Thursday, October 31, 2013

Brownie Spiders

Happy Halloween! I saw these cuties online and knew they'd be perfect for my daughter's school party today. I hoped to finish them yesterday and post them before Halloween, but clearly that was not meant to be. But the important thing is that I finished them before the party, with time to dry (I wouldn't want the eyeballs to fall off). Although if that happens this afternoon, I'll just claim it was on purpose (me trying to make the spiders scarier). It's all about spin. 

Yield: approx. 20 spiders

1 (9” x 13”) pan baked brownies
1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
2 cups chow mein noodles
candy eye balls (at least 40)

1.      Use a 1 ½- to 1 ¾-inch circle cookie cutter to cut out circles for the spider "bodies".
Place on wax paper for prep, or place them right on your serving tray.
2.      In a double-boiler, melt the chocolate chips in a medium-sized bowl. Remove 2 tablespoons of the melted chocolate and set aside.
3.      Place a sheet of waxed paper on a sheet pan or large plate. Gently stir the chow mein noodles into the remaining melted chocolate until all of the noodles are coated. Spread the noodles out on the wax paper, separating them as much as possible, and then pop them in the freezer for about 10 minutes to chill and re-harden the chocolate. Once chilled, remove the chocolate covered noodles, and pick out some long ones to use as the spider "legs".
4.      Using the melted chocolate that you set aside and a toothpick, transfer a dot of melted chocolate to the back of each candy eye as the "glue". Place the eyes on the front of the brownie circles.
5.      Dip the tip of each “leg” in melted chocolate and insert 4 legs into each side of each spider body.
6.      Set aside for chocolate “glue” to set (will keep for up to 4 days).

barely adapted from
adding chow mein noodles to melted chocolate
the original instructions said not to worry about
separating the "legs" completely, but mine really
stuck together, so I recommend separating.
cutting brownie circles
brownie spiders
The original "recipe" has the legs inserted on the top/sides. But I played around and thought they looked better on the sides. Obviously you should go with whatever you like best.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hi Hat Chocolate Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes mainly to see if they would work. I was pretty sure when I dipped the frosting in the chocolate that I'd be left with big gloppy mess. But much to my surprise and delight, it all went according to Martha Stewart's plan. (How could I ever have doubted her?) I should note that even though they look inviting, I did make a mistake and leave the water out of the frosting, which caused the sugar not to dissolve completely and added a little unwanted crunch (which my daughter actually liked).

I was little embarrassed to send them to school for the Harvest Eve bake sale, but then I realized since my husband dropped them off and we keep a pretty low profile that they might not even realize they were from me. Also, anyone who bought one didn't find out my error until after they paid the school...and who's going to ask for their money back for a fundraiser cupcake? A wanker who deserves crunchy frosting, that's who (I've been watching a lot of BBC America).

Yield: 12

Chocolate Cupcakes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
½ cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup boiling water
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Chocolate Coating:
2 cups chopped (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate
3 tablespoons coconut oil (or vegetable oil)

1.      Preheat oven to 325º F. Place 12 cupcake liners in a standard size 12-cup muffin tin.
2.      In a large bowl or kitchen aid bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder. Whisk (or use paddle attachment) until well combined.
3.      Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.
4.      Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 full with batter.
5.      Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6.      Cool cupcakes completely before frosting.
7.      Prepare the frosting: In a large heatproof bowl, combine sugar, water, egg whites, and cream of tartar. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat on high speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Beat on high speed until frosting forms stiff peaks, about 12 minutes; frosting should register 160º F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and almond extracts, and beat for 2 minutes more until frosting thickens.
8.      Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain pastry tip. Leaving a 1/8-inch border on each cupcake, pipe a spiral of frosting into a 2-inch-high cone shape, using about 1/2 cup of frosting per cupcake. Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet, and refrigerate while preparing the chocolate coating.
9.      Prepare the chocolate coating: Combine chocolate and oil in a medium heat-proof bowl set over a medium saucepan of barely simmering water; stir until melted and smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, and let cool about 20 minutes.
10.  Holding each cupcake by its bottom, dip cupcake in the chocolate to coat frosting, allowing excess to drip off. Transfer to a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack. Spoon more coating around edge of cupcake and any exposed frosting; none of the frosting should show. Let cupcakes stand at room temperature 15 minutes.
11.  Carefully remove paper liners from cupcakes, and discard. Place cupcakes on a serving platter, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to let coating set. Cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours more. Serve cold. Cupcakes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

chocolate cupcakes from
concept, frosting and chocolate coating from Martha Stewart
dry ingredients mixed together
adding milk, oil, egg and vanilla
adding boiling water
batter in cupcake liners
sugar, egg whites and cream of tartar

My egg white mixture never got frothy (which should
have been my first clue that I had forgotten to add the
water). But I missed that clue and just kept on going.
beating over simmering water

Even though I had forgotten the water,
everything was going along swimmingly.
stiff peaks forming

The color only looks weird because of the
bad lighting by my stove. Also, if this looks
like a lot it's because I made 3x the recipe.
adding homemade vanilla extract & almond extract

Still looking good.
stiff peaks again

At this point I tasted the frosting and noticed a slight
crunch from the sugar that never quite dissolved completely.
That's when I realized that I had left out the water. I didn't
have time (or the eggs) to make another batch of frosting,
so crunchy frosting it was. Consider this a cautionary tale.
piping on the slightly crunchy (but still tasty) marshmallowy frosting

Yes, I was nervous all the frosting
would melt right off...but it didn't!
hi hat cupcakes drying

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes

I realize this looks like a hot mess, but don't hold that against the dish (that was just me not taking the time to plate delicately). Which is a compliment really, because this is so good, I didn't want to bother taking my time - I just wanted to dig in. If this looks familiar, it's probably because you've ordered it at the Cheesecake Factory. It's a clone of their recipe (if we can do it with sheep, we can do it with tamale cakes).

Yield: 10 cakes (5 appetizers)

Salsa Verde:
2 tomatillos, papery skins removed and chopped
1 (4 oz.) can mild green chilies
1 green onion (scallion), chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
salt & freshly ground pepper

Tomato Salsa:
1 medium tomato, diced
1 tablespoon minced Spanish onion
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 jalapeno, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Southwestern Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon water
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
salt to taste
garlic powder to taste

Tamale Cakes:
3 cups sweet corn, fresh or frozen (4 to 5 ears)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup masa harina (corn flour)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sour cream
1 avocado, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1.      Combine all Salsa Verde ingredients in a food processor on high speed. Cover and chill.
2.      Combine all Tomato Salsa ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and chill.
3.      Combine all Southwestern Sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and chill.
4.      Preheat oven to 400°F.
5.      Coarsely puree 2 cups of the corn in a food processor.
6.      Combine pureed corn with softened butter, sugar and salt. Blend well with electric mixer until smooth.
7.      Add masa and flour and blend well.
8.      Mix in the remaining 1 cup corn by hand.
9.      Measure 1/2 cup portions and form into 8 (3 inch) patties.
10.  Arrange patties on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cakes are browned on the bottom.
11.  Carefully flip cakes with a spatula and bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes or until the other side is browned.
12.  While the cakes are baking, spoon some salsa verde onto a platter (coat the bottom with about 1/4 inch).
13.  Arrange the tamale cakes on top of the salsa verde.
14.  Top each tamale cake with tomato salsa, a dollop of sour cream, chopped avocado, cilantro and Southwestern Sauce (preferably in a nice zig zag pattern using a squirt bottle).

slightly adapted from a copycat recipe from “Top Secret Restaurant Recipes" by Todd Wilbur (original dish from The Cheesecake Factory)
salsa verde ingredients
salsa verde
tomato salsa
southwestern sauce
corn kernels
adding butter, sugar and salt
adding masa and flour
whole corn kernels mixed in
formed into patties
baked sweet corn tamale cakes
two sweet corn tamale cakes over salsa verde with
dollops of southwestern sauce haphazardly plopped on top

For that size/shape plate, I should have put
just one cake on there, but I wanted two!
sweet corn tamale cakes topped with
tomato salsa, sour cream and avocado