Posts tagged ‘citrus’

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.

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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 8, 2011

Treacle Tart Even A Muggle Would Love

Exactly one week from today, the latest and last movie in the Harry Potter trilogy will premier in theaters.  I, like so many others, am a passionate fan of the book series and the movies and am devastated that the Potter-era is coming to an end.

While others my age have grown up reading each of the books as they were released and, therefore, feel as though they’ve grown up alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione themselves, this isn’t quite the case for me.  I developed an unreasonably stubborn attitude about HP & the gang back when the books first became popular.  My big, bad, middle-school aged self had barely skimmed through the second book (I didn’t even go in order!) before I decided that all the  “mystical stuff” was nonsense and not for me.  It wasn’t until this past December that Evan insisted I not only watch all the movies in order to accompany him to the latest premier, but he also insisted that I read each and every one of the books, too.  I thought this would be quite the chore, but was open to giving the books another shot.  Little did I know, I’d complete the entire series in just over one month and the only chore involved was my having to cope with the devastation of reading through the books much too fast and never wanting any of it to end.
Needless to say, midway through book 1, I was hooked. While so many other die-hard fans out there have had the pleasure of Harry being in their lives for over a decade, he’s only been in mine for a mere 6 months!

In order to savor and celebrate the final release of the end of this magical saga, I’ve decided that, starting today, it will be Potter Week here at Pumpercake.  From now until the movie premier next Friday, I’ll be sharing my interpretations of desserts mentioned throughout the series as we count down the days before the big movie premier.  Today, I’ve decided to start with a treacle tart, which is described in the books to be Harry’s favorite dish.  Treacle tart is a traditional English dessert and one that appears many times throughout the series… at least once per each of the seven books, if I’m not mistaken.  I chose a gingery version with a fragrant almond shortcrust and lemon poached pears.  I did my best to try and core the pears from the bottom but still keep the curvy, black stems attached, as I absolutely love the look they give to the dessert… dark, interesting and whimsical.

Ginger Pear Treacle Tart with Lemon-Almond Poached Pears

Inspired by: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry’s “(Harry’s favorite) Treacle Tart,”

“The first whiff he identified was of warm treacle tart. It brought back pleasant memories of eating in the Great Hall with Ron and Hermione, throwing jokes around and laughing over dinner.”  -Harry, smelling Amortentia potion for the first time in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  Amortentia is a powerful love potion and has a different aroma suited for everyone who smells it, reminding each person of the things that they find most desirable or attractive.

Adapted from Gingery Treacle Tart,” Good Food, December 2008
and Dinah Bucholz’s “Almond-Ginger-Peach Treacle Tart,” The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

1¼ cups golden treacle syrup

zest and juice of ½ lemon

1½-2½ teaspoons fresh ginger root, finely grated

¾ cup fresh honey wheat breadcrumbs

3 eggs

5 lemon-almond poached pears (recipe below)

9-inch sweet almond shortbread shell (recipe below)

–recipe yield: one 9-inch tart

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Pour syrup into a small saucepan and combine with lemon zest, juice and ginger.  Place over medium-low heat, warming the syrup until runny.  Pour the warm, runny syrup in a large bowl over the breadcrumbs and toss together until coated.  In a small bowl, whisk to break apart the eggs.  Pour the eggs into the syrup-breadcrumb mixture and stir to combine.

Slice the very bottom of each pear so they’re able to stand straight up.  Place pears into tart shell and spoon treacle filling into shell around the pears.  Place into preheated oven for 55-65 minutes (placing foil over tart edges if they become too brown), or until filling has set.  Allow tart to cool completely in pan on cooling rack before removing, slicing, and serving.

Lemon-Almond Poached Pears

These pears aren’t fully poached, as they’ll soften more when they’re baked with the tart.

5 bosc pears

1 2/3 cups granulated sugar

zest & juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon almond extract

–recipe yield: 5 (partially) poached pears

Peel 5 whole pears, keeping core and stem in tact.  Combine sugar with 6 cups water in a large pot over medium heat.  Once sugar has dissolved and water has come to a low simmer, add in lemon zest, juice, and almond extract.   Bring water up to a very low boil and add in whole pears.  Allow pears to poach in simmering water for 12-15 minutes, or until they’re almost tender (as they’ll cook more in the oven later).  At this point, remove pears by their stems, set on paper towel and allow to cool.  Pears can be poached a day in advanced and stored in their cooled poaching liquid in an airtight container the refrigerator.

Sweet Almond Shortbread Tart Shell

1 cup all purpose flour                     ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold

¼ cup almond flour                          1 egg yolk

½ cup confectioner’s sugar              1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

½ teaspoon salt                              ¼ teaspoon almond extract

Combine in a food processor the flour, almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt.  Add cold butter in very small pieces and pulse together until entire stick has been added and the texture is crumbly.  Using a fork, break apart egg yolk and combine with cream and almond extract.  Gradually pour the liquid into the mixture while pulsing together until a soft dough forms.  Turn dough out onto plastic wrap, kneading it lightly if necessary, and form into a disk.  Wrap disk completely in the plastic and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  Press chilled dough into a buttered 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Line the shell with parchment paper, fill with baking beans, and place it in a 375 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.  Remove paper and beans, and place it back in the oven for an additional 5-7 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before filling.

June 23, 2011

Pineapple… Frozen, Torched, Grilled, & Honey Ice Cream Filled

My mom and I recently visited a small downtown thrift shop filled with hundreds of  little treasures, including a very wide selection of vintage kitchen supplies.  I somehow even got my hands on a beautiful embroidered apron from the 1940’s that I’m in love with, despite the fact that I can’t bring myself to wear it while baking and risk dirtying it.  My mom generously treated me to quite a few goodies after our hunt through the baking supply section.  Among the many retro tools and trinkets I ended up taking home was an Anne Willan cookbook, costing Mama Lew a whopping 99¢.

Leafing through the pages of my new French cookbook, there was one recipe that immediately caught my eye.  It was a frozen dessert topped with a browned meringue, a play on a Baked Alaska, except with a hollow pineapple shell taking the place of the cake layer.  The finished product made for a very dramatic presentation, one that may even be considered a slight bit tacky (Anne Willan is a legend, and the book is from 1980…  so, we’ll give her a break).  For whatever reason, I felt very compelled to recreate this dish.  And that’s exactly what I did.

While Anne filled her pineapple shell with pineapple sherbet, I chose to go with a “Honey-Pineapple Semifreddo,” inspired by the increasingly popular summertime treat of grilled pineapple drizzled with honey.  I decided to grill and glaze the pineapple pieces in the dessert, which added a caramelized sweetness to the final product.  I assembled the dessert in Anne’s extravagant pineapple boat, and also did my own version in a smaller pineapple “bowl,” which turned out to be a little easier to handle and serve out of, and less messy.  Both the bowl and the boat turned out very delicious and super cute… the type of thing that looks like lot of work went into it.  In all honesty, the most difficult part of this dessert was trying to figure out what to call it.
I brainstormed lots of ideas, including “Baked Hawaii” (instead of Alaska), or anything else suggesting a tropical honeymoon.  I bounced a few off Whitney, who admitted that every time I brought up “the pineapple,” all she could think about was Doody calling Frenchy a “beautiful blonde pineapple,” in her favorite childhood movie, Grease.  I loved the Grease reference!  I also loved the fact that she called it her favorite childhood movie.  I, too, loved the movie as a kid, but my mom decided maybe it wasn’t the best childhood movie after my sassy 8-year-old self starting saying things like “Eat your heart out,” and asking what a “hickey from Kinicky” was.  Anyway, as the dish came from a French cookbook published right around the time of the premier of the movie, and the “beautiful blonde pineapple” reference was describing French-y, I decided it was a perfect fit.

The “Beautiful, (Honey-)Blonde Pineapple”

Inspired by: Grilled Pineapple, Baked Alaska, “Ananas en Surprise”

Adapted from Anne Willan’s “Ananas en Surprise,” LaVarenne’s Basic French Cookery

Honey-Pineapple Semifreddo

Adapted from “Honey Semifreddo,” Tasty Palettes

20 ounces crushed pineapple, plus juice

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold

zest and juice of two lemons

pinch of salt

1 egg, plus 6 egg yolks

1½ tablespoons cornstarch

1¼ cups heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup honey

–recipe yield: about 8-10 servings

In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine crushed pineapple, juice, brown sugar, ½ tablespoon butter, zest and juice of one lemon and salt.  Whisk ingredients together over medium-low heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and, stirring occasionally, allow mixture to simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by half and pineapple is caramelized.  Remove from heat and pour mixture over mesh strainer, reserving all the liquid and replacing it back into the saucepan, along with about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the strained crushed pineapple shreds.  Discard the excess dry crushed pineapple.  In a small bowl, whisk together 2 of the egg yolks and the cornstarch.  While whisking, pour in a few tablespoons of the hot pineapple juice mixture into the yolk mixture, slowly warming the yolks without cooking them.  When yolks are brought up to temperature, pour them into the saucepan containing the pineapple juice mixture.  Heat mixture over medium-low heat while constantly whisking or stirring with a wooden spoon.  When mixture has thickened (about 2-4 minutes), remove saucepan from heat and stir in juice and zest of remaining lemon, along with the remaining ½ tablespoon cold butter.  Once butter has dissolved, transfer pineapple mixture to a small bowl and continue to stir until cooled.   Once the mixture has cooled, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the mixture so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Allow mixture to set up in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.

Line the inside of a 9×5 inch large loaf pan with plastic wrap In a large, chilled glass bowl, beat the heavy cream until it just reaches stiff peaks.  Place the bowl in the freezer and allow it to chill while preparing the rest of the ice cream.  Prepare a double boiler fitted with a very large glass bowl.  Combine the remaining 4 egg yolks, the whole egg, and the honey in the large bowl of the double boiler over medium-low heat and beat the mixture for 8-10 minutes, or until pale yellow and tripled in volume.  Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat on high to cool and thicken the mixture.  Once the thick yolk-honey has cooled to lukewarm, fold it into the chilled whipping cream until there are no colored streaks visible in the mixture.  Gently pour the ice cream base into the lined loaf pan and place it in the freezer to set.  Once the ice cream has been been freezing for about an hour, remove the pineapple-honey mixture from the refrigerator.  Discard the plastic wrap and stir the set custard to loosen it up.  Remove the loaf pan containing the semi-frozen ice cream from the freezer and dollop pineapple custard in heaping tablespoons onto the ice cream.  When all of the custard has been dotted onto the cream, insert the tip of a butter knife into the cream and run it through the cream a few times to cut and swirl the custard into the cream, creating a marbleized effect.  Replace the loaf pan back into the freeze allow swirled ice cream to set up and freeze overnight.

Rum Scented Meringue

This meringue shouldn’t be prepared until about 20 minutes before serving time.  The rum extract adds a nice depth of flavor to the meringue, but can easily be replaced by vanilla extract.

4 egg whites

pinch of salt

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

½-¾ cup superfine sugar

1 teaspoon rum extract

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl over medium-low heat.  Using an electric mixer, mix egg whites and salt until slightly foamy.  Add in cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks have been achieved.  Gradually add tablespoon after tablespoon of superfine sugar, continuing to beat on medium speed.  Continue to beat mixture for 7-8 minutes.  Remove bowl from heat and mix in the rum extract.  When the meringue has been brought to stiff peaks, the meringue is ready.

Assembly

To prepare the pineapple shell, the pineapple must be sliced and hollowed.  For a bowl-shaped shell, simply slice across the width of the pineapple below the leaves, leaving only the bottom portion to be hollowed out.  For a boat-shaped shell, slice across the entire length of the pineapple (my cookbook sliced through the leaves as well in order to make two boats with the halves, I chose to make one boat and leave the leaves in tact for a prettier presentation).  Using a sharp paring knife, slice around the inner perimeter of the halved pineapple (boat or bowl).  Cut the inner portion into cubes and, using a spoon or the knife, remove the cubes.  Scrape the inside of the hollowed pineapple to smooth out the inner-surface.  Place the hollowed bowl or boat shell(s) into the freezer to chill.  Any leftover pineapple should be cored and sliced.

In a small bowl, whisk together the following ingredients:
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon honey
½ tablespoon lemon juice

Pour the glaze over the sliced pineapple pieces and toss until coated.  The pineapple can, at this point, be grilled (over medium-low heat for about 3-5 minutes, turning once) or used as is.  If choosing to grill the pineapple, be sure to brush the pieces with the leftover glaze afterward as well.  Sprinkle the glazed pineapple pieces into the chilled pineapple shell(s) in a even layer along the bottom.  Scoop the set, frozen semifreddo into each shell directly on top of the layer of pineapple pieces.  The shell should be completely filled by a mound of the scoops of semifreddo.  Place filled shell(s) back into the freezer and prepare the meringue.

Transfer meringue into a pastry or plastic zip-top bag, (fitted with a large star tip, if desired).  Remove filled pineapple shells from freezer and pipe meringue  onto the top of the shell, completely covering any semifreddo or sliced pineapple pieces.  Brown the top of the meringue-covered pineapple shell using a kitchen torch, or place the dessert in the oven directly under a preheated broiler for 6-8 minutes, or until desired golden brown color has been achieved.  Serve immediately.

To serve,  scoop directly through the meringue down to the bottom of the shell to include pineapple pieces, ice cream and meringue into each serving.  It will be messy!  Garnish with an extra slice of grilled and/or glazed pineapple and a drizzle of honey.

June 15, 2011

Key-nadian Twist On A Father’s Day Favorite

I really thought that I’d tried every Key lime dessert recipe known to man.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my dad’s all-time favorite indulgence is Key lime pie, which I grew tired of making about fifteen Birthdays/Father’s Days ago.  Since then, I’ve found ways to incorporate all of those delicious Key lime pie components into many different dessert shapes and forms.  I truly believed that I’d done it all… every Key lime concoction on the planet.  But there was one region of the Earth that I missed… Canada.  Cana..DUH!

Originating from the Great White North, a Nanaimo bar is a layered dessert traditionally composed of a sometimes nutty, brownie-like layer, a custard or buttercream layer, and a chocolate layer.  There are many different versions of Nanaimo bars, leaving me with lots of options to incorporate all of the flavors of the Key lime pie.  I was sold.  As the Vancouver Canucks have demonstrated this season, Canada knows great hockey, just as my dad, a die-hard Red Wings fan, does.   And, as it turns out, Canada also knows a thing or two about dessert!

Upon grocery shopping for ingredients, I also stumbled upon a couple of products that I’d been previously unfamiliar with, pure Key lime extract and natural crystallized lime.  The extract allowed me to achieve a nice, strong lime flavor without having to add too much actual lime juice and watering down the custard.  And the crystallized lime also added an extra kick without ruining the consistency of the filling.  This is an issue I’ve dealt with in the past, having never wanted to sacrifice any of my dad’s favorite lime flavor but also not wanting to jeopardize the quality of the dessert.  Both of these great new products will be of great use to me for years to come as I continue to make Key lime confections for the world’s greatest dad.  Happy Father’s Day, Papa Lew!

Key-nadian Lime Pie Bars

Inspired by: Key Lime Pie

Adapted from “Nanaimo Bars,” The Daring Kitchen  and Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives

Graham Layer

½ cup unsalted butter              2/3 cup almond flour

3 tablespoons brown sugar     1/3 cup flaked coconut, finely ground in food processor

1 egg, lightly beaten                ¼ cup unsalted pistachios, finely ground in food processor

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl.  Melt the butter and brown sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Pour a small amount of the melted butter-sugar into the dish containing the egg while whisking, bringing the egg slowly up to temperature without cooking and scrambling it.  Once the egg has been slightly warmed, pour it into the glass bowl with the remaining melted butter-sugar, stir, and continue to heat.  After the mixture is homogeneous and slightly thickened, remove the bowl from heat and stir in graham crumbs, almond flour, and ground coconut.

Key Lime Layer

3 egg yolks                                           ¼ cup cream cheese, softened

5 tablespoons granulated sugar          2 tablespoons custard powder*

3 tablespoons Key lime extract            1-2 cups confectioner’s sugar

zest and juice of 1 lime                        3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

-optional: crystallized lime, green/yellow gel food coloring

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, lime extract, juice, zest, and cornstarch.  Place over medium-low heat and continue to stir constantly with a wooden spoon.  Allow about 5-7 minutes for the mixture to thicken, and then remove it from heat and transfer it to a small bowl.  Constantly stirring, gradually mix in small pieces of the cold butter, allowing each piece to dissolve before adding the next piece.  Once all the butter has been added and the mixture is smooth and cooled, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the mixture so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Allow mixture to set up in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.

When lime mixture has set, remove it from the refrigerator, peel away and discard the plastic wrap.  Set mixture aside, stirring occasionally, and allow it to come to room temperature.  In a large bowl, beat together the room temperature butter and cream cheese until thoroughly creamed.  Beat in the room temperature lime mixture and food coloring (if desired) until homogeneous.  Mix in the custard powder and gradually beat in the powdered sugar.  If an increase in lime flavor is desired, also beat in desired amount of crystallized lime (I used about 1½ teaspoons).  When desired flavor is reached, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until combined and fluffy.

*Vanilla instant pudding mix may be used here.

Chocolate Layer

2 ½  tablespoons unsalted butter

½ tablespoon heavy whipping cream

6 ounces white chocolate

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, bring butter and cream to a simmer, whisking constantly to prevent it from scalding.  Prepare a double boiler fitted with a medium glass bowl containing the white chocolate and place it over medium heat.  Stir in the hot cream to the melting chocolate and continue to stir until fully melted.  Remove from heat.

Assembly

Line 8×8 pan with parchment paper, allowing the excess to drape over the sides  for easy dessert removal.  Press graham mixture into an even layer on the bottom of the lined pan.  Spoon on the lime layer and spread evenly across the entire surface of the graham layer.  Then, pour the warm, melted chocolate onto the top, evenly coating the dessert and reach all edges of the pan.  Let the dessert rest until chocolate has cooled and set before removing it from pan and slicing into bars.

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.