Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day 2008!

I mentioned that I was pretty busy yesterday and I think you will see just how much once I get done with today's lengthy post! We wanted to do something a little extra special for the Wednesday Treat Day this week as Valentine's Day is tomorrow!

The first thing I had to get going was the dough for some Cream Cheese Vanilla Shortbread Cut Outs. This dough has a couple special touches to make it a little more special - cream cheese and vanilla sugar. Once it had sufficiently chilled in the refrigerator, it easily rolled out and I cut out a mess of heart-shaped cookies. By the time I had re-rolled the dough once, I already had something crazy like 70 some cookies, so I stopped at that point - you might be able to re-roll the dough 1 more time without it going tough though.

You want to bake these cookies just until you see the slightly golden hint around the edges - the cookies will be sturdy enough at this point to work without them falling apart, but not too hard or crunchy. These buttery cookies were fantastic plain, but they looked a little naked as is. For some of the cookies, we decided to dip one-half into melted bittersweet chocolate. For others, we decided to sprinkle on some coarse red sugar in the center, before we baked them. For the rest, we thought it would be fun and a little different to pour over a White Chocolate Fondant Icing.

Fancy name maybe, but it is really quite easy to mix up and an excellent way to quickly add some pizazz to cookies. We added just a drop of red gel coloring to tint it a light pink - you could just leave it white, if desired, and add some fun sugars on top. We just lined up the cookies on a wire rack and poured the frosting on top of the cookies with a spoon. The best part about this type of icing is that you can re-use it - all you need to do is scrape up the excess and re-heat it (not too much though, it is at its best consistency around 100 degrees). If you find crumbs in the icing, you can just strain them out with a fine-mesh strainer! This type of icing will set with a glorious shine, but it will remain somewhat soft - you won't be able to stack the cookies as they will stick together.

I was multi-tasking at various points in the cookie making process, and got going on the cupcakes and frosting. So what kind did we make? Red Velvet Cupcakes of course! Lots of red velvet cakes and cupcakes use a cream cheese frosting, which we have done before and is decidedly delicious, but we wanted to make a more traditional frosting for these. While this is technically a buttercream frosting, it is not that exceedingly sweet kind that is based on shortening and confectioners' sugar.

This version gets its thick, silky body from a cooked mixture of milk and flour. I could tell what Jeff was thinking just by the look on his face when I was describing the process to him... "Umm... milk and flour? How is the world is that gonna taste good?". Well, it certainly doesn't taste like that once you add heaps of butter! You may look at the ingredients, see granulated sugar and think the result would be grainy. However, be assured that the sugar will completely blend into the butter and the frosting will be extremely luscious and smooth by the time it is ready. Just be sure that the cooked milk mixture has completely cooled before you begin to add it.

Now, back to these devilish cupcakes! Most recipes out there are quite similar - the differences come typically from the flour used, the amount of cocoa and how much red coloring is added. To give these the best soft and tender crumb, we used cake-flour in our cupcakes. With only 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, you don't get an overwhelming chocolate bite when you sink your teeth into the cake, but the natural cocoa powder adds just enough subtle flavor so you know it's there. Buttermilk as the liquid keeps these incredibly moist and adds a slight tang to lure you to the next mouthful. We ended up garnishing the tops of the cupcakes with a few of the cookies and served the rest of the side for munching!


14 comments:

  1. Ok, where does Jeff work? I need to get a job there if I can get my US permit. What a great idea to make the cupcakes and also the cookies. You're giving me ideas for tomorrow.

    ReplyDelete
  2. They all look fabulous. What perfect Valentines Day treats. How did you dip your chocolate hearts so neatly? Did you have melted chocolate the depth of the heart, or did you brush some on?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Gorgeous!

    The whole spread looks perfect and so nice for V-day.

    I have had this kind of frosting curdle on me several times. I am going to follow your recipe exactly. The taste is so good that it is worth the trouble.

    ReplyDelete
  4. wait, where does Jeff work? because seriously... i need a weekly treat day and your treats are always fabulous.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Everything is so pretty, lovely cookies and cupcakes Joe!!
    Happy Valentine's Day!
    Ana

    ReplyDelete
  6. Gorgeous cupcakes and cookies Joe! You have the makings for a perfect Valentine's Day.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Everything looks so scrumptuous and pretty! Happy Valentine's Day to you.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks everyone! I hope you all had a great V-Day.

    Katie - I just dipped them in a glass!

    ReplyDelete
  9. They look great! I made that same frosting and thought it was pretty delicious with the cupcakes too.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Joe, I cannot thank you enough for posting the frosting recipe. I've looked for a not-sickeningly-sweet vanilla buttercream frosting for quite some time now and I believe that this may be THE one. :)

    And the cookies looked gorgeous!

    ~Vicci

    ReplyDelete
  11. Lori - Yeah, the frosting was fantastic!

    KQV - Let me know if you try it... we thought it was an excellent match to the cupcakes.

    ReplyDelete
  12. ...wow! I was wondering what you'd done for V-Day, of course, you have done it up right! Bravo!

    ReplyDelete