Thursday, May 29, 2008

Coconut Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Frosting

There is only one word for these cupcakes: WOW. Mercedes of Desert Candy posted this amazing recipe for Coconut-Dulce de Leche cupcakes, and I immediately knew I would have to make them. The cupcakes are perfectly fluffy with a delicate coconut flavor that's especially good while they're still slightly warm (though the cupcakes are also really delicious later, once cooled). Then, the frosting just tops everything off perfectly with an amazing, sweet, caramel-y flavor that's tempered by tangy cream cheese. You must try these--wow! They will probably require a trip to the store--or at least they did for me--because they have some ingredients that don't typically show up in the pantry (coconut extract, dulce de leche, etc.) but it is so worth it. Yum!

I changed the recipe just a teeny bit from the original, using unsweetened coconut instead of sweetened...this was all that was available at the local Whole Foods, so I went with it. It seemed to work out fine and because the pieces were smaller, I could just dump them directly into my batter after toasting. If you're using sweetened coconut, you might want to follow the original recipe instead (linked below).

Coconut Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Frosting (adapted very slightly from Mercedes's original recipe here)

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 egg whites (1/2 cup egg whites)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
a teeny splash of coconut extract (I could only find imitation, so I used a tip more than the recommended 1-2 drops)
1 cup unsweetened, dried coconut

1/2 cup dulce de leche (I used store-bought but you can make your own also)
3 tablespoons cream cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread coconut on a baking sheet and toast until golden (watch carefully that it does not burn). Set aside to cool.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Combine egg whites, milk and vanilla and coconut extracts. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture then add half the milk mixture. Continue to alternate beginning and ending with flour mixture, until mixture is well combined. Set aside 1/4 of the coconut for topping, and stir the rest into the batter.

3. Fill cupcake pans 3/4 full. Bake cupcakes 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

4. Make the frosting: Stir together dulce de leche and cream cheese until smooth. Spread on cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle reserved coconut on top.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

DB May Challenge: Opera Cake

This month's challenge was an Opera Cake, and I chose to make a lavender Opera Cake because of the spring-y flavor. I loved the delicate taste of the cake and the mousse was absolutely amazing! The cake was lots of work, but also delicious, so thanks to Ivonne and Lis for a fabulous challenge this month!

The Opera Cake involves five elements: joconde, buttercream, syrup, mousse, and glaze. I've listed my alterations to the recipe below, but you can see the original recipe here. I made a half-recipe of the cake and baked it in round pans. I also used oat flour instead of almond meal in the joconde. This worked well...I was a little worried when I pulled the cakes out of the oven because they smelled a tad like oatmeal, but once it was all cooled and put together the cake was fantastic.

This month's challenge is dedicated to Barbara for all her work on the Taste of Yellow blog event in support of LiveSTRONG.

1. Lavender Syrup
2 c sugar
1 c water
2 tsp dried lavender flowers

Bring everything to a simmer and stir until the sugar dissolves. Let steep 10-15 minutes off the heat, then strain into a tupperware. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

2. Joconde (Cake)

3 egg whites
1 T granulated sugar
1 c icing sugar
2 tsp lavender flowers
1 c oat flour
3 whole eggs
1/4 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 T butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray 2 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray.

Beat the egg whites and granulated sugar until they form stiff, glossy peaks. Set aside.

Pulse icing sugar and lavender flours in a food processor for a couple of minutes. Then put them in a bowl with the oat flour and eggs. Beat on medium speed until thick and voluminous (3-4 minutes). Add the all-purpose flour and beat on low speed just for a couple of seconds until everything is combined. Gently fold in the egg whites and then the cooled butter with a rubber spatula.

Pour about one third of the batter into each of the two pans and bake in the oven for about 5-9 minutes until the edges are brown and the cakes are springy. (It will just be a little bit of batter in each pan--the cake layers are very thin.) Once they are cooked, run a knife around the edges, cover the pan with wax paper, and turn out onto a plate. Wash one pan in cold water to cool it off, dry, re-oil, and cook the remaining batter in the same manner. You will end up with three thin layers, all on wax-papered plates.

3. White Chocolate Ganache/Mousse

3.5 oz. good quality white chocolate (I recommend Green & Blacks)
1 1/2 T heavy cream + 1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 T lavender syrup (from Step 1)

Melt the white chocolate and 1 1/2 T cream in a small saucepan. Stir the whole time with a rubber spatula. It will look curdled for a while but will come together. When everything is melted, take off the heat and keep stirring until smooth. Add the lavender syrup and stir to combine. Keep stirring it every couple of minutes until it is cooled (but not hard).

Beat the remaining 1/2 c heavy cream until you get stiff peaks. Put a little bit in the chocolate and stir to lighten the chocolate. Then put the chocolate into the bowl with the whipped cream and gently fold in. Chill until ready to use.

4. Buttercream

1/2 c sugar
2 egg whites
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, soft
2 T lavender syrup, above
red and blue food coloring

Whisk the sugar and whites together in the top of a double boiler. Heat until hot to the touch, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and immediate beat with a hand mixer on medium high speed until voluminous, shiny, and cool. Beat in the butter 1/2 stick at a time. Add the lavender syrup 2 tsp at a time until you get the flavor and sweetness you want, and then add 2 drops of red coloring and 2 drops of blue food coloring to make a lavender frosting. Beat until the frosting is smooth and thick.

5. White Chocolate Glaze
(Make this after the rest of the cake is already assembled and chilled.)

7 oz. white chocolate
1/4 c heavy cream

Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth. Let cool for 10 minutes before pouring over the chilled cake.


Ok, so now you have three cake rounds, syrup, buttercream, and mousse (you'll make the glaze after assembling the rest of the cake). Place the first round on your serving platter and moisten with the lavender syrup (I used a pastry brush). You can be pretty liberal with the syrup. Then cover generously with about half the buttercream. Repeat with layer two. Put on the final round of cake, and moisten with the syrup. Cover with the mousse and spread everything out as smoothly as possible. Chill the cake until firm (a couple of hours).

Then, make the glaze and let cool about 10 minutes. Pour carefully over the top of the cake and smooth it out. Refrigerate the cake again until well chilled. Decorate and enjoy! :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rhubarb Cupcakes with Fluffy Rhubarb Frosting

Coconut & Lime, one of my favorite blogs, is having an anniversary--four years! In honor of that, Rachel is holding a contest, which you can read all about here.

I chose to make Rachel's amazing Rhubarb Cupcakes with Fluffy Rhubarb Frosting. These were amazing. The cupcakes are nice and moist, very sweet with little chunks of sour rhubarb to brighten things up. The frosting is even better, fluffy and marshmallow-y with a subtle, sweet rhubarb flavor and a hint of pink color. I could eat this out of a bowl by itself! Together, this is an excellent treat with the rhubarb playing two roles--sour in the cake and sweet in the frosting. Yum!

Rhubarb Cupcakes (from Coconut and Lime, original recipe here)
Makes 12

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, soft
1 cup milk
1 cup diced rhubarb (very small dice)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until completely combined.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture along with the milk and beat until well combined. Fold in the rhubarb.
4. Divide batter among 12 muffin cups. Bake 12-15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Make sure the cupcakes are baked all the way through as they are very moist.

Fluffy Rhubarb Frosting (from Coconut and Lime, original recipe here)

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
1 stalk rhubarb, chopped into large pieces
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt

1. Beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks using an electric mixer. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, rhubarb and water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil until it reaches soft ball stage (235 degrees on a candy thermometer), while continuing to stir occasionally. Strain and discard the rhubarb into a bowl or measuring cup with a spout, pressing on the rhubarb to extract as much syrup as possible.
3. Briefly beat the egg whites again for a couple of seconds. With the mixer running, slowly stream in the rhubarb syrup. Beat about 5 minutes until the frosting is glossy and voluminous. Add the vanilla and beat to combine.
4. Transfer to a pastry bag and pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Note: Because this is a meringue-like frosting, it will look best the day it is made. It still tastes good after that, but won't look as glossy.

Here you can see the cooking rhubarb syrup. I was very excited to be able to use my grandmother's candy thermometer!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lemon-Chamomile Cream Pie

My sister Anna is in town visiting (yay!) and she brought me the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living. It has a whole article on cream pies, and we just had to try one--specifically, the Lemon Chamomile Cream Pie. The recipe was easy to follow, though long, and the results were amazing. I was definitely glad we were working together on it because it had a lot of steps! Don't be afraid of the number of tea bags listed in the recipe--the chamomile flavor is not overwhelming and blends really nicely with the lemon. It's not exactly a cream pie--more of a custard pie with meringue topping--but it's absolutely delicious and very different from a lemon meringue pie despite the similar components.

This recipe was also perfect for this month's Sugar High Friday, hosted by Tartelette. The theme this month is citrus--yum! Check out all the amazing entries starting in a few days.

Lemon-Chamomile Cream Pie (from Martha Stewart Living)

Cornmeal Crust

1 1/2 c all purpose flour
3/4 c cornmeal, preferably medium-ground
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp sugar
3/4 c cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
1/4 c ice water

1. Pulse flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar in food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal (about 10 pulses). With the machine running, slowly add the water until the dough just begins to hold together (no more than 30 seconds).
2. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll our the dough to about 1/8-in thick. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate and trim the edges. Tuck under and crimp. Lightly prick the bottom with a fork and chill 30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line dough with parchment, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake 15-18 minutes, until edges begin to turn gold. Remove weights and parchment and bake until crust is golden bron, about 12-15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

Filling and Meringue

Cornmeal Crust
3 cups whole milk
12 chamomile tea bags
1/4 c cornstarch
1 1/4 c plus 2 T sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (from 2-3 lemons)
1/4 c fresh lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
4 T unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1. Bring milk to a boil in a medium saucepan and remove from heat. Add tea bags, cover, and let steep 5 minutes. Strain, pressing on the tea bags to extract liquid. Discard tea bags.
2. Combine cornstarch, 1 c sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk in milk mixture. Set over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until bubbling and thick, about 7 minutes total (about 2 minutes after it comes to a boil).
3. Whisk yolks in a medium bowl. Pour in milk mixture in a very slow and steady stream, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it returns to a boil, 1-2 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and juice. Add butter, 1 T at a time, whisking until the butter melts before adding the next piece. Let cool, whisking occasionally, about 10 minutes.
5. Pour custard into cornmeal crust. Press plastic wrap directly on surface and chill until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.
6. Just before serving, combine whites and remaining 1/4 c plus 2 T sugar in the top of a double boiler. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture is warm, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt. Beat on medium-high speed until shiny, stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes.
7. Spread meringue over pie. and serve immediately.

Note: The egg whites aren't cooked so don't serve this to folks who shouldn't eat raw eggs.

Here's my sister with the pie!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Blueberry-Chocolate Chip Muffins

I had a craving for sweets last night and I whipped up these super easy, yummy muffins from Bake or Break. The batter is a nice, neutral backdrop for whatever you choose to mix in. I had some things to use up--blueberries from the farmer's market about to go bad, the end of a bag of white chocolate chips, and some regular chocolate chips for good measure--and these all combined really well for a delicious muffin. I've been gobbling them down! My only advice is to be careful to let them cook long enough and test them well to make sure they're fully cooked--I kept wanting to take them out because they were looking brown, but they actually take quite a while to cook and don't burn in the process.

Blueberry-Chocolate Chip Muffins
From Bake or Break (original recipe here).

Dry ingredients:
1 1/2 c flour
1/3 c white sugar
1/4 c brown sugar (packed)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Wet ingredients:
2 eggs, whisked
1/2 c milk
1/2 c butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract

Add-ins--up to you, but I used:
3/4 c blueberries
1/4 c white chocolate chips
1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease one muffin tin.

Whisk together the dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Then combine and stir together until just combined. Stir in the add-ins gently.

Divide batter between muffin cups and bake 20-22 minutes.

Also, check out my new Cupcake Courier, which will be great for carrying around cupcakes but is also handy just for storing cupcakes and muffins so they don't get stale or attacked by bugs.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Treats for Kids

My housemate is a middle school teacher, so we made these treats for her class. Both were really good! The Rice Krispies treats were super, super easy and the addition of mini M&Ms made them a lot of fun. It was also a great deal of fun to melt the marshmallows with butter! In fact, I was so sad to give them away to the kids that I made another batch for us, with some leftover chocolate, chopped into chunks. This way was delicious too.

The cookies come from Baking Bites, and we picked the recipe because it involves not only chocolate chips but also some Rice Krispies for crunch. I wasn't a huge fan of the Rice Krispies--once the cookies cooled, they added an interesting crunch and slightly malty flavor, but they really stuck in your teeth when the cookies were warm, which is my favorite way to eat cookies. :) The cookie recipe overall was really yummy, though. Here's the original recipe for Giant Bakery-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Samosas with McQuade's Celtic Chutney

A while back, Blake Makes offered up a really nice giveaway--McQuade's Celtic Chutneys. I received the Fig 'N Ginger chutney in the mail and was really excited to try it with homemade samosas. I'd made these samosas once before and loved them, but they're a lot of work so it was nice to have a good excuse to make them again!

The samosas aren't hard to make, they just have a lot of components and so it takes a while to do it. But it's totally worth it--these samosas are really delicious! They were even better with the Fig 'N Ginger chutney. Even though I guess this is a celtic chutney, it went really well with Indian flavors and had big chunks of fruit. Yum yum yum.

Samosas (from The Moosewood Cookbook)

2 large potatoes, cooked and mashed
1 c finely minced onion
2 medium cloves crushed garlic
1/2 tsp fresh-grated ginger root
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 c diced carrots, cooked until just tender
1/2 c cooked green peas
1 tsp salt
juice from 1/2 lemon
2-3 T butter

Heat butter in a heavy skillet. Add garlic, ginger, onion, salt, and mustard. Saute 6-8 minutes until onion is soft and clear. Combine with potatoes, salt, and coriander, and pulse in the food processor briefly to combine (optional--you can just mix, depending how smooth/chunky you want your potatoes, onions, etc.). Remove from food processor and mix in all the remaining ingredients. Fold in the peas last, being very gentle.

4 c white flour
2 tsp salt
8 T melted butter
2/3 c yogurt

Make this dough in two batches. Sift together 2 c flour and 1 tsp salt. Add 4 T of melted butter, 1/3 c yogurt, and enough water to make a stiff dough. Knead until smooth and elastic. Make and fill the samosas with half the filling as described below (after the photos), and then repeat the dough recipe to make enough dough for the remaining filling.

Ready to fry!


Roll out the dough. The recipe recommends rolling it all out until it is very thin, and then cutting it into 4-inch circles with a cookie cutter. I found this was too fussy and the dough was too difficult to get thin. Instead, I pulled off walnut-sized pieces of dough and rolled them individually into roughly circle-shaped pieces, filling as I went. Any method that results in smallish, thin pieces of dough would be fine. Fill each dough circle with about 1 T of the filling (or as much as fits). Then brush the edges of the circle with water, fold over, and seal with a fork. This takes a little practice but you can get pretty fast.

Heat a 3-inch pool of vegetable, safflower, or soy oil in a heavy skillet or pot. I used a Dutch oven to prevent splatter, which worked very well. Heat to about 365 degrees, until the oil bounces a drop of water on contact (this takes a little while). Fry the samosas until deep golden, making sure not to crowd too many in the pot (I did about 5-6 at a time). Drain well and serve with chutney and/or raita.

This big pot was great to fry in as it kept the oil from spattering all over me.

Here are all the samosas with McQuade's chutney in the background!

When Life Gives You Lemons (Part 2)

We made this strawberry lemonade a few weeks ago but I haven't gotten the chance to post because of being super busy with finals and papers. But! Now that the weather is scorching hot out, I think it's time to share this recipe with everyone. This is seriously one of the most amazing, refreshing, delicious drinks ever. And, it's the perfect treat for warm weather because, of course, it doesn't require any cooking.

This was made with the lemons we got from friends Kathryn and Chris, along with with Triple-Lemon Cupcakes I posted about a few weeks ago. Yum!

Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade (from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics)

Serves about 4

1 c sugar
1/2 c water
2 c rinsed, stemmed, and quartered strawberries
1 c strained fresh lemon juice (LOTS of lemons)
24 oz. sparkling water
mint leaves (optional garnish)

1. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and the liquid becomes clear. Transfer to blender.
2. Put the strawberries in a food processor and process until liquefied. Strain into blender (optional, but I like my drinks without seeds). Add the lemon juice to the blender and mix everything together.
3. In a pitcher, combine puree with sparkling water and serve in tall glasses over ice. Alternately, prepare individual glasses by combining equal parts puree and sparkling water. The puree will keep in the fridge for about 4 days.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Peanut Butter Blondies

I made these peanut butter blondies from Genesis of a Cook...yum! I didn't use nuts because of a housemate's aversion to them, and I couldn't find any coconut (ALL the bulk bins were out at the store!), so I instead substituted in dried cherries for the nuts and coconut--yum! The combo of chocolate and cherries was delicious with the peanut butter. These were a little drier/crumblier than the blondies I'm used to (maybe because of the peanut butter), but still delicious.

The recipe is here, where you can also check out Tarah's amazing photos!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Grilled Shrimp with Avocado Salsa

I convinced my housemate Josh to make this delicious dish with me a couple of weekends ago when the weather was lovely. It was perfect grilling weather, but of course I can't grill so I had to recruit some help. :)

The shrimp is delicious and the salsa complements it perfectly. It seemed like a lot of salsa to start with, but in the end we ate pretty much all of it. The shrimp and salsa were perfect with some grilled bread. This meal served five people and we didn't have much left over!

Grilled Shrimp with Avocado Salsa (adapted from Salsas by Elsa Petersen-Schepelem)

For salsa:
1 red onion, chopped
1 chile, diced
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
2 large Hass avocados, halved, pits removed
2 red tomatoes, halved, seeded, and diced
large handful cilantro
4 ears grilled corn, kernels removed

Put the onion, chile, and half the lime juice into a bowl and set aside to marinate for a bit. Using a small spoon, scoop out the avocados into the bowl and add the lime zest and remaining juice. Add diced tomatoes, cilantro, and corn, and toss together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For shrimp:
2 lbs uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 chile
1/2 red onion, diced
juice of 2 limes
olive oil
pinch salt
2 T brown sugar

2 large white onions cut into large pieces
2 bell peppers, cut into large pieces

Put all the ingredients in a bowl except the shrimp and mix together. Add the shrimp and veggies, if using, and toss to coat. Let marinate at least 3o mintutes. Put everything onto skewers, alternating shrimp and veggies, and grill to desired doneness.