Monday, August 4, 2014

Earl grey cupcakes with bergamot cream cheese frosting

It's wedding cake trial round 3! Conclusions: 4 tea bags is a good amount for this much cake, this particular cake recipe is too dry, and bergamot cream cheese frosting is awesome. The frosting was also really good on graham crackers with strawberries and whipped cream, so there may be a berry component to the final cake too.

2/3 c milk
4 earl grey tea bags
1 stick butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1.5 c flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt

Bring the milk and tea to a boil in a small pot, cover, and let steep for half an hour until cool. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Cream the butter with the sugar, and beat in the eggs until fluffy. Combine the dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a small bowl. Mix the dry ingredients and the tea to the batter in alternating additions. Scoop into 24 mini and 6 regular greased or lined cupcake tins. Bake the minis for 13 minutes and the regulars for 18 minutes.

1 stick butter
8 oz cream cheese
powdered sugar to taste (~3 c?)
3 drops pure bergamot oil, or to taste

Beat together until fluffy, and pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Pride cake: chocolate earl grey cake with creme fraiche buttercream

Earl grey cake take 2. As befits a practice cake for a lesbian wedding, I covered it with rainbow sprinkles and brought it to Sierra's pride party. The cute little dino was her addition, of course, Nori and Jack's rainbow sangria was also great!

I'm really happy with the creme fraiche buttercream on this one. It's a variation on Italian buttercream, although next time I'd use a less fussy Swiss buttercream base. The creme fraiche lightens the flavor and softens the stiffness of the buttercream, while leaving it with plenty of structural integrity and sculptability.

The cake is perfectly fine, but not better than my favorite chocolate cake. And again, the Earl Grey is barely noticeable. I think I'll up my game and try bergamot oil for the next attempt.

4 earl grey tea bags steeped in 1 c hot water
1.75 c flour
2 c sugar
3/4 c cocoa powder
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/3 c greek yogurt
2/3 c milk
1/2 c canola
2 eggs
1 T vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350F and make the tea. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through salt). In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (yogurt through vanilla). Pour the wet ingredients and the coffee into the dry ingredients, and gently whisk until just combined. Pour into greased+parchmented pans; the recipe should do 2 8"x2" round pans, but I used 2 8"x1.5" round pans + 4 cupcakes (that's about 2.5 c batter per pan). Bake cupcakes for 18 min and layers for 30 min, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans on a rack for half an hour, then turn out and cool completely.

frosting (almost 1 quart):
3/4 c + 3 T sugar
1/4 c water
4 egg whites
dash salt
1.5 sticks unsalted butter
8 T (1/2 c) creme fraiche
4 dashes Angostura

Place 3/4 sugar and the water in a small saucepan, and place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer. Turn the heat on medium-low under the saucepan, and turn the mixer on high.

Now here's the slightly nerve-wracking part. Watch the mixer first: when you first begin to see tracks in the white foam, sprinkle in the 3 T sugar. Take a look at the sugar syrup and give it a stir. Back to the meringue: when it's stiff, turn the mixer off. Back to the syrup: when it reaches 240F, turn it off. Turn the mixer on to low, and slowly drizzle the syrup down the side of the bowl. Keep the mixer running until the meringue cools down to 80F (this will take a while).

Turn the mixer up to medium-high, and add the butter a couple tablespoons at a time. Keep mixing and have patience it will come together; this seemed to take longer than Swiss buttercream did. When the frosting looks like frosting, keep mixing and add the creme fraiche a tablespoon at a time, then add the bitters. The additions made the frosting a bit less stiff for me, but didn't break it. Keep in the fridge until half an hour or so before assembly.

Frost and top with rainbow sprinkles!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Earl grey & mascarpone German buttercream

Exciting news: I'm going to be making Jessica and Judy's wedding cake in September! Apparently my previous wedding cake offering went over pretty well. They requested Earl Grey as a flavor component, which opens up all sorts of intriguing directions.

This frosting is at least as interesting for being a custard-based German buttercream as for being Earl-Grey-flavored. So far I've tried it dolloped on some rhubarb coffee cake and in the traditional frosting role on a lemony layer cake, and it's certainly tasty (although using only one tea bag gives it a very mild flavor). The texture is odd, though. At room temperature, it's almost like pudding, which is essentially what it is. But at fridge temperature, it looks weirdly grainy. Conclusion: could totally work as a filling with more tea, not so great for an outer coat.

This is exactly a half-recipe of the frosting here. Makes 1 quart.

1 c milk
1 bag Earl Grey tea
5 oz sugar
3/4 oz cornstarch
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1/2 t vanilla
2 sticks (8 oz) salted butter, completely softened
1 pack (8 oz) mascarpone
2 t Meyer lemon juice

Heat the milk and tea bag together over medium heat until simmering, then turn off the heat, cover, and let steep for 3.5 minutes. Squeeze out the tea bag and discard.

While the tea is steeping, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, egg components, and vanilla. Pour a few tablespoons of the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk to combine. With the milk over low heat, drizzle the warm egg mixture into the milk, whisking constantly. Continue whisking for a few minutes until the custard thickens completely. Transfer to a mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour while the butter finishes softening.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter then the mascarpone into the custard 1-2 T at a time, making sure each addition is completely incorporated. Beat in the lemon juice. Use, refrigerate, etc.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The drink of laughter and forgetting

[Guest post by Lester, in the Great Going-Away Series of 2014]

If you're going to learn to make a cocktail, make sure it's a good one! We discovered this wonderful drink at Cure on a trip to New Orleans back in February and it's been my regular go-to ever since, i.e. I've not made anything else. I don't think I've had any other cocktail that's quite so well balanced, although it may be a little too bitter for some.

The quantities below makes around three decent sized cocktails, which is the usual quantity in which I make it.

1.5 oz lime juice
3 oz Cynar
1 oz green chartreuse
1 oz agave or simple syrup
28 drops Angostura

Shake with ice and strain into three little cocktail glasses. Garnish with a drop of Angostura. Perfection in a glass!

Monday, February 10, 2014

A few days of food in New Orleans

Lester and I had a lovely trip! Less zydeco than I expected, but way more other amazingness. The highlights were easily Surrey's for breakfast, Rum House for happy hour, Bywater neighborhood for exploring, Cure for cocktails, and cruiser bikes for getting around. Thanks so much to Chris H for all the recommendations!
  • Three delicious, large, cheap breakfasts at Surrey's—every single thing hit the spot
  • Coffee at Velvet and quiche at Ps & Qs before exploring Audubon Park
  • Night out in the French Quarter: great beer selection at d.b.a., "African jambalaya" at Bennachin, and jazz and second-hand smoke at Spotted Cat Music Club
  • The requisite beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde
  • Picnic of a surprisingly good poboy from Frady's and surprisingly mediocre pizza from Pizza Delicious while biking around Marigny/Bywater
  • Coffee at Solo before exploring the Lower Ninth Ward levee
  • Laid-back appetizers, wine, jazz, and crosswording in the backyard at Bacchanal
  • Drinks and good times with Robin & friends at Cane and Table
  • Crazy delicious tacos and margaritas at Rum House
  • Chilling with Abita and Olympics TV at Rendezvous Tavern
  • Pretty ok gumbo, deliciously greasy gator sausage, and bourbon bread pudding at Ignatius
  • Splendid late-night cocktails at Cure that deserved every bit of John's praise

Monday, December 23, 2013


Happy holidays! We're in Minneapolis for Christmas, where Norwegians eat creamy potatoes three meals a day and freeze their bums off and everyone has a lovely time. Today's installment of creamy potatoes is lefse, a crepe-like pancake that's rolled out with a special textured rolling pin. The recipe is Grandma's, and, as befits a Grandma recipe, is more specific about the texture than about the amounts of each ingredient. You'll figure it out :)

3-4 lb floury potatoes (eg russet)
1 t salt
~1/2 c cream
~3/4 stick butter
~2 3/4 c flour

Peel, boil, and mash the potatoes. Beat in the salt, cream, and butter until it's smooth, thick, and malleable, like good frosting (adding cream and butter as needed). Let cool for a couple hours on a 0F Minnesota porch. Measure how much mashed potatoes you have (we had 5 1/2 cups), and stir in half that volume of flour until it's mostly incorporated. Let it sit for a few minutes to finish hydrating, and knead gently to form a smooth workable ball that's neither dry nor sticky. Divide into 2" balls (we got 23 balls).

Preheat a large dry griddle to 450F and prepare a work surface (preferably a pastry cloth) with plenty of flour. Roll each ball into a 9-10" circle with a floured lefse rolling pin. Carefully slide the wooden lefse turner under the center axis of the lefse, lift it up, and transfer it to the griddle (pictured above). Cook on each side until freckled with light brown spots (pictured below), smacking it with the lefse turner if it bubbles up (that part is just for fun, just ask Lester).

Store cooked lefse between sheets of wax paper between towels. To eat, spread with butter, sprinkle with sugar, squeeze on a little lemon if you're feeling adventurous, roll it up, and enjoy.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Mushroom etoufee

Happy Thanksgiving, happy Hanukkah, happy anything else you're happy about! Cajun/creole food is something I'm happy about right now—I'm totally going to take a post-graduation vacation to New Orleans!—so instead of mushroom gravy I decided to make a mushroom etoufee for Thanksgiving this year. The internet doesn't seem to have much consensus on what makes an etoufee an etoufee, so I went with a variation on this recipe. It turned out amazingly: savory and rich, with a good balance of creaminess, zing, and kick. You're supposed to have it with rice but I think it will be splendid with stuffing.

2 T butter
2 small onions, minced
4 stalks celery, minced
1 green pepper, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
20 oz criminis, coarsely chopped
1 oz dried fancy mushrooms, rehydrated and minced
1/4 t cayenne
1/4 t paprika
2 t cornstarch
1 stock cube
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 c cream
1/2 c 1% milk
5 oz spinach, chopped
4 sprigs parsley, minced

Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a large pot. Sweat the onions until translucent, then add the celery, green pepper, garlic, and bay leaves, and cook until soft. Add the mushrooms, cayenne, and paprika, and cook until the mushrooms are done. Add the cornstarch and stock cube and stir until dissolved, then add the tomatoes and dairy. Slowly bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, turn the heat down a bit, and simmer for at least 15 minutes. Add the greenery and keep simmering for at least half an hour. Adjust the seasonings and liquid, and serve over a mushy absorbent starch.