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Friday, October 15, 2010

Hummingbird Cupcakes



A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law came to visit me in Seattle for the weekend.

Here’s a photo of us on the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton. I’m on the right, my SIL is on the left:



We had a blast doing all sorts of touristy things, including a visit to Trophy Cupcakes in Wallingford.

Due to a filling and scrumptious dinner earlier that evening, we decided to purchase one cupcake and split it between the two of us. We opted for a “Hummingbird Cupcake” with cream cheese frosting.

Hummingbird Cake is a banana-bread based cake with pineapple and coconut mixed in. I figured I could replicate it, so here are the results.

Hummingbird Cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 large)
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup coconut flakes

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center. Line cupcake pan with paper liners; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, vanilla, and sugar until combined, about 2 minutes.

4. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next. Beat at medium speed until mixture is pale yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

5. In a medium bowl, stir together banana, pineapple, walnuts, and coconut. Add to egg mixture, mixing until combined. Stir in flour mixture.

6. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes.

7. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake. Serve at room temperature.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and vanilla until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.

2. With mixer on medium speed, gradually add butter, beating until incorporated.

3. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add sugar, beating until incorporated. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before using.

Makes 3 cups.

Notes
• I obviously didn’t frost my cupcakes. I opted for a dusting of powdered sugar instead. Yum.

• Cream cheese frosting would still be delicious, though.

• Next time I’ll add more pineapple. I think these cupcakes weren’t quite moist enough and the extra pineapple would’ve helped.







Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

A few weeks ago, I wanted to try my hand at some sort of traditional Scottish dish. I had reason to observe and celebrate Scottish heritage that day, and what better way to salute the Scots than in the kitchen.

Combing the internet for recipes that would not a) be incredibly difficult or time-consuming, and b) make my insides scream and lash out in abject protest (haggis, I’m looking at you), I came across several interesting dishes, but none of them spoke to me quite like Cock-a-Leekie soup.

It’s Autumn. I’ve pulled out my winter coat and came very close to wearing it today, as the air has a bite to it and the breeze here in Seattle is quite nippy. Well. If ever a people knew how to make it through the cold winter months, it’s the Scots. And if ever there was a dish to chase away the chill, it’s Cock-A-Leekie soup. Also, it’s fun to say. When your friends, family, or roommates ask what smells so wonderful simmering on the stove, you can reply with enthusiasm, “Cock-a-Leekie soup!” then watch as their faces transform into utter confusion.

This recipe has a quaint and ancient history. Evidently, when the widowed Mary Queen of Scots left France to claim the Scottish throne in 1561, she brought her cooks along with her. One of the dishes the Queen’s kitchen created was Coq au Leek. Over time and transformation with Scottish dialect, Coq au Leek became Cock-a-Leekie. (Coq au Vin is another traditional French soup. It means “rooster in wine” in French.) Most self-respecting Scots serve Cock-a-Leekie as an intro dish for Burns Night.

Onto the bigger conundrum: What, exactly, is Cock-a-Leekie soup? Cock-a-leekie soup is a Scottish soup dish! It’s made primarily of leeks, chicken, and chicken stock. The original 16th-century recipe added prunes during cooking, and traditionalists still garnish with a julienne of prunes. It’s been suggested that the reason for adding the prunes dates back to times when only boiling fowls were available and prunes were added to increase the nutritional value of the broth.

Amazingly, so few ingredients (chicken, leeks and prunes) can result in such a flavorful soup. I’ll admit I was hesitant to add the prunes, but wanting to stick to a traditional recipe, I added them in. And I was not disappointed.

I cobbled together a recipe based on all the other recipes I looked at. I knew I wanted to start with a roux for the base, and add some milk to make it a creamier stock. (Oh, oops. Roux is totally a French thing. Sorry Scotland. Hey, the Industrial Revolution was a good thing for you guys, wasn’t it? Quit yer whinin’.) I also knew I had some veggies in the fridge that needed to be used up, and because this was all new territory for me, the added celery and carrots gave it a traditional American feel that squelched my fears of the unknown. (Again. My apologies to Scotland. If Americanizing your dish gets your kilt in a twist, that’s your problem, not mine.)

I did not measure ingredients or pay much attention to amounts, so this recipe should be loosely interpreted. Sorry!

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

1. Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a pan. Slice up one leek and add it to the butter, stirring until soft.

2. For the roux, melt about 6 Tbsp butter over medium heat, then stir in 6 Tbsp flour (roux should always be a 1:1 ratio). Stir it all up until it gets all brown and bubbly. Mmmm.

3. Next, add in some cream or whole milk. I didn’t have either in the fridge, so I used 1%. I don’t necessarily recommend that, but it is what it is. Pour in about a 1 ½ cups, give or take. Stir that all together until it thickens up.

4. Add 32 oz of chicken broth and stir well.

5. Add the softened leeks.

6. Cut up two boneless, skinless chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and throw them in the pot.

7. Cut up 2 celery stalks and one medium-sized carrot and add it to the broth mixture.

8. Now boil the heck outta that mess, making sure you stir it around a lot.

9. When the chicken is cooked through and the veggies are soft, ladle it into a bowl.

10. Slice up 1-2 prunes into bit-sized chunks and add it to the soup.

11. Get a fuzzy blanket. Bonus points if it's plaid.

12. Wrap yourself up in it, and eat your soup.

13. Praise Scotland.

Cherry-Almond Bread with "Amaretto" Glaze



Once upon a time, I was tasked with bringing a breakfast treat to a potluck.

Thinking about my pantry, I remembered I had a large bag of dried cherries needing to be put to good use. I wondered if I could make some sort of fruity sweet bread using the dried cherries in lieu of raisins or other fruit. Then I thought about how well cherry and almonds go together, and voila! Cherry-Almond Bread was born.

I searched the internet and cobbled together a recipe based on a few separate sites. I liked the idea of using an Amaretto glaze, but since I don’t drink alcohol and really didn’t want to go buy a bottle for just one recipe, I chose to improvise.

I brought the bread to the potluck and one particular co-worker raved about it so much that next time around, I made an entire loaf and sent it home, just for her and her family.

Here’s the recipe:

Cherry-Almond Bread with “Amaretto” Glaze

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups dried cherries
1 cup chopped almonds

Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
4 tbsp. almond extract
2 tbsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Grease 3 standard loaf pans, or 2 standard pans and 1 mini pan.

2. Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add milk, sour cream, and vanilla; mix until blended.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture, cherries, and almonds to wet ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients are absorbed.

4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers of breads comes out clean, 70 to 75 minutes for large loaves and 60 minutes for mini loaves.

5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar with almond and vanilla extract. Glaze should have consistency of thick maple syrup or corn syrup.

6. Let loaves cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a cooling rack. Drizzle with “amaretto” glaze so that it coats the top and runs down the sides.

Notes:

• I found an amaretto glaze recipe that called for 2 cups powdered sugar and 6-7 tablespoons amaretto. I used almond extract instead, but because it’s kinda potent, I toned it down a bit with vanilla extract.

• Make sure to have your dry ingredients mixed ahead of time. Once the eggs, milk, vanilla and sour cream go into the mixture, the batter starts to get lumpy and weird. I worried that I’d somehow curdled it. I had to move fast and start adding the dry stuff right away to keep it from wigging out more.

• The cherries regained their moisture during the cooking process and rather than hard chewy cherry bits in the bread, you end up with nice succulent fruit with tons of flavor.

• I chopped half of the almonds up real fine, and the other half I left chopped coarsely. I liked the way it turned out – a bit of crunch, but not too much. You can also sprinkle a bit of slivered almonds over the top of the glazed loaves, if that floats your boat.

• This recipe makes a LOT. Two full regular-sized loaves and one mini loaf, or 3 regular loaves filled about 2/3 full. Oof!

Strawberry-Glazed Edamame with Bacon




Hello, world!

You may have noticed that Sweet & Saucy has been on a bit of a hiatus lately. There are several reasons for this:

• I started a new job in July and it has taken up a lot of my time and energy.

• The days are getting shorter and daylight is harder to come by. I like to take photos with good, natural light since my camera is just a simple point and shoot. Arriving home at 7pm or later during the week doesn’t allow for much natural light photography.

• Certain trolls keep posting Viagra marketing links in the comments section of my posts. This makes me never want to post again, because it annoys the heck out of me.

Needless to say, it’s hard for me to stay out of the kitchen much more than a week or two at a time. I’ve had fun cooking and experimenting over the last few months, but haven’t bothered to post because it does take time, patience, and natural light…all of which I seem to be running low on as of late. Regardless, this recipe is too good to keep to myself, so I thought I’d revisit the ol’ Frim Fram Sauce and give all my dear readers an update.

Strawberry-Glazed Edamame with Bacon

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hosting some friends, Todd and Austin, at my house. They had recently moved from Arizona to Seattle and stayed with me for a few days while they looked for a place to live and got settled into a new city.

One evening Todd cooked dinner and threw together the dish featured in this post. I was blown away at his ability to scan my cupboards and freezer, pull things out, dump random stuff into a pan, and wind up with results that make you want to die from the sheer amazingness of the flavors exploding in your mouth.

I was especially impressed with what he did with the package of frozen edamame he found in the back of my freezer. I love edamame, and cook with it frequently, as you may have noticed. If you hadn’t noticed, here’s a post where I sing edamame praises, and here’s a more recent post where I experimented with these wonderful magic soybeans.

Now, edamame straight out of the bag isn’t much to write home about. While still scrumptious, it isn’t all that exciting. So I’m always looking for ways to dress it up. Todd’s recipe did the trick. I have since made it 3 or 4 times for myself, once for my brother, who loved it so much he called me the next day for the recipe, and once for a potluck-style staff meeting brunch for my co-workers. Of course, it was a hit.

Thank you Todd for this wonderfully delicious and simple recipe. It’s a keeper!

Strawberry-Glazed Edamame with Bacon

1 16oz package frozen, shelled edamame
1-2 Tbsp. strawberry preserves
4-6 rashers of bacon, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. garlic powder
Freshly ground black pepper

Boil edamame according to package instructions. In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crispy. Drain excess fat, reserving about a teaspoon of drippings. Add cooked edamame to skillet and stir to coat. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of strawberry preserves into the mixture and stir well to combine. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon garlic powder and a liberal amount of fresh ground black pepper.

Notes

• You can use any kind of preserves you’d like or have on hand. Apricot, apple, blueberry, orange, etc. I liked the sweet tanginess that the strawberry added to the dish. It complimented the bacon well and gave a certain depth to the flavors.

• If you’d like to further dress it up, I recommend sautéing finely chopped shallot or sweet onion with the bacon.

• You could also omit the garlic powder and use fresh minced garlic instead, sautéing with the bacon onion until soft.

• This is actually quite yummy with breakfast/brunch, or as a side dish with pasta or veggies.