Sunday, February 14, 2010

V is for Velvet: Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe

Red Velvet Cupcake.

Just in time for Valentine's Day - some rich red velvet cupcakes to spark a smile on your sweetie's face. I took a cue from Paula Deen.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe Courtesy Paula Deen, 2007

Cook Time: 20 min
Prep: 20 min
Total: 40 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 24 frosted cupcakes

* 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
* 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
* 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
* 2 large eggs, room temperature
* 2 tablespoons red food coloring
* 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
* 1 pound cream cheese, softened
* 2 sticks butter, softened
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
* Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries, for garnish [Optional]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry or strawberry. [Note: I just used whatever I had on hand - sprinkles]

Cook's Note: Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip.

All Frosted Up.

With Sprinkles.

I modified the ingredients a bit after perusing the reader's comments, which proved to be a good move. Namely, I reduced the amount of vegetable oil from 1.5 cup to 1 cup and increased the buttermilk from 1 c. to 1.5 c. The original amount made the cupcakes much too oily, and grease leaked through the cupcake tins. I would use more cocoa powder in the future since I really like chocolate...and for more of a Sugar Sweet Sunshine taste rather than something out of Betty Crocker's book.

Oh, and go for regular cream cheese - none of that low-fat nonsense! The frosting will wow you. Even thought it was my first time making red velvet cupcakes, I was quite pleased with the results. [Note to self: use electric mixer next time. My arm ached from the manual mixer, but it sure made the frosting one smooth operator.]

First Bite.

My family was the first to test these babies out, and by the way they were gulfing them down, I take that as a good sign. All in all, a good first effort!

DBGB Kitchen & Bar: Beyond the Burger

Aperitif Selection.

This article originally appeared on The Gotham Palate.

Mission: Restaurant Week lunch. Where to go? Only one place on my mind: DBGB.

Classic pub fare has heart and soul - and DBGB Kitchen & Bar is no exception. Providing a high-quality dining menu with stylish drinks and an upscale environment, it's where food and drink go hand-in-hand. THe gourmet dishes are complex and refined; it's definitely a cut above your average 'ole pub. Because of the "gastronomic" prices, DBGB attracts me of an affluent clientele.

DBGB is the brainchild of Chef Daniel Boulud and was created to be a chill, downtown dining destination melding the British tavern with the French brasserie experience. Gastropub touches are evident throughout the restaurant: brass shelves displaying kitchen goods and utensils stand side-by-sidde with plush black seats and old-fashioned coat rack hooks...all in muted shades of black, bronze and grey. DBGB also takes a cue from the Bowery's industrial background. The ambience screams understated chic.

Walls are covered with culinary quotes (including Hemingway) set against full-length mirrors, meant to draw the focus inward, where guests swirl glasses of red wine and break bread. Couples lean in for private conversation.

My two dining companions and I arrived early and were seated right away at a cushy booth. Our smiling, grovelly-voiced waiter tried to interest us in some drinks and to encourage us to try the daily special.

To start things off, C had a Cosmo (how very Samantha), I had a Pimms No 1 and J went with the Aztec Uplifter - tequila on the rocks with cucumber and what tasted like a splash of red hot chili pepper. Since it was a little early in the day, I had my Pimms with a little ginger ale but found the taste much too watered-down. And what happened to the lemon, apple, cucumber and mint that usually goes with it (AKA the 'fun stuff')?? Not to be found. Pimms fail.

Our waiter must have nailed his delivery because both C and J were so entranced by the description of the veal that they had to order it. It came, in all its tender glory, infused with a thick tomato-red pepper paste and some leafy greens to off-set the meat.

Winter Squash Soup.

However, I came here exclusively to try the restaurant week prix fixe menu. First up: Winter Squash Soup - amber lager emulsion, crispy sage. I admit I was initially intrigued by the addition of the amber lager emulsion. I wasn't quite sure how this was going to turn out, but beer does pair well with unexpected ingredients. The creamy, buttery rich texture of the soup really strengthened the squash, giving off a warming autumnal flair. Sage leaves brought out the earthy "popcorn" tones in the soup.

The Yankee Burger.

Entree: The Yankee Burger - 6 oz. beef patty with iceberg lettuce, tomato and Vidalia onion on a sesame bun, fries (pommes frites) and an Essex St. Pickle smartly tacked on top with a red toothpick. I think I'm slowly building a fondness for deep-greased foods (oh my). These fries were hot, fresh and crunchy. In a word: phenomenal. Ketchup not necessary - eat them straight up salted! Plus, the heart bucket they came in earns points on the cuteness scale.

As for the burger, I'm so glad I had mine with cheese (for an extra $2). It made the meat's juiciness that much more nom-worthy. Word on the street says the burgers here are among the city's finest, and while I''d probably think twice about ordering such an expensive burger in the future, I must say DBGB does a good job with satisfying a craving. The patty was the perfect size, too.

DBGB offers more than 14 varieties of house-made sausages, along with seasonal Lyonnais-inspired cooking. Pair your giant burger with one of the 22 craft beers on tap or a complementary table wine. Dessert yields feel-good classics: ice cream sundaes, sweet crepes and souffles with rich garnishes.

Gateau Russe A La Banane.

For my happy ending, I had the Gateau Russe A La Banane - hazelnut biscuit and passion fruit coulis. To be honest, I'm not sure what a coulis is, or even how to pronounce it, but all words were unnecessary after taking one bite. Moist banana bread paired with a nutty, almond-like hazelnut biscuit and passion fruit sauce generously dotted around the plate.

Omelette Norwegian.

C and J shared the Omelette Norwegian ($18) - baked Alaska for two containing layerse of vanilla and pistachio ice cream, raspberry sorbet, and fresh meringue flambeed with chartreuse. A member of the waitstaff brandished the chartreuse (distilled French liqueur) liberally on the dessert and set it off with a lighter.

Final Verdict: With drinks and the additional cheese charge, the $24.07 prixe fixe easily turned into $34...but all in all, not too much damage for an opulent meal. I'm tempted to come back to try the bar bites (banger, sausage, cheese, beer). Yes. Must...have...fix.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Burgers are hefty and cocktails will do, but it's the dessert that you'll be yearning for.

DBGB Kitchen & Bar
299 Bowery St
New York, NY 10003