Sunday, August 30, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Happy Friday Sweet Readers!
Just wanted to share these gift boxes I made up some time ago. I really enjoy it when I get the opportunity and the time to thank people or show them I care with a special treat. I really love it when I see their faces light up!
The one on the top was a special treat for a friend and the ones on the bottom were special little thank yous that I made for some teachers during the summer. I stamped and crafted the paper and made the cuppies and cupcake truffles, of course. I used some chocolate butterflies as decoration and tied it all up with pretty ribbon.
Have a great weekend!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I wanted to share with you the most wonderful and yes, divine, toffee. My sweet friend, Laura, who I met in Tahoe last year makes it and it is so very scrumptious! She lives in the San Diego area, but can also ship out, so if you are a fan of toffee, you must try it! It is buttery, smooth, chocolaty and delightful. You will not be disappointed. On a trip to Tahoe a few weeks ago, she blessed us with two of these boxes. They were gone within a day. Yum!
Update: FYI, if you are interested in purchasing the toffee, you can contact Laura Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (858) 775-9550.
Friday, August 21, 2009
So here is the cake I brought along. It might look unassuming, but this cake was very time consuming and laborious to make. But it was fantastic! Especially the Mocha French Buttercream. I borrowed the book "The Way to Cook" from a friend and the photo of this cake was so beautiful, I had to try it. In the notes, Julia said that this is the cake that made her like cake. She said she had previously only had cake with yucky shortening-based frosting and had no desire for it. After this one...and in particular the buttercream...she was hooked! So, the buttercream took about an hour and a half itself. The cake...which is a cake that I had never made, about the same. The cake was a Genoise cake and she was very particular how everything was done. I watched a couple YouTube videos on making one, but hers was more complicated. Trust me. I then "imbibed" the cake with a rum based sugar syrup, which was good, because from what I had read, the Genoise cake tends to be dryer than other cakes (my question was, "then why make one?!"). The chocolate you see around the edges did not look like the picture. It is supposed to be a chocolate wrap. Turns out that you need to chill, in the refrigerator, two 27 inch strips of melted chocolate until it is almost set and then wrap it around the cake and peel off the paper, revealing a beautiful chocolate wall. Also turns out that in Sacramento, nothing like that will "chill" on the counter. And a side-by-side refrigerator won't accommodate flat, 27 inch long strips of wet chocolate. And apparently sticking ice coolers under them won't work either. Oh well. That is why we have walls of chocolate that look like 2 by 4s. Live and Learn (and hope for a different fridge one day..):) End result? It may not look so hot, but it tasted great. The buttercream was very flavorful and creamy and delightful. The cake was infused with an interesting sweetness from the syrup and it all went together for a very pleasant experience that everyone said they enjoyed. Will I make it again? Likely not. But I might use some tips I learned and will definitely flavor my buttercream with espresso, dark rum and chocolate again!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Hi Sweet Readers!
I wanted to share some cupcake truffles that I made for my kids' teachers last week. It was the first week of school, so I wanted to thank their teachers for a great week. Well, summer would have been better, but it was a great week for the first week of school, anyhow :) I put them in a red bucket and made a cute apple card to match. I hope they liked them!
Thanks to Bakerella for her post and inspiration to make these. She never fails to inspire!!
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Hi Sweet Readers!
Well, here I am just back from seeing the movie "Julie and Julia" and it has inspired me to begin my blog entry on the challenge I have decided to take on. The movie was fun and entertaining and Meryl Streep is fantastic, by the way. So why am I inspired? Well, as Julie cooked her way through "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", I have committed with other fellow bloggers to bake through Martha Stewart's "Cupcakes". Now, I realize that it is not quite the undertaking that Julie took on, but it's fun for me and I am looking forward to it. I hope you will enjoy following in the sweet journey.
We are going to bake our way through this delicious cupcake book one cupcake at a time...and once a month! There are 175 cupcake recipes, so it will take some time to get through it. Stick with me, please. At some point, I will get to choose the cupcake we make, as will each of the other bloggers. There are currently 34 fellow blogger bakers working our way through it. For the whole list of other fellow bloggers who are taking on this challenge, go to http://bettyheartcupcakes.blogspot.com/ and check them out! I know I will!
Today is our first due date. We baked the CHOCOLATE SALTED-CARAMEL CUPCAKES. Here are some photos to document this delicious endeavor:
Here are the chocolate cupcakes cooling. They were beautifully dark and rich in color.
Here is the salted caramel. Yes. It is delicious as it looks. It was perfectly sweet with a wonderful salty hint..more than a hint, but fabulous.Here is the salt I used. The recipe called for fleur de sel or Maldon. At the gourmet food store I went to, the sales person recommended this. It had flakey large crystals. I like salt and this stuff is great. It doesn't melt too quickly and will stay whole when not exposed to heat. I think it is essential that this salt or the fleur de sel be used in this recipe. Otherwise, you won't taste the salt and it will melt right into the top of the cupcake.
Here is the beautiful dark cupcake filled with the luscious caramel.
Here is the chocolate I melted for the frosting. A pound and a half of chocolate, dear readers! What could be wrong with this recipe now?
Nothing! The recipe turned out fantastic! I loved the moist and tender crumb of the cupcake. The caramel was creamy and delectable, with just the right hint of salt. The frosting, well, incredible. It was a chocolate lover's delight.
Here is my completed Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcake. MSC Challenge #1 done!
And here is an inside shot. Look at the caramel oozing out! This was freshly made so the caramel was still in a liquid form. After the cupcake sits a bit, it does solidify. Still tastes great, though!
By the way, I had made these before about a month ago. I didn't make the chocolate cupcake recipe that it called for, so I thought I should remake them for this posting. You can see them here: http://smileyssweetsandcreations.blogspot.com/2009/07/decadent-chocolate-and-salted-caramel.html. I must say, the caramel came out much better this time. I think I made sure to really wait until the sugar syrup became clear before it came to a full boil. Last time, however, the frosting came out more glossy and much prettier. Go figure!
I hope you enjoyed the entry. I can't wait to see what cupcake comes next!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Just had to share some yummy cupcake brownies that I made for my hubby the other night. Pursuant to his dessert request I made a batch and decided to make them in cupcake form. I know, shocker! I was also making some homemade caramel, so of course I had to pour some over! They were delish and well received :)
I also got a shout out on Cupcakes Take the Cake for them! Yeah! Thank you, Rachel! Here's the link for Brownie cupcakes covered in caramel? Swooning...
Have a great day!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Hello Sweet Readers!!
Check out this adorable cupcake costume!! If you have a girl, I urge you to buy this for her right this very second! Send me a photo and I will post it on my blog! I would love it for myself, but, alas, it just will not fit! This is just too irresistible and I had to share!
Have a great day! I am doing everything in my power to avoid thinking about both my babies in school now. Summer is officially over at the Smiley household and I don't like it one bit!~
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
They are vanilla bean French Macarons. Not to be confused with your typical macaroons. They are spelled differently and the taste is a world apart. Now don't get me wrong. I love coconut macaroons and even the other kind of almond macaroons, but these are so amazing. Really.
Don't they look scrumptious? I took the liberty of including some information I found on a Flickr discussion so I don't have to recreate the wheel. (Thanks, Haniela, for posting this!)
Deconstructing the Perfect Macaron.
What's wrong and right with these macarons?
The top left one should have more filling and the bottom left one is a bit chunky with the almond meal.
Deconstructing the Perfect Macaron
The ingredients in traditional macaron batter are deceptively unassuming - just egg whites, almond powder, icing sugar and granulated (caster) sugar - but to achieve the perfect result is another thing altogether.
* Too airy and they dry out and crumble, too dense and they become tough and gluey. Batter texture and the formation of a skin before baking are considered essential tips from seasoned pros.
* The tops must be smooth and lightly domed, the bottoms should be dimpled and airy with ruffled 'feet'. Bumpy texture on the surface shows that the almond wasn't ground finely enough or wasn't sifted properly.
* The crust of the cookie should be thin and only provide the most useless protection against the soft cookie layer underneath. Biting through the crust should be effortless. The cookie's texture beneath the crust should be light, just a little chewy, and soft, but not so soft that it's mushy. It's okay if the cookie looks "uncooked."
* Finally, the filling must be soft and flavorful, light and not cloyingly sweet. Fillings should be generous, (nothing is considered worse than to skimp on the filling), yet it should not squish out of the cookie either, as eating a macaron should be a clean experience except for a few wayward crumbs.
Do you feel like a macaron expert now? Just wait till you try one!
*There is even more fascinating facts and pictures about these yummy cookies you can find here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/1135307@N25/discuss/72157621795649935/
Here they are mine after they were baked and before I sandwiched the butter cream between the luscious cookies. I used the recipe from "Bouchon"...a great (and gigantic) cookbook that I borrowed from the library. It's written by Thomas Keller, who owns the bakery and restaurant by the same name in Yountville, CA, and the amazing French Laundry restaurant in St. Helena. I have a review of some of the items from our visit to his bakery coming soon, but this recipe is defineatly a keeper! It was time consuming, but worth it in the end!
And some packaged up for a gift. I hope you enjoyed this post. I wish I could send you one through cyberspace. You must try them soon!
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Her son loves little duckies, so she asked for a variety of sweet treats for his party. I made the toppers for the vanilla cupcakes from fondant and accented the little eye with edible pen.
Here is the cupcake cake. I did the accents in fondant and M&Ms. The cake was chocolate with vanilla italian meringue buttercream and filling.
And I made some little ducky cupcake truffles as a little treat for them to go along with the theme.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Here's a couple close-ups. Beautiful, right?
And another one, because these cuppies are just too beautiful for words. And they are gone now. And they tasted REALLY good!
Where did these beauties come from? And why did I get them? Remember I told you that I got the dragees from a new friend, Glory, that I met via Flickr? These are from her to my family and we were so happy to receive them. I met her at my church's VBS last week. We had connected via sharing photos of our sweets on Flickr and found out that we lived only 45 minutes apart. We had so much in common that I invited her to bring her sweet little girl to our VBS and the rest is sweet history :) We talked and talked and found out that we even had friends in common. The world is so small and God is so good to provide us with friends like this!
On the last day of VBS, she brought me these and let me tell you, I was in heaven! I love, love, love receiving sweets almost as much as I love giving them and she was speaking my language! Thank you so much, Glory! They were as delicious as they were beautiful..though it was hard to sacrifice all your hard work!
You can check out Glory's incredible edible art here:http://www.flickr.com/photos/glorioustreats/ Don't be surprised if you get hungry!
Incidentally, if you have left any comments this week, I have been on vacation without access to a computer. I will check up with you all when I come back! I hope your week is going well!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Here are a couple shots of the cupcakes. I made her a variety and used some special dragees given to me by my sweet friend Glory (I met Glory via Flickr, and have more to tell on that fun story later..).
I used a variety of toppings as well. The one on the far right bottom is hazelnut brittle. Good stuff!
I made the card, too, and she was sweetly and pleasantly surprised by her delivery. She is done now, and seeing what life and summer are like in the "real" world, without having to study.
Congratulations on being done, Sara!
Sunday, August 2, 2009
These are not fondant or candy tomatoes! They are the real thing grown by my hubby. We had the first of the plant the other night and they were so yummy. It's such a difference from store bought tomatoes. They are so tender and so much more flavorful! We have helped to grow the basil (I got the plant at Trader Joe's) and it's been doing just fine in our planter.
Here is what I made with it. Just added some cheese, balsamic vinegar, fleur de sel and black pepper. Voila! A very easy and yummy homegrown salad!