Archive for January, 2012

Pipe Dream #60: To Bake In Large Quantity – Brown Sugar Pound Cakes With Browned Butter Glaze, Revisited

Ok, I made these once before.  But hear me out. First of all, these are so good that they deserve six posts on this one blog. Second, they mark an important event in my life: they are still letting me BAKE here. Here at the school. For 200 people. Every few weeks. So I really am fulfilling one of my pipe dreams!

I have no idea how it came about in the first place except that I prayed and then chopped vegetables for two weeks before hesitantly asking “couldibakesomethingoncesinceiworkedinakitchenlikethisallsummerandihavethisblogyouseeandineedsomemorematerialforitandpleasewontyouletme?” …  They hesitantly said I might, so I decided to do something I knew I could do well, lest I bung up errthing and be booted out of the kitchen forever for wasting precious foodstuffs and making the entire population go without dessert for one night.

Actually, probs no one would have minded a bunged-up dessert since we’ve been doing two-a-days for the past few months. And I don’t mean football practices.

Also, I don’t know why I was so a-feared. Look at these people. They are very nice people and very helpful.

The key to making any recipe in a mixer as huge as this one is to constantly scrape the bowl down. Seriously, you can’t scrape down the bowl enough. And all the times that the original recipe gives for things like beating (i.e. beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about four minutes) need to be bumped way up because of the large quantities. I was pretty nervous, so I did more scraping down than usual. I didn’t regret it.

It took me and Kate the entire afternoon to bake and frost these babies, but eventually, we brought ‘em out. Even I was surprised by the enthusiastic reception they inspired. Apparently, everyone has been craving frosting. The British don’t use a lot of it; they use custard. Custard this, custard that. Everywhere, custard. I usually opt out. It’s a texture thing.

Anyway, I was super pleased to sit back and watch everyone eating their cupcake, eyes widening in rapturous delight as they realized that brown butter makes everything better. It reminded me of home and why I like baking so much. I mean, why I like baking besides eating cake and frosting. You thought there was no other reason, did you?

For everything there is a season,


Brown Sugar Pound Cakes with Brown Butter Glaze

adapted from Martha Stewart

For the cupcakes:

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the glaze:

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons whole milk

To make the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.

Reduce speed to low. Mix any remaining wet ingredients in a bowl if needed. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet ingredients and ending with dry. Scrape sides of bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.

Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks. Cupcakes will keep, covered, for up to 3 days.

To make the glaze:

Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Carefully pour butter into a bowl, leaving sediment behind.

Add sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons milk to butter, and stir until smooth. If glaze is too thick, add more milk. Use immediately. Sometimes when I use brown butter glazes, I find that the butter separates out a little bit. I don’t know why this is. Sorry.

Favorite Shots: England Bakes

Many restaurants in Britain have pretty average fare as far as baked goods are concerned. If you come into a pub or cafe around closing time, you can usually see a film of plastic wrap covering yesterday’s carrot cake for tomorrow’s customers. It’s like their attitude is, “I made this cake from scratch, and Imma dang well keep it around ‘til you eat it. Don’t disappoint me, now!”

The thing is, no one really minds. It is still awesome carrot cake, even if it is a few days running. Plus, they serve it on a cute plate, and no one can say anything against a nice looking piece of cake. This cake was real good. The icing was orange-scented. My friend bought it, but I decided against it, fearing it would make me pine for the fabulous carrot cake a while back. Seriously, I can taste that cake right now. If I wasn’t afraid of gutting up my fingers grating carrots, I would go make that right now. P.S. Did I tell you I nicked my thumb knuckle peeling butternut squash in October? Which gives me scars on every finger but the middle one on my left hand.

At least I still have blue blood,


Pipe Dream #81: To Divide Nine Sometimes

There is this concept in photography called the rule of thirds. Basically, it says that photos have more tension and visual interest if the subject is not in the middle of the frame. (You can read more about it on wikipedia, if you want.) I was pleasantly surprised to learn about this rule and realize that my natural tendency is to take off-center photos, or crop them that way.

Sometimes, I intentionally take a shot in the center of the frame so I can get it perfectly focused, knowing I can crop it later,  like I did with the one above.

Sometimes, though, I really like centered shots. They make a statement. Bam. This is a cow.

Bam. This is my face. Right in the middle there.

So this rule is supposed to be the ideal, but I don’t always like the rules. I like ideals, but sometimes the ideal is the ordinary.

Extra ordinary,


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