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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Chocolate Ginger Cupcakes with Two Toppings

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Chocolate Ginger Cupcake with Whipped Cream and French Meringue

With Easter coming early this year and traveling part of March, I haven't posted as many entries as I had planned on, but I wanted one more before this month comes to an end. I am disappointed that I missed the Daring Bakers' challenge this month hosted by Morven of FoodArtandRandomThoughts. Check out all their beautiful party cakes! The recipe for the perfect party cake comes from Dorie Greenspan's book Baking: From My Home to Yours.

I have had fun making cupcakes lately, but I think this will be my last post on them for a while. The two little cakes here have one thing in common in that the batter, a spicy ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg blend with chopped dark chocolate stirred in, is the same, but the toppings are entirely different so that each cake stands alone. For a dessert buffet, make two batches of the cake recipe. Top one batch with the Whipped Cream Toffee Topping and the other batch with the Whipped Cream and French Meringues. The meringues are delicious served on their own, too.






















Chocolate Ginger Cupcake with Whipped Cream and Toffee Topping


Chocolate Ginger Cake

Ingredients

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey
2 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 325° F. Line a Texas size (6 ) or a standard cupcake(12) tin with paper baking cups. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add butter, egg, buttermilk and honey, beat mixture with a electric hand mixer on low speed until ingredients are combined. Increase speed until mixture has changed to a paler color. Stir in chocolate. Divide mixture among baking cups, smooth surface.

Bake large cupcakes about 40 minutes, small cakes about 30 minutes. Turn onto wire rack to cool.

Whipped Cream and Toffee Topping
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 ounces chocolate-covered toffee bars(such as Heath or Skor), coarsely chopped

When cakes have cooled, spread tops with whipped cream, then top with chopped toffee bars.

Whipped Cream and French Meringue Topping

When cakes have cooled, spread with whipped cream and carefully top with meringue. A fresh berry is all you need to complete the decoration.

French Meringue

This recipe from Allrecipes in one of the best I have found for French Meringues. What's not written in the recipe instructions, but hidden in the reviews section is that you have to beat the egg white and sugar mixture for 15-20 minutes for it to reach the stiff peak stage.



French Meringues

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Taste of Yellow-Livestrong Day-Lemon Ice Cream

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It's time again for A Taste of Yellow created by Barbara of winosandfoodies to coincide with Livestrong Day, a Lance Armstrong Foundation's one day drive to raise funds and to educate the public about cancer at the grass roots level. I don't know Barbara personally, but through her two blog events, A Taste of Yellow and Hay, Hay It's Donna Day which I have participated in, I know she would be the sort of person I would love to have as a friend. Barbara, a cancer survivor was so inspired by Lance Armstrong's successful battle with cancer that she created this blog phenomenon which is sanctioned as an official event for Livestrong Day by the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Lemons are about as yellow as you can get and they are plentiful, although expensive and need to be picked carefully as some have more rind than juice. We love ice cream in my family and I make most of what we eat with my ice cream maker. I usually prepare the custard in the morning, refrigerate it for several hours until it's very cold and then process it in the machine early afternoon so it's ready for dessert at dinnertime. For a double lemon flavor, I swirled lemon curd into the mixture after I placed it in the pan to put in the freezer. I made my own, but you can use purchased lemon curd as an substitute.



Lemon Ice Cream with Lemon Curd Swirl

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1 (15oz) can low-fat condensed milk
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Whisk egg yolks in a bowl until blended.Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a large heavy saucepan. Whisk in about a cup of the hot cream into the egg yolks, then add to cream in saucepan. Over low heat, constantly stir with a whisk or wooden spoon until custard thickens slightly, or until coats a metal spoon. Do not boil as eggs will scramble. Patience is needed here as it may take 6 minutes or more for the mixture to thicken. Remove from heat and pass through a fine meshed strainer into a bowl. Let cool slightly, then stir in condensed milk and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until very cold. You can speed up the process of chilling by placing the bowl with the ice cream mixture on top of another larger bowl filled with ice cubes. Stir until cooled, then place covered in the refrigerator until cold.

Process in one or two batches in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Place mixture in a shallow pan as shown in photo, swirl in the Lemon Curd, cover with plastic wrap, then cover the entire pan with aluminum foil and place in freezer for several hours. Yields 1 qt.

Lemon Curd

Ingredients

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter

Combine ingredients in a small heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightl and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Makes about a cup.

Thanks to my husband, Alex for his patience while I photographed him.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dried Blueberry and Candied Pineapple Bread Pudding With Lemon Curd Sauce

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Believe it or not, I had leftover French bread from last month's Daring Bakers' challenge! Wrapped well in aluminum foil and put in the freezer until I was ready to serve the bread again. When life gives you leftover French bread, make a bread pudding! My family raved over the caramelized pear bread pudding I posted by in January so it was easy to prepare the same basic recipe, but this time substituted dried blueberries for the raisins, added chopped candied pineapple and poured a lemon curd sauce over the baked puddings. Another winner in my household! I used a good French bread from the bakery in my local grocery when I made the caramelized pear bread pudding, but this one made with Julia's French bread was definitely better.

2 1/2 cups low-fat milk
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 cups cubed, day-old french bread
2 tablespoons dried blueberries
1/2 cup chopped candied pineapple
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 teaspoons additional, divided


Heat milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until steaming, about 4-6 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs until blended;gradually whisk in 1/4 cup sugar. Slowly whisk in the hot milk until blended. Add vanilla, lemon zest and nutmeg.

Add bread, candied pineapple and dried blueberries to the mixture; gently fold together. Press down lightly to submerge the mixture. Cover and set aside at room temperature. Butter the sides and bottom of a round or oval 2 quart baking dish with 1 teaspoon butter. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put a kettle on to boil.



Set the baking dish in a shallow baking pan.Spoon the bread pudding mixture into the baking dish. Press down on the bread to submerge it. Place the pan in the oven and slowly pour the hot water into the shallow baking pan until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the baking dish.

Bake until brown on the top and set in the center-about 1 1/2 hours. Carefully remove the pan form the oven. Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack and let cool at least 45 minutes. To serve, run a knife around the edges of the pudding. Place a serving platter over it and invert. Spoon over Lemon Curd Sauce Serves 8.



Lemon Curd Sauce

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter

Combine ingredients in a small heatproof bowl over a small pot of simmering water, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Cover tightly, refrigerate curd until cold.
Note: When serving this sauce with the bread pudding above, warm in a pot until sauce loosens slightly.



Saturday, March 15, 2008

Raspberry Swirl Cupcakes

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There are so many exciting and innovativel blog events out there that it's difficult to decide on just one or even two. I will miss a few that I was eager to participate in , but time flies! This week I will be in Orlando taking in Epcot where I'll battle the long lines to ride Soarin' and do some shopping at all the great outlet stores in Orlando. I worked hard this past week to get a few recipes and photos completed which would leave me with just the text to write and post on the appropriate day.

Arfi Binsted of HomemadeS is hosting a Cupcakes Spectacular 2008 event just in time for Spring and Easter Holidays. Arfi has a two beautifully run blogs,HomemadeS and Through My Lens, both with gorgeous photographs of food, flowers, kids and landscapes.

Cupcakes are great little cakes, so easy to make and transport well for picnics, school parties and weddings. Some of the prettiest wedding cakes I have seen recently have been in cupcake form. Gorgeous flowers cut from rolled fondant and billowy meringues transform unpretentious batters into works of art.

Raspberry Swirl Cupcakes

Cake Ingredients

6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup self-rising flour
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons raspberry preserves, stirred vigorously for a minute or so.


Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a Texas size (6) muffin pan or a standard muffin (12) with paper baking cups. Beat butter, vanilla, sugar, eggs, flour and milk in a small bowl with an electric mixer on low until ingredients are just combined. Increase speed to medium, beat until mixture has turned to a paler color.

Divide mixture among the baking cups; smooth surface so it is flat. Divide the jam over the tops of the cakes. Using a skewer, swirl jam into cakes.




Bake large cakes about 30 minutes, small cakes about 20 minutes. Turn cakes onto wire rack to cool.



Italian Meringue Frosting


1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tarter

Combine sugar and water in a small pot, stir over medium heat, without boiling, until sugar is dissolved. Boil uncovered without stirring about 5 minutes or until syrup reaches 240°F. on a candy thermometer. Syrup will be thick, but not colored. While syrup is boiling, beat eggs whites with cream of tarter in a small bowl with an electric hand mixer until soft peaks form. While mixer is running, add hot syrup in a thin stream; beat on high speed about 10 minutes or until bottom of bowl is cool to touch.

Spread cakes with frosting, sprinkle with colored sugar. Recipe adapted "Cupcakes" by Pamela Clark.




YUM!!!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Spiced Blueberry Grunt

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Somehow I'm not thrilled with out of season fruits and berries. Most have no flavor, especially strawberries. However, these blueberries were a real deal at the grocery store just recently and they looked fresh and ripe. I did a post on blueberry muffins last summer with some really great blueberries from a local fruit and berry farm, so I needed a different recipe for these winter blueberries. I found just what I wanted to make from Epicurious.com. Blueberry Grunt is a cobbler of sorts, but is cooked entirely on top of the stove, not baked. The "grunt" noise comes from the sounds the mixture makes as it is cooking in the pan. Mine didn't grunt, or if it did, I didn't hear it. The grunt is probably the sounds of delight when one is eating this luscious blueberry dessert. The dumpling topping doesn't get brown with stove-top cooking so I would sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar and run it under the broiler for a few minutes for a more pleasing color. Of course, when you scoop it out and top it with vanilla ice cream, you won't really notice.


Spiced Blueberry Grunt

Filling
4 cups fresh blueberries, washed and drained
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses, I used honey
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Dumplings
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3/4 cup whole milk

For filling, mix all ingredients in a 12-inch diameter skillet. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until blueberries soften and thicken slightly, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare dumplings. Mix dry ingredients together, cut in butter with fingertips or pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add milk a little at a time until blended and a sticky dough is formed.

Drop dough by tablespoons onto simmering blueberries, placing dumplings close together. Cover skillet, cook on medium-low heat until dumplings are firm and a tester inserted into the dumplings comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
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