My friend Min from The Bad Girl’s Kitchen (we were Taste&Create partners awhile back) invited me to her virtual housewarming extravaganza. I love a good party and checking out a new house, and I can’t say no to great food either (did I hear there will be southwestern tapas and homemade sangria??).
Of course I am a well-mannered guest and will bring along something yummy myself. When I think of southwestern food, I immediately think of chiles…and when I think of tapas, I immediately think of gambas al ajillo. I knew that punching up traditional Spanish gambas with some chiplotle in adobo and cilantro would make a great party appetizer (although you do have to make it last minute, so hope Min won’t mind if I use her oven!). Below, I’ve just given a recipe for two servings, but I’m pretty sure it can be successfully multiplied to feed a few more. Don’t forget a little bread on the side to dip in the garlic oil….it’s just as tasty as the shrimp!
I’m also bringing along guac with spicy toasted squash seeds and oven baked tortilla chips. Truth be told, I could eat the whole bowl myself, but it’s more fun to share. Congratulations, Min and family! Now, where’s that sangria?
Southwestern-Style Garlic Shrimp Tapas– serves 2 as an appetizer
6-8 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined
chopped canned chipotle chile and adobo sauce to taste (I used 1/2 of a chile and 1 t sauce)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/4 c olive oil
1/8 t salt
1 bay leaf
1 T chopped cilantro
-Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 500°F. In a bowl, combine the shrimp with the chopped chipotle and adobo sauce, about one third of the minced garlic, one tablespoon of olive oil and salt. Let shrimp marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature (this should be long enough for your oven to preheat).
-Once the oven is hot, pour the remaining three tablespoons olive oil into a small, shallow casserole or baking dish (or a seasoned Spanish cazuela). Add the remaining minced garlic and the bay leaf and bake until sizzling, about 3-5 minutes.
-Add the shrimp and marinade to the sizzling oil, and return the dish to the oven. Bake (stirring once) for another 3-4 minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked through. Throw out the bay leaf, season with additional salt (if necessary) and sprinkle over the chopped cilantro. Serve immediately, straight from your baking dish or cazuela (keeping in mind that it’s super-hot before you set it on your table!) .
Happy anniversary, Cupcake Hero! I haven’t participated in CH for the past few months, but how could I not jump back in the game to help Laurie celebrate its first year? The theme for this month is actually to choose two themes from the past year and combine them into one double-good cupcake. In honor of the festivities, I went with cocoa and marshmallow, (two of the past year’s best) to come up with these Cocoa-Malt Cupcakes with Malted Marshmallow Frosting.
Ever since I cracked open my jar of malt syrup earlier in the month, I’ve been dreaming of malt! A bit of a one-track mind, I know. I decided to incorporate the flavor into a simple Devil’s Food batter made with cocoa powder. The frosting is a “loose interpretation” of marshmallow, in that no gelatin is involved. Rather than mess with a sugar syrup, I made a fluffy Swiss meringue, also flavored, of course, with malt.
I was a little nervous wondering whether or not the addition of malt syrup to the batter would affect the baking. They took a full 25 minutes in my oven, and after removing them from the cupcake tin, they still felt a little soft. I put them on a sheet tray (out of the tin) and stuck them back in the oven for another 5 minutes. When we had them later that night, the cakes were soft and moist and perfectly baked. And the marshmallow frosting was sweet and sticky, just like it should be.
Check out the new Cupcake Hero page for a run-down of all this month’s entries!
Cocoa-Malt Cupcakes with Malted Marshmallow Frosting– makes 6 regular-size cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
Note: For a more traditional Devil’s Food cupcake, replace the malt syrup with a dash of vanilla extract or a sprinkle of instant espresso powder.
1/6 c cocoa powder
1/4 c boiling water
1/4 c sour cream
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/8 c vegetable oil
2 t barley malt syrup
1/2 c AP flour
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c light brown sugar, packed
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t kosher salt
-Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake tin with 6 paper liners.
-Put the cocoa in a medium bowl, pour the boiling water over it and whisk to combine. Let sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Add the sour cream, egg, oil and malt syrup and whisk to thouroughly combine.
-In a separate bowl, sift or whisk the dry ingredients (including sugars) to combine.
-Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk just until blended.
-Divide the batter among the cupcake cups. The batter will be loose, so transferring it to a measuring cup and pouring it into the cups is probably easiest.
-Bake for about 25 minutes, until puffed and springy to the touch.
-Cool for 5 minutes and remove from the pans. If the cupcakes feel soft on the bottom, set them on a baking sheet (not in cupcake tin) and pop them back in the oven for 5 minutes to firm up. Allow to cool completely on a rack before frosting.
For the frosting:
Note: Because this is meringue, it’s best to make the frosting just before topping your cupcakes (in other words, don’t make the frosting until you are ready to use it). You can store the frosted cupcakes in the fridge overnight, if you have leftovers. The meringue will be a little softer the next day, but still good!
1/4 c egg whites (about 2 whites)
1/2 c sugar
1 T barley malt syrup
-Combine sugar and egg whites in large metal bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Set bowl over saucepan of gently simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot to the touch and all the sugar has dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Remove bowl from over water. Using the stand mixer fitted with the whip or a handheld electric mixer, beat meringue at high speed until very thick and billowy and room temperature, about 3-5 minutes.
-Add the malt syrup and whip on low speed for 1 minute.
-Spread or pipe the frosting on the cooled cupcakes.
Not sure why, but I haven’t participated in Sugar High Friday in awhile. This month, though, I found myself seduced by a cupcake-loving pink flamingo into sending super-sweet Fanny a super-sweet cupcake for her round-up.
I’ve been on a tear lately trying to use up things in my pantry. One of those things was a bag of dates that had been lingering around for longer than I would like to admit. It was time for them to move out, and I found them a new home thanks to one of my favorite baking books, Regan Daley’s In the Sweet Kitchen. She has a recipe for moist date cupcakes, flecked with vanilla bean and frosted with buttermilk fudge. It sounded so interesting, I had to give it a go!
With the combination of dates, brown sugar and buttermilk, the cakes are golden-hued, really moist and delicious, and keep nicely for a few days. There isn’t a picture in the book, but the author’s instructions led me to believe that the frosting would be quite stiff. Mine actually had a consistency in between a glaze and a normal icing. I could definitely spread it on, but I couldn’t heap it on. It is definitely sweet, though, and a little goes a long way, so maybe that was a good thing. I thought about chilling the icing, then whipping it further, but I liked the smooth tops and gentle drips that formed as it set.
Vanilla Date Cupcakes with Buttermilk Fudge Frosting– makes 8 regular-size cupcakes
adapted from Regan Daley’s In the Sweet Kitchen
Note: If some of these measurements seem a little screwy, that’s because I downsized it from the original, which was much larger and meant to produce jumbo cupcakes.
For the cupcakes:
2 1/2 oz plump, pitted dates, coarsely chopped
5 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c light brown sugar, packed
seeds of 1/3 vanilla bean
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 t pure vanilla extract (or dark rum)
1 c cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1/3 t baking powder
1/3 t baking soda
1/8 t kosher salt
pinch of grated nutmeg
1/3 c + 1 T buttermilk
-Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pan with 8 paper liners.
-Put the chopped dates in a small bowl and pour 3 T boiling water over them. Let sit for a few minutes, and mash with a fork to a rough paste. Set aside while you prepare the batter.
-By hand, or using a hand-held mixer, cream the butter, two sugars and vanilla seeds until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Add the egg, then add the vanilla extract (or rum) and mix well.
-In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.
-Add the buttermilk and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, beginning with the buttermilk and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the date paste into the batter with a rubber spatula.
-Divide the batter among the cupcake cups, filling each one 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
-Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely on a rack before frosting.
For the frosting:
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 t light corn syrup
1 1/3 T unsalted butter, in small pieces
1/3 c buttermilk, plus an additional 1 T, for thinning the cooked frosting
1/3 t baking soda, sifted
1/4 t pure vanilla extract or paste
-Combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter, buttermilk and baking soda in a heavy-bottomed pot (use a larger pot than you think you will need…this mixture bubbles up to about four times its original volume as it comes to the boil!). Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat slightly and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir one last time as it comes to the boil, then don’t stir again.
-Boil the syrup until it reaches 236°F on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage). You will see that the frosting caramelizes as it cooks. Immediately pour it into a mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip). Let it cool for about five minutes.
-Stir in the vanilla extract or paste, then beat on medium speed until thick enough to spread, about five minutes. If the frosting is too thick, add the additional buttermilk, one teaspoon at a time.
-Slather the tops of the cupcakes with the frosting and cool before serving. You can place the cupcakes in the refrigerator to set the icing if it seems loose, or add additional teaspoons of buttermilk if it seems too thick. (If it is too loose to work with, you can try chilling it for 10 minutes or so, then re-whipping.)
-Iced cupcakes can be stores for 2-3 days in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator (bring to room temperature before serving). If you have more frosting than you need, transfer extras to a small, flat container…it will set up as fudge in the refrigerator.
If you asked me “cake or pie?” I’d yell “cake” every time! That’s why event-mistress-extraordinaire Laurie’s newest play-along, Layers of Cake, sounded right up my alley. In a happy coincidence this month, I knew I would be making a cake for R’s birthday anyway. R picks his own cake every year, and then I whip up his request. A couple weeks ago, when he chose a Hazelnut Praline Cake from a gorgeous book called Crave: A Passion for Chocolate by Australian Maureen McKeon, I momentarily thought I’d landed in Bizarro World– hadn’t I made something sort of like this but a little different last month? No matter, it was his choice after all, and I knew it would be good.
This is not what I would think of as an “American-style” layer cake. It’s a flourless chocolate cake, with ground hazelnuts providing the structure and whipped eggs providing the lift. It has the dense but creamy texture I was expecting and hoping for. The frosting is a milk chocolate whipped ganache (oh my gosh, is it ever good!), and it’s sprinkled with as much homemade hazelnut praline as your heart desires. It’s really rich, but fantastic– definitley fit for a special occasion, and not bad with a nice (giant, as you can see above!) glass of Cookoothama Botrytis Semillon, either.
Hazelnut Praline Cake– makes 10-12 servings
adapted from Maureen McKeon’s Crave: A Passion for Chocolate
Note: I halved this recipe and baked it in two 6-inch rounds. Rather than cutting each round into layers, as the author suggests, I left mine as a two-layer cake.
-Make the hazelnut nut praline (recipe follows) and allow to cool. Then break some into shards to decorate and crush the rest.
-Bake the cake (recipe follows) and allow to cool completely.
-While the cake is baking, make the milk chocolate cream (recipe follows) and chill.
-Slice both of the 9-inch cakes horizontally into two layers, or the 10-inch cake into three layers. (If you halve the recipe, or if your baked cakes are simply thin, use your judgement here to decide if you want to slice them or not.) Put one layer on a cake board and spread with some of the whipped chocolate cream. You may need to dip the your icing spatula into hot water to aid in spreading. Sprinkle with some of the crushed praline, and top with the next cake layer. Repeat until all layers are used.
-Spread the remaining cream on the outside of the cake. Sprinkle with as much crushed praline as you’d like and decorate with the shards.
-Cover lightly and refrigerate until service.
Note: This may make more than you want to use on the cake. You can adjust the quantities accordingly, but extras save nicely for a couple weeks and can be used crushed over ice cream, etc.
235 g granulated sugar
pinch of salt
250 g skinned hazelnuts, warmed
-Line a baking tray (with sides) with a Silpat or parchment.
-Put the sugar, pinch of salt and 50 ml water into a heavy pot. Stir to combine and clean down and sugar crystals on the sides of the pot with a little water. Bring the sugar to a boil and cook until a light caramel color (do not stir).
-Add the nuts and stir over low heat with a wooden spoon. You will notice the sugar go chalky white, and as you stir it will slowly begin to re-caramelize. Increase the heat at this point and continue to cook until the mixture turns a deep honey color.
-Turn the caramel and nut mixture out onto the lined tray. Pat into a single layer with the back of your wooden spoon. Allow to cool completely, and it will harden.
-Once hard, break into shards or put in plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin.
-Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
6 large eggs, separated
115 g plus 1 T granulated sugar
pinch of salt
185 g chopped dark chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
185 g ground hazelnuts
-Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch or one 10-inch round cake pans and line with parchment.
-Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and 115 g sugar on medium-high speed until thick and pale.
-Using clean beaters and bowl, beat the whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks. Add the 1 T sugar and beat until glossy.
-Mix the tepid chocolate with 3 T hot water and add to the egg yolk mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the ground hazelnuts. Then gently fold in the meringue in two stages.
-Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes (maybe less if you halve the recipe), or until the top is firm to the touch.
-Allow to cool completely in the cake pans before turning out.
Milk Chocolate Cream
375 ml cream (35% fat)
pinch of salt
300 g chopped milk chocolate
60 g unsalted butter
-Bring the cream and pinch of salt to a boil in the saucepan and remove from the heat. Add the chocolate to the hot cream and allow it to stand for a minute or two. Stir until smooth; then stir in the butter. Cover and chill for two hours.
-Use a wooden spoon to beat the chilled ganache mixture until thickened and spreadable.