July Food Pen Pals!

The Lean Green Bean

I guess this is a broken record but I luck out every month with my foodie penpal.  This time, I came home from a long weekend at the Cape, to a gorgeous box from Alex over at Healthy Life Happy Wife.  She was super thoughtful and included things inspired by my blog and some of her favorites.  No surprise, some of her favorites are my favorites: like the Trader Joe’s chocolate and sea salt almonds.  Amazing!!  Also, she turned me onto the Trader Joe’s Kettle Corn.  

Also, she so thoughtfully sent me nail polish!  In colors other than pink and red!!  So fun!  I just got a mani but these are on the horizon.  So pumped.

Another new treat are these bananas, flattened!  I can’t wait to try them, bananas are my favorite pre-work out snack!

Finally, these adorable cupcake liners, Raisels, and Chamomile tea!  The tea is going to be saved for school – perfect for studying afternoons in need of a little flavor!  The cupcake liners are definitely going to be used soon, it’s a matter of time! 😉

Thanks, Alex, you are an awesome pen pal!

If you are interested in participating in the Foodie Pen Pals, please head over to see Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean, she is the best organizer and has made this so fun for us!


July Martha Stewart Cupcake Calendar Challenge: Lemon Meringue Cupcake

Lemon is my second favorite flavor. To chocolate, that is (obvi).  Well maybe coconut is second.  So it is up for debate.  Right-o.  Well,  regardless, I had been eyeing this cupcake for some time.  Who can overlook the stunning billowy meringue peaks?  Not I.  Always one with a taste for drama, after all, I am a Leo.

Follow me on Instagram, user name jessicaisbaking!

I made the lemon curd and the cakes the day before serving.  I had no trouble with either, however the curd always takes me longer than any directions say, probably because I am worried about burning it.  The day of serving the little cakes, I whipped up the frosting, what a joy a 7 minute frosting is!  So satisfyingly voluminous!  I was a bit worried because old Martha said to serve the cakes immediately, however I was waiting a few hours.  This was no issue, they maintained their integrity.  My only gripe about this recipe is that due to there being 3 components, it is sugar overload for the eater.  I think they would be super adorable in mini form. I would think they would be lovely at a wedding or baby shower.

In other news, we are going to the beach in a few weeks with some friends and are responsible for 2 meals.  Any suggestions for easy crowd favorites?  I was thinking bbq chicken but would love to know your thoughts, dear reader!

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
by Martha Stewart

Lemon Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons (about 1 1/2 tablespoons), plus 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
Lemon Curd
7 Minute Frosting

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in zest and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.

3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
4. To finish, spread 1 tablespoon lemon curd onto middle of each cupcake. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large open-star tip (Ateco #828 or Wilton #8B) with frosting. Pipe frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip slightly and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Hold a small kitchen torch 3 to 4 inches from surface of frosting, and wave it back and forth until frosting is lightly browned all over. Serve immediately.

Lemon Curd
4 large egg yolks
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/2 cup sugar
1/16 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

1. Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a heavy-bottom saucepan; whisk to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (be sure to scrape the sides of the pan), until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8 to 10 minutes, and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
2. Remove saucepan from heat. Add salt and butter, one piece at a time, stirring until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

7 Minute Frosting
3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 large egg whites, room temperature

1. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, beating to combine.
3. As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230 degrees, remove from heat. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Use immediately.

Chocolate Mousse

This title does not say what it should say.  It should say, “The Easiest, No Taste Sacrificed Chocolate Mousse of Your Life.”  Other potential names:

  • Slap Yo’ Momma CHocolate Mousse (umm, don’t ever slap your Momma)
  • Shut the Front Door Chocolate Mousse
  • Get Yer Own Chocolate Mousse, This One’s Mine
  • I Can Eat Chocolate Mousse For Breakfast Dessert Because I Have a Blog (this may or may not have happened)

We can thank my dear dad for this recipe.  He kindly snipped it out of the newspaper and handed it to my darling mother. My darling mother later sent the recipe to her culinary compadres after she and my dear dad fought over the remaining mousse pot.  The article mentions some nonsense about Julia Child’s method taking too long.  My apologies to she-who-started-it-all (Julia Child) but I won’t be trying her way anytime soon. (let’s be honest, I’m sure I’ll do it her way at some point because I love to do things the hard way.)

There is an option to increase the milk or put in a liquor.  I used Disaronno (amaretto liquor) but the taste doesn’t really come through very much.  I think Grand Marnier will be my next try.  I would do coffee or espresso but we are a little caffeine sensitive.  If you are pondering what dessert to make the next time you need to impress someone, I believe you have found your answer.  Perfect for a party, since all the work is done ahead of time.

Bill Hutton’s Chocolate Mousse
From the Wall Street Journal
serves 6

7 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (no more than 62% cocoa)
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of kosher salt or sea salt
2 tablespoons flavorless vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons liqueur (or espresso or increase the milk by this amount)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

1.  Blast chocolate in a food processor until very finely ground.  Leave it in the processor bowl.

2.  Bring milk, sugar, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Turn on the processor and pour sweetened hot milk through feed tube, processing for 15-20 seconds, or until chocolate has melted.

3.  Add oil, liqueur, or espresso and vanilla.  Process for another 10 seconds to blend thoroughly.

4.  Scrape mixture into a large bowl and let cool about 10 minutes.

5.  Beat cream until it just starts to hold a very soft shape (not even close to stiff).  Fold 1/3 of cream into chocolate.  Fold in remaining cream.  For smoothest possible mousse, stop folding the moment the cream is incorporated into the chocolate.  Immediately scoop into six pretty dessert glasses.

6.  Refrigerate until mousse sets, about 1 hour, or until easy to serve (keeps up to 2 days).  Grind a little black pepper or flour de sel over each serving (I omitted this, as I felt the liqueur added enough bite).

June Martha Stewart Cupcake Calendar: Rose and Ginger Cupcakes

Still catching up on this little project.  Almost skipped this one altogether.  But I didn’t because I committed to it.  However, I think the lesson here was that the zuzu of not wanting to make this cupcake affected the outcome.  I believe the energy you put into whatever activity you do is the outcome you get out.  Lesson learned.  Thanks for the reminder, universe.

Regardless, I put some time into these and the results were underwhelming.  I do like ginger and I was hoping for a pleasant surprise with the rose water.  I did try to cut the recipe down to 1/3 of its original size.  This may have had an affect.  The crumb was a little tough, a little too chewy.  Also, the crystalized ginger may have been too sweet, it may be better to buy larger chunks of it and throw it in the food processor.  I couldn’t taste the rose water in the icing at all.

Now I have a bottle of rose water remaining.  Any suggestions?  Sweet or savory welcome!  Not to fear, I have an AMAZING dessert in store for you later this week.  Until then, my advice?  Stay away from uninspiring recipes.  You heard it here first.  Life altering advice.

Rose and Ginger Cupcakes
Makes 24
by Martha Stewart

For the Cupcakes:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons candied ginger, chopped

For the Rose Glaze:
1/2 cup milk
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons rose water
pink gel-paste food coloring

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.  Sift together flours, ground ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

2. With a mixer, cream butter and granulated sugar until pale, about 4 minutes.  Beat in eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Beat in flour mixture in three bathces, alternating with milk and beginning and ending with four.  Stir in candied ginger until distributed.

3. Divide batter among liners, filling fhalfway.  Bake until golden and set, about 20 minutes. Transfer tin to rack to cool for 15 minutes.  Remove from tin; let cool.  Store in an airtight container about 2 days.

4. Make glaze a few hours before serving (if glazed cupcakes sit out too long, they will wrinkle). Whisk milk and confectioners’ sugar until smooth.  Add rose water.  Add a small drop of food coloring for pale pink, and stir.  Immediately pour glaze on cupcakes (about 1 tablespoon each) just until flush with top of liner.  Let set before decorating.

Happy Fourth of July!

Independence Day is my favorite holiday of all time.  When I was little, I spent all day at the pool, came home and ate hamburgers and went to watch fireworks with the family.  I even made my first cake for the Fourth of July.  I was probably 8 or 9.  I need to dig up that picture.  I feel a ton of patriotism for the good old U. S. of A.  I feel pride when I see the flag and sing the national anthem.  The individual freedoms that we enjoy every day are very special and I am thankful to be born here.

Now that I am older (umm, not old), and since we have been in Hoboken for a full year, this will be the second year we get to watch the fireworks over the Hudson River, which is basically our backyard.  We went to a cookout for Independence Day over the weekend, and I brought this cake.  I found it on Foodgawker (such a fun app) and I had to make it.  Thanks to 17 and Baking for the awesome instructions.  I used the Red Velvet Cake recipe for the Blue and Red layers and the Cream Cheese Icing from the same recipe (I doubled it).  Thanks to Sprinkle Bakes for the bit of advice on adding a touch of purple food dye to the blue layer to make it blue and not blue with a green tinge.

I used yet another cake recipe from the Whimsical Bakehouse – the White Butter Cake.  It was a great cake to work with – light and fluffy, yet not too tender.  I cut the recipe in half but the recipe below is a whole recipe.  I hope ya’ll have a fabulous Fourth!

White Butter Cake

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 1/3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/4 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla
3/4 cup egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

1.  Grease two 10 x 3 inch (or 9 x 3 inch if you want taller layers) round pans.  Have all ingredients at room temperature.

2.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat at high speed until light and fluffy: butter, sugar, salt.

3.  On a piece of wax paper, sift the cake flour, baking powder and cream of tartar.

4.  Ad the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the milk and vanilla.

5.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy.  Continue beating at high speed while gradually adding the 1/2 cup of sugar.  When stiff peaks form, fold the whites into the cake batter with a rubber spatula.  Blend just until the whties are evenly distributed.

6.  Pour into the prepared cake pans.  Cook for 20-30 minutes.