Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day Double Feature

My father happens to be a diabetic, so what do I do in honor of Father's Day? Make a cake covered in chocolate and provide him with deep fried starchy-goodness! All joking aside, the sweet and savory recipes for today's post embody the two sides of my Dad that I love the most. We can watch baseball together for hours and effortlessly bond over our mutual love of needless minutia. (We are BIG Jeopardy fans in this house!) On the other hand he has that uncanny ability to call up his 'Daddy-voice' and pull out the 'Command Hand' when I have done something incredibly stupid. But in the end this is my one day out of the year that I am obligated to put on a smile and show my love for my Dad with a good old fashioned diabetic coma!
What follows are two recipes: one for an amazing Boston Cream Pie and the other a tasty twist on fried onion rings. Now, before you take me out in a dark alley and beat me over the head with Betty Crocker cookbooks I will readily admit that I feel no shame in using a box cake mix. But when you consider that you have to make both a pastry cream and a chocolate ganache for this recipe, you will understand the necessity for the box cake mix. I can't spend all day in the kitchen, and neither can you. The onion ring recipe will easily become a snacking staple, its better than any restaurant variety. Keep your ketchup at a distance, as it would be blasphemy to dare cover these onion rings with any kind of condiment.

Boston Cream Pie

For the Pastry Cream:

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 4 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla 
Heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan until simmering. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar together in a small bowl until well combined. Add the cornstarch and mix until the mixture is pale yellow and creamy. Gradually add some of the hot liquid to the egg mixture to temper it and be sure that you don't scramble the eggs. Once it is all combined put it back over the heat and bring it back to a simmer. Off the heat add the butter and vanilla and then strain the cream through a wire sieve, to ensure that there are no ugly lumps. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream so it doesn't form that alien-like "skin" over the top. Cover fully and refrigerate it overnight. At this point in the process you can begin to prepare the evil vanilla box cake mix, be sure that you follow the blissfully easy instructions. Ideally this recipe works best if you make two small cakes in 9" pans and let them cool completely before you assemble the cake itself. When you are ready take the two cakes from their pans and layer the cream between them, a rubber spatula works best for this.

For the Chocolate Glaze:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 Tsp. vanilla
Bring the cream and corn syrup to a simmer over medium heat in a saucepan, remove it from the heat and add in the chocolate and vanilla. Let it stand for 8 - 10 minutes, both to cool and to create that wonderfully thick glaze texture. Once your cakes are assembled you may carefully pour over the glaze, it should require a little bit of help to reach the edges but gravity is your best friend with this stuff. You could simply sit back and  let your mouth water as the chocolate slides down over the cake. All in all, your finished product should look  like this once it has had time to sufficiently sit and the glaze has hardened a bit!

*Disclaimer: Flowers and Mint come from Lori's (Mom) garden, gotta give her props :)

Now cut into it and admire the beauty! 

Now let me switch gears to the ultimate onion ring recipe....

BBQ Onion Rings

  • 2 Tbsp. BBQ Sauce, your favorite brand
  • 1 Tbsp. Tabasco
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 Large Yellow Onion, sliced to desired thickness
  • 2 cups Buttermilk
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1 quart Canola Oil, for frying
Mix the sliced onions with the BBQ sauce, Tabasco, and salt and pepper. Let it stand for 5 - 7 minutes so the marinade can sink in. Top this with buttermilk, you may cheat and add a splash of lemon juice to regular milk to achieve the same effect as buttermilk. Because, come on, what else are you going to use buttermilk for! Let this mixture rest for 15 minutes while you mix the flour with any desired seasonings or be really brave and add some Panko Japanese breadcrumbs like I did, they make it extra crispy! 

Heat your oil to at least 350 degrees or simply test it with a bit of flour to see if the oil is hot enough. These rings are best done in small batches, putting the finished rings in a 200 degree oven to keep them crisp between fryings. I learned my lesson with my first batch....I should have made more. My Dad loved them and I'm sorry to say that he might not have gotten enough for his Father's Day dinner. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting and Nutella Glaze

No two things go together better than gratuitous violence and cupcakes...! With the Memorial weekend premiere of History's Hatfields & McCoys, the classic feud inspired me to think about opposing flavors. From a baking standpoint, chocolate and vanilla could not be more at odds. The sweet depth of flavor that chocolate provides battles nicely with the light, flowery taste of vanilla. Although moonshine was the more appropriate liquor of choice in post-Civil War Appalachia, the thought of it in a cupcake makes me cringe. A good dark beer will do the trick for this cupcake. It provides a strong foundation to balance out the buttery vanilla frosting. To add even more of a contrast to this decadence a creamy homemade Nutella glaze tops it all off. The following is one of my "stand-by recipes" for brownies, which also makes for a wonderfully dense cupcake, and the dark beer gives it a great kick!

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2/3 cup of dark beer, room temperature
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla; add eggs and beat well. Stir together flour, cocoa, and baking powder and gradually add to the wet mixture. Using a large serving spoon or an ice cream scoop fill baking cups 2/3 of the way full and bake 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The cupcakes may shrink a bit after they have cooled, but don't fear the frosting will hide any imperfections!

Vanilla Bean Frosting

  • 2/3 cup of unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup of milk
  • Half of a vanilla bean, with seeds scraped from the center OR 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 6 - 8 cups of powdered sugar

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter until smooth, add the milk and 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating well. Gradually add the remaining powdered sugar until it reaches the desired consistency. If you opt to use the vanilla bean, (and you should, it's SHAMAZING!) carefully slice it down the middle with a paring knife and gently scrape the seeds from the open pod. If vanilla extract is more convenient for you then add it and ensure that the frosting is well flavored.

After the cupcakes have cooled, you can spread the frosting with a rubber spatula or use a piping bag and a 'big star' tip to create designs if you wish. If you cannot contain yourself any longer or you are one of about four people left on the planet who have not experienced the awesome-ness that is Nutella then you may skip the last step and politely stuff your face. But you just don't know what you are missing...

Nutella Glaze

  • 1/2 cup of Nutella spread
  • 1/3 cup of milk
Over low heat in a small saucepan heat the milk and Nutella together and mix with a whisk. Don't allow it to come to a boil, it will thicken in about 8 - 10 minutes, but you have to babysit it, no running away to check Facebook or anything of that nature!

After decorating and glazing your cupcakes step back and admire the beauty you have created, you may even want to share them with family or friends, but no one will blame you if you keep them all to yourself. The Hatfields & McCoys unfortunately couldn't get along, but the chocolate and vanilla flavors in these cupcakes marry very well together! They are even Autumn-approved...