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Buttermilk Makes My Heart Zing

>> April 10, 2011

Buttermilk Pancakes

Buttermilk and I didn’t get off to a great start. My grandmother loved buttermilk, so much so that she would keep a container in the fridge for if it were regular milk. Buttermilk was regularly served for dinner when she was a little girl so she was used to it.

My first encounter wasn’t as wonderful. I remember it so vividly - my brother and I were visiting my grandmother for the day and I decided to grab an ice cold glass of milk! Sounds awesome right? Wrong. Oh so wrong. Being the independent person that I am, I poured my own lovely glass of...buttermilk. Talk about a rude awakening. So needless to say, it was quite some time before I tried buttermilk again.

It’s only in the past several years that I’ve come to understand its amazingness. I started making cakes and cookies where buttermilk was included in the recipe. And then I tried real buttermilk pancakes. Holy heck. I absolutely can’t get enough of the tang and the zing that buttermilk adds to everything! This past Saturday was the laziest of Saturday’s and was the perfect excuse to make buttermilk pancakes. And so I did - and they were fantastic!

Best Buttermilk Pancakes
adapted from Martha Stewart

1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1 1/2 Tbs Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 Cup Buttermilk
2 Tbs Unsalted Butter, melted

Heat pan on medium high*, and heat the oven to 250 to keep the pancakes warm.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add egg, buttermilk using the whisk. Be careful not to over mix the batter, it should be lumpy.

Once the pan is hot, baste the bottom of the pan with some of the melted butter with a pastry brush. Using a 1/2 cup scoop, our the pancake batter into the pan - my pan was large enough to do three small pancakes at a time. Flip the pancakes when the pancakes bubble, and are slightly dry around the edges. Cook until golden brown.

As you’re working in batches, keep the finished pancakes on a oven-proof plate in the oven to stay warm while you’re finishing the rest of the pancakes.

*I use the pancake method a la Smitten Kitchen.


And the Winner Is...

>> April 1, 2011

Josh and I decided to head to the Big Apple for a few days during his spring break. New York is one of our most favorite cities, and it’s been a few years since we’ve been there together. Over the past several years I’ve seen loads of magazine articles, blog posts, and TV shows about cupcakes and I think it’s quite clear that the cupcake craze is in full swing. I originally had the idea to find the best cupcake in NYC a little over a year ago when I was heading to New York on a business trip. Fortunately for Josh, the trip was so short that I didn’t have time to visit all of the shops that planned to taste test.
Fast forward a year - and here I am writing about the past several calorie filled days. Over the past two days I have managed to eat nine cupcakes from various establishments around the city. Nine cupcakes (especially spread out over 48 hrs) doesn’t sound like a lot as I’m typing this out, but rest assured my belly is full and my pants are feeling the pain. Josh and I schlepped around the island of Manhattan and have finally found (in my humble opinion) the best cupcake in all of New York.
As someone who loves to bake, I really hate to say this - but Buttercup Bakery boasted the worst cupcake that I’ve eaten in quite some time. I sampled what I thought was going to be a home run - the Devil Dog cupcake. I mean, what could go wrong?
   Buttercup Bakery - Devil Dog Cupcake    Buttercup Bakery - Devil Dog Cupcake
The cake was overly dry but was very chocolatey. The frosting was super sugary and oddly was not very marshmallowy. The cupcakes had a good cake-to-frosting ratio, and were a good size.
Simple and cute little bake shop - much like several other shops that we visited this past week. The atmosphere was bright, and simple with two small tables to sit and enjoy the cupcake and watch the passerby’s.

   Billy's Bakery - Red Velvet         Billy's Bakery - Red Velvet
I sampled the red velvet with cream cheese frosting. I may be somewhat of a red velvet snob being that I’m from the South, but I have to say that I wasn’t thrilled with the flavor of the cake. Red Velvet is supposed to have a chocolate flavor with a bright red color. While the color was spot on, I cannot say the same for the flavor. The cake was quite dry (which seems like a theme for most NYC cupcakes) and was completely lacking of the chocolate flavor. 
The cream cheese frosting was quite sweet, but wasn’t very cream cheesy. The cream cheese to powdered sugar ratio was off for my tastes, but was in it’s own sense still tasty.
I sampled the vanilla w. strawberry icing. The vanilla cake was dense and somewhat dry, but not overly sweet. The strawberry icing was too sweet and and must have been made in the early morning, because there was a significant crust on the surface of the icing which generally comes from age....must like the rest of us I presume.
**for the record, I ate this a year ago on my afore-mentioned business trip. It was the only cupcake that I was able to sample on my trip.
I have to say I was pretty jazzed about this one. Sweet Revenge was recommended to me by a friend who saw a feature on Food Network. 

 Sweet Revenge - Pure      Sweet Revenge - Pure      Sweet Revenge - Pure

I opted for the “Pure” cupcake, which is Mexican vanilla cake with Mexican vanilla frosting. The cake was crazy dense, it was definitely the densest (is that a word?) cake that we had on our trip. It was more like pound cake than a traditional cupcake and tasted great by itself. The frosting was too sweet, and the cake to frosting ratio was off - there was too much frosting, especially with the cake’s signature mohawk.
Tribeca Treats was our first planned stop on the long awaited cupcake tour. TT had a super cute shop, it was bright and airy and plenty of seating room.
  Tribeca Treats - Chocolate Cupcake      Tribeca Treats - Chocolate Cupcake      Tribeca Treats - Chocolate Cupcake

We tasted the chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting. I hoped that the cake would be a bit more chocolatey, but it did have a nice texture. The texture was much lighter than most of the cakes that we tried which I much enjoyed. The frosting had a nice vanilla flavor, but had a slight grainy texture.
This was the second impromptu stop on the cupcake crawl. We stopped for brunch in Chelsea market and saw this adorable shop while we were there. The staff was great, and they proceeded to tell me that the cupcakes were going to change my life!

   Elini's - Raspberry Cupcake         Elini's - Raspberry Cupcake

We ate the raspberry cupcake with raspberry buttercream frosting. The cake had a great texture, it was actually a vanilla cake with whole raspberries baked in. The raspberries gave the cake a nice sweet and tart flavor. The buttercream was tasty, but neither of us were able to find the raspberry flavor in the frosting. While it wasn’t exactly life changing, the cupcake was very tasty!
*ps - please excuse the weird face.
This was the biggest surprise of all. The shop was a little hidden from the street, and was very dark inside. The entrance has a cashier and an espresso machine, and the cupcake case is actually towards the back of the cafe.

Cupcake Cafe - Chocolate Cupcake

Once we found the cupcake case, we tasted the chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting. While the cake was very dense and a little on the hard side, the frosting was the best buttercream that we had on the whole trip. The frosting was super light and very creamy - had a great texture and lovely clean flavor.
This was an impromptu cupcake tasting that we had a few hours after we arrived at the Dean & Deluca near our hotel. We stopped in for a cup of coffee and surprise...they had cupcakes!

Two Little Red Hens - Blackout Cupcake

I chose the blackout cake which was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. This cake was super yummy and obviously very chocolatey. The cake to frosting ratio was great and the cake texture was great as well. The cake was very fudge-y and the frosting had an great creamy texture. This cake is certainly for the chocolate lover.
It wouldn’t be appropriate to host a New York cupcake tour without stopping by Magnolia Bakery for a visit. The purist (and SATC fan) in me thought it only right to visit the Bleecker Street location all the way in the village. We arrived quite early because I know that the line to get into the bakery can be quite long, and thankfully there were only a few other patrons in the shop when we arrived - so no waiting for us!

 Magnolia - Vanilla Cupcake      Magnolia - Vanilla Cupcake      Magnolia - Vanilla Cupcake

Oddly, I couldn’t decide which cupcake to choose - so I did what any girl would...I chose the prettiest. The prettiest happened to be vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. The cake texture seemed to be a bit of a hyrbid of the denser NYC cake and the lighter, airier cake that I prefer. The frosting was also quite tasty, but the cake to frosting ratio was way off. There was far too much frosting for the amount of cake in the cupcake.
Butterlane was by far my favorite cupcake that we tried on our crawl. The shop although very small was very cute. We ate the cupcake at a small ledge that was along the wall of the shop.

 Butterlane - Espresso Cupcake      Butterlane - Espresso Cupcake      Butterlane - Espresso Cupcake

We sampled the vanilla cupcake with espresso frosting. The cake was the lightest, moistest cake that we had on the crawl and it had a great vanilla flavor. The frosting had a wonderful espresso flavor and also had a great creamy texture. The cake to frosting ratio was also spot on - such a great cupcake!


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