27 October 2010

A Daring Bakers' Challenge : Time to Make the Donuts

To say I was elated when I saw the October Daring Bakers' challenge: Donuts, would be an understatement. Though I have never made them myself, I've always wanted to and so was able to channel my inner "Fred the Baker" for this one. Time to make the donuts!

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I decided to go with the classic yeast donut variety from Alton Brown. Making these were a bit of a challenge since I wasn't really sure what the dough was supposed to look and feel like as I worked with. Thanks to one of the other Daring Bakers' write-ups in the forums (thank you Audax!), I knew that the dough might appear to be overly sticky or wet and so I tried to avoid the temptation of adding in too much flour to compensate.

I did end up rolling and cutting the donuts once before frying only to find that they stuck too much to the tabletop, which then forced me to re-kneed (and yes, I admit -- I added some flour!) roll and cut again. I think this may have had a negative effect on the finished product as these donuts were a bit more chewy, compact and dense than I would have liked.

When I had finished cutting the donuts out, I had some left-over dough which I rolled into logs, braided and then shaped into circular form. I was actually thinking of the crullers I used to eat in high school at Niel's Coffee Shop on East 70th Street that were billowy on the inside, crunchy on the outside, and covered in the sweetest glaze that melted in your mouth as you bit into it. These were the best of the bunch that I made -- they puffed up nicely when plopped in the oil and were moist, cakey and airy on the inside.

My kids and I went to town on the glazing of these donuts when we were done. I mixed up some simple vanilla and chocolate glazes and dumped an entire bottle of sprinkles in a bowl for a pretty finish. These were so much fun to make and a lot easier than I would have thought. Next time, we'll be sure to try the buttermilk cake donut recipe that Lori also posted.

I made the donuts! You can too -- here's the recipe....
Yeast Doughnuts, by Alton Brown:

Preparation time:
Hands on prep time - 25 minutes
Rising time - 1.5 hours total
Cooking time - 12 minutes

Yield: 20 to 25 doughnuts & 20 to 25 doughnut holes, depending on size (I cut the recipe in half and ended up with about 18 regular size donuts and 15 holes).

Milk 1.5 cup / 360 ml
Vegetable Shortening 1/3 cup / 80 ml / 70 gm / 2.5 oz (can substitute butter, margarine or lard)
Active Dry Yeast 4.5 teaspoon (2 pkgs.) / 22.5 ml / 14 gm / ½ oz
Warm Water 1/3 cup / 80 ml (95°F to 105°F / 35°C to 41°C)
Eggs, Large, beaten 2
White Granulated Sugar ¼ cup / 60 ml / 55 gm / 2 oz
Table Salt 1.5 teaspoon / 7.5 ml / 9 gm / 1/3 oz
Nutmeg, grated 1 tsp. / 5 ml / 6 gm / ¼ oz
All Purpose Flour 4 2/3 cup / 1,120 ml / 650 gm / 23 oz + extra for dusting surface
Canola Oil DEPENDS on size of vessel you are frying in – you want THREE (3) inches of oil (can substitute any flavorless oil used for frying)


Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm enough to melt the shortening. (Make sure the shortening is melted so that it incorporates well into the batter.)
Place the shortening in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.
In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes. It should get foamy. After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture has cooled to lukewarm.
Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer (if you have one), combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined.
Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well.
Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes (for me this only took about two minutes). If you do not have a dough hook/stand mixer – knead until the dough is smooth and not sticky.
Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch (9 mm)thick. (Make sure the surface really is well-floured otherwise your doughnuts will stick to the counter).
Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch (65 mm) doughnut cutter or pastry ring or drinking glass and using a 7/8-inch (22 mm) ring for the center whole. Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 °F/185°C. (I used a wok).
Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side or until golden brown (my doughnuts only took about 30 seconds on each side at this temperature).
Transfer to a cooling rack placed in baking pan. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes prior to glazing, if desired.

24 October 2010

Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain...

I am frequently asked if I bake cakes...guess my former name left that in question. Well, the answer is "YES, I do!" and I am quite fond of making them.

I must note a preference for simple cakes -- 2, 3 or 4 layers, covered in a smooth buttercream and decorated with just a few flowers or something equally elegant. I make them in the fashion of what we call "cutting cakes" in the US, and in fact I make a lot of these to top a "piece montee" of cupcakes -- so pretty and makes for a striking effect at an event.

For now, I offer cakes in two sizes:
- The giant cupcake (15-18 servings)
- Layer cakes (20-22 servings)

Cakes can be custom-decorated to perfectly suit the theme of your event, and are available in all the flavors on my cupcake menu.

Don't hesitate to contact me to discuss your cake needs at info@sugardazecupcakes.com Feel free to browse my collection of cakes here.

17 October 2010

New Flava Flav: Empire State of Mind

Finnicky eaters. That's what my kids are. But of an entirely different breed. My son is the really difficult one. When he eats at friends' homes or with my in-laws, I am often asked "Well, what does he like to eat? What should we feed him?" This is one of my most dreaded questions as I simply don't know what to answer. I do have a better idea of what he doesn't like to eat -- the list is long and varied but includes anything pureed, potatoes, lamb and pork, most green vegetables and cupcakes. Yes, you heard right...my son doesn't like cupcakes. I consider him a lost cause.

My daughter on the other hand seems to have her own eating schedule. There isn't anything in particular that I know she doesn't like, there are just some days when she eats and others when she doesn't. It's a bit problematic from a planning standpoint cause inevitably when I buy an extra portion for her she doesn't eat, and if I try to skimp and split a portion of whatever we are eating with her, she ends up cleaning off my plate and hers!

When all else fails though, I find there are 2 foods I can rely on that she will never refuse -- apple compote and cupcakes. That's my girl (big mommy smile)! I started experimenting with various apple cupcake recipes last Fall and never ended up with one I really liked. I think part of the problem was that I was grating my apples too thinly before baking and clearly not using enough. The resulting cupcakes ended up too bland and often not solid enough to hold their structure - think mushy apple pie. With peak apple season here, I decided to try my hand at this again and finally came up with a winning combination! The bonus...my daughter gave these a BIG thumbs up and finished off two yesterday in record time!

I'm adding Empire State of Mind to the Sugar Daze menu -- if you are an apple fan, you most definitely should give them a try; I promise you will not be disappointed. It starts with an apple-walnut cupcake, lightly seasoned with cinnamon and fresh ginger, and topped with a maple-cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Mmm, Mmm Good!

15 October 2010

Whatever You Like

It was two years ago this month that I had my very first paying customer. An order for a kids' Halloween party. I made these spooky sider cupcakes:

I was a bit crushed when the client told me that her French guests didn't know what to make of my cupcakes -- the kids were somewhat scared to eat them, the moms incredulous that they were being offered food that looked like spiders! Then she added however that the American moms ate them up and of course, her kids loved them. And so began my life as a humble cupcake baker in Paris!

I still have the 20 euro bill I was paid with for that order which marked an important turning point in my life. And to celebrate my 2 years in business, I wanted to share something special with the people who have made it all possible.

I have a few prizes to give away as I head into my 3rd year in business. The first comes from Sassy Apron in Arizona. These are definitely not your mom's aprons!

I discovered Sassy Apron this past summer when I was trying to figure out how to outfit my sales staff at Printemps Nation. Lana, the owner and seamstress, is a delight to work with and she is amazingly talented! Not only are her sassy aprons beautiful but they are hand-crafted with the utmost attention to detail and I just love her original designs. I wouldn't think of baking without mine (pictured above) and neither should you! I will be giving away this 100% cotton Sassy Apron half-apron with cute cupcake print from Robert Kaufman's Confections Collection, trimmed with Michael Miller's Clover Dot in Lime to 1 lucky winer:

The next gift comes from a gal who like me, has a thing for cupcakes!

Gaëlle from Ma Peste Adorée here in France makes the most adorable mini food jewelry I have ever seen, including some seriously cute cupcake earrings. Her jewelry is all hand-crafted from Fimo; each piece is unique. 1 lucky winner is getting a pair of cupcake earrings of their choice from Ma Peste Adorée!

I met Ludivine who runs Made in Cupcake, during this past summer's Cupcake Camp. On her site you'll find lots of cupcake recipes, tips, news and other fun goodies. And fabulous news for cupcakes bakers, the Made in Cupcake online boutique, which offers a select assortment of high-end baking supplies with a retro feel, has just opened!

I discovered these cupcake kits while in New York 2 summers ago and am delighted to see them now on this side of the pond! 1 lucky winner is going to get a cupcake kit with the theme of their choice from Made in Cupcake. They are all so adorable -- I'll take one of each please!

Last but not least, this contest would not be complete without real cupcakes....authentic, American-style cupcakes to be exact! I am giving away 1 dozen cupcakes with the theme of your choice to 1 lucky winner. Just let me know about 1 week in advance of when you want them and I'll bake them fresh for you the day of your order.

The contest is open to participants WORLDWIDE. The first 3 prizes will be shipped to the winners; as for the Sugar Daze cupcakes -- sorry, but you'll have to come pick those up yourself in the 17th.

So whaddya gotta do to win? Leave me a comment below telling me about the best cupcake you have ever eaten and what it is that made it so great. Please be sure to mention which prize you'd be interested in winning. Contest is open til 31 October. I'll be picking 4 winners at random and announcing them on 4 November. For an extra entry, Tweet about this giveaway, including the link and my Twitter name (@sugar_daze), and leave a separate comment with a link to the tweet.

Good luck to you all and many thanks for 2 great years of cupcakes!

xxx Cat

PS the name of this post refers to the #1 song on the Billboard charts on the day of my first order -- Whatever You Like by T.I. ( a rather fitting title if you ask me!).

10 October 2010

All My Bags are Packed & I'm Ready to Go

Okay, not really. But my train tickets are purchased and I have RSVPed for London's very first Cupcake Camp! As well as registered as a baker for two of their exciting contests; lord knows what I am thinking considering I will be navigating the Eurostar with 2 kids, a stroller and our luggage sans my other half. My Halloween-inspired entries might just be the scariest looking things once we get there if they survive the journey!

I'm looking forward to sampling some of London's best cupcakes and meeting many of the bakers I correspond with on twitter, facebook and flickr. I'll of course be taking lots of photos to share and picking up any great ideas for Cupcake Camp Paris (part deux!). Will you attend Cupcake Camp London? If so,shoot me a note so I know to be on the lookout for you. Here's the who, what and where from organizer, Daisy Coole......

It is the phenomenon that has taken Paris, New York and Sydney by storm: Cupcake Camp London, London's first cupcake extravaganza, hits town on Sunday, 31st October, 2010!

Hosted at Camden's stylish Proud Galleries, Cupcake Camp London will be a mass-gathering of people who love to indulge in the darling of the baking world - the cupcake. Supported by live bands, competitions, prizes, a Create-Your-Own Cupcake Art room and American-style frosting shots; the focus of the day will be the delicious cupcakes donated by England's wonderful baking community, including major cupcake companies, Primrose Bakery, Ella’s Bakehouse, Crumbs & Doilies and Buttercup Cake Shop. Whether you're a professional cake baker, an enthusiastic amateur, or just someone with a sweet tooth, this event is for you.

Organiser Daisy Coole said: "Bakers are encouraged to bring along their best creations to be judged by a fabulous panel, including the lovely ladies of Primrose Bakery, Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas and vegan goddess Ms. Cupcake. "We also need lots of non-bakers to drop into the event and raise money by eating the best cupcakes our capital city has to offer."

Cupcake Camps have ballooned in popularity since their creation two years ago as a tasty way to raise cash for charity. They have taken place in over 50 cities, attracting anywhere from 250 to 1,000 participants and raise thousands of pounds for good causes.

London's first ever Cupcake Camp will raise money for the North London Hospice, spurred by Daisy's own experience with the 'fantastic community-centered charity'. Daisy, full-time musician and sometime baker, lost her father, Fleet Street journalist, Bob Coole to kidney failure earlier this year. She said: "A serious addiction to baking cupcakes and my connection with the North London Hospice came into my life at the same time. Dad was a patient at the hospice and the nurses were simply amazing.They were caring and supportive to my Dad and my family, offering cups of tea and a shoulder to cry on as we sat with him for up to 24 hours a day. After Dad died, baking was a huge comfort and the physicality of it was very theraputic so I went on a baking frenzy.

"When Dad died I never got to say thank you to our nurses. This is my way."

About the North London Hospice:
The North London Hospice needs at least 16,000 a day to run and has to raise as much as 80 per cent of its budget through donations. It provides in-patient and home-based palliative care, counselling services, respite care and a day activity centre, all of which is completely free of charge.

Cupcake Camp London is sponsored by Ms. Cupcake, Mychelle’s Baketique, Candy Pulse, Caked, Bake Me Happy, Made With Pink and An American Cupcake In London.

Cupcake donors include: Primrose Bakery, Ella’s Bakehouse, Crumbs & Doilies, Buttercup Cake Shop, Bake-a-boo and Clare Ptak of Violet Cakes.

For more information:
Visit www.cupcakecamplondon.co.uk
or email Daisy Coole: cupcakecamplondon@gmail.com

Photo Credits:
Cupcake Camp London poster designed by Christopher Cantrill (top)
Primrose Bakery cupcakes, photo from http://www.operaquarter.co.uk (middle)
Crumbs & Doilies cupcakes, photo from Cupcakes Take the Cake (bottom)