Thursday, January 31, 2013

Super Bowl!!!!

Oh Boy, here we go!!  It's Super Bowl week are we are busy, busy, busy.  New Orleans has an area off of Canal Street called Super Bowl Boulevard and Bittersweet Confections has a booth!  It is open from Thursday through Sunday and we will have lots of delectable delights for all of the fans both locals and visiting to come and try.

Our menu for the booth is red velvet cup-side down cupcakes, brownies dipped in chocolate and then drizzled in white chocolate, pretzels that are dipped first in caramel and then chocolate, chocolate chip cookies and hibiscus tea.  Can you say mmmm' good?

We have been doing a lot of prep work leading up to this week, but there is only so much you can ahead of time especially when you are busy with all of the normal offerings for the shop.  The owner decided to put a halt on king cakes for this week in order to leave more time for Super Bowl production.  They were able to get into the booth Wednesday to start setting up and then the area opened to the public on Thursday at 5:00pm. 

Chocolate chip cookies
For the cookies we made batches of about 600 cookies at a time.  We scooped the dough and flattened them into little hockey pucks and then stored them in the cooler.  We will be baking the cookies fresh each day for the booth.

The brownies have had a few more steps.  We started the end of last week and made a batch of brownie batter for 12 half sheet pans, baked the brownies and then once they cooled we wrapped and stored them in the freezer.  Starting Wednesday we cut the brownies from the freezer (which is much easier than after they thaw) and half dipped them in dark chocolate.  Once the chocolate set they were then drizzled in white chocolate.  They kind of reminded me of a Little Debbie.......only much better!

Cupside down cupcakes
Just what are cupside down cupcakes you ask?  Well, they are basically cupcakes served in a cup.  This makes for a much easier transport to the site and can be a little easier for the patrons as well......less chance of dropping it.  We bake all of the cupcakes and freeze some extras immediately after they have cooled so no freshness is lost.  A little of the cream cheese icing is piped into the bottom of a small clear cup and then the cupcake is placed inside and additional icing is piped on top.  Last but not least a few red velvet cake crumbs are sprinkled on top for decoration.

The pretzels for the booth are really delicious.  We take pretzel rods and dip them into caramel and once the caramel has set we dip them first into dark chocolate and then drizzle them with white chocolate.  The combination of the salty pretzel with the sweet caramel and then the velvety chocolate is a little bit of heaven.

If you are in the NOLA area be sure to check out the booth and tell Cheryl that I sent you!

Oh, some super exciting news......I will be attending the ESPN NEXT Super Bowl Party on Friday night!  The party is one that ESPN throws to promote all of the upcoming athletes and based on pictures from last years event there should be many celebrities in attendance as well.  CeeLo Green is performing which will be awesome!  I'll report back with my celeb sightings and pictures from the event.

Tata for now and remember Life is Sweet so make the most of it!

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Icing on the Cupcake

Cupcake shops are all the rage right now and who doesn't love a cupcake.  Many of you probably watch the show Cupcake Wars on the Food Network and have seen Candace Nelson the owner of Sprinkles cupcakery which is located in California and is credited to be the world's first cupcakery.  Cupcakes are probably one of my favorite things to make so I thought naturally I should write a blog post about them.  They can be quick and fairly easy, but absolutely delicious!!!

Based on what I have heard over the years it appears that no one is really sure where the name came from for the little individual cakes.  Some have said it is because they were originally baked in cups and some say it is because in earlier recipes the amount of ingredients were measured by a cup of this and a cup of that, etc.  I don't really care how the name came about.......I'm just glad cupcakes themselves came about.  :)

I love being about to play around with different flavors and different flavor combinations you can create with the cake, the icing, and a filling (if you choose to add one).  I have a few combinations written in my handy, dandy notebook for when Sweet Inspirations hits the ground running.  Some of you taste testers may need to be on alert in the next few months.  (hint hint)  Now, while I am a cake girl there are many icing people out there whose favorite part of the cupcake is the icing.  In my opinion the icing is just as important as the cake in that if you have a great cake, but a mediocre icing then it is not going to be an enjoyable experience.  In the next few pictures you will see a few different types of icings.  Each are delicious but just a little different.

In this first picture you will see the usual American buttercream icing.  Buttercream icing holds its shape very well and is recognized by many.  It usually has a delicate balance of butter and powdered sugar to make it both sweet and creamy.  If you need even more stability in your "buttercream" you can substitute some or all of the butter with shortening which melts at a higher temperature and allows you to create a whiter icing.

Another type of buttercream is a Swiss Meringue buttercream.  This buttercream is not made with powdered sugar but with a light, fluffy meringue and is a little more delicate than the American buttercream.  In the picture below the icing is a fresh strawberry swiss meringue and it was so delicious!  The texture of a swiss meringue buttercream is so smooth and I can't wait to share it with all of you at Sweet Inspirations.  :)  (I have to start getting in my plugs where I can right???)

Of course who doesn't love a delicious cream cheese icing.  In the picture below are dark chocolate cupcakes with a peppermint cream cheese icing.  The one thing you have to remember with cream cheese icing is that it cannot sit out for an extended period of time due to the cream cheese.  You wouldn't want to make anyone sick.

Chocolate!  Probably the second most requested icing I make.  Well, unless it is for my friend Jennifer in which it is the most requested flavor......specifically my fudge icing.  Hmmm, I owe her a batch of fudge icing don't I?  Anyway, this fudge icing starts with actual actual melted chocolate instead of just cocoa powder to get a rich chocolate flavor that is so decadent and rich!  The cupcakes below are from my brothers birthday.  Even though I was making cupcakes I wanted them to be just a little manly so I thought chocolate and sissy flowers or delicate flavors here.  lol   Mmmm, I think I want some fudge icing. 

If you are looking for something a little lighter you can always opt for a whipped cream icing.  Again, like the cream cheese icing this cannot sit out for extended periods of time due to the cream.  I really love this icing and because I am more of a cake girl the mixture of whipped fresh cream and just a little sugar really pairs nicely since it is so light and really lets the cake shine.

There are many more icings, but these are the ones I have worked with the most.  I planned to go into some of the different ways you can decorate a cupcake, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that is for yet another post.  So, stay tuned to read all about the art of the cupcake in a future posting. 

February 3rd is the Super Bowl here in New Orleans, not to mention that we are in the midst of Carnival/ Mardi Gras season.  Soooooo, we are going to be so busy over the next couple of weeks.  Don't worry though.......I'll be sure to take notes and lots of pics to share with all of you.  Who knows, maybe with all of these celebs in town I'll have a pic or two of them to share.  Fingers crossed!

And so I bid you good day and remind you that Life is Sweet, so enjoy all of those delicious calories of life that good times and good friends have to offer. 

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

King Cakes

It's that time of year.......the time of year for that yummy deliciousness called king cakes.  King cakes are enjoyed starting after Twelfth night (the night of Jan. 5th, twelve days after Christmas) throughout Carnival (Mardi Gras) season.  Although many bakeries start selling them prior to January 5th many consider it bad luck to eat king cake before January 6th.  :)  They signify the three Kings who bring gifts to baby Jesus.  While I have only been living in the New Orleans area for a couple of months I have enjoyed king cakes for many years.  What is a king cake you might ask?  Well, a king cake is more of a bread than what most people think of when they hear the word cake.  The traditional king cake is filled with cinnamon/ sugar and is in the shape of a crown or an oval.  It is topped with icing and sugars in the colors of mardi gras (purple, gold and green) and a little plastic baby (representing the Baby Jesus) is hidden somewhere in the cake.  It is said that whomever gets the baby in their piece of cake has good luck and must purchase the next king cake to share.  Most bakeries place the baby in the open center of the cake and allow the purchaser to hide it in the actual cake.  Don't want anyone forgetting about it and choking or breaking a tooth!  Here in Louisiana you can get king cakes at many places and with many different fillings: cinnamon/ sugar, cream cheese, apple, chocolate, pineapple, cherry, praline, etc. 

At Bittersweet we offer two types of fillings in our king cakes, the traditional cinnamon/ sugar, and a chocolate cream cheese........oh yea baby.....chocolate and cream cheese together!  I have pretty much taken ownership of most of the king cake production at the shop and let me tell you I am loving it!  I make many, many of the items in the shop, but it is rare that I have a hand in it from beginning to end.  There is something so satisfying about make something completely from start to finish and knowing that people are buying it and enjoying it. 

I start by making a huge batch of brioche and then portioning out the amount needed for each individual king cake.  I round the ball, wrap it in layers of plastic and store them in the freezer (although they don't stay there for long since I am rolling king cakes on a daily  They day before they are needed I take the appropriate number of dough balls out of the freezer and once they have thawed I roll them out into a rectangle and coat them with the cinnamon/ sugar butter, or pipe rows of the chocolate cream  cheese filling.  I then cut the rectangle into three even pieces lengthwise and starting with the longest side I roll each piece up to seal in the filling (just like when you make cinnamon rolls).  The three pieces are then braided together, formed into an oval shape on a sheet pan that is wrapped in plastic and placed into the cooler to rest overnight.  The next morning the pans are taken out and placed on a rack near the oven to proof.  Once they have proofed to twice their size they are baked to golden perfection!    The cinnamon/sugar cakes can get a little messy when baking because no matter how well you seal them a little of the filling always leaks out.  After the cakes have come out and cooled I ice them with either a white chocolate fondant (cinnamon/ sugar king cakes) or a chocolate fondant (chocolate cream cheese king cakes) and decorate them with the colored sugars.  They are then placed in a box along with the ever important baby and set out for purchase or set aside for pick up if there is an order.......which it seems like there always is at least one or two or three or four.  Have I said how busy we are???? 

Check out these beauties!!!!

Oh, we also make individual king cakes for those wanting just a little taste.  I make a 3 oz. brioche ball, place it into a muffin tin to rise, and bake it until, of course, golden brown.  Once it has cooled I core it and fill it with cream cheese icing, chocolate cream cheese icing, or sometimes apple filling.  It is of course then iced and decorated with the traditional sugars as well.  Yummy in your tummy!!!

I wish I could send each of you a King Cake to enjoy, but for those of you in Tallahassee you can bet I will be making these for Mardi Gras season at Sweet Inspirations!

Now, go wipe the drool of your mouth and remember Life is Sweet!  Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!!! (Let the Good Times Roll!!!)


Friday, January 11, 2013

Holiday Parties!

Ok, I know it has been almost a month since I posted an update.  It was my "holiday break" with school and while I continued to work I wasn't required to post or turn in time sheets.  This is a horrible excuse for not keeping up with everyone, but it was such a busy time of year at the shop and I was lucky to be able to make it home and eat dinner before I crashed into bed almost every night.  LOL

A huge part of this was due to all of the holiday parties.  We were so busy each week with orders for upcoming get togethers.  Not that I am partial, but one of the best parties was the December Bunco we hosted at my parents house.  If you dont know what Bunco is......well, it is pretty much a dice game that is an excuse for a group of friends to get together and socialize and it is usually held once a month at rotating locations so no one person is always stuck hosting.

Back to the party treats.  For Bunco we created a holiday finger food menu with both savory and sweet items........and of course a holiday "punch".  We made cranberry chili meatballs, crab puffs, pigs in a blanket (of course!) with a garlic mustard dipping sauce, ham and Gruyere pate a choux thumbprints (picture below), Tuscan olive dip, wrapped brie, and the ever present crudite platter.  Oh my gosh, how could I forget the cutest part of the savory spread!  I made penguins out of black olives, cream cheese and carrots.  They turned out to be adorable!!!

Now, on to the desserts! Earlier in the week I finished my little gingerbread house that originally was going to be one of the prizes for the evening, but then we decided we wanted to keep it and give away something, so it became a decoration instead.  I wanted to create a dessert menu that was completely made of different flavors and themes we associate with the holidays also making sure there was enough variety that everyone should find something they like.  The starting line up is as follows:  Red Velvet peppermint cream cheese brownies, spice cake mini cupcakes with cream cheese whipped cream icing, Egg Nog cream puffs dipped in white chocolate, chocolate snowballs (cake balls), and of course gingerbread men.  It was quite a busy day off but so worth it.  I think the best part of everything I do is seeing other people enjoy what I have created.  It gives me such a sense of pride and just goes to confirm that this is what I should be doing and that I have made the right choice in the direction to change my life.

The Red Velvet peppermint cream cheese brownies were very easy to make and turned out beautiful.  They have just a hint of cocoa (just like the cake) and the peppermint flavoring is added to the brownie portion and not the cream cheese swirl.  These had just the right amount of all of the different flavors so they melded perfectly and had a nice fudgy texture. 

For the mini cupcakes I just made a simple spice cake mini cupcake and topped it with a cream cheese whipped cream icing.  Very easy, but they turned out super cute.

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of the cream puffs (which I cannot believe!!!).  They were so yummy though.  I made some choux paste and piped it into petit four size, two bites....chomp chomp, (that was for you Chef and then once they were baked and cooled I filled them with an egg nog pastry cream and dipped them in white chocolate. 

Oh cake do I love thee.  Well, in truth depending on the cake ball.  I loved these little guys because they were super easy.  First I took some chocolate cake scraps and crumbled them into a bowl and added some simple syrup until it started to hold its shape when pressed into a ball.  Some people use icing for this step, but I actually prefer the simple syrup.  Once I scooped and shaped all of the balls onto a sheet pan I placed it into the fridge to set up while I cleaned up and set up the next step.  I then melted some white chocolate and put some shredded coconut into a shallow dish.  I first dipped and coated each ball in the white chocolate and then immediately rolled it in the coconut.  The result was a super moist delicious chocolate snow ball.  I think these were my favorite of the desserts.  First of all they were super cute and secondly I LOVE chocolate and coconut!

Each guest left with a goody bag of a gingerbread boy and a gingerbread stocking.  We really had the best time that night and I am so blessed to be able to share my passion with others and see them enjoy my creations.  Again, I cannot wait to get back to Tallahassee and move forward with my shop.  I am learning so much here and I have so many people to thank for that. 

I hope you all had a fantastic and blessed holiday season filled with all of the joys of the season!  Now, its time to party and move into Carnival season, king cakes and MARDI GRAS.......but that my friends is for another post.  Most of you know I normally sign off with Keep It Sweet, but thanks to my amazing husband and son I may have to change it up a little bit.  They got me the cutest sign for Christmas.  They told me it was for me to hang in my shop someday.  Love these boys!!!!

Soooooo, always remember Life is Sweet!