Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Yellow Cupcakes, 101 Classic Cookbooks, and Halloween Stuff

Sometimes I think I'm smarter than I am.

Case in point. I found a cake recipe in the cookbook 101 Classic Cookbooks, and I decided I could simultaneously cut the recipe in half, make cupcakes instead of cake, and tweak for high altitude. Without a calculator.

Yeah, that didn't work at all.

I think I've adjusted pretty well to high altitude cooking. I still think in sea level and I tend to make adjustments on the fly. For cakes and quick bread and muffin-like creatures, measure the sugar and leavening a little light and measure the liquid a little heavy.

It works most of the time and I don't have to break out the 1/8 teaspoons or measure 1 cup of sugar minus one tablespoon. And some recipes work just fine without any adjustment.

Muffins and cakes usually aren't a problem for me. Cupcakes on the other hand ... well, when they go wrong, the over-rise while they're still too soft, then they spread out on the pan and then they flatten. So they become a flat, mushroom-like thing.

 Cupcakes baked in the lower part of the oven (like when I'm trying to bake 2 dozen at a time) tend to fare worse than those baked in the middle or higher.

And I shouldn't ever try to fill the cupcakes more than 2/3 full. Half-full is sometimes perfect. 3/4 full sometimes works, but it depends on the recipe.

I know all of that. Sometimes I don't do what I know I should do. And I sometimes end up with very sad cupcakes.

The adjustments I made to the recipe in 101 Classic Cookbooks to cut the recipe in half might have worked at sea level. Here, not so much. The cupcakes rose way too much and then spread across the top of the pan, forming a giant flat surface.

Not so good.

So I took one more stab at it, this time making some more adjustments. The new recipe is pretty far from the original. Same ingredients, but I really messed with the quantities. And the method. Just because.

So, if you're curious about the book, it includes recipes from - you got it - 101 different cookbooks spanning a huge range of time, beginning in 1896. The front part of the book has photos from the original books and it goes in chronological order. The second part of the book has recipes listed in more common groupings, so you can browse appetizers, soups, or whatever strikes your fancy.

This would be a GREAT Christmas present for anyone you know who likes to cook. Or who wants to like to cook. Or who collects cookbooks. Or someone who only wants a few books on the shelf It's like a huge library in one tome. No need to buy 101 books ... or, it could help someone decide which of those 101 books to buy. Either way, it's a pretty cool book to have.

And now, onto the cupcakes.

What I liked about this particular recipe was that it included volume, weight, and metric measures. I also included the conversions to weight/metric as found in the book. Ounces are weight measures, unless it says fluid ounces)

The ingredients in the All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (and found in 101 Classic Cookbooks) were:

6 large egg yolks (3.5 fluid ounces, 4 ounces, 112 grams)
1 cup milk (8.5 ounces, 242 grams)
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla (9 grams)
3 cups sifted cake flour (10.5 ounces, 300 grams)
1 1/2 cups sugar (10.5 ounces, 300 grams)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder (19.5 grams)
3/4 teaspoon salt (5 grams)
12 teaspoons butter (6 ounces, 170 grams)

The instructions are a little different than a typical cake recipe, starting with blending the dry ingredients with the butter and part of the milk, then adding the mixed egg, vanilla and the remaining milk in several additions. Not radically different from normal cake instructions, but a little different.

The recipe was intended for two 9-inch round cakes for a layer cake, baked for 25-30 minutes. But I wanted cupcake, and not a big batch.

So, after my first little disaster, this is where I ended up:

Yellow Cupcakes
Inspired by101 Classic Cookbooks
Makes 1 dozen cupcakes at high altitude

2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 1/4 ounces all purpose flour (this is about 1 1/8 cups if you assume that all purpose flour weighs 4 1/2 ounces per cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar less about 1 tablespoon
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 12-cup cupcake pan with paper cupcake liners.

Combine the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract in a bowl - or do it the easy way - measure the milk in a measuring cup and add the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat with a fork just to break up the yolks. Set aside.

Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a large bowl (or in your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) combine the butter and sugar. Beat until smooth. Add the flour mixture, 1/3 at a time, alternating with two additions of the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, beating well after each addition, so it's well combined. Scrape down the bowl as needed.

You get what that means, right? 1/3 of the flour, half of the milk mixture, another 1/3 of the flour, the last of the milk, and the last of the flour - beating well after each addition. You don't have to be accurate about the 1/3 or the 1/2 - just eyeball it.

Divide the batter into the 12 cupcake cups. Bake at 350 degrees until the cupcakes bounce back when lightly touched on the top and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean - about 25 minutes.

Remove the cupcakes from the pan and let them cool completely on a rack before frosting.

Here's the frosting I used.