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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Blueberry Vanilla Cupcakes with Blueberry Ganache

*So I posted this Thursday morning and it ended up showing in Google reader for April 25! I'm reposting so it comes up as new in GR.



Today is my last data presentation to my lab before we move, and my last day in the lab is tomorrow. It's a bittersweet transition. As much as I look forward to starting a new project in a slightly different field of study, I will miss my boss and coworkers. The saying "beginnings are scary and endings are sad" flashes through my mind a lot, because I am beginning a new chapter of my life and ending a previous one. These last few days I have been cleaning out all of my stuff from the lab, and it's actually been a pretty liberating experience - throwing out SO much makes me feel like I am starting with a clean slate, and that's always a good thing.

Because this is my last lab meeting, I thought long and hard about what treat I wanted to take. If you remember, my lab gave me my KitchenAid mixer as a gift for finishing my PhD, so I try to thank them with baked goods as often as I can! I have been trying to use up what I have in the freezer, so the abundance of Michigan blueberries seemed like a good place to start. I decided to combine components of two recipes I've made in the past - adapting the Blackberry Vanilla Cupcakes to include blueberries instead, and topping them with blueberry ganache. Ever since I first made the blueberry ganache it's been on my mind. It's truly a unique flavor; as Bob put it, "the blueberries add such a brightness to the ganache." :) Someone's been watching too much Top Chef Masters and Chopped!

I can't report on how the lab liked these because they haven't tried them yet! I'll update the post with the results later. I gave Bob his usual taste-testing cupcake, and he loved it - said the cupcake was nice and fluffy, and you can tell from the above quote that he likes the ganache! I had a bite of his, and it was great. Love, love, love this ganache. I HIGHLY recommend trying it - soon! I am already brainstorming up different ways to use it. As I was putting the ganache in the fridge to cool, I spotted some strawberries, so I dipped some in the ganache and put them on a separate plate to cool - awesome!

One note about this recipe - the cupcakes tend to overflow if filled too high, and they bake up with very flat tops rather than rounded. I think if you fill 2/3 of the cup you'll have much better results than I did. The edges stuck to my pan and each one looks like I chewed around the entire cupcake . . . hopefully my coworkers won't mind!

Blueberry Vanilla Cupcakes with Blueberry Ganache

Makes approximately 13-15 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup blueberry puree*

*Fresh or frozen blueberries, pureed in a food processor or blender and strained through a fine-mesh sieve. Approximately 1 cup of frozen blueberries was enough for me to get 1/2 cup puree. To facilitate straining the puree, whisk the blueberry mixture as you strain it through the sieve.

For the ganache:
1 12-ounce bag best-quality semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups frozen blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a cupcake pan with paper liners.

2. In a small bowl, stir (or sift) together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a liquid measuring cup (or small bowl), whisk together the milk and blueberry puree. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.

5. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions, add the vanilla extract.

6. Add half of the dry ingredients to the large bowl and mix on low speed until just combined. Add the blueberry mixture, and mix on low until just combined. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients on low speed until just incorporated. Do not overmix.

7. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcakes, filling 2/3 full.

8. Bake 12 - 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan 10 - 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. *I stored the cooled cupcakes in a covered cake pan overnight and made the ganache the next evening. This way I had time to clean the sieve and chill the ganache properly.

9. To make the ganache, place the chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

10. Place the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until the mixture becomes sauce-like and bubbly. Pour into a sieve or strainer that is placed over the bowl containing the chocolate chips to catch the blueberry liquid. Discard the remaining blueberries.

3. Bring the cream and butter to just below boiling in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour the hot mixture over the chocolate and let stand for 30 seconds. Stir the mixture until smooth.

4. In order to achieve a consistency desired for piping, cover bowl of ganache with plastic wrap and chill until piping consistency is reached (approximately 1 - 2 hours).

5. Pipe ganache as desired (I used a large star tip).

Source: Cupcake recipe adapted from Coconut & Lime, ganache adapted from Picky Palate

Monday, April 26, 2010

Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbread




Our friends Eric and Kathleen invited us over to their home for dinner this weekend. Kat is an amazing cook and has such a talent for design. She puts together the most beautiful tables, and Saturday night was no exception! The food was incredible, and I just sat in awe trying to soak up every little detail of the gorgeous place settings and artfully arranged appetizers and desserts. I will definitely be hounding her for some recipes (salted caramel ice cream anyone???)

They recently started a dessert table business, Sweet Table Chicago. I had never heard of these before but apparently they are big in New York, and Kat is the first in Chicago! If you live in the Chicago area, you should definitely check her out. Yes, she's my friend and she's one of the sweetest people in the whole world, but I recommend her based on the work I've seen personally and the incredible table samples she has on her website! If we were staying in Chicago you can bet I would be hiring her for parties in the future!

I have been wanting to make these shortbread for a long time, so I decided I would take some to Eric and Kat since they both love chocolate and coffee. Bob and I snuck a few, and we thought these were great! The espresso flavor really comes through, and the mini-chocolate chips provide the perfect amount of chocolate. The dough is so simple to make (doesn't even require eggs), and because of the optional overnight chill time, you can split it into 2 days of minimal work. These are a great little cookie that I plan to serve again!

Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbread

1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 Tablespoon boiling water
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup mini-chocolate chips

1. Dissolve the espresso powder in the boiling water and set aside to cool to tepid.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter on medium-high until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Add the vanilla and the espresso and mix until incorporated.

3. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix only until it disappears into the dough. Fold in the mini-chocolate chips with a rubber spatula.

4. Transfer the dough to a gallon-sized plastic bag. Place the bag on a flat work surface, leaving the top open. Roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2-inch rectangle that is about 1/4-inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it does not cause creases. When the dough has reached the desired size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much excess air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.

5. Preheat the oven to 325F. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit open; discard bag. Using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. Transfer the squares to parchment-lined baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork. Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking by 180 degrees and from top to bottom. The cookies shouldn't take on much color while baking.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pan for 5 - 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from Smitten Kitchen and Baking: From My Home to Yours

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spinach Souffle

Happy Friday!!! Next week is my last week at work before the big move. I can't believe that I will be leaving after 6 years in my lab. It's been a lot of work winding things down and organizing all of my notes and supplies in a way that my project can be continued after I leave, so there's been absolutely no time for new recipes. I am so anxious to get back into the kitchen!!!

I made this souffle for the Christmas dinner I hosted for Bob's parents last year. It's my mom's recipe, which she received from a friend many years ago. Although I counted this as one of the vegetables at our meal, it's one of those vegetable dishes that has so much other delicious stuff (like butter, cheese, and eggs!) that probably cancel out the healthfulness of the actual veggie! My mother-in-law suggested it could be used as a quiche filling, because the texture of this souffle is very similar to that of quiche. I think other veggies could be added to this recipe, like artichokes or mushrooms.

One note about this recipe is that it has to be made in advance so it can sit in the fridge for 4-5 hours. For big dinners where you're trying to coordinate multiple dishes, this can actually be an advantage because you prep it early and pop it in the oven an hour before dinner!

Spinach Souffle

1 package frozen spinach, thawed and all liquid squeezed out
1 pound cottage cheese
3 eggs
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
4 ounces grated cheddar cheese
3 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a casserole dish (I used a 10-inch round dish).
1. Mix in order listed above. Pour into casserole dish. Place in refrigerator for 4-5 hours.

2. Stir mixture, then bake for 1 hour.

Source: My Mom

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ricotta Gnudi in a Parmesan Broth

Although it's nearing the end of April, we've had another cold front come through Chicago, so I thought I would post this comforting soup-like meal. I made it sometime this winter, and I really liked these tasty ricotta dumplings bathing in a warm Parmesan broth. This was definitely not one of Bob's favorite meals, mainly because he doesn't really like ricotta cheese. I naively thought I could change his mind :)

Giada has this meal filed under "hearty pastas" in her cookbook, Everyday Pasta, but I think a small portion could be served as a soup course at a dinner party. If you like ricotta cheese, you should give these a try!

Ricotta Gnudi in a Parmesan Broth

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Parmesan Broth
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Ricotta Gnudi
2 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 egg white
2 ounces prosciutto, chopped (I omitted this)
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (or 1/2 Tablespoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus 1 cup for dredging

1. Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the broth has reduced to 4 cups, about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the gnudi: bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer over high heat. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, egg, egg white, prosciutto (if using), parsley, nutmeg, salt, and pepper; mix thoroughly.

3. When the water is simmering and ready, stir the flour into the ricotta mixture. It is important not to add the flour too soon; otherwise they will become dense and gummy rather than light.

4. Shape the gnudi using 2 large soup spoons: scoop up a large spoonful of ricotta mixture into one spoon, then scoop the mixture onto the other spoon and back again, forming a three-sided oval. I have also seen these shaped into little round balls, like meatballs.

5. Drop the gnudi into the dredging flour. Form another 8 or 9 gnudi at a time, dredge in flour on all sides, and tap off the excess.

6. Slide the formed gnudi into the simmering water, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. Remove the gnudi using a slotted spoon after they have floated to the top and have cooked for about 4 minutes total.

7. While the gnudi cook, create another batch of gnudi and dredge them in flour. Continue cooking and forming gnudi, transferring cooked gnudi to a platter in a single layer, until you have used all the ricotta mixture.

8. Divide the gnudi among the serving bowls. Pour the reduced broth over the gnudi. Sprinkle with a pinch of the pepper and a spoonful of grated Parmesan and serve.

Source: Everyday Pasta

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blueberry Buttermilk pancakes


To be honest, I don't usually care for homemade pancakes, and I certainly don't like pancakes from restaurants. My favorite pancakes are actually Aunt Jemima's Complete Buttermilk Pancakes, but not made the way the box recommends. I like them with more water, so the batter is very pourable, making for a very fluffy, light pancake. This may sound like breakfast blasphemy to some, but like I said, I'm just being honest :)

Several weeks ago I had some leftover buttermilk from another recipe, and I decided to search for a buttermilk pancake recipe. Because I had an abundance of Michigan blueberries in my freezer, I went with Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes. These pancakes were great! They were light and fluffy and had a delicious buttery flavor. As much as I love blueberry pancakes, I'd love to make these without the blueberries too. These just might have been better than my beloved Aunt Jemima Pancakes!

In the mood for some unique pancakes? Check out these Ricotta Pancakes or Blue Cornmeal Pancakes!

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

Yields 2 to 3 servings

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter, plus some for frying
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. Beat the eggs with the buttermilk and melted butter. Combine the dry and wet ingredients into a lumpy batter, being careful not to overmix (Overmixing results in flat, heavy pancakes!).

3. Heat some butter in a skillet over medium heat. Spoon 1/3 cup batter into the skillet and sprinkle the top with some of the blueberries. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes on each side.

4. Serve with maple syrup or topping(s) of choice.

Source: Adapted from Food Network

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

American Sandwich Bread




I actually made this bread back in January but saved it because I knew I wouldn't be getting much cooking/baking done this spring while we're trying to finish up work and school before our big move.

This was a fantastic bread! I love how high it bakes up, and it has a great flavor. The dough was super easy to whip up using my stand mixer. This is one of the instances when I love having an oven-safe instant-read digital thermometer - I just sat back and watched the temperature rise, knowing that I'd have a perfectly baked loaf of bread in the end. I definitely plan to make this again!

American Sandwich Bread

3 3/4 cups (18 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm whole milk (about 110F)
1/3 cup warm water (about 110F)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 Tablespoons honey
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast

1. Adjust on oven rack to the lowest position and heat oven to 200F. Once oven reaches 200F, maintain the heat for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven.

2. Mix 3 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix the milk, water, butter, honey, and yeast in a 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Turn the machine to low and slowly add the liquid. When the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and satiny, stopping the machine two or three times to scrape the dough from the hook, if necessary, about 10 minutes. Note: After 5 minutes of kneading, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add flour, 1 Tablespoon at a time and up to 1/4 cup total, until the dough is no longer sticky.

3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.

4. Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl, rolling the dough around the bowl to coat lightly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven until the dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.

5. Gently press the dough into a rectangle 2-inch thick and no longer than 9 inches. With a long side facing you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed.

6. Place the dough seam-side down in a greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in a warm spot until the dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes.

7. Keep one oven rack at the lowest position and place the other at the middle position. Heat oven to 350F. Place an empty baking pan on the bottom rack. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the boiling water into the empty pan on the bottom rack, and set the loaf onto the middle rack.

8. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted at an angle from the short end just above the pan rim into the center of the loaf reads 195F, about 40 to 50 minutes.

9. Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.

Source: Annie's Eats, originally from Baking Illustrated

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Crash Hot Potatoes

Here is another recipe from the Pioneer Woman. It may sound simple, but I don't have a problem with simple - I actually like a simple recipe if the results are delicious, which these are. I made the full recipe thinking that we'd have a lot leftover . . . turns out we didn't! These were so tasty that Bob and I kept going back for more until they were gone! I think I even pushed the main dish aside in favor of more potatoes :)

These are my submission to this month's Side Dish Showdown. I have made a real effort to make more side dishes this year, even though it's tough for me. This is yet another potato, but for so long I was a little intimidated by potatoes that once I got on a roll, I just kept going!

Side Dish Showdown Blogger Event

I can't remember what I served these with, but it was definitely some type of chicken. These potatoes would go perfectly with steak too!

Crash Hot Potatoes

12 whole new potatoes or other small round potatoes
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Rosemary or other herbs of choice (I used chives), to taste

Preheat oven to 450F.
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt. Add potatoes and cook until fork-tender.

2. On a sheet pan, generously drizzle olive oil. Place tender potatoes on the cookie sheet leaving plenty of room between each potato.

3. With a potato masher, gently press down each potato until it slightly mashes, rotate the potato masher 90 degrees and mash again. Brush the tops of each crushed potato genouersly with more olive oil.

4. Sprinkle potatoes with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and fresh chopped herbs.

5. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown.

Source: Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Breakfast Chicken Sausage Patties


I received the KitchenAid mixer food grinder attachment for Christmas and finally tried it out to make these chicken sausages. It was great to be able to grind my own chicken. I am very suspect of what's actually in the ground chicken from the grocery store, not to mention it is so expensive (more than ground turkey at my store!) That being said, you can certainly make these using pre-ground chicken!

These chicken sausage patties were fantastic! Bob and I had them with waffles for breakfast one Saturday, and we loved them. They are so flavorful and have a great blend of spices. I didn't have allspice for some reason, so I added a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I might omit these next time to give it a more savory flavor, or I'll get some allspice and try that. I used only chicken breasts, but you can certainly use dark meat or a combination of the two. I halved the recipe but will post the full - I wished I had made more! :)

Breakfast Chicken Sausage Patties

1 pound ground chicken
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
heaping 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, optional
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
about 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 garlic clove, finely minces or pressed
1/2 Tablespoon real maple syrup
2 - 3 teaspoon olive oil

1. Lightly mix all ingredients together until the herbs and spices are well-incorporated. Do not overmix.

2. Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts, then make 4 patties out of each portion for a total of 16 1-ounce patties.

3. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add 1 teaspoon oil. Fill the pan with as many patties as will fit, and cook about 2 minutes per side or until browned and cooked through. Repeat with remaining batches, adding an additional teaspoon of olive oil per batch.

Source: Adapted from Elly Says Opa!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Cookies



Hi everyone! I have been really slacking on the blog this week because I'm in St. Louis preparing for our big move in May. We signed a lease, Bob had some job interviews, and I've been getting in some quality family time (and shopping!) I have been busy ever minute, but it's been a lot of fun.

My mom, my sister, and I decided that this year, instead of dyeing Easter eggs we would decorate sugar cookies! After seeing several posts about Easter cookies, I couldn't resist trying them out. I love the technique of using toothpicks to drag out lines or dots into beautiful patterns. We had so much fun playing around with different designs!






Each time I've used Royal icing (here and here), I used a different recipe for the icing and a different sugar cookie recipe (see a great sugar cookie comparison post here). I keep thinking I'll find one that is better than the last time, but really they all seem very similar to me. I'll provide links to the recipes I used this time below, but know that these techniques work on any cookie, and I'm sure any royal icing recipe.

The one thing I did differently this time was to use only one consistency icing per color and to use it for both outlining and flooding, which were done at the same time, rather than what I've done in the past: outline, wait for it to dry, then flood. When using the same color for outlining and flooding, the outline blends in nicely. Of course this might not work for the Monkey Face Cookies where having a distinct outline is essential, but for these cookies it worked very well.

This time, I drew inspiration from a number of different sources. I first saw this post on the King Arthur flour blog about these fun techniques for Easter cookies. Then I saw a guest post on Bake at 350 from Sweetopia, which led me to other posts at Sweetopia. Each of these blogs have some great tips for working with royal icing.

The bunnies:


Chick wearing bunny ears:

Chicks wearing sweaters (my mom invented these!):

For those of you who celebrate Easter, you still have time to try these out before Sunday - so get to it! :) Or see the sidebar for some other great Easter treats.

Have a great Easter, Passover, or a nice relaxing weekend!

Sugar Cookie Recipe - Roll-out Sugar Cookies by The Way the Cookie Crumbles
Royal Icing Recipe - Bake at 350

My mom's creation - remind you of anyone?



Can you guess which one my dad did? :)



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