Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Mallow and/or Milan Cookies (grass optional)

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

These cookies used to be pretty. Their chocolate coating used to be shiny and clean and smooth. But then I was going to take them to some friends so I wouldn't end up eating them, and as I was getting into the car they slipped and fell all over the grass next to my parking spot. Ah, poop. But you know what? Our lawn hasn't been fertilized in a really long time, and our neighbors with a dog moved so there weren't any little doggy piles around, so I piled them back on the plate and went ahead and ate them, picking the grass off as I went. And I liked them. A lot. So even though this was a bit of a (literal) belly-flop, I still liked this month's challenge. Nicole, bless you for choosing a fairly simple challenge for the crazy month of July. Even with it being easy I'm still posting a day late, but what can you do? The challenge was to make these mallow cookies, and/or Milan cookies. Being a slacker, I just did the mallows, but it was plenty for me this month. The recipe is below, and it's really pretty easy and good. I used milk chocolate for the glaze instead of semi-sweet since that's what I had, but be aware that milk chocolate won't set up as firm as semi-sweet. Also, since I didn't have a 1 or 1 1/2 inch cookie cutter, I just rolled the dough into a log, covered it in waxed paper and refrigerated it that way and then sliced it into 1/8 inch slices before baking and it worked beautifully.

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping. (I went ahead and did it this way with the store-bought marshmallows. Did I mention I was a slacker?)

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 1 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. shortening
1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Iron Cupcake Herbs: Lime Ginger Cupcakes with Lime Basil Frosting

I have definitely been slacking off in the Iron Cupcake area lately, but this month I finally got things in gear and am competing again. It helped that the ingredient this month was herbs. I have some lovely basil growing on my porch and I needed to use it, so this challenge provided the perfect opportunity to try it in something sweet instead of just the usual savory stuff. The cupcakes I created are sort of Thai-inspired using lime, ginger, and basil, and boy are they good. I love, love, LOVE lime, and these cupcakes make such nice use of it, combining it with a subtle taste of ginger and basil in a not-to-sweet little package. Ahhh. Before I can give you the recipe, I need to tell you where to vote and mention the lovely prizes that go to the winner of this month's challenge. Voting goes from Tuesday, July 28 to Wednesday, August 5 at noon. To vote, click on this link or on my Iron Cupcake badge at the bottom of this page. The prizes and sponsers are:

A sweet cupcake ID bracelet by INSANEJELLYFISH, http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5021935
A treat from CIRCLEMONKEY, http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5335273
Something from Sweet Cuppin' Cakes Cupcakery, http://www.acupcakery.com
and art from CAKESPY, http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5243382

Last and certainly not least, corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS http://www.fiestaproducts.com, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com, JESSIE STEELE APRONS http://www.jessiesteele.com, TASTE OF HOME books http://www.tasteofhome.com , and a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM http://www.upwithcupcakes.com.
Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, http://www.1800flowers.com.
Learn more at the Iron Cupcake Cuphub: http://ironcupcake.blogspot.com

And now, here's the recipe:

Lime Ginger Cupcakes with Basil Frosting
1/4 c. canola oil
1 c. sugar
zest of 1 lime
2 eggs
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. almond extract
1 T. grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder

Mix together butter, sugar, and lime zest. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each one. Add buttermilk, lime juice, vanilla, almond extract, and ginger and mix until combined. In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

Add about 1/3 of the dry mixture to the wet mixture, mixing just until combined and repeating until all of dry mixture has been added.

Fill paper-lined muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or till tops are barely golden or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Makes about 12 cupcakes.

8 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
6 T. butter (room temperature)
zest and juice of 1 lime
1/2 t. vanilla extract
3 T. lime syrup (recipe below)
pinch salt
1 c. powdered sugar (more if stiffer frosting is desired)

Cream cream cheese and butter together. Add lime juice and zest, lime syrup, and vanilla extract and beat until light and fluffy. Slowly add salt and powdered sugar, mixing until thoroughly combined.

Lime syrup
1 c. water
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. lime juice
5 fresh basil leaves
1 lime peel strip (1 ½ inches x ½ inch)

In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, lemon juice, basil and lime peel and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced to about 1 cup. Strain and discard the basil and lime peel. Cool completely.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What to Do With Zucchini: Part 1

O.k., friends, I'll admit this isn't the most photogenic food, but trust me--this casserole is so good. From the zesty dressing crumbs on top to the creamy filling, I love this stuff. The recipe calls just for zucchini, but you can add in some crookneck squash with wonderful results too. My husband has never been a zucchini or squash fan (unless it's shredded beyond recognition and hidden in zucchini bread or cake), but he loved this. And with zucchini season upon us, many of you will soon be up to your ears in zucchini--whether you planted some in your own garden or just have a neighbor who keeps trying to pawn them off on you. So why not think out of the zucchini-bread-box and try this casserole. You won't be sorry.

Zucchini Casserole

5-6 c. diced zucchini
1-2 c. grated carrots
1 t. dried onion
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 c. sour cream
1-2 c. grated cheese
1/2 c. margarine or butter, melted
8 oz. seasoned dressing crumbs

Cook zucchini, onion, and carrots in small quantity of water until barely tender. Add soup, sour cream, and cheese. Mix margarine with dressing crumbs. Fold half the crumbs into zucchini mixture. Put zucchini/dressing mixture in 9x13" pan. Sprinkle with remaining crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.