Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's Martha, Bitch! Vol. 7 & 8!

Triple Feature Madness! Green Teacakes, True Blood Bites,
and my boyfriend's Balls.

I promise I will explain.

One thing! I hope you all like my new layout. More color, more happiness. I like it. Simple and modern and friendly and whatnot. Thanks for hanging in there with me through the design storm. :-P

So, I mentioned that I had ordered a lot of stuff recently for all my baking learnin' and junk, including a real life Silpat (oooh!), some ball tools (lol) for molding and shaping, some flower punches and lots and lots of shape cutters. So, for this week's cakes I decided to try Martha's white cupcake, sans the pastel peaks she insisted on using for decoration. In fact, it occurs to me that I really just kind of take her recipes and use them as foundations for my own craziness.

For instance, I took this recipe and turned it into something entirely different by adding a couple tablespoons of matcha powder (so pretty!) to the mix. I thought about adding the matcha to the buttercream instead, but that would not look so good with the gumpaste leaves I wanted to make.

For the leaves, I mixed up some awesome chartreusey-matcha green gumpaste and cut out a couple of different sized leaves. On my practice leaves a few weeks back, I made the edges very ripply. They came out pretty realistic looking using one of the ball tools (I find that I prefer the metal to the plastic, with just a tiny touch of Crisco for smoothness.) I went a slightly different route with these guys, and made them more like shapes. I balled the fattest part to give it a little curve, and let them dry on a round object for a slight curve effect. (Gotta get a leaf shaping tray!)

Around the time I started mixing up a buttercream for the frosting, I realized that SUNDAY NIGHT WAS THE TRUE BLOOD SEASON FINALE!! Aaaaugrh!! Trey and I had a couple of folks coming over to watch, so I felt I should do something special for them. True Blood Cakes!

I made another batch of Martha's white cupcakes and put them in bright red papers. You can see them in the background there cooling as I start to ice my Green Teacakes. I made a very white buttercream for this, because I think that this matcha green color and white look so chic together. Once icing was done, I topped them off with their green leaves and Woot! Some lovely green tea flavored cakes!

I must admit that the green tea flavor was on the light side. Florian Bellanger vood not ehv enjeud dese copcauks. HAH!! Maybe I should add more matcha powder? I dunno. Also, I find that Martha's cakes in general seem to lack some sweetness. Even with the proper liquid measurements, they also seem a little on the dense side. Any advice on that? More oil? More milk or something? I dunno. I'm clueless. Even the True Blood cakes were heavier than I expected. They were more like pound cakes than light fluffy cupcakes. Maybe I am mistaken, but it seems that when I buy them from the store, they are like eating air compared to mine, collectively. Remember, I want to be a good bakestress too! So any advice would be much appreciated!

On to the blood...
I wanted something quick for these, and ended up adding all sorts of time to this endeavor. I wanted the appearance of a cupcake that had been bitten by a vamp'r, so my first idea was to use icing and make dots in the top of the icing. When the cakes came out, I noticed they were almost the exact shade of Jessica's fair skin, so I went with bald cupcakes instead. I made a raspberry puree (with a touch of rose water, of course) and OF COURSE it was way too thin. I tried to thicken it up with some arrowroot, but to no avail (always have cornstarch, folks!) My next idea was to reduce it by heating it up on the stove. It thickened up a bit, so that did the trick. Next, I took a chopstick and made holes in the cupcake. I guess I could have just used my fangs, but you know...sanitation and whatnot.

It was True Blood night, okay? And these things were like 12 cents at Walgreens.
I piped (uugh) the raspberry puree into the holes, letting it drip out occasionally to look like well...a vamp attack. It was way too thick or I looked cool, but if I really wanted to get it inside the cupcake, I need a better a syringe. (How many of you sang Raspberry Beret just now?)

Meanwhile Trey is also in the kitchen, making a BIG MESS! Naw. We both made a big mess. Three culinary visions crowding one small space makes a sink very very sad. (For real, I just washed dishes yesterday.) Trey had a plan for a while now to make some S'more Cakeballs! Cakeballs, if you are not aware, are these delicious bites of cake from heaven. Basically, you bakes some cake, you crumble it up and mix it with buttercream icing (in this case, chocolate cake mixed with marshmallow/chocolate buttercream and crushed graham crackers) and then you roll it into little 2 inch balls or so. THEN you dip said balls in melted chocolate and let them cool, garnishing the top with whatever evil you can find in the house.

Photo courtesy of Haley Bonner

Trey's recipe made like, 4,600 cake balls. They were sodalicious, but now people hate us for pushing them on everyone. How else can we make the rest of the world as fat as we are?

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned this week for an art blog about the NSU Faculty Art Show, photos of my new work, and my triumph in the Gallery One Ellleven show in Leesville this past weekend! See ya soon!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

It's Martha, Bitch! Vol. 4, 5, and 6!

So ZOMG. It has been such a long time. Like, 3 or 4 whole weeks. Or so. But I PROMISE you, it were not my fault.
The past few weeks have been pretty crazy in relationship to baking. I have hit some all time lows, and ended with a wonderful high (which I will discuss further down!) I betrayed Martha, and I came running back to her like a dog with fondant between his legs. Well, let's get to it.

1. Martha Blondies!
So. Martha spoke to me in a dream, and coming off of the high of my fabulous Back To Blackcakes, I was happy to oblige. I wanted to do a tribute to Lucille Ball, being that it would have been her one hundredth birthday recently. I wanted to do something yummy and vanilla based, so I flipped to Martha's Blondies recipe. I wanted to do these polka-dot blue and white cups with fiery orange 7-Minute Buttercream icing. The buttercream came out a little weird, I guess. I have never made one before, so I didn't really know what to expect. It just felt and tasted much more buttery/oily than I expected. It was light, but just sort of...slick. I dunno. The color was really great though. Unfortunately, I didn't get to use it.

The cupcakes came out of the oven, and the decorative cups I had baked them in had all turned brown and ugly. I threw them in the fridge to cool them off...and well, I left them in for about 30 minutes. BAD IDEA! They were hard as rocks when I took them out, and the wrappers were all stuck firmly to the cakes. AAARGh! I poped them in the oven, which was off but still pretty warm inside. After about 10 minutes of that, I pulled them back out and let them cool on the stove. I think I was trying to cool them quickly so that I could ice them, and take them to a friend. That didn't really work out.

Having been re-warmed and cooled again properly, they returned to their appropriate texture and softness. These things had butterscotch pieces in them, along with something else I can't seem to remember...and they were TERRIBLY SWEET. I mean, they were delicious! But after one half of one, my teeth jumped out and ran away. There was NO WAY I was adding the super sweet buttercream icing to that. I resigned to make a different, plain ol' vanilla cupcake. I thought that maybe trying a different recipe source would be a good idea, as Martha didn't seem to have anything just plain ol' plain. Duhn - dun- duuuunnnn!

2. The Betrayal - Plain Ol' Vanilla Cupcakes!
I found Amy Sedaris' recipe for vanilla cupcakes online through a Google search. I though, WEll, Amy Sedaris is sort of the anti-Martha, so this all works great. Let me tell you, I LOVE Amy Sedaris. If you havent seen THIS yet, you need to watch!

She is just amazing when it comes to being tacky as hell and incredibly entertaining at the same time. Unfortunately, I got her recipe wrong. I wanted to try adding vanilla pudding to the recipe ( I heard it would make them moist and yummy!) and I may have added too much. They came out fine, but were sort of bland altogether, and a little dense. We ate them for breakfast, but no decorating occurred.

3. Judas Strikes Again! - Chocolate Banana Heaven or The Oven Killer
Once again, thinking that Martha's recipes were just too much for me, I strayed and found this recipe for Chocolate Banana cupcakes, for which I had planned to make a Nutella buttercream frosting. Amazing, right? Besides, how would Martha know? I had some old bananas that needed to be used, and didn't feel like making bread again, so this was a great alternative.
Well, I got the recipe mixed, filled my cups, and noticed that THIS WAS THE BEST I HAD EVER MADE SO FAR!! I also noticed the strong distinctive smell of gas. Lots of gas. Trey noticed it in the living room too. This was while I was preheating the over, so I let it go for another couple of minutes (thinking that it was just paranoia) and the smell continued.
Trying DESPERATELY to get these bitches cooked, I threw them in the oven, and after 10 minutes turned it off with them in it. I was sort of hoping it would stay hot enough inside to bake, without causing our death from a gas leak.
WHY WOULD I BE SO RISKY you ask!? I wanted my damn cupcakes!! Also, there was a gas leak. SO I was probably just going crazy.

Needless to say, the cakes only baked halfway by the time I had called the gas company and we had evacuated the house. I nearly cried! They looked like they were going to really be perfect. Into the garbage they went, however. The gas guy came and turned off the gas to the stove and said it needed to be checked out. Urrgh.

4. Redemption - Martha's Chocolate Cupcakes
During the couple of weeks of waiting for stove repair/replacement, I received several gumpaste tools from Amazon and picked up a few more from Michael's. I think I am REALLY getting the hang of this junk! I got a nice mat for rolling stuff and I have ordered a Silpat for trying sugar and chocolate work. I saw recently that some people are JUST cake decorators, which is great. They don't have to know all the baking stuff as much. I though that maybe I was more destined for that, but truly, I want to do it all. I want to be good at baking as well as decorating. Mind you, my degree is in Design, so food science is not really second nature for me yet. I just have a joy for it, I suppose.

Trey's parents came to visit this weekend, and I had promised them cupcakes a while back. I flipped around in Martha's book and found a good old chocolate recipe. The decor called from gumdrops, but I was like "Martha, please." The cakes came out WONDERFUL (Did you know that you have to use different tools for measuring liquid and dry goods? Apparently a lot of people don't. Or Trey was trying not to shame me for not knowing.) I think this may be the reason that all my cakes have been...well, off. I call these Demon Cakes, for Northwestern State University of course!

SO my oven was working again, my cupcakes were moist and delicious (lol!), and no one suffered from permanent brain damage. I really plan to do something with that raspberry-rosewater junk I made again...i think it really will be excellent. We will see where Martha takes me next. Meanwhile, OMG check her out!! Supa-flyyyyyy!!

"Mothaaah," BIIITCH!!