Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chocolate Peppermint Trifle

We were assigned the task (I use this term loosely, it is more like a privilege) of preparing dessert for our family Christmas weekend.  Kristi saw Joy's post first and sent it to me with the message "Must make."  And I could not have agreed more.  Unfortunately, we had a small disaster with our rolling attempt and had to make a quick adjustment to our plan.  Trifles are an especially easy way of turning a cake failure into an elegant crowd pleaser.
Chocolate Peppermint Trifle (adapted from JTB)
Makes 12 small servings

Flourless Chocolate Sponge Cake
4 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
6 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon  vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Peppermint Whipped Cream
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil, to taste

Chocolate pudding, 4 servings
Andes baking chips
Crushed candy cane
Chocolate shavings

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease 17x12 inch cookie sheet.
Place parchment paper on top and grease this too.  Set pan aside.
Beat egg yolks with 1/4 cup sugar until thick and lemon yellow, 5-7 minutes.
Melt chocolate over double boiler.
Let chocolate cool for a few minutes, then slowly add to egg yolk mixture.
Stir in vanilla.  Set aside.
In a clean, dry mixing bowl beat egg whites for a few minutes.
Add salt and cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.
Pour in 2 tablespoons sugar and beat to stiff peaks.
Fold 1/3 of egg whites into chocolate mixture.
Don't over stir.  Streaks of chocolate and whites are OK!
Fold the remaining 2/3 of whites into chocolate in 2 batches.
Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Don't mess with it too much, as it will deflate.
Bake for 15-17 minutes,  until cake springs back when touched.
Remove from oven and cool in pan on wire rack.

To prepare whipped cream, place cream, sugar, vanilla, and peppermint in stand mixer bowl.
Beat to thick consistency with peaks which hold their shape.
Store in refrigerator.

Prepare pudding.  A 4 serving size box will work well.

To assemble, spread a small layer of pudding in the bottom of a small, pretty glass bowl.
Cut cake into 2x2 inch squares (size is not terribly important) and layer on top of pudding.  Use half of cake per layer.
Top with half of remaining pudding followed by just less than half of whipped cream.
Sprinkle a layer of Andes chips over whipped cream.
Layer remaining cake, pudding, and whipped cream.
Store in refrigerator for up to one day.
Garnish with chocolate shavings and crushed peppermint just before serving.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Sage Butter

The inspiration for this dish came from dinner put on by my gross anatomy professor at UC. He is famous at the medical school for his amazing dinners that he puts on, and an invitation to his house is like winning the lottery. The main course at one of the dinners was a farfalle pasta dish with roasted butternut squash, turkey sausage, and a sage-butter sauce. At the time I was vegetarian, so I avoided the sausage. Now as a Paleo, I have adjusted the dish to fit my current needs.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Sage Butter

1 large butternut squash (peeled, and cubed- smaller cubes= shorter cook time)
1 large sweet potato (for a sister who doesn't like butternut squash...EWeage...)
3 small onions (sliced like for a stir-fry)
5 large cloves of garlic (sliced up)
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tube of breakfast sausage (or whatever kind you like)
4 Tbs butter
2 tsp minced fresh sage (you can use dried instead)

Put the squash, sweet potato, onion, and garlic on a baking sheet (use two if you need, you don't want the squash piled up or it won't cook properly). Pour some olive oil over them, mix with your hands, and season with salt and pepper. Throw in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Be sure to flip the squash after about 15 minutes so it doesn't burn.

While that is going on, cook up the sausage. You can roll it into little meatball shapes, or patties, or whatever your little heart desires. Cook them up in a skillet and set aside.

Finally, brown the butter in that skillet you just cooked the sausage in (yeah, get all that flavor, yum). Add the sage just before the butter is browned so the flavor can infuse with the butter.

Once the squash is done, mix the squash and the sausage together in a serving dish, and drizzle the sage-butter.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Caramel Delight Bark

Kristi and I have two older brothers who are Eagle Scouts.  We loved going to the Boy Scout meetings; there was always something new and exciting.  They took camping trips in the summer, ran a concessions stand at Venetian Festival, and did community service projects together.  So naturally, we jumped at the chance to join Girl Scouts when old enough.  What a disappointment!  The only thing better about Girl Scouts than Boy Scouts is the fundraising.  If given the opportunity we would have joined Boy Scouts and just made our own Girl Scout cookies.  Or this bark!

Caramel Delight (Samoas) Bark (from Endless Simmer)
makes one 9x13 pan

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons water
1 stick butter, room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream, warmed
12 ounce bag dark chocolate chips
12 ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups coarsely chopped shortbread (or animal crackers)
2 cups shredded coconut

Mix sugar and water in sauce pan and heat over medium-high.
When mixtures begins to boil, swirl pan to mix, but do not stir with spoon.
After the liquid has boiled for 5-8 minutes and turns amber add the butter.
Stir until butter is melted and add the cream.  Mix well.
Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 350.
Place coconut on cookie sheet and toast in oven for 5-10 minutes.
Melt half of each bag of chocolate chips in a double boiler.
Pour into parchment lined 9x13 cake pan.
Press cookie crumbs into chocolate.
Place in freezer for 5-10 minutes until cooled.
Pour cooled caramel on top, leaving a small margin of chocolate around the edge.
Place back in freezer.
Melt remaining chocolate.
Pour on top.
Press toasted coconut into top layer of chocolate.  Chill.
Use a large chef knife to cut bark into bite size triangles.
Store in refrigerator until ready to serve or gift.

P.S.  Check this out if you're in to Thin Mints!

Salted Caramel Mocha Cupcakes

Last week I enjoyed an afternoon shopping in Grand Rapids before my pre-interview dinner.  I love shopping... with my mom and sister.  Doing so alone isn't as fun.  Being tired of looking at cute clothes and shoes with no one to share it with, I stepped in to Barns and Nobel to peruse before heading back to the hotel.  And who can pass up a Starbucks while browsing the shelves?  Sadly, they were out of pumpkin spice, so I enjoyed my second favorite of the fall season, salted caramel mocha.  It worked out quite well because when Kristi sent me a salted caramel cupcake recipe I decided to create another Starbucks inspired cupcake flavor.
 Salted Caramel Mocha Cupcakes (adapted from 52 Kitchen Adventures)
Makes 24 cupcakes

Cake Batter
1 devil's food chocolate cake mix
Ingredients listed on box
3 single serve instant coffee packets

Caramel Filling
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream, warmed

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup white sugar
4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed
4 sticks butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar

Prepare the cake mix as directed, dissolving instant coffee in water.
Bake a few minutes less than box says.

Heat sugar over medium heat in sauce pan.
Swirl pan to stir while sugar boils.
When liquid is amber color add butter.
Whisk in cream.
Set aside to cool.

Heat sugar and water over medium heat in sauce pan.
Swirl pan to stir while sugar boils.
When liquid is amber color add vanilla.
Whisk in cream.
Set aside to cool.
Beat butter with salt until fluffy.
Add powdered sugar.
Once cool but still pourable, add caramel to frosting.
Refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble, use paring knife to cut cone out of center of cupcake.
Spoon a teaspoon of caramel into hole.
Cut point of cone off and place the remaining back over caramel.
Using Wilton 1M tip, pipe frosting on cupcakes.
Drizzle cupcakes with extra caramel sauce if desired.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Reindeer Cookies

We don't eat red M&Ms in ours house at Christmastime.  Blue, yellow, orange, green are all up for grabs, just not the red ones.  Want to know why?  Because Rudolf is a red nosed reindeer!

Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies
makes 5 dozen cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Small twist pretzels
Red M&Ms
Chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375*
Cream butter and sugars together, then add peanut butter.
Beat in eggs.
Add soda, salt, and vanilla.
Slowly mix in flour just until blended.
Roll into small balls and place 12 on each greased cookie sheet.
Press dough into triangle shape.
Add red M&M at point of triangle (nose), two pretzel twists (antlers), and two chocolate chips (eyes).
Bake for 12-14 minutes, until cookies are just barely golden brown.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gingerbread Latte Cupcakes

I'm in Cincinnati this week chilling at Kristi's place between residency interviews.  This being the furthest I'm traveling I was hoping for a bit of warmer weather, but unfortunately the snow came with me.  But since we're (I use this plural loosely, Kristi is supervising from the couch with her computer and a textbook in her lap while I slave away in the kitchen) indoors baking, I suppose the weather outside doesn't have much bearing on the evening.

The peppermint mocha cupcakes we made last New Years and pumpkin spice latte (multiple versions) this fall were such crowd pleasers the natural course of action was to try yet another Starbucks holiday concoction in cupcake form.  Choosing between gingerbread and eggnog was a simple decision; eggnog is bordering on vile and gingerbread is a Christmas party in your mouth.  A brief Google search and the discovery of molasses in the kitchen cupboard sealed the deal.  And a facebook status poll about frosting confirmed that topping half with cinnamon whipped cream and the others with lemon cream cheese frosting was the way to finish off these cupcakes.  Each frosting recipe is enough for 12 cupcakes, double if you want to try just one variety.
Gingerbread Latte Cupcakes (adapted from Bakers Royale)
makes 24 cupcakes

Cupcake Batter
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup blackstrap molasses
2 large eggs
1 cup strong, hot coffee
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cinnamon Whipped Cream Frosting
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
8oz cream cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350.
Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy.
Add molasses and eggs.
Stir baking soda into coffee (in a decent size mug, it will foam a little) and add to bowl.
Mix in spices and salt.
Slowly add flour.
Divide evenly in lined cupcake tins.

Bake for 18 minutes.
Let cool on wire rack before frosting.

Whip cream and vanilla with stand mixer until about halfway to whipped cream consistency.
Add powdered sugar and beat with close supervision until cream is thick.
Chill for a bit before piping onto cupcakes.

Beat cream cheese and butter together until well blended.
Add lemon juice and powdered sugar.
Use piping bag and Wilton 1M tip to frost cupcakes.

Store cupcakes in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lavender Cupcake with Wildberry Swiss Buttercream Frosting

If you are looking for a controversial cupcake, then this is the recipe for you.

Reactions ranged from nearly spitting it out because it "tasted like eating flowers" to saying "it was the best cupcake I've ever eaten"

So if you are looking for a culinary roller coaster, look no further.

My personal critique: I thought the cake was too dense, and the frosting didn't have as strong of flavor or color as I would have liked, but for being subtle flavors, it worked well together.

(Update: I forgot to put this in the original post. This cupcake was inspired by a recent trip to Columbus and a stop at one of my new favorite places, Jeni's. It is an ice cream shop that makes the most wonderful flavors, like lavender wildberry and pear riesling, from local ingredients. It is fabulous. There will probably be a few more posts in the coming months inspired by Jeni's flavor combinations!)
A note on the ingredients: I bought the dried lavender flowers, mixed berry herbal tea, and 3 berry flavored sugars at a local tea and spice shop here in Cincinnati. Please note, this recipe calls for less than 1 teaspoon of lavender. No need to buy a full ounce like me, unless you have other plans to make lots of lavender-y goodies later.

Lavender Cupcakes (Modified from Joy of Baking) - I doubled the recipe
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of dried lavender (crushed or ground up in coffee grinder)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Add the lavender. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 17 -20 minutes or just until set and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. (Always check a few minutes before the stated baking time.
Makes about 12 cupcakes

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Modified from Annie's Eats)
5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ounce of herbal berry tea (ground to a fine powder) - I would recommend trying to replace this with a wildberry flavored concentrate if you can find it.
To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved. (This took a lot longer than I was expecting. My arm got tired...)
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.
Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don’t worry, it will come together!) Stir in the vanilla extract and the other flavoring you found and mix just until incorporated. Tint with gel icing color as desired.
Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.
I sprinkled some of the cupcakes with leftover lavender flowers and some with a mix of strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry flavored sugars.
Yield: about 5 cups- it was enough for 24 cupcakes with the 1M tip with some leftover