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Thursday, November 29, 2007

November's Cupcake Hero: Cranberry

Cupcake Hero is the fun, current obsession of slush at quirky cupcake. Apparently I have been missing out on a Blog Challenge that is right up my alley*. I needed to get back to baking on a grander scale (meaning, I'm getting bored with baking the same cakes day after week at the W-place) and this is a cupcake fanatic's dream come true! slush does all the work coming up with a theme and all I have to do is hop on that bandwagon and ride it all the way to Tasty Town.

slush: Now if your new to Cupcake Hero, each month a theme ingredient is named. The theme ingredient must be used in either the cupcake, the frosting, the filling or all of the above if you choose. Come on, it doesnt get easier than that, you know your going to be baking anyway!

The theme ingredient for November is: CRANBERRY

If you want to participate, send your cupcakery to superslush AT by November 30.

Your blog name and URL*
Link to your Cupcake Hero entry
Picture of your cupcakery (200 to 250 width is preferred)
Remember: The theme ingredient, cranberry, must be used in the cake, frosting or filling.

I heard about this event just in the nick of time on IMBB.

PumpCran Cupcake
Cranberry Hero: Grommie Style

Pumpkin Cupcakes Studded with Cranberries

3 oz. sweetened, dried cranberries
1 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
9 oz. unsalted butter (2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon)
15 oz. light brown sugar
0.25 oz. salt (2 large pinches)
15 oz. cake flour
2 teaspons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 whole eggs
2 egg whites
2/3 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 1/4 cup applesauce (pref. Granny Smith or homemade)
1/3 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 385 degrees. Place the dried cranberries, orange juice and 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a small sauce pan. Simmer gently until orange juice is reduced by half (12 - 15 minutes) and cranberries are very plump. Let cool slightly.
Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Combine dry ingredients: salt, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, remaining cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside. To the creamed mixture, add eggs and egg whites and beat well. Scrape the bowl and beat again. Gently mix in 1/3 of the dry ingredients and add the pumpkin and applesauce. Mix in another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then the milk and the remaining dry ingredients. Then gently mix in the reconstituted cranberries and reduced orange juice.
Fill baking cups to 2/3 full and bake 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool and brush tops with No Sugar Added cranberry juice. Top with Cranberry Spice Buttercream (recipe below) and garnish with dried cranberries.

PumpCran Cup2

Cranberry Spice Buttercream

1/2 cup No Sugar Added cranberry juice
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup pasteurized egg whites (Whippin’ Whites or Eggology),
warmed to room temp.
1 pound unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
A quick splash of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3 drops neon pink food color

In a small cooking pot, stir together juice and sugar. Bring to a boil and using a pastry brush and water, wash down the sides of pan to remove any crystals. Do NOT stir again.

Boil 4 minutes then beat egg whites to stiff peaks.
With the mixer running, slowly pour the cooked syrup into the whites.
Beat at high speed until the bowl is cool to the touch (about 10 minutes).
Slowly add the butter and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. Then add the pumpkin pie spice and food color.

This is a very mild-flavored cupcake and kind of a nice change after all of the bold flavors of Thanksgiving. If my stomach wouldn't protest, I could easily eat 3 or 4 of these at a time.

Originally, I was thinking of using a Brown Sugar Icing that I found here. However, I never did get the hang of this icing and fell back on my old stand-by, Buttercream. If you're not up to the challenge of making your own Buttercream, just mix up a batch of American Buttercream and in place of the milk, use the cranberry juice I mentioned.

*I'm great at thinking up recipes but suffer to think up a reason to bake them (dopey, huh?!?) now I just need to find someone to eat them all.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Q and A -- Gritwurst

Normally, I save my Q and A for the Ask A Pastry Chef blog however, since this question has more to do with meat than pastry, I'll post it here.

A question from Ankeny, Iowa via Google search: How do you make Gritwurst?

Unless you are of German heritage and have a background of farm living, you're probably not familiar with Gritwurst. I am lucky to be of German heritage and to have family that grew up in the country where they used every part of an animal and learned to enjoy such delicacies. Despite some descriptions, Gritwurst (sometimes known as Gritzwurst or Grutzwurst) is not head cheese, though both are made with meat from the hog's head.

I will admit I have never tried Gritwurst though in my defense, it has been quite a number of years since I have been around when my family has made it. After re-reading the recipe I think it actually sounds kind of tasty. I would have to make alterations of course unless I can create a list of reasons to invest in a meat grinder.

Here is my Great Grandmother's recipe with some clarifications,


9 to 10 pounds hog's head meat (pork shoulder or roast may be used instead of head)
4 to 5 pounds steel cut oats
1 heaping tablespoon pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons allspice
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
3 to 4 tablespoons salt

In a large cooking pot, cover meat with water and cook about 2 hours. Add some salt while cooking. Remove meat from the pot and strain stock. Cool slightly and remove meat from the bones and grind meat. Return the strained stock to a boil and add oats. Steam until soft and thick. Mix in spices and ground meat. Form the mixture into patties or place in a large cake pan or roaster and allow to cool overnight then cut into squares. Fry patties or squares in a bit of oil.

Gritwurst is often eaten for breakfast and according to my mother and aunties it's best when crispy.

I have a cookbook with recipes from the Depression Era which contains a recipe for Venison Gritwurst. It is basically the same with half of the pork replaced with venison. Additionally, marjoram, thyme, and allspice are added in place of the cinnamon, etc. This recipe says the they can be served with jelly, honey or pancake syrup, as a sandwich filling or side dish at any meal.

Patties or squares can be wrapped tightly and frozen before frying.

I called my mother before posting this and she excitedly asked if I was going to make Gritwurst! I may... and I may let her help.

Update: In an email from one of my aunties, "Thanks for sending me to your blog. Yup. I had not looked for a while so it was fun to catch up. I just have a couple of comments on the gritwurst. The last times I made it I had the butcher grind up the pork for me and justcooked it like ground beef for sloppy joes. It made the whole thing very simple and also made it easy to drain off much of the fat. When I cook itfor eating, I just throw it in a pan loose and brown it good. I, too, like it crispy but it is greasy. It is really important to use steelcut oats.They can be found in health food stores if nowhere else. Makes me think I need to whip up a batch."

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Caught on the Green Carpet

Even though creating 400 desserts for the Girl Scouts Green Carpet event seemed like a daunting task when I thought about it as a whole, once I broke it down into its parts: testing several recipes to see which was the easiest to perform and the best tasting, computing the total amount of ingredients I would need to reach completion, buying the ingredients and table decorations (this was the killer! as the whole event was a donation), making and canning the Fabulous Lady Applesauce, mixing and baking the Apple Dancers Cupcakes, mixing and icing with the Peanut Butter Buttercream, arriving at the Green Carpet event on time and setting up my table to serve the 400 curious guests... it was quite uh, I won't say fun because it was too much work to really be fun but it was certainly something I could do again. If asked by the Girl Scouts to do it again, I would likely say, 'no' simply because of the cost.

I do have to give a giant Thank You to Girl Scout Mom, Sally for stepping up to help me bake the cupcakes. With her help, I was able to mix the batter, fill and bake the cupcakes and get them boxed, waiting to be iced in 6 hours. My workplace was mighty generous in allowing us to bake and store the cupcakes until the event also.

Before I launch into the recipes, let me describe the cupcakes a little. They are made with homemade applesause, cinnamon, and crushed Do-si-dos Girl Scout Cookies as well as a whole Do-si-do hidden in the middle of the cupcake. Upon baking, the whole Do-si-do (which is the oatmeal and peanut butter sandwich cookie) becomes softened just a little bit... enough so it isn't a crunch when biting through the cupcake but it doesn't dissolve either. I topped the cupcake with a light Peanut Butter Buttercream. I didn't want the delicate flavor of the applesauce and cinnamon of the cupcake to be completely masked by overpowering PB.

When I wrote the recipes to be submitted to Girl Scouts, I knew they would be printed for everyone attending the event so I wanted the recipes to be simple enough for folks who loved the cupcakes but don't necessarily have the time, energy, patience to make everything from scratch so shortcuts are listed in the recipe.

Apple Dancers Cupcakes

2 sticks (1/2 lb.) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 whole eggs
1 egg white
3 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups Lady Apple sauce (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups milk
2 boxes plus 6 additional Do-Si-Do (Peanut Butter Sandwich) Girl Scout Cookies, divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare muffin pans with 48 paper baking cups.

Crush 6 Do-Si-Do Girl Scout Cookies to very fine crumbs then add flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg; stir to combine and set aside. Cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl and add eggs. Stir in half of the dry mixture then add the Lady Apple sauce (or pre-packaged, unsweetened Granny Smith apple sauce). Add remaining dry ingredients and milk. Mix gently until just combined.

Place one tablespoon of cake batter into the bottom of each baking cup. Top with 1 whole Do-Si-Do Girl Scout Cookie. Fill baking cup to 2/3 full with remaining batter.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan.

When cupcakes are cool, top with 2 tubs of vanilla frosting mixed with 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter or use your stand mixer to make real Peanut Butter Buttercream (recipe follows).

Makes 48 cupcakes.

Peanut Butter Buttercream

Scant 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup pasteurized egg whites (Whippin’ Whites or Eggology),
warmed to room temp.
1 pound unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
1 cup creamy peanut butter

In a small cooking pot, stir together water and sugar. Bring to a boil and using a pastry brush and water, wash down the sides of pan to remove any crystals. Do NOT stir again.

Boil 4 minutes then beat egg whites to stiff peaks.
With the mixer running, slowly pour the syrup into the whites.
Beat at high speed until the bowl is cool to the touch (about 10 minutes).
Slowly add the butter and then the peanut butter. Beat until light and fluffy.

Fabulous Lady Apple Sauce

6 Pink Lady Apples
2 or 3 Granny Smith Apples
1/4 cup Unsweetened Apple Juice

Slice each apple into 6 or 8 pieces (no need to peel or core apples) and place into a 4 quart cooking pot with a lid. Add apple juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally until apples are very soft. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. (For the next part you need a food mill. You can still find them in most kitchenware stores and they are not too expensive.) Place the food mill over a large bowl that will hold it steady. Spoon the apple mush into the mill and turn it, pushing the pulp through the mill as you turn, once in a while giving the crank a backward spin. Keep turning the mill until you get all the pulp out of the apple skins and they look dry in the bottom of the mill; this is what makes your sauce thick. You may need to scrape the sides of the food mill once or twice with a rubber spatula, and scrape underneath at the very end.

This is a very healthy treat and it tastes better than any packaged applesauce you’ve ever tried
and it’s easier than it sounds!

Store covered in the refrigerator. (
I processed mine the old fashioned way.)
Makes 2 pints.

Here are more photos of the event. Some are mine and some are from the Girl Scouts website.

Here is CheesePuff and my table set up at the event. This girl deserves a medal for how patient she was with me stressing-out during setup. (note how frightened she looks)

Green Carpet sponsors

The most important sponsor (if you can't quite read it, it lists me as Fabulous CheeseBabe!)

All the chefs from the event.
That's me in front of Duff Goldman from Ace of Cakes. His Food Network TV crew was with him throughout the event and portions of the event may appear on a show in January. I doubt they filmed me at any point.

A few more if you're really into looking at me....
Puff and CheeseBabe
At work
Throng of people looking for cupcakes.

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