Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chocolate Filled Doughnut Muffins

I have yet to meet someone who claims to dislike a doughnut.  For some reason though, (probably the fact they are laden with oil), I just really don't eat them much.  I found a recipe similar to this in the last issue of Donna Hay, I find that magazine one of the best food publications.  Their styling is absolutely amazing and the recipes are usually easy to make and well written.  I had a little epiphany of sorts while making these, I'm almost embarrassed to tell. When I bake I mostly measure by weighing the ingredients.  I have been doing this for years, I can easily say that aside from my 12" chef knife that my scale is the one thing I cannot live without in the kitchen. 

If you are familiar with using a scale, then you know that to tare is to re-set the scale to zero even when something is on it. For example, if I measure butter I'll set the mixer bowl on the scale, tare it and then add the butter to whatever weight it's supposed to be.  I then usually weigh the sugar, but by this time the bowl is already on the mixer with the butter in it so I get yet another bowl and do this process all over again. The point to remember here is that I have been in the food business for oh, almost 20 years and as a result I felt really dumb because it took me this long to figure this out. Just yesterday I realized that I don't have to weigh the sugar (or whatever the next ingredient to be added to the bowl) in a different vessel. I can tare it all over again, with the butter already in it, bringing the scale to zero and weighing the next ingredient. It was like the light came on in my brain, when doing this before I had been adding in my head or sometimes even on a piece of paper to get the right number of ounces and pounds when adding additional ingredients so I would come up with the correct cumulative total- a series of my own little math puzzles- every single day! When weighing in ounces it was always more challenging than grams because they weren't round numbers- I could go on and on about this. So let me tell you what an epiphany this is indeed.  While I am quite pleased with myself for figuring this out,  I've been also shaking my head at myself for a whole day; wondering if I'm the only one out there that didn't do this. 

Anyhow, about the muffins, they have a large crumb and I find they are best eaten while still warm or re-heated for a few seconds in the microwave. When making the second batch, I changed the recipe a bit. The one below has my adjustments, mostly in the way they are mixed.  The magazine version had you add the vanilla with the butter and sugar, but I feel that makes them not as light and airy because the sugar and butter don't have a chance to get really fluffy when liquid is added to early. The muffins are cake-like, so the batter should be treated as so.

Chocolate Filled Doughnut Muffins

160 grams butter, at room temperature
165 grams sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
450 grams all-purpose flour, sifted
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons buttermilk

1 cup sugar
1 tablespoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted butter, for brushing

Chocolate filling:
1/3 cup whipping cream
80 grams dark chocolate, finely chopped

Heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering, add the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. In mixer bowl, combine butter and sugar.  Mix on medium speed until very light and fluffy.

2. While butter is mixing, sift together the flour and baking powder. I do this over a piece of parchment paper which I then make into a cone to add to the mixture.  Set aside.

3. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar, scraping the bowl between additions. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.

4. Add half the milks and flour mixture and blend until just combined.  Do not over mix.

5. Spoon half of the batter into lightly greased muffin tins. I used a medium sized ice-cream scoop.  Then make a small hole in the mixture and divide the chocolate filling among the 12 muffins- it's important to try to keep the filling mostly inside the hole, that way the chocolate doesn't ooze out while baking. Scoop additional dough on top of the chocolate.   Bake 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

6. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  When the muffins are cool enough to handle, brush with melted butter and coat with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lemon Pepper Roast Asparagus

It feels like the beginning of a new season.  This is not indicated by the weather (it's still hot as well, hell), but instead by how busy I've been at work.  Business slows a little over the summer around here, July would have been the opportune time to satisfy my wonderlust- (noted!). About a week and a half ago, my books started filling up.  I went from doing a whole lot of piddling around to non-stop cooking in a matter of days.  This was one of last weekends dishes, super easy to make and a standby. No measurements needed, use coarse sea salt and use it generously.

Lemon Pepper Asparagus

Fresh Asparagus, trimmed
grated fresh lemon zest
olive oil
coarse ground black pepper
sal de mer

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Place asparagus on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and lemon zest.  Roast approximately 20 minutes or until barely tender. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dark Chocolate Truffles

I have this bad little habit... it's called chocolate. I require it. Every day, around 3 o'clock in the afternoon, then after dinner and on occasion, in the middle of the night. I don't need a lot of it, but it does have to be good quality and as of late of the darker variety.  I am actually eating chocolate now as I type, I've had a long day and chocolate has this remarkable ability to make it all better. In addition, I read somewhere that certain polyphenols in cocoa and chocolate are thought to have an anti-oxidant affect, just like the polyphenols in red wine.  This of course makes me feel better about eating it, not that I was really needing an excuse.  When I don't have truffles lying about I've been eating these great little 100 calorie bars for Bissingers chocolates, they are wonderful. However,  I seldom eat just one little bar so I just as soon indulge in what I really want and eat a truffle.  

In my effort to have more chocolate lying about, I've been on a truffle making frenzy. I came up with a good base then have been changing the liqueurs I use as flavoring.  Today I made Amaretto, Champagne (my very favorite so far), and Framboise.  I am no chocolatier, tempering chocolate is something that I have not really mastered and acquiring a tempering machine is nowhere in my near future.  As a result my truffles are simple and easy to make, a sort of modified ganache which I then roll in cocoa powder.  I'm using Callebaut dark chocolate right now since I just happen to have a 10 pound block of it at work, but any high quality chocolate high in cocoa solids and low in sugar will work fine. I have not tried using milk or white chocolate yet, but have a feeling the cream ratio will be a little different. (I'll keep you posted).  As for the flavorings, next on the list is Frangelico, Grand Marnier, Corvousier, and Bailey's. With white chocolate I think limoncello and Calvados are going to be amazing. I also want to make Lavender infused dark chocolate truffles, oh, and sea salt, and chili. Clearly I could go on and on here, the combinations are endless. I would love to hear your combinations!

Dark Chocolate Truffles

21 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1-1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup liqueur of your choice (see above)

Cocoa powder, powdered sugar or other desired topping.

1. Combine chocolate and cream in a large heat proof bowl.  Set bowl on a bain marie over medium low heat.  Whisk occasionally until chocolate is melted and combined with the cream. 

2. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.  Once it begins to solidify, place in the refrigerator and chill for at least several hours or overnight.  The chocolate should be thick and easily scooped with a small ice cream scoop.  (I used a small scoop to keep an even size). 

3. Scoop out a ball of chocolate then roll between your palms until perfectly round.  Place in on a plate generously filled with the topping of your choice, I used cocoa.  Roll the truffle until generously covered.  

Friday, August 5, 2011

Roast Tomato Tartine

I don't know about you, but I would rather eat several little meals than one or two big meals a day. This roast tomato tartine is one of my favorites- a couple of these with a glass of red wine is a perfect dinner for me. I use a cast iron skillet to roast the tomatoes with garlic, rosemary and olives. I like the olives to get a little crunchy and the tomatoes to char a bit. All the flavors come together and the olive oil left in the pot with the little bits of black pepper and salt is amazing to dip bread in. I have made this as an appetizer which in reality is what it is, but when cooking for myself this is my entree. The recipe as I have written it yields about 8 tartines, whatever I have leftover is always delicious the next day as well. If you want to make more, it doubles easily- just be sure to use a large enough pan so that everything touches the bottom of the skillet.

I use French Goat Feta which I purchase at Whole Foods, any mild goat cheese will work very well. The olives are seasoned pitted cerignolas or whatever green seasoned olives I have on hand, use your favorite olives, oil cured olives would be great too. For the bread, I use sourdough slices, but French bread would be great as well. I do not peel the garlic before roasting so it doesn't burn, I squeeze it out of it's shell once cooked and spread it on the bread. Oh, one last thing...you can skip the bread and toss with angel hair pasta- yum!

Roast Tomato Tartine

1 pint mixed cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup seasoned green olives
8 garlic gloves (not peeled)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large sprigs fresh Rosemary (fresh Thyme can be substituted)
freshly ground black pepper
Coarse sea salt

4 oz. french Goat Feta
8 thin slices sourdough bread

1. preheat oven to 450 F.

2. In a cast iron skillet, toss tomatoes, olives, garlic and Rosemary with olive oil. Generously season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring once half way through.

3. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees, place bread slices on top rack and bake for 2 minutes, flip bread over and bake 2 minutes more.

4. Spread goat cheese on toasted bread slices. Squeeze one garlic clove on top of goat cheese and top with roasted tomatoes and olives. Garnish with additional rosemary or Thyme.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Chocolate Mocha Cake with Vanilla-Espresso Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I have a new obsession: Swiss Meringue buttercream!  I am so utterly pleased with it and don't know why it has taken me this long to discover it.  Swiss meringue is nothing new, just a new discovery to me. So much easier and faster to make than Italian Meringue buttercream, which is what I have been using for all my wedding cakes.  Most of all I think you will find it is very user friendly, even if you don't really know what you're doing.

The differences between the Swiss buttercream and the Italian version are mostly in the cooking method.  The Italian version requires you boil sugar and water to 238 degrees, soft ball stage.  While this is not really a problem, it does take considerably longer to make.  I found the Italian version is fluffier at the start and has about 20% more butter in it, but in the end I can't imagine the difference being monumental.  The Swiss version has a larger egg white to butter ratio and delightfully comes together in 10 minutes or less.  Temperature is everything in both versions- they both tend to look curdled while beating and can either be too soft or too stiff, all of which can be easily corrected by continuing to beat.  I added instant espresso powder to the basic vanilla version, if you omit it, you can then flavor it with anything you'd like.  I have not made a chocolate version, but I am assuming it would work well also.  Lastly, make sure the mixer bowl and whip are both clean of any greasy residue before beginning.

2- 9" chocolate cake layers- recipe found here

1 recipe Swiss Vanilla-Espresso Buttercream (makes approximately 5 cups)

Swiss Vanilla-Espresso Buttercream

6 egg whites 
1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
340 grams unsalted butter (3 sticks), at room temperature
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 2 teaspoons of boiling water

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine sugar and egg whites.  Place over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water and whisk until mixture reaches 160 F or without a thermometer until all sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. 

2. With the whisk attachment beat meringue on medium-high speed until thick and glossy. (tip: after adding sugar to egg whites, you cannot over beat them). 

3. Slowly add butter a little at a time until well incorporated.  The mixture may look curdled at this point (I promise it will pull back together), continue to whip until light and fluffy.  Add flavorings and beat until well combined.

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