Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lemon Cupcakes & Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

A friend asked me recently to make some cupcakes for her to take to work. I, of course, said yes, and set about deciding what to make. I was also a little strapped for time, so I made a big decision- I would use cake mixes, and just jazz them up. I know what your thinking… ‘Really? A Cake mix? What kind of cook would not make it from scratch…’

I know, I know, but really- they are so good, and easy, and it’s all about the frosting anyway, right?

I decided on a Chocolate Raspberry, and a Lemon Cupcake.

For the Chocolate Raspberry, I took a milk chocolate cake mix and made it to the specifications, however I added some raspberry puree (thawed frozen raspberries, pureed and strained) in place of half the water. This added a subtle raspberry flavor to the chocolate cake.
I decided to do two frostings- first, I made a chocolate frosting by adding melted chocolate to softened butter, and powdered sugar to taste. For the raspberry Buttercream, I added raspberry puree, a little red food color, butter and powdered sugar to taste. I piped the chocolate frosting on first, followed by a rosette of raspberry frosting. Damn Tasty.

Milk Chocolate Raspberry Cake with Chocolate & Raspberry Frostings

For the Lemon cupcakes, I took a vanilla cake mix, and substituted some fresh lemon juice and some lemon oil, for half the water. I also added 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon zest to the batter. The cake tasted zesty and lemony, but not overpowering- just a hint of lemon to compliment the frosting.

The frosting I made with equal parts Butter & Cream Cheese then added powdered sugar, lemon and lime zest, and lemon oil- as well as some limoncello liquor that I had in the freezer. I made it completely by taste. It was really good, if I do say so myself!

Lemon Vanilla Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese

The finishing touch was to make some candied lemon zest.
Simply strip the zest from the fruit- using either a peeler and then cutting them into thin fine strips, or use a citrus zester-, which peels it off in thin strips. Place the strips in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let it sit for 30 minutes then drain. Heat 2 cups sugar and 1-cup water in a small saucepan, cover and boil. When the sugar is dissolved, add the zest, reduce heat to medium low and cook, uncovered for 10 minutes. I pulled out the zest and placed them on a piece of parchment paper- discarding the syrup, and let cool. Wile they were still sticky, I dusted them with white sugar so they are sparkly.
As you can see from the pictures, they look pretty good!

Double Chocolate Pudding

I hate to admit it, but I often by those Jello Chocolate Pudding snacks from the supermarket, they are just too good- and only 100 calories.

I decided to make some pudding myself- not the 100-calorie kind, but something to have when the chocolate craving kicks in- (which is often!).
I have a recipe that I found in Food and Wine Magazine, and it seemed to fit the bill, easy, chocolaty and rich. Perfect!! The chilled and finished pudding was really good, but not what I was originally intending. It was much more dense and fudgy, than light and silky- more like a super rich chocolate mousse. It was great- but I am going to try and find a recipe that is lighter, so it can be more of a snack, as opposed to a dessert, but I will be making this one again for sure!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Smoky Tomato Soup

Sometimes there is nothing better than a bowl of hot soup. As the weather gets cooler, it is the first thing on my mind to cook- they are relatively simple, full of flavor, they warm the kitchen and my stomach, and they are an easy meal to have around as they take only minutes to reheat, and often taste better the next day. So, I found a recipe in Food and Wine magazine that intrigued me, firstly, because believe it or not, I have never made tomato soup and secondly, it calls for smoked pimenton, which is an ingredient that I have never used.

The recipe is basic; onion, garlic, tomatoes, water and the pimenton, finished with a touch of cream. It sounded too easy!

I am often wary of making sauce or salsas with fresh tomatoes that have not been roasted before hand, so that was a modification that I made. I cut the tomatoes in half, drizzled with olive oil and black pepper and set them in a 350 degree oven for around one and a half hours. I did not want the moisture sucked out of them, just roasted enough to concentrate their flavor so my soup wasn’t lacking in depth.

The Roasted Tomatoes

A quick sauté of onions and garlic (I added 4 extra cloves!!) then add the pimenton- and this is where the soup comes alive. It adds such richness and depth of flavor, that I can’t believe I have not discovered it sooner. It amps up the tomato taste and has an underlying smokiness that is subtle and yet unmistakable at the same time. You then add the tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf and a little water and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Blend, puree, add a little cream to cut the acid, and voila- a soup that warms the soul!!