Geia sou Fran!!
A few weeks ago, I realized that I was really tired. It was starting to get really hard to concentrate and was constantly looking forward to the weekend, which inevitably ended too fast. So I decided, it was time to take some time off and relax.
As such, this past weekend I went back to Greece, to see my family and friends. Although my initial goal was to do pretty close to nothing, secretly, I was dying to live “The Sweet Spot Experience”. (As you know, my mom and sister have recently opened a sweets shop, The Sweet Spot, in Athens.)
And so, I did. I landed right at the onset of crunch-time, to deliver impeccable sweets for 3 big events on Friday and Saturday. This turned out to mean that I prepared over 400 mini cupcakes, worked makings sweets for over 33 hours in the span of 2.25 days. In short AWESOME!!!
It was the first time I cooked a recipe which required 18 eggs… let me say that again, 18 EGGS!!!
These recipes required kilos of flour, sugar, and of course could not be prepared in normal tabletop mixers…
Try lifting the bowl, full of dough, onto a counter so you can scoop our tiny portions to make the zillion little cupcakes! There’s a workout!
But, more than just the fun of playing with recipes in gigantic proportions, the endless scooping of cupcakes into tiny little liners, I learned a some tips which really make life in the kitchen easier. So, in this post, I want to share those with you.
- Always prepare all your ingredients first. This is perhaps the one thing which helped make a HUGE difference. It turns out that, as with stir-frying in a wok, baking is equally as methodical and needs things in the proper timings.
- Own a kitchen scale. This is something I have been avoiding, in an attempt not to buy every kitchen appliance known to man, but it turns out to be a must. How many times have you lost count of hour many cups of flour you have added to something? How much sugar? (eggs don’t count as you can always count the yolks) Especially when working with 2 or 3 times a recipe?? EXACTLY! All you have to do is ensure the number on the scale match the number in your recipe!
- Be generous with your ingredients. If you skimp on one of the ingredients, it is more likely than not, that the taster will feel robbed of the whole eating experience of the dessert you are offering.
- Pick up after yourself constantly, keep a clean counter at all times. Even in an industrial sized kitchen, there is never enough space. There is always some sugar decoration that need space to dry, some fondant that needs space to be rolled out, and a cake that needs to be made. To be a respectable cook/chef, one must learn to cook neatly; for they are interlinked. I will be the first to admit, that this is the hardest practice to maintain of all. I am constantly finding myself, in the epicenter of what looks like an explosion in the kitchen. How can you have a clean and perfect delicate dessert, in a messy kitchen? You can’t. Little by little, I too will learn this practice.
- Find an ice cream scoop that measures the perfect amount for your cupcake tins. I cannot stress enough how much more fun and quick filling cupcake papers is this way. It was why I hated making cupcakes before! When you have a set measurer, which makes identically sized cupcakes every time, life is so much more beautiful..
- Do not overfill your cupcake papers. Yes, muffins look delicious when they are popping up beyond the paper, however, cupcakes are only 1/2 done when they come out of the oven. Remember they are not cupcakes, until they have their frosting. And the frosting job is so much easier when the cupcake is flat!
- You do not need piping bags, you just need zip-lock bags. Obviously, at The Sweet Spot there is an over abundance of proper equipment. This is a lesson I learned at home, that i have been wanting to share. Just fill the zip-lock bag with the frosting you desire, then cut off one of the corners at the bottom of the bag, so that the hole is your desired size. Start small, you can always cut more!
- Sugar is the best exfoliator. It happens that when you are baking red velvet cupcakes, chopping garlic, or doing other things in the kitchen, your hands get messy, colored and smelling of strong pungent smells. The best way to remove all unwanted residue from your hands is to put some liquid soap in your hands, and as you lather up, add a good teaspoon of sugar. Not only will you get the colors off your hands, but they will be baby soft too!! (attention: this process does tickle)
- There is a huge difference between dark brown and light brown sugar. We learned this the hard way, when making butterscotch at 8 am Thursday morning, when we decided to use only dark brown sugar (instead of light brown). Good thing is that it is just a matter of molasses. A little bit of white with a little bit of dark, makes light (BTW, both equally delicious on their own, as depicted!)
- You can double recipes. There isn’t one recipe that I have doubled, that has failed!
Now, of all the cupcakes that I made, I have to share a recipe with you… after all, that is the most delicious part. I had a hard time deciding what to share: i learned how to make butterscotch, lime curd, panna cotta, cake decorations, and 4 kinds of cupcakes! As the recipes that we used there are too large for anyone’s good at home, I wasked My sister to share one of her favorites, before industrial sized desserts came into the picture. She shared an amazing recipe for red velvet cupcakes. Of course, I had to try it out before posting, and I did so at the Sweet Spot:) (perks of being the sister/daughter of the owners) Tried and tasted, Paula Deen makes amazing red velvet cupcakes! ENJOY! (BTW when making this, you will thank me for the sugar scrub tip )
RED VELVET CUPCAKES (Paula Deen’s Recipe)
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons red food coloring
- 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.
- In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer.
- Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
- Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins with an ice cream scoop, about 2/3 filled.
- Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness.
- Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.
Unfortunately, time ran out, and i didn’t have the time to make the frosting! But, please find it below, so that you can enjoy the full red velvet experience!! I will be back having made these completely, shortly. Afterall, my Oxfordians had to reap some of the benefits!
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1 pound cream cheese, softened
- 2 sticks butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
- Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries, for garnish
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Garnish with chopped pecans or a fresh raspberry or strawberry.