Tuesday, November 25, 2008

At Last

I know I've been talking about coconut cupcakes for a long time. Other things just kept getting in the way. New recipes, slightly better pictures, 22-hour bus rides to Georgia... But I'm home now, and finally ready to share these with you.

They're from Ina Garten's cookbook, which I've raved about before. I was paging through, saw this recipe, and literally couldn't get it out of my head. It followed me everywhere, until one Sunday afternoon, I just had to make it.

My cupcakes weren't quite as beautiful as Ina's--no big surprise there--but the piles of frosting and the rough texture of the coconut sprinkled on top made them look a bit rustic rather than messy. And the flavor...the coconut inside the batter kept them moist and came through beautifully. It wasn't overpowering, and it added just the right touch of something unique. And, of course, there's cream cheese frosting. Coconut cream cheese frosting, no less. What more could a girl ask for?

Coconut Cupcakes
Adapted from Ina Garten
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 7-ounce package flaked sweetened coconut, divided
Cream cheese icing

Line 16 muffin cups with paper baking cups, and set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and set oven racks at top and lower middle levels.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar and butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Turn the mixer speed to low, and add the eggs one at a time, beating 1 minute after each. Beat in the vanilla and almond extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat again briefly.

Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately to the butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Fold in only 1 1/3 cups of the coconut.

Fill each muffin cup almost full with batter. (These cupcakes will overflow, which gives them a nice big top to put frosting on.) Bake in a 325-degree oven for 11 to 14 minutes on the top and lower-middle racks of oven, then reverse the positions of the two cupcake pans (putting the one from the top on the lower middle rack and vice versa), and bake another 11 to 14 minutes or until the cupcake tops are golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely, and then top them with cream cheese icing and a sprinkle of coconut.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Good Thoughts

I will be at the SOA/WHINSEC vigil this weekend. Send good thoughts, okay?


Monday, November 10, 2008

Caramel! Peanuts! Brownies!

A few weeks ago, my next door neighbors had a party and I, as usual, promised to bring dessert. But this was actually a selfish act. I just bought Dorie Greenspan's book and couldn't wait to try something out.

There are a lot of tempting recipes, (devil's food cake! quintuple chocolate brownies!), but the one I knew I had to try, like right that moment, was the brownie cake with caramel and peanuts. The picture was just too beautiful to ignore, with a thick, dense brownie layered with dripping golden caramel and peanuts. I've always been a sucker for caramel and peanuts.

The cake, unfortunately, I overbaked just a wee bit. It still tasted good, but the brownie was cake-ier than I would have liked. I prefer the fudgy, almost under-baked kind. The caramel, though, was wonderful. I think I would put in a touch less corn syrup in the future, but other than that, it was perfect. And it went over beautifully with the guests.
Caramel Peanut Topped Brownie Cake
from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 stick(8 TBSP) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
3 TBSP light corn syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
For the topping:
2 cups sugar
½ cup water
1 ½ TBSP light corn syrup
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup salted peanuts

Butter and flour a 8 inch springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

To make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. Melt chocolate and butter together using a double boiler.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs and sugars together until well blended. Whisk in the corn syrup, followed by the vanilla. Whisk in the melted butter and chocolate. Still working with a whisk, gently stir in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. You will have a thick, smooth, shiny batter. Pour the batter into the pan and jiggle the pan a bit to even out the batter.
Bake the cake at 350F for 40-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out almost clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool he cake for 15 minutes, then run a knife between the cake and the pan and remove the sides of the pan. During baking the cake probably will have puffed to the top of the pan don’t be concerned if tit sinks a little or it if develops a crater in the centre. Cool the cake to room temperature.

When the cake is completely cool, invert it, remove the base of the pan and peel off the paper.

Wash and dry the springform pan, and return the cake to it right side up. Refasten the sides around the cake.

To make the topping:
Put the sugar, water and corn syrup in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, stir just to combine the ingredients and then put the pan over medium-high heat. Heat, without stirring , until the caramel turns deep amber., 5-10 minutes. Lower the heat a bit and, standing back from the saucepan add the cream and butter. When the spatters are less vehement, stir to calm down the caramel and dissolve any lumps. Stir in the peanuts, and pour the caramel and peanuts into a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup or heat proof bowl.

Spoon the peanuts on top of the cake. Then spoon the caramel on top of those. You’ll have a layer about ¼ inch high. Allow the topping to set to room temperature-about 20 minutes before serving.

To serve, run a blunt knife between the caramel and the pan and simply remove the sides of the springform. If this isn’t the case, hit the sides with some hot air from a hairdryer or wrap the sides in a towel moistened with hot water.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Please, please, please.

Please vote tomorrow. If you are eighteen and an American citizen, please vote. You don't have to tell me who it's for, or why you've chosen your candidate, but VOTE. That is all.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lovely Things

A year ago at this time, I was living in London. Actually, a year ago at this time, I was coming back to London from a week in Vienna and Prague. I spent a semester in Europe, travelling and (occasionally) studying, and now I'm back here, in the cornfields.

Don't get me wrong. The cornfields have a beauty all their own; few things are lovelier than the neat green rows that glow at sunset, or the hills dotted with barns and silos. I miss the cathedrals, though, and the mystery of languages that I don't speak. I miss being somewhere new.

This post has nothing to do with food. These are just places that I miss. Where would you rather be?

The Thames, London

Carnaval in Notting Hill, London

Peppers in the Campo di Fiori market, Rome

Laundry in Trastevere, Rome


The Eiffel Tower at midnight

Graffiti on Oscar Wilde's grave, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

Pathway in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris