Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers: Crackers.

So. Daring Bakers this month. I wasn't too thrilled. Crackers. They said we had free reign. Okay. But it had to be vegan. And we had to have a dip. That was vegan. And gluten free. Well. I don't think much about dips. Dips aren't that intriguing to me. And I'm not invited to any parties that require me to bring a dip. So that was a problem. I had never had spinach artichoke dip, though. But it sounded good to me. So I made that. Along with a carmelised onion relish. Woot. I also un-veganised half my crackers. I sprinkled shredded parmesan cheese on them. I liked those ones. I also cheated with rolling and just passed them through my pasta roller. I achieved even crackers that way. They weren't bad. Nobody touched the simply salted crackers, though. They all liked the cheese ones. And I made the mistake of taking some of the crackers with me to my high school to visit my old teachers. The Culinary Arts students aren't cooking yet. So they had nothing to cook and eat. I took out my crackers.. and they were gone in about a minute. Lydia ate some, then Landon had some. Shane got a couple, then Landon devoured the rest. I want to go back. Maybe I'll teach them how to make the crackers.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Posh Pumpkin Cupcakes.

These are basically my pride and joy. I am in love with these cupcakes. The recipe made ten. I ate five. That is how much I love them.

Cupcake Hero this month was Baker's Choice. The choice of picking at least two of the previous challenges and put into a cupcake. My first thought was chocolate and mint. It was brilliant. A chocolate cupcake with a layer of home made mint 'n' chip ice cream, and a mint marshmallow frosting. Yeah. I liked them. They weren't what I had hoped for. But. I decided they just wouldn't do. So I completely forgot about that idea and came up with a new one.

I had had a craving for something pumpkin. I thought about cheesecake, and then decided to make cupcakes. Cranberry pumpkin cupcakes. Hmm. With a cream cheese frosting. I also wanted to make dulce de leche. So I made a dulce de leche cream filling. Which was a marshmallow frosting with dulce de leche mixed in. And -then- I decided that with the leftover pumpkin I would have from the frosting I would use to make a pumpkin mousse. It was perfect. And it covered three themes. Cranberry, Clove, and Marshmallow.

They were utterly amazing. You had four different textures in one bite. I'm tempted to make it again. In layer cake form. Mmm... Just look at that ooey, gooey-ness of that filling. Who could turn that down? Fluffy, spiced pumpkin mousse. Creamy spiced cream cheese frosting. Spiced pumpkin cake studded with moist cranberries. Caramel-y, cool cream filling. Michael turned it down. He hates pumpkin. And cream cheese. I told him I'd make him some caramel cream filling, then. Just need to find a way to get out there. Anyway.

These cupcakes were rather time-consuming. Well. In the way that I spanned the cupcake-making over three days. I made these last week starting Monday to be assembled on Wednesday to have as dessert for our Thanksgiving dinner in September. Why Thanksgiving? Because I was making up the grocery list and nobody could come up with meals, so I decided I was making Thanksgiving dinner. 'Twas very yummy. My dad had such doubts about my doing a turkey breast because it's usually so dry. It was so juicy. I was quite proud of myself.

Now. Let it be known that you can easily use store-bought caramel sauce or dulce de leche if you'd like. I just wanted to try making it. It wasn't difficult. Just took a while.

Day 1: Dulce de Leche.

Dulce de Leche (adapted from Alton Brown)

2 cups whole milk
6 ounces sugar (by weight)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
5/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the milk and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Once it has dissolved, stir in the baking soda and continue to stir the mixture occasionally for about an hour and a half. In the last twenty minutes, don't leave the stove and stir constantly to prevent the bottom from scorching. You can turn the heat down as well if you'd like. It should be a nice dark caramel colour. Strain if you wish. I did. Because I didn't stick around the last twenty minutes and it scorched a bit. It had some bits in it that I didn't want. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Day 2: Cranberry Pumpkin Cake and Pumpkin Mousse.

Cranberry Pumpkin Cupcakes

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup buttermilk

Pre-heat oven to 350º F. Line a standard cupcake pan with ten liners. (Or twelve if you manage to stretch it that far, but I only got ten.)

Beat together butter and brown sugar thoroughly. Add in egg, mixing until completely combined. Then beat in the pumpkin and vanilla extract.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cranberries.

In three additions, beat the flour mixture in alternately with the buttermilk, starting and ending with flour.

Fill each cup about two-thirds full and bake for about twenty minutes. Cool completely.

Pumpkin Mousse

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks and set aside in the fridge while you get everything else ready.

Place the egg yolks in a glass or metal bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Start whisking the egg yolks and slowly stream the hot sugar syrup into them. Place the bowl over pot of boiling water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water. Whisk the mixture constantly for at least ten minutes. The egg yolk mixture should thicken and lighten in colour. It may take a few minutes more. Just keep whisking. If you want, you could use a handmixer I guess. But it really doesn't take too much strain to whisk that long. It just might get boring. I played music while I did it.

After it has thickened, remove the bowl from the heat, scrape it into the bowl of your stand mixer, attach the whisk attachment and turn it on to medium, medium-high speed. Let it go until the bottom of the bowl feels cool. The mixture should have thickened by then.

Meanwhile, once you've put the egg yolks in the mixer, mix the pumpkin with the cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Put it in the microwave for about thirty seconds to a minute. I did this to help release some of the flavour from the spices into the pumpkin.

Once the egg yolk mixture has cooled, switch from your whisk to paddle attachment. Beat in the pumpkin mixture until combined.

Fold a third of the whipped cream into the mixture to help lighten in, then fold in the rest. Refrigerate until set.

Day 3: Frosting, Filling, and Assembling.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 ounces cream cheese, softened (I used Neufchatel; cream cheese with a 1/3 less fat)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, to taste, optional

In your mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter until combined.

Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Mix in vanilla extract.

I then transferred it to a small bowl and at the last minute chose to throw in some spices. I didn't want to go searching for my measuring spoons, though. I just made sure I sprinkled in more cinnamon than cloves and more cloves than nutmeg. Tasted, then adjusted.

Dulce De Leche Cream Filling

1/4 cup egg whites (about two)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons dulce de leche (I warmed it to make it more fluid)

Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in your mixer bowl and whisk on high to stiff peaks.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Then attach a candy thermometer and allow to boil without stirring until the syrup reaches 242º F.

With the mixer down to about medium high, slowly pour the hot syrup into the egg whites and whip until completely cool to the touch and the frosting is nice and thick.

Measure out the two tablespoons dulce de leche, scraping it into the mixture with your finger. Or you can use another spoon. Or just eyeball it. But.. I wanted to lick it off my finger after. You can add more dulce de leche if you'd like. Mix until completely incorporated.

Posh Pumpkin Cupcakes

Cranberry Pumpkin Cupcakes
Dulce de Leche Cream Filling, as needed
Spiced Cream Cheese, as needed
Pumpkin Mousse, as needed

The trickiest part is how to fill the cupcakes. You could always put the filling in a pastry bag fitted with a long, narrow tip and pipe it in. If that works for you. But I don't have one. And when I tried with the tip I had, it didn't work.

So instead, you can do what I did (if you so choose). I simply cut a conical "plug" out of the top of each cupcake. I inserted a steak knife into the cupcake at an angle about two-thirds of the way into the cupcake, with about a quarter inch border. Then I cut in a circle and lifted it up. Ta-da! Cone plug, hollow cupcake. Then I cut off most of the plug, leaving a little lid. I likened it to carving pumpkins. Except I was carving pumpkin cupcakes. Ha. I thought it was nifty...

Anyway. Once I'd cut out a plug in all the cupcakes and disposed of the centres.. into my stomach.. I began filling. I just used a small spoon from the silverware drawer and scooped a bit of the dulce de leche filling into each cupcake.

Once the cupcakes are filled, replace the lids. (Oh. I should have mentioned. It helps to remove each lid as you go, then replace, so you don't have multiple lids and you're not sure which one goes where. Yes, that is probably an unnecessary tip, but just in case.)

You can then pipe on some cream cheese frosting if you want, but I just plopped a spoonful onto each and spread it with the back of my spoon.

Finally.. the mousse. I had originally planned to just plop a big dollop of mousse onto each cupcake. And you can if you'd like. I figured I would go for a nicer presentation and I took out my #40 disher and placed a scoop on top of each.

Yeah, I only have Christmas cupcake papers. My grandmother gave them to me for my birthday (which is in June) so I'm using those until I need to buy more.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gasp! An update! Nobody reads this anyway...

Really. They don't. And if you do, well. Then I'm wrong. It happens. Occasionally.

So anyway. I've basically been very lazy in posting anything I make. I have made quite a lot, it's just.. I feel the need to give more information on what I made. And I just didn't want to do it. Partly because after I made it, I went on and on and on to people about it. And my best friend kindly puts up with it as we chat on AIM. He just does other things and lets me talk, throwing in random statements of understanding even though he read nothing. Yes, it sounds like he doesn't care, but he does. He humours me and lets me ramble. And I do the same for him. :]

This post is actually two things. I had been wanting to do something with ground turkey. Why?
Because I hadn't used it except for in Culinary Arts I last year. And even then, I didn't directly work with it. I did the dessert. I think that was when we did the lemon mousse/soup. The night I made it.. it was soup. Then the next day, I got to class, took it out of the fridge, unwrapped the pan, and.... it had separated. Crap. I tried to fold it together, but it didn't work. It was flat. I tasted it. It was still amazing. Just.. not mousse. I tried heating up some of it with extra gelatin we had.. but it didn't firm it. We just got globs of creamy, lemony gummies. I loved them. But the entree was stuffed shells. With homemade turkey sausage. 'Twas good. So I decided I would make my own shells with the ground turkey. Except.. not sausage. I also knew that if I used a whole pound of turkey for shells.. I'd be eating them for the next week. So I made lasagna with the rest of the turkey! With thin slices of zucchini instead of pasta! Which I ate for the next five days... And I still only got through half of it before I had to throw it out.

Turkey Base

1 lb ground turkey (I used 93/7)
half a medium sized onion, chopped
about 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
crushed red pepper, optional

Heat up a large skillet and add he turkey. Once some of the fat from the turkey has rendered a bit, add in the onion, salt and pepper to taste, and crushed red pepper. Stir as you will, trying to brean the meat up as it cooks. Add in more oil if you need to. Towards the last few minutes of cooking, add in the garlic. (You can add it in the beginning if you'd like. I just fear burning my garlic, so I like to add it towards the end since it doesn't take too long to cook and I will still be giving whatever it is I'm cooking some flavour.)

That's pretty much it for that bit.

Stuffed Turkey Shells

1/3 of the cooked ground turkey mixture from above
about a half of a medium zucchini, chopped
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese, grated (I bought a wedge and just grated some in until it looked good)
about a pinch of oregano
7 or 8 jumbo pasta shells, a little undercooked
marinara sauce, about a cup or more, depending on how much you want for the shells

In a skillet, heat a bit of oil. Mix the zucchini with some oil, salt, and pepper. Add to the pan. Try to get one layer and let it go until the bottom starts to turn golden, then stir and let the other side turn golden as well. If you need to, you can cover the pan to let the zucchini steam a bit if it isn't cooking through. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, mix the turkey, zucchini, parmesan cheese, and the pinch of oregano. Spoon into shells. You could always cook up some mushrooms or peppers or such to add to the mixture. But the peppers and mushrooms didn't look to good at the store. So I didn't do it.

Spoon a bit of marinara into the bottom of a square 8 x 8 baking dish, place the shells in the pan, and spoon a bit more sauce over the tops of each, sprinkle a bit more grated parmesan cheese and bake in a 350º F oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until heated through. You can cover it if you'd like. I chose to just throw it in the oven as it was. I wanted those toasty, crunchy edges of shell.

Turkey Lasagna

2/3 cooked ground turkey mixture
about half a head of broccoli cut into florets, cooked, cooled, chopped
1 16-ounce container of ricotta cheese
12 ounces of mozzarella cheese, grated (My grocery store makes some on-site, so I got that.)
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced (I just used my peeler to cut thin ribbons off.)
parmesan cheese
2-3 cups of marinara sauce

In an 8 x 8 inch square baking dish, spoon a little marinara sauce in to just coat the bottom of the pan. Lay down a layer of zucchini ribbons. Top that with some turkey, then marinara, then mozzarella, broccoli, ricotta, then grate on some parmesan cheese, and repeat the process. I wound up getting three layers out of it, ending with a top "layer" of sauce and mozzarella. You can also change up what goes next to what, or add in more things. I actually meant to add in some chopped, frozen spinach. But I forgot about it because it was in the freezer.

Bake the lasagna in a 350º F pre-heated oven for about 40-50 minutes, or until heated through. Again, you can cover it if you'd like, but I feared the cheese would stick to the foil. So I left it uncovered.

I really liked the lasagna.. but I should warn you.. the zucchini has a tendency to let out liquid as it cooks. I let the lasagna sit for a bit before cutting. Ha. I still got a rush of cheesy, tomato-y liquid fill in the cut out hole. It isn't bad unless you don't like that. I ate it like soup. It was amazing.
Yay for sun glare on cheese!