Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July Daring Bakers: Macadamia-Apricot Cake

This month's Daring Baker's assignment came from Chris of Mele Cotte. The original cake was a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream, but I made a few changes, most importantly substituting macadamia nuts for the hazelnuts. Wow, what a delicious cake! Thanks to Chris for this awesome challenge! Here are the layers, from top to bottom:

Slices of fresh apricot
Macadamia praline buttercream
Apricot glaze
Macadamia genoise
Macadamia praline buttercream
Whipped cream (unsweetened)
Rum glaze
Macadamia genoise

The cake itself was light and flavorful, and the addition of the glazes made it extra moist and delicious. This buttercream is one of the best I've ever had! Not too buttery, and the macadamia praline paste made it just incredible. I'm not a great cake decorator, so the finished cake certainly wasn't as beautiful as those of some other DBs this month, but I have to say that the individual slices were gorgeous because of all the layers of yummies!

The original recipe can be found here, but I made a few changes. I used macadamia nuts instead of hazelnuts because another DB had posted on our message board that she tried them and really enjoyed how they worked--plus, they just sounded so summery and delicious to me! They made the thing layers of cake really rich and tasty. I omitted the chocolate ganache glaze simply because I wanted the cake to be as summery as possible and, much as I love dark chocolate, it seems like a more winter-y flavor to me, especially when combined with nuts. I also used a half recipe of Dorie's buttercream recipe (minus the lemon, linked here) for the buttercream, and added in lots and lots of macadamia praline paste (much more than called for in the original), just because I loved how it tasted. Finally, I didn't strain the apricot glaze so that there were some pieces of apricot under the frosting--a delicious surprise!

All in all, this cake seemed to get rave reviews from my "tasters", both from lovers of the Opera cake and those who didn't care for it so was interesting, because although the cakes had some very similar components, they ended up with a very different feel in the final product (of course, they were also different flavors!). One thing I definitely learned from making this cake was to let it sit out for about 15 minutes before eating after it had been in the fridge--all the components are much yummier when softer and closer to room temperature (although everything does cut better cold).

Be sure to check out all the other cakes this month at the Daring Bakers Blogroll (link in sidebar to the left).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chicken with Catalan Picada

This dish is fairly easy to pull together, especially with two chefs, and it has great flavor. It tastes a little like mole, the Mexican chocolate sauce, but not spicy. My mom says it tastes very gourmet, and I agree--tons of flavor complexity for not much effort! We served the chicken with potatoes, but rice would also be a good accompaniment. Yum!

Chicken with Catalan Picada (adapted from Food and Wine)

4 whole chicken legs, split or 6 chicken breast halves, with or without skin
Salt and pepper
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
14-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup sweet wine or sherry
1 bay leaf
3-inch strip of orange zest
1/4 tsp thyme
Picada, recipe below

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. If using skin-on chicken, brown the skin in 2 T of oil for about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate. If using skinless chicken, add in step 2.

2. If you haven't browned the chicken, add oil to the skillet. Add the onion and cook until softened, 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat until very thick, 5 minutes. Add the broth, wine, bay leaf, orange zest, and thyme. Bring to a boil Add the chicken, cover, and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, turning once.

3. Stir the picada into the sauce and simmer over low heat, uncovered, for 15 minutes, until chicken is fully cooked and sauce is slightly thickened. Discard bay leaf and orange zest and season with salt and pepper.

Picada (from Food and Wine)

1 slice peasant bread, crust removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 T oil
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 c parsley
1/8 tsp cinnamon
Large pinch allspice

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the bread cubes and almonds until slightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.

2. In a small skillet, cook the garlic in the oil until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

3. Put the garlic, oil, bread, and almonds in the food processor. Add the chocolate, parsley, cinnamon, and allspice and process until the mixture becomes a paste.

Monday, July 28, 2008

World Peace Cookies

I don't know how I avoided making these cookies for so long! I know they've made the rounds on the blogs probably a few years ago, but somehow the whole "refrigerate for three hours" part scared me off because I like my cookies right away, thank you very much! Well, it turns out that these are very much worth the wait, with delicious chocolate flavor and that perfect kick of salt, plus a texture that's buttery and just melts in your mouth. Wow. If you're one of the two remaining folks out there who hasn't made these cookies, you absolutely must try them!

World Peace Cookies (from Dorie Greenspan's Cooking from My Home to Yours)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips [I used semi-sweet chocolate chunks]

1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

3. Turn off the mixer. Pour in the dry ingredients, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don't be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you've frozen the dough, you needn't defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

Getting Ready to Bake:

5. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

6. Using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you're cutting them — don't be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won't look done, nor will they be firm, but that's just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Red Beans and Rice & Zucchini Cornbread

I found both of these recipes on favorite blogs and they were perfect for a quick dinner. Closet Cooking has this fabulous recipe for red beans and rice. I couldn't find scotch bonnet peppers, but some serranos spiced everything up quite well, despite being a little less authentic! I also jazzed up the recipe by adding a little bacon. The beans and rice were delicious on their own as a yummy main dish, and also the perfect accompaniment for some spinach chicken my housemate made the next day. I also enjoyed the leftovers reheated with an over-easy egg on generally, I'd say this dish is totally versatile--main dish, side dish, even breakfast!

If you make this meal, be sure to save all that bacon grease from cooking the bacon for the beans and rice--it was a great addition to this fabulous zucchini cornbread from Baking Bites. This is a delicious recipe and also a great way to use up the millions of zucchinis that are no doubt populating your (or your neighbor's) garden...well, one of them anyway! It's moist and slightly molasses-y, but not so sweet that it can't be enjoyed with a savory dinner.

Red Beans and Rice (original recipe from Closet Cooking is here)

Note that the brand of coconut milk I used was pretty thin...if you buy a thick coconut milk, you might want to use less coconut milk and more water, depending on how rich you'd like the final dish to be. Note also that this makes a ton, but that the leftovers are awesome--we actually managed to eat them all up, which is sometimes a struggle in our house!

6 slices of bacon (or more)
3 cups uncooked Jasmine rice
2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 serrano peppers, tops removed and cut in half lengthwise
5 green onions, white parts and a couple inches of green, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 cans coconut milk
2 cups water
lots of salt and pepper to taste

1. Fry the bacon until crispy. Drain on paper towels and reserve the oil from the bacon.

2. Measure out 3 T bacon grease for the cornbread and then pour the rest into a large pot (about 1 T). Dump in the rest of the ingredients except the reserved bacon. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the rice is cooked. You may need to add more water. When everything is cooked, crumble the bacon and gently stir into the beans and rice. Taste for salt and pepper.

3. Remove the peppers (or just warn the eaters) and serve, with extra salt and pepper for those who want it.

Zucchini Cornbread (original recipe from Baking Bites is here)

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 egg white
2 T molasses
3 T bacon grease, slightly cooled but still liquid (or melted butter)
1 cup finely shredded zucchini

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease an 8- or 9-inch pie plate

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: buttermilk, egg, egg white, molasses and bacon grease until smooth. Pour wet into the dry and stir just to combine. Add the zucchini and stir to evenly distribute. Pour batter into pie plate and spread evenly.

3. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the bread springs back when lightly pressed. Cool for about 10 minutes or more, and then cut into wedges to serve.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stuffed Squash

I'm currently in Independence, MO doing research at the Truman Presidential Library, so this is a recipe I made a couple of weeks ago. When I first got to Independence, I was rather distressed about my eating situation--both my hotel and the library are in sort of strip mall-y areas, and the only restaurants around seemed to be fast food or chains like Bob Evans and Chiles. Now, I love me some Bob Evans sometimes, but I don't exactly want to eat it for three meals a day!

However, things are looking up: my hotel has little yoplait yogurts in their continental breakfast, I stopped by the grocery store to get some non-perishable stuff to make myself lunches (I'd forgotten how good peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches are out of a brown bag!), and I discovered downtown Independence, which is actually pretty cute, all two blocks of it. I stopped in at Cafe Verona tonight, and really enjoyed their delicious Ceasar salad and reasonably tasty lasagna. Still, I miss making my own food! Even in the zillion degree heat, I'm dreaming of these stuffed squash I made a few weeks ago with my mom. (And BOY, is it hot here! The reference librarian was commenting yesterday that oh, the humidity is only 85 percent! And that's so good for here!) See, despite the heat, I'm spending all day in a highly air conditioned archive, so hot food still sounds pretty good!

Of course, these squash are probably best in the fall, but when you happen to find an old butternut squash in your basement in July, they're still pretty amazing. The recipe suggests that these would be a great Thanksgiving main dish for vegetarians, and I would definitely agree with that. Even if, like myself, you're not a veggie, I think you'll still love them. The stuffing is like a jazzed up version of Thanksgiving dressing, and it pairs perfectly with the creamy orange squash. One half squash is enough for a light dinner, or two halves for a big eater.

Also, feel free to change things up! The original recipe is below, but we subbed almonds for walnuts and pine nuts for sunflower seeds, just cause that's what was around...both were a stunning success!

Stuffed Squash (from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook)

2 butternut squash, split

3-4 T butter

½ cup chopped onion

1 large clove garlic, crushed and diced

1 stalk chopped celery

¼ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup sunflower seeds

½ tsp sage

½ tsp thyme

1 cup coarsely-crumbled whole wheat bread

Juice from ½ lemon

¼ cup raisins

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Remove the seeds from the squash halves and bake, face down on an oiled tray for 30 minutes at 350 degrees until tender enough to eat.

2. While baking, make the filling. Saute the onions, garlic, celery, nuts, and seeds in butter. Cook over low heat until onions are clear, nuts are browned, and celery is tender.

3. Add the remaining ingredients, except the cheese. Cook over low heat for 5-8 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat and mix in the cheese. Pack into squash cavities and bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Creole Fish Stew with Quinoa

My housemate Jessie and I chose this fish stew because it was a change of pace from what we usually make for dinner. We loved it! The soup is flavorful and spicy, and has a nice balance between the fish and the veggies. We used cod, but I think another firm white fish would also be tasty. This makes a LOT, so either halve the recipe or invite some friends over. :)

Creole Fish Stew (from New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant)

3 T butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 garlic clove, minced
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 small bulb fennel, cored and chopped
2 large potatoes, cubed
2 small zucchini, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (pull off the leaves and discard stem)
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup tomato juice
3 cups vegetable stock
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 pounds firm white fish, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp

To serve: cooked quinoa or another grain

1. Saute the onions and garlic in butter until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, fennel, and potatoes and saute for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and green pepper, and saute another 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf, thyme, tomatoes, tomato juice, and stock. Simmer 15-20 minutes until the veggies are all tender.

2. Add the Tabasco sauce to taste. (If you want it to be spicy, you'll have to add quite a bit). Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the lemon juice, fish, and shrimp. Simmer about 5 minutes until the fish is just cooked and flakes easily with a fork but does not fall apart. Be careful not to overcook!

3. To serve, add a scoop of cooked quinoa in the bottom of the bowl, and then ladle the stew on top. The stew is delicious served with cornbread, which is how we had it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Blueberry-Raspberry Pie

Mmmm, this pie is fantastic! The inspiration was Dorie's Double Crusted Blueberry Pie, but we added lots of raspberries too, and much less sugar. I like my berry pies on the tarter side, but if you like yours uber-sweet, you can add the full cup of sugar.

One thing I really liked about this pie was that the filling really held together well and didn't run all over the place like some pies I've made...I think this may have had something to do with the preponderance of raspberries, which have lots of natural pectin. It was tasty at slightly warm/at room temperature and also chilled.

Blueberry-Raspberry Pie (adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours)

1 pint blueberries
1 pint black raspberries
1/2 pint red raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
pinch salt
coarsely grated zest of 1/2 Meyer lemon
juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon

2 pie crusts

1. Butter a 9-inch pie plate. Roll crust to 1/8 inch and fit into plate. Trim edges to a 1/2 inch overhang. Roll the other piece of dough to 1/8 inch thick also; set aside. Chill both.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put the berries in a large bowl and gently stir in the sugar, flour, salt, zest, and juice. Let sit 5 minutes. Taste and add more sugar/lemon juice as needed.

3. Remove pie shell from the fridge and sprinkle bread crumbs over the bottom. Pour the filling into the crust. Moisten the rim of the bottom crust with cold water, then put on the top crust. Fold over and crimp the crust. Cut four slits in the top crust and a circle out of the center; lift onto baking sheet.

4. If there is time, optionally chill the pie for 30 minutes. Then brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake the pie another 30 minutes (for 1 hour total baking time). Let rest at least 30 minutes before serving.

Here's the pie with some homemade black raspberry-red raspberry-strawberry jam!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pineapple Teriyaki Tofu

My housemate Jessie and I came up with this recipe and it couldn't be easier! The tofu is nice and delicious, the veggies all blend well together, and the sweet, slightly spicy sauce pulls everything together. It's also really easy to make substitutions--I made this with my mom when I was last home, and we added leftover broccoli and potatoes instead of the tomatoes, which was delicious! If you don't have chili garlic sauce, you can add some minced garlic and chopped jalapeƱo with the onion and bell pepper.

Also, since we came up with this recipe ourselves, I thought I'd do some photos all the way along! Here we go:

Here's the sauce. You could also use another kind of teriyaki sauce.

The first step is to make the tofu: press, marinate in the sauce, dredge in cornstarch, and saute until brown and crispy. It should look like the above photo.

Set the tofu aside, add more oil to the pan, and add sliced bell peppers and onions...

...and saute until nice and soft.
In a small, dry, nonstick pan, cook the tomatoes until the skin starts to become brown and blistered. Shake the pan from time to time to make sure everything gets browned.

Add in the tomatoes, pineapple, diced ginger, the leftover marinade, and more teriyaki sauce to make a good sauce (you probably won't use the whole jar--make it as saucy as you like).

Saute until everything gets warm and soft. Taste, and add salt and chili garlic sauce.

Finally, toss in the tofu and some salted, roasted cashews for crunch.
Here's the plated dish, served with some rice and greens. Dig in!

Pineapple Teriyaki Tofu

1 block extra firm tofu (not silken tofu)
3-4 T cornstarch
1 jar Soy-Vey Island Teriyaki Sauce
Vegetable oil
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
A generous handful of grape or cherry tomatoes
1-1 1/2 cans pineapple, cut into chunks (or buy the kind already in chunks)
1-2 tsp diced fresh ginger, to taste
Salt, to taste
Chili garlic sauce, to taste
A handful of roasted cashews (try to find roasted, unsalted ones if you can)

1. Prepare the tofu. For a chewier texture, freeze overnight, then defrost. For a creamier texture, skip this step. Either way, then press the tofu under heavy cans or a heavy pot for 2 or more hours. Cut into cubes and then place the tofu in a bowl and cover with the teriyaki sauce. Marinate at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes. Dredge the marinated tofu in cornstarch (I do this by shaking everything around in a gallon-size Ziplock). Make sure to reserve the leftover marinade.

2. Heat some vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet (or wok). Add the tofu cubes and fry until they are a deep golden brown. Set aside. Turn the heat down to medium. Add more oil to the pan if needed and then dump in the onion and pepper slices. Stirring often, cook the onions and peppers until soft. Turn off the heat.

3. Put the cherry tomatoes in a dry, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Shake the pan, occasionally at first and then more frequently as the tomatoes start to brown, until some tomatoes have burst a little and all are starting to get browned spots.

4. Add the tomatoes to the onions and peppers along with the pineapple chunks and the reserved marinade. Add more teriyaki sauce as desired to create a sauce-y consistency. Cook a few minutes, then taste and add fresh ginger, salt, and chili garlic sauce to taste. Continue to cook until the sauce is somewhat reduced...eyeball it until it's all looking good.

5. Add the tofu and the cashews to the skillet and cook about 5 minutes more, just to warm everything through. Serve with rice.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Soft Chocolate and Raspberry Pie/Tart

Wowsers, this tart is absolutely to die for! The crust is delicious and tastes like soft shortbread, and the filling is soft and decadent with a lovely tang from the raspberries. I made the recipe twice with some slight variations. The first time, I made the pie for a barbecue at my house in Berkeley. Although the original recipe is for a tart, I baked this in a pie pan with no trouble (I still don't have a tart pan!). In the pie dish, or perhaps due to our really old oven, it took a lot longer to bake than the original recipe and never quite set in the center, but still turned out delicious! We gobbled it up in no time.

When I was home visiting my parents, I made the tart again with my mom. This time, we were able to use her tart pan, which did make the dessert really pretty! We didn't have any ground almonds, so we just made a regular sweet tart shell (replacing the almonds with the same amount of all-purpose flour), which worked out well. The best part of this tart was that we used half red raspberries and half black raspberries--yum! We also discovered that you really do need a food processor for the tart dough! We tried making it by hand and it just wouldn't come together...we ended up doing it in two batches in my mom's little mini-food processor, and that was a good solution. In the tart pan/my mom's oven, the tart baked in the listed time.

Finally, we liked the tart at all temperatures. The recipe says that the tart doesn't hold over and won't be as good cold, but there was no way that three of us (my mom, my dad, and myself) could eat an entire tart in one evening! So, we took our chances and tried refrigerating our happy surprise, we really liked the tart cold! The crust didn't get soggy, and although I preferred the tart at room temperature or a little warm, it was still quite good cold.

Sweet Tart Shell with Nuts (from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours)

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup finely ground almonds
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 T very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

1. Put the flour, nuts, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times. Scatter in the pieces of butter and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in--some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk to break it up, then add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses--about 10 seconds each--until the dough forms clumps and curds. (The sound of the food processor will change just before the dough is ready.) Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead very lightly, just to incorporate any stray dry ingredients.

2. Butter a 9-inch tart pan or pie plate and press the dough evenly over the bottom and sides. Use all but a little piece of dough, which you should store in the fridge to patch up any cracks later. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes or longer.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover the crust with a piece of buttered aluminum foil (butter side down) and fit the foil tightly around the crust. Put the tart/pie pan on a baking sheet and bake 25 minutes. Remove the foil and flatten out the crust gently with the back of a spoon. Mine melted a little, so I just pushed it back up the sides and it wasn't a problem. Patch the crust if necessary with the dough from the fridge.

4. Return the crust to the oven and bake for another 8 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a rack and cool to room temperature.

Soft Chocolate and Raspberry Pie (from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours)

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 T unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 1/2 T sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
6-9 ounces fresh raspberries
Sweet Tart Shell with Nuts, baked, from above

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Put the pie plate (or tart pan) on a baking sheet.

2. In a double boiler, melt the chocolates together; remove from heat and set aside. In another pan, bring the cream and butter to a boil, making sure the butter is completely melted. Pour the cream-butter mixture over the chocolate and let stand for 30 seconds. Using a whisk, gently stir the liquid into the chocolate, starting in the center and working out to the edges of the bowl. When smooth, stir in the sugar, then the eggs, and finally the yolk. Rap the bowl against the counter to break any bubbles.

3. Scatter the berries over the bottom of the crust, then pour the chocolate over them. Make sure all the berries are covered with chocolate.

4. Bake the pie until the filling is set in the center and a knife inserted at the center comes out a little streaky.

5. Cool the pie to room temperature or slightly warmer before serving.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

These chocolate cupcakes from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody and are absolutely delicious! I have made them before, but it was before I got a blog. :) The cupcakes have a great texture and would hold together well for any filling you wanted to use (as Peabody does). I use the peanut butter filling as a frosting though, and believe me, these cupcakes are super rich even without the chocolate frosting (though I'm sure that way would be totally delicious as well!). These are definitely the sort of cupcakes where I can only eat one in a sitting, but they are totally worth it. Yum! Sort of like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in cupcake form.

I didn't make any changes other than using the filling for frosting and omitting the original frosting, so you can find the recipe here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Quick Vanilla Cupcakes with Whipped Milk Chocolate Frosting

These yellow cupcakes are a snap and were a hit with teenagers and adults alike. Although they're simple to whip up, they're delicious and have a great sweetness that pairs well with chocolate frosting.

Quick Vanilla Cupcakes (from Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans)
Makes 12

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat the whole egg, egg yolk, and sugar on medium speed until thickened and lightened to a cream color, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl as needed. On low speed, add the oil and vanilla until blended. Mix in the sour cream and then the flour mixture until everything is incorporated and smooth.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for about 23 minutes.

Whipped Milk Chocolate Frosting recipe is here; you'll probably only need a half batch, depending how much frosting you like.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sausage Buns

The recipe for these buns comes from Baking Delights and the original can be found here. These buns are really easy to make and add something special to a meal. I made sausage buns, but you could easily shape these for hamburgers as well. The dough is easy to work with, and rises a lot in the oven...I was worried I wasn't making my buns large enough, a concern that continued after I proofed the dough. However, once the buns were baked, they were more than large enough to accommodate large-ish sausages. We grilled up some smoked duck, lamb and rosemary, Sicilian pork, and chicken curry sausages, and they all went really well with these buns, some great mustard, and lettuce from the garden.

Homemade Sausage Buns (from Baking Delights, original here)

Makes 8 large buns

1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 T honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, room temperature
1 egg, beaten with 1 T heavy cream
millet, sesame seeds, poppy seeds or other seeds

Heat the milk, water, honey and butter until butter is melted. Let cool to 120 degrees (this will likely take several minutes...make sure to stir well before checking the temperature). Carefully beat in one egg.

Whisk together two cups of the flour, yeast, and salt. Pour into the liquid ingredients and mix well. Stir in the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Knead until smooth and elastic.

Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Shape into logs and flatten slightly. Keep in mind that the buns will rise quite a bit in the oven. Let rise for 30 to 35 minutes or longer if not in a warm room. Beat together the remaining egg and heavy cream and brush over the rolls. Sprinkle with seeds if desired. When buns have almost doubled bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thai Green Beans and Tofu with Coconut Rice

This tofu and green bean stir fry is an amazing dish that charmed even some folks who were very skeptical about the tofu. It's easy to prepare, and you end up with great flavor since each component has its own slightly different sauce. I will definitely make this again, and I'll also make the tofu separately to use in other dishes. The tofu ends up an amazing texture, creamy on the inside and slightly crisp on the outside. In this dish, it's then tossed with the sauce after frying and so not quite as crisp, but still delicious. The tofu is perfectly complimented by the veggies, and I could imagine using other roasted veggies here too. A great dinner with coconut rice!

The recipe comes from everybody likes sandwiches and is most definitely a keeper!

Thai Green Beans and Tofu (recipe from everybody likes sandwiches, here)

Fried Tofu
1 block extra firm tofu
2 T soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp minced ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 t red dried chili flakes
3 - 4 T cornstarch
2 T vegetable oil

Take the tofu out of its package and set on a paper towel. Wrap tightly and then wrap again with a kitchen towel. Set in a shallow dish and press with something heavy--either a plate stacked with canned goods, a big pot with water in it, or anything else that will put pressure on the tofu. Let sit for at least 2 hours to drain.

Mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and chili flakes. Cube the pressed tofu and add to the marinade. Let sit 15-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure all the tofu gets some marinade.

Put the cornstarch in a gallon ziplock bag and then add the tofu. Shake until all the tofu is well covered in cornstarch. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok and fry until the tofu is a deep golden color. Set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Roasted Green Beans
1 lb green beans, rinsed & trimmed
2 T soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp sriracha

Toss the beans with the rest of the ingredients and roast on a shallow baking tray at 400 degrees until caramelized and wrinkled. Check on them and take them out when they're as cooked as you like them--15 to 20 minutes for beans that are a bit firmer, or longer for softer beans.

Putting everything together
1 large bell pepper, sliced
2 large shallots, diced
1 T vegetable oil
2 T chili garlic sauce
1/2 can of light coconut milk
1/2 tsp Thai red curry paste
1 T soy sauce
Any remaining liquid from the tofu marinade
juice of 1/2 lime

In the same pan as you prepared the tofu, heat up oil and add in the red pepper and shallots. Once they get slightly wilted, add in green beans. Stir the coconut milk, curry paste, chili garlic sauce and soy sauce together and pour over the vegetables. Stir fry until sauce reduces and thickens, about 10 minutes. Add the tofu, stirring everything until well coated with sauce. Squeeze in some lime juice, stir and then serve over coconut rice.

Coconut Rice (from Gourmet)

1 can unsweetened coconut milk (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 cup Jasmine rice

Bring coconut milk, water, and salt to a boil. Add rice, cover, and simmer about 15 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Let rice stand off the heat, covered, for about 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ginger-Zucchini Muffins with Whipped Chocolate Ganache

These muffins come from Gourmet magazine. Although the recipe is for zucchini "cupcakes", I would more call these muffins. Either way, they're moist and ginger-y, and great either with or without chocolate frosting (or, I'm sure, the cream cheese frosting called for in the original). Just a note--these are very gingery, which I like, but if you're not such a fan or if you're making these for kids, you might want to reduce the ground ginger.

I went looking for this recipe because our summer subletter, Stacy, brought us a beautiful giant zucchini from her garden. This was a perfect use for it, as well as for the grating attachment on my food processor, which I had never used before! But this would be easy enough to make by hand, as well. If we get more zucchini, I might try this great-looking Zucchini Cornbread at Baking Bites.

Ginger-Zucchini Muffins (from Gourmet)
Makes about 20 muffins

1/3 cup crystallized ginger (1 3/4 oz), coarsely chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest (I omitted this but I'm sure it would be great)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups coarsely grated zucchini
3/4 cup mild olive oil (I used half extra virgin olive oil and half vegetable oil)
3/4 cup mild honey
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin cups with liners.

2. Whisk together the crystallized ginger, flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, zest, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together zucchini, oil, honey, eggs, and vanilla, then stir in flour mixture until just combined.

4. Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely, 1 hour.

Whipped Chocolate Ganache Frosting

1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
Up to 5 T butter, softened

1. Put the milk chocolate chips in a small bowl and set aside. Bring the cream to a boil and immediately pour over the chocolate. Let sit a few minutes and then whisk until smooth. Chill in the fridge for a few hours, until firm.

2. Scrape the ganache into a medium bowl and beat on medium high speed with an electric mixer until the ganache is light and fluffy. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until you get your desired consistency, making sure to blend well after each tablespoon. You might not use all the butter depending on your preference--taste after each addition!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Stone Fruit Cobbler

Sorry for the brief 4th of July hiatus! But believe me, this cobbler is worth the wait. It's a great choice for both using up aging stone fruits and serving a crowd--the perfect combination! I used a combination of peaches, apricots, nectarines, pluots, and plums, some of which really needed to be used up and some of which I bought that day to supplement. The combo of all those different fruits was absolutely terrific! Each bite was slightly different, some tarter and some sweeter. Amazing! There was also just the right amount of sweet cobbler topping. One note on the topping is to let it cook longer than you think you want to--there is nothing worse than cobbler topping that is gooey on the bottom! So let it get really brown and you'll have no problem with this.

Stone Fruit Cobbler (from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

Cobbler Topping
1 1/2 cups flour (white or whole wheat pastry)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 T cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup plain yogurt
Milk as needed

Mix the dry ingredients together and then cut in the butter. If you have time, chill the butter-flour mixture for an hour or two (not necessary, but this helps the butter get really firm). Stir in the yogurt with a fork until dough comes together. Add milk as needed to get the dough to a good consistency. I made my dough quite wet (adding about 1/3 cup milk) and everything turned out great, so I think there's some leeway here.

Fruit Layer
6-8 cups peeled and sliced stone fruits (I used peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, and pluots)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
Grated zest of 1 (smallish) lemon
Juice of 1 lemon

Peel and slice the stone fruit. To get the peels off easily, pop the fruit in boiling water for 30 seconds and then immediately remove to an ice bath (prepared ahead of time). The skins should come off easily with your hands. I found apricots tough to peel so I left the skin on and didn't notice them when eating the dish. Peaches and nectarines were easiest to peel.

Toss fruit with all the rest of the ingredients for the fruit layer.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8x10 dish with oil. Put fruit in the dish, then dot with the topping. Bake until fruit is cooked and bubbling around the edges and the top is very brown.