Thursday, September 1, 2011

maltshop memories

It has been OVER A YEAR since I've posted anything and boy, I feel really badly about this. What can I say? I finally finished my master's degree in early childhood education and early childhood special education. YAY!!! I graduated this past May and still had two state exams to take (out of 4 for NYS teacher certification) and finally took my last one in July, and found out in August that I passed it. PHEW! Now I'm just waiting for the OK from NYS to tell me that I'm certified (believe me, I have applied to places). So, since I have no teaching job for the fall, I am essentially back to where I was before I was in school. Working at a bookstore and not doing much else. So now I have time for blogging, baking (and eating) cupcakes, playing guitar & learning banjo, playing shows (at bars AND toy stores), etc etc etc. So hello everyone once again, and here is my latest cupcake adventure:

Chocolate Malted Cupcakes!!

I was flipping through Martha Stewart's cupcake book looking for a new recipe to try. My boyfriend Mike loves anything malted (whoppers, milkshakes, beer) so I thought I'd give the chocolate malted cupcakes a whirl and see how he liked them. He works at a supermarket so I met him as he got off his shift & he got me to the ingredients right quick! Without Mike I would've been wandering around the store squinting at aisle signs like an idiot for half an hour.

Here he is in his "I'm ready to bake" stance. Notice the seated position and the beer in one hand.

Here I am looking like Julia Child. I was still in my work clothes--fortunately I got this cute red apple apron from Target a few months ago. Martha says to mix the dry stuff first, so here I am whisking flour, cocoa, sugar (granulated and light brown), baking soda and salt. I had Mike measure out the malted milk powder and liquid milk since he likes malt so much.

And whisking, too! We're already making such a mess. Then I combined the dry bowl with the milk bowl and started adding the 3 eggs.

Then came a surprising ingredient, but one I'm sure really made these cupcakes.

Sour cream!

I couldn't believe how moist and rich these cupcakes were. Yum yum yum! Let's continue...

Martha also suggests using an ice cream scoop to measure out just enough batter for each cupcake. Great tip! Thanks, Martha! Except of course it was for a previous recipe I'd done (the classic yellow on her website, which I'll discuss later) that was only for 12 cupcakes... This recipe makes "about 28." So we made 24 plus three large cupcakes (in my large 6-cupcake tin).

So that's about a scoop and a half each. Into the oven you go! Then it was time for the frosting. This is one of my favorite things about cupcakes. For what is a cupcake without its frosting? A sad little cakey muffin. (Still very tasty, though. Like these. For once I wasn't eating a cupcake solely as an excuse to eat frosting).

Martha Stewart's frostings usually call for a ton of soft unsalted butter and confectioner's sugar. I guess that's what most frostings call for, period. I don't have a lot of frosting-making experience outside of my Martha book. I tried vegan frosting once but I wasn't very happy with the outcome. Remind me to try that again.

So here's Mike sifting 4 cups of confectioner's sugar:

One cup at a time. He actually enjoyed this. I mean, I don't hate it, but it was very nice to have helping hands :) I just realized that I always bake alone, and having some help not only makes everything go quicker, it's also so much more fun!

Butter, sugar, vanilla. Yum, yum, yum! Meanwhile, we took the cupcakes out of the oven and I had Mike put them on the wire racks to cool.

Frosting's ready, cupcakes are ready...

We did some dishes and cleaned up while the cupcakes cooled enough to get frosted.

Here I am with my trusty offset spatula. Where would I be without it? Mike got me a pastry bag a few months ago that I tried using once. I used it to make little mitten and house decorations on cupcakes for my friends' housewarming party (get it? houses and mittens?), which I will post later, but I haven't yet used it for the whole top of a cupcake, which I really want to do. Anyway...

Here they all are, 24 regular-sized cupcakes, all frosted with that lovely delicious Fluffy Vanilla Frosting (also from Martha's book). Martha puts sprinkles on them for decorations. While Mike & I were at the supermarket, I had an idea.

I thought it'd be cute to put chocolate shavings on top. We'd just watched our first full episode of Cupcake Wars (maybe he'd seen it before, I don't remember, but I certainly hadn't seen a full episode, which doesn't make much sense, considering how much I love cupcakes and how often people who know me tell me to watch it), and I was feeling pretty inspired. That (and my sudden freeing up of time) is what really made me want to get back to this blog.

So, I know, chocolate shavings aren't Cupcake Wars contender-worthy, but it was my little gourmet-ish touch. So Mike took me to the aisle where they have chocolate bars. He had been wanting to try the Cadbury chocolate bar, so we got that. (He doesn't eat candy or dessert really EVER, but he does now, because he's dating me). While exiting the aisle, I stopped, whacked his arm and said, "You know what would really be great?? Whoppers!!" He agreed (since that's pretty much his favorite candy) and we bought a box.

(This was the first plate. I realized after this that I should put the shavings on before the Whoppers.)

(Mike's chocolate shavings technique is way better than mine.)


Then on the drive home I whacked his arm again and said, "You know what else would be great? Straws!! To make them look like little milkshakes!" So he helped me cut the straws to little sizes and bent them (of course we keep bendy straws at my house) and we stuck them into each cupcake with chocolate shavings and a malt ball on top. And I thought, Martha Stewart didn't think of that. ;)

By now we hadn't tasted them yet. My brother David had walked in asking if he & his husband Hiro could try one and I said, "No, we have to finish decorating them!" Well after Mike & I finished one plate, we tried them. Then we told David.

And then, dear bloggers, it was actually Mike's idea to stick two straws into one cupcake and take this picture:


We made so many, I took them into work the next day. I really do think these were the best cupcakes I've ever made. So moist, so tasty, the frosting was great, the silver liners made them look fancy (thanks to Katherine for that suggestion--she's on a cupcake wrapper kick & noticed, as was my complaint too, that cute decorated cupcake wrappers always come out oily and blotted so you can't even see the cute decoration anymore! So she said your only sure bet is metallic wrappers. If anyone has tips for how not to grease up your paper wrappers and still have them come off without destroying the cupcake, please let me know!), plus they were so much fun to make. Just delightful!

Once again I used my Cupcake Courier from Bed, Bath & Beyond that my parents got me a few years ago. I can't live without it... and transport cupcakes. And what did we do with those 3 large cupcakes I mentioned?

Well, Mike bought some sprinkles when they were a new product at the supermarket and surprised me with them. They were Barn Pals and Zoo Accents. So cute!!

Barn Pals has chicks, cows, pigs and bunnies. Zoo Accents (I love that name) has gorillas, elephants, lions and dolphins.

We used the rest of the frosting to make 3 different colors and use the sprinkles. Mike wanted to use the cows (black & white) & decided that black would be an appetizing color. "No one ever uses black, so I thought it would look really cool," he says.

What I love most about his cupcake is the square of chocolate he put on the top.

I was laughing at him for doing black, though. It got all melty and I really couldn't stop laughing.

Especially compared to the other cupcakes we made:

My pink cupcake with pink & white piggies, and our (I frosted it and he chose the sprinkles) blue cupcake with blue & green dolphins.

He said he didn't use the offset spatula so that explains his.

But all together they don't look so bad!

You gotta love big cupcakes!!