Thursday, May 31, 2012

Marbled Chocolate Molds

 This post is rather similar to yesterday's about molding chocolate. The only extra step is to use more than one color and stir them around a little inside the molds. You'll need a Pyrex measuring cup for each color (or any microwaveable container), molds (available at cake decorating/candy making stores), and chocolate designed for making candy, like Melt 'n Mold pieces by Guittard.
 You'll also need a variety of spatulas, small spoons, and flat toothpicks. I experimented with all of these. Hang on to those sample spoons you get at ice cream parlors!
 Place some chocolate in each container and microwave it in :30 increments…
 …until it is melted and pourable. Stir it after each time in the microwave; any small pieces may dissolve when you stir them around. The less time in the microwave, the better; excessively warm chocolate in your molds will take a very long time to harden.
Place a small amount of one color or another into a mold…
 …and fill it the rest of the way with the other color. Swirl the colors about randomly, but don't stir too much or you'll lose the marbling effect and wind up with light brown.
 Tap the molds on the counter to bring up any air bubbles and to smooth out the surface. Place them in the refrigerator until the chocolate is hardened. For small molds like this…
…I was able to flip them out onto a cutting board after about 20 minutes. 
You can smooth away any rough edges with a fingertip. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Molding Chocolate

This project is so simple, I feel like I'm teaching you how to butter bread. To mold chocolate, all you need is a mold and chocolate. Bear in mind, you have to use chocolate that was designed for the task; don't use chocolate chips from the baking aisle at the supermarket; they won't melt properly. There are many brands available…
 …I'm partial to Melt 'n Mold pieces by Guittard (I grew up near the Guittard factory; the smell was unbelievable).
 You can find chocolate pieces and molds at any cake decorating store. For no particular reason, I used jewel-shaped molds for this experiment.
 Pour some of the chocolate pieces into a microwave-safe container (a Pyrex measuring cup with a spout is perfect). Zap them in the microwave for :30 increments…
 …until you're able to stir it like this and it's pourable.
 Pour it into the wells of the mold, and tap the mold gently on the counter to bring up any air bubbles and to smooth out the surface.
 Here's a view from beneath. Place the mold in the refrigerator and check back on it in 15 minutes (the hardening time will depend on the heat of the chocolate and the size of the molds).
 As the chocolate gets cool and hardens, it will contract away from the mold; note how these pieces are almost totally separated from the mold.
 Invert the mold onto a flat surface; a piece of parchment paper, waxed paper, a cutting board, etc. will work fine.
 If the pieces require more than a gentle push to pop them out, return them to the fridge for a few minutes.

 If you want to sparkle them up a bit, a product like Pearl Dust works well; just brush it on.
 These could be used to adorn cupcakes, cake borders…or served straight up, of course!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fireworks Cupcakes

Last year, the July cover of Martha Stewart Living magazine featured fireworks cookies, which were the first icing technique I piped on this blog back on New Year's Eve. I'd always wondered if the same technique would work on cupcakes; I mean, why not? When I made cupcakes for Memorial Day yesterday, I set aside half of them to try it out on. The tips I needed were a pair of round #8 tips, and a #806 (by Ateco). 
 Here are the cupcakes, awaiting the rest of their patriotic garb.
 Start by attaching the tip #806 to a piping bag (you won't need a coupler). Fill the bag with white frosting (I simply used canned vanilla frosting from the cake aisle; it's the right consistency for this).
 Pipe a ring around the outer edge of each cake. For this and all other piping on this project, hold the tip perpendicular to the surface.
 Pipe a dollop in the center and smooth the icing out with an offset spatula (or a fingertip, if you can be fastidious about it). Keep the cupcakes in a covered container (like a whatever-ware box) so they won't start crusting over. Remove each one individually when you're ready to work on it.
 Load up two piping bags with red and blue icing and the #8 tips. You may recall, my favorite red and blue colors are Royal Blue and Super Red by AmeriColor.
 Have a scad of round toothpicks handy.
 Pipe a dot in the center and two larger rings around it. Use all the same color or mix them up.
 Drag a toothpick through the icing, either from the edge to the center or from the center to the edge (like this):
 Wipe the tip on a paper towel after each drag through the icing. Be sure to not push the toothpick all the way down to the surface of the cake; you should just sort of ski through the icing.
 Here's one with loose "C" shapes radiating from the inside out:
 Here's one with straight lines radiating outward from the center:
 Here's the first lazy "S" shape on one of my favorites…
 …which looked like this when finished. I like how the red frames the inner blue dot and ring.
 This one is formed by alternating dragging the toothpick from the inside out, then the outside in (wiping after each drag, of course).
 You can really see the depth of the stripes from this angle; that's one reason why I prefer the cupcakes over the traditional fireworks cookies, which dry perfectly flat.
 The only downside I can think of about these cupcakes is they do take a few extra steps to pipe, and a platter like this would be empty within minutes after being brought in to any party. An offering to bear in mind for 4th of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day…even Election Night! And of course you can pipe them in any color imaginable.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Striped Cupcakes for Memorial Day

I've striped a bag of icing before, but it was royal icing and for a very different project: piping roses with a striped edge. I wanted to see if the same effect would work for cupcakes (as you can see above, it did!). First, bake up a batch of yummy cupcakes. I really like liners by Cupcake Creations; check out how the white parts of the cup remain white, even when holding a dark chocolate cupcake (not all brands can pull that off). 
 Attach a star tip like the Wilton 1M to a piping bag. You probably won't need a coupler.
 These are my favorites for making red and blue icing; Super Red and Royal Blue by AmeriColor.
Cuff the bag over your hand, folding the bag more or less in half. 
 If you like to have a Pringles can around to act as a third hand, get it ready. I didn't wind up using it, but it might be a good tool to have close by.
 Dish up a couple of spoonfuls of white frosting in small bowls…
 …and use whichever colors you like. I made these for Memorial Day, and can imagine doing an encore for the 4th of July.
 It's a good idea to keep a supply of cheap crafty brushes that are used only for cake projects. Swab one of them into the frosting…
 …and paint a couple of stripes into the bag. Push the brush as far into the tip as you can, and paint the stripe a couple of inches up the side of the bag. I thought of painting a stripe of each color, but thought the likelihood was high that they might mix together, giving me a rather unpatriotic shade of purple. I painted the two stripes near each other, because I figured I'd keep the non-striped side on the underside where it wouldn't be seen. In retrospect, I wish I'd made at least one more stripe (that's the plan for next time).
 Fill the bag with plain white frosting, being careful to not disrupt the stripes more than necessary.
 Pipe the swirl by holding the bag perpendicular to the cupcake. Start by piping a wreath around the edge…
 …then pipe a nice, tight spiral in the center. It almost looks like a flame!
 Thought you might like to see the blue bag as well…
…and how it turned out. I piped a smaller number of cupcakes with the blue, because blue is traditionally regarded as the most unappetizing color and I didn't want to be stuck with a surplus of them. 
 I hope you had a lovely Memorial Day! Get your piping bags ready for the 4th of July…