namabakery wins its first cook-off!

Greetings from New York City! With job changes, having projects outside of baking, and moving around (between 3 different places this year), my namabakery projects haven’t been getting much love and affection, but finally, after more than a year since my last post, I have something I can share with you!

Recently, my office had its own holiday cook-off, where contestants can share a sweet or savory dish or both. Of course, I got really excited for an opportunity to bake for my office so I signed up for it. I was hesitant at first though, because I don’t have a kitchen here, so I’d have to go back to NJ to bake, which means I would have to transport the finished products all the way to NYC. Why can’t I just borrow someone else’s kitchen in NYC? Because all my baking equipment is in NJ and my baking projects require a LOT of counter/table space. It’s more than just having an oven; every oven bakes differently, and that can affect the outcome of whatever you are baking. That said, yes, I am very nitpicky about my kitchen space. 😛 Anyway, ramblings aside, I started brainstorming a couple days before the cook-off. My friend, Cui, had an awesome gingerbread recipe which contained coconut, almond, and flaxseed; tastes nothing like the typical gingerbread, but has a lightly sweetened flavor and uses pretty healthy ingredients, which I really like and was tempted to incorporate this into the baking project. I also wanted to bring back the white chocolate spheres I did 2 years ago because I felt that they could’ve been executed in a better way. At that time, it was just an experiment for my own practice so I’m not too crazy about the outcome of what I did with them. With the gingerbread recipe and white chocolate spheres in mind, I decided to make white chocolate snow globes with mini gingerbread houses (using the traditional recipe), on top of gingerbread cupcakes (using Cui’s recipe). After a full weekend of prepping the snow globes, baking, and making Jimmy the human mixer (cuz my electrical mixer was burning up) and my ride to various stores to pick up ingredients, namabakery won Best Presentation and Best Overall. Though namabakery can only keep the Golden Ladle until the next cook-off, it was an honor to have received the top prize for this round.

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Gingerbread house inside a white chocolate globe, on a gingerbread cupcake.

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This is why I need lots of table space. Also, as you can see in the photo, there were other concepts going on, but I ran out of time so they didn’t make it into the final product. I was going to make white chocolate sleighs with marshmallow gifts inside.

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White chocolate drying. Besides the snow globes, I was also going to make 3-dimensional houses (one of them comes with a garage). Hence you see roof panels and front and back pieces of the house with decorations on the door and circular window.

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White chocolate up close.

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Mini gingerbread house with christmas lights on. This is what it looks like without the globe on.

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Ok, so I actually made 2 types of cupcakes. The ones with Christmas trees and snowflakes are brownie cupcakes. The snow globes use the gingerbread recipe.

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Wintery Spheres of Heavenly Chocolate

Just last week, I posted on the Facebook page, “What would you like to see namabakery design/create next?” I received a couple responses (some were offline), and Sumenta Paul’s “Wintery Spheres of Heavenly Chocolate” theme had been selected.

To be honest, it was more challenging than I had thought. But challenge is a good thing! I was definitely thinking of white chocolate spheres, but I didn’t want solid ball of white chocolate on top of a cupcake. That would’ve looked a little lame and uninteresting, I think. 😛 I wanted to incorporate namabakery’s signature pattern and I wanted the sphere hollow so I could fit a mini cupcake in it to resemble a wintery globe encapsulating a cherishable item or surprise inside. I experimented with a couple different techniques. Of course, some failed, so it was back to the drawing board – brainstorming the process of putting together intricate spheres that didn’t break when the “mold” came off, or crumbled under warm temperature. Keep in mind, there were no special molds bought for this. I am only using common household items to create the decorative pieces for namabakery cupcakes.

After three days of tempering white chocolate, chocolate, piping the ingredients, grinding up scrap pieces of white chocolate, remelting the pieces, repipingmeltinggrindingremeltingrepiping, I finally managed to come up with the white chocolate spheres which I had envisioned.

On a side note, before we move onto the pictures, I am not a huge fan of artificial food coloring. Research has shown that consuming too much food dye may cause cancer, thyroid tumors, allergies, mutagenic effects, kidney damage, asthma attacks, adrenal gland tumors, chromosomal damage, and more. To make your own natural food dye at home, try using fruits or vegetables (such as raspberry juice for these red velvet cupcakes). Some sources to start with: http://www.ehow.com/how_2302808_make-natural-food-coloring.htmlhttp://www.marthastewart.com/267850/dyeing-eggs-naturally. I could’ve done this project with just plain white cupcakes, but for the sake of holiday spirit, visual contrast, and those who have asked if I bake anything else besides brownies and chocolate cake, I am going to use red velvet this time. 😛

As promised, here are the results, along with some random other winter holiday-themed cupcakes!

PS – Thanks to Steven Su for letting me borrow his awesome camera!

Empty sphere of white chocolate awaits to capture a cupcake

White chocolate sphere successfully captures a mini cupcake while spying on another one

Sphere with solid bottom half

You know Christmas will be good when the gift is larger than the Christmas tree itself.

Winter Cupcakes

Since spring doesn’t officially start until March 20th, it is technically still winter, and therefore I will allow myself to post photos of the cupcakes made back in December. ^_^ They were made for two different holiday events.

After doing extensive research online and through cupcake books, I had many ideas I wanted to work with. As with all design projects, I sketch on paper to help me think it through.

White Chocolate Christmas Trees