Monday, March 30, 2009

Black and White Cupcakes with Gooey Chocolate Glaze

I received a new cookbook for my birthday, simply titled Cupcakes by Shelly Kaldunski (sold at Williams-Sonoma). As if there aren't enough cupcakes to be had at all of the cupcake bakeries cropping up in D.C., at $3 a pop I've been interested in trying to make my own. Baking has never really been my "thing", in fact just today I learned there was such an ingredient as cake flour. (Which, incidentally, seems to make all the difference.) 

I've always been a big fan of the black bottom cupcakes at Starbucks - a mix of chocolate cake and cheesecake in cupcake form - so I was quite excited to see that my new cookbook has a recipe for Black and White Cupcakes. While the cream cheese did not quite settle in the center of the cake as I had hoped, the cupcakes looked good and had the combination of tangy and sweet flavors that I enjoy.
Black and White Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 TBS sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup cake flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 TBS unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in middle position. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

To make the cream cheese filling, in a bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the cream cheese until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sour cream and 1/2 cup of sugar and beat until combined.

To make the cupcake batter, sift together the cake flour cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and remaining 3/4 cup sugar together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions, beating on low speed until just combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about half full. Spoon the cream cheese filling onto the center of each, dividing it evenly (the filling will sink into the cupcakes as they bake). Bake until the cupcakes are set in the center, around 15 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Gooey Chocolate Glaze
makes approx. 1 1/2 cups

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 TBS unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces

In a small saucepan, combine the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate, and butter. Warm over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is bubbly, 3-4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the glaze cool slightly before using. (The cooled glaze can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.)

Spoon the glaze over the cupcakes and top with chocolate curls or other decorations. The finished cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat in a 250 degree oven of 5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Stovetop Roasted Chicken

Here is another one of Eric's favorites from Cook's Illustrated. An alternative to oven-roasted chicken, stovetop roasted chicken lets you cook chicken parts, rather than the whole bird. The Cook's Illustrated technique gets the skin crispy while allowing the meat to remain juicy and reduces the cooking time dramatically. Paired with a lemon herb sauce, this meal is simply delicious.

Check out the November/December 2008 issue for the science behind the two phase cooking method.
Stovetop Roasted Chicken

For the chicken:
3 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, trimmed of excess fat
salt and pepper
1 TBS vegetable oil
1-1 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth

For the lemon-herb sauce:
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 TBS)
1 tsp all-purpose flour
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 TBS fresh parsley, minced
1 1/2 TBS fresh chives, minced
1 TBS cold unsalted butter
salt and pepper

1. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tsp vegetable oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken pieces skin side down and cook without moving until golden brown, 5-8 mins.

2. Using tongs, flip chicken pieces skin side up. Reduce heat to medium-low, add 3/4 cup broth to skillet, cover, and cook until instant read thermometer registers 155 degrees for chicken breast and 170 degrees for legs and thighs, 10-16 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate, skin-side up.

3. Pour off liquid from skillet into 2-cup measuring cup and reserve. Using tongs, wipe skillet with paper towels. Add remaining tsp vegetable oil to skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Return chicken pieces skin side down and cook without moving until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and it reaches 160 degrees for breasts and 175 degrees for legs and thighs, 4-7 mins. Transfer to a serving platter and tent loosely with foil. Skim fat from reserved cooking liquid and add enough broth to measure 3/4 cup.

4. Heat oil in now empty skillet over low heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly for 30 secs. Increase heat to medium-high, add reserved cooking liquid, and bring to a simmer, scraping skillet bottom with a wooden spoon to loosened brown bits. Simmer rapidly until reduced to 1/2 cup, 2-3 mins. Stir in any accumulated juices from resting chicken, return to a simmer and cook 30 seconds. Remove skillet from heat, whisk in lemon juice, parsley, chives, and butter, season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce around chicken and serve.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Aerogarden Update

My Italian basil, purple basil, thyme, and chives are sprouting. I set up the Aerogarden on March 19, and 6 days later, I have herbs. Baby herbs. So far, so good, on this product. The set up was a snap and the instructions, easy to follow. With a little research, I learned that on the herbs setting, the pump and the lights don't necessarily run simultaneously (for a while, I thought I was sent a faulty pump). 

With my mind at ease, I found the the light timing that worked best for me and set the timer to turn off at 9pm each night. In the germination phase, the lights are to be on for 17 hours (pump runs for 12) and the lights and pump go off for 7 hours. The lights are quite bright, so timing them to my rough sleep schedule seemed to make the most sense.

The basils sprouted first, followed by the thyme and the chives. Looks like mint comes up next followed finally by the dill. I'm quite excited for the prospect of healthy home grown herbs as summer approaches, and if this works well, I may attempt to grow tomatoes or strawberries this winter.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Aerogarden Pro 100

For my upcoming birthday, I received an Aerogarden Pro 100 from my wonderful Mom and Dad. This is, for me, the perfect gift living in a city with a small balcony that doesn't receive any sunlight. Last year I attempted to grow tomatoes. I got one. Now, I can grow herbs, lettuces, tomatoes, even strawberries (!) right inside my own home. More pictures of the set up, and actual herbs (once they grow) to come.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Taste of New Orleans

Just a few pictures from my recent trip to New Orleans. I'll need to investigate Creole cooking and post a few recipes. I would love to find the courage to fry oysters and replicate this delicious Po Boy!

And of course no trip to New Orleans is complete without boiled crawfish.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chocolate Bread Pudding

I. Love. Bread Pudding.

So, naturally, I was thrilled to see this recipe from Elyssa. It even reminded me that I have a few bread pudding recipes to post of my own. Elyssa points out the flexibility of bread pudding, being able to do many stages in advance, "The first time I made it, I did it in 3 days (toasting bread the 1st night, making custard and soaking the bread the 2nd, and baking/serving the 3rd night.)" So, here is Elyssa's recipe. Enjoy!

Chocolate Bread Pudding


1 loaf (1 to 1 1/2 pounds) challah
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) whole milk
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) heavy whipping cream
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used a mixture of both bitter and semi sweet chocolate)
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) sugar
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 325°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly butter the cake pan/baking dish (9 by 2-inch round or ceramic baking/casserole dish).

Toast the Bread: Use the serrated knife to cut away the crust from all sides of the bread. If you are using challah which is braided, just do the best you can and don’t worry about the bits of crust in the crevices of the braid. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. Spread the cubes on the baking sheet and toast in the over for 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Measure out 4 cups of bread cubes and place them in the prepared cake pan. Transfer the remaining bread cubes to a resealable plastic bag and set aside for another use. [You can do this step on the first day if you want. Day old bread tends to soak the custard in a little better. But you can also do this the same day as the custard]

Make the custard: Heat the milk and cream in the medium saucepan over medium heat just until the mixture simmers. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for 1 minute, then whisk vigorously to blend the chocolate into the mixture.

Temper the eggs: Whisk the eggs, yolk, sugar, and salt in the medium bowl to blend thoroughly. Pour about ½ cup of the chocolate mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Once blended, whisk in another ½ cup. Then slowly pour the rest of the chocolate mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly.

Soak the bread cubes: Pour the custard through a strainer over the bread in the baking dish. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and press down gently so that all the bread cubes are soaked with the custard. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight. This gives the bread cubes plenty of time to soak up the chocolate custard, turning them from white to a deep chocolate brown color throughout. Every once in awhile, remove the plastic and gently stir the mixture, then return to the fridge.

Bake and Serve the Bread Pudding: Preheat the over to 325°F and position an oven rack in the center. Remove the plastic wrap from the pan and bake the pudding for about 60-75 minutes, until the center is set. To check, use a spoon to press down firmly in the center of the pan. The pudding is done when the center feels firm and no loose custard bubbles up around the spoon. Transfer to a rack to cool for about 15-20 minutes, then cut the warm pudding and serve. Top w/ a spoonful of whipped cream or caramel sauce if you want.

Note: The bread pudding can be baked up to 2 days in advance. Cool to room temp, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reheat in a 325°F oven for 20-25 minutes, until heated through.

[Photo by CatalogThis, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.]
Blog Widget by LinkWithin