Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mojito Cupcakes

Here's the recipe, from Cream Puffs in Venice, for the mojito cupcakes I made for models this Wednesday. I think the recipe is actually pretty fantastic as written, but I might make a few small changes next time.

I halved the batter/syrup recipes and got 12 regular-sized cupcakes, for which the frosting recipe as written was just about right. The cupcakes rose pretty well, so I'd fill the tins closer to 1/2 full than 2/3rds.

I increased the rum in all three parts, and still didn't think the things were quite as boozy as I would have liked, but I'm not sure I could have added a whole lot more without creating runny batter/frosting. Next time I might supplement with a bit of imitation rum extract.

I'd also suggest making just a bit more syrup than the recipe calls for, and poking lots and lots of holes when you soak the cakes. I enjoyed the effect of the syrup, but don't think it soaked into the middle as thoroughly as I would have liked. It's also possible I let the cupcakes cool too much before glazing; five minutes, as the recipe suggests, is almost certainly too long.

If you're baking in cupcake tins, as I do, I suggest skipping the usual cupcake liners (which I actually never use anyways - what the hell is the point?), as I'd imagine paper liners would tend to absorb the syrup and become soggy. The soaking does make the cakes a bit sticky, but with well-buttered and floured tins, I still had little troubling unmolding.

I loved the lime and rum flavors, but thought the mint got a bit lost. Next time I'll either steep additional mint in the syrup, mincing and then straining rather than using only whole sprigs, or perhaps add a cap-full of peppermint extract to the batter.

I forwent the macademia nut crackle and garnished with mint sprigs and slices of lime. I think they turned out quite pretty.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blueberry Boy Bait

That's right, bring all the boys to the yard with this light, moist, crackly-topped cake. As some designers might say, it's blueberrylicious! (Sorry, yes, those references were somewhat uncalled for) But that's okay, America's Test Kitchen wins again:

16 Tbs (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
2 cups plus 1 tsp all-purpose flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen - if frozen, don't defrost)

1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen - if frozen, don't defrost)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 13x9 inch baking pan.
Whisk two cups of flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. With an electric mixer, or at least in a different bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until just mixed in. Beat in one third of the flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of the milk. Follow with half of the remaining flour mixture, then the rest of the milk, and finally the remainder of the flour mixture. Toss the blueberries with the remaining 1 teaspoon of flour, then fold into the batter. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth with a spatula.

For the topping: Scatter the blueberries over the top of the batter. Stir the granulated cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl and sprinkle over the batter. Bake until your toothpick comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then pop it out and start eating.

I substituted dark brown sugar for the light and sprinkled on some more blueberries, but that seemed to have no ill effects. So start baiting the boys already! (We'll find a cake for luring the ladies too, don't worry)


Here's the recipe for the éclairs I brought to coffee hour on Wednesday, more or less adapted from a cream puff ring recipe in Dorie Greenspan's totally kickass Baking: From My Home to Yours.

For the choux pastry

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
8 tablespoons (=1 stick) butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For the pastry cream

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened and cut into bits
2 tablespoons rum (optional, but delicious)

For the glaze

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon corn syrup

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Make the éclair shells:

Bring the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour all at once and mix it in with a wooden spoon, then keep stirring until the dough comes together in a shiny mass. Cook for another couple minutes, stirring constantly, than transfer the hot dough to the bowl of a stand mixer or another large bowl.

Beat in 3 of the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl and gradually add enough to form a dough that is shiny and thick.

Working quickly, pipe or spoon the dough into twelve logs on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and continue baking until the shells are puffed, brown, and firm. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Make the pastry cream (see below for chocolate alternative):

Whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Bring the milk to a boil and drizzle a small amount into the yolk mixture to temper; add the remaining milk slowly, whisking constantly, to avoid curdling. Put the pan over medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens to the desired consistency, then remove from the heat.

Add the vanilla extract and the rum if you're using it. Let the cream cool slightly, then add the butter, stirring until fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth.

Scrape the cream into a bowl, and either cool over an ice bath (if you want to fill the éclairs right away), stirring occasionally, or press a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the cream - the seal must be airtight to prevent a skin from forming - and refrigerate until cold. I strongly recommend preparing the pastry cream a day ahead, particularly if you're using the rum, as chilling overnight improves the flavor in my opinion.

The pastry cream keeps up to 3 days in the fridge.

Fill and glaze the éclairs:

To fill the éclairs, you can either poke a hole in each shell and pipe the pastry cream inside, or slice the éclairs in half and fill them like sandwiches. I prefer the sandwich route - it's easier, I can tell exactly how much cream I've piped into each éclair, and they're always filled evenly.

Make the glaze by carefully melting the chocolate with the cream and corn syrup in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over very low heat, or in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. (Be careful not to overheat the chocolate and separate it.) Spoon, drizzle, or pipe the glaze over the filled éclairs, and toss them in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to firm up the ganache.

Makes 12.

Alternate filling - chocolate pastry cream:

2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
7 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened and cut into small pieces

Whisk the yolks together with the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring the milk to a boil and drizzle a small amount into the yolk mixture to temper; add the remaining milk slowly, whisking constantly, to avoid curdling. Put the pan over medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens to the desired consistency, then remove from the heat.

Whisk in the melted chocolate. Let cool slightly, then whisk in the butter, stirring until fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl, and cool either over an ice bath (if you want to fill the éclairs right away), stirring occasionally, or press a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the cream and refrigerate until cold.

The cream can be kept covered for up to 3 days. If it tightens, use a fork or whisk to whip it back into creamy submission.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pomegranate-Strawberry Lattice Tart

For today's Coffee Hour, Sasha had requested "something with lots of berries," so I planned to make this. I got the raspberries a little too far in advance, though, so they were a little... mushy, and unusable. 

Instead, I used 1 c. pomegranate seeds (from 1 medium pomegranate), and 1 cup thinly sliced strawberries to make the filling, and added the zest from one small lemon.

Also, because I couldn't help myself, I added a substantial amount of black pepper to the almond filling.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sun-Dried Tomato Flans

I was attempting to make this recipe, but I was sort of missing the key ingredient (store-bought sun-dried tomato paste). HOWEVER, the emendation turned out just fine and, thanks to Rachel P., ended up enhancing the final product. 

Instead of the 1/4 cup tomato paste, take:

-1/2 loosely-packed cup of actual sun-dried tomatoes
-place in a coffee mug and add olive oil, just covering tomatoes
-microwave for a minute or two, and let the tomatoes steep in the oil for another five
(perhaps if you are classy you would simmer the tomatoes gently in the olive oil over the stovetop, stirring occasionally. But I find that the microwave works nicely for this sort of thing.)
-blend the tomatoes with the oil in a food processor or blender
-now you have quasi-chunky sun-dried tomato paste! Proceed to use this in the recipe as indicated
-however! When you get to the sieve-stage, reserve the solids (which will be more substantial than what you would have had with the legitimate paste).

After the flans are ready and have been plated over the arugula salad, now you can remedy the only flaw in this delicious recipe: the flans are a tad unattractive and stark sitting all boring-like over the salad. Top them with your fabulous cream-infused sun-dried tomato shreds (thanks Rachel!) for the insta-sexy! 

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mustard & Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Well, since it is really fall now, here is my favorite (super easy, thanks Fine Cooking!) recipe for potatoes.
They start out a little gooey, but end up crispy, delicious and even good for leftovers:

1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbs. dry vermouth or other dry white wine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 lb. red-skinned potatoes, cut into 3/4-1 inch cubes

Heat oven to 400F. Whisk together mustard, olive oil, vermouth, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Add potatoes and toss to coat. Dump the potatoes onto a large rimmed baking sheet and spread them in a single layer. Roast, tossing with a spatula a few times, until the potatoes are crusty on the outside and tender on the inside (50-55 min.) Serve hot!

I've substituted many different types of liquor for the vermouth (sherry, brandy, etc.) and it always turns out fine. I've also used other kinds of mustard, but Dijon really does taste the best.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Apple Tart with Almond Cream

FYI, here's recipe for the apple/almond tart for coffee hour today. 

I doubled the rum, but in the future I would probably triple or quadruple what they have in the recipe. I think it would add more depth to the flavors; otherwise it's kind of OMG SWEET ALL THE TIME.

Also, I'd use roasted salted almonds (your food processor will make many noises, but it will be worth it). The raw slivered almonds made the filling a little bland. 

And finally, I would reduce the granulated sugar in the almond filling by, say, a third. And/or sub in some brown sugar.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Port Roasted Pears

6 servings

5 red anjou pears
1/2 cup port wine
1/4 cup  olive oil
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 packet thingie of raspberries
1/4 cup port wine
1 Tbsp brown sugar
mint sprigs for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350º. Slice pears into quarters, toss with olive oil, port, sugar, and black pepper. Roast for 40ish minutes, until golden.
Meanwhile, blend raspberries with remaining port and sugar in food processor or blender.
Simmer raspberry sauce at medium heat, until mildly reduced. Stir in butter.

Once pears have finished roasting, spoon 3 slices into each dish, drizzle with heavy cream, top with raspberry sauce, and garnish with mint.