HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!

In this post I share chocolate cookies and brownie cupcakes, all dressed up for the occasion. Recipe for cookies can be found here, and brownie cupcakes with a click here.

Four types of decorations, depending on how much icing and how much work you’d like to put into the cookies. The simplest is the chocolate star with the sprinkle border. All you have to do is pipe a little line of icing all around and then dip the cookie gently in sprinkles. The hexagons were featured recently on my baby blog.

These stars were inspired by Haniela. They started with a flooded white cookie, and then some were air-brushed with a combination of stencils (stripes and stars), and some were outlined with a three-color icing using a flat icing tip.

The 4th of July Hearts were inspired by something I saw on Instagram last year and saved for the future. And the future is now!

Cupcakes were made using 1/8 tsp of orange oil to flavor the cake batter. The icing was flavored with chai extract, as described in my post from a couple of months ago. Patriotic sprinkles complete the look…

I hope you are having a wonderful 4th, and please if you are into fireworks, think a little bit about all those pets getting terrified out there. If you can minimize your fun, or do it away from residential neighborhoods, please consider doing so.

ONE YEAR AGO: 4th of July Inspired Baking

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2019

THREE YEARS AGO: Brigadeiros for the 4th of July

FOUR YEARS AGO: Kaleidoscopic Macarons

FIVE YEARS AGO: Zucchini Noodles with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

SIX YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2015

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sous-vide Pork Chops with Roasted Poblano Butter

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Roasted Strawberry-Buttermilk Sherbet

NINE YEARS AGO: Amazing Ribs for the 4th of July!

TEN YEARS AGO: Baby Back Ribs on the 4th of July

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Blueberry Muffins

TWELVE YEARS AGO: A Pie for your 4th of July

THE MANY FACES OF BROWNIE CUPCAKES

One basic recipe, several ways to dress it up. I adapted the basic brownie and icing recipes from a version found in Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes. Clockwise from top left: Rose-Mint, Chai, Lavender and Orange-Ginger Brownie Cupcakes. I started making them in August last year and they’ve been a regular component of my weekly donations. Once iced and set, they stay good for a couple of days at room temperature.

BROWNIE CUPCAKE BASIC RECIPE
(modified from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes)

1 package Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate (4oz)
1 stick (1/2 cup, 113 g) unsalted butter
265g sugar (1 + 1/3 cup)
2 room temperature eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Place 12 cupcake liners in a baking sheet, and heat the oven to 350F.

Chop the chocolate and butter in pieces, place them in a microwave-safe bowl and melt at 50% power just until the chocolate is almost fully melted. Finish melting by whisking gently until smooth. Allow it to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

In another bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Reserve.

To the melted chocolate, add the sugar and mix with a handheld mixer, when the sugar is incorporated (it won’t be smooth), add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth, for a couple of minutes medium-speed. Gently sift the flour mixture on top, whisk just until the flour is incorporated and no dry bits can be found.

Fill each cupcake 3/4 full with the batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly moist. Cool completely before icing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ROSE AND MINT BROWNIE CUPCAKES

1/3 cup milk (you won’t use it all)
1 bag Bigelow Rose Mint Tea
1/8 tsp rose water (I used Nielsen-Massey)
180g (1 + 1/2 cup) powdered sugar

Infuse the milk with the bag of tea by bringing it almost to a full-boil in a small saucepan, turning off the heat, adding the tea bag, closing the pan and leaving undisturbed for 10 minutes. Squeeze the tea bag. If you want a little more pink color, add a touch of food gel (I used fuchsia from Sugarflair, added with a toothpick).

Place the powdered sugar on a large bowl and add half the amount of infused milk, whisking gently until fully dissolved. Adjust with enough additional milk to make a spreadable icing that will not pour freely from the sides of the cupcakes, but instead be thick enough to form a stable layer. Decorate with sprinkles, or flowers made from Royal icing or molded chocolate, as in the picture below.

CHAI BROWNIE CUPCAKES

1/3 cup milk (you won’t use it all)
1 bag Double Chai Stash Tea
180g (1 + 1/2 cup) powdered sugar
sprinkles (I used this one, a favorite)

Infuse the milk with the bag of tea by bringing it almost to a full-boil in a small saucepan, turning off the heat, adding the tea bag, closing the pan and leaving undisturbed for 10 minutes. Squeeze the tea bag to release flavor and reserve the milk.

Place the powdered sugar on a large bowl and add half the amount of infused milk, whisking gently until fully dissolved. Adjust with enough additional milk to make a spreadable icing that will not pour freely from the sides of the cupcakes, but instead be thick enough to form a stable layer. Decorate with sprinkles, Royal icing flowers, or molding chocolate details.

LAVENDER BROWNIE CUPCAKES

1/3 cup milk (you won’t use it all)
1/4 tsp dried lavender flowers
180g (1 + 1/2 cup) powdered sugar
sprinkles

Infuse the milk with the dried lavender by bringing it almost to a full-boil in a small saucepan, turning off the heat, closing the pan and leaving undisturbed for 10 minutes. Pass the milk mixture through a fine sieve to remove the lavender. Reserve the milk. If desired, add a tiny drop of purple food gel dye.

Place the powdered sugar on a large bowl and add half the amount of infused milk, whisking gently until fully dissolved. Adjust with enough additional milk to make a spreadable icing that will not pour freely from the sides of the cupcakes, but instead be thick enough to form a stable layer. Decorate with sprinkles.

ORANGE-GINGER BROWNIE CUPCAKES

1/3 cup milk (you won’t use it all)
1 bag Orange-Ginger tea (I used this one from Republic of Tea)
180g (1 + 1/2 cup) powdered sugar
sprinkles

Infuse the milk with the bag of tea by bringing it almost to a full-boil in a small saucepan, turning off the heat, adding the tea bag, closing the pan and leaving undisturbed for 10 minutes. Squeeze the tea bag to release flavor and reserve the milk. If desired, add a very tiny amount of orange food gel dye.

Place the powdered sugar on a large bowl and add half the amount of infused milk, whisking gently until fully dissolved. Adjust with enough additional milk to make a spreadable icing that will not pour freely from the sides of the cupcakes, but instead be thick enough to form a stable layer. Decorate with sprinkles.

ENJOY!

to print the basic recipe for icing, click here

Comments: My main modification of the recipe was to use the full package (4 oz) of the unsweetened chocolate, adjusting the flour and butter amounts, so that you are not left with a tiny bit of chocolate hanging around. The cupcakes bake without doming too much, perfect to have a flat layer of icing on top.

In this post I used tea to flavor most icings but you can also use orange or lemon zest, omit the decorations, or flavor the basic icing with any extract you like. They are super versatile. If you use molded chocolate to decorate and the room is too warm, the chocolate might get slightly soft, but it won’t lose its shape. To make decorations with molded chocolate I used mini silicone molds, and later painted them with luster powder + vodka.

ONE YEAR AGO: Olive Oil Brioche

TWO YEARS AGO: Coconut and Lime Macarons

THREE YEAR AGO: Flank Steak Carnitas

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sesame and Poppy Seed Sourdough

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken from Southern at Heart

SIX YEARS AGO: Lamb Shanks en Papillote with Cauliflower-Celeriac Purée

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Chestnut Brownies and a Blog Award!

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Quinoa with Cider-Glazed Carrots

NINE YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday: Heirloom Tomatoes Steal the Show

TEN YEARS AGO: Pain de Provence

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Golspie Loaf, from the Scottish Highlands



RUSSIAN ICING TIPS: A SHORTCUT TO INSANITY

I’ve had a set of Russian icing tips for years. They were sitting in a drawer, minding their own business, not harming anyone. What possessed me to grab them to decorate some vanilla cupcakes? I have no idea. All I know is that I managed to produce ONE cupcake. Let’s call him Neo. Never again, my friends. Never again. A few more months of my life expectancy are gone.

NEO CUPCAKE WITH BUTTERCREAM FLOWERS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 recipe for yellow cupcakes (for ATK recipe, click here)

buttercream:
1 cup butter, slightly softened (I used Kerrygold)
1 pound icing sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
purple, yellow, and green food gel dye
Russian piping tip
1M piping tip (optional)

Make the cupcakes according to the directions from America’s Test Kitchen recipe. It is a very simple and straightforward method that works great, I highly recommend it.

Make the buttercream: add the butter to the bowl of a KitchenAid type mix, fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix for a couple of minutes until the butter is creamy and lighter. Add the salt and vanilla, beat a little more. Turn the mixer off, add the powdered sugar and turn it on the lowest speed.

Once the risk of powdered sugar explosion is over, increase the speed, and beat for a couple of minutes, until very creamy, adding milk just to have the perfect piping consistency.

Separate a small amount (1/4 cup maximum) to dye green to pipe leaves. The rest of the buttercream divide in two, one large portion for purple, one smaller portion for yellow. Fit a large piping bag with the Russian tip of your choice, add the purple icing to the sides of the bag, leaving the center empty. Fill the center with yellow buttercream. Close the bag, pipe small amounts of buttercream on a piece of parchment paper until you are sure the yellow is showing through in the center. Pipe flowers on the surface of the cupcakes.

Add green buttercream to a small piping bag fitted with a leaf tip. Pipe leaves around the flowers.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Don’t you think that icing tip looks like the most innocent gadget in the universe? If you watch youtube videos teaching the secrets of the Russian tips, they make it all seem like the most peaceful walk on the most beautiful tropical beach. They are not telling you the truth. Not the full truth. I advise you to go for a tip that does not need a clear separation between the two colors. I wanted the yellow to be at the center, and the purple around it, and yes, I managed to do that in this single cupcake.

But as you go along, the colors tend to mix, the buttercream also gets a bit less firm, and instead of keeping open like a flower, the outer edge collapses in, and you are left with an “almost flower” next to a blob of undefined shape, next to another blob of even worse shape, and pathetic color. Accordingly, my reaction went from “ooops” to “what the heck is this?” to words unfit to print.

As I mentioned, I could only pull one cupcake decorated with “the Devil’s tip.” I had to scrape all the blobs, mix the icings together, spoon them in another bag fitted with my trustworthy 1M tip, and call it a day. It’s a good thing I don’t drink, because the tequila bottle winked at me. Twice.

As the road to get to the final icing was quite rocky, I was not too fond of the resulting color. If you mix yellow and purple, you’ll see what I mean (don’t do it). So I air-brushed some with a rose gold dye, and painted edges with gold luster. I am happy with the way they turned out, and for that my husband is elated.

Now, if you like to live dangerously and want to try “the Devil’s tips”, I advise you to pick one that you can use either with a single color or that would work well with a marbled design. You can then add two shades of the same color to the bag, so that mixing during piping won’t be a problem. Thinking back, I think it would be possible to add the yellow color to the center enclosed in a second bag, and spoon the purple around it. I might give it a try, but not in the near future. I need to recover from this adventure first… It’s not as if I am a young puppy with plenty of life expectancy to waste.

ONE YEAR AGO: Smoked Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Parsnips

TWO YEARS AGO: Fresh Take on Farro with Roasted Veggies

THREE YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club Reunion 2018

FOUR YEARS AGO: Parsnip and Tomato Soup

FIVE YEARS AGO: A Retro Dessert

SIX YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Tortillas: Going low-carb and loving it!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Clementines in Cinnamon Syrup

EIGHT YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2013 

NINE YEARS AGO: Thrilling Moments

TEN YEARS AGO: Maple-Oatmeal Sourdough Bread

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Pork Trinity: coffee, mushrooms, and curry

HAPPY EASTER!

For those who celebrate…

Vanilla Cupcakes with Mini-Chocolate Eggs

Meyer Lemon Sugar Cookies
(Flower Bunny design by Haniela)

Egg Nests Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Icing

Egg-Shaped Sugar and Chipotle-Chocolate Cookies

(Here Comes the Sun, design by @sugarbaked; Bunny with Mushrooms design by @montrealconfections)

BLOODY CUPCAKES FOR A SPOOKY HALLOWEEN

Red Velvet cake and Halloween is a match made in heaven. Heaven and Halloween? What have I done here? Oh, well. To make them even better, stab each cupcake with “broken glass” and make them “bleed!”

BLOODY RED VELVET CUPCAKES
(decoration from Recipes by Carina)

for the cupcakes:
160g all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
85 g (6 tablespoons) butter, softened
150g granulated sugar
1 egg
2 T cocoa powder (I used natural)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 tablespoon red food dye

for the frosting:
170 g unsalted butter, softened
500 g cream cheese, cut in pieces, at room temperature
260 g powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste

for the broken glass decoration:
200g sugar
2 Tbsp water
2 tsp corn syrup
1 tsp lemon juice

for the fake blood:
½ cup light corn syrup
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water
1-4 tsp red food gel
drops of blue food gel

Heat oven to 350 F. Sift flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Reserve. Cream softened butter with sugar using a KitchenAid type mixer with paddle attachment.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk the buttermilk, vinegar, egg, and red food color. When the butter and sugar are well mixed and the mixture is pale, add the egg, mix briefly and add the cocoa powder. Once the mixture more or less smooth, add the flour in three additions, and the liquids in two, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix well. Add the  batter to regular size cupcake pans, lined with paper.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting. Put the softened butter in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer with the paddle attachment and mix until smooth.  Add the pieces of softened cream cheese to the mixing bowl, a small amount at a time. When all cream cheese is added and combined, beat for about 1 minute then add the powdered sugar in three portions, adding the vanilla after the last third portion.

Beat for 2 to 3 minutes more, but do not over-mix or the mixture can become loose.

Make the decorations. In a saucepan measure out the sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice and water. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil for 3-5 minutes until the sugar starts to change colour or until it reaches 300F.

Pour the melted sugar out onto a baking sheet lined with Silpat.  Leave to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to the fridge for a few hours to harden.  Break shards when ready to decorate the cupcakes.

Make the fake blood. In a bowl mix together the syrup and cornstarch until combined. If needed, add water to reach proper consistency. Add the food gel, small amount at a time until you have a deep dark red shade. Spoon the blood over the cupcakes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Once these cupcakes were done, I thought that another cute way to present the same idea would be a red velvet jelly roll type cake, with little blobs of cream cheese frosting on top and the glass shards properly stabbed here and there. And blood. A lot of it. Obviously.

Have a great Halloween celebration, whatever scary thing is on your menu.  I leave you with a shot from 2013, when we went to a party with the graduate students from our department. Halloween was Aritri’s favorite holiday and this week I cannot take her out of my mind.


Star Trek Captain finds Handsome Alien and brings him all the way to her planet where they’ve lived happily ever after…

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