Category: marzipan

And to all a good night!

Welp, today is Christmas Eve.

That came super quick, didn’t it? Or maybe it’s just me.

Regardless, it’s here now. And on Christmas Eve I have a few family traditions: making the last of my Christmas Day treats (usually more fudge), pre-cooking whatever has to be done for Christmas Day (if anything), wrapping up any last minute gifts, and a eating a dinner made up of a variety of appetizers while drinking cocktails & watching A Christmas Carol; more specifically, the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim (the best version, in my humble opinion). Sometimes there’s a big, gigantic tin of assorted flavor popcorn thrown in there as well. That’s been the tradition in my house for as long as I can remember. When Jay came into the family, we had to work around his schedule as well as everyone else’s, which wasn’t really an issue until he became a cop. Then that kind of really threw a monkey wrench into things. And I don’t say that negatively; I say it meaning sometimes the Christmas Eve traditions end up being on Christmas Day, while the Christmas Day dinner ends up on Christmas Eve. Or sometimes, the big family Christmas dinner is pushed forward to the 26th or 27th. But that’s totally fine with me. I’m adaptable. I like having multiple celebrations, anyway… it’s fun to spread out the awesomeness for a few days!

(Pardon these photos… the lighting was poor & I was kind of rushing. I hope you get the gist of it, and can enjoy them anyway)

I had to make cupcakes for Christmas, that’s obvious. So I baked up those delicious Stollen-inspired cupcakes, courtesy of the Food Network magazine.

A Stollen is a fruit cake containing dried fruit and covered with sugar, powdered sugar or icing sugar. The cake is usually made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts and spices. Stollen is a traditional German cake, usually eaten during the Christmas season, when called Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen.

Stollen is a bread-like fruitcake made with yeast, water and flour, and usually with zest added to the dough. Candied orange peel and candied citrus peel (Zitronat),[1] raisins and almonds, and different spices such as cardamom and cinnamon are added. Other ingredients, such as milk, sugar, butter, salt, rum, eggs,[2] vanilla,[3] other dried fruits and nuts and marzipan may also be added to the Stollen dough. Except for the fruit added, the dough is quite low in sugar. The finished cake is sprinkled with icing sugar. The traditional weight of a Stollen is around 4.4 pounds (2 kg), but smaller sizes are now available.

The Dresden Stollen (originally Striezel), a moist, heavy bread filled with fruit, was first mentioned in an official document in 1474,[4] and the most famous Stollen is still the Dresdner Stollen,[5] sold, amongst other places, at the local Christmas market, Striezelmarkt. Dresden Stollen is produced in the city of Dresden and distinguished by a special seal depicting King Augustus II the Strong. This “official” Stollen is produced by only 150 Dresden bakers.

-Wikipedia

So of course, these cupcakes aren’t genuine Stollen. They’re just inspired by it, and because I have this weird thing where my cupcakes have to have frosting, I added a vanilla whipped cream-ish frosting. I swear, making these cupcakes with no frosting almost killed me. I absolutely HAD to frost them! However, if you aren’t as opposed to frosting-less cupcakes, you can leave it at the confectioner’s sugar, or make a simple icing with heavy cream, rum & confectioner’s sugar to drizzle on top.

Also, that tablecloth in the photos was handmade by my mother when she was 10 years old. It’s red felt, with a little white fringed edge, and cut out green felt trees decorated with glitter, beads, sequins, & paillettes. That tablecloth plus my grandmother’s “spaghetti ware” Santas, the retro-y Meri Meri Merry & Bright Christmas cupcake kit I had & the stollen-inspired cupcakes (stollen always seems like an old fashioned dessert/bread to me), really made it feel like a vintage Christmas.

STOLLEN-INSPIRED CUPCAKES (adapted from the Food Network magazine, Dec. 2012)

Makes about 1 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of a mix of citron, dried currants, dried cranberries & raisins, or whatever you like (optional)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup marzipan, room temperature & softened slightly
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted (for topping)
  • confectioner’s sugar (for dusting)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a larger bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), beat the softened butter with the marzipan and sugar until fluffy. Then beat in the 2 eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla & almond extract.
  3. Slowly beat in the flour mixture and 1/3 cup milk in alternating batches. Divide among 12 prepared muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full, and bake 20-25 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and set aside for five minutes. Brush with melted butter while still warm, but not hot, and dust with confectioner’s sugar. When 100% cooled, then frost.

WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING (adapted from The Food Pusher)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
  • 2 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whipping cream (regular or heavy, I used heavy)
  • pinch salt
  • 5 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in small bowl to soften.
  2. Scald 2 tablespoon of the cream; pour over gelatin, stirring till dissolved.
  3. Refrigerate until consistency of unbeaten egg white. (This takes about 10-15 minutes.) Then, with a whisk, beat until smooth.In a stand mixer with a whip attachment, or with a hand beater, whip remaining cream, salt and sugar; whip in the smoothed gelatin mixture, stopping to scrape the bowl twice.
  4. This recipe stands up well, even in warm weather. Keep leftover frosting and any product topped with it in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

I’ll avoid any overly sappy holiday messages… all I will say is that this Christmas we all have so much to be thankful for. After the Newtown, CT shooting I’m sure we all had a little wakeup call about that. I know all the parents that I know certainly did, and me too. I may not be a parent- but life is short, and you should appreciate what you have while you have it. You just never know what may come tomorrow. So be thankful for your family & friends & pets, tell them you love them every chance you get & don’t let fear get the best of you. I had to remind myself that after being in NYC during the 9/11 attacks- when it was time to get back on that train, it was kind of hard to do. Fear of what could happen should never take away from your life, or interfere with you living. And I know there are some parents who might feel a form of survivor’s guilt; why did their child live? How did they get to be so lucky when others were so terribly devastatingly ruined by this? I don’t know why or how, but I do know that you should just be thankful & not let that guilt or those questions take one minute of time away from you enjoying your family as much as possible. I don’t have the answers. And I don’t really have anything to say that can solve this, provide comfort, or take pain away from anyone. I do know that sweets make people happy. And when I make people happy, it gives me solace that my one little tiny act of baking a cake or pressing “publish”  can maybe help make someone smile in an otherwise shitty situation. So in that vein, I’m continuing to light up my little section of the web with deliciousness (& hopefully a few laughs). Food can sometimes give the comfort words themselves can’t.

I’ll leave it at that and I’ll just get right to the point…

Merry Christmas to all… and to all a good night.

Oh hey, pumpkin.

Halloween is a big holiday for me. It’s not only my favorite, it’s just an all-around great holiday to decorate & bake for. I know I’ve mentioned that before. I’ve also mentioned before that I just love Martha Stewart’s specialty holiday magazines. Each year for Halloween & Christmas I’m like a crackhead feenin’ for her fix- I have to buy her Halloween magazine & Holiday magazine. Sure, her regular magazine is cool too but I’m all about the holidays. And of course the covers always pull me in when I’m on line at the supermarket anyway. “Ooh look, Martha’s dressed up as a moth-woman! It’s a must buy issue!” That and I’m pretty much a boring chick. Really. Yes, I have this “glamorous” blog that is world-renowned, this art-school slash fashion background, yes I’m the significant other of a police officer slash death metal bassist, yes I have a sidecut & nose ring & listen to some interesting music. But the highlight of my week last week was buying pumpkins on sale (that weren’t gross & motley because of Hurricane Irene) & getting spiffy new glasses. No, seriously. I got new glasses & I’m that psyched about it. As if I wasn’t already a nerd! You’d think my life would be a bit more exciting, but this is it. I get giggly over new spectacles & holiday craft magazines. So yes. I enjoy reading all of Queen Martha’s magazines & I’m that sucker who’ll buy one each freakin’ year season holiday..

This particular year, well since July anyway, has been a bit off for me; I’ve been dealing with a lot of shit & basically didn’t have a clue as to what I was going to do for any of the holidays. So I basically used Martha’s ideas. For Halloween, I should say, since that’s the only holiday that’s relevant so far. Yeah, it’s not the most imaginative, but really… is anything new? Everything has really been done before anyway. All we do is just recycle old ideas & implement them in slightly different ways, or “freshen” them up for the current social climate. At least that’s what I keep telling myself when I feel bad about not coming up with something amazing myself this year & I end up using an old idea or one of someone else’s.

But even though I felt guilty about not doing something ingenious & unique, had to do something holiday-appropriate. This is my favorite holiday, for goodness sakes! And let’s face it, being that I’m related (albeit by marriage) to the famous Van Tassel’s of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow fame, anything spooky & creepy & bizarre is an event I must participate in. Only if I were related to Mary Shelley or Bram Stoker or Washington Irving himself would it make me more of a Halloween-head. Seriously. Headless Horsemen, scarecrows, zombies, jack-o-lanterns, vampires, witches, black cats; bring it on. I’m not only ready for ‘em, I welcome ‘em!

So these cupcakes, regardless of how simple, are pretty awesome looking, I gotta say. Simple, but fun. Retro.

It sorta looks like they’re running away from the jack-o-lantern, doesn’t it?

I just fell in love with the vintage cat clip-art/cupcake toppers she had in her magazine this year. It reminded me of some of the cardboard cut-outs my grandmother used to hang every Halloween, some of which were her mother’s. Aren’t they awesome? Both the cut-outs and the cupcake toppers. Oh- and that cake plate, which rocks my socks so hardcore because it came with a pink satin ribbon, but I can change the ribbon for every holiday and IT ALWAYS LOOKS AWESOME. Plus it gives me a really good reason to buy cute ribbon for every single holiday.

So yes, I made cupcakes & I had no idea what to do to decorate them. Turns out, the little cupcakes I made looked pretty close to exact to the ones Ms. Stewart had in her magazine; cupcakes in orange liners with these vintage-y cat faces. So that’s what I decided to do. On half of the cupcakes I put those cat face toppers, and on the other half, I went with marzipan pumpkins.

Marzipan pumpkins that I made, myself. However I didn’t make the marzipan (I’m not insane)- I bought it. It was golden colored Dr. Oetker marzipan that I bought at an import market (where I buy my English chocolate & Irish tea). So no I didn’t totally make them. But I divided it, colored it, I rolled it up, sculpted it and painted it. Or one, anyway.

Yep, that little jack-o-lantern dude there. Here’s a better view, in natural light.

You could obviously use fondant for the same effect, however I find that marzipan is tastier, so people don’t mind it as much. Sure, fondant looks pretty… but it tastes like an old diaper. Marzipan tastes like almonds & isn’t at all tough or rubbery, it has a really nice soft texture. It was also perfect because it was already a golden color, so I didn’t have to add much color to it to achieve a nice pumpkin color, and the green took to it really well too. It would be much easier to make faces if you get a black edible pen. I used black food coloring & a toothpick, which is why I stopped at one. I always have to make things harder on myself.

The cupcake recipe is a modified Martha recipe in & of itself, the frosting is a stabilized whipped cream one via Wilton that I felt was perfect with cupcakes that taste like pumpkin pie. Speaking of, the recipe supposedly makes 18 but I got closer to 24. The frosting recipe should frost that much, unless you pile it on super high.

PUMPKIN PIE CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground all-spice
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and all-spice; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.
  3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

STABILIZED WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING
.
Ingredients:
  • 1 pint (2 cups) heavy whipping cream
  • 4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 tablespoons Piping Gel
  • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Combine whipping cream and sugar in large bowl. Beat with electric mixer until soft peaks form.
  2. Add piping gel and vanilla, then continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Do not overbeat.

I piped the frosting on with a large round tip, then used a tapered spatula to create a sort of fluffy pillowy look. The orange liners are from Bake It Pretty. Unfortunately, the cat faces are only available in the magazine (as far as I can tell), and I can’t scan them & post them as that would be a copyright violation of some sort, I’m sure. The last lady who’s bad side I want to get on is hers, so you’ll have to figure that one out for yourself. If you don’t want to buy the magazine to get them, there are lots of other vintage cat clip-art options on the ‘net, and I think on her website Martha has other images available for print-out. Alternately, in Michael‘s & JoAnn‘s craft stores they sell a pretty extensive collection of awesome cupcaking materials.

You could also use a marshmallow frosting or a 7-minute frosting on these with stellar results.

Those vintage black ruffle candle holders were my grandma’s too… she had some awesome stuff

And this is not the last time you’ll be seeing Martha-inspired content this season. Trust me when I say my entire Halloween tableau & menu this year is almost entirely from her. I’m not even kidding when I say I didn’t have an original thought in my head this season. Well, in the aspect of treats, anyway. As far as other things, i.e. decorating, I held my own pretty well, as usual. Here’s my annual Halloween “tree” & hanging lanterns:

I don’t know if I mentioned it lately, but it’s really awesome having a blog/website. I can look up previous years’ holiday cupcakes, etc. with the click of a mouse, & each recipe & post is archived for me chronologically. Its like a virtual online cookbook or ‘idea book’ that I can access anytime I want to. It’s pretty effin’ spectacular. I hope it’s just as spectacular for you, too, to access all of that. There may be many blogs out there: lots of them are great, some may be nothing more than clones of others, but I hope either way you all come here because mine gives you a little something different. Or because I’m crazy. Whatever. I’ll take what I can get. You’re all amazing too!

Anyway like I mentioned before, with each post this year I’ll be posting a brief story on a Halloween tradition that has it’s origins in Celtic myths/legends. Here’s another for you…

There is an old Irish legend about an Irishman named Jack who liked to drink a little too much.

Long ago on a cold, lonely Halloween night, as Jack staggered home from another night of over indulging, the devil appeared to take his soul. But Jack was a cunning Irishman. He tricked the devil into climbing a nearby tree to pick him a lovely apple for his final meal. While the devil was picking his fruit Jack carved a Celtic cross on the tree trunk. The devil couldn’t cross such a sacred symbol and was trapped in the tree. Jack only let the Devil pass when he promised never again try to claim his soul. Well eventually Jack finally died from the drink. But poor Jack was denied entrance into heaven because of his drunken ways on earth. So Jack then tried to enter the gates of hell, but the devil, remembered his promise and denied Jack entry into hell. But the Devil was so impressed with his shrewdness he threw him a glowing hot coal to light his eternal wanderings. So Jack placed the red hot coal in a hollowed out turnip to form a make-shift “Lantern”.

You see there were no pumpkins in Ireland. Some legends say you can still see the fire of “Jack’s Lantern” as his spirit wanders the earth with nowhere to go. Years later all across Ireland people began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” or simply “Jack O’ Lantern.” So the next time you look down the dark road and see that glowing light in the distance, be careful. Because it just might be Jack, Jack of the Lantern!

- source The Irish Jewelry Company