Posts tagged ‘fruit’

July 2, 2011

Bombes Away On Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July!  Sure, I may be a few days early, but that’s part of the beauty of this dessert… that it can be made days ahead of time.  Another part of the beauty of this dessert is, well, the beauty of the dessert!

I’ve known for months that this year’s Independence Day treat would be inspired by everyone’s favorite patriotic popsicle, the Bomb Pop.  The ice-cold striped snack, layered with bold, crisp flavors of blue raspberry, lime, and cherry left me with many possibilities.  The more I brainstormed, the more excited I got, leaving me with way too many dessert ideas.  I finally narrowed it down to two red, white, and blue desserts, and decided to make both of them.  Luckily, I will have an apartment full of visitors for the weekend who, I’m hoping, will help tear through these dishes (and the refrigerator full of other dessert leftovers, too!).

As I have two fabulous, patriotic desserts to share, I decided to post one a few days early (possibly giving an inspired reader a chance to make a quick copycat before Monday?).  During the bulk of my brainstorming, I focused mainly on dishes that showcase color, as it was important to me to display red, white, and blue in an exciting, attractive way.  As I was scribbling notes in my recipe journal, I glanced at where I’d written “Bomb Pop” on the page and noticed an accidental flourish resembling an “e” at the end of the word “Bomb”.  A bomb explosion went off in my brain.  A layered ice cream cake, or a “bombe glacée,” would be a perfect way to playfully mimic a Bomb Pop, showcasing the three flavors and colors, and also playing off the title of the treat itself!

Bombes are mainly made up of ice cream or sherbet, but some versions include a cake layer, mine included.  I layered homemade lime and homemade sweet dark cherry ice cream and enveloped both in a layer of bright blue raspberry cake.  I chose Swiss cake roll slices because I thought that the white buttercream swirls would pop against the blue cake.  And maybe also because I was somewhat hesitant as to how, exactly, a blue raspberry flavored cake would taste and wanted some vanilla buttercream to fall back on in case the cake wasn’t as pleasant-tasting as I’d hoped.  Luckily, the flavors of the cake and both ice creams came out wonderful, the cohesive dessert creamy and refreshing…  a perfect tribute to the Bomb Pop and a sweet way to celebrate (two days before) the 4th.

Patriotic Ice Cream Cake Bombe

Inspired by: Red, White & Blue Bomb Pops

Blue Raspberry Swiss Cake Roll

Adapted from Heather Baird’s Pink Velvet Roulade,” SprinkleBakes

4 eggs                                      ¼ teaspoon raspberry extract

¾ cup superfine sugar              ¾ tablespoon blue gel food coloring

3 tablespoons vegetable oil      1-2 drops purple gel food coloring

1½ tablespoons whole milk       1 cup all purpose flour

½ tablespoon lemon juice          1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cider vinegar           ¼ teaspoon salt

1½ tablespoons blue raspberry syrup

–recipe yield: 9-12 slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9½x13½ pan with buttered parchment paper.  Beat eggs for five full minutes, then,  slowly beat in superfine sugar and vegetable oil.  In a small bowl, whisk together milk, lemon juice, vinegar, raspberry syrup, and extract.  Gradually add the liquid into egg mixture while continuing to mix on a high speed.  Add food coloring until desired color is reached.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  In small batches, add the sifted dry ingredients into the batter, mixing after each addition.  When completely combined and smooth, pour the batter into the prepared pan, tilting the pan to evenly distribute the batter.  Tap the bottom of the pan against the counter top to allow any air bubbles to escape before placing into the oven to bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cake is spring-y to the touch.

Lay out a pastry cloth or tea towel next to a wire cooling rack.  Sprinkle cloth with a confectioner’s sugar and smooth it into an even layer.  Immediately upon removing it from the oven, turn out the cake onto the sugared cloth.  Remove paper from the cake and gently roll cake and cloth into a tight log, starting at a shorter end of the cake.  When cake log is rolled with and wrapped in the cloth, place it on the wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Best Vanilla Buttercream

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

¼ teaspoon salt

2½-3 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla almond milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1½-2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

–recipe yield: about 2 cups frosting

In a large bowl, beat together butter and salt until soft and creamed (about 2-4 minutes).  Add in about half of the sugar and the almond milk, and beat until combined.  Add in the remaining sugar, as well as the vanilla, and beat until smooth.  Drizzle in heavy cream while continuing to beat until desired fluffy consistency is reached.

Swiss Roll Assembly

When cake roll is cool, gently unroll it and pull away the cloth.  Spoon frosting onto the surface of unrolled cake and smooth in an even layer, leaving a thin, border unfrosted.  Gently roll cake back into log and wrap securely with plastic wrap. Freeze for 4 hours before cutting into slices with a serrated knife.

Lime Ice Cream

Adapted from Key Lime Ice Cream,” Food.com

10 ounces frozen limeade concentrate, thawed

zest and juice from 2 limes

14 ounces (1 can) sweetened condensed milk

3 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract

1 teaspoon key lime extract

Line a 9×9-inch pan with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer.  In a medium bowl, whisk together limeade concentrate, zest, juice, and condensed milk.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, whip the cream on a low speed until just slightly thickened.  Add both vanilla and lime extracts while continuing to mix.  When medium soft peaks form, fold in condensed milk mixture.  Spoon the combined mixture into prepare pan and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Sweet Black Cherry Ice Cream

Adapted from Spumoni Ice Cream,”
The Prepared Pantry

½ pint dark sweet cherries

2 tablespoons cherry preserves

2 cups whipping cream

½ cup sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon pure cherry extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon red gel food coloring

Line a 9×9-inch pan with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer.  Rinse and remove pits and stems from cherries.  Pat dry and give cherries a thorough, rough chop, or pulse a couple times in a food processor.  Combine chopped cherries and preserves in a small bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix the whipping cream on a low speed until just slightly thickened.  Gradually pour in the condensed milk and both cherry and vanilla extracts, and continue to whip until soft peaks form.  Add food coloring until desired color is reached.  Gently fold the cherry-preserve mixture into the cream.  Spoon the combined mixture into the lined, chilled pan and freeze for at least 4 hours, or until firm.

Assembly

Line a round-bottomed bowl (preferably aluminum) with plastic wrap.  Using a serrated knife, cut chilled cake roll into slices about 1-1½ inches thick.  Arrange slices in the lined bowl into a layer at the bottom of the pan and up the side of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze till the slices are firm, at least 30 minutes.

Remove the lime ice cream from the freezer to allow it to soften for about 10 minutes.  Then, take the cake-roll lined bowl out of the freezer, remove outermost layer of plastic wrap and smooth the lime ice cream on top of the cake slices.  Spread ice cream into an even layer to cover the bottom third of the inside of the bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour.  Repeat the softening process with the cherry ice cream, and spread it into the bowl onto the chilled lime ice cream and cake rolls.  Allow the cherry ice cream layer to reach another third of the way up inside the bowl, leaving the very top third portion of the bowl empty for the last layer.  Re-cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze for another hour or so until firm.  Repeat the softening and smoothing process with the third and final layer of lime ice cream.  Smooth it into an even layer reaching the very top of the bowl and sides of the cake slices.  Re-cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze til completely set and firm, 4-5 hours or overnight.

About 10 minutes before ready to serve, remove the bowl from the freezer and discard plastic wrap.  Invert the dessert onto serving plate and peel away and discard plastic wrap.  If the dessert doesn’t release from the bowl with ease, run a kitchen towel dampened with hot water across the sides of the bowl before attempting to pull it away.  To serve, submerge a sharp knife into hot water before cutting into slices.

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June 19, 2011

Food For Thought

Where there would normally be an abundance of sugar, flour, butter and maybe the occasional frozen pizza, lately, I’ve been finding some less-likely foods. Goodies such as avocados, tuna salad, pomegranate juice, and mixed nuts have been gracing the shelves of my refrigerator and pantry most recently. When I inquired about the sudden additions to our snack collection, Evan, who has been avidly preparing for his GMAT exam, shared with me an article he’d read. The article described how to improve brain function and memory by means of consuming foods rich in Omega-3 fats, antioxidants and fiber. It also listed the top 20 foods to “supercharge your brain.” I was intrigued. And after reading through the list of “brain foods,” I was inspired.

I set out to create a dessert recipe using at least ten of the twenty foods as ingredients.  There were the obvious choices, like nuts (#4), coffee (#6), oats (#7), chocolate (yes! # 12), and cocoa nibs (#20).  And there were the more challenging choices, like avocados (#1),  seeds (#5), pomegranate (#9), and olive oil (#14).  After recipe hunting, tweaking, taste-testing and a bit of improvisation, I came up with today’s recipe.  It includes all of the brain-fueling ingredients listed above, as well as the #2 ingredient, blueberries.  That’s 10 of the “20 Best Foods For Your Brain,” with 7 ingredients coming from the top 10.  The result?  A heavenly combination of velvety smooth chocolate cascading over crisp, fresh blueberries, tart pomegranate jam, and a crispy-crumbly crust… a decadent pie to spark both the appetite and the brain.

Choco-Pom-Berry
“Brainpower Pie”

Inspired by: “The 20 Smartest Foods On Earth”

Adapted from Renee Mahon & S. Duquet’s
Dark Chocolate, Avocado & Berry Pie

This recipe is gluten free, 100% vegan and should be enjoyed by all!  The avocado is used in place of butter or margarine as the main source of fat in the chocolate filling and makes for a delicious, almost pudding-like texture (and tastes nothing like guacamole, I promise!).

1/3 cup almond milk

2 tablespoons orange juice

1½ tablespoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon instant coffee granules

0at, nut & seed crust (recipe below)

½ cup pomegranate jam (recipe below)

1 pint fresh blueberries

2 ripe avocados

12 oz. semisweet chocolate (vegan)

–recipe yield: one 8- or 9-inch pie
(about 8-10 servings)

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together milk, orange juice and vanilla extract and place over medium heat.  Once liquid has come to a delicate simmer, remove from heat and whisk in coffee granules.  Set aside and allow mixture to steep.  While liquid is steeping, spoon pomegranate jam into prepared crust and spread into a thin, even layer to coat entire surface.  Sprinkle blueberries over top of the jam layer and arrange them to cover the jam entirely.

Core and slice avocados into a food processor.  Strain the warm, steeped liquid into the food processor as well, discarding any whole coffee granules that may remain.  Puree the mixture until desired consistency is reached.  Transfer the smooth avocado mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat.  Constantly stirring, heat mixture for 3-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour in chocolate chips.  Stir to completely melt the chocolate until the mixture is completely homogeneous.  Pour the entire mixture into the pan over top of the blueberries.  Using an angled spatula, smooth out the chocolate mixture into a flat, even layer.  Transfer to refrigerator (or freezer) to chill overnight until set.  Serve cold.

Pomegranate Jam

Adapted from “Pomegranate Jelly,”
Taste Of Home

1½ cups pomegranate juice

¼ cup water

2 cups sugar

2½ tablespoons pure fruit pectin

–recipe yield: about 2 cups jam

Pour juice and water into a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and allow liquid to simmer for about 10 minutes.  Measure out sugar in a separate container and set aside.  Add pectin into juice, whisking until dissolved.  Bring liquid to a full, rolling boil.  At this point, quickly dump in the sugar while constantly whisking.  Return to a rolling boil and allow to boil for exactly 1 minute, stirring.  Remove from heat and skim off any foam on the top of mixture.  Pour into jars/containers and allow to sit at room temperature overnight.  Store, covered, in refrigerator or freezer.

Oat, Nut & Seed Pie Crust

Adapted from “Vegan Oat-Nut Pie Crust,”  SmarterFitter and The Whole Food Bible

½ cup walnuts                                    ¾ cup almond flour                        ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup rolled oats                                 ¼ cup flax meal                              3 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons cocoa nibs                   ¼ teaspoon salt                             1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Spread walnuts out onto a sheet tray and toast them in a 350 degree oven for 8-9 minutes, tossing them halfway through baking time.  Remove them from oven, allow to cool, and increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.  Prepare a 8- or 9-inch springform pan by well-oiling the bottom of the pan and halfway up the sides.  Set aside.

In a food processor, pulse together walnuts, oats, and cocoa nibs until ground.  Add in almond flour, flax meal, and salt, and pulse to combine.  In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, syrup and vanilla.  Pour the liquid into the food processor and pulse to mix.  Remove mixture from food processor and press into pan in an even layer.  Bake crust for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are slightly crisp.  Set aside to cool.

-Optional
Pomegranate seeds or cocoa nibs may be used as a garnish.  To make swirl design, heat pomegranate jam and use a small paintbrush dipped in the jam to paint onto dish.

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.

June 7, 2011

Mango Peach Tart For A Sweet Summer Start

Salsa is one of those go-to snacks that’s fit to satisfy all year round.  With different levels of spice, heat, and sweet, and a seemingly endless number of flavor combinations to choose from, there’s bound to be a salsa for everyone.  Evan’s favorite salsa is the mango-peach salsa made by Garden Fresh, a brand originating from Ferndale, Michigan.  And no, I promise it’s not just the homegrown comfort of the salsa that makes it so appealing to us Michigan-natives.  It’s legitimately incredible salsa.  And it also happens to be my inspiration behind today’s recipe.

I decided, if salsa-makers can marry mangoes, peaches and peppers together in sweet-heat harmony, so can I.  I used jalapenos and poblanos along with a dash of red pepper flake and cayenne to add some zip to the tangy-sweet fruit and piled it all into a buttery, cake-y shell.  All tasters agreed that it could handle even more heat, so feel free to turn up the amount of peppers and spice.  Please don’t be put off by the idea of a somewhat spicy dessert… it really was delicious.  Those too timid to add the peppers should definitely still whip up a batch of the cayenne cream.  That whipped cream and a spoon could keep me happy all summer long.

Mango Peach Tart with Cayenne Whipped Cream

Inspired by: “Mango Peach Salsa” -Garden Fresh Gourmet

Adapted from Marco Canora’s “White Peach Tart,” Food & Wine
and 
“Easy Peach Preserves,” Delicious Living

2 large mangoes                                                   1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

4 medium peaches                                                1/3 tablespoon gelatin

½-1 tablespoon grated red jalapeno                    1 tart crust (recipe below)

½-1 tablespoon grated poblano peppers             ¼ cup heavy whipping cream

¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flake                       2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar                                        1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

-recipe yield: 1 ten-inch tart

Peel and remove the core from both mangoes, then set one aside.  Chop one mango and two peaches (skin on) in a medium-small dice.  Transfer the diced fruit, grated peppers, pepper flakes, sugar and vinegar to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over the stove, constantly stirring.  Continuing to stir periodically, reduce heat to medium-low and allow mixture to rapidly simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until fruit has somewhat broken down.  In a separate small bowl, sprinkle gelatin into ¼ cup cold water and let set for about 1 minutes. Then, add it to the fruit and allow it to heat, stirring it until the gelatin is completely dissolved (about 3 minutes).  Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool completely before using or covering and refrigerating.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Slice remaining mango and peaches into ¼-½ inch wedges and set aside.  Prepare tart crust dough (recipe below) and bring mango-peach gelatin mixture to room temperature.  If cold gelatin has solidified, stir with a fork and heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds, or until lukewarm and spreadable.  Spoon ¾-1 cup of mango-peach mixture into tart pan atop the dough and spread into an even layer, setting aside the remaining mixture to be used later.  Arrange mango slices into a large circle on top of the fruit mixture in the pan, and then peach slices on top of the mango slices.  Arrange fruit so that it is slightly overlapping.  Place smaller fruit slices in the center portion of the tart. Place tart into the oven for about 20 minutes.  Remove the tart and, using a pastry brush, brush a bit of the liquid from the gelatin mixture onto the exposed fruit slices on the tart.  Place the tart back into the oven and allow to bake another 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is puffed and golden and the fruit is tender.  Allow tart to rest for at least 30 minutes, or until completely cooled, before slicing and serving.

To prepare the cream, place chilled whipping cream into a medium bowl and beat until soft peaks have been achieved.  Beat in the confectioner’s sugar and cayenne pepper until it’s reached stiff peaks.  Serve on top of or alongside tart slices.

Tart Crust

1½ cups all-purpose flour           ½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup granulated sugar              ½ teaspoon lemon zest

½ teaspoon baking powder        1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk

7 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, softened butter, salt, and lemon zest . Pulse ingredients until combined.  Add in egg and egg yolk and process until a soft dough forms.  Remove dough from the processor onto a clean surface and knead until it just comes together. Press dough into the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

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June 2, 2011

Macaron Mess, Part III: Practice Makes Perfect

I’ve been going a bit overboard with macaron practice and production lately.  The delicate cookie that I once loathed has recently become my favorite kitchen experiment and my favorite gift to give away.  I’m constantly thinking and talking about them, and I may have even had a few dreams revolving solely around the macaron and its endless flavor combination possibilities.  It became clear to me that it was time to re-visit the chocolate-peanut butter macaron recipe from my very first attempt (emphasis on the word “attempt”) about a month ago.  Regardless of the fact that I’ve been a mac-making machine lately, making chocolate macaron shells still brought about a whole new challenge for me.  The addition of cocoa powder into the batter scared the living daylights out of me.  And as David Lebovitz suggests cutting back on almond flour while Tartelette suggests cutting back on powdered sugar when attempting chocolate macarons, I was torn and confused.  What’s the difference between unsweetened cocoa powder and Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa anyway?

Luckily, my chocolate shells turned out very nicely due to David’s recipe (although that doesn’t mean that Tartelette’s wouldn’t have turned out just as well!).  I went with my original inspiration and filled the shells with a salted-peanut butter buttercream, mimicking my sister-in-law’s peanut butter buckeyes.  I kept my promise to my sister-in-law and my brother and made sure that they got to taste these less-fragile, correctly made cookies.

In other (much more exciting) news, Evan’s great friends, Sam and Megan, were married at a gorgeous black tie ceremony in Detroit this past weekend.  Evan selected some really nice wedding gifts to be shipped to their home, but I also decided to bake them something nice and have it waiting for them in their suite after the reception.  I wanted to make them something really special and pretty… something personalized just for them on their special day.  I didn’t even find out until after I’d given them the cookies that Megan just so happens to be allergic to gluten.  Thank goodness I’d ended up making these… one of the few fancy and gluten-free treats that I’ve come to grow so fond of whipping up!

As purple was one of the theme colors of their wedding decor, I chose to make Megan and Sam some violet shells with a blackberry buttercream filling.  I hand-painted some of the macs with tiny designs and flourishes, including one with their initials.  I saw the beautiful couple two days after the wedding and found out how much they enjoyed the cookies.  Congratulations, newlyweds!

Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons

Inspired by: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Buckeyes

Chocolate Macaron Shells

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s “French Chocolate Macarons”

1 cup confectioners sugar

½ cup almond flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

¼ cup superfine sugar

2 egg whites, aged & room temperature*

small pinch of cream of tartar

-recipe yield: about 17 filled macarons

Substituting the vanilla ingredients for the chocolate ingredients and proportions above, follow the French Macaron Shell directions portion of the recipe (as well as the extra tips listed just before the recipe).  The cocoa should be added into the food processor and ground along with the confectioners sugar and almond flour.  Baking time may need to be increased by an extra minute or so.

Salted Peanut Butter Buttercream

½ cup smooth peanut butter           ½ teaspoon table salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter        ½ cup confectioner’s sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract              2 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

In a medium bowl, cream together peanut butter and  butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in vanilla and salt.  Gradually add confectioner’s sugar and continue to beat.  When the sugar has been combined, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until fluffy, being careful not to over-whip.

-Optional:

Once macaron shells have baked and cookies have assembled and sandwiched with buttercream, prepare a small batch of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil over the stove, reduced to a syrup and cooled) to brush over top of the shells.  Sprinkle a little kosher or flaked sea salt over top of the syrup-brushed cookies for an extra salty bite.

Blackberry Wedding Macarons

Pretty Purple Macaron Shells

For purple (or any other color) macaron shells, follow the French Macaron Shell recipe (as well as the extra tips listed just before the recipe).  Desired amount of gel food coloring can be added to macaron batter just after dry ingredients are sifted in and just before starting to fold dry ingredients into the meringue.  A good way to do this is to squeeze the gel directly onto a clean spatula before using the same spatula to fold the batter.

Blackberry Buttercream

Adapted from sammyw‘s “Raspberry Buttercream Frosting”

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ cup seedless blackberry preserves

2-3 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

In a medium bowl, whip butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add in blackberry preserves and beat until homogeneous.  Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar until desired sweetness has been achieved.  Once sugar has been dissolved, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until fluffy.

-Optional

To make the designs, I diluted some more of the purple food coloring with a drop or so of water and used a fine paintbrush to apply a small amount of the thick purple liquid to the tops of the cookies in different designs.  Allow painted shells to dry completely before stacking, packaging, handling or serving.

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.

May 12, 2011

Breakfast In “Bread”

There are certain things that I just always seem to have on hand at my apartment.  There are the things that you might expect a frequent baker to have, like a few rolls of parchment paper, a cupboard full of sprinkles in every color, and two or three (or four) pounds of butter.  There are things that you might expect a food-lover to have on hand that you probably won’t find, like basic snacks or munchies (I can’t buy potato chips… I’d just eat them all in the first day of purchasing them) or pretty much any kind of meat.  Then there are the things that I not only have on hand, but I have in a huge (and probably weird) abundance, like Rust-Oleum spray paint in “Heirloom White” (for all my recent DIY projects) and multiple 2-liters of my latest beverage addiction, Canada Dry Diet Green Tea Ginger Ale.

Another one of those items that I’m constantly stocked up on are breakfast foods.  Evan’s latest kick has been breakfast trail mix, but there’s also a plethora of powerbars, granola bars, fruit bars, and oatmeal that are readily available to munch on in the morning.  All of these options are great for Evan and I, especially on busy weekday mornings.  However, when we have out of town guests, like we did this past weekend, I like to have something homemade to offer them as well.  I wanted to create a (somewhat) healthy treat that combined all of the best qualities of my favorite breakfast bars in one yummy and home-y loaf.

I tried to make this recipe as healthy and protien-packed as possible by using whole wheat flour, oats, nuts, and lots of fruit.  I used a combination of sugar, splenda, and honey as well as margarine instead of butter.  This breakfast bread is delicious, satisfying, and a great way to start the morning.

Fruit, Nut & Grain Breakfast Bread

Inspired by: Fruit, Nut & Grain Granola Bar

Adapted from Jennifer Appel’s “Apple Pecan Quick Bread,”  The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

¼ cup dried cranberries                                           ¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup raisins                                                           1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup peeled, chopped apple                                   ½ teaspoon salt

½ cup chopped pecans                                            2 eggs

½ cup quick oats                                                      1/3 cup margarine, melted

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour                                     2/3 cup orange juice

1/3 cup granulated splenda                                     2 tablespoons honey

-recipe yield: 1 large loaf or 2 mini loaves of bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or line a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with parchment paper.  Bring about a cup of water to a boil and transfer hot water to a mug, along with raisins and dried cranberries.  Allow dried fruit to sit in hot water for about 5 minutes, or until plumped and re-hydrated.  Drain the fruit, discarding the water, and in a medium bowl, mix together the rehydrated fruit, chopped apple, chopped pecans and oats.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the whole wheat flour, splenda, sugar, baking powder and salt using a whisk.  Once dry ingredients are thoroughly combined and are lump-free, create a little ‘well’ in the center of the dry ingredient bowl.  This is where the liquid ingredients will be poured and mixed in to create the batter.

In a small bowl, lightly break apart eggs with a fork.  Whisk together melted, cooled margarine, orange juice and honey in with the eggs.  Pour this mixture into the ‘well’ of dry ingredients and gently stir until just homogeneous.  Do not over-mix the batter or the finished bread will be dry and tough instead of moist and airy.  Carefully fold the fruit, nut and oat mixture into the batter.  Pour batter into lined loaf pan and place pan on the center rack of the oven.  Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the bread comes out with a few moist crumbs.  Do not overbake.  Allow bread to cool in loaf pan on wire rack for 30 minutes before slicing or removing bread from loaf pan.

April 30, 2011

Semifreddo Spin on a Food Truck Treat

If you live or work near a big, metropolitan city, chances are you’re familiar with the growing Food Truck Trend.  And if you’re a food-lover, like me, you’re not only familiar with the term “Food Truck,” but you regularly spend your lunch hour tracking down your favorite trucks, regardless of how close (or how very, very far) they’re parked from your office that day.  If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, allow me to explain.  The idea behind food trucks is that while they are essentially miniature restaurants on wheels, they allow for all of the downtown employees who’ve grown sick and tired of the same old, overpriced sandwich shop chains that surround their office building to enjoy exciting and delicious gourmet cuisine, made fresh to order, all at a pretty reasonable price.  The reason they’re able to serve their high-quality dishes at such a low price?  Because their kitchen and staff has been immensely scaled down to fit into a tiny truck, also scaling down their menu to only a few of their specialty dishes, and, never having to worry about over-purchasing ingredients or excess food going bad since its guaranteed they’ll sell out by the end of lunch (as all the hungry employees are ecstatic to have a new addition to their lunch selection).  These food trucks are, to food-loving adults, what ice cream trucks are to children.

As enthusiastic as I am about my favorite food trucks, I must admit, I’m still just as overjoyed to see an ice cream truck cross my path.  I caught a glimpse of one earlier in the week… the first one I’ve seen this year.  Hearing the familiar tune of the friendly truck brought me right back to my childhood, during which I would’ve been thrilled to run down the sidewalk, calling after the truck until it stopped, at which point I’d place my order for a strawberry-shortcake popsicle.

This time, instead of chasing after the truck (and potentially frightening the young children surrounding it), I came straight home and formulated my own recipe for a gourmet version of this tasty treat.  After a few tweaks and some unexpected pop-ups, I’m in love with the final product: a creamy and tangy strawberry-vanilla semifreddo (meaning semi-frozen) that can be made and served as either a icy parfait or a handheld popsicle, both complete with an almond-shortbread cookie crumble.  They’re a sure-to-please treat for ice cream lovers of any age, and include all of the delectable elements of the familiar treat from the original “food truck.”

Strawberry Shortcake Semifreddo Pops

Inspired by: Strawberry Shortcake Popsicles

Adapted from Tartelette’s  “Fresh Cheese & Raspberry Semifreddo”

1 ½ cups fresh strawberries                               2 ½ tablespoons water

¼ cup plus 1½ tablespoons honey, divided        3 large egg yolks

½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar                           ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

¾ cup heavy cream                                             200 grams Greek yogurt

-recipe yield: about 8-10 servings                      1 half-batch of shortbread*

Prepare your serving glasses.  For desserts to be eaten with a spoon, simply set out some tall shot glasses or parfait dishes, as no further preparation is necessary.  For popsicles, cut 2 long, thin strips of parchment paper per each tall shot glass and push the centers of each of the strips down into the bottom of the shot glasses, allowing the ends of the strips to fall outside the glass.  The excess parchment paper on the outside of the glasses create little tabs that allow for easy removal of the popsicles once they’ve frozen, without the risk of pulling out the popsicle sticks.  I also like to further line the popsicle glasses with a square cut of parchment paper to further assist in the smooth removal of the treats.

Give the strawberries a thorough rough chop and toss them in a small bowl, along with 1 ½ tablespoons of the honey and the balsamic vinegar.  Toss the mixture together and break up the strawberries with the back side of a fork.  Allow the berries to macerate into the liquid for about 10 minutes, or until the berries have broken down somewhat and the liquid has thickened into a syrup.  Spoon a small amount of the berries and syrup into the bottom of each of the serving dishes, setting aside a small amount to later be swirled into the semifreddo base (if desired).  Set serving glasses and remaining strawberry mixture aside.

In a separate, large bowl, empty the heavy cream.  Beat the cream until they’ve just barely reached soft peaks.  Refrigerate the bowl of cream while preparing the remainder of the semifreddo base.

In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, stir together the ¼ cup honey and the water.  Bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally and allow the syrup to reach 238 degrees (the “soft-ball stage”).  As the syrup heats up, beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl until the yolks have broken up and combined.  Once the syrup has hit 238, turn off the stove heat, remove the saucepan from the stove top, increase the electric mixer speed to high, and beat the egg yolks while pouring in the hot syrup in a slow but steady stream.  Once all of the syrup has been added to the yolks, continue to beat the mixture on a high speed until it’s light and airy and  has completely cooled.  Mix in the vanilla bean paste.

Remove the chilled cream from the refrigerator.  By hand, whisk the yogurt into the cream, followed by about 1/3 of the yolk mixture.  This will loosen up the cream slightly.  Fold the remaining yolk mixture into the cream.  Spoon the creamy semifreddo base into the glasses on top of the macerated berries, leaving a little extra room on the top of those glasses that will be used as frozen parfaits.  If desired, spoon in a very small amount of the strawberry-syrup mixture onto the top of the cream in each (or some) of the glasses.  Using a toothpick or skewer inserted just slightly into each glass, swirl the berry mixture into the cream, creating a marble effect.  For popsicles, place popsicle sticks into the center of each dessert.  Allow desserts to chill on a flat surface in the freezer (I like to put the cups into cupcake or mini-muffin pans to prevent slanting or tipping) for 3-5 hours, or until firm.

When ready to serve, remove glasses from the freezer and allow them to sit at room temperature for 5-8 minutes.  While the desserts rest at room temperature, break up about half of the prepared shortbread cookies into crumbs with your hands.  For semifreddo parfaits, top the rested desserts with enough shortbread crumbs to reach the top of the glass.  For popsicles, remove the desserts from the glasses by pulling gently on the parchment paper “tabs.”  If the popsicles don’t easily pull out of the glasses, submerge only the bottom half of the cold glasses into a cup of warm water for a few seconds to slightly melt the berry portion of the popsicle, and then attempt to remove the dessert again.  As each popsicle is removed, lay it on a cutting board and, using a sharp paring knife, slice off the very tippy-top of the red, rounded tops of the popsicles so that they’re completely flat on top.**  Lay out the shortbread crumbs into a skinny strip on a flat surface, and roll the popsicles through the crumbs so that the center of each popsicle is coated in the crumbs.  Serve the semifreddo parfaits with spoons and simply hand over the popsicles.  Enjoy!

*I split the recipe from my shortbread post in half.  I also altered the halved recipe by substituting the two cups of all-purpose flour for  1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour plus ½ cup of almond four, as I was aiming to replicate the crumbly almond-like topping from the ice cream truck popsicles.  The addition of the almond flour did just that and really turned out amazing.

**I don’t suggest skipping this step… just trust me.

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.