Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mocha Cupcakes

No trip to the Keweenaw would be complete without a trip to the Jampot, A monastery is situated on the shore of Lake Superior near Eagle Harbor, and the monks make the most delicious jams and jellies, candies and baked goods.   For years, my indulgence of choice has been the mocha cupcake.  There is nothing better than eating a mocha cupcake and checking out Jacob's Falls, a beautiful waterfall right next door.  Last summer, told the monk working the cash register that I would love to get the recipe.  He respectfully declined my request, so I laid on my charm. "I can't stop thinking about these cupcakes; they've changed my life!" I said with a smile.   A younger monk stocking the confections display asked with a grin "How long have you been thinking of these cupcakes?"  "Years!" I responded.  And it's true, I've been thinking about trying to make these cupcakes at home for years.   The older monk took pity on me and confided in a low voice so the long line of customers couldn't hear, "I'll give you a hint....the recipe came out of an old issue of Gourmet magazine.  It originally had a glaze but that didn't work for us.  Good luck!"

Today is my husband's 50th birthday.  He wanted to keep it low key, so I was looking for an idea for cupcakes when I remembered the Jampot cupcake of my dreams.  Cursing the fact that I got rid of all my old Gourmet magazines years ago, I set out to do some Googling.    I knew that many of Gourmet's recipes can be found at Epicurious, so I started checking there.   I didn't find any mocha cupcake recipes, but I did find a recipe for Mocha Rum Cake circa Gourmet, January 1994.  Since many of the baked goods for sale at Jampot feature some kind of brandy, rum, etc, this recipe showed promise.  Reading through the ingredients, it sounded about right.   I modified the recipe a bit to amp up the flavors and make it work for cupcakes.  I found several mocha cream cheese based frosting recipes, and took the best of what I learned plus increased the coffee and added some salt to make it taste like how the monks make it.  Here's what I came up with....tastes pretty close!

Mocha Cupcakes
makes 20 cupcakes

1.5 c flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 lb bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cacao)
1.5 c butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 c dark rum
1 c strong brewed coffee
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pan with paper liners. In a bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In the microwave, using 30 second increments melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, stirring after each increment until melted.  While still hot, add butter, stirring until smooth. Stir in rum, coffee, and granulated sugar.  Add to the bowl of a stand mixer.   beat in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down side, and beat in eggs and vanilla until batter is combined well. Pour batter into prepared cups.  Bake 25 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean,

Coffee Cream Cheese Frosting

4 T butter, room temperature
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
2 packets Starbucks Via Dark Italian Roast instant coffee
1 t. salt
4.5 c. powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl, add butter, cream cheese, vanilla, coffee and salt.  Using the paddle attachment, mix at low speed until creamy and smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the sugar a half cup at a time, and beat on medium speed, scraping down the sides until all the sugar is incorporated.

Frost the cupcakes when they are cool.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Homemade Noodles and Meringues

Recently, I was making dinner for a friend and I really wanted to use what I had in the house, instead of making a special trip to the store.   We are still working our way through a side of beef we bought last summer; with the kids away at college it is lasting a lot longer.   I had some swiss steak that I knew I wanted to use, but I was out of noodles to serve it with.....could I make them from scratch?

I have made pasta from scratch exactly one time.   About 20 years ago, homemade pasta was a thing and my friend at work Maria ended up getting two pasta rollers for Christmas, so I took one off her hands.  I made pasta once with it, determined it was a giant hassle, and the pasta roller languished in the back of my cupboard for years until I sold it in a garage sale.    I googled around and found all sorts of recipes I decided I wanted to try one that used extra yolks.   Once I did that, however, I had extra egg whites.   When life gives you egg whites, make meringues!

Here's how I made both:

Homemade Noodles

4 to 4-1/1 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
4 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 c. water
2 t. vegetable oil or

In a large bowl stir together 4 cups of the flour and the salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. In a small bowl combine egg yolks and whole eggs, the water, and oil. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, stirring to combine. The dough will be sticky at this point. Sprinkle a clean kneading surface with the remaining flour. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic (8 to 10 minutes total). Cover the dough and let rest for 10 minutes.
(You can make the dough in advance to this point. Transfer the dough to an airtight container; freeze up to 3 months. Thaw completely in the refrigerator, then continue with the next step)

Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 12x9-inch rectangle. Dust both sides of the dough portions with additional flour. Let the dough stand, uncovered, about 20 minutes. Loosely roll the dough into a spiral. Cut the spiral crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Unroll the strips to separate.

You can cut them into smaller lengths; I left mine as they were.   Fill a large pot with 3 quarts water. Bring the water to boiling;  add 1 teaspoon salt. Add noodles a few at a time so the water does not stop boiling. (This also prevents the noodles from sticking together). Reduce the heat slightly and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes or until the pasta is al dente (flexible but still slightly firm at the center). Tip: Be sure to test often for doneness near the end of cooking time -- fresh noodles can go from stiff to perfect to overly soft in a matter of seconds.  Drain the noodles in a colander, giving them a good shake to remove all the water.

I had 4 egg whites left, so I decided to make meringues.

Vanilla Meringues

4 large egg whites,
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add cream of tartar to the whites and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Use the whisk attachment if using a stand mixer. Slowly add sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar has been added. Continue beating until the whites are stiff and glossy. Add vanilla and beat for 30 seconds more.  Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 200°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place a small amount of the meringue under each corner of the paper to secure it to the pan. Fill a 1-quart sealable plastic bag (or pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip) with the meringue. Seal the bag almost completely, leaving a small opening for air to escape from the top as you squeeze. Snip off one corner of the bag with scissors, making a 3/4-inch-wide opening. Fold the top of the bag over a few times, then gently push the meringue down to the snipped corner. Working with the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet, pipe the meringue into 1 1/2-inch-diameter cookies, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart.
Bake the cookies until dry and crisp throughout, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let the cookies cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

A New Year's Resolution Report: Eat More Vegetables

This year, like some other years in recent past, I resolved to eat more vegetables.   Usually,  after a long Christmas holiday of lots of eating and drinking, I become inspired. I also start counting Weight Watchers points, change up my workout routine, etc.   This year, I wanted the vegetable thing to stick.   I love vegetables, but I find that sometimes, I don't spend enough time cooking them.   I put a request out to the Mothers Kitchen Facebook group  (join us by clicking here) for advice on how to make it happen.

Debbie gave me a really great idea: eat 2 vegetable sides at lunch and dinner.   I'm getting the hang of doing it.  I found this veggie packed minestrone soup recipe, which should help.  It's loaded with vegetables.  Patty suggested baby spinach sauteed with olive oil, salt and lots of garlic.with a fried egg and whole wheat toast.  I've been having that for breakfast.

Salli had suggested this spicy roasted brussels sprouts recipe, and it looked promising....

but the reality of the recipe didn't look so hot.  First, it called for a half cup of olive oil, which is insane!  If I were going to do that, I'd just eat a bag of Doritos and call it "corn" and count that as a vegetable.   I had to scale that back.  Next was the amount of sriracha it called for....way too little in my book.   I upped it by 2x.  I didn't have rice wine vinegar but I did have a nice white wine vinegar.  The last issue wasn't as obvious at first glance, although something stuck in my craw when I poured the sprouts on the baking pan...I couldn't put a finger on what it was, but I was troubled.

After 20 minutes of roasting, I figured it out:

Of course, anything with honey in it is going to turn into shellac in a 400 F oven on a baking sheet!  My husband suggested I just throw the pan out and buy another, but I'm too thrifty for that.  I busted out my Norwex Spirinet Scrubber, and with about 30 seconds of scrubbing it was clean as a whistle.  Love Norwex stuff!   Next time, I'll line the pan with foil.   So how did they come out?  Fanstastic!  Plus, my version of the sauce was so tasty I think I'll make up a batch and use it as salad dressing.  

Better Spicy Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1½ pounds brussels sprouts
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup honey
4 tablespoons Sriracha, or more to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Trim the base away from the brussels sprouts and discard. Cut the sprouts in half.  2. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil with the vinegar, honey and Sriracha to combine. Add the brussels sprouts and toss until they are fully coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the brussels sprouts on a FOIL LINED baking sheet, cut sides down. Pour any extra olive-oil mixture onto the pan and tilt the pan around to distribute it. Roast until the sprouts are crispy on the outside and golden and caramelized on the cut sides, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Thanks for the advice!  I can't wait to try more of your great ideas.