Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Modern Baker: Blueberry Crumb Muffins

I believe this will be my last quick bread of the Modern Baker Challenge. I'm opting not to do the sweet rusks as I'm not a coffee drinker and have little interest in a hard biscuit that must be dipped to not break teeth. I skipped the apple raisin bread and walnut date bread due to my "fruit in bread issue". These recipes might have potential as gifts or with substitutions, but for now I'll just let them sit untried.
As with all quick breads, these came together quickly and easily. Blueberries are not in season yet so I had to opt for frozen. I can only imagine how wonderful fresh blueberries would taste in these. The crumb topping was delicious although I didn't use as much as I could have. I thought the cups looked almost overflowing when I put them in the oven, but as the muffins rose, the crumble topping broke apart. I wondered what I was doing wrong because it seemed like I had a lot of topping leftover as well as muffin batter. I was able to make 4 more muffins on round two.
After I made the muffins, I read Abby's review as the official blueberry crumb baker for the Modern Baker Challenge. She had the same issue with extra batter and topping. Nick Malgieri, the author, commented on her post and indicated he's always just divided the batter and topping between 12 muffins cavities. I wonder if his muffin pan is slightly larger? He also explains that mixing the blueberries in the batter, and thus crushing them slightly makes the muffins extra moist. I had also found this instruction a bit odd as all my other blueberry muffin recipes explicitly state to fold in the blueberries. The biggest point I took away is that he says the crumb topping "weighs down" the batter. I realized I should have really piled the topping on. Next time I will. And, there will be a next time for these muffins. I love getting tips from the author!!

I can't wait for blueberry season!

Monday, June 28, 2010

MSC: Zucchini Spice Cupcakes

Martha Stewart's Cupcake Club has me baking cupcakes for any occasion I can think of. Dinner with friends.... we must bring cupcakes! I made these zucchini spice cupcakes and topped them with cream cheese frosting.


I love the addition of the walnuts and I finally was able to use my new zester for the lemon zest! Oh my, zesting just got a lot more fun!!

MSC: Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Another earlier Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club cupcake. Lemon meringue! These are absolutely fabulous. I am a huge lemon lover, but not always with dessert food. What I mean is that I love lemons. I peel and eat them like an orange (often with a little bowl of sugar to dip in). Lemon desserts tend to take a back seat to chocolate for me.
The cupcakes were yummy. There was just a hint of lemon in the cake but I couldn't taste it next to the lemon curd. I bet the cake on it's on would be nice. This was my first time making lemon curd. It was much easier than I expected! And, the meringue frosting just put the cupcake over the top! Another fabulous cupcake Martha!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.
The Daring Kitchen recipe for June was chocolate pavlovas with chocolate mascarpone mousse. Pavlovas are a meringue dessert. I have not done much meringue in my life so I was excited about this recipe. Meringue is challenging. These meringues were pretty dry. I watched them as they cooked and they never looked like they changed to me. How do you know when they're done? How do you get that dry yet soft meringue instead of the dry and brittle meringue?
I'm still amazed at how much heavy cream I used for this dessert. This is a dessert I would eat up in a restaurant and yet after I whipped the cream in all three forms- mascarpone, mousse, and the cream sauce I just couldn't bring myself to eat that much which is probably a good thing. All I kept thinking about was the empty carton of heavy cream in my kitchen.

I cut a few corners and made a few mistakes, but overall it was a fun recipe to try. The best chocolate I could find was 63% instead of the 72% and I messed up on the mousse which resulted in a thick sauce consistency instead of a mousse consistency. However, after I put the mousse in the fridge it setup more like mousse. I was surprised the directions did not include this step. I probably won't do this recipe again, although I would like to keep working on the meringues. I'd love to be a great meringue baker in my life.

Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
Printable Recipe
Recipe 1: Chocolate Meringue (for the chocolate Pavlova):
3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp white granulated sugar
¼ cup confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
  2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)
  3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)
  4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon. (Class made rounds, hearts, diamonds and an attempt at a clover was made!)
  5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Recipe 2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse (for the top of the Pavlova base):
1 ½ cups heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups mascarpone (Recipe here)
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp orange juice
  1. Put ½ cup of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.
  2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)
  3. Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.
Recipe 3: Mascarpone Cream (for drizzling):
1 recipe crème anglaise
½ cup mascarpone
2 tbsp Sambucca (optional)
½ cup heavy cream

  1. Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.
Recipe 4: Crème Anglaise (a component of the Mascarpone Cream above):
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp sugar
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.
  2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat.
  3. Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.
Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

MSC: Tres Leche Cupcakes

Another previous Martha Stewart cupcake from the MSC Club.
I wasn't too sure about it after I read some of the reviews, but Kayte had a great idea and served hers with strawberries. I love strawberry shortcake so I decided the next time I got fresh strawberries I'd make these cupcakes to compliment them.
The cupcakes were basically whipped egg whites with flour and sugar added. After they come out of the oven, you poke holes in them and spread a milk mixture (condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream) over them. I wasn't a huge fan of the wet cupcake that resulted. I probably will never do these again. Adding the strawberries was a great addition, but there are other "shortbreads" I'd rather try to go with my strawberries.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

My mother's chocolate sheet cake recipe! Double sigh of joy! I think I might be the only person who will bake this cake again after you read about it. It has a very distinct flavor. A distinct flavor I don't like and yet I love this cake. What is that flavor? Baking soda. This recipe calls for nearly 1 tablespoon of baking soda which leaves the cake with a bitter aftertaste. I know what you're thinking. Why does it call for 1 tablespoon of baking soda? That's insane. It must be a misprint. Someone somewhere must have meant 1 teaspoon and accidentally wrote tablespoon. That much baking soda has no business being mixed with chocolate!  And, you know what, I think you're right. But, my mom made this cake this way at a formative moment in my life and for some odd reason I remember it exactly this way and I like it even if everyone else hates it. Please correct the recipe to 1 tsp if you wish to try it yourself as I think I'm the only insane person here today.
The frosting is a winner. The super sweet frosting on top of the slight bitter flavor of the cake is a perfect match to me. Again, it might just be me, but that's okay.

Remember my frosting from the Fudge Bar Cake recipe? I could taste the sugar granules in the frosting and did not like it at all. My mom suggested that perhaps it was supposed to be confectioner's sugar instead of regular sugar. I was skeptical, but after this frosting I'm pretty sure my mom was right. This frosting recipe called for confectioner's sugar and is divine.
Chocolate Sheet Cake
Printable Recipe
2 c sugar
2 c flour
2 stick butter (1 c)
3 Tbs cocoa
1 c water
1/2 c buttermilk
2 eggs
1 Tbs baking soda
1 Tbs vanilla

Sift flour and sugar in a large bowl. In a saucepan mix the butter, cocoa and water. Bring to a rapid boil. Pour over the flour and sugar mixture and stir until mixed well. Add the buttermilk and eggs. Mix. Add the soda and vanilla. Beat for 2 min. Pour into a greased 11x16 pan. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Begin frosting 5 minutes before cake is done.

Frosting for Chocolate Sheet Cake
1 stick butter (1/2 c)
3 Tbs cocoa
5 Tbs buttermilk
1 box of powdered sugar (1 lb)
1 Tbs vanilla
1 c chopped nuts

Cook butter, cocoa, and buttermilk over heat until butter is melted and hot. Remove from heat and add sugar, vanilla, and nuts. Beat well and spread on hot cake.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Modern Baker: Irish Soda Muffins

I've been baking a number of BBA Challenge breads lately and it was really nice to take a break and go back to easy quick bread baking for the Modern Baker. As with most quick breads I whipped these up in no time. I wasn't sure I would do these muffins since they called for currants or raisins and as I've explained in the past, I don't like fruit in my bread. However, I thought these might be a fun food to nibble on this weekend. And, I'd been wanting to try out cranberries in a bread to see if I liked them as a "fruit substitute".
I baked 24 mini muffins and still had batter leftover to make 7 regular muffins. On the plus side the cranberries were okay. I'm not sure I'll be seeking out cranberry bread recipes, but cranberries are certainly manageable. On the minus side, I didn't find these muffins particularly exciting. The caraway did add a bit of unusual flavor, but other than that, they were pretty plain. Plain and boring.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

MSC: Coconut Cupcakes

These coconut cupcakes are absolutely divine. The Martha Stewart Cupcake Club chose them earlier this year before I joined. I've been looking for a reason to make them and having girlfriends over was the perfect reason. Now, Martha calls for coconut in four forms- shredded, milk, extract and flakes. That's a bit much Martha, don't cha think. I used shredded in the cake and as a topper and coconut milk in the cake. I looked for the extract at the store but didn't see any and I wasn't in hunt mode. Even without those two coconut elements, these cupcakes are fantastic. They were light, moist, and delicious. I ate three before my friends even arrived.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Braised Turnips with Poppyseed Breadcrumbs

What to do with turnips from my CSA box?! Aren't turnips supposed to be a bland and scary root.  Don't people put them in the same category as brussels sprouts? (FYI- I happen to love brussels spouts.) I went in search of a recipe and enjoyed my turnips immensely!
I used the homemade bread crumbs I made earlier.

Braised Turnips with Poppyseed Breadcrumbs
Adapted from: Epicurious.com
Printable Recipe

1 Tbs butter
1/2 lb turnips, cut into 1 inch wedges
3/4 c water
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbs olive oil
1 garlic whistle, chopped (or garlic cloves)
1/2 c bread crumbs
2 tsp poppy seeds
Parsley (optional)

1. Melt butter in a skillet. Add turnips, water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cover for 30 minutes until turnips are tender. Increase heat and uncover. Stir turnips until liquid evaporates and turnips are glazed, about 15 minutes.

2. In a separate skillet, heat oil. Add garlic whistles and stir for 1 min. Add bread crumbs and poppy seeds. Stir until crumbs are golden, about 3-5 minutes. Add parsley if using.

3. Toss bread crumbs with turnips and serve.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Winter Green Farm CSA

I just joined my first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)!

I am very excited about this. I've thought about it in the past but have always been overwhelmed with using it all, especially the more unusual stuff. This year, I feel up for the challenge.

I will receive 19 weeks of produce from Winter Green Farm.
Here is what I received in Box #1: Pac choi (or bok choy), spinach, lettuce, turnips, garlic whistles, strawberries.
I made a fabulous stir fry with my bok choy. It was basically olive oil, garlic whistle, and bok choy in a skillet. We then put it over rice and it was fantastic! Bok choy is my new favorite stir fry ingredient. I know the turnips might scare you, but I found a great recipe that I'll share tomorrow for those. I can't wait to see what I get next week!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

BBA: Ciabatta

The seventh bread of the BBA Challenge is ciabatta.
Biga Version
Ciabatta is known for it's big holes. That is the goal. To bake a bread that comes out holey. But, how do you accomplish that? I read a number of other posts by people who have completed this bread and the two things I took away were: make sure the dough is wet and don't handle the dough too much.

I tried both the poolish and biga versions. This bread was a bit intimidating for me as so many other bloggers counted it as a failure and I've never worked with a "wet" dough before.
I began with the poolish pre-ferment. I thought it was going well. I used my KitchenAid and I thought I had achieved the "dough clears the sides, but sticks to the bottom" part of the instructions. My dough rose very nicely.
My mother gave me this metal pan which she bought for bread making years ago and never used. I had no linen to re-purpose for a couche, so I used it. I think it worked well, although I should have floured it better as the dough stuck a bit.
 This was also my first ever hearth baking as well as first time using a baking stone. My poor oven is still having issues (although now I wonder if my oven thermometer is off due to the fact I accidentally left it in the oven when I put the oven on 'clean' the other week. It just won't register above 350 anymore, so either my oven doesn't heat above that or my thermometer is broken.)
The bread was pretty, had a nice crust, tasted good, but no holes. I also had some extra flour streaks through my bread. Flour would clump on the bottom of the sticky dough and the when I did the stretch and fold the flour would then be enveloped on the inside of the bead. This was certainly a first timers ciabatta.
For the biga version, I decided to make the dough more wet as I thought that might help my quest for holes.
Biga version on a bed of flour. This time when I sliced the ciabatta I noticed the dough noticeably deflate. Is that normal or is deflating bad for holes? It seems like it would be, but I'm not quite sure how to avoid this.
I was a bit more skilled this time getting everything into the oven via the cornmeal on sheet slide technique, but I still ended up with cornmeal everywhere. That technique really requires more hands to do well.
Alas my results were not much better. Not a monumental failure, but a "hole" failure nonetheless. I enjoyed the bread for sandwiches, but I still quest for a holey ciabatta.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

BBA: Challah

The sixth bread of the BBA Challenge is challah. I had high hopes for this bread. I love challah and was very excited to learn how to make it myself.
I made the double braided celebration loaf which involves braiding a large loaf and then a smaller loaf and placing the small loaf on top of the larger loaf and baking them together. I was thrilled with my bread. It was gorgeous.
I'm getting more comfortable with bread dough although I still stuggle with that line between sticky and tacky. I should probably knead more with my hands although I often enjoy the simplicity of just using my dough hook on my Kitchenaid.
Check out my first windowpane!!!!
I divided the ball into three equal balls. I then combined two of the balls, so I had one large ball and one small ball. Each ball was divided into three equal balls which resulted in three large balls and three small balls. The three large balls became the large braid and the three small balls became the small braid.
The braiding looked intimidating at first, but I followed the step by step instructions and was pleasantly surprised how easy it was.
Isn't it so pretty?! I must admit I was very impressed with how it looked.
I thought the challah was a bit dry, but I'm not sure if that was just this challah bread or if I overbaked it or overmixed it. I've had "dry" challah before but I've also had "moist" challah. Could the difference simply be when you eat the bread after it's been baked? I baked this bread the day before. It's definitely a bread we'll bake again as it's one of husband's favorites.
What to do with leftover challah? It makes an amazing french toast!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

MSC: Strawberry Cupcakes

Time for more cupcakes. Sherry Starts Cooking picked June's cupcakes for the MS Cupcake Club. Strawberry cupcakes.
Strawberry can either go very right or very wrong for me. I love fresh strawberries but often dislike strawberry flavored things. Often strawberry stuff is way too sweet and sugary for me. These cupcakes are an example of strawberry executed perfectly. The cake is a delicious and simple cake with fresh strawberries folded in.
The strawberry meringue buttercream was to die for! Again, it wasn't super sweet and it was the perfect topping with fresh purred strawberries in a simple meringue buttercream base.
I made mini cupcakes so people wouldn't feel shy. Sometimes a whole cupcake feels like a dessert commitment, but a mini cupcake feels like a little bite. The mini cupcakes disappeared.

This is my new favorite strawberry shortcake variation!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Tricolor Vegetable Pate

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.
When I saw the Daring Cooks challenge for this month I cringed. Pâté. I feared the liver. I ran from the liver. But, then I saw the vegetable pâté recipe and thought it looked pretty good. I figured I'd give it a try. It's always nice to have another appetizer recipe up your sleeve.
It was super simple to make and simply required some plan ahead time as the dish need to chill for at least 8 hours before unmolding. To be honest, my expectations were not that high. But, I was very pleasantly surprised with the end result. It tasted great and was eaten up quickly.

Tricolor Vegetable Pâté
Printable Recipe

Yields one 10 by 5 inch loaf pan
Line your pan with plastic wrap, overlapping sides.

White Bean Layer

2 cans cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained thoroughly
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2 garlic cloves, pressed
Mash beans in large bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and garlic and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread bean mixture evenly on bottom of prepared pan.

Red Pepper Layer
7-ounce jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)
Combine peppers and feta in processor and blend until smooth. Spread pepper mixture evenly over bean layer in prepared dish.

Pesto Layer
2 garlic cloves
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
Mince garlic in processor. Add basil, parsley and pine nuts and mince. With machine running, gradually add oil through feed tube and process until smooth. Mix in ricotta. Spread pesto evenly over red pepper layer.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. To unmold, invert pâté onto serving platter. Peel off plastic wrap from pâté. Garnish with herb sprigs and serve with sourdough bread slices.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Red Velvet Cake

Happy 40th Anniversary to my in-laws! Wow, 40 years! That deserves a party! A surprise party in fact! And, a special cake!
The 40th anniversary is the ruby anniversary and red velvet cake is the perfect cake to bake!

The inspiration for the cake decorations were from the top tier of their wedding cake 40 years ago.
The 40 is made of gumpaste and I'm happy to give the credit to my dear husband Austin for it. Gumpaste can be tricky to work with (ie it dries quickly!) and I'm still new to it as well. He did a fantastic job!
The red velvet cake was so delicious and vibrant! I used all the remaining red food coloring I had in the house as well as my entire Wilton color gel of no-taste red. The recipe has you mix the red coloring and cocoa powder into a paste and then beat it into the batter.
Raspberry jam filling! Yet, another great reason to make raspberry jam this summer!
My first time crumb coating a cake! I am a crumb coat fan. Since the party itself was a surprise, I wanted the cake flavor to be a surprise as well. That meant no red crumbs in my white frosting!

A three tier red velvet cake with raspberry filling and cream cheese frosting. Yum!
The table is set!

The happy couple 40 years ago today!
And, 40 years later.

Red Velvet Cake
Adapted From: PinchMySalt
Printable Recipe
2 1/2 c sifted cake flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 oz. red food coloring
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans or three 8-inch round cake pans.

2. *Sift cake flour and then measure 2 1/2 cups of the flour for use. Then, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps.

3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste.  Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively. Beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

4. Make sure you have cake pans ready to go.  In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda.  Yes, it will fizz!  Add it to the cake batter and stir well to combine.  Working quickly, divide batter evenly between the cake pans and place them in a preheated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check early.

5. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then remove from pans and continue to cool. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Crusting Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from: CakeCentral
Printable Recipe
1 c butter, softened
1/2 c solid vegetable shortening
1 lb cream cheese, softened
1 Tbs clear vanilla
3 1/2 lbs sifted confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter, shortening, cream cheese and extract. Gradually add confectioner's sugar and salt. Beat on low until nice and creamy.

This recipe is for stiff consistency. Use 3 lbs of sugar or thinner consistency. Smoothing tip: let cake sit for 15 minutes and then smooth with non-printed side of a paper towel.
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