Saturday, June 30, 2007

Cupcakes - Create Multiple Flavors, Cupcake Cakes and More!

Cupcakes are great, but many are wondering how this little birthday and school room treat has come to create such a fuss. Not only are cupcake centric eateries springing up across the country, from home-style Magnolia Bakery on the East Coast to Sprinkles in Beverly Hills, but these once quaint cakes are being served everywhere – even at black tie events!

It's no secret that Hollywood's played a part, featuring cupcake shops in popular television shows, but the glory really goes to these miniature cakes.

Take flavor and colors for example. One dessert doesn't have to mean one flavor and look. A single batch of cupcakes can offer a rainbow of flavors and tinted icings, from lemon to hazelnut, from pretty pastels to vibrant tangerine and hot pink. Cupcakes are doing for many store-front bakeries what 31 Flavors did for ice-cream parlors.

And, there's so much you can do with cupcakes. As with cakes, you can add fillings, sculpt into fun designs and stack them.

While some of the upscale cupcake boutiques use expensive ingredients like Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, you don't have to go all out to create cupcakes fit for a special event like a wedding. Just be sure to use fresh and natural ingredients, such as butter and fresh fruit instead of margarine and frozen.

Cupcakes – Your own 31 Flavors

Here's how you can serve a variety of flavors and a palette of colors - all from a couple cupcake pans.

Divide white icing (snow-white buttercream or cream cheese) into separate dishes. Add flavor and food coloring to each dish. Due to the bitter taste of food coloring, don't use extra to achieve dark colors or red. Instead use a more intense form of coloring such as gel.

Cupcake Baking Tips

For two dozen cupcakes, make enough batter for two 9-inch cakes.

Bake in cupcake or muffin pans, and fill your liners 2/3 full.

Usually cupcakes are baked at 350° F (adjust for high altitude) and for around 23 minutes, give or take a few. Use the toothpick test.

As with other cakes, always cool completely before decorating.

Loose crumbs should be brushed off gently before icing.

Smooth icing with a knife and short strokes. Leave smooth or pipe a frosty swirl on top, depending how you want to decorate.

Decorating your Cupcakes

You can decorate your cupcakes with just about anything you use to decorate larger cakes. Some of the most popular cupcake decorations are grated coconut, gum drops, piped flowers and figures, shaved chocolate, whimsical designs created with candies - and of course sprinkles.

Filling Cupcakes

To fill a cupcake, cut out a cone from the top. Then place a teaspoon of filling inside. Before replacing the top, cut off its cone (since the space it filled is not filled with filling).

Cupcake Cakes

Also called pull-apart cakes, these are perfect for birthday parties and youth events. Each guest pulls off a cupcake. Serving's a cinch and clean-up's, well a piece of cake. And a great plus with little ones – everyone gets the same size serving!

You can sculpt a cupcake cake into just about any shape you can imagine: numbers (for birthday ages), sports (footballs, team logos and names, etc.) holiday figures, flowers, Easter baskets and bunnies, cats and dogs, well you get the picture. The shape doesn't have to be exact (and probably won't), but the decorating will add the realism.

Here's how it works:

Bake cupcakes in double liners (for extra strength).

Arrange baked cupcakes on a covered, sturdy cake board. Play around with this until you get the shape you want. Staggering works best, and keep them close together.

Dab icing onto the bottoms of the cupcake liners, returning them as you do to their original positions. The icing will, once it dries, help hold the cupcakes in position.

Crumb-coat. This is optional. Thin some icing or make a glaze. Spread over all the cupcakes. Crumbs will show, but that's ok. When it dries, the crumbs won't be swept up into your final coat of icing.

When the crumb coat has dried, smooth your regular icing over the whole cupcake cake.


Tip: If you have extra cupcakes, decorate to match, and place them on a separate plate. For example, Blue's paw print on each cupcake can accessorize a Blue's Clues cupcake cake.

Serving: Pull up and forward. If the cupcake is stuck, slide a knife under it

Cupcake Tier Cake

Tiered cupcake holders have become quite popular at weddings, birthdays and other special occasions. You can take this to a higher level of creativity by creating a tiered cupcake cake! Assemble wedding cake tiers (straight up in graduating sizes is easiest), and arrange cupcakes and accessories to create a complete look.

Here's another example of how you can work this cupcake magic. Create a Christmas tree by using cupcakes on the tiers as ornaments and tucking sprigs of pesticide-free pine needles between the cupcakes. On the top tier, place a tree topper surrounded by more cupcake ornaments.

Finally, one more cupcake tip. Cupcakes, if stored in freezer bags, will keep well in the freezer for up two months. Be sure to squeeze all the air out you can before sealing the bags. You can have a large variety of cake types and flavors on hand to thaw to decorate!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Is Being a Chef a Career or a Job?

Just like any other profession, whether or not being a chef is a career or a job depends largely on you. Of course, if your chef-dom is merely a job for you, don't be surprised if it doesn't take long to burn out. Fifty to 70-hour work weeks, high stress, and the creative brain drain all take their toll fairly early on those not entirely dedicated to their paycheck-maker.

Successful chefs are like other creative types – they will be found "playing with their food" even if no money was involved. Like writers who write because they love to express themselves this way, and singers who belt out tunes anywhere they can get away with it, chefs are "chefs to the bone." A true chef considers the money involved merely a "bonus" to what he or she loves to be doing anyway.

While a job is just a means to an end (as in paying the bills) with 40 hours dutifully put in every week and the occasional overtime blessing (or curse, depending on your situation), a career is like a marriage: You have an unspoken commitment to yourself that you will love, cherish, and even obey this vocational calling 'til death do you part. If you ever get to know a successful professional chef, you'll immediately realize this "marriage" is a forever thing – part of his or her personality that's so ingrained there is essentially no difference between that person and what they do for a living.

Chefs live, breathe, eat, and dream about – guess what? Food. Although there are many other duties associated with "cheffing," such as management, personnel, accounting, and other responsibilities, the core of a chef's livelihood is the preparation and presentation of food.

When someone earning their living comes home from work complaining of the tiredness of their feet and back, the heat of the kitchen, or the endless stream of meals that had to be prepared, it's apparent this is just a job to him or her. The career-minded chef is not even aware of being career-minded; their mind is on what went wrong, what was successful, and how could they improve on anything that happened in "their" kitchen that shift. The chef in the former state of mind wonders how to get out of his current situation; the chef in the latter mindset wants more and relishes the next opportunity to express him- or herself with food.

So when you ask if being a chef is a career or a job, no one can answer that except you. If coming home smelling like barbecue or fish or Limburger cheese appalls you, consider the fact this is often the case with chefs. You may want to save your cooking skills to the occasional at-home masterpiece that wows your friends and family. But for those of you reading this that are saying to themselves, "Yep, that's me, all right," then don't wait any longer – the world's taste buds impatiently await you!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Catering Advice - Winning Awards in Cooking

Having won awards for cooking in the past there are a few things that I failed on, on more than one occasion. They are always little things and the really stupid thing is 9 times out of 10 you know about it before you send it, have you ever done something that you know isn't right maybe a paper on something that you know part of it is wrong, but they'll never know and you know dame well that they will know. It's the same with food if you know that there's something wrong with that meal "DON'T SEND IT", this may seem the simplest thing in the world but I bet good money that every chef in the world has done it. The chef has to think of food cost etc, can he really afford to have the manager screaming down his neck if the kitchen is losing money, no so every now and then they take the chance and watch holding there breath at the restaurant door for 5 minutes for that plate to come back into the kitchen and hear the words "Chef there's a problem with this meal".

Right so here's how you stop things like that from happening, if you are reading this I would think awards are what you want as a chef or maybe manager/owner of a restaurant. The first rule is to stop thinking so hard, what you are trying for is an award in cooking and you cook better when you are on the ball, there is no point in being stressed before a stressful service that has an inspector in it. Every service should be the same if you think there is something wrong with that dish bin it and start again, make the customer wait, I know it sounds bad and that there are managers reading this going "NO DON'T MAKE THEM WAIT, GET IT RIGHT FIRST TIME", I agree to a point but everyone in the world makes mistakes. Try not to go over the top with your menu yes you want an award from it but people need to be able to eat it as well. So many Chefs put so many things on one plate that the flavours of everything are lost, no award there.

It should also be said that a lot of awards for food within a restaurant are lost because of the service, the waiting staff must be on the ball. The chef should take the time to tell the staff what each dish is, they should try the food that they are serving it makes it a lot easier for them to sell and they will put a lot more effort in to the sell.

You should also think very seriously to trying for awards, is your business the right place for such things. Once you have an award you should put your prices up, once you put prices up people will start complaining a lot more if there is a problem. Can your staff do what they did on one night every night without a problem? Some times you are better stay a step down and making constant money than you are taking that step up. As I talked about earlier if you have any doubts about a plate of food don't send it, it's the same going for an award if you have any doubts don't do it. However I'm not saying don't go for it, training is the key. Start getting the staff ready now for awards get them thinking inform them that there is a single dinner in the restaurant tonight and they could be an inspector, see how the chef takes the news he should be ready to impress (most catering consultants can offer a mystery dinner service, at a good rate). Monitor the response of that service from the front and back of house, look at areas that could be worked on.

Always keep in your mind that it takes years to get an award in a restaurant but seconds to take it away.

I wish you all the very best of luck, and if you think I could help you please feel free to contact me on the details below. I always like to help.

John Stableforth

Monday, June 25, 2007

Is Pizza a Healthy Food?

One question that always bothers every pizza lover that is whether it is good for health or not. The latest studies have proved that pizzas are really good for your health. Read on to get more information.

Pizza is one of the most favourite foods for most of the people in the UK. Are you in a dilemma to eat pizza or not? Don't worry. From this article you can get some (scientific) useful information regarding the consumption of pizza in your day to day diet. Mostly pizza can be made with wheat. There are 2 components in wheat called 'bran' and 'endosperm'. These components are highly rich in antioxidants. This antioxidant has the stuff to prevent cell damaging in human bodies. For which, it inhabits a process called oxidation.

This antioxidant has the ability to reduce the partials which cause cell damages. Cell damage is a main reason for the formation of certain diseases like cancer and heart problems. Therefore there is nothing wrong in taking pizzas occasionally. Human body has been created with the support of antioxidant defences naturally to fight against free radicals. After a long run, it may overrun. If you add antioxidant contents in your diet, it will be helpful for you to fight back perfectly. Consider dough variety, temperature of baking and baking time of pizzas. Don't hesitate to ask these things at your favourite pizza huts.

Dough has been used for baking pizzas now a day. This dough has to be made as antioxidant rich therefore wheat has been added. But some other pizzas are not made with this wheat dough. No one makes pizza dough only with wheat flour but everyone uses refined-flour dough. There is huge difference in the taste between the two whole-wheat flour dough and the refined flour dough. When the flour is refined, some ingredients like bran and endosperm are mostly taken form them. You can get only the taste not nutritious in wheat free dough pizzas.

When the pizza makers increase the baking time from 7 minutes to 14 minutes, the dough can boost the antioxidant contents up to 80%. The temperature can be fixed from 204 C to 285 C to raise the antioxidant level up to 60%. The pizza makers can extend the time taken for fermentation from 18 to 48 hours, then the antioxidants will be raised automatically. To conclude, if these tips are followed by the pizza makers perfectly, there is nothing wrong in eating it often.

The other factor that stands in the way of pizza as a healthy food are its toppings. You can use tomato sauce but excessive usages of cheese do become a problem as cheese is a high fat food. But if you use reduced fat cheese, spinach and low-fat turkey sausage on the dough, a pizza could be called as a healthy food.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Facts About Wolfgang Puck Cookware

Wolfgang Puck is a chef who became a celebrity by building his flagship restaurant in Hollywood called Spago. Since then, he has become an all around business man and expanded into publishing cookbooks, opening multiple restaurants, catering business and branded products, including cookware and appliances. He has become so well known that he has even made some cameo appearances in TV shows and movies.

In addition to his cooking skills and business abilities, Wolfgang Puck is not afraid to take a stand. His most current program is called WELL - Wolfgang's Eating, Loving, and Living. The WELL program is designed to ensure that every one of Wolfgang's restaurants serve only all-natural and organic foods. Animals that have been crated unnaturally or those animals that have been abused will not be purchased or used in any of his food products.

Wolfgang Puck's cookware includes two separate collections. The Bistro Collection and the Café Collection both include glass covers, but the Bistro Collection also offers omelet pans, grill pans, saucepans and stockpots.

The cookware collection is of the highest quality 18/10 Stainless steel with an Excalibur coating. The Excalibur coating is a stainless steel product patented by Whitford Worldwide. Basically this coating is considered the most durable coating, highly resistant to corrosion and considered stick-resistant.

What is unique about the Excalibur coating on the Wolfgang Puck Cookware collection is that metal utensils can be used in the cooking process. Most cookware manufacturers recommend using only plastic or wood utensils, so this added ability is definitely a plus.

Because this cookware is specially designed to distribute heat quickly and evenly, the use of the highest heat setting on the stove top is not recommended. Medium to Medium-high heat is the highest recommended setting to use. This cookware is oven safe in an oven of up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is recommended that one pre-heats pans prior to adding food for cooking.

Taking Care of Cookware

Due to the unique Excalibur coating, this cookware is dishwasher safe, but hand-washing with soap and water is the preferred method. Nylon scrubbing pads and stainless steel cleaners are also acceptable for cleaning purposes.

Do not use knives or sharp objects to cut food in the cookware. Even though metal utensils are allowed, the sharpness of the knives can scratch the surface.

Consumer Reviews

Most consumer reviews are extremely positive. Consumers report that Wolfgang Puck Cookware is a great value for the price, is extremely durable and is easy to use. Most customers also love the fact that this cookware is dishwasher safe and can be used with metal utensils. Of the few negative comments, stickiness of food was the most common, but even the consumers who notated negatives, overall satisfaction remained high.

Where to purchase

Wolfgang Puck partners with HSN and Sam's Club. Collections can also be purchased through the Wolfgang Puck cookware site. For purchasing used items or partial collections, e-bay or Amazon is most noted as the choice among consumers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Tour Of The World With The Various Names Of Cheese

You may not know how many names of cheese there are until you actually shop for cheese. Especially if you find yourself in a fancy cheese section of a store, or in a liquor store where the cheese is next to the wine selection, you can be faced with entire racks of different cheeses, and from all over the world. Some of the names of cheese are hard to pronounce but its important to know the names if you like cheese, especially so you can order your favorite in a restaurant or deli.

When searching for names of cheese, you are usually faced with French names, as many cheeses come from France. Munster, for example, is a cheese that comes from the Alsace Region of France. It's made from cow's milk and is often used in cooking.

Some Unique Names Pave d'Auge is also a French cheese that comes from Normandy and is also a cow's milk cheese.

Livarot cheese also comes from Normandy and is one of the oldest French cheeses, previously called meat of the poor.

Camembert cheese has been called the national cheese of France.

Tomme Crayeuse is a French cheese from the Savoy Alps and it's a delicate cheese made from cow's milk.

That's just to name a few of the names of cheese, and just ones that come from France. There are so many others, from other countries and parts of the world, that it would be impossible to name them all here. To learn more about cheese, you can pick up any book on the subject or visit the cheese section in your local grocery store. If you're looking for a more exotic form of cheese, you may have to use the internet to order it. Some names of cheese aren't seen except in specialty stores, as they cost a little more than you're everyday cheese.

It's fun to learn about the various names of cheese and it's even more fun to taste them all. You can learn all sorts of things when you research the names of cheese, such as the fact that Valencay cheese, a goat's milk cheese, gets its truncated pyramid shape from none other than Napoleon himself. So go on a tour of the world with all the different names of cheese and it's likely that you'll never look at cheese the same way again.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Artichokes, the World's Tastiest Thistle


The origins of artichokes date back to the time of the Greek philosopher and naturalist Theophrastus (371-287 B.C.), who wrote about their growth in Italy and Sicily. Ancient Greeks and Romans considered artichokes an aphrodisiac and in Greece they were also thought to be effective in securing the birth of boys. In the 1800s, French immigrants brought artichokes to the United States when they settled in the Louisiana Territory. In the latter part of the 1800s, French colonists established artichokes in the Monterey area of California. California is now the world's largest producer of artichokes. In the 1920s, Ciro Terranova "Whitey", a member of the mafia known as the "Artichoke King," began his monopoly of the artichoke market by purchasing all the produce shipped to New York from California for $6 a crate. He created a produce company and sold the artichokes at a 30-40% profit. This later led to "the artichoke wars" and the mayor of New York at the time, Fiorello La Guardia banned the sale, display and possession of artichokes. The ban was lifted after only one week when the mayor admitted that he himself loved the vegetable.


Artichokes contain the chemical, cynarin, which researchers are finding benefits the liver. Silymarin is another compound found in artichokes that has powerful anti-oxidant properties. A medium artichoke has 25 calories and provides phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, chromium, potassium, iron and calcium. They are also a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and folate. They are low in sodium and have no fat or cholesterol. They can help reduce the risk of many kinds of heart disease, cancer and birth defects.

Artichoke Trivia:

• Artichokes are a member of the flowering thistle family.

• In 1949, Marilyn Monroe was crowned the Artichoke Queen of California.

• The word artichoke was taken from the Italian word "articiocco" which means pinecone.

• The Roman goddess Cynara, was said to have been turned into an artichoke for all eternity by Jupiter.

• The artichoke was once considered to be an aphrodisiac.

• 99% of commercially grown artichokes are cultivated in California.

• Each year an artichoke festival is held in Castroville, California.

• Artichokes are great treats for the diabetic diet, due to their low calories, low carbohydrates and high fiber.

• Artichokes are thought to be one of the rare foods for which there is no proper wine pairing because they impart a sweetness to anything that follows them.


Artichoke Soup

Serving Size: 10


• 20 fresh artichokes

• 2 tablespoons kosher salt

• 3 sliced lemons

• 2 oz. olive oil

• ½ cup diced celery

• ½ cup diced leeks

• 1 cup diced white onions

• ½ cup diced shallots

• 1 tablespoon minced garlic

• 1 bay leaf

• 1 quart vegetable stock

• 5 ounces sliced truffles

• opal basil oil

• salt and pepper to taste

Simmer the artichokes in salted lemon water until tender. Remove them from the water and cool in an ice bath. Peel away the leaves. Remove the hearts and bottoms and dice them.

In a soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the celery, leeks, onions, shallots and garlic and sauté until tender.

Add the diced artichokes, bay leaf and stock and simmer for approximately 45 minutes.

Remove from the heat, remove the bay leaf, puree the soup in a blender and strain through a strainer.

Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper and adjust the consistency with additional stock if necessary.

Pour the soup into hot soup bowls. Garnish with sliced truffles and opal basil oil and serve.