Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cookistry Went After-Christmas Shopping - and this is what happened

I'm probably not the average shopper. Okay, I'm not normal. But we knew that.

Normal folks stock up on bargain wrapping paper, Christmas cards, and maybe some deals on lights, ornaments, candles, and decorative stuff.

Me, I go to the grocery store and see what deals I can score. And sometimes the items that go on sale aren't all that seasonal. Like chocolate chips. Seriously. Chocolate chips.

I also picked up some extra cupcake liners. Gee, the red ones will be great for Valentine's day and the green ones will be perfect for St. Patrick's day.

Speaking of red and green, in one of the stores there was a huuuge display of Duncan Hines "velvets" cake mix. It included two mixes - a red and a green. I usually don't buy cake mix, but I had some decorating tools I wanted to play with, and a two-toned cake mix sounded perfect for my evil plans. So I bought that.

And some other stuff.

And then I made cupcakes.

The first thing I wanted to fiddle with was the arrangement of the two batter colors. I tried several techniques:

I layered some of the cupcakes. It was simple and didn't require any extra tools, but to make it a little simpler for all of the cupcakes, I used two pastry bags to fill the cups - one pastry bag for each color of batter.

I used a cupcake batter divider from Good Cook to create cupcakes where the colors were split vertically. The divider stood upright on its own in the cupcake pan, so it was pretty easy to use.

Since these little dividers are cheap (particularly if you buy them on sale after Christmas, as I did) I'd suggest buying three or four of them so you can fill a row at a time of cupcakes, so you don't need to switch colors constantly. It wasn't horrible to fill one side, then the other, then move the divider to the next cupcake, but it would have been quicker to fill four red sides, then four green sides, then move all four dividers to the next row.

I used that same cupcake divider in a different way, too. Instead of removing it straight up, I twisted it to create a swirl pattern.

I used a small-diameter biscuit cutter to make cupcakes with one color in the center and a different color around the outside. It was a little fiddly to fill the inside if the biscuit cutter, since it had a handle on top, but it wasn't awful.

It was a little tough to gauge how much batter I had, and quite a bit stuck to the biscuit cutter, so I added extra batter to the tops of some of those cupcakes.

And last, I added red and green batter to the last few cupcakes and used a chopstick to swirl the batter. This was the simplest of all, but it's a pretty common technique.

Rather than using pastry bags, I think it would have been less messy and more precise to use squeeze bottles to dispense the batter. Maybe I'll give that a try next time. But they'd have to be squeeze bottle with a fairly large hole, or it would take forever to fill the cupcake cups. A decorating squeeze bottle with a large tip would probably make sense.

For the frosting, I pulled out another gadget - a pastry bag and coupler that I bought from King Arthur Flour that allows two different frostings to be piped at the same time through the same tip.

It took a few attempts before I figured out the best way to use it. For instance, you want to fill both sides equally, and the best way to do that is to put a little frosting in one side, then some in the other, alternating back and forth to fill both sides with about the same amount of frosting.

Once I figured that out, it worked pretty well.

Now that I think about it, it might have been interesting to use that to pipe the two batters into the cupcakes ... maybe next time.

So ... did you get an interesting food-related bargains after the holiday? Tell me!