October 30, 2009

Gumdrop Cupcakes

2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup diced gumdrops

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour or line 12 wells in a cupcake pan. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and buttermilk. Beat well. Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat until the batter is light and fluffy. Fold in the gumdrops bits. Fill each well 3/4 of the way. Bake 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the middle cupcake comes out clean.

Note: Most of my cupcakes took only 15 minutes but for some reason one took about 22 minutes. I had to keep sticking it back in the oven. No idea why, but do take care to make sure each cupcake is fully baked even if they look done when you take them out of the oven.

Cool on a wire rack. Frost with desired frosting. I used cream cheese frosting that I tinted green.

Tip: Cut up gumdrops are really, really sticky. Take a second and feed them into the bowl (while the mixer is running) slowly and possibly piece by piece so they don't from one big sugar clump.

My thoughts:
Years ago (I might have even been still in high school) my mom bought some really yummy jelly pumpkins that were coated in sugar that we just loved. They had a great texture and were very pretty, the sun would hit them and they would just glow. I've been looking for them ever since so I was overjoyed to come across a pack of these during a routine trip to the grocery store. They are a little denser than the ones I remember-more gumdrop than gummy-but the zesty orange flavor is right on. I just had to use them to decorate cupcakes and while I was at it, I threw some into the batter as well. The cake itself is very moist and light and I love the little bits of flavor that the gumdrops provide in every bite. I don't think you can go wrong incorporating candy into a Halloween dessert!

October 26, 2009

Pumpkin Five Spice Sweet Rolls


for the rolls:
4 cups flour
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 oz dry yeast
2 eggs, at room temperature

for the filling:
4 to 5 tablespoons butter, creamed
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons Chinese 5 spice powder*


In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast on the water. Using an electric mixer with a dough hook combine the yeast, butter, sugar, egg and pumpkin. Add the flour and mix on low until smooth. The mixture should become a sticky dough at this time but it shouldn't feel damp or look wet. If it does, mix in a small amount of flour. Knead on a floured surface or in a stand mixer until smooth (but still slightly sticky).

Place the ball of dough in a buttered bowl. Cover with a tea towel or loose plastic wrap and let rise for about 45 minutes or until it doubles in size. It is okay if it rises longer or higher than that.

Preheat oven to 350. Remove dough from bowl and place on a clean, floured surface.

Roll the dough out in a large, 1/3 inch thick rectangle.

Spread the creamed butter over dough in a thin layer reaching all of the edges.

In small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and 5 spice powder. Sprinkle evenly over the buttered dough.

Roll dough into a tight log. Cut into 1 inch thick slices.

Discard the end slices if they are very small. Gently reshape each roll so they are round again.

Place in three 9 inch round cake pans that have been lightly sprayed with nonstick baking spray, forming a circle with one roll in the middle.

Allow to rise about 1/2 hour until they are about level to the top of the cake pan.

Bake for 15 minutes, then check to see if they are done. Pay careful attention to the creases where the rolls touch each other, you don't want any pockets of raw dough! Return to oven to fully cook as needed. Remove to a wire rack to cool for a minute then invert and ice.

Excellent with cream cheese sweet roll icing.

*I bought my bottle at H Mart (a Korean grocery store with lots of pan-Asian ingredients) but even McCormick makes a version now, so it is easily found at most grocery stores.

Yield: about 14 rolls

My thoughts:

This recipe took sort of a circuitous route into existence. I try to only post seasonal recipes and this time of year my most popular and favorite recipes to make always involve pumpkin, so I wanted to come up with a new way of using pumpkin.

I had been thinking about making pumpkin 5 spice ice cream until I decided that the flavor (five spice powder is a mixture of cinnamon, star anise, cloves, ginger and Sichuan peppercorn) might be better suited to a twist on the traditional cinnamon roll.

I really liked the idea of the five spice-pumpkin ice cream but wasn't confident that it would be good enough to post. I know that ice cream made with a ground spice often ends up with an unappetizing grainy texture so I had planned to break down the powder into the specific ingredients and use whole cloves, star anise, Sichuan peppercorn, cinnamon sticks and ginger and strain them out. However, I was worried that the flavor of so many whole spices might overpower the pumpkin. Five spice ice cream still sounds great (and I can't wait to make it) but for this recipe I really wanted the pumpkin flavor to be present and distinct. So I decided against it but was still in love with the idea of the five spice-pumpkin combination; five spice is similar to the traditional pumpkin pie spices but a little fresher and more dynamic.

I think I couldn't have come up with a better recipe incorporating five spice powder and pumpkin than these rolls. The fresh, pumpkin flavor is distinct but contained in the dough and is a great contrast to the distinctive flavor provided by the five spice powder in the sugar mixture. They are wonderfully addictive. We couldn't even wait for the them to cool before we devoured several. Really, they are better than any cinnamon roll I've ever had.

The dough is very soft and easy to work with; it rolls out like a dream. And while, yes, this recipe isn't exactly healthy, unlike a lot of sweet roll recipes, it only calls for 4 tablespoons of butter in the dough (unlike the 1/2 to 1 cup I've seen in cinnamon bun recipes) and I was able to get by with only 4 tablespoons in the filling. Not bad for a sweet roll that tastes so decadent.

October 23, 2009

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

for the cupcakes
12 miniature dark chocolate peanut butter cups
1 cup flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cocoa
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, at room temperature

for the frosting
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
4 oz cream cheese

6 miniature peanut butter cups, halved

Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour 12 wells in a cupcake pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla, mix thoroughly. Meanwhile, mix together the cocoa powder, espresso powder and milk in a small bowl or measuring cup and set aside. Add flour, baking powder and salt to the butter mixture. Add the milk mixture to the rest of the batter and beat until well combined. Fill each well 1/3 of the way full.

Place the peanut butter cup in the center and cover with batter. Bake 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with just one or two dry crumbs. Cool briefly in the pan, then remove cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely before icing.

for the frosting
Beat all ingredients until fully incorporated. Spread on cooled cupcakes or cake. Top each with 1/2 of a miniature peanut butter cup.

My thoughts:
Years ago when Reese's first came out with limited edition dark chocolate peanut butter cup miniatures not being a fan of milk chocolate, I hoarded them. I am not much of a candy person (save our holiday boxes of Rheb's, the occasional candy bar or Haribo binge) but the miniatures were cheap, tasty and had a good chocolate to peanut butter ratio. I had hoped they would make them a permanent addition to their line up and it looks like they finally must have because I am seeing them everywhere, not just at Chocolate World or in limited edition bags. Anyway, my husband also loves the dark chocolate cups and may or may not have decimated nearly an entire bag all to himself. Luckily I was able to save a few and make these cupcakes.

The recipe is easy, the trick to the chocolate-y taste in the cupcakes without having to melt chocolate is to rehydrate the cocoa powder in a bit of milk and add a bit of espresso powder to deepen the flavor. They also pack quite a peanuty punch. Perfect for any chocolate-peanut butter lover!

October 21, 2009

Dill & Caper Salmon Cakes

14 ounces cooked fresh salmon
1/2 cup panko, divided use
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup diced celery
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons nonpareil capers
1 tablespoon minced dill

additional panko for dredging
canola oil

Mash the salmon with a potato masher until fairly smooth. Add 1/2 cup panko and all of the remaining ingredients. Mix. Form into eight patties. Pour panko into a shallow bowl. Dredge the patties in the panko. Refrigerate 10 minutes. Heat about a quarter inch of oil in a large skillet. Fry each patty, flipping once, until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towel lined plates.

My thoughts:
What can be simpler or more satisfying than a salmon cake? I've had many a bland croquette though, and set out to make a truly flavorful cake that is worthy of the salmon inside. I know a lot of people use canned salmon in salmon cakes but frankly, I just don't like the flavor or texture of canned salmon. At all. Instead, I like to use leftover (cooked) fresh salmon. It really makes all the difference. I then made a filling that was inspired by the rémoulade that is often served aside salmon cakes; one with plenty of dill, mustard and capers. This made the cakes quite flavorful without overwhelming the flavor of the salmon. I then rolled them in panko for a light crust rather than a heavy breaded one. The result: an elegant and delicious salmon cake that took no more effort than the most basic variety. I can't wait until I have leftover salmon again!

October 19, 2009

Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

1/2 oz unflavored powdered gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 vanilla bean

confectioners' sugar for dredging


In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Allow to seep for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the beans. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a vigorous boil and boil for 1 minute. Pour boiling syrup into gelatin and mix at high speed for 1 minute. Add the salt, vanilla and vanilla bean scrapings and beat for 12 minutes. Oil your hands and a spatula and scrape into a 9 x 13 inch pan lined with oiled plastic wrap or sprayed with cooking spray and spread evenly. After pouring marshmallow mixture into the pan, take another piece of oiled plastic wrap and press firmly on the top, oil side down, to smooth the marshmallow. Allow to rest 3 hours. Invert the pan into plate full of confectioners’ sugar and dredge the marshmallow through. Remove and cut into pieces with kitchen sheers or a knife. Dredge each piece of marshmallow in confectioners' sugar. Store in an air tight container.

*1/2 oz. gelatin is equal to 2 packets Knox unflavored gelatin

My thoughts:
These are super vanilla flavored marshmallows- no "plain" vanilla here! There are flecks of vanilla beans throughout the marshmallow and a true vanilla flavor. For even more vanilla flavor, use vanilla infused confectioners sugar (easily made by storing a vanilla bean in with the confectioners sugar) or the super fine vanilla bean infused vanilla sugar I've found at Ikea.

I loved them in hot chocolate but I dream of using them in homemade nibby toffee Rice Krispie treats. Or in s'mores or fondue. They would also make a great party favor or hostess gift.

October 16, 2009

Roasted Pork with Caramelized Onions and Roasted Potatoes and Apples

5-6 lb boneless pork shoulder roast*
2 large onions, sliced
2 apples, cored and cut into wedges
1-2 lbs Russet potatoes, quartered
olive oil

the marinade:
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoon bourbon
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon mesquite liquid smoke
1 teaspoon hot chile powder
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground jalapeno

for the roasting liquid:
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water

In a small bowl, combine all of the marinade ingredients. Place the pork and marinade in a nonreactive container and marinate at least 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 450. Splash the bottom of a roasting pan with olive oil. Sprinkle the onion slices over the center part of the bottom of the pan. Place the pork over the layer of onions in a roasting pan. Pour any remaining marinade over the pork. Meanwhile, whisk together the roasting liquid. Set aside. After about 1/2 hour, add the roasting liquid and cover with a lid or foil and lower the temperature to 325. Toss the apples and potatoes with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside. After an additional 45 minutes add the apples and potatoes to the bottom of the pan. Roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast measures 160°F, about 1 1/2-2 hours. Allow to sit 10 or so minutes before removing the netting and slicing.

*Boneless pork shoulder roast is generally sold with some string wrapped around it or in netting. This holds the roast together and needs to remain in place during the roasting. If you can't find a boneless shoulder roast, use a bone-in and either debone and truss before roasting or roast it bone-in cut around the bone to serve. Bone-in meat will take longer to cook.

My thoughts:
The weather in Baltimore has suddenly turned from reasonably pleasant to down right uncomfortable: highs in the mid '40s and constant rain. In other words, it is the perfect weather to make this cozy, homey dish. Not only is it an extremely tasty (and seasonal!) one pot meal, it makes your whole house smell delicious. An added bonus is that the extended cooking time really heats up your house, especially if you, like me, haven't turned the heat on yet.

October 14, 2009

Pumpkin Coconut Bread

2 cups flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 egg, at room temperature
5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour or spray (with baking spray with flour) 1 loaf pan. In a medium mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the coconut milk, egg and pumpkin, mix until thoroughly incorporated. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix thoroughly. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with coconut if desired. Bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan about 5 minutes then invert to a wire rack.

My thoughts:
It has been an incredibly long time since I've made a quick bread. Looking back through the archives, I see that I made a lot of them back in 2007 but the last couple years have been filled mainly with muffins and yeast raised doughs. But! I have nothing against the quick bread so here I am with a new recipe. I personally abhor pumpkin pie (it is one of the three foods I refuse to eat under any circumstances) but I don't mind actual pumpkin so every year I try and find new non-pumpkin pie-y ways to use it. I've made pumpkin muffins, pumpkin corn bread, pumpkin pancakes and my favorite: pumpkin cheesecake brownies. This bread creeps a bit into the "dessert for breakfast" category but makes a great snack! Coconut and pumpkin go together suprisingly well and the bread is rich and very moist.

October 11, 2009

Chocolate Chunk & Vanilla Bean Cookies

6 oz semisweet chocolate chunks
1 vanilla bean
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, vanilla bean scrapings and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Form cookies by dropping tablespoons of dough on the sheet two inches apart. Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, 12 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Yield: about 2 dozen

My thoughts:
Last night I was bit by the cookie bug and despite the late hour, whipped up a batch of these extremely delicious cookies. The vanilla bean plus extract gives the cookie a stronger vanilla flavor than is generally found in a chocolate chip cookie but it isn't overpowering at all. While it always a little sad when a little company gets taken over by some big conglomerate, ever since Hershey's took over Scharffen Berger I can find chocolate chunks (and high quality ones at that) at pretty much any grocery store which I couldn't be more thrilled about. Chocolate chunks are wonderful in cookies, the center stays slightly melted (which I love) and each bite has a lot of chocolate in it. These cookies are on the chewy side, with crisp edges, and perfectly golden bottoms.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

October 08, 2009

Smoked Gouda & Ham Jalapeño Poppers

10 large jalapeño peppers
1 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs
1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten

4 oz soft goat cheese
1/2 cup shredded smoked Gouda
1/4 cup diced smoked (lean) ham
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350. Mash all of the filling ingredients together until fairly smooth and the ingredients are well distributed. Slice the peppers in half or cut a slit down the middle of one side of the pepper and leave it whole.

Remove the seeds. Fill with filling mixture.

Dredge each popper in the flour, dip into the egg, then dredge in the matzo meal or crumbs to coat.

Place in a single layer, cut side up, on the lined baking sheet. Bake until the crust is golden and the pepper is hot all the way through, about 30 minutes.

My thoughts:
I have to admit that until I made these, I had never actually had a jalapeño popper. The few times I have seen them listed on menus, they are always fried. While I do love fried foods (who doesn't?)the idea of frying something that is stuffed with that much cheese makes me feel a little queasy. So I thought I'd try my hand at this gourmet-ish baked version. I know they are typically stuffed with little more than a mixture of cheeses (and maybe a bit of crab or bacon) but I thought a bit of ham would be fun and help cut the heat a bit. I love smoky flavors so I went all out using smoky spices (and cheese! and ham!) but it all melded together and was a great contrast to the creamy goat cheese and straight up hot jalapeño. The poppers tasted almost grilled which took the sting out of them being baked rather than fried. They are just as crispy outside and gooey inside as they would have been fried (I admit, I did a test fried popper to compare and contrast) but not as heavy tasting.

Note: If you really want heat, look for peppers at your local farmers market. The jalapeño peppers sold at regular supermarkets are often pack less heat than their local cousins.

October 06, 2009

Thyme Smashed Potatoes

1 1/2-2 lbs baby or fingerling potatoes (I used a mix of blue, red and white)
2 1/3 cups chicken stock
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter


In a single layer, arrange all of the potatoes into the bottom of a large, nonstick pan. Add garlic, onion, thyme, salt (if needed), pepper, broth, butter and oil. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and partially cover with a lid. Continue to boil about 20 minutes. At this point the broth should have evaporated some but the potatoes should still be surrounded by broth up to the half way mark. Carefully use the back of a spoon to gently crack each of the potatoes, do not mash. Raise the heat slightly and continue to cook until all of the broth has evaporated and the potatoes have browned on the underside, about 10 minutes. Flip the potatoes and cook the other side for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Allow to sit briefly before removing the potatoes from the pan and serving.

Note: Use potatoes that are roughly the same size so they will be finished cooking at the same time.

My thoughts:
This is my favorite way of making potatoes. The potatoes are tender, infused with flavor and have marvelous caramelized, crispy edges. Honestly I'd be happy to have a big bowl of these potatoes and nothing else for dinner. In actuality, I like to serve them with something simple like a roasted chicken or turkey. Don't be surprised if you find yourself scraping the bottom of the pan with a spoon long after dinner, trying to get the last bits out. It is that good.

If you have any leftovers (it is rare but it does happen) the potatoes reheat surprisingly well. I like to bake them at 350 for a few minutes but in a pinch a microwave would do, just make sure the contain is vented so they don't steam and become mushy.

October 04, 2009

Cocoa-Chile Rubbed Pork Chops

2 tablespoons cocoa
1 tablespoon dried pili pili chiles, chopped
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon ground chipotle
1/2 tablespoon smoked sea salt
4 thick cut boneless pork chops

olive oil

Rub the spice rub into both sides of each chop. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Heat a bit of oil in a nonstick pan. Place the chops in the pan. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, then flip each chop and recover to cook for a few more minutes. Remove the cover and continue to cook (flipping as needed) until the pork is thoroughly cooked.

My thoughts:
Using cocoa in a dry rub might sound odd at first but trust me, it totally works. Cocoa has earthy flavor that is great with smoky or peppery spices; think mole. Since cocoa is unsweetened, it is a wonderful way to add a chocolate note to a savory dish, especially in a dry rub. This rub seals in the pork's natural juices so even though pork needs to be cooked thoroughly, it stays juicy and flavorful.

October 02, 2009

Smoky, Spicy Bison Chili

1 lb ground bison
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup diced poblano peppers
1/3 cup smoked sun-dried tomatoes, julienne cut
30 oz canned fire roasted diced tomatoes with chipotle
30 oz canned dark red kidney beans, drained
1 teaspoon habanero hot sauce
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon ground jalapeño
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon allspice


Slow Cooker directions:
In a dry skillet, saute the onions, carrot, celery, poblano peppers and bison meat. Break the meat into small bits and saute until the meat is fully cooked. Bison is very lean so there shouldn't be grease but if there is, drain it off. Add to a slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cook on low for up to 9 hours.

Stove top directions:
In a dry, wide pot, saute the onions, carrot, celery, poblano peppers and bison meat. Break the meat into small bits and saute until the meat is fully cooked. Drain off any grease. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir. Cook on low, stirring occasionally, until some of the liquid has evaporated and the chili is cooked through and hot.

My thoughts:
I was excited to finally get a bunch of poblano peppers from my garden that I had to put them in this chili. Last year we had peppers growing all summer but for some reason, this year they waited until September. I had a couple of cans of fire roasted tomatoes with chipotle I've been waiting to use until it got cool enough to make chili. If you can't find these particular tomatoes, substitute 30 oz fire roasted or plain diced tomatoes and 2 minced chipotle peppers. Ground bison (we get ours from Gunpowder Bison) is an excellent meat to use in chili, it is flavorful but very lean. I like making it in the slow cooker best, the prep is pretty quick (you can even chop the vegetables the night before) and I think the flavor is more developed but the stove top method is a great alternative.

This is a spicy, smoky chili thanks to the chipotle and the lovely smoked sun dried tomatoes. If you can't find smoked sun dried tomatoes, substitute regular sun dried tomatoes and a bit of liquid smoke. The tomatoes rehydrate in the chili and add a lot of texture interest so I wouldn't leave them out entirely.