Brownie Bakeoff!

Tonight was a Brownie Bakeoff at The Brooklyn Kitchen, with Matt and Renaldo from Baked (in Red Hook.) They were two of the judges, along with Natasha from High Times (signed my magazine!) and Siobhan from Blondie and Brownie.

I like Baked the store, and I have loved the recipes I’ve seen, and my oven just got fixed, so I decided to enter the brownie bakeoff.

First Rule of Food Competition: Stand Out. Just like cupcakes can have a simple edge over others with a topping of some sort, I decided to do the same thing with my brownies. So, I made…

Coconut Ginger Brownies with Ginger Salted Caramel Sauce

They were awesome. I used my Grandmother’s Brownie Recipe and added ginger and coconut. This was also my first time ever making caramel from scratch. A full recount of the recipe will be up soon.

During Judging, Matt and Renaldo called me up to ask questions about my brownie. They asked where I got my recipe, and they asked what kind of cocoa I used. (Hershey’s. I’m not fancy about cocoa :)

I ended up being a double winner! I won “Best Presentation (with Reservations)” from the judges! The “with reservations” was because there was some debate over if mine were brownies or not. I do agree that the ginger overpowered the chocolate, but they are chocolate! (Natasha from High Times Magazine said mine was her favorite!)

I also won 2nd place in the popular vote! Since the contest was a fundraiser for Greenpoint Reformed Church Hunger Program, the votes were $1 each. First place was won by someone who brought the most friends. It all was for a good cause, so I am glad that everyone came, had a good time, and contributed.

With my win, I won a copy of Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented. This has been on my wishlist since I heard about it, and I am so excited to start baking from it!

Baked Explorations, a Stone Casserole, Chocolate, High Times Magazine

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Wild Mountain Blueberry Kcup

I ordered a lot of Keurig Kcups, so I could try to break my Starbucks Addiction by having coffee at home. Part of the promotion (more on that towards the end), I got a free sample pack which included the Wild Mountain Blueberry K-Cup.

Various reviews online said the coffee was good, and refreshing, and tasted like a blueberry donut with coffee. While I agree with the latter assessment, it seemed more like a lightly sweetened blueberry donut with very bitter coffee. In addition, since I do not normally dunk donuts into my coffee, the taste combination seemed off to me, and I did not like it. I am very glad I only had one of them.

Keurig has (had?) an offer that if you buy one of their machines (I have the Keurig B30), and register on their website, and bought two boxes of kcups, you could get two free. If you bought six boxes of kcups (four you pay for and two that you could get free) you got a free sampler pack.

The Kcups on the keurig website were slightly more expensive than other places, but they also had almost every kcup variety. With the free kcups, I did get a great deal. (Of course, getting kcups for my Halloween present makes them even cheaper!)

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Cake Mix in the Slow Cooker

My partner decided he wanted to bake for me. He mixed up a cake mix, and put in chocolate chips. The pans were prepared, the mix was poured in, they were placed in the oven.

then the oven door would not close.

At some point between preheating the oven, and putting the cake in, the spring that held the door hinge in place had shifted. thus, our oven is broken.

(Which is bad, because I had great plans for baking roasted buns this weekend. Now thwarted.)

The six cupcakes were put in the freezer, since you can Freeze Cupcake Batter the rest of the batter went into the crock pot.

hey, its a mini oven, does not get as hot, and serves as bakeware and oven in one!

Two hours on high in the 5.5 qt Crock Pot, with the lid on, and the cake was done. I scooped it out and poured some creamer over it while it was warm. After it cooled, it still had a slightly fudgy consistancy (probably due to both the baking method and the chocolate chips). I will be eating the rest probably with some ice cream :)

So, yes, you can bake a cake mix in the crock pot/slow cooker.

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What did I make?

I have no idea :)

I was attempting to make a donut glaze, and got far off track.

I whisked two egg yolks together with some superfine sugar. I melted a stick (4 oz, 1/2 cup) of butter, and, while whisking continuously, added the melted butter to the eggs. If I went a little too fast, it looked kinda streaky, but with the whisk it all stayed together.

This was tasty. Without the sugar, and with a bit of lemon juice, this would have been hollandaise sauce. And, I thought that hollandaise sauce was hard, and it broke, and whatever. So, if anything, this kitchen experiment taught me that I can most likely make hollandaise.

But, I was worried with the whole salmonella outbreak the sauce would not be “safe.” So, I put all of this back into the pan that I melted the butter in, and stirred it until it hit 160 on my thermometer.

This made a fairly decently sweet sauce. Not the glaze that I was going for. If I had milk or cream (that was not expired), I would have turned it into custard. Yum.

After it cooled slightly, I wanted something a little sweeter. so, I added some brown sugar to this, and then reheated it until the brown sugar melted.


This sauce is amazing. It is like caramel and dulce de leche got together and made a more complex but awesomely delicious baby clone.

Has this been made before? Or something along the same lines? Inquiring lines want to know.

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Strawberry Jalapeno Cupcakes

Also to be known as The Most Painful Cupcakes I have Ever Made, due to the Candied Jalapenos.

This recipe is long, and full of lots of missteps, and I do not guarantee results. I didn’t measure many of the liquid ingredients, so I am very surprised that they turned out :) Also, I am such a dork, and I was so sure that the cupcakes would not turn out, that I did not take pictures of any of them. I might snag a picture from some friends that were at the meetup, if they post any.

Start with making Candied Jalapeno. Keep the entire mixture together. If in the fridge, warm in microwave.

Put in bottom of mixer, and add some Strawberry Jalapeno Jam. Add 4 tbsp of room temperature butter, 1/3 cup vegetable oil,1/2 tsp salt and extracts (I added both vanilla and NATURAL Strawberry Flavor. (Fake Strawberry tastes like fake strawberry. I found that the natural strawberry mixed with real strawberries is acceptable.)

I did not add sugar, because there was 1 cup of sugar in the jalapenos, and 1 1/2 cups in the entire recipe of Strawberry Jalapeno Jam. Which is why the flour ratio is a bit higher than in the book.

Here is where it gets unorthodox. I am using the “Dissolved Sugar” method as mentioned in BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking. Reckless me, I go and change up the recipe without even trying the original. Hence, “Attempted.”

Mix 1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup cornstarch (or use 1 1/4 cup cake flour), and 2 tsp baking powder. Add this to the candied jalapeno liquid mixture in 1/3rd increments. Yes, we are adding flour to liquid. The science basically says that the water is bonded with the sugar, and thus is unavailable for gluten production. Still, don’t go beating this for hours. Mix each installment until just combined.

One at a time, add three egg yolks and then two eggs. the original recipe says to stir in by hand. I used the hand mixer on low speed for the yolks, then stirred in the full eggs.

Whip 1/2 cup heavy cream to medium peaks. Fold into batter.

This made 18 large cupcakes, and 12 small ones.

For Strawberry Jalapeno Cream Cheese Frosting, cream together 8 oz cream cheese, 1 stick of butter, about 1/3rd cup strawberry jalapeno jam, and 3 cups of powdered sugar. frosting will be loose, so plop it onto the cupcakes and let it spread slightly.

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How NOT to make Candied Jalapeno

Eh, it was only 8 oz of Jalapenos.

Jalapenos are not that hot, i can handle it.

Cant find my gloves, it will be fine.

DO NOT DO THIS! Well, actually, you can do all of this, if you wear gloves for the “dice peppers” instruction.

Rinse peppers. Dice peppers. Boil 6 oz of sugar with 3 oz of water. Put diced peppers into sugar syrup. Cook for 20 minutes or so. Cool.

If you do this, you will have candied jalapeno peppers. If you did this without wearing gloves, then you have more in store!

Such as BURNING HANDS FOR FOUR HOURS! Man. It didnt hurt while I was doing it. As I was cleaning up, I noticed a slight tinge. The pain grew in intensity until it was HUMONGOUS!

(This next paragraph is kinda gross. Feel free to skip it.)

I tried soap. I tried oil. I tried (separately) lemon juice, milk, sour cream, canola oil, bleach, baking soda, and ice water. I even tried urine (surprisingly, it hurt while, ahem, being applied, but felt much better afterwards, until my inner germaphobe that doesn’t come out that much started freaking out and I washed my hands. Pain returned.)

The ice water was the most soothing, while my hand was in the water. I think the residual pain I feel might be a bit of frostnip.

What finally worked was Solarcaine. I asked the very nice (and cute) pharmacist at the 24 hour pharmacy if what I had would work, and they suggested this.

I sprayed it on my hands outside, and the PAIN WENT AWAY! It came back, so I sprayed it a few times (I hope that its not possible to overdose on lidocaine, but it never felt tingly numb.)

So, in short, use gloves and do not touch the peppers. But, make the candied jalapenos :)

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Gluten Free

One of the ideas that I have running around my head is experimenting with “alternative cupcakes.” Not to the extent of BabyCakes Vegan Gluten Free low sugar cupcakes, but, specifically, gluten free and how to lower sugar/boost nutrition, and still have the cupcake seem like a cupcake.

I am a pretty dedicated King Arthur Flour baker. I like their dedication to standards and quality, their business model, as well as the baking education that they give, both online and off. I picked up some of their new gluten free baking mix (expensive!) and am looking for good recipes to try.

Also, anyone want to send me 1-2 oz of Xanthum gum? This goes by teaspoonfulls in recipes, yet I can only find 8 oz containers of it. Silly.

Recipes on my list of things to try:
Zahirah did gluten free chocolate peanut butter muffins, which look pretty good, and use honey instead of white sugar.

Something from BabyCakes Cookbook

Anyone have good links for gluten free cakes/cupcakes/pastries?

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Cooking for Two Weeks

In an attempt to get back to the “cooking” side of things (rather than baking), the following is a list of the meals I have planned for the next two weeks. My goal is to take at least one picture of each of them, and post the recipe.

Italian Sausage Spaghetti

Hamburger helper with peas and carrots. Yes, this does say Hamburger Helper Stroganoff. I feel like a failure that I cannot find a stroganoff recipe that I like that tastes as good as these luscious chemicals. Any ideas?

Turkey Cheeseburgers

Tacos with Black Beans

Hashbrown casserole in the crock pot.

Chicken and Rice (diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic, spices) (possibly in the slow cooker)

Chicken Marsala with Mushrooms over Pasta (though I will take pictures and post a better formatted recipe for this.)

Crockpot BBQ Chicken on hamburger rolls

Philly Cheesesteak


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Cupcake Tour: Austin, TX

Subtitle: How to Sell Cupcakes.

My cupcake “spiel” includes two questions:

1) Are your Cupcakes Powdered sugar based?
2) Are you on Twitter?

First, if you work as the salesperson at a place that sells baked goods (or any special type of food), you should know a little about your baked goods. Cakes and cupcakes only come with a few types of frostings, you should know something about their composition.

I asked one bakery if their frostings were powdered sugar based. They said “yes, except the cream cheese.” which wasn’t “based” on powdered sugar, but had it in the recipe. Not the same.

On the twitter, None of the bakeries I have been to this trip have been able to answer the “What is your twitter name” question. While I realize that social media and in person marketing are different, when I am tweeting pictures to the social media, it would be nice if I didnt have to search the internet on my cell phone to get your twitter name.

So far, cupcakes have been okay. Nothing spectacular, but nothing horrible either. (Well, except for the one that tasted like canned frosting, that was kinda weird.) Amy at Cupprimo (@cupprimo was extremely nice, and we had a great discussion of cupcakes, including the travels of her bakers to NYC. She also pointed out that it seemed like the Austin “foodie” scene liked cupcakes, but seemed to be fairly standard in their flavors, with only a few that are outside the box. Their red velvet was really red, and their Brownie Sundae was actually a brownie! The minis are a dollar each, or 6 for $5, or 12 for $10. Very reasonable, and tasty, and a good way to get a taste of all of the cupcakes offered.

6 delicious mini cupcakes

Cupprimo Mini Cupcakes

My second stop today was Be My Cupcake, in Round Rock, TX. These cupcakes were larger, but much more expensive. (3.75 for a large cupcake, and 2.50 for a mini.) They did advertise the cupcakes as “large enough for two.” I tried a Neopolitan Cupcake, which was a great mix of Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry in both the cake and the frosting. I also had a (2oz!) frosting shot of their Oreo Frosting, which was Amazing! I need to go back before my trip is done to try their Oreo Cupcake.

Array of Cupcakes at Be My Cupcake

Be My Cupcake

Currently, I have two more stops planned (One is Lick it, Bite it, or Both, because I want the cupcake and ice cream combo.) Otherwise, unless I hear of an Austin Cupcake place that sells Non Powdered Sugar Based Frosting, I am done.

Any leads? :)

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Yes, this is a cooking blog, but if you haven’t noticed, I am obsessed with Cupcakes.

Recently, Serious Eats did a ““Best Cupcake of New York City”. I was delighted to see Robicellis on the list. (Surprisingly, the cupcakes used in the taste test from Robicellis were over a week old! And they still placed 10th in the City!)

(BTW, if you have not seen it yet, go watch the Robicelli’s Cupcake War Audition Tape)

Number one in the city was Baked, based in Red Hook. For me, Robicellis were better than Baked. However, Baked Totally won over my heart with their Red Velvet Cupcake. Why?


Ahem, sorry for the caps. I have no idea where the whole “Red Velvet with Cream Cheese” craze started. The original, and correct, icing is Cooked Flour Frosting. This frosting can be tricky to get right, but it tasted oh so divine.

Surprisingly, I have done only a few cupcakes on this blog.

What type of cupcakes would you like to see?

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