Monday, October 22, 2007

Pumpkin Muffins, Bread, and almost Cupcakes

Pumpkin season is here! And it's finally getting cool in Houston. It's fall! Time for lots of squash. :) These are my favorite spicy pumpkin muffins (or bread). Cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon combine perfectly with the pumpkin, getting even better the day after baking. And so moist! I usually cut back on the oil and use buttermilk and or applesauce to fill in. Today, I added dried cranberries, but they're also great with walnuts. This is such a versatile recipe. And they freeze wonderfully. I always freeze one of the loaves or several muffins.

I had every intention of turning these into cupcakes with an orange-clove cream cheese frosting for the Cupcake Hero event hosted by Laurie of Quirky Cupcakes and Stefani of the Cupcake Project but they didn't make it that far. Next time!! They're so good to grab on-the-go for breakfast that I just didn't get to the frosting. Anyway, I used pastry flour (part cake flour) to make them lighter and more cupcake-like. For bread, I think I like the texture of all-purpose. But yum! I'll have to make more for cupcakes! Continue for pumpkin recipe.

Spicy Pumpkin Bread

by Rose

2 cups sugar ( I usually use part brown sugar--can cut down to 1 2/3 cups if just making it for myself)
2/3 cup oil (or even 1/2 if you're really dieting :) --then substitute the rest with buttermilk to equal 1 cup)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1-2 T applesauce
3 large eggs
1 can solid pack pumpkin (16 ounce)
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional but good!)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.
Beat sugar and oil in large bowl to blend.
Mix in eggs and pumpkin.
Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and baking powder into another large bowl.
Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Mix in walnuts, if desired.
Divide batter equally between prepared pans.
Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes.
Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Using sharp knife, cut around edge of loaves. Turn loaves out onto racks and cool completely.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Coconut "Twinkie" Cupcakes with Lemon Filling

My love affair with Asian desserts and pastries started last year during a vacation to SanFrancisco. I just couldn't get enough of the delicious Chinese bakeries, with my favorite steamed red bean buns. Sponge cakes, almond cookies, egg custard tarts, filled buns, moon cakes...Yum!! Upon returning home, I was excited to try some of the local bakeries. And although I haven't yet found the perfect steamed bun, Houston has a large Asian community and many options for wonderful sweets. What a great benefit of living in a large, multi-cultural city!

Anyway, I was very excited to try my first recipe for a friend's birthday from The Sweet Spot: Asian Inspired Desserts by Pichet Ong and Genevieve Ko. This cookbook has beautiful looking sweets! These cupcakes were great--light and airy, with a subtle crunch from the coconut and a tart lemon curd filling. I only piped a small amount of the curd into the cupcakes, about a tablespoon or less, and it was perfect. I topped them with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, hiding the hole for the filling. Cute! You will hear from this cookbook again! Continue for Cupcake recipe.

Coconut Twinkie Cupcakes with Lemon Filling
from The Sweet Spot, Asian-Inspired Desserts

Lemon Filling

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
2 t vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla bean)
1/2 t salt

Coconut Cupcakes

1 T unsalted butter, at room temperature, for greasing ramekins
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sugaring ramekins
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely shredded unsweetened dried coconut
3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 T grated lemon zest
1/4 t salt
1 t vanilla extract

To make Filling:

  • Put all ingredients in a double boiler or in bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Whisk constantly until the mixture becomes very thick, like jam, about 15 min. (Mine took quite a bit longer for some reason).
  • Remove from heat, put a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd, and refriegerate until completely chilled, about 2 hours.
For the Cupcakes:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter and sugar 12 4oz. ramekins or a 12-cup muffin tin; set aside.
  • Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and stir in the coconut; set aside.
  • Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk at medium-high speed until frothy. With the machine running, slowly add 1/3 cup of the sugar and continue whisking until medium-soft peaks form. Transfer to another large bowl.
  • Put the egg yolks and zest in the mixer bowl and whisk at medium speed until the yolks break, then add the salt and the remaining 2 T plus 2 t sugar and continue whisking until the yolks are pale yellow, thick, and doubled in volume, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the vanilla to the yolk mixture and whisk until well incorporated. Add 1/3 of the whipped whites to the yolks and stir well. Carefully fold in the remaining whites just until incorporated, trying to make sure they do not lose volume. Fold in half the flour mixture, then fold in the remaining flour until no traces of flour remain.
  • Divide the batter among the ramekins or muffin cups. If using ramekins, put them on a baking sheet. Bake for 4 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake until a tester comes out clean and the tops are puffed and golden brown, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then unmold and cool completely on a rack. The cake will deflate as they cool.
  • Transfer the chilled lemon filling to a pastry bag filled with a small plain tip. Poke a hole in the top of each cupcake with the tip, and slowly pipe in the curd until it begins to squirt out the opening. You will be able to feel when the cupcake is filled.
  • Serve the same day.

  • Continue......

    Basic Sourdough Bread

    What a wonderful loaf! This is another great recipe from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. The bread's deep flavor was developed over 3 days and the resulting loaves were terrific! After feeding my starter (or barm, which I like to keep fairly wet, about the consistency of pancake batter), a firm starter was made and then allowed to ferment overnight. The next day, the final dough was mixed, rose, and then shaped. The loaves were retarded in the refrigerator overnight and then baked on the following day.

    Both the texture and flavor are really nice in this bread. I used all King Arthur Bread flour for these loaves. The result was slightly chewy but beautiful airy with a perfectly crunchy crust. I'm excited to try many variations of this basic recipe! Continue for Sourdough recipe.

    Basic Sourdough Bread
    from the Bread Baker's Apprentice

    Makes two 1 1/2-pound loaves

    Firm Starter
    4 oz barm (wet starter--fed)
    4.5 oz bread flour
    1-2 oz water

    Final Dough
    20.25 oz bread flour
    .5 oz sea salt
    12-14 oz lukewarm water

    Semolina flour for dusting

    1. Remove starter from the refrigerator and measure it out 1 hour before making the firm starter to take off the chill.
    2. Add the flour to the bowl and mix together the barm and the flour, adding only enough additional water so that you can knead this into a small ball. You don't need to work this very long, just until the flour is hydrated. Lightly oil a small bowl and place the starter in the bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover.
    3. Ferment at room temperature for approx. 4 hours, or until the starter has at least doubled. Put it into the refrigerator overnight.
    4. Remove the starter from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough. Cut it into about 10 small pieces with a knife or pastry scraper. Mist with spray oil, cover with plastic and let sit for 1 hour to take off the chill.
    5. To make the dough, stir together the flour and salt in large mixing bowl. Add the starter pieces and enough water to bring everything together into a ball as you stir with a large spoon.
    6. Sprinkle the counter with flour, transfer the dough to the counter and knead by hand for 12-15 minutes. Adjust the water or flour as needed. The dough should be firm but tacky. It should pass the windowpane test. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, coating it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
    7. Ferment at room temperature for 3-4 hours, or until dough has nearly doubled in size.
    8. Gently remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal pieces (or smaller if making rolls), being careful to degas the dough as little as possible. Gently shape the dough into boules, batards, or baguettes.
    9. Proof the dough in bannetons or proofing bowl (lined with towel, sprayed with oil, then floured), or on parchment-lined sheet pans that have been dusted with semolina flour. Mist the exposed part of the dough with spray oil and loosely cover the dough with plastic wrap. Proof the loaves for 2-3 hours, or retard overnight in the refrigerator, removing them approx. 4 hours before baking them the next day (I proofed overnight with these).
    10. Prepare the oven for hearth baking with a baking stone in the bottom 3rd of the oven and a steam pan on the top shelf. Preheat the oven to 500. Carefully remove the plastic wrap from the dough 10 minutes before baking.
    11. Generously dust parchment lined peel with semolina flour and gently transfer the dough to the peel. Score the dough. Slid the dough onto the stone. After 30 seconds, spray the oven walls with water and close the door. Repeat 2x more at 30 second intervals. After the final spray, lower the oven setting to 450 and bake for 10 minutes. rotate the loaves 180 degrees and continue baking for another 10-20 minutes. They should be a rick golden brown allover, and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
    12. Transfer the finished loaves to a rack and cool for at least 4 minutes before slicing.


    Sunday, October 7, 2007

    Pizza Napoletana

    Ok, I love pizza. :) This is yet another crust recipe and another trial from The Bread Baker's Apprentice. The dough was allowed to ferment overnight and thus, the flavor of this dough was really nice. However, I didn't care for the consistency. While the edges of the crust were ok, it was very thin and chewy in the center. I used part all-purpose, part bread, and part whole wheat flours. For my next dough, I'll try an overnight rest using part semolina flour. It was a good pizza though--herbed goat cheese, tomatoes, and fresh basil--how can you go wrong? Continue for Pizza recipe.

    Pizza Napoletana
    from The Bread Baker's Apprentice

    20.25 oz. hi-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour, chilled (I used: 9.5 oz bread, 2 oz wheat, and 8.75 oz all-purpose, put in freezer 30 min. to chill)
    .44 oz salt
    1 t instant yeast
    2 oz olive oil
    14 oz water, ice cold

    Semolina flour for dusting

    Stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. With a large spoon, stir in the oil and water until the flour is all absorbed. If mixing by hand, work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass. Do this for 5-7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth. If using an electric mixer (as I did), mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes, until smooth and sticky. Dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky.

    Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with parchment and misting with oil. Cut the dough into 4-6 equal pieces. Sprinkle flour over the dough. Flour hands, lift each piece, and round it into a ball. Transfer dough to the sheet pan. Mist with oil and cover with plastic. Rest in the refrigerator overnight or up to 3 days (or freeze).

    Remove dough balls from refrigerator 2 hours before making pizza. Dust counter with flour then mist with oil. Place the dough on top of the counter and sprinkle with flour; dust hands with flour. Gently press the dough into flat disks and 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with flour, mist again, and cover with plastic. Rest for 2 hours.

    45 minutes before baking, place a baking stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible.

    Dust a peel with semolina flour. make the pizzas one at a time. Flour your hands, and stretch dough by bouncing (I ended up rolling out my crusts directly on parchment).

    Lay dough on the peel. Lightly top it with sauce and toppings. Slide pizza onto stone and close the door. Bake 5-8 minutes.


    Greta's Apple Torte

    Last week I visited my dear friend Greta and her 2 little ones in Indiana. There is just something about old friends that's so wonderful and comfortable! She is such a great mom--it was so fun to see her with her family. She is a wonderfully creative person and so great in the kitchen--making tasty desserts and meals for us in college. She always had some fun treat for us to try or biscotti waiting for company. Her countless gifts of food and handmade cards are so special to me and really exemplify what a blessing food can be to others. The time and work put into making these goodies demonstrate her thoughtfulness and love for her friends. When I think about my home, I hope that is as welcoming and comforting as Greta's. Love you so Greta!

    For my visit, Greta made this terrific apple torte. It was really good and I had to make it when I got home. And it's so easy and fun to make! A buttery, shortbread-like cake batter is spread on the bottom of a pan, stuffed with standing apple slices, dusted with cinnamon, and then baked. After an hour, a custardy mixture of eggs, butter, and sugar is poured over the top and it continues to bake until golden and set. Yum! The smell is fabulous and the resulting torte is gorgeous. Thanks friend!! Continue for Greta's Apple Torte recipe.

    Greta's Apple Torte

    ¾ cup salted butter (or add 1 t salt if using unsalted)
    2 c. sugar
    4 eggs
    2 t baking powder
    8 small apples, peeled, cut into 8ths

    8-9 inch springform pan (or 9 inch cake pan with at least 2 inch sides)

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    Melt ½ cup margarine.
    Add 1 cup sugar and beat well.
    Stir in 2 eggs and mix.
    Add 1 ¾ cup flour and baking powder (and salt if using unsalted butter); beat well.
    Spread in bottom of pan.

    Stand apple wedges in batter and sprinkle with cinnamon.

    Bake for 1 hour.
    Cream remaining butter and sugar (and a small pinch of salt if using unsalted butter). Add eggs.
    Pour over torte.
    Bake 30 min. longer.
    Allow to cool at least 15 minutes before cutting.


    Beef Chili with Kidney Beans

    This is just a great basic beef chili. Nothing fancy or out-of-the-ordinary, but really nice flavor. I usually fuss around with my chilies, and love to add butternut squash, allspice, and cocoa which pair so nicely with the chili and meat. But today I wanted something basic--no messing around--and this was the perfect recipe from The New Best Recipe. And it tastes even better the following day. Great for a day of football! Continue for Chili recipe.

    Beef Chili with Kidney Beans
    from The New Best Recipe

    2 medium onions, chopped fine
    1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch strips
    6 medium garlic cloves, minced
    1/4 cup chili powder
    1 T ground cumin
    2 t ground coriander
    1 t red pepper flakes
    1 t dried oregano
    1/2 t cayenne pepper
    2 lbs. ground beef
    2 (15 oz) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
    1 (28 oz) can tomato puree
    Pinch of sugar (if needed)

    Heat several T oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onions, pepper, garlic, and spices and cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are soft and beginning to brown.
    Increase the heat to medium-high, and add halt the beef. Cook, breaking up the chunks with a spoon, until no longer pink. Ad the remaining beef and cook until no longer pink.
    Add the beans, tomatoes, puree, and 1/2 t salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
    Remove the cover and continue to simmer 1 hour longer (if the chioli looks too thick, add a bit of water).
    Adjust the seasonings with additional salt to taste.

    **Flavor improves the longer it sits. It's even better the day after cooking.

    Black bean variation: Fry about 8 slices of chopped bacon in your stock pot. Pour off all but 2 T of the fat, leaving the bacon in the pot. Follow directions above, substituting black beans for the kidney beans.


    Stuffed French Toast

    It' s been a long time since we've had French Toast! Today I made my french toast with multigrain sourdough, soaked in an egg, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon mixture, and browned on the griddle. I was feeling indulgent and so decided to go for the stuffed variety. :) Usually, I like ricotta lightly sweetened with powdered sugar and zest. But I had leftover honey and walnut cream cheese and so I slathered that between 2 slices of toast instead. I heated several ripe peaches in maple syrup and topped the french toast with the peaches and powdered sugar. I absolutely love weekend breakfasts!


    Thursday, October 4, 2007

    Enchiladas and Spanish Rice

    Today was one of those days when I got home from work, starving, and didn't have much in the fridge. I needed something fast that didn't involve fresh produce. :) I had bookmarked these cheese enchiladas and spanish rice from Simply Recipes quite some time ago, and decided to give them a try. What a nice and easy meal!! I think the entire process took only 30 minutes to prepare--and how tasty!! Thanks Elise for a wonderful dinner! I keep going back to her recipes because they have all been so good.

    For the enchiladas, corn tortillas are first lightly toasted in a frying pan before rolling with cheese to bring out their flavor. I had never done this before and it really made them flavorful. The technique is great also--this was a great trick to learn. The sauce is so simple but very good: Fire-roasted tomatoes, salsa, onion, garlic, tomato paste, water, and a pinch of sugar. I filled the enchiladas with a Mexican cheese blend. After assembly, they only bake for 10 minutes and they're done! Paired with the Spanish Rice, they are a filling meal, made with ingredients that I usually have on hand. Another great find from Simply Recipes! Continue for recipes.

    from Simply Recipes

    Grapeseed oil (or another high smoke-point oil such as peanut or canola oil)
    12 corn tortillas
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 clove of garlic, minced
    1 cup of salsa
    3 Tbsp of tomato paste
    1 cup water
    1 cup of canned crushed tomatoes (preferably fire roasted)
    Olive oil
    1 lb of jack cheese, mild cheddar or longhorn or any mild yellow cheese, grated (Mexian blend is great)
    A handful of cilantro
    1 cup of sour cream
    Half a head of iceberg lettuce

    1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2 In a large fry pan at high heat add 3 Tbsp of grapeseed oil. Add a tortilla to the pan. Cook for 2-3 seconds, lift up the tortilla with a spatula, add another tortilla underneath. Cook for 2-3 seconds, lift again, both tortillas, and add another tortilla underneath. Repeat the process with all the tortillas, adding a little more oil if needed. This way you can brown and soften the tortillas without using a lot of fat. You do this process to develop the flavor of the tortillas. As the tortillas brown a little, remove from the pan one by one to rest on a paper towel, which absorbs any excess fat.
    2 Sauté up the chopped onion and garlic, then turn off the heat. Add 1 cup of salsa. Dissolve 3 Tbsp of tomato paste into 1 cup of water, add to pan. Add 1 cup of crushed fire roasted canned tomatoes. Taste. If the sauce tastes too vinegary, add a teaspoon of sugar.
    3 Put some olive oil on the bottom of a large casserole pan. Take a tortilla, cover 2/3 of it lightly with the shredded cheese, then roll up the tortilla and place it in the casserole pan. Continue until all tortillas are filled and rolled. Add sauce to the top of the tortillas in the the casserole pan. Make sure all are covered with the sauce. If not, add a little water. Cover the whole thing with the rest of the grated cheese. Put the casserole in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.
    4 Garnish with cilantro and sour cream. Serve with sliced iceberg lettuce that has been dressed only with vinegar and salt.

    Spanish Rice
    adapted from Simply Recipes

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 onion, chopped fine
    1 garlic clove, minced
    2 cups of medium or long-grain white rice
    3-4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock if vegetarian)
    1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste or 1 cup of diced fresh or cooked tomatoes, strained (I also tossed in the remaining tomatoes from the enchiladas sauce)
    Pinch of oregano
    1 teaspoon salt

    In a frying pan, brown rice in olive oil, medium/high heat. Add onion and garlic.
    Cook onion rice mixture, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes, or until onions are softened.
    In a separate sauce pan bring stock to a simmer. Add tomato sauce, oregano, and salt.
    Add rice to broth. Bring to a simmer. Cover. Lower heat and cook 15-25 minutes, depending on the type of rice and the instructions on the rice package. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
    Serves 4 to 6.