Thursday, March 24, 2011

Just the Basics...

I admit, when I think about baking, my tastes may sometimes be...esoteric for some....the lavender cupcakes I made for my birthday last year, rose vanilla scones...you get the idea.  So you may be surprised to know that today I made chocolate cupcakes.  With a chocolate frosting.  Basic.  Safe.  Easy.

Of course, I did tweak the recipe and added a little espresso powder.  I topped them with chocolate frosting, but not a buttercream.  More like a thick glaze which gets better as it sits.  They're dense without being really fudgy.  The frosting has a great gloss.  It was my first time using either recipe.  I may tinker with them some more.

I took a basic chocolate cake recipe from the CD Kitchen site.  I cut the recipe in half, since there is no reason for me to be sitting here with 2 dozen cupcakes.  Having half that many is bad enough, especially considering that my lunch was a cupcake and a lot of frosting from licking the bowl clean.  The icing recipe is from the Cooks.com website. Now here's a problem I'm sure you wish you had.  The icing recipe made a LOT of frosting and I have a ton left.  Time for some sandwich creme cookies, maybe?  We'll see.





Basic Chocolate Cake
adapted from CD Kitchen

Makes @ 10 cupcakes (give or take one)

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening (I used Butter Crisco)
1 egg
1/4 cup cocoa power (I used Trader Joe's Organic Cocoa)
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream sugar, shortening and egg.  Mix espresso powder and cocoa with the hot water.  Sift flour, baking soda and salt together.  Mix cocoa with the milk.  Alternately add the cocoa mixture and the sifted flour to the creamed sugar and egg.  Add vanilla.  Pour batter into lined muffin tin and bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Mine were done at the 30 minute mark.  

Easy Chocolate Frosting
adapted from Cooks.com

Makes about 3 cups

1 1/2 cups sugar
6+ tablespoons cornstarch
6 tablespoons cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

 Mix sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt.  Make sure it's combined well.  Stir in boiling water.  Transfer to sauce pan and cook over low heat until mixture thickens, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Add butter and vanilla. Whisk until combined.  Spread while still hot.

Mine thickened to the consistency I wanted in about 15 minutes.  I added an additional 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to thicken it a touch more.  Next time I may let it sit and cool a bit before frosting the cupcakes.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Roaring in...


...like a lion and out like a lamb...isn't that what they say about March?...tomorrow is the first day of Spring, and as if on cue, Los Angeles is due for some Spring showers...or a Spring storm...we'll see what comes...we had a little rain last night and this morning when I let Smokey out (the indoor-outdoor cat in my trio) I couldn't help but notice the rose bushes outside my door.  The gardeners mow them down to nothing and they come back with a fierceness and a profusion of blooms.  They were still covered with the overnight rain and I had to bring a couple in with me.  



I've been a little quiet lately...having spent the last two weeks dealing with some allergic reaction to something...not knowing the exact cause has been frustrating (though I think I pinned it down and have since thrown the offending item away).  It's not been pretty...angry red welts, rash and itching on my face, neck, ears, and arms.  I finally gave in and went to see a doctor the other night.  So after a shot of steroids and a take-home 6 day dose, it's finally alleviating.  I'm thrilled to pieces because I've not been a happy camper.  Withdrawn and wanting to scratch away in private.

'What does all that have to do with food?'  Yes...I see the thought bubble above your head.  Well...I haven't really been cooking.  One of my initial fears is that the allergy was due to some sudden food allergy, so I've been eating pretty bland stuff.  This is just my way of telling you that you can tell that I'm feeling better.  I stopped at the grocery store last night after work.  At my favourite store with the bruised produce section (because flaws are not acceptable for their clientele).  It's my secret source for lots of bananas for pennies...and no, I'm not telling.

So....long story short.  I bought a package of Roma tomatoes because they were inexpensive.  And not too bruised.  And I didn't have any tomatoes in the house.  It's Saturday morning...I work later this afternoon.  And I currently have a baking sheet of tomatoes roasting in the oven.  With no set idea on what to do with them.  But the house smells wonderful.  Tomatoes and herbs wafting about.  Yes....I'm feeling better.  MUCH better.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Leftovers....

...the problem (if it is one) when cooking for one is that I tend to make more than I can eat at one sitting...thereby giving me leftovers...a good thing when trying to trim the grocery budget...so, dinner becomes tomorrow's lunch...a bevy of baked goods will last me for days if I don't end up giving most of them away...(thank god for guinea pigs....errr...co-workers!)

...today's been a leftover kind of day...pot roast for lunch...most likely the pasta from last night as tonight's Dinner Redux...though the Leftover Train came to station two nights ago when I came home from work...remember the pane al cioccolato from about a week or so ago?...I still had a decent couple of slices left...probably a tad bit stale...but perfect for...French toast...because hey...some nights all you want is breakfast...

...a little milk...a little egg...a sprinkle of cinnamon here....a sprinkle of nutmeg there...a drop of vanilla to mellow it out...and into a hot frying pan, soaked with spices, that crisp outer shell...chocolate chips melting...a slather of butter, a drizzle of maple syrup and a few sliced strawberries...

...Breakfast...it's what's for dinner...