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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes








I made these cupcakes for a double baby shower at Bob's work. One woman was having a girl, and one was having a boy, so I decided to make Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and use Royal Icing Decorations to give them blue or pink accents. These cupcakes were really, really good. They are definitely more dense than a box chocolate cake mix; my mom compared them to a chocolate muffin texture, but the flavor is amazing. I would eat them plain! Adding the Vanilla Buttercream made them even better. Bob said these went over very well with his coworkers. I was happy to see how cute the Royal Icing decorations turned out - I have since used this technique again and love the results!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes; Note: this recipe does not double well; it is best to make two separate batches and bake each separately.

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (1 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (3 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup sour cream (4 ounces)

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan (cups have 1/2-cup capacity) with baking-cup liners.

2. Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.

3. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.

4. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogenous and thick.

5. Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until toothpick inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.

6. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.

7. Store leftover cupcakes (frosted or unfrosted) in the refirgerator, but let them come to room temperature before serving.

Source: America's Test Kitchen Cookbook

I love these cupcake liners by Reynold's:

They have aluminum foil on the inside so the grease doesn't soak through the liner, and the design stays perfect. It also makes it easy to scrape the crumbs off the empty liner, if you like to do that!

Royal Icing Decorations

Note: this isn't exactly a tutorial on how to make these decorations but rather the steps involved if you are familiar with royal icing.
1. Prepare a batch of Royal Icing.

2. Add very small amounts of warm water to reach a medium consistency.

3. Pipe desired shapes onto waxed paper and immediately add a sugar pearl to the center of the shape, if desired.

4. Allow to try overnight, uncovered.

5. Gently peel off the decorations off the waxed paper and store in an airtight container until ready to use.




Monday, April 11, 2011

Garlicky Shrimp Pasta



Bob and I usually stay in on Valentine's Day and make a special dinner together. This year we decided to make this Garlicky Shrimp Pasta that we've been eyeing for a long time. This was a simple, quick dinner that was every bit as good as it sounds. I'm glad to add another shrimp pasta to our dinner repertoire!

Garlicky Shrimp Pasta

Serves 4

5 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 5 teaspoons), plus 4 medium cloves, smashed
1 pound large shrimp (21-25), peeled, deveined, each shrimp cut into 3 pieces (we just did 2)
3 tablespoons olive oil
table salt
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound pasta in short, tubular shapes, such as fusilli, campanelle, or mezze rigatoni
2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine
3/4 cup clam juice (we used vegetable stock)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice plus 1 lemon, cut into wedges
ground black pepper

1. Toss 2 teaspoons minced garlic, shrimp, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Allow shrimp to marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.

2. Heat 4 smashed garlic cloves and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is light golden brown, 4 to 7 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and use a slotted spoon to remove garlic from skillet; discard garlic. Set skillet aside.

3. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Cook until just al dente, then drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water, and transfer pasta back to Dutch oven.

4. While pasta cooks, return the skillet with oil to medium heat; add the shrimp with marinade to the skillet in a single layer. Cook the shrimp, undisturbed, until oil starts to bubble gently, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir the shrimp and continue to cook until almost cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Using slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to medium bowl.

5. Add the remaining 3 teaspoons minced garlic and pepper flakes to the skillet and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute; stir in vermouth and cook for 1 minute. Add clam juice (or vegetable stock) and parsley; cook until mixture starts to thicken, 1 to 2 minutes.

6. Off heat, whisk in the butter and lemon juice. Add the shrimp and sauce to the pasta, adding reserved cooking water if sauce is too thick. Season with black pepper. Serve, passing lemon wedges separately.

Source: America's Test Kitchen Complete TV Show Cookbook

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chicken Francese


When looking for a main dish to go with the Mashed Potatoes and Root Vegetables, Bob and I decided on Chicken Francese - a lightly coated chicken with a lemony sauce. In the words of Ina Garten, "How bad could that be?" Well, it's delicious! The chicken has a nice coating, and the sauce is very flavorful. I pretty much knew by reading the recipe that I'd like this chicken, and it definitely delivered. This was a great main dish to go with the potatoes, and one we'd like to make again and again.

Chicken Francese

Serves 4

For the Sauce:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 very small onion, minced (about 1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1/3 cup lemon juice from 2 lemons
2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Table salt and ground black pepper

For the Chicken:
1 cup all-purpose flour
Table salt and ground black pepper
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 ounces each), tenderloins removed, breasts trimmed of excess fat, halved horizontally, and pounded to even 1/4-inch thickness
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 200 degrees. Set wire rack on rimmed baking sheet and place sheet in oven.

2. For the sauce: Heat 1 tablespoon butter in medium nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add flour and stir until light golden brown, about 1 minute. Whisk in wine, lemon juice, and broth; increase heat to high and bring to boil, whisking constantly. Lower heat to medium-high and cook, whisking occasionally, until mixture is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, 10 to 15 minutes. Strain sauce through mesh strainer, return to saucepan, and set aside.

3. For the chicken: Set second wire rack on second rimmed baking sheet on counter. Whisk together flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in pie plate. In second pie plate, whisk eggs and milk until combined. Season both sides of each cutlet with salt and pepper. Using tongs and working with 2 cutlets at a time, coat cutlets in seasoned flour; shake off excess flour. Transfer cutlets to egg mixture; coat evenly and let excess run off. Return cutlets to seasoned flour; coat evenly and shake off excess flour. Place coated cutlets on wire rack on counter.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon each butter and oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; when foaming subsides, place 4 cutlets in skillet. Cook until well browned, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Carefully flip cutlets and continue to cook until lightly browned on second sides, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer chicken to wire rack in oven. Wipe out skillet with paper towels. Repeat, using remaining 1 tablespoon each butter and oil to cook remaining cutlets in now-empty skillet. After transferring chicken to oven, wipe out skillet with paper towels.

5. To finish sauce: Transfer the sauce to now-empty skillet and set over low heat; cook until the sauce is heated through, about 1 minute. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter; add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve: Remove baking sheet with chicken from the oven; transfer 4 cutlets to the skillet, turn to coat with sauce, then transfer each serving (2 cutlets) to individual plates. Repeat with the remaining cutlets. Spoon 2 tablespoons additional sauce over each serving and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately, passing extra sauce separately.

Source: The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

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