Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chocolate-dipped Hazelnut Espresso Cookies

First of all, is that not the cutest cookie up there?  And is it me, or does it not have the coolest wave of brunette ganache sweeping across its little cookie forehead? OK, maybe I've been staring at these cookies a little too long...

So this past weekend we were invited to a friend's home for a lovely dinner of osso buco and fresh spring risotto.  I thought I'd make an Italian-themed dessert to accompany the menu. I found a tempting recipe for Tiramisu Cupcakes and off I went. 

These cupcakes took alot of time - making the cupcake batter, then the coffee syrup, and finally the mascarpone frosting. And when all was said and done, I wasn't 100% sure they were worthy of a trip to a friend's dinner. So I went to my trusty recipe file to find a suitable second. And there it was - a recipe from Leite's Culinaria for Hazelut Espresso Cookies!  It had everything. Except chocolate. But that was quickly remedied by whipping up a chocolate ganache and dipping the top half of the cookie (otherwise known as the "cookie forehead").  Voila! At the last minute I sprinkled some finely chopped hazelnuts on the ganache as it was setting to give it some nice texture.

In the end, I took both desserts to the dinner, and while the cupcakes were good, the cookies were great!  And you know what they say, you can never have too many desserts!  Mangia bene!

Monday, March 15, 2010

(A Lighter) Irish Soda Bread

Reaching back into the Cook's Tour archives for two terrific Irish Soda Bread recipes just in time for next week's St Patrick's Day festivities! What are your baking plans for this holiday? Leave a comment below. 

I recently subscribed to The Baking Sheet from King Arthur Flour and received my first issue last week.  And during a leisurely train ride on Sunday from Virginia to New Jersey I had time to leaf through the early Spring issue.  I love Irish Soda Bread so this recipe for Limerick Soda Bread caught my attention, but what really stood out was the fact that each slice has only 64 calories and 1 gram of fat. There is no sacrifice of taste here and I love the spongy feel to the bread and the play of the sweet and savory flavors. This recipe is courtesy of Ariel's Restaurant in Brookfield, Vermont. 

Some of you may remember my St Paddy's Day posting from 2009 with my usual go-to recipe: Barbara's Irish Soda Bread.  Well, this new lighter version has all the requisite ingredients, such as buttermilk, baking powder, raisins, etc., but it's a more traditional rendition than the 2009 recipe because it calls for whole fennel seeds.  Barbara's recipe is sweeter and more cake-like.  Believe me, they're both delicious and you won't go wrong with either one.

I took this up-close photo so you could see the tremendous height you get with this bread.  It's a good 2" high. 

Back to the train ride. I had a work event in Virginia over the weekend and while I was away, a huge Nor'easter blew across the mid-Atlantic states. We're talking torrential rain with wind gusts of 60 mph in some places. There was flooding, downed power lines and trees torn out of their roots all over the tri-state area. All flights in/out of the area were canceled on Saturday and if they weren't canceled, they were backed up for hours. So rather than risk being stuck at the Richmond airport all day on Sunday, I opted to ride the rails. I grabbed a business class ticket, arrived at the beautiful 1901 Beaux Arts Richmond Main Street station about 30 minutes before departure, and then settled in for the trip. Complementary beverages, NY Times, power outlets at your seat, and the landscape of America rolling by your window. You see every kind of town on a train - from the quaint charm of Ashland, Virginia to gritty industrial towns like Rahway, New Jersey. But when the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol appeared right in front of me, I thought, more people (including me) ought to take advantage of this mode of transportation and really see America. Even while waiting in the station, there was a sense of unhurriedness - a throwback to a time when the country operated at a more relaxed and genteel pace. 

The six-hour ride gave me time to read not only The Baking Sheet newsletter, but also the complete Sunday NY Times, two magazines, and watch an old episode of Monk on my iPod. But for a good portion of the trip, I just watched the scenery as it came to me. There's something to be said for traveling this way if you've got the time. Even if you don't, you might want to make time. 

Happy St Patricks Day to you!

Limerick Soda Bread (courtesy The Baking Sheet and Ariel's Restaurant)

3-1/2 C all-purpose flour

1/4 C sugar
1 t salt
4 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 C whole fennel seeds
1 C dried currants or golden raisins
1 LG egg
2 C buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour, or spray with pan spray, a 10" round cake pan.

In large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk until well mixed. Add fennel seeds and currants/raisins and mix well.

Whisk together egg and buttermilk in small bowl. Add to dry ingredients and stir with spatula or wooden spoon until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter will be quite stiff. Scrape into the prepared pan and spread out to cover pan evenly. Bake until golden brown, about 50 min. Cool before removing from pan. Yield: 40 slices, 1/2" x 4-6".

Per serving: 64 cal, 1g fat, 1g fiber, 13 carb

Print Recipe Here!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Late to the Party

The cupcake party, that is.  I know cupcakes have been all the rage in the food world for the last couple of years but I never really got on that bandwagon.  I like cupcakes as much as the next person, but I've never considered myself the kind of person who has to follow along blindly behind the leader of the foodie trend train.  

A few weeks ago, I needed a small amount of buttermilk for a recipe. And, of course, you cannot buy, say a half-pint, or pint, of buttermilk. Noooooo, it's only sold in your regulation quart size. But I figured I would use up the rest of it somehow.  Which brings me to Martha Stewart. Something else I was never caught up in. But I got this great deal for a subscription to Martha Stewart Living with a freebie subscription to her cute little Everyday Food magazine.  How could I pass this up?  In my first issue (March 2010) there was a full page ad for "Cupcakes Galore," a web gallery overflowing with delicious-sounding, and luscious-looking cupcakes.  But I didn't want to make giant cupcakes.  I wanted just a delightful, bite-sized, pop-the-whole-thing-into-your-mouth, cupcake.  And there they were: Mini-Carrot Cake Cupcakes!  They looked fabulous and they had that all-important ingredient - buttermilk. Luckily, a friend was having a belated Valentine's Day brunch and asked me to bring a dessert - hello, cupcake!  For such a small item, they were a huge hit!  That's them in the photo at the top. They are chock full of raisins, cinnamon, and carrots (natch), but I think what really set them apart from the rest of the cupcake crowd, was the maple cream cheese frosting.  With a generous tablespoon of pure maple syrup and a sprinkling of shredded coconut, the flavor melding with the carrot cake was deluxe!  I was hooked.

Well, now I was on this cupcake high and needed more.  I scoured the web for mini cupcake recipes, but nothing spoke to me.  Back to Martha I went and she saved the day.  Banana Buttermilk Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream was the answer to my cupcake habit because I still had buttermilk in the refrigerator and perfectly ripe bananas on my counter. It was like the perfect storm.  I altered the recipe a bit, though. Since I had leftover maple cream cheese frosting from the first batch, I utilized that.  And this recipe was for full-size cupcakes, so I simply altered the baking time to accommodate mini-cupcakes.  These were even better than the carrot cupcakes, I think, because they were made with sifted cake flour (instead of all-purpose flour), which made them lighter than air.  Here they are in the photo below, all dressed up and ready to go!

Yeah, I was late to the party but I'm on board now!  How about you?  What's your favorite cupcake?

Print Carrot Cake Recipe Here!

Print Banana Buttermilk Recipe Here!

Print Basic Cupcake How-To Here!

Print Maple Cream Cheese Frosting Here!

Carrot Cupcakes on FoodistaCarrot Cupcakes