Saturday, June 27, 2009

Southern Sweet Tea Cake

My mom recently discovered this sweet tea flavored vodka and she brought some home the other day. We tasted it and it tastes like someone added a lot of vodka to their sweet tea. Which I have no clue why anyone would want to do that. I'm not a fan of vodka so this isn't something I'd drink straight and I can't think of what to mix it with. But my brain got to churning and thought about Sweet Tea cupcakes and cakes. I took my basic yellow cake recipe and substituted this sweet tea vodka for the dairy (milk, sour cream, yogurt). The outcome was OK but the vodka taste was a little strong, which I thought was weird. But I stayed with my idea. This time I made a batch of the same yellow cake but I brewed myself some really strong tea and used that instead of milk, yogurt or sour cream. That outcome was better, not a strong tea flavor but still good. Next time I might brew even stronger tea.
So, I wanted the buttercream to match of course. Right? So, in this case I just used a simple buttercream: 1 part butter, 2 parts powdered sugar. I brewed some more really strong tea and used that in place of vanilla. I added just enough til it started to change in color, I think 3 T. Then tasted it. Still not very tea-ish but a good start. I frosted a cupcake and tasted. Still not very tea-ish. So I added a teaspoon of lemon extract (I would have used real lemon but I didn't have any), adjusted the powdered sugar cause it was getting too loose and tasted again (too much of this tasting could start to show at the beach, if you know what I mean). It tastes just like sweet tea with lemon. So cool. I frosted another cupcake and tasted again (oh dear lord, again) and it was so good. I still think I need to make really really strong tea. But I'm working on it.

So, if you have any ideas about what to do with that sweet tea vodka, let me know. I don't drink vodka straight so if you have ideas of what to mix it with let me know.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Since the last time I was here I've gotten a tattoo. Actually, I started it awhile back and finished since last time I blogged. It's dogwood flowers. The white one represents my grandaddy and the three pink dogwoods are my mom, my daughter and me. And each one is a generation of Virginians.I did a cake for a friend’s sister who is back in the states after living in Japan for awhile. Her husband got new orders for Virginia Beach, so everyone’s really excited to have them back.
And I've been to a concert.I took my term finals for school, started my Food Manager’s Certificate classes and now I’m working on more cookies. A friend’s birthday is coming up this week and I was wondering what to get him. Finally, I figured I’d make him something and so I’m making him “edible panties”. Heehee. I took my bikini bottom cookie cutters and made them look like panties. Here’s hoping he likes them.

P.S. He loved them!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cupcake Project

I was given a project recently to research and come up with recipes for gluten free and organic cupcakes. Organic was easy. Just replace all your ingredients with certified organic ingredients. Certified being the key word. Or it will say USDA certified. But I've never made anything 100% organic and never tasted a cake or cupcake that was made with all organic ingredients. Let me just say that when you taste it organic does make a difference. There's nothing overwhelmingly different about it, but it definitely doesn't taste chemically at all. And the color is very earthy and beautiful. I loved it!
When I started this project though I started with the gluten free recipes. In the research I did I found a lot of people saying that you just have to play around with different gluten free products. I bought almond flour, white rice flour and quinoa flour. The quinoa flour was a total mistake. I've had quinoa before and didn't notice anything strong about it. So, I thought I'd give it a try. Oh-my-God! Quinoa stinks to high heaven! I gave the raw batter a taste despite the smell but didn't really taste anything weird or off. But as they were baking the smell got worse and I couldn't bring myself to taste the final product. I don't know what quinoa flour would be good for because if it smells like that for anything, even bread, I wouldn't be able to eat it. If you have any suggestions I'm willing to take them. I have a practically full bag of the stuff and nothing to do with it.
The very very first batch I did was with just rice flour. I took my basic yellow cake recipe and converted it for rice flour (I'll give you the links I found for this research at the end of this entry). The final cupcake came out fine but not great, kinda dry.
The raw rice cupcake.
The next batch I did was with just almond flour. That didn't work out too well. The batter seemed to be doing fine halfway through its baking. But then ten minutes after I checked it the first time it appeared to have bunt but was still liquidy-ish. So then I split it and my next batch was half almond, half rice. Those came out great. The only thing I would do differently is add more buttermilk since they came out slightly dry.
Then I started in on my chocolate cupcakes. I kept with the same idea half rice flour and half nut flour. I happened to have hazelnuts in the house doing nothing so I ground those up into a flour and used that in a batch of chocolate. They are so good. The hazelnut adds a very distinct flavor. Those cupcakes would be great with orange meringue buttercream. Yummmmm...
The other chocolate batch I did was with almond flour and rice flour and they were also very good. They taste just like a chocolate cupcake and they got the little girl approval and the mom approval.
The thing about cooking gluten free is that you have to make up for the elasticity you give up when you take out the gluten. So, sources suggested to use xanthan gum to replace it safely for a gluten free diet. All the recipes I used were half recipes so I used only half a teaspoon since the package suggests to add 1 teasppon. The other thing I noticed, and I've heard about this before, was that potato starch helps create a "tender, moist crumb" (per Bob's Red Mill). So, I added a 1/2 teaspoon of that to each recipe too.
Now, it's time to plug a couple things. When making the organic cupcakes I used Simply Organic vanilla extract. I usually use it anyways because it is my preferred vanilla extract. And it's amazinly cheap for being organic. But when you open the bottle it smells like vanilla. It doesn't smell like alcohol. And you can actually put some of this stuff on the tip of your finger and taste it and not get a buzz. So, I figure if it smells good and tastes good before you even use it in a recipe then it's good enough to go into the recipe. The next thing isn't really a plug so much as I want to show you what sugar looks like when it hasn't been manhandled and mutilated. It kinda looks like the sugar you know but it's not super white. It's a nice off white color. Ever since taking a couple classes at school where some of the chefs get really heated up about the subject of organic food I always give my unorganic food a second thought. I can't afford to eat all organic right now but I prefer it over manhandled and processed any day.
See? Isn't it so pretty?
So, I've learned that gluten free can be yummy. Very yummy indeed. And organic cupcakes are soooooo yummy. (Yes yes, I know I use yummy a lot) Now go out there and play around in your kitchen!

Wheat-Free Gluten-Free Baking Flour Conversions and Binding Agents Simplify Recipes