Friday, March 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge: Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

I must admit, this month's challenge was a little intimidating, the major yikes factor being that we had to make our own lasagna noodles. I love homemade pasta and all, but I don't have a pasta maker and I kept hearing about the sore arms and backs that rolling the dough gave other bakers that attempted the challenge before me. But you know what? It wasn't too bad. Sure, I felt like swearing a couple of times, especially in the beginning when I had to add WAY more liquid than the recipe called for and when after kneading the dough for 20 minutes I still wasn't sure if it had reached the desired consistency, but it all turned out fine in the end. And after five hours I had a very tasty lasagna to show for my efforts. Will I ever make it again? Not unless I get a pasta maker, but it was still fun to try.

The Recipe:
I'm not going to post the entire recipe here because it's so long, but you can find it here. Just a note on the pasta, though. I ended up adding three jumbo eggs instead of two, two tablespoons olive oil, and 1/4 cup water to make it moist enough to incorporate all the flour, and from what I've read, nearly everyone else had to add extra liquid too. Also, I didn't use the ragu recipe that they included because on a starving student grocery budget I just couldn't afford to buy five different types of meat just to make one sauce, and I didn't like the idea of using veal anyway. Instead, I used the following recipe which I liked very much and will definitely make again whether for lasagna or as a spaghetti sauce:

12 ounces bulk Italian sausage or bulk pork sausage
12 ounces lean ground beef
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium-size carrot, shredded
1 stalk celery with leaves, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) lower-sodium diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 teaspoon each dried basil leaves and oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a Dutch oven (I used my big cast iron saucepan), cook sausage and ground beef over moderately high heat until meat is browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove meat from Dutch oven; drain well. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic to pan drippings and cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender; remove from the Dutch oven and drain well.
Wipe out Dutch oven. Return meat and vegetable mixture to Dutch oven. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, beef broth, parsley, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until desired consistency, stirring often.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Iron Cupcake: Nuts and Seeds

Okay folks, I'm really sorry it's been so long since I posted. For some reason this month really just got away from me. Maybe it's the warm weather that makes me just not feel like being in front of a computer. But Iron Cupcake is approaching, and so the challenge has lured me back into the blogging world. This month's challenge was nuts and/or seeds, so I created these:

Raspberry almond cupcakes with white chocolate almond frosting. I really liked the cake for these cupcakes. It was nice and moist with a mild nutty flavor, and the whole raspberries baked in made for a nice contrast. I almost didn't want to frost them at all, but since they weren't very domed on the top (as is the problem with a lot of the denser cakes that I try to make into cupcakes), they needed the frosting to look pretty.
Voting for this month's Iron Cupcake challenge will start no later than 8 p.m. on March 29th, so swing on by No One Puts Cupcake in a Corner around then to vote for your favorite three cupcakes. You can get there by clicking on this link or on my Iron Cupcake badge at the bottom of this page. Voting will go through April 3rd at noon.
The prizes for winning are:
A Bunnycake Easter Plushie by DOGBONEART,
A whimsical piece by CAKEASAURUS,
A pair of cupcake earrings from LOTS OF SPRINKLES at
A collection of all new printed cupcake liners, 200 in all from Sweet Cuppin' Cakes Cupcakery,
and art from CAKESPY,
Last and certainly not least, corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, TASTE OF HOME books , and a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM And as a special thank you, we would like to once again thank DIANAEVANS - for her participation in the February challenge. An incorrect link was posted and we want to be sure that she gets the recognition she deserves. Thanks again Diana!
Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers,
Learn more at the Iron Cupcake Cuphub:

Here's the recipe in case you would like to experience the almond raspberry goodness for yourself:
Raspberry Almond Cake:
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. almond butter
2 c. brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
3/4 c. buttermilk
3/4 c. raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper or foil liners. Sift first four ingredients together in a medium bowl. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and almond butter in a large bowl until well blended (about 2 minutes). Beat in sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and almond extracts. At low speed, beat in flour mixture in four additions with buttermilk in three additions. Fill cups 1/3 full and bake for 17-20 minutes. Cool completely before frosting. Yields about 3 dozen.

White Chocolate Almond Frosting:
6 oz. white baking chocolate (chopped up)
1/4 c. heavy cream
2 sticks butter
1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
Pinch salt

Stir white chocolate and whipping cream in double boiler or pan over hot water until melted and smooth. Cool. Beat butter and sugar together until smooth. Add chocolate/cream mixture, vanilla, almond extract, and salt. Beat on high until light and fluffy. Makes about 3 cups and keeps well in refrigerator. Frost cupcakes. Garnish with slivered almonds and whole raspberries if desired.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Just a Reminder. . .

To vote for my tiramisu cupcakes for Iron Cupcake this month. You can get to the voting by clicking here. Thanks!