Wednesday, December 29, 2010

When one chapter closes...

I have finally finished my journey towards my Bachelors in Hospitality, and it wasn't an entirely happy one to be honest. Many times I wanted to quit, other times I wanted to switch majors, and especially now with the economic state of not only the country but my city I wished I did something that would have proved more profitable to me instantly. On the other side of my brain I do love to bake and cook but not so much for a restaurant because cooking under pressure takes away all the fun for me. I hate the repetitiveness of cooking for a restaurant also but I can definitely do it if it will bring home the bacon. With 2010 coming to a close and my degree in hand I started thinking about the next chapter of my life and what I should be doing. Ideally I would love to play lotto and be a couple millions richer so I could open my guesthouses in the Caribbean but since that is far fetched I need a plan B. I do love to bake and make sweet things so I have been devising a plan for a confections business in the new year. I took  restaurant management class this past semester that taught me the basics that I need to get the business going but I need to figure out my concept first. I have already began to think this out wholeheartedly and ask advice from some of my friends considering similar ventures. Along with the prospects of being an entrepreneur I have a list of goals for 2011 such as:

1 -  Finishing my Driving Lessons
2 - Getting my NYS Food Handlers Certificate
3 -  Learning to sew
4 -  Continue working out at the gym 
5 - Clear old debts
6 - Move out
7 - Become a better gardener and overall crafty person

I will work my hardest to achieve all of these by the end of 2011 and even some other things. I truly believe life is about steady progression so I will strive to achieve these goals in the oncoming chapter so that I can reach my happily ever after that much sooner.

Citrus Shrimp

I love General Tso's Shrimp from my favorite chinese food takeout place here in Brooklyn. I was never able to copy their style of frying shrimp but I think I have found out.  I recently tried out and put my own spin on an orange marmalade shrimp recipe I found at serious eats. I didnt have all the necessary ingredients on hand so I had to substitute. This recipe calls for all orange flavors but I had to use some lemon zest and juice instead of orange. I When I first made the recipe it tasted a little to tangy but then after it sat five minutes the sweetness of the marinade and the shrimp blended beautfully with the lemons tartness. I will try the original recipe one day but today Im posting my substitutions. I served this shrimp along with my other cristmas dinner fare and it was one of the most popular dishes on the table.

Citrus Shrimp 
2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup canola oil 
2 cloves garlic, grated 
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the angle, plus extra for garnish 
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes 
1 teaspoon lemon zest 
1/4 cup orange marmalade 
2 teaspoons of honey 
1/4 cup soy sauce 
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, plus 6 tablespoons 
Kosher Salt 
2 pounds 11-15 count shrimp, peeled and deveined, dried on a paper towel 

- Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in small skillet over medium heat. When oil just shimmers, add garlic, scallions, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest and cook until fragrant, less than a minute.
- Immediately add marmalade, honey, and soy sauce to skillet. Allow to bubble for 1 minutes.
- Meanwhile, use small whisk to combine the fresh lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch in small bowl. Add slurry to skillet and whisk continuously for 1 final minute until sauce is thick. Set aside.
- Toss dry shrimp with remaining cornstarch and pinch of salt. Heat remaining canola oil in wok over medium heat until lightly smoking. Fry shrimp six at a time until orange, curled, and slightly crisp, about 2 minutes, turning once half way through cooking. Drain on paper towel. Repeat for all 4 batches. Add more oil if necessary.
- Toss shrimp with orange sauce. Garnish with fresh scallions and orange zest.

Christmas Cupcakes

A tasty winter wonderland.

Cupcakes always means theres a celebration...even if the celebration is just the fact that they turned out well. My reason for making cupcakes last week was to celebrate the holiday and the fact that I graduated from college with my bachelors in Hospitality Management. It has been a a long journey and I fell down a couple times and almost quit but I'm happy that I had people around me to inspire me to keep going and to even take my education further after this chapter closed. Ok enough of the soft stuff...on to the cupcakes, so I made two types of cupcakes and two types of icing. One of the recipes I made were vanilla bean cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and then peppermint jo jo cupcakes with Italian meringue buttercream. All the recipes except the cream cheese frosting are from other websites and then tweaked by me. The swiss meringue is from Baking 911, the vanilla bean cupcakes are from thespicedlife, the chocolate cupcakes are a tweaked cake recipe from, and the cheesecake frosting is actually the Kraft no bake cheesecake filling. I especially loved using the cheesecake filling for frosting it was extremely easy but its not shelf stable so it can only be out for a short time and refrigerated the majority of the time. The vanilla bean cupcakes definitely weren't my favorite, the cake had a nice flavor but it was too heavy and mealy. The author suggested to spray the cupcake liners but it is a totally unnecessary step.  The chocolate cake and Italian meringue buttercreams are old faves.
Vanilla Bean Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
2 large eggs, room temp
2/3 cup (160 g) full fat sour cream
seeds from 3 Tahitian vanilla beans
1 T Tahitian vanilla extract
1 t lemon zest (to amp the vanilla--I was not going for a lemon flavor here)
2 cups (200 g) cake flour
1 cup (200 g) superfine sugar
1/2 t baking powder'1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t fine salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 T, 170 g) unsalted butter, between 65-75 F 
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, the vanilla seeds and extract, the lemon zest, and 3 tablespoons of the sour cream. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with hand mixer), mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt with the flat beater for 30 seconds on low. Add the butter and remaining sour cream to the dry ingredients; mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened and a higher speed will not cause the flour to fly out of the bowl. Then mix on medium speed (high for hand mixer, 4 for Kitchen Aid) for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Then add the egg mixture in 2 additions, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition and scraping down the bowl in between. Finish by hand if any parts have not incorporated so as to not overbeat.
- Fill each cupcake 3/4 full (or use a #30 disher--which I did not have). Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean with a few crumbs attached. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8oz container cool whip topping, softened
1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
- Place cream cheese in mixing bowl with whip attachment and whip until soft and spreadable
- Add in cool whip and sugar and whip until combined. 
- Ice cake immediately or store in a container until ready to use.

Chocolate Jo Jo Cupcakes
Chocolate Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled
3/4 c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
4 oz unsweetened chocolate squares, melted and slightly cooled
24 peppermint Jo Jo's or other peppermint sandwich cookies.

-Prepare cupcake pans and liners and set to the side.
- Combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
- In another large bowl, beat eggs for about 3 minutes, until they have thickened slightly and are lemon-coloured. Add buttermilk, coffee, oil, vanilla and melted chocolate. Mix  until well blended.
- Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until batter is smooth. 
- With liners in place in cupcake pans scoop in about a tablespoon of cake batter and then place a cookie on top of it then finish fill liners with cake batter. Divide batter equally among cupcakes liners.
-  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees F, until a toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cupcake from pans and cool completely before frosting.

Italian Meringue Buttercream from Baking 911
1 pound (4 sticks or 2 cups) unsalted butter (65 degrees F - slightly softened and cool - not runny, greasy or soupy)
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (60 grams) water
5 large (150 grams) egg whites, room temperature
1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla

- In a mixing bowl beat the butter until smooth and creamy and set aside in a cool place. 
- In a small heavy saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar and the 1/4 cup water. Under medium-high, boil sugar and water mixture, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling. Stop stirring and reduce the heat to low. 
-  Meanwhile, place the egg whites in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Fitted with a WHISK attachment, beat the egg whites with a stand mixer on medium until foamy for 1 to 2 minutes. Then, stop the mixer and add the cream of tartar. Beat for 3 more minutes on medium-high or until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. 
- Gradually beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, taking 3 more minutes. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Simply turn off the mixer.
- Increase the heat of the stove and boil the syrup until you get bubbles all over the surface. The syrup starts to look thicker and the Candy Thermometer registers 248 degrees F to 250 degrees F.
- Immediately remove syrup from the stove and prepare to drizzle it into the egg whites
- Fit the mixer with a PADDLE attachment (not a whisk attachment.) Turn the mixer on high, and start drizzling the sugar syrup, in a thin stream, into the contents of the bowl. Keep beating until the mixture cools completely, taking about 5 to 10 minutes. 
- Beat in the butter at medium speed 1 tablespoon at a time. After the first few tablespoons have been added, the mixture will seem thinner, but keep adding in butter slowly and beating because the meringue will thicken beautifully by the time all the butter is added. Keep the mixer speed on medium and drizzle in the liquor. Don't use more than 1 teaspoon or the recipe's emulsion will break. Place in an airtight bowl. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jingle Bell Cake!

Sooo.... I'm pretty late on the Christmas post but that's because I was too busy enjoying the holiday to write! This was one of my best Christmases in recent memory, it was filled with family, friends, and delicious food. The gifts weren't to bad either. Like every other year I baked and baked 'till I couldn't bake no more! I had a kitchenaid pro mixer finally so finally I was able to try so many recipes that I previously could not. For this post I will tell you all about the cake I called Jingle Bell cake. Its my personal take on the blog post over at Love and Olive oil. The recipe consist of the Cooks Illustrated white cake and the Martha Stewart White Chocolate Buttercream. The cake was fairly easy to make and it definitely was moist. I think next time I will experiment with the flavors a bit and the colors. The next recommendation would be to reduce the amount of butter in the buttercream, it was just too buttery for my taste and it made the cake unbearably rich...even for the holidays. My friends and family said it was a really good cake but no one could easily finish an entire slice in one sitting, especially the frosting. I used cheapo brand liquid food coloring from the supermarket and it did a wonderful job so theres no need to make a major investment in the dye you will use, I also want to note that I used 9 inch pans for the cake recipe and it had enough for the four layers without problem.
The 9in layers before I finished frosting.

 Making the icing wasn't as hard as I thought it would be but I can tell you that it took about 15 minutes for my baby(my red kitchenaid pro) to cool down the meringue. Everything else was fine but I would like to note again that it was just too much butter in the recipe. When I was frosting my cake there was extra chunks of butter in the frosting. I'm not new to buttercreams, and this was just too much...I'll definitely cut back next time because the extra butter chunks I took out wasn't even missed.
Overall I really loved this cake, it is such a showstopper and I will make again for a next occasion with some modifications.
The finished cake

A yummy slice

White Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream
the recipe says it serves 12 but this rich recipe can easy serve about 18-20 persons
2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites (3/4 cup), at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool
Red and Green Food coloring

- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour. 
- Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended. 
- Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining. 
- Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer. 
- Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. 
- Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely.

 White Chocolate Buttercream
2 1/2 cups sugar
10 large egg whites
2 pounds (8 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, softened
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pound best-quality white chocolate, melted and cooled
- Put sugar and egg whites in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, and set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
- Transfer bowl to an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until fluffy and cooled, about 10 minutes. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
- Reduce speed to medium-low; add butter by the tablespoon, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and white chocolate. If not using immediately, refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature before using; beat on low speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

White Chocolate Tahitian Vanilla Bean Blondies

Such a long name right?? Well I wanted to incorporate all the leading ingredients into the title. These blondie's were an experiment on one of my favorites brownie recipes. I wanted to achieve the same dense chewy texture the brownies had in a blondie. To be honest this was my third experiment. The first one where I used butterscotch was a total disaster and so was the second one where I used white chocolate chips, they were too sugary...something like bite sized diabetes. I realized this recipe needed tweaking badly. The texture was achieved somewhat but there was an over abundance of sugar and the graininess that came along with it.  Anytime I make these brownies using semi sweet chocolate they are perfect and when I used the butterscotch or white chocolate they were over the top sweet. This third time I started making some changes on paper and rolled up my sleeves for the last time testing this recipe hoping that third time would be the charm...and it was! The white chocolate chips and butterscotch contain more sugar so I had to reduce and even change some of the sugar and that helped tremendously. For these white chocolate brownies I wanted play with the flavor and added in some Tahitian vanilla beans that i had on hand. The result of this last try was a dense, chewy, blondies with rich vanilla and white chocolate flavor. I also want to say that I didn't use any high end white chocolate just some regular nestle white chips that my sister bought for me. As for the vanilla created such a floral-y vanilla scent and taste for these bite and I felt like i was strolling through Paris in the spring. I will definitely say these are a must try...hope you enjoy.

White Chocolate Tahitian Vanilla Bean Blondies
Makes 24 bars

12 oz white chocolate, chopped or in chips
2 sticks of unsalted butter
3/4 cup ganulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean scraped
4 large eggs
1 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Line 17in brownie/bar pan with parchment and spray with cooking spray,
- On the stove or in a microwave melt butter, chocolate, and sugar. Whisk until smooth. 
- Whisk in vanilla extract, vanilla bean pulp, and salt.
- Begin to whisk in eggs one at a time until combined.
- Stir in flour until smooth.
-  Pour mixture into prepared pan.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until crust is entirely set.
-  On a sheet pan that is larger than the brownie pan spread ice in it.
- When brownies are set, remove from oven and place brownie pan onto ice.
- After 15 minutes allow brownies to cool for an additional 10-15 minutes in the refridgerator or freezer.
- Remove from the fridge or freezer, remove from baking pan, and cut into bars.