Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tres Leches Cake

Hola everyone! Today I bring you a cake I have made many times, and was surprised I hadn’t posted about it yet… it is my tres leches cake! “Tres leches” means “three milks” in Spanish. Its name comes from the fact that this fluffy sponge cake is soaked in three types of milk: condensed, evaporated, and half and half. Then to make something good even better, you top the now very moist cake with some fresh whipped cream! Yumm-O!
This recipe is adapted from my favorite Food Network chef Alton Brown’s  “Good Eats” show. I tried to look for this same recipe on the Food Network website, but could not find it, so there is no link. I got this recipe by recording the Good Eats episode and writing down really fast the recipe as he explained.
Hope you enjoy it!

Tres Leches Cake
~makes one 9x13in cake pan
6-¾oz cake flour
·         1 tsp baking powder
·         ½ tsp salt
·         4oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
·         8oz sugar
·         5 eggs
·         1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
·         12oz (1 can) evaporated milk
·         14oz (1 can) condensed milk
·         1 cup half & half
·         2 cups chilled heavy cream
·         5oz sugar
·         1 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 350F, lightly grease and flour a 9x13in baking pan and set aside. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl. In a stand-up mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy, then lower speed to about medium and gradually add sugar (about 1 minute). Then add eggs, one at a time, beating until each has dissolved into batter. Add vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients in three installments while beating in low speed. Transfer batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 20-25min or until it is lightly golden.
Mix all 3 milks (evaporated, condensed and half & half) together in a bowl. Cake must cool on a cooling rack for 30 minutes before adding the milk mixture. Perforate cake with a fork. 
This is where you can enlist some fun help :) 

Add milk mixture into cake pan and wait about 5 minutes until milk has been absorbed by cake. 
Do you see the spoon trying to make its way into the cake on the right side? 
I'll give you one guess on who it may be...

Place cake in the refrigerator overnight before adding topping.
Before ready to serve, beat heavy cream with sugar and vanilla extract until soft peaks hold themselves. Lather cake with whipped cream and it is ready to serve!
Check out how moist the cake is!!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cream of Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese

Ever since moving to the US, I have had the chance to try different dishes that are considered “American staples”. Chicken pot pie, mac and cheese, biscuits and gravy, S’mores, apple pie with vanilla ice cream, even peanut butter and jelly sandwich! These foods bring me and my family a sense of comfort, and so I strive to try different recipes until I find my favorite (like I’ve already found my favorite Mac & Cheese recipe).
So that brings me to today’s recipe… tomato soup. Do you say to-may-toh, or to-mah-toh? Sorry, got off on a tangent…
Back to the soup. I’ve had tomato soup and similar versions of it before in restaurants, but NEVER made them from scratch.
And from scratch, I mean from regular tomatoes, not from a can. Like from these puppies right below, fresh from my parents’ vegetable garden. Aren’t they beautiful?
So as I was looking for a good recipe for cream of tomato soup, I came across this one from Ina Garten on the Food Network. Reviews looked good, the recipe didn’t seem too complicated with off-the-wall ingredients, so I figured I would try it.

One of the problems I came across with this recipe is that I don’t have a food mill. I’ve seen one be needed in a few recipes, but then I just look for another recipe that doesn’t call for utensils I don’t have. Maybe I should eventually invest in one, but while I have a limited amount of space in my kitchen, I will make do with what I have. And what I have is a blender! The recipe below is modified to how I made the soup, but feel free to follow the original recipe as posted also.
Now, the co-star of this meal is a nice grilled cheese sandwich. We chose to use a nice smoked gouda cheese and sliced avocado in sourdough bread. The grilled cheese was a creation my husband made, so there isn’t a recipe. Whatever your favorite grilled cheese recipe would go very well with this tomato soup!
Hope you enjoy it!

5 Tbsp good olive oil
2 cups chopped red onions (about 3 onions)
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
6 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup packed chopped fresh basil leaves, plus julienned basil leaves for garnish
4 ½ cups chicken stock
1 ½ Tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 – 1 ½ cup heavy cream
Croutons, for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and carrots and saute for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato sauce, basil, chicken stock, salt, and pepper (all ingredients except heavy cream and garnishes) and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender.
When the carrots and tomatoes are very tender, use a blender to puree the soup. Then, add the cream to the soup and reheat over low heat just until hot and serve with julienned basil leaves and/or croutons, as desired.

Recipe adapted from Food Network, Barefoot Contessa

Friday, August 5, 2011

Chocolate Salted-Caramel Cupcakes

Hello everyone! I LOVE August!!! You know why? Because there are four coworker birthdays this month, including my own :D That means I get to roll up my sleeves and try their requested cupcake recipes from the Martha Stewart's Cupcakes recipe book. This week was Lori’s big 5-0 birthday! *She can kick!* (haha sorry, inside joke), and being a chocolate and caramel lover, she chose this recipe as soon as she saw it.
I must confess though, I did have a mishap when I was making this cupcake last night. The original recipe calls for the Salted Caramel Filling recipe, included in the recipe book…  Well, let’s just say that the attempt was made and that I had the best of intentions to make homemade caramel, but that is not what I had in the end. You see, I was caramelizing the sugar and monitoring the temperature… and all of a sudden the sugar burned! Well, at that time I didn’t realize that had happened yet, but then I went to taste it when all was said and done and it was… BITTER. Yuck! By then it was late in the night, and my wonderful husband offered this golden nugget: why not use some caramel topping we had? Bingo! Caramel topping it is. I will, however, attempt to make this caramel again, and when I get it right, I’ll post it here. That is a promise!
But other than the problematic caramel filling, everything else worked great! The cupcake turned out very moist and a little dense, which was perfect for the caramel filling. The frosting was almost like a mousse; very creamy and fluffy!

Chocolate Salted-Caramel Cupcakes
Makes about 22 cupcakes

Cupcake ingredients:
1 ½ cups AP flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/ ½ cups sugar
1 ½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¾ cup warm water

Cupcake directions:
1.    Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tins with paper liners. In a separate bowl, sift and whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a mixing bowl set with the paddle attachment, add eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and the water and mix it all for about one minute on medium speed. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the liquids while mixing on slow speed. Beat until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
2.    Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake until cake tester (i.e. toothpick) inserted in the center comes out clean, about 12-15 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool for 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.

Dark Chocolate Frosting

12oz best-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I used Guiradelli = 4 oz bittersweet, 8oz semi-sweet)
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup boiling water
4 ¼ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/8 tsp salt

A tip to melt the chocolate: Place finely chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water (make sure to not let ANY of the water touch the chocolate). Heat until chocolate is almost melted, then stir with a flexible spatula until completely melted. Remove bowl from pan, and let chocolate cool, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes before using (Oh, and you can use the boiled water for the frosting! Double use!!)

Directions for Frosting:
Combine cocoa powder and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved completely. With an electric mixer set with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture. If the frosting seems too runny, place it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes , then beat them again for another minute.

Do you see the gooey center oozing out?! 
Look below to see who could just NOT resist this...

To assemble cupcakes

One jar of your favorite caramel topping
Sea salt, preferably fleur de sel, for garnish

1.    Using a paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about ½ inch deep) from the center of each cupcake (discard, i.e. eat, pieces). Spoon 1-2 tsps caramel topping into each hollowed-out cupcake. sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.
2.    Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with frosting, and pipe frosting onto each cupcake. garnish each cupcake with a pinch of sea salt (optional). 

My daughter just couldn't resist the caramel and helped herself to a taste :)