Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In which I am adopted, and make cupcakes.

First, Mom, don't worry! I'm only talking about Adopt-A-Blogger! When I saw on Dine and Dish that Kristen had decided to host the event a third time, I was excited. I had heard about during round two, and doesn't it seem like such a good idea? Baby food bloggers (about a year old or younger - yes, I know I just turned 1, but I have a lot to learn) are "adopted" by more seasoned bloggers for 3 months. I'm lucky to have been adopted by Cheri at Adventures in the Kitchen... Hi Cheri! I'm adding Cheri to my blogroll over there on the right, and you should go check her out. And then you should make popovers, and send them my way. Yum.

On to another delicious pastry item baked in a small container: about those cupcakes. I think they're cheerful looking, but frankly they weren't the best cupcakes I've ever had. Mostly I wanted to make them because I had candied some kumquats and I was expecting visitors... but then that turned into an impromptu trip to Brooklyn and I left the cupcakes in the fridge. This recipe is from the February 2006 issue of Bon Appetit, and the Epicurious reviewers must have been joking when they describe it's "light crumb." I had eaten one before I left, and it was tasty, but not airy and light. I think I folded in my egg whites a little too vigorously. On my return to Boston three days later, they had gotten sort of heavy and more fudge-like, but the flavor is still good, if you like white chocolate.
White Chocolate Cupcakes with Candied Kumquats
adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2006

8 ounces high-quality white chocolate (I used Ghirardelli) chopped
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
3 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a twelve cup muffin pan with paper liners, or not if you use a silicone pan like me. Place white chocolate in metal bowl set over pan of barely simmering water. Stir until melted and smooth.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, and vanilla in large bowl until blended. Add warm white chocolate to sugar mixture; stir to combine. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with coconut milk in 2 additions, beating batter just to combine between additions. Batter will be stiff.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gently fold egg white mixture into batter in 3 additions. The first addition can be stirred quite vigorously, but when folding in the last two additions, be gentle, as you don't want to break the egg white foam.

Divide batter among muffin cups (about 1/4 cup each). Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

White Chocolate Frosting
I left out the white chocolate, and this made a simple cream cheese frosting instead
4 1/2 ounces high-quality white chocolate, chopped
6 ounces (3/4 of 8-ounce package) cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Stir white chocolate, if using, in ametal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water until melted and smooth. Cool slightly. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in medium bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in melted white chocolate. Let cool until thickened to spreadable consistency.

Spread frosting over cupcakes. Drain Candied Kumquats (see below); arrange kumquats decoratively atop cupcakes. Leftover candied kumquats can be stirred into your favorite pound cake for delicious results!
Candied Kumquats
Couldn't be simpler! Way less complicated than the orangettes.
20 kumquats, sliced and seeded
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Stir water and sugar in small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to boil. Add kumquats and return to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until fruit is tender and liquid is syrupy, about 20 minutes. Transfer to bowl; cool to room temperature. Keeps for ages in the fridge.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chana Punjabi, or another amazing way to use chickpeas

Garbanzo beans are amazing, aren't they? They taste fantastic, they have a great texture, and they give any dish a big protein and fiber boost. Toss them into salads, or throw a handful into soup. Puree them, and you get hummus. Hummus! It's like the world's best condiment, right?

But we're not here to talk about hummus. (Though incidentally, use more lemon juice than you think is reasonable. Trust me.) Do you ever set food resolutions? Like eat less candy or more spinach? Lately I've been trying to eat less meat, so when I came across this totally vegetarian recipe on The Wednesday Chef that featured my all time favorite legume, I got pretty excited. And then I forgot about it for six weeks.

Which isn't really so bad in the grand scheme of forgetting recipes, is it? That cilantro cake took me like two years to rediscover.

Chana Punjabi
Serves 2

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 small Thai bird chili, chopped or 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped, (I used a jalapeño)
one 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt, or as needed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used more)
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
Cooked rice for serving (optional)

1. Sauté the onion in oil over medium heat about 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add garlic, ginger and chili, and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Pour in tomatoes and 1/4 cup water. Cover the whole shebang for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.

2. If you have an immersion blender, now's the time to use it. Puree the onion and tomato mixture and return to the pan (if you don't have an immersion blender, that is). Heat ovLinker a medium flame, then add paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, the coriander, garam masala, turmeric and lemon juice. Add chickpeas and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.

3. Cover and simmer until the sauce is very thick, about 45 minutes. Every ten minutes or so, stir the sauce, and if it looks dry, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time. If it's not thickening up, take off the lid towards the end and let it go for a few minutes uncovered. Stir in cilantro, taste, and season with salt, if necessary. Mine didn't need it; the canned chickpeas were pretty salty. Serve with cooked basmati rice and/or naan. Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day has a great, easy stovetop (!) method.

Friday, April 17, 2009

On birthdays, or, Chocolate Coffee Cake with Mocha Mascarpone Frosting

I am not one of those people who "just forgets to mention" their birthday. Every year I think to myself, be cool, Adrienne, it's not a big deal, I'll only mention it if anybody asks me what I'm doing this weekend. And then I never, EVER succeed at keeping my mouth shut. I mean, I don't shout it from the rooftops or tell strangers on the T about it, but if you mention "February 7th" in conversation, I'm going to tell you it's my birthday.

We're well past that now, and I had a very nice party with a delicious birthday cake baked by my non-baking boyfriend. (He's so sweet!) But there are other birthdays in the year, and that's really what we're here to talk about. Today is my mom's birthday (happy birthday, Mom!) and yesterday was my sister's birthday (happy birthday, Julia!). Next week there are some cousins' birthdays, tomorrow there are TWO friends' birthdays but alas, only one party. And this past Tuesday, April 14th, was this blog's first birthday!

And since what's a birthday, really, other than an excuse to eat some cake, let's talk about this tasty specimen, shall we? I made this Coffee-Chocolate Layer Cake with Mocha-Mascarpone Frosting from the April 2009 issue of Bon Appetit for a friend's birthday at the end of March. Like all the best chocolate cakes, the cake itself is light and moist (from the buttermilk) and the flavor is positively miles deep - I finally got some real espresso powder instead of the Maxwell House I'd been using, and I think that has something to do with it.

The frosting, on the other hand, is not what I had hoped. It's DELICIOUS, don't let me sway you from making it at ALL, but if you look at the photo in that link to the original recipe, you'll see why I was a little disappointed. I'm not surprised that it's so light given the 16 ounces of mascarpone cheese, but I'm still not convinced that this is the frosting on the cake on BA's photos. The response to all the why-is-my-frosting-so-light queries in the comments is something along the lines of "the photos are, uh, dark, and we used, uh, high quality cocoa." Hm. Not sure I'm buying it, but I'm going to try again. Either way, even if you pipe the light brown frosting rather messily from a plastic bag with the corner snipped off as I did, and it doesn't look all that pretty, it does indeed taste like a mocha latte. That is to say, really freaking good. Happy birthday, everyone.

Coffee-Chocolate Cake with Mocha-Mascarpone Frosting
adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2009

2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (use the best you can)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 3/4 cup hot water (don't use instant coffee, the real espresso powder is worth it!)

1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (use the darkest you can find)
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 8-ounce containers chilled mascarpone cheese
Bittersweet chocolate curls (optional) (clearly I didn't make beautiful "curls," but my shards look ok, right?)


Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Generously butter two 9-inch cake pans with 2-inch-high sides; dust with flour, tapping out any excess. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. I used three 9-inch pans because mine don't have 2-inch sides, so I ended up with a 3-layer cake, which I think is fancier anyway.

Sift 2 cups cake flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add brown sugar and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions, beating just until blended after each addition. Gradually add hot espresso-water mixture, beating just until smooth.

Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Mine only took 35 since I used 3 pans and my layers were thinner. Cool cakes in pans on rack 15 minutes. Run small knife around sides of pans to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks; lift pans off cakes and remove parchment. Place wire rack atop each cake; invert again so top side is up. Cool completely. You can make the cakes a day ahead, wrap them in plastic, and store at room temperature - I did!


Sift cocoa powder into large bowl; add espresso powder. Bring 1 cup cream to boil in small saucepan. Slowly pour cream over cocoa mixture, whisking until cocoa is completely dissolved, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup cream and sugar; stir until sugar dissolves. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours. The mixture will be very dark and may give you false hope about the color of your frosting.

Add mascarpone to chilled cocoa mixture. Using electric mixer, beat on low speed until blended and smooth. Increase speed to medium-high; beat until mixture is thick and medium-firm peaks form when beaters are lifted, about 2 minutes (do not overbeat or mixture will curdle).

If your cake layers are even, good for you. How'd you do that? If not, level the bulbous tops with a long then knife (a serrated bread knife works well). Using a pastry brush, brush off crumbs from cakes. (BTW, best idea ever, and the first time I've ever seen it written into a recipe!) Place 1 cake layer, top side up, on platter. Spoon 1 3/4 cups frosting in dollops over top of cake. Using offset spatula, spread frosting to edges. I always eyeball the amounts between layers and I was conservative since I had an extra layer, but I ended up with extra frosting. Top with second cake layer, top side up, pressing to adhere. Spread thin layer of frosting over top and sides of cake. (Repeat with third layer if necessary) Chill 10 minutes. Using offset spatula, spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake, swirling decoratively. Top with chocolate curls, if desired. Can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered with a cake dome. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Paper Chef 39: The Winner!

Have you checked out Ilva's roundup yet? So many entries this month! Apparently, people liked the blackberry/bulgur/artichoke/salmon combo. I didn't get to participate due to an impromptu and delightful trip to Brooklyn on the competition weekend, but I AM inspired by all these entries. And with that, we begin the tally and countdown - the winner is announced at the bottom of this post!

To start, Kizzy of Culinary Annotations created a FOUR COURSE MEAL! Kizzy's photos are beautiful and the menu sounds great.

Next up is Harini of Clean Platter with with her vegetarian interpretation: Tangy Eggplant Rolls and Blackberry-Mango-Chickpea Salad. Looks delicious, and I love that the blackberries are whole.

Last month's winner Mike of Spikey Mikey's used his blackberries in a sauce for his Pan fried Salmon with a Blackberry Sauce Served with Bulgar Coated Artichokes, and the little pitcher he served it in is just so adorable I almost can't stand it.

Speaking of cool sauce, check out the blackberry butter Jenny of I Could Even Eat a Baby Deer used for dipping artichokes and salmon and bulgur falafel. Hi, my name is Adrienne and I love falafel. This looks great, Jenny!

Amanda's Baked Stuffed Artichokes with Blackberry Sage Puree over at Hunger for New Ways make me want to stuff myself. With stuffed artichokes. Yum.

Laura from Tiramisu created this gorgeous Poached Salmon with Blackberry Sauce, Bulgur salad and artichokes. This photo is actually making my mouth water.

Speaking of mouth watering, Tricia from Jonski Blogski made Pan-Seared Bulghur-Encrusted Salmon with Blackberry-Artichoke Coulis.

Ilva's Bulgur Salad with Smoked Salmon, Artichokes and Blackberry Vinaigrette is just stunning in its simplicity, and I really admire the resourcefulness of using blackberry jam!

That brings us to the People's Choice Award! Way to go Malik of Fyreside Kitchen, people loved your Artichoke Stuffed Salmon with Blackberry Chutney and Maple Butter served with White Bean and Bulgur Gallettes. It looks wonderful!

I'm sure by now you've narrowed it down and you know who the winner is, but let me officially congratulate Bron of Bron Marshall!

Her Salmon Terrine with Couscous Blackberries and Artichoke Mayonnaise takes the proverbial cake. I mean, hello, she made her own mayonnaise. Congratulations Bron, very creative. Good luck picking the ingredients and judging the May edition!

So that's it for this month, folks! Hope you enjoyed the challenge and the tally, and maybe next month you'll participate too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Alton Brown's Buttermilk Biscuits

I can't stop baking. Evidence: cilantro cake, bread, chocolate cake, cupcakes, and biscuits, all in the last two weeks. I made the biscuits twice last week, and I think I might do it AGAIN tonight because it is the last day of my buttermilk's life.

I mean, hello? Buttermilk biscuits? Yes, please, with honey. There's no delightful POP when you jab the can with a spoon, and these are significantly less buttery (I call that greasy) than the insta-biscuit, but it really doesn't take THAT much more time. This dough mixes up in about 10 minutes, and they bake for 15. Piece o' cake biscuit.

Adam made a chicken-sausage based gravy to go with these on Saturday morning that was positively freaking scrumptious, but like those mojitos way back last summer, you'll have to ask him for that recipe.

Buttermilk Biscuits
by Alton Brown, makes 10-12 if you use a 2 inch cutter

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup buttermilk, chilled

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (Alton says: the faster the better, you don't want the fats to melt. I say: use a pastry cutter if you want, and make sure the bowl is cold, too.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass won't be as tall, but they'll still be biscuits, so whatever. I actually reworked my scrap scraps twice and got a single, fairly flat biscuit out of the last pass.)

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes. Best served hot, but reheat ok in a toaster oven.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Savory Cilantro Cake

Earlier this evening I caused a bit of a stir on Twitter. Nothing major, I just mentioned this "cake" and a number of people (including actual professional food writers, WHAT?) were all oh hey that sounds goooood.
Do you ever just all-of-a-sudden remember a recipe? I must have bookmarked this at least a year ago, and I made it once and promptly lost the bookmark. Luckily, I email things to myself! This past weekend I accidentally bought MORE cilantro instead of parsley (oops) and I was looking for a way to use some.

In case you wanted to know what yogurt and olive oil look like on top of a bowl of frothy eggs, now you know. I subbed yogurt for milk because I don't keep milk around, but I'm thinking perhaps I should have used buttermilk instead (oddly, I have that around more often than regular milk).

The way I remember this the first time I made it was lighter and more crumbly; I think it was the yogurt that made this incarnation denser. Freaking delicious, but denser than I remember. The original recipe is here, from Dorie Greenspan: it's a french cake salé, and she uses cheddar and chives.

The incarnation I bookmarked many moons ago was this one, with cilantro, cheddar and goat cheese. I had originally planned to use dill Havarti, but... let's just say it was past it's prime. I ended up using the not-very-French combination of 2.5 oz provolone, .5 oz Parmesan, and 2 oz cream cheese (my kitchen scale has a tare function and I l-o-v-e it). It would be an interesting addition to the Easter Brunch table, n'est-ce pas? Next to the lemony tarts and danishes and all those sweet things?

Savory Cilantro and Cheese Cake
keeps about 2 days at room temp, well wrapped, and makes excellent toast and croutons when it starts to dry out.

1 cup AP flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 to 1 tsp salt, depending on your cheeses. I used 3/4 tsp because Parmesan is pretty salty.
several grinds fresh black pepper
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup milk or yogurt
1/3 cup olive oil
3 oz cheddar or other medium hard cheese, coarsely grated
2 oz goat cheese or cream cheese, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or other herbs, or a combination)
optional: 1/3 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Put the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl and whisk the ingredients together to combine. Put the eggs in another mixing bowl; whisk for about 1 minute, until they’re foamy and blended. Whisk in the milk and olive oil.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and, using a spatula or a wooden spoon, gently mix until the dough comes together. When there is still a little bit of dry ingredient showing, stir in the cheese, grated and cubed, the herbs and the toasted walnuts, if you’re using them, so that everything is moistened. Don't take it too far; like all quickbreads you want to be gentle with this one, lest it get tough on you. You’ll have a thick dough. Turn the dough into a buttered loaf pan and even the top with the back of the spatula or spoon.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the bread is golden and a slender knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack for a few minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pan and turn the loaf over onto the rack; invert and cool to room temperature right-side up.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Irish Coffee Crunchies

In December, in addition to their usual cookie issue, Gourmet published an online feature: the best cookie recipe from each year they've been published.

I think it's a very cool idea. And these Irish Coffee Crunchies from 1977 are the second recipe I've tried from the feature. (The first was the honey refrigerator cookie from 1942, which tastes strongly of whatever honey you choose, so choose wisely, and is excellent with both cheese and chocolate fondues.)

These cookies were not my favorite, I may as well tell you. They were yummy in the way that all cookies are, for sure. And I like all the things that go in Irish Coffee, and I fully expected to l-o-v-e these, but the flavor wasn't strong enough for me. There's coffee in the cookies and the frosting, but mostly I just tasted crunchy oatmeal cookie. Good crunchy oatmeal cookie, but not what I had expected.

But here's the thing: my friends loved them. I put them on a plate with a note that said "please eat" when I was on my way out and when I got home, I heard the rave reviews. Someone actually said "best cookie ever" but I can't remember who to ask them why. You'll have to make them and decide for yourself!

Some of the comments online about these cookies claim that there must be something wrong with the dough! because it's difficult to roll out. It is, but it's not impossible. Add another teaspoon or two of coffee if it's really driving you mad, but persistence works, too. And make sure you get it to 1/8th of an inch, the thick ones are on the dry side. Oh, and one more thing - the recipes were published the same way they were in their respective years "in the interest of authenticity" so that's why the ingredient list is part of the instructions. Read it through once or twice before you start so you know you have everything you need.

Irish Coffee Crunchies

Gourmet, August 1977, via Gourmet's Favorite Cookies 1941-2008

In a bowl beat 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened, with 1/4 cup sugar until the mixture is fluffy. Beat in 2 teaspoons each of Irish whiskey and strong coffee and 1 teaspoon heavy cream. Add 2 cups quick-cooking oats and 1 cup flour sifted with 1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder and combine the mixture to form a dough. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick on a floured surface and with a 2 1/4-inch cutter cut out rounds. Bake the rounds on a buttered baking sheet in a preheated moderate oven (350° F.) for 15 minutes, or until they are lightly colored. Transfer the rounds to a rack and let them cool.

In a small bowl combine 2 teaspoons each of Irish whiskey and strong coffee and 1 teaspoon heavy cream. In a bowl combine 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted, and the coffee mixture, stir in 3 teaspoons boiling water, a little at a time, and beat the icing, adding a few drops more water if necessary, until it is smooth and of spreading consistency. Spread half the rounds thinly with the icing, top them with the remaining rounds, and coat the cookies with the icing. Transfer the cookies to a rack and let the icing set. Makes about 18 cookies.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Paper Chef 39: The Challenge

It is my great pleasure to be hosting/judging this month's Paper Chef challenge! In case you need a refresher, here are the rules, but the long and short of it is: you have to make something delicious from the ingredients I'll reveal below. You can add whatever you need, you're not limited to just these four things as long as they are included. Blog it up, and email it to paperchef AT gmail DOT com by midnight on Tuesday, April 7th. The roundup will be posted on Paper Chef shortly thereafter and then I'll be announcing the winner!

Shall we begin?
This is Michelle. Yesterday was Michelle's birthday! Happy birthday, Michelle! What's our first ingredient?
OOoooooOO! 1. Blackberries.

This is Jim. Today is Jim's birthday. Happy birthday, Jim! What's our second ingredient?

Can you read that? 2. Artichokes! And me having just learned how to attack them! Sweet.

This is Erin. It is not her birthday. Sorry, Erin. What's our final secret ingredient?

Can you tell from the motion blur I'm used to photographing things that stay still? 3. Bulgar!

So there you have it. Blackberries, Artichokes, Bulgar. And for my selected ingredient, let's go with Salmon. Gotta get those omega-3 fatty acids, right? Plus, yum.

Oh, and this is Tarig. He was sad he didn't get to pick an ingredient out of the bowl. Sorry Tarig, and thanks for the delicious eggplant thing whose name I forget.

So, blackberries, artichokes, bulgar, salmon. Get those creative juices flowing, get cooking, and good luck!