Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Boston Lager Cupcakes

Took two trips to Germany to convert me to a beer drinker (not that I've given up wine, mind you). So, when I found this recipe for Boston Lager 25th Anniversary Cupcakes, I was intrigued.  Imagine infusing a chocolate dessert with the malty taste and spice of a brew. 

I accepted the baking challenge and good thing, because...this recipe needed help.  The batter was too thin, but full of lovely bubbles from the hops. The result surprised me; the cakes were feathery light. Still, I suggest adding an extra 1/4 cup of flour. I also chose to make larger cupcakes, thereby needing to increase the baking time. No improvements needed, however, on the marvelously earthy aroma whiffing out of  the oven.

The cupcakes tasted yummy enough to eat without frosting, except their tops looked like they suffered a bad case of chicken pox. Ice them with buttercream; the black and white combination makes an attractive pair.
 Debi's larger sized Cupcakes

I'm going to prepare this recipe again and when I do, I will post updates. In the meantime, surprise your guests with a beer-infused dessert.  I'll drink to that and add a toast to Sam Adams on their 25th anniversary.

I'm joining and adding this post to  WanderFood Wednesday , a blog site for food lovers to share photos, stories, recipes, book reviews and any other food-related topics with other foodies (and non-foodies!). Please check it out!

And also No-Whine-Wednesday.

Sam Adams Boston Lager 25th Anniversary Cupcakes
Created by Samuel Adams Chef Partner David Burke with additional suggestions from Debi Lander
Yield:  or 2 dozen
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour- I suggest 1 cup
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup Samuel Adams Boston Lager
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place butter, sugar and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl and cream together. Add in the eggs and then the flour.  When  thoroughly combined, add in water, Boston Lager, and salt. Mix until batter is smooth and there are no lumps.
Line muffin tin with muffin liners. Pour approximately 3-4 ounces batter into each cup. Bake in oven at 325 degrees for approximately 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Boston Lager Buttercream Frosting
Recipe makes enough to frost 2 dozen.  If you make larger sized cupcakes, cut the frosting recipe in half.

3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon whipping cream - I believe you can omit this
2 tablespoons Samuel Adams Boston Lager

In a standing mixer, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended, then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract, Boston Lager and whipping cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more beer or cream if needed.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cake Alchemy Bakes Magic

Think of an alchemist and my mind conjures an image of an aloof, wise old man with a long beard and Roman nose. In ancient times, people believed these forerunners of modern chemistry could miraculously turn or transmute base metals into gold.  They were wizards, of sorts.

Last December I donated to an annual fund promoted by a community of travel bloggers.  Passports with Purpose takes small donations and turns them into global gems. The 2009 goal was no small fete: construction of a school in Cambodia.  And, almost like magic, they hit and surpassed the mark, adding a silver lining of a school nurse, clean water and at least one complete meal a day. 

To encourage contributions, the bloggers offered prizes supplied by benevolent businesses and generous friends. Each ten dollar addition gave the contributor a chance to win hotel lodging, restaurant certificates and hand crafted items. Much to my surprise and delight, I won a cake, valued at $500, from Cake Alchemy, a legendary New York confectionery.

Cake Alchemy's enchanted creations appear on TV shows like Amazing Wedding Cakes and a Food Network Challenge. Their website boasts celebrity purchasers. So, imagine my thrill of winning the golden ticket for an edible work of art.

Now, I needed to prestidigitate an occasion to serve it!

As I looked toward dates in 2010, I considered my husband's and my own 60th birthday, but those were milestones we'd both rather forget! We would, however, host the first ever Camp Lander around the 4th of July; a time to gather all the grown children and the five grandchildren at a rental beach house. Yes, this family reunion deserved the honor of a celebration cake. 

I envisioned five little children as cake-top decorations, instead of a bride and groom or flowers. Then, I inquired and discovered each hand-made edible sculpture was too pricey. Therefore, I requested one child playing in the sand and aqua colored frosting to represent the ocean.

Next hurdle? Could this cake be shipped from New York to Florida in the summer heat?  Hocus-pocus. The Cake Alchemy chefs put a spell on the shipment and I'm thrilled to report the FedEx man presented me with the much anticipated box of deliciousness on the scheduled delivery date. The masterpiece arrived intact.

I immediately, but carefully, opened the container and found another carton cradled in bubble wrap and cold packs.  I lifted the inner box.  Whoa.  This was one heavy cake!  I unwound yards of  saran wrap and discovered a large round cake swathed in swirling peacock blue icing. An adorable little girl sat with a  pail and shovel on a sand pile off to one side.  I believe she was made from marzipan and the beach created from a mixture of  raw demerara and brown sugar.

My family decided the time was right to celebrate my birthday, albeit early . Therefore, the Camp Lander cake became my birthday cake as well.

Sparklers were added, which, of course I could not blow them out-- but tried.  I cut through the blue fondant and revealed a thin layer of luscious butter cream and multiple tiers of white cake separated by inch high stacks of mocha butter cream.  Both the cake and the fillings tasted decadently rich and divine, like diving into chocolate mousse enveloped by a prize-winning shortcake. The high butter content caused the dark mocha to melt on the tongue with insane satisfaction.

And, the spell continued as the cake kept well in the refrigerator for many days and multiple treats. Indeed the chemists at Cake Alchemy can turn an ordinary cake into gold.  It's no illusion, they have the sorcerer's touch.


Thank you for this extraordinary cake and experience:
Passports with Purpose
All the chefs at Cake Alchemy, especially Lauri Ditunno, owner
Donna M. Airoldi, Prepare for CrossCheck

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bronzini at Kali's Court in Baltimore, Maryland

Kali's Court:  A Restaurant Review

Ever heard of  a Bronzini?

Sounds like the ideal word for the game Balderdash or a few off-color jokes.  I, however, discovered the meaning: a species of fish also known as Mediterranean Sea Bass.

On a recent trip to Baltimore I  arranged to have dinner with a former college friend, one whom I hadn't seen in about 15 years.  Leslie chose the restaurant: Kali's Court in Fells Point, the wharf area of Baltimore. From the moment I arrived,  I couldn't have been more pleased.

I valeted my car at the curb (a necessary service provided in this crowded district) and walked through an enchanted sidewalk garden.  Some fortunate diners were eating al fresco among hanging and potted ferns, large leaf philodendrons and votive candles that created an elegant, yet informal vibe.

Leslie was waiting by the maitre d' and as I approached we both burst out laughing.  Had we tried, we could not have dressed more similar-- both of us in black skirts with white swirling designs, tailored black tops with sleeves that came just above the elbow. The only difference: Leslie wore a scoop neckline, mine was V-necked!!

Once we recovered from feeling like twins, we sat at a quiet inside table. Our waiter explained the specials, then left to let us to catch up on old times and new happenings in our lives. Naturally, he returned with the requested glasses of wine as our laughs continued.

For starters, I ordered the pear and walnut salad: green leaf lettuce, chunks of feta cheese, slices of pear and candied walnuts.  Very lovely.  Leslie choose the anchovy salad: greens topped by truffle vinaigrette and five little fishes in a star shaped design.

As an entree, I selected the house specialty-- whole grilled bronzini, presented filleted and de-boned on your plate.  I've long been a fan of sea bass, but never tasted this scrumptious variety. The chef added a simple fresh herb and olive oil sauce , then added capers as the finishing touch to the delicate seafood.

Leslie ordered the other house specialty- jumbo lump crab cakes.  What can I say? When in Baltimore one should have the authentic Blue crab dish.  Kali's prepares an honest version, mixing very little fillers or binders, yet managing to hold the cakes together with a prayer. Leslie gave divine praise in the highest. 

The main room shimmers around a classic carved wooden bar with beveled mirrors and red and gold accents.  The atmosphere creates is the rich feel of a fine restaurant, yet an unpretentious ambiance.  Our waiter acted professional and timely without being pushy.

If you're looking for an upscale seafood restaurant in Baltimore, I highly recommend Kali's Court in the Fells Point district.