Archive for February, 2011

DB – Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

There’s something about the term panna cotta that makes me think of some fancy restaurant dessert. I imagine candlelight, soft romantic music in the background, a waiter attentive to my every move, and a check that makes me thankful I’m not paying.

So when panna cotta was this month’s DB challenge, I was a little bit apprehensive – until I read the actual recipe! It’s even easier than making its down-home counterpart chocolate pudding. The whole thing was whipped up and in my fridge in a quick 15 minutes. And, let me tell you, it tasted wonderful. Creamy, chocolate-y, and with a tiny adaptation of adding the zest of an orange to the cream, it had a little something extra.

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada de Laurentis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

(I did not include the cookie recipe in this post, please see Mallory’s blog for that. I made a similar cookie for my Lace Cannolis last month though!)

Chocolate Panna Cotta
adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes 4-6, depending on size.

Ingredients

  • 1 c whole milk
  • 1 tbsp unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 1 orange
  • 2 c whipping cream
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Instructions
Pour milk into a bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Set aside to sit 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice off the peel of the orange in big chunks, trying not to get any of the bitter white pith underneath. Set aside the flesh for garnish later. Place a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat and add in cream, orange peel, sugar, and vanilla. Bring to a low boil, then strain out orange peel. Pour mixture back into saucepan and add in the chocolate, whisking until melted. Whisk in the gelatin until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Pour into ramekins and chill overnight or 6-8 hours before serving. Garnish with orange segments and florentine cookies.

Have you made anything “fancy” lately?

Crack Pie

ATTENTION ATTENTION: If you or anyone you know is trying to lose weight, stop (STOP STOP) reading this post right now at this very second.

Or, if you absolutely must, read the post but eat two giant handfuls of salad right afterward because you will feel your thighs twitching.

I made Momofuku’s famous Crack Pie.

I don’t know what came over me. Really, I plead temporary insanity brought on by the grumbling in my stomach and a distinct memory of the pie I ate months ago on a summery NYC night.

My brother, a to-be lawyer, has assured me that this insanity defense will stand up in court when you all sue me for millions on account of the insane amount of weight you’ll gain after even just seeing this stuff.

It’s that sinful.

But don’t the most sinful things taste the most amazing? It feels good to be bad.

I almost didn’t share this with you, by the way. Actually, I’m not really sharing with anyone at this point in time. I’ve hidden the pie away underneath piles of leftovers in the fridge and no one in this house but me knows that it’s there. I’ve been sneaking small pieces of it every chance I get and then slipping it back into its hiding spot. The one time I let Boy have a bit, the tiniest bite I could possibly give up without demanding some form of monetary compensation (or dishwashing, a baker’s dream – am I right or am I right?!), he said, “Whoa. You can NOT be making that kind of pie.” He then instructed me to stop eating it. He knew already by the look of the mostly eaten pie plate, that I was addicted.

No wonder they call it Crack Pie!

Apparently this is the week where I share how my recipes don’t always come out perfectly because this pie, thought perfectly delicious, caused me much anguish when it came out of the fridge (after coming out of the oven) and proceeded to ooze all over the place when cut. Underbaked. I threw a tantrum.

And then I took a bite of the ooey-gooeyness. And then another. And two pieces later I decided that it wasn’t the prettiest thing ever, but it was certainly the most delicious. It had to be shared. At all costs. You see, it’s an oatmeal cookie-based crust, barely sweet, completely homemade and laden with butter that complements the buttery sweet filling. It tastes almost like a pecan pie but without all those annoying pecans and more carefully balanced with its perfect crust.

I’ll cry when there’s no more pie to be had.

Crack Pie
adapted from the LA Times’ posting of a Momofuku favorite and seen on Almost Bourdain

Makes 2 10″ pies. (I halved this and made one pie but the measurements were sketchy at times so I’m posting the original.)

Note: The recipe did not specify whether or not the brown sugar should be packed. I packed it but not overly tightly.

Ingredients

For cookie to be used in crust:

  • 2/3 c + 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • scant 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • scant 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 c light brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • scant 1 c rolled oats

For crust:

  • 1 sheet cooled oatmeal cookie, crumbled
  • 1/4 c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt

For filling:

  • 1 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c + scant 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c + 1 tsp milk powder
  • 1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 c + scant 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 egg yolks
  • powdered sugar (optional)

Instructions
For cookie to be used in crust, Preheat oven to 375F. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add in egg and mix until well combined. Beat in the flour a little bit at a time until incorporated. Stir in oats.

Spread mixture onto a 9×13″ baking sheet and bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

For crust, Combine cookie, butter, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse until the mixture begins to stick to itself and is well combined. Divide among 2 10″ pie plates and press onto the bottom and up the sides of each plate. Set aside.

For filling, Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together sugar, brown sugar, salt, and milk powder in a large bowl. Whisk in the melted butter followed by the heavy cream and vanilla. Finally, whisk in the egg yolks but take care not to add too much air. When combined, divide the filling between the 2 prepared shells. One at a time, bake each pie for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325F and bake just until the filling is slightly jiggly, approximately 10 minutes more. Note: If you are using 9″ plates, baking time will have to be increased approximately 5 minutes to account for the thicker filling. Cool pies on rack to room temperature, then refrigerate until well chilled. Serve cold and dusted with powdered sugar if desired.

Excuse me while I get more pie. I’m in withdrawal.

Chocolate Macarons

I don’t think of myself as a Type A personality. You know the type, the need to micromanage, to have complete control, for everything to be “just so.”

I don’t think of myself as a Type B personality either. I’m not the laid back, surfer, come what may, “que sera sera” type.

I’m somewhere floating between the two, in a weird combination of acting one way when most people would act the other. I’ll give you a few examples.

With countertops, I’m Type A. They must be clean at all times. Not a crumb. And I can’t stand left-behind twist-ties or the little plastic ring that you have to pull off the milk container before you can consume it. Throw them out or I go crazy.

With dishes, however, the things that are most likely to breed bacteria and cause smells, I’m more “whatever.” They can sit in the sink for a day or two and I don’t mind one bit.

With planning vacations, I’m Type A. Completely Type A. I have to remind myself to schedule in “free time” or we’d be running around like chickens with our heads cut off. I budget, I compare prices, I shop around for the best deals, I research the weather, the local customs, find things to do off-the-beaten-path. I run the show.

With school, I’m Type B. I know when things are due and yet I often save them until the last minute. I do the bare minimum these days, just enough to get by, not even really concerned with getting Honors (the medical school equivalent of an “A”) anymore.

When Boy mentioned that I hadn’t made macarons in awhile, I was Type B. “Oh! You’re right! I should make a batch sometime.” And that sometime ended up being weeks after the fact. I wasn’t in a rush.

But when the egg whites were aged and it came down to it, I turned into a Type A monster. I read and reread the instructions umpteenth times, I watched videos over and over again to make perfectly sure I knew how stiff my peaks needed to be, I measured and measured again, careful in ever movement, worried that I’d ruined their feet before they were even in the oven.

Macarons still elude me in many ways. I’ve had success with them in the past but I’ve also had failure, and I have not been able to decipher what went right or wrong in either case. These? They had feet. Beautiful feet! But one pan completely fell once I took them out of the oven, the feet becoming miniscule, and they didn’t seem to want to come off the pan no matter what. The other pan didn’t fall quite as much but after chilling and upon serving, it seemed the center wasn’t as cooked as I’d hoped. Instead of a crunchy outside and a soft inside, the inside was much more dense and it seemed I had put gobs of ganache on. There was no space of air between the top and the insides. They looked perfect, but they were not (although they were, of course, delicious because gobs of ganache can never ever taste bad).

In my quest to have perfect macarons every time, this was another semi-fail but it was still delicious and I will try the same exact recipe again in the future. With macarons, it’s the technique and not really the recipe so it’s worth a shot to try the same recipe multiple times. The ganache was definitely a win though!

Chocolate Macarons
adapted from LA Times and David Lebovitz

Makes 24-30 sandwiched macs.

Ingredients

For shells:

  • 1 1/3 c blanched almond meal
  • 2 c + 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/4 c unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/2 aged egg whites (3-4 large, at room temperature after sitting out for a day or 3-4 days in the refrigerator)

For ganache:

  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 2 tsp light corn syrup
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

Instructions
For shells, Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Strain together almond meal, powdered sugar, and cocoa into a large bowl. Whisk to blend. Set aside. Beat egg whites using an electric mixer over low to medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed and continue beating until the peaks are glossy and medium-firm. Fold in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions until just incorporated. It will be runny and look like cake batter.

Spoon half of the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a half-inch round trip. PipeĀ  1 1/2 inch rounds by keeping the bag vertical and 1-2 inches above the sheet. Keep 2 inches in between rounds. Rap the pan against the counter and repeat with the second sheet. Allow sheets to sit for 30 minutes while preheating oven to 425F.

When ready to bake, dust macarons with extra cocoa powder and place each individual baking sheet atop a second spare sheet. Place in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 350F. Prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the macarons are just firm to the touch. Transfer to a cooling rack and bring the oven back to 425F for the second sheet of macarons.

Once the oven has been reset, remove the first set of macarons from the parchment. I did not do this but LA Times suggests pouring a little hot water onto the baking sheet underneath the paper and tilt the sheet to dampen the parchment evenly. Let sit for 15 seconds and then peel the macarons off.

For ganache, Heat heavy cream and light corn syrup in a saucepan until just bubbling around the edges. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Allow to sit for 1 minute before stirring until smooth. Stir in butter. Cool to room temperature before using.

For assembly, Match macarons up by size. Spoon or pipe ~ 1 tsp of ganache in the center of one macaron bottom. Sandwich with second macaron and press gently to spread ganache to edges. Refrigerate at least 24 hours, taking macarons out of the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to serving.

Love them feet.

Red Velvet Swirl Brownies

If your sweet tooth is going through withdrawal after the onslaught of Valentine’s Day, I have a treat for you.

Red velvet.

But not cake.

Huh?

I know.

I’ve been known from time to time to just browse through recipe websites looking for inspiration and this week it was the Food Network. Sunny Anderson, you’re my hero.

I found that I had most of the ingredients already stocked in my pantry with the exception of the red food coloring. A quick trip to the grocery store remedied that situation and in seemingly no time, these were on my table last night.

These are a bit oily from the cream cheese layer, but absolutely delicious. It’s your favorite red velvet + cream cheese combination in the form of a brownie (or a reddie?) and I can’t help but love it. The red layer is dense and tastes just like red velvet, complemented well by the lighter cream cheese layer on top. And who can resist a beautiful swirl? Not I.

Perhaps a bit mistimed, should these have been our Valentine’s Day treats? But the timing can’t take away from the yum. These were well received by all.

This Week I Ate.. Valentine’s edition!

  • Pioneer Woman’s Roasted Beef Tenderloin from her cookbook. OH MY WORD this was phenomenal. So juice and tender. We had to cook it a little bit more than she recommended because the thing was basically mooing coming out of the oven but no matter. Still wonderful.
  • Mashed potatoes. I make them with Russet potatoes, boil until fork tender, drain, then return to the pot over a low flame to take off some excess steam. This time I added some butter, some cream cheese, some whole milk (leftovers), and added salt and pepper. One of my best batches yet!
  • Spinach. We just wilted up the spinach with some olive oil and garlic. Perfect combination.

Red Velvet Swirl Brownies
adapted from Food Network’s Sunny Anderson

Makes 1 8×8″ pan.

Ingredients

For red velvet layer:

  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp red food coloring
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 c all-purpose flour

For cream cheese layer:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare 8×8″ baking pan with foil or by coating with butter.

For red velvet layer, melt butter in a saucepan on the stove. Pour into a large bowl and add in sugar, extract, cocoa, salt, coloring, and vinegar one at a time, mixing after each addition with a wooden spoon. Whisk the eggs lightly in a separate bowl and add to batter. Fold in flour until just disappeared and pour into prepared pan, reserving 1/4 cup of batter.

For cream cheese layer, using an electric mixer, combine cream cheese, sugar, egg, and extract until well mixed. Carefully pour over brownie layer in the pan.

Dollop the remaining red batter over the top of the cream cheese layer and swirl using the tip of a knife. Bake for 30 minutes and allow to cool before cutting (with a plastic knife!) and serving.

Have you thought out of the box lately?

Apple Cinnamon Bread

I find love in the little things.

It’s in little notes left on windshields, a small gesture to get hair out of a face, a snack ready-made when an arrival is imminent.

This year, as in every year we’ve been together, Boy declared that we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s commercial and too mushy for him. (He’s not super in-touch with his emotions. He’s known to crack jokes at the points in romantic comedies when I begin crying. I’ve been known to give him a solid punch in the side for doing so.)

So maybe it was the fact that I hadn’t seen him in days due to a snowboarding trip to Vermont, or maybe he decided we do kinda celebrate it, but he showed up last night with a plant. As in, a potted plant, “because you can watch a bouquet of flowers die, or you can watch the plant live!” (His words.)

That’s it. It’s huge. Beautiful, but huge. And kinda reminds me of the love fern from How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. But it was thoughtful of him and I love it.

What did I have in return for him?

A slice of this bread with a thin coating of peanut butter on top.

We had plans to make dinner together but on the phone prior to his arrival he noted his current state of starvation. I knew just what to do. I had made this bread over the weekend while he was gone and knew he would love it. The bread is faintly sweet, dotted with the chunks of Granny Smith apples, and finished with a sugary topping. With a bit of peanut butter spread on top, it’s a little slice of heaven. The perfect snack.

The perfect little thing to show him I was listening and I cared.

(He obviously scarfed it down, barely mumbled a Thank You, and we went about our business but I know somewhere in the depths of his mind he understood.)

Apple Cinnamon Bread
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, originally on Two Peas and Their Pod

Makes 1 4×8″ loaf.

Ingredients

For loaf:

  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 apples, peeled and chopped (Granny Smith recommended)

For topping:

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 4×8″ loaf pan and line with parchment. Set aside.

For loaf, In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat eggs. Add in oil, applesauce, and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add sugar and mix until combined. On low, add in the flour mixture and, careful not to overmix, mix until just combined. Fold in the apples with a rubber spatula. Pour batter into prepared pan.

For topping, Mix sugars and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over batter in pan.

Bake 50-55 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before turning the loaf out onto a cooling rack.

How was your Valentine’s Day?

 

Egg Custard

It’s Sunday.

To different people, Sundays mean different things. To some it’s a day of relaxation, some prepare for the busy week ahead, some celebrate their religions, and so on and so forth.

My family?

We eat.

We’re not foodies by any means but I was always raised to love food and to love to eat it. My shining example of this is how we used to drive to Newport, Rhode Island at least once a summer (more if we had out-of-town/country guests or if we were feeling particularly gluttonous that year) to eat lobster. We’d pile up into our van in the early morning and drive the 4 hours to the wharf where we’d pick up some freshly caught and freshly steamed baby lobsters (they’re much sweeter and more tender than their larger friends). From there we’d drive off to Brenton Point State Park where we’d unload the car, sit at a picnic table, and eat our succulent lobsters while watching all the kites being flown overhead.

Then, we’d pack it all up and drive the 4 hours home on the same day. Yup. That’s how my family rolls.

A more local tradition we enjoy is to have dim sum on Sunday afternoons following church services. If you’ve never been to Chinese dim sum, it’s basically carts full of little bites of food that roam around the room that allow you to pick the hot plates at your leisure. It’s almost their form of brunch. You get served right away (provided you like what’s on the carts at the time) and can get full fast ordering plate after plate before you even realize you’re full to the brim.

(We don’t usually eat dinner after this type of gorging.)

One of our favorite carts is the dessert cart which always holds these little babies, the egg custards. After seeing this recipe, I knew I had to try it out. The recipe calls for puff pastry to make the shells which isn’t conventional (they don’t use puff pastry in China) but was a good substitute for a homemade version. The custard itself will remind anyone of the sought after dim sum treat with its creamy and rich texture. These are easy to make in very little time so if you’re still looking for something special for Valentine’s Day I definitely recommend trying these out!

This Week I Ate..

  • Tiny Urban Kitchen’s Taiwanese Meat Sauce over Rice. I used half normal and half dark soy sauce and after it began to simmer I realized that I had accidentally doubled the amount of pork. No difference though! Also, the sauce is NOT meant for consumption. It’s quite salty — Dilute with water as needed. Other than that though it was delicious and reminded my Taiwanese Boy of a dish his mom makes. (Score!) Over rice, this is an easy dinner to pull together.
  • Pizza with caramelized yellow and red onions, mozzarella, prosciutto, and a light sprinkling of gorgonzola. My 93-year-old grandmother loved this! She kept calling the prosciutto “bacon” but whatever. As long as it’s good, does it matter what it’s called?
  • Annie’s Eats Ginger Beef Stir Fry. The sauce was delicious but my beef came out overly tough and the broccoli didn’t soften up as much as I would like. In the future I’d slice the steak much thinner and maybe steam the broccoli a little beforehand. With some adjustments this could be a new weeknight staple.

Egg Custard
adapted from Tiny Urban Kitchen

Makes 10.

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/3 c granulated sugar
  • yellow food coloring (optional)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400F.

For shells, Cut out 3-inch rounds of puff pastry. Press rounds into a muffin tin, shaping them like little tarts. Bake for 10 minutes or until slightly browned.

For custard, Lightly beat eggs until yolks and whites are well combined. Try not to beat too much air into them. Set aside. Heat milk and sugar in a saucepan until hot but not boiling and the sugar is mostly, if not completely, dissolved. Remove pan from heat. While stirring constantly, add the beaten eggs in a slow stream. Strain mixture into a clean bowl (or measuring cup to save a step). Allow to cool for several minutes. Add food coloring if using (to achieve more of the typical color, otherwise custards will be pale yellow).

Once shells are baked, decrease oven to 350F and poke holes in the shells to allow for filling. Fill with custard. Bake for 15 minutes or until set.

What’s your favorite dim sum treat?

Banana Cupcakes for Lovers

I know, I know. Two posts in two days. That’s never happened here. But I had to say something:

Stop the presses.

I mean STOPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP NOW!!

Before you all go running to make Valentine’s Day treats for yourself, for your hunnybunny, for your kids, for your friends, for the librarian, for the guy who found the cell phone you left in a cab, or for anyone else, I have a proposition for you.

Make. These. Cupcakes.

They are sweet but not too sweet, decadent but not too decadent, and perfect. Just perfect.

I had a friend ask me for this very cupcake several months ago. He had been to a cupcake truck in The City (that’s NYC for those not in the know) and had this very same flavor combination. He fell in love. He wanted them for the party we were having at my house that day. That day?! How was I supposed to come up with a recipe on the spot? But I agreed because if you know me at all, you know I have a hard time saying “no” to close friends. Within a few hours, these cupcakes had to be made.

They were good. But not good enough for my standards.

I’m not sure what it was that I didn’t love about them because everyone else seemed to be in heaven. I didn’t write down the recipe though because it didn’t strike me to do so.

So when, several months later, this same friend asked for the recipe, I had nothing to give him and I decided to give it another shot.

This time, I meant business.

It took a couple tries but I managed a banana-y cupcake that could hold up to the other bold flavors of the cupcake. The next issue was that the Nutella as a stand-alone filling was too sweet. “It hurt!” said my dark-chocolate-loving-molars. So I mixed in a little of the dark chocolate my teeth love so much and came up with a ganache that still tasted of Nutella but wasn’t nearly as toothache-causing. And then, when all was said and done, I decided Martha was the queen and how could I possibly come up with a better frosting than her own caramel swiss meringue buttercream? So that’s what I used.

The balance is there. You taste all three flavors separately and together they harmonize like a well-practiced glee club (LOVE GLEE!!). And really? What’s better for Valentine’s Day than something filled with bananas and Nutella, reminiscent of the crepes you ate (or want to eat) in France? Nothing.

You will thank me for these. I thank me for these!

Banana Cupcakes for Lovers
a STO original, frosting adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes

Makes 16.

Banana Cupcake:
Ingredients

  • 4 medium to large ripe bananas
  • 2 c cake flour (or 1/4 c cornstarch with 1 3/4 c flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 c milk

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Poke bananas several times with a fork, arrange on baking sheet, and roast for 15 minutes. Skins should be black.

Meanwhile, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, cream together butter and both sugars. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture and milk, alternating between 3 dry additions and 2 milk additions, mixing just until the ingredients are incorporated. When bananas are finished roasting, turn oven down to 350F. Peel and mash bananas with a fork. You should have about 1 1/2 c of banana mash. Fold this in to the batter.

Portion batter out among prepared cupcake liners. Bake 22-26 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Nutella Ganache:
Ingredients

  • 1/2 c Nutella
  • 3 oz 60% dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream

Instructions
In a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt Nutella, chocolate, and heavy cream together. Set aside to cool.

Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
Ingredients

  • 1 c plus 2 tbsp sugar, divided
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1/4 c heavy cream
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 c (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions
Combine 1/2 c plus 2 tbsp sugar and water in a heavy saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Then, continue cooking without stirring until the syrup comes to a boil and begins to change color. Use a wet pastry brush to brush down the sides of the pan and swirl the pan occasionally for even coloring. Once the mixture is a dark amber, remove from heat and add the cream in a steady stream while stirring constantly. Warning: the mixture will bubble up so be careful. Set aside to cool.

Set a heatproof bowl (that can accompany whatever electric mixer you have) over simmering water and combine remaining 1/2 c sugar with egg whites. Whisk constantly while heating until the mixture is warm to the touch and the sugar is dissolved. Then, using your electric mixer and theĀ  same bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff, but still moist, peaks and until the egg whites are cool (you can touch the bottom of the bowl to determine this). Set aside briefly.

In a separate bowl, cream butter until it is pale and fluffy. Add butter, 1/4 c at a time to meringue, beating on medium-low. When all is added, mix in vanilla. Finally, slowly pour in caramel and continue to beat until fully incorporated.

If not assembling the day of making the buttercream, you can store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Using an electric mixer, beat the buttercream briefly prior to frosting.

Assembly: We’re going to use the cone method to insert the ganache into the cupcake. Take each cupcake and cut out a cone shape from the top, inserting your knife at an angle pointing toward the center of the cupcake and going around in a circle. Once the cone part is out, cut off the tip of the cone and/or scrape out a bit more of the cupcake. Place about 1 tbsp of ganache inside and top with the cone you just cut out. Frost with the buttercream by dolloping it on with a spoon, a piping bag/tip, or a ziploc bag with a hole cut in the corner. Due to the buttercream, cupcakes are best eaten day of assembly but can probably last a day in an airtight container.

I can’t handle the yum. Boy called this, “Killer.” (People still say that?!)

Apricot Jam Cookies

Wind.

It’s freezing outside right now. The cold wind whips your hair into your face and slaps you hard. It is unrelenting, unforgiving, and chills you to the bone. After a couple days of relative warmth, days when the growing pile of snow actually began to melt away, the dreaded winter came back with a vengeance.

I am not amused, Winter, not amused at all.

Those two days you gave us, that little taste of a warmer and happier time, they were a tease. I was ten times more productive than I am now. I ran errands with a smile on my face. I didn’t have to religiously apply lotion to my dry, cracked hands. I didn’t have to sit shivering in my car waiting for it to warm up before I break out of my hunched, freezing position.

And now?

Now I’m sitting inside, moping with a cup of tea in my hand.

Now I’m munching on these tiny bites of buttery, gingery perfection.

I suppose I should be angry with you, Winter, for forcing me back indoors to wrap myself in blankets and try to hibernates some more. But you know what? I’m happy because these cookies are absolutely, positively delicious and had you not turned your back on me yet again I would not have been inspired to make them to accompany my steaming cup of Earl Grey.

SO THERE!

You all know how I loves me some Dorie Greenspan. Flipping through her book, I always find a new recipe to try, perfect for the mood I’m in. These cookies certainly did the trick. The addition of ground ginger gives it a warming spice and the delicate sweetness of the apricot jam make it a perfect pairing for a cup of tea. Friends asked if the flavors were orange, it’s so difficult to decipher what the taste is though you know it’s delicious. The cookie is balanced, takes minutes to whip up, and is a wonderful bite for a snack, for tea, for dessert, for battling the cold, or for whatever your heart desires.

Apricot Jam Cookies
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours

Makes ~45 cookies.

Ingredients

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 c granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c apricot jam (I used preserves.)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 375F, positioning two racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, ginger, and salt. Set aside. Using a stand or hand mixer, cream butter for a minute or so. Add in sugar and beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Mix in the egg, beating until well-combined. Add the milk and vanilla and mix. It will look scary and curdled but don’t fret, it’ll come together. On low speed, beat in the jam or preserves. Finally, add in the flour mixture and mix until the flour just disappears. You’ll have quite a thick dough.

Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of batter approximately 1 inch apart onto the baking sheets. Bake the sheets for 15 minutes, rotating them from top to bottom and front to back halfway through (if you remember – I did not and the cookies turned out fine). Allow to cool on the sheet for 1 minute before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough once baking sheets are cooled.

Are you having good weather? If so, I’m jealous.

Banana Bread – Take 2

Has it been long enough since I made my last banana bread? It’s just been a little over a month.

Not long enough, you say? In the words of Adrienne Maloof, “Well, whaddyou know?”

[Personal life aside: Is anyone else obsessed with all the Real Housewives like I am? Well, except Atlanta. I can’t seem to get into it for some reason. A friend told me how she saw Andy Cohen at a bar the night before the Superbowl and I was teeming with jealousy. Seriously. I have a problem. I’m a RH addict and I’m not afraid to show it. HOLLER!]

Anyhow, my home never seems to be without its share of overripe bananas and given my constant desire for baked breakfast goods, banana bread has been topping my list lately.

So banana bread version 2 was a go and I’m so glad it was because this recipe is super simple, requires one bowl, and doesn’t even need the help of electricity for mixing! Don’t get me wrong, I heart my KitchenAid like my own child but, like a child, sometimes you just want to do it on your own without an extra bowl or utensil to clean. The flavor of this banana bread was wonderful too. I wish there were still something of it left.. It got consumed too quick for my liking. Next time, I’ve made a mental note to double the recipe and get two loaves (one of which will be for me and me alone)!

Before I go sharing the recipe with you though, I’m a little behind on my posting of my daily eats. So..

This (Past Two) Week(s) I Ate:

  • Epicurious’ Apricot Glazed Chicken. Not a huge fan. Perhaps the chicken was a little bit dry but, for some reason, the flavor didn’t work for me either.
  • For Chinese New Year, I made Kevin’s dumplings with some adaptation (such as adding a bit of water chestnuts for crunch) using Jaden’s well-explained technique and sauce with the slurry and folding the dumplings. They came out super-cute, super-delicious, and Boy (and I) loved it! I also made some very quick bok choy. It was a wonderful way to start the new lunar year.
  • Mac & cheese that I adapted from the back of a Kraft shredded sharp cheddar package (I accidentally threw the package out before writing down the recipe). It had peas and bacon and was not as cheesy as I may usually like but probably healthier as a result so.. winning dish! Also, sometime in the leftover process I discovered the merits of adding just a bit of sour cream. Oh it was genius, forrealllll.
  • Our Superbowl extravaganza consisted of pizza from an unnamed pizza place, Buffalo Wild Wings (yummy), homemade chili from another friend, nachos, taquitos, lots of dips, salsa, guacamole, and finished with my (now-famous-in-my-group-of-friends) Mint Blueberry Cupcakes.
  • More Trader Joe’s and cafeteria food. Yum to the former. Ew to the latter.

In other news, I’m busy concocting February’s STO original recipe to follow up January’s success. A friend made a cupcake request so be on the lookout!

Banana Bread – Take 2
adapted from Simply Recipes

Makes 1 loaf.

Ingredients

  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
  • heaping 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 4 x 8″ loaf pan.

Using a wooden spoon, combine bananas and butter in a large bowl. Add in the sugar, egg, and extract and mix. Add in the baking powder and salt and mix. Finally, add the flour and mix just until the flour disappears. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool however long you can and serve!

Is there a dish you make often for whatever reason? What is it? Do share!

 

Red Bean Mochi Cake

Happy Chinese New Year!!

I’m not Chinese but Boy is (actually, he’s Taiwanese and he makes a big fuss over the difference.. but they all still celebrate CNY) so I decided this year I would find a way to be a part of his tradition.

While we’ll be having our own little CNY celebration later today, he went back to his parents’ house last night (they live an hour away) and I wanted to send a little gift home with him. After several hours of researching about the traditions of CNY and looking at a whole bunch of Asian recipes, I settled on this one from Tiny Urban Kitchen. “Nian gao” can have a dual meaning of both “sticky cake” and “high/tall year.” The latter meaning is often used during CNY to signify reaching new heights in the new year. I also liked this recipe because it incorporates red beans, one of my favorite flavors and coincidentally the lucky color in Chinese culture. The recipe was quite simple to make with ingredients easily found at my local Asian supermarket. So I sent Boy off home with eight slices of the loaf.

Why eight?

Eight is the luckiest number in Chinese culture. I ended up cutting the loaf into 12 pieces but I got worried that 12 may be unlucky somehow and I didn’t want to chance offending anyone so I played it safe and went with eight. The loaf was well-received and thankfully no one made any comments that I had accidentally ruined their New Year.

CNY is a 15-day celebration so you’re by no means late if you make this within the next two weeks. Although, you can always just stick to the “sticky cake” meaning and make it all year round (which is what I plan to do anyhow)! If you’ve never had mochi before, it’s sticky in the best way possible, not very sweet, and just subtly flavored by the red bean in this version. I highly recommend trying it. You won’t be disappointed!

Red Bean Mochi Cake (Nian Gao)
adapted from Tiny Urban Kitchen

Makes 2 loaves, 1 9×13 cake, or 24 cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Mochiko sweet rice flour (found in Asian markets or here)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 c vegetable oil
  • 2 c milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 3/4 c red bean paste (also found in Asian markets)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F. (No need to line your pans.)

Mix all ingredients except the red bean paste together in a large bowl. Add in the red bean paste. Divide among pans. Bake for 45 min – 1 hour, or until a knife comes out clean. Cut and enjoy either warmed or at room temperature.

HOW EASY IS THAT?!

Here’s to the Year of the Rabbit!

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