Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler

portion of cobbler with spoon

[recipe here]

Another yumtious Tuesday has arrived, and with it comes Dorie's tasty Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler. This was chosen by Amanda of Like Sprinkles on a Cupcake, and you can find the recipe posted on her blog.

stalks of rhubarb

I've never worked with rhubarb before, so it was another learning experience for me. There were some confusing moments at the grocery store, especially because there was no sign over the rhubarb, but we ended up picking out the right stuff (the one with no leaves... not the Swiss chard!!) I really liked the sour flavor it brought to the dish, although I wasn't crazy about the texture. I think I would cut it into smaller pieces next time, rather than 1" pieces as stated in the recipe.

cherries in cherry apron

The other fruit component was fresh cherries. Unlike the rhubarb, which I had to really hunt for, there were tons of cherries available. The odd thing was that although I bought well over a pound of cherries, it came out to only 12 oz after stemming and pitting them. So, I ended up with 16 oz of rhubarb and 12 oz of cherries... opposite to the proportion in the recipe. Obviously, I added another 50g of sugar to even out the sweetness ;)

pitted cherries

I didn't have a cherry pitter, so I just used a paring knife to cut around the pit, like I would for an avocado, and took out the pit by hand if it didn't pop out. (The riper ones seemed to hold on to the pit more.)

filling with pieces of dough in the background

I could really taste the added ginger in the filling -- luckily, I like ginger! I thought everything balanced out very nicely (and the extra sugar didn't hurt).

dough on top of filling

The topping on this cobbler was different from the previous one in that the biscuit dough contained whole wheat flour, giving the finished product a hearty, nutty flavor. Also, this topping was rolled into little balls, rather than rolling it out and laying it over top of the cobbler. I thought they were kinda cute :) I didn't use the recommended 8"x8" pyrex dish, since I didn't have one, so mine were a bit farther apart than they probably should have been.

full cobbler picture

I liked this topping a lot, especially the part that soaked in the fruit juices. It came out a little heavy and dense (although that could be just user error), but when combined with the fruits it went really well. As Dorie says, any biscuit issues are completely covered up by the fruit :)

In all, this cobbler is definitely recommended... another delicious treat from Dorie :) Check out the other TWD blogs for all of their cobblers. There are so many blogs at this point, I can't even keep up!

On another note -- I will be sitting out of TWD for the next few weeks, since I am getting married this weekend! We'll be going to Greece on our honeymoon, so I'm sure I will have tons of photos of delicious Greek food to share with you when I get back!!


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Turkey Meatballs Parmesan

meatballs covered in sauce and cheese

It's a given in our house that any type of meat is better when covered in sauce and cheese. Unfortunately, the calories do tend to add up, so we've moved away from red meat and usually opt for a leaner choice, like chicken or turkey.

I've made turkey meatballs before using almond flour instead of bread crumbs, and they always come out pretty nice and moist. This time, though, I wanted to change things up, so I found this recipe, which Erin got from Rachael Ray. It seemed pretty easy and fast, so I gave it a try.

baked meatballs

It lived up to the easy and fast reputation, but it wasn't great. The meatballs looked pretty good, but they were kind of dry in the middle -- maybe because they were so big. I usually make mine a lot smaller than this and cook them for a shorter time. Anyway, the dryness made the sauce-and-cheese addition a necessity rather than a luxury.

meatballs covered in sauce

I used our favorite red sauce, Rao's, which we love for the taste as well as the fact that it uses simple ingredients and has no added sugar. It's expensive, but I'm not kidding when I say I could drink this stuff, and I'm pretty sure A. has done exactly that ;)

I topped it with shredded light Havarti cheese, which is great for melting. Then, I put the dish back into the warm oven and turned on the broiler for a few minutes, just until the cheese was a bit brown and bubbly.

whole dish with meatballs and green beans

With steamed green beans for a side dish, this was actually a pretty healthy meal! Which, of course, I later ruined by eating dessert. Sigh... Excuse me while I go work out again.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Napoleon Cupcakes

cross section of napoleon cupcake

A.'s cousin had a birthday party over the 4th of July weekend, and since I was told that his favorite dessert was a Napoleon, I got to thinking. I was originally planning on constructing a regular Napoleon with a few sheets of puff pastry and fondant on top; but then I thought, why bother with that when I can make things even more difficult by creating individual Napoleon cupcakes?? ;)

group of finished cupcakes

With that inspiration in mind, I searched around for that specific recipe, but couldn't find exactly what I was seeking. I did, however, find tons of resources that I used to create the end product. The cupcakes turned out to be very sweet and sugary, just like a good Napoleon should be :) I think they could have used more pastry cream, but other than that, they were just what I wanted to create. Everyone at the party loved 'em :)

Napoleon Cupcakes
makes around 30 (depending on how many cupcakes you get out of your base recipe)

-Pastry cream

-Filling the cupcakes
-Decorating with fondant and melted chocolate

CUPCAKES: For the cupcake base, I used Billy's Vanilla recipe. I really love this recipe. At first it seemed weird to put the butter into the dry ingredients without creaming it first, but it's been great each time I've used it -- the cupcakes come out very light and moist with a domed top. I still get a little scared when there are lumps of butter in my batter, but it always turns out OK.

naked cupcakes

If there is one thing I would suggest, it is that the poured fondant would be much easier to work with if the cupcakes were flat on top rather than domed. (Those Nut & Party cups would also be a great option here.) The dome looks nice, but it's a bitch to get the fondant to stop dripping down the sides. Just something to consider when choosing your cake recipe :)

PASTRY CREAM: I used Dorie's recipe for pastry cream from Baking (surprise, surprise). The cupcakes probably only needed a half-recipe to fill them all.

There are a lot of good pastry cream recipes around; if I didn't have Dorie's book already lying open on my counter, I might have used the one here, which is also from a Dorie book and probably the same thing.

POURED FONDANT: Grazie mille to Joe Pastry for his awesome picture tutorial on poured fondant! I had to make the first part of the fondant twice, because I misread the temperature and ended up heating the sugar to 258 degrees (hard ball -- BAD!) instead of 238 degrees (soft ball -- GOOD!). The second time around, it worked right and I refrigerated it overnight.

Of course, if you don't want to go through all of that trouble with the food processor, you can use Wilton's "Quick Pour" recipe using confectioner's sugar. (You still have to heat it up, but you don't have to go through the food processor step. Not sure what the results are like, since I didn't test it out -- I imagine there wouldn't be the same crystalline texture of the other fondant.) Alternatively, you could try a powdered fondant mix, sold at baking supply stores.

FILLING THE CUPCAKES: The best method for filling these cupcakes is to use a pastry bag. Since the cupcakes are dipped into fondant later on, this method keeps the top of the cupcake intact for dipping. You can fit it with a "cupcake filling" tip, like I've done, or try a star tip. Fill the bag with the pastry cream and just squeeze some out into the cupcake. A. made me weigh one of the cupcakes before and after filling -- there turned out to be 12g of filling inside.

filling the cupcakes

DECORATING: I found an awesome tutorial on how to cover cupcakes with poured fondant here, which I attempted to follow. My fondant was extremely drippy, especially at the beginning -- I guess it was a little too thin. I ended up dipping each cupcake twice, and you could still see the cupcake slightly through the fondant. It was kind of a frustrating process, but towards the end it did get easier.

Before applying the fondant, brush on a layer of melted jam, which helps to even out the surface of the cake and help the fondant to stick. I used apricot jam, since it has a mild flavor (and it seems to be what everyone uses). I didn't taste the jam in the end product.

painting on apricot glaze

Once the jam is cool, heat the fondant in a double boiler and thin with a little simple syrup or water. (Refer back to the fondant tutorial for pics.) The consistency should be fairly viscous but still workable. I don't have much experience with it, obviously, so all I can say is that it is trial-and-error to get the right consistency. According to the tutorial, "If it gets too thick you will have difficulty to dip the cupcake properly, and if it is too thin it will look transparent on the cupcake."

putting fondant on first couple of cupcakes

For the chocolate decoration, I just melted some chocolate chips and put them in a small plastic bag with a tiny hole cut out of the corner. They stayed pretty much melted the whole time (one good thing about my warm apartment!) and I just had to microwave them for a few seconds towards the end. (You could also take part of the fondant, flavor it with chocolate and put it in the piping bag to decorate. I am not that much of a masochist.)

plate of finished cupcakes in the kitchen

Dip a cupcake into the bowl of fondant. To minimize drips, hold the cupcake above the fondant for a bit so that the excess drips back into the bowl. Let it sit for a minute so the fondant begins to set. If you want, dip it a second time to get a thicker layer of fondant. Pipe three lines of chocolate on top, and then take a toothpick and drag it across the lines of chocolate so it creates a point in each line. Then, move the toothpick to the middle of the cupcake and drag the toothpick in the other direction across the lines. Finally, move the toothpick to the other side and drag once again in the first direction. This will create the signature Napoleon curly-bracket decoration.
--end of recipe--

plate of napoleon cupcakes

Not the simplest of recipes, but I enjoyed making them and working with pastry cream and fondant for the first time (...and I'm sure it won't be the last!)


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate Pudding

pudding in wine glass

[recipe here]

When I heard that Melissa of It's Melissa's Kitchen chose chocolate pudding for this week's TWD, I was kind of surprised. I always thought of chocolate pudding as kind of rubbery, not-very-chocolaty stuff that came out of powder from a box, and as such I was not a huge fan. Well, all of that changed after making this recipe.

pudding cups with cookbook in background

The texture turned out to be far from rubbery. It was so smooth and satiny, and it reminded me of a dense, rich mousse -- but even denser and richer. The dark chocolate in the recipe created a deep, delicious chocolate flavor. Dorie suggests throwing in some cacao nibs for crunch, but I love the velvety texture as-is.

wide angle making of the pudding

Instead of getting out the food processor, I opted to use an immersion blender, which worked great. I may have to compare the results against the food processor results one day, but honestly, it worked so well this way that I'm not sure it's worth the trouble. Not to discount the awesomeness of the food processor, but I think the immersion blender is just as suited to the task at hand -- and it's also much easier to clean ;)

close up of pudding in ramekin

The pudding fit into four 6-oz. ramekins for chilling. (I'm still learning to get used to all of this waiting around for things to chill... I really just want to dive in, but I am starting to learn some restraint ;) ) Since I am anti-pudding skin, I covered them up in plastic wrap.

pudding in wine glass with spoon

I'm a total chocolate pudding convert now. My heart still belongs to tapioca, but I'll take this any day :) Don't forget to check out the chocolatiness at all of the other TWD blogs, and check out Dorie's recipe here!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes

lemon raspberry cupcake

Like a good cupcake fan, I DVR'd the Martha Stewart show during cupcake week at the beginning of April. One cupcake in particular caught my eye: the Meyer Lemon Raspberry cupcakes from Vanilla Bakeshop. I love the combination of lemon and raspberry, so I knew I would have to give these puppies a try.

zested lemons

The cakes were vanilla, not as moist or sweet as Billy's recipe, but pretty good. But the best part of the recipe, in my opinion, is the lemon curd filling. This stuff was DELICIOUS. And I almost didn't make it, because 1) I didn't have any Meyer Lemons and 2) I didn't have much time. I went out and found a jar of lemon curd at the grocery store, but it looked kind of gross, so I just threw up my hands and gave in to making the (non-Meyer) lemon curd.

cupcake with lemon curd filling

As for the raspberries, it turns out that they weren't really part of the cupcake at all! There is just one raspberry sitting on top. Looks pretty, but certainly wouldn't do for my voracious raspberry appetite ;) So I sought out a raspberry cream cheese icing recipe to replace the vanilla bean. It ended up being just OK. The extra moisture in the preserves just pushed it over the too-wet point in my kitchen. I added some extra cream cheese, which helped a bit, but it was already super-sweet so I didn't add any more sugar. I think next time I will try Tartelette's cream cheese buttercream recipe with some added jam, since the meringue buttercreams seem to work better for me.

adapted from Vanilla Bakeshop via Martha Stewart

3 recipe components:

Yields 24 cupcakes (I got 28). Their measurements are ridiculous, so I've just put grams for some of the items.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups (400 g) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean, scraped
5 large eggs, separated
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (!) (270 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup plus scant 1/3 cup (!!) (165 g) cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla; beat to combine. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift together both flours, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. With the mixer on low, add flour mixture; mix until well combined. Add sour cream; mix until well combined.

sifting dry ingredients

In a clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into batter.

filled tins of cupcake batter

Fill each muffin cup half full with batter (I used a #16 disher and had enough for 4 extra). Transfer muffin tins to oven and bake until a skewer inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes. Let cupcakes cool completely.

bare cupcakes

Lemon Curd
This was originally written using Meyer lemons, but I used regular lemons and thought it was delicious. If you want this to be sweeter, try substituting a little orange juice for part of the lemon juice. Also, I had a ton left over (which I secretly ate by the spoonful afterwards).

1 cup (200 g) sugar
Zest of 3 lemons
3 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 cup lemon juice
5 ounces unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

Prepare an ice-water bath. Set a medium bowl in the ice-water bath and set aside.

juicing lemons

Place the sugar and lemon zest together in a bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist (the original recipe suggested using a mortar and pestle here, if you have it). Transfer the sugar mixture to a medium heatproof bowl along with the eggs and egg yolks; whisk to combine. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon juice and continue whisking until the mixture is thick and reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add in the butter and whisk until well combined.

cooking the curd

Strain lemon mixture through a fine mesh sieve set over prepared bowl (I used a strainer covered in cheesecloth). Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap directly onto surface of the lemon curd. Transfer to the refrigerator until completely chilled. It should keep up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

curd in ice water bath

Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting
As I said earlier, it was quite runny. Next time I would probably add some meringue powder to stabilize it, or use cream cheese buttercream as a base.

12 oz. (340 g) cream cheese
150 g raspberry preserves, melted
1/2 stick butter
600 g powdered sugar
red food coloring (optional)

Beat preserves, butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Gradually add in the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add in the food coloring and mix until the color is even.

Cupcake Assembly

There are several ways to go about filling the cupcakes with the lemon curd. I had just bought a Wilton "cupcake filling" tip, so obviously I used that, which was pretty fun once I got the hang of it. There is also chockylit's cone method, and the method used by Vanilla Bakeshop in this recipe, which calls for using an apple corer to take a chunk out of the cake and filling it in with a squeeze bottle filled with lemon curd. Whatever works!

assembling cupcakes

Once the cakes are full of curd, go crazy with the icing. I used a Wilton 1M tip to pipe it on, but it didn't actually matter since it all turned to goo anyway. Stupid building-controlled heat.
--end of recipe--

Overall, the taste was great, even if the icing didn't look all that pretty. I recommend making the lemon curd the day before, because this took me all day to finish. But in the end, I think it was worth it! ;)


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Problem solving

fan pointing at smoke alarm

My smoke alarm is now begrudgingly silent during baking hours.

Nothing like a $9 fan, an old light stand and gaffer's tape to solve a problem.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Double-Crusted Blueberry Pie

title pic for blueberry pie

[recipe here]

What can I say about this week's TWD recipe? Adjectives like stupendous, delicious, and drool-worthy all spring to mind.

full view of pie

Amy of South in your Mouth chose Dorie's Double Crusted Blueberry Pie, and it was amazing. Seriously. A little piece of heaven in pie form.

cut piece of pie

Admittedly, I was extremely hungry by the time I finally got to taste a piece of this pie, since it took FOREVER to make. However, there were many less-biased raves from A. and his coworkers saying that it was, and I quote, "friggin delicious". The filling was gooey, and pie crust was actually pretty flaky, despite my complete mishandling of it.

I'd never made a pie crust before, other than the tart crust from a month ago, and that was a completely different texture. So this whole "flaky/tender" juxtaposition was a bit of a new challenge for me. Dorie's solution is to use part shortening, part butter for the fat in the crust.

shortening -- evil??

The shortening was easily the most controversial ingredient this week. I used this palm oil shortening, which claims to be all-natural with no trans fats. I think some people opted for lard here, some went for all butter, and some went Dorie's route with the shortening. Let's all just admit that there's no way this is going to be healthy, and move on.


At least there were a lot of antioxidant-rich blueberries -- 2 cups, which I weighed out to be around 700g of blueberries.

food processor

My awesome food processor got another workout! (The only thing I don't love about it is how many pieces there are to clean.)

dough balls

It actually looked like pie dough... very relieved.

The other controversial ingredient was the layer of bread crumbs underneath the filling. I just used some plain, store-bought bread crumbs, which were fine and I didn't really notice them at all.

assembled pie

As I've said before, my apartment is always on the warm side, so it was a bit difficult keeping all of the crust ingredients cool. I think I took a little too long rolling out the dough, because the fat was starting to get a little melty. Also, I forgot to keep flipping it, and there ended up being some wrinkles on the other side from the plastic wrap.

Once it was rolled out, it was time for more chilling. Our fridge was already bursting with too many jars of half-eaten salsa, so it did not take kindly to sheet pans being balanced precariously inside. After much cursing and screaming, I eventually managed to get the crust sufficiently chilled and the pie assembled.

cookie cutter on pie

pie with star-shaped hole

I decided to be cutesy and 4th-of-July with this star cookie cutter. (Don't tell anyone -- it was actually a Christmas cookie cutter. I guess Stephen Colbert would consider that patriotic, though.)

close up of pie

In the end, the pie came out great! I did end up using the suggested aluminum foil tent halfway through because the edges browned up too fast. It didn't solve the problem, but I guess it might have ended up even darker without it.

pie on cake plate

empty plate

As you can see... I was very pleased with this pie :)

Don't forget to check out the blogroll for the rest of this week's entries! The recipe is available in Dorie's book.