Archive for May, 2010

Lemon Bars

I’m all about the citrus.

This year I’ve been baking oodles and oodles of lemony (x2)/limey/orangey (will have to post something orange soon!) things and I’m loving it. The refreshing flavor kinda makes you forget about all the buttery sugary filled goodness, you know? I love sugar cookies but sugar cookies with lime? Even better. Also, for some reason, citrus things make me think of breakfast which ultimately means I could SHOULD each such things at breakfast time (which can be as early as 5am.. sometimes 4am if I’m extra lucky). And they’re filled with all that vitaminy good stuff.

Yes, I have just created no less than 6 new adjectives by adding “y” to the end of words. Don’t judge me.

There was once a time I wouldn’t eat citrus.

I know. I was a silly child. At least I always loved coconut. No oranges but coconut = Sharlene had no friends.

Anyway, I had asthma as a child and it was pretty bad. My best friend in grade school who only lived a few blocks away told me once that whenever she heard the ambulance sirens she thought it was me. She was usually right. I was in and out of the hospital and my parents were fairly strict with medications and doctor’s appointments. In an attempt to try anything, my mom took me to some holistic guy who said to stop eating citrus. I don’t remember why but he said it and it stuck. I didn’t really like oranges anyway so what was the big deal? Silly stuff right there. I was missing out.

I convinced myself I couldn’t, and therefore wouldn’t, eat oranges. I also didn’t like lemon flavored things, including lemonade (which I still don’t usually like — too sour — but sometimes when it’s not too sour I rather enjoy it). Lime wasn’t much in vogue back then so not an issue.

I hope that last statement doesn’t make me the girl with no friends again.

Just in case, I have these bars to help. They’re not lemonade but they’re just as good if not better (depending on how much you like lemonade). They’re the perfect balance of sweet and sour, crumbly and silky. They’re also great because you can almost be satisfied with a teeny tiny bite because they’re so tart. But in case you eat half the pan, don’t blame me. They’re good. It’s the Pioneer Woman! What did you expect?

Pioneer Woman’s Creamy Lemon Bars
adapted from Ree (with love, of course)

Ingredients

1 1/3 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 c brown sugar, lightly packed
1 c old-fashioned oats
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c lemon juice, freshly squeezed
zest of 1 lemon (~1 tsp or so)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together. Add flour mixture and oats. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of an 8 x 11 pan (or something similar).

Mix the condensed milk, lemon juice, and zest together in a bowl. Spread onto the crumb layer in the pan. Top of with the other half of the crumb mixture. Don’t press!

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Allow to cool on the counter for ~ 30 minutes before cutting into squares and refrigerating until cool. (They’re much better cold. Trust me!)


Love it. You will too.

– Sharlene


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Coconut Lime Sugar Cookies

I love coconut.

Always have. Always will.

Perhaps it’s the tropical island heritage? My parents often tell me about how they used to climb the coconut trees back in the Philippines, shimmying up the long trunks using various methods to find their way to the top. This is my brother in Aruba on a family trip last year:

He’s a bit of a beast. By the way, Aruba is beautiful and I think everyone should go. I’d love it if you’d take me with you but I’d be happy either way. I know, I know. I’m so self-less.

Anyway, I remember a time somewhere around fifth grade when coconut was NOT cool. Did you all experience something similar? The Almond Joys and Mounds were the absolute last candy bars to go whenever we had candy passed around. I’d often get “stuck” with them because my last name is towards the end of the alphabet so the pickin’s were slim but I’d always be secretly happy. Also, because no one wanted them I could get away with taking two or three at a time. I don’t remember having many friends in fifth grade.

Luckily, however, coconuts have come back in style and are now and acceptable and welcome addition to anything! That’s probably more because of my age than a change in the times but for whatever reason I’m super happy I can now bake with coconut and everyone rejoices. Hence the two coconutty recipes this week! I added a tiny tiny bit of chocolate to pay homage to the above candy bars. I think it added to the cookie quite nicely. But I also made a few cookies without the chocolate and they were pretty yummy as well so you can go either way! Don’t add too much chocolate though or it’ll overwhelm the other flavors.

These cookies are wonderfully chewy and flavored with the perfect amount of lime. Great for spring/summer parties or what have you. I served them as a light snack while celebrating a friend’s birthday (I didn’t make the cake this time) before going out for drinks at a bar.

Coconut Lime Sugar Cookies
adapted from My Baking Addiction, originally from Rock Recipes

Makes ~ 40 cookies.

Ingredients
2 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of one large lime
3 tbsp lime juice
½ c unsweetened toasted coconut [spread coconut in a thin layer on a baking sheet and toast in 350F oven fro 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally]
2 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate, optional

1/2 c sugar for rolling cookies

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and very fluffy. Add egg, vanilla extract, lime juice and lime zest. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients.

With a wooden spoon, stir in toasted coconut and chopped chocolate if using.

With your hands [the fun part!] roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and then roll in sugar. Place on lined cookie sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until lightly browned. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before moving to wire racks.

Pina Colada Cupcakes

A change of pace.

It’s not always welcome but it’s often appreciated.

This past weekend Boy and I traveled to Washington DC to “escape” for a couple days. We had been planning the mini-trip for a month or so. I had been meticulous in picking out the best hotel we could afford and finding restaurant options and he had smiled and nodded as I blabbed on and on about all of it. We’ve done this a few times, gone away for a night or two to nearby cities and give ourselves the option to do nothing at all but also the chance to have a nice dinner at the very least. It’s always been a great experience. We catch up in a way. We leave our books behind for the most part (sitting on a bus for 4+ hours seems like a good time to study in theory but we usually end up playing Scrabble on my iTouch) and we mostly just enjoy the company. We don’t bicker per our usual state and we don’t stress. It’s a change of pace. It’s a reminder that we have other things in common besides spending more time in a hospital than we do at home and that we don’t need the excuse of being in the same school to know we can be good together. Sometimes you start to think you’re just together for the convenience of it all, you know?

This weekend was a bit hectic because we unknowingly squeezed it in between rough weeks at work. I was on call on Friday and got out around 7.30. For some reason we really wanted to see Robin Hood (two thumbs up, by the way) so I rushed to pack to make the 9.30ish showing (I live a good 30-45 minutes from the hospital in the first place and 20 minutes from the theater so that left me about 45 minutes to shower and pack), we got home past midnight and woke up at 6.00 the next morning to make our bus. And then after the fabulous weekend in DC, we got stuck in traffic on the way home Sunday night, hadn’t eaten all day, and ended up going to bed around midnight after stopping at the Rutgers grease trucks (can I get an AAAAAAAA-MEN?!) only to wake up at 6.00 the next morning for work.

Sound exhausting? It was. I don’t even think I’m caught up with sleep yet!

But it was perfect. Hit the spot. Made me feel refreshed (in our relationship. In life, I was a dead woman walking). It’s always nice to escape the familiar and explore what else is out there in the world. Even thought I’ve been to the Lincoln Memorial at least a dozen times, being there with a different person on a different day still gives me the same high.

These cupcakes are just as refreshing and high-giving. They take a LITTLE more time than other cupcakes because of the filling process but they’re well worth it. Every component has something pineapple and/or coconut so the flavors really come through. It’s exactly what I imagined such a cupcake to taste like if not better than I imagined. They’re a lovely change of pace from the traditional cupcake.

Pina Colada Cupcakes
adapted from iheartcuppycakes with frosting from Simply Recipes

Makes 24.

Ingredients
For pineapple & coconut cupcake

2 2/3 c all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 c granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
16 oz crushed pineapple in juice, well drained, juice reserved
2/3 c of the reserved pineapple juice
2/3 c sweetened coconut

For coconut creme filling
1 pkg (3-1/2oz) Jello instant vanilla pudding
1 tsp coconut extract

For cream cheese frosting
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 – 3 c powdered sugar
1-3 tsp pineapple rum [I use Cruzan]

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

With a stand or hand mixer, combine butter and sugar and beat on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Add in the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the pineapple juice in 2 additions. Fold in the pineapple and coconut.

Fill cupcake liners about 1/2-3/4 full. Bake for about 20-22 mins or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

While the cupcakes are baking, make the filling and topping.

For the filling, make pudding as directed on the box and add coconut extract.

For the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese together approximately 3 minutes on medium speed. Add rum and then slowly add powdered sugar, mixing well until desired thickness.

To assemble
Cut out a cone from the top of each cupcake. Fill with as much creme as possible and replace cone (if you aren’t lazy like me, you can trim off a bit of the cone so it sits better but really, once you frost it you can’t tell). Frost. Garnish with toasted coconut (over the stove or at 350 for 5-10 minutes.. watch it closely to prevent burning!).

Rave reviews are sure to come your way if you set these out on the table!

– Sharlene

Chocolate Mousse

“I know you forgot about me but it’s okay I won’t tell anyone.”

On Tuesdays, Grand Rounds for Internal Medicine are held at 8am at the hospital I’m at right now. As medical students and residents, we show up at 7am every day for sign-out (the team on at night tells the day team what happened to their patients etc), eat breakfast depending on the resident (mine believes in this thank goodness), and then round on patients. On Tuesdays, you see as many patients as you can before 8 with enough time to make it to the conference room to snag a seat in the back where no one will see if you (accidentally) fall asleep despite the 2 cups of coffee you’ve already had (really just one cup but a 16- or 24-oz cup is really not a single cup at all, let’s not kid ourselves).

Yesterday, however, while I was sitting at the nurses’ station trying to copy down labs for one of my patients, my two residents proceeded to walk by, chit-chatting, and forgot to pick me up to go to rounds. Being the good little student that I am, I saw them, grabbed my stuff, and proceeded to trot after them without saying a word.
Halfway to the elevator, my one resident saw me out of the corner of her eye, scowled, and didn’t look my way again.

She thought I was a creepo stalker.

I’m not a stalker! I’m your med student! Remember me? We’ve been together for over a week now! We laugh and I’m eager to learn? Hello?

When we finally reached the elevator and they had no choice but to turn around they figured it out.

We had a good laugh. I really do love my residents and they’ve never done anything mean to me whatsoever to make me think they intentionally left me behind. All was quickly forgiven and forgotten.


The same thing happened with me and chocolate mousse except it was I who forgot, not the mousse.

Chocolate mousse was one of the first things I tried out as a young baker. Sometime around 13 or 14 I started trying out things other than boxed cakes and mousse and apple pie were at the top of my list. I often made mousse throughout high school because it was light and comforted me through the stresses of teenage angst (I grew up in the era of Dawson’s Creek) while making me feel as if I wasn’t eating a bajillion calories that would contribute to any amount of embarrassing weight gain. I was, after all, trying to obtain the affection of some popular guy who didn’t even know my name. Must. Be. Skinny. So. Guy. Notices. You. [Mind you, I graduated with 700 other kids so this was quite the task I was setting myself to. By the way, the guy never noticed me. Surprise surprise!] But, yes, mousse became one of my favorite things to make.

For some reason, I haven’t attempted a mousse since those high school days and when I thought of it the other day, knew I had to make it. I don’t know what recipe I made in high school but the one I found from David Lebovitz definitely did the trick. Oh and bonus? Boy loved it too. And we don’t really care if the other gets fat. [Boy, if you’re reading this, please don’t get fat. That can lead to diabetes, cancer, and heart problems. I know you know this and that you’re more conscious of healthy eating than I am but just thought I’d remind you. Kisses!]

So chocolate mousse, I’m sorry I forgot you for all those years. It’s nothing compared to my residents forgetting me for two minutes. But I’m glad you’ve forgiven me and tasted just as good as I remember. You’re the bestest. Let’s do this again sometime, yes?

Chocolate Mousse
adapted from David Lebovitz who adapted it from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child.

Makes 6-8 servings depending on the size. I opted for 6.

Ingredients
4 large eggs, separated
pinch of salt
2/3 c, plus 1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 oz unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 c dark-brewed coffee
2 tbsp dark rum
1 tbsp water

Instructions
Beat the egg whites with the salt until soft peaks. Whip in the tbsp of sugar and beat until thick and shiny, but not completely stiff. Add vanilla.

In a medium bowl, place the chocolate, butter, and coffee. Heat the bowl over a pot of simmering water (about 1/3 full), stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat.

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside. In another large bowl [bowl #4!], set over the pot of simmering water, whisk [or use a hand mixer] the egg yolks with 2/3 cup of sugar, the rum, and water for about 3 minutes until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise. Remove from heat and place the bowl of yolks in the bowl of ice water. Beat until cool and thick.

Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporate. Don’t over-fold or the mousse will collapse! Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm.

Delish!

– Sharlene

Lemon Curd Macarons

Happy Feet.

It’s a fabulous movie –well up until the strange ending that preached about environmental activism — but it means so much more than that. So so much more.

I’ll go on.

Happy feet is also something Boy makes fun of me for. He doesn’t call it that exactly, but I’m similar to good ol’ Mumble in that I “dance” when I’m happy.

[I also tap dance while I’m waiting for the elevator in the hospital and no one’s around. Or when I’m sitting in a lecture and bored out of my mind. Or when Boy really wants me to show him time steps. Google that last one if you’re interested. Boy loves them for some reason. Especially with appropriate arm movements. Oh yes.]

I jump up and down, shuffle my feet about, and squeal when good things happen.

Like these feet on these macarons.

They had happy feet, I had happy feet.

I’ve tried French macarons before with Tartelette’s recipe and tutorial. The light and chewy texture came through but physically the poor suckers were flat and feetless. But this time, with the help of Dorie and the LA Times I did it. Macarons with feet. MACARONS WITH FEET!

Oh I shimmied, shook, and shuffled my happiness all around my condo. Boy loves that. I turn into a little girl who can’t find the words to say what she feels, just expresses it with movement and incomprehensible sounds.

I was so convinced that it wasn’t going to work out that I didn’t even take pictures of the process. I concentrated all my energy into following the recipe exactly and making those split second decisions of whether the whites are stiff enough, need to be beaten more, or have I already beaten them to beyond where I want them to be. And it worked.

Okay so they’re not perfect. I made them a little wide and the feet are sticking out kinda funny and the lemon curd I made is leaking from the sides. But as long as it has feet, I’m happy. Happy with the feet.

I’m posting this mainly so I can chronicle my macaron journey. I plan on trying to recreate the very first macaron Boy and I had from L’Espalier in Boston that was pure heaven in our mouths. Boy’s been asking so I’ve been working on it. It was a lovely substitution for an after-dinner mint, chocolatey and just a little bit minty. Oh I wish I had one right now.

Anyway, these were quite good. The lemon curd may have been a BIT too strong for my liking but not enough to stop me from eating two of these at a time. Same for Boy.

If you’ve had trouble making macarons with other recipes, I (and Dorie) suggest you try this one out. It worked for me!

French Macarons
adapted from the LA Times

Ingredients
1/2 c (3-4 large) egg whites, at room temperature, divided
Food coloring (optional; I went for purple)
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional; I didn’t)
1 1/2 c almond meal or flour
1 1/3 c powdered sugar
3/4 c granulated sugar
3 tbsp water

Instructions

Push the almond flour and powdered sugar through a strainer into a large bowl and whisk to blend. Pour half the egg whites into a large bowl for a stand or hand mixer and mix the other half in a separate bowl with food coloring and/or vanilla if using.

[You now have 3 bowls of stuff.]

Bring the granulated sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, washing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Increase the heat to high, insert a candy thermometer and boil, undisturbed, until the syrup reaches 240 degrees. Meanwhile, beat the whites in the mixer [sans coloring/vanilla] over low to medium speed until foamy, then increase the speed and continue until they hold medium-firm peaks. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly pour in the syrup [sugar/water mixture], being careful to avoid hitting the whisk attachment. Beat the meringue on high until the peaks are firm, about 2 minutes, then set aside to rest for about 5 minutes. [This part scared the heck out of me but it turned out fine as long as you keep the hot sugar moving!]

Pour the unbeaten egg whites over the almond-sugar mixture and top with the meringue; fold everything together, then stir the batter briskly until it falls off the spatula in a slow, moderately thick band. If you want more coloring, add it now.

[I suggest you prepare sheets with penciled circles that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter so you don’t overpipe and they’re all uniform in size.]
Spoon half the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a half-inch round tip and, keeping the bag vertical and 1 to 2 inches above the sheet, pipe rounds about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 2 inches apart onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Rap the pan against the counter (or don’t; I didn’t), refill the bag and pipe out a second sheet. Set the sheets aside in a cool, dry place, allowing the rounds to rest until you can gently touch the top of the mounds without having any of the batter stick to your finger. [Be patient and let them rest! This is crucial to feet.]

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set a rack in the middle. Place one of the baking sheets on top of a spare baking sheet and slide the double-pan setup into the oven [I didn’t do this because I didn’t notice this sentence until the creation of this post. Whoops.].

Bake the macarons for 4 minutes, then quickly open and close the oven door. Bake them for another 4 minutes and open and close the door again. Continue to bake the macarons until the tops are rounded and firm and a craggy ridge, the foot, has formed around the base, about 4 minutes (check the macarons after a couple minutes, as the baking time will vary by oven). [Baking actually only took me about 8 minutes for each batch this time around.]

Slide the parchment off the hot baking pan and onto a counter and set aside until the macarons are cool. Repeat with the second sheet of macarons. Peel the cooled macarons off the paper and match them up for sandwiching. Pipe 1 tsp of filling on one half of the macarons and top with their mates. Pack the sandwiched cookies in a container and refrigerate for 24 hours (or for up to 4 days) before serving. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.

Martha’s Lemon Curd
from Martha

Ingredients
3 large egg yolks
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 c freshly squeezed lemon juice, (2 lemons)
6 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

Instructions
Whisk together yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Set over medium heat, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, making sure to stir sides and bottom of pan. Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove saucepan from heat. Add the butter, one piece at a time, stirring with the wooden spoon until consistency is smooth.

Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to avoid a skin from forming; wrap tightly. Let cool; refrigerate until firm and chilled, at least 1 hour. Store, refrigerated in an airtight container, up to 2 days.

Try it. Take the chance!

What makes you get “happy feet”?

Sharlene