21 May 2015

Wonderful White Cupcakes

Wonderful White Cupcakes / www.delightfulrepast.com

A wonderful white cupcake is an essential item in any baker's repertoire. It's so versatile and can be dressed up in so many ways. This recipe is pretty much the same as when I came up with it about 15 years ago, but this time I added a touch of almond extract. Sometimes I use other flavorings, but always along with vanilla. The texture? Perfectly light and fluffy.

If you're gluten-free, try my Velvety Vanilla Cupcakes - That Just Happen to Be Gluten-Free. They always get raves, even from the non-GF people in the crowd. That recipe makes 24 cupcakes (this one makes exactly 12, but you can easily double it). And here's my Gluten-Free Vanilla Mini Cupcakes, which makes 24, because who would ever make fewer minis than that!

The yellow decorating sugar I sprinkled on the cupcakes is colored with curcumin, a substance in the spice turmeric, rather than some carcinogenic chemical. So my husband calls it "free range" -- yeah, he thinks he's a comedian!

The winner of the giveaway in last week's Banana Pudding - Le Creuset Giveaway post was Leslie. Congratulations to Leslie and a big Thank You to Le Creuset! I do giveaways here from time to time, always something wonderful for the kitchen, so stay tuned!

Wonderful White Cupcakes / www.delightfulrepast.com

Wonderful White Cupcakes

(Makes 12)

The Cupcakes

3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 cup milk, room temperature, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional
1 dip-and-sweep cup (5 ounces/142 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (0.625 ounces/18 grams) cornstarch or tapioca flour
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces/149 grams) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

The Frosting

6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups (12 ounces/340 grams) unsifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract, optional
3 tablespoons heavy cream
About a tablespoon of milk to thin to piping consistency

1 Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. Put 2½-inch paper bake cups in a standard muffin tin. In small bowl (I use a 2-cup glass measure), lightly whisk together the egg whites, 1/4 cup milk and extracts.

2 In large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for one minute to "sift." Add the softened butter (cut into small pieces) and mix on low speed (medium, if using hand mixer) until combined. Add the remaining 1/4 cup milk; continue mixing for 1 1/2 minutes. 

3 Gradually beat in the egg mixture in three batches, beating for 20 seconds and scraping the bowl after each addition. 

4 Using a 1/4-cup measure, fill the bake cups with a scant 1/4 cup of batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.

5 Immediately remove from pans and cool on wire rack for an hour. They must be thoroughly cool before frosting.

6 In 1.5-quart bowl, with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the powdered sugar and salt. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the extracts and cream and the milk, if needed; beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. You will likely have to add some of the liquid ingredients before adding all the powdered sugar. 

7 With a pastry bag fitted with a 2D tip or a 1M tip, pipe frosting on cupcakes.

14 May 2015

Banana Pudding - Le Creuset Giveaway - Stainless Steel Saucier


My Banana Pudding, like all my desserts, is made from scratch for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I like desserts with less sugar than is usual. Puddings made with boxed pudding or instant pudding mix, and even most from-scratch recipes, are way sweeter than they need to be.

My banana pudding recipe calls for at least 1/3 less sugar than most; and my meringue, a tiny fraction of what most recipes call for. For half my life I thought I didn't like meringue. Then I decided to make it myself with less sugar and discovered I love it! 

The naturally sweet ripe bananas and the vanilla wafers and my less sweet custard and meringue all add up to a luscious dessert that is plenty sweet. If you don't believe me, try it! And my new Le Creuset 3.5-quart stainless steel saucier makes cooking custard a breeze. 

Le Creuset Stainless Steel Saucier Giveaway / www.delightfulrepast.com
I can't tell you how much I lovelovelove this pan! I really, really do!

Le Creuset stainless steel cookware is triple-ply from base to rim, so no hot spots. Each pan has a rim designed for drip-free pouring with either hand. And oh the saucier! Unlike a regular saucepan with its straight sides, the saucier has a rounded bottom and flared sides for easy whisking and stirring. No "corners" where food can stick. 

I may have mastered custard in a regular heavy-bottomed straight-sided saucepan when I was a teenager, but I've long thought it would be more foolproof in just such a pan as the saucier. No worries about "getting into the corners" to prevent the eggs from scrambling with this well-designed, quality pan. 

Perfect for custards and sauces, it's also just what's needed for risotto, polenta, grits, all sorts of things. I can't wait to make macaroni and cheese in it, throw some fresh bread crumbs on top and slide it into the oven (it's oven proof to 425F/220C/Gas7). 

Banana Pudding / www.delightfulrepast.com

Banana Pudding 

(Makes one 13x9x2-inch pudding, 16 servings)

The Pudding 

4 cups milk (I used Organic Valley 2%)
8 large egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
70 vanilla wafers
6 medium ripe bananas
Juice of half a lemon 

The Meringue 

8 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream or tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar 

1 In heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan (I used Le Creuset 3.5-quart stainless steel saucier), heat milk just to a simmer. Meanwhile, separate eggs.

2 In 2-quart glass measure or bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in egg yolks (and a tablespoon or so of milk to loosen mixture a bit) until thoroughly combined. Gradually add hot milk to yolks, whisking constantly. 

3 Pour mixture through a large fine-mesh strainer (to get out any odd bits of egg) back into saucier and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until thickened -- just takes a couple minutes, so don't get distracted -- and another minute. (Food safety note: Any mixture with eggs should be cooked until it registers 160F/72C on instant-read thermometer.) 

4 Remove from heat. Whisk in cold butter and vanilla extract until butter is completely melted. (You can pour custard through a clean strainer if there are any lumps in it.)

5 When I make this in a deeper casserole, I layer wafers - bananas - wafers - bananas - wafers, then pour on the custard. In the 13x9x2-inch baking dish, I just layer wafers - loads of bananas - wafers, then custard.

Cover bottom of 13x9x2-inch baking dish with 35 vanilla wafers. Peel bananas and cut them into 1/4-inch-thick slices, squeeze on a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning and layer over the wafers, overlapping the banana slices so you have a really solid layer of bananas. Add another layer of 35 wafers. Pour on the custard, and smooth the top. Drop the dish on a towel-cushioned counter two or three times to settle the layers. 

Banana Pudding / www.delightfulrepast.com

6 If not adding the meringue (but why wouldn't you?), cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or up to 24 hours. If adding meringue, let stand at room temperature and preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. 

7 In bowl of stand mixer fitted with wire whisk attachment, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla extract until soft peaks (curl over when beater is lifted) form. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, while beating on high speed to stiff, glossy peaks (stay straight when beater is lifted). 

8 With silicone spatula, spread meringue over pudding, sealing to edges of baking dish, and make some swirls and peaks that will brown beautifully in the oven. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until browned to your liking. Cool on wire rack for 45 minutes to an hour. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours or up to 24 hours.

Le Creuset Giveaway / www.delightfulrepast.com

Le Creuset® Stainless Steel Saucier Giveaway 

This giveaway is open to US residents (Sorry, international friends!) 18 years of age or older. Leave a comment below (one entry per person, plus see below for ways to get up to two bonus entries). First comment should be about the first thing you'll make in your saucier. Please include your email address in the body of your comment. Must enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday May 20. 

Winner will be chosen by random drawing and be announced here in the comments before noon Eastern time on Thursday May 21. If I don't hear back from the winner of the random drawing by noon Eastern time Sunday May 24, another drawing will be held and a new winner selected from the original entrants (those who commented before the giveaway deadline). 

For up to two bonus entries (each in a separate comment):

  1. follow Le Creuset on Twitter and leave comment below with your Twitter name. (Must include Twitter name!) 
  2. follow Delightful Repast on Twitter and leave comment below with your Twitter name. (Must include Twitter name!) 

Disclosure: Le Creuset provided a saucier for review purposes and one for the giveaway. The views expressed here are entirely my own. I always tell my readers what I really think!

07 May 2015

Swedish Meatballs - Svenska Kottbullar

Swedish Meatballs / www.delightfulrepast.com

Of course, no smorgasbord would be complete without meatballs. And perfect for Mad Men-era cocktail party menus, Swedish meatballs also make a main dish the whole family will enjoy. 

I first had them when I was 12. I only remember because that was when my self-employed father took on some work about 200 miles from home, testing the waters in another area with an eye to possibly moving there. For the next 18 months, we saw him only on weekends. My mother and I hit the road every Friday afternoon to visit him in his temporary home. 

And every Friday evening we had dinner out. One of the places my father had discovered was a family-owned Swedish smorgasbord restaurant that was popular with the locals. I liked my first dinner there so much that I continued to get the exact same thing every time we went there over the next 18 months. You know how kids are! 

I got different side dishes from time to time, but Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes (Kottbullar med Potatismos) every single time. Not being Swedish, I make no claims to authenticity; but these tender meatballs do taste very much like I remember those first Swedish meatballs of long ago. (If you prefer, here are my Italian meatballs.)

Swedish Meatballs / www.delightfulrepast.com

Swedish Meatballs - Svenska Kottbullar 

(Makes about 34, 4 main-dish servings) 

The Meatballs 

About 2 slices good white bread for 3/4 packed cup breadcrumbs 
1/4 cup finely minced onion
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/3 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork 

The Sauce 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups lower sodium beef broth
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
Garnish: sour cream and chopped dill 

1 Use food processor to make perfect fresh breadcrumbs. Cut two slices (you might need a third slice, depending on your bread) of good white bread into four to six pieces. You only need to remove the crust if it's coated with seeds. Process until it becomes breadcrumbs. Don't worry about overdoing it; it's pretty foolproof. You should have 3/4 cup, fairly firmly packed. Add crumbs to a 2-quart mixing bowl. 

2 Cut a small piece of onion into a couple of chunks and use the food processor (no need to clean the bowl) to finely mince the onion. Saute in oil until soft. Add to bowl. 

3 Add salt, pepper, allspice, milk, egg and Worcestershire sauce to bowl. Mix well. Add ground beef and ground pork, and mix well. Just use your impeccably clean hand to mix, if you like. Put mixture in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before shaping. 

4 Preheat oven to 400F/200C/Gas6. Using a #60/0.5-ounce/1 tablespoon scoop, scoop out all the meatballs; you should get almost 3 dozen. Place them on an oiled rimmed baking sheet (13x9x1-inch quarter sheet pan is perfect for this), then go back and roll each one into a smooth round ball and place back on the sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. 

5 In 12-inch skillet (10-inch okay if it has straight sides), melt butter. Stir in flour, cooking and stirring to make a smooth, browned roux. Don't rush it; get the roux browned. Add beef broth and cook, stirring, until smooth and thickened. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and cream. Transfer meatballs to sauce. Heat on low for 10 minutes.

6 Garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream and a generous sprinkling of dill.

30 April 2015

Grandma's Little Yellow Cake - Caramel Icing

Grandma's Little Yellow Cake - Caramel Icing / www.delightfulrepast.com

This was my Southern grandmother's basic Little Yellow Cake when she wasn't getting fancy with a layer cake. The "little black dress" of cakes, it can be accessorized lots of ways, and she had four toppings she used for it at various times: caramel icing, chocolate icing, broiled coconut or streusel.

My husband prefers the chocolate icing, but I just had to have caramel. Some cooks shy away from making caramel because it's one of those things with a bit of a mystique about it. But, truly, it is so easy. Sometimes I start with regular granulated sugar, but this one is made with dark brown sugar and couldn't be easier. 

The cake is a tender yellow cake that starts with the butter being cut, or rubbed, into the flour mixture as if making biscuits. Grandma was constantly making biscuits, so she always had buttermilk on hand. I don't always have it, so I just use milk soured with cider vinegar, as shown below.

This got me thinking about Grandma's kitchen (especially since I just wrote about My Kitchen). She had a tiny, and I mean teeny tiny, kitchen that was always neat as a pin. Never a dish in the sink or anything left on the counter. Her kitchen equipment was so limited, she would be goggle-eyed with wonderment to step into my kitchen. And yet her cooking was not limited. Go figure. 

Grandma's Little Yellow Cake - Caramel Icing / www.delightfulrepast.com

Grandma's Little Yellow Cake with Caramel Icing 

(Makes one 9-inch/23-cm round or one 8-inch/20-cm square layer) 

The Cake 

1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Enough milk to make 1 cup (8 fluid ounces/237 ml)
1 1/4 dip-and-sweep cups (6.25 ounces/177 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 dip-and-sweep cup (1.25 ounces/35 grams) cornstarch
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces/149 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Caramel Icing 

1 cup (8 fluid ounces/237 ml) heavy cream
1/2 packed cup (4.25 ounces/120 grams) dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. Grease well and lightly flour one 9-inch round or 8-inch square pan; you can skip the flour if you're going to serve it directly from the pan as I did this time. Measure vinegar into 1-cup glass measure; add enough milk to make 1 cup. Stir and let stand about 5 minutes while you proceed.

2 In mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in the butter as if making biscuits. Add soured milk, eggs and vanilla. With electric mixer, mix on low speed for 30 seconds to combine, then on medium speed for 1 minute. 

3 Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

4 Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rack for an hour. Grandma usually just served this cake directly from the pan, and that's what I did here. 

5 After the cake has been cooling for 45 minutes, put the cream, sugar and salt in a heavy-bottomed 1.5-quart saucepan and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Then boil without stirring until the caramel registers about 232F/111C to 240F/115C on an instant-read* thermometer, about 10 to 12 minutes. 

You could use a candy thermometer that clips to the pan, but since I'm not a candy fan I don't have one of those. I use my Thermapen for everything!

6 Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Pour onto cake and immediately spread it to cover cake; the caramel sets up very quickly.  

23 April 2015

Pomme Rosti - Hash Browns with an Attitude?

Pomme Rosti - Hash Browns with an Attitude / www.delightfulrepast.com

It's funny, I can't make decent hash browns to save my life; but call them Pomme Rosti, and I have no problem! Does that make me a potato snob?

I hadn't thought about Pomme Rosti in years, then I had on PBS Roku the other day and came across it on something called ChefSteps and, of course, had to make it. But I do it a little differently. (I just found their short video about Pomme Rosti for you on YouTube.)

I don't use nonstick skillets, and I've always had trouble with hash browns or country-fried potatoes sticking to the pan. So when it was time to slide the pomme rosti out of the pan and turn it over, I was very pleasantly surprised (actually, I was shocked) when it slid right out of my stainless steel fry pan without the slightest bit of problem! 

Whatever you want to call the recipe, you need starchy potatoes, like russets or Yukon golds, not waxy potatoes. And yet, after the potatoes are shredded, you will be rinsing away as much starch as you can. Go figure. 

Anyway ... just 20 minutes in the pan and these potatoes are crunchy and brown on the outside, creamy and tender on the inside. And they're not just for breakfast. They are dinner party worthy. 

Aren't potatoes the best? (Especially mashed potatoes. Oh and potato salad.) What's your favorite kind of potatoes? Have you ever made pomme rosti?

Pomme Rosti - Hash Browns with an Attitude / www.delightfulrepast.com

Pomme Rosti - Hash Browns with an Attitude 

(Makes 6 servings) 

1.5 pounds (680 grams) Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled, coarsely shredded 
7 tablespoons (3.5 ounces/99 grams) unsalted butter, melted 
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon salt 
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper 

1 Put shredded potatoes (I used the Cuisinart food processor to shred in just a few seconds) into a 2.5-quart bowl of ice water and swish them around. Drain them in your hands as you pull them out by handfuls, spread them on "an impeccably clean towel' (as Julia Child would say), roll up the towel and give it a good squeeze.

2 Preheat 12-inch slope-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Dry the bowl thoroughly and return the shredded potatoes to it. Pour on the melted butter, salt and pepper; mix well. Transfer potatoes to preheated skillet, pressing them down as much as you can.

Pomme-Rosti / www.delightfulrepast.com

In case you're wondering about the foil behind the pan, I put a 30x18-inch piece of heavy-duty foil over the back of the stove whenever I'm frying so I don't get the stove all greasy. But, no, I don't use a new piece of foil every time; I reuse it many times and then recycle it.

3 Cook over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Slide them onto a plate.* Carefully place the skillet upside down over the potatoes and then flip the whole thing over and cook the other side until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. 

* I used the All-Clad Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan to cook the potatoes and slid them onto its lid to turn the potatoes. The lid handle stuck down through the grate so it was steady as I slid the potato "pancake" onto it. Then I set the pan upside down over the potatoes and used potholders to flip the whole thing over. Worked like a charm! 

Note: If making this up to an hour ahead, preheat oven to 200F/93C. Leave it whole and place on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet in preheated oven. When ready to serve, proceed with Step 4. And eat it all; it really loses something when reheated the next day or even just hours later.

4 Slide onto a plate or cutting board. Cut into 6 wedges. Sprinkle on a bit more salt and coarsely ground pepper and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh dill or your favorite fresh herb. Or with cheese or grilled onions or crispy little pieces of bacon or ...

Disclosure: Some posts contain links to my affiliate account at Amazon.com. If you purchase something from Amazon through one of my links, I receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, which I use toward the expenses of running this blog. Thanks for supporting Delightful Repast when you shop at Amazon!
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