19 April 2010

Brown Butter

Did you know about brown butter? Did you know that if you just take a knob of butter and cook it in a small saucepan over medium heat, it will sizzle and then bubble and froth and then settle down and start to smell nutty and delicious? Did you know that if you then pour that brown butter into a bowl and let it cool for a while, it tastes like a deep, spicy caramel, and can be mixed with a bit of powdered sugar and milk to make the most delicious frosting?

And if you knew, why didn't you tell me?

Part of my Friday afternoon surfing for food porn involved browsing Martha Stewart's cupcakes. After I wiped the drool off my keyboard, made a small batch of Mrs. Kostrya's Spice Cupcakes to take to a dinner party. Then on Saturday I baked a whole batch of Strawberry Cupcakes for a baby shower.

The spice cupcakes were tasty and gingerbready, and I will make them again, maybe with even more spices. Chopped up candied ginger would also be a delicious addition. The strawberry cupcakes weren't quite as strawberryish as I'd like, and I'll wait to make them again until strawberries are in season and are bursting with strawberry flavour, and even then I'll probably add half a cup or so of strawberry purée to the batter. But I won't change a thing about either frosting, both of which were made with varying quantities of brown butter, confectioners' sugar, and milk, more or less following this recipe, just adding more confectioners' sugar and less milk to make a fluffier frosting (vs. a glaze).

Brown butter. Who knew?

02 April 2010

¡Felices Pascuas!

Can you believe we've lived in Buenos Aires for the better part of the past year? ME NEITHER. All of a sudden there are Easter goodies for sale everywhere and I everyone is going on holidays for Semana Santa and it's just like when we arrived last year at this time.

The other day someone asked me what I miss, and one of the things I miss A LOT is my well-stocked kitchen. Guys, I had not one but TWO Kitchen-Aid stand mixers. Here, every apartment we've lived in (and there have been 4 since January) has its own set of kitchen implements, and when we had a brunch party last weekend, I had to borrow dishes and pans and even a whisk. Right now I am not even in possession of a cutting board. It is a sad state of affairs.

And so, on Saturday I'll be on the lookout for a round cake pan, because it's been 3 years since I've made a bunny cake, and that is far too long.

Bunny CakeThis picture is from 2007. My hair is much longer now.

In case you want to make your very own bunny cake, and may I suggest that you do, here are the instructions I carefully crafted back in 2007.

You need:

• A yummy cake recipe (or a cake mix, no judgments!) - I've made many a successful bunny cake with Epicurious' White Chocolate Layer Cake (omitting the apricot filling) but pick something that's easy for you. Carrot cake makes a sweet brown bunny.
• A round cake pan. You only need one round layer to make the cake, so you can either make two bunnies, or use the rest for cupcakes.
• Frosting (I'm going to recommend homemade for this, but only because I don't know of a store-bought one that isn't sickly sweet - funny that I used to be able to eat that stuff right from the cannister!).
• Coconut (fresh coconut is delish but sweetened shredded coconut in a bag works just as well).
• Green food colouring.
• White paper (regular copier paper is fine) and the pink colouring implement of your choice (a crayon, pencil crayon, highlighter, whatever).
• Jelly beans (for your bunny's eyes and nose, as well as to make a flowery meadow for your bunny).

After you've baked your cake, follow these simple instructions to assemble the bunny.


You should have something that looks like this:

Bunny In Progress


• Frost your bunny completely. The tail can get tricky; my best advice is to be generous with your frosting, and don't be afraid to sculpt the tail a little.

• Dye the coconut to make grass: Put some coconut and a few drops of green food colouring in a ziploc bag and squish it all around. If you love coconut, keep some white to sprinkle on the bunny. Spread the green coconut around the bunny so that he's resting in a lovely meadow.

• As you may already have deduced, the bunny's ears will be made of paper. I like to make them after I see my bunny so that they're proportional to his stature - chubbier bunny, chubbier ears. (Hehe, I said "chubby.") Cut your bunny's ears out of the white paper, and add a pretty pink hue to the insides. Tuck the ears behind the bunny's head (where you made the notch out of the cake back in Assembly Step 4).

• Give your bunny jelly bean eyes and a nose.

Voilà! Your bunny is ready to be the centrepiece at your Easter table. Not to mention dessert.

Bunny Cake Portrait