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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Catch Up

Where to begin?

There was Valentine’s Day….

To break up the monotony of chocolate and champagne, I gave my coworkers Mexican Cokes and spicy Chex mix, adorned with cheesy home-made love notes, of course…(a special thank you to Nate who so perfectly cut out the labels below!)

Then I celebrated my 27th year on earth, receiving the BEST. CARD. EVER. (check out who sent it….)

And then I went to Florida…(I think the photo below will explain why I’m not posting more photos of the trip)

breakfast

 

And now I’m back in nyc with a to-do list a mile long. First up? Thank you notes–on the cutest stationery:

And decorating for St. Patrick’s Day!

 

Now excuse me while I go unpack, prepare for tomorrow’s parent-teacher conferences, mail my best friend a birthday gift, make spicy pistachio-crusted tilapia for dinner, and look (again) at all the Oscar’s fashion.

xo

Greetings from Florida

After the chaos of last week…Valentine’s, student testing, my birthday, and packing…a trip to the beach is pure bliss.

image

That’s the view from the balcony at our condo, where I plan to take a cup of coffee and a stack of trashy magazines right now.

See you next week with regular blogging.

Xo

Outfit of the Day

Even before I lived in nyc, my closet was dominated by black, gray, and brown. Not only are those colors classic and flattering, they (along with gold and rust!) really, truly, are my favorite colors. I was lucky to score a dress at TJ Maxx that included all of these shades in an amazing shape, wrinkle-free fabric, and modern pattern:

xo

 

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Buttercream Layer Cake

So, this happened:

I finally made a cake so tall the lid on my giant cake carrier smooshed it. Thankfully the book club gals didn’t mind, and gleefully attacked it all the same.

This cake was adapted from a Martha Stewart chocolate caramel layer cake, and I clearly made a teeny tiny error in my adaptation….see, the original recipe was an open faced 2 layer cake, but I wanted to ice this baby. To make this a three layer cake, I doubled the recipe, and figured it would just add a wee-bit of height to the layers. Clearly, I was wrong:

Well now, I suppose part of the problem must be attributed to the fact my salted caramel buttercream layers are AS THICK as the cake. But if the subject lines of every other email in my spam folder is any indication, being “thick and 12 inches” is seen as a good things, so….yea, happy mistake.

HOW TO:

Cake:

-2 1/4 cup all purpose flour

-2 1/4 cup sugar

-1 cup plus 2 tbsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder

-2 1/4 tsp baking soda

-1 1/2 tsp baking powder

-1 1/2 tsp salt

-6 tbsp neutral vegetable oil

-1 cup plus 2 tbsp buttermilk

-1 cup plus 2 tbsp brewed coffee, cooled to room temp

-3 large eggs, at room temp

-1 tbsp vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of 3 8-inch baking pans with parchment. Grease and flour. Set aside.

1. Combine all dry ingredients in bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed to combine.

2. Add all the wet ingredients to the bowl. Mix on low speed to combine.

3. Divide the batter evenly between the pans.

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

5. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn out and cool completely before removing parchment.

That’s it. Seriously.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

-1 cup sugar

-1/4 cup water

-1/4 cup heavy cream

-generous pinch of salt (I used fleur de sel)

-4 large egg whites

-3 sticks butter, at room temp

Directions:

1. Place 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp of sugar in a medium saucepan.

2. Pour water over sugar.

3. Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat.

4. Once boiling, remove lid. Continue boiling until syrup begins to darken, around 300 degrees on a candy thermometer.

5. Turn heat down to medium-low, and continue cooking as you closely eye the syrup. When it is a deep amber color, 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, remove immediately from heat.

6. Slowly add the cream, and whisk to combine.

7. Add salt. Let cool completely.

8. Combine egg whites and remaine 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar in heatproof bowl set atop simmering water.

9. Heat, whisking frequently, until the sugar has completely dissolved. (Don’t trust your eyes on this one–rub the mixture between your fingers!)

10. Transfer to a bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until it has doubled and stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes.

11. Reduce speed to medium and add butter 1 stick at a time.

12. Beat until buttercream frosting comes together–this can take as long as 15 minutes, so be patient!

13. Add in the cooled caramel and mix until fully incorporated, stopping to scrape down bowl.

See how the color changes??

Chocolate Frosting:

-12 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

-1/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa

-1/4 very hot water

-18 tbsp butter, at room temp

-1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp powdered sugar

-pinch salt

Directions:

1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Let cool to room temperature.

2. In a small bowl, combine the water and cocoa powder. Stir until smooth. Marvel at how it is indistinguishable from the melted chocolate.

3.  Combine butter, powdered sugar and salt in bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the melted chocolate and mix until smooth.

5. Add the water-cocoa powder mixture and mix until smooth.

*Note: Once assembled, my frosting needed to be chilled for 30 minutes until it was thick enough to be spread over the cake. However, this was not noted in the original recipe, so perhaps my kitchen runs warm. Use your judgement.

Melted chocolate or water+cocoa powder????

To assemble, place one cake layer on cake board or plate. Spread 1/2 of the buttercream over it. Top with another layer of cake. Spread remaining buttercream over cake layer. Place last cake layer on top. Frost the cake from the top down.

*Note on frosting a cake: When my Mom first taught me how to frost a cake, I was maybe 7 or 8 years old, she told me to “push, not spread” the frosting. This is true for all frosting–it’s not butter–but never more applicable than for a cake like this one. The thick layer of buttercream needs to be swathed in frosting, too, and if you try to spread the frosting you’ll just end up mixing the two. Throw a big hunk of frosting on the cake, and just “push” it.

Sprinkle the top with fleur de sel. And if you’re a real caramelaholic, drizzle some MORE salted caramel sauce on top when you slice it….

Voila!

I wanted to serve this with my salted caramel sauce from the stuffed cupcakes I made a couple weeks ago, so I whipped up a batch and jarred it for my girl friends as a Valentine’s Day gift:

Enjoy!

xo

 

 

 

 

Love for Ktown

Let me level with you–there is exactly 1 1/2 reasons I’m writing this post about a store that’s only in NYC. The teeny tiny 1/2 there? Because I want you to know about it. The main reason? Because I can’t bear to post two entries in a row on a chocolate caramel dessert. I don’t want to be known–however true it may be–as “the crazy chocoholic girl.” Or “the blogger most likely to develop type 2 diabetes.” I’d even cringe to hear myself referred to as “the dessert diva.”

Scratch that last one, being called the Dessert Diva would be pretty sweet. No pun intended.

Koreatown is one of my favorite blocks in New York City. I love how dramatically different one block is from the next here. Walking down 32nd, just blocks from Herald Square, you will stumble upon an enclave of Korean wonders…my favorite? The Face Shop.

While The Face Shop carries a wide range of products and product ranges–hair care, skin care, body care, cosmetics, tools…–my ultimate favorite are the several dozen single-use face masks they offer. My last trip there I picked up a couple of paste masks: these masks come as a powder that you have to mix water with to create a thick paste and pack onto your skin. (Caution: if any living creature sees you wearing this clumpy, thick, gray mask, they WILL scream/pee themselves/turn to stone.)

One of these is formulated to brighten, the other to firm and hydrate. The ingredients are a mystery, though, as they are all in Korean.

The other masks I picked up are are my favorite kind of mask–a cloth mask. These presoaked masks are laid upon the skin, making you look like a mummy. I considered posting a picture of me wearing this mask, but ultimately decided I am just way, way too vain to publicly display my face in corpse-like appearance.

The last two goodies I picked up for myself are brightening products–a face mask, and strips for under eye circles. Koreans are known for their cutting edge “lightening” technology, so I’m very excited to see how these work for me.

By the way, all of these products cost just $1-$3. And the gals at The Face Shop always toss in freebies, so it really is a remarkable value. Definitely worth a trip to Ktown if you live in NYC or are planning a visit.

After shopping, you’ll no doubt need a snack. Pop into my FAVORITE nyc bakery: Paris Baguette.

The pastries here are all classic French pastries, but with a Korean twist. It’s hard to describe these unique flavors, so just take my word for it and go fill up a box. (It should be mentioned that the pastries here are approximately eleventybillion times better than Magnolia or Amy’s or even my beloved Sarabeth’s, yet it costs at least 50% less.)

Mmmmmmmm…………………WAIT A MINUTE! How in the hell did this post–this post intended to be a filler between dessert posts, this post intended to be pointedly NON-FOOD RELATED–circle back round to buttery baked goods!? By god Betty Crocker, I have issues.

So much for avoiding a fatgirl nickname…..Come back in a day or two for the dark chocolate and salted caramel layer cake post.

xo

 

Salted Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Cupcakes

Do you remember “Glamour Shots”? Those weird photography studios in Midwest shopping malls in the early 90’s? When I was younger I totally wanted to go because they did your hair and make-up and the photos were always strangely airbrushed or photoshopped or something to look like old school Playboy centerfolds and I thought it was the most, well, glamorous thing EVER. (I’m realizing now how creepy this makes 12-year-old-me sound. I wish I could explain.)

My Mom never took me to Glamour Shots (good call, Mom), which is my excuse for using soft-focus so gratuitously here. And again later on in this post.

ANYWAY….I’ve been craving chocolate and salted caramel for quite some time now, and this was my first experiment. I used Martha Stewart’s one bowl recipe for the chocolate cupcakes, which are stupidly easy. The frosting is a traditional ganache, which I flecked with sea salt as glittery as sprinkles. But the star here, friends, is the hidden gem of gooey salty-sweetness inside. (A great metaphor for women, no?) THE CARAMEL!

Heaven.

CUPCAKES

– 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

– 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

– 1 1/2 cups sugar

– 1 1/2 tsp baking soda

– 3/4 tsp baking powder

– 3/4 tsp salt

– 2 large eggs

– 3/4 cup warm water

– 3/4 cup buttermilk

– 3 tbsp neutral vegetable oil

– 1 tsp vanilla

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line 12 cupcake tin.

3. Sift together the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

4. Add the wet ingredients and stir until very smooth, about 3 minutes.

5. Full cups 2/3 full.

6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a test inserted in center comes out clean.

7. Cool completely before filling or frosting.

CARAMEL

– 1 cup water

– 2 cups sugar

– 2 cups heavy cream

– 1/2 tsp salt

– 1 tsp vanilla

Directions

1. Pour water into heavy 2 qt saucepan.

2. Pour the sugar into the middle of the saucepan, trying to avoid getting sugar on the sides of the saucepan.

3. Cover and bring to boil over high heat.

4. In a small saucepan, bring cream and salt to a simmer over medium heat.

5. Uncover and continue boiling until syrup thickens and darkens, about 5-10  minutes. If you use a candy thermometer (I did and love it), boil until 300 degrees.

6.Reduce heat to medium and closely watch the caramel darken a rich amber color, 1-5 minutes or 350 degrees.

6. Remove the caramel from heat, and slowly and CAREFULLY pour the cream in. ***This will result in very large, hot bubbles. To be safe, wear an oven mitt while doing this.

7. Add the vanilla and whisk until smooth.

Cool completely before handling. Keeps in the fridge for a couple weeks, but I doubt it’ll last that long. I have been sneaking spoonfuls of this every day. And night. And now my pants are tight.

GANACHE

– 12 ounces best quality chocolate in the intensity you prefer (I used 72% cacoa), chopped

– 1 cup heavy cream

Directions

1. Bring heavy cream to a boil in saucepan.

2. Place chopped chocolate in heat proof bowl.

3. When cream begins to boil, remove and pour over chocolate.

4. Allow to stand for 1 minute, then stir until very smooth.

Let cool before handling.

ASSEMBLY

1. Take a small paring knife and at an angle cut a small circle in the top of the cupcake (like carving a pumpkin…)

2. The removed section should look like a cone. Cut of the bottom portion of it. Feed it to your dog boyfriend if he’s been well behaved.

4. Fill the little well in the cupcake with caramel. Resist urge to swan dive naked into it.

5. Replace cupcake lid. Giggle at the naughtiness of concealing the treasure…

6. Dollop ganache on top.

7. Sprinkle with fleur de sel (Fancy schmancy sea salt flakes available at Whole Foods and specialty markets for about the cost of your firstborn. But unlike your firstborn, this salt is irreplaceable and never disappoints, so it’s totally worth it.)

I have to confess, I wish these cupcakes were more caramely. I want caramel in every single bite, not just in the middle 3 bites. (More like 5 if you take normal sized bites and not Godzilla bites like me.) So I have decided to recreate this in layer cake form for my book club gathering next week. I will post pictures if I haven’t fallen into a sugar-slump-coma from all this heavy cream and sugar…

xo

 

 

Outfit of the Day…Yesterday

A classic black shirtdress gets a style-up when paired with leopard print tights and Frye boots…

Dress from JC Penney, necklace from Jewelmint

There is no such thing as too many bracelets…

The tights were a gift from my Momma, made by Hue…

xo