28 April 2016

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes - Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting / www.delightfulrepast.com

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a baker in possession of a good oven, must be in want of another cupcake recipe! Of course, this one seems positively autumnal, and it is spring. But I had a special unseasonal request for my pumpkin spice cupcakes.

A friend is giving an afternoon tea in a few weeks, and the guests of honor are her daughter-in-law and not yet 2-year-old granddaughter. Daughter-in-law especially likes pumpkin spice cupcakes, so I'll be making another batch of these for the tea next month. I really like them with Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting, but they will be out of the fridge for quite some time.

And I happen to know that my Cream Cheese Frosting recipe can be at room temperature for extended periods of time. If it had more cream cheese and less powdered sugar, I wouldn't risk it. But I've used this ratio for decades, and it's always fine. That does not mean, however, that I'd take it to a picnic in July and let it sit in the sun for hours!

These can also be made with sweet potato puree (in fact, this batch was) or butternut squash puree. Nuts and/or raisins could be added, but I was making these for someone allergic to nuts and averse to raisins. I developed the cupcake recipe to make precisely 18 standard cupcakes and the frosting recipe to make precisely enough to generously frost the 18 cupcakes.

What about you? Would you make these now, or do you simply refuse to go autumnal in the spring?!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes - Cream Cheese Frosting

(Makes 18 standard cupcakes)

The Cupcakes

1 3/4 dip-and-sweep cups (8.75 ounces/248 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour*
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (7 fluid ounces) milk
8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 cup (1/2 15-ounce can) pumpkin puree


* For gluten-free, use 2/3 cup sorghum flour, 2/3 cup potato starch, 1/3 cup tapioca flour and 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum.

The Frosting

4 ounces (113 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1.25 pounds (20 ounces/567 grams) powdered sugar, unsifted
1 to 3 tablespoons milk

1 Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. Put 2½-inch paper bake cups in standard muffin tins. In small bowl, thoroughly whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Measure milk.

2 In bowl of stand mixer (or just use a 2.5-quart bowl and hand mixer), beat butter until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar; add vanilla extract. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in egg. Then add pumpkin puree and beat on low speed just until blended.

3 Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk in 2 parts, beating on low speed or stirring until smooth. 

4 Using a 1/4-cup measure, fill the bake cups with a scant 1/4 cup of batter. Divide any leftover batter among the cups. (I developed this recipe to make precisely 18 cupcakes with no waste.) Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick.

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

6 In bowl of stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract and salt. Gradually add powdered sugar (no need to sift) and mix until thoroughly combined, adding 1 tablespoon of milk along with the powdered sugar. Beat for about 3 minutes, adding only enough milk that the frosting will be piping consistency at the end of the beating time. With a pastry bag fitted with a 2D or 1M tip, pipe frosting on cupcakes.

21 April 2016

Sun-Dried Tomato Focaccia - An Easy Italian Bread

Sun-Dried Tomato Focaccia - An Easy Italian Bread / www.delightfulrepast.com

A friend was putting on an Italian-themed dinner last weekend and asked me to bring something. When I told her I'd make focaccia, she was so excited. Don't you just love cooking for people like that, who really appreciate it! I left the tomatoes off, since the main dish was tomato-y enough.

As my "regulars" know, I love to knead bread dough by hand (it's very therapeutic!); but my focaccia requires no kneading, no food processor, no stand mixer. Just stir it up and let it rest in the refrigerator for one to three days. It practically makes itself!

Use a good olive oil, one with a flavor you really like because there's olive oil in it, under it and on it. You can leave off the tomatoes or replace them with something else: caramelized onions, sprigs of rosemary, sliced or roughly chopped olives, shredded Parmesan, coarse sea salt.

Just don't add too many things or too much; this isn't a pizza. Great with the meal or before the meal with a glass of wine. Do you consider bread to be a legitimate appetizer? 

Sun-Dried Tomato Focaccia

(Makes one 18x13-inch)

4 dip-and-sweep cups (20 ounces/567 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 3/4 cup (14 fluid ounces) water, room temperature
9 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon dried parsley
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt or 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan


1 Start focaccia dough one to three days ahead. Measure or weigh the flour into a 1.5-quart bowl. Oil a 2-quart glass measure or bowl with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. In large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast. Add water and 3 tablespoons olive oil, and stir until thoroughly combined. Continue stirring slowly for 1 minute. Stir in remaining flour about a quarter cup at a time, reserving the final quarter cup for shaping the soft and slightly sticky dough into a somewhat smooth but very loose "ball." Just sprinkle a bit of flour onto the dough in the bowl and fold it onto itself several times, adding the remaining flour a little at a time. 

2 Place the smooth but very loose "ball" of dough in the oiled 2-quart glass measure or bowl; drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread the oil over the surface. Cover with loose lid or plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for at least 24 hours or up to three days.

3 Remove dough from refrigerator. Line an 18x13x1-inch half-sheet pan with a sheet of parchment paper; oil the parchment-lined pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Scrape dough out onto middle of prepared baking sheet. With oiled hands, press out the dough a bit; don‘t try to fill the pan. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap; let rest and warm for 2 hours. 


Sun-Dried Tomato Focaccia - An Easy Italian Bread / www.delightfulrepast.com

4 Uncover and, with oiled hands, stretch and press out the dough to fit the pan. If it’s too springy, cover and let relax for 15 minutes before patting it out. Repeat if necessary. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Top with chopped sun-dried tomatoes, pressing them into the dough with your fingers. Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until very puffy, which can take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours.

5 During last 20 minutes, preheat oven to 450F/230C/Gas8. Just before placing it in the oven, dimple (gently poke) the dough again with your fingers and sprinkle with herbs (and perhaps salt or cheese). Place in oven, and then immediately turn temperature down to 425F/220C/Gas7. Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. Loosen focaccia from pan with a spatula and slide onto a rack to cool slightly, about 20 minutes. On cutting board, cut into 32 2x3-inch pieces and serve warm or at room temperature. 

Note: If serving later or even the next day, wrap the cut focaccia in foil and store at room temperature. Reheat, wrapped, at 375F/190C/Gas5 for 10 minutes.

14 April 2016

Cream Puffs - Pate a Choux

Cream Puffs - Pate a Choux / www.delightfulrepast.com

When my English grandmother made her rounds to her children's homes throughout the year, she always made these and they've never been forgotten by any of her grandchildren. The oven never had a chance to cool down when she was in town.

I still remember the first time I made cream puffs. It was a good thing my mother was standing by to give my skinny little stirring arm a break. I've always felt compelled to make them the way my mother and grandmother made them -- by hand -- but I'm still having an issue with my beating arm, so I made these in the food processor.

Most people have no idea how easy these are to make, so when you bring them out your guests will be positively dazzled! That's always fun. You know, when you look all modest and humble, only rolling your eyes when your head is down, thinking "If only they knew!"  

Stir constantly and cook the flour mixture well. It will pull completely away from the sides of the pan when it's done. Set the timer for 10 minutes, and allow the dough to cool for precisely (well, approximately) 10 minutes before beating in the eggs. If the mixture doesn't cool long enough, the eggs will scramble; if it cools too long, the dough starts to set up.

Bake the puffs thoroughly, until very well browned. Then cut a little slit in the sides to vent the steam and put them back in the turned-off oven to dry out. That's really all there is to it. But give yourself a break and make the Vanilla Pastry Cream the day before. Or just whip up a batch of Stabilized Whipped Cream.

Cream Puffs - Pate a Choux / www.delightfulrepast.com

Pate a Choux (pronounced pot-ah-SHOO) 

(Makes enough for 20 #40 cream puffs) 

2/3 cup (5.33 fluid ounces/158 milliliters or grams) water
1 stick (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 dip-and-sweep cup (5 ounces/142 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
4 large eggs 


1 Combine water, butter and salt in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan (I use the Le Creuset stainless steel 2-quart saucier). Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as water reaches the boil, reduce heat to simmer and add flour all at once. Beat vigorously with wooden spoon until flour is absorbed and mixture forms a ball. Mash dough against bottom of pan with spoon for about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. 

Cream Puffs - Pate a Choux / www.delightfulrepast.com

2 Preheat oven to 450F/230C/Gas8. Line a large baking sheet (I use a 3/4-sheet pan) with parchment paper. 

3 Add dough to food processor work bowl fitted with chopping/mixing blade. Process for 10 to 15 seconds. Add 4 eggs* and process about 1 minute, or until smooth and shiny. Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary. The dough should be shiny, smooth and very thick but not stiff; and it should hold its shape when lifted on a spoon. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, for 1 to 2 days. Cold dough can be shaped without bringing it to room temperature. 

Note: If you are making the dough by hand or with a hand mixer, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat at least 2 minutes after adding the last egg.

Cream Puffs - Pate a Choux / www.delightfulrepast.com
  
4 Drop dough by #40 scoops 3 inches apart on parchment-lined (or greased) cookie sheet. (I make 4 rows of 5 on my 3/4-sheet pan.) I go over the scoops of dough with a wet finger to smooth out any rough spots. Bake at 450F/230C/Gas8 for 15 minutes, then at 325F/165C/Gas3 for 25 minutes. 


5 Remove puffs from oven; cut a little slit in the sides to vent the steam and put them back in the turned-off oven to dry out, about 20 minutes. Cool on rack to room temperature. Just before serving, split the puffs horizontally, fill, replace tops, ice or dust with powdered sugar. Or you can leave the puffs intact and pipe the filling.


Disclosure: Some posts contain links to my affiliate account at Amazon. 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!

07 April 2016

Vanilla Pastry Cream - Le Creuset Giveaway - Stainless Steel 2-Quart Saucier

Cream Puff with Vanilla Pastry Cream / www.delightfulrepast.com

Vanilla Pastry Cream, or Creme Patissiere, can be used in so many ways. Cream puffs and chocolate eclairs are just the beginning. Purists might insist that, while eclairs are filled with pastry cream and topped with a chocolate glaze, cream puffs (choux chantilly) must be filled with whipped cream and dusted with powdered sugar. 

That's how it was when I was growing up. But I lost my taste for chocolate quite a long time ago, so I do a mashup: round and dusted with powdered sugar like a puff, pastry cream like an eclair. I've always made medium size puffs (18 puffs per recipe), but I really should make some tiny ones for my next afternoon tea party.


Cream Puffs with Vanilla Pastry Cream / www.delightfulrepast.com

It's such a breeze making custards, sauces and risottos in the Le Creuset stainless steel sauciers, the 3.5-quart for larger amounts and their new 2-quart for smaller amounts. You can't really whisk in a regular straight-sided saucepan; you have to keep putting the whisk down and using a spoon to "get into the corners." 

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 it's oven proof to 425F/220C/Gas7. This saucier is my new favorite pan. Since I got it, I haven't put it away! I've just left it on the stove because I'm using it for everything!

I'm so excited to be able to offer US readers the opportunity to win one! See below. And come back next week for the choux pastry, Pate a Choux, recipe and to see who won the pan! And, of course, I'd love it if you would share this post on your social media.

Update 04/14/16: The giveaway is now closed.


Le Creuset Stainless Steel 2-Quart Saucier Giveaway / www.delightfulrepast.com


Vanilla Pastry Cream - Creme Patissiere

(Makes 4 cups)

2 1/2 cups milk, divided
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (I like 1/2)
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 In heavy saucepan (I use the Le Creuset Stainless Steel 2-Quart Saucier), heat 2 cups milk and cream to just below a simmer. You'll see a skin forming and the milk wiggling under the surface.

2 In 2-quart bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup cold milk. Gradually whisk in the hot milk. Use an electric hand mixer if you like.

3 Pour the mixture back into the saucepan (or saucier) and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly (slowly at first, then speeding up as the custard thickens), until the custard gets very, very thick and holds the whisk marks. Pay close attention; if you get distracted for a second, you can end up with bits of scrambled egg in your custard.

4 Remove from heat, and stir in butter and vanilla extract. If you have any lumps of egg, place a fine-mesh strainer over a 1.5-quart bowl, and press pastry cream through it to ensure a perfectly smooth custard. Cover surface of custard with a round of parchment paper cut to fit the bowl. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate to chill.

5 Just before using, whisk the pastry cream a few times. And, if you'd like to "lighten" it up with whipped cream as I did with the cream puff pictured, just whip 1 cup of cream to soft peaks and fold it into the whisked pastry cream.


Le Creuset Giveaway Stainless Steel 2-Quart Saucier / 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 April 13. 

Winner will be chosen by random drawing and be announced here in the comments before noon Eastern time on Thursday April 14. If I don't hear back from the winner of the random drawing by noon Eastern time Sunday April 17, 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!

31 March 2016

Spaghetti Sauce - Meat Sauce

Spaghetti Sauce / www.delightfulrepast.com

Though I'd been cooking with my mother and grandmothers for years, I'd never made spaghetti or meat sauce. That I learned from my mother's friend Maggie when she came to spend a week with us shortly after we moved away when I was 13. Maggie was an alcoholic, so there were two Maggies. The drunk wild woman I couldn't stand and the sober intelligent woman who intrigued me.

She was on her best behavior during her stay, so I was treated to intelligent and witty conversation, introductions to books I'd never read and glimpses of the southern belle who'd been married to several men from all walks of life. It was during that "dry" week that her talents in the kitchen were revealed. Besides showing me how to make spaghetti, she gave me An Early Lesson in Mise en Place.

My friend Jo was recently lamenting the fact that she had no recipe for a really good spaghetti sauce that didn't call for Italian sausage or ground pork or anything else the average home cook isn't likely to just have on hand all the time.

So I went to work on that, and I think I've come up with a nice little meat sauce that captures some of those flavors without anyone having to run out to the shops to buy anything special. Most of us omnivores keep some ground beef in the freezer at all times. I always buy extra lean so there's no need to drain off the fat.

All the herbs called for are dried herbs because most of us don't have a ready supply of affordable fresh herbs all year round. It calls for a little wine (which you can skip if you don't use alcohol) because I almost always have about half a cup of leftover wine in the refrigerator. 

You can make it from start to finish in about an hour and a half, including the simmering time. Since I was just cooking for one today, I measured 2 cups (enough for 2 people) of sauce into each of 3 freezer containers for future meals and just ate the remaining cup myself over spaghetti.

If you are out of marjoram (or never had any to begin with!), this is the time to get some. I taste as I go when I'm developing a recipe; and when I had everything in this sauce but the marjoram, there was just a little something not quite right. I thought, I bet a little marjoram would mellow this out just right. And it did!

Of course, with Mr. Delightful's aversion to "messy" foods, we'll be having this sauce on penne or rigatoni rather than spaghetti. How about you? Do you like long pasta or shapes? 

Spaghetti Sauce / www.delightfulrepast.com

Oh, this photo reminds me: Stay tuned! Be sure to come back next time for a fantastic Le Creuset giveaway! 

Spaghetti Sauce

(Makes about 6 servings)

1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 pound (454 grams) extra lean ground beef
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 14.5-ounce (411 grams) can crushed tomatoes
1 14.5-ounce (411 grams) can diced tomatoes
1 8-ounce (227 grams) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup water
1/2 cup dry red or white wine, optional

1 In large skillet or wide pan (I use a Le Creuset 3.5-quart stainless steel saucier), toast the fennel seed over low heat; pour toasted seeds onto chopping board or into grinder.

2 Heat olive oil in the now empty pan. Add chopped onion, green pepper and carrot; cook until softened, about 10 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, chop or grind the fennel seed; stir it in.

3 Add ground beef to pan and cook, breaking up into fairly fine pieces. As it browns, sprinkle on the Worcestershire sauce and salt.

4 Add the remaining ingredients, and bring to a simmer. Simmer, loosely covered, for about 45 minutes. Of course, you can add more liquid and simmer longer with great results, if you have the time!

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