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Food Frenzy

Arlen Mabe
Food Columnist

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Peachcakes With Brown Sugar Frosting PDF Print E-mail
Food Frenzy
Written by Arlen Mabe   
Sunday, 06 September 2009 18:37




Well, I am officially back into the swing of things. And for the most part, this transition is good. Summer came to its usual abrupt halt and launched me into the quicker paced schedule that is fall. As much as I love the slow drawl of summer, I do get bored from time to time. I have finally admitted to myself that I really enjoy being busy. I don’t know how I accumulate so many responsibilities, but I do. And I am reminded of a Radiohead lyric as I write this. Thom Yorke succinctly says, “you do it to yourself, you do, and that’s why it really hurts.” He couldn’t be more right. I do spread myself a bit thin every week and yes, sometimes it hurts, but I can’t help but enjoy the rush that comes from it. I once read that Geminis (bare with me, I’m not an astrology nut) see boredom as a fate worse than death. This could certainly explain my bizarre attraction to a full schedule.

So what is keeping me so busy? I got a job at the cupcakery, the same cupcakery that I wrote the previous entry about! From a third party perspective, I came across as a rationale and admiring fan of the cupcakery who was just posting an informative article. But deep down, I wanted to be in that kitchen so badly! My loved ones are aware of this and will probably tell you that I was pretty shameless about my desire to be an apprentice at Lucy’s. I wrote hand-written letters and offered up my availability on more than one occasion. Looking back I hope they didn’t think me overzealous, but I am very grateful to Jean and Paula for throwing me a bone and letting me join the staff.

And boy, it has been fantastic. I’m in my second week and am having so much fun. The work is pleasant, I am learning new things, and I get to bring home day-old cupcakes! Another, more subtle perk, is the fact that my hair is perfumed with the faint smell of baked goods. It could be worse, people.

The other day, Jean suggested that I bring in a cupcake recipe and give it a whirl. At first, I was really excited and then I started to doubt my abilities. What if it sucks? What if they think I’ll never amount to anything?? What if I burn the place down??? In times of trouble, I turn to Smitten Kitchen. She can do wrong in my eyes and I knew that I would find my debut cupcake recipe there. I am sharing it here with both pride and humility. I made the batch, it turned out great, and I am really proud. But I am also aware that I have a very long way to go. Here’s to learning new things and eating good food along the way!


3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks or 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark or light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) buttermilk, sour cream or full-fat yogurt
3 large peaches, peeled, cored, and chopped smallish (I went for a 1/3-inch dice)


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 28 muffin cups with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg and set aside. Cream the butter and sugars together, beating until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition, and then the vanilla. Gently mix in the buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt. Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the peach chunks.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of cupcakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes for five minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.


You might notice that this recipe calls for cornstarch. Most frosting recipes call for powdered sugar because it works in a way that granulated sugar does not because it is mixed with cornstarch, which both keeps the sugar from clumping in its packaging and thickens the frosting. Brown sugar is not only more damp than granulated and powdered sugar, it’s missing that cornstarch thickener, so cornstarch is added to help the frosting set up. Science makes things taste better! Yayyy.

1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch and powdered sugar. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture and vanilla, beat until frosting is smooth and light. Chill the bowl in the refrigerator until it thickens back up a bit, about 30 minutes, then spread or dollop on cooled cupcakes.



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Last Updated on Monday, 08 March 2010 21:20
Apple Plum Tartlette PDF Print E-mail
Food Frenzy
Written by Arlen Mabe   
Wednesday, 02 September 2009 17:24


A couple of days ago, I made a plum cake from a recipe that I found
here on Smitten Kitchen. It was a delicious cake that had lemon zest in the batter and big plum slices on top. Topped off with powdered sugar, it was quite a sight. I didn't have Caitlyn handy to take pretty pictures for you, so you'll have to use your imagination. I wound up not needing all the plums that the recipe called for, so I decided to make tarts with the left over plums and whatever happened to be in the fruit bowl, which was a pair of apples.

The tarts were loosely based on a recipe for an
apple tart that I've made in the past. I used the same dough recipe but substituted the fruit and kind of made up the sugar measurements. This was a total wing job but I thought it turned out great.

I was kind of late getting to a friend's house because I was waiting on these tarts to bake, but when she opened the door and saw me standing there with this little beauty, I think all was forgiven. Yes, this is definitely the kind of treat that can deflect dirty looks, possible confrontations, and ward off bad spirits. Tarts make the world a happier place.

p.s. You might notice that the dough in the picture looks a tad too white and not that good-lookin', golden brown we all aim for. That is because of my hastiness to get to my friend's house, but it was fully cooked and edible!

For the Dough:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons chilled water

For the Filling:

4 plums
2 apples (or any combination of fruit you see fit)
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Blend in a mixer until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the remaining butter and mix until biggest pieces look like large peas.

Dribble in the chilled water a little at a time and mix until dough just holds together. Toss with hands, letting it fall through fingers. If there are dry patches, add another tablespoon water. Keep tossing until you can roll the dough into a ball. Flatten into a 4-inch-thick disk and refrigerate. While it's in the fridge you can start on the fruit filling.

After at least 30 minutes, take it out and let it soften so it’s malleable but still cold. Flour a flat surface and roll out the dough into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Place your dough into a tart pan. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce the crust all over with a fork. Fully or partially bake the crust for 10 or 20 minutes. After that, you can set it aside and let it cool to room temperature.

For the filling, simply slice all your fruit into bite size pieces. Throw into a bowl with the brown sugar and butter. You may not need to use all of the butter. You can even use some of the butter to brush the tart with. Spoon the filling into the tart shell as desired. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Honestly, I am probably leaving out some steps that an expereinced cook would scoff at me for, but this is what I did, it was yummy, and I'm still learning. So
there's that!


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Last Updated on Monday, 08 March 2010 21:21
Irish Carbomb Cupcakes PDF Print E-mail
Food Frenzy
Written by Arlen Mabe   
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 06:32


This utterly brilliant recipe (courtesy of Smitten Kitchen) transforms the popular and volatile beer cocktail into a dessert that can be enjoyed outside the comfy confines of a local pub. For those who are unfamiliar with an Irish Carbomb, the story goes like this:

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Last Updated on Monday, 08 March 2010 21:21
Earl Grey/Chamomile Tea Cookies + NYC PDF Print E-mail
Food Frenzy
Written by Arlen Mabe   
Friday, 21 August 2009 11:04


Recently, I went on a week long trip to New York City with two of my girl friends, Sarah and Caitlyn, three single girls in the city. It was a week of museums (or as Caitlyn pointed out, I say "muzims"), parks, local dives, and great food. Oh god, the foood. Finding a charming and inexpensive place to eat with a great menu was a daily mission for us. But in NYC, with its thousands of local-flair eateries, it was never a difficult one. We managed to find amazing food all over the city; a sushi place on St. Marks that offered half-off all rolls and an equally enticing deal on their sake, the bruschetteria with a cozy window seat and a carafe of wine waiting for us, and of course the cupcakery that had a whole cast of cupcakes with varying flavors and personalities.

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Last Updated on Monday, 08 March 2010 21:22
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