Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

There is a relationship that exists between food and its patron, or at least I believe that. The acts of preparing a dish, presenting it for consumption, and finally experiencing its intricate flavor index leave a lasting impact upon the eater. Memories are formed, scents are recalled, colors observed, tastes relished. Humans have spent many years developing traditions and holidays because of their relationships with food. The foodie in me loves food not only for its flavors, but also because of the experiences it provides me. An example of such an experience is how I feel after eating Hungarian mushroom soup: instant pick me up. 
Complete side note here, but another example of a relationship I have with food would be my admiration of incorporating beautiful flowers into delicious cocktails. I recently discovered the Peppered Orchid from the local Frankie Bones. Me and my love of vegetation in my cocktails...
Any time I am feeling glum, tired from travel, or maybe just a bit sicky pants I often turn to Hungarian mushroom soup for some encouragement. After a warm bowl or two, I feel like someone has wrapped me in a handmade quilt at my grandmother's house. Add some homemade bread to it and I feel like I can take on the world. Seriously, they should give this stuff out instead of prescriptions at the doctor's office. 
Next time you are under the weather or playing nurse maid or maybe just need to use up some mushrooms, give this recipe a try and see how you feel on the other side. Plenty of room to make it dairy-free or low-fat, change up the herbs, and even consider replacing the sour cream with Greek yogurt. Enjoy!

Hugarian Mushroom Soup
Adapted from: Closet Cooking
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 lbs mushrooms, sliced (I used half white and half portobello) 
  • 1/4 cup flour 
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Braggs 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 splash lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh purple sage, chopped (optional)

If using portobello mushrooms, de-stem and remove the cap's skin before chopping. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat, add the onions and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have released their liquids and it has evaporated, about 10-15 minutes.

Mix in the flour and paprika and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the broth, sage, soy sauce, Braggs, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper mix in the sour cream, lemon juice and fresh herbs (dill, sage, oregano all taste amazing) and remove from heat.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Almond Joy Cupcakes

Another birthday, another round of baking. At least I am a consistent gift giver when it comes to friends and family. Spreading joy and sugar comas wherever I go. Go me! Just call me the cupcake birthday fairy godmother (or whatnot). 
Everyone, I'd like for you all to meet the Almond Joy Cupcake. A gift for a special lady in my life, in honor of her annual renewal. Now before you go off on how much you aren't into coconut desserts, I implore you to give these a try. They are a bit on the sweet side, but damn delicious and definitely worth the steps to make a dozen or two. The coconut comes from the frosting, which is a hybrid of cream cheese and butter cream with shredded coconut tossed in towards the end. This is the kind of frosting that is dangerous to have around, on hand, in the fridge...excuse me for a sec, I must put thoughts of the frosting out of my mind before I relapse again into a spoon crazed fit. 
The cupcake portion itself tastes somewhere along the lines of chocolate angel food cake - very light and fluffy. I might use the chocolate cupcake base recipe to make a few new recipes down the road (like a maybe a KahlĂșa cupcake or Mexican chocolate cake). And since these cupcakes are somewhat filled with frosting, an added bonus of this recipe is having tiny little cake bites after carving out the cupcake centers. A creative baker would find use for these, or if you are like me would eat them all fairly quickly. 
Next time around I think I might dip each frosted cupcake into the chocolate ganache and then sprinkle the toasted coconut and sliced almonds while it is still setting. And it is definitely worth it to use toasted coconut and toasted sliced almonds as a topping (just buy a bag of both at the store and use your stove top to lightly toast). I also wouldn't mind test running a boozy version of these lovely treats and adding them to my boozy cupcakes by the dozen box (a work in progress). For now, I'm happy giving these away as birthday surprises...enjoy! 

Almond Joy Cupcakes 
Borrowed from: Beantown Baker
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Toasted shredded coconut
  • Toasted sliced almonds
Preheat oven 350 F. Prepare cupcake pan with liners.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. In another medium bowl with an electric mixer on high, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Next, beat in the melted chocolate. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating until blended. Stir in vanilla.

Fill the cupcake liners about 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes. Place on a rack and let to cool completely before frosting.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Beat the cream cheese and butter in a mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time, alternating with heavy cream. Beat in the salt, coconut flavoring, and vanilla extract.
Continue beating until mixture is smooth and spreadable. Add additional confectioners’ sugar if necessary to thicken the frosting, or more cream to thin. Gently fold in the shredded coconut.

Chocolate Ganache
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
In saucepan bring whipping cream to boil over high heat. Pour hot whipping cream over chocolate and stir until chocolate melted. Add more cream if the ganache is too thick to spread.

To Assemble 

Remove center of cupcake using the cone method. Set the cake cone aside – feel free to eat it! Pipe frosting into hole and continue on top of cupcake. Drizzle ganache over frosting. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and toasted sliced almonds. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Delicious Mint Julep

I should have posted this yesterday, but I was much too involved in the Kentucky Derby to get around to being productive. Or I should say, my productivity involved making Mint Juleps (as well as a giant spread of food). The only time of the year I make these is for the Kentucky Derby and I admit I do get a little carried away in the experience. The mostly empty bottle of bourbon sitting on my kitchen counter this morning is proof of that. 
A few secrets to a good Mint Julep: 1. always make the simple syrup beforehand, 2. infuse the simple syrup with mint, 3. use good bourbon, 4. used crushed ice. If you follows these cardinal rules, you are golden! My own personal addition, a bit of Pellegrino to give the drink a bit of bubble. Makes it even more refreshing, if that's is even possible. 
While none of my horses won the race for the roses (although one did get third place!!), it was a grand event as always. I can't wait for next year's 140th running! Don't forget - two more races remain in the Triple Crown

Delicious Mint Julep
Adapted from: Camille Styles
  • 2.5 ounces bourbon
  • 25–30 mint leaves
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1-2 ounces of Pellegrino 
  • ice cubes
  • crushed ice

For the mint simple syrup:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 large bunch mint leaves (I used three varieties)

First, make the simple syrup. Combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Place the bunch of mint leaves in an old mason jar (or other heatproof container) and pour the syrup over the leaves. Place the jar in the fridge and let the leaves steep in the syrup for at least one hour (overnight is better). Strain the leaves from the liquid and set the syrup aside.

Place your 25–30 mint leaves in a cocktail shaker and pour in the 2.5 ounces of bourbon as well as one ounce of your simple syrup and some Pellegrino. Top with a few ice cubes and stir. Fill your chilled silver cup or glass with ice about halfway. Strain the liquid from the cocktail shaker into the cup. Pack crushed iced on top of the liquid to the top of the glass. Garnish the drink with a sprig of mint leaves and a straw.

Bake Beignet Bites with Blueberry Dipping Sauce

Oh Saturdays, how I love thee. I could count the ways, but let's be honest - you all get why I love Saturdays. Mellow mornings, sleeping in, happy dog runs, a reason to make stellar breakfasts for the family. We have a theme around here for Saturday mornings; it involves me and some sort of tasty breakfast of the kids' choosing. Previous weekends have led to pancakes, waffles with homemade whipped cream, crepes, sourdough french toast. This week's breakfast project: baked beignet bites.
My first introduction to beignets started in New Orleans, as it should. Sitting at Cafe du Monde across from Jackson Square, people watching while I managed to cover myself in powdered sugar goodness and eat delicious deep fried pillows of dough. So good!
With someone in the family having to monitor his cholesterol these days, I opted to skip the deep frying portion of the traditional recipe and go with baking the beignets instead. Yes, I know it isn't the traditional method of making these and therefore maybe not as good. I will be the first to admit that. However, they still turned out to be very yummy and a favorite of the household. The blueberry dipping sauce was a late addition and well worth it (lots of room to make any sort of fruit flavored dipping sauce). So until I make my way back to NOLA, these little babies will be keeping me company and covered in powdered sugar. Enjoy!

Baked Beignet Bites with Blueberry Dipping Sauce
Borrowed from: Pick Fresh Foods
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons warm water (100° to 110°)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • Powdered sugar
In a large bowl combine yeast and 3 tablespoons warm water; let mixture stand 5 minutes.

Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat (do not boil). Once small bubbles begin to form on sides of pan, stir in sugar, butter, and salt. Stir until butter is melted. Remove from heat and cool.

To yeast add milk, egg and 2 cups of flour. Stir with wooden spoon. Dough will be very sticky. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface; knead 8 to 10 minutes or until dough is smooth.

Place in a greased bowl, turning to dough to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place 1 hour or until doubled in size. 

Punch dough down and turn it out onto a floured surface. Roll dough into a large rectangle about 1/4 in thickness; cut strips to form 2-inch squares. Place on a floured surface; cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Coat baking tray with cooking spray. Place dough 2 inches apart on to tray. Bake 7-10 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm.

Blueberry Dipping Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Blueberries
  • 3-4 tbsp Blueberry Preserves/Jam
  • 1/4 cup White Sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp Cornstarch 
  • 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
In a saucepan, mix together all of the ingredients. Bring to a very gentle bubbly boil then reduce heat to a simmer and leave on the stove for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken. Add more sugar and/or lemon juice to meet personal taste preferences. Remove from the stove and let cool before serving.