Saturday, June 9, 2012

Cupcakes and Pies and Truffles, OH MY!

Kick-Ass Cupcakes - Somerville, MA

Photo creds to Caitlin
     Another bonus of my job includes being in charge of getting birthday treats for my coworkers' days of birth. This allows me a little freedom to try out new places. I had this weird feeling that Mai liked cupcakes, so Caitlin and I headed over to Kick-Ass Cupcakes. Has anyone else noticed how big of a fad cupcakes are becoming? I never would've guessed. Especially when most places charge at least 3 dollars for one heavenly lump. Regardless, this was my first real venture into the cupcake work. Kick-Ass Cupcakes is a tiny little shop that takes about 5 steps to get from one end to the next. What makes Kick-Ass so ... well... kick-ass is that they're "artisanal bakers." They bake from scratch daily using only natural ingredients. They steer clear of hydrogenated oils, trans fats, artificial flavors and preservatives. Way cool. As soon as you walk in the door, you're presented with rows and rows of a million different kinds of cupcakes (literally). I'll list the ones I tried (and no I didn't eat 6 entire cupcakes... but almost).

-Vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting: Pretty standard. Delicious none the less.

-Lucky Cupcake - luscious lemon cupcake with white chocolate buttercream and candied ginger. It also came with a fortune which I fail to remember. I'm not a huge lemon fan so the cake part was just... meh... but I loved the chocolate buttercream and candied ginger additions. Sweet with just a little kick of spice. 

-Cookie Dough - Chocolate chip cookie dough in a vanilla cupcake and vanilla buttercream frosting with chocolate sauce. AHHHmazing. I love cookie dough. I will never stop loving cookie dough. 

-Cinnamon Chai Pecan Sticky - spiced up cupcake covered with gooey caramel pecan topping. This little fella was the first one I tried. The cake part had the subtle hint of chai, but it wasn't complete without the crumbly, sugary, pecan topping. 

-Ginger Peach Bellini (vegan) - spicy ginger cupcake topped with white peach champagne icing and a fresh raspberry. I was hesitant to buy this one, but I'm glad I did. The cupcake itself was a peach color and had a delicious peach taste. I don't think I've ever had a peach cupcake. Unique. The icing and the raspberry brought it all together though. It was fabulous. 

-The Mojito - Vanilla cupcake soaked with rum, sugar cane lime frosting and fresh mint. Saved the best for last. This guy was my favorite. Everything about it. Out of all the cakes I had tried, this cake was the most moist and uniquely flavored. Soaked with rum? Yes please. Went perfectly with the lime frosting and the spring of mint on top. Seriously tasted like a mojito. This was top shelf business. 

Veggie Galaxy - Cambridge, MA

     I have to admit, I was sceptical. The thought of a vegan Boston Cream Pie weirded me out, but I was intrigued. I mean, how could one make something with the word "cream" in the name, vegan? Yea yea, laugh, but I'm not familiar with vegan fare. Again, it was a coworker's birthday, and he's vegan. So I found the only vegan bakery in the area, checked out the menu online and decided to go with the Boston Cream Pie. Yea I was getting a cake for everyone at work, but this was also my own personal adventure. I'm not quite sure why, but when I walked into Veggie Galaxy, I felt like I was on another planet (not just because the restaurant's name is Veggie Galaxy). I felt like I was among ... nevermind. I'm going to stop there. This was just different for me.
Photo creds to Caitlin again
     Tons of baked goods sat behind the counter and I analyzed every single one as the woman behind the register fetched my boston cream pie. How in the world could they make all these things vegan? The gears in my dome were churning. Churning so much that I started to get hungry. Wait... I was already hungry. So ... I ordered the banana muffin. By far, THE most exciting banana muffin I had ever seen. I sat down at the space-age themed bar and began an affair with a banana muffin. This was the most moist muffin (say that 5 times fast) I have ever eaten in my life. It was sweet, banana-y (but not too much), maybe had a hint of coconut, and was topped with large sugar crystals and banana chips that had been cooked into the top of the muffin. Oh... my word. I sat in udder amazement at what I was eating. I couldn't figure it out. I had no idea how they had done it. What was holding the muffin together without eggs? No milk? No way. Can't be. So... I called over the baker and she went through the recipe. Yea, I'm that person. I wish I could say I remembered what she told me, but I don't. I was still in a state of confused bliss. So here I am, still left in awe at the grandeur of that damn muffin.

     Next step, getting the Boston Cream Pie back to the office without smashing my face in it. I could only imagine the glories that lie under it's perfect chocolate jacket. Veggie Galaxy described it as an "unbelievably creamy real vanilla bean pastry cream" (What does that even mean?) "sandwiched between two yellow cake layers, then glazed to a shiny perfection with a 70% Taza Chocolate ganache." First bite. My mind was blown. Had another banana muffin-esque trip. How did they do it? I don't understand. How in the world is this cake so moist? It was moist and sweet and had maybe that coconut flavor again. Maybe they use coconut milk a lot? Not sure. Everything in this cake was just so moist. For this reason, it was incredibly difficult to cut. But if no one else was there, I would've eaten it by the fist full. I mean... come on? Why waste time? The chocolate ganache on top was so rich and dark. Simply fabulous.

     Overall, I was completely astounded by vegan baked goods. Who knew they could be so amazing? Probably a lot of people, but I was not one of them.

Cocoa Mint Truffles - 578 Washington St #3, Brighton

     Food restriction experiment #2! Judith was moving to Philly for the summer, so my friend Amanda was throwing her a goodbye party. A potluck party. Shoot. However, Judith is allergic to gluten, so I wasn't about to make something she couldn't eat. I have this huge stack of recipes at home that I tore out of magazines from my grandma that I probably won't ever make for just myself, because they're not good for lightweight me. So, I decided to make Cocoa Mint Truffles for the party.

     Truffles remind me of fancy things, and I'm not that fancy. So, I was nervous about this. Here's the recipe:

Cocoa Mint Truffles

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
6 mint Andes candies (I used 6 Trader Joe's mint creams)
3/4 cup whipped topping
2 tablespoons baking cocoa

1) In a small saucepan, melt chocolate chips and candies over low heat. Transfer to a small bowl and cool to lukewarm, about 7 minutes. Beat in whipped topping. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes or until firm enough to form into balls. 

2) Shape chocolate mixture into 1 inch balls and roll in cocoa mixture. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

     End of story. How simple is that? Well, I got a little scared a few times. First, I'm no pro at melting chocolate. I did it really low and it started to get liquidy. "Good!" I thought... and then it started getting thick and almost dry. I wasn't sure if it was cooking or what was going on, so I pulled it from the heat. I debated throwing in some milk to liquify it a bit, but thought, "no, I need to just trust the recipe. I'm out of chocolate chips. It's do or die." So I beat in the mint creams which lessened its viscosity a bit. Then I shoved it in the freezer. Expecting it to be a little more solid, I started rolling it into balls and putting them on my tray, but I slowly realized that they seemed to be melting. Or at least they were loosening up and becoming less ball-like and more patty-like. I quickly got scared and browsed the web searching for other fellow truffle makers in the same situation. Resolution: Add more melted chocolate, refreeze. So that's what I did and it worked! I was so happy.
     The original recipe also said to mix 1/8 teaspoon instant coffee granules in with the baking cocoa, but I don't like coffee. I nixed that idea. After eating about 1/4 of the truffle dough (dough? No.. what would you call it? Goop? Yea.)... so after eating about 1/4 of the truffle goop I had about one small baking dish left of beautifully formed and absolutely delicious chocolate mint truffles.
     Just to add a little flair, I rolled a few in some crushed pretzels (the bomb) and sprinkled some salt on a few. Both were good ideas. Gave each truffle a little attitude. Overall, they were a hit. Especially with Joan.

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