Monthly Archives: May 2015

Memories of Meals Past: Days of Red Wine And Chocolate (Cupcakes)

Drizzle me this...right into my mouth!

Drizzle me this…right into my mouth!

I was chatting with a friend in Thailand on Skype last night (shout out to Henneth! FYI, check out his awesome paintings on flickr — so gorgeous!), and logged off so I could go write a blog post for Throwback Thursday, or as I call it around here, Memories of Meals Past. But I got distracted by a new e-book from one of my favourite authors and then fell asleep to the purrs of the cat that I’m cat-sitting.

So I here’s the post that I meant to write! I starting writing the post yesterday, really! I wrote the title. And then I downloaded the e-book and then I fell asleep. But starting the post means that I feel that I can sneak in a Memories of Meals Past post under the wire, because…my blog, my rules! (Ah, so liberating!)

[Edit: I wrote the entire post and went to post it on Friday night, just before midnight. Under the wire, yes? And then the internet ate my post. Lots of teeth-gnashing commenced. This is why you’re getting the post on Saturday morning, Canadian-time. It may be a tad late for Throwback Thursday, but I wrote this thing several times tonight, so {redacted} I’m a-gonna post it! *takes deep breath. Eats a cupcake.*] 

And this Memory of Meals Past is about the cupcakes that I sent in to work with the DH last Monday. They were (*takes a deep breath because it’s a mouthful of a name*): Red Wine and Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting and Ganache. They were tasty! I know because I ate a handful before I sent them in with the DH. Even the DH, who doesn’t like chocolate (hard to believe, but es verdad), liked them!

Want to make some yourself? (Which I highly recommend.) Here’s how:

I started with this recipe for the Red Wine and Chocolate Cupcakes. You can really taste the red wine in the cake once they’re made. While I deviated slightly from the recipe in this case (because of course I had to!), I have made them exactly as the recipe says and they are good. A word of advice though, don’t overbake them. Actually, under-bake them. And then cover every exposed surface in frosting, or you’ll end up with tough, dried cake wherever air touches. I generally under-bake and prefer it that way. But you do what you want!

Then I frosted the cooled cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting. Buttercream is easier to make than most people realize, and soooo tasty! Just mix butter, icing sugar, a dollop of vegetable shortening, a dash of vanilla extract, another dash of milk, and you’re good to go! If you’re wondering why I’m not giving you exact amounts, it’s because I generally make it up as I go each time — it’s so easy to customize, and it’s hard to go wrong with sugar and butter. But if you want a little bit more direction, here you go!

Homemade Buttercream Frosting (aka Frosting of the Gods)
  • softened butter
  • icing sugar
  • vegetable shortening
  • vanilla extract
  • milk

Beat your butter and shortening together until fluffy. Add in lots of icing sugar. Taste good? Add in a dash of vanilla extract, and you’re good to go!

  • Too soft? Add in a bunch more icing sugar and/or butter and/or stick the whole thing in the fridge to harden.
  • Too hard? Add in a dollop of milk and/or a dash more shortening. (The shortening is what makes it fluffy; the butter is what makes it tasty!)
I didn’t know until about two years ago that commercial buttercream was so fluffy because of the addition of shortening. I used to ice my cakes and sort of spackle on the buttercream, and wonder why my cakes never had the polish of the ones that I saw in magazines, even if they got lots of compliments on taste. Then came shortening! And voila, fluffiness commenced! But just to show you that there’s no wrong way to frost a cupcake, it turns out that the spackle-like frosting that I used to have, is actually a desired finish: it’s called a “stucco texture“. I was merely ahead of my time — or so I claim!
 
At any rate, once you’ve iced your cooled cupcakes, then you just drizzle them with ganache. With panache! Or a fork. (<– Tee hee! I make myself laugh!) And devour them all. Or nibble them all. To each his/her own, yes?
 
Next Post: my Nutella Rice Krispies squares, maybe? Or my latest creation, Fruit and Nut Chocolate Fudge Clusters? Do you have a preference? Let me know in the comments!

Of Cats, Cuddles, and (Rhubarb-Free) Cake

Dorie says to serve the cake with strawberries and crème fraiche. Probably makes more gustatory sense when you actually make the cake with rhubarb.

Dorie Greenspan says to serve her rhubarb cake with strawberries and crème fraiche. Probably makes more gustatory sense when you actually make the cake with rhubarb.

I’m writing this post while sitting in someone else’s kitchen, with a tiger-eyed cat chirruping earnestly in my ear. I’m cat/housesitting for a few weeks, and staying in this wonderfully renovated circa 1900’s house, getting all the cat cuddles my heart desires.

But this means I’m not in my own kitchen as much, except when I pop back to my condo to replenish my supplies. Bringing things back and forth between residences also means I’m bound to forget one thing or another, and in this case, while I didn’t forget the rhubarb for today’s recipe, after checking three local stores over two days and not finding any rhubarb, I ran out of time to go searching farther afield.

All this is an intro to why I made today’s bake-a-long recipe with fresh pineapple instead of spring-has-sprung rhubarb. The official recipe is the Rhubarb Upside Down Brown Sugar Cake from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi cookbook, but as mentioned above, I turned it into a Pineapple Brown Sugar Cake.

So…basically a pineapple upside down cake, except with a brown sugar batter and using fresh pineapple.

Very French, oui?

Very North American, more like. Le sigh.

Mixing up the batter to pour over the caramelized fruit.

Mixing up the batter to pour over the caramelized fruit.

Actually, it turned out pretty well! The cake was pillowy soft, and smelled deliciously of butter, and the pineappple was just right as I had cut it up the previous night so it lost the just-cut tongue-numbing sharpness.

Some for me, plus more for me! I like cake. :)

Some for me, plus more for me! I like cake. 🙂

That said, I loooove rhubarb and I think the original recipe must be just wonderful, with a contrast between the tang of the rhubarb and the sweetness of the caramelized brown sugar topping. My mouth is watering as I type this, just dreaming of some tart rhubarb. When I was a kid, my best friend and I would pick fresh rhubarb from one of our gardens and eat it raw, dipping the end of the stalk in sugar to cut the tartness. Mmm! And then our mouths would be puckered for hours. But it was worth it!

But enough with the reminiscing. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go cuddle a cat. And eat some cake!

Next Post: Nutella Rice Krispies squares, I think. So easy. So tasty. So quickly devoured.

Cheddar and Rosemary Focaccia, the EASY Way

Plated and ready for eating!

Plated and ready for eating!

I love focaccia, but I’m a fan of quick meals and therefore quick breads. And the whole letting the dough rise, and then punching down, and then rising again, etc., etc., is just more trouble than I’d like to do on a regular basis. So I developed (look at me using food blogger lingo!) a recipe that uses my Easiest Pizza Dough in the History of Ever as a base. And wham-o! Easy peasy Cheddar and Rosemary Focaccia!

The DH and I had gone shopping at a local cheese shop two weekends prior to my making this recipe, and had picked up some yummy cheeses for a wine and cheese date night at home. We had some old Quebec cheddar leftover, so I thought I’d use it up in this recipe. (By the way, I also have a recipe for a yummy baked brie with chutney that I want to post here soon. Cheese. So yummy!)

I think I’ve talked before about how I usually eat lactose-free foods, and while that’s true, as long as I stick to a lactose-free diet most of the time,  I can eat some regular dairy products the rest of the time. So I didn’t use lactose-free cheese in this recipe. But I’m sure it’d be just as tasty if you do. (And if you do, let me know how it turned out!)

But enough with the blatherings, and on with the baking!

A cheesy photo. *giggle*

A cheesy photo. *giggle*

Cheddar and Rosemary Focaccia

Make the pizza dough and spread/roll it out to the rough rectangle shape on an oiled cookie sheet. Spread a little olive oil over the top. Set it aside in a warm place for half an hour. If you like your focaccia really fluffy, leave it in a warm place for an hour. In the meantime, crumble the cheddar cheese, do the dishes, check your email, whatever floats your boat.

Once the dough has risen as much as you like, poke little dimples into it in a random pattern with your finger, using little stabbing motions. This makes the traditional dimpled top. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the top, followed by the dried Rosemary and sea salt. If you want, you can also sprinkle a little olive oil, but not too much.

Bake in a 425 degree oven until the cheese is melted and the dough is golden. Slice with a pizza cutter, and enjoy!

The cheese is more chunked than crumbled. I recommend crumbled.

The cheese is more chunked than crumbled. I recommend crumbled.

I know I said in the beginning of this post that I don’t like waiting for dough to rise, and then I say to let the dough rise for half an hour to an hour, but there’s a reason for that! You don’t have to let the dough rise. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a crisper, denser, flatbread; and if you do let it rise, you’ll have the more traditional, fluffy focaccia. It’s up to you what you prefer!

And of course, you can switch up the toppings! Maybe some thinly sliced tomatoes and black olives? Mmm…want!

Next Post: Rhubarb squares, Nutella Rice Krispie squares, or Baked Brie with Chutney — all three are good, so I can’t decide which to post first! I’m leaning towards the baked brie with chutney, though. It’s covered in pie crust. And I do love my pie!

Nutella Buttons, and Why I Will Never Be A Skinny-Minny

One bite buttons. Four buttons is a reasonable serving size, right? Maybe more?

One-bite buttons. Four buttons is a reasonable serving size, right? I mean, they’re so tiny. So really, when you think about it, I should eat more, right? Easily done!

Earlier this week, I popped my head into the DH’s man-cave and shook a jar of Nutella in his face.

Me: Sweetie, don’t eat any more Nutella! Because I need it for a recipe.

DH: I haven’t had any.

Me: But it’s half gone!

DH: I haven’t had any, I swear.

Me: Really? Um…never mind!

Later that week:

Me: Sweetheart, can you buy some Nutella when you go shopping?

DH: But I bought some!

Me: *sheepishly and in a small voice* I ate it all.

Shopping together a few days ago:

Me: Oh, here’s the Nutella! Let’s get this jar, it’s on sale.

DH: *takes small jar out of my hands and puts it back on the shelf* *reaches for biggest jar* We need this one. Actually, we should get two.

Me: No, it’s not healthy for me.

DH: *looks at me pointedly*

Me: What!?!

So yeah. I ate an entire jar of Nutella. By myself. In the space of a week. But it was just so goooood! And…confession time…I’m eating some more as I type this.

In the middle of the dolloping, but pre- spoon-licking.

In the middle of the dolloping, but pre- spoon-licking.

My on-line bake-a-long group is making Nutella Buttons from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi cookbook this week, which is why I had Nutella in the house to begin with. The Nutella Buttons are these cute little mini cupcakes with Nutella in the centre and ganache on top. Although in my case, because you know I had to change something in the recipe, I used homemade Magic Shell as a topping.

Dolloping is done and spoons are licked!

Dolloping is done and spoons are licked!

It’s surprising easy to make them, although you do have to whip the egg whites separately and then fold them in. But aside from that bit of fiddly-ness, you just make a vanilla batter, dollop a bit in a muffin liner in a mini muffin tray, dollop a teeny bit of Nutella on top of the batter dollop, and finish it off with another dollop of batter. (And yes, dollop is my new favourite word.)

Post-dolloping, pre-dunking.

Post-dolloping, pre-dunking.

Once you’re done dolloping, you just bake them as you would any cupcake, and then let cool. Dorie suggests icing with a chocolate ganache, but I think a chocolate frosting would be nice too. I had some homemade magic shell in the fridge (chocolate mixed with coconut oil, basically) so I melted some in a container, and dipped the buttons in that. They turned out pretty well, and I can totally see serving these with tea for the chocoholic in your life. Or in my case, sending them into work with the DH so that I don’t eat them all.

Because you know that I totally would. (Along with another dollop of Nutella!)

Next Post: Rosemary and Aged Cheddar Foccaccia. Seriously easy!

My Long-Promised Easy Lemon Meringue Tartlets

Flaky, crunchy, tartness. *drooling again just thinking about it*

Flaky, crunchy, tartness. *drooling again just thinking about it*

Alright, my hearties, I’m back! I took a week and bit off from blogging, so I could focus on getting rid of my migraine. And…it worked! *touch wood* I didn’t stop cooking and baking during that time, though, so I’ve got lots of yummy things to share. First up: my long-promised lemon meringue tartlets recipe.

A fancy dish that isn’t as hard as all that. Want to learn how? Read on, dear reader…

The Crust

A flaky, buttery crust, that holds together but crumbles satisfactorily in your mouth. Yum! It’s just my vodka pie dough recipe, rolled out, pressed into tart pans, and blind-baked. I blind-baked my tarts at 400 degrees until the crust was golden. Then I removed the pie weights (I used dried chickpeas!) and foil, and let them cool. My vodka pie crust recipe will make enough for three or so tartlets, depending on your pan size.

How to blind bake? Easy peasy. Put your dough in your tartlet pans, prick the dough with a fork, cover with foil, and fill with dried chickpeas. You can see a picture in my Pink Grapefruit Tarts post, if, like me, you’re more of a visual learner.

The Filling

Lemon curd, baby! Also known as my new go-to fridge staple. Got toast? Add lemon curd. Got plain cookies? Sandwich with lemon curd. Greek yoghurt? Top with lemon curd. <– Like a healthier parfait! Especially if you layer it in a wine glass with fruit and oat crumbles.

In this case though, you just fill the cooled tart shells with the lemon curd. I’ve used a variety of recipes. I recommend this one, but feel free to use your own. The recipe will definitely make more lemon curd than you’ll use in these tartlets, but that’s not really a problem, is it? *grin*

The Meringue Topping

Inspired by the Cranberry Crackle Tart that my bake-a-long group made from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook Baking Chez Moi (run-on sentence much? *takes deep breath and continues with sentence*), I made a meringue topping. But I like it crunchier, more like meringue cookies, as opposed to the fluffy soft, foamy (blech!) usual meringue topping.

Here’s what I did:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Beat eggs with sugar until foamy and then add in sugar, salt, and vanilla. Keep beating until slightly less foamy, and most importantly, SHINY! This will take a few minutes.

Top the lemon-curd filled tarts with the meringue, and bake in a 250 degree oven until tops are crusty when tapped with a finger, and starting to brown., roughly 45 minutes. Ish. Remove, let cool, and gobble up. Because these things are tasty, sunshine!

To sum, (1) blind-bake the tart dough, (2) fill with lemon curd, (3) top with a meringue and (4) bake on a low temperature. Then eat. And savour every flaky, crunchy, soft, tart mouthful. Spring has sprung! In yo’ mouth.

Next Post: Nutella. And mini cupcakes. That is all.

Post-Pub Edit: As I’m always in search of foodie fame and fortune, I’ve added this recipe to a recipe link-up at Stacey’s Monday Meal Plan recipe gather-up at the Southern Bite site. Check it out here!