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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Extra crispy pie crust - with booze!

Boozey blackberry hand pie...not an omelet, despite appearances.

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I don't know about you, but I am forever perfecting my pie crust. It's my own quest for the Holy Grail. I love pie better than most desserts...heck, most FOODS out there. And the crust is my favorite part. I've tried many, many recipes, tips, tricks, and gadgets in search of a perfectly flakey, buttery crust that's crumbly, but not dry, and crispy on the bottom. I HATE soggy bottom crust. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

I got a food processor for Christmas, which changed my life. Seriously, I don't know why I ever doubted the utility of a food processor. It is NOT "basically a blender" as I naively believed before. I think I bust it out at least weekly. I've found a couple trusted, tried-and-true recipes (courtesy of Martha Stewart) that never let me down: my favorites are Our Favorite Pie Crust and Patee Brisee.
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Friday, September 23, 2011

Chocolate and Port Cupcakes

 Hints of cherry, deep chocolate, yet subtly sweet.  Ah, and a bit of ROMANCE you say?   Chocolate and wine seem to be the "go-to" romantic dessert of choice for those of us who have enjoyed the fruit of the grapevine for quite some time.  I first stumbled on this particular food pairing in my mid-20s.  A friend and drinking buddy, among other adventures in our early lives, introduced me.  I wasn't so sure.  One taste of a good dark chocolate and a good Cab, and it was a match not to be trumped for some time.

I made these cupcakes after sampling a port at my brother's house a few weeks ago.  He loves port.  He likes sweet wine.  I like it after dinner sometimes.  Mostly, I drink it when I go to his and my SIL's house.  I used it last year for a really great roast pork tenderloin with fig and port sauce.  Not a BIWB thang, so you're on your own for that one.

I used several recipes, and probably didn't follow any one in particular.  I made these buttermilk chocolate with port cupcakes based on the Sweet Chocolate Port Cupcakes from Cupcake Wars.  I did not include the filling.  I made the port reduction from this same recipe.  The frosting is my old stand-by buttercream, and I used port wine and port reduction in the frosting to substitute for the liquid.  The port reduction added a nice and subtle fruity note to this frosting.  B-E-A-U-TI-FUL color.  My favorite sugar pearls added just that little bit of elegance and savoir faire. 
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How Boozey is Your Baking?

This question came up with a friend of mine who tries to avoid alcohol: should I be eating those boozey cupcakes? I did a little research and stumbled across this site, which is where I got the chart below. I'm not sure how scientific this is, since other factors like percentage of alcohol you're starting with (are you making a wine reduction sauce or dousing a bread pudding with Grand Marnier?), cooking/baking temperature and what other ingredients you're using could affect the outcome, but this chart probably gives us a general idea. 

By the way, I should throw this out there while our relationship is fresh and exciting: I'm a nerd. I studied economics in college and I really love charts and graphs. 


I probably should also throw this out there: Ellen is a nerd. An incredibly awesome, stylish & savvy nerd. And, I've discovered that baking with scientists = ridiculously fun. It's kind of like baking with Alton Brown. Ellen can explain the chemical reactions of various ingredients and decode trade secrets like nobody's business. And she throws a mean dinner party too - more on that later!

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Gold Country Fair Crazy for Cupcakes Competition

No, we didn't win.  Alas.  They say that winning isn't everything, right?  Well, that may be true, but winning sure does feel pretty great, huh?  To put it technically, we didn't "place" BUT we are WINNERS just the same.  Okay, enough already.
Jacqueline's Creations
Mint Julep and Chocolate Stout with Bailey's Frosting
Please note the REALLY COOL frosty-mug motif, replete with sugar handles. 
Yeah, these are my new friends!

Ellen's Creations
White Chocolate Liqueur, Root Beer Float and Raspberry Liqueur
Jacqueline's hubster came home 2 weeks ago with a flyer for a cupcake baking competition at their neighborhood fair, Gold Country Fair in Auburn.  When she told me about it and suggested that it would be a fun way to enter our BIWB creations, in all honesty, I wasn't in the right frame of mind.  I had JUST completed a marathon cupcake-baking frenzy the night before, and I was T-I-R-E-D of cupcakes, baking, cleaning the Kitcheaid bowl (someday...I will have 2 bowls!), doing dishes, yadda, yadda, yadda.    So, I said: give me 24 hours to think this over.

24 hours later: Voila!  We were entering the contest.  Jacqueline would enter her FAB Mint Julep and her Chocolate Stout with Bailey's Frosting.  I was going to enter my Raspberry Liqueur and my non-BIWB Root Beer Float.  We were set.  I was game as long as the contest was on a Sunday: it was.  And, if I could bake everything on Saturday: which I could do.  Check. Check.
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Piña Colada Cupcakes

Okay, so let's get this right out there: 
(1) IMO, these are the BEST cupcakes I've made so far in this project.  I can say that...
(2) I do not like the Piña Colada cocktail variety of this food.  Even a 2nd sip didn't do the trick.
(3) A co-worker, who shall remain nameless, stated, "I ate the whole thing and didn't share...Is that rude?  I don't even care."  And...

Gratuitous Shot of the Little Darling...All Dressed up in Her Pretty Pink Parasol. 

(4) We love Kevin.   

I made these last weekend in a cupcake-baking-frenzy, for what reason I have no idea.  I haven't posted in a while and really wanted to try something cocktail in theme.  Found this recipe via The Cupcake Project, a site that by description pretty much tells the story.  Currently, Stef is in search of the best vanilla cupcake recipe.  I have high hopes for her as she's provided me with great recipes and lots of great ideas.  This time I'm going to post my version of her Piña Colada Cupcake recipe.  I made some modifications which I think added a lot of moisture and yummo-factor.  At BIWB, we're always researching baking techniques and ingredients of master bakers.  When we "crack" a secret baking code, we feel pretty damn cocky.  Of course, being girls, our cocky attitudes are always exercised with great social decorum. 
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