August 29, 2014

S’mores Cupcakes

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted a real dessert on here, which goes a bit against the bakery theme behind the Bunsen Burner Bakery.  What can I say… all the fresh produce from my CSA has me spending more time at my grill enjoying fresh vegetables, and less time measuring out sugar at my oven.  Friends of ours recently purchased a house way out in the suburbs on nearly two acres of land (my inner-city vertical rowhome sits on a sprawling 0.02 acre plot, so two acres seems like an entire forest) and their home came with an outdoor fire pit, perfect for roasting s’mores.  While it’s been too warm to break out the marshmallows on our previous visits, thinking about s’mores reminded me of cupcakes I made a few years ago and never shared on here. 

When I lived in DC, I was very involved in the long-lived DC tradition of kickball on the mall.  When my fellow co-captain’s birthday fell on the night of a kickball game, I offered to make him any flavor of cupcakes he so desired, and he requested s’mores cupcakes.  As delicious as these were, I have yet to make them again, because I keep holding out for a kitchen torch so I can toast the marshmallow meringue frosting.  Alas, no torch has made its way into my kitchen yet, but don’t let this stop you – these were just as good with the plain,boring, visually unappealing, white frosting.

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S’mores Cupcakes
Makes 24 Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • For the crust:
    • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
    • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
    • 1/4 cup sugar
  • For the cupcakes:
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup canola oil
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 3/4 plus 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • For the marshmallow meringue frosting:
    • 8 egg whites, room temperature
    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.  Line muffin tins with 24 cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar.  Add the melted butter and stir until well blended.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of the graham cracker crumb mixture into each cupcake liner.  Use the back of a spoon to press the crumbs into a flat layer.
  4. Bake the crusts for 5 minutes.  Remove the pans from the oven and increase the temperature to 350F.
  5. Allow the crusts to cook for at least 5 minutes before adding the cupcake batter.  While waiting, combine the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the sugar and mix until combined.  Then slowly add the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Beat at low speed until combine and smooth.  Add in the coffee and gently stir with a spoon until smooth.  The batter will be quite thin.  Let the batter rest for 15 minutes, and then stir again gently before use.
  7. Fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full with batter.  Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then remove to a rack to cool completely.
  8. To prepare the frosting, fill a medium saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  9. Place the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in a clean glass bowl and whisk by hand to combine.  Rest the bowl over the saucepan, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the simmering water.  Heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture reaches 120F (hot to the touch), about 6 minutes.
  10. Pour the heated egg white mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Turn the mixer to medium and whisk for 1 minute.  Increase the speed to high and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 5 minutes more.  Add the vanilla and whisk until just incorporated, about 1 minute. 
  11. Pipe the frosting in tall peaks onto the completely cooled cupcakes.  Toast the marshmallow icing using a kitchen blowtorch, or if you’re feeling adventurous and have an oven that doesn’t routinely catch fire, toast them under the broiler of your oven.  If you want to take the safe, easy way out, decorate the cupcakes with a square of chocolate or a sprinkle of graham cracker crumbs.

August 26, 2014

Grilled Potatoes

Confession: I don’t really like potatoes.  I’m probably pickier about potatoes than any other food I eat, because I generally find them to be incredibly bland and not worth the calories.  I might eat half of a twice-baked potato, but I don’t like baked potatoes.  Smashed garlic potatoes = good, plain riced mashed potatoes = bad (I am hard pressed to think of a food I hate more than potatoes which are whipped so smooth you could suck them through a straw).  If I order a sandwich while dining out, I always ask if the fries are thin or thick – thick cut fries are a no-go.  So given my general dislike of potatoes, it’s probably not surprising that I generally purchased them once a year: for the annual latkefest (for the record, latkes are the single best way you can consume a potato). 

Then, I joined a CSA, and found myself with tiny potatoes week after week.  I was pulling out my hair for a while last summer trying to figure out what to do with all these potatoes, until I spotted a menu with “mustard grilled potatoes”, and I was sold.  This really isn’t a recipe at all so much as a technique, but it’s the only way I prepare my CSA potatoes now, and every time I serve them to friends, someone always asks for the recipe.  For the mayo haters: the mayo merely acts as a fat to coat the potatoes, so I suppose you could sub in oil instead and have the same result.  The potatoes do not taste like mayo at all, as most of it melts off while the potatoes cook.  Go ahead, embrace the mayo…. make the southerners proud.

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Mustard Grilled Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound baby potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Parboil the potatoes.  The length of time will depend on the size of the potatoes, but I usually boil for ~5 minutes for the very small potatoes.
  2. Drain the potatoes and mix with the mayonnaise, mustard, and salt.  My favorite method is to put the potatoes, mustard, and mayo in a nesting mixing bowl, placing a bowl one size smaller on top, and shaking to mix well.
  3. Add the potatoes to a grill basket and grill over medium-high direct heat for 6-10 minutes, stirring frequently. 

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August 22, 2014

Baked Peach French Toast

Unlike my husband (and, apparently, most of society), I’m not a big breakfast fan.  He could happily eat breakfast foods for every meal; I’d be happy bypassing them all together.  Aside from huevos rancheros and everything bagels with whitefish salad, I’m just not that into breakfast -- I’m the person who always walks past the omelet and waffle bar at brunch and go straight to the salads.  Given my general anti-breakfast stance, I’m definitely not a fan of the traditional baked french toast casserole.  I’ve tried a variety of recipes, and most of them are too sweet, either too dry or too soggy, and often involve cream cheese (a common theme I bring up in multiple posts: I loathe cream cheese in sweet things). 

This baked french toast, however?  It’s delicious, and that means a lot coming from someone who doesn’t like breakfast.  It’s rich and decadent, without being overly sweet (I always serve it with a side of maple syrup for those who do like sweet breakfasts).  It’s pretty enough to serve to guests when it’s baked in a springform pan.  It’s a perfect way to showcase seasonal fresh fruit (peaches are my favorite, and so delicious this time of year!).  It has more of a bread pudding like consistency than too-often dry french toast. And best of all, it’s a great way to use up leftover bread.  I can never finish a loaf of bread before it get stale, so I wind up freezing quite a bit.  The stale bread is perfect, easily soaking up the liquid.  Challah is my favorite bread for this (though there are never leftovers when I bake a fresh loaf of challah!), but this time around, I used a package of frozen hamburger buns, left over from our 4th of July party.  Even with bland, commercial bread, this is still a winner.

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Baked Peach French Toast
Adapted from The Pastry Queen

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf bread
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cup milk (any variety – I use nonfat)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • fresh fruit, for serving

Directions:

  1. Cut bread into cubes and place in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks, heavy cream, milk, sugar, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon and pour over the bread.  Toss bread cubes until most of the liquid is absorbed.
  3. Pour into a greased 8- or 9-inch springform pan, and press down lightly on the bread to spread evenly.  Refrigerate a few hours or overnight, until all liquid is absorbed into the bread.
  4. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes, until browned.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan and remove the ring.  Top with fruit and cut into 8 wedges to serve, along with maple syrup or powdered sugar.

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August 20, 2014

Garlic Naan

When I posted the recipe for eggplant curry last week, I mentioned that I also made naan.  This was actually my first time making naan – I have no idea why it took me so long.  I don’t make bread frequently, and every time I do, I question why I don’t do it more often.  There’s something so incredibly cathartic about kneading dough by hand and (not-so) patiently waiting to see if your dough rises.  I think I might try working my way through a variety of yeast breads this fall; I’m already daydreaming about chilly fall days with the kitchen door open, football on the TV, and the scent of fresh bread coming from the oven.

Back to reality… and upper-80s summer weather.  This naan was a peace offering to my husband, going alongside the vegan and gluten-free (two of his least favorite food descriptors) eggplant curry.  The process is incredibly simple, though a bit time consuming if you don’t have a large workspace on your grill.  Since I was stirring the curry simultaneously, I chose to make these on a grill pan on my stove, but the whole process would have gone much quicker if I used my outdoor grill.  This recipe makes quite a lot (16 pieces based on the size I used), but it’s worth making the full batch, since they freeze well.  I let the naan cool, wrap individual pieces in aluminum foil, and then store them in an air-tight bag.  When you’re ready to use them, put them right in a 450F oven (straight from frozen) and cook for 6 or 7 minutes.  All the deliciousness, with the work done ahead of time!  What’s not to love?

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Garlic Naan
Ingredients:
  • 1 (0.25 ounce) package dry active yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 – 4.5 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup butter or ghee, melted
Directions:
  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl.  Let this stand for ~10 minutes, or until frothy.
  2. Stir in sugar, milk, the egg, and salt.  Add in the flour, one cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.  Start with 4 cups ,and add the additional half cup if necessary while kneading.
  3. Knead the dough for ~8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth.  If the dough is really sticky during the kneading process, keep sprinkling the additional half cup of flour onto the dough.
  4. Oil another large bowl, and transfer the dough into this bowl.  Cover the dough with a damp cloth.  Set in a warm space and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour, until doubled in volume.  If you don’t have a warm spot to use, place the dough into an oven which was preheated to 180F.  Turn the oven off as you insert the dough, and let it sit with the door shut for the hour.
  5. Punch down the dough and knead in the garlic.  Pinch off small handfuls of dough, roughly the size of a golf ball.  Roll into balls and place on a large tray.  Cover the dough with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size again, about 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat a grill or grill pan (or heavy-bottomed skillet) to high.  Roll each ball of dough out into a thin circle and grill for 60 seconds, until puffy and lightly browned.  Brush the uncooked side with the melted butter, and then flip and cook another 1 to 2 minutes, until the other side is browned.  (Note: since I had limited space, I had a nice little assembly line going: roll out one piece of dough and add to grill pan, go back and roll out a second piece of dough and add that to the grill pan, flip the first piece, roll out a third piece, flip the second pieces and remove the first piece and add the third piece to the grill, and so on and so forth.)
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August 15, 2014

Rhubarb Simple Syrup

I’ve mentioned before that I split a full share of our CSA with friends.  Most of the time, it works out great – it’s a better variety of vegetables and costs less per person for more produce, and in the spring when we’re overwhelmed with leafy greens, it’s a relief to hand over half of all that kale.  The downside, however, is that sometimes you’re left with not-quite-enough of something to do anything.  Case in point: rhubarb.  We received a bunch of rhubarb in our box a month or so ago, and half went off to our friends.  I was left with 5 stalks of rhubarb, which wasn’t enough for any of the standard rhubarb recipes – strawberry rhubarb pie, rhubarb bars, etc.  Sure, I could have downsized the recipe, but I’m not a strawberry fan so strawberry rhubarb pie doesn’t excite me, and a lot of rhubarb bars contain cream cheese (I feel very, VERY strongly that cream cheese is a savory only item and belongs on bagels and not in desserts).  So what else to do with the rhubarb?  Rhubarb-infused simple syrup.  I like to bake, I like to eat baked goods, but I truly love a good drink.

I’m a bourbon and whiskey girl, but summer calls for gin (or tequila… or rum if you’re on a tropical island and there are tiny umbrellas involved…).  I used my rhubarb-infused simple syrup in a Rhubarb Collins.  Pair the rhubarb solids from the simple syrup-making process with some cheese and crackers and a nice city roof deck, and you have the perfect summer happy hour.  We enjoyed just this combination with my parents when they visited earlier this summer, and it was truly delightful.

The rhubarb-infused simple syrup is delicious, and the things you can do with it are endless – drizzle it over ice cream, stir a little into your morning oatmeal or yogurt, add a dash or two to lemonade, use it as as your liquid for a poke cake – but really, why would you want to do anything other than make yourself a drink?  Happy Friday, friends – enjoy your weekend, perhaps with a rhubarb beverage.

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Rhubarb-Infused Simple Syrup:

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 stalks rhubarb, chopped
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine the rhubarb, sugar, and water in a heavy bottomed sauce pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Lower the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft, about 20 minutes.
  2. Strain the rhubarb mixture through a fine mesh strainer, collecting the liquid.  Press the solids with the back of a spoon to extract more syrup – you will be able to squeeze out quite a bit more.
  3. Pour the syrup into an airtight bottle and store in the fridge for several weeks.  The solids will last for a week or two, refrigerated, and are delicious on crackers or toast.
  4. To make a Rhubarb Collins, combine 45 ml gin (3 parts), 30 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 parts), and 15 ml rhubarb simple syrup (1 part) in a tall glass with ice.  Top with soda water and enjoy!
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