Archive for ‘puddings & custards’

August 3, 2011

Éclairs With A Flair

I’m very pleased to share with you the news of my recent enrollment in a 6-month pastry program at a French culinary school here in the DC area.  Classes started just a couple weeks ago and I’ve already learned so much about the technique and art of pastry… I couldn’t be more thrilled with my personal and career decisions that have led me to culinary school and the exploration of the wonderful world of pastry!

My favorite of all of the lectures, demonstrations, and lessons thus far has been that of a simple and delicious pastry cream.  Pastry cream has been a staple for my desserts for quite a while now, but, as I’ve enhanced my understanding and adapted my techniques, my entire idea of pastry cream has completely changed.  My new go-to recipe is about ten times more simple than my old version, and the finished product is a billion times more delectable.  I’ve edited the recipe on my instructional pastry cream page (found on the upper tab above) and have been itching to include it in a Pumpercake recipe.
I decided to incorporate another of the “basics” I’ve learned so far in class into today’s recipe, “Choux paste,” which is the dough base for cream puffs, éclairs, and other pastries.   The appeal of the choux is that it can be piped into just about any shape (swans, anyone?) and, once baked, it acts as a bit of a blank canvas as it is beautifully hollow and can be filled with a delicious custard, curd, or cream.

On a mission to make a super summer version of the ever-traditional éclair, I chose to fold some citrus-y sweet fruit curds into the vanilla pastry cream and used brightly colored white chocolate glazes to coat the tops of them.  An explosion of strawberry-pomegranate and orange-grapefruit flavors burst from a buttery crisp envelope of delicate choux, which is then topped off with a bright and sweet chocolate glaze to dress up the pretty little pastries.  These tiny sweet treats are decadent enough to feel indulgent, yet light enough to allow for continuous enjoyment of 2 or 3 of them.  In fact, I’ve found that making the éclairs extra-tiny can really help to rationalize eating at least 4 per sitting…

Sweet Summertime Éclairs

-In flavors of Strawberry-Pomegranate and Orange-Grapefruit

Inspired by: Éclairs

Choux Paste (Éclair Base)

100 grams unsalted butter
(about 7¼ tablespoons)

½ cup milk

½ cup water

150 grams all-purpose flour
(about 1 cup & 2 tablespoons)

½ teaspoon salt

3-4 large eggs,
plus 1 for egg wash

–recipe yield:
about 50 4-inch éclairs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, melt butter.  Add milk and water, increase heat to medium, and bring mixture to a full boil.  Remove immediately from heat and add combined flour and salt at once.  Stir together with a wooden spoon into a panade (thick, almost paste-like mixture).  Replace saucepan onto warm burner to evaporate some of the water and dry out the panade slightly, allowing easier incorporation of the eggs.  When panade can “flake” easily while breaking with a wooden spoon, transfer the mixture to a bowl.  Using a paddle attachment of an electric mixer on a low speed, turn and loosen the dough, allowing it to cool slightly until it reaches the point where you can touch the bottom of the bowl comfortably.  Mix in 2 eggs until absorbed, then add the 3rd egg, mixing until it has also been absorbed.  Beat the 4th egg in a separate dish and add gradually, as the entire egg may not be needed.  The choux paste is finished when it can be pulled up by the paddle attachment into a distinct point that easily folds when flipped (like a soft peak).

Transfer choux paste into a pastry bag fitted with a large, plain round tip.  Pipe paste into desired size éclair rectangles.  Coat each mound with a small amount of egg wash (1 egg, beaten) using a pastry brush, and tap the tops surface of each brushed éclair with the back of a fork that’s been dampened with water.  The egg wash helps the pastry to achieve a golden brown color, while the fork marks create expanding ridges, much like ribbing in clothing.  Bake until puffed, golden, and firm (about 20-25 minutes).

Strawberry Pomegranate Curd

½ cup strawberry pulp, strained

¼-1/3 cup pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ tablespoon cornstarch

1 egg, plus 2 yolks

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon salt

Place strawberry pulp and ¼ cup pomegranate juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to simmer.  Allow liquid to reduce by about half (4-5 minutes) before removing the syrup from heat and stirring in lemon juice and an extra splash of pomegranate juice.  While syrup cools, whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Whisk in egg and yolks until combined.  While continuing to whisk, gradually drizzle in the cooled syrup until it has all been added, and the sugar has dissolved and is no longer grainy.  Transfer mixture back into saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  After 6-8 minutes, when the curd has thickened greatly, remove from heat and push through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl.  While stirring, gradually add in small pieces of the butter until it has all been dissolved into the curd.  Mix in salt, and continue to stir until curd has cooled.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the curd so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Store cooled, covered curd in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Orange Grapefruit Curd

½ cup orange juice

¼ cup grapefruit juice

zest of 2 oranges & ¼ grapefruit

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1½ teaspoons orange extract

1/3 cup granulated sugar

½ tablespoon cornstarch

1 egg, plus 2 yolks

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon salt

Place fruit juices in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to simmer.  Allow liquid to reduce by about half (5-6 minutes) before removing the syrup from heat and stirring in zest, lemon juice and orange extract.  While syrup cools, whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Whisk in egg and yolks until combined.  While continuing to whisk, gradually drizzle in the cooled syrup until it has all been added, and the sugar has dissolved and is no longer grainy.  Transfer mixture back into saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  After 6-8 minutes, when the curd has thickened greatly, remove from heat and push through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl.  While stirring, gradually add in small pieces of the butter until it has all been dissolved into the curd.  Mix in salt, and continue to stir until curd has cooled.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the curd so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Store cooled, covered curd in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Additional Ingredients & Preparation:

A full batch of pastry cream should be prepared, and divided into two equal parts to be folded into the two fruit curds.  Pastry cream is the standard filling for éclairs, so one may choose to omit the curd portion of the recipe and fill the éclairs with only the vanilla cream.  Fruit curd-pastry creams should be stored the same as a regular pastry cream, refrigerated and covered tightly with a layer of plastic wrap draped onto the surface of the mixture.

A full batch of chocolate glaze should be prepared using white chocolate in the place of semisweet.  The prepared glaze can be divided in half and colored with pink rose and orange gel food colorings, if desired.

Assembly:

Transfer fruit curd pastry creams into pastry or zip-top bags fitted with small round tips.  Using a sharp paring knife, create two tiny slits on each end of the underside of each cooled éclair.  Place the tip of one of the bags of curd-cream into one slit, squeeze until slightly plumped, and then into the other slit, squeezing again.  This will help the éclairs to be filled evenly and prevent tearing or bursting.  Repeat this process with all the éclairs, filling half of them with strawberry pomegranate filling and half with orange grapefruit filling.

Dip the tops of each filled  éclair into the coordinating cooled chocolate glaze, and set aside at room temperature or in the refrigerator to allow the chocolate glaze to set.  Éclairs should be served immediately to prevent sogginess, however, leftovers may be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

July 26, 2011

Amy Winehouse: A Dessert Tribute

Amy’s recent passing has brought about an incredible sadness in me, one that I didn’t know was possible to feel for someone whom I’ve never met.  I found myself with a temporary loss of inspiration in the kitchen, something that doesn’t happen often.  My mom suggested that I take the opportunity to allow Amy to inspire me, as she and her music have so many countless times before.  But, what could represent Amy on a plate?  After much loving deliberation, we found the inevitable answer: some sort of fabulous mess.

It may come as a surprise that Amy was actually said to be “quite the cook” and enjoyed preparing and feasting on a variety of  comfort foods.  Her dessert tribute, therefore, needed to be something comforting and soul-warming.  After a bit of back-and-forth, I eventually decided to use her favorite cocktail as a starting point for a flavor base, assuming that she’d appreciate a little splash or two of alcohol in the dish meant to celebrate her short life and her beautiful music.  The drink, called a “Rickstasy,” is a banana liqueur cocktail, which eventually lead me to the idea of a sort of  “Bananas Foster Bread Pudding,” to which I included the elements of the drink.  I also made sure to use a delicious loaf of braided Challah bread to represent her Jewish roots.  And, of course, in an attempt to honor her unique style and signature hair, I topped off each hot mess of a serving with a torched meringue “beehive.”

The decadent dessert turned out velvety, rich and smooth… lusciously resembling the same undeniable qualities of Amy’s gorgeous, soulful voice.  The dish may not even come close to doing justice to the ingenious musical stylings of Amy’s legacy, but the thought and process of preparing it and enjoying it was a great (and delicious) way to channel my grief while honoring the ever beautiful and exceptionally talented artist who I so adored and whose music I’ll forever cherish.

Banana Liqueured Bread Pudding

Inspired by: Amy Winehouse & the “Rickstasy”

Adapted from Emeril Lagasse‘s “Bananas Foster Bread Pudding

1 large loaf braided challah bread

½ cup unsalted butter

1½ cups light brown sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

6 firm-ripe bananas, cut into ¾ slices

¼ cup banana liqueur

¼ cup vanilla vodka

¼ cup peach bourbon

4 large eggs

3 cups heavy whipping cream

½ cup whole milk

½ cup Irish cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

pinch salt

–recipe yield: about 10-12 servings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 10×14” ovenproof dish. Using a serrated knife, slice bread into rough cubes, collecting about 6 cups of the cubed bread to be used for the pudding.Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat, eventually stirring in 1 cup of brown sugar, cinnamon, and ginger until dissolved and combined (about 2 minutes). Add banana slices and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring and flipping the bananas to brown each side evenly. Stir in banana liqueur and allow to combine and warm through. Carefully add vodka and bourbon and shake to incorporate and flame the pan. Continue to gently shake the pan until the flame dies. Take skillet off heat to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, remaining brown sugar, cream, milk, Irish cream, vanilla, and salt.  Stir in the cooled fruit mixture and the cubed bread, tossing to coat.  Transfer entire mixture to prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until firm.  Cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes.

To serve, scoop warm bread pudding onto individual dishes, topped with a “beehive” mound of vanilla meringue, if desired.

July 21, 2011

Chocolate Souffle For A Happy Birthday

Here at Pumpercake, every day last week was celebrated with a Harry Potter-inspired post and recipe.  Amidst all the Harry-hype, it seems that I somehow managed to omit Evan’s birthday dessert from the recipe lineup.  Although I was able to pull together a couple fabulous desserts for the occasion, I didn’t get the chance to whip up a post with the recipe!

Evan, the talented photographer behind the lovely photos of Pumpercake, has been quite the study-bug lately (as mentioned previously) and had requested a low-key, quiet birthday at home.  He suggested that we order some Asian take-out and rent a movie.  I decided to step it up a notch and spent the day placing orders at numerous Chinese, Thai, and Japanese restaurants, selecting his favorite specific dishes from each, and gave a different specified time for every take-out order to be delivered.  With each knock on the door throughout the evening, Evan was presented with an array of his favorite foods until the apartment had transformed into a sort of Asian-buffet.  Needless to say, I knew there would be little room for dessert, so I came up with one mini-dessert, and, to be enjoyed the following day, a more indulgent treat.

Evan is an avid fruit-lover, and his favorite combination is that of white chocolate and raspberries.  As his mini-dessert, I strung together a simple array berries and ran the skewered fruit through some rich white chocolate.  And instead of an extravagant Birthday cake, I went with individual white chocolate souffle cakes, filled with a dark chocolate and raspberry molten surprise.  The cakes turned out amazing.  The light, fluffy texture of a souffle paired with the richness of the warm white and dark chocolates, and the smooth bite and tang of the raspberry made for an incredible merriment of Evan’s favorite flavors.

A very happy (late) Birthday goes out to our wonderful “food-tographer!”  I hope you enjoyed your day (and your desserts!) as much as I enjoy and appreciate all you do for me and for Pumpercake!

White Chocolate Raspberry
Molten Soufflé Cakes

Inspired by: White Chocolate & Raspberries (Evan’s favorite!)

Adapted fromWhite Chocolate Soufflé Cakes with Raspberry-Chocolate Sauce,” Fine Cooking

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

small pinch of table salt

¾ cup whole milk

3 large eggs, separated & room temperature

6 ounces white chocolate, chopped

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

2¼ tablespoons superfine granulated sugar

6 balls raspberry-chocolate ganache (recipe below)

–recipe yield: 6 six-ounce servings

Prepare 6 six-ounce ovenproof ramekins by buttering them and lightly coating them with granulated or superfine sugar, tapping out the excess.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir together flour, salt and about half of the milk to form a paste.  Whisk in the remaining milk and set saucepan over medium heat.  Whisking frequently, heat mixture for 2-3 minutes, or until it forms a thick cream sauce.  As mixture heats, crack egg yolks only into a large bowl, breaking them apart slightly with a fork.  Add a small amount of the cream sauce to the yolks while continuously whisking.  When the yolks have been brought up to temperature, pour them into the saucepan and continue to heat while constantly whisking.  Mixture should soon resemble a pastry cream, and should then be transferred to a large bowl.  Whisk white chocolate into the hot pastry cream mixture until melted and smooth, and then stir in the vanilla.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Position a rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat egg whites until slightly foamy.  Add in cream of tartar and continue to whip until the whites just barely reach soft peaks.  Gradually beat in the superfine sugar and whip the meringue into medium-soft peaks.  Gently fold the meringue gradually into the tepid pastry cream until the mixture is combined.  Spoon the lightened mixture into each prepared ramekin until each is just about 1/3 full.  Place one chilled ball of raspberry-chocolate ganache into each ramekin on top of the first layer of the souffle mixture.  Spoon the remaining souffle mixture on top of and around each ball of ganache until the ganache has been completely covered and each ramekin is completely full.  Use the dull side of a butter knife to scrape the very top of each ramekin, leveling off the mixture.

Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake until the tops of the souffle cakes are golden and they’ve risen and are beautifully puffed, about 16-18 minutes.  They should quiver slightly when tapped and be warm and soft in the centers.  Let cool slightly before serving, but note that the longer they sit, the more they’ll deflate.  Dust with powdered sugar to serve.  Assembled and unbaked souffle cakes can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.


Raspberry-Chocolate Molten Ganache Filling

½ cup fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Place a small metal pan in freezer.  Pour raspberries in a food processor and pulse until pureed.  Push through a fine mesh sieve, discarding seeds.  Prepare a double boiler with a small glass bowl, and combine in the bowl the butter, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of raspberry puree (remaining puree can be discarded or used as garnish).  Heat until dissolved and hot, remove from heat, and stir in chocolate until melted and combined.  Pour mixture into the chilled pan and freeze for 20 minutes.  Use a small scoop to scrape the mixture into 6 balls.  Refrigerate ganache balls until ready to bake dessert.

July 14, 2011

Kosher Kupcakes

         

As if publishing Pumpercake’s Seven-Layer Cake this week wasn’t exciting enough, I’m absolutely thrilled to be a guest blogger at  Joy of Kosher today!

A Joy of Kosher representative contacted me asking for a guest post and a couple summery cupcake recipes that could be made pareve (without dairy).  My guest post features Pumpercake’s cocktail-inspired “Margarita Cupcakes,” and “Black & White Cupcakes,” inspired by the well known Jewish cookie.

Make sure you stop by Joy of Kosher today to take a look at Pumpercake’s cupcake article, recipes, and pictures, as well as the many other great articles and wonderful everyday recipes throughout the site!

July 14, 2011

Summer Pudding & Keeping Away the Nargles

I’m sad to admit that the end of Potter Week is near, but undeniably happy to be less than 24 hours away from the long-awaited final movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.  I have a few more Harry-themed recipes to share, including today’s Summer Pudding, which I just love.

While researching various British desserts for this week, I learned that the common British use of the word  “pudding” is somewhat interchangeable with the American use of the word “dessert.”  Any mention of pudding in the Harry Potter book series and films, therefore, may not actually be a reference to the sweet and creamy custard I’d always pictured.  And “loony” Luna Lovegood, the dreamily carefree, pudding-loving friend of Harry’s, wasn’t constantly craving a heaping bowl of vanilla tapioca or even rice pudding.  Luna, instead, frequently found herself with a bit of a sweet tooth and simply wanted a dessert of some sort (I can relate).  Either way, I still like to imagine Luna happily rushing over to the Ravenclaw table at the Hogwarts feast and scooping herself a large serving of rich, custard pudding.

If you haven’t guessed, it’s pretty apparent in the book series and even more so in the films that Luna is quite fond of pudding.  Upon first meeting Harry and friends in the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Luna both informs the group of her belief that her odd jewelry charm “keeps away the nargles,” and also expresses her desire for pudding, all in the same breath.

While Luna seems to be quite the pudding-fan, we cannot say the same for Dobby, the beloved house elf.  In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, mischievous Dobby sends evil Aunt Petunia’s “masterpiece of a pudding” crashing to the floor, disrupting a dinner party, and leaving Harry at the scene of the crime, completely covered in sugared flowers and cream.  Regardless of Dobby’s potential distaste, I thought it important to create some sort of pudding for Potter Week, and fell in love with the idea of “Summer Pudding,” a super simple, no-bake, berry-filled concoction.  I think that it would be a beautiful addition to any Hogwarts feast or perhaps ‘Harry Potter Movie Marathon Party’ buffet table…  fit for wizards, house elves, and muggles alike!

Summer Pudding

Inspired by: Luna Lovegood’s favorite (and Aunt Petunia’s ruined) “Pudding”

“I’ll just go down and have some pudding and wait for it all to turn up.  It always does in the end…”
-Luna Lovegood, lightheartedly referencing her missing possessions, hidden by Hogwarts students in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Adapted from Craig Stoll’s
“Summer Berry Pudding,”
Fine Cooking

2 pints fresh strawberries

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 pints red raspberries

2 pints black raspberries

2 pints blackberries

juice and zest from 1 orange

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 loaf fine-crumb white bread

–recipe yield: about 8-12 servings

Hull and roughly chop strawberries into a small dice and place into medium saucepan.  Toss sliced strawberries with the sugar and place over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until berries have broken down into a thick syrup.  Remove and discard any large strawberry pieces, and reduce heat to low.  Add into the liquid the red raspberries, black raspberries, and blackberries.  Allow the berries to slightly soften in the hot syrup for about 5 minutes before removing the whole berries from the liquid with a slotted spoon or strainer and transferring them to a small bowl to cool.  The syrup should remain in the saucepan over low heat for about 5 more minutes, allowing it to simmer and reduce.  Then, remove the reduced syrup from heat and stir in the orange juice and zest, Grand Marnier, and lemon juice.

As berries and syrup cool, butter the inside of  a large bowl line with plastic wrap. Remove all crusts from each slice of bread. Fit a few bread slices into an even layer lining bottom and sides of prepared bowl, further trimming slices if necessary. Dip slices into the cooled fruit syrup and arrange soaked slices back into the bowl. Spoon about ½ cup of berries into the center of the bowl atop the soaked bread. Cover berries with a few more slices of soaked bread, spooning on another ½ cup of berries onto those slices. Repeat bread-soaking and berry-layering until layers reach near level with the top of bread-lining up the sides of the bowl. Level with side bread-lining, arrange a final layer of soaked bread to cover the top of the berries completely and the entire surface of the dessert.

Cover the surface of the dessert with plastic wrap, and fit a small plate or round cardboard cutout into the bowl on top of the wrapped surface.  Place some slightly heavy objects (canned goods or a few small boxes of sugar, etc.) on top of the round cutout to weigh it down and condense the dessert into a dense solid.  Set the weighted dessert onto a rimmed sheet tray and place into refrigerator to chill overnight.  Invert the chilled dessert onto a serving dish, peeling away and discarding the plastic wrap.  Garish with confectioner’s sugar and/or extra berries if desired, slice, and serve.

July 10, 2011

Harry Potter and the Incredible Crumble

This week is Potter Week at Pumpercake!  Harry Potter inspired recipes will be published all week as we count down the days before the final movie is released into theaters!

Some of Harry’s happiest memories are those he has of time spent with his beloved Godfather, Sirius Black.  Sirius and Harry had a couple very memorable conversations during the tail-end of a meeting with the Order of the Phoenix, some of which took place during dinner.  Mrs. Weasley served up an extravagant feast for this particular occasion, and ended the meal with an impressive “rhubarb crumble and custard” that Harry thoroughly enjoyed.  This is my version of Harry’s favorite chef’s dessert.

I went with crimson-cherry rhubarb, twice baked, infused with orange flavors and a hint of cardamom.  I knew I needed to incorporate some sort of Sherbet Lemon element in one of the recipes for Potter Week.  Sherbet Lemon, of course, being “a kind of Muggle sweet” that Albus Dumbledore is “rather fond of.” The custard that Mrs. Weasley serves alongside her crumble was the perfect opportunity for me to include Albus’s favorite flavors.

“Three helpings of rhubarb crumble and custard later and the waistband on Harry’s jeans was feeling uncomfortably tight (which was saying something, as the jeans had once been Dudley’s).”
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Rhubarb Crumble
with
“Sherbet Lemon”
Custard Sauce

Inspired by: Molly Weasley’s
“Rhubarb Crumble & Custard,” and Professor Dumbledore’s favorite
“Sherbet Lemon”

Adapted from Dinah Bucholz’s
“Rhubarb Crumble with Custard Sauce,”
The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

Rhubarb Crumble

1½ pound crimson red rhubarb

1/3 cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon orange extract

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

zest from ½ an orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a sheet pan with foil.  Slice rhubarb into ½-inch pieces and toss together with granulated sugar, orange and vanilla extracts, cardamom, baking soda, and ¼ tablespoon of the cornstarch.  Spread rhubarb mixture onto lined sheet tray and bake for about 10 minutes to help soften and caramelize rhubarb.  Once removed from the oven, toss the mixture to cool it slightly.  Sift onto the rhubarb mixture the remaining cornstarch and the flour and mix, stirring in the orange zest as well.  Pour in an even layer into a 1-quart casserole dish and set aside while preparing crumble topping.

Crumble Topping

½ cup all-purpose flour              ½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup steel cut oats                  ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup almond flour                   6 tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ cup brown sugar

Mix together in a food processor all ingredients, except for the butter, until thoroughly combined.  Cut the cold butter into a small dice and add the pieces into the food processor with the dry crumble mixture.  Pulse until butter has incorporated and the texture of the mixture resembles clumpy, wet sand. Sprinkle the crumb mixture into the dish in an even layer on top of the rhubarb.  Place in 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until rhubarb is bubbly and topping is golden.

“Sherbet Lemon” Custard Sauce

3 egg yolks

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup whole milk

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

zest from 1 lemon

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

juice from ½ a lemon

1 tablespoon sherbet powder

–recipe yield: about 1¼ cups custard sauce

In a small bowl, lightly break up egg yolks with a fork, then set bowl aside.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine sugar, salt, and cornstarch.  Whisk in milk, cream and lemon zest until cornstarch has dissolved.  Place over medium-high heat, constantly stirring, until thoroughly heated but not boiling.  Reduce heat to low and, while whisking the egg yolks, slowly pour into the small bowl a couple tablespoons of the hot liquid to bring eggs gently up to temperature without cooking them.  Once yolks have been heated, transfer the warm mixture into the saucepan and replace heat to medium-high.  Constantly stirring, continue to heat until mixture is thick and bubbling.  Remove from heat and pour mixture into a small bowl, allowing it to pass through a fine mesh sieve, discarding any solid pieces of egg.  Stir the vanilla and the lemon juice into the hot custard until incorporated.  Serve warm or chilled.  If not serving immediately, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the custard sauce so the sauce doesn’t develop a skin.  Store covered custard sauce in refrigerator.

May 27, 2011

Tangy Drink Turned Tasty Dessert

Summer heat may bring about many cravings for those finding themselves with a sweet tooth… ice cream, popsicles, and maybe a tall, cool glass of tart lemonade.  Or, better yet, strawberry lemonade.  The average high in DC this week has been about 93 degrees with humidity that could cause even the most poker-straight hair to go completely Hugo Reyes.  Needless to say, refreshing treats have been on my mind.  With a craving for something tangy and little inspirational help from those tantalizing McDonald’s commercials, these strawberry-lemonade cupcakes were born.

These muffin-like cakes were sweetened up with a tart, bright burst of strawberry-lemon curd filling.  The citrus-y sweet cupcakes turned out great and were shared with many.  My favorite reaction of any of the tasters was my friend Claire’s, who after biting into the cake exclaimed, “That filling tastes just like strawberry lemonade!”  Sounds like a successful recipe if I’ve ever heard one.

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Inspired by: Strawberry Lemonade

Strawberry-Lemon Cakes

Adapted from Gail Wagman’s “Strawberry Cupcakes,” Cupcakes Galore

1 cup chopped strawberries                2 eggs

1 tablespoon honey                            ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons lemon juice                  2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

zest from 1 lemon                                ¾ cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter             2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk                                             1 teaspoon baking soda

recipe yield: about 18 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare cupcake pans with paper liners.  Place finely chopped strawberries in a small bowl with honey, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and lemon zest.  Set aside to macerate.

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a small glass bowl containing the butter.  Gently melt the butter over low heat, remove from stove top, and allow to cool slightly.  In a medium bowl, combine the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice and the milk.  Add the eggs, breaking apart the yolks slightly, as well as the vanilla extract.  Mix in cooled, melted butter.  Whisk all ingredients together and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda.  Form a small “well” in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the butter-egg mixture into the well.  Mix ingredients together until just combined.  Gently stir in the macerated strawberry mixture until strawberries are dispersed throughout the batter.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake papers until each is about ¾ full.  Place pans into the oven and bake cupcakes for 17-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool on racks in pans for about 10 minutes before removing from pans and allowing to cool completely on racks.

Strawberry-Lemon Curd

Adapted from pumpercake‘sPineapple-Lemon Curd

6 egg yolks

zest of ½ lemon

1 cup seedless strawberry pulp*

¼ cup lemon juice (2 lemons)

½ cup sugar

2 ¼ tablespoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup unsalted cold butter

-recipe yield: about 2 ½ cups

In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, lightly break apart egg yolks with a small whisk.  While whisking, add in the zest, fruit juices, sugar, salt, and cornstarch.  Place saucepan over medium heat and, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, constantly stir mixture for 4-6 minutes, or until it thickens up to the point where it coats the spoon and holds its shape when you run your finger across the spoon.

At this point, immediately remove the saucepan from heat.  Constantly stirring, gradually mix in small pieces of butter, allowing each piece to dissolve into the curd before adding the next piece.  Once all the butter has been added and the mixture is smooth, transfer the curd to a small bowl and continue to stir until it has cooled.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the curd so that the curd doesn’t develop a skin.  Store cooled, covered pineapple-lemon curd in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

*To make strawberry pulp, place clean, fresh strawberries into a food processor and pulse until fully broken down.  Transfer ground strawberries into a mesh strainer and allow pulp to strain through into a clean bowl.  To help pulp fall through strainer, use a small whisk.  Discard any seeds or rough pieces remaining in the strainer and use only the smooth, seedless pulp.

Strawberry-Lemonade Buttercream

Adapted from “Lemon Kissed Buttercream Frosting,”
The Cupcakery Blog

This is a very versatile buttercream recipe that can be prepared and presented in a couple different ways.  Depending on your preferences of sweet vs. tangy, the amount of curd added can be adjusted or even omitted all together.  The curd can be swirled, marbleized, or fully combined into the buttercream.

½ cup unsalted butter                 3 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice           1 tablespoon whole milk

1 teaspoon lemon zest                1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½-¾ cup reserved strawberry-lemon curd (recipe above)

In large bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Drizzle in lemon juice and zest and beat well. Gradually add sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating on medium speed and scraping sides of bowl often.  After sugar has been incorporated, continue to beat the mixture while drizzling in vanilla and milk. Beat at medium speed until homogeneous.

At this point, the buttercream can either be piped onto the cupcakes or combined in the curd in some way.  For a homogeneous strawberry lemonade frosting, beat curd into the buttercream until combined.  The curd can also be gently swirled into the buttercream with a spatula before being piped onto cakes.  To create a marbleized effect, fill the pastry bag on one side with buttercream and on the other side with curd so that they’re somewhat separated in the bag.  Pipe the frostings out as normal and the two together in the bag will create pretty ribbons of color.  Swirled or marbleized cupcakes should be served immediately, or the milk may start to lump and look curdled due to the acid in the juice.

April 27, 2011

Pineapple Sunshine On Easter Sunday

Even as a little girl, I was always “in charge” of providing the dessert at family gatherings for every birthday or holiday.  And even though the desserts have gotten more and more complex and dramatic over the years, my family was just as proud of and impressed with my box-mix concoctions back then as they are of the more labor-intensive treats I serve now.  One cake I can specifically remember making numerous times, as it was a family favorite and repeatedly requested, was the “Pineapple Sunshine Cake.”  It was a simple recipe involving a box of yellow cake mix and a can of crushed pineapple, and it was my sugary-sweet masterpiece.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was unable to make it out to spend this Easter with my family this past weekend.  However, I was able to spend Easter Sunday with my little local church family.  Every Sunday morning I help run a nursery at a church in Alexandria, Virginia.  The congregation is super warm and friendly, and those with children are a tiny but tight-knit and family-oriented group that I’ve truly grown to love.  I look forward to seeing them and their beautiful children every week and wanted to share with them a little treat that reminds me of holidays with my family.

I decided to revamp the overly-sweet recipe from my childhood and make something a little more special and gourmet.  I  incorporated some vanilla bean and citrus into the sweet pineapple to make a refreshing and tropical-tasting treat.  I started with a pineapple chiffon cake recipe as a base, made it a little less stiff and a lot more moist, filled it with my very own pineapple-lemon curd, and topped it off with a sweet citrus buttercream.  As it was Easter, I decorated some of the cakes with lemon jellybeans and some with buttercream roses for spring.  I was very pleased with how the cakes turned out and was even more pleased to be able to provide an Easter treat to the families that I spend my Sunday mornings with.

Pineapple-Citrus Curd Cupcakes

Inspired by: Pineapple Sunshine Cake

Pineapple & Vanilla Bean Cakes

Adapted from Diana Rattray’s “Pineapple Chiffon Cake,” Southern Food

8 egg whites, room temperature             1 ¼ cup granulated sugar

2 cups all purpose flour                           5 egg yolks

1 tablespoon baking powder                   2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

½ teaspoon salt                                      1 teaspoon orange zest

¼ cup unsalted butter, softened             ½ cup pineapple juice*

¼ cup vegetable oil                                 ¼ cup crushed pineapple*

-recipe yield: about 24 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with paper liners.    In a very large bowl, whip all egg whites to stiff peaks, starting on a lower speed at first and increasing mixer speed as the whites start to stiffen.  Set bowl aside.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In another large bowl, cream together the butter, oil, and sugar until the sugar has dissolved into the mixture and is no longer grainy, about 5 minutes.  Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.  While continuing to beat, add in vanilla bean seeds or paste until the vanilla flecks have distributed throughout the mixture.  Mix in the pineapple juice until incorporated.  When mixture is homogeneous, stir in the crushed pineapple and the orange zest.

In small, alternating batches, sift in about 1/3 of the dry ingredients, fold, and then fold in about 1/3 of the stiffened egg whites.  Continue folding in the sifted dry ingredients alternating with the egg whites until all have been gently incorporated.  Distribute the batter into the pans, filling each of the cupcake papers almost completely full (about 5/6 full).  Rotating the pans halfway through the cooking time, bake the cakes for a total of about 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean.  Allow cakes to cool in the pans for about 15 minutes, and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

*To ensure even measuring of crushed pineapple and pineapple juice, I like to first empty the contents of a can of crushed pineapple into a strainer over a small bowl to collect as much juice as possible.  Then, I place only the crushed pineapple into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse the fruit a few times to break it down further.  The finer-ground pineapple helps to infuse the flavor throughout the entire cake and adds a lot of texture, but without weighing down the entire cake.  Next, I put the ground, crushed pineapple through the strainer one more time, extracting even more juice, leaving only the fluffy pulp of the pineapple.

Pineapple-Lemon Curd

Adapted from Marlene Sorosky’s “Lemon Curd,” Easy Entertaining

6 egg yolks

zest of ½ lemon

1 cup pineapple juice

¼ cup lemon juice (2 lemons)

½ cup sugar

2 ¼ tablespoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces

-recipe yield: about 2 ½ cups

In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, lightly break apart egg yolks with a small whisk.  While whisking, add in the zest, fruit juices, sugar, salt, and cornstarch.  Place saucepan over medium heat and, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, constantly stir mixture for 4-6 minutes, or until it thickens up to the point where it coats the spoon and holds its shape when you run your finger across the spoon.

At this point, immediately remove the saucepan from heat.  Constantly stirring, gradually mix in small pieces of butter, allowing each piece to dissolve into the curd before adding the next piece.  Once all the butter has been added and the mixture is smooth, transfer the curd to a small bowl and continue to stir until it has cooled.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the curd so that the curd doesn’t develop a skin.  Store cooled, covered pineapple-lemon curd in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Sweet Citrus Buttercream

Adapted from Wilton’s “Lemon Buttercream Frosting”

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature           1 teaspoon lemon zest

½ cup vegetable shortening                                 ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice                                4 cups (about 1 pound) confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon pineapple juice                                1 tablespoon heavy cream

In large bowl, cream together butter and shortening until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Drizzle in fruit juices and zest and beat well. Gradually add sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating on medium speed and scraping sides of bowl often. After sugar has been incorporated, continue to beat the mixture while drizzling in heavy cream. Beat at medium speed until homogeneous and fluffy. Keep icing covered with a damp cloth until ready to use and, if needed, re-whip before using.

Optional Ingredients for decorating:

Yellow food coloring, sprinkles, jelly beans, etc.

Assembly:

Once cupcakes are completely cooled, I use an apple corer to remove the inside of each of the cakes and a pastry bag to fill the cakes with the pineapple-lemon curd.  Fill the cakes with as much of the curd as desired, rip off the bottom half of the removed piece of cupcake, and replace the top over the curd.

The sweet citrus buttercream can be gently spread on the cakes with a small spatula or piped on with a pastry or plastic bag.  Decorate as desired.

April 26, 2011

Passover pumperKugel

Having the passion for food that I do, I’m always eager to try new things and learn about the traditional foods from different backgrounds.  I’m lucky enough to have been exposed to an array of exciting and delicious Jewish foods, as well as the history and stories behind each dish, thanks to Evan’s grandmother.  I look forward to each and every holiday with Evan’s wonderful family and I enjoy so much spending time visiting with them and sharing in their family traditions.

My favorite of the many delectable dishes I’ve had with Evan’s family is undoubtedly the kugel.  A kugel is a sweet, noodle pudding that is normally served as a side dish (but can very easily pass as an indulgent dessert) during Passover.  Other versions of kugel start with a potato or sweet potato base, but Evan’s grandma’s luscious concoction of egg noodles, pineapple, and golden raisins has me convinced that noodles are the way to go.  Although I might miss her incredible candied sweet potatoes, I could easily be satisfied with a Passover feast composed of a plate filled with only kugel.

I’ve experimented with a couple different recipes in the past, but the kugel that I created for this year’s Passover was my best effort yet.  I incorporated pineapple and golden raisins as a tribute to Evan’s grandmother’s version, and even threw in a few bites of creamy, baked sweet potato in order to have both of my favorite of her dishes represented in the meal.  I topped it with ground cinnamon, just as she does, along with a salty-sweet matzo crumble, my own little twist.  Evan agreed that the kugel was the best of my previous attempts and described it as being delicious and extra “dessert-y” (Me? Dessert? Big surprise).  It may not be the most glamorous dish but, kugel doesn’t need any fancy frills or even a holiday to be delicious.

Sweet Potato Noodle Kugel

Inspired by: ‘Grandma’ Millie’s “Pineapple-Raisin Kugel”

Adapted from Andrea Marks Carneiro & Roz Marks’ “Apple-Raisin Noodle Kugel,” The Modern Girl’s Guide To Cooking Like A Jewish Grandmother

1 sweet potato

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted, divided

2 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon granulated sugar, divided

½ teaspoon salt

12 ounces chunk pineapple (in juice)             ¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ cup golden raisins                                      3 eggs

6 ounces egg noodles                                    ¼ cup heavy cream

½ cup cream cheese                                      1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup sour cream                                           2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided

½ cup ricotta cheese                                      -recipe yield: about 5-8 servings

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a sheet tray with tin foil.  Peel and dice the sweet potato and place in a medium bowl.  Toss the diced potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter, ½ teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper until potatoes are evenly coated.  Arrange coated potatoes in an even layer onto the lined tray and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.  Set aside to cool and reduce oven heat to 325 degrees.  Butter the bottom and sides a 2 ½-quart souffle dish and set aside.

Pour into a saucepan about ½ cup or so of the extracted pineapple juice.  Heat the juice over low-medium heat for a few minutes until warmed through.  Turn off the heat and pour the hot juice into a small glass bowl or mug.  Add in the golden raisins and allow them to rehydrate and soak in the juice for about 10 minutes, until they have slightly plumped.  Strain the raisins, discarding the juice, and in a small bowl, toss them together with the cooled sweet potatoes.  Slice each of the pineapple chunks in half and toss them with the potato-raisin mixture as well.

Bring to boil a large pot of lightly salted water.  Add egg noodles to the boiling water and cook until just tender for about 6-8 minutes, or according to package instructions.  Drain noodles and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and the remaining granulated sugar until fluffy and creamed.  Beat in ricotta cheese and sour cream until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Whisk in heavy cream, vanilla and 1 teaspoon of the ground cinnamon.  Gently stir in the pineapple-potato mixture.  Pour in the cooked, drained noodles and drizzle in the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Toss the entire mixture together until noodles are well coated.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Mazto Crumble Topping

This crisp-like topping is completely optional, as the kugel is divine on it’s own.  The crumble gives it a little extra crunch and salty-sweetness that can help balance out the ultra-richness of the noodle-pudding.

¼ cup whole grain (as this dish is so health concious) matzo meal*

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small pieces

Empty all ingredients into food processor and pulse until texture is crumbly, adding a teaspoon of cold water if necessary.  Sprinkle the crumble into an even layer onto the kugel before baking, and top with another teaspoon of ground cinnamon.**  Bake kugel at 325 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, or until it has set and the top is golden.

Allow kugel to cool and set for at least 15-20 minutes.  Kugel can be enjoyed warm or cold (both are delish, but Evan and I prefer it cold) and should be covered and stored in the refrigerator.

*Although the matzo made the dish much more Passover-traditional, I only used it because I had some leftover from the matzo ball soup I’d prepared earlier in the week.  The matzo meal can easily be substituted for flour.

**If choosing to omit the crumble topping, sprinkle the top of the kugel with an extra generous teaspoon of ground cinnamon before baking.