Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sweets for my sweet, sugar for my honey.

Lemon Curd filled Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

My sister called the other day to tell me all about an adorable cupcake stand she had found. She decided she wanted to start baking the little gems for my nephew, sweets for her sweet. "Aparently cupcakes are all the rage now," she said. "Aparently? Where have you been!?!?" I retorted.

Cupcakes, tiny as they are, seem to be bigger than cake is now. During my wedding planning phase, a growing trend was to forgo the cake in favor of a cupcake tower. New York City is famed for it's cupcake bakeries, Magnolia Bakery being at the forefront of course! And then one day as I was cruising the blogosphere, I happened upon the delightful Cup Cake Bake Shop blog run by Cheryl Porro. Well I never would have imagined the weird and wonderful ways you could treat the cupcake. It's like a blank canvas waiting to be turned into a masterpiece. Gone are the days of sickeningly sweet chocolate or vanilla supermarket cakes. Thai Tea and Lemon Curd pave the way for a new generation of cupcakes. Well Cheryl inspired me to give more thought to the cupcake, something I haven't baked in more than 10 years.

I decided to start with the Lemon Curd filled cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting. I was dying to try the Thai Tea ones she made, but I first had to order the syrup. Those are next on my list as my order has since arrived! So I did use a shortcut here in that I bought lemon curd rather than make my own. It was a time restraint issue and honestly they still tasted like a million bucks! The tart curd cuts through the sweet, creamy frosting to give a mouthful of lemony goodness! Recipe below taken from Cheryl Porro at Cup Cake Bake Shop.

Cupcakes from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
  4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.
  5. Measure out milk and vanilla together.
  6. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
  7. Add about one third the milk/vanilla mixture and beat until combined.
  8. Repeat above, alternating flour and milk and ending with the flour mixture.
  9. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to three-quarters full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes).
  10. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 12 ounces or 1-1/2 packages of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 stick of butter, softened
  • 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  1. Beat butter and cheese at medium speed until creamy.
  2. Add half of the sugar, the lemon juice, zest and the vanilla. Beat until combined.
  3. Gradually add remaining sugar (more if you have to) until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like.

To Assemble

  1. Using a small pairing knife, cut off the top of the cupcake in the shape of a cone. Flip the top over and cut off the cone.
  2. Fill the cavity with a teaspoon or so of curd (I used store bought).
  3. Replace top.
  4. Frost with frosting.
  5. Decorate as you wish. I topped the cupcakes with zest.

T.V. Dinners.

My progress so far: two shelves filled double deep. Alex is one lucky man.

So stew me!

Boeuf Bourguignon

My impending business trip to Toronto has thrown me into a bit of a tizzy. You see, it's not a quick hop across the border for a day or two. Try a month! While I am very excited about the trip and work itself, it is with a heavy heart that I will go. For you see, I leave behind my beloved husband...and his adoring stomach. As my departure date draws near I have been slaving away in the kitchen, savoring every moment knowing it would soon be my last before a month long hiatus. I've been cooking up a storm of stews, casseroles and anything remotely freezer friendly. I've managed to build up quite a tower of frozen dinners for Alex, who as mentioned earlier, cannot fend for himself in the kitchen. The thought of him relying on Arby's and Burger King for nourishment kept me motivated during my noble quest.

One of my all time favourite stews is Boeuf Bourguignon. It has such a warming quality, with velvety layers of flavour and texture. I chose to use Ina Garten's recipe as it another pet project of mine is to try recipes from the Food Network chefs. I have only made this dish once before a few years back and I don't recall using cognac in that version. But I was up for the task and looking forward to some flambe action in my very own kitchen! I asked Alex to come and help (he is ever the trusty sous chef) so while he poured the cognac into the pan I lit a match and Whooosh! A bright orange and blue flame shot between the pan and my poor husband's hand that was courageously still holding on to the cup and pouring the cognac! "Ow! What are you doing?!" Shock and guilt immediately overcame me and I turned my attention to Alex's now hairless hand. "Oh my god! Look! Our new kitchen!" I whipped back around to see flames furiously trying to escape the pan and engulf our overhanging microwave/vent combo. I grabbed the pan, swirled the juices and lo and behold the flames died down and all was normal once again. Except for Alex's hand of course, and the lingering scent of burnt hair. I apologised profusely, though I'm not sure the message came through my bouts of hysterical laughter. "I guess next time I should wait til you've finished pouring to light it, huh?"

After that comedy of errors one could only hope that the food tasted good! Well good is an understatment, it was divine! The rich, savory sauce caresses tender cubes of meat, carrots and onions. On a cold winter night, this is the dish to turn to as it warms your entire body as you eat it. I served it with some boiled potatoes tossed with butter and parsley to cut through the intense flavour of the dish. The one moderation I made was to brown the pearl onions in some butter before adding them to the stew. Click here for the recipe.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Break the fast.

I have few enemies in this world and find myself a rather non-confrontational person. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good debate and will argue my point til I’m blue in the face. But I am first and foremost a people pleaser, and if I can make someone happy I strive to do it. Especially when it comes to food. So what does this have to do with breakfast? Well my friend, breakfast and I have had a long and hostile relationship. We have never seen eye to eye. Quite simply, we do not get along. No matter how much I try to make amends with breakfast, I fail miserably. I have nothing against breakfast, or people that partake in it for that matter. I know how good it is for you, that it’s the most important meal of the day, blah blah blah. I just can’t eat it. In the morning that is. Give me breakfast at 10, 11 or 12 and suddenly we’re best friends! Eggs cooked any way, French Toast galore and Bagels with Lox! Alas, in the early morning when I wake up the most I can get down is a cup of tea or coffee, and maybe, just maybe a kiwi or some other slippery fruit.

My poor husband Alex has been on my case about breakfast for years. “We need to start eating breakfast, we’re not healthy if we don’t. We’ll get diabetes!” What he’s really saying is, “Feed me!” You see, Alex is one of those people that gets grumpy if he doesn’t eat, and that is a very polite description. You do not want to be around him when the hunger strikes because it is not a pretty sight. Unfortunately, since he is so well fed around here (from lunch onwards), he has lost the ability to feed himself. He dare not go to the fridge and peek inside to see what he can fix for himself. He will not open the pantry and discover an oasis of food. He is culinary impaired and it is all my fault. Now that he’s graduated from his masters and is out in the corporate world with an 8-5 job, I feel an obligation to make sure he eats breakfast. His poor co-workers would not know what hit them at around ten in the morning, and I feel the need to spare them!

We needed something that is easy to eat, chock full of energy and that keeps well in the pantry. I settled on Granola, or Cruesli for the Europeans. It is so incredibly simple to make and there are millions of different ingredients you can add to spice things up. Why not just buy it? Well as you should know by now, cooking and baking makes me happy. But I would say that controlling and knowing what goes into the end product is extremely appealing to me. My first experiment was simply rolled oats, sliced almonds, salt, lime zest and maple syrup. Since then I have mixed it up with walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut, pumpkin seeds, honey and lemon zest. You can add anything your heart desires! To be honest, this is one of the easiest and most rewarding things I have ever made. It takes all of 20 minutes and my husband is a very happy camper and heads off to work well fed. It’s ingenious! Oh, and the best part is that I love it too…just not before ten. Click here for the recipe.