Monday, January 24, 2011

Baby Shower Desserts Part 1 - Cabbage Patch Chocolates

You don't need a recipe to make cabbage patch chocolates - just a technique guide to show you the way.  To begin you'll need quite a bit of equipment and ingredients.  There are two sites that I like for supplies - each one has its shortfalls.  The one with the biggest selection is  The drawbacks with using sugarcraft are that they are very impersonal - there is no phone number if you have a problem, and if you don't have your order number, you are completely out of luck - they cannot tell you anything about your order without it.  In addition, they are very slow - no inquiries until at least 10 days, and that's when they ship.  From this site, you also cannot order a small quantity of candy eyes, unless you take whatever color they give you (and some of the colors are very funky and not suitable for baby dolls).  They do, however, have a huge selection with photos which makes it easy to see what to buy.  The site that I actually bought the supplies from is:  They are very personal and friendly, shipped quickly and had a package of 48 eyes.  It is hard to use their site, however, because they don't have any pictures, so you need to know what you want.

Here is what you need:

Baby Face Lolly Chocolate Mold (3 per mold)

Mercken's Peach Wafers (this is very delicious tasting coating- Do not buy Wilton wafers which are yucchy).  If you are filling the molds completely with this, you need 2 ounces per face (you won't use that much but you lose some to hardening on utensils and bowls).  

Dark Chocolate, if filling the centers with it - about 1-1/2 ounce per face.  I used chocolate chips because they were cheaper (Ghirardelli).  If I were making fewer and spending only my money, I would have used bar chocolate.  Bar chocolate tastes better (to me) and is easier to work with because it melts into a thinner state than chocolate chips.

Instant-read thermometer - if you plan on tempering the chocolate

Mercken's Cocoa Dark Wafers (ok tasting - I use it for decorating only) - 1 bag  if you want to paint on dark hair.  You can also paint the hair with real chocolate, but if you don't temper it, it might turn whitish or rainbow-colored.  If you want light brown hair, add brown food color to the peach wafers.  If you want blond, you will need to buy 1 bag of Mercken's Yellow or White Wafers(not super white) and add food coloring to these.  You might also need Paramount Crystals to get the yellow coating to melt ( I didn't need it for the peach wafers).

Candy Eyes - each small package has 48 eyes. Don't forget that you need 2 per face!  You can make your own eyes, but you will need fondant and food coloring to do that.

4-1/2-inch sucker sticks

Petal Dust or something like that in a pink color to brush on the cheeks - I think I bought mine at Michael's, but any place that sells gumpaste supplies will have some. 

Assorted brushes - you'll need some good quality brushes so that the hairs don't come off in the chocolate,
and one cheap, bushy  brush for putting on blush.  The pointy one I use for attaching the eyes and the one on the right I use for brushing blush.  The pointy one was part of a set  of more expensive brushes
by Loew-Cornell. There are two nice pointy brushes in the set.  #1 and #4 370 round and 370 liner.  You'll have to do an Internet search as I don't know where I bought them.

This is also from the Loew-Cornell set. 370 Shader #8.  It's useful if you need to brush on chocolate to spots that you missed.  Also good for fixing errors (more on this later).

Heating Pad  for keeping the chocolate and chocolate wafers melted and at the right temperature.

Small cake decorating spatula - I like the one that is angled (I got mine at Michael's - it's manufactured by the The Ace of Cakes guy, Duff).  It looks larger in the photo, but the blade before it bends is actually only 3-1/2 inches long.

 Tweezers that you use only for food prep.  I bought a special pair from a gumpaste supplier, but you could use regular tweezers as long as they stay in the kitchen!

Full-size muffin papers in various colors - one for each head
Tissue paper for the clothing - about a 5 or 6-inch square for each head
Ribbon - at least 6-inches for each, or more if you want to tie bows
Waxed paper

Wrap the heating pad with a dishtowel, and turn it on to low.
 Place no more than 1 pound of the Merckens peach wafers in a microwave-safe bowl ( use a bowl that doesn't retain heat, such as a pyrex dish or a plastic container).  Heat on medium power (5) for 1 minute.  Stir, and continue to heat and stir in 30 second increments on power 5, until the wafers are melted (don't let the coating get hotter than 120 degrees F.).  Set the bowl on the heating pad.

If you're going to fill the entire mold with the coating, do that now, filling each mold right up to the top.  Set the molds in the refrigerator to chill until the coating is completely set- anywhere between 5 -15 minutes.

If you plan to fill the centers with chocolate, you'll need to coat each mold with the peach coating.  There are two methods for coating the mold with chocolate.  I prefer  to spoon in about 1-1/2 teaspoons of the peach coating into each of the 3 holes and then to swirl the chocolate around inside of the molds until they are completely coated.  You'll be doing all three at once.  I like this method best because it spreads the coating evenly and is much faster than painting each cup.

When you use the swirl method, the coating might swirl slightly out of the mold cup.  This is actually good.  It ensures that the entire mold is coated.  Simply wipe off the excess coating with a paper towel or rag.   If you want an extra thin shell, you can hold the mold upside down over a piece of waxed paper and let the excess coating drip out of the mold.

If you have trouble with this method, you can paint each cup individually.  Start by putting in the 1-1/2 teaspoons of coating and then use the 370 Shader #8 brush to paint from this pool of coating.  After you get the whole thing coated, you might have to go back and daub on more chocolate on the spots you missed - you can see a few in the photo below.

 In the below photo you can see that I have missed some spots at the top, too.  These will be especially problematic if you don't notice them, as the dark chocolate and coating might not adhere well and you might get some separation when you try to unmold the chocolates (more on this later).

Make sure that the space where the stick goes is clear of chocolate, as the sticks won't be properly set into the chocolate if there is hardened coating in the stick space.

Place the molds in the refrigerator for no more than 3 minutes to set the shells.  Now you have to decide if you want to temper your chocolate or not.  Untempered chocolate will take much longer to set, will never be as firm as tempered chocolate, and can turn white or streaky when dry.  Since the chocolate will be encased in the coating, the white or streaky color won't show but you'll have to wait a lot longer for each one to set. 

If you do want to temper the chocolate, place about 9 ounces (chips or finely chopped bar chocolate) in a microwave-safe bowl.  Finely chop another 3 ounces of chocolate or set aside another 3 ounces of chips.  Microwave the chocolate on power 5 for 1 minute.  Stir and then reheat the chocolate in 30 second increments on power 3, stirring between each. Use an instant-read thermometer to make sure that the temperature is in the 90-110-degrees F. range.  When all of the chocolate is melted, add the remaining 3 ounces of chocolate and stir and rest until all of the chocolate is melted and the temperature comes down to 84 degrees, but not lower.  Place the bowl back in the microwave and heat for 10 seconds on power 2 to bring the temperature to between 88-90-degrees F.  If the temperature goes about 91 degrees, you have to let it cool back down to 84-degrees, and try again ( you can add more chopped chocolate to get the temperature down a little faster).  If the temperature drops below 84 degrees, you repeat the entire process.  Once you have successfully tempered the chocolate, place the bowl on the heating pad to keep it at the right temperature.  Stir and check the temperature often.

Spoon about 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons of chocolate into each cup ( I use 3 molds at a time to make 9 babies, and then repeat the whole process, but you can do whatever will fit your refrigerator and counter space), so that the chocolate comes to within 1/16 inch of the top.  Set the lolly sticks in the stick holes. You might need to press down on them to make sure that they are all the way into the space provided for them.

 Place the molds in the refrigerator to set the chocolate.  This will take about 5 minutes if the chocolate has been tempered and 15-25 minutes if the chocolate was not tempered.

Cover the top of the chocolate with 1 final layer of coating.  I find it's easiest to just spread it with a teaspoon.  Make sure that the molds are completely filled up, and then set them back into the refrigerator for about 3 minutes to set the coating.

Let the molds stand at room temperature for a minute before you try to unmold them.  If the coating and chocolate are too cold, the coating will crack when you try and flex the mold to get the chocolate out.  Place a piece of waxed paper on the counter or in a pan onto which you'll unmold the chocolate.  To get them out of the molds, press on the noses of the babies.  If the chocolate don't pop out, let them rest a little more and then try again.  They should pop out of the molds pretty easily.

If you haven't done a good job in sealing in the chocolate, or if they were too cold when you tried to pop them out, part of the shell might stick to the pan and separate from the chocolate.  Don't despair - it can be fixed!
 Just use the decorating spatula (metal) or brush to add a glob of coating  to the chocolate.

 Then heat the spatula in the flame of a gas stove or over the coil of an electric, just for a few seconds to get the spatula warm.  Press the spatula on the glob of chocolate and smooth it out.  You can use your finger to do the final smoothing.

Another problem you can have when the chocolates pop out, is that there is excess chocolate around the edge of each form because you put just a bit too much coating into the mold.

This also gets fixed with a warm spatula - if you look at the photo of the spatula, above, you'll see that's exactly what I'm doing.  Just run the warm spatula around the edge of the form and the little excess tails of coating will melt away.  Again, your finger is the perfect finishing smoother.

You're now ready to do the hair.  You can use that nice tempered chocolate you have warmed on the heating pad, or you can melt some of the cocoa wafers for dark hair, or use one of the other combinations mentioned above, for other colors of hair.  Use the fine pointed brush, above, to brush chocolate onto the curl that is molded into each chocolate.  You can then use your imagination to do other hair styles.  For fine, wispy hair, use an almost dry brush.  If you want some spiky hair sticking out, you will need to let some of the chocolate or dark wafers to start to cool and thicken, otherwise it will be too thin to stand up.

For the eyes, use a fine pointed brush to dot a small glob of melted peach coating in the socket of each eye.  Use tweezers to set the eyes into the sockets, and then press lightly so that the eye will adhere to the melted chocolate.

If you want to make your own eyes, I think it is much easier to use fondant than to pipe royal icing eyes.  Roll fondant into small round balls - they should be smaller than the sockets.  Into the center
of each ball, press in a small colored ball. For the iris, use black food coloring.  Eyes will look more natural if the iris is slightly cut off at the bottom of the eye (not as shown here), so that it gives the suggestion of a lower eye lid.

The last thing to do is to give the cheeks a little blush.  Use the petal or luster dust in a pretty pink color.  Don't put too much on the brush at once.  The dust has a little bit of a glittery effect, but if you put it on sparingly, and brush off any excess, it really gives the babies depth and personality!
For the bonnets, use scizzors to make a slit in the side edge of the muffin papers, and then set the heads into
the bonnets.  You can do the bonnets or the sleep sacks first.

To make the sleep sacks, set the tissue paper square either under the lower third of the head or at the neck.

 Fold in the two sides.

and then tie the ribbon around the top. 

You can also make a wider bottom, so that they look more like sleep sacks.

Voila!  You have now made some of the cutest looking chocolate lollypops in the world!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Baby Shower Desserts




I've been busy baking, as you can see.  The recipes are coming, but they take almost as long to post as they do to create.  Stay with me as I guide you step by step in making these beautiful desserts for your loved ones.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Filled Chocolate Cupcakes - The recipes - revised January 2011

This is an update to this recipe which was put up in September. I was making them again recently (January '11), and realized that there was an error in the ingredient section (probably, because as you can tell from the following text and photo, I had trouble reading my soiled recipe copy).  The gram weight of flour was correct, but the corresponding cup measurements were not.  If you have printed out this recipe, please check the updated ingredients. 

In addition to this, if you read the prior post, you might have noticed that I wasn't happy with how tender the cupcakes were.  This time around, I did some more experimenting and found that using bread flour instead of all-purpose made for a sturdier cupcake, and, I added another egg.  This made the cupcakes firmer, also helped them rise higher and allowed me to get the cupcakes out of the liners more easily.

The following is the original post, with the appropriate corrections made to the ingredients.
I've been trying to get this post done since the summer, but I had to grab a few minutes late at night to write up my recipes, because the days were filled with BCC Rally auction stuff.  Now that the auction is over, I finally have time to post.  But when I go back to see what I've done, I can hardly read the recipe because it's covered in chocolate! 

That's why you need a CD-rom cookbook (mine, of course).  Because instead of having a cookbook that's covered in chocolate, you can have a few recipe pages that you've printed off, and when you're done, you toss the messy things out!  But now, on to the recipe!

The Cake

The first time I made the cupcakes with Veronica and Jasmine (see Filled Chocolate Cupcakes, Part 1, I used a light version of my Chocolate Layer Cake.  They were delicious, but a bit too tender.  I think they were so tender because we used the maximum amount of milk (3/4 cup) and because we mixed them by hand.  When I made them again, I used just a bit more than the minimum, and they came out much better - a little denser, which held up better for a pick-up type cake.

Makes 42 mini-cupcakes or 12 regular cupcakes

2-1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon oil

1 cup minus 1-1/2 TB (122 grams) bread flour, measured by fluffing, scooping and levelling*
2 tablespoons  unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons (2.5 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and at room temperature
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sour cream, room temperature

1/3 cup cup milk (skim or regular), room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. with an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Line muffin pans with liners.
You can see that they sort of pop up and don't stay down in the cups.  Just give them a good shove from above, and let the sides pleat.  When you add the batter, they will stay down.
Place the chopped chocolate and the oil in a microwave-safe container. Micro-cook on medium (#5) for 1 minute. Stir and then reheat in 15-second increments on medium power until the chocolate is melted.

In a small bowl sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set it aside.

In a mixer bowl, combine the butter and both sugars. Beat on medium speed for 3-5 minutes until the mixture is uniformly smooth and creamy, and well aerated. Beat in vanilla. Add the eggs, beating for 1 minute after the addition of each egg, and scraping down the bowl a few times.

On low, beat in the sour cream and chocolate. On low, in 4 additions, beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. (This is actually easier to do by hand, because the batter doesn't tend to separate when you do it by hand, but it does make the cake more tender when done by hand).

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, using one spoon to scoop up the batter and the other to push the batter into the pans. Fill the cups 1/2 to 3/4 full.

Bake for 8-11 minutes for the minis, or 15-20 minutes for the full-size cupcakes, until a tester comes out clean. Set the tins on a wire rack until the cupcakes are cool, and then remove them from the pans.

The Filling
I used whipped cream to fill the cherry-topped cupcakes, and Simple Vanilla Buttercream for the ones that look like Hostess cupcakes.  The cream was easier to make, but the buttercream tasted far better. I've been making my buttercream a little thicker and sweeter lately, by adding a little powdered sugar to my basic recipe, but for this I wanted a filling that was very creamy - again so that it would be reminiscent of Hostess cupcakes. To do this, I used less than half of the powdered sugar as usual.

It’s ultra important that the butter be at the right temperature for this recipe to work, AND THE ROOM!  If the room is too hot, the buttercream will never form.  The room should be no warmer than 74 degrees - and colder is even better.

To get the butter the right temperature, cut it into tablespoons and let it stand on a cutting board until barely soft. Using your thumb, push down on each pat to flatten it into the board (it will still be very firm, and will split when you press down on it). In 3-5 minutes the butter should be ready. If you press down on it with your thumb, it should yield readily, but should not be soft and melty. If the butter is a little firm, it can always be beaten a little bit more, but if too soft, you’ll have to refrigerate it, and start over. I always aim for a little bit harder, rather than too soft.

2-1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1 pound jar Marshmallow Fluff (this is a natural product containing only eggs, corn syrup and flavoring - so don't use another brand unless you check the ingredients)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons sifted powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons corn syrup, to taste
2-3 tablespoons milk to soften the buttercream, optional

Now that the butter is at the proper temperature, scrape the butter into a mixing bowl and beat it until creamy (1 or 2 minutes.) Scrape down the bowl. Beat in the powdered sugar until fluffy. Add half of the Fluff, and beat on medium high until blended. Add the remaining Fluff, and continue to beat, on medium-high, for 2-5 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy and light and no longer marshmallowy.
This is what it should look like.

If the buttercream, does not form after beating for 5 minutes, place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, and then try and beat it again. After the buttercream forms, beat in the vanilla, corn syrup and milk, to taste.

If you put a coupler in the pastry bag before filling it, you'll be able to try tips to find the one that works best with the size cupcake you are making.  The piece on the left goes into the pastry bag, and then the tip gets put on, and the nut, in the center, keeps the pastry tip tight.

Choose the tip that fits the size of the cupcake  (I used Magic Tip #8 for filling, and Wilton #21 star for filling)
Stick the tip into the bottom or top of the cupcake, depending on how you finish them (if you plan to add chocolate icing instead of having the frosting come out of the top, fill from the bottom, otherwise you will see the dimple where the frosting went in.  It's easier to fill them from the top.  For one thing, you don't have to take them out of the wrappers, which give some support to the cupcake so it doesn't split as you fill it.  You can also feel when the cupcake is filled with the buttercream, and can stop before the cupcake starts to split.

You can see they look great with nothing more than some frosting coming out the top.  But they're also fantastic, and  look like mini Hostess cupcakes if you frost them with chocolate icing and vanilla icing decoration.
Chocolate Icing
My notes didn't say if the following recipe is  the right amount to frost all of the cupcakes (sorry - I either post it now, or you have  to wait another year until I make them again!)

3/4 cup whipping cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons hot water

Heat the cream in a small microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds. Stir in the chocolate.  Let it stand for a minute and then stir.  If the chocolate isn't completely melted, heat in 10-second increments on power 5, stirring between each, until the chocolate melts completely and the mixture can be stirred into a smooth glaze.

Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl. Stir the chocolate into the powdered sugar. Stir in half of the hot water.  The mixture should be thin enough to fall off of the spoon in a steady stream.  If it isn't, add the remaining hot water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time.

Dip the cupcakes into the glaze.  Turn the cupcakes right side up and let the glaze firm up a little.

 In the photo below you can see that I filled the cupcakes from the top, and I wasn't able to get the top level, so that the chocolate dips down  in the center.  You can add a decorative design, as I have here, to cover the dip, or you can add the vanilla glaze

Vanilla Glaze
1 cup  powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons whipping cream

Sift the powdered sugar into a mixer bowl.  Whisk in the vanilla and the cream.  The glaze should be thick enough to pipe.  Add a little more sugar or cream, if necessary to get the proper texture.

For this amount of glaze, you'll need a very small piping bag.  You can make one out of a plastic storage or zip-top bag.  Cut the bag in half, horizontally.

Put the bag into a small glass, and then fill the bag

Hold the bag closed at the top, with the filled part resting in your palm, and your thumb and index finger holding the top (you can put a rubber band around the top if it is easier).  Gently squeeze the filling toward the tip.  Make a very tiny cut in the tip with scissors.  Pipe on the decoration, and then refrigerate until 30 minutes before serving.