Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lemon Olive Oil Cupcakes

Being outside of the U.S. for more than a month now has brought up a number of food cravings for me; I expected to miss authentic Asian food, and while I am in Israel, pork, but lately the American blogs I've been reading have been featuring gorgeous cupcakes that I can't get out of my mind. I find myself desiring a cute, fluffy, frosting-laden cupcake.

Fortunately, there is something I can do about this - especially since I usually prefer my own cupcakes to anything from a professional bakery. Sometimes I think it's good to know how to cook for the sake of knowing how to satisfy one's food cravings in one's own kitchen, but on the other hand I think that the more foods I try, the more cravings I develop. At least the two go hand in hand! This time a longing for cupcakes coincided with a craving for lemon-flavored dessert, and I am completely pleased with the result.

Some of you will be glad to know that this is a vegan cake recipe; others of you will be dubious, but if you've tried this red velvet cake recipe you'll know that vegan baking can make a successful cake. In fact, I find this recipe formula to be much more consistent in providing good texture than almost any scratch cake recipe I've tried, and it is easy! Because the only somewhat perishable item in the recipe is soy milk (well, and the lemons too, but I keep lemon zest and juice in the freezer all the time), you can easily make these out of the normal contents of your kitchen.

And is it horrible that I think that one of the great benefits of vegan baking is the fact that you can eat as much of the batter as you want without worrying about raw eggs? Because I guarantee that you will want to have more than one lick of this batter.

The olive oil is not a strong flavor, but it is a nice compliment to the lemon (much more than it is to chocolate in my opinion!).

Your cupcakes will look much cuter than mine since I had to make do without a proper cupcake pan; some of mine ended up more deformed than others, but they were still much enjoyed. Like I've said before, every recipe I've tried in Israel has had to be adapted, but the changes always add character, and sometimes even improve the result.

Lemon Olive Oil Cupcakes (Vegan)
loosely based on this red velvet cupcake recipe

1 C soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 C sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 C olive oil
4 tsp lemon juice
1/2 T lemon zest (zest of one medium lemon)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350° F/180°C.
Add vinegar to soy milk, and set aside to curdle.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
Add olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract to the curdled soy milk, and whisk together.
Pour liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix until just incorporated.
Fill cupcake liners ¾ full; makes about 12 full-size cupcakes and 45 teeny mini cupcakes.
Bake for 20 minutes for full-size cupcakes, 16 minutes for mini cupcakes, or until a toothpick comes clean.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz cream cheese
4 oz butter (room temperature)
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 T lemon zest (zest of one lemon, with a bit set aside for garnish)
2 1/3 C (300 g) powdered sugar

Cream together cream cheese, butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 C at a time until well incorporated. Beat until fluffy, then top cooled cupcakes.

See the red velvet cupcake recipe for a vegan frosting option (it actually tastes pretty good). I also think this would be excellent with a mascarpone frosting that has lemon zest and a little juice added.

I garnished them with a mixture of lemon zest, granulated sugar, and a dash of salt.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sticky Toffee Cake

This is absolutely my favorite thing that I've made this summer. At least thus far. As you can see from the picture, there were others who agreed with my assessment of this gooey, caramely, moist cake: can't get enough of it until it's gone.

It is called a "pudding" by the Brits, who have a pudding category of dessert that I think is still a tad foreign/unappealing to the American ear, so I am deeming it a cake. For so it is - a cake that has wonderful texture and nuanced flavor smothered in toffee sauce.

This was a dessert that was very amenable to adaptation in the Middle East, since it called for dates in the cake (which provide the extra je ne sais quoi both to the moist texture and to the flavor), and the toffee sauce worked extraordinarily well with honey instead of the molasses/golden syrup originally called for. Ironically, the day that I made this I went to a store that did NOT have fresh dates, but it did have this date paste that saved me work in the end. The pits of the dates were mixed in with the paste, so I had to dig them out as I scraped the paste out of the package, but other than that the paste worked very well. If you use honey in the sauce, just be aware that honey has a strong flavor and will be noticeable in the final product. And if you're in Jerusalem and want to use molasses or corn syrup, either can be obtained at Anise (imported goods store with multiple locations, including one on Palmach and one on Yafo).

I adore both the sauce and the cake of this recipe (need I mention that I practically drank a whole cup of the sauce on its own?). You've got the option of making the cake and the sauce separately the day before you serve it, and reheating the cake with the sauce spread over the top, or just making it the day that you will serve it, in which case you will make the sauce, pour half of it into the cake pan, followed by the cake batter, later to be served with the remaining sauce spooned over the top. I had to make it a day ahead, so the sauce was poured over the top of the cake and reheated, but I'm dying to try it with the cake baked in the sauce - I think the absorption factor would be fantastic. And who doesn't want toffee sauce on both sides of their cake??

On a side note, I have also found chocolate-covered dates in the supermarkets here, and they are to die for. Yet another sweet that I overate this week. There were packages of them with pecans, walnuts, or almonds replacing the pit, so of course I had to try more than one of the three options (pecan and almond, yum!). There was a magical connection between the flavor of the dates and the chocolate that melded into another flavor altogether, and they offered the most satisfyingly chewy experience that a classmate of mine delighted in dubbing a "fusion" with a new Hebrew vocabulary word of ours. I think I had an instinct that these chocolate-dipped goodies would be amazing after eating this cake, since it made me realize that while dates are good on their own, they are surprisingly versatile in their ability to boost the flavor profile of another sweet - toffee, in the case of this cake.

Sticky Toffee Cake

For the toffee sauce:
2 C (500ml) heavy cream
1/2 C (120g) demerara or muscovado sugar (or another dark brown sugar)
2 1/2 T golden syrup or molasses (or honey)
pinch of salt

For the cake:
6 oz (180g) pitted dates, snipped or chopped, or date paste with pits removed
1 C (250ml) water
1 tsp baking soda
optional: 1/3 C (40g) candied ginger, chopped
1 1/4 C (175g) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
4 T (55g) unsalted butter
3/4 C (150g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350F (190C) and butter an 8 1/2-inch (about 24cm) porcelain soufflé mold, or similar-sized baking dish.
2. Make the toffee sauce by bringing the cream, demerara or turbinado sugar, golden syrup (or molasses) and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring often to melt the sugar.
3. Lower heat and simmer, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and coats the spoon. Pour half the sauce into the prepared soufflé mold and place the mold in the freezer, and reserve the other half for serving.
4. To make the pudding, in a medium saucepan, heat the dates and water. Once the water begins to boil, remove from heat and stir in the baking soda (this will foam up, as pictured above). Add the ginger, if using, then set aside, but keep it slightly warm.
5. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
6. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, then the vanilla. (Don't be alarmed if the mixture looks a bit curdled)
7. Stir in half of the flour mixture, then the date mixture, then add the remaining flour mixture until just mixed. Don't overbeat the batter.
8. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached.
9. Remove the pudding from the oven, and let cool slightly before serving.

Serving: Spoon portions of the cake into serving bowls and top with remaining warm toffee sauce. Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream are optional toppings, but it's great on its own.

Note: To make the pudding in advance, bake the cake without the toffee in the bottom. Let cool, then cover until close to serving time. Poke the cake about fifteen times with a chopstick. Distribute half of the sauce over the top, cover with foil, then re-warm in a 300F (150C) oven, for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Plum Tart with Walnut Cream

On this 14th of July, I would like to bring you something from one of my favorite French food blogs. This recipe caught my eye a couple of years ago; I'm not sure why I remembered it this week as I looked for plum recipes - perhaps it was the lovely word "quetsches" for the French plums in the original recipe, or the unique idea of nut cream with plums, or the cute plumpness of the plums in the photo, but regardless, I am glad that it came to mind!

I love eating fresh plums, as I do the many incredible summer fruits available in Israel, but party leftovers left me with enough plums to make my tongue fall out from acidity were I to eat them all myself. So...tart making time!

In my opinion, the walnut cream is the star player in this tart, although it sort of melds with the crust so that eaters may not be aware of its individual contribution. More importantly, the combination of the butter crust with the sweet walnut cream and the tart/sweet juicy plums was magical. As with most fruit desserts, I think this one would be great with other fruits and nuts, so that could be a future project...if I didn't have so many others in mind...

Plum Tart with Walnut Cream

Tarte aux Quetsches et Crème de Noix from Chocolate and Zucchini

For the crust:
- 75 grams (1/3 C plus 1 T) sugar (unrefined or white)
- 150 grams (1 C plus 2 T) flour
- 75 grams butter (salted, or unsalted plus a pinch of salt) -- if you use regular American butter (which has less butterfat than European butter), use 7 tablespoons
- Ice-cold water or milk

For the filling:
- 135 grams (1 1/4 C) shelled walnut halves
- 2 T sugar (white, unrefined, or even honey)
- 1 egg
- 3 T crème fraîche (substitute sour cream or fromage blanc)
- Optional flavoring: 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon plum or walnut liqueur, or 1 teaspoon light rum
- 700 grams (1 1/2 lbs) ripe plums of any variety

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a 10-inch tart pan with butter and set aside.

Prepare the pâte sablée. In the bowl of a mixer or blender, combine the sugar and flour. Add the butter and process in short pulses until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (Alternatively, rub the butter into the dry ingredients by hand with the tips of your fingers or a wire pastry blender.) Add a tablespoon of water or milk and mix again, in short pulses, until it is absorbed. The dough should still be crumbly, but it should clump if you gently squeeze a handful in your hand. If it doesn't, add a little more water -- teaspoon by teaspoon -- and give the dough a few more pulses until it reaches the desired consistency. My crust went funny on me - I may have used the wrong amount/kind of butter, or pulsed the mixture too long - but it still tasted great.

Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared tart pan. Using the heels of your hands and your fingers, press on the dough gently to form a thin layer, covering the surface of the pan and creating a rim all around. Don't worry if the dough feels a little dry, this is normal. (You can prepare the dough up to a day ahead: cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.) Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden.

While the crust par-bakes, prepare the filling. Combine the walnuts and sugar in the bowl of your food processor, and grind to a coarse powder. Add the egg, crème fraîche, and flavoring if using, and mix again. (You can prepare the walnut cream up to a day ahead: transfer to an airtight container, refrigerate, and bring to room temperature before using.) Rinse and dry the plums, cut them in halves, and discard the stones.

Remove the pan from the oven (leave the heat on), and let cool slightly. Spread walnut cream evenly over the tart shell, and arrange the plums on top in a circular pattern starting from the outside. Return to the oven for 30 minutes, until the plums are cooked through and the walnut cream is set. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before serving. The tart is best served on the day it is made, but the leftovers will keep until the next day; cover with foil, refrigerate, and bring to room temperature before eating.

I ate mine with a little leftover fromage blanc (why not?), but it is great all by its lonesome. Happy Bastille Day!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Four Chocolates and a Nut Chews

I wasn't going to post this recipe, since I didn't get any photos of the final product and thought they were too cloyingly sweet to share, but popular demand has spoken! They surely did get eaten, both by myself and others, so I guess I should not have feared that they were overly sweet. Not sure if I should call these candies, or cookies, or bars, but regardless, they represent some chocolaty nutty chewiness!

This whole recipe is a perversion of David Lebovitz's Triple Chocolate Scotcheroo recipe, the changes driven by what is easily available to me in Israel. It's just a mess of sweet, good things stuck together, so feel free to improvise when it comes to the ingredients! That's what I did, after all. If you keep the same basic process (sugar syrup - nut spread - cereal - melted chocolates), it should work. You can skip the caramelized white chocolate step if you don't have time, and you can replace it with melted white chocolate or butterscotch chips.

Four Chocolates and a Nut Chews

1 C (200 g) sugar
1/2 C (320 g) honey
1/2 C (130 g) finely chopped pecans
1 1/2 C (130 g) Nutella, or a similar chocolate paste (I used the Israeli spread pictured above)
6 C (200 g) crisp chocolate-flavored cereal
1 bag (10-12 oz.) chocolate chips
1 C whole pecans
1 bag (10-12 oz.) white chocolate chips

optional (but highly recommended to balance the sweetness!): fleur de sel or flaky sea salt

1. Caramelize the white chocolate chips according to these instructions; in Israel, the white chocolate took about an hour longer than usual to caramelize, so I'm guessing the content of the chips is different, but it's done when it has a nice caramelized color.

2. Butter or spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

3. In a large saucepan (at least 6 qts) over medium heat, bring the sugar and honey to a full boil. Remove from heat and stir in chopped pecans and Nutella/chocolate spread, then mix the rice cereal in until completely coated. Press the mixture into the greased pan, making sure the top is smooth. If you use cereal that's in larger bits, this may just end up clumpy, which is fine (mine was VERY clumpy).

4. Melt the chocolate chips in a clean, dry bowl set over a double boiler or microwave, stirring gently until smooth and well-blended. Spread/drizzle over the cereal mixture, and sprinkle lightly with salt (if using). When the white chocolate is done caramelizing, drizzle it over the whole mess and place the whole pecans on top of the white chocolate, adding more salt if desired. Cool until set.

Serving: Once cool, cut into small sections with a sharp knife. These are very sweet and strong on the chocolate, so bite-sized portions are a good idea (The whole pecans and salt are intended to balance the sweetness. The honey may be reduced to made this less sweet).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sablés: The Simplest of Butter Cookies

When I was a kid, my grandparents' house was always full of treats that got me really excited: granola bars with chocolate chips, baloney, white bread - things my healthful and economical parents wouldn't buy. Among these goodies was a constant tin of Danish butter cookies whose layers seemed everlasting, and whose crunchy sugar-coated outsides were irresistible. I rarely come upon these tins any more, but I still remember enjoying the somewhat artificial buttery flavor.

These sablés bring to mind the Dutch butter cookies - but with REAL, fresh butter flavor. Coated in raw sugar crystals, they are reminiscent of the crunch of the butter cookies. They are simple and "classy" (as a classmate of mine said), not too sweet. And as Clotilde on Chocolate & Zucchini says, they get baked at a relatively low temperature so that they bake slowly and evenly, avoid browning, and caramelize the sugar on the edges.

They have an amazingly simple list of ingredients and procedure of formation, simple enough that you will want to go to your kitchen right now to throw some dough together just to keep in the freezer as a just-in-case dessert. Of course, I recommend that you make them as soon as they're chilled, because these cookies will remind you that you want to eat butter more often, and in the form of these sablés whenever possible.

You form logs of dough and chill them, which is intended to produce uniform cookies - but I always end up with a good amount that have flat edges as I cut through them. I've found that I need to combine the technique of rotating the log as I cut the slices and occasionally re-rolling the log to even out the sides. Not that there's anything wrong with square cookies!

Simple Sablés
from Yves Camdeborde's Sablés on Chocolate & Zucchini

- 200 grams (7 ounces, or 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) good-quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 90 grams (scant 1/2 cup) sugar
- a good pinch salt
- 1 or 2 vanilla beans, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 250 grams (8 3/4 ounces, about 2 cups) flour
- 1 egg yolk or 3 tablespoons milk for brushing
- coarse sugar for coating

Makes about 50 bite-size cookies.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter with a spatula until creamy. Add the sugar and salt and mix them in thoroughly (I'm stuck without an electric mixer right now and it worked to mix by hand, but the room temp butter was essential).

Add the vanilla extract, or split the vanilla bean(s) down its (their) length and collect the seeds by scraping the insides of the bean with the dull side of a knife. Stir the seeds into the mixture (Save the empty pods for another use -- to make vanilla sugar or vanilla extract, to infuse in milk, etc.).

Add the flour and rub it into the butter mixture with the tips of your fingers until incorporated (this helps to avoid melting the butter with a mixer and keeps it flaky, although using a mixer will still work).

Gather the dough into a ball without kneading. Divide into 4 pieces and roll each piece into a log, about 3 cm (1 1/4 inches) in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap or parchment paper, and place in the fridge to firm up for at least 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can freeze all or part of the logs to bake later; thaw partially at room temperature for about 1 hour before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.)

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) and line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or a sheet of parchment paper.

Remove the logs from the fridge. Beat the egg yolk, if using, with a few drops of water to thin it out. Working with each log in turn, use a pastry brush to coat the log with egg yolk or milk on all sides, then sprinkle with coarse sugar until coated all over.

Use a sharp knife to slice the logs into rounds, about 1 cm (1/3 inch) in thickness. Arrange the slices on the prepared baking sheet, leaving just a little space around the sablés -- they won't expand much.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the dough is set in the center -- the cookies will barely color -- and the sugar is lightly caramelized on the sides. Let rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.

The sablés will keep for about a week in an airtight container at room temperature.

*These photos may remind you of this salted lemon butter cookie recipe that I shared last year, which were glazed and nicely lemony. It's a great variation on this kind of cookie, but you always want to have the basic version around for the times when you only have basic ingredients - or when you just want a straight butter cookie.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin, Chickpea, & Quinoa Salad

My roommate's going to laugh when she sees this post: every day at home in L.A., she makes some sort of quinoa dish for herself. I, on the other hand, had never made quinoa before in my life, until I got here to Israel. It's not that I avoided making it before; I like it, but just don't usually have time to cook other than special baking projects when I'm at home. When I got here, however, I discovered large bags of red and white quinoa in the cupboard of my rented apartment, and found some extra time on my hands.

Since everyone always expounds upon the great health benefits of quinoa ("keen-wah" would be an accurate pronunciation), and I had some fresh root veggies on hand ready to roast, and Israel always impresses me with its salad selection, and I had the time, I decided to work up a salad loosely based on this smittenkitchen bulgur salad recipe.

I mixed some red and white quinoa together, and I cut up and tossed the veggies and chickpeas with hot pepper oil, salt, and pepper before roasting them. I do highly recommend roasting the veggies since it's so easy and brings out their natural sweetness - which is good for the spices I've added here. Next time I'd like to toast the quinoa as well. I'm not entirely confident that I could reproduce this exact dressing again, but I'd like to give you the tools to make your own version - if I can flavor something to taste, you can too! The general idea is to combine some kind of oil, acidic component, sweetness, and spices.

Here's the way to go about it - you can time it so that the quinoa's soaking and then cooking while you're prepping the veggies, and you'll have time to make the dressing while everything's roasting:

Quinoa preparation:
1 C quinoa (any combination of different quinoa colors is fine, red and white is pretty!)
1/2 tsp salt (optional but recommended)

In a cooking pot, soak the quinoa in 1 1/2 C water for 15 minutes. After it's done soaking, stir the water and grains around with your hand to stir up the part of the outer layer that's supposed to come loose - it will make the quinoa a little bitter if it remains on it. Pour off the top layer of soaking water with any loose outer layers, and then pour the rest into a fine sieve and drain well. Put the quinoa back into the cooking pot, add another 1 1/2 C water with the salt, and bring to a boil on the stove top. Once it's boiling, cover tightly with a lid and turn it down to simmer for 15 minutes. Then remove from heat and let sit covered for another 5 minutes. When you're ready to use it, fluff it with a fork.

Veggie preparation:
1 large can or 2 small cans of chickpeas
1 large onion
approximately 6x5x2" piece of pumpkin, or 1 large sweet potato or other root vegetable
1 large beet
olive oil
hot pepper oil/red pepper flakes/cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C.
  • Line two baking pans that have edges with foil.
  • Drain chickpeas and toss in a bowl with olive oil (or, if you have it, hot pepper oil; if you don't have it, you may add some red pepper flakes or a dash of cayenne pepper here), salt, and pepper - enough to just coat them. Spread in a single layer on one baking pan.
  • Cube up the onion and the pumpkin/sweet potato/root veggie of your choice into pieces that are 1/2" to 1" square. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread on the other baking pan.
  • Rinse the whole beet and wrap the whole thing in foil. Scootch some of the other stuff over and place it on one of the baking pans.
  • Stick both pans in the oven, setting a timer for 30 minutes. Check after 30 minutes to see how things are doing - my chickpeas were browned by then, so I took them out. The pumpkin and onion took another 15 minutes (for a total of 45 in the oven), and then I left the beet for another 15. The root veggies should be easily pierced with a fork when they're done, and I like the onions to be browned a bit since a raw piece of onion is too strong for me. The finished beet should give when squeezed (I got impatient and took the beet out too early, so mine was a little crunchy). Remove the beet skin once the beet has cooled down a bit and then cube it up.

Dressing preparation
(amounts are all roughly estimated, so you will need to adjust to your taste):
1/8 C olive oil
3 T hot pepper oil (may be replaced with red pepper flakes or 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper)
3 T apple cider vinegar (may be replaced with any other vinegar or lemon juice)
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
salt and pepper to taste (I added a lot more than I first thought was necessary!)

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together until smooth in a large bowl. As each vegetable finishes roasting, toss it with the dressing (chickpeas first, then onions and pumpkin, then beets). Toss together with the quinoa when all veggies are done.

I'm going to serve this on wilted spinach, but it can be eaten plain very well. The spiciness is one of my favorite parts of this dish, but I hope it's not too much for you. Really, this is a spiced salad in more than once sense - piquant with the hot peppers, but spiced with the cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt, and pepper.

And I guess I should mention that this is a cheap and healthy dish that can be altered to use any grain, vegetables, and seasonings you desire? I found everything I needed in a kitchen whose contents were predetermined by a previous tenant, so I'd love to see what your kitchens might produce!
Enhanced by Zemanta