29 August 2013

Mocha Mini Cupcakes


At times when a cupcake would be too much, a mini cupcake is just right. On the other hand, the mini cupcakes seem so mini you might be inclined to eat several, defeating the whole purpose. We all have our ways of psyching ourselves out--whatever works! I consider three minis the equivalent of one standard cupcake.

I usually put a little coffee in anything chocolate--not enough to add coffee flavor, just enough to enhance the chocolate flavor. This time I wanted enough coffee to have to change the name from chocolate to Mocha Mini Cupcakes.

You might wonder why I have a separate recipe for minis. Why not just use a standard cupcake recipe? Because I hate waste, and it would really go against my grain to see extra batter washed down the drain! I develop all my recipes for a specific pan size or quantity. If you measure exactly as I say in the recipe, you will come out with exactly 24 mini cupcakes and very little extra batter.


Mocha Mini Cupcakes

(Makes 24)

The Cupcakes

1/3 cup double-strength brewed coffee
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa
3/4 packed cups (3.75 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Frosting


5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/4 packed cups powdered sugar, unsifted
2 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa

Pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons double-strength brewed coffee

1 In 1-quart saucepan, combine coffee and butter. Heat, whisking occasionally, over medium heat just until the butter melts. Whisk in the cocoa, and set aside to cool slightly.

2 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put two 12-cup mini-muffin tins on a 15x10x1-inch rimmed baking sheet, and put paper bake cups in the tins. (Or I could break down and finally replace those two tins with a 24-Cup Mini Muffin Tin, since I never make just 12 mini muffins or cupcakes!)

 
3 In medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisking for about 30 seconds sort of sifts the dry ingredients. In 2-cup glass measure, combine milk, vinegar, egg and vanilla. Add coffee-cocoa mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine; beat for about 30 seconds. Add the milk-egg mixture and beat for another 30 seconds. (A wooden spoon works perfectly well, but I use an English cake whisk, a kind of stainless steel wire spoon that has been made in Britain for over a hundred years.)

4 Using measuring spoons, spoon just one tablespoonful of batter into each cup; then spoon just one teaspoonful into each cup. Bake at 350 for about 13 to 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Place baking sheet on wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes before removing cupcakes from tins. Cool completely before frosting.

Note: Since it's such a tiny amount of batter, I want to be really clear about how I measured. It's a thin-ish batter, so it is a level tablespoon and teaspoon. And, most important, I don't scrape every bit of batter out of the spoon. If I did, perhaps I wouldn't need the additional teaspoon of batter. But it's a lot faster to just dump the spoonful of batter in the cup and move onto the next and then come back with the teaspoon.

5 In bowl of stand mixer, or with a hand mixer (I love my KitchenAid hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the powdered sugar, cocoa and salt. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and coffee; beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. You will likely have to add the liquid ingredients before adding all the powdered sugar.

6 With a pastry bag fitted with a 2D tip or a 1M tip, pipe frosting on cupcakes by simply placing tip in the center and squeezing. You don't even have to know what you're doing; it'll look pretty!
 

22 August 2013

Saveur Summertime Salad Social - A Roundup of 10 Favorite Salads


Got a great idea for a summer party from the last issue of Saveur—a Salad Social! A potluck (or bring-a-dish, called in some circles a "hotdish") of nothing but salads. Everyone brings a salad—and, I'm assuming, it would be a good idea to find out in advance what each person wants to bring so you don't end up with a dozen bowls of coleslaw or ... well, you get the picture.  

You will need main dish, side dish and dessert salads. One maverick couple at the party in the Saveur article even brought gazpacho—sneakily calling it "liquid salad" to slip it through. Doesn't that sound like fun?!

And apropos of absolutely nothing (though I do go through a lot of kitchen towels when I'm cooking), I just got an even dozen of the most fabulous kitchen towel ever! This 20x30-Inch Ripple Kitchen Towel is, at last, my dream towel!

But back to the party! Let's start with a main dish:

 



 

Here are two versions of broccoli salad:

  

 


You can't have a summer potluck without vast quantities of potato salad: 




 

And, of course, a marvelous macaroni salad:

 





You'll want green salads. Here's one that can be made and dressed ahead:

 


 

Winter Salad (for summer, use a different tangerine)

 
And for something a little different:
 
 
And for dessert, fruit salads. If you're fortunate enough to get hold of some perfect peaches:




 

So where's Salad Number 10? You bring it! I know none of you ever put links in your comments (that would be gauche!), but today I am inviting you to include a link to your very favorite salad, whether it's on your own blog or someone else's. After all, this is a potluck! 

15 August 2013

Skillet Shepherd's Pie


Shepherd's Pie has always been the classic comfort food for people with ties to Britain, but lately I've been getting requests for it from friends of all sorts of ethnicities! I've had occasions when I've asked friends what they'd like me to make for them and, out of all the elegant and expensive possibilities, they said "Make your shepherd's pie." Okay! That's easy! 

Last month I made it for Limey Day (so named by one of the husbands!). That's the day every three months when three of us get together to watch British films and television. We start at 10:30 in the morning with a good chinwag along with tea and scones and various things, watch videos, have lunch, watch videos, have dessert and tea, watch videos, have snacks and wine, watch videos, maybe have some lunch leftovers and watch more videos until we just can't take it any more! For that occasion, I made my regular Shepherd's Pie.


Sometimes I make my Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie (this photo). Both of those are baked in a 13x9x2-inch baking dish, with a layer of mashed potatoes on the bottom as well as the top. This Skillet Shepherd's Pie is what I do when I'm making a smaller amount and I want to hurry things along a bit. Of course, if your skillet can't go into the oven, you can always put the pie in an 8-inch square baking dish.

In case you're wondering, we watched the first season of Mr Selfridge this time. Couldn't hang in long enough to watch all ten episodes, so had to watch the third disc another day. Have you seen it? It's delicious!

Skillet Shepherd’s Pie

(Serves 4)

I avoid the whole Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie / Lamb or Beef Controversy by making it with turkey. But in my family it's always been Shepherd's Pie, no matter what it's made of. And this is my quick, no-muss-no-fuss version, meaning it is baked right in the same skillet.

The Potato Topping

2 pounds russet potatoes
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Cheddar

The Meat Filling

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup chopped carrots
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon marjoram

3/4 cup frozen peas

1 Pare the potatoes and rinse and quarter them. Put the potatoes in a 2-quart saucepan and add cold water to cover and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

2 In the meantime, prepare filling. In oven-safe 12-inch slope-sided skillet (I use the All-Clad 5112 Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan), heat oil and cook onion about 5 minutes or until soft. Add ground turkey and brown well. Proper browning, rather than just "graying," gives the finished dish a richer flavor, making it well worth the extra time it takes. If using very lean ground meat, as I do, there is no need to drain the fat from the pan. A lot of moisture comes out of the turkey and must evaporate before any browning can occur. Add Worcestershire sauce toward end of browning. 

3 When meat is browned (which can take a long time, at least 20 minutes, with lean turkey), add chopped carrots and cook about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over all and mix thoroughly. Stir in diced tomatoes and seasonings and cook about 3 minutes. Add frozen peas and remove from heat. Smooth the top.

4 When potatoes are done, drain completely, cover and set over low heat for half a minute to dry thoroughly. Remove from heat, mash, add butter and continue mashing. Stir in milk, salt, pepper and grated Cheddar. Potatoes will be a bit looser than you would make to serve as mashed potatoes; this makes spreading easier.

5 Spread the mashed potatoes in even layer over the meat. Can be made the day before. Cover and refrigerate until 65 minutes before serving time. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Uncover and bake for 55 minutes. (You won't need to bake it that long if you're not making it ahead and refrigerating it.) Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.


08 August 2013

Chocolate Cream Pie - Creamy Dreamy


This is a grown-up version of a dessert some of you may remember from childhood. Back then it was made in a 13x9x2-inch pan using instant pudding, frozen whipped topping and excessive amounts of sugar. I make it in a 9-inch pie plate using all organic ingredients.

Whipping up some fresh cream takes just a few minutes more than opening a container of thawed frozen whipped topping. And a simple homemade pudding takes just a few more minutes to make than instant. The addition of a little strong coffee (organic, of course) enhances the flavor without actually changing it.

I don't even remember what it was called, but we have always called my version Creamy Dreamy. The other might taste just wonderful, but it contains all sorts of strange unpronounceable chemicals I don't care to consume. This is all-natural, organic Creamy Dreamy!

Another great thing about this pie is you can freeze it! This time I just froze one slice to enjoy later, but I've frozen the whole pie before. Don't you love things that can be made ahead?! 

Chocolate Creamy Dreamy

(Makes one 9-inch pie / 8 servings)

Second Layer Pudding

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

Pinch salt
1/4 cup double-strength brewed coffee
1 1/2 cups milk

1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


Crust

1 cup finely chopped walnuts + 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top of pie
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
Pinch salt

First and Third Layers

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 In heavy 1.5-quart saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Gradually whisk in the coffee until smooth. Whisk in the milk. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken, about five minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, for another five minutes until pudding is completely thickened. Remove from heat, then stir in butter and vanilla. Place pan in a larger pan filled with ice and water to cool the pudding quickly. Place a circle of parchment paper directly on surface of pudding. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. 

2 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl combine 1 cup walnuts, flour, melted butter and salt until mixture is evenly moistened. With wooden spoon and flat-bottomed metal measuring cup, press dough into bottom and sides of a greased 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes; let cool.

3 Beat whipping cream to stiff peaks; set aside. In separate bowl, but using the same beaters, beat softened cream cheese with powdered sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Add the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture; beat just until combined.

4 Scrape half the cream mixture onto the crust; spread evenly. Give the chocolate pudding a stir and spread it evenly over the first layer. Top this with a layer of the remaining cream mixture. Sprinkle on chopped nuts. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving.

Lamb Shanks Braised in Red Wine - and Rocky Mountain Organic Meats Giveaway

Lamb Shanks Braised in Red Wine / www.delightfulrepast.com

Lamb shanks is a meal just unusual enough to make a real impression at your next dinner party (just look at that well-caramelized crust!). You can get the heavy lifting out of the way the day before and just reheat the meat and sauce at the last. For the same reason, it also makes the perfect Sunday Roast/Sunday Lunch, that great British tradition.

The Sunday Roasts of my childhood were usually beef (my father's favorite) or pork. Only occasionally would it be lamb (my mother's favorite). Since then I've encountered so much badly prepared lamb that I've quite gone off it! Then I heard from my favorite organic grassfed rancher (well, no, *he* isn't grassfed, but his cattle are!) in Wyoming that they now offer organic grassfed lamb humanely raised on a family farm and ranch in Montana.

Rocky Mountain Organic Meats, a great company you've read about here before, sent me the four lamb shanks. Not wanting to waste this very special meat on people who wouldn't fully appreciate it, I polled my friends who are into organic grassfed meat to see which ones especially like lamb. I chose well! The happy recipients loved the flavor of the wine-braised lamb and the falling-off-the-bone tenderness of it.

If you've never cooked lamb, be prepared for its distinctive smell. Some people (such as the friends I was cooking for) will walk into a kitchen where lamb is cooking and think it has a heavenly aroma; others (such as myself!) will think it has a gamey odor. Which camp are you in?   

Are you a lamb lover? Rocky Mountain Organic Meats is going to ship 4 organic grassfed lamb shanks to one of my readers! Will it be you? See bottom of the post for giveaway details. For your convenience, the organic grassfed lamb shanks and other Rocky Mountain Organic Meats can also be ordered through Amazon! 

Wine-Braised Lamb Shanks


(Serves 4)

4 lamb shanks (about 3 1/2 pounds total)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, divided
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 or more cloves garlic, halved
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bottle drinkable dry red wine, divided
1 cup chicken broth

Make day ahead so you can chill the braising liquid and easily remove the layer of fat.

1 Heat oil in heavy pot large enough to hold the lamb shanks in a single layer. I use a 5.5-quart Le Creuset round French oven and brown the shanks two at a time (and later set them on their narrow sides to fit into the pan for braising). Sprinkle the first side of the 4 shanks with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add to hot oil and brown well, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes, sprinkling second side with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove to platter.

2 Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic to pot. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Brown the vegetables, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, herbs and tomato paste; cook for 1 minute. Stir in 2 cups wine and broth; bring to a boil. 

3 Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Add lamb shanks to pot, and return to the boil, adding more broth or water if the shanks are not halfway submerged. Cover pan with foil and lid; simmer in oven for 2 1/2 hours.

4 Transfer shanks to an oven-to-table casserole. I use a 2.5-quart oval CorningWare casserole. Strain braising liquid into a 4-cup glass measure, pressing out liquids from solids; discard solids. For easy removal of fat, refrigerate braising liquid overnight or long enough for the fat to solidify. Do not skip this step -- the braising liquid will be extremely fatty and must be thoroughly defatted. 

5 Remove layer of fat from chilled sauce. In small sauce pan, bring the remaining wine to the boil; reduce by a third. Stir in the defatted sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning. Pour over shanks in casserole. Refrigerate until one hour before serving time.

6 One hour before serving, heat covered casserole in preheated 300-degree oven for 1 hour.
Rocky Mountain Organic Meats Giveaway

One winner will receive 4 grassfed organic lamb shanks from Rocky Mountain Organic Meats. All continental US residents who leave a comment (one entry per person - and please include your email address in the body of your comment) on this post before 11:59 pm Eastern time Wednesday August 7 will be put into a random drawing. Winner will be announced here in the comments before noon Eastern time on Thursday August 8. If I don't hear back from the winner of the random drawing by 11:59 am Eastern time Sunday August 11, another drawing will be held and a new winner selected from the original entrants (those who commented before the giveaway deadline).

Disclosure: Product was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to post about it and received no compensation for doing so. And, in case you don't know me, there is no amount of money or free product that can induce me to say something I don't mean!
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