Monday, March 29, 2010

Lemon Cupcakes

My mom celebrated her birthday last week, so I was put in charge of bringing dessert. We had just shared the Baileys cupcakes a week before, so I thought something fruity would hit the mark. My mom loves anything lemon, so when I saw a version of Lemon Meringue Cupcakes on Martha's site, I knew I had found a winner!
I made my standard white cake batter and topped it off with Martha's lemon curd. When it came to the meringue, I struggled with how it was all going to come together after school and a meeting, so I took the easy way out and topped the curd with whipped cream.
The cupcakes were really delicious and moist and perfect for a birthday that fell on the first day of Spring!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Baileys and Guinness and Chocolate, OH MY!

With St. Pat's falling on a weekday, our family decided to do a little celebrating yesterday. If I'm being really honest, it was just an excuse to see my sweet little niece dressed up in her "daddy's lucky charm" onesie, but there was some food around once you got over that distraction!
These cupcakes were quite delicious and well worth the work, but if you are going to give them a try, be prepared to drop some cash on ingredients. I doubled the frosting recipe per reviews on the Smitten Kitchen site. Also, if I were to make them again, I would surely hollow more cake out to fill with Baileys ganache.

St. Pat's Cupcakes
courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling (Updated to double it, based on many commenters suggestions — thanks!)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)

Baileys Frosting (see Recipe Notes)
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Special equipment: 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer and a piping bag (though a plastic bag with the corner snipped off will also work)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

[This is a fantastic trick I picked up while working on the cupcakes article for Martha Stewart Living; the test kitchen chefs had found that when they added the sugar slowly, quick buttercream frostings got less grainy, and tended to require less sugar to thicken them up.]

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blackened Chicken with Avocado Salsa

When we start to get some nicer days two major problems crop up in my life. What do I wear and what do I fix for dinner? Too cold for short sleeves and too warm for chili, so to make myself feel better I run out and buy a plethora of magazines with spring fashion and lighter fare.
Better Homes and Gardens pulled through with a simple recipe that can be easily thrown together after work or the gym. It is light and filling and made me feel right with the world despite the brown sludge that has magically appeared now that our snow is melting.

Blackened Chicken with Avocado Salsa
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

for the chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp. blackened steak seasoning
1 T. olive oil

for the salsa
2 T. olive oil
2 T. rice wine vinegar
2 T. honey
lime juice from 1/2 lime
1/4 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado, chopped
1 mango, chopped
1/4 c. red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c. orange bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c. chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly sprinkle both sides of chicken with blackened seasoning. In a large cast iron pan heat the 1 T. oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned, turning only once. Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes or until no longer pink.

Meanwhile, for salsa, in large bowl, whisk olive oil, rice wine vinegar, honey, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir in avocado, mango, pepper, and cilantro. Serve with chicken.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tortilla Pie

It has been several years since this recipe was clipped from an Everyday Food magazine. Like so many recipes we try, we loved it, had it a few times, and moved on only to forget about how delicious and easy it was.

We modified the original recipe so our version is posted below.

4 flour tortillas (if you buy 9 inch tortillas, you won't have to trim to fit pan)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced

1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno chile, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pkg fajita seasoning
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (15 oz) refried beans
1 cup beer

1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn
4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (8 ounces)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeƱo, garlic, red pepper, and seasoning packet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add black beans and beer to skillet, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until liquid has almost evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in corn and remove from heat.

Fit a tortilla in bottom of springform pan; spread a layer of refried beans tortilla and layer with 1/4 of the beans and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat three times, using 1 cup cheese on top layer. Bake until hot and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Unmold pie; sprinkle with scallions. To serve, slice into wedges, garnish with sour cream and salsa.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

There's No Wrong Way to Eat a Reese's

I have had a silicone Reese's pan in my arsenal for several years, courtesy of my mother-in-law, but it wasn't until today that I decided to use it. Yes, you could certainly use disposable muffin liners, but this bad boy made quick work of my melted chocolate. No annoying peeling, or paper stuck to the chocolate. Just right down to business with two of my good buddies...peanut butter and chocolate.

Homemade Reese's Cups
1 bag semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter

Melt chocolate chips. Spread a liberal amount of chocolate in paper liners (or silicone pan) and place in refrigerator to harden. Meanwhile, mix the powdered sugar and peanut butter until smooth. Once the chocolate is firm, spread a dollop of the peanut butter mixture on the chocolate and cover the top with more melted chocolate, making sure that the melted chocolate touches the firm chocolate. Return to refrigerator and let the chocolate harden once again. Peel liners away or pop out of silicone mold and serve. They are especially tasty when straight out of the fridge.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Against My Better Judgement

Although the annoying screech of Rachael Ray's voice usually sends me running the the opposite direction, I have to give her props for this quick and tasty meatloaf recipe. I won't be subscribing to her magazine anytime soon, but I will certainly put this in our dinner rotation.

Mini Meatloaf Muffins
adapted from Rachael Ray

1 2/3 to 1 3/4 pounds ground sirloin
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
2 ribs celery from the heart of the stalk, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 of a red and orange pepper, cut in chunks
1 large egg plus a splash of milk, beaten
1/2 cup 4 cheese bread crumbs
1/2 cup panko
2 tablespoons grill seasoning
1 cup barbecue sauce (we used raspberry chipotle)
1/2 cup tomato salsa
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Put ground beef into a big bowl. Put onion and celery into a food processor. Cut the bell pepper in half, rip out the seeds and throw them into your garbage bowl. Cut the pepper into a few pieces and add to the food processor. Pulse the processor blades to finely chop the vegetables into very small pieces then add them to the meat bowl. Add egg, beaten with milk, bread crumbs and grill seasoning to the bowl. Next, mix together the barbecue sauce, the salsa and the Worcestershire sauce. Pour half the sauce mixture into the bowl with the meatloaf mix. Mix the meatloaf together with your hands. Wash up. Brush a 12-muffin tin (1/2-cup each) with vegetable oil or extra-virgin olive oil. Top each meat loaf with a spoonful of extra sauce. Bake about 20 minutes. Cut open 1 muffin to test that the middle is cooked through.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chicken Pot, Chicken Pot, Chicken Pot Pieeee

If you have ever had the pleasure of licking the bottom of the gratin dish full of Amical's chicken pot pie, this is the recipe for you! It is a creamy, delicious dinner fit for company and can be easily adapted to use the biscuits that the original recipe requests.

Chicken Pot Pie

adapted from Ina Garten

3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cups chicken stock
2 chicken bouillon cubes
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups medium-diced carrots (4 carrots), blanched for 2 minutes
1 10-ounce package frozen peas (2 cups)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 tsp dill
1/2 tsp tarragon
1 pkg. puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Shred the cooled chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream. Add the chicken, carrots, peas, parsley, dill, and tarragon. Mix well. Place the stew in individual gratin dishes. Place the dishes on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper. Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the stew from the oven and arrange the puff pastry on top of the filling. Brush them with egg wash, and return to the oven. Bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is brown and the stew is bubbly.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I Love It When You Call Me Biga Poppa

For those of you who think you can't make delicious bread at home, you have to try this simple recipe. Don't be discouraged by the length, much of your time is spent waiting for the end result. I opted to form the dough into six sandwich size loaves, but the original recipes yields two larger loaves. Whether you do it for me, Big Poppa, or just to say you can, you will amaze yourself and your family with amazing homemade bread!

Source: Epicurious
Makes 2 loaves

For biga:
1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water (105°‐115° F.)
1/3 cup room-temperature water
1 cup bread flour*

For bread:
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm milk (105°‐115° F.)
2/3 cup room-temperature water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups bread flour*
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Make biga:
In a small bowl stir together yeast and warm water and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy. In a bowl stir together yeast mixture, room-temperature water, and flour and stir 4 minutes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let sponge stand at cool room temperature at least 12 hours and up to 1 day.

Make bread:
In a small bowl stir together yeast and milk and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy. In bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with dough hook blend together milk mixture, sponge, water, oil, and flour at low speed until flour is just moistened and beat dough at medium speed 3 minutes. Add salt and beat 4 minutes more. Scrape dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. (Dough will be sticky and full of air bubbles.)

Have ready a rimless baking sheet and 2 well-floured 12- by 6-inch sheets parchment paper. Turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface and cut in half. Transfer each half to a parchment sheet and form into an irregular oval about 9 inches long. Dimple loaves with floured fingers and dust tops with flour. Cover loaves with a dampened kitchen towel. Let loaves rise at room temperature until almost doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

At least 45 minutes before baking ciabatta, put a baking stone or 4 to 6 unglazed "quarry" tiles (see note, above) arranged close together on oven rack in lowest position in oven and preheat oven to 425° F.

Transfer 1 loaf on its parchment to baking sheet with a long side of loaf parallel to far edge of baking sheet. Line up far edge of baking sheet with far edge of stone or tiles, and tilt baking sheet to slide loaf with parchment onto back half of stone or tiles. Transfer remaining loaf to front half of stone or tiles in a similar manner. Bake ciabatta loaves 20 minutes, or until pale golden. With a large spatula transfer loaves to a rack to cool.