Sunday, May 1, 2016

Southern Cotillion Peach Cake

After making this cake, I decided to deem it worthy of "high society" by naming it a Cotillion cake. For those that are unaware of the reference, a Cotillion is a formal party or dance that introduces a young girl into society and an opportunity for the father to introduce their daughter to proper suitors. Prior to the party, the girls have attended finishing school for learning social graces. This is something that came about in the South.

Regarding the cake, I believe that any special ocassion cake would need to be white. White makes for a good base to showcase any additional flavors. While you can add other flavors to chocolate, chocolate is not really subtle, so balancing with other flavors is more difficult.

I know you are wondering what makes this cake so special. Tasting it would truly tell you, but since this is in writing I will need to describe. The cake itself has the flavor of peach. The primary flavor  ingredients are peach cream liqueur, freeze dried fruit powder and a touch of almond. The cake is moist, since it is made with oil instead of butter. Between the cake layers is a filling made with peaches and then a layer of buttercream type icing with almond paste. The buttercream icing on the outside is flavored with the liqueur and fruit powder. The outer sides of the cake has slivered almonds pressed into the icing.

At the end of the post, you will find useful tips when making this cake as well as all other layer cakes. As with any recipe, careful evaluation is needed, because opinions vary on flavor and texture. The one thing I wanted to bring up is the almond paste-type filling. Almond paste does not break down smooth when mixing. This means that the filling imparts a nutty type texture which goes good with the fruit. However, should you want something smoother, you are welcome to use just regular buttercream and flavor it with almond extract.

Southern Cotillion Peach Cake
by flourtrader

4 eggs
1 cup of vegetable oil
1/4 cup sparkling white wine
3/4 cup peach liqueur
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs peach fruit powder
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour 
2 cups sugar

Ingredients/2 kinds of filling
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
3 cups peeled diced peaches (fresh or thawed & drained frozen)
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp water
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup butter
6-7 oz almond paste
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup peach liqueur
2 tsp fruit powder

3 or more cups of buttercream icing
2 tbs peach liqueur
1 tbs fruit powder
1 1/2-2 cups slivered almonds (if desired)

Prepare two 9 inch cake pans by greasing the interior with butter and then lining the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the face up side of the parchment paper and then dust the interior of the pans with flour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

The peach filling will need to be made first, since it has to chill before use. Fill a small saucepan with brown sugar, 1 1/2 cups of diced peaches and lemon juice. Place saucepan over medium high heat and stir together. Let mixture come to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring every so often. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Pour the filling into a blender and puree. Fill the same saucepan with the puree and add the remining fruit. Place over heat and let simmer again for about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water. Then pour into the peach mixture. Let cook on low, stirring until thickened.  Pour into a heat proof bowl and place in fridge to chill. 

Now it is time to make the cake layers. Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the eggs and sugar. Beat until well blended. Remove bowl from mixer and add the oil, champagne, peach liqueur and almond extract and stir together. In another bowl, sift together the flour, fruit powder, salt and baking powder. Fold the sifted ingredients into the liquid. Then place the bowl back into the stand mixer and beat at low speed until no lumps remain, about 1 minute.

Pour batter evenly into the two pans. Bake until the top is golden or a tester comes out clean. This should take about 35-40 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans on a rack for about 10 minutes. Invert and let cool another 10 minutes and remove parchment paper.

For the nutty filling, grate the almond paste into a bowl using a cheese grater and set aside. Then fill the bowl of a stand mixer with confectioners sugar and butter. Beat until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add the grated almond paste and salt. Beat on low for 30 seconds then on medium high for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and beat for 1 minute more. Chill until ready to use. Take out a small bowl and then mix the fruit powder with the peach liqueur and set aside.

For the icing, mix together fruit powder and liquer in a small bowl. Then make your standard butter cream icing. Then pour peach flavor mixture into icing and beat until evenly distributed. Add additional confectioners sugar to reach desired thickness. Chill until ready to use.

Once the cake layers are completely cool, they are ready to be assembled into a delicious cake. Choose which of the layers you will be using for the bottom. Brush the top surface of the bottom layer with 1/2 of the fruit powder/liqueur blend. Then do the same on the other layer, this time on the bottom side of the top layer. Let mixture soak in for about 10 minutes. Place one layer in the center of a cake board or cake plate.

Take out the chilled peach filling and smooth it over the top surface of the cake, being careful to leave a small border around the edge. Then carefully smooth the nutty filling over the peach filling. Stack the top layer on top. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 1 hour.

Once chilling time is over, remove cake and frost as desired. If desired, press slivered almonds into sides of cake by the handful.

Tips and Notes:

1. Soaking a top cake layer on the bottom side instead of top insures that the icing on the top will be easy to spread. If your cake is wet on top, it makes for a slippery layer and is very difficult to ice.

2. Always measure your batter to insure even layers. "Eyeballing" it lends itself to uneven cake layers.

3. Invest in cake strips to go around your pans when baking so they will bake evenly and not be domed on top.

4. Fruit powder can be hard to find. However, I found packaged freeze dried slices of peaches that were called "fruit crisps." They are perfect for grinding into powder. Do not make the mistake of buying just dried fruit-the consistency is too gummy.

5. Chilling the two layers together with the filling helps prior to icing to stabilize the layers.This is good to do with any cake that has a filling different from thick buttercream.

6. This recipe was made with fresh Florida peaches. It has not been tested with frozen peaches, which may have excess water so more of the cornstarch/water mixture may be needed. You may need to experiment a bit when using frozen peaches.
                                    **LAST YEAR:Raspberry Picnic Pie**

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hawaiian Breakfast Rolls

This is a great spin off recipe from the original cinnamon rolls.  Instead of cinnamon and pecans or raisins, these rolls have a delicious filling of coconut and ground macadamia nuts rolled up into a sweet dough. The extra zing is the icing on top that can be flavored with coconut or pineapple extract.

The alterations I did on this recipe was to use pineapple coconut juice in the dough instead of milk. Also, I brushed it on the dough prior to layering the filling. The end result was that it added more of a tropical flavor to the filling, but did little to flavor the actual dough. Also, I found that the filling develops more flavor with time, so these rolls were better the day after baked. I used an unsweetened organic juice, so using something like "Coco Lopez" may offer more strength in the flavor category.

These do look like they take a lot of time, but the looks are deceiving. The two "time consumers" are grinding the nuts and the rise time. There is only 1 rise time (1- 1/12 hrs) and no kneading of the dough. I ground my nuts in a blender and they turned fine but not into nut butter (see sprinkled nuts on top of the rolls above). This recipe makes about 1 dz rolls.

Hawaiian Breakfast Rolls
adapted from Fleischmann's Yeast

Ingredients/Dough Roll
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup scalded milk (cooled to lukewarm) or lukewarm coconut/pineapple juice
1 egg
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 package yeast

zest of 1 orange
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup flaked coconut
2/3 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
2 tbs melted butter
2 tbs coconut pineapple juice (optional)

2 tsp honey
2 tbs softened butter
3 tbs milk or juice
1 tsp coconut or pineapple extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup ground macadamia nuts (optional)
pinch of salt

Start on the dough by sprinkling yeast into the bowl of warm water. Then fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the sugar, salt, juice or milk and shortening. Beat on low for about 15 seconds. Stir the bowl of yeast and then pour into the sugar/shortening mixture. Add the egg and 1/2 cup of flour.  Beat on low again until blended. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Using a wooden spoon, fold in the flour in half cup increments until all is incorporated into the dough.

Grease the interior of a small bowl. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Lightly cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This should take 1-1 1/2 hours if you are using regular yeast (rapid rise would naturally be faster).

While the dough is rising, you will make the filling. Measure out the juice and melt the butter. Set aside. Then whisk together all the other filling ingredients.

After the dough has risen, prepare one 11.5 x 14 inch pan by greasing the interior. Also, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then dust a flat surface lightly with flour. Roll out the dough onto the flat surface into a large rectangle, measuring 11x14 inches.

Brush the surface of the dough with the pineapple coconut juice (optional). Then brush on the melted butter. Sprinkle all of the filling evenly on top of the dough and press down lightly to adhere. Starting from one of the longest sides, roll the dough tightly and evenly in a jelly roll fashion. Pinch seam together and flatten. Fold each end under and pinch/flatten the seams.

Using a serrated knife, cut jelly roll into 12 even slices and place inside prepared baking pan.  Put pan in the oven and bake until golden brown and toasty on top, about 20-30 minutes. Remove and set pan on rack to cool.

While rolls are baking, prepare the icing. Add milk or juice, honey, softened butter and extract to small bowl. Beat until the butter is broken up. Sift in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and beat again until smooth. Continue with the process until all powdered sugar is incorporated into the icing.

Once rolls cool to lukewarm, spread the icing on top of each, smoothing out. Then sprinkle with ground macadamia nuts.

Tips and Notes:

1. Make sure you give the filling a chance to soak up the juice and butter that was brushed on the dough. You do not want a lot of liquid flowing out when cooking and too much liquid keeps the dough from rolling tightly.

2. Instead of the sprinkle of nuts on the top,try mixing drained pineapple chunks and/or ground nuts into the icing.
                                   **LAST YEAR:Charlevoix Cookies**

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Banana French Toast Muffins

Let's face it, banana-nut anything is always a welcome treat. However, it is very difficult to achieve a cake like quality when using them in baking. That is why I refer to these as muffins instead of cupcakes. They are not as dense as banana bread, but they do not have the lightness of cupcakes either.

Is this just a lighter banana bread in muffin form? In some ways yes and some ways no. Included in the muffin is chunks of candied walnuts. Like French toast, the maple flavor is on top. Swirled with a mixture of maple flavored cream cheese frosting, the flavor pairing of these muffins is quite tasty. Biting into one of these treats is just a great way to start the day or perk you up in the afternoon.

Also, I know that candied nuts can be quite expensive. In this recipe is a very simple and easy way to make them. If you are not into the whole muffin thing, the sweet nuts make a great snack-so read on...

This recipe makes about 2 dz muffins.

Banana French Toast Muffins
adapted from Wilton

1 3/4 cup mashed bananas
3/4 cup sour cream
2 tbs maple syrup
3 eggs
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter (cut into 1/4 inch cubes)
2 3/4 cup of flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 tsp maple extract
3 cups confectioners sugar
8 oz package of cream cheese (room temp)
4 oz or 1 stick of butter
24 whole walnuts
1/4 cup of maple syrup

To start, you will make 2 batches of the candied nuts. Pour the chopped nuts into a saucepan set over low heat. Let the nuts cook until toasty, stirring at random intervals. After about 5 minutes, the nuts will be done. Pour in the 2 tbs of maple syrup and mix with the nuts. As the syrup cooks it becomes more solid, looking somewhat like praline candy. Once the liquid syrup becomes solid, remove from heat and transfer coated nuts to a bowl. Set bowl aside.

For the whole nuts, lay a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface. Follow the same coating process as noted above, this time using 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Due to the higher amount of syrup, the cook time will take longer. Once coated and solid, remove each walnut from the pan and lay on parchment paper, spacing apart.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and fill the cavities of a muffin tin with paper liners.

Prepare the batter by filling the bowl of a stand mixer with both types of sugar and drop in butter cubes. Cream together with the paddle attachment, beating for about 2 minutes and stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl. 

Pour in the vanilla extract and add one egg. Mix together for about 30 seconds, with mixer on medium speed. Add each additional egg, blending after each addition. Then pour in the mashed bananas and mix on medium until just incorporated into batter. Remove bowl from mixer.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Fold in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the banana batter, using a wooden spoon. Add 1/2 of the sour cream, then stir to blend.  Repeat the process, ending with the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Then mix in the candied chopped walnuts.

Using a spoon or a scoop, fill the cavities of the prepared muffin tin with the batter. Fill approximately 2/3 full.

Put pans in oven and bake until tester comes out clean. Bake time is about 20-25 minutes, so rotate pans at the halfway point. Remove pans and let rest about 2 minutes. Then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting/icing, start by beating the cream cheese with the butter until it is silky and smooth. Then beat in the maple extract until distributed throughout the frosting. Sift in 1 cup of confectioner's sugar and beat into the cream cheese/butter mixture. Repeat the process until all confectioner's sugar is blended in.

Once muffins have cooled, ice with frosting as desired and top with candied walnut.

Tips and Notes:

1. This frosting recipe had an error which I corrected above. It did not have butter listed as an ingredient but listed 2-8 oz packages of cream cheese. I followed the recipe, resulting in a quite tangy frosting. Cream cheese frosting I have seen with an equal ratio of butter to cream cheese and 1/2 the amount of butter to cream cheese. I would chose the ratio of 1/2 to one, but either way you only need one 8 oz package of cream cheese.

2. A note on the cute squares: I used a heavy duty, non stick square cavity baking pan. After researching, I read that the square liners have a tendency to fold into the muffins when baked. However, the round liners expand to fit the square. So, if you use the square cavity pan, skip buying the square liners.

3. The candied nut coating can be as thin or thick as you like. I much preferred the thicker, so you may want to use more maple syrup in the pan when using the chopped nuts. Keep in mind that with more syrup, the nuts have a tendency to clump together.

4. How ripe the bananas you use is personal preference. The more ripe the banana, the stronger the flavor. Also, be sure to use a fork and mash the bananas. This method gives the muffins a more pop of banana flavor than adding pureed bananas.
                                   **TWO YEARS AGO: Black Walnut Madeira Cake 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Citrus Ginger Cookies

At this time, I find myself in a foodie dilemma. I am still drawn to the winter/fall type of recipes. I realize that there is less appeal when things are made out of season, so I should be focusing on the spring and summer recipes.

These particular "S" shaped cookies have helped out the situation. One type of dough is flavored with lemon and orange zest, which equates to tastes of the spring/summer. The other dough is a myriad of spices and some molasses, flavors of fall and winter.

The texture of the cookie reminds me of spritz, except they are not as crisp. The wonderful mix of the complimentary flavors is memorable and unique. As you bite into one of these, the heavy spices strike your taste buds only to have a chaser of citrus to tone it down. This delicious combo rolled together in a cookie makes them perfect for coffee or tea. In addition, they are pleasing to the eye, which makes a lot of people reach for them when served.

This recipe makes about 3-3 1/2 dz cookies.

Citrus Ginger Cookies
adapted from Gold Medal Cookie Contest 

1/3 cup milk
2 egg yolks (beaten together)
1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract 
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter, room temp
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
2 pinches of nutmeg
2 pinches of cayenne
1 cup sugar
3 cups flour and 2 tbs flour (reserved separate)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Place butter inside the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat again another 2 minutes or until mixture is light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and milk. Beat until mixture is thoroughly combined, it will result in a curdled-looking batter.

Take out another bowl and sift together 3 cups of flour, baking powder and salt. Add the sifted mixture in 1/2 cup increments to the butter/sugar batter, beating on low after each addition. Once the sifted ingredients are incorporated into the batter, divide batter in half. Each half should be about 2 cups each.

Remove one half of the dough from the mixing bowl and set aside. Add both types of zest and vanilla extract to the remaining dough in the mixing bowl. Blend on medium speed for about 1 minute to distribute the additions throughout the dough. Shape into 2 even sized balls and cover dough with plastic wrap and set aside.

Clean the mixing bowl and then place the other half of the plain dough inside. Add remaining ingredients (spices, molasses and 2 tbs flour) and mix on low until the add-ins are evenly distributed into the dough. Shape the dough into 2 balls of the same size (like the other) and cover with plastic wrap. Place all 4 of the wrapped dough balls on a plate and put in refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Prepare a flat surface by covering with parchment paper. After chilling time is complete, remove one ball of the citrus dough. Place it on the parchment paper and cover with another piece of parchment. Roll dough out to form a a 9x6 rectangle. Do the same with one ball of the spice dough. Lift top piece of parchment off of both rectangles and stack one on top of the other, so all edges of the dough are flush with each other. Press or roll lightly to adhere the layers together.

Place the dough so the narrow ends are at the top and bottom and long edges left to right on the flat surface. Then, form part of a roll by using the parchment paper to help. Roll from the narrow edge over the top of the rest of the dough, stopping at the halfway point. Carefully flip the dough over, with the unrolled narrow edge at the bottom. Again, roll from the narrow edge over the top of the dough and stop, meeting at the same point as the rolled under portion of the dough (just on the backside). The end result will be a spiral log that is "S" shaped. Cover with parchment and place in refrigerator.  Repeat the same process with the remaining 2 rounds of dough.

Let both logs of dough chill for a minimum of 1 hour. 15 minutes prior to completing the dough chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

At the time the dough has chilled for 1 hour and the oven is preheated, remove one batch/ one log from the refrigerator. Slice the log into 1/4 inch-thick pieces and place each piece on prepared baking sheet. There are about 16-18 slices per log and each piece should be spaced about 1-1/2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Place in oven and bake 8-12 minutes or until the bottom of the cookies have a light, golden hue. Transfer to rack to cool. Repeat the same process of slicing and baking with the remaining dough log.

Tips and Notes:

1. The spices were distributed evenly in the dough. However, the citrus zest may distribute better if the mixture is divided prior to adding the sifted ingredients. It is more liquid at that time and it keeps you from over-working the dough. Also, fresh zest has a tendency to cling together.

2. You may use a little flour in order to roll out the dough, but dampen the surface of the dough before you stack the other layer on top. A damp surface will keep the layers of dough from splitting when baking.
                                   **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Banana Muffins**

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sawdust Pie

I have to admit, the name of this pie is not very appealing. I guess it got its name from the graham cracker crumbs used as an ingredient. The other theory is that someone wanted to keep the pie for themselves, hoping that the name would keep people from eating it!

This pie is very simple to make and has only basic ingredients, so I am surprised that it is unfamiliar to most people. The filling is held together with a blend of graham cracker crumbs and egg whites. For flavor, the recipe includes sweetened coconut and toasted pecans. It actually belongs in its own pie category because of the unique chewy texture.

Unlike most pies, the thick filling enables the pie to be shipped without falling apart. To ship, bake the pie in a disposable aluminum pan. After it has baked and cooled, slice the pie the night before and wrap in foil. Freeze until next day and then pack in a box, making sure it is well cushioned. Then you can ship to any college student or your favorite someone with a sweet tooth.

Sawdust Pie
adapted from Pie, 300 Tried and True Recipes

1 refrigerated pie crust (your preferred single crust recipe)
1 1/2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
7 egg whites
1 1/2 cups toasted,chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

After you have made the pie dough, shape into a flat disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of an hour and up to overnight.

Once the chilling time is complete, prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour. Remove the dough disc from the fridge and unwrap. Roll out on the prepared surface, forming a 12 inch inch circle. Then curl the flattened dough loosely around a rolling pin and unroll over a 9 inch standard pie pan. Press and shape the dough so it is even and flush with the interior of the pan. Tuck top edges under and form the edge as desired (scalloped, fork pressed..etc). Then place in freezer for about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Fill a large bowl with egg whites and both sugars and stir, making sure all is evenly combined. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until batter comes together, with a good distribution of pecans and coconut.

Empty the bowl of pie filling in the chilled crust. Smooth with a spatula until even. Place pie in oven and bake for 25 minutes. Rotate the pie, moving front to back. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until crust is golden.

Let cool on a wire rack. It is good served warm or at room temperature. Now you get the real meaning of "easy as pie!"

Tips and Notes:

1. For an extra zing of flavor, there are many ways to top this pie prior to serving. Some of the suggestions are: drizzled melted dark chocolate, whipped cream and sliced bananas, ice cream and caramel...and the list goes on..

2. Take caution when blending the filling. The more you mix, the stiffer it becomes. The intention is to have a spreadable filling.

3. There is a recipe variation that uses no brown sugar and straight white sugar. I feel that the use of brown sugar creates a more golden hue to the filling when baked. Also, brown sugar is a standard flavor pairing with pecans.
                                   **LAST YEAR: Honey Bunny Crunch Frozen Custard** 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Meyer Lemonade Cake

Citrus fruits really do remind me of spring and summer. I definitely have spring fever! Luckily I have a window at work, since it is getting more difficult to stay inside.

Lime and lemon are my favorite citrus flavors.  However, with the introduction of the Meyer lemons, I am more apt to use these in baking instead of regular lemons.  Since they are the result of a cross between lemons and oranges, the lemon flavor is less acidic but still prevailing. This recipes uses around 6-8 lemons. That worked out well, since Meyer lemons are sold by the bag around here.

This cake is a perfect way to brighten up your day. I changed the recipe a little to make the lemon flavor stronger in the cake. With zest in the batter and a soaker on top with candied lemon peel, it really packs a lot of luscious lemon flavor in every bite.  The cake part is reminiscent of the texture that you find in a pineapple upside down cake.

This recipe makes 2 single layer, 8 inch cakes. One for you and yours and one for the neighbors or co-workers.

Meyer Lemonade Cake
adapted from Serious Eats website

Ingredients/Cake and Soaker
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
8 oz  plain yogurt
4 eggs
3/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbs lemon zest (takes about 2-3 lemons)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup candied lemon peel (takes about 4 or 5 lemons, recipe below)
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Ingredients/ Candied Peel
4-5 lemons
1 cup water
2 tbs corn syrup
1 cup sugar

The first step will be making the candied peel. Set up 2 pots full of water and a bowl or sink full of ice water. Also, have a strainer close at hand.

Place both pots of water over high heat. As you wait for the water to boil, take the lemons and peel off strips, using a potato peeler running it down the length of the lemon. Take care to get as little of the pith as possible. After all lemons are peeled, slice the peelings into thin strips.

The next process is to blanch the lemon strips. The blanching will be done three times. Put the strips in the first boiling pot of water and let boil for 20 seconds. Remove pot from heat and pour into a strainer. Then take strainer of strips and submerge in ice bath, just deep enough to cover and cool the strips. Take empty pot and refill with water. Place over high heat and let come to a boil. As it heats up, follow the same blanching process using the boiling water in the second pot and the recently heated water in the first pot. Leave strips in strainer.

For the candy syrup, put sugar, corn syrup and water in a pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally, letting mixture come to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Add blanched lemon strips.

Correct the temperature of the liquid to a simmer mode, liquid should have occasional bubbles. Cook at this temperature for about 20 minutes. Liquid will be thicker and lemon peels will start to curl. Remove from heat. Let cool completely before using.

For the cake, prepare two 8 inch round cake pans by greasing the interior and lining with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a stand mixer, cream together butter and only 2 cups of the sugar until mixture takes on a much lighter texture. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating into butter/ sugar blend for about 30 seconds. Repeat the same process with each egg, until all are blended in. Sprinkle in zest and beat for another 30 second. Mix in the vanilla extract. Set aside.

In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix the sifted ingredients into the batter in 3 stages, alternating with the yogurt. The start of the process as well as the end will be with blending in the dry ingredients.

Lastly, stir in only 1/2 cup of the lemon juice until completely blended into the batter. Divide batter equally and empty into each prepared pan. Place in oven and let bake for about 20 minutes and rotate pans then bake for an additional 20 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back when lightly touched in the center and turns a golden hue or use a toothpick to check if done. Remove pans and place on rack. Let cakes cool in pans 20 minutes.

As cakes cool, make the soaker by filling a pot with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of juice. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar has dissolved , remove from heat. Brush mixture over cooled cakes. Let the cakes remain in the pan for another 10 minutes.
Invert the cakes onto a rack covered in wax paper and quickly invert again so drizzled side is face up. and cakes have cooled for 20 minutes. Then garnish with candied peel.

Tips and Notes:
1. The cakes are very sticky so springform pans would insure the appearance of the surface,removing the cakes prior to soaking is a good idea.

2. The soaker has too much syrup compared to the actual peels, so cutting the liquid ingredients  in half would be better.
                            **LAST YEAR: Havana Cupcakes**

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Chocoberry Cupcakes

Like most bloggers, it is hard for me to make something "plain", especially when it comes to cupcakes. I cannot remember the last time I made a cupcake that was just one flavor. Since the opportunity is there to combine flavors, I take full advantage of it.

Take these cupcakes, for instance. They are a double-decker of chocolate and strawberry flavors, in the cake part as well as the icing. Fruit, due to their acidity, do not make a good addition to cake batters. Unless I am making a bread or fruit like cake- I never use fresh fruit in cake batters. Imitation fruit flavor is also something I try to refrain from.

In order to get a good fruit flavor, there are 2 choices. You can either use dried fruit powder or natural extract. For these cupcakes I used natural extract, Olive Nation brand. Regarding the chocolate, there are many brands to choose from...., Valrhona, Ghirardelli, Callebaut..etc. As usual, quality ingredients mean quality taste.

The cupcakes are moist and airy, and deliver that chocolate covered strawberry flavor that we all love. The topping is a repeat of the same flavors-just a bit stronger and sweeter. The chocolate ganache swirled with strawberry icing adds the right touch of sweetness to the cupcake. Since it is lighter than regular buttercream icing, the cake flavor stands out more.

This recipe makes about 24-28 cupcakes.

ChocoBerry Cupcakes
by Flourtrader

1 1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 egg whites, room temp
1/2 cup butter, room temp
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 oz melted and cooled bittersweet chocolate
2 tsp strawberry extract
red food coloring ( optional if you want a pink tint)

1 cup plus 2 tsp heavy cream
1 tbs butter
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pea sized chunks
1 tsp strawberry extract
1 cup confectioners sugar
milk (measurement based on desired consistency)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the top edge of muffin tins and line the cavities with baking cups.

Start on the cupcakes by filling a medium bowl with the butter.  Beat, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla.  Blend the mixture on low speed until evenly distributed. Set aside.

Using another medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

Then pour 1/4 of the egg whites into the sugar butter mixture and beat for 30 seconds. Repeat this process until all egg whites are incorporated into the batter. After this, you will blend in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients, running the mixer on low speed. Then pour 2/3 cup of buttermilk into the batter and beat on low. Follow the same stages with the sifted ingredients and buttermilk, ending with the the dry ingredients folded into into the batter.

At this time, measure out half of the batter and put into a clean bowl. Using 1/2 of the batter, mix in the melted chocolate until evenly blended. For the other half of the batter, add 2 tsp strawberry extract or dried fruit powder and stir. If desired, mix in a few drops of red food coloring until the pink hue meets your expectations.

Take out 2 scoops for spooning the batter into the cupcake cavities. Use one scoop for the chocolate and one for the strawberry batter. You can spoon the chocolate batter on the bottom and strawberry on top, like I did or do side by side batters, whichever you prefer. The cavities should be filled to the 2/3 mark, with an even distrubution of strawberry to chocolate batter.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Remove and place pan on rack for 5 minutes and then transfer cupcakes to rack to finish cooling.

To make the chocolate ganache, place chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl with a wide bottom, I used a pasta bowl. Spread the chunks out to a even layer on the bottom of the bowl.Then, place a saucepan over medium high heat and pour in heavy cream and add butter. Cook until butter is melted and mixture comes to a boil. Once boiling, remove and pour over chocolate chunks. Let sit undisturbed for about 5 minutes and then stir mixture is smooth.

At this point, you can dip the tops of the cupcakes into the chocolate. Make sure that you take time to let the chocolate drip off before standing upright and that the cupcake paper does not get any chocolate on it. Once all the cupcakes are covered with the ganache, then start on making the strawberry swirl.

Sift confectioners sugar into a medium size bowl. Add 1 tsp strawberry extract or dried strawberry powder and 1 tbs of milk. Whisk until a smooth icing is formed and stir in a few drops of red food coloring (if desired). Continue to work to achieve a piping consistency to the icing, either by adding more confectioners sugar or more milk. Once the consistency is right, fill a piping bag and pipe a decorative line or swirl on top of the cakes.

Let stand at room temperature for about an hour before serving or storing so topping will set.

Tips and Notes:

1. Due to the egg whites and the baking soda/powder, act quickly when creating the separate batter and spooning into the cavities.  My two layers came out with some air between the two when baked.

2. The thickness of the ganache is a personal preference, so how much liquid you use can be altered. However, bear in mind that you want to "dip" the tops, not have to use a knife to cover the cupcakes.
                                             **LAST YEAR: Alfredo Bread**