Friday, March 19, 2010

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

For Saint Patrick's day/co-workers birthday I made what are now named Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes. I am not clever enough to realize this seemingly simple observation (Collin was). Guiness chocolate cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Cream buttercream. It never crossed my mind that this is Irish Car Bomb ingredients, well minus the chocolate cake....and the buttercream. Still, it's the liquor that counts in the end. I used a chocolate stout cake recipe that I've made many many times, usually with Rogue Chocolate Stout or Rogue Shakespeare stout mainly because they are some of the best. Really flavorful and really rich. Makes for a good cake.

I regret to say that I have never been all that impressed with Guinness. Sorry to offend but I think growing up in the Northwest and starting to drink beer at a relatively early age (German family...) I had a greater appreciation for local beers which I still wholeheartedly believe stomp the global competition. Anyways, I was a bit apprehensive on using Guinness, thinking that it just wouldn't be as good as the rich Rogue Stout but I had to keep with the Irish theme and I felt that if I had stuck with my usual stouts some kind of horrible Irish karma would come my way making it on St. Patricks. The batter was pretty much the same so that was a good sign but once they were cooked, man, they were way better than the others I have made. I have no idea why.....perhaps it was some good Irish karma. The universe was pleased with my compliance with tradition and they were fantastic. Also, the Bailey's Irish Cream buttercream didn't hurt either. Instead of using cream and vanilla to bind the frosting, I used Bailey's. Just Bailey's. Amazing.

I highly recommend using liquors for buttercreams. Even if it's just a little bit. So fun to experiment with flavor combinations. Plus, there's a bit of booze in there so it's an added bonus, albeit a small one. I piped on some florets of frosting instead of topping the whole cupcake with it just because it was a bit on the strong side and didn't want to overwhelm my tasters at 11AM (why is group meeting so early?). I was very pleased with the end product and got some good reviews. They were a great take on a classic. Interesting and new, yet familiar (perhaps too the Irish car bomb sense). Will be making these again in the future. But perhaps, on a non-Irish holiday I will make it with Frangelico. Yum. Also, next time I think I'll pipe the frosting on the inside of the cupcake so "it's like a real bomb" (Collin Monda). Agreed. And perhaps just do a simple ganache on top. Cute.

P.S. Don't steal my cupcake name, even though I'm sure it's been used a million times over. Whatever.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Custard Tarts)

For Group Meeting this week the presenter requested Pasteis de Nata from his country of origin, Portugal. I was a bit intimidated when he described them to me. I was thinking these sound a lot like Creme Brule and was a bit resistant to the idea mainly because I would have to go find about a dozen more ramekins to house these creme brules. I quickly found out though that these custards are in fact, tarts, which means the custard sits in a puff pastry shell, which also means I can just bake them in a muffin tin. Easy.

You might be thinking I'm going to say "or so I thought..." or "little did I know how hard this was going to be...", but acutally, they were, very, easy. I was nervous to replicate a cherished childhood treat not to mention one that originated so very far away from here. Never the less I was excited after reading the recipes because they were painfully simple. Just cream, eggs, sugar, lemon, vanilla, cornstarch. There was a bit of discrepency about the ingredients once they were tasted. Apparently, they don't have vanilla nor do they have quite so much sugar (there really wasn't much as all and to my American/high threshold for sugar-palate it barely tasted sweet). Also, some think that there is less lemon and some think it was the right amount. I usually pick the self depricating road mainly because I should even if I don't want to because the baked item needs some improving. This time however, I'm not going to do that. They were delicious. Got to say. Sugar, lemon, vanilla, I don't care. They were so good I ate many in one day. It's really hard to stop. I'm not really even that much of custard person, but man these are good. A great breakfast/brunch treat if you want to switch it up from the usual cinnamon rolls or pancakes etc. Yum. Can't wait to make them again.

A couple pieces of advice:
Don't overcook them just to get the burnt spots on top. Yes, the burnt spots are very important, they kind of make the treat, much like the hard shell on creme brule. I really need to get a mini blow torch for this kind of stuff. Would work so well on these.

Buy the puff pastry. God I hate saying that. It's true. To be fair to myself, I didn't actually try because I was scared into submission by EVERY SINGLE RECIPE I found that explicity said DO NOT MAKE THE PUFF PASTRY!! Ok OK!! I wanted to. I really did. But how could I defy such forboding statements? So I went to the store and bought it. It was good. And much easier even though I get really impatient with it and don't let it thaw and just break it and end up having to let it thaw anyways so I can roll it back together and/or mash the seams with my fingers. Stupid sheets.

Anyway, with the puff pastry bought, all you really do is mix everything together and heat it up. Then pour it in to the muffin tins lined with the pastry dough. You just cut out circles with a cup and then mold them to the muffin tin cups.

Here's the recipe. Scroll down to find it. I compared many different recipes and this one had all the elements I liked and seemed well written. I tried to really hard to find one from a person actually from Portugal but never did. Give these a try. They are seriously easy and so worth the minimal amount of time to make them.