Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Swiss Buttercream Frosting for our 3 year Anniversary!

April 26, 2012

Three years ago today Jay and I got hitched at Cloghan Castle in Kilcreest, County Galway, Republic of Ireland! Happiest day of my life thus far.

Apparently the traditional anniversary gift for three years of marriage is leather. Really….leather? I’m not sure what an appropriate leather gift would be. The first things that come to mind when I think of love and leather are somewhat naughty and definitely not items to be discussed here, much less presents we would be happy to receive from our parents. Oh my! Moving right along…So what are we doing to mark our three-year anniversary? Well, I’d love to say I’m writing this post from a luxury spa in Ireland.

Or perhaps from a gorgeous balcony overlooking the beaches of the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

But nope, I’m writing from good ole Virginia. We’ve had a lot of stuff going on just recently and as a consequence, were not able to schedule a fabulous vacation to coincide with our anniversary date. But I’m happy to say my wonderful husband has promised to whisk me off on several romantic getaways later this year, a couple of visits to a cozy mountain cabin in West Virginia, a jaunt in Nashville and back to Ireland and possibly even Wales. Yippee! I am so ready! But besides daydreaming about all of our future travel today, I decided to make us some Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Swiss Buttercream Frosting.

As those of you who know us are aware, Jay and I love Champagne, especially Veuve Clicquot. I’m telling you, that widow knows what she is doing on the champagne making front! I can assure you that we certainly will be drinking a bottle (or two….who knows once you get going…) to celebrate today.

And cupcakes go along brilliantly with champagne. I think so anyway. But then again, I LOVE cupcakes, so I think they go along brilliantly with everything. Or devoured all on their lonesome. We actually had a tower of cupcakes as our wedding cake.

They were adorable. Sunflowers, ladybugs and bees. And they not only looked cute, were really yummy.So with that fond memory firmly in place, I got to baking!

I had to cobble this recipe together somewhat. I took the cake part of these cupcakes from one source and the frosting part from another. Recently Jay and I discovered that we really like the Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting, much more than the regular simple buttercream.

The results? I must say, these Champagne Frosted Champagne Cupcakes rock! So festive, they are just perfect for our celebration today. The cake was very moist and the frosting sweet, but not tooth-achingly sweet. I did sprinkle a bit of vanilla sugar ever so lightly over the tops of these little gems. They were completely scrumptious!

And on that note, I’ve gotta get going. The Veuve is a calling! Cheers!

Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Swiss Buttercream Frosting

recipe from: cupcakes: Sprinkle Bakes, Frosting: Brave Tart

yield: 17 cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:

  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup champagne

For the Frosting:

  • 5 oz. egg whites
  • 5 oz. sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • the scrapings from 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 2″ chunks, room temperature
  • Champagne to taste- I used 3 Tablespoons

Directions:

For the Cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup champagne and 1/2 cup sour cream (mixture will fizz and bubble). Add flour and champagne mixture alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Batter will be thick.

Fill cupcake papers with 1/4 cup level measures of batter.

Bake for 17-22 minutes.

Set aside.

For the Frosting:

Combine the egg whites, sugar salt and vanilla bean together in a clean bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of water and turn the heat on medium-low.

Whisk frequently to prevent an egg white omelet forming on the sides, but continual mixing isn’t necessary. Aim to get the mixture to at least 145°F for food safety reasons, but reaching 150°F would make for a nice margin of error. If your egg whites are at room temperature, this won’t take very long, maybe just a few minutes.

When the mixture is sufficiently hot, remove from the heat and whip on medium-high speed until the mixture has doubled in volume and turned snowy white. Continue whipping until the meringue is cool. Use your hands to feel the bowl itself, rather than simply testing the temperature of the meringue. You want it to feel perfectly cool to the touch with no trace of warmth.

Change to the paddle attachment and turn the mixer down to medium-low and begin adding the butter, one chunk at a time. If you didn’t let your meringue cool enough, this is when you’ll really regret it. By the time you’ve added all the butter, you may need to scrape down the bowl to fully incorporate any butter or meringue that’s stuck to the sides.

Finally add your champagne. Just keep adding 1/4 teaspoon at a time until it suits your tastes.

The buttercream freezes beautifully. I had about 1 cup’s worth left over.

Enjoy!


Chicken B’stilla

April 23, 2012

I am on a serious Dorie Greenspan kick. I have been nothing short of obsessed with her Around My French Table cookbook. Last week I shared my take on her Bubble Top Brioche and not too long ago I blogged about her Chicken Breast Diable. And I can’t forget her Nutella Double Chocolate & Banana Tart. I’m seriously drooling just thinking about it. For those of you who do not yet have this brilliant cookbook, chock full of over 300 delicious recipes just like these, I don’t know what you are waiting for! It is really stunning!

Today I’d like to talk about her Chicken B’stilla recipe. I had never tried this French adaptation of the classic Moroccan dish, but her description of chicken, all spiced up with ginger, cinnamon, coriander and saffron baked in a filo dough pie crust and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar was irresistible! I know I’ve mentioned before how I love every kind of meat pie that I’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon, so I had very high hopes for this dish. And let me say for the record, it did not disappoint!

Making this tasty dish does require a bit of a time investment though. The chicken thighs need to marinate for 1 hour and then cook for 1 hour more. But the good news for all of you time pressed folks (and who isn’t…) you can break the preparation of this dish up over a couple of days if necessary. The chicken can marinate over night. The next day you can cook the marinated chicken and then refrigerate that overnight, so that on the third day you can just work on assembling the pie. And that was where I had a bit of an issue. I’m sure most of you will be able to complete this final step with no problems. However, I gotta say, me and filo dough don’t seem to get along so well. In fact, we have somewhat of a “love-hate” relationship. So far, my love of that flaky filo pastry when I’m eating the finished dish has been strong enough to overcome my feelings of thorough irritation, bordering on true hatred, when I’m trying to work with it! Sheesh! So, if you haven’t surmised it from my above comments, the final construction of the pie is a bit fiddly to say the least. However, your finished Chicken B’stilla will look marvelous and taste even better. Delight your family and friends with the spicy Moroccan dish!

Chicken B’stilla

recipe from: Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table

yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 chicken thighs, skinned
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Big pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • salt
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 sheets filo (each 9 x 14″)
  • About 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 ounces sliced almonds, toasted and chopped
  • Cinnamon sugar, for dusting

Directions:

Put the chicken pieces, onions, garlic and spices into a Dutch oven or other large casserole and give everything a good stir. Cover and let the chicken marinate for 1 hour at room temperature. (If it is more convenient for you, the chicken can be marinated in the refrigerator for as long as 1 day.)

Add the chicken broth and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so that the liquid simmers, cover the pot, and cook for 1 hour, at which point the chicken should be falling-off-the-bone tender.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl. strain the broth, saving both the liquid and the onions. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and cut it into small cubes or shred it.

Clean the Dutch oven and pour the broth back into it, or pour the broth into a medium saucepan. Whisk in the lemon juice, bring to a boil and cook until you have about 1 cup liquid. Reduce the heat to low.

Beat the eggs with the honey and whisking all the while, pour into the broth. Heat, whisking constantly until the sauce thickens enough that your whisk leaves tracks in it, about 5 minutes. Pull the pan from the heat and season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Stir the chicken and reserved onions into the sauce, along with the cilantro and parley. (You can make the chicken and sauce up to 1 day ahead and keep it covered and refrigerated.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Place the filo sheets between sheets of wax paper and cover with a kitchen towel. Brush a 9″ round cake pan, one that’s 2 ” tall, with melted butter. Brush 1 sheet filo with butter and center it in the pan, so that the excess hangs over the edges. Brush another sheet and press it into the pan so that it’s perpendicular to the first sheet and forms a plus sign. Place a third and then a fourth buttered sheet into the pan so that they form and X; the overhang from all of the sheets should cover the edges of the pan.

Sprinkle half of the almonds over the filo. spoon in the saucy chicken, spreading it evenly across the pan, and top with the rest of the almonds. Fold the overhanging filo over the chicken.

Butter the remaining 4 sheets of filo, stacking them one on top of the other on the work surface. Using a pot lid or the bottom of a tart pan as a guide, cut our a 10 to 11″ circle. Center the circle over the cake pan and gently tuck the edges of the dough into the pan, working your way around it as though you were making a bed. Brush the top of the b’stilla with a little butter and sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar. Place the pan on the baking sheet.

Bake the b’stilla for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for 20 minutes more. If the top seems to be getting too brown at any point, cover it loosely with foil. Transfer the b’stilla to a cooling rack and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Lay a piece of parchment over a cutting board, and have a serving platter at hand. Turn the b’stilla out onto the parchement-lined board and then invert it onto the serving platter, so that it is right side up. Serve the b’stilla now, cutting it into wedges, or serve it warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy!


Cinnamon Sugar Dusted Bubble Top Brioche

April 19, 2012

I am somewhat shocked, yet quite pleased to announce that I have somehow acquired magical abilities. I don’t know how or when it happened, I have always been a bit of a muggle (non-magical folk for you who are not familiar with Harry Potter – where have you been?!). However, it has become apparent to me that I do have a bit of the old sorceress inside me. But let me explain, just the other day I decided to attempt to make brioche at home. I LOVE brioche, but had always purchased it from bakeries, never dreaming I could conjure up such buttery, flaky bliss on my own, yet willing to try. So following a Dorie Greenspan (definite culinary enchantress) recipe, I got straight to work.

I was suspicious that something fantastical was happening in my oven the day after I started the brioche making process. (There is an overnight proofing required.) The aroma wafting throughout the house of the that brioche baking was nothing short of intoxicating. Then came the moment when I dared to open my oven door for a peek. My Bubble Top Brioches had risen like champs and were a gorgeous, enticing golden brown. It was then that I knew that I had come fully into my powers. Indeed, I could have stopped right there. Those rich, buttery little brioches would have been delicious all on their own and nothing short of enchanting when slathered with even more butter and jam. But no, something told me that I needed to coat the tops of these delights in a crunchy cinnamon sugar. What can I say…simply magical!

All that Harry Potter-ish talk aside, it really was not difficult to make brioche at home. There is quite a lot of proofing time, so you should plan to start the process the day before you wish to entrance folks with your baking wizardry. (I just can’t let it go…) However as we know, good things come to those who wait and let me tell you, fresh brioche, right out of the oven, is worth every second spent and then some. I chose to make individual serving bubble tops brioches from my dough, however you could divide the dough in half and bake it in two 7 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ pans for 30 minutes. Although the crunchy, sweet cinnamon sugar dusting on my breakfast brioches is completely charming, you could simply brush your brioche with the traditional egg wash. It is very versatile bread and can be used as a vehicle for many toppings such as smoked salmon etc. And once it is stale (as if it will be around long enough to go stale…) it makes a glorious French Toast. My Cinnamon Sugar Dusted Bubble Top Brioches were mesmerizing and have certainly cast a spell over my husband. Bewtich your family today!

Cinnamon Sugar Dusted Bubble Top Brioche

recipe slightly adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table

yield: 12 brioches

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Cup warm-to-the-touch whole milk
  • 1/4 Cup warm-to-the-touch water
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 3/4 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the topping:

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Pour the warm milk and water into the bowl of a stand mixer, add a pinch of the sugar, and sprinkle over the yeast. In another bowl, mix the flour and salt together.

When all the yeast has absorbed some liquid, stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until you have a creamy mixture. Fit the mixer with the dough hook, add all of the flour mixture at once, and turn the mixer on and off in a few short pulses to dampen the flour. Set the mixer to medium-low speed and mix for a minute or two, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, until you have a shaggy, fairly dry mass. At this point, what you’ve got won’t look like a dough at all – in fact, it will be pretty ugly, but that doesn’t matter.

Scrape down the bowl, turn the mixer to low and add the beaten eggs one third at a time, beating until each addition is incorporated before adding the next. Beat in the remaining sugar increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough starts to come together.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the butter in 2 tablespoon chunks. Beat for about 30 seconds, or until each piece of butter  is on its way to being almost incorporated, before adding the next little chunk of butter. When all the butter is in, you’ll have a dough that is very soft, really almost like a batter. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and climbs up the hook, about 10 minutes, or a little longer.

Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature until it’s nearly doubled in size; it will take at least 1 hour, but maybe longer, depending on the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator until it stops rising as energetically, about 2 hours: “slap” it down every 30 minutes.

Press the plastic against the surface of the dough and leave it in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

The next morning, butter a 12-cup muffin tin.

Divide the chilled dough into 12 portions. Cut each portion into 3 even pieces, and roll the pieces into balls. The dough is soft and sticky, so here’s the easiest way to shape them: Put a little flour on the counter and put some flour on your palms. Put a piece of dough on the counter, cup a hand over it, and droll the dough around under you cupped palm until you’ve got a nice ball. Using 3 pieces for each brioche, put the balls, prettiest sides up, in the muffin cups.

Place a piece of wax paper on top of the brioches and put the pan in a warm place. Let the brioches rise until they almost fill the cups, 1- 2 hours, depending on the warmth of the room.

Just before the dough is fully risen, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 ° F.

When the brioches have risen, remove the paper and put the muffin tin on a baking sheet. Bake the brioches for 20 -23 minutes, or until they are well risen and deeply golden. If you think they are browning too quickly, you can cover them with a foil tent. Transfer the muffin tin to a cooling rack and let the brioches rest for 5 – 10 minutes before lifting them out of the molds and onto the cooling rack.

While brioches are cooling, in a small, shallow bowl mix the 2/3 cup sugar and 1 Tablespoon cinnamon together. In another small, shallow bowl melt 3 Tablespoons butter. Holding the bottom of a brioche dip the top first in the melted butter, making sure to coat it entirely. Then dip the buttered top into the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Shake the excess cinnamon sugar from the brioche and place it back on the cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining brioches.

Enjoy!


Orange Creamsicle Cookies

April 16, 2012

I love Spring. Although Fall is my favourite season, Spring is a close second. All the flowers are blooming, the trees sprouting new leaves, the birds are singing and all of these wonders taking place in the perfect temperature range. You know anywhere from 55°F (12°C) up to 70°F (21°C), mind you when it gets up to that 70°F mark I start getting antsy. Nervous about what hellaciously hot and humid Virginia summer temperatures are lurking right around the corner. Imagine my dismay yesterday when the old mercury shot up to 85°F (29° C) and today, I’m told it is destined to be 88°F (31°C). What the what! It’s only April! After the mild winter we had, I was nervous that summer around these parts would be completely off the hook and it looks like my fears will soon be realized! Boo!

So, I was trying to think of what was comforting back in my childhood. Certainly that window air conditioning unit in the dining room was a close friend. But then I remembered ice cream. Those Orange Creamsicle ice cream pops in particular. Which lead me to recall a recipe that I had seen for Orange Creamsicle Cookies. I set out to make them immediately. Thank goodness this all took place early in the morning, before the temperature shot up, so that I could have my oven all fired up without totally passing out from heat exhaustion in the process. These little cookies were all I dreamed they would be and with the orange zest and white chocolate chip mixture, they really did taste like the creamsicles of my youth. Lovely citrus-y little gems that taste like a burst of Spring with each bite. Make some this morning and get your mind off both the current unseasonable heat as well as the promise of the sweltering Summer to come!

Orange Creamsicle Cookies

recipe from: Sweet Pea’s Kitchen

yield: 45 smallish cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange zest, grated
  • 12 ounces (2 cups) white chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until light and creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture until combined. Stir in orange zest and white chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown around edges. Cool for 3 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Enjoy!


Chicken Breasts Diable

April 13, 2012

It’s Friday the 13th today! Scary, spooky! The belief that Friday the 13th is unlucky is one of the most widespread superstitions today. The year 2012 is particularly bad for folks who suffer from this fear since it holds 3 Friday the 13ths – January 13, April 13 and July 13 – and these unlucky days are exactly 13 weeks apart. Yikes! However, the origins of this phobia are pretty murky. It seems that many cultures have regarded Friday as an unlucky day. It is said that the Crucifixion took place on a Friday. And 13 has long been regarded as an unlucky number. Many buildings do not have a 13th floor. Many cities do not have a 13th Street. Many Hospitals do not have a Room 13. Many Airline Terminals omit Gate 13. Legend has it that if 13 people sit down together at dinner, one of them will die within the year. (ie. the Last Supper, Norse legend) As an aside, for those of you looking for a career change, in France there is a custom of the “quotrozieme” a professional guest who can be called on short notice to prevent there being 13 at a dinner party. So it figures that the joining of such an unlucky day with such an unlucky number would be exceptionally bad on the luck front.  And as proof of this, there have been some horrible events which have taken place on Friday the 13ths. The Knights Templar were slaughtered by the Church on Friday October 13, 1307. And more recently on January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia cruise ship sunk off the island of Giglio killing at least 25 and injuring many others. And looking to the future, who knows what may happen on Friday April 13, 2029 when the asteroid 99942 Apophis will pass very close to the Earth. (at least it’s not asteroid 66642…folks would absolutely freak!…just saying…)Hmmm…..

Yikes!

So I tried to come up with an appropriately ominous dish for all those folks who are holed up at home for the day. The best I could come up with was Chicken Breasts Diable from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. (Come on!… It has “devil” in the title! That’s scary!) Apparently, according to Ms. Greenspan, whenever you see the word “Diable” on a french menu the dish will include Dijon Mustard, which is as hot as the condiments get in a French kitchen. (o.k., I admit it, mustard isn’t very scary…but work with me here…) This Diable Sauce is, dare I say it, heavenly! The dijon mustard provides a serious kick to those otherwise plain and boring chicken breasts. Apparently this sauce also works well over steak. All in all, a very tasty meal which is quite easy to prepare. Make this dish soon! (though maybe not tonight…it is Friday the 13th after all!)

Chicken Breasts Diable

recipe from: Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table

yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, pounded lightly, at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tablespoons Dijon or grainy mustard
  • 1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 200°F. Pat the chicken breasts dry.

Put a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the butter and 1 Tablespoon oil. When the butter is melted, slip the chicken pieces into the pan. Adjust the heat so that the butter doesn’t burn, and cook the chicken until it’s well browned on the underside. Turn the pieces over and cook until the other side is also well browned and the chicken is cooked through. If the pan dries out, drizzle in just a touch more oil.

Transfer the breasts to a heatproof plate, season with salt and pepper, cover lightly with a foil tent and keep warm int he oven while you prepare the sauce.

Lower the heat to medium, toss the shallot and garlic into the pan, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, just until they soften, about 2 minutes.

Pour in the wine, and when it starts to bubble, stir it around so that you can pick up whatever little bits might have stuck to the bottom of the skillet.

Let the wine boil for a few seconds, then pour in the heavy cream. As soon as it reaches a boil, stir in the mustard and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Taste and decide if you want more mustard, Worcestershire or pepper.

Remove the chicken from the oven, pour any juices ont he plate into the skillet and stir the sauce again.

Serve the chicken with the sauce.

Enjoy!


Herbed Chickpea Frittata

April 10, 2012

So while you are still thinking about eggs after Easter, I thought I’d share a recipe for Herbed Chickpea Frittata. What an absolutely perfect Spring dish! It is chock full of a ton of fresh herbs which give it it’s lovely spring-green colour. And I must say, in this house, chickpeas get top billing. We love those little guys! So when I saw a recipe for Herbed Chickpea Frittata, I just knew I had to make it.

I did alter a couple of things from the recipe which inspired me. I did not add any mint into the mixture, having none on hand. And I added feta cheese sprinkled liberally over the top of the frittata. The Mess in the Kitchen blog also recommended serving it with fresh squeezed lemon juice, which I’m sure would be lovely and go along fantastically with the whole Spring feel of the dish. We actually served it up with some Tzatziki sauce, which was also quite tasty.

The dish is very easy to prepare, comes together quickly and tastes wonderfully fresh with all of those chopped herbs. I thinks you can even feel somewhat virtuous about eating something which must be healthy. I mean, just look at all those herbs! If you want to just take it over the top healthy, to make up for all of that Easter candy you’ve been eating, serve it for brunch with a green salad. Healthy and delicious! Try it today!

Herbed Chickpea Frittata

recipe adapted from: Mess in the Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 500 g canned chickpeas
  • 2 onions (chopped)
  • 4 garlic cloves (chopped)
  • 20 g cilantro
  • 2o g parsley
  • 60 g chives
  • 10 g dill
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • two pinches saffron
  • 5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch baking powder
  • 8 eggs
  • salt (about 1 tsp)
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons pine nuts, roasted
  • 1/2 Cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • tzatziki sauce for serving if desired

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Rinse Chickpeas and set aside.

Roast pine nuts until golden and set aside.

Chop all the herbs and put them in a food processor with eggs, onion, garlic and chickpeas.

Pulse until everything is well combined but not totally pureed.

Add the other ingredients and pulse.

Line a 9×13″ baking pan with parchment paper.

Pour the frittata batter into your pan. Sprinkle Feta Cheese evenly over the top.

Place fritatta on a baking sheet and insert it  into the oven. Bake it for about 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy!


Kulich – Russian Easter Bread

April 6, 2012

I was gearing up to make my usual Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday. However, while prowling around various cooking blogs, I came across a recipe for Kulich on While Chasing Kids. It definitely stopped me in my tracks. It looked fantastic! Kulich is a sweet yeast bread filled with spices, rum drenched raisins and apricots which makes an appearance on many Russian tables for Easter.

Always interested in trying something new, I was completely waylaid from my previous Hot Cross Bun mission and set out to make this enticing Russian Easter treat. The first difficulty I ran into, was finding suitable baking tins. Kulich molds are traditionally very tall cylinders. Apparently many folks who don’t have the actual molds will use an empty 2 lb. coffee tin. Another option is to use Panettone paper molds. I didn’t have either of those on hand. Instead I had a Le Creuset large 2.75 quart stoneware utensil crock and two Le Creuset coffee mugs. I decided that they would have to do in a pinch.

I love spices, so I altered the While Chasing Kids recipe a bit by adding some cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cardamom. I also cut it in half since I didn’t think I would need so many Kulichi since my husband and I will not be getting together with the family this Easter and figured we might be hard pressed to consume 6 Kulichi all on our lonesome.

I changed the frosting a bit as well. I decided to use an egg white/confectioner’s sugar frosting. I prefer the taste of this frosting as well as the cloud like, marshmallowy appearance. I know some folks might be a bit leery of this since it does contain raw egg whites and there is a risk of salmonella. I decided to live on the edge a bit and took the risk. However, I have included another frosting option sans raw egg whites for those who are feeling a bit less adventurous.

I may have gotten a bit carried away with my decorations as well, but once on a roll I couldn’t be stopped! I used sliced almonds to try to create a shingled roof appearance for one of my smaller Kulichi. Sanding sugar  and french dragees were featured on the next loaf. And for the big loaf I chose sanding sugar as well as melted chocolate, which I used to pipe on the traditional “XB” which is the Russian abbreviation for “Christ has risen”.

Once we cut into a loaf we were very pleased to find that the bread was absolutely delicious. Sweet, light and fluffy and packed full of moist rum soaked raisins and apricots. Yum! Perhaps we could have actually eaten all 6 Kulichi! I am so happy that Anastasia at While Chasing Kids shared her old family recipe. Even though we’re not Russian, I think this tasty bread will find a place on our Easter table from now on.

Kulich

recipe adapted from: While Chasing Kids

Yield: 1 large Kulich and two smaller Kulichi

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup milk, lukewarm
  • 12 grams dry yeast
  • 3/4 Cup sugar, divided
  • 500 grams all-purpose flour, divided
  • 3 eggs, whites separated from yolks
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 7 grams salt
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 125 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled to barely warm
  • 75 grams raisins, dried apricots, almonds (whichever you like, or all together. I used 25 grams raisins, 25 gram golden raisins, 25 gram dried apricots)
  • 1/2 Cup Rum

Frosting:

Option #1:

  • 2 egg whites, chilled
  • 125 grams powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

Option #2:

  • 200 gram confectioner’s sugar
  • Orange juice from 1 orange
  • 50 grams hot water

Decorations:

  • sanding sugar, almonds, decorating icing ( as you wish)

Directions:

In a medium mixing bowl combine milk, 1/2 tablespoon of the sugar, and dry yeast.  Let ferment for about 10 minutes.  Add 100 grams of flour, mix well.  Cover with plastic wrap and let ferment.  Depending on the temperature around your house, it may take from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours for the poolish mixture to start heavy bubbling.

If using raisins, pour rum over them, and let soak while the dough is being prepared.

Butter your chosen Kulich baking tins and set aside.

Add nutmeg, ginger, cardamon and cinnamon to remaining flour. Stir to combine.

When the poolish is ready, with a hand-mixer beat the egg yolks with remaining sugar, salt, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl whisk egg whites so that they form a peak.

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, butter, poolish, egg yolks, and whites.

Cover with a plastic wrap, and let rise.  When the dough doubles in size (50 – 90 minutes), add drained raisins and/or other dried fruit and nuts.

Fill the buttered molds with the dough, about 1/3 full. Cover the filled molds with a kitchen towel, and let rise for another 50-90 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, till golden brown.

Remove kulich from the oven, and let chill on a wire rack.

When the kulich is cool, prepare the frosting by whisking all the ingredients together into a smooth mixture.

Apply the frosting on top of your kulich, allowing it to drip.

Decorate your Easter Bread with “XB” and or other patterns, if desired.

Happy Easter!


Quintuple Chocolate Easter Brownies

April 3, 2012

Easter will be here soon! And one of the things I love about Easter is Cadbury mini eggs. I cannot wait until those delicious little morsels show up in the stores. I must admit, I tend to hoard them so that I can indulge in them year round. This year I found both the milk chocolate variety as well as the dark chocolate version and believe me, I was doing my happy, happy dance right there in the store while murmuring “my precious” under my breath! Come to think of it, perhaps it was my dance or that the “my precious” bit wasn’t as much under my breath as I imagined because I did get a few odd glances from the other shoppers. But just like my hero, the Honey Badger, I didn’t care!

So, after arriving back home, I was trying to come up with an Easter recipe in which I could use my Cadbury treasures. Last year I made adorable Chocolate Peanut Butter Bird’s Nests as my Cadbury Mini Egg vehicle.

I considered doing cupcakes, but most of the Easter Cupcakes which featured my beloved eggs, were topped with a nest fashioned of coconut flakes. My husband really dislikes coconut. I probably could eat all of the goodies on my lonesome, (who am I kidding…Cupcakes and Cadbury Mini Eggs…I definitely could!) but figured my waist line would thank me if I were to make a treat that at least the two of us could share. I picked up one of my favourite cookbooks, Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours and came across her recipe for Quintuple Chocolate Brownies. Hmmm…quintuple huh? These brownies had unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, cocoa, milk chocolate chips and were topped with a white chocolate glaze. There was a picture of them as well and they looked stunning, a deep, dark chocolate base covered with that beautifully contrasting stark white chocolate glaze. I thought about replacing the milk chocolate chips with Cadbury mini eggs, but in the end decided to colour the white chocolate to make it look more Easter-y and then decorate with sprinkles, sanding sugar and Cadbury Mini Eggs, so that the brownies would resemble an Easter Egg.

I was very pleased with my result. Adorable Easter Brownies. Although I must admit, adding the Cadbury Mini Eggs on top was almost like gilding the lily. Nah! I’ll never say no to a Cadbury Mini Egg!

These Quintuple Chocolate Brownies are phenomenal! More fudgy than cake-like, these brownies are a chocolate lovers dream! So rich, so decadent! They will be showing up sans Easter Bonnet decorations throughout the year on my table! You really must give these a try!

Quintuple Chocolate Easter Brownies

recipe from: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours

yield: 16 Brownies

Ingredients:

For the Brownies:

  • 1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons strong coffee
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces premium-quality milk chocolate, chopped into chips, or 1 Cup store-bought milk chocolate chips
  • 1 Cup chopped nuts ( I omitted the nuts)

For the Glaze:

  • 6 ounces premium-quality white chocolate, finely chopped, or 1 Cup store-bought white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 Cup heavy cream
  • Various sprinkles, sanding sugar, and Cadbury mini eggs (your artistic choice here)

Directions:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325°F. Line a 9×9″ baking pan with foil, butter the foil and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Sift together the flour, cocoa and salt.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add, in the following order, the butter, the two chocolates and the coffee. Keeping the pan over low heat, warm just until the butter and chocolates are melted. Stir gently, and when the mixture is smooth, set it aside for 5 minutes.

Using a whisk or rubber spatula, beat the sugar into the chocolate mixture. Don’t beat too vigorously – you don’t want to add air to the batter – and don’t be concerned about any graininess. Next, stir in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. You should have a smooth, glossy batter.

If you’re not already using a rubber spatula, switch to one now and gently stir in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.

Finally, stir in the milk chocolate chips and the nuts. Scrape the batter into the baking pan.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out streaked but not thickly coated. transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the brownies rest undisturbed for at least 30 minutes.

Turn the brownies out onto a rack, peel away the foil and place it under another rack-it will be the drip catcher for the glaze. Invert the brownies onto the rack and let cool completely.

To make the glaze: Put the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil and pour it over the chocolate. Wait 30 seconds, then, using a rubber spatula, gently stir until the chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth. If you are coloring the white chocolate, add the food coloring of your choice at this point.

Hold a long metal icing spatula in one hand and the bowl of glaze int he other. Pour the glaze onto the center of the brownies and use the spatula to nudge it evenly over the surface. Don’t worry if it dribbles over the edges, you can trim the side later (or not). If you are doing any Easter decoration, such as adding sprinkles or Cadbury Mini Eggs, do so at this point. Refrigerate the brownies for about 20 minutes to dry the glaze.

Cut into 16 squares, each roughly 2 1/4″ on a side.

Enjoy!



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