Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sweet Treats Request/Trial Run

Cupcakes seem to be all the rage these days. From cupcake contest shows, to giveaways online, to cupcakes being 'banned' in schools, it's difficult to escape the barrage of cupcake-related entertainment. While I understand that good nutrition is an absolute necessity for the health of our present and future, I also believe in everything in moderation. There's nothing wrong with a sweet treat every now and again. Though not one to indulge very often in a cupcake treat myself, Sam's co-workers have requested that I bake some cupcakes for an upcoming potluck they'll be having. I decided today to give the cupcakes a trial run to make sure they wouldn't turn out horrible during the week when I'll have limited time to get them baked.

The first thing I did was pull out  my trusty cookbook. Though I use the book to remember measurements, I often add in my own ingredients or try substitutions because I enjoy trying to figure out the best consistency for the cupcakes.
Cookbook is beaten and battered (no pun intended), but invaluable to me
One of the most difficult things to figure out was moving from sea level to nearly a mile high in elevation. I never realized how much of a difference elevation can make in baking, but over the last seven years, I've had the opportunity to try out different tips and tricks. The biggest one is adding in more flour so that baked goods don't come out too runny.
Paper cupcake holders make removing the treat a much easier task
After mixing up the batter, the next thing I do is put paper cups inside the cupcake pans. While I have made cupcakes without the paper, and it is certainly more green not to use the paper, getting the cupcakes out of the pan is much, much easier with the paper cup. Plus, it makes handling them easier as I don't want others to worry about someone having touched the food they're eating.
Chocolate cupcake batter being scooped out
Spooning out the batter can be the trickiest part of making cupcakes, I think. If they are filled to different levels, they don't bake at the same rate and you end up with some cupcakes that are underdone and some that are overdone (and sometimes a few in between).
Batter-filled chocolate cupcakes-to-be
While I never seem to be able to perfectly portion the batter, I do my best to make sure they are at approximately the same volume so as to have consistent work in the end. Of course, then the next step is putting the cupcakes into the oven.
Center of the oven to bake helps keep things even
While the cupcakes are baking, there is almost always a bit of batter left in the bowl (unless you're one of those perfect bakers). Sometimes it is necessary to take a little batter taste, just to make sure the cupcakes will be good.
Taking a quick taste - Quality Assurance is important! :o)
I like to keep an eye on the cupcakes as they are baking because I have found that, depending on what I've substituted or added to the recipe, it can take more or less time for them to bake. In the end, I hope to see that the cupcakes are rising, and that they are looking scrumptious.
Looking as though the cupcakes are almost ready to come out
Once the cupcakes are out and cooling, I start working on the frosting. For this batch, I decided to make a chocolate frosting as well.
Mixing up butter, sugar, baking chocolate, etc for the frosting
As you can see, I got a bit carried away with liquid, and unfortunately, the frosting is a bit runnier than it should have been.
Icing is easily slopping off the spatula, so I know I overdid the milk in the frosting
Since this was just a practice run, it isn't the end of the world, but I should've paid better attention to the amounts I was adding. I tend to just add without measuring when I make frosting, and it makes for a guessing game as to how it will turn out.  After the cupcakes have cooled for several minutes, I went ahead and added the frosting.
Runny frosting makes for sloppy results
Of course, the official taste tester had to have one (and a half, as I couldn't get through mine because they are SO sweet!). He seems to be enjoying them though, with no complaints about the taste.
Sam mmm's over his chocolate cupcake
The trial run was a good test, and now I know not to cook them quite as long and not to add so much liquid to the frosting. In the mean time, Sam will have the opportunity to have a few sweet treats to enjoy. Wouldn't having a cupcakery be so much fun?

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