A few weeks ago, I was invited to tour Bob’s Red Mill factory. Even though I’ve lived in Portland for a cumulative total of 10 years, it was the first time I’d ever visited their factory — which is really quite a shame on me, since the factory is only 10 minutes outside of Portland.
I’ve always been a fan of Bob’s Red Mill products; if I needed an obscure flour or some other ingredient, often times I would check their online store and find that they offered it. It was also a relief, knowing that I could count on their products to be high-quality — I’ve been burned in the past, buying cheap almond meal and having my baked goods come out a tad too oily or off-colored. But with Bob’s Red Mill products, I never had any problems.
It wasn’t until I took the actual tour, however, that I discovered how cool of a company Bob’s Red Mill actually is. For starters, Bob of Bob’s Red Mill is an actual person — you guys should have seen the look on my face when he walked in the room to introduce himself! I know that I probably sound silly for saying that, but the cynical marketer in me thought that “Bob’s Red Mill” was just a cute little marketing tactic. But nope, Bob of Bob’s Red Mill is really, actually a man named Bob Moore, who started making the company’s products with a red flour mill back in the 1970s. Since then he and his wife have turned what started out as a retirement hobby into a behemoth of a factory — not to mention a highly profitable business, rejecting lucrative offers for buyouts and IPOs and instead giving the company back to their employees by making the company 100% employee-owned. How cool is that?
As for the quality of their products, I knew I wasn’t making it up in my head. Bob’s Red Mill is one of the only few companies that does almost all their production in-house; that is, processing, washing, and inspecting the grain, as well as testing products in their own laboratories. As an example of this intricate quality control of their products, Bob’s Red Mill segregates gluten-free products from the others, and even tests them in special gluten-free only clean room facilities. Bob’s Red Mill is also one of the last few flour mills to use quartz stone millstones to make their flours; almost all other companies use high-speed rollers. Stone milling has been around for centuries, but because it is slow and expensive, most other companies moved to cheaper and more efficient means. Of course, this comes at the cost of quality — stone milling allows you keep more of the whole wheat’s nutrients due to the stones’ cooler temperatures, and some studies have shown that stone-milled flour can reach higher temperatures when baked. It’s rare to find actual stone-ground flour, but almost all of Bob’s Red Mill products are.
So, to say the least, I walked away from the tour with a newfound appreciation for Bob’s Red Mill as a company as well as their products. After the tour, I went to their nearby restaurant and store — which contains ALL their products at discounted prices, plus a bulk section including herbs and teas — and went to town. I bought all the ingredients for the recipes that I’ve had my eye on for some time now, but have just been too lazy and/or cheap to source — stuff like whole wheat graham flour and potato starch.
“Potato starch!” I hear you judging. Of all the things I could have bought at Bob’s Red Mill’s flagship store, I went with a obscure thickener? But see, Miette, one of my favorite cookbooks from the beloved San Francisco bakery, has a recipe for yellow cupcakes that I’ve had my eye on since I bought the book three years ago. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to make it because, well, where on earth does one get potato starch?
Bob’s Red Mill, that’s where.
It seems kinda corny to say this, but I feel like these cupcakes are a good representation of what Bob’s Red Mill is all about — that is, simple but good quality. When I posted these cupcakes on instagram, an incredibly nice commenter stated that:
“So many cupcakes these days are trying so hard to be inventive and complicated and crazy but these are the ones dreams are made of! Simple, intense ingredients!”
And she’s right — because yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting? Pretty simple, pretty classic. But what really elevates the cupcakes are the ingredients they’re made from.
That yellow cake? All natural, with its sunny yellow coming from ever-so-slightly warmed eggs emulsified a cream and melted butter concoction. Both are just barely cooked before going into the batter to preserve their yellow color. If that sounds a bit heavy to go into a batter, don’t fret — that potato starch is essential to this recipe, lightening what would otherwise be a dense and heavy crumb into a moist and fluffy one, but still giving the cake enough strength to hold its own against a heavy chocolate frosting.
So, yep, these cupcakes are really proof that all you don’t really need to get all that fancy to make an absolutely epic baked good — just simple flavors made from high-quality products and ingredients.
And with that note, I’m partnering with Bob’s Red Mill to give away four of my favorite Bob’s Red Mill products to help you elevate your baked goods to that next level! In my prize pack, I’m including:
- one 24 oz. (1.5 lb) bag of Bob’s Red Mill Premium Quality Unmodified Potato Starch
(so you can make these cupcakes, duh)
- one 80 oz. bag (5 lb) of Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached White Organic All-Purpose Flour
(since most of my recipes use all-purpose flour and this is my biggest pantry staple)
- one 48 oz. (3 lb) bag of Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached and Enriched Super-Fine Cake Flour
(also known as the best cake flour I have ever used in my life, period)
- one 16 oz. (1 lb) bag of Bob’s Red Mill Finely Ground Almond Meal/Flour
(since I can’t make macarons, I want whoever wins this to make them for me using this)
Follow me (@hummingbirdhigh) on Twitter. Following me on Twitter gives you 10 entries in the raffle, increasing your chances of winning. If you already follow me on Twitter, no need to do anything! Just use the widget below to enter, and the widget will confirm that you follow me. Tweet about the giveaway. Tweeting about the giveaway gives you 5 entries in the raffle; just be sure to tweet at me (@hummingbirdhigh) using the giveaway widget so I know what's up. You can keep retweeting the message every day for the duration of the giveaway to earn more entries!
The giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Rose Marie!!!
But enough about me gushing about my company crush. On to the cupcake recipe…
Some baker’s notes:
- Potato starch is available online through Amazon and Bob’s Red Mill’s website, as well as specialty grocery stores. It is a little bit difficult to source, so if you can’t find it anywhere local you could theoretically substitute potato starch with corn starch. But let me warn you — I have not done this myself, so I could be leading you astray...
- This chocolate frosting is intense. It’s not very sweet, so if you prefer something a little more traditional and akin to regular cake frosting, I would recommend using a milk chocolate that only has 30-40% cocoa.
(Cake recipe adapted from Miette, frosting recipe from yours truly)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup potato starch
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
(makes enough for 18 cupcakes, around 1 cup)
- 6 ounces 72% cocoa dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup crème fraîche, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons half-and-half, at room temperature
- flaky sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 (F) and prepare two standard cupcake trays by lining with 18 cupcake liners. Set aside.
- In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine 1 cup unsalted butter and 1/2 cup milk, stirring occasionally just until the butter is melted. Once the butter is melted, remove from heat immediately and set aside. Let cool to slight above room temperature; an instant-read thermometer should register between 80 to 85 degrees (F).
- In a microwave safe bowl, whisk 3 large eggs with 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Microwave on low for 20-second intervals, stirring between each interval, until the egg mixture reaches 80 to 85 degrees (F). It's okay to overshoot the temperature slightly, but try not to let the temperature go past 100 degrees — you don't want to scramble the eggs before they go into the batter! If you've overshot the temperature, set aside to cool until an instant-read thermometer registers between 80 to 85 degrees.
- While the butter/milk and egg/vanilla mixtures are cooling, whisk together 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1/4 cup potato starch, 2 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
- Check your liquid mixtures temperatures. When both mixtures are between 80 to 85 degrees, they're ready to go. Begin mixing the dry ingredients on low speed, then slowly drizzle in the milk mixture. Beat until just combined. With the mixture on low speed, add the egg mixture in three additions, beating until just incorporated between additions. The batter should be silky and smooth and very liquid.
- Transfer the batter to the cupcake pan by filling each cupcake liner wither 2 tablespoons of batter (you can use a 1-tablespoon cookie dough scoop for this process, which I highly recommend), or until the liners are two-thirds full. Bake in the preheated until nicely risen and golden brown, 20 to 23 minutes. Immediately transfer the cupcakes from their pans and onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Combine 6 ounces dark chocolate, 1/4 cup unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon light corn syrup in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl sitting on top of a pan with simmering water. Melt completely, using a heatproof rubber spatula to stir occasionally to release heat and fully combine the ingredients.
- Once the chocolate and butter have fully melted, remove from heat. Whisk the mixture gently to release more heat, before whisking in 1/4 cup crème fraîche and 2 tablespoons half-and-half. Continue whisking until both the crème fraîche and half-and-half are fully integrated and the frosting is a uniform dark chocolate color. Set the frosting aside for 15 minutes to cool some more, giving the frosting a gentle whisk or two every 5 minutes to allow heat to escape. After 15 minutes, use the frosting. At first, it will seem too liquidy, but the frosting will quickly cool as it is spread throughout the cake. Work quickly to frost the cake before the frosting cools completely — it will harden as it cools. Use an offset spatula or a butter knife to divide and spread the frosting evenly between the cupcakes, and sprinkle each with a pinch of flaky sea salt.