Sunday, 11 December 2011

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

My roommate Liz turned 21 last week. We had all of our friends over for a big dinner party to celebrate. When I came across this recipe I decided it was the perfect dessert to make for a 21st birthday party.
I only recently discovered what exactly an irish car bomb is. When my friend Yvonne first described it to me I thought it sounded horrible. Doing an irish car bomb entails dropping a shot glass filled with Jameson and Bailey's into a glass of guinness, then chugging the whole thing down before the Bailey's curdles. Sounds awful, tastes delicious. The experience is actually a lot like chugging a glass of chocolate milk.
I began baking these cupcakes early in the morning. Really really early. I went to the grocery store at 7:30 AM. The lady who rang me up gave me a very weird look as she scanned the Guiness. I suppose not many people buy Guinness at 7:30 AM. Especially not girls who, for all intents and purposes, appear to be 14 years old.
My apartment has literally never smelled as good as it did while I was baking these cupcakes. By 9 AM our kitchen and living room were filled with a rich, chocolatey smell. AMAZING.

Our friends loved the cupcakes. They were rich, flavourful, almost sinfully delicious. And considering the fact that they involved three different types of alcohol, they were perfect for a 21st birthday party. I'm not usually a fan of chocolate cupcakes. I am a vanilla cupcake girl all the way. These changed my mind about chocolate cupcakes.

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes
recipe from the amazing blog smitten kitchen

Yielded about 27 cupcakes

Ingredients for Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes:
1 cup Guinness
2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Ingredients for Ganache Filling:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, at room temp
2 teaspoons Irish whiskey

Ingredients for Bailey's Frosting:
4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp
4 tablespoons Bailey's

First you make the cupcakes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring one cup Guinness and 1 cup butter to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Let cool while you mix the other ingredients.
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until blended. Beat eggs and sour cream together in another bowl until blended.
Add the Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and beat again. Then, using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until it is well combined. Fill the cupcake liners until about 3/4 full.
Bake cupcakes for about 17 minutes, turning the pan about halfway through.
Cool the cupcakes completely before continuing.

The ganache comes next.
Break the chocolate into tiny pieces and put it in a heat proof bowl.
Heat the cream until simmering and then pour it over the chocolate. This should melt the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute, and then stir until the texture is completely smooth. Then, add the butter and whiskey and stir until completely combined.
Put this mixture in the refrigerator and stir every ten minutes or so. Take the ganache out when it is thick but still soft enough to be piped.
While the ganache is cooling, use either a 1-inch cookie cutter or an apple corer to cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You should go about 2/3 of the way down the cupcakes. I used an apple corer, and if you twist after putting it in the cupcake, the center of the cupcake will come out when you pull the corer out. If this doesn't work, use a small spoon to get the center out. Put the ganache into a piping bag ( I used a big plastic baggy that I cut the tip off of) with a wide tip and then fill each of the cupcakes to the top.

Then, make the frosting.
Whip the butter for several minutes until it is light and fluffy. I used an electric hand mixer. Add the powdered sugar a few tablespoons at a time.
Once the frosting is thick, pour in the Bailey's and whip until combined.
Ice and decorate the cupcakes.
It topped them with sparkling sugar confetti! Very festive!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Mexican Wedding Cookies

This week has been one of the best, most relaxing weeks I've experienced in months. This semester has been my busiest ever. First I had my Fulbright application to deal with in september and october. That application was a nightmare. Then I had to start work on prescreening tapes and grad school applications. Those aren't so bad, but they are tedious. Now, with my graduation recital looming on the horizon (December 16th), practicing is getting more and more stressful. Tomorrow, I fly back to New York and all of that craziness, but for now I get to enjoy my fourth day of relaxation, family, good food, and warm weather.

Thanksgiving day was wonderful. I stuffed myself with turkey, cranberry sauce, and cherry pie. My family sang happy birthday to me and I got to open some awesome birthday presents (including the camera with which I took pictures for this post), despite the fact that my birthday doesn't happen until next wednesday. Then, I took advantage of my food coma and slept the entire 3 hour car ride home!
Yesterday, my parents and I had my previous violin teacher, Mr. Goldsmith, over for a late afternoon cheese and wine fest. My mom and I decided to bake something to eat in addition to cheese and crackers. We went with Mexican Wedding Cookies because they're my mom's favourite cookie recipe. I had eaten and enjoyed them before but I had never helped to make them.
These were surprisingly easy to make, and they were delicious. They were definitely a hit. I can't wait to make them for my friends in new york!

Mexican Wedding Cookies
recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle

Yield: 33-35 cookies

1 cup pecans, toasted
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar placed in sifter for dusting cookies

Place toasted nuts, 1 cup flour, and salt into the bowl of a food processor.
Pulse lightly. The nuts don't need to be really fine. I pulsed it until it was just smaller chunks of pecans.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and the powdered sugar until well combined. Then add the vanilla and almond extracts. Beat just to mix and then begin adding the flour and nut mixture by 1/2 cupfuls.
Blend in the remaining 1 cup flour and mix just until a dough is formed.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place walnut-size pieces of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the cookies for about 18 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Then, cool on a rack for 10 minutes.
Dust a sheet of waxed paper with powdered sugar. Place the cookies on top of the sugar and sift more powdered sugar over them. Let the cookies cool some more before storing them.

Friday, 25 November 2011

All I Want For My Birthday Is...

...a really awesome, fancypants camera.
And that is exactly what I got! Thanks mom and dad!
Now I just have to learn how to take good pictures with it!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Most Delicious Lemon Squares

One of my favourite places to visit is San Francisco. It is an amazing city, and it is also home to my sister, my aunt and uncle, and my cousins. As a result, I end up going to San Francisco at least 2 or 3 times a year, despite the fact that it takes longer to get there from New York than it would take to get to Iceland.
All of my relatives who live in San Francisco are awesome cooks. My sister always amazes me with her creativity when it comes to food. Last time we were both in Houston, she made a pizza with barbeque sauce, peaches, and chorizo. I was seriously skeptical of these flavour combinations, but it was incredible. I also love my Aunt Jeanie's cooking, and have often asked her for recipes.
When I was in San Francisco almost a year ago, Aunt Jeanie made lemon squares that were to die for. I think I ate almost an entire pan of them. Before these lemon squares, I had never loved lemon squares that much. These were so buttery and crumbly, with the perfect balance of tart and sweet. I was so addicted. This was a recipe I had to have, and it is now a recipe that I perhaps make too often. The good news is that my friends love them too, so I always have someone to share them with.
I made a batch recently, realized I hadn't blogged about them yet, and decided that I needed to.
Right after I made this batch, I went to an orchestra rehearsal, during which my roommate Liz texted me to ask if she could have one. I said yes and asked if they turned out okay. Her response was, "Oh my holy f**k they're amazing!" When I returned from orchestra, half of the pan was already gone, courtesy of Simon and Liz.

Lemon Squares
recipe from my Aunt Jeanie

Part 1:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sifted flour

Spread these ingredients in a 9 by 9 greased pan.
Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

Part 2:
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp baking powder

Mix all ingredients together and pour over first part.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar while still hot.
Cut into squares!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Pesto Tart with Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette Salad

Lately I've been craving tomato tart. I don't really know why. It's kind of a random craving.
My mom makes a great tomato tart but it's not something we ever had very often.
I thought about making my mom's tart recipe but I decided it would be fun to try something new.
I'm glad I did because this was incredible!
It was so good that I could have eaten the whole thing, but I decided to be nice and share it with my friends!
(also, the whole thing would have been twice the amount of calories I should eat in a day, so that probably would have been a very bad idea)
While I was eating lunch yesterday, I was watching Five Ingredient Fix on Food Network.
I don't usually watch this particular show because I happen to find the host rather annoying. However, whenever I have watched it I've always had to grudgingly admit that her recipes look kind of awesome.
When I turned the tv on yesterday, she was making a fresh raspberry vinaigrette salad with mixed greens. I had been wondering what to make as a side with my tart and it seemed as though I had my answer.
I love raspberries and the salad turned out great!
My friends Kathryn, Vlad, and Kaori joined me for the meal and seemed to really enjoy it!
There's nothing more fun than a delicious meal with awesome friends!

Slow Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Pesto Tart
recipe is from the blog What Katie Ate

Ingredients for Pesto:
2 handfuls of fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup olive oil (not extra virgin as flavor would be overpowering)
100 g (about 4 oz) soft goat cheese
1 pinch chili flakes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
sea salt and black pepper

Ingredients for topping:
3 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
shaved parmesan cheese for serving
fresh oregano leaves
fresh basil leaves
sea salt and black pepper

1 sheet pre-rolled puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry and it's amazing)
1 egg yolk and a splash of milk for egg wash

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Place all tomatoes on baking tray, cut side up.
Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Slow roast for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the pesto.
Put two handfuls of fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, goat cheese, balsamic vinegar, chili flakes, and olive oil into a food processor and mix to form a smooth pesto paste.
Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Cut a circle out of the pre-rolled pastry using a standard size dinner plate.
Place circle of pastry on baking tray.
Using a slightly smaller plate (about 1/2 in smaller), make a groove in the pastry by centering the plate and then pressing down gently.
Prick the smaller pastry circle inside the groove with a fork.
Brush the exterior border of the pastry with egg wash.

Spread the pesto in a thin layer on the inside circle of the pastry, being careful not to get any on the outer border.
Place roasted tomatoes in the center over the pesto.
Season with salt, pepper, and oregano leaves.
Roast in oven at 350 degrees until pastry is cooked on bottom and golden brown around the edges. For me this only took about 14 or 15 minutes.

When ready to serve, sprinkle parmesan shavings over the tart and place some fresh basil leaves on top.

Greens With Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette
Recipe by Claire Robinson on Five Ingredient Fix

1 cup fresh raspberries, with extra for garnish
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/4 cup pomegranate juice
3/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
mixed greens

Put raspberries, mustard, and pomegranate juice into food processor and mix until smooth.
Add olive oil and mix until smooth emulsified dressing has formed.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Place dressing in bottom of salad bowl and top with mixed greens.
Toss and garnish with additional raspberries.

This made WAY too much dressing for me so I put the dressing I didn't use in the refrigerator.
According to the original recipe, the vinaigrette will stay good in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Rocket Pesto!

Pesto is one of my favourite things. I often make it in large batches and freeze what I don't use so that I can heat it up later and eat it.
Since it is so easy to make and so easy to freeze and keep for later, I eat a lot of pesto.
This time, I felt like doing something a little different. I had read a recipe on a blog called Cook Your Dream that described using arugula (also called rocket) instead of basil in pesto.
This intrigued me. I like arugula, so I couldn't see how this could go wrong.
After trying it, I think I might even like it better than basil pesto. No joke. This is delicious. My roommates liked it so much that they've been making their own batches of it ever since.
The original recipe that I looked at called for chickpeas in the pasta. Unfortunately, the grocery store in Aspen didn't have chickpeas. Also, no one who worked at the grocery store knew what a chickpea was. I thought chickpeas were a pretty normal thing to have at a grocery store. Apparently not.
So instead I put in cherry tomatoes as an extra ingredient.

Penne Pasta with Rocket Pesto
adapted from a recipe on Cook Your Dream

Ingredients for Pasta:
5 oz Penne Pasta
10 oz of Cherry Tomatoes, each sliced in half
however much Fresh Goat Cheese as you like
shredded Parmesan Cheese

Ingredients for Pesto:
2 cups Arugula
2 Garlic Cloves
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, broken into small chunks
1/2 cup pine nuts
Olive Oil
a hearty sprinkling of Salt

serves: 2

Cook pasta according to the instructions on the package.
While water is boiling and pasta is cooking, prepare the pesto.
Put all of the ingredients, except for the olive oil, in a food processor.
Process the ingredients until they are finely chopped, but still a little chunky.
Add in olive oil as needed, pulsing the processor between oil additions, until the pesto reaches your desired consistency.
Taste and add more salt if needed.
When the pasta is cooked, drain the water and return the pasta to the pan.
Add the pesto and the tomatoes and toss until pasta is well coated with pesto.
Transfer the pasta to a plate and crumble as much goat cheese as you like on top.
Then, sprinkle a bit of shredded Parmesan on top.
Eat and enjoy.

If there is leftover pesto, freeze it and eat it another day.
Personally, I used the leftover pesto on goat cheese crostini the next day. Yum!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Lemon Thyme Salmon

I have a tendency to get stuck in a rut when it comes to salmon.
I love my baked salmon topped with parsley so very much that I stop trying new salmon recipes.
This week I decided to end this.
I looked around, found a few good looking recipes, and ended up just kind of doing my own thing. I had found a few recipes that called for thyme and lemon, along with various other ingredients. I had also found a few recipes that suggested slow baking it at a lower temperature than usual.
I made my own mixture involving lemon rind, thyme, olive oil, salt, and pepper. I mixed it all in the food processor until I thought it tasted good.
Then I spread it on a 5 oz piece of salmon and baked it at 275 degrees for about 18 minutes.
Once it came out I squeezed some lemon juice on top of it and it was ready to go.
It was tender, moist, and flavourful. Also, It took barely any time to cook, which was nice since this was such a busy week!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Peanut Butter

I don't like peanut butter.
I'm told this is very odd. Everyone else I know seems to LOVE peanut butter.
I don't get it.
Lately I've been getting a lot of requests for peanut butter cookies, so I decided to give them a try. I knew this would be a cookie that I wouldn't be tempted to eat an entire batch of.
I searched the internet, looked through about a dozen different recipes, and finally found a recipe that looked pretty good.
It happens to be a recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook My Father's Daughter.
I found it on epicurious.
These cookies were good. Even I thought so. The peanut butter taste was definitely there but it wasn't overpowering.
These cookies were an even bigger hit than my snickerdoodles. People came back for second and third helpings of cookies.
Here they are cooling on the rack:

Grandad Danner's Favourite Peanut Butter Cookies
recipe slightly adjusted from the one in Gwyneth Paltrow's book My Father's Daughter

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
some granulated sugar to roll the dough in before baking

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, cream together butter, peanut butter, and brown sugars.
Mix in egg and vanilla.
Add flour mixture in thirds and stir until smooth.
Fold in peanut butter chips and chocolate chips.
Roll dough into small balls.
Roll these balls of dough in granulated sugar.
Place dough on baking sheet and press each ball down with the tines of a fork in a criss-cross pattern.
Bake for ten minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time.
Cool cookies on a rack.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies (also known as Snickerdoodles)

It's been a while.
Around the time when I broke my camera earlier this year, I stopped blogging. What is a food blog without pictures?
I still don't have a camera, but I do have an iphone, and it takes somewhat decent pictures, so I've decided to return to blogging.
This week I've been on a cookie baking binge. It's been a busy week with lots of rehearsals, and lots of rehearsals means a lot of people who need a little extra joy (cookies) in their lives. I think the orchestra managers love me a little more than they used to after this week.
Right now, I'm spending my summer at the music festival in Aspen, CO. It's a gorgeous place to be and it's a wonderful musical experience.
On Monday night, as I left rehearsal at 10:00 at night, I was not in a very good mood. Our conductor was extremely rude to everyone and treated every musician in a somewhat condescending manner. As a result, none of us really enjoyed that rehearsal.
I thought to myself, what better way to brighten my mood than by eating a snickerdoodle from Paradise Bakery? Unfortunately, Paradise closes at 10. I was too late. So I decided to make snickerdoodles! I only wanted to eat one, but I knew others would appreciate the rest, so it was worth it.
I couldn't find any particularly convincing looking snickerdoodle recipes online, so I simply took a good looking sugar cookie recipe and added cinnamon! They turned out amazing! Everyone in my orchestra loved them. I even gave one to Julia Fischer (super famous violinist) and she said she loved it! That was an exciting moment for me.
Here's what they looked like in the end:

Snickerdoodle Cookie Recipe
adapted from a sugar cookie recipe from Bon Appetit, written by Gretchen Davis

1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
a very hearty dose of cinnamon that I did not measure
extra sugar and cinnamon for pressing the cookies with

Beat butter, oil, sugar, and powdered sugar until well blended.
Mix in egg and vanilla.
Add flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and cinnamon (to taste). Mix it all in.
Cover the dough and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll dough into small balls (about the size of a ping-pong ball) and place on baking sheet.
In a bowl mix together some sugar and cinnamon. Dip the flat bottom of a glass into water and then into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Then, use this sugar covered bottom of a glass to flatten each ball of dough into little circles.
Once done with that process, bake cookies for about 15 minutes, or until they are a light brown color.
Place cookies on a rack and let cool!