Thursday, September 30, 2010

Très chic tres leches cupcakes

If worrying about a deadline counted for something, I'd have aced all my papers in college and I'd receive piles of fan mail for the stories I write for work. Unfortunately, though in this modern day I don't see why, getting things done is still the only way a deadline will happily slide by and let you get on with what it is you want to be doing. Also unfortunately, doing the stuff I wanna do when I'm supposed to be productive remains one of my rebellious pleasures.

When else is rearranging all the books on your shelf or trimming your bangs as much devious fun?

Today, I'm lounging at home and satisfying my need to do something pointless when I shouldn't by showing you pictures of cupcakes I made. Miguel took these pictures with the Hipstamatic app on his phone so that we can better long for the good ol' days of when these cupcakes were in front of us. They're tres leches cupcakes, which I know translates to "three milks" in Spanish but in a half-French sort of way I believe should mean "VERY SUGARY."

I made them using a
Pioneer Woman recipe that I baked in a muffin tin instead of a 9x13-inch pan as she calls for. The main thing to know if you're making this dessert as cupcakes is to use foil liners. This helps you avoid a sticky mess but also turns out being a nice little container that you can eat the sweetened spongecake from with a spoon.

Tres leches cupcakes
Adapted from
Pioneer Woman

For the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1-½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
5 whole eggs
1 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
⅓ cups milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
¼ cups heavy cream

For the topping:
1 pint heavy cream, for whipping
3 Tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin tin lined with foil liners.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs.
Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.
Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.
Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared cups.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool.
Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream. When the cupcakes are cool, pierce each one several times with a fork. Spoon the milk mixture onto each little cake.
Allow the cupcakes to absorb the milk mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until whenever you're ready to serve them.
Whip 1 pint heavy cream with 3 Tbsp. of sugar until thick and spreadable and dollop onto each cupcake.
Slice one strawberry for each cupcake without cutting them all the way through the stem end. Fan the slices out so that they look magnificently fancy but you know all it took was a few seconds with a knife. Plop a strawberry stem-end down onto the whipped cream.

Friday, September 24, 2010

cookie success!

I made chocolate chip cookies today, and just as I got to the step of adding brown sugar to the butter and white sugar, it became clear that the brown sugar I had would not be cooperating. It had been at the bottom shelf of the refrigerator for a while, a storage solution I'd thought was pretty clever. You can keep flour fresh for longer in the fridge — why not brown sugar?

Because it turns rock hard, that's why. Which sometimes happens with this stuff. But this was incredibly, unrecoverably dry. There was none of the usual feeling of moist sand just revealed by a receding wave — this was more like the dry sand further from the water that gets picked up by the wind and blown into your eyes. And for spite, it won't work in your cookies either.

A rock-hard rock of brown sugar

So Miguel hopped on his bike and rode to Farm to Market, a place down the street that's great for those times you need one lemon and some lettuce to round out your dinner ingredients. Actually, it's better for more than that and probably deserves more of my grocery dollars, and you can probably tell I feel a little guilty about not supporting this local place more. But it sure is convenient when you need a lemon.

Potential Cookie Disaster No. 2 happened when Miguel got back home. After his first bike ride post-Lasik surgery, he was invigorated and full of feeling — and also full of comments like, "I rode slower so I could really look at everything around me!" and "That girl across the street has freckles!" But the new package of brown sugar was no softer than the first.

I've always read that the way to combat this is a few seconds in the microwave. We don't have one of those, but two minutes in my small convection oven and some energetic carving with a spoon got me the cup I needed.

The secret ingredient: espresso powder

Even with the sugar problem solved, I kept worrying about the cookie dough through Potential Cookie Disasters Nos. 3 through 7:

3) Before adding flour, the dough almost broke, the way a frosting can.

4) It tasted pretty darn salty.

5) It was runnier and more like a batter than a cookie dough should be.

6) Spooning it on the cookie sheet, I saw that some big brown sugar clumps remained.

7) I forgot the chilling step.

These cookies must be miraculous though, because they withstood seven potential disasters and came out not too salty, not too crumbly, but just right. The proof: a minute ago, Miguel's dad called out from the kitchen with a full mouth, "You got a winner here, Beth!"

Disaster-proof chocolate chip cookies

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

2 whole eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2-¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon (heaping) instant espresso granules

1 teaspoon baking soda

1-½ teaspoon salt

1 bag semisweet chocolate chips

Handful of pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, beat together butter, brown sugar and white sugar until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and beat together.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, instant espresso, baking soda and salt. Add to wet ingredients in batches, stirring gently after each addition.

Stir in chocolate chips and pecan pieces.

Press plastic wrap against the dough and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Drop balls of dough on a cookie sheet and bake for 11 to 13 minutes. Let cool for a minute on a baking rack, but not for too long: they're best enjoyed warm.

Monday, September 20, 2010

vacation and catching up

Not long ago, I told someone that I keep this blog and update it "very periodically." What I meant was "only infrequently," so apparently I'm not always a good blogger or a good word user. But not to fear — things are in the works! Meanwhile, here's a photo of a jolly brunch in California over Labor Day weekend.

This meal was significant for its obvious good times with good, Jon Stewart-quoting company but also because it's the last time I ate Sabra hummus, something that tastes so creamy and flavorful, you wouldn't guess it's made with only about three ingredients. For some reason, I'd taken note of this small mention of it by someone who makes everything from scratch but casts it as something so good it's worth buying readymade. And she was right! But sadly, as far as I can tell, this brand isn't sold anywhere in Austin.

So, what the heck, how about more vacation photos? I was in Malibu, where I was barefoot most of the time and took my first-ever nap in a hammock.

I also kayaked for the first time.

That's me paddling toward the horizon. Photo by my lovely friend Rebecca.

And jumped around with glee!

And because this is a food blog, we'll play catch-up with some tasty things I cooked but probably, if we're being honest, won't find time to write about. So here are two Smitten Kitchen recipes I made and loved.

This is a zucchini side I adapted and ate over pasta to make it more of a full dinner. I think having the vegetable and the pasta cut into roughly the same shape makes for good eating.

And here's a meal that lead to a detailed text message conversation from the grocery store on pancetta vs. prosciutto when I couldn't find what the recipe called for.

I totally recommend both!