Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mango Tres Leches Cupcakes - Maybe

Several years ago I came across Michael Chiarello's recipe for Mango Dos Leches.  I had printed it off thinking I would try it, stuck it in a folder and promptly forgot about it.  When the 2011 Ice Cream Cupcake Contest was announced, I started thinking about it again, determined that eventually I would try this recipe.  Today is eventually.  And of course, I made modifications to the recipe.  Right now, I'm not sure how that's going to work out for me. 

The cake is a typical genoise of which, in and of itself, I'm not particularly fond.  To make half of the original recipe, I started with 3 room temperature eggs, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt (I didn't reduce the salt).  This gets whisked at high speed until tripled in volume.

1 minutes
I started on low speed and worked my way up to high just so I wouldn't sling egg and sugar all over the walls.  (I need to invest in a pour/splatter shield for the 4 quart mixer.)  Once at high speed, I whisked for 3 minutes although I don't think it would hurt if you went a bit longer.  Some of it will depend on your mixer and ambient temperature.
2 minutes

3 minutes
Three minutes seemed to do the trick.  I really thought it was going to take longer, but I think I was recalling the days of making genoise in the 20 quart mixers at school.  Big difference!

At this point it's time for my least favorite part:  folding in the flour.  I sifted in 1 cup of flour plus 1/32 teaspoon of cayenne pepper in three additions, folding gently after each.  The folding is my least favorite part because I'm always concerned about not getting all of the flour mixed in without deflating the eggs. 
As you can see, I found streaks.  This was actually part of a huge pocket of flour that was trying to hide from me.  I think I eventually got it all, but I won't place any bets on that. 

I scooped the batter in the foil lined cupcake pans and baked at 350F for 14 minutes.  Originally, I set the timer for 18 minutes, but I could smell the cupcakes at 12 so I started checking them after that.  Again, baking time will depend on individual ovens.

It's kind of hard to tell from the photo, but all of the cupcakes sank when they came out of the oven.  I didn't mind so much since it would help keep the milk mixture from pouring down the sides. 

While I let these cool for a bit, I heated 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup coconut milk in the microwave in two 1 minute intervals.  To that I added 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I omitted the almond extract from the original recipe.)  When the milks were well combined, I added 2/3 cup of mango puree and mixed well.

Using my basic math skills, I figured I had about 2 cups (16 fl ounces) of milk/mango mixture and 16 cupcakes so each cupcake should get 1 ounce (2 tablespoons). 

After poking holes in the cupcakes with a bamboo skewer, I began spooning the milk/mango mixture over the top.  Here's where the problem began.  It appears as though the acid in the mango is sufficient to curdle the milk, making the mixture extremely thick.  The cupcakes are not absorbing it.  So far I have one tablespoon of the milk/mango mixture that's been sitting on the cupcakes for about an hour now.  It's not looking promising.  There may need to be a Plan B involved.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dinner Inspired by the Garden(s)

Garden 1:
A couple of years ago our friend and former neighbor, Terry, decided to give me his AeroGarden hydroponic garden.  Why he decided to part with it I'm still not sure and ordinarily I would have done the polite, "oh, I couldn't possibly!"  But I had really been wanting one, so I accepted.  So far I've used it to grow herbs and lettuce and cherry tomatoes.  The tomatoes are in it right now and were one of the main attractions in last night's dinner.

Garden 2:
The garden on the deck is having mixed results.  Between the two tomato plants, there's a whopping 7 tomatoes.  I won't be canning my own tomatoes this year.  The sweet peppers and chiles are doing okay and the herbs are growing fabulously.  I've been pulling flowers off the basil all week to keep it growing and from going to seed.  Basil was another star of last night's dinner. 

So what was last night's dinner?  With tomatoes and basil all I can think of is Insalata Caprese - the Italian salad of tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella.  I threw in some gobetti for a pasta alla caprese.  The "sauce" for this is essentially a salsa cruda or raw sauce.  Since it's not cooked, only heated by the hot pasta, using the freshest, most flavorful ingredients is especially important.

The basic ingredients.

The end result was absolutely everything I wanted it to be.  Apparently the hubs thought so too.  He's normally tepid on pasta for dinner, but he ate two helpings last night.

Prepped and ready for the pasta

The tomatoes from the hydroponic garden were juicy and full of flavor.  I'm not certain I would be able to tell they were grown indoors if I were to taste them against fresh traditional garden grown tomatoes.  The basil was vibrant and spicy.  It's nearly impossible to get that kind of flavor from the grocery store.  It would have been awesome if I had made my own mozzarella, but that requires a little more planning.

The amounts in my recipe are very open to interpretation and personal preference.

Buon Appetito!
 Pasta alla Caprese
6 – 8 oz dry pasta (whatever shape you like)
Sea salt
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 ball (about 8 oz) fresh mozzarella
5 - 7 large basil leaves
2 Tbs olive oil
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions, adding a tablespoon or so of sea salt to the boiling water.

While the pasta is cooking, halve the cherry tomatoes if necessary and place in a large bowl.  Dice the mozzarella into cubes about the same size as the tomatoes and add to the bowl.  When the pasta is almost finished, cut the basil into a chiffonade and add to the bowl.  (The basil will begin to turn dark once it's cut.)  See the photos below for chiffonade technique.

Drain the pasta and add to the bowl.  Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss gently to combine.

Serve with some crusty bread to soak up the juices. 

How to chiffonade basil:

Stack the clean, dry basil leaves on top of one another.

Start from the long edge and roll like a cigar.

Slice across the basil roll to make fine ribbons - chiffonade.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Crazy from the Heat

Today is turning out to be one of the hottest days yet.  Right now the temperature with heat index is hovering at 110 degrees.  I'm not a fan of hot, humid weather.  My initial plans for the day included stopping by the garden center and running a few other errands.  Those plans have since changed and I have stepped outside only as absolutely necessary to take the dogs out and retrieve my sun tea.  In my geeky curiosity, I decided to take its temperature:  110 degrees.

So how did I spend my air conditioned morning indoors?  By turning on my oven.  Now what kind of sense does that make?!  None whatsoever, not even to me.  But I have some newspaper articles I want to send to my dad, and I apparently feel the need to send him cookies every time I need to mail him something.

The cookie of choice today was chocolate chip.  The only chips I had left in the pantry were Ghirardelli Double Chocolate (60%) so I went ahead and used the recipe on the package.  It's worth pointing out that the recipe on the package is titled Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Chip Cookies, however, the recipe on their website under this title is totally different.  The recipe I used was what they list as Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I did make a couple of changes though.  And instead of just printing the recipe, I thought I would do a pictorial this time.

I started with my dry ingredients.  I used 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup of natural cocoa powder, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  I whisked this together and added 2 cups of the chocolate chips. 

Next I combined 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 3/4 cup granulated sugar and two sticks of softened, unsalted butter.  Well, mostly softened since I hadn't planned ahead to take it out of the refrigerator last night.  It just took a little longer to cream with the sugars.

Lastly, I needed 2 eggs (also quasi-room temperature) and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.  I cracked the eggs into the measuring cup I used for the flour since I was going to have to wash it anyway.

The original recipe includes optional nuts, but since Dad can't chew them I left them out.

Once everything was ready to go, I turned the oven on to 375 degrees, plugged in the mixer and got started by creaming the butter and sugars on medium high speed. 

As I said, my butter was still slightly chilled, so the creaming process took a little longer than it normally would, probably a full 7 minutes with stopping and scraping a couple of times (I'm really big on scraping.)

Lower the speed to medium, and add the eggs one at a time.  Mix after each egg until the batter no longer looks curdled.  I actually ended up adding a white, a yolk and then the remaining whole egg just because that's how it came out of the cup.

Then add the dry ingredients and chips on low speed.  At this point the mixer will sound like it's driving down a bumpy road.  Mix only until the dry ingredients are combined.  Any strays can be worked in with a spatula or wooden spoon.

At this point, the cookie dough smells amazing.  I almost ate some raw.  Almost.  I have a thing about eating raw egg products.

 I used the biggest cookie scoop I have to portion these.  I knew with using all butter and no shortening the cookies would spread a lot, so I left plenty of room.

(Normally I am completely anti-shortening, but it does have its place in cookies.)

Bake for 9 - 11 minutes.  I split the difference and baked them 10 minutes for chewier cookies.  Remove immediately to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Let the pan cool a bit (or use two pans) and repeat until all the dough is used.  Since I had most of the counter space taken up with cooling racks and other appliances, the utensil drawer made a handy spot to let the cookie sheet cool. 

The recipe says it makes about 4 dozen, but with the size I made them I ended up with about 3 dozen.  And that last sheet of cookies had some seriously large cookies.  I think perhaps I'll keep those for myself.