Saturday, December 31, 2016

Chocolate Tangerine Cannoli Cupcakes

There are a lot of cupcakes out there that are what I call as "whimsical". You know the type, the ones that look like santa claus or are smiley faces. Nothing against those, for those attract a lot of kids and kids are a cupcake eating bunch.

These particular cupcakes are not whimsical at all. In fact, they are very much adult in flavor. Yes, the chocolatey batter full of chocolate chips may be kid appealing, but add the cream cheese/ricotta filling loaded with tangerine zest and we start to get away from the kid appeal. Top with some ganache and a slice of candied tangerine zest and the end result is not only delicious but very appealing to adults.

The chocolate with the tangerine puts this cupcake in a sophisticated, more gourmet category. However, the recipe only makes a dozen cupcakes, so be sure to adjust recipe if you are expecting a crowd.

Chocolate Tangerine Cannoli Cupcakes
adapted from Food Network

Ingredients/Candied Tangerine Slices
3 tangerines (making a total of 12 slices)
granulated sugar

3/4 cup of mayonnaise
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder 

1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup cream cheese
zest from 3 tangerines

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs chocolate chips

Start by making the garnish. Fill the bottom of a frying pan with sugar, making the layer about 1/4th an inch thick. Then lay the slices of tangerines on top, making sure that they do not overlap. Then pour one spoonful of sugar over the top of each slice and smooth out until completely covered. Place frying pan over medium high heat and let cook. As it cooks, take out a cookie sheet and line with parchment paper.

The cooking will cause the sugar to melt and start to change color. Once it reaches a caramel color, quickly remove frying pan from heat. Take slices out of pan using tongs and place on parchment paper. Set aside.

Prepare for the cupcakes by preheating the oven to 325 degrees. Grease the top edges of your cupcake cavities and line with baking paper liners.

Sift the cocoa powder in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add hot water and mayonnaise and whisk together. Then change the attachment from a whisk to a paddle and add the sugar and beat together. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Take bowl out of the stand mixer and blend the sifted ingredients into the chocolate batter. Lastly, fold in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter evenly into cupcake cavities. Each cavity should be about 2/3 full. Place pan in oven and bake until tester comes out clean. Baking time should be about 25-30 minutes. Let cupcakes cool in pan on rack for about 3 minutes then transfer to cooling rack. Let cool completely before filling.

As the cupcakes are cooling, the filling can be made. Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the cream cheese and ricotta cheese. Beat together until smooth and blended. Add the tangerine zest and sift in the powdered sugar. Beat again until zest is distributed evenly and there are no more streaks of sugar. Set aside.

Take the cooled cupcakes and cut a small core out of the center of each, using a paring knife. Prepare a bag of filling by snipping off the corner of a freezer bag and adding the filling to the inside of the bag. Hold the bag upright, with the open corner of the bag hovering over the empty core of a cupcake and squeeze the top of the bag, filling to the core to the top. Repeat this process until all cupcakes are filled. Set aside.

Make the ganache by filling a saucepan with the heavy whipping cream. Also, pour the chocolate chips into a shallow bowl ( much like a flat bottom heat proof pasta bowl) and smooth them out evenly. Place the saucepan over medium high heat. Once the cream has reached a boil, remove from heat and pour over chocolate chips. Stir until chocolate chips have melted and mixture is smooth. Place in refrigerator about 5 minutes to thicken. Spoon a dollup of ganache on top of the cupcake, to the left or the right of the filling. The chocolate should not cover the white/ cream filling in the core of the cupcake.

Lastly, place the candied tangerine slice on top. It can lay on top, be folded, stuck in the cupcake or stuck into the filling. Depending on how you place the garnish, it may need to be propped up with toothpicks until it sets with the ganache.

Tips and Notes:
1. Both the filling and the ganache recipe were scaled down to eliminate waste. You can always make more if needed.

2. The original filling recipe did not include cream cheese but due to the dry nature of ricotta, the cream cheese was added.

3. Feel free to experiment with other citrus when creating the filling.
                                            **LAST YEAR:Cherry Pie Bites**


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Chocolate Custard Tart

The smaller version of a fruit pie is a fruit tart. However, when it comes to cream pies, we do not think of cream tarts. There is a lot of different cream pies that can be converted over. So if you are ever wanting a taste of a cream pie, but a whole pie seems to much to have around-consider a tart.

With that thought, I bring you a recipe for a chocolate custard tart. One of the highlights of this special dessert is the silky dark chocolate cream filling. The other is an oatmeal shortbread shell with grated chocolate. If that is not chocolatey enough, the interior is brushed with chocolate ganache. Lastly, each piece has a dollup of fluffy whipped cream on top.

Lots of chocolate and lots of texture contrast come together for a delicious, one of a kind dessert. This makes one 10 inch tart or 12 small tarts (3-4 inch rings). Be sure to allow for the 8 hours needed for the custard filling to set up prior to filling the tarts.

Chocolate Custard Tart
adapted from The Olives Dessert Table

Ingredients/Chocolate Cream Filling
6 egg yolks
4 1/2 cups of milk
1 tbs vanilla extract
8 oz bittersweet chocolate (chopped or chips, room temp)
3 tbs butter
4 1/2 tbs cornstarch
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients/Oatmeal Crust
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup or 2 sticks butter (room temp)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup grated semi-sweet chocolate (optional)

Ingredients/ Chocolate Ganache
1 cup semi sweet chocolate (chopped or chips)
1 cup heavy cream

Ingredients/Whipped Cream
2 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
2 tbs of cream stabilizer (optional)

The custard will be the first component to make. Fill a bowl with the sugar and sift in the cornstarch and salt. Mix together and pour in 1/4 cup of milk. Stir batter until blended. Place the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk the yolks together. Empty the milk mixture into the bowl of egg yolks and whisk together. Set aside.

Take the remaining amount of milk and pour into a saucepan over medium heat. Let come to a boil and remove. Turn the stand mixer on medium low and as it mixes, add the hot milk in a steady stream. Place a strainer over a saucepan and pour batter from the stand mixer bowl into the strainer. Discard the solids.

Take out a shallow heat proof bowl and add the butter. Microwave until butter is melted. Mix the vanilla extract into the melted butter. Add the chocolate and form an even layer on the bottom of the bowl. Pour the milk/egg mixture over the chocolate. Let sit, without stirring, for about 5 minutes. Once the five minute interval has passed, mix the custard until all is combined.

Empty custard into another shallow bowl, smoothing out evenly. Place plastic wrap over the custard and edge of bowl. Place in refrigerator for a minimum of eight hours and a maximum of 2 days.

For the oatmeal crust, start by creaming the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using another bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Stir the oats and chocolate (optional) into the sifted mixture. Empty the dry ingredients into the creamed butter/sugar mixture. Stir together until combined, making sure the oats and chocolate are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

Flatten mixture into a disc and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1/2-1 hours. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a flat surface by dusting lightly with flour. Remove the chilled dough and roll out into one circle (about 10-10 1/2 inched in diameter) if making one tart. For several small, divide the dough into 12 of the same sized pieces. Each piece will be formed while the remainder are in the fridge. Take each piece of dough and roll out into a circle, exceeding your tart diameter by 1/2 an inch.

Place each piece of dough into the mold and press into the sides and bottom evenly. To have a smooth edge to the tart, press the excess dough down over the top edge of the tart, using the edge as a cutter.  Refrigerate lined tart(s) for a minimum of 30 minutes or covered, up to 3 days.

Once chilled, tarts are to be prepared for baking. Cover dough tightly with foil and fill with pie weights, beans or rice. Bake the covered tart shells for about 14 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully remove weights and foil. Place back in oven for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.

As it cools, the ganache can be made. Place the chopped chocolate or chocolate chips evenly in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Set aside. Take out a saucepan and fill with the heavy cream. Put filled saucepan over medium high heat and let the cream come to a boil. Remove saucepan and pour hot cream of chocolate. Cover and let sit for 2 minutes. Then uncover and whisk until smooth.

Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of the oatmeal shell with the ganache. Refrigerate coated shells for about 30 minutes. Then fill tart shell(s) with chocolate custard, mounding slightly beyond the height of the shell. Place in refrigerator again. Also place a steel bowl in the freezer for 30 minutes for the whipped cream topping.

Remove chilled bowl from the freezer and fill with all whipping cream ingredients. Beat until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Then prepare a piping bag and fill with whipped cream.

Take out tart(s) and pipe cream on top. Now it is time to serve.

Tips and Notes:

1. Dough for shell was difficult to work with due to whole oats and chocolate. Consider grinding up oats after measuring and eliminating the chocolate in the dough, for a smoother crust.

2. You may have excess filling if not mounding high enough. Should you not want such depth of filling try cutting back ingredient measurements.

3. I found I had too much ganache and whipped cream. Since they both do not take that long to prepare, start by making 1/2 the amount. You can always make more, this way you will not have so much wasted as excess.

4. The best shallow bowls to use are microwave safe pasta bowls.
                               **LAST YEAR:Dark Chocolate Fingers**         

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Spiced Oatmeal Raisin Sandwich Cookies

Oatmeal cookies were not my first pick of cookies when I was growing up. Actually, I do not think they were a pick at all. However, like most people as they grow older, tastes and preferences change when it comes to food. Now, I believe that an oatmeal cookie (when made just right) can be a first pick.

I like the chewy type of oatmeal cookie. When the batter and the raisins mirror the same type of texture-it is nothing short of delicious. Raisins, in my opinion, should always be "plumped" or rehydrated prior to use. No one likes a tough, hard raisin in a cookie.

While these sandwich cookies may have you thinking a great snack for the kids, think again. With raisins soaked in pumpkin moonshine and bourbon cream in the filling, they are very much adult. Also, the flavor addition makes these a perfect addition to the holiday dessert table. This recipe makes about 3 dz sandwich cookies, depending on the size of the cookies made.

Spiced Oatmeal Raisin Sandwich Cookies
adapted from Omni Nashville Hotel

1 egg
1 tbs molasses
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups or 2 1/2 sticks of butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3 cups oats   
2 cups hydrated raisins (instructions/ingredients below)

2 cups raisins
1 cup pumpkin spice moonshine
1 cinnamon stick

3 tbs bourbon cream
1 tbs plus 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks of butter
3 cups powdered sugar

Start by plumping the raisins. Pull out a saucepan and place over medium heat. Add cinnamon stick and moonshine. Let the mixture heat up and flavors meld while stirring. The cook time will be about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in raisins. Let sit for about 10 minutes, then strain and place raisins in a bowl and discard cinnamon stick. Set raisins aside to completely cool.

Before your start on the cookie batter, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together cinnamon, flour and salt in a small bowl. Then stir in the oats. Set aside.

Fill another bowl with both types of sugar and butter. Beat for about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg, molasses, and vanilla extract. Beat again on medium speed for another 2 minutes. Remove bowl and fold the dry ingredients into the batter. When there are no dry streaks of flour in the batter, fold in the raisins.

Scoop batter out in 1 oz or tablespoon size mounds and drop onto baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Place baking sheet in oven and let bake for about 8-10 minutes. Cookie edges and bottom will be a golden brown when done. Let cookies rest on baking sheet for 2 minutes then transfer to cooling rack. Let cool completely prior to filling.

To prepare the filling, sift powdered sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Then add the butter and beat for 3 minutes until smooth. Add the bourbon cream, salt and the vanilla extract and beat again for an additional 2 minutes.

To assemble, pair up the cookies so they match in size. Then pipe a tablespoon of icing in the center of the flat side of one cookie. Place another cookie on top and press together until filling is near the outer edge of the cookies.

Tips and Notes:
1. Cookies do not spread, so it is best to flatten prior to baking to get the proper form for sandwiching together.

2. The liquor store may not have the exact thing you are looking for, so just look for something that has the spice of the season. I found gingerbread whiskey. When choosing the cream liquor for the filling, it is best not to choose one that has an added flavor. Since the liquor is not baked for the filling, a flavored one will be to strong.

3. If you prefer not to have a buttercream filling, there are many other options. You can use stabilized flavored whipped cream, cream cheese or marshmallow.

4. These cookies are also great without sandwiching them.

5. To make these without liquor, dissolve 1 tsp of  pumpkin or gingerbread spice in one cup of water for the raisins and use 3 tbs of milk instead of the bourbon cream in the filling. The other option is to use flavored coffee syrup and/or creamer.
                                      **LAST YEAR: Red Velvet Twinks**

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Peanut Butter Bundt Cake

My husband is very addicted to the combination of peanut butter and chocolate. Surprisingly, there have been very few posts on my blog with this flavor combination.

This peanut butter cake has a very tender crumb, which can be attributed to the cake flour in the mix. Having the peanut butter in the batter created a crispy caramel crust on the edges of the cake.

After creating this, I decided the next time I make this, it will be in loaves instead of a bundt pan. That way the batter will take less time to bake and not be as toasty on the edges. This one was a little too crispy in an effort to make sure the cake was done in the center.

Also, the peanut butter does pair better with milk chocolate instead of semi-sweet. Semi sweet is tasty but I found it a little too bitter strong when paired with the peanut butter. Another option is to put mini chopped peanut butter cups in the batter instead of icing the cake.

Peanut Butter Bundt Cake
adapted from Penzey's Spice Catalog

5 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups sugar
3  cups cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups mini semi sweet chocolate chips

In this particular recipe, you do not preheat the oven. Prepare a 10 inch bundt pan by greasing and flouring the interior. Place a cooling rack over a sheet of wax paper.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with butter and sugar. Cream both ingredients together by beating at medium speed for about 2 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended. Add one egg to the batter and beat for 30 seconds. Repeat this process with each egg, until all eggs have been beaten into batter. Then add the vanilla and beat for about 30 seconds.

Fold in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients. Add 1/2 cup of milk and stir until completely blended. Fold in 1/2 of the remaining sifted ingredients then stir in the remaining milk. Lastly, add the rest of the sifted ingredients and blend together.

Scoop the batter evenly into the prepared pan and place in oven. Then turn the oven on to 375 degrees. Let cake bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes and use tester to see if done. Cake may take up to 1 hour and 35 minutes to bake.

Once done, remove pan from oven and let cool for 20 minutes and invert onto cake rack to finish cooling.

For icing, place chips in a heat proof bowl with a wide bottom (like a pasta bowl). Level the chips out evenly in the bottom of the bowl. Fill a small saucepan with the heavy cream. Place over medium heat and let heat up. Once you see the first bubble from boiling, remove from heat and pour over chocolate chips. Let sit for 2 minutes and then stir until smooth.

Pour over cooled cake and let rest for 3 minutes. Scrape any chocolate off of the wax paper and spoon over cake. Wait 2 hours for icing to set before slicing and serving.

Tips and Notes:
1. A tube cake pan can also be used.
2. If you do not have cake flour, use regular flour plus cornstarch. Remove 1 tbs of flour per cup and replace with 1 tbs cornstarch. Sift together 5 times to insure cornstarch is dispersed evenly through flour.
3. Chocolate chips should be at room temperature for easier melting.
4. If you find that your cake does not come out when initially inverting, try setting the cake pan in a cold water bath a few minutes to quickly cool it for release.
                                     **LAST YEAR: Cheesecake Swirl Bars*