Coconut Mango Cupcakes

I was getting pretty tired of winter. It seems to have lasted 5 months this year. I am loving warmer weather, green grass and evening walks because the sun is still out past 6 pm.

0Needless to say, I made these when I was feeling wistful for spring. They were delicious then, and still are. The cupcake recipe doesn’t seem quite right because it is more like a sponge cake. Which is delicious with the mango filling and light, fluffy coconut buttercream.

Even though these involve a few steps they are certainly worth it! Plus, the steps can be be spread out over a couple of days, which make them a little more manageable to make.

There are three parts to this recipe. Part 1 – Mango curd filling Part 2 – Coconut Mango cupcake Part 3 – Coconut buttercream

Directions for the cupcake and mango curd are taken almost exactly from Ken Leung’s post on the Huffington Post.

Adapted from Ken Leung 

Part 1 – Mango curd/Filling

12 ounces mango puree (you can find this in the frozen food isle, with the smoothies)
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice. freshly squeezed
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Place mango puree, sugar, lime juice, salt and yolks in a saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisk constantly, until thickened and thermometer registers 170°F., about 8-10 minutes.

Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in butter 1 piece at a time until fully incorporated. Strain mixture through a sieve into a container; place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of mango curd. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. This can be made well ahead of time.

Part 2 – Coconut Mango cupcake

1/4 cup mango pureé, as from above
3 large egg whites, room temperature (2 large egg white, 1 large egg)
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cups (4 ounces) cake flour
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (5-1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 ounces (6 tablespoons/1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened

In a 2-cup measuring cup, whisk together mango puree, egg whites, coconut milk, coconut oil and extracts. Set aside.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350℉. Grease and flour two silicon muffin pans or regular muffin pans, set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, add both flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and mix until only pea-size pieces remain, about 2 minutes. Add half of mango mixture, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low, add remaining milk mixture, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Give batter final stir by hand.

Place about 1/4 cup of batter into each cup of prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and cool on wire rack completely, about 30 minutes. (Cooled cakes can be stored in air tight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.)

Part 3 – Coconut Buttercream

2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/8 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup toasted coconut

Cream butter, salt and coconut milk in a stand mixer. Add sugar in 1/2 cup intervals, incorporating fulling before adding the next 1/2 cup. Taste as you go and keep adding powdered sugar until you reach the sweetness you desire.

To assemble, cut a small hole in the top of the cupcake. Discard extra cupcake. Fill the hole with mango curd. Do not fill to the top and leave a little room at the top. Fill a plastic bag with the buttercream. Cut a small hole in one corner. To top cupcakes, squeeze the buttercream on top of the cupcake in a swirl, then sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Do not refrigerate! These cupcakes will stay in a airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a week (if you could keep yourself from eating them all).

Homemade Oreos

Slightly belated for Valentine’s day, I wanted to share with all of you the most wonderful recipe that no one can resist.  Homemade Oreos.

This recipe has been in the back of my mind for a while.  It has made the rounds of food blogs, and it seems everyone is making them now.  I can tell you why now.

These. Are. Amazing.  And dare I say . . . BETTER than actual Oreos. *gasp*  I know.  Why better?  Because, they have a nice homemade crunch without all the crazy unintelligible chemical ingredients.  Soy lecithin?  What?  Why do I need that in my cookie?

Plus, they are much easier to make than I anticipated.  I know I say that a lot in this blog, but part of the reason I stared at this recipe for about a year and a half is that I kept thinking about all the work involved in making a homemade sandwich cookie.  First you have to make the cookie.  Then you have to concoct some sort of filling.  I mean, its double the dishes.  And I’m not one for a ton of work.

There are two steps to this cookie.  I made them on two different days, which was totally fine and helps save on clean up.  I got a little nervous when the cookies were in the oven, thinking they looked a little too fluffy when cooking.  But sure enough, they deflated and turned into the perfect little wafer right before I took them out of the oven. I was concerned about the (very) short time frame between cookies-too-soft-they-fall-apart and burnt with these types of wafers, but the time frame in the recipe is spot on.

The chocolate wafers are a deep, chocolaty flavor with just a hint of sweetness.  The filling nicely compliments the wafers with a sweet vanilla creaminess.  Mmmm.  This might be my new favorite cookie.

A couple of recipe notes.  I always use unsalted butter.  You can always add salt to a dish, but you can’t take it out.  I don’t like to over-salt my food.  Also, the original recipe called for 1 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar for the wafers.  I split the difference and used 1 1/4 cups, which I thought was perfect.

From Smitten Kitchen

Cookie wafers

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature
1 large egg

Filling

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 375°F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. On low speed, add the butter, and then the egg until a dough forms and mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

With moistened hands, form 1 inch balls and place approximately two inches apart on parchment then, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the filling, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

To assemble the cookies, spoon or pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. I don’t have a pastry bag, so I do this by filling a plastic zip bag and cutting off the corner.

Grapefruit Curd

I’ve been doing quite a bit of baking lately (with pictures to come!).  After baking many items that required copious amounts of egg whites, I began to acquire quite the store of egg yolks.

Whats a girl to do with so many yolks?  As it turns out, after some googling, I found out the perfect thing to do is make curd!

Curd is an amazing food.  It has a soft jelly-like consistency and manages to be both sweet and sour at the same time.  You can even spread it on scones!  What a wonderful invention.  Now, I’ve spent years coveting the traditional lemon curds you find in grocery stores, often covered in a thin layer of dust in the British isle, or something obscure like that.  I am not sure why some people consider curd only acceptable for elderly woman at tea time.  But you can put it on ice cream, with oatmeal, in yogurt, and in macarons!  (soon to be made)  Curd is delicate and delightful and if you have not tried it, you certainly need to.

As it turns out, curd is actually incredibly easy to make.  I would highly recommend giving it a try if you have some aging fruit and older eggs. I had the perfect companion to the abandoned yolks, an aging grapefruit.  So in quite a complementary way, my soon-to-be discarded scraps became delicious grapefruit curd.  I love it when cooking turns out that way.

From Good Life Eats

1/2 cup grapefruit juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon grapefruit zest
1 – 1 1/2 cups sugar
8 egg yolks
10 tablespoons butter, sliced into tablespoons

In a saucepan, combine first 4 ingredients.  Heat over medium heat until the sugar mixture reaches a simmer.  Make sure all the sugar is dissolved, then turn heat down to low.

Whisk egg yolks until smooth.  Pour approximately half of the warm dissolved sugar mixture into the bowl with whisked egg yolks. Vigorously whisk together until combined.  Then, pour the combined egg and sugar mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining sugar and juice mix.

Continue to cook over low heat while whisking until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, which should take about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time.

Cool to room temperature then store refrigerated in an airtight container for about a week.

Happy New Year with Gingerbread Dreams

Happy New Year!  2011 brought a LOT of changes for me.  I graduated with my doctorate, got married, got my first real job, and moved to a different state.  It certainly was a busy one for me.  With all that change, the blog got a little neglected, but I’m back with a lot of fun new kitchen gadgets and an arsenal of recipes, so watch out!

Wisconsin has not yet realized it is winter, so we have no standing snow and I haven’t even my pulled out my snow boots.  What is January without snow?  Saying that, I’m not complaining that it hasn’t been below freezing every day, but as a Midwesterner, I get a little suspicious when I can’t see the white stuff at the start of winter.

One thing that always makes me think of winter is gingerbread.  I revel in the earthy, slightly sweet and complex flavor.  I embrace the warm, spicy smell of it baking in the oven.  You can almost close your eyes and feel the snow softly falling outside while it bakes.  

Gingerbread has a wonderful history.  I’m sure most readers are familiar with gingerbread cookies, which are little cut out men that are often thin and crispy.  This is not the only type of gingerbread, rather this is a type of gingerbread cookie.  The other kind of gingerbread is a cakey, quick bread, more like a brownie than a cookie.  It originates from Europe, most notably central Europe in countries like Germany and France via Armenian monks.  Today, in these European countries, gingerbread is enjoyed in cookie form for gingerbread houses or large cookies worn as necklaces and in cake/bread form as squares or round shapes similar to muffin tops.  These are often lightly iced with vanilla or chocolate, and they are fantastic.  I have had the privilege of enjoying true German gingerbread, and there really is nothing like it.  But this comes close.  🙂

From Lick My Spoon

Black, Sticky Gingerbread

You can bake this in two 9×5 bread pans to make a loaf or you can cook it in a 9×9 pan for something more similar to a cake or brownie.

1 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup unsulphured molasses

3/4 cup of quality honey

1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp mace or nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground clove

3 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup milk

1 Tbl packed, grated ginger

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Lightly grease baking pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper that has been cut to hang over two opposite edges by a couple of inches.

Combine the butter, water, molasses, honey and brown sugar in a medium non-reactive saucepan and place over low heat.  The most common non-reactive is stainless steel or glass.  Stir the mixture frequently until the butter is melted, and all of the ingredients are well blended. Remove from the heat, pour into a large bowl and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, all-spice and cloves, and set aside. When the molasses mixture feels just warm to the touch, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the milk and stir to combine. Fold the dry ingredients into the batter in four additions, using big, long strokes. Don’t be concerned if you can’t get all the lumps out.  Stir in the grated ginger.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours for a full pan, around 1 hour for bread pan, or until the top of the cake springs back when touched and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then, using the overhang of parchment, lift the cake out of the pan and cool completely before cutting.

Lemon Victoria Sponge Cake

Firstly, apologies.  I know I’ve been a bad blogger.  Life caught up to me.  But never fear faithful followers!  I have not quit cooking.  In fact, I’ve been cooking nearly as much as ever.  I just haven’t been posting about it.  I pledge to try harder.

It is fitting that I am writing about this cake for 2 reasons.  First of all, I missed my blog’s one year anniversary.  I never even posted any recipes that month!  In addition, I made this a short while ago for a friend who was celebrating her birthday!  (Happy belated birthday Rach)  She is also the Matron of Honor in my wedding.  She asked me if I could try to recreate a classic English dish her grandmother always makes her.  Now, please don’t hold this cake to the standards of traditional Victoria Sponge Cake.  There are many things that the traditional cake will or will not have that just doesn’t *quite* make it the same.

For instance, I could not make the cake in crazy British measurements.  Not that they are crazy in general; just crazy hard to replicate here in the States.  Exhibit one: 7 inch sponge cake tins.  I didn’t know a 7 inch round pan existed.  I have one smaller pie plate that would have cut it, but no second pie plate for the second layer.  So I did not use the pie plate.  Instead, you can use two 8×8 square pans.  Exhibit 2: Funny names for items like caster sugar and icing sugar.  These are just superfine and powdered sugar, respectively.   Exhibit 3: Directions in ounces in grams.  This is actually a brilliant way to bake.  Europeans are much more precise in their measurements when baking, so they use scales to get the exact weight of the ingredient they are using.  While this is much more accurate, most American kitchens don’t have a scale.

Needless to say, I had to do some math and some research.  But, in the end I had an actual cake that had a striking resemblance to an actual Victoria Sponge cake.  The most amazing thing is this recipe is actually pretty simple.  There are only a few ingredients and you can easily customize it.  As long as you are careful with your technique, you can easily have a homemade sponge cake in no time.

I used a recipe from this site.  It’s a really fun site that also explains a lot of the conversions.  It also has fun history facts about some of the ingredients, which is super cool if you are a food nerd like me.   But I won’t make you do the math.  Here is the American conversions for the recipe.  You can find superfine sugar at most large grocery stores.  The Domino brand is especially easy to find.

1 cup of butter, softened

3/4 cup of superfine sugar

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

zest of one lemon

1 Tablespoon of lemon juice

Raspberry preserves and powdered sugar to serve

Preheat the oven to 325.  Cream butter and sugar together.  The website explains that you want to do this, “until you get a pale, fluffy mixture that drops off the spoon easily”.  Beat the eggs, adding them into the butter and sugar mixture a little at at time.  It is important to do this slowly.  The best way to do this is add about a tablespoon of egg, then beat.  Add another tablespoon of egg, then beat.  Keep repeating until all the egg is incorporated.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture.  Again, take your time folding this in.  Fold in lemon zest and juice. Make sure the mixture can slide off the back of a spoon. If your mixture is a little too thick, add more lemon juice.

Line 2 8-inch round cake tins with parchment paper.  Grease if you are worried.  Fill the tins evenly with mixture.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Cake WILL fluff up.  Thats good.  🙂  They will be springy in the center when done.  The most common way to serve this is with a thin layer of raspberry preserves between the two cakes, the sprinkled with powdered sugar.

The return and French words

As many of you know, I have been MIA from blogging for a little over a month for lots of exciting reasons.  First, we moved.  The boyfriend and I had been living on the edge of the city in a quaint little suburb.  While this was a lovely area, new jobs and no more classes (hooray!) persuaded us to move into the city.  This way, we are both closer to work and friends.  We now have a nice little apartment in the city with a view worth a million bucks.  Here’s the proof.

You will notice the train tracks in front.  Yes, we live next to the train.  Luckily, it is a suburban commuter train so it provides more of a soft rustle than a loud, disturbing noise.  My favorite part about the new apartment is my huge kitchen.  It’s lovely, with lots of counter space and tons of cupboards.  I can’t wait to start filling them up!

Second, (as I alluded to above) I am officially and finally done with school forever!  Well, classes that is. When you are a professional, the work is never done, so I do not have my degree yet.  I now have the daunting task of finishing my dissertation and internship before they hand me my diploma.  I foresee lots of late night cooking to keep myself sane over the next year.

Lastly, the boyfriend has now become the fiance!

I love the ring and he proposed in a very sweet and personal way.  We are very excited.  However, the thought of planning a wedding in the next year while finishing my dissertation and internship makes me want to hyperventilate, so the actual event will be more than a year away.  In the mean time, the fiance (that word is still strange to me) and I are just enjoying ourselves in our new apartment.

In honor of strange, French words like fiance, I decided to post a French dessert called clafoutis.  Don’t let the French intimidate you; this is a very simple recipe.  I have made it a few times and it almost always turns out great.

Essentially, clafoutis (pronounced klah-foo-TEE) is a cross between a pancake and a custard.  Its light, slightly sweet, and should have the consistency of flan.  Clafoutis is one of those strange concotions that is difficult to explain, but has a strange familiarity when eaten.  It is often baked in a pie pan and has fresh fruit in it.  It is much easier to just show you what it looks like.

I used nectarines for this clafoutis.  Traditionally, the dessert has cherries or blackberries, but almost any ripe fruit works well.  The edges of this clafoutis really puffed up, a bit like a Dutch Baby.  This often happens with clafoutis because of the amount of egg in it.  I think it has a classy, rustic look.  It is a very simple dessert that you can make quickly for unexpected company with some basic ingredients you have around the kitchen.  In fact, I made this clafoutis for some friends of ours who happened to be in town and were stopping by after dinner.   It only takes about 30 minutes to prep and make, and is usually a crowd pleaser.

Clafoutis (adapted from Playing House)

1 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup white, granulated sugar

3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups milk (this works best with whole milk, or cream)

1 dash of salt

1 Tbs pure vanilla extract

1 large nectarine, sliced 1cm thick

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a pie pan liberally.  If you like, sprinkle one Tablespoon of white sugar in the pan for a nice crust.

Beat eggs and sugar together in a large bowl.  Beat together well.  It is helpful to do this with a blender or stand mixer.  Slowly add in flour, milk, salt and vanilla.  Mix until smooth.

Place netarine in the bottom of the greased pie pan.  Pour mixture over the fruit.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Serve warm.  If you like, sprinkle with powdered sugar or ice cream.

Raspberry Rhubarb Crumble

Nothing says Spring like fruit desserts.  I absolutely love fruit, and come summer I begin dreaming of lemons, and strawberries, and melon, oh my!  In celebration of the lovely weather here in the Midwest, and my longing for juicy fruit, I made a lovely recipe for crumble.

Crumble is also sometimes called fruit crisp.  Crumble is a delicious topping consisting of oats, some type of fat (usually butter or margarine), flour, and sugar.  It is a very simple English peasant dish that was made for dessert when fruit was abundant.  It’s a lovely, simple dish that is very comforting.

Crumble can be made with any combination of fruit.  I used rhubarb and raspberry because I had these hiding out in my freezer.  I also chose them because rhubarb naturally somewhat sour, so it is commonly paired with a particularly sweet fruit to even out the flavor.  This is why there is often strawberry/rhubarb combinations in recipes.  You can use any combination of fruit you would like in similar measurements.

I recently discovered that rhubarb is not as common as I had initially assumed.  Growing up, I ate rhubarb frequently.  At home we had a neighbor with an overflowing patch of rhubarb.  She frequently gave us large bundles of the vegetable (yes, it is technically a vegetable).  It seems as though everyone had their own little patch of rhubarb.  In fact, my father’s favorite breakfast was pancakes and rhubarb.  Yet, after moving to the city, I found that some of my friends had never heard of rhubarb!  If you are one of those people I encourage you to try some.  You can often find it at farmers markets or local organic food stores.  Sometimes, even the larger food markets have it fresh or in the freezer section.

So, here is what you need to know about rhubarb.

1) Rhubarb is to vegetables what tomatoes are to fruit.  While it is technically a vegetable, it is cooked, eaten, and treated like a fruit.  It has a tangy, sour, and slightly sweet flavor.  You can easily cook it with a little sugar and water and make a delicious sauce.

2) Do not eat rhubarb raw!  Without cooking, rhubarb is very fibrous and bitter.  The stalks are similar in texture to celery, but nearly impossible to eat.  Don’t worry; cooking rhubarb is simple.  See #1.

3)  If you are getting your rhubarb from the garden or with the leaves attached, do not eat or use the leaves.  Rhubarb leaves have a small amount of toxins in them.  While not dangerous if touched, eating them could be hazardous to your health.  Simply chop them off and throw them out!

Adapted from The Cutting Edge of Ordinary

2 cups of rhubarb, rinsed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (if using frozen, allow to thaw)

3/4 cup of raspberries (again, if frozen, allow to thaw)

1/3 cup of flour

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1/4 cup of brown sugar, firmly packed

5 tablespoons of cold butter

1/2 cup of old-fashioned oats

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Divide fruit equally between 4 ramekins.

In a food processor, cut butter into flour.  Pulse until butter is approximately pea sized.  Roughly mix butter and flour mixture with sugars and oats.  I usually use my hands to do this.  Pack this mixture onto the top of the fruit-filled ramekins.

Cook crumble until top is browned and fruit is bubbling.  This will take 40 – 50 minutes.