Sunday, April 27, 2008

Red Velvet Cupcakes


Cupcakes are fun. Cupcakes are Neat. Cupcakes are the perfect treat to eat.

It's time for another coworker's birthday today, so yesterday I whipped up a batch of red velvet cupcakes. I have only made red velvet once before and it was a reeeeaaaallly long time ago. Of all the cakes in the world, red velvet is not my favorite. It gets a good rep though so I figured it would be well liked by many at the office. I think I am sensitive to the taste of the red food coloring. It is bitter to me. Maybe it is all in my head, but I would just much rather have a plain chocolate cupcake. I am also weird in that although I may love to make icing and pipe icing, I really don't like to eat it. I just look forward to the cake part. Strange? Yes. I admit.

This recipe makes a TON of cupcakes. About 36 to be exact (when using nut & party cups), so I had to be creative in how to tote them to work with me today. My cupcake carrier only holds 12 traditional sized cupcakes. I think I want to invest in one of these: Cupcake Courier

The batter is really soupy (and a little vampy) so I used a small 1/2 cup soup ladel to fill the baking cups. I felt like it took forever, but I think that is because there were so many cups to fill. I was worried they wouldn't be plump because of the batter consistency, but they plumped up and were bouncy and fluffy. They baked in 20 minutes exactly. For icing, I made a basic cream cheese icing. It's a standard recipe I use for carrot cake and for the Christmas sandwich cookies. It is super easy and everyone loves it. That's the kind of recipe I like! I topped the cupcakes off with coarse baking sugar. I packaged 4 cupcakes in a cute cupcake box for the birthday girl tied with pretty pink ribbon. I will post an update on the taste test results later.

Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe from Elisa Strauss's "The Confetti Cakes Cookbook"
Ingredients:
3.5 cups cake flour
.5 cup unsweetened cocoa
1.5 tsp salt
2.25 cups sugar
2 cups canola oil
3 large eggs
.75 cup red food coloring
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1.25 cups buttermilk
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp white vinegar

Directions:
In a medium bowl whisk or sift together the flour, cocoa and salt.
In a large bowl, beat oil and sugar together until creamy.
Add eggs one at a time and beat until creamy.
In a steady stream add red food coloring and vanilla.
Add 1/2 flour mixture and mix well.
Add 1/2 buttermilk and mix well.
Repeat with remaining 1/2 of flour and buttermilk.
In a small bowl whisk together baking soda and vinegar.
Immediately add to batter and beat for 10 seconds.
Divide batter into prepared cupcake pan.
Bake 20 minutes or until cupcakes pass toothpick test.
Allow to cool before icing.

Cream Cheese Icing
Ingredients:
2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese- softened
.5 cup butter- softened
2 cups powdered sugar-sifted
1 Tbsp vanilla

Directions:
Beat all ingredients together until smooth.
Refrigerate until ready to use (this will set the icing and allow easier piping).
Pipe icing onto cool cupcakes.
Enjoy!

Taste test results, "These are so moist!"
You can't complain with that.
And, my favorite, "I could eat a tub of this icing by itself."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Lighter Side of Crab Cakes


**modified to correct spelling error** haha!
When we lived in California, we tried really hard to embrace everything about life there. We took long walks and breathed in the endless perfect weather. We made frequent road trips to many reachable places of paradise- Napa, Tahoe, Mendocino, Carmel, Half Moon Bay, San Francisco. We happily welcomed the new cultures we discovered there since we were surrounded by many Asian and Indian influences. We also ate lots of fresh, flavorful food. Seafood is plentiful in California and one of the most popular dishes is the crab cake.

For a long time, preparing seafood intimidated me. Not any more. I jump at the chance to try seafood dishes. I want to take a sushi course (among other courses like cake decorating, pastry making and the like). I want to learn to make melt in your mouth mussels. I want to prepare abalone...There just aren't enough hours or meals in the day.

We were at Home Depot the other day purchasing a hoe. Yes. A hoe. While we were in line, I stumbled across the latest Cooking Light and on the cover was "crunchy, delicious crab cakes". "A lighter way to prepare these?" I questioned to myself. I flipped through the glossy pages quickly and then added the magazine to our purchase along with the hoe. (I seem to like saying that in this post).

The recipe seemed easy enough. Simple ingredients and a quick prep time. Plus, it's good for you. Yay! I did tweak the recipe some, which I normally do. The result was crunchy, flavorful and a bit reminisce of our time in the Golden State. Sunny California, we need to make a trip to the west coast. I think I am missing you.

Ingredients: adapted slightly from David Bonom's recipe in Cooking Light April 2008
1 large shallot- small dice
2 Tbsp fresh parsley- chopped
3 Tbsp light sour cream
2 tsp dijon mustard (I used Grey Poupon, but of course)
3/4 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 pound lump crab meat, drained and picked over for shell pieces
1.5 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs found in the baking aisle)
1 Tbsp olive oil
Cooking spray

Directions:
Combine the first 7 ingredients.
Fold in the crab meat.
Add 3/4 cup panko.
Mix well.
Refrigerate 30 minutes (which provides ample time to make those pretty fork-mashed potatoes in the previous post)
Remove from refrigerator.
Place remaining 3/4 cup panko in a pie plate.
Form 6-8 crab cakes.
Drege each crab cake in the panko.
Place on plate and spray both sides with cooking spray (I used olive oil cooking spray).
Heat olive oil on high (do not get it so hot that it smokes)
Pan fry crab cakes for 5-7 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
Serve warm.
I garnished mine with fresh parmesan cheese.
Enjoy!

Fork-Mashed Purple Potatoes


After seeing this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, I decided to check out purple majesties and what makes them purple. Apparently, they are some kind of fancy hybrid potato that is jam packed full of antioxidants. As I rapidly approach 30, I figure the more antioxidants the merrier.

I found these purple po-tay-toes in the organic section of Kroger here in Texas. They are deep purple and pictures do not give their color justice. A coworker of mine had heard that when you cook them, they lose their purple saturation. I think they did a little, but they were definitely still purple. It was a little strange to eat something that smells and tastes like a potato, but looks like a grape shaved ice when it is all mashed.

This was fun to make and it gave me reason to bust out the Fleur de sel I bought this summer (that should show Derrick who says I have more kitchen goodies than I know what to do with and I don't use it all).

Recipe snagged (and tweaked) from Smitten Kitchen.
Ingredients:
5-7 purple majesty potatoes, washed

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 Tbsp. chopped parsley
the juice of 1 lemon

3-5 Tbps. olive oil

Fleur de sel to taste


Directions:

In a large pot, boil potatoes whole and un-peeled in heavily salted water for approximately 15 minutes or until tender. Remove potatoes from water and let cool slightly. Peel potatoes while they are still warm. Using a fork, mash the potatoes. Try to keep the mash slightly chunky. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, parsley lemon juice and olive oil. Using your hands, fold the mixture into the potatoes. Season with Fleur de sel to taste. Serve warm.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bacon Wrapped Scallops


When I saw huge scallops in the grocery store this week, I knew they were coming home with me. Derrick and I both love them and they can be so very easy to make. Plus, if they're made the right way, you just can't lose.

I wrapped them in bacon (yet again another win win in recipe land) and broiled them until the scallops were cooked through and the bacon was crispy. Then I tossed them in butter sauteed with garlic. So tasty! I served it with edamame. A staple at our house. A nice, tasty dinner and it took about 15 minutes from start to finish.

Ingredients:

8 large scallops, rinsed and patted dry
4 pieces of bacon, cut in half

2-3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 cloves garlic

Directions:
Preheat oven to Broil on HI.

Wrap each scallop with a half piece of bacon.
Secure with a tooth pick.

Place scallops on a baking sheet.
Once scallops are wrapped, sautee garlic in butter for about 1 minute.

Broil for about 4-5 minutes or so on each side or until bacon is crispy.

Once bacon is crispy, remove scallops from oven.

With tooth picks still in place, put scallops in a medium sized bowl and gently toss in the garlic butter mixture.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Chocolate Covered Hi-Hat Cupcakes


Cupcake Ingredients:
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water

Filling Ingredients:
1 3/4 sugar
1/4 cup water
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping Ingredients:
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

Cupcake Directions:
Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl.
Place it over,but not touching, a sauce pan of simmering water.
Stir often until chocolate is melted. Set aside.
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together until well combined.
Mix in melted chocolate and blend well.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between them.
Add vanilla and mix well until color has lightened slightly.
Add sour cream and mix until no white shows.
Add half flour mixture and mix well.
Add water and mix well.
Add remaining flour and mix well.
Spoon into cupcake pan or liners.
Fill to 1/8 inch below top of liner or pan.
Bake for 20 minutes or until cupcakes pass the toothpick test.
Place on cooling rack until cool.

Filling Directions:
Put sugar, water, egg whites, and cream of tartar in a large heatproof container.
With hand mixer beat for 1 minute until blended and foamy.
Place container over a saucepan of simmering water. Container should not touch the water.
With mixer on high, beat for 12 minutes (approximately) until stiff peaks form.
Remove from heat and add vanilla.
Beat for additional 2 minutes.
Filling with thicken as it cools.
Using piping bags and icing tip, pip filling onto cool cupcakes.
Use about 1/2 cup filling per cupcake.

Topping Directions:
Place chocolate chips and oil in medium heatproof container over a saucepan of simmering water. Do not let pan touch water.
Stir often until chocolate is melted.

Holding filling topped cupcakes from the bottom, dip them into the chocolate topping.
Let excess drip off. (make sure none of the white filling shows).
Allow to cool 15 minutes on cooling rack.
Then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Serve cold.

Banana Butterscotch Cupcakes


So I decided to post the recipes separate after creating the world's longest post.
Hopefully this will be less overwhelming. I am chatty in real life and that is obvious in the blogs I'm sure.
Please see the Cupcake-athon post to read about the reviews on the cupcakes. Below is just the recipe.

Cupcake Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 medium bananas, broken into pieces
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup butterscotch chips

Icing Ingredients:
1/4 cup half and half
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cupcake Directions:
Preheat oven to 350:
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until creamy.
Add banana and mix well.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each of them.
Add vanilla and beat for one minute.
Add half flour and mix well.
Add buttermilk and mix well.
Add remaining flour and mix well.
Stir in butterscotch chips.
Spoon batter into greased cupcake pan or paper liners.
Fill cups to about 1/4 inch below top of liner or pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until cupcakes pass toothpick test.
Place on cooling rack until cool.

Icing directions:
Over low heat add brown sugar and half and half.
Stir often until brown sugar dissolves.
Increase heat and bring to a boil.
Boil for 1 minute, stirring often.
Pour into a small bowl and refrigerate until cool to the touch (about 45 min.)
In large bowl beat butter and powdered sugar until it is smooth.
Add vanilla and brown sugar mixture.
Mix until smooth and creamy.

Using a small spatula, top banana cupcakes with 1.5 Tbsp. of frosting.
Garnish if you like. I used banana chips.
You could drizzle them with caramel, top them with butterscotch chips or decorate them with yellow or white flowers.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Cupcake-athon


It is cupcake week on Martha Stewart. So I decided, spur of the moment, Thursday, that I was going to bake two very different cupcake recipes that night. A co-worker of mine took a job elsewhere and I thought cupcakes would be a great way to send her off with a smile.

Much to Derrick's dismay, I am always looking for excuses to bake for other people. While he enjoys a nice dinner or breakfast at home on a regular basis, I rarely (save for the aforementioned chocolate chip cookies and the occasional peach cobbler) make baked goods just for him because, well, a) it's not good for either one of us to have that many cookies, cupcakes or calories b) the average recipe makes over a dozen of whatever it is I am making and we should be happy to share c) I like hearing the reviews from my work peeps, neighbors, and friends.

I started off with plans to make red velvet cupcakes and the chocolate covered hi-hat cupcakes from Elinor Klivans fun book "cupcakes!". I stopped at the store to pick up a large quantity of red food coloring and headed home. Only then did I realize I had forgotten the cream cheese I needed for the icing. I grumbled to myself about that for a minute as Boomer stared at me bewildered with his head cocked to one side (you know the cute way dogs look at you like your nuts) and then changed my game plan. I always keep frozen bananas stashed in the fridge and Elinor's banana butterscotch cupcakes sounded delicious. I love bananas and everyone loves butterscotch.

I started with the banana cakes first. Once I had the batter made and divvied up in their cute little nut and party cups I rinsed all my gear and made the hi-hat cakes (they were dressed in cute Martha Steward cc liners in pink and brown. Swoon!).

While the banana cakes were baking I made the butterscotch icing. While the hi-hat cakes were baking I made the hi-hat filling. After smoothing the butterscotch onto the banana cakes and piping the hi-hat filling onto the hi-hat cakes, I made the chocolate topping for the hi-hats. It WAS quite the process. Granted my kitchen is small, my oven is solo and I was careful waltzing around a 70 pound mooch pup and a batter seeking sweet toothed hubby. But I will say I really appreciate people who bake all day for a living. How do they get it all done! Whew!

The results? Glorious banana cakes with the surprise of butterscotch chips and a sweet smooth carmelesque (yes I made that word up) icing topped with a single banana chip. They were cute! And the show stealer- Hi-Hats all the way. My only issues were that although the Martha cc liners were adorable, they were not neat and compact like my grocery store variety. Therefore, they didn't sit as snuggly in my cupcake pan as they should. This caused my hi-hat batter to sit unevenly in the pan and it baked a little cattywaumpus. Being the perfectionist I am, this bothered me at first. What they lacked in external beauty they made up by being all that a cupcake should be- moist, sweet, gooey, over the top with that "dipped cone" chocolate topping.

Oh and the cupcake commentary came pouring in from my coworkers. My favorite excerpt from the day:
Patti said to Tessa, "Oh, this is bad. This is really bad."

Tessa responded to Patti with, "But you mean that in a good way, right?"

Patti (with a full mouth), "Heck yeah!"


I finally got around to tasting one when I got home from work and I am SO glad I saved a few for us. I know everything is better when it is chocolate covered, but the cake part is really good. Moist and fluffy, it really didn't need filling and icing.

Here are a few tips to consider if you make the hi-hats:

1) Check the hi-hat cupcakes about 5 minutes before they are supposedly done. They may already pass the clean toothpick test.

2) E. Klivans really does mean "12 minutes on high" for beating the hi-hat filling. When your arm feels like it is going to fall off, keep going.

3) A deep bottom metal bowl is great for melting your chocolate in for the hi-hat topping. You need the depth to dip the cupcakes in without smooshing the pretty filling.


Stay tuned for recipe posts for both cupcakes. If I posted them here, this would be the post that never ends.

P.s. Recipes are slightly adapted from Elinor Klivans Banana Butterscotch Cupcakes and her Chocolate Covered Hi-Hat Cupcakes from her adorable book "cupcakes!".

Thursday, April 3, 2008

It's CUPCAKE Week on Martha Stewart!

Stay tuned for two (2), yes TWO cupcake recipes. I am attempting them tonight.
I will post soon for results, taste tester commentary and more.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tomato Basil Soup


Tomatoes, Basil, Cream. It was meant to be.
I don't know who decided one day to stew that bright red fruit together with basil, resulting in an amazing, hard to turn down hearty soup, but I'd like to kiss 'em. That's really all I have to say about that.

I pulled this off of recipezaar.com. It was posted by the Selwyn's (Philip and Karen to be exact) and is similar to the tomato basil variety of the La Madeleine. (Have to give props where props are due) It was easy and the perfect ending to a gloomy overcast "I think it might rain, but wait- maybe not" kind of day.


Directions:
Grab a large sauce pan (the really big one) and place it on the cook top.

Combine the following:

1 large can crushed tomatoes

4 cups tomato juice

Simmer 20 minutes.

Meanwhile finely chop 14+- basil leaves. Add basil leaves, 1 cup heavy cream and 1 stick unsalted butter to tomato mixture. Simmer 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with parmesan cheese and basil leaves.

Serve with your favorite bread.
Yum. Really. Yum.