Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming...

Rest assured, the final installment of my Eat, Pray, Love recipes will be posted soon. However, in the meantime, I have a special treat for you! So, I'm terrible about following recipes. I mean, I CAN follow a recipe...I just usually DON'T. And sometimes, that makes me very, very, very happy. Because while I'm sure lemon tassies are delicious and all, they're just so *yawn* normal. Now, honey lemon lavender tassies, on the other hand, are anything BUT typical. They're unusual. And unexpected. And unique. And make you pause to go "hmmmm..." as you savor them. Now THAT'S my kind of dessert!

Honey Lemon Lavender Tassies

Crust (adapted from Dorie Greenspan via Smitten Kitchen)

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • heaping 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg plus 1 Tbl. of egg white

Pulse together flour and powdered sugar in a food processor until well-combined. Add the butter and pulse until the largest pieces are the size of peas. Add the egg and white and pulse in several long pulses to combine ingredients together.

Scrape out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1 hour. Spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface to about 1/8-in thickness. Using a biscuit cutter, cut rounds out and press into the cups of the mini muffin pan to form mini crusts. Prick the bottoms with a fork (I like to make an "X"). Bake at 375 for about 12 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Cool completely.

Side note: this was the first pie crust I have ever made from scratch! Woohoo! So if I can do it, you can do it.

Honey Lemon Lavender Curd (adapted from Joy of Baking via The Way The Cookie Crumbles)

  • 4 large eggs plus one egg yolk
  • 1/3 c. lemon juice
  • 3 Tbl. lavender mead (I got mine from Hilltop Berry Farm)
  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 6 Tbl. room temperature butter, cut into small pieces
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Fill a saucepan with about an inch of water, and bring to a simmer. In a stainless steel bowl, combine eggs, egg yolk, lemon juice, lavender mead, honey, and sugar. Whisk together. Place bowl over the saucepan (be sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl!), and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens considerably and becomes pale in color (about 10 minutes).

Remove from heat and pour through a fine sieve into a small bowl. Whisk in the butter and lemon zest until butter has melted. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap against the surface of the curd, and chill in the refrigerator until cool.

Note: if you have the misfortune of not living within driving distance to Hill Top, you could also probably increase the amount of lemon juice to 1/2 c., heat it gently, and steep some fresh lavender sprigs in it to infuse it with that lovely lavender aroma and taste.

Pipe the cooled curd into pre-baked, cooled mini tart shells, and enjoy!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love Party: Indonesia

Welcome to part 2 of my Eat, Pray, Love series. I'm going slightly out-of-order, here...the India post is not quite ready. So you can have Indonesia in the meantime. While it was easy to come up with Italian foods, being half Italian and having lived in Italy for just over a month, Indonesia was not so easy. I have no experience with Indonesian foods--I've never been there, and I have no friends who are from there, and there are no good Indonesian restaurants in my town. So I turned to good ol' Google. I kept coming across references to banana fritters eaten as a snack or dessert in Indonesia...and wouldn't you know it, trusty Allrecipes.com had a recipe! Actually, it had two, but true-to-form, I picked the one with alcohol in it. I have a reputation to uphold, here, people!

Pisang Goreng
(Indonesian Banana Fritters, adapted from Allrecipes.com)

  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbl. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbl. butter, melted
  • 1 Tbl. rum
  • 4 almost-ripe bananas, sliced
  • Powdered sugar

Combine egg, milk, butter, and rum in a large bowl. Whisk until well-blended. Add flour and sugar, and whisk until incorporated. Fold sliced bananas into the batter.

Drop batter by tablespoon-full into 375-degree oil in a deep fryer or large saucepan. Deep-fry for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain. Dust with powdered sugar to serve.

These were so good! It's a good thing my deep fryer is a pain in the butt to clean, or else I would be using it much more frequently than is healthy for my waistline! It's amazing how little sugar the batter requires, yet these come out nice and sweet! It's important to use bananas that aren't quite ripe so that they are still a little firm and can hold their shape during the frying process. If the bananas are too ripe, they'll turn to mush! These would be good with cinnamon-sugar sprinkled on top, too!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love Party: Italy

As promised, here is part 1 of my Eat, Pray, Love party series...Italy! For the Italian food, I made meatballs in spaghetti sauce (both TOP-SECRET family recipes), bruschetta (add some balsamic vinegar and garlic to the topping, and just toast the bread by itself, then top with raw topping), and amaretti cookies. These little guys were quite the hit! And the whole recipe is made in your food processor...it really doesn't get any easier than that! Check out the recipe below...

Amaretti Cookies
(from Simply Recipes)

  • 2 1/2 c. almond flour
  • 1 1/4 c. granulated sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. almond extract

In a food processor, pulse together the almond flour and 1 1/4 c. sugar until combined. Add the extracts, and pulse a few more times. Add in the egg whites, one at a time, processing until the dough is smooth.

Scoop out the dough (I used my smallest cookie scoop--about 2 tsp.) onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle with additional granulated sugar. If you like them in pretty little balls, leave as-is. If you prefer a flatter cookie, now would be an excellent time to flatten them out a little. Bake at 300 degrees for ~25 minutes.

Note: the original recipe says to bake until golden brown...which I did, and it ended up being closer to 35-40 minutes, and my cookies were severely overcooked and somewhat dry. Blah. So, I recommend sticking to the 25 minutes, whether or not they're golden brown!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hang in there!!!

Hello! No, I haven't fallen off the face of the planet. I sincerely apologize for the lack of new posts recently...I have a valid excuse, I swear! I did make TWO Boston Cream Pies last weekend, but they didn't turn out spectacularly, and, in spite of that, were devoured in 30 seconds flat. So I decided to spare you the agony of a mediocre recipe that lacked a picture.

However, I will have a bout of postings after this weekend! I'm hosting an hors d'oeuvres party based off the book/movie Eat, Pray, Love. For those who haven't read it, 1) what rock have you been living under? And 2) it's about a woman who goes on a year-long journey of self-discovery where she eats her way through Italy, prays her way through India, and loves her way through Bali. Now, as much as praying and loving are good things, eating is better (or at least more in tune with this blog). So at my party, we're eating our way through all three countries. In keeping with the theme of the blog, I'll spare you the non-dessert recipes...but keep an eye out for recipes for amaretti cookies (Italy), nariyal burfi (India), and pisang goreng (Indonesia).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Margarita Bars

So, I enjoy cooking with alcohol. I think it's fun. It's even more fun to me to create desserts inspired by mixed drinks. So when I saw this recipe for tequila bars, I knew immediately that they would be turning into Margarita Bars. I mean, why not? You're halfway there already...I just took them to their logical conclusion. I added Triple Sec and used a pretzel crust to get that salty goodness. These were well-received by my friends! The filling layer is a little thin, so if you like it thicker, 1.5x or double it. Also, the crust will get soggy if you let these sit too long, so I recommend only chilling them for 2 hrs after they finish baking.

Margarita Bars (crust from Allrecipes.com, filling adapted from Foodnetwork.com)

  • 2 c. finely crushed pretzels
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c. butter, melted
  • 1/4 c. tequila
  • 1/3 c. minus 1/4 c. Triple Sec (see directions)
  • 1/2 c. lime juice
  • 5 eggs, separated, reserving 2 whites and all the yolks
  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Tbl. granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put 3/4 c. butter into a 9x13" baking dish, and put it in the oven for the butter to melt while the oven preheats. Meanwhile, finely crush pretzels using a rolling pin or food processor. Once butter is melted, remove pan from oven and add 2 tsp. granulated sugar and 2 c. pretzel crumbs. Mix it up, and pat down evenly covering the bottom of the baking dish. Bake for 8 minutes at 400 degrees F. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Measure out 1/4 c. tequila. Pour into a 1/3 c. measuring cup. Add Triple Sec until total volume of mixture is 1/3 c. In a medium bowl, thoroughly whisk together the tequila/Triple Sec mixture, lime juice, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk. Feel free to add an extra splash or two of tequila and/or Triple Sec.

In a separate small bowl, beat egg whites and 1 Tbl. sugar with an electric mixer until the whites hold soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the rest of the filling. Spread evenly over the cooled crust. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 minutes. Cool, then chill in the fridge 2 hrs. to overnight before cutting. Top with grated lime zest for presentation, if desired.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I had some friends over for dinner yesterday...they love Italian food, so I was excited to be able to cook for them, especially since it meant I got to try out a few of the Italian recipes I grew up on! This is not one of them. It's a classic Italian cookie, but not a family recipe. It is, however, one of my all-time favorite cookies, and now I know how to make them at home (which is excellent, since the nearest Italian pastry shop is a solid 2 1/2-hour drive away!). I will not be making them on any regular basis, however, since these delectable little morsels are not cheap. Between the almond paste and the pine nuts, they cost a pretty penny to make...but they're well worth it! Just don't make them for a crowd!

(recipe from Allrecipes.com)

  • 8 oz. almond paste (the kind in a can, not a tube)
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 c. pine nuts

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Meanwhile, pulse together the almond paste and sugar in a food processor--the goal is to form a crumbly mixture. If you process for too long, or let it sit for too long after processing, it will glob up into a big ball that is difficult to work with. So, as soon as the almond paste and sugar are in crumbs, add them to the whipped egg whites. Carefully fold the mixture together until it is well-combined.

Drop by rounded teaspoon (or by your smallest cookie dough scoop) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprayed with cooking spray. Top each cookie with a generous sprinkling of pine nuts. Bake at 325 degrees F for 18-20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown around the edges (note: the original recipe says to bake for 10-12 minutes, but mine were nowhere near done at that point). Let cool on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack. Yield: 2 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ganache is Good Nosh

Ganache is a pretty awesome combination of chocolate and cream.  And with those ingredients in the right proportions, it's pretty hard to go wrong.  Here are three (semi-)recent recipes:

Chocolate Truffles
Full credit to Alton Brown on this one

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (I used dark chocolate)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Heat the corn syrup and cream (microwave, stove, your choice) until small bubbles appear.  Pour over chopped chocolate & butter and walk away.  Don't stir.  Come back 5 minutes later, and stir just until the mixture comes together.

Now the fun part--add the booze of your choice...Alton says 1/4 cup for the whole recipe; I'm pretty sure I used closer to 1/3, as I divided the ganache into 4 flavors (banana, mint, raspberry, and Irish cream.  Irish cream and banana were my favorites!).  Stir until it incorporates, and then chill as long as possible.

Banana ganache in a white chocolate heart
Here's where I take a detour from Alton.  You've got a ridiculously delicious (and alcoholic) chocolate ganache, and I think hand dipping truffles is a pain in the butt--you need to coat them several times to get any sort of a shell, and you get it all over your hands, so more goes in your mouth than in the truffle (I mean....).  My solution?  Make shells, fill with ganache, and you have truffle-esque creations with much less headache.  If you're really lazy, you can fill two shells and stick them together, as opposed to pouring on a chocolate lid.

Side note: I also made mango truffles, signified by the "M," as we had an overripe mango to use.  I pureed it, processed it with about half a box of cream cheese, and added a few dashes of cinnamon. This went into chocolate shells.  Mmmm mmmm good, sort of like a tropical cannoli cream.

Four Tiers of Chocolate Bliss
Partly family recipe, part Wayne Glissen's Baking, and part inspiration

-Your favorite chocolate cake, prepared in tiers (or not)

-Chocolate ganache (1 pound of finely chopped chocolate (I used dark), 1 cup of scalded (heat until small bubbles) cream.  Mix as before.

-Super-stable & workable chocolate buttercream (healthy folks, run away)

Combine 2 sticks softened butter with 1/2 cup shortening (this amount won't affect the taste but will stabilize the frosting like no other).  Beat with electric mixer until soft.  Add 3 3/4 cup (1 pound) powdered sugar.  Beat in EITHER 1 pasteurized egg white (if your grocery miraculously has them) or 1/8 c. egg beaters.  Melt 3 oz. chocolate and cool to room temp.  Beat into frosting, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Layer cake with ganache, being careful to not spread ganache past edge of next tier.  Frost with chocolate buttercream.  Pipe rosettes/decorations as desired.  I added in sugar pearls (100% edible).

Full credit to Joe Pastry's most excellent blog

So, what do you do if you still have leftover ganache?  This was my conundrum yesterday evening.  I had about a cup of ganache, and a surplus bag of almonds.  And, of course, Joe Pastry's blog.  So I made macarons, NOT to be confused with macaroons.

Joe's recipe, with my edits based on convenience:
-4 ounces blanched almonds
-7 ounces powdered sugar
-3 egg whites (you're supposed to age them; I didn't--this was a last-minute baking decision so I didn't have the time)
-1.75 ounces granulated sugar

Pulverize the almonds in a food processor.  If you do them alone they get granulated, but if you process them with the powdered sugar they become a very fine powder.

Whip the egg whites (with any desired coloring) to soft peaks, add the granulated sugar and whip to stiff peaks.  Stir in the almond-sugar powder, then fold until you see the mixture start to become looser.  Drop a test dollop onto parchment--it should settle down into a smooth (but not liquefied) coin.  If it's too thick (peaks remain), stir a bit more.  Plop or pipe equal-sized drops onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment.  Let them sit on the sheet for 30ish minutes, until they've formed a bit of a skin.  This is a positive attribute; trust me.

After they've rested for 30 min, bake at 300 degrees for 12 minutes, and delight in the gorgeous little feet that your macarons have developed.

Let cool, remove from sheet, and fill with any manner of anything spreadable...especially ganache.

Here's the cake again, just because I'm rather proud of my first-ever tiered cake!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Because Dirty Martini Cupcakes Seemed Too Weird...

It was a friend's birthday (sense a recurring theme, here?), so I asked her what her favorite mixed drink was. Her response was a dirty martini...now, as much as Cupcake Wars likes making people use odd ingredients in cupcakes, I wasn't sure I was up for creating olive cupcakes. Maybe next time. So I asked her what her second favorite mixed drink was. This answer was more promising: champagne and pineapple juice. After making a mental note to order that next time I go out to brunch, I started researching recipes. I present you with...Champagne Cupcakes with Pineapple Buttercream Frosting.

Bite-Sized Champagne Cupcakes
(adapted from Allrecipes.com)
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbl. baking powder
  • 2/3 c. butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c. to 1 c. champagne (I used an Asti Spumante, since the reviews said a sweet champagne is best)
  • 6 egg whites

Sift together flours and baking powder (add 1 tsp. salt if your butter is unsalted) twice. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the sifted mix and 3/4 c. champagne, alternating wet and dry, starting with dry. Note: at this point, my "batter" was almost like a cookie dough, which I thought would be too thick for the next step, so I added a little more champagne to thin it out.

Meanwhile, beat egg whites (in a clean bowl!) until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it. Then, add the batter to the remaining egg whites, and fold in just until combined, taking care not to deflate the egg whites too much.

Spoon into mini muffin tins that have been misted with cooking spray (I used my smallest cookie scoop, which holds ~2 tsp of batter, to get uniform cupcakes). You could line these with paper liners, but for some reason, the mini paper liners I own do not fit into my mini muffin tin. Go figure. Plus, I hate losing cupcake crumbs that stick to the side of the liner. So I hardly ever use liners. Bake at 350 degrees F for 9 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool.

I got 48 mini cupcakes and 2 regular-sized cupcakes out of this batch (the regular cupcakes baked for about 15 minutes, or maybe a little more). Bonus: these cupcakes come out with the funniest, distinct, little domed tops!

Pineapple Buttercream (Adapted from About.com)

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. well-drained crushed pineapple
  • 4 c. powdered sugar, divided (plus more, if needed)
Stir the butter until smooth. Stir in 2 c. powdered sugar. Then, add 1/2 c. well-drained crushed pineapple. And by well-drained, I mean WELL-DRAINED. Like, squeeze every last drop of moisture out of it, and then drain it some more, or else your frosting will never set up. Stir in the pineapple, then stir in remaining 2 c. powdered sugar. Add more powdered sugar as needed to achieve a pipe-able consistency. If, by some miracle, your frosting is too stiff at this point, you can add extra pineapple or pineapple juice to thin it out a little.

Frost your cupcakes, and voila! Bite-Sized Champagne Cupcakes with Pineapple Buttercream. These were a huge hit. I have some leftover frosting that I froze (maybe I'll make pina colada cupcakes with it!). And as for the leftover champagne and pineapple juice, well, let's just say that I'll be taste-testing Kim's (second-) favorite drink for myself!