Friday, August 12, 2011

Cafe Mocha Cupcake Fail

I know just how popular cupcakes have become but I've never been a big fan, however I decided to try out a fun filled cupcake after having a suggestion to do so. I know cupcakes can be pretty easy and you can have a lot of free will when choosing what you want your cupcake to be all about. I sat down and thought about what I liked. I decided to make a cupcake based on one of my old favorite drinks; le cafe mocha.

The essence of my cupcake included; a basic chocolate cupcake, filled with an espresso flavored pastry cream, topped with homemade whipped cream and sprinkled with cocoa powder.  In my mind, this was the perfect idea; creating one my favorite sweet drinks into a pastry.  In reality, it did not come out like I imagined.  What can I say, I tend to be an optimist.

It all started with baking the cupcakes.  I had placed them in the oven and of coarse, I wanted to take advantage of time and start to cook the pastry cream as the cupcakes were baking in the oven. The pastry cream involved heating up milk and a sugar, egg mixture on the stove top.  It all went down hill when my stove top refused to light.  The timer went off for the cupcakes, when I checked them I decided to bake them a little longer.  In the meantime, I was distracted by my malfunctioning stove top.  

In the end, I over-baked the cupcakes, absentmindedly forgetting about them in the oven and managed to burn the pastry cream.  At the end of the day, I threw in the towel on my cupcakes and headed to Emmit's empty handed on that Saturday.  

Bake and Learn

However, it was a learning experience.  What I learned, you ask?  My stove is broken...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Billy Eats Banana Cake

With summer in full fling, I decided to make a treat full of summer flavors; for this I chose a banana coconut cake.  The cake was full of different flavors: vanilla, nutmeg, coconut, banana, and held potential to add any extra flavors like nuts, raisins, maybe even some Malibu rum for a kick of coconut flavoring.

With my cake I was most concerned about having a moist and soft cake (I have eaten too many dried out banana breads for my liking).  To ensure a moist cake I used sour cream as a substitute for buttermilk in the recipe.  I have found that in most cakes, sour creams adds a nice flavor and also makes a moist cake.  With the sour cream and mashing up some ripe bananas, my cake seemed like it was off to a good start.  I knew that I had to watch the cake carefully considering I've been over-baking a lot of things.  
Billy can't resist the cake.

Somehow I managed to conquer my oven and my cake was deliciously tender.  I choose to serve my cake plain without any frosting but easily could have whipped up some frosting.  The cake was quite the hit at Emmit's, especially with my sister who loves all tropical flavors.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Size Doesn't Matter

So it been some time since my last post but Le Petit Baker is back in action.  I took quite the extended break from baking and blogging because life got messy; finishing up school, moving out of my apartment, moving into a new apartment, and staying in the suburbs with my parents for a few weeks, did not give me many opportunities to bake.  But now I'm in a new apartment and exploring the baking world again.  However, I have been lazy on blogging mostly because of the fact I have not bothered to set up wireless internet in my new closet, I mean studio.  

I've moved into a quaint vintage studio apartment and it is absolutely tiny but I'm already growing to love it.  Surprisingly it has not been too difficult to adjust to the "kitchen."  By kitchen, I mean a six foot wide space that houses a small fridge, a tiny countertop, a sink, and the cutest little oven I've ever seen!

Down for the Count[er]

It has been quite the task to bake considering the lack of counter space.  It's forcing me to be incredibly neat and organized during the baking process, which normally is not the case for me. But I look at it this way: if I can bake here, I certainly can bake anywhere.  

Recently I spoke with a culinary student and explained my tiny situation.  He told me how he avoided cooking and baking in any kitchen that was not the culinary school's.  The problem here is that I believe you do not need a tool for every project and enough space to make a mess.  Facing an issue and not having the proper tool to solve it requires innovation which can lead to new discoveries and ideas.  So for now, I'm going to have to face all the issues that will arise in my kitchenette. 

Coming Soon...

Disregarding the recent heat wave, I risked turning on my oven and creating a mini inferno in my studio to bake a few things; pound cake (which happened to overcook since I'm not fully acquainted with my new oven), quiche (which I made some improvements to), a fresh strawberry tart (with a hint of black pepper), along with a few other treats.

Future baking experiments include a banana coconut cake, croissants, and I most excited for a luau themed wedding cake for my newly eloped cousin!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Princess Peach

Peach Pie
Beer and Baked Goods Saturday featured peach pie.  Fruit pies are very simple but with this peach pie what was most important was the fruit to crust ratio.  The filling involves peaches and a little sugar, flour, and salt.  Peaches are not in season yet so I used canned peaches (and people could tell the difference).  I chose a lattice double crust in an attempt to try something new!  The pie looked nice and tasted great.

When making the pie I was concerned about the fruit letting out juices during the baking so I sprinkled a thin layer of bread crumbs on the pie crust before filling the pie.  The bread crumbs are pretty much flavorless but would absorb any extra juices of the peaches.  I had an issue with the fruit juices when I made blueberry pie so I tried to fix this problem.  It most certainly worked, my pie held together when I cut and served it and as always it was a success at Emitt's (even when served with a bottle of Miller Lite).

Friday, May 6, 2011


Pie is not only intended for dessert but also can be made into a delicious meal, i.e. quiche!  Quiche is basically an oven-baked, egg based pie.  You can add a handful of ingredients (vegetables, meats, cheeses) to a simple egg and milk filling.
My interest in baking quiche started like most other things I try to make; I had ordered quiche at a cafe and as I indulged in it, decided that it really can't be too difficult to make.  And this was surprisingly true.
I chose to make a tomato basil quiche.  I started out making the crust.  I used the same dough recipe as I do for dessert pies.  Then a sautéed onions and tomatoes in a basil, garlic, olive oil mixture.  I layered the bottom of the unbaked pie shell with cheese and added the sautéed vegetables on top.  I then beat eggs and poured over the cheese and vegetables thinking my quiche was ready to bake.  This is of course where I made a classic mistake.  

Classic Le Petit Baker

I had beaten four eggs and thought I was done, however I forgotten to add milk to the eggs.  Adding milk to the eggs will ensure a fluffy, less dense quiche, so I decided that I had to somehow add the milk.  I got a little rustic and poured whole milk into the tart pan that already had all the fillings.  I simply used a fork to milk all the ingredients together in the tart pan.  I'm sure some of you may be questioning this technique but I have read about making cream pies this way.  I've read that the Amish prefer to mix all the pie filling ingredients, not in a bowl but in the pie shell.  Well, either way it worked!  My quiche came out looking beautiful and was fluffy and the perfect lunch dish.

Do It Yourself

Making this quiche reminded me about how I get most of my baking ideas.  I generally I'm out and about, see something I like, and then decompose it and figure out how I can do it myself.  I've gotten a lot of my ideas from exploring cafes and bakeries around Chicago and seeing what other people are doing.  I've indulged in many slices of quiche but never took the time to try it on my own.  I finally did and it was successful.  
Maybe my method of design is not the most unique and individual.  Perhaps you think that I'm merely stealing other people's ideas or recipes but let me leave you with a quote by a man who offers me inspiration...
          "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your 
                    - Albert Einstein