Sunday, May 31, 2009

Iron Cupcake: Savory - Voting Now Open!

In case you didn't read the title of this post, voting is NOW OPEN for the Iron Cucpcake: Savory challenge! Don't forget to vote for the maker of your most favorite savory cupcakes -- that would be The Bitchin' Kitchin', of course ;) You can also check out the other savory cupcakes which were submitted. Everyone's so creative!

VOTE by either clicking the "Iron Cupcake" icon at the top right of my blog, or if you're just too lazy, you can click this hyperlink.

More blogging to come early this week...get ready!

Monday, May 25, 2009

NYC's Dessert Truck: A Review

Making it to the Dessert Truck has been a goal of mine for the past 12 months. I don't hold on to too many dreams this long. I either do something about it or I let it slide on past. The Dessert Truck was special enough to stick it out.
For those of you who do not know, here's a little background on the Dessert Truck. The Dessert Truck is literally a truck that is parked around New York City where any passerby can buy high-end desserts for non-high-end prices. The chefs make everything from scratch, from the homemade vanilla ice cream to meringues to decadent sauces for their chocolate bread pudding. Also, they have been featured on the Food Network for a little show called "Throwndown" with my personal friend Bobby Flay. Well...technically he's not really my friend but he did open a Mesa Grill restaurant in the Bahamas and I've eaten there, so it's just a matter of time before we become bosom buddies.

My first encounter with the Dessert Truck made for pretty difficult decision-making. Certainly, I wanted to taste everything on the menu. At the same time, I had to balance this with my ability to eat everything. After evaluating the menu, I was torn between three items:

  • Warm Molten Dark Chocolate Cake
  • Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding
  • Vanilla Crème Brulée
So I decided to suck it up, take one for the team, and purchase all three. Just to clarify, this purchase was required in the name of research. How else can I accurately provide a review of this fine establishment? Also, I have a deep-seeded love of chocolate and crème brulée that had to be fed.

Warm Molten Dark Chocolate Cake Olive oil & chocolate center, hazelnuts, sea salt, vanilla ice cream (optional)
Simply put, I love it. The hazelnuts were candied and scattered over the top of the cake, along with a sprinkling of sea salt. The chocolate cake itself was decadent. It was a little firm but still smooth. The center was molten but didn't taste like olive oil, for which I was supremely thankful. Don't get me wrong, I like olive oil, but I was a little skeptical about it being in the center of my cake. Overall, the entire dish was rich and chocolate-y. The texture and taste reminded me of a truffle, which is definitely not a bad thing to resemble. I was also able to satisfy my salty/sweet craving with this choice. This dish comes with the option to purchase the homemade vanilla ice cream as well. Of course I had to do this. This ice cream contains thousands of beautiful vanilla bean flecks. It was a bit soft (my fault, since I waited 20 minutes to eat it) but still sweet and creamy. I could eat an entire bowl of this ice cream, which is impressive, since I'm not usually a fan of vanilla ice cream! But that's how good it was!

Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding Choice of vanilla or bacon custard sauce

I can't remember ever eating chocolate bread pudding before. I've had a ton of bread pudding, but with chocolate? I've only heard of this amazing dish. And now I've had the opportunity to partake. When I dug into the bread pudding, it was soft and a bit mushy. But I think that's acceptable. It's called bread pudding for a reason. It was very chocolate-y, which is always a plus for me. I don't really know how they did it. Maybe they used chocolate bread? I will make sure to ask the next time I go there. And there will be a next time. The girl who was manning the truck (I was so excited to be there I forgot to ask her name) was super nice. When I told her I was going to write about the Dessert Truck on my food blog, she offered to provide both the Vanilla and Bacon Custard Sauce for comparison purposes. Love her! I tried both sauces by themselves first. The Vanilla sauce was pretty standard. It actually reminded me of the ice cream, except this was heavier and creamier. The Bacon Custard sauce was interesting. When eating it by itself, I could taste the bacon, but it was subtle...almost an aftertaste. When I tried each sauce with the bread pudding, they end result tasted pretty much the same. It seemed that the bacon flavor in the Bacon Custard sauce was lost when paired with the bread pudding. In it's defense, however, this could be due to the fact that I didn't add a lot of Bacon Custard sauce to the bread pudding. You'll just have to try it yourself!
Vanilla Crème Brulée Freshly caramelized sugar
I watched my favorite Dessert Truck staffer use a blowtorch to caramelize the sugar on top of my crème brulée right after I placed my order. They're not kidding when they say "freshly caramelized sugar". (I have a weird desire to own a blowtorch someday, but that's another post.) Digging into the dish, I heard a very satisfying crack as the sugar crust broke. The custard underneath was smooth and creamy and also had those wonderful vanilla bean black spots throughout it. Yes, that is the mark of a quality made dish. I don't really know what else to say about this dessert because it was just really, really, really good. I could be eating it in a stuffy restaurant, which is kind of the point of the Dessert Truck anyway...

In my opinion, my first visit to the Dessert Truck was worth the several failed attempts that morphed into a 12-month wait. In order to find them, you'll need to check out their location on the Dessert Truck website, or you could follow them on Twitter, which happens to be a more effective method of stalking (this is how I FINALLY found them!). I would recommend at least giving this establishment a shot. I doubt you'll be disappointed. My final verdict? The Dessert Truck has found themselves another satisfied customer.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Jalapeno Popper Cupcakes

I love jalapenos. I love jalapeno poppers even more. There's nothing like sitting in a bar, watching your team win Superbowl XLIII and chomping into some greasy, cheesy jalapeno poppers.

For some reason, all my friends still thought I had lost my mind with this cupcake idea. I guess my creation of the Pizza Cupcake might have bypassed a few people. I mean, would you really expect anything less? With Pizza Cupcakes as my first official entry to the Iron Cupcake: Earth competition (voting begins May 30th), I decided that it was definitely worth a try to incorporate Jalapeno Poppers into another cupcake.

The hardest part about this endeavor was finding a cupcake recipe to start with. Sure, there are several cornbread-based recipes that include jalapenos, but what I'm going for is the real deal. I want my cupcakes to taste like cake. Or as close to cake as you can get when you throw chopped peppers into the mix. Finally, after hours of scrounging around the internet, I found a candidate.

My inspiration? Living In The Kitchen With Puppies' Jalapeno Orange Marmalade Cupcakes. Now say that 3 times fast. But as you can guess from the title of this post, I made my own adjustments to the recipe.

Jalapeno Popper Cupcakes
adapted from L.I.T.K.W.P.'s Jalapeno Orange Marmalade Cupcakes

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 7 chopped jalapenos (cuz I like it spicy! but you can use more or less, depending on your preference)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup soft unsalted butter
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) In a small bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Note: Dry ingredients DO NOT include sugar. As you can guess, The Bitchin' Kitchin' had another snafu with baking directions at Step 2, but the cupcake still survived!
3) In stand mixer, beat sugar with butter. (Unless you've disregarded my note and included sugar in Step 2. From personal experience, I can tell you that this is still OK. Continue on to Step 4...).
4) Add egg whites, one at a time. Beat until light and fluffy.
5) Add sour cream and jalapenos. Mix.
6) Add dry mixture and milk alternately. Use three additions of dry mixture and two additions of milk.
7) Pour evenly into cupcake liners and bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean.
8) Take cupcakes out of the oven and let them cool.
Cream Cheese Frosting

This could be the simplest thing ever:

  • Cream Cheese
  • Bread Crumbs for sprinkling on top
1) Whip cream cheese slightly to make it more spreadable
2) Spread the cream cheese over the tops of the cupcakes.
3) Sprinkle with bread crumbs.
In the process of creating this wacky cupcake, the Roomie and I just HAD to taste the batter, of course! Upon investigation, I will admit there was an "oh crap" moment. The batter was pretty sweet. I liked the sweetness personally, but since I was out to make a savory cupcake, I was a little worried. But never fear! Once the flavors had a chance to come together in the oven, the end result was a nice balance of savory and sweet. There was also the extra kick thrown in the mix, due to the jalapenos. The heat really creeps up on you when you think you're almost done with the cupcake. I also have to admit that I put a little too much cream cheese on a few of the cupcakes, which overwhelmed the flavor a bit, but that situation can be easily rectified. I really enjoyed the bread crumb topping. I used Italian-style bread crumbs for my cupcakes (amazing!), but you can use your preferred bread crumb brand/flavor/seasoning in yours.

Although I really liked how this cupcake came out, there was one unfortunate incident. When I took my beautiful, perfectly rounded cupcakes out of the oven, it took approximately 60 seconds for them to sink into little valleys right before my eyes. (Can someone tell me what I did wrong? I couldn't even find a good answer on Google!) But thankfully the taste more than made up for this. Interestingly enough, Zoo and AM thought I had planned for the cupcakes to fall so I would have a place to put the cream cheese....Why yes, this was all in the master plan....wink wink...
Time for Taste Squad Reviews:
- KL: First thought "Wow, this actually tastes like a jalapeno popper". Second thought "Wow, this is actually pretty good!" While the batter initially tasted too sweet, it turned out to be a perfect counterbalance to the spiciness of the jalapeno. The cream cheese icing was the perfect "icing" to the cake. The cake itself was a perfect balance between sweet and jalapeno hotness.

- RM: Liked the moistness of the cupcakes, flavor of the jalapeno, and bread crumb topping. Suggestions for future variations include playing with cornmeal in the batter or flavoring the icing with jalapenos or lime. Overall, YUM-O.
- Zoo (This trendsetter tried it both cold and warm) : "I like it. It's spicy and really tastes like a jalapeno popper. But I like it better cold."
There are additional members of the Taste Squad (I think KL and I attacked about 20 people in less than 48 hours), but in general, everyone was surprised that a Jalapeno Popper Cupcake was not my personal attempt to poison them.

As you can see, my attempt at writing a shorter blog post has not yet been realized. But let's look at the bright side, this will provide you with an additional means of procrastination at work. Please don't forget that I am entering the fantabulous Iron Cupcake: Earth competition this month. The theme is "Savory Cupcakes"...You didn't think I came up with these cupcake ideas for no reason, did you? :) So vote for me!!! (Voting begins May 30th!) And let's face it, if you've read this much of my blog, chances are that you like me already. And I may or may not have forced you to eat a cupcake in the past two weeks.

FYI, I'm also working on my picture-taking skills. I just figured out how to properly use my point and shoot last weekend, thanks to Sameer! But still, I would just LOVE to receive a digital SLR camera for my birthday...ahem...cough cough...Mom?...cough...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pizza Cupcakes

As I mentioned two days ago, I'm officially placing myself in the running for the Iron Cupcake:Earth competition this month. The theme is Savory Cupcakes and I'm bringing the Pizza. Yes, I said it. Pizza.

So far, the general reaction to my icebreaker of "I made pizza cupcakes this weekend" has been silence. I believeI have found the way to steal words out of just about everyone's mouths. I didn't know it would be that easy, actually.

Now I know what you're thinking. What the...? Who would eat that? Originally, this fiasco came about when I started thinking about my friend Marcia and her unmatched passion for pizza. And then it hit me and I know, I could make that into a cupcake. At the time, I had absolutely no idea how I would do this, of course, but therein lies the fun and challenge of the competition.

I started my quest by searching for cupcakes with a tomato base. I figured what else could be the base of a pizza cupcake, right? I finally tracked down a recipe on my fellow blogger's website, Vanilla Garlic. I think he and I will be soulmates, but more about the food. He has a recipe for Tomato Soup Cupcakes. They seemed to be a good way to start off my cupcake, so I thought I'd take it and run amok. Of course, since his recipe called for cinnamon and ground cloves, I also figured I'd tweak that just a little bit...

Tomato Soup Cupcakes
  • 1 (10.75) ounce can condensed tomato soup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon basil, dried and chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon oregano, dried and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of sifted self-rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 30-40 thin slices of pepperoni (optional)
1) Set the butter and egg out and let them come to room temperature. Set the over to 325 degrees F (165 C).

2) Combine the tomato soup and baking soda in a bowl and let it stand. Use a deep bowl as the mixture will rise.

3) Cream the butter, sugar, and spices in bowl. Add the egg and mix for 30 seconds. Mix in the tomato soup and soda mixture. It might look funky, but don't worry.

4) Mix the flour and baking powder together, and then beat into the mixture until just combined.

5) Optional: Chop the pepperoni in a food processor. Fold the chopped pepperoni into the batter. If you're a vegetarian, feel free to skip this part. Just forget I said anything about meat.

6) Pour evenly into cupcake papers. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. The cupcakes will be soft. Let them cool.

Cheese Frosting

Equal parts of the following:
  • Garlic & Herb Spreadable Cheese (I used Laughing Cow brand, but any brand would do.)
  • Cream Cheese
  • ChoppedPepperoni for sprinking on top (optional)
1) Combine cheeses and ice the cupcakes with the resulting mix.

2) Top with chopped pepperoni. Again, this is optional, but I don't understand anyone's aversion to pepperoni. It's soooo very amazing.

The result of my endeavors was what I would call a pretty light and fluffy cupcake. It wasn't too sweet (the original recipe called for 1 cup of sugar, but I halved it in an effort to go the savory route). Also, the texture was very cake-y, which was one of the goals of this mission. I have to admit that it was definitely a more pleasant experience than I thought it would be. Yes, even I had my doubts. The taste was less like pizza and more like a tomato-flavored cupcake. Surprised? Why yes, I actually was. I expected a denser, more filling result, but I'm still happy with the result. There was a sweet and savory taste to the cupcake that kind of leaves you wanting more. Tree-huggers/vegetarians, this could be your thing.

Overall, I think I learned a lot from my first foray into the Savory Cupcake arena. A few of my observations with this recipe:

1. Don't confuse baking powder with baking soda. I accidentally attempted to "raise" the tomato soup with baking powder instead of baking soda. Uh-oh. (And yes, I know this blunder occurred at Step 2! Don't remind me.) But after adding the baking soda to the tomato soup/baking powder mixture, the final texture of the cupcake was still pretty good. If I didn't know there was an oopsie, I wouldn't have guessed it!

2. I was a little heavy handed with the herbs in this recipe. If you don't have cream cheese on hand to dilute the garlic & herb spreadable cheese, then you should decrease the basil and oregano measurements in the cupcake by 1/2 a teaspoon.

3. This recipe seems to be pretty flexible, so I could see a variation using some other type of meat (Sausage? BBQ Chicken?) or a vegetable (Green Peppers? Onions?). If someone's really creative, maybe a white pizza could be in the works. But that's a completely new cupcake.

During this entire post, I have so far neglected to mention how awesome my friends. Although I shocked a few of them with my pizza adventure, I received words of encouragement after the obligatory period of silence. Even my roommate was wondering about me...but that's nothing new I guess. In addition, a select few have agreed to take their lives in hand and become taste testers for me. Yes, I will say it again. They are all amazing. My elite Taste Squadprovided positive reviews for those of you who can only view the Pizza Cupcakes from afar:

- KL: "I am happy to eat more of them. They are a little sweet and a little savory."

- Zoo: "I want more."

- SRJ: "I could eat 50 more."

- DJ & AL went so far as to send a detailed e-mail message, so I feel that they deserve to be heard, albeit in truncated sentences:
  • Appearance: Cupcake decoration was creative and had the air of something to be served in a luxury restaurant (Wow! This is a first, kiddos!).
  • Texture: The actual cupcake part had an amazing texture, perfectly baked and nice and fluffy. AL thought the top felt a bit mushy, but they did wait a day to eat it. Additional recommendation was to maybe make the pepperoni flakes a little crispier, like bacon. (Is this a challenge for bacon cupcakes? Hmmmm....)
  • Taste: DJ thought it tasted a bit potent at first, but as the initial taste went away, she liked the amount of spice and sweetness that remained. AL liked the spiciness.
So there you go everyone. Voila le Pizza Cupcake! I think it shocked some people, but I admire that about this cupcake. The next time I make these, I will definitely incorporate feedback from the Taste Squad. But next in the pipeline is my second savory cupcake for admission into the Iron Cupcake competition....You'll just have to wait to see it!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Welcome to The Bitchin' Kitchin'!

In case it's not obvious, this is my inaugural post on this interweb blog thingy. Anyone that knows me also knows that I love food. I follow food blogs like it's nobody's business. One of the things that gave me that extra push to start up my own blog is this amazing website called "Iron Cupcake: Earth". It features a monthly cupcake competition for food bloggers based upon a specific theme. (Note: You need to scroll down the page to view the competition info.) This has really intrigued me and made me realize how important it is for me to express my creativity by experimenting in the kitchen and ultimately CRUSHING the competition. But I digress...

This blog is not only going to showcase cupcakes, because I like all kinds of food. However, I don't really consider myself to be a foodie, since I'm not going to eat anything that's put in front of me. Trust me, there's a long list of food products that I won't be touching with a 10 foot pole.

Please feel free to share ideas and give me feedback. I welcome a challenge and (gentle) criticism. Let me know if you try out any of my recipes! That would really make my day :) So I hope I inspire at least 1 person out there to get in the kitchen and do their own thing, no matter what that may be. You'll be seeing more of the Bitchin' Kitchin' sooner than you know!