Tuesday, May 31, 2011

chocolate marquise - daring bakers challenge may

May - my first daring bakers challenge.  I have been tempted by this group.  The things they bake look for the most part insanely good yet difficult.  The thing that intrigued me most was the bakers interpretations of the selection. I love to see how one recipe gets transformed in the kitchens of bakers around the world.  I wanted to be a part of this.  I wanted to see what I could create.  When I saw the first challenge I got cold feet and thought that I certainly could not make this.  Look at how long the directions are!  Once I read through it and took it piece by piece I realized it was manageable and I could do it.  

The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a chocolate marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a desert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle. I have been to a lot of restaurants and I don't recall a marquise on the menu.  Maybe the marquise was on the menu but, I did not know what it was so a passed it by.  Either way how uncultured of me!  I know now to not pass up this decadent little chocolate pillow.  The original recipe included tequila and spices.  I have never liked the chocolate with the spice in it so, I decided to go a slightly different route and include espresso, peanut butter and honey.  Once I figured out how I was going to alter the flavors and how I would make it over two days I need to figure out when I would serve this.  We hosted a kick off to summer lobster roll dinner party over Memorial Day weekend and the final piece fell into place.  I cut the marquise into star shapes for the holiday and it got rave reviews from the guests.  I had several girls help with the assembly and I may have gotten a bit militant.  They are still joking about my mantra ... cut, dust, plate, drizzle with a shoot out, shoot out, and add nuts!  I was nuts.  It was not that hard, it was time consuming, it tasted fantastic and was a very impressive dessert to serve at the end of a very fun night.  I am excited for the June challenge. 

chocolate marquise
(half recipe)  servings: 9 2.5"x2.5" (6⅓cm x 6⅓cm) cubes
* 8*8 pan with parchment


6 large egg yolks at room temperature
2 large eggs
1/3 cup (75 grams/ 2⅔ oz) sugar
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons (1⅓ fluid oz/ 40 ml.) water
chocolate base, barely warm (recipe follows)
1 cup (8 fluid oz./ 250 ml.) heavy cream
1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder (for rolling)
Torched meringue (recipe follows)
honey roasted peanuts

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg yolks and whole eggs. Whip on high speed until very thick and pale, about 10 – 15 minutes.

When the eggs are getting close to finishing, make a sugar syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring the syrup to a boil and then cook to softball stage (235F/115C). If you have a cake tester with a metal loop for a handle, the right stage for the syrup is reached when you can blow a bubble through the loop (as seen in the following pictures).

With the mixer running on low speed, drizzle the sugar syrup into the fluffy eggs, trying to hit that magic spot between the mixing bowl and the whisk.

When all of the syrup has been added (do it fairly quickly), turn the mixer back on high and whip until the bowl is cool to the touch. This will take at least 10 minutes.

In a separate mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Set aside.

When the egg mixture has cooled, add the chocolate base to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Try to get it as consistent as possible without losing all of the air you’ve whipped into the eggs. We used the stand mixer for this, and it took about 1 minute.

Fold 1/3 of the reserved whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, and then fold in the remaining whipped cream.

Pour into the prepared pan and cover with plastic wrap (directly touching the mixture so it doesn’t allow in any air).  Freeze until very firm, at least 2 – 4 hours (preferably 6 – 8 hours).
When you’re ready to plate, remove the marquise from the freezer at least 15 minutes before serving. While it’s still hard, remove it from the pan by pulling on the parchment ‘handles’ or by flipping it over onto another piece of parchment.
Cut it into cubes and roll the cubes in cocoa powder. These will start to melt almost immediately, so don’t do this step until all of your other plating components (meringue, caramel, and nuts) are ready. 

Plate with the torched meringue and drizzled caramel sauce, and honey roasted peanuts for garnish. You want to handle the cubes as little as possible because they get messy quickly and are difficult to move. However, you want to wait to serve them until they’ve softened completely. The soft pillows of chocolate are what make this dessert so unusual and when combined with the other elements, you’ll get creamy and crunchy textures with cool, salty, bitter, and sweet sensations on your palate.

chocolate base
*an ingredient for the chocolate marquise, not meant to be used separately

6 oz (170 grams/ ¾ cups) bittersweet chocolate (about 70% cocoa)

¾ cups (180 ml/6 fluid oz.) heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup (30 ml/ 1 fluid oz.) espresso
1/8 cup (30 ml/ 1 fluid oz.) light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 cup (2 tablespoons/less than 1/2 ounce) dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 oz unsalted butter (1 tablespoon/15 grams), softened

Place the chocolate in a small mixing bowl.

In a double-boiler, warm the cream until it is hot to the touch (but is not boiling). Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.

Allow it to sit for a minute or two before stirring. Stir until the chocolate is melted completely and is smooth throughout.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
Set aside until cooled to room temperature. Do not refrigerate, as the base needs to be soft when added to the marquise mixture. If you make it the

torched meringue

servings: ~ 2 – 2½ cups of meringue.


6 large egg whites
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (210 ml) (7 oz or 200 grams) sugar
Splash of apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the egg whites, sugar and vinegar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using your (clean, washed) hand, reach in the bowl and stir the three together, making sure the sugar is moistened evenly by the egg whites and they make a homogeneous liquid.

Over a saucepan of simmering water, warm the egg white mixture. Use one hand to stir the mixture continuously, feeling for grains of sugar in the egg whites. As the liquid heats up, the sugar will slowly dissolve and the egg whites will thicken. This step is complete when you don’t feel any more sugar crystals in the liquid and it is uniformly warm, nearly hot.
Remove the mixing bowl from the saucepan and return it to the stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk until you reach soft peaks. In the last 10 seconds of mixing, add the vanilla to the meringue and mix thoroughly.

When you’re ready to plate the dessert, spoon the meringue onto a plate (or use a piping bag) and use a blowtorch to broil.

peanut butter caramel
servings: ~ 1/2 cup of caramel

1/2 cup (120 ml/4 fluid oz) (4 oz/115 gm) sugar

1/4 cup (2 fluid oz./60 ml) water
1/2 cup (4 fluid oz./120 ml) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup peanut butter

1 tablespoon honey

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water on medium-high heat. Boil until the water completely evaporates and the sugar caramelizes to a dark mahogany color. 

Working quickly, add the cream to the darkened caramel. It will bubble and pop vigorously, so add only as much cream as you can without overflowing the pot.

Return the pot to the stove on low heat and whisk gently to break up any hardened sugar. Add any remaining cream and continue stirring. Gradually, the hard sugar will dissolve and the caramel sauce will continue to darken. When the caramel has darkened to the point you want it, remove it from the heat. Add the salt honey, and peanut butter and stir to combine. Set aside until ready to serve.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

peanut butter sheet cake with chocolate icing

Peanut butter +  chocolate =  love.  Is there anyone who does not like peanut butter and chocolate?  If you do don't fight it just give in.  You will fall in love trust me.  Could a couple be more perfectly matched?  Do they ever fight?  They just seem to constantly compliment each other.  A peanut butter sheet cake ... yum!  Poke holes in it and pour a sweet thin chocolate icing all over it so, it fills those holes and makes the perfect little pockets of chocolate icing ... now you got a reason to pump your fist in the air.  My only regret other then I ate one too many pieces of this cake is that I did not go all Paula Deen on this cake.  I am still kicking myself that I did not add a bit of peanut butter to the icing and cut up reese's peanut butter cups on top.  If you are going to do Paula do you really leave a usable calorie behind.  Next time.  Enjoy!

peanut butter sheet cake with chocolate icing
adapted: paula deen

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs

2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F if baking with a metal dish; 325 degrees F if using a glass dish.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Add graham cracker crumbs, peanut butter, shortening, milk, and vanilla. Beat mixture with electric mixer on low until moistened, and then beat on medium for 2 minutes. Add eggs and beat for 1 minute. Bake in greased 9-inch by 13-inch pan for 30 to 35 minutes. Do not remove from pan to cool.
For the frosting: mix all of the ingredients together. Pour into a saucepan and bring mixture to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Cool slightly. With a wooden spoon handle, poke a few holes in the cake, and then pour the warm frosting over it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

quinoa salad with artichoke hearts and fava beans

When fava beans showed up in my basket this week I knew I was going to be the only one in this house that would eat them.  As I have mentioned before fava beans are a lot of work. They are a lot of work UNLESS you put your two kids to work shelling beans.  I put the bowl of beans between them and they had a blast shelling the beans.  It was a an hour packed with lots of giggles and really cute brother sister time.  Brad may have mentioned the 60 minute segment and putting underage kids to work in the fields but, because there was laughter and no sun beating down on them I did not feel bad cleaning the kitchen while they worked on the beans. This salad packs a lot of vegetables with a fresh springtime taste.  It is good both hot and cold and would probably be good with a bit of feta or goat cheese sprinkled on top.

quinoa salad with artichoke hearts and fava beans
source: sweet flours 

1 pound fava beans, shelled (1 cup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
6 oz frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
grated lemon rind  of 1 large lemon
fresh lemon juice  from zested large lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Remove the outer shell from the fava beans.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and add 1/2 tablespoon of salt. Add the shelled beans, simmer for 5 minutes. Remove beans from the hot water and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and to shock the beans into maintaining their bright green color. When the beans have sunk to the bottom of the bowl of ice water, take them out and remove the outer pod.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and thyme; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add artichokes; sauté 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Add broth and quinoa; bring to a simmer. Cover and cook 15 minutes or until liquid is completely absorbed.

Remove pan from heat. Stir in beans, parsley, rind, juice, and salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, May 23, 2011

rhubarb and strawberry crumb bars

One night we were having an adult conversation ... I know shocking that I still have those.  The husband of the other couple asked me if there were any fruit and vegetable that I did not like.  It got me thinking.  There are definitely some that rank higher for me but, I could not think of one that I detested.  What I did know is that there were two I had never tried.  My spring goal was to tackle both of these.  First up was the fava bean which I made into a fava bean and goat cheese dip.  A lot of effort but, LOVED.  The second was rhubarb.  I remember growing up that rhubarb pie was talked about but, it fell into the slimy cooked fruit category which my youthful palette could not stomach.  I am assuming rhubarb is not local because you don't see much rhubarb in southern California and I don't recall seeing it on a dessert menu.  That may not be the case for restaurants that don't have a kids menu but, I have not been to one of those in a long time.  When I saw rhubarb at the fruit and vegetable market I grabbed a few stalks.  It was not that bright red that I had seen in pictures so, I suspect it was not the best rhubarb out there.  At home I washed and sliced it.  The texture is crunchy like celery but, super tart.  I love tart so, I understood now why it is always paired with the super sweet strawberry.  They are a perfect match.  The rhubarb magically softens as it cooks and the tartness is dulled a bit but, present in the sweet cake.  These can be cut as bars or served as a coffee cake and would be perfect for a spring time brunch.  Not feeling the 'barb then swap out any fruit in this coffee cake.   I really like the tart rhubarb but, I kinda feel like I need to sample it a few more times to really get rhubarb.  Any good rhubarb recipes out there?

rhubarb strawberry crumb bars
source: everyday food

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus room-temperature butter for pan
1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 pound strawberries, sliced thin
1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Butter and flour parchment and pan, tapping out excess flour.

Make streusel: Whisk together butter, brown sugar, and salt. Add flour and mix with a fork until large crumbs form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make cake: In a medium bowl, combine rhubarb, strawberries, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup flour. In another medium bowl, whisk 3/4 cup flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, one at a time. With mixer on low, beat in vanilla, then flour mixture. Spread batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle with rhubarb and top with streusel.

Bake cake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. Using paper overhang, lift cake from pan. Cut into 16 bars.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

crunchy cheddar chicken

Chicken has never really been my thing.  I don't hate it but, if it is on a menu I go right over it.  My mom made this wonderful discovery one night when Brad and I were out.  My kids both love rotisserie chicken.  I mean devour it.  Then Brad made a follow on discovery that if you toss it in barbecue sauce the kids are in heaven.  I would have never made these discoveries because I skip over chicken and don't like barbecue sauce.  Since this love of chicken has been revealed I find myself seeking out family friendly chicken recipes.  These are recipes that I would have skipped right over a few months ago.  As I have said Brad eats like a child as well so, when I stumbled upon this combination I knew it was a meal both Brad and the kids would like.  I nailed it.  Every bit of chicken was gone (I even enjoyed it) and Brad must have said 2 or 3 times how good it was.  Is this gourmet no but, a super simple  meal that puts smiles on my kids faces and fills their tummies is exactly what I need in my working mom life right now.

crunchy cheddar chicken
adapted: real simple

16 buttery crackers (such as Ritz or social snackers), crushed ( 4 crackers per chicken breast)
4 ounces cheddar cheese grated (1 oz per chicken breast)
1 clove garlic; minced
kosher salt and black pepper
4 boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (1 tablespoon per chicken breast)
Heat oven to 350° F. 
Melt butter with the pressed/minced garlic.  Mix to combine.
In a bowl, combine the crackers, cheese, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Dip the chicken in the garlic butter, then in the cracker mixture, pressing gently to help the crackers adhere. Place the chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Mound any remaining cracker mixture on the chicken and drizzle with any remaining butter. 
Bake until the chicken is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

chocolate peanut butter revel bars

I am still working my way through my bhg cookbook.  I am trying to make some of the basics and also trying some things I have never heard of.  I had no clue what a revel bar was.  The ingredients sounded good.  Peanut butter, chocolate, oatmeal, salty peanuts and condensed milk .... check, check, check and check!   I tried googling revel bar to find out some background but, I came up short.  A lot of people make them, a lot of people like them but, I don't know why they are called a revel bar.  My takes is these are an oatmeal cookie base with a gooey rich chocolate filling with a hint of peanut flavor topped with an oatmeal cookie crumb.  They are good, they are rich and this recipe makes more bars then one family of 4 should eat.  If you don't need 60 bars then half the recipe and bake in an 8x8 pan.  I think these would freeze well.  I wish I had tried to freeze half rather then what we did which was eat all 60.  Can someone please remind me that summer is almost here?

chocolate peanut butter revel bars 
source: bhg  

14 tablespoons butter, softened   
2 cups  packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon  baking soda
2 eggs 
2 teaspoons  vanilla 
2 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour 
3 cups  quick-cooking rolled oats 
1 1/2 cups  semisweet chocolate pieces
1/2 cup peanut butter 
1 14-ounce can (1 1/4 cups) low-fat sweetened condensed milk
 1/2 cup  chopped peanuts 
2 teaspoons  vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

In a large mixing bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar and baking soda. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla until combined. Beat in the flour. Stir in the rolled oats.

For filling, in a medium saucepan combine the peanut butter, the chocolate pieces, and sweetened condensed milk. Cook over low heat until chocolate melts, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in the nuts and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

Press two-thirds (about 3-1/3 cups) of the rolled oats mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 15X10X1-inch baking pan. Spread filling evenly over the oats mixture. Dot remaining rolled oats mixture on filling.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until top is lightly browned (chocolate filling will still look moist). Cool pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 60 bars.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

cinnamon pinwheel

Breakfast is my favorite meal to eat out.  I love coffee, eggs, crisp bacon, cheese and of course a sweet pastry to compliment the entire meal. What I don't like is paying $40 to shovel eggs down, wipe up spilled juice, beg my kids to sit and eat and never getting to say a word to Brad. A month ago we decided to give up trying and recreate the big breakfast at home.  Because these meals are done on a whim and I am only one cook in the kitchen I have been relying on bisquick to mix up a quick sweet whether it be pancakes, waffles or these quick and easy cinnamon pinwheels.  Cinnamon rolls from scratch rule but, when you just want to make something quick to enjoy with the family on a Saturday morning give these pinwheels a whirl.

cinnamon pinwheel
adapted: betty crocker

2 cups bisquick
2/3 cup milk
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1  teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a muffin sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

In a bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

Mix bisquick and milk together with a wooden spoon until dough comes together, then turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 3-4 minutes.

Roll dough into a large rectangle, 1/4-inch thick, and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the dough. Roll dough, jelly roll fashion, tucking in the ends so that the brown sugar stays inside; slice into 12 biscuits. Place cut-side down in muffin cups on top of the brown sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

For the icing, mix together the powdered sugar and milk with a whisk until icing comes together. It should be thick, but too thick to pour. Depending on the consistency you want, you may want to add a tablespoon more or less of powdered sugar. Drizzle over the cinnamon rolls and serve warm.

Friday, May 13, 2011

creamy chicken taquitos

There are certain blogs that not only do I droll over the food and pictures but, it is food that is translatable to my life.  Annie Eats always hits the mark for me.  Her recipes are always awesome and I love her monthly themes.  Both of my cinco de mayo recipes came from her blog and they were both awesome.  Thanks Annie.  I made 2 batches (24) of these for book club and there was only 1 lone taquito left at the end of the night.  It was kinda sad.  I should have just eaten it.  Maybe I could not focus on the food because our book club spontaneously turned into a spray tan party in my friends kitchen.  What book club turns from talking about a book about abduction to eight girls getting spray tanned in a kitchen?  I had never had a spray tan.  The jury is still out.  I was seriously tan.  I looked like I went to Mexico for a week and took a cooking class outdoors learning how to make taquitos.  Not sure it is OK to be that fake tan.  It was silly and fun and I need lots of that in my day.  Maybe it was cinco de mayo.  Maybe it was the tequila.  Maybe it was just the fact that my girlfriends rock and when we are all together there is never a margarita left standing or a dull moment.

creamy chicken taquitos
source: annie eats

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ cup salsa
1 tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. chopped cilantro
2 green onions, chopped
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
10-12 6-inch flour or corn tortillas
Cooking spray 
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, spices, cilantro, green onions, chicken and shredded cheese.  Mix thoroughly until well combined.
Briefly heat the tortillas in the microwave to make them soft enough to roll easily, about 20-30 seconds.  Place a tortilla on a work surface.  Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the filling mixture down the left third of the tortilla.  Roll the tortilla up tightly around the filling.  Place seam-side down on a baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling, spacing the assembled taquitos evenly on the baking sheet.  Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt.  

Bake 15-20 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.   Serve with sour cream and salsa, if desired.

(To freeze before baking, transfer the baking sheet to the freezer and chill the assembled taquitos 30-60 minutes.  Transfer to a freezer-safe container or plastic bag.  To bake from the freezer, simply add a few additional minutes to the original baking time, until the filling is warmed through.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

lemon cheesecake cheese ball

I came across this article on NPR when I was looking for recipes using fava beans.  I was really intrigued by the cheese ball concept.   Growing up cheese and crackers were big in our house.  Typically we had cheese I liked but, every once in awhile that really weird pinky orange very smelly cheese ball covered in nuts would come out.  The smell alone would have me running from the room.  That was my only experience with a cheese ball so, the idea of a sweet cheese ball with a cream cheese base seemed like the perfect combo to get me over my fear.  I have had this book marked for quite some time and never had an occasion to make it.  I was asked to bring fruit to out Mother's Day brunch and I realized the occasion had finally arrived.  I really thought the kids would look at it as a frosting dip and eat up fruit but, they would not even try it.  All the adults seemed to enjoy it.  It is sweet and creamy yet, tart and is perfect on both fruit and graham crackers.

lemon cheesecake cheese ball
adapted: npr

10 ounces reduced fat cream cheese; room temperature
zest of 1 large lemon
juice of large lemon (~2 tablespoons)
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
5 graham crackers; finely crushed

Mix cream cheese and sugar together in a medium sized bowl until there are few lumps. Add lemon zest and juice, and combine until smooth.
Form the lemon and cheese mixture into a round ball and wrap in wax-coated parchment paper. This cheese mixture is especially soft, so making a perfect ball shape may not be possible until the mixture is chilled completely. Refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight.
Reform cheese mixture into a ball.  Roll cheese ball in the graham cracker crumbs until the ball is well-coated with crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.  Serve with fresh fruit and graham crackers.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

margarita cupcakes

I love a theme, I  love a cupcake but, I am not overly enthusiastic about alcohol flavor in my desserts.  Don't get me wrong I love love love my cocktails but, I find alcohol sometimes over powering in desserts.  Tequila is not my favorite alcohol and that may have to do with an unfortunate evening which started in Tijuana and ended up with me sleeping in the shower.  Time and the introduction to really good white tequila has changed my view a bit.  These cupcakes are the perfect treat for a fiesta.  They are full of lime flavor with a hint of tequila.  If you want more tequila flavor you could brush the tops of the cupcakes with tequila before frosting. Hope you all have a fantastic Cinco de Mayo filled with friends, fun, refried beans (those I love) and good white tequila.

Notes:  I learned a few things about buttercream while making these.  I don't really love buttercream so, I don't have much experience with it.   I am wondering why I made these considering I don't love buttercream or tequila.  Weird.  Even with those two semi dislikes these cupcakes are very good and the frosting is not greasy.  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, though it may take a long time!)  I did not have that problem.  The problem I had was the frosting remained loose and would not come together.  I took to my computer and googled loose buttercream and sure enough if your kitchen is warm (rare 80+ degree day) the frosting may get too warm.  Place frosting in refrigerator for about 5 minutes to cool down and then return to mixer.  Sure enough it came right together.  I love learning new things.

Margarita Cupcakes
source: annie eats

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 limes, zested and juiced
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

2 cups sugar
8 large egg whites
pinch salt
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at a (cool) room temperature
4 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbsp. white tequila

Preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Line two cupcake pans (24) with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; blend.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the lime zest, lime juice and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat each addition just until incorporated.  Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  

To make the frosting, combine the sugar, egg whites, 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.
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.  Stir in the lime juice and tequila and mix until fully incorporated and smooth.

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.

Monday, May 2, 2011

caribbean succotash

I often make food my family likes or that I want the kids to eat.  My likes and the family likes do not align.  Apparently at this point my taste buds did not get passed along to either child or my husband eats like a four year old.   The later may be true.  Ideally I like to make one big side at the beginning of the week which is packed with vegetables that I can easily add to my plate for dinner.  I may be one of the few but, I really love succotash.  During the summer there is a large bowl in the refrigerator filled with some variation of succotash.  I love how the creamy beans mix with the crisp vegetable to form this simple, colorful yet flavorful side.  This Caribbean succotash is a little different with the sweet coconut milk and spicy cayenne.  The dish alone is good but, when a splash of bajan hot sauce is added to the succotash it takes it to a new level.  I became hooked on the bajan hot sauce on our trip to Barbados.  It is so hot that it is almost bad but, the heat kept pulling me in.  It is made from scotch bonnet peppers with a mustard and vinegar base.  The first time I had it I put way too much in my mouth because the color lead me to believe it was a sweet mango based salsa.  Not fun to have a mouth full of eggs and hot sauce that is beyond hot at a table of your husbands coworkers.

caribbean succotash 
adapted: bon appetit
2 cups fresh or canned butter beans
3/4 cup diced peeled carrots
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup diced red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup diced unpeeled English hothouse cucumber
3/4 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
Large pinch of cayenne pepper
Large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrot, chopped onion, diced zucchini, diced bell pepper, pressed garlic cloves, and minced fresh thyme. Saute until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add corn and diced cucumber; stir 1 minute. Add beans, unsweetened coconut milk, cayenne pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Stir until heated through, about 1 minute. Season succotash to taste with salt and pepper.
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