything about this cake. It was extremely cooperative as well as quick and easy to make. All of the components worked as they were supposed to and I didn't run out of anything. The cake is unusual in that it contains no eggs or butter - a good last minute emergency cake because you probably already have all of the ingredients in your pantry. After mixing the flour, cocoa powder & baking soda you make three wells and add vanilla, oil, vinegar. Then all you do is pour cold water mixed with coffee powder over the top and stir until smooth. The last few chocolate cakes I've made have required a more laborious and scientific technique, and I can't say that they were any better than this one. This particular combination of chemical reactions creates an extremely chocolaty, moist and dense texture that's durable and easily manhandled.

The cream filling was a new technique for me too and was not a disappointment. It begins with a white sauce, or boiled flour, milk and salt. Once that cools (resist the temptation to add cheese and classy noodles), it's added to creamed butter, white granulated sugar and vanilla. The resulting filling is light and fluffy and much better than anything Hostess has ever made. The frosting was also easy to make, easy to work with, gave good coverage, and set well. Unlike an actual Hostess cupcake you probably couldn't have peeled it off the top of the cake. I cheated for the squiggle and bought a tube of frosting from the grocery store, though I did need to tape my own decorating tip to it to get a correctly proportioned squiggle.

Here it is all finished. The red Carnival glass platter is the only plate I have that was large enough. I usually tape the plate to the bottom of the cake carrier to keep it from sliding around. The blue tape takes away from the aesthetic but whatever.
I make sure to smile extra maniacally when I'm carrying that foot-long knife to the kitchen at work to wash it off. This was a gloriously gargantuan cake.

The last piece which more accurately shows the true ratio of cake to filling:

Project #2 - Secret Ingredient Apple Pie
I was invited to an apple pie bake-off contest. I get a little competitive about contests. I'm a member of the camp who prefers chocolaty desserts over fruity ones so I didn't have a favorite recipe and had no experience making pie crust. Apparently I did a good job because I won "Best Overall Pie". I chose a recipe from the King Arthur Flour Website that uses boiled apple cider in the filling. The combination of the boiled cider and a cooking time of 2 hours creates a caramelized, intensely flavorful filling. A few people asked if I used rhubarb, but no no of course I did not use rhubarb because this was an apple pie contest, not an apple-rhubarb contest. I play by the rules.

Here's a crappy picture of the finished pie. I don't have a photo of the filling because my camera has been acting flaky. I broke the cardinal rule of pie making and forgot to cut steam vents in the top. As a result my crust split while it was baking. Ooops. When this pie went into the oven it had flawless knuckle-sized flutes around the edges. However, once the crust heated up it got puffy and the flutes disappeared.

These are my fabulous prizes. Hmmm, did someone just return from Alaska? The stuff in the plastic is Squaw Candy or smoke cured salmon. It's REALLY good.

Project #3 - Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion (and Goat Cheese) Galette adapted from Smitten Kitchen
This is one of my favorite combinations, though I used goat cheese instead of Smitten Kitchen's original fontina because I like it better and because I had three logs of goat cheese in my cheese drawer. Everything worked according to the recipe and I'd make it again. Thank you Pie Bake off guests for being my lab mice. This photo makes my galette looks gross - Smitten Kitchen's looks much more appetizing. Smellovision would be helpful, at least if you like squash, caramelized onions, goat cheese & sage.

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