Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My first strawberries picking


The strawberries season at the south has officially began a few weeks ago. Like a child going to Disneyland for the very first time,I was very excited about my first strawberries picking. On the first weekend that the closest farm opened its door for U-Pick, I was ready to jump into the car. With a picnic basket full of macarons and homemade croissants.

Except that the extremely bad weather left us no choice but to postpone our plan for another week.

Sometime in the middle of the week, a bakery that I have applied called and asked me to go in for an interview on Saturday.

"Do you have anything going on this Saturday?" The head baker asked.
"I was planning to go for strawberries picking, but I guess I should still have time to get to the farm after the interview" I replied.

strawberry picking

It was a grey and cloudy Saturday morning, my interview went well. I was asked to stage, which was the last step in landing the job. I was happy and relieved at the possibility of working at a place I like. Until the head baker mentioned the hours. The shift starts at 2 a.m till noon.

I told him that I needed time to consider that. Meanwhile, I needed to make a move before all the strawberries were picked by others.

He looked a little amused at this crazy Asian girl, who has her mind set at strawberries picking on the same day. Nothing could stop her.


At its peak season, the picking was easy.Ripe and red berries were everywhere. I tugged one and tentatively bite into it. Like a sunshile. I couldn't help smiling. This was how strawberries should taste!

I remembered those flats of big red strawberries the hotel got during winter months. They tasted as if water has been pumped to make them so big and yet so tasteless! Not these jewels I was holding on my hand. They were the sweetest berries I had tasted.

It didn't take us long to fill up both our buckets with ripe and beautiful strawberries. At which point I was a little sad at the prospect of leaving. I wish I could continue picking, but I knew the 2 buckets we picked would be more than enough for all my baking projects.

I freeze most of the strawberries after making a strawberry cake to bring to a friend's party. I have plans to turn them into strawberry sorbet and strawberry jam soon!
strawberry cupcakes 2
These strawberry cupcakes were made on a whim to use up the buttermilk and strawberry buttercream I had from another baking project. Although they tasted lovely, I could only imagine how great it would taste when I make them again with my homemade strawberry jam!

strawberry cupcakes

I promise myself that I will make the jam soon. Perhaps I will make some macarons with the jam too. Wouldn't that be a tasty idea!

Buttermilk Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream

For the cake
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks(10 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk

To make the cake,
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one by one, and then the yolk, beating for one minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alernately with the buttermilk. adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Fill the cupcake liners till they are 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes,rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Strawberry Buttercream
adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
make 5 cups (you dont need this much for the cupcakes, so either half the recipe or keep the rest for another baking project)
4 large eggwhites
1 1/4 cupgranulated sugar
3 sticks butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) strawberry jam

In a heatproof bowl of the stand mixer, set over a sauce pan of simmering water, combine egg whites and granulated sugar. Whisk constantly until the sugar has completely dissolve and the mixture is warm to touch. ( about 160F).

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk under medium high speed till the mixture hold stiff peak. Lower the speed and continue to beat until the mixture is cool.

Switch to paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium low speed, beat in the butter, a few tablespoons at a time. Making sure all butter has been incorporated before adding more. If the mixture separates after all butter has been added, beat on medium high speed for a few more minutes, the buttercream will become glossy and smooth again. Beat in vanilla and strawberry jam in low speed to eliminate air bubbles.

If you want the buttercream to have a darker color, add red food coloring. The recipe makes a big batch of buttercream, keep the leftover in an airtight container and chill in cooler.

When ready to use, bring the buttercream to room temperature and rewhisk it either by hand or a mixer to bring it to pipe-able consistency.


Anh said...

So lovely, Mandy! Glad to see you blog more often as well.

Pete said...

Sounds like good fun. I would love to pick strawberries too!

yummyfoodbook said...

Wow the straberries look so fresh!! Feel like eating them all... yummy.. Great photos!

MaryMoh said...

Wow....beautiful strawberries. I can't wait for the picking season to be here. Beautiful cupcakes.

Manggy said...

Hahaha! Maybe they were puzzled by someone so excited with manual labor :P The cupcakes look gorgeous!!

oneordinaryday said...

Lucky you! I can't wait for strawberries to ripen here!!!

Unknown said...

In this post, you said "I was asked to stage, which was the last step in landing the job."

Sorry for my ignorance but what is "to stage"? Am interested to know what that involves.


Memória said...

Your frosting skills are perfect!! Oh, I hope to get to your level one day. What tip did you use? I must try out this frosting. YUM!

The strawberries look AMAZING!!

Yummy Bakes said...

Looks fun to pick strawberries and the cup cakes look delicious.

Amanda said...

These are beautiful! Can I ask what tip you used for those cupcakes? I am obsessed with them! :)

Be blessed-

P.S. I stumbled this for ya... its great!

Nicole Pearce said...

Our strawberries won't start to ripen until July, but I am putting this on my list of recipes to make when they do arrive. You make them look beautiful.

Auntie M said...

Mandy, your pictures of this event are beautiful and I can't wait to try and made these. I grow my own and they are starting to turn red. How exciting!

bp said...

What a fun outing, glad the timing and weather worked out eventually, the strawberries must be so sweet-tasting, and your cupcakes are so beautiful! Love how you've captured them all!

Guessing you turned down the job. I hope you land something u really like but at saner hours! :)

tigerfish said...

I enjoy strawberry picking a lot! I go almost every year except last year when the U-pick farm I usually go to were attacked by moths!

The shift hours sounds kinda tough.

Good luck no matter what.

Mandy said...

a stage is like a working interview. basically to see how one works.

Memoria & Amanda,
I used the wilton 1M tip. :)

Eliana said...

I'm so jealous that you can go strawberry picking. Sounds like so much fun. And these cupcakes - you get a A+++ for them :)

hallostudent said...

hhhmmm...it very nice..:p

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