Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day: Chocolate Soufflés

The hubz and I rarely go out for Valentine's Day. A nice meal at home is what makes us happy! So to top off this year's delish dinner, I made a rich dark chocolate soufflé. It's the perfect decadent treat: rich, light, molten, airy. I just love it!

This particular soufflé has the added hint of rum (we used honeymoon rum!) but any other liqueur would be great too: Bailey's, Kahlua, Godiva—get creative!

Chocolate Soufflés

10 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped – plus a small piece for the center of each soufflé
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
5 T. sugar
2 T. (1/4 stick) unsalted butter – keep the wrapper for buttering the ramekins
1 T. dark rum
1 T. vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt

6 large eggs, separated
Pinch of cream of tartar
Powdered sugar for garnish

Combine first 7 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; cool to lukewarm. (Chocolate base can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Stir over low heat just until lukewarm before continuing.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter eight 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups and coat insides with sugar. Whisk egg yolks into lukewarm chocolate base. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar in large bowl until soft peaks form. Fold whites into chocolate base in 3 additions. Divide soufflé mixture among prepared ramekins; place on baking sheet. If desired, place a small piece of leftover bittersweet chocolate into the middle of each soufflé. Bake soufflés until puffed but still moist in center, about 15 minutes. Sift powdered sugar over soufflés, if desired, and serve immediately.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Valentine's Day: Palmiers

M's favorite cookies are buttery palmiers, also called elephant ears. I always wanted to make them for him, and decided that since they are heart shaped, Valentine's Day would be the perfect opportunity to do so.

I used Ina Garten's recipe for these, but I would not use quite as much sugar as she does. I found that most of it will not become absorbed into the pastry dough and you're left with so much extra on the mat that it's not really worth the waste. My only other tip is to defrost the puffed pastry for at least an hour. Otherwise, the folds will just rip and you really need a full sheet for each cookie.

2 c. granulated sugar (I used 1.5 c. and still had so much left over...)
1/8 t. salt
2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted (recommended: Pepperidge Farm)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Combine the sugar and kosher salt in a bowl. Pour 1 cup of the sugar/salt mixture on a flat surface such as wooden board, silicone baking mat, or marble. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry onto the sugar and pour another 1/2 cup of the sugar mixture on top, spreading it evenly on the puff pastry. This is not about sprinkling, it's about an even covering of sugar. With a rolling pin, roll the dough until it's 13 by 13-inches square and the sugar is pressed into the puff pastry on top and bottom. Fold the sides of the square towards the center so they go halfway to the middle. Fold them again so the two folds meet exactly at the middle of the dough. Then fold one half over the other half as though closing a book.

Slice the dough into 3/8-inch slices and place the slices, cut side up, on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Place the second sheet of pastry on the sugared board, sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar mixture, and continue as above. (There will be quite a bit of sugar left over on the board.) Slice and arrange on baking sheets lined with parchment or a Silpat.

Bake the cookies for 6 minutes until caramelized and brown on the bottom, then turn with a spatula and bake another 3 to 5 minutes, until caramelized on the other side. Transfer to a baking rack to cool (or devour them when they're warm and still doughy!).

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Cardinal Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

The hubz is an AZ native. To say he likes Arizona sports is a wee bit of an understatement. Suns, D-backs, Coyotes, Sun Devils... and of course, the Cardinals! So when the Cards finally made it to the Super Bowl, it was time to pull out all the stops. From cactus-shaped sugar cookies to guacamole and seven-layer dip, we had a very superstitious Southwest-inspired meal—and Cards-colored red velvet cupcakes!

I never really understood the big deal behind red velvet cupcakes. They're vanilla? But red? But contain cocoa? Huh? But since I LOVE cream cheese frosting, I decided to make these, and I can successfully say that I will make them again soon. This particular recipe produced the most MOIST cupcakes I have ever made. I usually think red food coloring tastes very bitter—red M&Ms, red frosting flowers on a cake (*gag*)—but this just tasted like a moist cake, no bitterness at all.

I combined two different Food Network recipes here because I saw the episode where Sunny made the cakes, which inspired me, but I prefer a cream cheese frosting to a basic white one. And, why not just make Paula Deen's recipe since it has the frosting I like? That's easy: Sunny's contained more cocoa. :) To make them more Big Game–friendly, I made Sunny's recipe into cupcakes and cut the baking time accordingly.

*IMPORTANT: If you don't want everything to be permanently stained red, use a stainless steel bowl, stainless steel whisk, and a dark colored (not white) spatula with a plastic handle (a wooden handle would probably turn red immediately if any dye got on it!)

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
2 sticks butter, room temperature (I used unsalted)
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 oz. red food coloring (I only used about 1.5 oz.)
3 T. cocoa powder
Pinch salt
2 eggs
1 c. buttermilk
1 t. vinegar
1 t. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking soda

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened (I used unsalted)
1 t. vanilla extract
4 c. sifted confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar, until light and fluffy. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, make a paste out of the red food coloring, cocoa, and salt using a whisk. Remove bowl from stand mixer and mix in paste by hand to the creamed butter. In a measuring cup, stir eggs with buttermilk and add to batter. Mix in vinegar and vanilla, and then add flour and baking soda. Mix until combined but do not overmix.

Divide the batter evenly among cupcake cups, filling about 2/3 full. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, halfway through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Frost cooled cupcakes and get back to watch the heartbreaker game!!

At least we enjoyed the cupcakes, if not the final score. :(

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