Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gorgeous Gougeres

Finally, I'm getting the chance to post about the gougeres I made for our MLK day party. These tasty little cheese puffs are delicious just out of the oven but they also held up well and were yummy room-temperature a few hours later. These are sort of like savory cream puffs, without the cream. :)

I found these to be pretty forgiving. It would be best if you have everything prepared ahead (i.e. cheese grated, herbs chopped) so that you can add them when the recipe says. But of course I did not plan ahead so I'm sure the dough cooled off too much between additions...but I have to say I did not notice anything amiss with the final product!

Gougeres (slightly adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)

1 1/4 c flour
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 c grated Gruyere (5 oz.)
1/4 c grated Parmesan (1 oz.) plus more for sprinkling
2 T chopped fresh dill
2 T finely chopped scallions
4 large whole eggs plus 1 large egg white

1. Preheat oven to 425. Line 2 baking sheets.
2. In a saucepan, combine 1 c water with butter, salt, sugar, paprika, and pepper over medium high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and then immediately remove it from the heat. Using a wooden spoon, add flour and stir vigorously until the flour is not longer visible. Return pan to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a film on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Stir in both cheeses and the herbs, and mix until cheese is just melted.
3. Transfer to bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed until slightly cooled, 1 minute. Add 3 eggs one at a time on medium speed. Lightly beat the last egg and add a little at a time until the batter is smooth and shiny. It should form a soft peak when you touch it. If needed, at the egg white a little at a time.
4. You can pipe out the gougeres if you want, but I just scooped them out with a spoon. They didn't spread much so they can be pretty close together. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake 20 minutes until golden. If you lined the sheets with tin foil, try to get them off pretty soon so they don't stick.

Monday, January 28, 2008

DB January Challenge: Lemon Meringue Pie!

The Daring Bakers Challenge this month was Lemon Meringue Pie. Now, I love love love lemon meringue pie, but the last one I made was more like Lemon Meringue Soup! So I was a little nervous, especially since my mom and I were making it to take to a dinner with our neighbors...and we were starting a little late so it wasn't going to have time to totally cool before we left!

We first started on the crust, and while the dough was delicious and rolled out nicely we were a little concerned with how much butter was in it compared to other crust recipes...and whether due to the amount of butter or due to us not chilling the crust long enough before baking it, it turned out a disaster in the oven! It's meeeeeeeeelllllltting!!!

We did finish baking it though, and let me tell you, that crust was delicious--like eating shortbread cookies! For the pie though, it was much too...abstract art-y? Since it was the last minute, we had to sub in a less-tasty but more-structurally sound crust dough we had in the fridge...oops! But, I tried!

After the crust, the rest of the pie worked perfectly! The lemon curd was nice and thick when I poured it into the pie shell. Although it acquired some lumps at first, they mostly seemed to disappear once the butter was added, and weren't noticeable in eating the pie at all. The meringue whipped up beautifully...

...and I tried something other than little peaks and mountains on top of the pie, which I think worked out well and looked really nice.

When it was time to eat, everyone agreed that the pie was simply delicious! Just the right amount of tart and sweet, and a perfect meringue. It was a little warm on the bottom due to us not cooling it enough, but that was my fault, not the recipe. :) It was still extra tasty! Be sure to check out everyone else's pies this month! The Daring Baker's Blogroll is linked to over on my blogroll to the right of the blog.

Lemon Meringue Pie
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:
3/4 cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/3 cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3/4 cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

To Make the Crust:
Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt.Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1/2 inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

To Make the Filling:
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

To Make the Meringue:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mocha Meringue Cupcakes

This month's Cupcake Hero theme is coffee. I chose to make Mocha Meringue cupcakes for our big MLK day cocktails, wine & cheese party. They were amazingly yummy! The coffee really added a deep, delicious flavor to the chocolate cupcakes and the meringue frosting was perfectly fluffy and sweet.

Mocha Cupcakes (adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)
Makes 22

10 T very soft unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
7-1/4 oz. (1-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) unbleached all-purpose flour
2-1/2 oz. (1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups coffee, cooled to warm

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin pan with cupcake papers.
2. Put butter and sugar in a bowl. Cream until smooth and then mix in eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla and salt. Put in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder all at once, and stir in by hand. Gently whisk in the coffee until the batter is mostly smooth. Pour into cupcake papers and cook until a tester comes out clean (I didn't time it, but maybe 20 minutes?). Cool completely before topping with meringue frosting.

Meringue Topping

Whisk together 1/3 c sugar and 3 eggs in the top of a double boiler until the mixture reaches 110 degrees. Then transfer to a bowl and beat with electric mixer until the eggs for stiff peaks (may take several minutes). Frost the cupcakes with a rubber spatula and make lots of cute peaks and swirls. The brown the meringue with a mini-blowtorch (this step isn't necessary but makes them very cute!)

Finally, be sure to check out all the coffee-flavored cupcakes later this month at quirky cupcake!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Wine & Cheese & Cocktail Party!

We had a delightful wine/cheese/cocktail party over the weekend that was lots of fun. We had 10 kinds of cheese from Cheeseboard, an amazing local cheese co-op. Here's a look at the spread of goodies we had: Mocha Meringue Cupcakes (in honor of this month's Cupcake Hero), gougeres, and prosciutto-and-basil wrapped mozzarella and gruyere (a recipe of my housemate Jessie's).

All were delicious, as was the spread of cheese. More on the cupcakes and gougeres in a later post...
These tasty tidbits were easy to assemble--we just got a delicious ball of fresh mozzarella and cut it into little squares. We wrapped each one in a piece of prosciutto and a leaf of basil (it worked out to about a third of a slice of prosciutto per square of mozzarella). When we ran out of mozzarella, we used chunks of gruyere, which was different but also delicious. Then Jessie squeezed lemon juice over the top and yum, ready to devour!

And here are some shots of some of our cheeses...one of my favories had the cutest name...it was a sheep's milk cheese called "ewephoria"! :)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Orange Pancake Cupcakes

This cupcake recipe is from a fabulous "page-a-day" calendar that my housemate Jessie got for me. A new cupcake every day! Whee! The cupcakes called "Spanish Orange Syrup Cupcakes", and although they taste nothing like oranges, they are quite delicious. Several tasters (including myself) thought they tasted like sweet pancakes (in a good way). If I make these again, I would do something else with the syrup that is poured on top--even after twice the called-for simmering time, it never got very syrup-y. But generally, these were moist, dense, and very yummy...and a nice change to have no frosting...good for breakfast!

Orange Pancake Cupcakes (adapted from The Cupcake Calender)
Makes 12

2 medium blood oranges, peeled and roughly chopped (save the peel)
1/2 c butter
1 c superfine sugar
2 eggs
1/c semolina flour
1/2 c oat flour
1/2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

peel of 1 orange (from above)
1/2 c superfine sugar
1 c water

1. Preheat oven to 325. Place cupcake papers in tin.
2. In saucepan, cover the oranges with water. Simmer 15 minutes. Cool, drain, and puree in food processor.
3. Meanwhile, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Slowly beat in the eggs. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, along with the orange puree. Spoon into cups. Bake 35 minutes.
4. While cupcakes are baking, make the syrup. Remove the pith from the orange rind and roughly chop. Bring sugar and water to a simmer and add the orange rind. Boil uncovered for 5 minutes. While cupcakes are still warm, spoon the liquid over the cupcakes.
5. Can be stored in an airtight container for a few days.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fig-Walnut Bread

When my parents got some beautiful dried figs from my aunt and uncle for their anniversary, I went searching through my blog links for the perfect recipe to make. Luckily, there was a whole SHF event on the topic of figs, and alpineberry had the perfect recipe: Fig Walnut Loaf. I made a few changes--notably, replacing fresh figs with dry and replacing half the butter with vegetable oil because my mom was freaking out about the amount of butter we've consumed lately! I think the oil substitution made the bread a little crispier than it would have been otherwise, which was nice, but also a little dry (probably also due to dried figs instead of fresh). However, it was perfect with my mom's homemade raspberry-peach jam on top. Yum!

Fig-Walnut Bread (adapted from alpineberry's Fig Walnut Loaf)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/4 cup vegetable oil + 1/8 c oil (fill 1/4 cup halfway full)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup chopped dried figs
2/3 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan.
2. Whisk together flour and baking powder in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together butter and sugars. Mix in oil, eggs, and vanilla. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Stir in figs and nuts.
3. Pour into loaf pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 75 minutes. Cool in pan 5-10 minutes before slicing. Although it is delicious warm, the loaf is definitely much easier to cut once completely cool.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Oatmeal Lavender Scones

Another great use for the lavender my uncle sent us for Christmas--these turned out really well except that the bottoms browned too fast due to our cookie sheets, which are pretty cheap/thin. But, no worries, we just flipped them over and although they didn't get as much of a rise, they still turned out great--salty, buttery, good lavender flavor, great with jam or alone.

Oatmeal Lavender Scones (adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours “Oatmeal Nutmeg Scones”)

1 large egg
1/2 c cold buttermilk
1 2/3 c self-rising flour
1 1/3 c old-fashioned oats
1/3 c sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick plus 2 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 to 1 tsp lavender flowers
Lavender salt, to sprinkle on top (or substitute lavender flowers mixed with sea salt)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or tin foil.

2. Stir egg and buttermilk together.

3. Whisk together flour, oats, sugar, and baking soda in a large bowl. Drop in the butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or fingers.

4. Rub the lavender flowers between your fingers into the bowl of dry ingredients, and mix together.

5. Pour in the egg-buttermilk mixture and stir with a fork until the dough comes together—should be wet and sticky.

6. Still in the bowl, gently knead the dough by hand 8-10 times. Either on a floured work surface or still in the bowl, divide the dough in half and shape into 2 flat discs. Cut each into 6 wedges and place on the baking sheet. Sprinkle each scone with lavender salt or a mixture of lavender flowers and sea salt.

7. Bake 20-22 minutes until tops are golden and firm. Or, if you happen to have flimsy pans like ours, flip them over once the bottoms start to get dark—the scones won’t be quite as risen or pretty, but they’ll be much more delicious if the bottoms aren’t burned and the insides are fully cooked.

8. Enjoy plain or with jam.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Carrot and Cardamom Cupcakes

This is another great recipe from the cupcake book my sister gave me for Christmas (Cupcakes by Susannah Blake). These are actually not terribly "carrot-y"...the orange flavor is more prominent.

I used a different frosting than in the original recipe, which called for mascarpone cheese (we didn't have it on hand). Instead, we used some non-fat cream cheese from the fridge to make a quick cream cheese frosting (cream cheese, confectioner's sugar, a little butter, and orange zest). It was not as thick as most cream cheese frosting, even though there wasn't much liquid in it, I guess because of the lack of fat in the cream cheese? It was still yummy, though, and had a good cream cheese tang even if it wasn't super creamy. With the low-fat frosting, the use of oil rather than butter in the cupcake, and the carrots, this made for a relatively healthy cupcake that was still extra delicious!

Carrot and Cardamom Cupcakes (from Susannah Blake)
Yields: 12

1/2 c packed brown sugar
2/3 c oil
2 eggs
grated zest of 1 orange
seeds from 5 cardamom pods, crushed (or 1/2 tsp ground cardamom)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 c self-rising flour
1 c grated carrot
1/2 c chopped walnuts or pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put sugar in a bowl and break up using the back of a fork. Beat in the oil and eggs. Stir in the orange zest, cardamom, and ginger. Sift the flour into the bowl and then fold in, followed by carrots and nuts.
3. Spoon into muffin cups and bake about 20 minutes until risen and a tester comes out clean. Cool and then ice with cream cheese-orange frosting (rough recipe above in notes--just mix to taste and to the consistency you want!)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Lime Meringue Pie

My mom and I made this lime meringue pie for New Year's dinner. We had two of my good friends from college over, as well as my grandma...lots of fun! We cheated with a store-bought crust and just made the filling and meringue, and it worked out perfectly. I love having this type of pie because it connects to both my (great-) Grandma Ada on my mom's side and my Grandma Chatfield on my dad's side.

Lime Meringue Pie

1 c sugar
1/4 c corn starch
1 1/2 c cold water
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
grated peel of 1 lime
1/4 c lime juice
1 T butter
1 baked pie crust
3 egg whites
1/3 c sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1 c sugar and cornstarch in the top half of a double boiler and stir until smooth. Stir in the egg yolks.
2. Whisk constantly over the double boiler until the mixture is thickened.
3. Remove from heat and stir in lemon peel, juice, and butter. Spoon the hot filling into the pie crust.
4. In a small mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually beat in 1/3 c sugar until stiff peaks have formed. Spread over the hot filling, making sure to touch the crust on all sides so no filling is showing.
5. Bake 15-20 minutes until the meringue is golden and beautiful. Chill in the refrigerator.

Lavender Cupcakes

I made these delicious lavender cupcakes with the help of several Christmas presents. The recipe is from Cupcakes by Susannah Blake, a gift from my sister--so many yummy-looking recipes! The lavender was from my Uncle Bill. The adorable cupcake papers were also from my sister. And, the cupcakes are displayed on a fabulous rotating tiered display from my sister's boyfriend. So much fun! You turn it on and the cupcakes spin around!

The cupcakes were delightful...subtle lavender flavor that went well with the sugary frosting, nice crumb. I'll definitely make these again!

Lavender Cupcakes (from Susannah Blake)
Yeilds: 10-12 (recipe says 12, I barely got 10)

1/2 c granulated sugar
1/4 tsp dried lavender flowers
1 stick room temperature butter
2 eggs
1 c self rising flour
2 T milk

1 1/2 c confectioner's sugar
1 egg white
sanding sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put sugar and lavender in a food processor and process to combine. Put the lavender sugar in a bowl with the butter and beat together until pale and fluffy. Smells so delicious--yum!
3. Beat the eggs into the butter one at a time, then sift in the flour and fold it in. Stir in the milk and put the batter into cupcake tins. Bake 18 minutes until risen and golden.
4. Make the frosting. Beat the confectioners sugar into the egg white. Mine turned out pretty runny, so you might need to add more sugar than is called for if you want it to be stiffer. Frost the cupcakes once cool and top with lilac-colored sanding sugar.