Daring Baker’s Challenge:  Maple Mousse in a Maple Syrup and Bacon Candy Bowl

Daring Baker’s Challenge: Maple Mousse in a Maple Syrup and Bacon Candy Bowl

Maple Mousse in Maple Syrup with Bacon Candy Bowl

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

My choice for the container was a maple sugar candy.  Growing up in a touristy area in the North, almost to Canada, every once in a while we would see maple sugar candy in the shape of maple leaves which was always a treat, so I decided that, along with a little bacon, would make a great container for the mousse. Making the candy was pretty simple, easier than I expected but making the bowls was a bit of a challenge.  For the mold first I chose a bowl that had a little lip in it which turned out to be not the best as it made it difficult to remove the candy and some of them broke.  Next time I used a nice smooth mold, although the broken pieces certainly tasted just as good were definitely not wasted!

For the candy containers:

Bacon Maple Syrup Candy

Ingredients:

1/2 pound bacon (you can use more or less to your taste)

2 cups maple syrup

Procedure:

Bacon sliced and fried

Cut the bacon in to small pieces about 1/4 inch and fry until very crispy.  Drain on a paper towel.

Cooking the maple syrup

Put the maple syrup in a large heavy bottomed saucepan.  It bubbles up a lot so use a bigger one that you would think.  The one I chose barely escaped overflowing.  Over medium high heat bring the syrup to a boil stirring occasionally. Boil until syrup reaches 235 degrees F (110 degrees C) on a candy thermometer.  Remove from heat  and cool to 175 degrees F (80 degrees C) without stirring, about 10 minutes. Stir rapidly with a wooden spoon  for about 5 minutes until the color turns lighter and mixture becomes thick and creamy – being impatient (lazy) I used a mixer which works a lot faster. Stir in the crisp bacon pieces

Pour into molds and set aside to cool.  You do have to work fairly quickly as it will start to harden fast.  I had prepared several sets of two small glass heatproof bowls with a light coating of vegetable spray, one on the inside, one on the outside.  I poured in the candy mixture in the bowls to about 1/2 full, then placed the second bowl on top, basically squashing the filling between the two.  I let that cool, then removed the candy from between the bowls.  After the first batch using the bowls with a little rim, I switched to bowls without rims and it worked out better, as did the ones I made using two silicone muffin pans.  It was ok though, I used the pieces of the ones that broke (that we didn’t just eat) as a little garnish on top of the mousse.

Maple Syrup with Bacon Candy

Once cool, unmold candy. Store in airtight containers up to 1 month.

For the Mousse:

I used the recipe so graciously provided by Evelyne which turned out wonderfully.  I did end up with a double batch because I still had 2 cups of maple syrup on my mind from making the candy so I started with that and realized the mistake half way through.  I worked out fine though – there was mousse for all my friends!

Maple Mousse:

Ingredients:
• 1 cup (240 ml/ 8 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup)
• 4 large egg yolks
• 1 package (7g/1 tbsp.) unflavoured gelatine
• 1 1/2 cups (360 ml. g/12 fluid oz) whipping cream (35% fat content)

Directions:
1. Bring maple syrup to a boil then remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple syrup in while whisking (this is to temper your egg yolks so they don’t curdle).
3. Add warmed egg yolks to hot maple syrup until well mixed.
4. Measure 1/4 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds (microwave for 10 seconds at a time and check it in between) or place the bowl in a pan of barely simmering water, stir to ensure the gelatine has completely dissolved.
5. Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.
6. Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten raw egg white.
7. Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.
8. Remove from the fridge and divide equally among your edible containers.

Apple Slices in Maple Syrup bowl

For presentation, I used a maple syrup candy bowl, some freshly sliced tart apple slices (dipped in lemon juice to prevent browning), filled with maple mousse using a piping bag, with a few sprinkles of the maple syrup bacon candy on top.

Maple Mousse in Maple Syrup Bacon Candy Bowl

Thai-Style Chicken with Basil served with Coconut Rice

Thai-Style Chicken with Basil served with Coconut Rice

Thai-Style Chicken with Basil and Coconut Rice

After seeing this on the weekly show, I was inspired by a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Thai-Style Chicken with Basil.  I simplified it a bit to use the items I had on hand and for my wimpy taste buds but I’m sure their version would be excellent as well.  It turned out to be wonderful, even for meat and potatoes me and Husband said it was the best thing I’d made lately so that is a pretty good reference.  Since it made quite a bit, we also used the leftover chicken wrapped burrito style in a tortilla and decided it would also be great in a lettuce wrap.  Considering how few ingredients it really has, it was extremely flavorful, not at all bland like chicken often is.  The whole meal took less than 1/2 hour and used only the food processor bowl, one pot for the rice and one pan for the chicken – a wonder since I normally I can make the kitchen look like a disaster in just a few short minutes.

Here is my version:

Ingredients

Rice:

  • 1 1/4 cup Jasmine Rice (I used Basmati because that’s what I had but it really should be Jasmine)
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Chicken:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 3 medium garlic cloves , peeled
  • 6 Serrano chilis
  • 2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast , cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes , for serving

Instructions

First start the rice:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients, cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the rice is tender, about 25 minutes.

Then start the chicken:

Basil Peppers and Garlic

  • 1. In the food processor, pulse 1 cup of the basil leaves, garlic, and chiles until finely chopped, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula half-way through.  Place in a 12-inch heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet, preferably cast iron. No need to wash the food processor bowl.

Grinding the Chicken

  • 2. Pulse the chicken and soy sauce in the food processor until chopped,  six to eight pulses. Refrigerate while you work on the next step.

Frying vegetables

  • 3. Add the onions and oil into the basil mixture in the skillet and stir constantly while cooking over medium-low heat until the garlic and onions are golden brown.
  • 4. Add chicken, increase heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly and breaking up chicken until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining cup basil leaves and cook, stirring constantly until the basil is wilted, 30 to 60 seconds.

Serve with the rice, garnished with an extra basil leaf or two.

Papas Rellenas (fried meat stuffed mashed potatoes)

Papas Rellenas (fried meat stuffed mashed potatoes)

Papas Rellenas de carne - stuffed and fried mashed potatoes

What could be better than fried stuffed mashed potatoes – even a picky eater like me can appreciate that.  For this month’s Daring Cook’s Challenge, Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.  Of course as I am not a seafood eater (even cooked), I just couldn’t do the Ceveche so Papas Rellenas it was.

I generally followed the recipe she provided with a few substitutions.

Ingredients

Ingredients

For the dough:
2¼ lb (1 kg) russet potatoes
1 large egg

For the filling:
2 tablespoon (30 ml) of a light flavored oil
½ lb (250 grams) finely diced chuck beef
1 small onion, finely diced (about 1 cup (240 ml))
2 bell peppers finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or passed through a press (if you love garlic, add more)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) (1/8 oz) ground cumin (use more if you like cumin)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 cups beef stock for deglazing
Salt and pepper to taste

For the final preparation:
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) all-purpose flour
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash salt
1 cup dry (240 ml) (110 gm) (4 oz) or fresh (240 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) bread crumbs (you can use regular, panko, make your own or use store-bought)

Oil for frying (enough for 2” (50 mm) in a heavy pan like a medium sized dutch oven)

Procedure:

Brown the beef

First I finely diced the meat and vegetables and began by browning the meat in a couple teaspoons of oil.

Beef Browned

Brown the onions

Once the beef was browned, I removed and set it aside, adding the onions to start them first as I prefer my onions really browned.

Add garlic and bell peppers

Next add the peppers and garlic cooking for just about 1 minute.

Add broth

Add the beef broth (I use “better than broth”  or “beef base” as I never seem to have regular broth around when I need it and it is much better than the powered cubes.) Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower and simmer until the liquid evaporates.

Simmering

Ready

While the beef is simmering.  Peel and boil the potatoes in salted water until easily pierced with a fork.  Remove, drain and cool, then mash or put through a ricer if you have one.

Simmering/boiling

To the mashed potatoes, add egg, salt and pepper and knead “dough” thoroughly to ensure that ingredients are well combined and uniformly distributed.

Forming and frying the papas:

  1. Use three small bowls to prepare the papas. In one, combine flour, cayenne and salt. In the second, a beaten egg with a tiny bit of water. Put bread crumbs in the third

Ready to fill

  1. Flour your hands and scoop up 1/6 of the total dough to make a round pancake with your hands. Make a slight indentation in the middle for the filling.  (I ended up cutting each one in half and reforming them as making only 6 made HUGE ones.)

Forming the papas

  1. Spoon a generous amount of filling into the center and then roll the potato closed, forming a smooth, potato-shaped casing around the filling. Repeat with all dough (you should have about 6 papas).
  2. Heat 1 ½ – 2 inches (4 – 5 cm) of oil in a pan to about 350 – 375° F (175 – 190°C).
  3. Dip each papa in the three bowls to coat: first roll in flour, then dip in egg, then roll in bread crumbs.
  4. Fry the papas (in batches if necessary) about 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Flip once in the middle of frying to brown both sides.

Ready to serve

They were a big hit, thanks for the challenge!

Valentines Day Recipe Test:  Cook’s Country Tunnel of Fudge Mini-Bundt Cakes

Valentines Day Recipe Test: Cook’s Country Tunnel of Fudge Mini-Bundt Cakes

Tunnel of Fudge Mini-Bundt Cake

Of course Valentines day requires chocolate, and lots of it.  Years ago (too many for me to want to remember) after a particularly disappointing Valentines Day meal out where it seemed that no place would take reservations and when we arrived around 6:00 there was a three-hour wait, the service was poor and they had a “special” meaning very expensive menu only.  After that, I decided that going out to dinner on Valentines Day (and most other holidays) is more trouble than it is worth.  Don’t get me wrong, I like a nice dinner out as much as anyone I just prefer to go a different day, when they take reservations and aren’t overwhelmed trying to serve the huge crowds.  Mostly, I really don’t like crowds or waiting I’d much rather make dinner and enjoy it at home.

This recipe is a test of the Cook’s Country Tunnel of Fudge recipe, which I cut in half and used in mini-bundt cake pans.  It can be made a day or two ahead.  It’s a perfect dessert for a small dinner party and even better for just two as there are leftovers!  I’m serving this with a meal to go with it simple and quick enough for a weeknight: chicken breasts baked in pastry crust, asparagus and pearl couscous in cream sauce.  If you don’t have the mini-bundt pans or prefer to make the full size, just use the whole recipe but these look so cute!

Ingredients

Ingredients I used:

1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon cocoa (Cook’s Country recommends Dutch processed but I didn’t have any so I just used regular Hershey’s Cocoa)

1/4 cup boiling water

1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips

1 cup flour

1 cup pecans chopped finely (which I forgot to show in the picture)

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1/2 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 1/4 cups butter softened

To make cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a mini Bundt pan and dust with cocoa powder.

Put the chocolate in a small bowl and add the boiling water, mixing until smooth, set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk 3/4 cup cocoa, flour, walnuts (or pecans), confectioners’ sugar and salt.

In another bowl or mixing cup, whisk eggs and vanilla.

In mixing bowl at medium speed beat granulated sugar, brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, add egg mixture and mix until just combined. Add chocolate mixture and mix until just combined. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Put batter into prepared pans, smooth and bake 20-25 minutes until edges are beginning to pull away from pan; do not overbake (do not use a cake tester, toothpick or skewer to test the cake).

Remove to a wire rack and cool, upright, 1 1/2 hours. Invert cake onto serving plate and cool completely, at least 2 hours.

I followed the recipe instructions given by Cook’s Country, the only difference is because of the smaller pan I baked them for 25 minutes but that may have been just a little too long, start checking them at 20 minutes as mine didn’t have much of a fudgy center.  Even so it was very moist and almost brownie like with a good flavor from the nuts.   I would definitely make them again, they were very tasty.

Here are the progress photos:

Chocolate melted in boiling water and chopped pecans

Sprayed and cocoa in the pan

Ready to bake

Baked and cooling

Tunnel of Fudge Mini-Bundt Cake

I did some chocolate dipped strawberries from an earlier post and added a little strawberry syrup to a heart shaped plate to finish up.

Girlie Birthday cupcakes: Part II chocolate/maraschino cherry regular and minis

Girlie Birthday cupcakes: Part II chocolate/maraschino cherry regular and minis

Girlie Birthday Cupcakes Mini Chocolate Maraschino Cherry

As promised, here is the second half of the Girlie Birthday Cupcakes – the chocolate/maraschino cherry cupcakes and minis.  As I mentioned in Part I I  modified and combined several recipes.  For these, I used the Martha Stuart’s Strawberry Buttercream modified into Maraschino Cherry Buttercream and  Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcakes from Betty Crocker.  The minis turned out to be my favorite, they were like a chocolate covered cherry with icing!

First the cupcakes:

I followed the Betty Crocker recipe but added 1/4 cup coco powder to the mix to increase the chocolate flavor.

Cherries in the wrappers

To prepare the cupcakes, I put a cherry in each cupcake wrapper in both the regular and min size.

Mini-s ready to bake

Fill the minis  to the top so you get a nice dome and cover the cherry.

Regular ready to bake

Fill the regular size 2/3 full, then add another cherry on top.  The cupcakes will bake around it making a nice center.

Baked regular and minis

Cool completely before icing.

Next the icing:

Following the recipe for  Martha Stuart’s Strawberry Buttercream replace the mashed strawberries with 1/2 cup drained and chopped maraschino cherries – don’t use the juice.

Starting with the egg whites and sugar here’s a quick way to make a double boiler using the mixer bowl that eliminates washing an extra pot (which I thought of after I made the strawberry batch)

Double boiler for icing

Cooking the egg whites

Cook the egg whites according to the directions, then whip

Whip the egg whites and sugar

Gradually add the butter a chunk at a time

Adding butter

Finish up by adding the chopped cherries.

I decorated the minis to look like little ice cream cones with a small candy on top and the full size cupcakes to resemble flowers by piping the icing around the center cherry and adding some little green candies for the leaves.

Chocolate Maraschino Cherry Cupcakes

Girlie Birthday cupcakes: strawberry/strawberry and chocolate/maraschino cherry regular and minis – Part I Strawberry

Girlie Birthday cupcakes: strawberry/strawberry and chocolate/maraschino cherry regular and minis – Part I Strawberry

 

Pink Birthday Cupcakes

 

 

Since my kids are grown and away at school I don’t get the chance to practice my kid baking much anymore (although they do expect care packages).  Fortunately, I have friends and family that let me borrow theirs, so today I’m making cupcakes for my friend’s four year old pink girlie girl to take to school. I modified and combined several recipes, Martha Stuart’s Strawberry Buttercream, which I also made into Maraschino Cherry Buttercream,  Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcakes from Betty Crocker and Sincere Strawberry Cupcakes from Dozen Flours blog.  I’m breaking this one up into two parts as it would be quite long otherwise.  Today the strawberry cupcakes.

Here’s what I did:

First I made a strawberry filling (jam).  Starting with a 5 pound package of frozen strawberries (which I split using 4 lb for jam and 1 lb for the strawberry cupcakes).  It is much easier than you’d think to make.

Ingredients for strawberry jam

Ingredients:

4 pounds frozen strawberries

7 cups sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 pkg liquid pectin

Strawberries, sugar and lemon juice

Add all the ingredients except the pectin to a large pot, mix and bring to a full rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes.  You can add a tablespoon of butter if you like to keep the foaming to a minimum but either way, skim off the foam on top before you jar the jam.  After 5 minutes, add the liquid pectin and boil for one more minute.  Because I intended to use mine as cake/cupcake filings, I used a stick blender to completely mash the strawberries so it would not clog up the pastry tips.  You can make it as smooth or “chunky” as you prefer.  Pour the jam into prepared jars (if you are going to preserve them) or clean jars if you plan on using right away.  Ball has a great  site full of recipes and instructions for canning.  I canned four jars for later, and kept the rest in a bowl for this project.

Strawberry jam

Obviously, you can just use store bought jam.

Next the strawberry cupcakes:

I basically followed the Sincere Strawberry Cupcakes recipe, the only difference is that I did not use the reserved strawberry juice on top like she does, but instead filled the cupcakes with the jam in a squeeze bottle (slightly warmed in the microwave so it will squeeze).  Stick the top of the bottle down into the cupcake and squeeze a little in.  If it starts to overflow stop but it doesn’t really matter as you are going to put a layer on top anyway.

fillled with jam

then put a layer of jam on top.

layer of jam on top

I placed them in the fridge to set up so it would run into the icing.  I then iced with a piping bag filled with the Martha Stuart’s Strawberry Buttercream which I made according to her recipe.  It is a great icing as it is not too sweet.  It is really great when you have to transport them as it will harden in the fridge so it keeps its shape, but doesn’t dry out and softens right back up when you bring it to room temperature to serve.

Strawberry cupcakes iced

Finally I added a small candy to the center of each to make them more flower like.

Strawberry Cupcakes

Part II, Chocolate Maraschino Cupcakes -regular and minis tomorrow.