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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Baked Eggs & Mushrooms in Ham Crisps

Seeking a breakfast-for-dinner inspiration one day, I found this recipe online. It was originally published in Gourmet Magazine, February 2002. I couldn’t wait to try it out, though I was a bit nervous what the final product would be like. Fortunately, it turned out really tasty. I've made it half a dozen times since for friends and family and it's always a hit! Mmm-mm!

HUGE thank you to Slashfood for featuring this post in theFeast Your Eyes column on their website! So awesome!



Baked Eggs & Mushrooms in Ham Crisps
Gourmet Magazine February 2002

3/4 lb mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
12 slices Black Forest or Virginia ham
12 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Prepare mushrooms:
Cook mushrooms and shallot in butter with salt and pepper in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring, until mushrooms are tender and liquid they give off is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream or crème fraîche and thyme.

Assemble and bake:
Fit 1 slice of ham into each of 12 lightly oiled muffin cups (ends will stick up and hang over edges of cups).

Divide mushrooms among cups and crack 1 egg into each. Bake in middle of oven until whites are cooked but yolks are still runny, about 15 minutes. Season eggs with salt and pepper and remove (with ham) from muffin cups carefully, using 2 spoons or small spatulas.

Notes:

+ I thought it would be a good idea to add some cheese to the mushroom mix, so I included a tiny bit of shredded aged Australian cheddar before adding the egg.

+ As you can see, the cups were served with asparagus on the side, grilled with a drizzle of olive oil and a touch of salt and freshly-ground pepper.

+ The yolks usually turn out pretty well-done, though they look runny in the photos. I suggest baking for about 10 minutes and then checking for done-ness.

+ For 2 people, halve the recipe. Basically just eyeball the mushrooms and cook up 6 cups instead of 12.

+ You can experiment with the filling, if mushrooms aren't your thing. I've made this recipe with an "Italian" filling that includes drained diced tomatoes, Italian cheeses, and basil. Get creative!







Peanut Butter Surprise Cupcakes

What to do with leftover Reese's Peanut Butter cups? “Peanut Butter Surprise” cupcakes! Yellow cake mix, some eggs, oil, vanilla, and peanut butter for the batter. The recipe calls for Hershey kisses. I didn’t have any, but I *did* have a Costco-sized box of French truffles that I got for free:



These puppies are really rich, slightly larger than kisses, and just melt in your mouth. They’re also lightly dusted with cocoa powder.



Knowing they’d make an excellent substitute for kisses, I started in on the batter.





It turned out yummy. (Yes, I sample raw cupcake batter. Raw cookie dough, too. Deal.)

I think I might change the name of these to “One-Eyed Peanut Butter Mounds”. Hee hee.





While those baked, I worked on the topping. The peanut butter cups had been sitting in the freezer - hardening up to make for easier chopping.



Because I only had 4 peanut butter cups and roughly 20 cupcakes, I added some extras to add bulk. A spoonful or two each of dark chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and Heath toffee bits.



The cupcakes came out of the oven looking just right.





Some homemade chocolate buttercream frosting and peanut butter/chocolate/toffee garnish hid the “surprise”. Yum!



An old favorite: Death Cakes!

My friend Aaron had a birthday, and held a little gathering at a local bar here in Seattle. I hadn’t seen him in several months, so I was looking forward to wishing him a happy birthday.

We met a couple years ago at our mutual friends’ wedding. He was the best man and I was the maid of honor and therefore, we got to know each other through wedding planning, rehearsals, and whatnot.

Now, Aaron and I are about as opposite as they come. He’s a hardcore metal musician, and I’m a church-going goody 2 shoes. But for some reason we really hit it off. Our friends call it odd and unexpected. I call it friendship. He’s a great guy and I’m glad to know him.

Anyway, I was thinking about his birthday and decided I wanted to make something to bring to his gathering. I figured there would be a good crowd and although drinks and bar food have their time and place, birthdays require homemade treats.

“What would be a good treat for Aaron?” I asked myself. “Oh I know,” I thought, “Black Metal Cupcakes!! There’s got to be something like that out there!”

Thanks to Google, I found an awesome recipe over at The Black Oven Blog. The owner of the blog, Meg, is a black metal enthusiast who also has a passion for cooking. Check out her blog. It’s pretty sweet. Erm...I mean...it’s full of wrath and eternal gloom! Or something.

These cakes are known all over the web by various names, but I just want to call them ‘Death Cakes’. I really like the way it rolls off the tongue. Try it: “Death Cakes”. See? Hey Aaron, is there a difference between Black Metal and Death Metal? Hopefully it’s okay with you that I’m leaning toward the death side on these.

Anyway, less talky, more cakey! Here’s Meg’s recipe, along with some of my own additional notes and a few photos.

O beware, all ye who enter here!!

In a perfect world everything would be as stark and void of color as these cupcakes. They are baneful in their absolute disdain for your tastelessness, and are true misanthropes as far as baked goods go.

Cake:
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup oil
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 cups cold water
6 Tbsp. goat’s blood (optional)

Cream cheese sea of woe:
8 oz. cream cheese(softened)
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
chocolate chips
1 splash of vehemence

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl sift together: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt. Add: Oil, vanilla, vinegar, cold water. Stir gently until just combined. Too much friction annihilates the bubbles!

And believe me, there are bubbles. Feast your eyes on this boiling vat of fury!



In a small bowl stir together until creamy: Softened cream cheese, sugar, and egg. Add as many chocolate chips as you can stand. Fill cupcake tins about half full of cake batter, and drop cream cheese mixture by the spoonful into each one. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into cakey part comes out clean.

Let cool, and decorate with an angry splattering of melted chocolate.

Here’s how my batch of Death Cakes turned out:










Look at how cute they are on my awesome aquamarine blue melamine plate! Aren’t they simply adorable?

...

Wait, what am I thinking?! These are DEATH CAKES. Hello! No no no. This will never do. They must be placed in a cold, hard, metal container on a bed of blood red tissue paper. Yeah, that sounds right. Yar! Death Cakes!







Notes:
• The original recipe didn’t indicate how many Death Cakes the recipe yields, so I doubled the batch. That was INSANITY. It ended up making 3-dozen-plus-6 regular-sized cupcakes, and five jumbo cupcakes. I had to use every cupcake tin in the house, and cook them in two batches.

• If you double the batch, be careful while mixing the dry ingredients. I accidentally turned the mixer on high, instead of moving the lever the opposite direction to turn it off. Cocoa-infused flour EVERYWHERE. I think I might still have some behind my ears.

• I experimented with the cream cheese sea of woe. It’s best if you use small dollops rather than large ones, so the cakey part cooks up and around the cream cheese part. Next time I think I’ll shove the cream cheese down a bit into the cake, so it’s only partially sticking out.

• I wasn’t sure where I could go to buy goat’s blood, so I left that ingredient out. Or did I? ;)

Breakin' in Blazin' Blue Bianca

One of my favorite local establishments here in Seattle is Trophy Cupcakes in the Wallingford neighborhood. I used to be a fan of Cupcake Royale in Ballard, and to some extent I still am, but I find Cupcake Royale is more about frosting, while Trophy is more about quality cupcakes.

Anyway, Martha Stewart recently had the owner of Trophy on her show, and she demonstrated how to make Chocolate Graham Cracker Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting. Or, as I like to call them, S’more Cupcakes.

I used a gift certificate to procure a culinary blowtorch this week (Gift certificates should be used to get things you’d never buy for yourself with your own money…right?). I named her Blazin’ Blue Bianca, and I was itching to put her to good use. S’more Cupcakes was the perfect recipe to christen Bianca as a new member of my kitchen appliance family.


S'more Cupcakes

• 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1 cup boiling water

Graham Cracker Crust

• 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 squares)
• 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
• ¼ cup sugar
• 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Frosting

• 4 large egg whites
• 1 cups sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cupcake Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners; set aside.



2. Sift 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into the bowl of an electric mixer.

3. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl and continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add boiling water and stir to combine; set cake batter aside.



4. Place graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a large bowl; stir until well combined. (My metal ice cream scoop worked best for crushing the graham cracker crumbs!)



5. Place 1 tablespoon graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each prepared muffin cup.



6. Use the bottom of a small glass to pack crumbs into the bottom of each cupcake liner.



7. Place 2 teaspoons chocolate in each muffin cup. (Rather than chopping up baking chocolate, I placed 5 dark chocolate chips in the bottom of the cup. It worked out well.)



8. Transfer muffin tins to oven and bake until graham cracker mixture is golden, about 5 minutes. Here’s what they look like out of the oven. A little crisp, and a little melty, but not too much of either.



9. Remove from oven and fill each muffin cup three-quarters full with cake batter.



10. Bake until tops are firm and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 15-18 minutes.



11. Transfer muffin tins to a wire rack and let cool completely.



Frosting Directions

1. Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water.



2. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.





3. Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use immediately.



4. Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag.



5. Pipe frosting in a spiral motion on each cupcake.





6. Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet. Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the frosting.







7. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container, up to 2 days.

Notes:

1. This made a LOT of batter, and I had enough leftover to make a cake in a 8x8 square pan:



I covered it with marshmallows for the last 3-4 minutes of baking, and used the leftover frosting to make a little swirly pattern on it:



(I was too lazy to make a graham cracker crust. But I did serve it with graham crackers on the side if anyone wanted to make little s’more mini-cakes.)

2. The cupcake batter turned out super smooth, most likely due to the cup of boiling water added after mixing – it dissolved the sugar and melted all the other ingredients into a nice silky batter. It was also extremely runny, and I worried it wouldn’t firm up while baking. Not so. The cake itself cooked up perfectly!

3. Using the blowtorch is so much fun! I already have ideas for what to use it on next.

4. Next time, I think I’ll sprinkle some graham cracker on top during the last few minutes of baking, or before piping on the frosting.

5. I will also purchase foil cupcake liners, and the torch managed to light a few of the paper liners I used. Oops! FIRE! :)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Another Wednesday night, another batch of cupcakes.

This week I’ve been having an extreme case of Spring Fever. The sunshine taunts me with a ray or two peeking through gray clouds, birds chirp my dreary head awake most mornings, and blossoms are slowly starting to bud. I know Spring is on its way, but I wish I could somehow expedite the turnover from cold and dismal to sunny and uplifting.

Strawberries were on sale (I love me some strawberries!), and I snagged a 2 lb. container in an effort to at least enjoy the onset of Spring gastronomically, if not physically.

Since I had so many, I decided to use a few to make Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting. Fruity, Springy, and just what the doctor ordered.

Lip Smackin’ Strawberry Cupcakes

I modified this recipe from another favorite cupcake recipe – orange marmalade cupcakes. I substituted strawberry jam for orange marmalade, and strawberry juice for the OJ.

1 package plain yellow cake mix
I don’t like using cake mixes – too lumpy! – so I used a basic yellow cake recipe from my trusty Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook instead.

1 cup juice
I used Odwalla brand Strawberry Pomegranate. Yum, yum!

2/3 cup ricotta cheese or plain yogurt
Use the yogurt. It’s blends into the batter better.

1/3 cup strawberry jam

1/3 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

Place all ingredients into bowl (I like to sift the dry ingredients first, then add the liquid) and mix until thick and well combined. Spoon 1/3 cup batter into lined or greased cupcake pan. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

This recipe is courtesy of the Cupcake Project blog. You saw it there first!

¼ cup butter (room temperature)
1 8 oz package cream cheese (room temperature)
½ cup strawberries, mashed up in a food processor
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese. Mix in the strawberries. Add the powdered sugar to the taste and consistency you prefer. Spread on cupcakes. Enjoy!