Pink Lady Cake

Pink Lady Cake

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Julia Child's Onion Soup

I never realized quite how wonderful carmelized onions are until I made this.  I could have eaten all 5 onions by themselves, no soup at all, after they had cooked down for forty minutes into a browned, buttery mass which was just sooo good.  I mean, I did have to have at least a few.

Julia Child is a wonderful cook and no matter what anyone else thinks, I will always love her recipes.  This soup has very few ingredients and is still divine.  It's all technique and cooking times with her. 

Now it did snow today, but not as much as I had hoped.  I fear its rapid departure.  I am also reading at this moment "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame", or, as it is really called "Notre-Dame De Paris."  Actually, I have been reading it for about two months now.  I am only on page 309.  It is one of my favorite books thus far, yet I never can seem to focus on it for longer than a couple of hours.  And these little sessions of a few hours are few and far between with everything else going on.  And sometimes, I would just rather read my brother's books, him being in 5th grade, for their simple plot and dialogue.  You can skim them, and their plot is just fulfilling enough that you continue to read them night after night even if you kinda guessed the ending from page three.

Well, I came back to Notre-Dame de Paris today because I was making the soup and was in the mood for all things French.  Thus today has been quite fulfilling, all holed up here with the snow and my French soup and books.  I am enjoying my few moments of faux winter.

Onion Soup (Soupe a L'Oignon)
Mastering the Art of French Cooking-Volume 1

The onions for an onion soup need a long, slow cooking in butter and oil, than a long, slow simmering in stock for them to develop the deep, rich flavor which characterizes a perfect brew.  You should therefore count on 2 1/2 hours at least from start to finish.  Though the preliminary cooking in butter requires some watching, the actual simmering can proceed almost unattended.

For 6 to 8 Servings

1 1/2 lbs. or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions                
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
A heavy bottomed, 4-quart saucepan

Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in the covered saucepan for 15 minutes.

1 tsp. salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar (helps the onions to brown)

Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar.  Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.

3 Tb flour (I used King Arthur Gluten-Free flour mix)

Sprinkle in flour and stir 3 minutes.

2 quarts boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of boiling water and 1 quart of stock or bouillon(I used the last combination, but with vegetable broth)
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste

Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid.  Add the wine and season to taste.  Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occaisionally.  Correct seasoning.  (*)  Set aside uncovered until ready to serve and then reheat to a simmer.

3 Tb cognac
Rounds of hard-toasted French bread (see recipe following)
1 to 2 cups grated swiss or parmesan cheese

Just before serving, stir in the cognac.  Pour into a soup tureen or soup cups over the rounds of bread and pass the cheese separately.

Garnishings for Onion Soup
Croutes-hard-toasted French bread

12 to 16 slices French bread cut 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick

Place the bread in one layer in a roasting pan and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for about 1/2 an hour, until it is thoroughly dried out and lightly browned.

Olive oil or beef drippings (I never quite got on the bandwagon with the beef dripping thing-I would advise you take the same route)
A cut clove of garlic

Halfway through baking, each side may be basted with a teaspoon of olive oil or beef dripping; and after baking, each piece may be rubbed iwth cut garlic.

Croute au Fromage-cheese croutes

Grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese
Olive oil or beef drippings

Spread one side of each croute with grated cheese and sprinkle with drops of olive oil or beef drippings.  Brown under a hot broiler before serving.

Sugar Cookies

Here it is, the end of October, about to snow, and I'm finally getting in some recipes.  Did you hear that though?  About to snow?   Yes, it is true.  It is going to snow before Halloween.  This is both unexpected and very wonderful!  I love snow, and am hoping to appreciate it before swim season starts.  During swim season, I often feel like I don't have enough energy or time to get around to looking at and enjoying the pillowing soft snow.  On the snow days I spend most of my time wishing that we don't have practice.  Anways, if the snow comes now though, and stays...please, please, please...I will be able to enjoy it for a full MONTH!

Not that this has anything to do with sugar cookies. 

So, I made these cookies because I had to go to a church function, per se.  My mom had made them last year for the same function because though I had wanted to to, I had known I wouldn't have the time.  Yet this year, because they had been so good, I had to make them myself.  Guess what?  They were perfect again!  Cook's Illustrated never fails!  Never! 

Well, actually, the recipes have been known to fail a few times.  These times only happened though because, welll, I took the liberty to change a few ingredients.  Good things come to those who wait, you know?  Well, turns out I'm just a bit too impatient and often can't wait to get one or two of the primary ingredients. 

But, if you actually follow the recipe, things turn out just fine, or, much better than fine, like these cookies!  They are crisp on the edges but soft and chewy in the center.  They are sweet but the flavor is rounded out by the addition of cream cheese. Just as well, they are easy, like the cupcakes, and require only a few small steps before you can put them in the oven to bake a few minutes.  Please try them, and, when you do, please comment on my blog!  In fact, comment on all the recipes, all the time, whether or not you've tried them! It would be hugely appreciated!

Chewy Sugar Cookies
Cook's Illustrated-November/December 2010

Makes 2 Dozen Cookies

Note:  The final dough will be slightly softer than most cookie dough.  For the best results, handle the dough as briefly and as gently as possible when shaping the cookies. Overworking the dough will result in flatter cookies.

2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 ounces)  unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/3  cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tablespon milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1.  Adjust oven to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
2.  Place 1 1/2 cups sugar and cream cheese in a large bowl.  Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside.  Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain but smooth out later).  Whisk in oil until incorporated.   Add egg, milk, and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth.  Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft homogeneous dough forms.
3.  Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 tablespoons each (or use # 40 portion scoop).  Using hands, roll dough into balls.  Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 dough balls per sheet.   Using bottom of drinking glass, flattten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter.  Sprinkle tops with 4 teaspoons of sugar remaining in shallow dish (2 teaspoons per tray) , discarding any remaining sugar.
4.  Bake, 1 tray at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating tray after 7 minutes.   Cool cookies on baking sheet five minutes.   Using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Portugese Fish Stew

Well, this is actually my second post for today, as I am typing this on Thursday and will be posting it tomorrow, when you will come to read it.  Yesterday, my mom told me that I absolutely had to make this fish stew recipe that she had found through NPR.  She said that it just sounded so good, and wasn't a soup that was laden down with cream, or really complicated.  It sounded nice.

Now, I went to the NPR website to look for the recipe, and I found it quite easily.  The recipe relies on two key components: The HUGE amount of fish, and the spice paste.  I mean huge when I say it.  There are four pounds of fish in this soup.  That's $20 worth of fish!  Now, my mom went out and bought it, and we cooked it all, but really, I think 2 pounds would have been better.  I feel a little too fishy right now. 

Despite the absurd amount of fish, probably because Portugal is on the ocean and has to make up recipes to use all of the fish, the broth is really the crowning glory.  In order to make it, you poach all of the fish in the 4 cups or so of water, with a few onions, parsley, and olive oil.  That liquid, after the fish is removed, is used as the base for a spice paste that includes....wait...7 cloves of garlic!  Now, of course, when I saw this in the recipe I already knew that it would be good.  Anything with this much garlic has to be. 

So, yeah.  Everything worked out well with this soup.  It's not too fishy like some, and it has its own unique blend of flavors, especially because of the 1/4 cup of wine vinegar which brightens everything.  I would advise you to make it, even if you don't really like fish soup.  I didn't think I did until I tried this one. 

Exerpt from NPR Article:  This recipe adapted from Ana Patuleia Ortins' Portuguese Homestyle Cooking (Interlink 2003) is one of the first recipes I fell in love with as a new cookbook reviewer. I still remember the moment the brick-red seasoning paste dissolved into the stew and its aroma filled the house. It is an ample recipe, so sometimes I halve the amount of fish. When I do, I still use the full measure of the seasonings, as I find them irresistible. I can never find the pickled Portuguese chili peppers, but they are there principally for their heat, and the author has said they can be used interchangeably with other dried, fresh or liquid capsicums.

Recipe from:
T. Susan Chang for NPR

Makes 6 to 8 servings
4 pounds any thick cuts of white fish (halibut, hake, pollock or cod), cut into 1-inch-thick steaks or thick serving-sized fillets(I would use only 2 pounds)
1 quart water or enough to barely cover the fish
3 sprigs parsley
2 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

In the bottom of an 8-quart pot, layer the fish and pour in enough cold water to barely cover it. Add the parsley, onions, bay leaves, salt and olive oil.
Cover tightly, place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the fish is opaque, about 20 minutes.

Seasoning Paste

7 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seed or 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 pickled chili peppers, each about 1 inch long, finely chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon ground safflower* or paprika
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar

Using a large mortar and pestle, mash the garlic with the salt, forming a paste.
Mash in the cumin, parsley, chili peppers and safflower. Stir in the tomato paste, sugar and nutmeg. Drizzle in the olive oil followed by the vinegar. (If you do not have a mortar and pestle or yours is not large enough, make the paste in a medium bowl using the back of a spoon or a fork.) Stir to blend the ingredients well.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked fish to a serving dish. Cover and keep warm. Whisk the seasoning paste into the fish broth, making sure it is well dispersed. Simmer about 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Ladle some of the seasoned broth over the fish and serve remaining broth on the side. Or place generous pieces of fish in individual soup plates and spoon the broth over it. Serve with plenty of bread to dip in the broth.
*Portuguese ground safflower can be found in Latino markets and some supermarkets.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Daring Bakers-Povitica

Blog-checking lines: The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

Well, back about two weeks ago I made this recipe.  It was a bit of a race against the clock, but surprisingly is turned out EXACTLY as I would have hoped.  This is quite a phenomenon because normally there is something or other wrong.  I fully expected that I would forget to let the bread sit in the pan until cooled and it would flop out of the pan to split apart dramatically.  At which point I would begin again and hope for no more lapses in memory.

Yet this didn't actually happen. 

Now, I was a bit afraid that this month's Daring Baker's would be something I had done before.  Though I enjoy perfecting recipes and working with them so that they are to my taste, I wanted to be surprised by something new and unknown.  This was it.  As mentioned in the blog-checking lines, this is an Eastern European bread, and as I do very little of that sort of cooking, this was a great recipe. 

The original recipe that we were required to make included a walnut filling, and that was the one I used.  Despite my desire to make a bananas foster Povitica, I didn't get to just because of the time frame.  The walnut filling for this was great.  I increased the cocoa to two tablespoons.  I did use the normal amount of filling, but if I do it again I think I my do 1 1/2 times the amount, in order to to make the best moister and more decadent.  Though this might make the spirals less beautiful, I had my moment in the sun with the beauty of my other Povitica, and no longer mind sacrificing looks for taste, which really is the main goal.

I must say that this recipe wasn't as difficult as it could have been.  Though some people had difficulty rolling out the dough, I found it to be quite easy.  You just have to make sure that you continue to lift up the dough once in a while, so that it can stretch out some on its own.  The technique that I used to place the roll in the pan was the one that another blogger mentioned.  I rolled the dough around the filling from both sides, then I took the two ends of the double roll and folded them to the middle.  Then I flipped the roll over and placed it in the pan so that the rolls ran parallel to the pan. Two other filling recipes were suggested besides walnut: Apple cinnamon and creeam cheese.  People also got creative with flavors like peanut butter and jelly, pumpkin, nutella, and many savory flavors. 

Here is the recipe:

Preparation time:
To make Dough: 40 minutes
Rising: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Rolling and Assembly: 20 minutes per loaf, a generous total of 1 hour
Baking: 1 hour
Cooling: 30 minutes
To Make the Filling: 15 minutes, including the grinding of the nuts

Equipment required:
• A large work space, like a 4-person table or large kitchen island
• 4 large bowls to rise dough
• Plastic Wrap
• 4 Kitchen/Tea Towels
• 4 bread loaf pans (or as many as you own, and re-use them)
• Rolling Pin
• A Sheet or Cloth (the better the thread count and the softer they are, the less likely the dough will stick)
• Measuring Cups and Spoons
• Wooden Spoons
• Pastry Brush
• Medium Saucepan
• Candy Thermometer
• Small Bowl
• Small Saucepan
• Nut Grinder
• Rubber Spatula
• Pastry scrapper

Povitica (makes 4 loaves)

To activate the Yeast:
2 Teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) Sugar
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/3 gm) All-Purpose (Plain) Flour
½ Cup (120ml) Warm Water
2 Tablespoons (30ml/14 gm/½ oz/2 sachets) Dry Yeast

2 Cups (480ml) Whole Milk
¾ Cup (180 ml/170gm/6 oz) Sugar
3 Teaspoons (15 ml/18 gm/2/3 oz) Table Salt
4 Large Eggs
½ Cup (120ml/115 gm/one stick/4 oz) Unsalted Butter, melted
8 cups (1.92 l/1.12 kg/39½ oz/2½ lb) All-Purpose Flour, measure first then sift, divided

Walnut Filling:
7 Cups (1.68 l/1.12 kg/2.5 lbs) Ground English Walnuts
1 Cup (240ml) Whole Milk
1 Cup (240ml/225 gm/2 sticks/8 oz) Unsalted Butter
2 Whole Eggs, Beaten
1 Teaspoon (5ml) Pure Vanilla Extract
2 Cups (480ml/450 gm/16 oz) Sugar
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/4 gm) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/3 gm) Cinnamon

½ Cup (120 ml) Cold STRONG Coffee
2 Tablespoons (30 ml/28 gm/1 oz) Granulated Sugar
Melted Butter

To Activate Yeast:
1. In a small bowl, stir 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon flour, and the yeast into ½ cup warm water and cover with plastic wrap.
2. Allow to stand for 5 minutes

To Make the Dough:3. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk up to just below boiling (about 180°F/82°C), stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk. You want it hot enough to scald you, but not boiling. Allow to cool slightly, until it is about 110°F/43°C.
4. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, ¾ cup (180 gm/170 gm/6 oz) sugar, and the salt until combined.
5. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 2 cups (480 ml/280 gm/10 oz) of flour.
6. Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.
7. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick. Note: I did not use all 8 cups of flour
8. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (they will each weight about 1.25 pounds/565 grams)
9. Place dough in 4 lightly oiled bowls, cover loosely with a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and let rise an hour and a half in a warm place, until doubled in size.
To Make the Filling10. In a large bowl mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.
11. Heat the milk and butter to boiling.
12. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture.
13. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
14. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough.
15. If the mixture thickens, add a small amount of warm milk.

To Roll and Assemble the Dough:16. Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered.
17. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly)
18. Place the dough on the sheet and roll the dough out with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and working your way out, until it measures roughly 10-12 inches (25½ cm by 30½ cm) in diameter.
19. Spoon 1 to 1.5 teaspoons (5ml to 7 ½ ml/4 gm to 7 gm) of melted butter on top.
20. Using the tops of your hands, stretch dough out from the center until the dough is thin and uniformly opaque. You can also use your rolling pin, if you prefer.
21. As you work, continually pick up the dough from the table, not only to help in stretching it out, but also to make sure that it isn’t sticking.
22. When you think it the dough is thin enough, try to get it a little thinner. It should be so thin that you can see the color and perhaps the pattern of the sheet underneath.23. Spoon filling (see below for recipe) evenly over dough until covered.
24. Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll. (Please see post for how I rolled to get 4 clear spirals)
25. Once the dough is rolled up into a rope, gently lift it up and place it into a greased loaf pan in the shape of a “U”, with the ends meeting in the middle. You want to coil the dough around itself, as this will give the dough its characteristic look when sliced
26. Repeat with remaining three loaves, coiling each rope of dough in its own loaf pan.
27. Brush the top of each loaf with a mixture of ½ cup (120 ml) of cold STRONG coffee and 2 tablespoons (30ml/28 gm/1 oz) of sugar. If you prefer, you can also use egg whites in place of this.
28. Cover pans lightly will plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.
29. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
30. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes.
31. Turn down the oven temperature to slow 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until done.
32. Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter.
33. Check the bread at 30 minutes to ensure that the bread is not getting too brown. You may cover the loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil if you need to.
34. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes, still in the bread pan. Remember, the bread weighs about 2.5 and it needs to be able to hold its own weight, which is difficult when still warm and fresh out of the oven. Allowing it to cool in the pan helps the loaf to hold its shape.
35. It is recommended that the best way to cut Povitica loaves into slices is by turning the loaf upside down and slicing with a serrated knife.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gluten-Free Mushroom Cabbage Galette

I've been feeling lately like I don't post enough savory recipes.  Thus, here is a wonderful galette, which just so happens to work perfectly gluten-free.  I had been planning to make it yesterday and only got to the dough, as just so much was happening.  In fact, so much was going on that I didn't even get to find a costume for Decade Day, part of Spirit Week.  It's not exactly a loss though.  I will be dressing up for TV/Movie day tomorrow and am looking forward to it.

As to this galette, well, I had none of the fresh herbs and because I had very little time to spare couldn't run out to get them.  So, I made do with dried thyme and tarragon, and just omitted the dill.  Despite that, it was still quite good.  The only thing that was a bit odd was that the galette didn't cook down as much in the oven as I expected, so I ended up with this very domed tart.  Of course this had no effect on the flavor and I really didn't mind.  I also didn't have shiitake mushrooms, and so just about doubled the mushrooms.  This could be the reason that the whole this was so rounded, of course.

Now, I did make it gluten-free and I was actually astounded with the results.  I had wanted to make my own mix of flours and starches, but again, there were time constraints and that the closest supermarket to us doesn't carry white rice flour.  So, I went with the King Arthur Flour Mixture plus about 1/2 a teaspoon to a teaspoon of xantham gum to keep it together.  I did have a litttle trouble rolling it out, as it did have the tendency to crack.  Once it was warm though, I could just press it out with my hands onto the cookie sheet.  Once the filling was in it, I took a sharp chef's knife and peeled the edges off that way.  The pastry did taste a bit like lime though , which I had substituted for the lemon juice. 

All in all, it was a success.  The filling and pastry dough work well and I suspect that if you actually had the fresh herbs it would be at a whole other level!  Here is the recipe:

Cabbage and Mushroom Galette
Filling adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Smitten Kitchen, galette dough is from Smitten Kitchen as well
For the pastry
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used the equal amount of King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour Blend plus 1 teaspoon xantham gum)
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water
For the filling
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely diced
4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thinly diced(I used 8 ounces button mushrooms)
1 teaspoon chopped thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon chopped tarragon or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon chopped dill or 1 teaspoon dried
6 cups thinly sliced cabbage, preferably Savoy, or 4 cups cabbage plus 2 cups other greens, such as beet, chard, or kale
salt and freshly milled pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped
1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt
1 teaspoon tarragon vinegar(I used red wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Make pastry: In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Prepare the filling: Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, and herbs and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cabbage, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook slowly until the cabbage is tender, 15 to 20 minutes, turning it occasionally (I found that 15 minutes would be on the high end if you were using standard cabbage and just wanted it tender). Add more liquid. When tender, uncover and raise the heat to evaporate any excess moisture. The mixture should be fairly dry. Stir in the parsley, egg, and sour cream. Season with vinegar and taste for salt and pepper.
3. Assemble galette: Preheat the oven to 400» F. Roll the dough into a large thin circle and set it on the back of a sheet pan or cookie sheet. The edges will hang over the sides. Add the filling, making a mound 7 to 8 inches across, then fold the edges over and brush with the melted butter. Pour any extra butter into the vegetables. Bake until browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes

When my friend Leah and I cook, the results are rarely what they should be.  Take the time we made fudge, for example, and we ended up with this lump of stuff where the fats had separated so much from the the other solids that when it had cooled, they was solid butter sitting on the top.  Oh, and the time we made chocolate chip cookies for a bake sale and they flattened out so much that we could barely remove them from the pan without breaking them.  Yeah, our success isn't the greatest when we cook, or at least it didn't used to be, until yesterday, and these cupcakes.

One that Leah Spent Quite a While Meticulously Decorating

Another that was specially decorated

Leah's Three Special Cupcakes

These are divine, superb, splendid in every way.  Of course I know why.  It wasn't our great knowledge of the kitchen, but that the recipe came from Cook's Illustrated.  They always get it right.  In fact, for this recipe specifically, they made 800 cupcakes to make the best cupcake possible.  They analyzed cupcakes from cupcakeries across the country and realized that they are actually just making money off of their image through marketing.  In other words, the cupcakes from the famed Magnolia Bakery, and many others, aren't actually that great at all.

What make these cupcakes special are a few things.  First, they are just so chocolately and still don't fall apart.  This is because Cook's Illustrated found out that if you use bread flour in the cupcakes instead of all-purpose, the cupcakes can be filled with even more chocolate and due to the extra gluten, stay together better.  They also filled the cupcakes with a ganache that oozes when you bite into the cupcakes and frosted them with a Swiss Meringue Buttercream that is incredibly silky and balances the dense cupcakes perfectly.  In essence, these are perfect, and truthfully, quite easy.  I'm quite sad that I put them off for so long!

Here is the recipe:

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling
Cook's Illustrated-May/June 2010

Makes 12 Cupcakes

Note:  Use a high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate for this recipe, such as one of the test kitchen's favorite baking chocolates, Callebaut Intense Dark Chocolate L-60-40NV or Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar (I use Ghirardelli for most of my chocolate desserts).  Though we highly recommend the ganache filling, you can omit it for a more tranditional cupcake.  The cupcakes can be made up to 24 hours in advance and stored, unfrosted, in an airtight container.

Ganache Filling:

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (see note)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

Chocolate Cupcakes

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (see note)
1/3 cup (1 ounce) dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot coffee
3/4 cup (4 1/8 ounces) bread flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 recipe frosting (recipe follows)

1.  For ganache filling:  Place chocolate, cream, and confectioners' sugar in a medium microwave-safe bowl.  Heat in microwave on high power until mixture is warm to the touch, 20 to 30 seconds.  Whisk until smooth ( I did this all over the stove, because our micorwave broke long ago and we haven't bothered to fix it.  This worked just fine); transfer bowl to refrigerator and let stand until just chilled, no longer than 30 minutes. 
2.  For cupcakes:  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line standard size muffin pans (cups have 1/2 cup capacity) with baking cup liners.  Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl.  Pour hot coffee over mixture and whisk until smooth.  Set in refrigerator to cool completely, about 20 minutes.  Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl; set aside.
3.  Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth.  Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth. 
4.  Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups.  Place one slightly rounded teaspoon ganache filling on top of each cupcake.  Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to touch, 17 to 19 minutes.  Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, 10 minutes.  Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack.  Cool to room temperature until frosting, about 1 hour.
5.  To frost:  Mound 2 to 3 tablespoons frosting on each cupcake.  Using small iceing spatula or butter knife, spread frosting to edge of cupcake, leaving slight mound in center.

Creamy Chocolate Frosting
Makes about 2 1/4 cups

Note:  Cool the chocolate to between 85 and 100 degrees before adding it to the frosting.  If the frosting seems too soft after adding the chocolate, chill it briefly in the refrigerator and rewhip it until creamy.  The frosting can be made up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.  When ready to frost, place in a microwave-safe container and warm briefly on high power until just softened, 5 to 10 seconds.    Once warmed, stir until creamy.

1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg-whites
Pinch table salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (see note)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine sugar, egg white, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer; place bowl over pan of simmering water.  Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until slighty thickened, foamy, and registers 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 2 to 3 minutes.
2.  Place bowl in stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment.  Beat mixture on medium speed until consistency of shaving cream and slightly cooled, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add butter, 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy.  (Frosting may look curdled after half of butter has been added; it will smooth with additional butter.)  Once all butter is added, add cooled melted chocolate and vanilla; mix until combined.  Increase speed to medium high and beat until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds, sraping beat and sides of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Once upon a time I really hated hummus, in fact I really hated chickpeas, in fact I have distinct memories of picking chickpeas out of pasta salad that my mom made, my memories are that terrible.  I'm not quite sure when the switch happened, perhaps in sixth grade or so.  Whenever it was, I now love chickpeas, and hummus.  Now, I hope to apply this logic so that in at least a few years I will come to enjoy anchovies, horseradish, mayonnaise, and a few other choice items so that I will have a broader palate. At the moment this is very much not the case.  I squirm when anyone asks if I would like mayonnaise on sandwiches, or anchovie pizza.  Yet I do have a pretty broad palate at the moment, and one that is generally accepting.  I mean, I eat multiple bowls of lentils!

Now, as I was writing I just realized what this all relates to, "The Jungle"!  Exactly.  Many of the things that I don't like are really processed foods because I automatically worry about how they were produced.  We are beginning "The Jungle" in English tomorrow, which is all about the oppression of workers in the meat-packing industry.  Wait, I'm not quite sure where this is going at all.  Well, I guess that the point of all of this is that you should try hummus, particularly this hummus, because you will know exactly where it came from and can be content that you are eating something without millions of preservatives! 

Well, now that that is over, on to the subject of this post.  This hummus is from Cook's Illustrated and they recommend using Pastene chickpeas and some specific varieties of tahini.  It was quite good, despite my not having their preferred products.  I would say that it is better to process this more rather than less in order to get a really smooth texture and to try it out with dried chickpeas, which is the alternate version that I didn't try but Cook's Illustrated swears by.  Here's the recipe:

Restaurant-Style Hummus
Cook's Illustrated-May/June 2008

Makes 2 cups

Note: We recommend Jovya or Krinos tahini and Pastene chickpeas.  The hummus can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 5 days.  If you do not plan on serving it immediately, refrigerate the hummus and garnishes separately.  When ready to serve, stir in approximately 1 tablespoons warm water if the texture is too thick.

3 tablespoons juice from 1 to 2 lemons
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons tahini stirred well (see note)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1-14 ounce can chickpeas, drianed and rinsed (see note)
1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro or parsley leaves

1.  Combine lemon juice and water in a small bowl or measuring cup.  Whisk together tahini and 2 tablespoons oil in a second small bowl or measuring cup.  Set aside 2 tablespoons chickpeas for garnish. 
2  Process remaining chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in a food processor until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds.  Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula.  With machine running, add lemon juice-water mixture in a steady stream through feed tube.    Scrape down bowla and continue to process for one minute.  With machine running, add oil-tahini mixture in a steady stream through feed tube; continue to process until hummus is smooth nad creamy, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.
3  Transfer hummus to a serving bowl, sprinkle reserved chickpeas and cilantro over surface, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until flavors meld, at least 30 minutes.  Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Clementine Cake

So, Clementine Cake.  An interesting recipe which is surpirisingly good.  Normally when I use a recipe that I am unsure of I end up regretting it when it comes out of the oven.  Examples of this are such as when I made buttermilk pudding cake, and the pudding seemed like curdled sludge.  It seemed like a good recipe in theory, but I was worried it would be curdled from the beginning.  I should have gone with my first impression.

Anyways, I found this recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog website and was struck from the beginning with its strangeness and also with its ease.  Despite having only five ingredients the eggs, of which there are six, do not have to be whipped at all, the almonds need to merely be processed, and everything can be done in one bowl.  Actually, I think everything could be thrown into the food processes after the almonds are done alone and it would be fine.

This is an odd recipe mostly because the clementines are boiled for 2 straight hours!  You will have to keep adding water as otherwise the pan dries up.  The boiling gets rid of the bitterness in the peels so the cake isn't bitter at all, despite being made from whole processed clementines.  The texture to this cake is wonderful after being cooked for 30 minutes.  It is creamy despite having little pieces of nuts and incredibly moist the second day.  Just as well, it stands up on its own and is quite firm.  It seems like it would be a very good tea cake though I haven't actually had it with tea.  And, as Deb from Smitten Kitchen mentioned, it has no butter or flour, so its quite a bit healthier than many cakes.  The recipe is below:

Clementine Cake
Adapted From Smitten Kitchen Adapted from Nigella Lawson

4 to 5 clementines (about 375grams/slightly less than 1 pound total weight) (I actually used 7 clementines because mine were quite small)
6 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) sugar
2 1/3 cups (250 grams) ground almonds (I used 2/3 cup walnuts too because I ran out of almonds)
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
Optional: Powdered sugar for dusting, or for making a glaze

Put the clementines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to the boil, and cook for 2 hours. Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the seeds. Then finely chop the skins, pith, and fruit in the processor (or by hand, of course).
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Butter and line an 8-inch (21 centimeter) springform pan with parchment paper. (I used a 9-inch pan and it worked fine)
Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds, and baking powder. Mix well, adding the chopped clementines.
Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, when a skewer will come out clean; you might have to cover the cake with foil after about 20 minutes to stop the top from over-browning.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool, in the pan on a rack. When the cake is cold, you can take it out of the pan and dust it with powdered sugar. This cake really tasted better the second day, which is I guess what Nigella also says.  The flavors meld better this way.
Variations: Nigella says she’s also made this with an equal weight of oranges and lemons, in which case the sugar is increased to 1 1/4 cups.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


The last time that I had panzanella it was in the winter for my birthday and it was a far cry from most recipes.  The bread tasted beautifully of olive oil and the flavors were wonderful.  This time, though, was a different story.  Yes, it was pretty good, but there were way too many onions, far too many, and it overwhelmed the other flavors.  The other problem was in how I decided to toast the bread but then soaked it a bit too long, which resulted in bread that was more moist than I would have hoped.

It was all for the better of course, because I now know what changes should be made to my starting recipe!  First I think that I would decrease the onions to very little, soak the bread none at all, but let the salad sit a while, toast the bread with most of the olive oil for an ample amount of time, toast lots of garlic with the bread and mince the toasted garlic to put in the salad, and that's about it.

Now you may wonder why my posts have been so few and far between this October.  Well, it mainly has to do with how I have had homework and, well, today,  PSATs.  All I can say is, at least they don't count for much this time.  Though I'm pretty sure I did well on the critical reading and writing sections, I ran out of time for a few of the math questions just because I had figured there was more time.  Oh well!  I still have lots to cook for Daring Bakers this weekend and good things to take my mind off of all of these tests.  In fact, my dad is running a marathon on Sunday, which will be very exciting. 

Oh.  And I also have an essay for English...So much for taking my mind off of school.  Here is the recipe for panzanella, updated considerably:

5 cups torn French Baguette, preferably day or so old
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 pound diced fresh mozzerella
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
4 large garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 large cucumber, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Toast bread with 2 tablespoon olive oil and crushed garlic cloves on 400 degrees for 10 minutes, turning over occasionally.  Place the chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, cheese, basil, and onion in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Remove the bread from the oven and let cool.  Remove the garlic and mince.  Add to the vegetable mixture. Add 1/4 cup of water to the bread and toss. Add the bread to the vegetables and mix thoroughly.  Let sit, covered, in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Orange Cheesecake and Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

Well.  This week has been hectic, thus, no cooking.  Every night was homework, homework, and more homework with no time for anything else, not even swimming. Mon dieu!  I didn't even make anything today, except for some granola bars, which were fine, but not perfect, as I didn't have the recipe to go by. 

So I figure that I ought to give you an overview of  last Saturday, when I made the cheescake and Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet.  Last Friday was my Mom's birthday and I figured I should do something interesting, thus the Joconde Imprime/Entremet was perfect.  It is a showstopper, a sponge cake wrapper filled with custards and creme and whatever you like.  Or it is in theory.  Mine was decent.  A bit sugary, and not terribly beautiful.  For this reason there are no pictures, except for those of the mess.  It was made hurridly because though I thought I had two days to work it turned into one, and I also had to make a cheesecake.  You don't realize how long it takes to make frangipane, orange curd, meringue, lady fingers, chocolate mousse, bananas foster, cheesecake, and a biscuit joconde all in one day until you actually do.  Let me tell you, it's a whole lot.  My feet ached from standing for six hours.  Yet, I will probably try and make it again sometime, which is evidence of how crazy I am.

Orange Curd

Ginger Snaps

As I said though, the compilation of all of these entremets was a bit sugary for me.  I would say if you were trying to make this with a variety of fillings you should probably decrease the sugar in the invidual recipes substantially.  You should also take care to chill the Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet for a good period of time all together to prevent things from oozing everywhere.  That's my advice at least.

Now, I am not going to bother to give you all the recipes used for the entremets, because I don't have the patience to type them all up.  I will tell you where I got them though as well as give you the recipes for the cheesecake and the link to the Daring Baker's Biscuit Joconde recipe.  The meringue, ladyfingers, and frangipane all came from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".  The chocolate mousse, bananas foster, orange curd, and cheesecake came from "Joy of Cooking."

The cheesecake actually turned out wonderfully.  The only problem was that it was a bit soft in the middle, so I might advise you cook it longer than an hour in the water bath or really make sure you chill it.  The original recipe called for a thinner graham cracker crust, but because I wanted to make an orange cheesecake I figured gingersnaps would be the better choice.  It has a wonderful orange flavor and smooth texture.   The recipe and link to the Daring site are below:

Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet
Creamy Orange Water-Bath Cheesecake
Adapted from Creamy Water-Bath Cheesecake recipe in "Joy of Cooking"

Have all ingredients at room temperature, about 70 degrees.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with:

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Mix together:

1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnaps (I used Pamela's Gluten-Free)
2 Tablespoon salted butter, melted

Press into the pan. Not all spots will necessarily be covered.  Beat in a large bowl until smooth, 30-60 seconds.

2 pounds (4 8-ounce packages) cream cheese

Scrape the sides of the bowl and the beaters well.  Gradually add and beat until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes:

1 1/3 cups sugar

Beat in one at a time just until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl and beaters after each addition:

4 large eggs

Add and beat on low speed just until mixed:

1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
Zest of half an orange
Juice of two clementines (a good way to do this is to make a small slit in the peel and squeeze out the juice)

Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top.  Set the pan on a length of wide, heavy duty aluminum foil.  Fold the foil carefully up against the sides of the pan without tearing it.  Set the pan in a large baking dish or roasting pan.  Set the baking dish in the oven and pour in enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the cheesecake.  Bake until the edges of the cheesecake look set but the center jiggles slightly when the pan is tapped, 55 to 60 minutes.  Turn of the oven, open the door slightly, and let the cake cool in the oven for 1 hour.  Remove to a wire rack and let cool completely in the pan before unmolding.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferably 24 hours before serving.