Monday, January 25, 2010

Don't try this at home kids

I received a bevy of fabulous gifts from my "Aunt" Rita last week (shout out Rita, thanks for reading!). She is a fellow baker so I got some really cool stuff for baking. I couldn't wait to try a recipe from one of the Marta Stewart books she sent- Cupcakes and Cookies. I also wanted to try one of the gadgets that came along as well. So I set to work picking out a recipe that I could bake in the sweet heart shaped silicone cupcake mold.... I had visions of mini heart shaped cupcakes that everybody would ooh and aah over...

Sad, isn't it? It took 10 minutes for me to realize why there was acrid smoke coming out of my oven. Then I had to try to release the melted plastic from the oven grates without spilling the molten cupcake batter. Turns out it was an ice cube tray and I'm a dumb-ass.

There was some good to come out of this disaster however. I also made a whole tray of mini cupcakes in a non-melty baking tin! And they were really cute and tasty (albeit not as cute as little heart shaped cupcakes). You must check out these books- especially the cupcake book. I don't know if I'll ever be skilled enough to pipe true-to-a-photo roses on a cupcake, let alone many cupcakes, but a girl can dream.

Martha Stewart Cupcakes
Makes 48 mini cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 bags black tea (I used chai tea bags since I had some)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • pinch ground cloves
  • pinch grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • Condensed Milk Icing (below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line mini muffin tins with paper liners or spray with cooking spray. bring milk to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat; add tea bags and steep covered for 15 minutes. Remove tea bags, squeezing bags over pan, discard tea bags. Cool milk to room temperature.

Whisk together dry ingredients.

Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer on med-high until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk and beating until just combined after each.

Divide batter evenly among muffin tins, filling each 3/4 full. Bake until tops are pale golden and spring back when touched, about 10-12 minutes. Turn out onto cooling rack and cool completely.

To finish, dip the top of each cupcake in icing and let set. I put mine in an airtight container before the icing was completely set I think, which made the icing wrinkle and look like brains.

Makes enough for 46 mini cupcakes. Go figure

  • 4 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup icing sugar

Mix together butter, condensed milk, salt with an electric mixer on med-high until smooth. On low speed mix in icing sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, until combined. Beat on high speed until thick and smooth. Use immediately.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Birthday Dinner

Not my birthday, my father-in-law's. This dinner took place a couple of months ago- I had this typed up and saved in draft form for a time like this when I don't feel like cooking much (which hardly ever happens!). I don't have any photos of the meal unfortunately so you'll have to use your imagination.

Tyler wanted to have steak, which we know his dad loves, so I did a French bistro-inspired menu:

Celeri Remoulade: Julienne 1 celery root (following Orangette's method of julienning the celery root). Mix julienned celery root with enough aioli to moisten, mix in 1/2 tsp dried thyme, season with salt and white pepper.

Lemon Aioli: Combine 1/3 cup olive oil and 2/3 cup canola oil in a measuring cup. Whisk 2 egg yolks, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp lemon juice, zest of one lemon, and 1/2 a finely grated garlic clove in a bowl. While whisking continuously, pour in oil, drop by drop for 1st 1/4 cup or so, until you have a thick mayonnaise. Season with salt and white pepper and more lemon juice if needed.

Steak: I pan fried the steaks using my fabulous new All Clad French Skillet and a second cast iron skillet. Season steaks with lots of salt and pepper (beef will stand up to a lot of seasoning), heat your pan on med-high or high if you're brave, add some butter and canola oil to the pan, fry steaks for a few minutes on each side until crusty and brown and cooked as you like (medium rare for me please). Rest steaks on a cutting board while you have your salad (or for 10 minutes), covering with foil to keep warm.

Red Wine Mushroom Sauce: Using same pan steaks were cooked in without washing, place over medium heat. Add baby mushrooms or sliced mushrooms, cook until browned. Add some red wine, cook at a low boil (you know, somewhere between simmering an boiling) until reduced by half. Season with ground black pepper and pour over steaks on plate.

Roasted Potatoes: Cut fingerling potatoes in half and sweet potatoes into wedges. Toss with a good drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Spread vegetables in a single layer and roast at 425 degrees F for about 30 minutes (until nicely browned), flipping them halfway through.

* I posted an aioli back in November, but this one is easier. The November recipe does have the benefit of cooking the eggs, however, in case you're worried about eating raw eggs.

** This is the best ice cream I have ever made. I made this and Egg Nog ice cream for dessert at Christmas, but we didn't end up eating dessert at all! I know it's winter and maybe you don't want ice cream, but I think this is a winter ice cream because the brown sugar flavor is comforting.

Olive Bread

I got the bread-making bug again the other day, but I wanted to make something different. I was flipping through Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and saw a recipe for Tapenade Bread. I've just recently started to like olives, and I had olives in the fridge that I had to use up, so I decided to make this. I didn't, however, want to make 4 loaves of it which the recipe in the book yielded (the premise of the book is to make a big batch of dough and then but it in the fridge for a while which negates having to knead it and it ferments like sourdough). I turned to, once again, America's Test Kitchen. I swear I'm not being paid by them! They have a recipe for Almost No Knead Bread that I've made before with great results. Don't be scared of making bread! This method is so easy a child or my husband couldn't screw it up.

I made some quick tapenade* and added this to the dough when I added the wet ingredients. The dough didn't rise a lot, but the bread turned out really flavorful and moist (ugh, I just can't avoid that word). I'm not sure if the lack of rising and moistness was due to the addition of the tapenade or the fact that I added too much water by accident and tried to compensate by throwing in some more flour which threw off the science behind the No Knead method, but it still turned out great. The addition of the tapenade also turned the bread kind of purple-tinged, but I think it's pretty...

*Throw olives (don't make the same mistake I did and forget to pit the olives before processing them. I'm surprised my food processor still works), capers, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, dried thyme in a food processor and process until chopped to your liking

Fish and chips, kind of

I don't deep fry. That's not to say I don't eat deep fried food, I just don't eat it in my own home. I feel that would be crossing the line. I'm not sure which line, but somehow it just feels wrong. So, in our house fish and chips means crispy baked fish and roasted potatoes. I changed up the potatoes a bit this time with a recipe for Grated Potato Cakes from my favorite show French Food at Home.

This fish recipe is amazing. It a little time consuming to make compared to taking fish sticks out of the freezer- you have to make breadcrumbs, toast them, then coat the fish- but the fish come out with a super crunchy exterior and super juicy on the inside (I said juicy to avoid typing moist, the grossest word ever). The secret is in the egg coating- rather than just eggs to adhere the breadcrumbs to the fish, you mix the eggs with flour and mayo, which acts as a barrier between the wet fish and the dry breadcrumbs. The fish almost steams inside the coating it seems. Of course, this recipe comes from none other than my homies at America's Test Kitchen. You have to register your email to see the recipe, but it's free and totally worth it. Do print the recipe though if you plan on ever making it- you can only view recipes from the current season of the show for free.

***Update April 14, 2012 The recipe for Crunchy Oven Fried Fish is now premium content (i.e. not free) on the America's Test Kitchen website. But the internet can always be trusted for plagerism. You can find the recipe over at Have Recipes Will Cook blog

I made a quick tartar sauce to go with the fish as well- mix together mayo, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, chopped pickles, salt, pepper.

Man sized salad

I love Cobb Salad. I order it at restaurants all the time which costs about 12 bucks. For a salad. I got to thinking that I don't ever make it at home, and I should. It'd be cheaper, that's for sure. Cause I cry a little inside every time I shell out $12.95 for a salad at a chain restaurant.

The first photo at the top of the post is the prettily arranged salad on a plate. The salad ended up being so big that I had to dump our plates into big wooden salad bowls in order to mix it all up to eat, which is the photo below because it was funny.

I don't have a recipe per se, but below is what I put in the Cobb salad and how I prepared each item.
  • Romaine lettuce, cut to bite size pieces
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced
  • Red pepper, thinly sliced
  • Hard boiled eggs, diced
  • Bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and fried in a pan
  • Cheese, cut into small cubes. I happened to have mozzarella and herbed harvarti in the fridge
  • Croutons- whole wheat sandwich bread cut into cubes, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and baked at 350 degrees F until golden brown (10 minutes or so)
  • Ranch dressing (low fat), doctored with some lemon juice and low fat sour cream
Some grilled chicken wouldn't go amiss here either, I just didn't have any chicken.

Sorry, the photos lately are so yellow- even if it didn't get dark here at 5:00 pm, we usually don't eat until after 8:00 so it's dark anyways, and the photos actually look better without using the flash on the camera...

Home made gifts

As promised, here are the food gifts I made to give to my family along with their "real" gift. These are pretty easy to make, and giving anything you have made yourself definitely makes a big impact.

The labels for the gifts I made using Microsoft Word and Clipart, then I cut them to size and affixed them to the jars or gift bags using packing tape- I taped over the whole piece of paper with some over hang all around so that it would stick. This worked really well as it's really thin so you can hardly tell it's there.

Hot Chocolate Sticks from Givers Log

If you make these, note that once you add the cocoa and sugar the mixture is VERY stiff and may look lumpy, but when you put it in the molds (I used ice cube trays as suggested), pat it down and it will be smooth once it firms up. I stuck some marshmallows on the top of them as well.

Burning Ass Hot Sauce- the name is my doing (get it? the donkey is on fire! I'm too funny for my own good), the recipe is from Mark Bitten in The New York Times. I used a combination of jalapenos, habenaros, and two cloves of garlic.

Egyptian Dukkah Spice Mix from The Kitchn. I don't have a photo of this, it didn't look all that exciting to be honest, but on the label I included the nuts and spices I put in it (hazelnuts, sesame seeds, cumin, coriander, mint, salt, pepper if I remember correctly) and some recipe suggestions.

I also wanted to make some flavored vodka but I didn't get around to it, and I couldn't eat enough bacon to save enough bacon fat for the Baconnaise (that's right- bacon flavored mayonnaise) that I was going to make for my cousin. Maybe next year I'll combine the two ideas to make the most disturbing recipe I have come across in a while, Bacon Flavored Vodka.