March 28, 2011 § 10 Comments
I have a bit of nostalgia for oldentimes kitchen things. I love aprons, and antique cake pans, and most of all: handwritten recipe cards. In fact, I think this blog may have sprung from my love of recipe cards and the personal touch they carry; it’s a good substitute given my mediocre handwriting (I’m a child of the Internet age) and my propensity for losing things. Then recently I found a handful of passed-down recipe cards, and I leapt at the chance to recreate an oldentimes dessert.
However, I should have taken a cue from the cards themselves. The chocolate dream brownies called for no butter, only shortening. The rum balls were definitely a product of their time. Suspicious, I still decided to attempt the butterscotch bars, and here is the gooey mess that ensued:
yes, those are spoon marks. Don’t judge.
The bars stubbornly wouldn’t cook through, and were thus a bit of a failure. Even though the middle didn’t set, though, the edges did, and I ate them ALL (yes, I felt sick after), and they were insanely delicious. And ever since I’ve had butterscotch on the brain, and have been on the lookout for a better recipe. One that firms up with only moderate gooeyness, but without any crazy modern add-ins like coconut, or resorting to melting butterscotch chips. Since I am so unreasonably picky, I haven’t found one yet (let me know if you have suggestions!), but got my butterscotch fix in another form: cupcakes!
I was lured in by chocolate cupcakes with fleur de sel and butterscotch icing. Embarrassingly enough, this didn’t quite work either – I guess maybe the butterscotch issues are my fault and not that of the recipe card. But despite an icing that was more drippy than intended, these cupcakes were absolutely delicious and definitely worth sharing: a simple chocolate cupcake, hint of salt, and deeply flavoured butterscotch topping. No matter how gooey they may have been, I’ll take it as a success!
Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Butterscotch Frosting – adapted from Salty Sweets
1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup water
1 large egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
fleur de sel
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line or grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugars, baking soda, and sea salt. In a small pot or in the microwave, heat together the butter, oil, and water, stirring until the butter is completely melted. Whisk butter mixture into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the egg, and then the buttermilk and vanilla.
Fill the cupcake liners with the batter and sprinkle a little fleur de sel over each. Bake until the tops are set and a cake tester comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool a few minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
For icing, combine all the ingredients in a pot and heat over medium low, stirring until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved, 3-5 minutes.
Turn the heat to low and let simmer for 8 minutes (I needed more like 15 and it still wasn’t thick), until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool completely to thicken further. Spread cool icing over cooled cupcakes.
March 21, 2011 § 9 Comments
Just a quick note to say I’ve started contributing recipes to the new online magazine Honest Cooking, starting with this luxurious breakfast strata. It’s rich, creamy, and can be made in advance for maximum morning laziness. Recipe is below, and more info is here!
Triple-Cheese Spinach Strata with Sundried Tomatoes and Peppers
Yield: Serves 4, but easily doubled in a 9 by 13-inch casserole.
1/4 cup chopped dry-packed sundried tomatoes
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
6 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
5 cups cubed French or Italian bread, crusts removed (about 1/2 pound)
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Pinch freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup ricotta
1 cup gruyère, grated
1/2 cup parmesan, finely grated
Cover sundried tomatoes with boiling water and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain off water. Squeeze handfuls of spinach to remove as much water as possible, and then chop.
Over medium-low heat, heat butter until no longer bubbling. Saute onion until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir until golden, about 30 seconds. Stir in spinach, peppers, sundried tomatoes and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir until mixture is dry, about 1 minute, then remove from heat.
In a buttered 8-inch square casserole, layer half of bread cubes. Spread over half of spinach mixture, then spoonfuls of half of ricotta. Scatter over half of gruyère and parmesan. Repeat layering.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Pour egg mixture evenly over casserole. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, remove casserole from the fridge and let sit while preheating oven to 350°F. Bake casserole until browned and cooked through, about 45-50 minutes.
March 13, 2011 § 5 Comments
I still haven’t quite accepted the fact that bread is something I can actually make, myself, in my own kitchen. This is partly because it seems like a slightly magical process, and partly because I have failed many, many times. I don’t know whether my kitchen was too cold or my yeast had died or someone had cursed me with bread voodoo, but it never quite went as it was supposed to. But, still I persevere, and when it works, the satisfaction is enough to sustain me through several more failures.
Luckily, this was not one of those failures. My roommate slow-cooked pork shoulder for 24 hours in order to make pulled pork sandwiches: something made with this much care clearly couldn’t be stuffed into stale supermarket buns. After finding this incredibly straightforward recipe, and realizing that it could be made entirely within my stand mixer, I threw caution to the wind and decided to make homemade buns. Daredevil that I am, I even doubled the recipe.
Apparently my bad bread vibes were on vacation this week, and the buns turned out gorgeous. They’re soft, barely sweet, and sturdy enough for a pretty sloppy filling. I made them into kind of weird shapes by accident, but I’m sure most people’s bread skills will yield pretty circles instead of amorphous blobs. They take a good sandwich to great, and are pretty hard to screw up – trust me, I tried.
Burger Buns – Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yield: 8 buns
3/4 to 1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons butter
1 large egg
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
4 tablespoons sesame seeds
Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients to make a soft, smooth dough (this can be done by hand or in a mixer). Cover the dough, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round 1 inch thick; flatten to about 3 inches across. Place the buns on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until very puffy.
Beat egg with water, and brush lightly over buns. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, till golden. Cool on a rack.
February 12, 2011 § 7 Comments
Our freezer is full. Not just a little bit full, not just completely full, but is finally at that point where no matter how hard you push, and no matter how logically you reorganize, there is simply no physical space for that one last thing to fit. I’m not a huge freezer girl, but this is starting to cramp my style.
Part of the problem is that I seem to enjoy filling the freezer with awkwardly shaped objects and then leaving them there for several months. Last time I tried to shove one tiny tupperware into the freezer, a whole bunch of stuff fell out (bouncing wildly across the kitchen floor), and behind all of the clutter were those bananas I forgot about! And that is why we have no freezer space. So I had to use the bananas immediately.
I was looking for a recipe that would give me fluffy, cakelike cupcakes, and I completely missed the mark. These cupcakes are dense, moist and banana bread-y. Luckily that’s pretty delicious too. The cupcakes were cute and tasty, but the best variation was when I microwaved the ganache and poured the warm chocolate all over the extra little cake I made with leftover batter. If you don’t need to transport your dessert, definitely do it this way – just unwrap the cupcakes first to avoid accidentally eating the paper in your haste to devour the chocolate. Not that I would ever do that.
Banana Bread Cupcakes with Ganache – adapted from Martha Stewart
If you can serve this warm, you should seriously consider remelting the ganache and pouring it on top – it’s crazy good.
Yield: 12-14 cupcakes
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 ripe bananas)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 oz good-quality milk chocolate
2 oz dark chocolate
2.5 oz heavy cream, gently warmed
2.5 tablespoons butter, warm room temperature
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture. In well, mix together butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to incorporate flour mixture (do not overmix). Dividing evenly, spoon batter into muffin cups.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.
For ganache, gently melt chocolate in microwave or on top of double boiler. Add cream and stir until smooth. Let sit until no longer warm, about 15 minutes. Gently whisk in butter, without stirring too vigorously so as to avoid forming air bubbles. Use immediately or wait for it to thicken over the next hour, depending on the consistency you want to work with.
February 7, 2011 § 11 Comments
Look, I made green things! Now, don’t be alarmed. Although this seems wildly out of character, this salad is in fact a perfect match for me because of two important characteristics: firstly, it is delicious; and secondly, it is highly fattening.
I went to a potluck recently where I was specifically requested to bring a salad-y thing, in an effort to avoid those standard potluck situations where everyone brings cookies and no one brings vegetables and then everyone feels sick after. I had trouble at first though, trying to think of a salad that seemed winter-appropriate. The ground is still covered in snow, I’m wearing three sweaters as I type this, and salad greens are not high on anyone’s list of things to eat.
Once I expanded my definition of the word salad, though, the options were endless. I roasted brussels sprouts at high heat, toasted spiced pecans, and threw in a handful of gruyère, making a hearty winter dish that is both filling and contains vegetables! It was at room temperature, so I declare it to be a salad. It also vanished pretty quickly at the potluck, so salad or not, it’s definitely worth making.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad with Spiced Pecans
The quantities are a bit approximate: aim for the sprouts/nuts/cheese ratio that will make you happiest. Also, this dish would be great served warm; just leave out the dressing.
- 2 pounds brussels sprouts
olive oil for drizzling
3 oz gruyère, diced
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Preheat oven to 450°F and position rack in upper third of oven. Trim ends of brussel sprouts and cut in half. Toss with olive oil to coat, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, then arrange on baking sheet with cut sides down. Roast until browned and tender, 20-25 minutes.
Lower heat to 325°F and line a baking sheet with foil. Toss pecans with vegetable oil. In a small bowl, mix sugar, cayenne, and salt, then add to pecan mixture and toss to coat. Scatter on baking sheet and toast, stirring occasionally, until brown and crisp, 10-15 minutes. Let cool completely.
For dressing: mix oil and vinegar with sugar to taste. In a large bowl, combine cooled sprouts, pecans, and gruyère. Add as much dressing as you like; there’s already oil on the nuts and sprouts so you may only need a little.
February 1, 2011 § 4 Comments
I was out of town over the holidays when the massive snowstorm hit the northeast. At work they declared the first snow day in seven years and I missed it! Because I was in Canada! The irony was deeply irritating. I almost wanted to go back home just so I could take advantage of the snow day, but unsurprisingly, it was snowing in Canada too, so I stayed indoors instead.
A couple weeks ago, though, we got hit by blizzard #2, and I had the chance to hole up indoors, hiding from the harsh weather and feeling excessively cozy. I also was seized by the urge to make a snow-appropriate cake, but only on the condition that I didn’t have to go outside to buy any missing ingredients, which I was pretty sure would lead to a melodramatic death by snowstorm. Luckily, I always have butter and cream cheese in the fridge (healthy person that I am), so it wasn’t too hard to come up with a feasible recipe. I had to substitute the sour cream and reduce the orange peel, but really, who likes citrus that much anyhow? No one, that’s who.
This cake is perfect comfort food, and should ideally be eaten while drinking hot chocolate and feeling very smug about being indoors while it snows outside. Although the layers look fancy, it’s really not much work. Apparently it’s supposed to snow again tomorrow – although I personally don’t believe it because clearly all the snow is already in towering mountains on my driveway – and if so, I might just make it again.
Spiced Layer Cake – adapted from Epicurious
I found that there was just barely enough frosting to coat the cake. I liked the ratio, but if you’re a frosting fanatic you might want to up the frosting recipe by a half.
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon grated orange peel ( I used 1/2 teaspoon)
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream (or if it’s snowing, subsitute half creme fraiche and half yogurt)
1/2 cup whole milk
Cream cheese frosting:
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease three 9-inch-diameter cake pans and line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Butter and flour pans; tap out excess flour. Sift first 8 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter and orange peel in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture alternately with sour cream and milk. Divide batter among prepared pans.
Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer pans to racks and cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.
For frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Beat in sugar, then vanilla. Chill until ready to use.
Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with third cake layer. Cover top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.
January 16, 2011 § 1 Comment
Although I wasn’t particularly good this year, Christmas brought a heaping pile of shiny new kitchen gadgets. I wouldn’t have predicted a couple years ago that I would get excited about small appliances, but now the arrival of a stand mixer at my doorstep is thrilling! I’ve somehow become a kitchen dork. I immediately wanted to make towering cakes and extravagant meringues and all sorts of exhausting things, but then I remembered that I don’t really know how to use a stand mixer yet. So in an rare moment of wisdom, I decided to start small.
That turned out to be an extremely good idea. I picked a simple applesauce cake: one layer, cream cheese frosting. I spilled flour everywhere, and accidentally wildly overbeat the batter by my apparent inability to understand basic speed controls, and it was still delicious! I even somehow managed to leave an unmixed swirl of applesauce running through the cake, and this indestructible cake rose perfectly anyhow.
This recipe makes a gently spiced, moist and dense cake. You can cut it into breakfast squares if you’ve already abandoned your New Year’s resolutions, or save it for dessert – either way, it’s very welcome on a chilly January day. And apparently, impossible to mess up, so give it a try!
Spiced Applesauce Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting – adapted from Gourmet
For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, cooled, and chopped
For the frosting:
5 oz cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices, and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in walnuts.
Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Reinvert cake onto a rack to cool completely.
Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated. Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.