Saturday, September 29, 2012

Grasshopper Tart

This is a big week for my London mates. One birthday Monday, one Tuesday. We all gathered Tuesday night to celebrate, so I made two treats. The first is this Grasshopper Tart.

Grasshopper Tart
Slightly adapted from Diamonds for Dessert
Chocolate cookies- 32 (pairs), with the icing scraped out
Unsalted butter- 5 tbsp, melted and cooled
Egg yolks- 3
Sugar- 1/3 c
Salt- 1/4 tsp
Heavy cream- 1 3/4 c, divided
Gelatin- 2 1/2 tsp
Creme de menthe- 1/4 c
Creme de cacao- 2 tbsp
Green food coloring (optional)
Mini chocolate chips- 1 c
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray the bottom of an 11-inch tart pan (with a removable bottom) with nonstick spray.
2. Melt butter in microwave and set in fridge to cool for ~5 minutes. Crush the cookies, preferably in a food processor. Stir crumbs and butter together, and press into tart pan. Make sure you press up the sides of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, or until set. Remove from the oven and let cool.
3. In a small saucepan, add 1/2 c of the cream. Sprinkle gelatin on top, and let it sit for 5 minutes. While waiting, whisk egg yolks, sugar and salt together in a heatproof bowl until pale yellow. Set aside.
4. Take the saucepan and cook over low heat until all the gelatin dissolves and the mixture is almost simmering (steam will begin rising), about two minutes. Take off the heat.
5. Whisk a few tablespoons of the hot cream mix into the egg yolk mix. Once incorporated, pour and whisk the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan and place over low heat. Continuously stir for 3-5 minutes, until the mixture can coat the back of a spoon. Take off the heat.
6. Pour into a large heatproof bowl (I used the same one I mixed the eggs in), and stir in creme de menthe and creme de cacao, as well as green food coloring (if your creme de menthe isn't already green). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill in fridge until thickened but not totally set, about 20-30 minutes.
7. While you're waiting, beat remaining 1 1/4 c whipped cream in the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, until there are soft peaks.
8. Take mint filling out of fridge and stir in the whipped cream in two batches, then fold in 1/2 c of the mini chocolate chips. Dollop filling onto the cooled tart crust and smooth it out. Sprinkle remaining chips on top, and chill for 6 hours, until set.

Photo courtesy of my friend Amanda :)


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Chocolate Tarts

It's been a long week. I'm seriously wiped. Most college kids head out on Saturday nights to get into all sorts of trouble. Me? I'm watching an SVU marathon, editing pictures of food, and studying for an exam. I am a wild party girl.
You know what my parents are doing tonight? They're at the beach. It's their new thing, they wait til I go back to school in the fall, then they go on vacation. That's right, Mom and Dad, you just got called out on my food blog :P
I shared my baking list with you for the school year earlier, and I've checked a couple items off: vanilla macaronsCat's handbag cake (sculpted cake), and now, chocolate tarts.
The recipe called for a 9-inch tart pan, but mine is 11" and I wasn't sure what it would do to the crust (it was my first tart after all!). I had two tartlett pans, so I made six baby tarts. It was quite delicious. I gave this one to my friend Kelsey for her birthday (shout-out!), one to Chris, and two to my roommates. Where did those other two tartletts go? I wouldn't know anything about that!

I made the strawberry milk whipped cream that was suggested, and it was delicious, but I think I like the regular whipped cream a little more with this. All up to personal preference, I recommend you buy some Nestle Strawberry Milk Powder anyway, just cuz it's yummy :)
Dark Chocolate Tart with Whipped Cream
Courtesy of Dough Puncher
Yield: One 9" tart, or six baby tarts
Graham crackers- 9
Sugar- 1/4 c
Unsalted butter- 5 tbsp, melted
Bittersweet chocolate- 8 oz, chopped
Whipping cream- 1 1/4 c
Eggs- 2
Vanilla- 1 tsp
Salt- 1/4 tsp
(Strawberry Whipped Cream)
Whipping cream- 1 c
Nestle strawberry milk powder- 2-3 tbsp (depending on desired strength)
1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (if your oven takes fifty years to heat up like mine, do this before you start the crust). Use a food processor to grind graham crackers into fine crumbs. Add butter and sugar and grind until combined.
2. Press crust into tart pan. Bake for 10 minutes (do not adjust even if you make baby tarts). Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.
3. Make the filling: Place chopped up chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat 1 1/4 c whipping cream over medium heat until it boils. Pour over the chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes before whisking to combine.
4. In a small bowl, whisk eggs, vanilla and salt. Stir into chocolate mixture until combined. Pour into crust and bake 18-25 minutes (12-15 if they're baby tarts), until edges are set and center wiggles a little. Let cool, refrigerate overnight, or at least a few hours.
5. To make the whipped cream, stir strawberry milk powder into whipping cream in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high until it reaches a consistency like shaving cream. Spread or pipe onto cooled chocolate tart, and finish off with rainbow sprinkles.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Donuts, Part 2

So there's this blog that I'm obsessed with. More like I'm kind of obsessed with the author. Not in a stalker kind of way, in a I-totally-want-to-be-her-when-I-grow-up way.
Jessica at How Sweet It Is rocks. She posts almost every day, she cooks and bakes and comes up with so many awesome recipes! I get almost all of my dinner recipes from her. Here's a list of the ones I've used:
Crunchy Oven-Fried Cheese Ravioli
Creamy Caprese Pasta
Grilled Tomato Basil Chicken
Crunchy Chicken Fingers
Clams Casino Pizza
Crispy Shrimp Tacos
Hot Blueberry Cheddar Dip with Toasty Bread
Hot Fudge Root Beer Float Cupcakes (the first recipe I ever used from HSII), totally changed my life

And now, Glazed Blueberry Cake Donuts.
These donuts are amazing. I'm 100% positive I'll have a sugar crash in about an hour, but they're so worth it.
I put most of these donuts in my apartment's lobby, but there are three sitting here taunting me. They're for my roommates, and my resistance is weakening by the moment. In other words, if you're reading this, roommates, come back and save me from myself!!!
Glazed Blueberry Cake Donuts
Courtesy of How Sweet It Is
All-purpose flour- 2 1/4 c, plus more for surface
Granulated sugar- 1/3 c
Baking powder- 1 tbsp
Cinnamon- 1 tsp
Nutmeg- 1/4 tsp
Salt- 1/2 tsp
Unsalted butter- 4 tbsp, melted
Lowfat milk- 1/2 c
1 Egg, lightly beaten
Vanilla extract- 2 tsp
Fresh blueberries- 1 1/2 c (make sure you remove all the stems first!)
Oil for frying
1. In a small bowl, combine egg, milk and vanilla extract. Set aside.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Add melted butter, quickly stirring to disperse it and form small crumbs.
3. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Before it completely comes together, add the blueberries, mashing some as you go along, and bring the dough together with your hands.
4. Form dough into a large ball, and roll it out on a floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut donuts using a donut cutter or biscuit cutter (use a small lid or frosting coupler to cut out the center). Make sure you've cut ALL your donuts before you start heating the oil.
5. Heat oil in a large pot or deep fryer, bringing it to 375 degrees. While you're waiting, prepare the Glaze...
{2 c powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp water
1 drop of vanilla extract
Whisk until smooth, if it's too thin add more sugar, if it's too thick add more water.}
6. Fry donuts 1-2 at a time, for about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes per side. Check first donut by cutting into the center to make sure the dough is cooked through. Dunk entire donut in glaze while still hot, and let sit to cool before serving.
If you don't have a donut cutter, here's one from Williams-Sonoma: 
ENJOY!!! And maybe eat some scrambled eggs, to get some protein and prevent a total sugar meltdown. I'm just looking out for your well-being :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Donuts, Part 1

Dear Cupcakes,
You should be made aware that I am having a passionate love affair. With donuts.
My love for you has not cooled, but you might need to step up your game because these donuts are ridiculous.

I made these for Cat's birthday, and then this weekend I made glazed blueberry donuts. I'm making those again soon, which is when I'll post pictures. They were eaten so quickly by the boys that I couldn't even get a good picture!
Ever since I got a donut cutter for cheap at the Variety Store near my house, I've been searching for donut recipes that don't require a donut pan- I'll eventually invest in one, since baked donuts are healthier, but for now, why not have a little fun?
Homemade Donuts
Courtesy of Stolen Moments Cooking
Flour- 2 c, plus more for rolling pin
Sugar- 1/2 c
Salt- 1 tsp
Baking powder- 1 tbsp
Cinnamon- 1/4 tsp
Unsalted butter- 2 tbsp, softened
Milk- 1/2 c
1 Egg, beaten
Canola oil, for frying
1. Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.
2. Add butter and beat until combined, then add milk and egg until combined.
3. Heat 1-2 inches oil in a large skillet over medium heat. 
4. While it's heating, roll the dough out on a floured surface, ~1/2-1 inch thick. Cut out donuts and save the donut holes, you'll want to fry them too!
5. Fry donuts ~3 minutes per side, until golden brown. Be careful not to overcrowd the skillet or burn the donuts. The holes will take about 2 minutes to fry. Place donuts on paper towels to drain. While still warm, top donuts:
Plain glaze: 1 c powdered sugar, 1/4 c milk. Dip donuts into glaze.
Vanilla frosting: 1 c powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1-2 tbsp milk. Spoon over donuts.
Chocolate frosting: 1 c powdered sugar, 1 tbsp cocoa powder, 1-2 tbsp milk. Spoon over donuts.
OR powdered or plain sugar; cinnamon-sugar
Don't forget the sprinkles!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Macaron success!

Have you ever had a really crappy day?
Like a really, really bad one.
I'm having one today, I'm having a really bad vertigo day. Like, flat-on-your-back vertigo. I haven't had one of these days in a couple months, and I guess it's good to have one every once in a while to remind me of how far I've come.
You know what makes me feel better?
Remembering how I kicked some macaron butt last week :)
I was terrified to try. I mean, have you heard about how hard it is to make these things?
I didn't want to go to all the effort before I tried them, but then I tried them in London. And I saw what all the fuss is about.
I also made lemon curd for the first time. My dad recently told me he thinks my lime curd could bring world peace, so I decided to give the lemons a try.

I messed up the first batch, because I believed that wax paper was an okay substitute for parchment paper. Guess what? It's not. But that's okay, cuz the next day I tried them again, and this time, they came out really well!
I don't know much about the specifics of macarons, like what the heck their "feet" are, but these were pretty darn delicious.
Follow this recipe exactly. It's from Bravetart, and Stella knows exactly what she's doing.
I used a vanilla bean instead of extract, so that's the version of the recipe I followed. If you'd rather use extract, click the link for that one :) Same goes for the almond flour. I found some at Martin's, and I decided to use it for my first voyage into Macarondom, rather than make my own.
Another note: you NEED a kitchen scale for this. If you haven't already gotten one (which you should have, because they're awesome), get one!
French Macarons
Courtesy of Bravetart
Yield: ~40 macarons
Almond flour- 4 oz (115 g)
Powdered sugar- 8 oz (230 g)
Egg whites- 5 oz (144 g)- age and temp not important; you'll need 5 eggs
Granulated sugar- 2.5 oz (72 g)
Vanilla bean scrapings
Kosher salt- 2 g (1/2 tsp)
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F, line two sheet pans with parchment paper and prepare an 18" pastry bag with a large round decorating tip (I used jumbo-sized). Use a shot glass or a cookie cutter to draw 1.5" circle with a permanent marker on one side of the parchment paper, then flip over (use the side that wasn't drawn on).

2. Sift almond flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites, granulated sugar, vanilla bean scrapings and salt

4. Whip on a medium speed (4 on a KitchenAid) for 3 minutes (they won't seem foamy at this point, and that's okay). Turn speed up to medium-high (7) for 3 minutes, then 8 for another 3 minutes. Crank it to the highest speed "just to show it who's boss" for 1 minute.

5. At this point, you should have a very stiff, dry meringue. Click the link of Stella's page for a picture of what the mixture should look like right now and for what steps to follow if it's not stiff enough right now.

6. Dump in the flour and powdered sugar (all at once) and fold them in with a rubber spatula. Use a folding and a pressing motion. In this case, you actually want to deflate the meringue. You don't have to treat the meringue super carefully.

7. After 25 turns/folds/strokes, the mixture will still look really lumpy and stiff, but after another 15 strokes, it will be "just about right." Undermixed batter will be quite stiff. If you spoon some out and drop it back onto the mix, it will just sit there and never incorporate. Overmixed will be too runny, do not overmix them! Just right batter will be thick enough to mound up on itself, but it needs to have enough fluidity to melt back down after 20 seconds.

8. Transfer half the batter to the prepared piping bag and pipe into the circles, stop piping just shy of the borders of the circles. Once you've piped all the batter, transfer the rest of the batter and pipe it.

9. Take hold of the pan and hit it HARD against the counter. Rotate the pan 90 degrees and rap two more times. This will dislodge any large air bubbles that might cause the macarons to crack.

10. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until you can cleanly peel the parchment paper away from a macaron. If, when you try to pick up a macaron, the top comes off in your hand, it's not done.

11. Once the macarons have baked, cool thoroughly on the pans, before peeling the cooled macarons from the parchment. If you're using buttercream, pipe a quarter-sized mound onto half of the shells, then sandwich them with their naked halves (try to match them up as best you can). Buttercream must be a lot easier to use, next time I make macarons I'll use it instead of curd, but I'll post that recipe anyway because it's damn delicious :)
Lemon Curd
(Only 1/2 of this recipe is needed for the macarons, but you should make all of it cuz it's delicious)
Courtesy of Completely Delicious
Unsalted butter- 1 c, cut into cubes
Granulated sugar- 1 c
Lemon juice- 1 c (Get 3 lemons, then use store-bought lemon juice for the rest)
Zest of 3 lemons
Egg yolks- 10
1. Add 1/2 c butter, 1/2 c of the sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice to a wide saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
2. In a large, heat-safe bowl, combine the egg yolks and the rest of the sugar. Slowly add the heated mixture to egg yolks, whisking continuously.
3. When fully combined, return the mixture to the saucepan and continue to cook until the whisk leaves a trail in the curd. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 c of butter until it's melted and smooth.
4. Remove from heat and strain into a dish. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the curd and set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Let the macarons sit overnight in a plastic bag or tupperware, then spoon a little of the curd on one macaron, then place its match on top. Be super careful handling these, they're very delicate!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cat's Birthday BONANZA!

This is Cat. You've met her before.
She is my best friend in life.
Anticipation :)
She turned 22 yesterday, and it was the first time in the six years we've been best friends that we were together on her birthday. Soon, she's leaving for grad school in the UK, cuz she's that kind of awesome.
My present to her was something I've been working on for months.

It's a Marc Jacobs Handbag Cake. Strawberry layer cake with strawberry buttercream frosting and really yummy buttercream fondant. This is the purse I based it on: Marc by Marc Jacobs Preppy Nylon Mini Natasha bag
I made her keep her eyes closed for a really long time
It was a perfect way to celebrate :)
Here's the recipe I used, plus step-by-step photos of how I built it.
This is a wonderful cake recipe for any occasion, I adapted it for this cake, but I'm posting the original.
Strawberry Layer Cake
Courtesy of Sweetapolita
Yield: Three 8" round layers
Strawberry puree (from frozen strawberries)- 1/4 c, from 2 handfuls of berries
Whole milk- 1 c, room temp
Pure vanilla extract- 1 tbsp
Cake flour- 3 c*
Baking powder- 1 tbsp
Salt- 3/4 tsp
Eggs- 4, room temp
Sugar- 1 3/4 c
Strawberry-flavored gelatin (Jell-O)- 1 small (3 oz) package
Unsalted butter- 1 c, softened
1. Slightly thaw about 2 handfuls of frozen strawberries. Puree in a food processor until smooth, then measure out 1/4 c. Make sure the puree isn't icy before you mix it in with the rest of the ingredients.
2. Combine strawberry puree, milk and vanilla in a small bowl, and set aside.
3. Sift and whisk flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
4. Cream sugar, gelatin and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, ~5 minutes. 
5. Add eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
6. Alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix just enough after each addition to incorporate, but do not overmix.
7. Divide batter into greased and floured baking pans, and bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean. Check cakes at 20 minutes, but not before. Be super careful to not overbake. Let cool on the racks for 10 minutes before turning onto greased wire racks. Cool completely.

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
(Just my regular vanilla buttercream adapted)
Unsalted butter- 1 c, softened
Powdered sugar- 3-4 c
Strawberry Essence- 1 tbsp
Milk- 2 tbsp
Drop of pink food coloring, optional
1. Cream butter.
2. Add powdered sugar very slowly, one cup at a time, beating after each addition.
3. Add strawberry essence and beat to combine. Add milk 1 tbsp at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency. 
4. Add food coloring and beat.

Here's the step-by-step photo documentation. I'm still working on the skill of keeping my workspace neat...
Cutting out the shape & size required

Frost & stack
Carve into purse shape, then do crumb coat
(let sit in fridge for 30 min to 1 hr)
Roll out the fondant
Cover cake with fondant & trim.
Add details using gold edible pen, gum paste, gold lustre dust
~To make your own cake flour, all you need is regular flour and cornstarch. Click here for a full explanation.
~I used Fondarific fondant for this cake, and I will never use any other kind of fondant. You know how most fondant tastes like crap? THIS IS GOOD! It tastes really good, no additional flavoring required! I highly, highly recommend it.
Me & my bestie :)
PS I'm also using this post as a shout-out for my parents, whose 23rd wedding anniversary is today :) Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad! I love you both so much :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cinnamon Chocolate Churro Cupcakes

Monday was my friend's birthday, and she requested these cupcakes.

They're really, really good.
Delicate cinnamon cupcakes stuffed with mexican chocolate pudding, and topped with airy chocolate whipped cream.

Don't hold the lameness of this post against them, they're delicious. My brain is fried after my first week of classes. And tomorrow is my very best friend's birthday, and I spent the entire day yesterday creating her cake. Definitely check out tomorrow's post, it's gonna be kinda ridiculous :)
Cinnamon Chocolate Churro Cupcakes
Courtesy of Love and Olive Oil
Yield: 12 cupcakes
Mexican Chocolate Pudding Filling (make before starting the cupcakes, and have some form of entertainment at the ready, this will take a bit!)
Cornstarch- 2 tbsp
Sugar- 1/4 c
Salt- 1/8 tsp
Cinnamon- 1/2 tsp
Whole milk- 1 1/2 c
Semisweet or dark chocolate- 3 oz, coarsely chopped
Vanilla- 1/2 tsp
1. In a little bowl, stir cornstarch with a few drops of water- this will prevent it from clumping in the pudding.*
2. Combine cornstarch, sugar, salt and cinnamon in top of a double boiler or heatproof bowl. Slowly whisk in milk, scraping the bottom and sides with heatproof spatula.
3. Set over 1 inch of simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary as clumps begin to form.
4. After 15-20 minutes, when mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for 2-4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened.
5. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a small heatproof bowl and cover with plastic wrap, gently pressing the wrap against the surface (to prevent a skin from forming). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to 3 days.
Cinnamon Cupcakes
All-purpose flour- 1 1/4 c
Cornstarch- 2 tbsp (not necessary to stir with water in this case)*
Baking powder- 3/4 tsp
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
Salt- 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon- 1 tsp
Almond milk- 1 c
Cider vinegar- 1 tsp
Sugar- 3/4 c
Vegetable oil- 1/3 c
Vanilla extract- 1 tsp
1. In a large bowl, sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine almond milk and cider vinegar and stir to combine. Whisk in sugar, oil and vanilla.
3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until relatively smooth (there will still be some clumps, and that's okay- don't overmix!).
4. Fill cupcake liners just under 2/3 of the way full, and bake at 350 degrees F for 20-22 minutes or until set and a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely.
Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting
Powdered sugar- 1/2 c
Unsweetened cocoa powder- 1/4 c
Whole milk- 2 tbsp
Meringue powder- 1 tsp
Pinch of cream of tartar
Pinch of cinnamon
Whipping cream- 1 c, chilled
1. Whisk powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, meringue powder, cream of tartar and cinnamon in large bowl until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes-1 hour, until well chilled and ready to use.
2. Use mixer with whisk attachment to gradually beat in the chilled cream. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Use a small paring knife (or cupcake corer) to cut the centers out of the cupcakes- resist the urge to eat them! Fill with ~1 tbsp of filling, replace the top and press it into place. Pipe on whipped cream frosting. DIG IN!

~Cornstarch needs to be mixed with a little water when it's being added to a liquid, like filling. If it's being added to dry ingredients, like flour and baking soda, mixing isn't necessary.
~If you're impatient like me, you hate waiting for things to cool. I usually set a small fan next to my baked goods as soon as they come out of the oven to speed it up.
~You're very likely to have some pudding leftover, which you should eat immediately. Otherwise, any other residents of your house will gobble it up. It's that good.


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