Monthly Archives: October 2014

Halloween Witch Cupcakes

It would be easy to show only the way the cupcakes came out, and give you the instructions about how they are made, but then as you probably know, I don’t ever do things the easy way. So this article is a story about how I made the witches.

witches 004Mini-cupcake witch with tempered chocolate hat brim

I made 3 boxes of cake mix into 6 dozen regular size cupcakes, and a couple dozen mini-cupcakes. What happens is that the box says to fill the regular cupcake cups with 3 Tablespoons of batter; when I did that and got 24 cups filled, I had batter left over. So I filled mini-cupcake cups with 1 Tablespoon of batter each, and got anywhere from 6 to 12 mini-cupcakes with each 2 dozen regular cupcakes. That was the how and why of the mini-witches.

To make the witch, the general directions are to cut a cone out of the cupcake, which will become the pointed hat. Then the empty space left from taking the cone out of the cupcake is filled with frosting- green butter cream- which is overflowing to make the witches head. I used black frosting to paint the eyes and mouth. Then the cone is stuck to the brim of the hat with a drop of frosting, and I piped an orange ring around the cone to fill that space between the rounded bottom of the upside down cone and the brim.

I made the cupcakes over a period of 3 weeks, and then packaged them by the dozen and froze them after they had completely cooled. I was pleasantly surprised at how moist they had kept. Perhaps the only thing that was different from fresh cupcakes was that the paper cups seemed to want to pull away from the cupcake.

When I was making my test version of the witch, I had concerns that the cupcake, and especially the point of the hat, would dry out prematurely and make for an unpleasant product. I decided to do something about that by frosting the cupcake, and dipping the cone, like I would a firm chocolate filling, into a pot of tempered chocolate. I made a couple mistakes in doing all that. First, I frosted the top of the cupcake with chocolate ganache (there is never enough chocolate even with the cupcakes made with chocolate cake mix). The frosting left the cupcake tacky, and with the crusted exterior, seemed to be overkill. Second, dipping the cones just didn’t work for a couple reasons- the chocolate made the cones lose their shape, and made the whole hat heavier so that it tended to squash the head of the witch. I decided I just had to let the cones dry out if they were going to dry.

witches 002Witch in frosted cupcake and dipped hat cone, and mini-cupcake witch with OREO brim.

The brim of the hat is a chocolate wafer cookie. The first time I looked for them, I didn’t find them, but they are available. However, I felt I could improve on the cookie as a brim. I painted a piece of parchment paper with tempered chocolate, and when it was mostly set up, I cut it with a biscuit cutter. The trick is to get the painted chocolate thin enough. I found that using a cup of tempered chocolate (2/3 cup melt and 1/3 cup temper seed) I was able to spread almost a 9 x 13 sheet of parchment and the thickness was about 1/8 inch.

When I started making the mini-cupcake witches, I needed a smaller cookie as the brim of the hat. I found that the OREO cookie wafer was about the right size. So I had to separate the wafers from the center. Never fear, I didn’t let all those centers go to waste- they went to waist. After working with the tempered chocolate, I made brims by using a smaller biscuit cutter for the mini-cupcakes.

The one area in which I did not find the complete solution is in putting the hat on the head. Too often, it seemed the hat squashed the head and the face features were pushed down into the cupcake. I tell people that the witches pulled their hats too low. I think there might be a couple approaches to fixing that problem. First, maybe making the heads bigger would better support the hat. And second, maybe letting the butter cream harden before adding the hat would keep the face from being squashed.

Reducing Cookie Spread

The holidays are approaching, and more than one person has run into the problem that their drop cookies have spread from 2 inches in diameter to more than 3 inches in diameter, making the final cookie thin and crisp rather than fat and chewy.

Two years ago when I first started making cookies, I was occasionally disappointed in the final shape the cookie took after baking. I had some drop cookies that just plain got flat, and of course, they get crisper (crustier?) when they are thin like that. And I tried to make cut-out cookies, and the shapes would contort something awful during the baking process. I had to learn the causes of cookie spread so I could eliminate it. I will discuss several general areas that you need to investigate, but I don’t think you need to take all the possible steps in trying to reduce the spread; at one point, I found that the cookie spread was zero and the cookie looked just exactly like I had dropped it onto the cooking sheets.

Reduce the moisture in the dough.

One of the major contributing factors to cookie spread is moisture in the dough. That moisture might show itself as water, but it can also be hidden where you do not expect it. Butter has water in it; the amount can be as much as 20%, so that 8 ounces of butter could contain over an ounce of water. You may want to switch out the butter for shortening to help reduce the cookie spread.

And if your recipe is using oil instead of a solid fat, you may need to reduce the amount of oil and replace it with solid fat.

The same goes for liquid sweeteners; many of the vegan recipes use liquid sweeteners instead of sugar. Even crystalline sugar acts as a moisture, so you need to use as large a sugar crystal as possible- not powdered sugar but granulated sugar. You might need to reduce the brown sugar and replace some of it with granulated sugar.

Reduce the cooking pan action.

The cooking pan can act either to help spread, or reduce spread. If you are lubricating the cooking pan, don’t! You are making them slick and the cookie dough can slide more easily resulting in cookie spread. Instead, bake the cookies on silicon pads, or even parchment paper on the cookie sheet.

Thicker cookie sheets help reduce the spread of the cookie dough. Several years ago, a cookie sheet was introduced that had a double bottom- something called Air-Bake. This increases the time it takes for the bottom of the cookie to get hot and the ingredients to melt so that they can spread. This means the cookie sides will have a chance to crust before the dough melts and spreads. Before I had Air-Bake sheets, I had cookie pans that would nest, and used two pans nested to make the bottoms more insulated and slow down the heat onto the bottom of the cookie.

Reduce the time in which the cookie can spread.

Perhaps one of the best methods for reducing cookie spread is by reducing the amount of time the dough can spread. To do this, we want to put a crust on the edge of the cookie as quickly as possible after it goes into the oven so that the inner dough of the cookie can’t escape. There are a couple things that will help establish that crust quickly.

Raising the temperature of the oven (and shortening the total cook time) I often use an oven temperature that is 25 degrees different than what the recipe says, and in turn, I usually expect the cook time to be 5 minutes different. For some cooking, I decrease the temperature 5 degrees and cook 5 minutes longer; this is often cakes where I want the edges just inside the cake pan to cook slower so that the rise of the center dome is less pronounced. But with cookie spread, the direction is the opposite; I want the temperature hotter by 5 degrees and the cooking time less by about 5 minutes.

The second method for reducing the time the cookie can spread is to make certain the dropped cookie dough is cold in the center; this means that the edges will warm first, and crust, before the center of the cookie gets hot. So, after you have dropped your cookies onto the cooking sheets, put the cooking sheets in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, and maybe up to an hour. This was the trick that I learned with cut-out cookies that kept them from morphing into unidentifiable shapes.

Bottom Line

There are a lot of other ideas that float around that have to do with making the dough; most chefs feel we amateurs use to the mixer too long. You can see that on cake mix boxes where the directions say to mix the batter for just 2 minutes. I have also read that we over-do the mixing when we cream the butter and sugar, and that makes for some cookie spread. However, I think you will solve your cookie spread mostly with just a couple of the ideas I have given you.
I would start by refrigerating my dropped cookies before putting them in the oven; I think this will do the majority of your job. If you still need some help, I would take one idea from each section above, like changing out the butter for shortening (they do have butter flavored shortening now), and using parchment paper on the cookie sheet instead of a lubricant.

Mother Crary’s Cinnamon Rolls

In my post about Cinnamon Rolls, I mentioned that the recipe had less flour in it than other recipes, and so the rolls would be smaller (in diameter) than what could be gotten from other recipes. So I decided I should also publish a recipe that uses the normal 4 cups of flour for a dozen rolls. I have adjusted this recipe to use the stand mixer with a dough hook to do the kneading.

While I have made this recipe in the past, I do not have any photos of the result; a picture would look very similar to the first photo in the article about cinnamon rolls.

Cinnamon Rolls

(Mother Crary)

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cake fresh yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water

  • 1/2 cup milk, scalded
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons shortening
  • 3 Tablespoon sugar

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 egg, will beaten

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar for filling
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon mixed with above sugar for filling

Directions

Softened yeast for 15 minutes in the lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon sugar.

Combine milk, salt, shortening and 3 Tablespoons sugar in the mixer bowl. Cool to lukwarm.

Add half the flour and the softened yeast, and with the dough hook attached slowly turn from its slowest “stir” speed to Speed 2 and mix for 15 seconds. Add the egg and “stir” for about 1 minute. Mix on Speed 2 for 1 minute longer. .

Continuing on Speed 2, add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Knead on Speed 2 for 2 minutes longer.

Place in a greased bowl. Grease top of dough. Cover with a clean towel, then let rise in a warm place (80 to 85°) until dough is double in bulk.

Turn the dough onto a floured board.
Roll out the dough into a sheet 12″ x 8″ x 1/4″. Brush with melted butter, margarine, fat or salad oil. Then sprinkle with all but a little of the filling mixture of 1/3 cup granulate sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

If desired, cut up raisins or currants may be sprinkled on surface.

Roll up jelly roll fashion and seal the long edge by pressing with the fingers. Cut into 1″ crosswise slices, then place, close together, cut side down in a greased or oiled 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Cover with a clean towel, then let rise in a warm place (80 to 85°F) until double in bulk. Bake in a moderatedly hot oven of 375°F. for 25 minutes.


If you would like “sticky bottom” rolls, after greasing the baking pan, crumble some brown sugar into the pan and then drizzle lightly with the syrup of your choice. During the cooking process, the brown sugar will dissolve in the syrup and then caramelize.

Morning Buns

Morning buns use the croissant dough as a base. Six morning buns can be made from each packet of croissant dough. The option in making the buns is in the filling; a plain cinnamon and sugar filling can be used, but I found having some brown sugar in the mix makes it better. The brown sugar seems to partially run out into the bottom of the muffin pan and caramelize making for a slightly sticky bottom roll.

mBuns 004

Morning Bun Filling

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

Directions

Stir the ingredients together in a bowl.

To assemble the morning buns, the ingredients are:

  • 1 packet croissant dough
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup filling
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon in a small bowl


To make 12 morning buns, use both packets of croissant dough and after finishing with one packet, immediately process the second packet. The two groups of morning buns will be able to be cooked together after their final rise.

Directions

  1. Spray a 6 muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. Unwrap a packet of chilled dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Deflate it by gently tapping it several times with the rolling pin. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest 10 minutes to relax the gluten.
  3. Roll the dough into a rectangle that is approximately 12 inches wide by 10 inches high.
  4. Spread melted butter over the dough. Sprinkle filling over the melted butter.
  5. Roll the rectangle of dough up so that a 12 inch long cylinder results. Seal the edge of the cylinder so that it doesn’t unwind.
  6. Cut the cylinder into 2 inch sections.
  7. Dip each section in the cinnamon, rolling the section around to coat the sides and bottom of the dough. Place the coated dough into one of the muffin pan spaces.
  8. Repeat the coating of the dough for all 6 sections and fill the muffin pan.
  9. Let the dough have a final rise for 1 – 1 1/2 hours in which it should double in size. It will not be the final size as the heat in the oven will cause the buns to expand even more.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  11. Place some of the filling in a small bowl to be used to top the rolls after they are baked.
  12. Cook the buns for about 20 minutes. A toothpick stuck into the side of the bun just above the muffin pan should come out clean, and should feel the dough crusting as it enters the bun. The buns should be brown.
  13. Dump the buns out of the muffin pan and with tongs, put the top of each bun down into the dish of filling mixture to coat it and then set the bun upright on a cooling rack.


mBuns 001

No matter how hard I try, there is always a rounded edge when I roll out a rectangle. As a result, the buns cut from the ends of the cylinder are usually not nicely shaped. To get around that problem, I roll the rectangle larger than the specified size of 12 x 10, and then cut it down to size with square corners; I discard the dough that is cut off. Usually if I get the widest part out to 14 inches, the 10 inch dimension does not need to be trimmed.

I have discovered that I get a better seal on the cylinder if I wipe the cylinder with wet fingers at the point the final edge will come against the body of the cylinder. Most recipes say to pinch the dough together, but by the time it is rolled up, the dough has lost some of its stickiness to the butter and sugar that has pushed out while rolling it.

Cronuts

Again, we use the croissant dough to make cronuts, a cross between the croissant and the donut. The cronut is fried in oil, and then filled, and finally the top is glazed. Even the hole is used; it is rolled in a cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Cronuts2 001

Before starting, the tool(s) for cutting the cronut from the dough has to be identified. I use a donut cutter that is just over 3 inches in diameter. However, if a donut cutter isn’t available, a couple other circular objects can be used. The circle for the outside of the cronut should be about 3 inches in diameter, and then the hole is cut with a 1 inch diameter cutter. These might be biscuit cutters, or even something weird like a drinking glass and an apple corer. Life is a lot easier if a donut cutter is available.

For making cronuts, the dough should be as thick as possible. As a result, only 4 cronuts can be made from a packet of dough. The dimensions of the rectangle to which the dough is rolled depends on the size of the donut cutter, or whatever the outside cutter is.

The width of the dough packet might already be wider than the cutter diameter. When this happens, roll the dough out to twice the width of the cutter, and then fold it in half. Don’t try to just fold the edges up to get the correct width; that leaves edges to come apart and makes ugly cronuts!

Cronuts

Ingredients

  • 1 packet croissant dough
  • Miscellaneous fillings (e.g. vanilla pudding, raspberry jam, etc.)
  • Miscellaneous glazes (e.g. http://wp.me/p3jVuB-ej, chocolate, etc.)
  • Directions

    1. Heat about 2 inches of oil in a saucepan or deep fat fryer.
    2. Turn the croissant dough packet out onto a lightly floured rolling surface. Tap the packet gently a few times to deflate it. Cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest 10 minutes.
    3. Roll the croissant dough out into a rectangle that is as wide as the donut cutter, and three times as long. The packet makes 3 nice cronuts, and the leftover scraps will be combined to make a fourth cronut.
    4. Cut out the three cronuts with the donut cutter. Set aside on a plate or small sheet pan. Add the holes from the cutout cronuts; these will be a second treat when fried.
    5. Pick up the scrapes and make a dough ball squeezing it together on all sides. Placing it on the rolling surface, press it down into a circle the size of the donut cutter. Cut out the fourth cronut and place it with the others.
    6. Loosely cover the cronuts with a piece of plastic wrap and let them rise for about 1 hour, until about double in size.
    7. Fry the cronuts one at a time in the hot oil for 45 to 90 seconds on each side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels and allow to cool before filling and glazing them.
    8. cronuts 009

    9. When ready to fill the cronuts, split them in half and place 2 Tablespoons of filling in the center, spreading it around the circle. Sandwich the halves back together, and drizzle the glaze of choice over the top.
    10. Roll the cronut holes in a cinnamon and sugar mixture. (24 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon- e.g. 4 Tablespoons sugar to ½ teaspoon cinnamon)


    I filled my cronuts with vanilla pudding (the type that does not require refrigeration) and raspberry jam. For the glaze, on the pudding one I used a simple royal icing like Marlys and Penny taught me to make, adding some vanilla extract for flavoring. Food coloring can also be added to make the glaze complement the filling. Other glazes have already been discussed in the article that contains the royal icing recipe I have mentioned. These others include chocolate, apricot and strawberry glazes. The challenge is to be inventive of the filling and glaze that you want to use.

Update on the German Chocolate Cake

cake 004

I wasn’t satisfied to leave the cake recipe as a failure (see Birthday Cakes); I wanted to ensure that it wasn’t entirely my fault that the cake split and was like it was. So I remade that same recipe, after searching the internet for a different recipe for German Chocolate Cake. It is very interesting that all the recipes I found were nearly identical with only a couple small changes. For example, one recipe said to place the tiers on the rack to cool with the wax paper side down, and another recipe said to use sweet chocolate instead of using German’s chocolate.

I made the identical recipe as before, and it did come out better. It did not split as it had the first time I made the recipe. So I did learn something. I learned, among other things that the cake tiers must be kept level. This means that when they are being taken out of the pans, you need to put your hand way down in the pan against the cake so it does not have a chance to bind as the bottom comes free on one side before the other.

I also learned :^) that this recipe will help you redecorate your kitchen in either white or chocolate- or both. We all know that when too much flour is put into the stand mixer at once, the beater will cause it to fly out of the mixing bowl. But the other place this recipe can get you is when you add the melted chocolate to the creamed butter and sugar. In both cases, I found it much better to fold the new ingredient into the cake batter with a rubber spatula before turning the beater on to mix the dough.

There is still a problem with the cake tiers sinking in the center. It appears that the outside of the cake rises and crusts but the center doesn’t stay up. I need to think about that some more; it could be as simple as the amount I am mixing the batter; I know that the cake mix boxes very carefully say to mix on speed 2 for only 2 minutes. I am not certain what happens when you over mix the flour and baking soda.

cake 002

Because everyone seems to have the same recipes for this cake, I will give it here with all of the above insight into making the cake.

German’s Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. German’s chocolate
  • 1/2 cup fresh coffee
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Directions

  1. Prepare 3 8-inch round pans with wax paper to cover their bottoms; spray the sides with cooking spray.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Convert the milk to “butter milk” by adding the lemon juice to it. Set aside.
  4. Microwave the chocolate in the coffee until almost melted; after 1 minute, stir the mix until the chocolate is totally melted. Set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites at high speed until they form stiff peaks. Set aside.
  6. Sift the dry ingredients (flour, soda, salt) into a bowl and set aside.
  7. Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixer bowl until smooth.
  8. Add the egg yolks one at a time beating well after each addition.
  9. Add the vanilla.
  10. Stop the mixer and fold in the melted chocolate until it is no longer liquid, then restart the mixer to blend it into the batter.
  11. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the milk. Stop the mixer, put some of the flour mix and milk in, and fold it under. Then restart the mixer and blend it into the batter. Continue doing this until all the flour and milk mixes are in the batter
  12. That finishes using the mixer. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
  13. Pour the batter into the prepared pans; bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.
  14. Immediately run a knife or small metal spatula around the edge of each pan to free the cake from the pan’s edge. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes.
  15. Remove the cakes from the pans and finish cooling on wire racks. Be very careful to not let the cake bend during this operation; insert your hand all the way against the cake before turning the pan upside down.
  16. Cool the cakes completely before frosting

Coconut-Pecan Frosting

Ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 7 oz. coconut flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Chop the pecans
  2. In a large sauce pan, beat until well blended the egg yolks, milk and vanilla.
  3. Add the sugar and butter. Cook on medium heat for 12 minutes or until thickened and golden brown. Stir constantly.
  4. Remove from heat and add the coconut flakes and chopped pecans.
  5. Cool to the desired spreading consistency

Assemble the cake by placing the first tier top down on the serving plate. Remove the wax paper from the now top, and place 1/3 of the frosting on the tier. Spread the frosting to the edges of the tier.

Place the next tier on the frosted first tier, remove the wax paper and again place 1/2 the remaining frosting on the tier and spread to its edges.

Repeat for the final tier, removing the wax paper, and using the remaining frosting.