Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mom's Famous Ham, Scallion, and Pecan Cheeseball

I have to give credit and thanks to my mother this Thanksgiving Season, you will too after trying this recipe!




I am going to share with you one my family staples. This cheeseball has been made for every single family gathering we have had since I can remember. I know when I go home, mom is making cheeseball and this Thanksgiving will be no different. I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it home (yes, I still call my mom's house my home) with my work schedule, but last minute we were able to secure some flights and I will be headed to St. Louis to enjoy this and all my favorites over the holiday. I cannot wait!


This is such a simple recipe but is really a great starter with some nice flavors to warm up your palette for all that turkey this Thursday. So get to the store, buy some cream cheese, and make it, I promise it will be a hit...




Mom's Famous Ham, Scallion, and Pecan Cheeseball


16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 ounces ham, diced
6 scallions, finely chopped
1 and 1/2 cup halved pecans
crackers for serving


Line a small bowl with cling wrap leaving a small amount of excess wrap and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, ham, and scallions. Mix till thoroughly combined. Spoon cheese mixture into prepared bowl lined with cling wrap, fold over excess wrap to cover cheese ball and press down to form a level surface. Chill cheese mixture in small bowl for ~2 hours. Once cheeseball has chilled remove top of cling wrap and flip onto serving tray. Cover with pecans and serve with your favorite crackers.


I usually make this the night before which makes it is so easy to just pull out of the fridge, top with pecans, and serve! My favorite crackers are usually wheat thins or triscuits, but I have been wanting to make my own and Gina has a great post on Rosemary Parmesan Crackers at What's for Dinner Across State Lines. I would love to know how the two recipes pair together, let me know if you try!




Happy Baking and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Butterbeer Cupcakes

OK, I know this is the second post of cupcakes this week, but I haven't been this excited about a post in a while! I even got up early to write this post and get my pics taken!




For those that don't know, tomorrow is the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (part 1), which means I will be going to the movie at midnight tonight! Since reading the first book, I have been to every midnight premiere whether it be a book release or a movie showing, I just love it and am a little impatient to wait till the next day!


In addition to it being Harry Potter day today, it is also my friends birthday. So inspired by the most popular drink in the book/movies series I decided to make Butterbeer Cupcakes. From what I can find around the interwebs and what people have tasted at the Harry Potter theme park, this is simply a mixture of cream soda and butterscotch. 




So this cupcake recipe is exactly that, a butter and cream soda cupcake, with a butterscotch ganache filling, and topped with a butterscotch buttercream. These cupcakes have quite a different taste than anything else I have made, probably because I never bake with butterscotch, but they are delicious! So without further ado....


Butterbeer Cupcakes


Cupcakes:
2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter flavoring
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cream soda


Ganache:
11 ounce bag of butterscotch chips
3/4 cup heavy cream


Buttercream:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup butterscotch ganache
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter flavoring
1/8 tsp salt
16 ounces of powdered sugar


To prepare cupcakes, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with liners or spray with nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In a large bowl cream butter for one minute or until fluffy. Add in sugars and mix until combined, scraping sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Add in eggs one at a time mixing thoroughly after each addition, then mix in vanilla and butter flavoring. Alternate adding in buttermilk, cream soda, and flour mixture until thoroughly combined, scraping sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Pour batter into prepared cupcake pans and bake for 15-18 minutes or until toothpick entered in center of cupcake comes out clean. Remove and let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Let cool completely on cooling rack. 


To prepare butterscotch ganache, in a double broiler or in a bowl over simmering water heat heavy cream. Just before cream begins to simmer add in butterscotch chips and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cupcakes have cooled, insert small amount of ganache filling into each cupcake using a squeeze bottle or using the Wilton #230 tip. Save a little ganache to drizzle over buttercream. 


To prepare buttercream, cream butter for one minute or until fluffy. Mix in butterscotch ganache, vanilla, butter flavoring, and salt until well combined. Sift in powdered sugar one cup at a time until completely mixed in, scraping sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Beat buttercream on medium-high for 2-3 minutes or until shiny and fluffy. For a thinner frosting, add in a tbsp of milk or cream and mix till combined. After cupcakes have cooled and been injected with ganache, top with buttercream and drizzle with leftover ganache.


Recipe adapted from AmyBites.


For the ganache, the original recipe called for a whole cup, but this gave me a super thin butterscotch sauce (good for ice cream). So another trip to the grocery store (thanks hubbie), I re-made the ganache starting with 1/2 cup of heavy cream and slowly added more cream as needed to get to the correct consistency. For the buttercream, I prefer a stiff icing so I usually skip the additional liquid addition. Overall, like I said, these cupcakes were delicious and I can't wait to share them! 




One thing I would love to find out from all of you, how do you fill your cupcake pans? I feel like I have tried every method and I still end up with a mess all over the pan. I have tried using a pastry bag, a large spoon, a ladle, and this time I tried a 1/4 cup measuring cup and every time I drip batter all over the place. Anyone have a mess proof method?


Happy Baking!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Anyone else feel like they are in a slump lately? For some reason the daylight savings this year has really messed with me. I hate leaving work at five and its already dark outside! I feel like my night is so cramped, but in reality it is the same length, weird right?!


So since I feel like I have no time, I have been making rather simple recipes lately, which is great around this time of year when we all start getting busier with preparing for the holidays. I know a lot of you are probably busy too, but don't forget to go vote for you favorite blogger in the FoodBuzz Project Food Blog. There are some really great videos out there promoting some great recipes!

These cupcakes are simple yet delicious. They are a dark chocolate cupcake with a creamy chocolate buttercream. There are so many ways to spice up chocolate cupcakes, but it all relies on a good base cupcake recipe...here is mine.




Double Chocolate Cupcakes


Cupcakes:
1 cup and 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 and 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup and 2 tbsp whole milk
1/3 cup strong coffee or espresso
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Frosting:
1 cup butter, softened
2 and 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

To prepare cupcakes, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with 12 liners or spray with non-stick spray and set aside. In a small bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, set aside. In a medium bowl mix egg, brown sugar, and white sugar till combined. Add in milk, coffee, and melted butter till combined. Mix in dry ingredients till combined and spoon mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then let cool completely on cooling rack.

To prepare frosting, in a double broiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, melt chocolate while stirring continuously. Once melted, set chocolate aside until cooled. In a large bowl using the whisk attachment on medium-high speed, whip butter for two minutes, cleaning sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Slowly sift in confectioners' sugar while mixing on low speed, cleaning sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Once all sugar is incorporated add in vanilla and blend. Add in melted, cooled chocolate and beat on medium-high for 2-3 minutes or until frosting is shiny and smooth. Fill pastry bag with your favorite tip, Wilton 1M for me, and decorate cooled cupcakes.


This recipe makes 12 cupcakes and equivalent frosting. Perfect for the small family or gift, but easy to double it up for a party, like your big Thanksgiving dinner!

Happy Baking!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chocolate Cream Puffs and Eclairs

These are something that the hubbie has been asking for now for a while. I do not personally like eclairs or cream puffs, but I aim to please around here. It was also something on my list of things to tackle. After watching a special on Pate a Choux by Alton Brown, I was ready to try and manage these little guys.



Thanks to everyone for all the kind words in my last post, you are an amazing group of people! For those of you that follow the space program, I am sure you saw the Shuttle did not launch last Friday and it has been delayed to no earlier than November 30th. I will keep you up to date, but if you are interested in all the details of the problems the Shuttle engineers have been having, I prefer Spaceflight Now. They have daily updates on the status of the Shuttle mission.

Chocolate Cream Puffs and Eclairs


Dough:
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs


Cream Filling:
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 cup whole milk
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract


Chocolate Frosting:
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 tbsp butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp hot water


To prepare the cream puffs or eclairs, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium saucepan bring water and butter to a roiling boil. Stir in flour and reduce heat to low. Continue to stir vigorously over low heat until the mixture forms a ball, about a minute. Remove from heat and beat in eggs. With a spoon continue to beat until smooth. To form cream puffs, drop 1/4 cup of mixture on prepared baking sheet. To form eclairs, fill a prepared pastry bag with mixture and form a line 4-5 inches long and 1-2 inches wide, think "finger-shaped". Bake for 35-40 minutes or until puffed and golden, remove from oven and let cool away from drafts.


To prepare cream filling, mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Add in milk and stir continuously over medium heat until mixture thickens and begins to boil. While stirring, let mixture boil for one minute. Remove from heat and add half of milk mixture to slightly beaten egg yolks. Mix, then place milk and egg mixture into the saucepan with remaining milk. While continuously stirring, bring to a boil over medium heat and let boil for one minute. Remove from heat and add in butter and vanilla. Pour mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap directly on surface, and let refrigerate for at least 1 hour to chill.


To prepare chocolate frosting, melt chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Once chocolate is melted, remove and add in powdered sugar and water. Beat until smooth and spreadable.


To fill cream puffs or eclairs cut off the top third of each and fill with cream filling and replace tops. An alternative to filling cream puffs would be to inject the cream filling. To do this, use a sharp object to create a small hole in side of cream puff or eclair, then using a prepared pastry bag inject the cream filling. While chocolate is still warm, spread over filled cream puffs and eclairs.




I found that my cream filling was a bit on the runny side, to cure this I lowered the amount of milk required in the recipe. This is why I injected the cream filling rather than cutting the tops off. If you like a thicker cream filling be sure to boil until it has thickened to your liking. When chilling your pastry cream, be sure to place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream, otherwise it will form a thickened crust on the top and no one wants to eat that!


I used a pastry bag to make both the eclairs and cream puffs, this allowed an evenly distributed circle and finger shape. After forming the shapes, slightly dampen your finger and smooth out any leftover points made by the pastry bag, you don't want a pointy cream puff! For filling these guys, I found if I didn't pre-cut a small hole that when I tried to shove the pastry tip into the cream puff it would crack the surface. You can use any sharp object to create an entry point, first thing I saw was my meat thermometer!


This recipe is slightly adapted from BettyCrocker.com


Happy Baking!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese with a side of ME!

I feel that I owe all my readers an apology. I have missed the kitchen in the past week, so I figured it was about time to fill everyone in on where I've been. As you all know I live in Houston, but what you don't know is that I work as a contractor for NASA at the Johnson Space Center. I am a flight controller for the International Space Station and am currently a lead for the upcoming Space Shuttle flight.


Photo Property of NASA


If you follow NASA's Space Shuttle program, you know the last flight of Space Shuttle Discovery was supposed to launch this past Monday, well 5 days later I am still praying for a launch today. So cross your fingers and if you can turn on the NASA channel or go to NASA.gov and tune in around 3pm Eastern to watch the 133rd launch of the Space Shuttle. This mission will have Discovery and it's crew delivering some hardware and the final module of the Space Station as well as performing some EVAs, so stay tuned!


Needless to say I have been extremely busy at work and the hubbie has been in charge of everything. One thing I did get to make was some comfort food, of course, Mac'n'Cheese. Actually any kind of pasta is comfort food to me, but I had a little bit of pumpkin left and tons of cheese, so here goes...



Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

1 cup pumpkin puree
12 ounces macaroni 
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp ground mustard
2 cups whole milk
1 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
2 slices bread, crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 9x9 pan or individual ramekins, set aside. Prepare pasta according to box. Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter then add in flour and mustard. Whisk continually for 1 minute until thick. Slowly add in milk while continuing to whisk. Bring mixture to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes, or until sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from heat, add in cheeses and pumpkin puree, then gently mix in cooked pasta. Spoon mixture into prepared pan/s and top with bread crumbles. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top has browned and cheese is melted. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve.


Concerning the pasta cooking, I always make mine Al Dente as they will soften while baking. I do this by cooking ~1 minute less than directed or until pasta is slightly firm but not hard. For bread crumbs, I used this method which gives the topping a lighter, but still crunchy texture.


Hope you enjoy and Happy Baking!
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