Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lime Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting

Hi everyone! This past week was our city's spring break and I had the opportunity to be at home Wednesday-Friday from work! Man was I needing a little time off :) Not that I don't like my work, I absolutely love what I do, but sometimes you want to take a breather. Why the need to share about my past week, you may ask? Well, two wonderful things have happened: we have made huge progress towards potty-training our 20-month old daughter (super yay!!!!!!!!!!) AND my middle sister got engaged (double super yay!!!!!!!!!!). With the potty-training, well, if you have had any experience with children, you'd know that not having to change a diaper is an amazing thing. I definitely worked with my mom this last week on tips and ideas to make sure we could survive it. I must tell you, it takes an IMMENSE amount of patience and positive reinforcement to get through it. There were times I felt like giving up, but you know what? Since starting it Wednesday, today she finally started getting the hang of it and did not have any accidents! It's the little things in life, but it made me so proud to see her achieve yet another milestone in her life.

Okay, now to the other wonderful event - my middle sister's engagement! My soon-to-be brother-in-law (man that is a mouthful!) told us ahead of time that he was going to propose to my sister when she got back from her spring break from Florida on Friday evening. I told him I would make the celebratory cupcakes for this special occasion! I knew my sister likes fruity things, so I thought something fruity and sweet would be perfect. Since I had some limes at home, I searched for a recipe with limes on Foodbuzz and came across this wonderful recipe from Ryan Bakes. This recipe was wonderful: the cupcake had a nice hint of lime with the use of both the fresh squeezed juice and the zest. The frosting.... oh man, the frosting. It was strawberry heaven! So fluffy, smooth, sweet... just perfect. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it hehehehe.

*Note (7-9-11) - I modified the cupcake recipe a little bit since I made it again. Instead of milk, I used buttermilk. To counter-balance the buttermilk, I added 1 tsp. baking soda. The result? A fluffier cupcake! :D

So in honor of the newly engaged couple: to a life full of happiness and prosperity!

Lime Cupcakes:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsp. freshly grated lime zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare 2 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners. 

Blend butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 to 3 minutes); add eggs 1 at a time beating after each addition.  Sift flour, salt and baking powder.  Add dry ingredients to wet, alternating with milk. Be careful not to overmix.  Add in lime juice and zest and mix.  Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 of the way full. 

Bake at 350 degrees about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 

For the Strawberry Buttercream:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup fresh or frozen strawberry puree
pinch of salt

In a food processor place fresh or frozen strawberries and puree the strawberries until there are no visible lumps. Set aside. *Note: I chose to not pass the puree through a strainer because I like my frosting to have the strawberry lumps, but you could make a strained puree if you so choose.

In a large mixing bowl add the butter, 2 cups of the sugar, pinch of salt, and a couple of Tbsp of the strawberry puree.  On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.  Continue to add more strawberry puree into the mixing bowl until you reach your desired amount of strawberry flavor.  Start by adding the puree Tbs. by Tbs., taking care not to add too much or your icing will be runny (which mine did a little, I got a tad strawberry-happy). Then, add the remaining 1-2 cups of powdered sugar and blend until your icing is stiff enough that it will be able to spread on your cupcakes.  If you've added too much puree, just add a little more powdered sugar to make your icing more firm.  

Cupcake and Buttercream recipes adapted from Ryan Bakes

Look at that bling!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Meyer Lemon Mousse Cake

Hello everyone! Boy, can you feel spring in the air yet? Here in Indiana, today we started getting warmer weather (warm enough to leave the winter coat at home!) and it is so nice to finally be able to go outside and enjoy the sun. With the arrival of spring, I can finally start planning new kitchen adventures that utilize spring produce. I saw this recipe a while back from Tish Boyle - Sweet Dreams and thought I would try it one day. Then I actually saw these Meyer lemons at my local grocery store and thought it is finally time to try this recipe out. 
I must say, I was very nervous with making a whole cake, let alone assembling it all together! Last time I used a springform pan it was for a cheesecake I made and I ended up trying to de-form it way too early... well, you can imagine what happened. We had cheesecake "goo" that night - taste was okay but definitely not worth blogging about (I guess I just did, didn't I?) Well, you win some you lose some, at least I learned ;)
How did this turn out? It was great! All the extra work on assembling this cake paid off - the cake had a very good balance of sweetness and tartness, and the homemade sweet whipped cream added a nice balance to the cake. When I used the ginger syrup to coat each layer of cake, I did not add enough and so next time I want to make sure I get each layer nice and moist. 
*Side note: not knowing what Genoise was I Googled it: its description from Wikipedia says that it is a type of Italian sponge cake that does not use any chemical leavening. Cool huh? :)

Meyer Lemon Mousse Cake
Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 10

1 cup (3.5 oz/100 g) sifted cake flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1/2 cup (3.5 oz/100 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons (2 oz/57 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Ginger Syrup:
2/3 cup (160 ml) water
1/2 cup (3.5 oz/100 g) granulated sugar
1/2-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and thinly sliced

Meyer Lemon Mousse:
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
2  teaspoons powdered gelatin
1 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons (.3 oz/9 g) finely grated Meyer lemon zest
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 oz/225 g) granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons (30 ml) Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) heavy cream

Sweetened Whipped Cream
Lemon peel spiral

Make the genoise:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan. Dust the pan with flour and set aside.
2.  In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar by hand. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Heat the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until the eggs are warm. Transfer the bowl to the electric mixer stand and, using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until the mixture has tripled in volume, about 8 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the lemon zest and vanilla extract.
4. Resift one-third of the flour mixture over the batter and gently fold it in with a rubber spatula. In two more additions, sift in the remaining flour mixture, again folding in gently. Have the melted butter in a small bowl. Scoop about 3/4 cup of the cake batter into the bowl and stir until blended. Fold this mixture into the remaining cake batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
5. Bake the cake for 18 to 22 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto the wire rack and cool completely.

Make the Ginger Syrup:
6. In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally just to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and add the ginger slices. Let stand at room temperature until ready to use.

Make the mousse:
7. Pour the water into a medium saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let the gelatin soften for 5 minutes.
8. Whisk in the lemon juice,  zest, sugar, and egg yolks. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and reaches 180°F on an instant-read thermometer. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Stir in the orange liqueur and vanilla extract.
9. Set the bowl containing the lemon mixture in a large mixing bowl filled one-third of the way with ice water (be careful that the water doesn’t splash into the lemon mixture). Stir the lemon mixture frequently until it is completely cool, about 10 minutes.
10. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream at medium-high speed to firm peaks. Fold the lemon mixture into the whipped cream. (The cake should be assembled now.)

Assemble the cake:
11.  Using a long, serrated knife, cut the genoise cake horizontally into 2 layers. Arrange a cake layer, cut side up, in the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, centering it so that the gap between the cake and the side of the pan is even all the way around.  Generously brush the cake with half of the Ginger Syrup. Scrape half of the mousse on top of the cake and, using a small offset metal spatula, spread it into an even layer, letting the mousse fill the gap between the cake and the side of the pan. Arrange the remaining cake layer, cut side up, on top, centering it. Brush the cake with the remaining Ginger Syrup. Scrape the remaining mousse on top and spread it into an even layer as before. Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours before serving, until set.

Serve the cake:
12. Run a sharp, thin-bladed knife under hot water and wipe dry. Run the knife between the cake and the side of the springform pan, reheating it as necessary. Remove the side of the springform pan. Use a small metal spatula to smooth the mousse on the sides of the cake, if necessary.  Refrigerate the cake if not serving immediately.
13. Garnish the top of the cake with Sweetened Whipped Cream (either piped of dolloped) and a spiral of lemon peel. Cut the cake using a thin-bladed knife and serve chilled.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pão de Queijo aka Cheese Bread

Today I present to you a recipe for a treat I absolutely adore. Being born in Brazil (not Brazil, IN but THE Brasil!) I grew up with these little jewels. If you ask any Brazilian, they will know what pao de queijo is! If this is your first time hearing about pao de queijo, it is roughly translated to "cheese bread", although it is not your typical baguette cut in half and smothered with butter, garlic and Parmesan cheese (although that is yummy too!). Instead, they are little bite-sized (or at least I make them bite-sized, you could make them any size you want!) balls of cheese and starch heaven! 
But through my 28 years of life, I had NEVER attempted to make these breads from scratch! I have always bought a pre-mixed box that you just add the wet ingredients, not knowing exactly how to go about the dry ingredients. One day, one of my mom's friends who also happens to be Brazilian, came for lunch and brought these for everyone. Oh man did these disappear fast! My non-Brazilian hubby (he is an all-American boy!) absolutely loves this bread too and prodded me to ask for the recipe. When she told me the recipe, I could not believe how simple these are to make! The secret is the "polvilho", which is tapioca flour (aka mandioca). There are two types of tapioca flour available at international food stores (look in the Brazilian section, or even other Latin-American country sections): sweet (doce) or sour (azedo). I used sweet since that is what I had available, but if I find the sour I want to use it and compare the two.
So what are you waiting for? Go try this recipe NOW!!! And then let me know how it turned out ;) 

Added note 4/11/2013: This is Gluten-free!!! :D I know, I should have realized it in the beginning, but it didn't dawn on me until recently... double bonus!

Pão de Queijo (Cheese Bread)
Makes ~30-40 mini breads

2 cups polvilho (sweet or sour, I used sweet)
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canola (or vegetable) oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a blender, add the egg and milk along with one cup of polvilho. Blend for 2-3 pulses. Add the canola oil, salt and the other cup of polvilho, and blend for 5 pulses. Add the grated cheese and blend for 10 seconds.
Grease 2 mini-muffin pans (24 count each) with non-stick spray and fill each 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, watching for doneness. It is done when the bread holds its shape and the sides are just golden-brown. Serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of friend Ana.