Monthly Archives: August 2015

Guinness Gingerbread Cupcakes

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Daughter Jenn brought this recipe to my attention, so I surprised her and made it for her birthday cake. The original recipe appears on the internet to be by Kim Laidlaw; I have taken a few liberties in adding my own touches to it.

Guinness Stout adds depth and richness to a classic gingerbread, and helps it stay moist. The batter is thin enough it can be made without getting the stand mixer out; I used a hand mixer, or it could be stirred using just elbow grease. If you prefer to not use beer, then just substitute the same amount of espresso or very strong coffee for the Guinness.

The batter can be used in three ways without change; it can become a Bundt cake, a normal round cake, or 24 cupcakes. For the Bundt cake, generously grease a 9-inch Bundt pan. When the cake is cooled, warm and drizzle the caramel sauce over the top and serve in wedges. Serve any remaining sauce in a small pitcher so it can be added to the wedges. A Bundt cake would probably need to bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees F.

For a round cake, butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet. When serving the cake, spread the caramel sauce over the top. To accompany the cake, perhaps some poached pears (see the bottom of this article). Using a round springform cake pans, I am guessing the cooking time will be 45 minutes at 350 degrees F. But that is a guess so use a toothpick to test that the cake cooked through. then cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing the cake. It can be served warm at this time with the caramel sauce drizzled over the top.

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September 15, 2015- NOTE: I decided I wanted to make the round cake but instead of a single layer, I wanted two layers so I could put the caramel sauce between layers and then frost the top. (The original suggested only the caramel sauce drizzled over the top of the single layer.) Instead of butter, I used the “Real Ease” product from the Decorette Shop as a pan lubricant, but followed the directions to also use the parchment paper on the bottom of the pan. I was amazed that the cake layers came out of the pans without any trouble, and the extra work of putting in a parchment bottom was not necessary; it stayed in the pan when I took the cake out. The cooking time was 35 minutes, and cooled in the pan on wire racks for 10 minutes before removing to cool. Oh, yes, the original recipe says a 9 inch springform pan; I used two 10″ cake pans so my two layers is probably a bit shorter than using a single 9 inch pan.

For cupcakes, we will use 24 muffin wells lined with cupcake papers. The cupcakes will be frosted first with the caramel sauce, and then with a cream cheese frosting.

I have a few hints about making these cupcakes that you need to see before jumping into the recipe. For example, the caramel sauce can be made ahead of time, and then brought back to a spreadable state; to do this, I zap the container of sauce in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time, stirring after each time until it becomes spreadable. You could reheat it over very low heat on the stove, but that would mean transferring it to a heat proof cooking pan.

In the directions, I have suggested bowl sizes for both the wet and dry ingredients; these are the sizes of my bowls. The trick is to see that the wet ingredients are dumped into the dry ingredients so the dry ingredients need the larger bowl. I wouldn’t want you to get caught with the dry ingredients sifted into too small of a bowl.

The recipe will make 24 cupcakes. They do not rise a lot and so the directions say to fill the muffin wells nearly full. The first time, I filled the wells too full- none of the cupcake paper showed above the batter- and only got 20 cupcakes. And the little rise there was cooked the cupcakes to the muffin pans above the cupcake paper top. So I recommend leaving about 1/8 inch of cupcake paper showing when you fill the muffin wells.

Guinness Gingerbread Cupcakes

Ingredients for the gingerbread

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup Ginness Stout
  • 1 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 Tablespoons peeled and grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup (about 2 ounces) chopped crystallized ginger
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the caramel sauce

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions for the caramel sauce

The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cool it to room temperature and refrigerate it in a covered container. Reheat over low heat until smooth and spreadable.

  1. To make the sauce, melt the butter over medium heat in a sauce pan.
  2. Add the brown sugar and cream. Stir with a whisk until the sauce bubbles and gets sticky, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the vanilla and salt.

Ingredients for the frosting

  • 1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • pinch of fine salt

Directions for the frosting

  1. To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  2. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar and salt and continue to mix until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 muffin pans with cupcake papers
  2. In a bowl (~1 1/2 quart), beat the eggs until smooth.
  3. In the same bowl, whisk together the Guinness, molasses, brown sugar, oil, and fresh ginger.
  4. Add the crystallized ginger.
  5. In a large bowl (~4 quart), sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and salt.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
  7. Divide the batter among the muffin wells, filling them nearly full.
  8. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.
  9. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then remove the cupcakes and let them cool on a wire rack
  10. Spread the cooled cupcakes with the caramel sauce, and then pipe the frosting onto each cupcake.

If you are making the round cake and would like to accompany it with the poached pears, this is how I did them.

Ingredients for poached pears

  • 6 ripe but firm pears, peeled, quartered and cored
  • peel from 1 orange removed with a vegetable peeler to avoid the bitter white pith
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean

Directions for poached pears

  1. Bring the water and sugar to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the pears and orange peel.
  3. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife; add the pod and seeds to the pan.
  4. Adjust the heat so the liquid simmers gently. poach the pears until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Let the pears cool in the poaching liquid

Black and White Irish Cream Cupcakes

original.

This recipe was brought to my attention by my Seattle Muse who saw this picture. I decided to track the recipe down and make it. This picture has been “pinned” on social networking sites many times; I tracked the recipe down at the Better Homes and Gardens site, I found that nearly 40 people had rated the recipe such that it was at least a 4 star rating.

When I first made the recipe, I ran into several problems. Perhaps the biggest two were that when the batter is finished, the chocolate batter is far denser than the white batter, and so it is difficult to get the two batters into the cupcake papers with a nice vertical split of black and white. The white batter wants to flow over the chocolate batter giving a more marbled, if not horizontal split of black and white.

The second problem was with what they called the icing. It just didn’t come together. Instead I was left with brown fluff which was slightly moistened powdered sugar. I cheated on the recipe at this point and added more moisture until the “icing” came together. Even then, it was too stiff to swirl. (I was taught by my friends at the Decorette Shop that this is a glaze, not an icing).

At that point, I read the recipe reviews; there were only two. The newest review was interesting from the point that it said simply– please email the correct recipe for the icing–. So for a year, nothing had been done to the recipe on the web site. I wrote my own review calling the web site out for not correcting the errors.

That got some results. Colleen, the test kitchen cook wrote a new review stating that —all the recipes on the web site are tested before being published. She got a good vertical separation of the batters by using two scoops, one in each hand, and releasing them together for the cupcake. And, oops, there is an error in the icing recipe–. Is that not total vindication and an oxymoron? The recipe is tested but there is an error!

Anyway, I had already embarked on a process of discovering how to do it better. I first felt I had to address the size of the recipe which stated it made 28 cupcakes- who wants to make 28 cupcakes at a time? I mean, the muffin tins come in multiples of 6; I have a lot of tins and this would take all of them. My approach was to reduce the recipe to 6 cupcakes while experimenting; it is easy for anyone to double the recipe once or twice to get 12, 18, or 24 cupcakes, as many cupcakes as they would like.

My second step was to even out the density of the two batters. This could be done by either thickening the white batter with more flour, or thinning the chocolate batter by adding water. It turns out I did both. I thickened all the batter, then when I added the chocolate to half the batter, I also added water to keep the batters more consistent. That is the recipe I am giving you here. Here is the picture of my results.

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Black and White Irish Cream Cupcakes

For 6 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons boiling water
  • 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 Tablespoons Irish Cream liqueur
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 recipe Irish Cream Ganache
  • 1 recipe Irish Cream Glaze

Directions

  1. Allow butter and egg to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Prepare 6 muffin cups with cupcake papers. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. Mix the cocoa powder in the boiling water and stir with a rubber spatula until smooth; let cool.
  3. Preheat oven 350 degrees F.
  4. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add the sugar, liqueur, and vanilla and beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the egg and beat well.
  5. Alternate the flour mixture and buttermilk, beating on low speed after each addition just to combine.
  6. Divide batter in half (about 3/4 cup); stir dissolved cocoa in one half. Fill cupcake papers with some of each batter.
  7. Bake about 20 minutes; cool for 5 minutes in pan on racks. Remove and cool completely.
  8. Spread tops with Irish Cream Ganache; let stand about 1 hour to set. Spoon Irish Cream Glaze onto centers of cupcakes and spread with the tip of a spoon or knife.

Irish Cream Glaze

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Irish Cream Liqueur
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. In a small bowl stir ingredients together. Glaze needs to be thin enough to spread; add drops of water and stir if it is too thick. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar by the teaspoon at a time.

Irish Cream Ganache

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Tablespoon Irish Cream liqueur

Directions

  1. Bring heavy cream to a boil; remove from heat and add chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes. Add liqueur and stir until smooth. Cool until slightly thickened.

The two batters are more consistent now, but are still too thin to stay on their own sides of the cupcake while the second batter is scooped and put in. Thus, if the vertical divide is really important for the looks, I think you will have to go with what Colleen says and put the two batters in the cupcake simultaneously using two scoops and two hands. Maybe a friend will offer to help with this step and handle one of the scoops.

I think the ganache recipe is superb, and will save and use it even without the black and white cupcakes. However, the glaze is not the right stuff to use on the cupcakes; I made some and refrigerated them for a couple days, and the glaze all melted where it was on the ganache. There is too much liquid in the ganache for the glaze. I would suggest using a simple Royal Icing or Buttercream, but must admit I need to try it first myself. But, do not expect the glaze to look nice after a couple days!

The cook time seems to be somewhat critical. I left a batch in the oven for an extra 5 minutes and it dried the cupcakes out and made than hard- more like biscuits- rather than soft and moist. The 20 minutes is just right for me.

I did learn one other trick from the recipe- how to make cupcakes without papers. This is nice since you then do not need to peel papers and have a trash receptacle around. All it takes is to grease and flour the muffin tins; the cupcakes turn right out. I tried it with a cooking spray the first time, but I disliked getting the tops of the muffin tins all sticky and messed up. So the second time, I used shortening and kept it inside the indentations, and then floured them; this worked well. The only trouble was when I was scooping the batters and trying to handle two scoops simultaneously, they would drip onto the top of the muffin tins. Other than looking bad before and after being in the oven, the muffin pan cleaned up easily.

The original recipe used only the white of the egg; I might go back and try that again. I dislike throwing the yolk away, and my thoughts are that first, it might be adding some color to the white batter, and second, it might be stiffing the cooked cake since it does contain cholesterol.

Notes: 8/21/2015- I baked some more of these cupcakes, and at the last minute decided to experiment with further stiffening the dough. So I added another 1/4 cup of flour making it a total of 1 cup flour instead of the 3/4 cup. It made for more total batter- I could have made at least 7 cupcakes, and the amount of batter to save for the white side needs to be increased if you are doing this; my seventh cupcake would have been totally chocolate. I was worried about the cooked product being dry; it wasn’t. It was nice and soft, with the exception of the outside. I cooked the cupcakes an extra 3 minutes to make certain they were cooked completely; I have a tendency to under-bake my products, and was reminded of that this week and decided I had to get out of that mode- thus the extra cooking time. As noted, unfortunately that dries out the outside and the cupcakes are slightly crusty. I will say that stiffening the batter did make a difference in getting it into the cupcakes; it is nearly enough to do each half as a separate operation instead of putting both colors into the cupcake simultaneously.

Zucchini Oven-Baked Crisps

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Normally when we think of crisps, we are dreading having to heat the oil and deep fry the food. These are baked in the oven and come out just the way I like them- tasty and crisp.

I tried a couple ideas when it came to preparing the baking pan that I mention here so you can see the possible choices. I used an 11 x 15 pan. First, I used a small amount of olive oil; it burns easily at these temperatures and left me with a bad cleanup job. Then I tried to line the pan with parchment paper; I was surprised that while the pan seemed protected, there was still burn on the edges of the pan- I don’t know how that burn got there. And the parchment paper was really done for; it crumbled in my hand as I took it out. I think the answer is probable back to a fat with a higher burn point; I believe peanut oil and safflower oil are considered best for being stable in high heat. And remember that the oven temperature actually rises and falls to give an average temperature at which you set the knob- I watched mine one day and it seemed like the excursion of temperature was almost 100 degrees in each way. Perhaps, with that in mind, the answer is to reduce the temperature setting and cook the crisps longer. For now, you will either need to accept where I am in my experimenting, or try changing the parameters yourself.

Zucchini Oven-Baked Crisps

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini (yellow, green, or both)
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 2 eggs

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and lightly grease a baking sheet. (See the August 17th update at the bottom of the page; lower heat and higher smoking-temperature grease).
  • Slice the zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds; this can be done on a mandolin slicer, a meat slicer, or with a handheld knife.
  • Prepare three dishes for dredging the rounds and coating them. In the first dish, place the AP flour. In the second dish, break the two eggs and whip them. Finally, in the third dish, mix the Panko, cheese, salt, pepper and garlic powder to form the coating.
  • For each zucchini round, dredge it in the flour and shake off any excess, then wash it thoroughly with the egg, and finally dredge it in the coating mix. Lay the coated round on the baking sheet.
  • Bake for 25 minutes (See the August 17th update below;- increased cooking time to go with lower cooking temperature). or until the rounds are golden brouwn and crispy. Allow them to cool about 5 minutes on the baking sheet, and then transfer them to a serving try with a spatula.

August 17, 2015: Made another batch today, and used shortening as the pan grease; it worked well without a lot of splatter like I had with Olive Oil. I also turned the oven down to 400 degrees F., and cooked for 30 minutes– lower heat but longer cook time. I think everything worked like I wanted it to work!

Summer Squash Pasta

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This recipe is based on one by Eddie Jackson who was a contestant for “the Next Food Network Star”. I saw him make it and it looked good, and got good comments from the judges. And it is another interesting way to cook the summer squash with flavor.

I think you should look at the recipe as a guide to making summer squash pasta in your own way. For example, I did not use the mushrooms, and I probably added more red pepper flakes that suggested in the recipe. I also was making it for myself solo, so I only used the two zucchini squash; there was plenty of sauce for all the suggested squash.

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The trick to making the pasta is the vegetable peeler and going around the summer squash until you start to uncover the seeds. The outside peels might seem stiff at this point, but they soften nicely as they are sauted in the olive oil.

Summer Squash Pasta

courtesy Eddie Jackson

Ingredients

  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 6 ounces white wine
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 yellow summer squash
  • 2 green zucchini
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

Directions

  • Melt the butter in a large saute pan and add the mushrooms, garlic and shallots. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the wine, the lemon zest and juice. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to low to keep the sauce warm until ready to use.
  • Using a vegetable peeler, carefully peel the squash until you reach the center, creating pasta-like vegetable noodles
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan set over medium heat. Saute the vegetable noodles for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the warm sauce, then add the pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more.
  • Plate, and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and parsley.
  • I suggest cooking the tomatoes long enough to see their skins split; I found them easier to eat when the fork didn’t bounce off the skin.

Grey Griller Summer Squash

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This is a new type of summer squash for me, and I had to experiment with it to find out its good and not-so-good characteristics. It is about the same length as a nice zucchini- 9 inches, but is quite a bit larger around, maybe as much as 4 inches in diameter. Jenn and James are growing them this year and brought me one.

Most summer squash can be easily substituted for one another; the basics seem to be zucchini, and crook-neck squash which gives you the green and yellow for your many dishes. Now, they even have yellow zucchini squash which have the nice characteristic of being fairly even from top to bottom while the yellow crook-neck thin out at the stem end.

What the Grey Griller offers for which the other summer squash are too small around is the ability to make a “burger” and grill it. I have done that a couple times. Because summer squash absorb the flavor of that with which they are cooked, you want to make certain that you are not just grilling the burger, but are adding flavor. I have tried different flavors; one time it was jalapenos and cheese and another time I cooked a few onion rings on the burger. And definitely use the condiments on the cooked burger- catsup, BBQ sauce, whatever your favorite is.

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I would suggest slicing the Griller about 1/2 inch thick, and cooking it for about 3 minutes on a side. I noticed that mine started smoking at about that point, and had nice grill marks.

Not so good- trying to make crisps; the griller seems to hold more water than the squash that are smaller around, and never did crisp up like I wanted.

For me, I will stick with the regular zucchini for my cooking. There are so many recipes that add flavor to them from making them into bread to making them into pasta, or crisps, broiling them, and stuffing them.

Pork and Beans Bread

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This is another recipe from my sister Ann. She says that it is fun to see if people can tell what the magic ingredient is. I tried it on Jenn and James and they didn’t detect the Pork and Beans.

Ann writes a very clear recipe so I have left most of it in her voice and only changed the format.

Pork and Beans Bread

courtesy Ann Reitz

Ingredients

  • 15 ounce can of Pork and Beans (I use Van Camp’s)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (not canola, not olive, use vegetable)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (measure after chopping)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, (pack it down in the cup when you measure it)

Directions

  • Prepare your pans; spray two 9×3 inch loaf pans with Pam or another non-stick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Don’t drain the Pork and Beans. Pour them into a food processor or blender, juice and all, and process them until they are pureed smooth with no lumps.
  • Place the beaten eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the pureed pork and beans and mix them in well.
  • Add the vegetable oil and the vanilla extract. Mix well.
  • Add the sugar and mix it in. Then mix in the baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir until everything is incorporated.
  • Stir in the chopped nuts.
  • Add the flour in one-cup increments, stirring after each addition.
  • Spoon half of the batter into one loaf pan and the other half of the batter into the second loaf pan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F. for 50 to 60 minutes. Test the bread with a long food pick inserted into the center. If it comes out sticky the bread needs to bake a bit more. If it cones out dry, remove the pans from the oven and place them on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes.
  • Run a sharp blade of a knife around the inside of all four sides of the pan to loosen the bread and then tip it out onto the wire rack.
  • Cool the bread completely and wrap in plastic. May be frozen up to 3 months.