Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Mini Mission

I hate to rob my peach tart of the spotlight so soon. Normally it would have enjoyed a good month-long reign before a new post took its place.

But today is an important day.

Today, Caitlin and I baked and delivered 50 mini cupcakes for an engagement party her co-worker is hosting. It was a modest and relatively stress-free undertaking, but its significance was not lost on us. We brought back the winners of the chocolate v. chocolate showdown from a few weeks back, and we made carrot cupcakes as well.

This was the first baking venture that we started, finished, and delivered together, and it was a (very) light warm-up for our wedding gig this October. We're getting ready to take on the Twin Cities baking scene, if for no other reason but the damn shame it would be to deprive you people of the best cupcakes in the world. It's a lame superlative, I know - but I'm not sure how else to put it. I've never had a better chocolate cupcake, not in any established bakery I've been to.

To be fair, maybe a certain amount of quality-sacrifice is inevitable in mass production.

Or maybe we're just better at this. :)

On a not-so-side note, my mom turns 58 today. She couldn't stick around to bake the cakes with us, and it's weird to bake cupcakes for not your mom on your mom's birthday. So Mom, this is the best I can do: imagine the most luscious dark chocolate sponge topped with a perfect button of pillowy bittersweet chocolate...

And a heart on top, 'cause we love you like crazy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Peach Tart with Vanilla Almond Crust

Full disclosure: I sat down to write this post the other night and I had nothing. The words just weren't coming. I believe the first thing I came up with was, "Oh, hello. I didn't see you come in."


Then it was, "This is my peach tart."

Then I settled on a picture-heavy post with a feeble introduction. Finally I scrubbed the whole thing. I told myself this blog could go downhill fast if I start pulling shit like that. My goal here was to give the people something nice to look at and something nice to read with every post, and if I couldn't do that, then I should wait until I could.

But I was concerned. Why was I struggling? Was it because I was rushed and zapped of creativity? Was it because, a measly 18 posts in, I've recognized a certain futility in this blog and become disillusioned by the whole thing? Or could it be that the peach tart, photogenic as it was, didn't offer much fodder for blog talk?

I won't leave you hanging: I think it was the first one. Because really, it was an exciting venture for us. My mom bought her first food processor for the occasion, and I bought my first springform pan. And I admit, I not long ago challenged the necessity of a food processor with a certain amount of scorn ("We don't need no stinking food processor" - I think that's how it went), and I do believe one can get by just fine without a springform pan. But! Well, but nothing. Kitchen tools are fun.

And I haven't lost purpose either. I just wasn't having fun the other night. Now I'm having fun. I have a cup of hot cocoa, and I have something to say.

Vanilla wafers, almonds, and sugar: the stuff of the crust

Butter brings it together
Cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, and an egg make the filling

Bake for 15 and freeze for 15

Everyone held their breath as I unlatched the pan and slipped it off...
Tart unbound!
Do you remember that Friends episode where Monica is catering a party at her parents' house and her mom has frozen lasagnas, just in case Monica screws something up? Well, we had my grandparents over for dinner and dessert (the tart), and my mom bought and made frozen cookies. Now this is misleading, because my mom didn't doubt me or the tart. She just wasn't sure if my grandpa would eat it. She's a lovely lady.

Let the record show, though, that grandpa chose the tart. And after he finished his first piece he informed me that the remaining cut was a bit uneven, and he would be glad to straighten it up by eating the unruly protrusion. Thanks, grandpa.

Crunchy crust, creamy filling, and juicy, slightly acidic fruit: it was le piece de resistance. And it had a story after all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chocolate v. Chocolate


I'm currently authoring a series on healthy eating for work. It's been interesting and (sort of) fun, but the books are for beginning readers, and they're about - well, healthy eating. Which I am all for, but - suffice it to say that writing this post is like sinking into a cushy chair after a full day on foot.

Now, I come with exciting news. You know the whole dream-turned-obsession-turned-inevitability of co-owning a bakery one day? (See post 1, The Reason I'm Here.) Well, we're inching in the right direction. We are slated to bake for a small party at the end of this month and a full-blown wedding at the start of October (so much for baby steps). Are we ready? I'm not sure, but we're doing our best. For instance, we decided it pertinent to settle on a basic chocolate cupcake recipe. And that we did.

The contenders: Dark chocolate cupcakes made with sour cream and regular chocolate cupcakes made with buttermilk. Which would claim victory? It was anyone's guess.

That's the dark chocolate/sour cream on the right and regular chocolate/buttermilk in the orange. Look at them, sitting together in perfect harmony. Aw.

But we meant business. Caitlin, Shawn, and I sampled each cupcake without any frosting to distract. After we scrutinized their physical appearance, we sniffed them, popped them into our mouths, and chewed (more accurately, mashed them against our tastebuds) with our mouths open - you know, to let the oxygen in. At least that's what I did. What I'm saying is, this was serious.

And the vote was unanimous. The winner was richer, moister, and denser. There was no question! We high-fived (or maybe I just wish we had...) and whipped up some celebratory frosting.

Now for the icing on the proverbial cake: we were riding on that feeling of great satisfaction that comes from, you know, getting things done, and we decided it was time to purchase the domain name for our future bakery AND set up a business email account. So we did all of it, right then and there, and we are now the proud owners of --

Maybe it's too soon. Give it a couple weeks. (I've got to do something to keep the five* of you coming back for more.)

*That's not a self-deprecating understatement. It's entirely accurate. And slightly self-deprecating. On an unrelated note, what do I need to do to get noticed around here?!

So, there you have it. We've found our chocolate cupcakes, we've purchased our title, and some custom-designed business cards are in the works. Shit's about to go down, folks.

What's that? I never announced the winner of the cupcake battle? Now really. Is that necessary? Come on, people.

It actually may be necessary. I introduced the regular chocolate cupcakes as the ones "in the orange," but this one here is a dark chocolate/sour cream cupcake - the winner! But you knew that, right?