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Posts tagged ‘French’

Quality time with me, myself, and I. And some chocolate mousse cupcakes.

Do you ever feel like you need some “me” time?

I don’t mean me time, as in, time with me specifically. Although I’d be delighted to get together sometime.

I mean you time. You have you time, I have me time. Our time. But not spent together…

This is getting mildly complicated.

I do my best thinking during “me time.” And since I hardly ever get any, I value these little dates I have with myself. Don’t forget, I’m an only child, and therefore I hold this precious solitude near and dear to my heart. I do love spending time with the people most important to me. Margaritas and sarcastic banter with my boyfriend definitely top the list. And of course gossip and soul-searching with my best friend make any day better. But occasionally, I absolutely, positively, no doubt about it, need some time to myself.

I don’t really plan this time. And I usually end up doing something random that I don’t think any one else would enjoy participating in.

The activities that occur during “me time” include (but are not limited to):

– Watching dumb TV
– Reading Fifty Shades of Grey (at least that’s the case lately…)
– Writing for funzies
– Browsing cooking stores like Sur la Table or Williams-Sonoma, and ultimately buying a hot pink spatula because it’s freaking adorable. (this happened last week…)
– Painting my nails
– Going for a run
– Busting out a Grammy-worthy a cappella solo of “Feeling Good” by Michael Buble’
– Playing fetch with Kitten
– Venturing on the ever-so-dangerous Amazon.com
– Driving down Pacific Coast Hwy
– Baking…duh.

These things seem a little mundane, but my “me time” isn’t about extremes. I’ll save the base jumping and fire-swallowing for another time. My inner diva wants to unwind, and if watching Friends reruns and throwing together a batch of chocolate chip cookies makes her happy, I can’t (and won’t!) contest.

I strongly urge you to pencil yourself in for some “me”..err…”you” time. Times are getting tough? Breathe. Take a moment to realize that no matter what, the sun is still coming up tomorrow.

My mom always tells me that. It’s smart.

Browse a magazine. Go for a hike. Be a trendy hipster and sit in a Starbucks and write your Nobel-Prize-winning novel while sipping a cappuccino. Whatever you choose to do, enjoy it, and make sure that it is what you want to do, not necessarily what you need to do. There’s a difference.

As for myself, as the title of this blog implies, baking is my main source of “me” time. And this week, I reeeeally enjoyed myself. I made chocolate mousse filled cupcakes.

I made an angel food cake, filled it with chocolate mousse, and topped it with a white chocolate buttercream. It felt so wrong, yet so, so right.

Chocolate Mousse Filled Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

Chocolate Mousse
I had never made mousse before, so I got the recipe from the Joy of Baking and made a few minor tweaks.

8 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
10 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz bittersweet chocolate

1. In a double-boiler or a saucepan with simmering water and a heatproof bowl on top, medium heat, melt the chocolate. Stir occasionally at first, then continually. Once the chocolate has completely melted, set aside to cool to room temperature.

2. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy.

3. Gradually add 5 tbsp of sugar, beating the egg mixture until soft peaks form and it look glossy. You don’t want it to get dry.

4. In another bowl, beat the whipping cream, remaining sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form.

5. Add a few dollops of chocolate into the egg mixture to lighten, and then transfer the egg whites to the chocolate bowl. FOLD the two together. FOLD in the whipped cream.

Make sure to fold — not stir, not beat. Fold. This will keep the mousse airy.

6. When everything is completely combined, transfer the mousse to an airtight container and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Angel Food Cake Cupcakes

10 egg whites
1 tsp cream of tartar
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

1. Set oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with cupcake papers.

2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in medium bowl. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy.

4. Gradually add sugar, and beat until fluffy. The mixture should look glossy.

5. Add vanilla and almond extracts. Beat until combined.

6. Gradually add flour mixture to the egg mixture. Beat until just combined. Do not over mix.

7. Fill cupcake wrappers 1/2 full and bake for 15-18 minutes.

White Chocolate Buttercream

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
10 oz (1 bag) of white chocolate chips

1. In a double boiler or a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan with simmering water, melt the white chocolate. Set aside to cool.

2. In a separate bowl, beat butter until pale and fluffy.

3. Gradually beat in powdered sugar to desired consistency.

4. Beat in vanilla.

5. Add melted chocolate and beat thoroughly.

Check out Kim’s blog for great ideas on how to use the Wedding Shower Party Kit!

I can’t imagine guests would be disappointed with cupcakes like these in these adorable wrappers…

Enjoy YOUR “me” time! We’ll get together soon.

Bon appétit!

Eurotrip, via cupcakes.

Let’s take a vacation.

Seriously.

To Europe.

It’ll be fun!

We’ll start in Rome and see the Colosseum, visit the good ol’ Pope at the Vatican, and throw a couple coins in the Trevi Fountain while we wish for an amazing dinner in…

Naples! Where we will obviously stuff our faces with the best pizza made on this Earth, drink really good wine and chat with the locals.

I hope you speak Italian…I know “buongiorno” “ciao” and “grazie.” That won’t get us very far. I’m 100% positive we’d get that “dumb American” look from locals if all we said was “hello” “goodbye” and “thank you” with that eager “excited” look on our faces.

We’ll stop in Venice for a gondola ride and have an Italian man sing to us while we, once again, drink really good wine, eat some amazingly fresh pasta, and finish the evening with either a cannoli or gelato (or both, duh.)

We’ll throw Florence in there too, because, well, it’s Florence and it’s beautiful. Must I justify it? Didn’t think so.

Our next stop will be in Ireland, where we’ll see landscapes greener than Kermit the Frog, and tour giant, beautiful castles. We’ll have a debate about how the interior of our future vacation-home castles will look — keep the stone walls or have an unexpected switch to a modern feel? (Hey, it could happen!)

Not too far from us will be Dublin, where we’ll spend the evening visiting pubs and engaging in Irish debauchery. They’re crazy. It’ll be a bloody good time, you see.

Clearly we’ll have to visit Spain. We can’t pass up the opportunity to see that incredible architecture! We’ll see flamenco shows, run with some bulls, and eat flan and churros until we pass out. ¡Ay dios mio!

Next stop, London! Museums, museums, museums! We’ll get super cultured and by the time we get back to the states we’ll be able to be snobs about it. “Oh, well, whenever I go to London I must visit the British Museum to see the Egyptian antiquities. The trip is simply incomplete without it!”

And finally, we’ll bring our trip to a close in Paris, France. Ahh, Paris. What better way to conclude than in the City of Lights? We’ll visit the Louvre, have a picnic by the Eiffel Tower, play hide-and-seek at Notre Dame, stroll the Palace of Versailles, enjoy a cabaret show at le Moulin Rouge and take a sip of water from a few of the Wallace Fountains.

But of course, the most important part of the Paris trip – dessert.

Um, duh.

Chocolate soufflés, creme brûlée, cream puffs, eclairs, macarons, tarts, chocolate pots de creme, and crepes. And don’t you dare forget breakfast! Fresh croissants, pain au chocolat, and the best brioche our tastebuds will ever enjoy.

All of the above will be devoured at a fancy little table outside a French bistro, accompanied by cafe au lait, schmoozie French music, and lots of laughter.

Okay, so, when do we leave? Now? Cool. I’m already packed. (I knew you’d come with me!)

Until our plane leaves, though, maybe we can have these cupcakes to hold us over.

French Fruit Tart cupcakes, that is. Ooh la la!

Trying to come up with a way to make these a reality was a bit of a challenge, but man oh man, they definitely work.

It’s an almond cake filled with custard (which, by the way, is infused with Grand Marnier), topped with strawberries, kiwi, and an apricot glaze. Talk about de. lish. us.

Oh, and homemade whipped cream…which is always a winner.

OH, and a blueberry. Which really doesn’t have that much significance, but really helps with the aesthetics. 🙂

OHH!        …just kidding, I don’t really have anything else to add.

And of course, the cupcakes look magnifique in the Parisian Party themed cupcake wrappers from Event Blossom! I love these, especially the striped one. Make sure to check out Kim’s blog for more info on how to use these fun kits!

Très chic, oui?

French Fruit Tart Cupcakes

Almond Cupcake

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 pinches of salt
1 “shake” grond nutmeg (when I say “shake” I mean out of the container. No measuring. It’s just to enhance the almond flavor)
3 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tbsp almond extract

1. Set oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg together until evenly combined. Set aside.

3. On medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until fluffy and pale yellow.

4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated.

5. Add vanilla and sour cream and beat until combined. Continue beating mixture on high for an additional 20 seconds.

6. Alternately, add flour mixture and milk until all ingredients are well combined.

7. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full, and bake for 18 minutes. Cool completely.

Custard

3 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups milk (any kind – I used 1%)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 heaping tbsp flour
2 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp Grand Marnier

1. Whisk egg yolks and sugar together in a medium heatproof bowl.

2. Sift the flour and cornstarch together and add to egg mixture. This will form a thick paste that looks questionable but will ultimately taste delicious, don’t worry.

3. Heat milk and vanilla in a saucepan. Once the milk comes to a light boil, remove from the heat and slowly add it to the egg mixture. Whisk constantly to avoid curdling. Add liqueur and mix until combined.

Now, be a smart cookie and strain the custard NOW, not later. I was a dummy and didn’t do it until later…which let me tell you, is annoying and takes for-freaking-ever!)

4. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat until it begins to boil, whisking constantly. Once it reaches a boil, continue to whisk until it thickens.

5. Remove the custard from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. You may store this overnight in the refrigerator if you don’t plan on using it right away.

Apricot Glaze

1/2 cup apricot jam
1 tbsp water

1. In a small saucepan, heat jam and water over medium heat until it melts.

2. Pour the glaze through a strainer to get rid of any chunks.

Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 heaping tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vanilla

1. Beat cream on high until soft peaks form.
2. Add sugar, beat on high until it starts to become stiff.
3. Add vanilla, beat for another 30 seconds.

BAM. Whipped cream.

That was all pretty simple, right? Now on to the assembly…

The assembly…

With either a cupcake corer or a small knife, cut a hole in the center of the cupcakes. Put the custard in a pastry bag (a ziplock bag will work fine, too) and put a small amount in each, stopping when you feel resistance.

Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the top of each filled cupcake.

Cut strawberries and kiwi into thin slices. Place them on the cupcake in any which way you desire. Coat the fruit with the glaze. Top with whipped cream and that blueberry I mentioned earlier!

Bon appétit!

Moseying with madeleines

I’d like to tell you about my day!

Nothing necessarily spectacular happened, but it really was a good day.

After an incredibly lazy Saturday morning, my stomach decided to tell me I wasn’t just hungry, but I was starving. It sounded like an angry polar bear trapped inside my tum.

While sipping my coffee during breakfast at 2:30pm today (Yes, as in 2:30 in the afternoon. I told you I had a lazy morning…) I looked across the table at my breakfast companion and realized something…

I was so happy.

This past week was a nightmare, to say the least. It was one of those “It’s only TUESDAY?!?!” weeks.

But like I said, today, during breakfast, I was happy.

Good company changes everything.

I’ve known this. You know this. It’s not like I’m presenting you with brand new information. I’m just giving you a sweet little reminder that the best medicine is sitting at a diner with someone who will willingly carry on a conversation with you about the word “dollop” and its potential origins, old children’s shows we can’t remember the names of, and why sugar should or should not (which is the right answer, by the way) be added to every beverage.

Ridiculous, random, and slightly (okay…very) odd? To some, perhaps. But it was right up my alley. And I loved every second of it.

Despite my belated breakfast, believe it or not, I did actually have things to do today. But when I walked in the house around 4:30, my eye went straight to my brand-new madeleine pan that my wonderful mother bought for me at Williams-Sonoma yesterday. 🙂 She spoils me.

There was a recipe on the back.

(I think you know where this is headed…)

Yeah, those things I “had” to do? Postponed. The only thought running through my mind at that moment?

Must. Make. MADELEINES!!!!

So, I did. It was that simple. The recipe is even easier, and stuffing your face with them is even easier than that.

Sorry, spring break bod. I’ll start on you next week……maybe.

These madeleines are wonderful. Light, airy, and full of vanilla flavor. Dust them with some powdered sugar and you will be in sweet, delicate, cookie heaven — which, by the way, is an awesome place. You should really check it out.

For the first time in a long time I followed the recipe to a T, because:
a) I had never baked them before and
b) I had no idea how much altering I could do without changing the consistency of the cookie.

Now I know. So you can bet your baking booty I’ll be making these French delights again!

Madeleines
recipe from Williams-Sonoma

Softened unsalted butter for brushing molds
1/2 cup flour plus a little for dusting the molds
2 eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Powdered sugar for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. You can do this next step a few different ways. If your butter is soft enough, brush it into the molds making sure to cover every area and leaving no clumps. The other way, (how I did it) is you can use a paper towel, put some slightly softened butter on it, and spread it in each mold. I find that less frustrating and slightly more time-efficient. After the molds are buttered, lightly sprinkle flour in each mold, making sure each one is covered. Turn the pan upside-down and tap out any excess flour.

3. In a large bowl, combine eggs, granulated sugar, and salt using a hand mixer on medium-high speed. Beat for about 5 minutes, or until it is noticeably thicker, fluffy, and pale yellow. (You’ll know it’s fluffy because there will be a lot of air bubbles.)

4. Beat in vanilla.

5. Sift flour into the mixture and either stir or beat on low-speed until incorporated.

6. Fold in half of the melted butter, making sure to incorporate it completely. Repeat with second half.

7. Place a heaping tablespoon full of batter in each mold. This recipe makes a perfect amount for 16 cookies. (one pan’s worth)

8. Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until the cookie slightly bounces back when you touch it. The edges will also be golden. (Mine only took 8 minutes.)

This is a terrible picture, but this is should give you a general idea of what they look like when they’re done.

9. When baking time is complete, remove the cookies from the oven and flip the pan upside down on a wire rack. If a few cookies don’t fall out, use your finger to aid it.

10. Allow the cookies to cool for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with the powdered sugar.

11. Give them to everyone. Or like, 2 of your friends, because you’ll probably eat 14. (Let’s be real.)

Bon appétit!