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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lemon Pudding


There is something so homey and comforting about pudding, isn't there? I, like most kids, grew up eating my fair share of the boxed kind, but in the last few years, I realized how easy it is to make my own. Taking an extra few minutes to make pudding from scratch turns what would be a blah "filler" dessert into something luxurious and creamy.  Pudding recipes mainly start with the same basic concept of making a custard by mixing milk, sugar, and egg yolks and simmering them until they thicken, and then adding your flavoring.  You definitely want to use milk with some fat in it which will help the pudding to thicken-- I like to make mine with whole milk. I've never tried to make pudding with anything else, but I wouldn't try this with skim milk as I imagine it would be quite runny.

I recently had a lot of lemons and milk that I needed to use up and thought that lemon pudding sounded like a great idea-- a nice bright sunshiny dessert in dreary February.  I made this in the middle of the week, and it came together in about 30 minutes (not including the chill time) which makes this a nice weeknight dessert option.  You can serve this with angel food cake or with fresh berries.  I think it would also be nice with some gingersnaps on the side.




Lemon Pudding

Ingredients:
6 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tbs. finely grated lemon zest, plus more for garnish (optional)
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
3 1/2 cups milk (use whole milk)
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbs. powdered sugar

Instructions:
1. In a medium saucepan (off heat), whisk yolks, sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, salt, and 1/2 cup of the milk until completely smooth; gradually whisk in remaining 3 cups of milk.

2. Place saucepan over medium heat; bring to a gentle simmer, whisking occasionally (mixture will thicken when it reaches a simmer). Remove from heat; whisk in lemon juice.

3. Pour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl.  Divide evenly among serving dishes; refrigerate, uncovered, until chilled about 1 1/2 hours. (To store overnight, cover dishes tightly with plastic once pudding has chilled).

4. To serve, whip cream with 2 tbs. of powdered sugar until soft peaks form.  Spoon over puddings. Garnish with extra lemon zest if desired.

Serves 8

Adapted from marthastewart.com


Friday, February 17, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake Sliders for a Virtual Baby Shower



Today, I'm so excited to tell you that I've been asked to participate in my friend Courtney's virtual baby shower.  Not too long after I started blogging, I made the fortunate discovery of fellow food blogging friends who live right in my own town! How great is that? People who like to blog and talk about cooking and food as much as I do? Yay! Courtney writes the killer blog, Cook Like a Champion and I've so enjoyed getting to know her over the past year. She is the sweetest person and has been such an encouragement to me as a new blogger. We were thrilled when she announced that she was expecting her first baby and I am happy to be baking a dish to celebrate Courtney, Eric, and Baby C for this virtual shower.

I thought long and hard about what I should make for my dish and had many bouts of indecisiveness.  Finally, after digging through cookbooks, magazines and favorite food blogs, I remembered that I had bookmarked this recipe for Strawberry Shortcake Sliders a year or so ago thinking that it would be the perfect thing to make for a shower.  There is something so festive and fun about making miniature versions of your favorite dishes to serve as hors d'oeuvres, and I love how cute and tiny these shortcake sliders are. It's perfect finger food for guests to help themselves without all of the mess of the full size version of strawberry shortcake.

The biscuits are slightly sweet with a hint of vanilla and were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  I know biscuit recipes can be hit or miss sometimes, but I couldn't be happier with how these turned out.  The biscuits were flaky and rose evenly, and the dough was easy to mix and roll out.  It is a little time-consuming to make and assemble these sliders but you can make the biscuits a day in advance to help cut down on day-of preparations.  Then, once you have prepared your whipping cream and strawberries and are ready to make the sliders, I would create an assembly line of biscuits (already sliced) strawberries, and whipped cream to help streamline the process.

You can see the other delicious dishes from the round-up that were prepared for Courtney's shower by clicking on Josie's blog who organized this fantastic event, or on Courtney's blog here. While you're at it, you can wish the new Mama-to-be congratulations!

Strawberry Shortcake Sliders

Ingredients:


Biscuits:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder*
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled (freeze for 15 minutes or longer)
7/8 cup (that is one cup minus 2 Tbsp.) heavy whipping cream
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Strawberries:
2 baskets of fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced (1/8" to 1/4" thick)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

*Make sure the baking powder is less than 6 months old or your biscuits will have a hard time rising

Instructions:

1.  In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder for the biscuits. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a fork or a pastry cutter, or pulse in a food processor until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas.

2. Use a fork to whisk together the cream, egg, and vanilla in a small bowl.  Make a well in the large bowl of the flour mixture and pour the cream mixture into the center of it.  Use a fork to mix until the dough is evenly moistened.  The dough mixture will still be lumpy.  Knead the dough with your hands for about 8 turns or so to create a ball.

3. Lightly flour a smooth surface.  Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat or roll out until it is between 1/4 and 1/2-inch thick. Use a 1 1/2-inch diameter biscuit cutter (or a small glass) or other small round cookie cutter to cut out round biscuit shapes from the dough. (It helps to dip the biscuit cutter in some flour before each cut, so that the dough doesn't stick to the form). Place rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and space about 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches apart from each other. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes before baking.

4. While the dough is chilling, heat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Bake biscuits on the middle oven rack for 8-12 minutes, or until risen and slightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool. *The biscuits can be made 1 day ahead and stored an air-tight container.

5.  While the biscuits are baking or shortly before you are ready to serve the sliders, prepare the strawberries and whipped cream.  Place the sliced strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle sugar over them.  Gently mix to allow the sugar to coat the berries.  Let sit until the sugar dissolves and the strawberries release their moisture.

6. To make the whipped cream, start with whipping cream that is very cold. You may want to chill your mixing bowl as well.  Use a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to whip the cream until it begins to firm.  Sprinkle the powdered sugar and the vanilla and continue to whip until the cream is thick and holds its shape.  Cover with plastic wrap and keep chilled until it's time to assemble the sliders.

7.  When the biscuits have cooled to room temperature, gently break them apart, or slice them in half with a serrated knife.  Separate the tops from the bottoms.  Place a strawberry slice or two on each bottom, and place a dollop of whipped cream on top.  Then place the top of the biscuit back on top of the whipped cream.

This recipe makes about 36-42 shortcake sliders

Adapted from Simply Recipes via Grange Restaurant



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake



Happy Valentine's Day everyone! I hope you all felt extra loved today and got to spend the day with the people who meant the most to you.

I'm continuing with my chocolate and strawberry theme and made a Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake in honor of the day. Chocolate covered strawberries are such a traditional Valentine's Day treat and when I saw this combo in cheesecake form, well, how can you go wrong? Do you see that pink layer in the picture? That is strawberry cheesecake! Y-U-M! It's sandwiched between a chocolate cookie crumb crust and a layer of chocolate ganache. You see so many recipes for chocolate cheesecakes, but I liked how this recipe has distinct layers of both chocolate and strawberry.  It really did remind me of a chocolate covered strawberry in cheesecake form! Strawberry is one of my favorite flavors so I really enjoyed this cheesecake and liked that the chocolate didn't overwhelm.

For the strawberry puree, I used the frozen sliced strawberries in syrup that you can get in the frozen food section of the grocery store.  I used Nabisco chocolate wafers to make the crust, but if you can't find them, you may want to try chocolate graham crackers.

Ingredients:
8 oz. chocolate wafers, finely crushed (2 cups of crumbs)
3 tbs. granulated sugar
7 tbs. unsalted butter, melted
3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1- 1/4 cups strawberry puree
2 tbs. all-purpose flour
table salt
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tbs. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 oz. chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
5 tbs. unsalted butter
1 tbs. light corn syrup
Sliced fresh strawberries, for garnish

Instructions:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the chocolate wafer crumbs and 3 tbs. granulated sugar.  Mix in the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly moist and clump together slightly. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom and about 2 inches up the sides of pan (to press, use plastic wrap or a flat-bottom measuring cup). Bake until the crust is flagrant and slightly darkened, 9 to 12 minutes.  Let the pan cool on a rack.  Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, strawberry puree, flour, and a pinch of table salt on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle frequently, until very smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Make sure the cheese has not lumps. Add the 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar and continue beating until well blended and smooth.

Add the vanilla and beat until blended, about 30 seconds.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended. (Don't overbeat once the eggs have been added or the cheesecake will puff too much and crack as it cools).  Pour the filling into the cooled crust and smooth the top.

Bake at 300 degrees F. until the center jiggles like Jell-O when nudged, 55 to 65 minutes. The cake will be slightly puffed around the edges, and the center will look moist.  Set on a rack and cool completely.  Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.  the cake can also be frozen at this point for up to 1 month.

In a small bowl, melt the 3 oz. chopped chocolate and the butter.  Add the corn syrup and whisk until smooth.  Unclasp and remove the side of the springform pan and run a long, thin metal spatula under the bottom crust of the cheesecake.  Carefully slide the cake onto a flat serving plate.  Pour the chocolate ganache on the cheesecake and spread evenly.

Just before serving, garnish with the sliced strawberries.  To cut, run a thin knife under hot water, wipe it dry, and cut the cake into slices, heating and wiping the knife after every slice.

Recipe from Fine Cooking


Friday, February 10, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Meringue Buttercream


So even if you don't like Valentine's Day, I'm thinking you probably like cupcakes, right? I admit, I've always liked Valentine's Day but more because I like the color scheme of the holiday and that it centers on chocolate. I'm a girly girl and can't resist all the pink, red, and white that's on display everywhere during late January and February.  So chocolate cupcakes with pale pink strawberry meringue buttercream seemed like the perfect Valentine's treat.

For quite some time, I've seen pictures of beautifully iced cupcakes and cakes and they've always used Swiss meringue buttercream.  Swiss meringue buttercream is where butter is whipped into a cooked mixture of whipped egg whites and sugar. For whatever reason, I've put off making it myself because-- I don't really know why-- having to get out my candy thermometer? I thought it would be too time consuming? I'm not sure what my reasoning was but I just stuck to regular buttercream but finally I thought, no more, I want beautiful cupcakes and not gloppy buttercream!   And-- I have turned over a new leaf! I could kick myself for not trying this sooner, because I swooned as soon as I took my first taste.  It was strawberry, buttery, silky smooth deliciousness! And not only that, but it was so easy to pipe and decorate with, and held it's shape beautifully on the cupcakes. Somehow through the magic of chemistry, those egg whites and that sugar when heated and then beaten into a meringue turn into something spectacular (and those three sticks of butter don't hurt either). If you've never tried meringue buttercream, take the plunge and try it for yourself.  I've been thinking all of the different flavors I can make and think I may have just given myself a new obsession. :)

Chocolate Cupcakes:

Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Instructions:
Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes.  Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans-- about 1/4 cup batter per cupcake.  I usually get about 27 cupcakes from this recipe.

Recipe from Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake

Strawberry Meringue Buttercream

I used this fantastic recipe and step-by-step tutorial on how to make Swiss meringue buttercream from Annie's Eats. Annie's instructions are so clear and easy, it made my first attempt at meringue buttercream a snap so I'll just direct you to her blog for the recipe.  Here are just a few observations I had that hopefully will help, especially if you've never attempted this type of icing before.  I know I was a little bit apprehensive at first, but as you will see, if you follow the steps, it will come together like a dream!

-  In Annie's recipe, she uses organic strawberries since they have more flavor.  I happened to only have regular strawberries on hand, so in order to coax the maximum flavor out of mine, I coarsely chopped the strawberries, added about 1 tablespoon of sugar and allowed it to sit in a bowl on the counter (macerate) for about 1/2 an hour before I pureed them.  I was very happy with the strawberry flavor in the frosting so I think this step really helped if you are not using organic.

- When you are melting the egg whites and sugar together in the first step and waiting for the candy thermometer to to reach 160 degrees, don't be alarmed if this takes awhile.  This step took me about 8-10 minutes and I was concerned I was doing something wrong, but my icing turned out perfectly in the end.  It just took that long for the egg whites to reach the appropriate temperature.  Just keep whisking and checking the thermometer.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hot Caramelized Onion Dip with Bacon and Gruyere

My husband and I had a great time on our anniversary trip to New York City and I can't believe we've already gone and come back.  All I can say is thank goodness you do a lot of walking in that city or I would be in trouble.  Besides the prerequisite NY bagels and pizza, my husband fell on the sword and accompanied me to my favorite breakfast place, Alice's Tea Cup and oh my, are their scones divine-- and with so many different flavors to choose from.  You may remember me talking about this favorite little tea shop before, and I've also made a couple of recipes from their cookbook on my blog.  It was great to get to go again, and even hubby enjoyed his breakfast so much he was OK with being in a tea house. :)  We also had an incredible anniversary dinner at Balthazar, a delicious charming French bistro in SoHo that was definitely a highlight! It was a great trip and a nice way to celebrate 5 years!


So I'm a little late getting my post up in preparation for Super Bowl party planning but I wanted to make sure I posted about this dip.  It may not seem like your standard Super Bowl party dip but it is GO-OD.  I promise. If you show up and people wonder why you are bringing a dip with Gruyere to a Super Bowl Party, just tell them that it also has bacon, and after they've had one bite and then devoured the whole dish they won't ask silly questions like that anymore. :)

This dip is pretty straightforward.  The only part that is slightly time-consuming is caramelizing the onions. After you've done that and fried the bacon until it's crisp, you just mix all the ingredients and bake. I like this dip with toast rounds but it would be great with crackers or pita chips.  I think this would also be good served with crisp apple wedges like Granny Smith or Honey Crisp.

Ingredients:
2 tsp. butter
1 tsp. olive or vegetable oil
2 onions (about 1 pound), halved and thinly sliced (I used sweet onions but you can also use Spanish)
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tbs. apple cider or sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme
3 applewood-smoked bacon strips
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Melt butter with oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions, sugar, and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until onions soften and just begin to turn golden.  Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, 20 minutes or until onions turn deep golden brown.  Stir in vinegar, scraping bottom of skillet to deglaze pan.  Cook, stirring often, until vinegar is reduced by half.  Stir in thyme.  Pour onions onto a plate and set aside.

2.  Cook bacon in a large skillet (I just used the same skillet from the onions to cut down on another pot to wash) over medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp.  Drain on paper towels; finely crumble.

3.  Combine cheese and next 3 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir in onions and bacon.  Spray a 2-cup baking dish with cooking spray and transfer mixture into dish.

4.  Bake 15- 20 minutes or until mixture bubbles and top is lightly golden.

Yield:  2 cups

Adapted from Coastal Living





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